lacurieuse + uncategorized   129

Photoshop Tutorial – Making a Silhouette
Welcome back to Tutorial Tuesday!

It’s kinda ironic to me that I am teaching ANYTHING.  I mean…I’m a homeschooler…who went to college to be a teacher…realized VERY quickly that I am not cut out for it and will praise the fine educators of the world till kingdom come…took up a camera less than five years ago and photoshop after that….to be here, attempting to teach you little tricks with no real training myself except a whole lot of trial and error (emphasis on the error!).  That’s irony people.  At least I think it is…I was homeschooled afterall

So today I am going to show ya a VERY easy method to make a silhouette in photoshop.  Basically you can take any photo and make it into one of those cool personalized gifts or artwork.  I love the idea of doing it for newlyweds or as a baby shower gift.  But first, the things to note….I use Photoshop CS4…not all photoshop is created equal.  This method works but there are several ways to skin a cat…not that I condone skinning anything.  That’s like Silence of the Lambs creepy.  It rubs the lotion on its skin.  Let’s get started.

This time around I am gonna make a silhouette out of a picture of me holding Will.  Jeremy took this photo and it was late in the evening and we were moving a bunch so the original was blurry…but that’s okay!!!  This is a silhouette!  It can be done with a blurry photo!  That’s one of the best parts   I did edit it so that it was artsy fartsy because I loved our expressions…so that is what we are working with.

And we are making this…

First things first, you wanna open your file in photoshop.  I like to look for profile shots – they show the face so much better.  Also I like it when the legs are separated a little…and when there is little overlap of limbs.  It just produces a better image.

Now you want to select your pen tool.  (shift and P are the shortcut)

Make sure your color is on black and the shape layers box is selected (indicated by red arrows below).

Next thing you want to do is start your dots.  Basically we are outlining the entire picture with little dots….it’s like connect the lines.  Also, you may want to adjust your opacity till it’s down near 50% (I circled it in red)…that way you can see what you are outlining.

Make sure you give hair and faces a little more life by using closer dots and showing the separation.

Once you connect all the way back to the beginning – the dots should disappear and you are left with a solid line around your image.

(Oh and yes, my shoes were disappearing into the grass so I created some – remember that if your original photo doesn’t show it, you have to remember to create it!).

Now adjust your opacity back to 100% to see your silhouetted image.

Now we are gonna open a new layer.  (shortcut is Shift + Control + N).  Make each window smaller so that you can see them both.  Remember that you are gonna see the different layers of your window in the sidebar but only for the selected window….so click on the top bar of the window to make sure you are on the right one.

So what we are gonna do is click on the top of the original image and select our shape layer.  Then you are gonna hold a left mouse button it (this grabs that layer) and drag it onto the other open layer (our window that is untitled!)….this copies the layer onto the new window that has a white blank background.

After you resize the silhouette to fit the background (just grab the little boxes on the corners to stretch it bigger or smaller), you can move it around to your hearts content.

If you are trying to make artwork, you can add words…

It ends up looking like this…

Or you can change the background with another layer to make the silhouette over words.  Wouldn’t this be a cute project for a childs birthday or for fathers day?  Or for a thank you note to someone that helped watch your kids or a friend that that needs some cheap personalized art on their walls?

Happy photoshopping!

p.s.  We only have two more photoshop sessions left!
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february 2013 by lacurieuse
How to Read a Label
If you’ve picked up a newspaper in the past decade, you might be aware of a few basic strategies for shopping smarter in the grocery store. Most of us, for instance, likely know that:

♦ It’s wise to stick to the perimeter of the store — produce, dairy, meat — where the fresh products are sold. (Interior aisles are filled, floor-to-ceiling, with processed foods.)

♦ Everything is positioned where it is for a reason — i.e., the most alluring items didn’t end up directly in your line of vision (and, more diabolically, your kids’ line of vision) by accident. To find the healthy stuff, you need to look up high and down low. (To see what we mean, check out the photo above.)

♦ It pays to read the label. I know that a quick scan of the nutrition facts panel will give me a sense of when something is high in fat or calories. And thanks to recent campaigns waged largely by enraged parents, I know to avoid trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, horse meat, pink slime, etc. I also know that it’s not a good sign when an ingredient list is so long, you need a magnifying glass to read it. (Unless it’s a birthday party or a barbecue; in our house, it’s never a birthday or a barbecue without the Reddi Whip or some S’Mores made from Hershey bars.)

But what I didn’t know until I had the opportunity to work with Michael Moss on his book, Salt Sugar Fat, was the degree to which processed food companies have formulated their products to not only get us to eat them, but to eat more and more of them. I didn’t know about the “bliss point,” or “mouthfeel,” or the high-stakes race for “stomach share.” I didn’t know that sodium was not the same thing as salt. I didn’t know that the average American now eats 33 pounds of cheese a year, that the most die-hard Coke drinkers — known within Coca-Cola as “heavy users” — drink up to 1,000 cans a year, or that the processed food industry accounts for $1 trillion dollars a year. Michael is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, and it shows: If you’re interested in the inside story of how the food giants have hooked a nation, if you believe that knowledge is power, if you want to know the marketing strategies that are behind those “convenient” items so many of us are feeding our children, this book might be a life-changer — or at the very least, a family dinner-changer. (You may have seen Moss’s book excerpted in The New York Times Magazine last Sunday.) We asked Michael to annotate the labels of a few of the country’s most popular, kid-friendly supermarket items to illustrate just how bad it is, and what we’re up against. He was kind enough to oblige. – Andy

Hot Pockets is owned by Nestle, the Swiss-based food giant. In 2002, it paid $2.6 billion for this microwavable snack, and now counts it among its “billionaire brands” — with annual sales in excesses of $1,000,000,000.
At a mere 4.5 ounces per sandwich, who wouldn’t be tempted to eat them both? But doing so could get you up to 12 grams of saturated fat (3/4 of a day’s max for most adults), 1,180 milligrams sodium (more than 2/3 of a day’s max), 5 teaspoons of sugar, and 700 calories.
No trans fats? Well, yes, thanks largely to the fierce pressure consumers put on the manufacturers when the deleterious health effects of these fats became more widely known. But beware of any brag like this on the front of processed food labels. The fine print on the back usually reveals a host of items just as problematic for one’s health.


Nutrition advocates have a simple rule of thumb when it comes to ingredients: avoid anything you can’t pronounce. Laden with chemical preservatives, emulsions and conditioners, this would not be a label for them. (Seriously, try counting the number of ingredients in there — if you can even read the microscopic type.)
This label is actually a fascinating study on food processing. Consider the chicken alone, represented here as both “ground and formed,” whatever that means. And note the numerous mentions of salt, sugar, and cheese, including imitation.

The FDA bears responsibility for failing to update its serving sizes, which grossly underestimates the power of salt/sugar/fat-heavy processed foods to compel overeating. But the food giants reap the benefit. A “serving” of these gushers weighs less than an ounce, which helps keep the numbers in the nutrition facts panel from looking too scary – 3 teaspoons of sugar per tiny pouch, versus 17 teaspoons per box. The problem is, lots of kids can’t stop at one pouch.
First launched by General Mills, these “fruit” snacks have exploded in popularity and now have their own stretch of the grocery store, a million miles from the real fruit aisle. The reason for the growth: a huge, fruit-centered marketing ploy is driving sales. These sugar-bombs convey the illusion of health.
Real Fruit? Not really. In truth, real processed fruit. Companies add these fruit derivatives to foods and drinks, sometimes in miniscule amounts, which allows them to splash the word fruit on the front of the label.

Is table sugar worse than corn syrup? Nutritionists say they are indistinguishable, bearing the same number of empty calories.
Pears and grapes are the most commonly used fruits in processed foods because they are cheapest to buy. The processing typically “strips” them of the fiber and the filling water that makes fresh fruit so wholesome. The result is just another form of sugar (often known as fruit sugar or stripped fruit).
In this small of an amount, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil likely has negligible effects on your health. But nutritionists say there are far better choices to look for, like canola.

Each year, the dairy industry spends tens of millions of dollars trying to get Americans to eat more cheese through a marketing scheme overseen by none other than the USDA, and it’s a boon for the food giants. Average consumption has tripled to 33 pounds a person a year, thanks to new products like this all over the grocery store that use cheese as an alluring, fattening ingredient. Cheese used to be something we ate on occasion, when friends were over, before dinner. Now it’s in everything.
The more cheese, the better: it’s an industry mantra. And companies are vying to outdo one another with the types of cheese they can pack into one can or box.

With more than half of the calories coming from fat, it’s no surprise that oil is the largest ingredient after potatoes. Companies use these four oils — corn, cottonseed, soybean, and sunflower — and others interchangeably, depending on market supply and cost. Oil and fat are what give processed foods their sought-after “mouthfeel,” as industry types call it, which is a crucial part of a product’s allure.
These Pringles have moderate loads for salty snacks… if you stick to a single, one-ounce serving. But let your child eat the whole can over two days, and they’ll get more than a full day’s max of saturated fat, two-thirds a day’s sodium, and a teaspoon of sugar thrown in for good measure. (Not to mention 2,000 calories.)
People trying to limit their sodium have a lot to worry about when it comes to processed foods. These Pringles have four sodium compounds, including MSG, along with salt (added by itself and in each of the four cheeses).

Tune in to Fresh Air today, Tuesday, February 26, to hear Michael Moss talk more about Salt, Sugar, Fat. 
Cameos  Kitchenlightenment  Posts_by_Andy  Uncategorized  how_to_grocery_shop  how_to_read_a_label  michael_moss  salt_sugar_fat_michael_moss  GR-starred  from google
february 2013 by lacurieuse
Pint sized Pinterest Challenge
Followers on Instagram and Facebook knew that we had some very special visitors last weekend…

Yes, our dear friends John & Sherry Petersik had their final book signing in Atlanta on the 7th of this month.  Let’s just say that I considered it a birthday present a couple days late because having Sher come see me is the best gift ever.  This friend is one amazing girl.  I love her like a sister.  And I am so so proud of her.   All that to say, John & Sherry’s first book came out.  It’s amazing.  If you don’t have it, you need to buy it now.

And just like the other million point million fans, I couldn’t wait to get my photo with them behind the signing table.  I couldn’t wait to be their front row cheerleader.  And I really couldn’t wait for them to meet baby Weston.  We did all that and much much more over the weekend.  I’ll tell ya about it soon…I promise.  The one thing I do wanna tell you is that while we were doing our Bower-Petersik fest, we decided it was high time for another big announcement…

Freakishly cute. I’m totally not biased…it is just a fact. I can’t wait to hear them say their vows one day

I’ve very excited to agree with our pint-sized bundles of energy – the Pinterest Challenge Winter edition is here!  Motivation is right in front of us!  Let’s get something done!

For those of you that are new to the scene, the Pinterest Challenge is really REALLY simple.  Basically it’s just a little accountability to get something done.  Here’s some of the details on how we do it…

Like the tikes said – pick your Pinspiration project.  Do your own spin.  Blog about it.  Celebrate!
In your blog post, we ask pretty please for everyone to share the link love!  Link to the Pinterest item, the ORIGINAL source of the inspiration photo on Pinterest, and it would be soo nice if you also linked to the four Pinterest Challenge hosts below (you have no idea how much we appreciate the linkage love too!)
Linky Party at the Bower House!  Each host has the option to linky party – so if you blogged about your project, link up with us too so that we can all see your completed projects and we can share it to our readers.
Have fun!  No matter what the project is – it can be small, big, super-sized, seasonal, decorative, cooking, crafty – anything goes…just as long as it “Pinned then Spinned” you can consider us fans!

And now to introduce you to the other beautiful cohosts…

Yes indeed…our cohosts rock….here they are…

Megan from The Remodeled Life

Sherry from Young House Love

Michelle from Decor & The Dog

I have no idea what I am tackling yet but I know that getting ANYTHING done will be a huge huge thing.  So I’ll see you back here in one week to share what we tackled!


p.s.  I added a little button on the sidebar that gives you a glimpse into past projects and you can see all the gorgeous girls that have cohosted in the past.  Hopefully there will be many many more in the years to come
Uncategorized  GR-starred  from google
february 2013 by lacurieuse
Photoshop Tutorial – Boob Job
I’m so excited to have a new regular feature here on Bower Power!  It’s the start of Photoshop Tutorials…and hopefully (fingers and toes officially crossed) it will land here every Tuesday morning.  See me and my bad scheduling self!  Yup…Mondays will be a project post of some sort and Tuesdays you can expect to see something photography related…this time, it’s something for Photoshop.  If you don’t have Photoshop and aren’t interested in photography related bizness, may I suggest a whirl in the Project Gallery?  It’s chalk full of yummy goodness like DIY projects and arts & craft stuff and an entire section dedicated to tablesettings.  Pappap get on that

Today our Photoshop Tutorial is for the girls.  Not just the female gender…but specifically THE GIRLS on us girls   Yup…we are talkin’ boobs.  Hollah! Twinsies!  Yup…you get to see me giving myself a boob job.

After you fish your mind outta the gutter, let’s go.

First open the file you would like to edit in Photoshop.   I have CS4 so that is what I’m working with today folks.  And this photo is straight outta the camera (SOOC)  so please disregard the bald spot, undereye darkness and cool white balance.  I first made a copy of my file by grabbing the ‘background’ in my layers box and dragging it down to the ‘create new layer’ icon on the bottom.  Let go of it with your mouse and bam!  background copied.

Then I select that copy of the background (indicated below with a red arrow) and go to FILTER down to LIQUIFY.

A new liquify window should pop open.  First I select the BLOAT tool on the left (indicated with white arrow) and make my brush size roughly the size of the boob I wanna plump.  I keep my brush rate in the low 20′s so it doesn’t bloat too fast (nothing can ruin a boob job like rushing).  Then I click on the very center of my flat boob until it looks about right.  Sometimes, you gotta fill out the sides.  Go slow.  You are playing doctor.

You can see that the image gets stretched (or bloated) and the pixels get pushed around that circle tool to make it look more natural.  If you make a mistake, just click the RECONSTRUCT tool and paint over the area that got funky and it should return the deflated boob once more.

Now before we go on, let’s talk Tata Responsibility.  Let’s be perfectly honest.  In a land full of Instagram filters and photoshop, there can be an urge to make yourself look like a Real Plastic Housewife of Barbie County.  You might have the thought of giving yourself huge ole boobies that are so perky that your chin is resting on them.  Don’t.  Everyone will think you are weird to virtually modify your boobs and crazy that you believe yourself to be 14 again.  This is a tool for enhancement…make the girls look age appropriate and believable.  The key here is to make it completely unnoticable that you pumped up the funbags.

After you have bloated the jugs, time to make the background look unbloated.  Time to click on the little box with an inner circle on the bottom of the Layers box.  This is ADD LAYER MASK.

Now see the part that got bloated that looks weird?  The purple arrow is pointing to the bit that has the bushes bloated too.  It looks like my chest is having some sort of radiation effect on the shrubbery.  Not cool.

So you are gonna first select the Layer Mask by clicking on it (circled in red) and then use your paintbrush to paint the bloated-but-shouldn’t-be area in black.

Now the background isn’t bloated but the boob is.  Nice, eh?!  Flatten your image down and BAM.  Instant boob job.

The best part?  You don’t have to pay a plastic surgeon   May the Facebook profile picture editing commence!

p.s.  Please like me on Facebook.  I’m asking very nicely and I did just give you new chimichangas :)  also…it’s my birthday
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february 2013 by lacurieuse
How to Blog: My Rules
I hear from a lot of you that what you like the most about our site is that you never know what you’re going to find from one post to the next. I love getting this note — because it confirms that a) you guys are paying attention, and b) because it allows me to write inside-baseball posts like this one and know that you will still come back tomorrow in search of the perfect tandoori burger. Correct?

Today I want to answer a question I’ve been asked a lot: How do you write this blog?  Which I’m also going to interpret as How do you write and How did you start? It’s an involved question, one I’m not sure I’m entirely qualified to answer yet, and one that, you’ll see, sends me in several different directions below. (To give you an idea, the working title of this post for the past few months had been “Everything I Learned About Blogging I Learned in Magazines” before I realized I had so much more to say.) The truth is, I had no idea what I was doing when, three years ago, GoDaddy told me that Yes! The URL is available! But I’ve figured a few things out along the way and thought it might help those of you thinking of starting your own blog. (As for starting a career in food writing, you cannot get any better than this post by Amanda Hesser.) What I wrote below should not be mistaken for The Definitive Rules of Blogging 101. There are about eight million people out there generating eight million hits a day and maybe even making money from it — and if that’s what you are after, you should skip this post and seek their advice. I’ve accepted now that this site will most likely never be the source of a down payment on that house in Block Island overlooking Mohegan Bluffs. (Why God, Why?) But for a satisfying job that has led to unexpected places, these are the rules I’ve lived by.

Lesson 1: Shorter Isn’t Necessarily Better. Better is Better

My crash-course in blogging lasted about two weeks. I had just lost my job at Cookie, the parenting magazine where I was editing features, and a website called to see if I could help out launching a few blogs on their lifestyle vertical. I was feeling a little lost — not to mention there was not one more corner of the house to organize, which seemed to be my way of dealing with my sudden daily aimlessness — so I said yes and pretty soon was on the 8:43 commuter train again, headed to a downtown office where the staffers seemed to check every box for website start-up. (Skull caps: Check; Bright Eyes station playing on Pandora: Check; Enrollment in artisanal, fetish-y food project: Check.) Everything happens faster online (first lesson) so my supervisor did not waste anytime laying down a few crucial rules about blogging to his seemingly prehistoric new freelancer. Don’t write in long paragraphs. Don’t write long at all. Online readers like quick hits. They like lists and bullet points whenever possible! Say things that will start a conversation in the comment field. (Or better yet, incite a riot in the comment field!) Tweet everything! Post everything on facebook! And my favorite, which I think about every single day: Remember: Producing content is 10% of the job; Promoting it is 90%. Ay yi yi.

For week one I just followed orders and repeated to myself “Don’t be old.” But by week two, I was done. Here’s the thing. My supervisor was right about every single thing above. If you want more visitors  (and any blogger who tells you he or she doesn’t is lying) you can get there more readily by following all of his rules. But you could also assume a certain amount of intelligence from your reader and write the way you want to write, the way most readers want you to write, that is, honestly. The masses might not come right away, but if you take time to write something that is pure and resonant and comes with no behind-the-scenes agenda, people will respond. And you will respond to their response. I remember early on in my DALS life when my ambitions were a little grander, I called my VC friend Roger in Palo Alto for a counseling session on building the “business.” He gave me the best piece of advice — or at least the best piece of advice that I felt most comfortable with. Don’t think about anything but the content for the first year. You need to earn the trust of readers and you need to distinguish yourself. The only way to do that is by paying close attention to what you are producing every day. Roger flip-flopped the formula for me and set me back on the path I knew so well from magazines, and that had never really led me wrong before: 90% of your time should be spent thinking about content, fresh new ideas, and presenting those ideas from a fresh perspective. Your perspective. Everything else? 10%.

Lesson 2: Define Your Mission

One of my earliest magazine jobs was at a major women’s lifestyle title. The editor at the time was a veteran magazine editor named Carrie — she had been in the industry for 25 years, wore all black along with trademark black-framed editor glasses. I didn’t know a whole lot, but I knew enough to know that I should write down every single thing she said and commit it to memory. At our Tuesday line-up meetings, she’d hold up some new book that we should be paying attention to (I one-clicked Botany of Desire as soon as she held it up saying less as a suggestion than an absolute command, “Pay attention to this guy. His name is Michael Pollan”); or of a magazine that was doing something new and exciting visually (Everyday Food! RIP! ); or simply what her latest fashion philosophy was. (“Gap Clothes, Prada Accessories!“) On the Tuesday meeting after September 11th, she told us that she had thought long and hard about our magazine and its place in the new world and decided there was going to be a revamped mission. “We are not a magazine people come to for the news” she told us. “We are a magazine that tells people how to handle the news.”  She went on to say that from that point forward the mission of the magazine could be pared down to three simple words: Comfort, Community, and Control. They became known as the three C’s, and if we had an idea we wanted to assign for the magazine, it had better fit into that description. Boy did we roll our eyes at the Three C’s! But boy did they ever work. Having a mission sharpened our focus. It helped us define who we were and why people came to us. When I moved on to my next job and oversaw a large section of the magazine, the first thing I tortured my team with was defining its mission. I also spent about six months writing the mission for this blog. I knew it would be as important for me to lay a blueprint as it would be for anyone who happened to drop by to see what the heck I was up to. This page is one of the most visited of the site. Which is another way of saying This is where I reel them in.

Lesson 3: No Harm in Making Things Pretty
If you spend a little money on a good designer, you will be ahead of 99% of the websites out there. It can take a lifetime to articulate to a designer the look you are after (I was lucky to earn my Masters in this at Conde Nast) but it helps to “pull scrap” as Carrie used to say. Bookmark anything online that you respond to — not just blogs, but websites, textures, colors. Create an inspiration board on Pinterest to stay organized. Or do it the old fashioned way, cut layouts out of magazines and pin it on an actual physical bulletin board. Fonts are incredibly important. Colors are incredibly important. I knew I didn’t have have a lot of time with online readers so I knew the visual first impression would be crucial. When I was working with my very gifted designer, Ava, I sent her photos of baby birds with their mouths wide open. (Because my dad used to say that his three kids asking to be fed and clothed and, you know, parented, conjured up this image.) After a few back-and-forths she landed on the masthead you see at the top of this blog. I love those birds and feel they are a crucial part of my identity. She also must’ve gone through 25 different logos before creating the chalkboardy font. I think because Dinner: A Love Story fell under the “mommy blog” umbrella, her first instinct — like a lot of people — was to go precious and cutesy and retro. So for a while there, every time she sent me something to review, I kept returning it to her with the same instruction: “No! More f–ked up!” The creative director at Cookie (who is now at Bon Appetit) taught me that one. Thanks Al!

Lesson 4: Ask Yourself: What’s the Hed & Dek?

This might sound a little crazy, but it took me a little while to learn that anything worth reading, for the most part, has a central idea behind it. It doesn’t have to be a big central idea, but it has to have an idea. You need to ask yourself, what is the point of writing this. Blogging is a dangerous medium for the same reason that it is a marvelous one: because you can do whatever you want whenever you want to and however you want to. I don’t think there’s a single person out there who hasn’t read a post by someone and wondered Who cares? Why is this person spending so much time on this? In magazines, there was a little exercise we’d do beforehand to make sure this never happened. We’d do a little something called an OUTLINE. It didn’t really matter what the outline looked like, what was important was the Title and the Subtitle. (Or, in magazine parlance: “the hed and the dek.”) What is the hed and the dek? Before I write anything — whether it was a chapter in my book, a post, a magazine story — I try to ask myself this. If I can’t explain it in a title and a subtitle, I’m in trouble. If I can, there’s my idea. It’s really nothing more than the topic sentence we learn about in third grade writing. Once I know what I want to say, I spend the rest of the piece saying it.

Lesson 5: Seek Out an Editor (Preferably an Editor Who Knows What He or She is Doing)

You need someone circling your copy … [more]
Uncategorized  how_to_blog  how_to_start_a_blog  how_to_write  jenny_rosenstrach  GR-starred  from google
january 2013 by lacurieuse
Before & After Showcase – Ashley’s Black & White Kitchen
I am so excited to share with you a new regular feature here on Bower Power.  I’m calling it a Before & After Showcase…and that is exactly what it is…a time to share, put on display, and applaud a fellow blogger who has taken something hum-drum and made it something worthy of the fist bump, a pat on the back and a piece of bacon.  I hope you all will visit the featured site and tell these DIYers what an amazing job they did, share your favorite bit of their transformation and in general spread the love.     

Ashley & Greg Brown are the bloggers behind the blog, 7th House on the Left.  They have been tackling their 1970′s home…and their kitchen transformation is so amazing that it literally makes me drool.  Let’s get right to it…the before was a lacking layout with little storage space…

and the after is a bright and white scene with a new layout and a gorgeous wall of tile…

They reworked the dishwasher, fridge and range location and I think it makes a world of difference. 

They also create lots more storage space by taking out a window and putting in some beautiful glass front cabinets and expanded the peninsula to have shelves on the end.  Love that.  Oh and check out those yummy floors. 

My favorite bit is their faux-zinc letters that Ashley created for her range backsplash.  Don’t they look like real metal? 

Overall – it’s a beautiful space that could short-circuit my computer (still drooling)….

What’s your favorite part?  The tile?  The hardware?  The Eat signage?  That amazing farmhouse sink?
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january 2013 by lacurieuse
100 Ways to Ruin Your Kids
An amazing friend of mine wrote a post entitled, “100 Ways to Be Kind to Your Child“.  It’s a fantastic piece, one written by a real mom with all the sincerity of her heart.  She’s a mom who knows as well as any that there are times when the stress of the day piles on until you feel like you could very well snap.  So she created this great resource. 100 ideas for a parent to choose to be kind, and to be intentional and mindful in those simple acts of kindness. (You really should read it.)

Yet with that post, as with many like it, too many parents see it — not as a list of 100 diverse ideas so that hopefully, maybe, at least one will resonate with them and be that answer they needed — but as a list of 100 more things they have to do to be “good enough”.  100 more reasons to feel guilty about not being a perfect parent.  100 more ways they might be ruining their kids.

Stop it.

Parenting is not a test (as Kate Fairlie wrote perfectly at Childhood 101).  You’re not going to find an answer key in a blog post, one against which you can measure your performance and assign a grade.

You’ll find some great suggestions.  Some will be just what you needed to hear.  Some won’t be right for you.  Not right now.  But that’s no reason to think you’ve got it all wrong.

In this Information Age it is easy to find so many wonderful resources, so many new ideas.  Though we can now access this seemingly unlimited wealth of knowledge all from a little phone in our back pockets we are still mere mortals ourselves.  We can only do so much right now.

And chances are, those who write all those brilliant lists don’t intend for you to do it all at once anyway.  Usually they’re just hoping you’ll be inspired by something.  Just one thing.

So the next time you feel overwhelmed when you read about all the things you could be doing with your kids, let go of the guilt.  Pat yourself on the back for what you are already doing (whether it made the list or not).  Ask yourself if there’s one thing on that list you could work on.  Just one.  One thing you think would mean something to your child.

Focusing on that one will accomplish much more than feeling guilty about the other 99 ever will.

This is part of the Myth of Perfect Parenting Series.  Read them all, starting here.

The post 100 Ways to Ruin Your Kids appeared first on Not Just Cute.
Learning_through_Play_and_Experience  Uncategorized  guilt  perfect_parenting_myth  GR-starred  from google
january 2013 by lacurieuse
Here’s the Plan Stan
We live in a digital age. Most homes have several televisions and they often are placed in bedrooms as well. Computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones are commonly used by children and even toddlers. Kids have access to a multitude of video games options and unlimited games are available for every brand of console. It is easy for children (and adults) to spend hours every day on some sort of electronic entertainment. I firmly believe our grandchildren are wasting their lives on such things and intend to change the situation in our home.

My own precious grandson is incredibly intelligent (yes, I am partial) and should be an A honor roll student every semester. However that does not happen because he becomes distracted, lazy or just plain addicted to some screen. He wants to play computer games, video games or watch raucous cartoons all evening. Then his school grades suffer because he is not giving his work the attention it deserves and requires. So in the interest of his future, a plan was put in place.

He starts each day with no screen time and I mean zero. But that is harsh and negative, leaving no room for recreation which causes frustration and hopelessness. He does extra practice schoolwork after finishing homework and earns screen time. For each hour of practice, S earns one and a half hours of video game, computer or television time, whatever he chooses. This gives him a sense of empowerment which is crucial to building self confidence.We have a chart where he records all Practice/Play times so we easily keep track of his progress. Earned time does not roll over to the next day, it must be “spent” the same day. This prevents the child from piling up hours and hours of play time and calling it due for his/her own convenience.

I will warn you that every child will try to manipulate you and come up with every possible objection and labyrinth to work less and play more. Questions such as:

“Do educational shows count as TV time?” Yes. Watching a lion tear apart a gazelle is screen time.
“I forgot to record my practice time.” Then it does not count toward play time. Here is a timer to keep on the desk.
“None of my friends have to do this. They get unlimited screen time.” Maybe I should call their mom and share this plan with her!
“I am SO tired. My fingers-back-head-hurts.” I am so sorry. Let’s put you to bed for the evening so you can rest.

Whatever the creative excuse, have a wise answer ready. Honestly though, my own S quickly settled into a pattern and does not complain. He enjoys seeing his grades improve and smirks to know I cannot refuse when he lounges in front of Woody Woodpecker for two hours!

Try this plan. The results of positive parenting are evidence based and rewarding for all involved. It has turned out to help us all spend more time together. When S does not want to practice, we all play some sort of board game or put together a puzzle. So the downside is, well there is no downside!

Keeping records is a positive step
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january 2013 by lacurieuse
Be an Advocate for your Grandchild
 ADVOCATE (Mirriam-Webster)

1-one that pleads the cause of another; specifically : one that pleads the cause of another before a tribunal or judicial court

2-one that defends or maintains a cause or proposal

3-one that supports or promotes the interests of another

Most of our grandchildren are in the public school system which can become an unpleasant experience. Many factors come into play that cause a child’s daily school time to be a rewarding experience or a dreaded one. School is stressful for kids even when they love school and all is going well. When something goes wrong though, it can cause a child to lose his/her desire and love of school. We want our kids to look forward to class, not to dread it.

The teacher has all the authority, the child does not have power to fight back or defend him/herself. Sometimes personalities clash between the child and the teacher(s). It is hard to accept that an adult would fail to hide such a thing and choose not to overcome this issue. But it does happen that our beloved grandchild is in an environment where he knows he/she is not liked or loved. That is a bitter pill to swallow for adults, let alone a little child.

Sometimes it is not personal, just the personality of the teacher or whatever adult is projecting negativity toward the child. I know a little boy who receives only negative comments from his teacher. Every note that is sent home tells what he did wrong or how he failed to live up to the teacher’s expectations. This same child finished the semester at 362 percent over his reading goal and never received a word of acknowledgement. He does much right and is a funny and bright child who has always loved school but now gets a stomachache every morning when he knows he must face this teacher. He said he feels doomed and likely he is right about that.

How do I know these things? Because this is my own precious grandson. I prayed and thought for weeks about what I can do to help improve the situation and decided positive always is better than negative. There is an old saying that one can draw more flies with honey than vinegar. So I am keeping that in mind when I deal with this particular teacher. When she tells me what S. did wrong or failed to do right I listen carefully and respond accordingly. Then I ask her to tell me something he did right. For every negative, I expect a positive. This forces her to notice his strengths as well as what she considers his failures.

When we stand strong for our grandchildren, they feel secure in the knowledge that we are always on their side. My grandson knows he can tell me anything no matter how bad it is. He knows he never has to lie to me because while I will not allow him to run away from the consequences, I will be by his side to figure out a solution to any problem. As his advocate, I never leave him or force him to be alone but am there to lean on as he learns life lessons. We cry together at the hard ones and shout for joy together at the fun, easy ones.

Recycled Moms, remember there are two sides to every story. This includes what your child’s teacher is saying. Get your grandchild’s side of it before making up your mind. Don’t be afraid to bring your grandchild into a meeting with the teacher. Having them face to face can solve and even prevent confusion and miscommunication. But be positive both to the child and the teacher. Just let your little one know you are on their side-right or wrong-not matter the issue.

Love really does conquer all!

Hand in Hand

Uncategorized  advocate_for_children  grandparents_raising_grandchildren  Love_conquers_all  personality_clash_between_child_and_teacher  positive_parenting  positive_reinforcement  positive_vs_negative_parenting  raising_grandchildren  recycled_moms  stand_for_children  GR-starred  from google
january 2013 by lacurieuse
First Friday Q&A – Should I Be Concerned About My Son’s Imaginary Friend?
(This video can also be viewed on YouTube here.  Do you think YouTube intentionally chooses the most awkward point of the video to use for the freezeframe?)

Many of the resources on imaginary friends center on a study published in Developmental Psychology (Vol. 40, No. 6).

Imaginary Friends Last into the School-Age Years {American Psychological Association}

The Psychology of Imaginary Friends {Moment of Science}  (This one says it isn’t a sign of giftedness…darn!  ;0)

The Real Reasons Kids Create Imaginary Friends {}

You can also read about the importance of dramatic play:

Enchanted Learning: The Benefits of Fantasy Play for Children {NJC}


Do you have an experience with imaginary friends in your life?  Any interesting tips, resources, or articles?  Please share!

The post First Friday Q&A – Should I Be Concerned About My Son’s Imaginary Friend? appeared first on Not Just Cute.
Child_Development_&_DAP  Learning_through_Play_and_Experience  Uncategorized  dramatic_play  First_Friday_Q&A  Imaginary_Friends  GR-starred  from google
january 2013 by lacurieuse
the easiest felt toddler craft in existence
Bam.  Post done.

If only that were true

Seriously though.  I got out my scraps of felt and made Will a Christmas tree that he can decorate every day.  He loves it.  You totally need this craft.  Sometimes he stacks all the ornaments in one pile…sometimes he puts the skirt on…sometimes he puts on the star and that’s it.  That’s the joy in this activity.   

Also, we set up our tree and it’s officially decorated.  Jer did the setting up…

Will did the random running out of the photo…he thinks it’s funny…

Weston did the sleeping (oh his hair has fallen out so I am so glad I snapped this shot of his newborn hair!)…

And I did the fawning.  I fawn all over this kid.  It must be the hormones.  It must be the sleep deprivation.  It must be the flaky skin on his hands.  I just didn’t think I was that kinda girl…the kind that is totally boy crazy.  I am.  complete with hair flip.   
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december 2012 by lacurieuse
Pass it On
Like Santa Claus, my mom never shows up empty-handed. When she visits, the kids gather at the door, waiting to see how lucky they’ll be this time. Will it be the new Lemony Snicket book? That turtleneck Abby had circled — hint, hint — in the Land’s End catalog a few months ago? A pair of earrings for Phoebe’s recently pierced ears? If a grandmother’s job is to shower love and affection (and presents), my mom is in the running for Awesomest Grandmother of All Time. She also brings things for me, however. Not presents, exactly. Things she has saved. Things that have lived in the boxes that sit in her compulsively incredibly well-curated basement for thirty years — her version of what Jenny and I call “the treasure chest,” the stuff from your life that you can’t bear to picture in a landfill somewhere — which she is now parceling out, bit by bit. Little dolls from her childhood, my old soccer jacket with all the patches sewn on the back, the mimeographed newspaper from my elementary school containing a story I wrote, in second grade, about Arbor Day, the light blue cable-knit outfit I wore on my first birthday, photos of my eighth grade dinner dance (I wore my dad’s tie and WHITE PLEATED PANTS), my old Looney Tunes T-shirt with Tweety Bird on the back and “Rent-a-Kid-Cheap” on the front, an old Wilson A2000 baseball mitt, my freshman course guide and assorted college detritus, and once, I crap you not, an Easter bonnet I made in pre-school out of a paper plate, some plastic flowers, and a light blue ribbon. (Me: “Mom, come on, what am I going to do with this thing?” Mom, actually attempting to tie the bonnet on my head while simultaneously applying the guilt: “But you… made it.”)

As you see, there are upsides and downsides to her role as family archivist.

Not too long ago, though, she showed up at our door carrying an old cardboard box, and when I say “old,” I don’t mean, like, six months old. I don’t even mean thirty years old. I mean, the cardboard on this box had that kind of waxy sheen that truly old cardboard gets, as if it has been holding fried dough and candles for a few thousand years. Stuck to the top of it was a mailing label that had my mom’s maiden name on it, and the mailing address of the house she moved out of more than fifty years ago. And inside, she announced, was a special present for Phoebe. Inside, as Phoebe soon discovered, was my mother’s comic book collection from her childhood, preserved here, as if in amber. Scrooge McDuck, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Kit Carson, Hiawatha, all in various states of parchmenty disrepair, motes of dust rising from the box, the pages literally falling apart as Phoebe turned them. Our oldest daughter is a well-documented comic book enthusiast, but man, I haven’t seen her sucked in so completely, so deeply in a long time. (“Sometimes when I’m reading them, I imagine that I’m grandma, sitting in her room when she was little,” is how she put it.) She spent a couple weeks reading and rereading them, and I joined in, too. The slightly fuzzy, saturated colors of that old ink are so satisfying and the writing — and yes, I realize I am talking about Donald Duck comic books here — is kind of amazing. Scrooge McDuck: Wait, that guy is a metaphor! There’s stuff going on here! These comics are saying something!

Given that they were written in the 40s and 50s, they occasionally veer into uncomfortable, not-very-sensitive cultural observations, but as with TinTin, you can turn that to your advantage. Think of it as an opportunity to talk about how dumb we used to be and how much we have learned and how times have changed, mostly, and for the better. Phoebe loved them so much, we secured another, more pristine shipment, each copy wrapped in plastic, and she currently keeps them all under her bed, stacked nearly in that old cardboard box. Sometimes I’ll be upstairs, on a quiet weekend afternoon, and I’ll peek in and see her there, laying on her floor, propped up on her elbows, reading them. Get to the end, put it back neatly, reach in and pick up the next one. The good news is, you don’t need to have a gift-dispensing mom who doubles as an obsessive family archivist to give this stuff a shot; old comics are practically what ebay was made for. They’re not hard to find — but even if they were, they’d be worth it. – Andy
Children's_Books_Gifts_Culture  Kitchenlightenment  Posts_by_Andy  Rituals  Uncategorized  GR-starred  from google
december 2012 by lacurieuse
Small town
I love old towns with main streets — towns that are a bit run down — and I am always searching for places in Montreal that look like this. That’s why I love to sketch in the old part of Ste. Anne de Bellevue. Lots of little clapboard houses, a boardwalk along the canal and a view of an island across the water. More like a bit of Maine or Massachusetts.

I have been painting with lots of purples these days and wanted to change my palette a bit. Today I used cerulean blue, cadmium red and lemon yellow. All fairly opaque colours that seemed to suit the grey day.
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december 2012 by lacurieuse
my boys
This comparison kills me…I love these cutie booties…

Will at 3 weeks

Weston at 2 weeks

I figure I’ll try to get a similar picture of all my kids (naked tush, belly pose, neutral background) to hang all together.  I have a more proper post for you guys later…but for now, let’s just pretend the world revolves around my babies.  rewrite the science books people…the planet goes around my little balls of gas  
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december 2012 by lacurieuse
A Huge Thank You
At the risk of sounding like a broken record….I just wanted to drop in and tell you all that I really am so very grateful for your encouragement.  It was priceless to me.  No joke.  I couldn’t buy friends like you.  Really.  I tried.

Also, I just wanted to fill you in on how things might be affected with the arrival of little Weston.  First, things might be slower and posts may be shorter or more irratic….oh right…things are already irratic.  This blog is still gonna be like a Ponderosa all-you-can-eat-buffet of imperfectness…so there will be house posts, personal stuff mixed in with 10K photos of Will and Weston and a little craft-related, or photography-centric posts.  Like the header says….a blog about nothing and everything.  that’s us. 

Oh and I want to write out Weston’s birth story like I did with Will…for posterity sake because heaven knows my brain is mushier than week-old-diaper.   So even though it probably won’t happen right away, it will happen.   

(Jeremy, Katie, Dr. Tate, Weston – hour after birth)

In the mean time, I do have a ton of project photos and some ‘last-days-before-family-o-four’ posts to bring to you.  So please don’t email me saying that I’m ignoring Weston’s arrival…I’m fully aware he’s here.  especially at 2 and 4 and 6 am.  Oh and since delivering a 10 lb baby is no joke, you can keep me in your thoughts and prayers for some healing.  I expected it would be “body-altering” in a lot of ways but I am also experiencing some additional ailments…so mega-ouch. 

(Weston – 12 hours old)

And just so the grandparents know….Will is adjusting.  He went from spending 100% of his time with either me or Jeremy to spending four solid days away from us…which is quite the shocker for any two year old.  He had a great time while he was getting spoiled rotten. 

He’s definitely interested in the little brother, showering him with affection (when Will says “don’t cry baby Weston Knox” my heart pretty much spontaneously combusts)…but he also came back with a full blown sinus infection (we thought he worked through it weeks earlier but apparently not) and is making some sad behavior decisions.  So we are working on establishing some normalcy back in his life, giving him a little structure, and enforcing the boundaries and manners and still encouraging him with quality time and trying to heal his little body so he can spend more time kissing Weston and me.  and me.  and me.  I have four days to make up for.

(First family photo of four)

So all that to say…thank you guys.  Thank you for being so supportive.  so encouraging.  so everything. 

and congratulations. 

You are officially aunts and uncles
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november 2012 by lacurieuse
Pick a number
A few reruns while I recuperate from finishing the book and spend time with the fam. Here’s one from October 2008.


“Hmm, okay, twenty-eight. Ooh, that’s a good one.”

Despite living with him for thirteen years, I knew very little about my dad. He worked three jobs and traveled a lot. When he was in town, he came home exhausted from a hundred-mile round-trip commute.

My mom spoke very little of him after he died, consumed as she was with the lonely and impossible task of raising three kids by herself two time zones away from any other relatives while working full time.

I’ve often wondered how much my kids would remember of me if I keeled over today. The situation is different — I’m much more involved in my kids’ lives for several reasons — but I wanted a way of sharing myself and my life with my kids in a natural way.

About five or six years ago, without even meaning to, I found a way. We started a storytelling tradition in our family called “age stories.” Simple premise: the kids pick an age (“Twenty-eight!”)  and I tell about something that happened to me at that age. It’s become one of their favorite bedtime story options.

Through age stories, they now know about my life at age 4 (broken arm, courtesy of my hobby at the time–walking on a row of metal trash cans), age 9 (I stole a pack of Rollos from Target and felt so bad I fed them to my dog, nearly killing her), age 21 (when I broke up with my first girlfriend and got dumped myself by the second one), 23 (my crushing fear and uncertainty on graduating college), 25 (the cool job that allowed me to meet Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr., Jimmy Stewart, Elton John, and a hundred other famous types), 26 (when I pursued and stole their mother’s affections from the studley Air Force pilot she was practically engaged to), what happened on the days they were born, and everything — really, at this point, just about everything – in between.

They know how I tricked a friend into quitting pot (for a night, anyway, at 15), the surreal week that followed my dad’s death (13), how I nearly cut off two fingers by reaching under a running lawnmower (17, shutup), my battles with the college where I taught (40), the time I was nearly hit by a train in Germany (38) and nearly blown off a cliff in a windstorm in Scotland (42).

Age stories can also open up important issues in an unforced way. Delaney happened to ask for “eleven” (the year my parents moved us from St. Louis to LA) right before her parents moved her from Minneapolis to Atlanta — a very difficult time for her. I described my own tears and rage, and the fact that I had held on to my bedpost the day of the move — and how well it turned out in the end. I wasn’t surprised when she asked for “eleven” again and again during that hard transition in her own life.

We’ve talked about love, lust, death, fear, joy, lying, courage, cowardice, mistakes, triumphs, uncertainty, embarrassment, and the personal search for meaning in ways that no lecture could ever achieve. They’ve come to know their dad not just as the middle-aged monkey he is now, but as a little boy, a teenager, a twentysomething, stumbling up the very path they’re on now.

And they keep coming back for more.

Give it a try. Make it dramatic. Include lots of details and dialogue. Have fun. Then come back here and tell us how it went.

Five For Fighting – 100 Years

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november 2012 by lacurieuse
Internet Librarian: Reinventing Spaces & Places
Internet Librarian: Reinventing Spaces & Places

Erik Boekesteijn, Jaap Van de Geer, Jeff Wisniewski, Paul R. Pival

Do we let our spaces work hard enough for us? What are successful spaces doing? We don’t have any space…  And the successful spaces we see have similarities: flexibility, creation, collaboration, and tradition (maybe).

We cannot save libraries by doing more of what we have done before because the outcome will be the same.  What are the roots of librarianship? Supporting and encouraging creation.  In our spaces, then, we need to move away from spaces that are simply used to manage content to spaces that facilitate collaboration and creation.

Six years ago Erik & Jaap set out to build the most modern library in the world with DOK in Delft, Netherlands.  They drove across the U.S. collecting best practices from various libraries.  Jaap recommends a book called Rich Dad Poor Dad about financial education.  Don’t work for money – see if money can work for you.  We don’t let our spaces work for us – we work for them.  Apple is the rich dad; the library is the poor dad.   The Amsterdam Apple store is packed with people using services while the Amsterdam Public Library (a gorgeous, expensive new space) is largely devoid of people.

A start-up in the Netherlands, Viewsy, lets you measure and manage foot traffic. That might be an interesting thing to take a look at.  We have to be brave in a relentless focus on the user.

What are successful spaces doing?  The Library of 100 Talents in the North of Holland.  If we want to go after our future users, we need to talk to our teens.  They had the teens work with a designer and architect to design their own teen space.  The TFDL Digital Media Commons provides a creation space – 12 Mac Pros with full A/V editing suites, 4 soundproof editing suites with full AV capabilities, and a DJ Mixing Board, collaborative workrooms with TeamSpot group collaboration software.

The Fountaindale Public Library is establishing a 7,000 square foot digital media content creation space.

The Westport Connecticut Public Library MakerSpace is in the middle of the library.  They have an engineer in residence who works in the MakerSpace and helps folks design things on CAD, use the MakerBot, etc.

The University of Washington Research Commons provides collaborative working spaces where students can share ideas in public locations, promoting peer learning.

McMaster University Lyons Media Centre has a gaming room that supports 3 academic programs that study game creation and use.

Collaborative spaces need flexibility and be able to have multiple uses.

You can rent out spaces as well, as the Assen Public Library (Netherlands) has done.  They built a television studio and hired their own staff to record programs, and they rent the space out when it’s not in use by students.

The keys to success – You have to start by listening to your users and involving the community by making them a part of the library.  The DOK library is about fun – gathering stories, creating fun spaces.  Their “wall of screens” displays local stories that people can add their own content to through their library card and a special surface touch table.  DOK has some truly awesome stuff…everywhere you look there’s something different to see, to do, to experience. (Sarah’s note: It is my favorite library I’ve been to, and I’ve been to A LOT.)

The Arhus Library in Denmark (the UrbanMedia Space) has a design for the exterior of the space, but zero definitive plans for the inside space yet because they think if they plan now it will be outdated by the time it’s built.  The vision is to create a unique space for cooperation, a place for dialogue, knowledge, ideas, and inspiration, an open and informal learning space, and a unique place for children. People are the key.

We need flexible libraries and spaces, as well as flexible teams.

Flexible furniture: with casters, grommets, lightweight, collapsible, movable

We need some people with a smart plan on using the space well – filling it for events.

We also need more wifi than we can possibly imagine we will actually need.

Have raised floors if you’re building or renovating a space – power and network everywhere, no matter where the furniture ends up.  Our users want two things: network and power.

We need agile walls (example of University of North Texas). “De-mountable walls.”

iPads are replacing all of their children’s gaming desktop computers at the North Shore Public Library.  This freed up space and the iPads are much easier to manage than the computers were.  Plus, the games are cheaper on the iPads, and users love them more.

There is a product called the Media Surfer kiosk that you can configure to dispense a device with the swipe of a library card.  It wipes the iPad, requires no staff mediation (but doesn’t clean the screen—which would be nice ).

We need to start thinking of our spaces as products and services that we can market.  The Stanford University Libraries lists their libraries, but have a “which library is open now” feature and advertise the library as a place to study…not just a place to go get a book.

Jeff highlighted a library in Washington that had created a scale of noise, and different levels of noise were allowed on different floors.

So if we have no space. 2/3 of library budgets are tied up in staff and rent.  We have to start thinking about how we can make the library work harder for us.  We need to reclaim space—take space away from things that aren’t working and aren’t being used.  For many libraries, that’s a big portion of your print collection.  You can also share space—Nova Southeastern University Library was building a shared facility with the Public Library.

The Amsterdam has a Library in the Airport with a focus on books and videos on the Netherlands. SO SMART.

We don’t work for books. We let the stories and the visitors work for us.  The Assen Library has a conveyer belt built into a recently returned bookshelf that you can target by subject (somehow, I’m not sure I understand how—that’s pretty cool though!).

The National Library of Singapore is collecting stories from their residents.  And that’s what libraries should be doing.
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october 2012 by lacurieuse
White Above Me
Operation Heart of the Home : Painting that dang-tan-Ceiling edition

So it’s hard to tell from these photos but all the trim in our kitchen is tan.  I actually had it color matched one time and the closest color I could find to it was True Value’s paint color called Irony.  It is ironic…because I hate that dang trim and I have it EVERYWHERE.

And I didn’t even notice the ceilings until we started painting the trim a nice bright white color.  Then it popped out at me like a kid in the bushes on Halloween eve…you know…the one that scares you half to death and you thank your lucky stars you didn’t have a weapon in hand because you probably would have beaten them to pulp and gotten sued for attacking a fourteen year old. 

So last you saw, we tackled the cabinets.  The trim was painted.  The cabinets were painted.  The ceiling was not.

Since the floors and counters were already covered, we decided to just tackle the ceilings.  We used two gallons of Valspar’s Flat Ceiling Paint in Brilliant White. 

Since this paint was not low-VOC, I skipped out on this adventure and just popped in to take a few photos here and there. 

After he was done with cutting in part of the room, he would use a roller with an extender attached to keep the ‘wet edge’. 

It’s hard to tell from a lot of pics…but our ceiling was a tannish-pinkish-dusty color….and the new color was just a smidge grayer than the bright white trim color (which is Valspar’s Semigloss paint in Bright White with no tint added).

This task is not for the faint of heart.  First of all, it is like a major shoulder/mindovermatter workout.  This was probably the ONLY task during the entire kitchen makeover where he was completely exhausted after doing it.  All the others he would be tired but for entirely different reasons (like say, waking up at 6am, going to work, getting home at 7pm, playing with Will for thirty minutes before throwing on work clothes to paint cabinets till midnight and then repeating that routine over and over and over). 

He was up in this corner when I walked in the second time and said “I think I wanna cry”.  Then I called him a wuss. 

No I didn’t.  I actually would have if I didn’t think he meant what he said though.  He is no fan of painting with a brush and roller and this was pure unadulterated torture for him. 

He said that it was worse because this was his first time ever painting a ceiling and he just didn’t know how long it would take and how difficult it was to get a good finish without any drips.  Have you noticed that he tends to want to do everything perfectly and it is upsetting to him if he doesn’t meet his own expectations?!  Yeah.  Total opposite of me.

After a solid nights rest, he woke up the next morning (which happened to be a Friday) to see that he did a pretty darn good job and that one more coat was gonna do the trick – YAY!  So the next Saturday he applied the second coat. 

And yes, that is one of his ‘work outfits’…I love when he wears it.  Something so darn loveable about a man with paint on his jeans. 

His number one tip was to not load up the roller too much because then you’ll have drips and uneven paint and it takes longer to roll it all out. 

So that’s that.  Trim painted – check!  Cabinets painted (still needing touching up) – check!  Painted ceiling – check! 

On deck….taking up the paper and painting the walls. 

Oh and just so everyone knows…no, these posts aren’t up-to-date…I’ve fallen behind (what’s new?!) simply due to the fact that some processes take SUPER long (hello cabinets I hate you) and got sick this past week…so I will try to bring you all up to speed….I’m kinda afraid of going into labor and not having you all in on what we’ve accomplished so be prepared for a panty-load of kitchen updates
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october 2012 by lacurieuse
I was talking to another mom on the soccer sidelines last week, and when she got wind of my book and blog, she asked what everyone asks: What’s for dinner tonight? I wasn’t going to walk in the door that night until almost 7:00 so I had planned my come-together-fast Fettucini with Pre-Shredded Brussels Sprouts. I told her that, and then she told me she was going vegetarian also with “a big fresh salad.” She then added, “Remember how our mothers used to think about dinner? A protein, a vegetable, and a starch?” Ha ha ha ha ha! I can’t remember exactly what she said next but it was something like this “Remember how charming and silly that was?”

If I’m making her out to be an ogre, I’m sorry, that is absolutely not the case — the woman is a saint — it’s only that I was kind of embarrassed. Apparently, the person who’s supposedly in love with dinner (me) is still thinking about dinner the way our mothers do. I mean, we’re big on Meatless Mondays in my house, and for a while there during the Atkins craze we made a big effort to replace the starch with a second vegetable. But for the most part, I have to say, the meat-starch-veg template is my default mode. When I’m thinking up dinner ideas, the plate is still a puzzle with three fill-in-the-blank pieces.

I will say, however, that I’ve updated that three-piece model a tiny bit with what I call my Two-for-One strategy. This means I try whenever possible to make a single dish that combines two food groups so I don’t feel like I’m making three separate dishes. For whatever self-delusional reason, it feels like less work and it makes dinner come together faster. Here are some of my favorites:

White Beans with Onions and Spinach (Protein + Veg, shown above)
Saute a halved garlic clove in a few glugs of olive oil to a skillet. Let it infuse the oil for a minute, then remove. Add 2 tablespoons chopped onions (or shallots or scallions), a shake of red pepper flakes, and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add one can of rinsed and drained white beans (such as Great Northerns or Cannellini), stir. Add a handful of frozen spinach (it’s best if it’s thaws, but works fine if it’s not). Add salt and pepper, and stir. Serve with grated Parm.

Chickpea Fries (Starch + Protein)
This one, which calls for chickpea flour (or besan) is both a starch and a protein, so just slap a salad alongside and they are less of a side dish than they are the main event. So so so delicious. Dip in marinara or ketchup. See page 210 of Dinner: A Love Story for recipe.

Cheddar-Squash Muffins (Starch + Vegetable)
I can see some of you out there getting into making a batch of these on the weekend, freezing, then popping into a 350°F oven to warm up before dinner during the week. See page 49 of Time for Dinner, the book I wrote with my former Cookie editor friends for recipe.

Corn Fritters (Any combo Protein + Veg + Starch)
This came from reader Nadja.  I loved her note along with it: “I know that you are not “supposed” to hide anything from your kids, but honestly the “experts” who are writing these books had kids so long ago they have forgotten. I made these for the kids one night that we were going out and “hid” some cooked shrimp in them as that sounded delicious to me and they won’t eat seafood at all. My 5-year-old spotted it instantly and asked “what’s this?” So I told him “it’s love, it’s my love for you.” He didn’t buy that narrative but he ate it nevertheless. So did the 2-year-old because I told him it was “crunchy pancake.” And because there was ketchup.

2 cups frozen corn
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
¾ cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
salt and pepper to taste

Thaw the corn and put half in the blender with the milk and egg and puree until smooth. In a bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt and pepper. Add the puree to the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in the remaining corn. At this point you can add any number of other things: cooked shrimp, fried onions, fried mushrooms (especially shitakes), red pepper, and probably other things that I haven’t thought of yet. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet and fry small mounds of the batter, turning once. Enjoy.

JR Note: I added two tablespoons of Parmesan and topped with yogurt.

Sides_Salads_Soup  Uncategorized  GR-starred  from google
october 2012 by lacurieuse
Fall Means Butternut Squash
With the cold weather suddenly descending on New York, it seems like a good time to swing into our fall recipes in earnest.  During our recent apple-picking trip, we also bought a butternut squash – a core piece of autumn produce.  We’ve posted a number of good butternut recipes over the lat few years, but looking back over our archives I was surprised not to find a post on what is probably our quintessential use for this gourd: butternut squash soup.  Ubiquitous, yes, but also delicious, easy, and requiring very few ingredients.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 large onion, chopped

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed

olive oil

salt and pepper

vegetable broth (but water works too)

Really, the hardest part of this whole recipe is preparing the squash itself.  I have yet to find a peeling method that doesn’t seem more difficult than it should be.  Once you’ve got it peeled, seeded, and cut into cubes, you can go one of two routes.  The easiest possible cooking method is to start by cooking the onions in the soup pot (with olive oil, salt and pepper, until translucent), then add several cups of broth or water, dump in the squash, bring to a boil, then cook until the squash is soft.

However, if you want to go the extra mile, you can roast the squash cubes in the oven (still with olive oil, maybe even adding some rosemary or sage) until they get brown, cook the onions and broth as described above, and then add the squash to the broth already cooked.  This method will generally produce a richer-tasting soup in my experience.

In either case, you end up with cooked squash and onion in hot broth, which you then want to blend.  We have an immersion blender which is ideal for the job, but you could also transfer to a blender or food processor in batches.  Serve it with a crispy bread.

This is one of those recipes that we tend to eyeball, rather than having exact measurements.  Some trial and error will get you to a point where you know what ratios of onion, squash, and broth you want to use in order to get a blended soup with your preferred consistency.
Uncategorized  soup  squash  GR-starred  from google
october 2012 by lacurieuse
The Importance of Being Empathetic
Part of the joy of working with writers who are smarter and more knowledgable than you is that you learn stuff. They do the research and make sense of the material and then you get to absorb it, process it, and then go to dinner parties and act like you know what you’re talking about. I’ve just finished editing a book about bullying by the amazing journalist and Slate gabfest fixture Emily Bazelon – and, obviously, being the parents of two girls, this is a topic Jenny and I spend time thinking about. Emily’s book – Sticks and Stones, out in February — is about the phenomenon in general, how it works and why it happens and what can be done to alleviate it. One of the words that comes up in the book over and over again is empathy, in that it is a crucial trait for kids to possess – or learn, as the case may be – if we are to make strides in making kids less mean, and more forgiving. Since October is officially “Bullying Prevention Month,” and since our kids, for some reason, have been reading in and around this subject area a lot lately, I thought we’d highilght three books that help instill some empathy and might lead to some fruitful dinner table discussions on the idea of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes — always a good thing to think about. Apart from the subject matter, they also happen to be really excellent books. I now hand the mic to Abby and Phoebe. — Andy

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

What it’s about: ”A boy named August (they call him Auggie) who has a deformity on his face. I know that doesn’t sound nice, but his ears look like tiny fists and his eyes are too low and he has no eyebrows or eyelashes. I don’t know how to explain him. Auggie has been home-schooled until his parents decide that it’s time to send him to a real school, Beecher Prep, and Auggie is resistant at first. He’s afraid. But when his parents tell him that the principal’s name is Mr. Tushman, Auggie laughs and decides to go. The rest of the book is about his year at school and how he manages to survive bullies, ‘the plague’ — which is a mean game, kind of like cooties — and a jerk named Julian.”

The moment that hurts the heart: “When Auggie overhears his friend Jack saying bad things about him. Jack tells Julian that he had pretended to be friends with Auggie, and Auggie didn’t know that. Auggie overhears this and goes on the staircase and just starts crying. He trusted Jack and thought that he didn’t care about how he looked. When you read it, you can feel how sad he must be.”

The lesson it teaches: “Looks can be deceiving.”

Phoebe score: 10. “One of the best books I’ve ever read.”

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

What it’s about: “A girl named Melody who has cerebral palsy and is incredibly smart. I think she’s twelve. The thing is, she can’t speak because of the cerebral palsy, and so people misjudge her. A lot. She has one friend, beside her aide, named Rose. Rose believes in her and one day, Melody gets a special computer that allows her to finally communicate. When she types in a word, the computer says it out loud, so it’s like she can talk. This helps her prove that may be different, but she’s not stupid. This book is enough to make people cry.”

The moment that hurts the heart: “Melody’s school has a team of these super smart kids who go to compete against other schools in a trivia game that is on tv. Melody is on this team. One time, the team had to go to Washington to compete and Melody was a little bit late and they left her behind. One student thought that she wasn’t as important as the others. This made her realize again that, no matter what, people would always think of her as different.”

The lesson it teaches: After Phoebe read this book, she sent Sharon Draper an email. This is what it said:

Dear Ms.Draper, 

I read Out Of My Mind on Thanksgiving weekend. I think that if everybody had a copy of that book, it would change the world. It completely changed the way I looked at people that have cerebral palsy and autism. Do you know any body with cerebral palsy? Did you write the book to make people look at people with cerebral palsy and autism differently?

That night, Sharon wrote back, and this is what she said:

Dear Phoebe, 

Thanks so much for your kind letter.  I’m so glad you enjoyed Out of my Mind.  That book is very special to me. I tried very hard to capture the essence of what it means to be different. Melody is a song to me that will forever sing. Yes, I know lots of people with disabilities, and I hope the book helps people see them as real people.

Phoebe score: 9. “Soooo close to a 10, but not quite as good as Wonder. Still, a great book for people who want to look inside somebody’s mind.”

The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff

What it’s about: ”It’s about a boy named Georgie who has something called dwarfism, and what happens in his life. It’s not a book that has a lot of action, but it still makes you want to read on and read on and read on. A lot of the chapters end on cliffhangers and it makes you really think about how different people are in this world. This book is about friendship, too — and how it’s hard for kids like Georgie to find friends because people make fun of him for his height and the way he looks.”

The moment that hurts the heart: ”When you hear about all the times people stare at Georgie and make fun of him just because of how he looks. One time, he’s knocking on a door and a car drives past and the man in the car stares — like, eyes wide open — and I can imagine how hard it would be to deal with that every single day.”

The lesson it teaches: ”Everyone, no matter how they look or how they act, is always the same as you on the inside.”

Abby score: 10. “Ten. Ten!”
Children's_Books_Gifts_Culture  Favorites  Posts_by_Andy  Rituals  Uncategorized  bullying_prevention_awareness_month  national_bullying_prevention_center  out_of_my_mind_sharon_draper  the_thing_about_georgie_lisa_graff  wonder_rj_palacio  GR-starred  from google
october 2012 by lacurieuse
It’s a Wrap
Prepping this kitchen is pure and unadulterated torture.  Don’t let our perma-smiles fool you.  Kitchen renovating is not for the weak of heart.  Can anyone do it?  Probably.  It’s not a skill thing.  I liken it to having a baby…anyone can jump into that pool with two feet, and after a long getting ready period filled with possible discomfort, long hours, and sleepless nights, you then have a bundle of joy that you are paranoid about ruining.  I might even name our baby when it’s done.  And give it a birth certificate.  And you can count on too many photos. 

Speaking of photos, let me explain some things before I show pics. 

CABINETS:  When we originally started this phase of the kitchen reno, we were gonna paint the cabinets.  and the walls.  not the trim.  not redo the tile.  Well, when we started sanding the space we found out that some of the cabinets are really nice and some not real wood.  So that meant oil-based primer.  We figured that in order to really get the toughest painted finish out there, we would use oil based primer to really block the stains and for easiest & fastest coverage.  The only thing was…we didn’t want to put oil based paint in our sprayer…so that meant either hand doing it…or getting spray cans.  We opted for the easier.

TILE:  Our tile was gonna be phase 3 of this kitchen…you know…after-the-baby-was-born-phase-three.  But when we realized that we had to remove some to put in the hood…it became phase 2.  Some folks asked why we didn’t demo the tile before painting the cabinets…well, because 1.  the insulation would be falling out everywhere while we painted, B. the tile doesn’t cover any of the cabinets so it doesn’t mean we’ll have to repaint, IV.  we were prepared to paint…we weren’t prepared to pick out tile and replace drywall.  Plus, we are not attempting to salvage this tile…so it doesn’t matter if it gets overspray paint on it.  Let’s just pray that when it comes time to demo it, it goes smoothly. 

WALLS:  I still have no idea what color we are painting on the walls.  And for twopointohnanoseconds I thought we were gonna tape them off and not have to repaint.  So ignore the fact that I started taping them off in these pics.  I was a dummy.

On to the photos…

After we sanded in the kitchen, it was a mess…so Will and I cleaned it up.  I cleaned the floors and the cabinets so they were ready for paint.  Eliminating dust is crucial for a good paint job.  And so is wearing your husbands flipflops when your feet have swelled outta yours

The other thing we had to fix was the wooden wall surround that goes next to the fridge.  It was pulling away from the trim.  So Jer drilled in a couple L brackets to keep it in place.   

Then came time to cover the floors.  I found the easiest way to cover hardware floors is with loads of Frog Tape and brown paper.  Here’s how I do it:  I cut the roll of brown paper to the right length (about an inch short of reaching the wall)… 

Then I whip out the tape.  Frog Tape is really the best.  And this is coming from someone really lazy who hates touch ups and scraping stray paint where it’s supposed to be a crisp clean line…so you know it’s true.  I’m too lazy to lie.

I put the tape directly on the floor where I want my clean line.  Then I rub it with something flat and hard…like a library card…(it’s pressure activating…like a good foot massage…you don’t wanna just squirt the lotion on em and call it a day…rubbing is crucial)…

Then you put your paper down flat and put another length of Frog Tape to hold it down and cover any little gaps.

Pretty much the same process with wrapping up countertops.  You have to do the perimeter (and underneath where it meets the cabinets!) with Frog Tape first…

Then put your paper down with more tape holding it in place and covering any gaps.  Borrow your two year olds craft scissors if neccessary

When we started the countertops, I realized pretty quickly that I would rather just have the faucets removed rather than go through the tedious process of taping them… so my darling boys got to work.   Will is management obviously.

I love the hand on the belly.  Kinda like he’s saying, “I got  your back dad”…or possibly “I with you…I have no idea why mom is so crazy”.

Some folks asked why we were getting rid of the faucets.  Plain and simple…I don’t like them.   Second point for the win…they leak.

Exhibit A…

They were probably fixable…but why invest time fixing something we don’t like anyway, right?  So we pulled out all the parts and put the bag in the donate pile. 

Other folks were asking us why we were not digging the tile.  Well for one, it was not installed the way I would choose.  The first row of tile was cut across the top to make it straight.  Usually you put the cut edge toward the countertop.  So thats pet peeve numero one.

The second issue is that at some point there was some need for regrouting…which Napoleon did…in a different color.  Check out the bright white grout near the outlet.  Yup.  Sticks out like Michael Jackson’s socks.

Last…there were weird areas of dark gray dirt.  It was like the person who installed the tile had the countertop still dirty with dust and just smooshed it into the grout.  I scrubbed and scrubbed.  But to no avail.   Plus, there are still obvious areas of discoloration because of grease and smoke…I’ve tried every kinda cleaner out there…and I think it was sealed into the porous tile.  ERG.   So all of those things made me wanna just tear it out. 

After the countertops and floors were finally safe and sound, it was time to do the insides of the cabinets.

Two lines of Frog Tape on each edge…and then we put in ‘trap doors’.   Basically it’s just a piece of cardboard cut to fit inside the cabinet and block overspray.  We scored the bottom so we could squeeze it in and then used the little Frog Tape handle to pull it closed.  When there were shelves on the inside (like the upper cabinets next to the fridge), those just held the cardboard in place…but when there were no shelves, we reached our arm up the trap door and taped it to stay.

We also used the tape and paper to cover all the appliances (except the fridge which we moved into the living room)…

There she blows…classy, huh?

And the lights also got covered.  The big one we called Frankenlight.

The pendants were easy.  And yes, the tape works great for covering cords…

So that wrapped up an entire Thursday and Friday.  I was so glad the next day would be Saturday because that meant I could climb up on the ladder (equally terrifying and exciting) to finish the windows.

Jeremy and I got up early the next day to finish up…

Of course…

Oh and Will got in on the action…I love his little mouth in this shot…

And he got a little balance bike action in before the plastic went back up on the doorways…


 Here’s a better picture of Frankenlight…scary, huh?!

So for the most part, the kitchen was done.  Jeremy had admitted that my hoarding of cardboard boxes was invaluable in this very particular and rare situation (he wanted to make sure I clarified that)…and that the room was almost ready for primer.

Cardboard was also used to cover the new vent hood. 

(Pssst…we heard everyone’s concern over the vent duct tape…and since this area is completely accessible, we plan on conducting an experiment.  We are gonna open the doors to over the hood every month to monitor the condition.  We’ll see how long it takes for the duct tape to dry out, peel or melt.  It’ll add scientific joy into my otherwise boring life).  

I simply am showing this photo to show my impressive handiwork wrapping the dishwasher.  And yes, there are dirty dishes in there.

For the windows we used cardboard, paper and tape.  My favorite part was cutting the arched windows outta cardboard…it was my inner geek coming out    The rest of the room was completely ready too..


So that’s where we stand…a whole lotta brown.  and green.  I’m just thankful that part is OVER.   Next up - primer (a la spraypaint for the cabinets) and paint for the trim.   

Operation Heart of the Home Past Posts:


First look at the kitchen
Buying a fridge
Getting a dishwasher
Refinishing our kitchen table
Renovating the kitchen chairs
Painting the light fixture
Organizing the desk
Installing island pendants
Adding cabinet hardware


Removing the cabinet for hood
Removing cabinet doors & all contents
Fixtures & Purchases
Prepping for the vent hood
Building the vent hood
Sanding the cabinets


This is a sponsored post brought to you by FrogTape. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience – which means I would use Frog Tape even if they didn’t know me and I am sick of sitting on the hardwood floor
Uncategorized  GR-starred  from google
september 2012 by lacurieuse
Organization Geeks Need Not Go Broke — How to Make a No-Sew Drawer Organizer
When I saw this homemade drawer organizer on Pinterest, I knew I had to give it a try. Why? Because it was made from old cereal boxes, wrapping paper and Mod-Podge.

 And because of this nest of disorganization:

Yeah, not so pretty. Luckily, my older son had been saving cereal boxes, and didn’t care if I swiped them all.

Although I read the instructions from The Stonybrook House, I mostly just winged it. I glued the boxes back to their 3-D shapes using my hot glue gun, and then just cut the boxes into different sizes. I shuffled the boxes around until I found a configuration that I liked, and then I hot glued the boxes together.

Do you like how they look from the bottom?

I wanted my drawer organizers to have long-term durability, so I decided to use my leftover $1.99 Goodwill Ikea fabric from my table project instead of wrapping paper.

Here’s how it looked about halfway through, using Mod-Podge to glue the fabric onto the boxes:

And here’s how it looks all completed. See how wavery the sides are? If I were repeating the project, I would use something stronger like shoe boxes. However, it doesn’t affect the function of the cubbies. They’re actually quite stiff from all the Mod-Podge.

 And here’s they look all filled up with stuff.

 And here’s the drawer in place, which looks awesome!

 And when the drawer’s shut, then it’s all nice and organized.

Because, as Gretchen Rubin says:

“Outer order contributes to inner calm.”

Ohmmm . . . . 

And as a bonus, I am sharing my new sugar packet container which I pulled from a free pile this week. Perfect for storing Q-tips in the medicine cabinet!

Who needs The Container Store when you have a couple of old boxes, glue and a bunch of time to kill?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Before_and_After  Decor  Uncategorized  GR-starred  from google
september 2012 by lacurieuse
How to Nurture Talent (Without Being a Psycho Parent)
There’s a certain kind of writer that brings an inordinate amout of joy to an editor’s life. They’re a rare and beautiful species. I call them “total pros,” and they share four essential characteristics: (1) They do the work, by which I mean they go out and perform the (sometimes tedious, sometimes unpleasant) job of reporting, making the calls and reading the studies and boarding the flights and prepping for the interviews and transcribing the tapes; (2) They are able to take all that reporting, digest it, organize it, and then turn that vast swamp of ideas and information into a neatly-tended, clear and thoughtful draft; (3) They then take the editor’s inevitable, annoying notes on that draft, and perform the brutal task of opening that file up again and diving back into their story, pulling it apart and reworking it, turning it into something that is even better than the original, where every sentence is worried-over and cared-for; and (4) They are nice people. 

Dan Coyle is a total pro.

Five years ago, Dan started visiting “talent hotbeds” all over the world to do research for a book called The Talent Code, which was published in 2009. He visited a tennis academy in Moscow that was turning out a scary number of Top 20 players, a music school in the Adirondacks where kids were absorbing a year’s worth of lessons in two months, an inner-city charter school whose kids were suddenly making a habit of acing the state tests, and so on. Along the way, and with help from leading neuroscientists and psychologists, Dan produced an inspiring exploration of how talent works, and how it can be nurtured. Now, three years later, he has published an elegant companion guide to that project called The Little Book of Talent. (You know Michael Pollan’s book, Food Rules? Picture that, but instead of telling you how to eat, this is a little workbook that tells you how to get better at stuff.) Inside are 52 simple rules that parents and kids can use to improve their skills in music, sports, art, writing, or school. It’s The Talent Code, distilled. (It has also been sitting on The New York Times bestseller list for the past two weeks, so big ups to Dan, who is undoubtedly spawning a new generation of Yo-Yo Mas and Agassis.) There’s a solid foundation of science and research underlying these rules, but Abby and Phoebe have both read it, and they didn’t have any trouble at all taking it in. We’ve also given it to our kids’ soccer coaches and our music teachers, so beware: you’re up next. Dan was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to share a few of those rules with us here. If you have any doubt re. their efficacy, check out this video of Dan putting them into action, which I’ve watched like twenty times. Like I said: a total pro.

PS: Dan has actually published two books in the last two weeks. The other is The Secret Race, which he wrote with Tyler Hamilton and which, if you are at all interested in the sport of cycling, is a must-read. This one has been blowin’ UP on the internets!  – Andy


I am not the first to point this out, but let me say it anyway: when it comes to nurturing our kids’ talents, today’s parents today have it tough. Not because we know too little, but because we know too much. Way, way too much.

Nurturing talent used to be a fairly simple process, because it was mostly passive. Parents sat back and waited for the talent to show itself.

Now, parental talent-nurturing is an official industry, like organic food. Soccer, violin, chess, math, art — they all provide us with nicely constructed funnels down which we can pour endless amounts of money and time as we try to help our kids become their best selves. Tiger Mothers and Fathers stalk the landscape, carrying their superstar cubs in their mouths. Science has given us terrifyingly concrete concepts, like Critical Learning Periods, where if your kid doesn’t learn something by age X, the door of opportunity slams shut — forever!  Being a parent has gone from feeling like a laid-back observer to feeling like a frantic gardener, racing around, trying to find the best way to help talent grow.

All of which creates a question: what’s the best way to navigate this new world?

I’ve spent the last five years visiting and studying talent hotbeds, and also being the dad of four kids (10-17). So over the last few years my wife Jen and I have done our best to navigate this, and have come up with a simple list of rules that have helped us around your house, a few of which I’d like to share.

Don’t: Praise kids for their abilities.

Do: Praise kids for their efforts.

Why: When you praise kids for their abilities, you diminish their willingness to take risk — after all, we’re status-oriented creatures, and why would anyone who’s been labeled “talented” risk their status?

When you praise kids for their efforts, on the other hand, you increase their willingness to take risk, to fail, and thus to learn. One useful phrase to use in praising kids is to say well done. It conveys appreciation, without calling anybody a genius.

Don’t: Fall for the Prodigy Myth.

Do: Reframe struggle as positive.

Why: Yes, different kids learn at different rates. Yes, some kids take off like rockets; others linger in the belly of the bell curve. The thing to remember: this isn’t a sprint.The majority of prodigies flame out, and the majority of successful people come from the anonymous ranks of average Joes and Josephines.

What helps is to understand that the moments of intense struggle are really the moments when learning happens fastest. Those moments aren’t pretty — it’s when a kid is reaching toward something new and missing — but they’re fantastically productive because it’s when the brain is making and honing new connections. Your job is to find ways to celebrate those moments of struggle.

Don’t: Pay attention to what you kid says

Do: Pay attention to what your kid stares at.

Why: Let’s do this one in the form of a scene, in which a kid returns from first soccer/piano/karate practice.

PARENT: So how was it? How did it go? Did you like your teacher? What did you do?

KID: Ummmmm.

PARENT: Was it fun? Were you good at it? Do you think you’ll do it next week?

KID: Ummmmm.

The point is, most kids are reliably inept at expressing their inner feelings. So don’t put pressure on them to express them, because it tends to speedily diminish whatever interest they might’ve felt.

Instead, pay attention to what they stare at. Staring is the most profound act of communication that kids perform. Staring is like a neon sign saying I LOVE THIS. Watch for the stare, and follow where it leads. One of our daughters got interested in violin because we went to a performance of a teenage bluegrass band. She stared. We didn’t say much. We bought her a violin, and took her to a lesson, and she was into it. That was five years ago; she’s still playing.

Don’t: Seek a coach or teacher who’s like a courteous waiter.

Do: Seek coaches and teachers who scare you a little.

Why: It’s easy to confuse pleasure and comfort with actual learning. But truly good coaches and teachers are about challenging you to get to the edge of your abilities, time and time again. Seek out coaches who are authoritative. Who know their stuff, and who take charge. A little scary is good.

Don’t: Celebrate victories.

Do: Celebrate repetition.

Why: Too many kids (and parents) judge their progress by the scoreboard, instead of by the amount they’ve learned. Victories are their own reward. They do not need any extra emphasis.

Celebrating repetition, on the other hand, is not done often enough, because repetition has a bad reputation. We frequently connote it with drudgery. In fact, repetition is awesome. It’s the single most powerful way the brain builds new skill circuits. So make it cool. Doing a hard task ten times in a row is great. Doing it a hundred times in a row is freaking heroic. So treat it that way.
Kitchenlightenment  Posts_by_Andy  Uncategorized  daniel_coyle  little_book_of_talent_daniel_coyle  the_talent_code  GR-starred  from google
september 2012 by lacurieuse
Giving in to the Mess
Operation Heart of the Home…Cleaning out the Cabinets Edition

This post doesn’t require a lot of words.  Basically it can be described with a few words…we cleared out the kitchen.   After we removed the cabinet doors, we were left with a very cluttered kitchen…

So Will & I spent the next day moving everything.  He was a great helper.  We were the same speed…actually he would have been faster but he had to wait on a certain pregnant lady :)

The upper cabinets were hard so I had to wait on Jeremy to get home till he could climb on the ladder.  I had gotten stuck one time on the step ladder (yes, complete with my sciatica robot moves) and couldn’t get down for a solid fifteen minutes.  Let’s just say that I am still finding the goldfish crackers under furniture. 

So where did everything go?  Well, we have the space so we spread it out….the most used stuff found it’s way into the foyer…

small appliances and cookbooks are near the stairway…(Will insisted that this is also the appropriate location for the trash bags). 

 The dining room is a big dumping ground….(same happened when we were renovating the office)…

Jeremy told me that I have too many glass jars.  I can’t help it…they are FREE once you eat the spaghetti sauce or salsa or pickles.  FREE!!!  (cackles like a witch)

And everyone always makes comments on how many glasses we have.  A lot of them are leftovers from when I used to do events at my church.  I was like a pretend caterer….and had to provide the dishware…so we have a bazillion glasses.  It works out because inevitably we break them constantly…klutzy I guess.

My collection of accent plates are in the reading room…Will also decided to put the blue wooden box on them.  He’s very opinionated about the location of where stuff goes.

And on the other side of that room lives the pots and pans. 

All of our drawers (the ones that we removed the fronts from) are in the office.  We put them in there because Will has a tendency to be interested in the contents…which is fine when it’s a sticker book….not so much when it’s a couple containers of sprinkles.  very messy sprinkles.  And the office has a door…that we can lock….enough said.

Jeremy ended up moving the kitchen table out too….just so we had a place to sit down.  Note the crime scene with the plastic…

After the thousands of trips back and forth, the cabinets were finally emptier than a candy wrapper in a pregnant girls pocket.  Not that I would know what that is like…

Next up…sanding and hood building….hours upon hours of sanding.  also known as 56 doors of Agony.  Sounds like a movie title….except the movie would be torture to watch.  In slow motion, it’s like what they do to prisoners of war to get them to break.  It’s borderline inhumane.  

(pregnant, barefoot, makeupless, covered in sawdust….yup sounds like a horror flick!)

Oh and we also shopped for the new faucets….you know, cause gold isn’t our jam.  Can’t wait for you to see them!
Uncategorized  GR-starred  from google
august 2012 by lacurieuse
Maudite politique
Vous me connaissez. Je ne parle jamais politique. Ou si peu.

Mais bon, la campagne électorale achève et à force de me mordre les joues pour ne pas commenter, j’en fais des ulcères. Et les ulcères, c’est pas agréable. Donc, au mépris de ce que je me suis moi-même imposé, voici quelques petits commentaires désordonnés. Et/ou désagréables, c’est selon.

Tout le printemps, tous les partis ont parlé de faire de la politique « autrement ». Ouais. Ben j’attends encore.

Dans le Larousse, on définit autrement par:

   D’une autre façon : Il agit autrement qu’il ne parle. Heu… comme dans les bottines doivent suivre les bottines? N’est-ce pas là le propre d’une campagne électorale? Promettre et une fois élus, expliquer pourquoi on ne livrera pas? Les uns et les autres ont passé les derniers 30 jours à expliquer que son voisin de gauche, ou de droite, ferait le contraire de ce qu’il promettait.

    À un plus haut degré : La crise est autrement plus sérieuse qu’on ne l’avait prévu. S’il est vrai que la présente campagne électorale est « autrement » plus intéressante qu’on aurait pu l’imaginer, elle n’est certainement pas à un plus haut degré d’élévation intellectuelle. Same old, same old…

  Dans le cas contraire, sinon, sans quoi : Tout a dû bien se passer, autrement on nous aurait prévenus. Dans le cas contraire, on aurait très bien pu attendre encore quelques mois, mais il y une certaine ironie à voir que tous les partis avaient finalement très très très hâte d’en découdre.

Y a-t-il quelque chose que je n’ai pas compris? Ou alors, va sérieusement falloir revoir la définition de « autrement »… Et non, lâchez-moi avec l’aspect 2.0 de cette campagne. Le web n’a pas fait gagner Obama en 2008, c’est Obama qui a gagné. La seule différence, c’est que l’anecdote devient l’événement, parce que sur-multipliée par les tweets et les statuts FB. Mais depuis le début, je n’ai pas vu grand chose sur les média sociaux qui m’aurait « autrement » transportée dans une réflexion profonde sur notre avenir collectif.

Après les événements du printemps, j’aurais aspiré, personnellement, à une certaine élévation des débats. J’en suis quitte pour les mêmes accusations – « c’est de vot’ faute » – les mêmes promesses – « m’a t’en donner plus, ou moins, pour ton cash » – les mêmes questionnements oiseux – « toi, tu votes-tu stratégique? » -. Je sais ce que les partis feront avec mes impôts, mais je n’ai toujours pas idée du genre de société dans laquelle on m’invite à vivre. J’en devine parfois les contours, au détour d’un engagement vite renié, mais pas suffisamment pour avoir y voir un projet de vie.  On est vite retombé dans nos ornières traditionnelles de positionnement, dans l’axe fédéralisme/souveraineté, alors que nous avions amorcé, maladroitement peut-être, un virage sur l’axe droite/gauche. Finalement, tout le monde va finir par être d’extrême centre. Ouaip.

Au-delà des résultats de la semaine prochaine, avec lesquels nous devrons vivre puisque la démocratie se sera exprimée, je souhaite seulement que nous ayons la sagesse collective d’apprendre de cette campagne. D’apprendre entre autres que:

- le « flash » des ex, c’était bien il  y a 4 ans. Le concept a vécu. Je n’en peux plus des ex, des actuels et des gérants d’estrade qui spinnent le spin du spin…. Ressortez-moi mon petit couple préféré, monsieur et madame Tout le monde, donnez-leur un micro et deux advils svp!

- même si je suis la première à reconnaître l’importance du vote, je ne veux rien savoir du vôtre. Good, propagez la bonne nouvelle sur le fait que vous avez posé le geste, mais de grâce, gardez-vous une petite gêne sur l’endroit du x. J’en peux déjà plus des statuts FB et des Tweets sur le sujet, et on est juste à la fin du vote par anticipation! Voter, ça demeure un geste citoyen, certes, mais un geste intime. Point. Sinon, c’est au mieux de la publicité électorale non réglementée, au pire, de la propagande. En cette ère de téléréalité, je m’attends à voir, sur les réseaux sociaux, une photo d’un bulletin de vote prise derrière l’isoloir avec la mention « moi, en train de voter ». À défaut de se montrer les fesses à la télé, tsé…

- la « proximité » avec les politiciens, c’est bien, mais là aussi, on se garde une petite gêne. J’aimerais bien connaître le réel impact sur le vote de la portée d’une information comme « que mangez-vous au petit déjeuner », « que lisez-vous avant de vous endormir » et, ma préférée d’entre toutes « avez-vous eu le temps, pendant la campagne d’avoir des moments intimes avec votre conjoint? ». Si on vote pour un parti parce que son chef mange la même sorte de céréales que soi, ça m’apparaît mince comme motif. Mais bon, qui suis-je pour juger, hein?

Bon, je vous l’avais dit, ça fait sortir le méchant! Là, je peux me concentrer sur la rentrée des classes de merveilleuse merveille, mes prochaines conserves de tomates et continuer de profiter de ce bel été dont je vous reparlerai peut-être…


Uncategorized  GR-starred  from google
august 2012 by lacurieuse
Down to Earth
Operation Heart of the Home has officially begun. 

Cowabunga, right?!  Not really.  As much as I would love to be excited about renovating kitchens…I am human.  And as a human, I would rather rest my sciatica than do DIY sometimes.  That’s perfectly normal.  For all you “I-love-work-and-would-choose-hard-manual-labor-any-day-over-watching-recorded-episodes-of-Bachelor-Pad”…well, obviously I hate you.  kidding.  only a little though. 

Okay – so our kitchen’s first closeup looked like this…

Our kitchen normally looks like this…

And I explained that our first phase is complete.  Here’s what we did in that phase:

new appliances – fridge and dishwasher 
painted the kitchen table light
switched the table
changed up the chairs
added new island lights
new cabinet hardware
renovated the desk area and
cleaned the thing to an inch of it’s life.

Now we moved on to the second phase (which I explained in more detail here).  First up to bat is replacing the cabinet above the stovetop with a hood. 

Why do we need a hood?  Well…because of this bad bad naughty boy…

Check out that groddiness.  Like the aftermath of a potty-training toddler. 

Yes…the buildup on the glass stovetop was so terrible that I had to spend hours upon hours scraping it up with a straight razor.  That’s after I attempted every glass stovetop cleaning product on the market.  It as gah-ross. 

And see that vent in the middle?  That’s a downdraft vent.  Meaning, when I am burning our chicken dinner, the smoke which wants to go up, needs to go down…sounds to me like it’s against nature.  And that the vent needs to be pretty powerful.  It never worked properly.   Evidence below…

See all that soot and grease and that is on the side and bottoms of the cabinets?  Just what I wanted to do on a Saturday night – scrubbing cabinets. 


I got it relatively clean…but the bottom of the ‘hood’ cabinet was damaged.  I guess the heat and moisture just was too much to bear. 

So our plan was to remove the cabinet and using that as a catalyst to start working on the cabinets…

Jeremy broke out the drill and started removing the screws.  After installing cabinetry in our old house, we learned that usually upper cabinets are screwed into the studs…both on the inside of the cabinets, the outside and then also attached to the other cabinets living beside them.     


Then lift from the bottom and catwalk that bad boy out…


God bless those Nike shorts.  every skin-gripping inch of them   Sorry if that was awkward for you…you may paste your own hubbies face on his body if it makes it better.

Nine screws, a little laddering, and a lot of bending my head over to see Jer’s shorts later – the cabinet is down to earth.  And now we have the hood area clear and ready for planning.  Most surprisingly, the wall behind the cabinet was a different color.  That means that the kitchen was originally the same toothpaste color as the rest of the house.  It just goes to show that the previous owners did make at least one improvement to this house!

Next up – cabinet doors and clearing the kitchen.  erg.  My bum throbs just from thinking about that.   And not in a Nike-shorts kinda way
Uncategorized  from google
august 2012 by lacurieuse
Farewell to all that
I’d planned for this last post to be a manifesto of sorts, but given the very premise of what I have to say, I’ve lately been struggling with whether or not to let irony reign. I’m just going to write it.

I’ve decided to go off the internet, which is exactly like it sounds. I deactivated my Facebook account, deleted my Twitter handle, have ceased blogging/writing online anywhere, stopped looking at websites, stopped opening my laptop out of habit.

The decision came swiftly and easily, after reading this piece by Merlin Mann, and in particular, this section:

“It’s now become unavoidably clear to me that I’ve been doing each of these things poorly. The job, the making, the pleasing, and, yeah, the being at home. And I can’t live with that for another day. So, I’ve chosen which one has to go. At least in the way it’s worked to date. Which is to say not working.

I’ll let you guess which.

Because, that? That choosing? That’s what my book needs to be about. Not about pleasing people. Not about cranking on bullshit. Not about abandoning your priorities to write about priorities.

My book needs to be about choosing a hard thing and then living with it. Because it’s your thing.”

I too have committed to not “cranking” anymore. And if I’m being honest, really honest, no matter how I spin it to myself or what story I tell myself about it, being online has always felt like cranking to me, even when I’m the one producing the content. I have friends that have rich, full, productive lives, and are internet savvy, and can sleep at night. I respect those people, but I’m not one of them. I’m the kind of person that gets sucked into black holes and forgets my name, what day it is, what I like to do. I’m the kind of person who can’t change gears quite so quickly, and will probably never learn to. Realizing that has been the single most sobering, mature thing that’s ever happened to me; realizing the limits of my own mind, and deciding to honor them.

In order to honor them, I had to ask myself:
1. What are the things that you claim to value?
2. What are the things that you actually value?
3. How much time are you spending doing the things you value, versus how much time spent on the internet scavenging the peripheral ephemera of the things you value?

My aim is not to prosthelytize (or bore you) and so I won’t go into great detail about the benefits of going offline, though they’ve been more intense, far-reaching and gratifying than I anticipated. There’s a lot more space in my brain, and in my life, than I thought there was or could be. Briefly, here are a few things I’ve learned that I thought I knew before, and didn’t:

- You are not the things you like, or the things you don’t like. Taste isn’t style. Style comes from within you, from the things that you make and do.
-Things are important. Stuff and things are not the same. Most of what’s on the internet is stuff.
- Reading online is changing the way our brains function, how we relate to people, and how we perceive and process what we take in. It is also creating a new type of “personality” that has very little to do with personhood.
- Typing isn’t writing; commenting isn’t responding; compiling isn’t comprehending; looking isn’t seeing. It is important to consider things, and consideration takes time.
- “Information” never stops, and it can be an addiction like any other. The important thing to ask yourself isn’t ‘How can I keep up?’ but rather,‘ Do I want to?’ and ‘Why?’

Let me clarify: I still use the internet as a tool.  I search for an article or a product, I check my email, I watch movies through Netflix on the television. But the internet is no longer the place I come home to, which is, frankly, what it used to be. It is no longer my default. Now I come home to… my home. It’s quieter, and it’s a lot nicer, and I feel like myself when I’m here.

A time may come when I’m able to use the internet in a different way, a way that allows me to still be myself fully, and make the things I want to make. But if it doesn’t, that’s okay with me. Or maybe a time will come where I’m able to do only the things that I value online, and ignore the rest. Maybe not. For now, you’ll find me reading books. And writing them.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and for all your encouraging words. You can always email me at or call me at (818) 203-9591.

I’d like to thank Atley G. Kasky for giving me the idea for this blog, designing it for me, and encouraging me to take what I love to do seriously. That’s exactly what I’m doing.

Reading in LA,
Morgan Macgregor

Uncategorized  from google
july 2012 by lacurieuse
Too Many Hyphens
Hyphens can clarify a phrase and are sometimes crucial to the meaning. But if we sprinkle them heedlessly where they're not called for, the effect is distracting at best and can be confusing.
Uncategorized  After_Deadline  Grammar  from google
june 2012 by lacurieuse
Sponsored Post: Haiku Fan by Big Ass Fans
This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Haiku Fans. All opinions are 100% mine.

So here we are. I'm writing a post to COMPLIMENT a ceiling fan. If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you are aware of my disdain for ceiling fans. For example, I go on and on about it in this post. It's actually  something Aaron and I do not see eye-to-eye on. He accepts that they're ugly but wants a constant breeze and I would rather sweat every day of my life in stagnant air than accept the fate of a ceiling fan. So dramatic, right?

Haiku ceiling fan is a style of fan from a company who's name almost precedes its amazing fan – Big Ass Fans Company. Absolutely love it. They specialize in huge diameter, low speed fans. They're only available via special outlets, so don't roll up to Home Depot and put one of these suckers in your cart.

It's modern but not too modern. It's sleek. Globe lights are no where to be seen. It's a matte finish (!). That last one there is my favorite. I love the birch paired with the dark metal. This one:

This would look fantastic in an all-white room. GAH.

So… ceiling fans can be cool and look pretty. Who knew?

Now for the details….

The reason the Haiku fan looks so sleek is because it houses a small technology called Sensorless Drive Technology™. This technology delivers an 80% improvement in efficiency over conventional ceiling fan motors. They have the top rating from ENERGY STAR® for ceiling fans. Pretty impressive.

It has previously won the LiveEDGE, an international competition acknowledging excellence in electronic design for the environment. Yep, I'm impressed.

If you're interested in the Haiku Fan, you'll need to go here to speak to someone about the product. I'm guessing these are super new to retail environments and they're figuring out distribution.

Wow. My no-ceiling-fan world has just been blown away.

What about you? I'm dying to hear if others shared my previous sentiment for ceiling fans.

xo, emily


Uncategorized  from google
june 2012 by lacurieuse
Brick and stone
Here’s the second painting from my afternoon in Old Montreal. I chose this view of the Les Prêtres de Saint-Sulpice (which by the way is Montreal’s oldest building) because I loved the layering of the brick buildings behind it and the late afternoon shadows. Unlike my friend Marc, who can just set himself up and start a painting (something I greatly admire), I have to do a few faster sketches first and calm down a bit before I can launch into something more ambitious. This was painted on Fabriano soft press paper in under two hours because that was the time I had in my parking meter.
Uncategorized  from google
may 2012 by lacurieuse
On Mother’s Day
What the heck? No Mother’s Day post on DALS this year? That’s because I posted on Bon App on Tuesday all about how we don’t really celebrate it. I know, not very helpful. If you are like most normal people and in the market for a kick-ass brunch main dish, check out this baked cinnamony French toast from the always-reliable Deb at Smitten Kitchen. If I celebrated Mother’s Day, that’s definitely what I’d want in the middle of my peony-strewn brunch table. That, and a copy of Dinner: A Love Story, naturally.

Have a great weekend!
Uncategorized  from google
may 2012 by lacurieuse
The Social Network
One of the real pleasures of being neck-deep in the freethought movement at the moment is how quickly the conversation is growing up. Not that it isn’t still fun and worthwhile to throw tomatoes at bad religion. But we’re also talking a lot more about building our own community, including — psst, here’s the grown-up part – learning from what religion has done well.

If religion did nothing but scare people into giving money or doing as they’re told, or comfort them with fables, or validate innate hatreds, I wouldn’t bother looking for anything to borrow. But we’re getting beyond these half-answers to recognize benefits that might actually be worth a good think.

One such benefit came out in a study in the December 2010 issue of American Sociological Review. Other studies had suggested that churchgoers are happier than non-churchgoers by several life-satisfaction indicators, but this one actually dug in to ask why that might be.

Turns out there’s another essential variable: Churchgoers are happier than non-churchgoers only if they have significant friendships in the congregation. As the number and significance of the friendships increase, so does life satisfaction. And those who attend church regularly but have no strong connections to others in the congregation show less life satisfaction than non-churchgoers.

Now there’s something worth noticing.

“[Life satisfaction] is almost entirely about the social aspect of religion, rather than the theological or spiritual aspect,” said UW Madison’s Chaeyoon Lim, one of the lead researchers. “People are more satisfied with their lives when they go to church because they build a social network within their congregation….We think it has to do with the fact that you meet a group of close friends on a regular basis and participate in certain activities that are meaningful to the group. At the same time, they share a certain social identity…The sense of belonging seems to be the key to the relationship between church attendance and life satisfaction.”

Brings to mind a poll cited by Amanda Metskas in Raising Freethinkers:

[T]heology is less important to most churchgoers than a number of other benefits. In many cases, they attend despite the theology. It is telling that only 27 percent of churchgoing US respondents to a 2007 Gallup poll even mentioned God when asked for the main reason they attend church. Most people go for personal growth, for guidance in their lives, to be encouraged, to be inspired—or for the community and fellowship of other members. These, not worship, are the primary needs fulfilled by churches. (p. 206)

God is the frame in which many people hang their most deeply felt human needs. One of the best things we can do as a movement is think about how best to reframe that legitimate human picture.
belief_and_believers  Community  nonbelief_and_nonbelievers  Raising_Freethinkers  Uncategorized  values  from google
may 2012 by lacurieuse
Reading List: Shaun Tan
I was driving Phoebe to school on Wednesday morning – she had to be at her desk by 7:30 for a field trip to Ellis Island or else – when I told her that Shaun Tan had sent us a guest post about his formative books for kids. What do you want me to tell people about Shaun’s books, I asked her. What should they know?

His pictures have a lot of feeling, she said.

Okay, I said. But what do they make you feel?

I think about them when I’m daydreaming, she said. Can you stop asking me questions now?

If you got a copy of 121 Books last week — the little book that Jenny and I gave away here last week — you might have seen Shaun’s book, Tales From Outer Suburbia, sitting there at #91. What you didn’t see was what the book actually looks like. I’ll start with the cover, which is as evocative and alluring an image as I can recall on the cover of a book. I remember seeing a review of this one in the New York Times Book Review a few years ago and looking at that cover, and thinking: I want to climb inside that book. And once you do, a similarly strange, exquisite, odd, absurd, whimsical, mysterious world awaits. Tales From Outer Suburbia is a collection of stories about, well, about a lot of things, including: a stoic water buffalo who lives in a vacant lot; a tiny stick figure-ish, possibly alien foreign exchange student who sleeps in a teacup and asks to be called, perfectly, Eric; two brothers who argue over whether the earth simply ends at the edge of the map, and then set out on a journey to find out who’s right; and a story with the stunningly great title, “Broken Toys,” that contains the following two stunningly great sentences: “Well, we’d certainly seen crazy people before — ‘shell-shocked by life’ as you once put it. But something pretty strange must have happened to this guy to make him wander about in a spacesuit on a dead-quiet public holiday.” How do you not want to read that?

Anyway, if you want to see what Phoebe was talking about re: the emotional punch — the feeling — of Shaun’s art, check out some of his work. He did a wordless book, The Arrival, whose soulful beauty kind of defies description. He did a picture book, The Lost Thing, which he then turned into a fifteen minute short film, which then won a little known prize called AN ACADEMY FREAKING AWARD. (You can see it here.) The pleasure of having someone this talented on Dinner: A Love Story never gets old — for us, at least — and I hope you enjoy Shaun’s recommendations. What I love, in particular, is that Shaun – being an Australian, and an artist — has so many books below that I’d never heard of, and have now ordered. That, and I also love his use of the word “carnage.” Enjoy. — Andy

I should begin this list with an early “mistake” made by my mother when it came to bedtime reading. She herself did not grow up in a literary household: in fact, as a kid, I was fascinated by the sheer absence of books, or even paper and pencils, in my grandparents’ house – books just weren’t part of their world. Perhaps for this reason, our Mum felt her own children should be exposed to as many books as possible, but at the same time was not guided by (a) experience, or (b) the kinds of lists you find on websites like this. If it looked vaguely interesting, Mum would read it to my brother and me at bedtime. One such title, read to us when I was 7 or 8, was an apparently charming fairytale by some guy named George Orwell: “Mr. Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes…”

We were all hooked (and, frankly, a bit unsettled) from the outset, so there was no turning back. My brother and I looked forward to each progressively disturbing chapter: conniving pigs, brainwashed sheep, a horse carted off to something called a “knackers” – poor Mum, having to field all of our questions. I asked her recently about this, and she remembers being increasingly anxious about how the story “might affect your young minds” – yet we voted to keep going (bedtime reading should always be democratic). Of course, the book ends with the pigs celebrating their triumphant depravity, and Mum was very worried about that. As for me, I just thought it was terrific. And it was no more disturbing than stuff I witnessed at school every day, with our occasionally cruel kids and less-than-perfect teachers – I thought Orwell was right on the money. I’d never thought about a story so much after it was read. From then on, I began to appreciate unresolved endings, and to grow tired of the less-convincing, moralizing stuff that kids were being fed in suburban Australia, where I grew up. I realized books weren’t just for entertainment, that they could say something. Animal Farm – along with Watership Down and Gulliver’s Travels –profoundly influenced my development as an author and illustrator. Most specifically, The Rabbits, an allegory about colonization written by John Marsden and illustrated by me. That was quite a controversial book when it was published — and was even banned in some Australian schools – yet very young children seem to enjoy and understand it quite deeply; they grasp, somehow, the hidden optimism that adults often miss. That continues to surprise and delight me, the ability of children to find silver linings in grim stories.

I don’t have children, and don’t specifically write/paint for them. Maybe that’s why kids like my work! I just think of them as smallish people who are smart and creative, and honest in their opinions. So when I think about what makes a great children’s book, I tend to think of books that achieve universality, the widest possible readership – books that appeal to us, from toddlers to geriatrics, in a primal way, and can be understood on many different levels. Picture books are particularly great for this, because they’re concise and easily re-read; they often invent their own narrative grammar, as if you are learning how to read all over again.

My interest in picture books only came about later, as an adult artist, as I was moving from painting into commercial illustration and looking for interesting work. The book that really got me interested in picture books — professionally, I mean, in that “Hmmm, I’d really love to do something like that one day” kind of way –was A Fish in the Sky, written by George Mendoza and illustrated by Milton Glaser. (Even if you don’t know Glaser’s work, you almost certainly do. He’s a legendary graphic designer. This book is not easily found, but I urge you to try. I stumbled upon it while doing “research” as a Fine Arts undergrad.) It’s a series of poetic metaphors — “a fish is not just a fish,” “a walk is the woods is not just being alone” – illustrated in an indirect, slightly surrealist way. An image of a big yellow flower floating in the middle of a room is particularly resonant for me, as the book is about both the power and fragility of sensory memory – there no particular narrative as such. This approach had a huge impact on me as a “visual writer,” and A Fish in the Sky strongly influenced my own picture book about depression, The Red Tree.

Another book I love along these lines is The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. Originally published in 1984, I came across a copy in my outer suburban library in Western Australia, flipped through it, and thought “this is weird – where’s the story?” before putting it back. But my curiosity kept me returning, and the genius of Van Allsburg’s approach to storytelling gradually dawned on me: let the reader do the work! Mysteries is a series of fragments, stories that might have been, each represented by a singular image, a title, and a dislocated sentence. The absence of color only adds to the allure of each quiet enigma: a nun floating on an airborne chair, a lump under the carpet, an ocean liner forcing its way into a tiny canal. In each case, you can’t help but imagine your own story: it’s impossible not to think creatively. Van Allsburg reminds us of what is so special about books – that the reader is a co-creator of the world, not just a recipient; they are the principal director of an author’s screenplay and illustrator’s concept art. That’s a key to being a good writer or illustrator, I think – creative humility. You should never feel smarter than your audience.

While we’re on the subject of influence, I’ll list a few other notables that really hooked me when I was an unemployed freelancer, looking for inspiration: Lane Smith’s incredible illustrations for The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Stories, When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs, The Starry Messenger by Peter Sis, and Free Lunch by Vivian Walsh and J. Otto Siebold. These books opened my mind to the sophistication and potential – and, yes, craziness – of picture books. They were intriguing, original, funny, and as complex as any real work of art.

It’s worth mentioning that Australia has a particularly strong picture book culture, and there’s some really amazing work for US readers to check out. Ron Brooks is one of my favorite illustrators, and I’d recommend his book Fox (written by Margaret Wild, a terrific picture book writer not afraid to tackle big subjects). This is a fable with a touch of Orwell about it: a half-blind Dog rescues a crippled Magpie, and together they help each other survive in the bush – until lonely Fox comes along to lure Magpie away. Yet Fox doesn’t want to befriend her or even eat her; he just wants her and Dog to “know what it’s like to be truly alone.” It’s gut-wrenching stuff, and could only ever achieve full impact as a short, seemingly innocent-looking picture book. Children, of course, know all about this kind of social carnage, and no doubt appreciate seeing it represented honestly as much as adults do.

I’d also recommend Armin Greder’s… [more]
Children's_Books_Gifts_Culture  Posts_by_Andy  Rituals  Uncategorized  books_for_kids  graphic_novels_for_kids  shaun_tan  shaun_tan_tales_from_outer_suburbia  from google
may 2012 by lacurieuse
On Favorites
When I was growing up, my mom made the best Swedish meatballs. And chicken Milanese. And lasagna with locally made sweet Italian sausages and old-school red sauce. (None of that fancy béchamel stuff.) These days, when I drag my family for dinner at my parents’ house, I beg her to make one of these dishes for me. How could I not? They were the tent-poles of my culinary upbringing — the family dinner rotation — and I must’ve had each of them once a week for eighteen years. If there were other things worth eating out there, I didn’t care to know about them.

I can’t believe how different the dinner situation is in my own house today. My kids never have any idea what’s going to be on the menu. Like all kids, they have their crazy-making aversions (as you know by now, one won’t eat pasta; neither will touch eggs), but their strengths are in the adventure department. They approach the table (mostly) game for just about anything else. Not because they are superior children, but because they have no choice. When you are a food blogger and cookbook writer, you have to keep up with the schedule. You have to keep things interesting.

Unfortunately, “interesting” to me and Andy, often translates to “annoying” for an 8- or 10-year old. As if my little lab rats are not already starving enough when they sit down to eat, they have to live in a test kitchen. They have to wait for the clouds to diffuse the sun just enough to create optimum photographic conditions to shoot what’s set before them. They have to hear their parents earnestly discuss things like acidity in their freaking salad dressing. And God forbid they love something as much as I loved my mom’s meatballs; they might never see it again. For months now, my 10-year-old has been begging for a reprise of the baked lemony chicken dish I debuted it at the table a year ago. The Lemon Chicken! Of course! I promise her. But first we have to retest the fish cakes for the cookbook, and after that we have to turn in our copy for Bon Appetit, so we need to double check that the marinade is getting the right flavor on the grilled flank steak. And remember how we were going to taste-test all those frozen pizzas? Sorry, sweetie, maybe next week?

Family dinner illustration by William Steig, from Abby’s new favorite: When Everybody Wore a Hat.

PS: This is what we are eating tonight. Or some version of it.

Uncategorized  from google
april 2012 by lacurieuse
200 sketches!
It is unseasonably cold for this time of year. It’s almost May and I see snowflakes on the weather map for tonight. That didn’t stop this determined fisherman in Lachine this morning. He was going to catch some fish even if he had to be out there in his parka!

I hit another milestone today. 200 posts! Over half a year of sketches! It must be time for a little reflection, so here are five thoughts, in no particular order:

1. There’s a stack of Moleskines sitting on my desk, and they are full. Each page covered. When I looked back at them to refresh my memory for this post, I realized that they are more than a random pile of sketches. There is a chronology to them — a chronicle of the seasons, mostly — and more importantly, they exist on paper (of course in pixels too, for the purpose of this blog!). They can be touched and handled. In this digital age, when most mementos of our lives are housed on hard drives, I am pretty happy that I have these to put on a shelf.

2. I used to think of a sketch as the means to an end — that end being a full-size painting. And who has time to do a painting, with work and life getting in the way? Until I stumbled on Danny Gregory’s book, “An Illustrated Life,” and the light bulb went on! This book was filled with descriptions and illustrations of people’s sketchbooks. So the sketch can be the end? I love it! I can at least manage that…

3. The writing is almost as much fun as the sketch and I have Marc Taro Holmes to thank for that. He encouraged me to write a little something to go along with every sketch, and in the spirit of Urban Sketchers, I think this helps to complete the story of each post.

4. Drawing gets easier with practice. It’s about taking the time to really see things, and if you slow down enough to notice the details, it is inevitable that your drawing skills will improve.

5. There are lots of sketchers out there! Over the past 6 months, through comments on the blog, through the Urban Sketchers Flickr group and through the USK site, I have met people from all over the world, commented on their work and read their thoughts about mine. With this common passion we all share for drawing and painting, we are able to cross oceans, language barriers and cyberspace. Quite remarkable!

Someone asked me recently where I intend to go with this blog. I have no idea. I’ll just keep doing a different drawing every day.
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april 2012 by lacurieuse
Today is my birthday!
I’m 28 today! Holy crap!

I have nothing today for you decor-related. Remember when I shared some random thoughts back in March? Well, I’d like to do that again. It helps me soothe the brain. And because it’s my special day I’m going to use crazy font colors. Because that’s special ed right??

Here we go…

I’m kind of bummed out on thrift store shopping. Not because I can’t find anything, but because I really have the hankerin’ for something NEW. You know, something where I don’t have to scrap off mystery goo or pluck away errant hairs.

I’m now 28, I’m not married and I have no kids. At what point can I start wearing sweatpants and reading Cathy comics? Oh shit, I already do both of those things. ACK!

I want to share my exercise playlist with you all (for download, FO FREE) but I’m worried the powers that be will go all Napster on me. Should I do it anyways?

Blogging is so weird… this one probably serves an entire blog post. Do you agree?

Aaron tells me every day I need to freshen up my blog design. I get it. I DO. It’s ugly. As a DIY/home decor blogger I’m supposed to have a fresh/clean template, with my blog name top center in spindly capital letters, cute little pendant flags, sparkly polka dots and a picture of myself on a bike wearing a striped skirt frolicking in the meadow but I DON’T. I DON’T HAVE TIME (read: I’m scared of getting in over my head and spending too much money on a hobby, albeit my favorite hobby of all time, that doesn’t put a lot of $$ BACK in to my pocket).

I’m having a birthday party. Well, both Aaron and I are having a joint birthday party because his birthday is coming up, too. You’re invited. No seriously, you can come. It’s at my house. I hope people can have a good time and not tip toe around the place just because it looks pretty in photos. Newsflash: it rarely looks like that. We’re serving pickle juice shots, Bud Light Platinum and Cheetos if you’re nasty.

My parents and my Chicagoan sister are coming to visit me this weekend for my birthday. I am beyond excited. I’m not sure what we’re going to do but maybe we’ll be classy and go to a museum.  Oh let’s be honest, we’re totally going to Toby Keith’s Bar & Grill. I’m so OK with that.

I have been sick for almost a week now. The mucus-y kind of sick. Aaron wants me to take Mucinex but I am so scared of sneezing a big loogie in a work meeting I have been avoiding it. That stuff happens. Just ask my mother. She knows a guy.

Aaron and I love SNL. Especially the quirky girls skit. We make that weird cat meow noise to each other on a daily basis. It never gets old.

I ordered this swim suit from SwimSpot only because Glamour said it “looks good on everyone” and I can’t believe this but I’ve found that statement to be completely true. I had to use a Living Social deal on it because it was stupidly expensive.

I want to ask my readers something I ask anyone new in my life – if money weren’t an issue, which would you choose: A chef or a chauffeur? I’m DYING to know. I pick chauffeur.

The dollhouse went down to the dungeon (basement). It was a sad farewell.

I need to do a post on door mats. No big box store I know carries cute ones. I haven’t found a single one. I do have some cute ones stashed away online I should share. And maybe even some DIY ones in case like me, you don’t have $50 to blow on something you wipe your feet on.

Another money-related question for you. If you splurge on anything, what is it? Travel? Entertainment? Handbags? What do you sacrifice in order to make those splurges?

As I’m writing this (yesterday), Aaron is begging me not to look closely at a package he had shipped to my house. Oh right, like suddenly I’m going to show some signs of self-control. I’m looking! Update: I didn’t look!!! Wow. If you would have seen those puppy dog eyes you wouldn’t have looked either.

And finally, because you know I couldn’t end this post without it, I would love if you could (pretty please!) vote for moi in the Small Cool 2012 contest.

Thanks for dealing with my randomness today! Happy birthday to me!!!

- emily



Me  Uncategorized  28  ACK  birthday  Cathy  Love_you_guys  My  Quirky  Random  from google
april 2012 by lacurieuse
I Got This
We have a bowl on our counter. It’s a wooden salad bowl that we have turned into a fruit bowl. I’m not a chemist, so I can’t tell you why this is, but this bowl has a strange and unpleasant effect on the produce we (stupidly) put inside it: it accelerates the ripening process. It possesses mysterious transformative properties. It’s like some kind of primitive oxygen deprivation chamber, a Destroyer of Life. Put a plum in there and, two days later, it’s a prune. Put a potato in it and, one week later, it has been colonized by these creepy, blooming nodules. It turns limes yellow, and lemons brown. Put a bunch of green bananas in it, blink three times, and they’ve been turned into the wizened, leathery fingers of a prehistoric animal. We end up throwing most of this stuff away. You’d think, given all this, we’d figure out a solution to the problem – like, I don’t know, use a different bowl? – but we’re people who have had a broken, leaning lamppost in our front yard for eight years, and have never quite mustered the energy to get it fixed. We’re people who bought four huge plastic storage bins to organize our family shame basement a few months ago, and have yet to move them the ten feet from the garage into the basement, let alone fill them. It can take me weeks to change a light bulb – to the point that the act of finally replacing them feels like a victory. Inertia is our default mode – or, at least, it sure can feel that way sometimes.

The bowl, though: God, it bums me out. I resent it for reminding me of my powerlessness. So, last Saturday morning, when I looked over and saw three blackened, old-before-their-time bananas sitting there, on the cusp of total putrefaction, I decided to act. I would save them from the trash.

“I’m making banana bread,” I said.

Jenny was at the table, reading. “You’re weird,” she said.

I went over to the shelf and pulled a few stalwart cookbooks down – Bittman, Gourmet, New York Times, Ina Garten — and starting scanning indexes.

“I have a banana bread recipe,” Jenny said. “It’s in the blue binder, under desserts.” I knew the one she was referring to: it was from her friend Elizabeth, handwritten on a Real Simple notecard, and we’d been eating it for years.

“No, thanks,” I said. “I’m good. I think I’m gonna try the Bittman.”

“Why? You love that recipe.”

“Do we have any coconut?” I asked.


“Yeah, Bittman calls for shredded coconut. Do we have any?”

“You’re really annoying.”

Jenny was all uppity about it, too. She couldn’t believe I was stepping out like this, looking elsewhere for inspiration. Was this a referendum on her banana bread? No, it was not. Did this mean I loved her any less? No, it did not. The truth is, she does the same thing to me all the time. I have a perfectly good stir-fry recipe, one we’d made happily together for ten years, but she had to go and improve it by adding rice wine vinegar and hoisin sauce. Partly, this constant off-roading and experimenting is due to having a food blog and always needing new things to write about; but partly, it’s about, well, you know what it’s about. It’s about showing your spouse that you are still capable of discovering something new, all by yourself. It’s about keeping that (flickering) flame of your old identity — the one that exists outside of the “we” of marriage, the one with free will – alive in some small way. So, with Phoebe’s help, I put our stand-by aside and tried a new banana bread. Was it better? Who’s to say? But was it mine? Yes.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
This is great for school lunches and, toasted, for breakfast. I added a handful of chocolate chips, and subbed out some white sugar for brown, but otherwise, this is the Bittman recipe from the original How to Cook Everything.

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 cups flour (any combination of whole wheat and all-purpose)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease a loaf pan.

Mix together the dry ingredients. Cream the butter and beat in the eggs. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients, being careful not to overmix. Stir in vanilla, nuts, coconut, and chocolate.

Pour the batter into your greased pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.
Baking_and_Sweets  Domestic_Affairs  Posts_by_Andy  Uncategorized  banana_bread  chocolate_chip_banana_bread  leftovers  from google
april 2012 by lacurieuse
Quick round up from the Land of Crazy:

1. The NHS got privatised, apparently without anyone noticing and certainly without any of the major news organisations *cough BBC cough* bothering to report it. This is a huge, huge deal and it means that something has gone incredibly, unbelievably wrong right at the centre of government. I can’t even blame only the Tories, it’s a cross-party fail of such epic proportions that I literally don’t even know where to begin. How did this happen? How? It is such a sickening piece of work that I’d have to invent an entire new vocabulary before I could find sufficient terms of vilification for those responsible.

2. The budget dropped the 50p tax rate for the nauseatingly wealthy. The rich playing nice with the rich, no surprise there. On the same day as the budget was announced, and allegedly as a direct result, Smith Glaxo Kline announced new investment in the UK. Yeah, because international corporations make quick decisions like that without months of negotiation direct with government and generous back handers being paid. And if you believe that, I have this really big clock I can sell you.

3. The government warned of possible fuel shortages if there’s a hauliers’ strike. Which there isn’t, but there might be. This led directly to panic buying and so became a self-fulfilling prophecy. There is now a fuel shortage.

4. George Galloways romps home as in independent candidate in the Bradford West by-election, stealing a safe Labour seat by some 10,000 votes. You know why? Because Tory and Labour parties are both failing. Because the Lib Dems are a voiceless spent force. Because, despite the fact that the country cannot, simply cannot be left in the hands of the people currently in charge, there is no viable alternative. None.

5. And with all this going, major news outlets *cough BBC cough* are concentrating on reporting on the increased price of a pasty.

We get the government we deserve, we get the media we deserve, and if the two are hand in glove, it’s because no one is paying enough attention. Is anyone else feeling guilty round about now? Because I am. Guilty for not being interested; guilty for thinking that the grown ups would fix things. Guilty (and stupid) for thinking that elected MPs might know what the fuck they’re on about and make informed decisions.

In the areas of my life where I directly encounter layers of management inhabited by people who are supposed to know more than I do, I wait for them to walk the walk before giving them any respect. The result is that I don’t have a lot of respect for anyone in management. I should have extended that lesson years ago, but I wasn’t paying attention. I got the government I deserved.
Uncategorized  from google
march 2012 by lacurieuse
How to tie a scarf 25 different ways.
How to Moonwalk like Michael Jackson.
How to give a prison tattoo: Overview and particulars

I’m using the Internet to learn how to do things again. What do you wish you knew how to do? Also, do you want a prison tattoo?
Uncategorized  from google
march 2012 by lacurieuse
My Top 10 Casual Wardrobe Basics
This series is brought to you by Levi’s® Curve ID. Find your custom fit at Levi’s® stores or® .

A while ago, I did a post on Wardrobe Basics from Real Women, and I’ve been meaning to do one about the clothes I can’t live without myself. I don’t have a washer and dryer in the apartment, so there are a few things I’m always fishing out of the laundry basket to wash by hand in the bathtub. And no matter how many pairs of shoes I own, I seem to wear the same two every day.

These are absolute basics, nothing edgy or revolutionary, which is why I can’t keep them clean. They’re what I wear as a base for more daring pieces. Some of the stuff isn’t available online because I got it awhile ago or at a thrift store, and in those cases I’ve linked to alternatives below. We’ll start with the obvious T-shirt and jeans:

1. V-Neck Tee
American Apparel Deep V-Neck
Oddly, I discovered these when I was nursing, the deep V makes it easy to pull aside, and I liked the look much more than those weird half-wrap-top things they try to foist on you when you’re too tired to think clearly. Anyway, they’ve become a layering staple even now that I don’t need constant boob access. Great under blazers and sweaters.

2. Skinny Jeans
Levi’s® Modern Slight Curve Skinny Jeans
As we’ve recently discussed, skinny jeans and boots is such an easy go-to. I especially like to pair mine with something voluminous on top. Speaking of which…

3. Dolman Sweater
H. Fredricksson Dolman Cardigan
I have a huge red batwing sweater I got at an antique shop ages ago, and it’s so cozy. I’ve worn it so much it’s probably time to replace it. Caveat: This is an easy look for a tall girl, but shorter folks needs to watch the proportions to avoid looking like a Fraggle. Here are a couple more options in red and grey.

4. Knit Scarf
Jumbo Nomad Rag
If you’re a little more advanced sartorially, you can go with a pattern, texture, or a bright color here, but if I’m being honest, I do always find myself reaching for the grey knit. Mine is an eternity scarf, which I’m a little over, so I’m linking to a fuller version here with loose ends that give you more options for tying.

5. Riding Boots
Frye Jackie Button Boots
I’ve had my riding boots resoled twice, which is about as many times as I’ve been on a horse in the six years I’ve owned them.

6. Little Black Dress
Dolman Sleeve Dress
I have a few versions of the knit little black dress. I like this one because it looks so different belted and I can also wear it as a shirt by pulling up the bottom and letting it bunch. Versatile when I’m traveling.

7. Black Miniskirt
Pins and Needles Pleated Twill Skirt
This is what I wear when I want to feel cute, but don’t want to worry about trying too hard to get there.

8. Travel Flats
If you’ve been reading for a while, you knew this was coming. When I’m not wearing my boots, I’m wearing these. The cutest, most durable folding travel flat I’ve found. And yes, orange is my go-to color.

9. Cropped Cardigan
Cropped Cashmere cardigan
I wear a lot of 50s day dresses, so I need cropped sweaters that compliment the high waists. I also find this a good length to even out my long torso, and it works with any length of T-shirt underneath.

10. Narrow-Collar Blazer
Button Blazer
This is pretty much the only coat I wear anymore. A looser fit is more casual, and works with almost everything in my closet.

Those are the big ones for me. Which pieces do you buy in duplicate, and what are you always digging out of the laundry basket so you can wear it again right away?
Uncategorized  from google
march 2012 by lacurieuse
Tools of the trade
The other day a commenter to the blog asked what I take with me when I go out to paint every day. I thought I would reply in the form of a post instead of in the reply section so that anyone interested could also see my response. I thought that a sketch of my stuff would be helpful too.

I use very few tools but the ones I have are good quality. Let’s start with the paints. I always use tubes of paint as opposed to pans because the colours are so saturated. Most of what I have is Winsor Newton Artist’s Quality but recently I tried some Daniel Smith Cobalt Blue and French Ultramarine and I’m very satisfied with the results. Dry pan colours, when reconstituted, are washed out and you never get the sedimentation you would with tube colours. My travel palette is from Daniel Smith as well although if you look it up on their website you’ll see that it only has 16 reservoirs whereas mine has 24. That’s because I bought extra half pans so I could add some unusual pigments that I use less frequently. They don’t fit properly so I have popsicle sticks jammed in next to them, and this works surprisingly well.

I have lots of great brushes but I always use the same ones for these sketches. A while ago I was using a Daniel Smith travel brush but I recently switched to the two you see above —  the Winsor Newton Series 7 Sable, no. 5 and no. 7. These brushes hold lots of paint and come to a very fine point. Expensive but they’ll last a lifetime if you take care of them.

As for pens and pencils, I don’t have that many. For pen and wash I use either the Micron .005 (very fine) or the Sakura Microperm 01 which is a bit heavier. Both are permanent since I don’t want any bleed when I add the colour. My pencil is a cheap mechanical pencil that you can get in any office supply store. I don’t like to carry a sharpener and these work well.

The water container is something I found at the art supply store and despite its ugly pink lid it fits perfectly in the cup holder of the car and it never spills in the event of a sudden departure due to a school bus or other unforeseen event.

This all goes into my vintage CBC bag and off I go.
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march 2012 by lacurieuse
Sesame Couscous
A richly-flavored vegan couscous dish.

2 cups whole wheat couscous
2 cups veggie broth
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 medium onion, diced
1/8 cup kalamata olives, diced
1/8 cup preserved lemon, diced (you can make these yourself)
olive oil
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp lemon juice
hot sauce (whatever you have)
salt and pepper

1. Sautee the onion until browned, or caramelized if you have the time.
2. Bring broth to a boil, mix in the couscous, turn off the heat and cover
3. Blend the tahini and lemon juice together with hot sauce to taste – if you have some extra broth, you can use it to thin the mixture out.
4. Mix the cilantro, onion, olives, lemons, and the sauce mixture into the couscous, plus salt, pepper, and zaatar to taste.
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february 2012 by lacurieuse
Is Marriage in Crisis?
Join in the next Ideas Market series for a discussion on the subject “Is Marriage in Crisis?”

Panelists include:

Ralph Richard Banks, author of Is Marriage for White People? and the Review essay “An Interracial Fix for Black Marriage”. He is a Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.
Kate Bolick, author of “What, Me Marry?” an Atlantic cover story on being unmarried and approaching 40.
Kay Hymowitz, author of Manning Up: How the Rise of Women is Turning Men into Boys and author of the Review cover essay “Where Have the Good Men Gone?“ She is the William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. She writes extensively on childhood, family issues, poverty, and cultural change in America.
Susan Gregory Thomas, author of In Spite of Everything: A Memoir and a Review cover essay “The Divorce Generation.” Susan is a journalist and author of Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds.

The event will be held at The Sofitel in New York tomorrow evening, at 6, at 45 West 44th Street. It will be moderated by Gary Rosen, Editor of The Wall Street Journal weekend Review.

To attend, email
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february 2012 by lacurieuse
Je dois être naïve… mais laissez-moi mes illusions
Vous me connaissez, je ne parle jamais politique. Ou si peu. Et c’est pas parce qu’on est en 2012 que je vais déroger de cette règle. Par conséquent, je ne commenterai pas les commentaires d’un père blessé à mort, mais qui oeuvre dans le public.

Ce qui me trouble, dans cette histoire, ce ne sont pas ses remarques. Chacun a droit à ses opinions. Et je me garde le droit d’être d’accord ou non. Je peux même comprendre: si quelqu’un s’attaquait à merveilleuse merveille, mon premier réflexe serait de vouloir lui faire autant de mal qu’il lui en a fait. Physiquement mal, je veux dire. Dans le genre arracher les yeux, arracher les couilles, dépecer. Bon je sais, j’ai pas l’air d’être violente et au fond, je ne le suis pas. Mais je peux comprendre que mise devant la situation d’être dépouillé des êtres qu’on aime le plus au monde, le monstre en soi prend toute la place.

Non, ce qui me trouble depuis hier, ce sont les commentaires que j’entends autour de moi. Commençons par un aveu: malgré le  paragraphe précédent, je suis contre la peine de mort. Profondément contre. Je ne crois pas à la loi du talion. Outre une satisfaction immédiate, il me semble que le fait d’emprisonner à vie est beaucoup plus rough que de mourir au bout d’une corde. Savoir que plus jamais on n’aura la liberté de ses actes et de ses mouvements, ça me semble encore plus terrifiant que de mourir.

Et puis, la peine de mort me semble être un symbole d’une société barbare, et malgré la tendance droite-drette-droitiste que prennent parfois le Québec et le Canada, je ne considère pas vivre dans un pays de cowboys. Enfin, c’est ce que je pensais.

J’ai été estomaquée par les remarques entendues sur le sujet aujourd’hui. Des gens que je côtoie tous les jours, que je considère, m’ont servi des énormités. Dans le genre:

Sont traités comme des rois en prison, pis on paye pour ça.
Ben oui ça se pourrait une erreur judiciaire, mais on fait pas d’omelettes sans casser d’oeufs.
Tsé, y méritent juste ça ces crottés là.
Il est temps qu’un gouvernement mette ses culottes, chu tanné de voir que mes taxes servent à ça. Moi, les Shaffira, j’enverrais ça se faire lapider dans leur pays.

Mais la meilleure, celle qui m’a touchée en plein front, c’est « on sait ben, toi, t’excusais Turcotte! Dans le fond, t’es une naïve de gauche, qui pense encore que tout le monde est beau, tout le monde il est gentil ».

Ma chum Sophie m’avait bien fait rire en me disant qu’elle est une hippie de garde-robe. Serais-je donc une Mère Térèsa qui refuse de sortir du placard?J’avais vu les chiffres d’un sondage qui indiquait que 69% des Québecois sont pour la peine de mort. Mais j’avais pas enregistré l’ampleur, je pense. Pour moi, ça fait partie des contradictions qui nous habitent comme peuple: on vote NPD en masse, mais on est pour la peine de mort. On fait pas dans la nuance. Plus du tout.

Non, je ne crois pas que tout le monde est beau, tout le monde il est gentil. Il est plein de cons, d’abrutis, de méchants tawins et de dangereux malades. Il est pas tout noir, ni tout blanc. Mais qu’on en soit à utiliser des arguments économiques dans un débat profondément moral, ça me chavire. En fait, c’est pire: on ne débat pas, on répète comme des perroquets des arguments gros comme des troncs d’arbre, sans même se demander s’ils tiennent la route.

Laissez-moi mes illusions: je ne veux pas vivre dans une société prête à prendre le risque d’une erreur judiciaire, parce qu’on ne fait pas d’omelettes sans casser d’oeufs. J’ai pas envie de vivre dans une société qui pense qu’on va régler des problèmes de criminalité – d’ailleurs, à part les cas sensationnels, je ne crois pas qu’on vive dans un monde hyper criminalisé! – en mettant à mort les coupables.

Ce matin, au déjeuner, j’ai eu une conversation avec merveilleuse merveille, qui voulait comprendre l’affaire Shaffia. On a parlé des talibans, de sociétés ou les femmes n’ont pas leur mot à dire, du père qui décide qui sera ton amoureux. Elle m’a dit qu’elle ne supporterait pas ça et a conclu en disant qu’on était chanceux de vivre ici, dans une société tolérante. Merveilleuse merveille, j’aimerais ça partager ton optimisme. Je suis de moins en moins sûre qu’on vit dans une société tolérante. Mais ici, dans ta maison, dans ta famille, ça reste une valeur fondamentale. T’en fais pas.
Uncategorized  from google
february 2012 by lacurieuse
using your walls the all-time best frame

My oh my do I love this super large frame in the Palihouse West Hollywood suite that plays home to many a photo.  I actually blogged about this about four years ago (it was one of my first reposts from Apartment Therapy in early 2008 – before I started writing for them) I am a huge lover of using your walls in small spaces to draw the eye up (go vertical space) and to add dimension to a room. Also, I just love this frame and think my year-long instagram photo project (a few are below) will look awesome in one of these. Another small space DIY in my future – I’ll take it.

Would love to see you over at Instagram – catch me @lovinglivingsmall

For twitter, though, I am @lovelivesmall

Uncategorized  from google
january 2012 by lacurieuse
Children’s Book Tattoos
The Giving Tree

Very Hungry Caterpillar

Ramona the Pest

The Little Prince

Where the Wild Things Are
by Ainslie Heilich at Vintage Karma in Stroudsburg Pennsylvania
Uncategorized  from google
january 2012 by lacurieuse
Owning Einstein
I’m itching to write about the UC Davis situation. There’s something important to be said that isn’t much being talked about. But it’s too important to rush, and the book deadline is seriously looming, so I’ll wait until December when no one cares anymore. For now, another teaser from Voices of Unbelief (ABC-CLIO, August 2012).

One of the great games in the culture wars is claiming the good and smart for your team and pushing the monsters away. Picture Christian and atheist captains in a sandlot choosing basketball teams. “Einstein, we get Einstein!” say the atheists. “No way, he used the word God!…Well Jefferson then.” “Oh you WISH!” And so it goes until only Hitler is left, standing alone in short pants.

The push-me-pull-you process is done by cherry-picking quotes, and Albert Einstein is the three-point shooter everybody wants to draft. To nicely complicate that, I’m including five excerpts from Albert Einstein’s correspondence, adding up to a relatively clear and nuanced picture by the end. We’ll start by picking the atheists’ favorite cherry, then keep moving around the tree.

Excerpts from the personal correspondence and interviews of Albert Einstein

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

–Letter of March 24, 1954 to a correspondent asking him to clarify his religious views. Dukas, Helen, and Banesh Hoffman, eds. (1981). “Albert Einstein: The Human Side.” Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 43.

I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.

–Letter to Guy H. Raner Jr. (28 September 1949). Isaacson, Walter (2008). “Einstein: His Life and Universe.” New York: Simon and Schuster, 390.

My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.

–Letter to M. Berkowitz, Oct. 25, 1950. Einstein Archives 59–215.00

I’m absolutely not an atheist. I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza’s pantheism, but admire even more his contribution to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and body as one, and not two separate things.

–From a 1930 interview with poet, writer, and later Nazi propagandist G.S. Viereck. Frankenberry, Nancy K. (2008). “The Faith of Scientists: In Their Own Words.” Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 153.

The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilized interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion, like all other religions, is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.

In general I find it painful that you claim a privileged position and try to defend it by two walls of pride, an external one as a man and an internal one as a Jew. As a man you claim, so to speak, a dispensation from causality otherwise accepted, as a Jew the privilege of monotheism…With such walls we can only attain a certain self-deception, but our moral efforts are not furthered by them. On the contrary.

With friendly thanks and best wishes
Yours, A. Einstein

–Letter from Einstein to author Eric Gutkind, January 1954, in response to receiving Gutkind’s book “Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt.” Quoted in “Einstein’s letter makes view of religion relatively clear,” The Guardian, May 13, 2008

It’s interesting to see Einstein and others (including Carl Sagan) whose views are essentially identical to mine but who see atheism as a position of certainty (which in practice it almost never is) and reject the label on those terms. If theism can accommodate strong conviction rather than certainty, it seems that atheism should be allowed the same latitude. But at least Einstein makes his reasoning clear in these letters. I’ll bet that’ll put an end to all the confusion.
belief_and_believers  diversity  nonbelief_and_nonbelievers  Uncategorized  from google
november 2011 by lacurieuse
Entre sincérité et mièvrerie
Il m’arrive d’avoir envie d’histoires vraies, de biographies, d’expériences racontées. C’est pour cette raison que j’ai lu et relu Passion d’Annie Leclerc de Nancy Huston, emprunté quelques biographies sur Léonard de Vinci, visionné à plusieurs reprises le film de Frida Kahlo. Plus grand que soi, il existe plus grand que soi et c’est bien là l’intérêt des biographies. Lorsque j’ai entendu parler, au printemps dernier, d’un best-seller du New York Times sur l’amitié véritable entre un vendeur d’art millionnaire et un ancien esclave devenu itinérant, je me suis dit, tout en me méfiant, que cela pouvait être inspirant. Après tout, ce qui est étonnant dans les histoires des gens est parfois, voire souvent, fascinant.

« Toujours écouter sa petite voix », nous disait-on, dans les cours de formation personnelle et sociale dans les années 1990. Comment ai-je pu oublier ce piston ? Les mois ont passé et en bouquinant à la librairie, je suis tombée sur la traduction de ce best-seller et je l’ai acheté, voilà, je ne sais trop pourquoi, malgré les doutes et l’impression qu’il serait pas mal question de Chrétienté et que j’aurais de la difficulté à me laisser transporter. J’ai peut-être cru que les auteurs avaient fait un effort de transcendance. Il y a des jours où la confiance nous inonde.

Et bien voilà, j’ai eu besoin de 4 semaines pour terminer ce bouquin, ce qui est long, trop long. Quelques témoignages, car oui, les auteurs de l’histoire sont les deux protagonistes pas du tout écrivains, sont sincères et touchants. Mais comment s’y plonger avec engouement quand je ne vis pas cette dévotion religieuse ?

Si je féliciterais certainement les deux héros d’avoir conservé leur prodigieuse foi alors qu’ils vivaient des épreuves difficiles, j’ai peine à m’imprégner de ce qu’ils ont appris et de la façon dont ils ont amélioré leur vie. Heureusement, Pennac nous a déjà donné le droit de sauter des pages et je l’ai exercé sans vergogne. Merci Daniel. J’aurais même pu ne jamais le terminer, mais je ne pouvais me résoudre à abandonner une lecture que j’ai tentée de poursuivre pendant 4 semaines.

Et merci à Dany Laferrière qui donne à l’instant ses suggestions de lecture à l’émission TLMEP. Et il parle, tiens donc, du Cantique des Cantiques. Ah bon ?
Uncategorized  from google
november 2011 by lacurieuse
Reading List: John Jeremiah Sullivan
When Jenny launched Dinner: a Love Story eighteen months ago, I sent out a group email to all nine of my friends to let them know what was up, and to spread the word. She called me at work a couple of hours later, excited. “John Sullivan just registered on the site,” she said. Our first victim! John Sullivan, aka John Jeremiah Sullivan, is a writer, a funny person, a kind soul, and a former colleague of mine from the men’s magazine known as Gentlemen’s Quarterly. Have you heard of him? You will. Just last week, he published a collection of essays, Pulphead, that has been getting some halfway decent reviews. NPR called it “a collection that shows why Sullivan might be the best magazine writer around.” On Sunday, The New York Times Book Review called it “the best, and most important, collection of magazine writing since [David Foster] Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.” Dwight Garner, reviewing it in the Times last week, said it “put me in mind of one of Flannery O’Connor’s indelible utterances.” Time had this to say: “He’s not exactly a national secret — he’s already won two National Magazine Awards, among other things, and he’s not yet 40. But he’s the closest thing we have right now to Tom Wolfe, and that includes Tom Wolfe.” Larry McMurtry, in Harper’s, called it “the most involving collection of essays to appear in many a year.” To which I will add: Please. The fact that you can buy this book on Amazon right now for less than I spent on swiss chard at the market this morning is one of the great bargains, and investments, to be found on this earth. It’s hard to put into words just how sublime stories like this, this and this are. (Seriously, take an hour and read some. Start with “Upon This Rock.” Afterwards, feel free to complain directly to me if you feel I have steered you wrong.) John, in addition to being a DALS charter member, was kind enough to offer up a few of his favorite kid books for us. Of his picks, I can only claim to have read The Giant Jam Sandwich, but I’m here to say: if John Jeremiah Sullivan says these books are good and true, I’m going to believe him. I now cede the floor. — Andy

Here are four beloved books of my childhood, possibly out of print, but worth the while of parents to hunt down, especially if their youngsters are between, say, three and six. Written by an author who has actually prepared multiple DALS recipes (greatly enjoyed by family in cases where he didn’t burn, mush them up, or accidentally serve them raw). P.S. DALS also turned me on to Don Pepino pizza sauce in a can. It’s all I use anymore.

The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway

A small town (Itching Down) is infested by wasps, to the point that folks can’t deal. The townspeople have a meeting, where it’s decided that they will build an enormous, field-sized jam sandwich, to trap all the wasps. Watching them do this, page after page… I can still feel the child excitement. They turn a swimming pool into a mixing bowl. They turn the town’s biggest building into a giant brick oven. The pictures are bright but also detailed and subtle. If your kid loves books, it’s a minor crime not to read him/her this one.

Shaggy Fur Face by Virgil Franklin Partch

A dog has a good master–and mistress, a little girl–but they’re poor, and they can’t keep him. They sell him, for the cost of ”ditch-digging britches,” to another man, who seems nice at first, but turns out to be a tyrant. That’s when you get the story: of Shaggy Fur Face’s escape from the new mean master, and his return to the old nice family (who are doing better financially, thank you). The line I’ve had in my head for 35 years now, that sustains me sometimes, is, “And he kept paddling south. And he kept paddling south.”

Billy’s Balloon Ride by R. Zimnik

A boy is sick. His friends and relatives keep bringing him balloons, which his mother ties to his bed. Finally one night, there are so many balloons, he floats off into the sky. Great, gently suspenseful storytelling. Strange, haunting, somehow German-looking illustrations. The boy has a chubby red face and glasses. I’ll never forget him. Haven’t seen this book since my own actual childhood but could, if I knew how to draw, recreate it page for page.

Lamont the Lonely Monster by Dean Walley and Don Page

Lamont is sad. He has no friends. He’s too freaky looking. And so he searches for buddies. But in a twist that turns on its head the whole crap Nick, Jr. narrative of “Just act nice and normal, and you’ll be popular and happy!!”, Lamont’s soulmate turns out to be… an even scarier monster! Who’s named, in a delightful Dickens nod, Uriah the Heap. Read your kids this book, and then when they’re a little older, read them David Copperfield. Great way to teach them what “allusion” means.
Children's_Books_Gifts_Culture  Posts_by_Andy  Uncategorized  books_for_kids  John_Jeremiah_Sullivan  Pulphead  from google
october 2011 by lacurieuse
My Slides from Internet Librarian 2011
Below are my 3 slide decks from Internet Librarian 2011.  Some of the slides formatted a little weird upon upload, but I have a severe cold and am too tired to try to fix it.  Sorry.


Digital contentfrustration il11
View more presentations from Sarah Houghton-Jan.

Getting thingsdone il11
View more presentations from Sarah Houghton-Jan.

20 Great Free Website Tools
View more presentations from Sarah Houghton-Jan.
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october 2011 by lacurieuse
First Place Loser
There’s this thing Abby and I do, before every soccer game. She’s usually sitting on the wooden bench by our door, in her too-big uniform, and even though she’s in third grade, I’m enabling…I mean, tying her cleats. When I’m done, I give her a pat on the knee and look into her eyes.

“You ready?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she says. The affect couldn’t be more flat. She has heard this before.

“You gonna be tough out there today?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she says.

“Good,” I say, “because if you lose, don’t bother coming home.”

She rolls her eyes.

So when I was loading my stock pot full of chili into the back of our car at 8:30 last Saturday morning, on my way to deliver it unto the judges of our town’s first annual Chili-Off, Abby saw her opening.

“Hey, Dad,” she said.

“Yeah, Abby?”

“If you lose today, don’t bother coming home.”

You know where this is going, right?

We’d signed up for this Chili-Off — which would take place at the Pumpkin Fair, which raises money for our town’s elementary school — a few weeks ago, and Abby wasn’t the only one having fun at my expense. Jenny, too, had been gleefully applying the pressure, getting all up in my mug about it. (“Remember that venison chili Francine made for us like ten years ago?” she asked a few days beforehand, out of nowhere, which I took as challenge — brazen in its passiveness — to my manhood. “Mmmm, that was so good.” Damn, I thought. Should I be using venison?). The night before the contest, she’d been watching me like a hawk as I got my mis en place going, hovering, looking skeptical, asking me if I was nervous, if I knew anything about “the competition,” if I had a secret ingredient up my sleeve (meaning: you might need one), if I’d be able to show my face at the coffee shop if we lost. But I had waited until 9:00 on the night before the contest to start cooking, and I didn’t have the time or bandwith for new recipes or special ingredients. Go with what you know, as they say, and so I did. I’m not about to abandon the chili I love because there might be someone out there building a better, prettier one. It’s called loyalty, people.

Besides, I only know how to make one chili by heart. It’s quick and easy, about thirty minutes of hands-on time, and is a regular in the family rotation. Every Halloween, actually, we make a batch of it for friends and neighbors, who stop in before they go trick or treating, or while they’re out trick or treating, sort an open house kind of deal. It’s a dinner party in a pot. We stick a ladle in the Le Creuset, put some paper bowls and fixings on the counter — sour cream, cheese, cilantro, avocado, chips — and everybody stands around with a glass of red wine and serves themselves. It’s become something of a tradition, and nobody has ever complained about the food. To my face, at least.

The chili itself is a pretty straightforward base with lots of possible variations, but for the First Annual Chili-Off, I decided to go classic (beef), with a slight twist (chorizo). The chorizo adds some subtle heat and smokiness and, in general, just really good depth of flavor. I mean, it’s sausage, for chrissakes; it’s not going to make it worse. By 10 pm, the stock pot was in the refrigerator, marking its time until Judgment Day.

We showed up at the fair at 12:30, having completely missed the Chili-Off, not to mention the panel of seven judges who apparently tasted all fourteen entries with the seriousness of the dead. The day was beautiful, sunny and windy, the leaves just beginning to turn. High clouds were blowing through in long formations. A soccer kind of day. One of Phoebe’s friends ran right up to us as we walked in. “You guys came in second place!” she said. “Phoebe, your dad almost won!”

Almost. Hey, I tried, right?

Jenny looked at me. She smiled. “Second place, wow,” she said, throwing an arm around my shoulder. “Not bad, not bad. But you know what George Steinbrenner said: Second place is really first place loser. I’m just saying.”

Ouch. I don’t the name of the guy who won first place, but I have two things to say to him: Congratulations, your chili rules. And: Stay away from my wife. – Andy

Second Place Chili
Serves 12 to 15

Again, this recipe is super versatile — you can make it with ground turkey, diced sirloin, shredded chicken. If you want to — and I want to – you can even add 1/2 piece of really smoky bacon. Ideally, you’d want to saute the onions and garlic first to build the flavor, but since we were dealing with so much meat and such limited pot space, we browned it in batches, removed the meat, then added the onions and garlic.

2 pounds ground beef (I used 90% lean)
4 links chorizo sausage, cooked
3 medium yellow onions, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 28-ounce can tomato puree
1/2 cup red wine
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons dried oregano
8 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (secret ingredient!)
2 dried chili peppers (for medium spicy; add another if you want hotter)
3 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
salt and pepper as you go

Brown the ground beef, in two batches, in a large stockpot in olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as it cooks. Remove to a bowl with slotted spoon. Brown chorizo links for about two minutes a side, and remove to a cutting board. Chop up or slice.

Add onion and garlic to the pan with salt and pepper. Cook about 8-10 minutes, in all that beef and chorizo juice, until golden. Add all tomato products and spices, chili peppers, and ground beef and chorizo back. Stir until well blended.

Cover at a lazy simmer for 30 minutes to 2 hours, stirring occaionally. Add beans and serve 15 minutes later.
Dinner  Pork_and_Beef  Posts_by_Andy  Quick  Rituals  Uncategorized  chili  easy_chili_recipe  entertaining_families  family_entertaining_ideas  halloween_entertaining  from google
october 2011 by lacurieuse
Internet Librarian 2011: Best Betas for Learning & Navigating
Internet Librarian 2011: Best Betas for Learning & Navigating

Gary Price

Gary’s entire presentation is available at:

Snap Bird ( a Twitter archive tool.  Search for someone’s specific timeline, keywords, favorites, search all the people you follow and their Tweets, Tweets mentioning you, DMs sent and received, etc.  Gary’s found Tweets back into April for some of the searches he’s ran.

Microsoft Academic ( 36 million publications from 18 million authors.  You can search by author, organization, DOI, conference title, publication title, etc.  Brand new from Microsoft…

BASE (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine from Europe) ( 31 million documents from over 250,000 content providers, for academic scholarly research.

Quixley (http://quixley/): App discovery for all the different platforms.  Search for keywords and see what’s on which platform (Sarah’s note: This would be a good tool in helping people pick what device/platform to purchase based on which apps they care most about).

Primadesk ( Aggregates all of your cloud services like, Dropbox, Flickr, Google Docs, Facebook, etc.

Otixo (

Greplin (

Muse (ªª ºº Runs locally, java app, once you download it it analyzes any email box you have and shows you visualizations of your communication patterns.

Leafsnap ( Image recognition for iOS from Columbia University, Smithsonian, and University of Maryland.  Electronic field app that lets you snap photos of leaves on the East Coast and get them identified.

Mealsnap ( Snap photo of your meal and it quantifies what you’re eating and returns a calorie count.


TinEye (ªª ºº 20 billion images.  Upload your own image and see how people are remixing and manipulating similar images.

Zotero ( Was only available if you were using Firefox, but the 3.0 Beta 1 is now available for Mac, Windows, and Linux and mobile versions too.  Zotero is good for local archiving, personal digital archiving, and is pretty freaking cool (says Sarah…Gary doesn’t say “freaking” ).

WorldCat Identities and Visualize Relationships ( Identities for content creators.  The “visualize relationships” data is useful to all sorts of organizations. An exciting discovery tool with a visual edge (mind mapping, sort of…kind of like Aquabrowser’s word cloud).

C-SPAN Video Library ( Almost anything C-SPAN ever aired.  It’s more than just the senate and house hearings.  All the author talks are in here, political rallies, etc.  Can just embed specific seconds or minutes or video.  So many learning application opportunities here.

Watch, Know, Learn ( free educational videos.

New National Archives search ( New search with a ton of different advanced search limit options.

Bitcasa ( They store the data.  The metadata and connections are stored on your computer.  If the FBI wants to know who has what, they have the 1s and 0s, but that’s it…not the connections (NICE!!!)

Programmable Web (  Info on over 41 million APIs.

NeedleBase ( integrating and cleaning data.

DuckDuckGo (  One-man web search operation with a no-tracking privacy policy.

SiloBreaker ( gives you visualization, pulls in different sources, comprehensive coverage of different sources you might not find elsewhere like in Google News.

GlueJar ( Eric Hellman (go Eric!). “the social commissioning of eBooks.”  Kind of a kickstarter for authors…  Awesome.
Uncategorized  from google
october 2011 by lacurieuse
Extremely Graphic Content
It’s hard to know who was more excited when the Amazon box landed with a thunk on our doorstep last week, Phoebe or her parents. We knew from the heft what was inside: All 640 pages of Brian Selznick’s new book, Wonderstruck. We’ve spent many dinners and car rides and bedtimes discussing Brian Selznick. His last book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, for me, was one of those books where you just think, Wow, that’s amazing. I guess I’ll never write a children’s book! I mean that in the nicest possible way: it’s hard to imagine even attempting to create something that transporting and beautiful, let alone succeeding at it. If you gave me a different brain and some artistic talent and a million peaceful years to make it happen, no. But that’s just me. For Phoebe, our resident dreamer and book critic, Brian Selznick is something different: he’s a writer who has taken her beloved graphic novel form and turned into something bigger and better. Phoebe just seems to love the added layer that imagery adds to a story, the way she can keep going back and getting more out of it. This is not to say that she doesn’t like chapter books, but if you asked Phoebe to pick her ten favorite books, a hundred bucks says all ten would be graphic novels. I kind of hope that never changes. Wonderstruck is not a graphic novel, just to be clear. I don’t know what to call it. It’s a chapter book with hundreds of luminous, moody, full-bleed illustrations, which unspool in these amazing ten, twenty, thirty page stretches, like the greatest flip book ever created. As Phoebe says, when asked why she loves it so: “He makes you feel it.”

We thought we’d use this book’s arrival as an excuse to round up our latest favorite graphic novels for 8- to 12-year-olds. And, like always, I’m going to turn the mic over to the reader herself. – Andy

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick: “If you liked The Invention of Hugo Cabret, you’ll like this book. I can’t really explain it, because this author makes his books really complicated, but it’s about a deaf boy and a deaf girl. It makes you think about how hard it must be to be deaf. It’s half pictures and half words; the girl’s story is pictures and the boy’s story is words. He puts so much feeling into his stories. And there’s a surprise at the end, which is always good.”

Phoebe rating: 9*

Parent note: Why not a 10? Because Phoebe said it wasn’t quite as good as Hugo Cabret.

Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity by Dave Roman: “This is one of my favorites. I read it like three times on vacation. It’s about a school in space and it’s cool: they have anti-gravity drills and time-bending watches and things like that. Everything that’s impossible on earth is possible there, pretty much. It’s funny and adventure-y. My favorite character is Miyumi San because she has a watch that lets her travel in time and because she acts tough. She’s like a tomboy.”

Phoebe rating: Half 9, half 10*

* Parent note: I assume this means 9.5.

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword* by Barry Deutsch: “Okay, this is a tale of knitting and pig-chasing. Weird, right? It’s the story of an Orthodox Jewish girl named Mirka who has nine brothers and sisters and she’s always wanted to fight dragons and trolls. I know all this sounds really strange, but if you read it, it’ll make sense. This is a good book for people who like adventure. It makes you want to go grab your own sword and start fighting some trolls!”

Phoebe rating: 9

*Parent note: Gets our vote for best tagline on a cover ever: “Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year Old Orthodox Jewish Girl”

The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Reiner: “This is a mysterious, strange, creepy book about a little boy named Walker Bean whose father is rich and whose grandfather is sick. His grandfather would tell him stories about being at sea, stories from when he was little, and stories about these sisters who look weird — like lobster crab-creatures, in my opinion. The reason his grandfather is sick is because he once looked at a stolen, enchanted skull — if you look at it, you get horribly sick and cursed. Walker’s grandfather tells him to go out to sea to return the skull to its owners, but another ship attacks them and… I’m not telling you what happens next. It’s exciting, and a little sad.”

Phoebe rating: 10

Hera by George O’Connor: “If you’ve seen my other posts about Zeus and Athena, you know about George O’Connor. I waited and waited for this book for about a year. It took forever. Anyway, Hera is one of Zeus’s wives and she has a temper, I’ll tell you that. Hera is a very jealous wife. She wanted Zeus to only have her as a wife, but Zeus would still try to marry mortal girls down on Earth. So one day, he married a lady named Alcmene. Together, they had a baby named Hercules. Do you like Hercules? Well, Hera has got a lot to do with him. Hercules’s cousin sends him on twelve labors and Hera tells his cousin what sort of labors she wants Hercules to do. She picks really hard, dangerous things. One is to defeat the hydra, a monster with a lot of heads. There are many others, and they’re all in this book. In the end, Hercules is lifted to Olympus and Hera grows to like him.”

Phoebe rating: 10

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri D’Aulaire: “As you probably noticed, I like Greek myths. This one has every single Greek myth tale in it (pretty much) and the illustrations are really cool, too. My favorite myths are Artemis and Apollo, because they’re twins and they have these cool arrows. Apollo’s arrows were made to cause painful death, like the rays of the sun. Artemis’s arrows were made to be as soft as moonbeams, and brought painless death. That’s how they write in the book. They make you think.”

Phoebe rating: 10

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon, Dean, and Nathan Hale: “This one I like because it shows that girls can be tough, too. Rapunzel is like half-cowgirl, but she’s also got a little princess in her. She’s named after a vegetable: rapunzel, which is a kind of leaf. She meets an outlaw boy named Jack — who’s a bit like the guy from Jack and the Beanstalk — and they team up and do all sorts of crazy adventures. The kind of people who might like this book are the kind who like stories that show what girls are made of.”*

Phoebe rating: 10

*Parent note: There’s some projection going on here, for sure.

Calamity Jack by Shannon, Dean, and Nathan Hale: “This is the sequel to Rapunzel’s Revenge, except it’s mostly about Jack instead of Rapunzel. It’s about a boy who was born to scheme. He stole things, and thought of plans and did all kinds of stuff. Sometimes he would get a little out of hand. It’s also about giants who grind human bones to make flour for their bread. Jack and Rapunzel have to beat the giants and save the town. It’s definitely thrilling, I’ll say that. The end? Well…you have to read that for yourself.”

Phoebe rating: 9

The Yellow M: Blake and Mortimer by Edgar P. Jacobs: “This will definitely remind you of TinTin, except it’s a little bit more fantasy-ish. It’s a complicated story, and you may not get it the first few times you read it. I didn’t. But when you do get it, it’s a real interesting, cool story. Blake and Mortimer are detectives. There’s lots of other books in this series, too. It’s like TinTin because they solve mysteries and use guns and, well, if it was a movie, it’d probably be rated PG. The artwork is pretty good*.”

Phoebe rating: 8

*Parent note: Phoebe’s a tough critic! This art is beautiful, very retro-y and noir, and very — as Phoebe says — TinTin. If it was made into a movie, you’d expect to see a young Orson Welles starring in it.

Ozma of Oz by Erik Shanower and Skottie Young: “This is the third book in the series*. There’s a chicken who’s a girl and her name is Bill. Her name is Bill and she’s a girl! And there’s a robot named Tick Tock, and a little girl named…Dorothy! You know Dorothy. Remember, this is the third book in the Wizard of Oz series. What else? Well, look at that. That artwork is awesome. I’d say, if you like good comic books, you’ll love this. Yeah. The story continues in the next book, but it isn’t out yet!”

Phoebe rating: 10

*Parent note: Such a cool series, such weird, otherwordly artwork. I liked, but did not love the L. Frank Baum books. I love these.
Children's_Books_Gifts_Culture  Posts_by_Andy  Rituals  Uncategorized  best_comic_books_for_kids  comic_books  comic_books_for_kids  creative_gifts_for_kids  graphic_novels_for_girls  graphic_novels_for_kids  from google
september 2011 by lacurieuse
Sarah’s Gadget Showcase, Part 3 (Reading Gadgets)
This is the third post in my new Sarah’s Gadget Showcase series. #1 (Audio Gadgets) and #2 (Cooking & Food Gadgets) are also available.


I started reading at the age of three and haven’t stopped since.  I find power in words, solace in them, pain, despair, joy, inspiration, but most importantly, I find life in words.

I am, believe it or not, traditionally a bookish sort.  I started library school wanting to be a rare books librarian, actually, which is kind of funny when you think about what I do now (high tech and futurist trends are pretty much the polar opposite of old, decaying, dusty books).  Of course, my focus in rare books librarianship was on digitization of the materials for open and free dissemination on this relatively new thing they had back then called “the internet.”  So I guess even then the techie bug had bitten me.  But it was, and is, all about the information not the technology that carries it.

There is a weight to a physical book, and I don’t mean a physical heft.  Books have a meaning, a significance in our culture.  They hold untold promises and infinite possibilities. Books are objects of art.  Carrying or owning books implies that you’re intelligent.  Books = good things.

And for all of the years that I’ve been talking about digital libraries, using technology to improve yourself and your community, and even about eBooks specifically…I privately hated eBooks.  I hated the technology that locked them down, I hated how they worked (or rather didn’t), I hated the thought of reading on a screen, just…hated…them.  I clung to my printed books.  I did not advertise this little love-hate relationship with the eBook; only a few people close to me ever knew.

And then (as is wont to happen) the technology got better and I had to eat my own words.  The consumer-level experience of finding and obtaining an eBook got better (sadly, the library eBook experience is still pretty crap).  E Ink was invented and revolutionized the eReading experience entirely. E Ink is the screen technology that makes the Kindle and other devices work–ultra low power consumption, high resolution, and not back-lit. I don’t know about you, but after reading a lit computer screen all day, I honestly do not think my eyes can stand staring at another one for pleasure.

There is a lot that is still jacked up about the digital reading experience. Don’t get me started on digital rights management or we’ll be here all day and you’ll leave with bleeding ears.  But there are some things that work just fine, at least for me.  Most of these aren’t hardware gadgets per se, but apps/software/services.  So how do I read digitally? Let me count the ways…

The Kindle (& its bouquet of assorted hacks)

Yes, I own a Kindle. And I love it. Hate me later library purists; listen to me now.  The E Ink display is fabulous. The reading interface is good, annotating works, sharing passages is nice, battery life is remarkable…it’s all good.  And you can hack it.  Read on.

To me, the Kindle is like a seductive box of dark chocolates: a tasty, wonderful, yet guilty pleasure that I know I shouldn’t indulge in but want so badly.  I am confident there is something amazing in there to be had; I just have to find a gentle and creative way around existing obstacles (in the case of chocolates, my guilt at eating an entire box in one sitting).  And just as with those very few guilty pleasures that I have desired and couldn’t have right away, I’ve been pretty persistent in trying to get what I want with the Kindle.  I am patient and I try to figure out a way to make things work for me even if at first blush it doesn’t look promising.  My instincts are generally good and I usually end up being right and getting what I want.  Just ask my Kindle.

As you may know, the Kindle is a closed ecosystem and you only “license” books from Amazon–you don’t own them as you would with a printed book (same w/ other eBook vendors too).  Rejecting these principles as complete and utter bullshit, I hacked my Kindle.  I absolutely hate that the Kindle is a locked down system, a completely isolated bubble of content and delivery mechanism (just like the iPad and iPhone ecosystems, which I shun on principle b/c I can’t hack them…yet).  Locking down information goes against everything I stand for as a librarian.  Let me be clear: I do not do anything illegal on my Kindle, other than the hacking itself (which is a grey area, imho, even if you adhere to the DMCA to the letter).  I’m not stealing books or giving away books.  I hacked my Kindle so I could do with my device what I want with the books I paid to “license,” when I want, and in what format I want.  And that is the right of every reader, dammit.

“Hack the Kindle?” you ask.  ”Do tell!”  All righty then.  Without getting myself into any more legal difficulties, here are some fabulous resources to get you started on hacking your Kindle into the dirt.  Share these with your co-workers, family members, and (if you’re braver than I am) with your library users.

Jailbreaking your Kindle (step 1 before you can do a lot of this other stuff)
Mario1Up posted this great comprehensive list of various Kindle hacks (w/ links to how-to articles) on the mobileread forum site.  These are small things mostly — changing fonts, screensavers, margins, etc.
Removing DRM from eBooks in a variety of formats (that’s right–I said removing DRM)
Video tutorial on removing DRM from Mobipocket Kindle eBooks
KIF – put a text adventure game on your Kindle

And for the nerds, a detailed series of posts from an anonymous hacker on the ins and outs of some of the hacks.

Kindle app on Android

The Kindle app for Android is great.  As long as you have wi-fi enabled on your actual Kindle device, your bookmarked spot is synced up automatically.  I prefer not to read on the small, back-lit screen of my phone (an HTC Thunderbolt), but there are cases when it comes in handy.  Case in point #1: Standing in line at the grocery store.  Instead of being angry and wanting to stab the person in front of me, I whip out my phone and start reading my book.  Case in point #2: In a darkened airplane cabin where turning on the light above you to read might result in you getting stabbed by your seat mate.  You get the idea.  Small screen reading prevents homicides.

Google Reader

I do a lot of my reading online still–usually on my laptop at home, or my desktop at work.  I’m generally reading blogs, newspapers, magazines, etc. that I find through Google Reader, an RSS aggregator that has stood the test of time and continues to work.  I love the folder system, the interface, the speed, and the app for Android is great.


Book Sharing

I use both LibraryThing and GoodReads.  I am a member of a science fiction book club on GoodReads, which has me going back there more than to LibraryThing.  I wish I actually remembered to update one or both sites with all the books I’ve been reading.  Anyone have a good trick for that?  Or is it just sheer willpower that I lack?
Book Discovery

Scout’s honor, I actually do use NoveList to find new books if I’m looking for something in a particular genre.  NoveList is an online resource that many public libraries subscribe to, and I’m glad mine does.  It is a-w-e-s-o-m-e.  From the first time I tried NoveList years ago, it has always made me happy and gives me good recommendations.  Tell it what authors you like, or a book you like, or just keywords you want to read about.  Boom!  Book recommendations.  And I love using it with family members, non-library-world friends, or library users and showing them how to browse around.   You can get lost in there for hours following thread after thread and finding more and more books to put on your “to read” list.  The K-8 version is great for kids too.  I actually found a long-lost-childhood-favorite-book using NoveList after every other method had failed–describing the book to long-time children’s librarians, searching by keywords on search engines and other book sites, no dice.  Love it.
What do you use?

What do you use to read, to share, to transport, to revel in your bookish nerdiness?  Share with us!
Uncategorized  from google
september 2011 by lacurieuse
Sarah’s Gadget Showcase, Part 2 (Cooking & Food Gadgets)
This is the second post in my new Sarah’s Gadget Showcase series. Post 1 (Audio Gadgets) is also available.

Disclaimer: The following has nothing to do with libraries, unless you’re holding cooking programs


Like many people, I love to cook.  I tend to stick to the basics.  I am definitely not a kitchen appliance purchaser.  I do not own a bread machine–if I make bread, I’m going to knead it by hand like nature intended.  I’m old-fashioned that way.  That being said, I do have nifty tools that I love.

Sarah’s Love of Foooooooood

Let me start by explaining why I love to cook.  Cooking is love.  There is nothing in the world like creating a wonderful dish and seeing someone you care about enjoy it.  Seeing the person smile and make that scrunched-forehead-while-chewing “OMG this is amazing” face…  Seeing a hand reach for more…  Sharing your techniques…  Beautiful.  You’ve created something that not only pleases the palate, but sustains the body. Magic.

I was taught as a child by a cast of amazing women in my family.  I learned to make cookies and a killer pie crust from my great-grandmother when I was so small I still needed a step stool to reach the counter.  My dad’s mother taught me how to make salad that didn’t include iceberg lettuce and how to cook vegetables properly (read: not over-cooked, gray, mushy Midwestern vegetables like I was served growing up).  My mom’s mother taught me how to make fudge, chocolate sauce, apple butter, and to can peaches and tomatoes.  And my own dear mother taught me everything else I learned as a kid–lasagna, casseroles, cakes and frosting, cacciatore, potatoes a thousand different ways, on and on.

I became vegetarian in my teens and vegan a few years ago. With those changes, I learned to cook differently.  I learned to cook dishes I had never heard of growing up, much less eaten — quick pickled cucumbers, pesto, scones, risotto, beer-battered mushrooms, potato tempeh sausages, congee, baby bok choy in garlic sauce, haupia pie, tempura, curries, even (*gasp*) how to properly cook white rice that did not come out of an Uncle Ben’s box.

I love my diverse diet, and I love cooking for myself.  Last night? Pesto and gnocchi, both made from scratch.  A few nights before that? Black bean and pumpkin tamales made from scratch with homemade salsa and guacamole. Oh yeah.

And with all this cooking, I need tools that make the job easier or better.  Here are my favorites.

The Gadgets

American Innovative quad timer ($29.95): You can set four separate concurrent timers that can all be adjusted, paused, or reset independently.  The large LCD display shows up to two of the timers at once.  Easy to control click wheel and buttons makes the timer priceless when your hands are covered in flour or oven mitts. Because I cook multiple things at once quite frequently, this is a lifesaver.  I used to time one thing on the microwave, one thing on my phone, one thing on the oven, etc.  Ridiculous. This is perfect.  Just imagine how much easier Thanksgiving will be!  Well, the dinner cooking part. I can’t help with the family drama.  That’s all part of the traditional celebration, no?

OCD Chef Cutting Board ($24.99): Speaking of family drama, yes–there is an OCD Chef Cutting Board. I mean no disrespect to people with OCD (trust me) but it is what the device is called.  A 9″ by 12″ beechwood board with measurements down to the millimeter, including various angles of cuts as well. Super, super precise and it makes me feel like an engineer while I’m chopping veggies.



Pixel oven mitts ($16.99): *tee hee*  Fairly good oven mitts, and they make you look nerdy. With that extra boost they become really good oven mitts.





Oster automatic wine opener ($19.99): One-push of a button and your bottle of wine is opened up, cork drawn up into the opener. Push another button and it ejects the cork. Rechargable, works every single time, and is easy on the hands and wrists (which is why I bought it).




JA Henckels International knives ($varies): They start sharp and they stay sharp. They don’t rust, bend, or loosen from the handle.  They have a lovely weight, a perfect balance.  I love how these knives feel in my hand.



Kapoosh knife block ($39.99): And to put my lovely blades in, Kapoosh! I’d seen these on gadget blogs and blown them off, but then I tried one in a store and literally said “Ooooooh!” aloud to no one in particular.  It’s a whole bunch of little teeny tiny rods (think very small dowels). Slide the knife in wherever you want in the block, and poof! It sticks. Better for the blades too — less wear and tear than in a traditional knife block.



Air Bake cookie sheets ($15-$20): Best cookie sheet on the planet. End of story.  Stuff cooks evenly and doesn’t burn on the bottom. I will never go back to a normal cookie sheet again. Ever! You can pry this one from my cold, dead hands.  Then I’ll probably reach up at least once, B-horror-movie style, and grab it back.



Circulon cookware ($varies): Circulon evenly heats things and doesn’t burn them. Simple as that.  I notice this particularly with the larger pans and pots, cooking chili or sauces.  Evenly distributed heat is key when you’re someone who may from time to time forget to “continuously stir.”




Wonder Plunger measuring cup ($5.99): Suction-based, plunge the cup down to the exact measurement you need, pour liquid in, plunge the liquid out.  Nothing wasted, no need to scrape the sides of a measuring cup with a finger (ahem, spatula, of course).  This is a huge effort saver when it comes to viscous liquids like molasses, brown rice syrup, oils, etc.  Best $6 I’ve spent of late.





Zojirushi Mr. Bento Stainless Steel Lunch Jar ($42.88): Bento! In a canister! In a little shoulder bag with cutlery! Cute, dishwasher safe, and perfectly sized.  Downside?  I wish I remembered to use it more.  Laziness rules sometimes, and I just grab something portable and throw it into a container. This requires a modicum of forethought. It does make you look cool though.






Butter Boy butter (or vegan margarine) holder ($9.05): I <3 corn on the cob. I do not <3 putting margarine/butter on the aforementioned corn.  Except when I use Butter Boy. Jam some margarine down into his neck, then push the plunger underneath him to push out exactly what you need.  Curved perfectly for corn, no need to have messy hands ever again. Thank you Butter Boy!






Grandma Witmer’s Old Fashioned Peanut Buter Mixer ($9.95): Yes, I eat natural peanut butter. Go ahead and crack the left-coast-vegan-Californian stuff now.  It is yummier and better for you. So there. But it’s a bitch to mix up the first time. This mixer screws on top of the jar in place of the lid, and then you just turn the handle. I’m excited now to crack open a new jar of peanut butter whereas before it induced cold night sweats hallucinating about spilling oil all over the floor and being too weak to stir a fork in the hard-as-rock peanut part. When I bought mine, there was just the one model. Now they have tons of choices with better ergonomics and for various jar sizes. Nice!


What do I still want to buy?

Breville Juice Extractor  ($200-$500) - I like juicing. Veg, fruit, all mushed up…all good.  But I hate pulp like the plague and the nasty airy chalky frothy junk you get on top of a lot of fresh juices makes me kinda nauseous. Voila! The Breville Juice Extractor even has a “foam separator attachment.” Nice! At the cost though, this one’s going to have to wait a while.

And…a good espresso machine – I was also recently exposed to a most excellent low-profile table-top espresso machine that I now want. Must…get…make…and…model.  The problem is–home or office?  Or both?  Decisions, decisions.

Update: The espresso machine is an illy Francis Francis Y1 iperEspresso Machine.  $295. Definitely want. Low profile, pretty, and *gasp* it comes in black!

Time to talk back! What are your favorite kitchen gadgets?  What do you recommend to friends and family?  What would you never give up?  Pray tell.  I have about negative $1,000 budgeted for kitchen gadgets for the rest of the year, and that debt ain’t gonna spend itself. So bring it!
Uncategorized  from google
august 2011 by lacurieuse
Sarah’s Gadget Showcase, Part 1 (Audio Gadgets)
I get asked a lot what technology I actually use, as opposed to all the cool stuff I show people or talk about.  So I started looking around and thinking about it.  What do I use? What do I have? Do I like it or love it?  And I decided to start posting about it by subject area of gadget (insert nerdy librarian joke here).  I thought we could start with audio–how I create and consume audio (music, podcasts, webinars, etc.).  Other areas I’ve thought about are video, cooking/food, reading, internet/data, and the ever popular “random miscellany.”  If there are other categories you’re curious about, let me know and I’ll see what I have lying around.

So we begin with audio!

–First off: What do I consume?–

I listen to music a lot.  At home, in the car, at work, on the go.  I also listen to a lot of podcasts.  No audiobooks (I think the reader’s voice changes my interpretation of the words, and puts a spin on images or characters in my head).  I also create audio content for live webinars and I’m just starting to create a podcast series which may or may not have video.

–Second: How do I consume it?–

At home

Sonos system: I have a two-room Sonos system set up in my apartment.  It’s a wireless music system that feeds in whatever collection you have on your local computer as well as multiple streaming services (Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, etc.), plus radio stations.  It’s pretty cool. You can also control it w/ your smartphone so I turn the music on from outside the house so that something nice is playing when I walk in the door. It’s expensive, but totally worth it for music-heads like me.

Android HTC Thunderbolt smartphone: As stated, I control my Sonos subscription with my amazing Android HTC Thunderbolt phone.  I <3 this phone.  I use my phone for audio in other places too, in other ways, which I’ll prattle on about later.

Audio Receiver: I have my entire sound system in my house running through a pretty upscale Samsung audio receiver. I don’t know WTF I’m doing with it, to be honest, but I at least figured out how to get the speakers and various components hooked up. That does mean I need to keep it on at all times if I want to do the “turn on the Sonos from outside” trick.  I’m okay with that. And yes, I cabled everything up myself in my apartment from raw speaker cable. I am proud of that (w00t!), as evidenced by my ‘home audio porn’ shot on Flickr.

The speakers: I have four Bowers and Wilkins bookshelf speakers hooked up–two in the living room, two in the bedroom. These little tiny guys pack a heck of a punch. Awesome sound, great bass, probably enough that my neighbors want to throttle me. The sound in the bedroom is particularly good–probably because it is a somewhat smaller space, less echo-y.

Music collections and services: I use the iTunes library on my MacBook (which I have to have on for the Sonos system to be able to access it, logically), and I also subscribe to Spotify (all streaming music anytime) and Pandora (how to describe Pandora…customized streaming internet radio?), and also use the free Google Music service (which lets you upload your downloaded songs into the cloud and then access them from anywhere).

Podcast service: And I use Google Listen to subscribe to podcasts.  Love it.  Shows up in my Google Reader as a feed, and as an app on my phone.

At work

Heartbeats earbuds (Beats by Dr. Dre): I work in a large room with 4-6 other people, depending on the time of day.  So usually I use these lovely Lady Gaga Heartbeats earbuds to listen to music through Spotify or Google Music or my podcasts through Google Listen.  I like the Beats headphones for the bass, as I am an electronica fan and bass is a must.  I don’t give a crap about who made them, or that Lady Gaga put her personal brand stamp of approval on them.  I really thought they sounded the best out of all the earbuds I tried. I detest over-ear headphones as they end up hurting my head after a while. I don’t know why. I’m weird.

X-Mini Capsule Speaker: OK, this is one of those gadgets that I use in a crowd and people get all excited and go out and buy the next day.  This little X-mini external speaker (a mere $29.99  @ ThinkGeek) has the best sound of any small speaker I’ve ever encountered.  I use it to play music before classes, to play off my phone or laptop when I’m traveling, etc. It’s seriously that good.  You can also buy sets of more than one, and daisy chain them up for stereo or surround sound.  But just one will do you.  I bought a couple for my dad, a true audio nut, and he is in love with them too. That’s all the stamp of approval I need.


In the car

Android HTC Thunderbolt smartphone: I just hook up my phone through my nice little audio cable which goes into my MP3-in port on the car, turn on Spotify, Google Music, or Google Listen, and go. Easy peasy.

On the go

Android HTC Thunderbolt smartphone: I do not own an MP3 player. My phone is my music player. I have multiple audio apps on the phone (Pandora, Spotify, Google Music, Google Listen, Soundcloud, Slacker Radio, Sonos, and until recently Rdio too [before I decided to choose Spotify for sound quality]).  So I can get pretty much any song, podcast, or other audio entertainment when I want it.  The phone is small and lightweight enough for taking it on hikes, for workouts, etc.  Plus, it’s my phone so I already have it with me.

Heartbeats earbuds (Beats by Dr. Dre): Again, love these. Highly recommend.


–And third, how do I create audio content?–

Yeti microphone: I love this microphone.  It’s big.  It’s heavy.  It’s powerful.  It has easy-to-learn controls. And the sound quality is astonishing. You can hear each and every breath in, whisper, and tonal change.  It also folds down for storage and then pivots up for use (more than slightly phallic).  I love this microphone…after having unsuccessfully tried several others.  I got it a while back during some crazy one-day Amazon sale (for $90 instead of $199 if I recall).  So glad I bought it.

Audacity: Record into Audacity. Edit and mix in Audacity.  And you’re all done.  Whenever I show people how to record and edit audio for the first time, they’re super scared and don’t believe they’ll be able to learn how to do it.  But once you see that it’s really just highlighting, copying, pasting, dragging, deleting, and adding effects (just like in a Word document) all of a sudden they’re audio ninjas!  Ninjas, I say!  If you’re scared of audio or video editing have somebody show you the basics and I promise you that fear will go away.  I was scared.  But I learned, and so can you  I promise!  Sarah’s personal guarantee, good for your money back (oh wait, all this was free…umm, good for a cup of coffee?).

So what did I forget?  What devices do you use for audio consumption and creation?  What do you love?  What did you buy and later learn to dislike?  Bring it on!  Bring on the gadget wars!
Uncategorized  from google
august 2011 by lacurieuse
Waldorf at Home in Ottawa
I just created a Yahoo Group for Waldorf Homeschoolers in Ottawa, to share crafty skills and resources, celebrate festivals, and discuss how we bring Waldorf into our lives & homes. If you’re interested in Waldorf, please join and introduce yourself!

You can find it at:

Uncategorized  Homeschool  Waldorf  from google
august 2011 by lacurieuse
Zen Skydiver
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself in the whirlwind that’s my 20s it’s that yoga is good for my soul. So is skydiving. These are two things that have continued to hold a spot in my heart, no matter if I’m practicing or not.

Even when I’m unable to attend yoga classes, for one reason or another, my practice hasn’t stopped. The principles of yoga seep into my daily life, and only serve in helping me improve – in all aspects of life.

Progression in a sport like skydiving has a lot to do with overcoming fear (well, for me anyway). Skydiving has this way of throwing the reality of your own mortality in your face. Each jumper has their own way of dealing with this, from acknowledging the fear and consciously leaving it in the door on the way out of the airplane, to using their self-confidence to know that they have the ability to save their own life time and time again. Some even get cocky and complacent, of course this is not the recommended path for continuing in the sport.

Others, have more difficulty acknowleding their own fear – often feeling that it’s a sign of weakness – and therefore experience mental challenges in moving past this fear. This is where, in my life, yoga has come into play. That 10 minute ride to altitude becomes a meditation session, a time to reflect on the fear, visualize your perfect skydiving, and channel the power that lives behind that into your performance – into being your best.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. One thing I’ve found is that practicing yoga on the ground, meditating on everything from skydiving to your other hopes, dreams and fears can help make this practice feel more natural – make it something you crave on the way to altitude.

Of course, being a zen skydiver is just one way to deal with the fear, the butterflies that come along with an adrenaline sport. But, it’s the one that seems to work best for me, so I thought I’d share in the knowledge just a little bit. Regardless, I can’t stress the importance of acknowledging your feelings, whatever they might be, in order to move past the mental blocks and perform your best.

Love and Blues Skies!

Free_Fall  Lessons_Learned  Trends  Uncategorized  acknowledging_fear  meditation  Skydiving  yoga  from google
august 2011 by lacurieuse
Quinoa Black Bean Mango Salad
I’m slightly confused by vacations.
So I’m supposed to get on a plane, go to a place, wear a bathing suit, and… not blog?
That’s strange. That’s confusing. That makes me uncomfortable.
I’m not good at vacation. I can’t be the only one.

I threw together this super easy lunch salad before I left.
It’s healthful! We’ve got fruit, bean protein, and great grains.
I was thinking about bikinis when I made this.
As soon as I get back, I’ll be thinking about butter again. Promise.

I used millet and quinoa to make this salad magic.
Quinoa is one of my favorite grains. Super hearty. Super healthy. Wonderfully filling.
Millet you might know as bird seed. Yea. True. Birds have the right idea because this stuff is the business! Healthy, filling, good!

Feel free to use any combination of grains you like. Maybe farro? Maybe brown rice? Maybe couscous? Think it up and make it happen!

Quinoa Black Bean Mango Salad
Print this Recipe!

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup uncooked millet
1 ripe mango
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed
1/3 cup chopped scallions
Juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Place quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Rinse under cool water for 2 to 3 minutes. Place quinoa in a medium saucepan with 1 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil. Add a bit of salt. Reduce to a simmer and cook until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes before fluffing. Cool slightly.

In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add millet and a bit of salt. Reduce to a simmer, cook uncovered until water has absorbed and millet is fluffy. If you don’t stir it too much during cooking, the millet will be fluffy.

Toss slightly cooled quinoa and millet with mango, black beans, scallions, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

This salad lasts 3 days in the refrigerator.
Uncategorized  bean  easy  mango  quinoa  recipe  salad  summer  from google
july 2011 by lacurieuse
Superiority complex
As sort of a follow up to my last post about why we’re here and what we’re doing this for, I’d like to take a moment to talk about an issue that’s been weighing on my mind a bit.

The Skydiver Superiority Complex. Now, I’m not talking about those people who rag on other people within the sport – like freeflyers who think their better than belly flyers or wingsuiters who claim “this ain’t no head down bitches!” (one of my favorite lines, btw), as most of this is said in jest, giving others crap around the dropzone – it can be a favorite past time.

What I’m talking about are those jumpers out there who think that, simply because they are skydivers, they are superior to everyone else in life. Like skydiving is this club that, until you’ve gotten in you’re just not cool enough.

Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that skydiving has this way of changing your perspective on life, but that doesn’t mean that, in order to get the most out of life you MUST skydive. Certainly, I’d love to have all my friends experience what freefall is like, to understand the change that this sport can bring about in your way of approaching the world, but that certainly doesn’t mean I think that I’m better at life than those who haven’t jumped – that’s just pure foolishness.

Too often I hear skydivers, especially the newbies, talking about how they just didn’t get the meaning of life until their first skydive. That until you save your own life, you just can’t understand what it means to truly live. Well, here’s the reality of the situation –  just because YOU didn’t get how to fully embrace life until you experienced flight, doesn’t mean others don’t get it.

I mean, sure, if you grew up in a middle class family (or above) that sent you to college and you’ve either been in school or working on your career since then there’s a good chance you fall into this category (I certainly did). But I know plenty of people who had different paths who, most likely, know the value of living just as much, if not more, than I do.

I guess the questions here is, do you really think you’re superior to others now that you’ve fell from 14,000 and successfully saved your own life, or is it that you just encourage everyone else to seek out this opportunity as well, but you have a really strange way of conveying it? I’d like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt on this one and say the latter, but I truly believe there are people out there “knowing” and speaking of their superiority because skydiving has become their favorite past time. And for all those, there are an equal number of rock climbers and motorcyclists and other extreme sports junkies scoffing because in reality, their sport is a whole hell of a lot more dangerous than ours.

Next time you think about opening your mouth about how someone just can’t know what living is until they jump out of an airplane, maybe take two seconds to remind yourself that you have no idea what others have been through in their life, and there’s a good chance they know so much more about life than you. Instead, swap some life stories – you might actually learn something interesting about them.

Love and Blue Skies!

Free_Fall  Lessons_Learned  Skydiving_Community  Uncategorized  ego  Skydiving  from google
july 2011 by lacurieuse
Summer Reading List: Pseudonymous Bosch
“Ask me a question.”

Every Saturday afternoon, I go for a long run, and Phoebe bikes alongside me, and this is what she says to me the minute we hit the trail. “Ask me a question.” Which is really her way of saying: Ask me a question about a book I am currently reading, and I will summarize the plot for you while you run, which will distract you from the agony of exercising. Some of these summaries are quick, easily dispatched. Family lives on prairie, endures terrible storms, long winters, and much suffering, but survives. Girl deals with embarrassing dental issues, gets braces, endures much teasing, but survives. Handsome man has superpowers, saves world. The past few weekends, though, things have gotten a little more involved. “Tell me about this Pseudonymous Bosch guy,” I say to Phoebe, as we set out. “What are those books about, exactly?” Phoebe pedals for a bit, thinking. “Hmmmm,” she says. “That’s hard.” “Try,” I say. “Well,” she says, “they’re basically about the five senses: smell, sight, feel, hearing, and taste. There’s a lot of chocolate in the third book. And there’s this group of evil guys called the Midnight Sun, who are trying to figure out The Secret, which I think is about immortality. The main characters are named Cass and Max-Ernest and… it’s hard to explain.” She’s often still explaining when we stop, forty-five minutes later.

I first encountered the Pseudonymous Bosch books two and a half years ago, on one of those gray winter days when the town library is closed and you’re sitting in your house, dying of claustrophobia and getting on each other’s nerves and it’s too cold to do anything outside, so you end up — jail break! — camping out in the kids’ section at Barnes and Noble, trying to avoid spending money on Care Bear sticker books. The kids wandered off, and I did, too. I found a book and picked it up based entirely on the title (The Name of This Book is Secret) and the beauty of its cover. God, was this a nice looking, well thought-out, creative book. I flipped to the back flap, to see who was behind it: based on the author bio alone, I wanted to have it. Then I opened it up, and here’s what I saw on the third page:

Okay, now I REALLY wanted this book. Or, better, I couldn’t wait until our kids were old enough to read a book this weird and fun. Two and half years later, we find ourselves in the summer of Pseudonymous Bosch. Phoebe is obsessed. (Jenny and I wish she’d be a little less obsessed, to be honest, as it feels like we never see her anymore.) She’s knocked off all four since school ended, and is awaiting the fifth, You Have to Stop This. (Memo to P. Bosch fom Phoebe: Hurry the heck up already!) Unfortunately, that next installment is going to be a little bit later than it otherwise might have been, as Pseudonymous himself was kind enough to take precious writing time to contribute the next installment of our Summer Reading Series, a roundup of his favorite mysteries for kids. To be a nine year old again…

As my readers well know, I am a secretive author, desperately afraid not just of the public spotlight but even the smallest penlight. (It’s the batteries—I have trouble replacing them in my remote location.) Nonetheless, I occasionally find myself making appearances at glamorous venues such as elementary school cafeterias and the backs of chain bookstores, most of which seem to close permanently a few days later. Why a phobic character such as myself should choose to expose himself like that is a question best left to my psychiatrist. (I mean, my publicist). I have, however, learned to come armed with certain provisions to protect myself against the prying public. They are, in no particular order: large scratch-proof sunglasses, emergency chocolate rations, a discrete handheld sound-effects machine (sirens, gunfire, broken glass, farts, etc.), and book recommendations.

Why book recommendations? Because What books do you recommend? is almost always the one hundredth question I get (the first ninety-nine being What is your real name?). Because my books are meant to be mysteries, I usually recommend mystery books. And because my audience is meant to be younger, I usually recommend adult mysteries. I figure somebody else has already recommended The Hardy Boys or Harriet the Spy, so instead I mention Edgar Allan Poe or Dashiell Hammet or Dorothy Sayers (the latter author being a particular favorite of mine when I was a kid). But I fear that you—the reader of this blog—are most likely an adult. Thus, out of sheer perversity, and also because it was requested, I am going to recommend a few children’s titles that have lately held my interest. One thing that is wonderful about young readers is that they still retain the power to be mystified. As an adult, I find that children’s books help restore my sense of mystery. Hopefully, these books will do that for you, too. And if you have an actual child by your side, all the better.

The Circus in the Mist by Bruno Munari (only available used)

This almost wordless book was one of my favorites when I was very young and I still love to look at it. Written and illustrated—perhaps the best word is created—by the Italian designer and book-magician Bruno Munari, The Circus in the Mist takes the reader on a journey into a “mist,” which is represented by translucent vellum pages. Spare yet playful, each page teases you into turning to the next. In the middle of the book, you are rewarded with a circus, and all its fun and familiar acts, but at the end you are returned to the mist, as if to say that the mysteriousness of the mist itself—not the circus it hides—is the true wonder.

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg

Soon this unique picture book will be very well-known because an anthology of stories inspired by it is going to be published, but when I discovered it by accident in a used bookstore I felt as if I’d stumbled on an artifact of a lost civilization. I don’t want to ruin the book for you by describing it in detail, but briefly: it consists of a series of strange and enigmatic drawings with provocative captions that are meant not to explain but rather to elicit explanation. In a sense, the reader is the author of the stories that the pictures tell.

The Something by Natalie Babbit (only available used)

Alas, I did not read this one as a child, but a friend (whom I will not name for her own protection) gave me a copy a few years ago and I treasure it, not least because this particular copy is inscribed by the author—to somebody else!  This diminutive picture book tells the story of a monster who is afraid of the Something—a mysterious creature that enters through his bedroom window at night. Who or what the Something is is the question that animates the book. As in all good mysteries, the answer is at once surprising and inevitable.

Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

Before there was a middle grade graphic novel series called Big Nate there was a series of illustrated early-reader chapter books called Nate the Great. Sadly, I didn’t know about Nate the Great until the other day when, to my delight, somebody handed me the first Nate book. In the book, the eponymous kid detective endeavors to find his neighbor’s missing painting—this being a painting that the young neighbor herself painted, you understand. Fittingly, the key to resolving the mystery lies in knowing what color two particular colors make when they are mixed. I imagine this would be a perfect first chapter book for a budding young reader—or maybe a second, after Frog and Toad.

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

My forthcoming book, the last in the Secret Series, has an Egyptian theme; so I read this 1967 middle grade novel very recently, looking for ideas to steal. Like many Newbery books (of which this is a lesser-known example), The Egypt Game offers a combination of mystery and fantasy that is grounded in “realistic” family life. (If you suspect I have been studying Newbery winners hoping to discover a hidden formula, well, I’m going to take the Fifth on that.) A multicultural cast of Berkeley, California kids secretly band together to participate in exotic Ancient Egyptian rituals and solve a creepy neighborhood mystery. What fun! Something for you and your kid to read after your copies of A Wrinkle in Time and From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler are all worn out.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley

Officially a book for adults, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie stars one of the most mordant — and hilarious — pre-teen heroines ever created. Flavia is a brilliant, half-mad chemist bent on revenging herself against all who cross her—most of all her own sisters. I loved the book when I read it last year. I think I would have loved it even more when I was eleven years old, although I might have had to open a dictionary a few times along the way. A great book for a precocious kid whose reading level has way beyond kids’ books—but who still enjoys a little childish mischief. I refer, of course, to myself. — Pseudonymous Bosch
Children's_Books_and_Gifts  Kitchenlightenment  Posts_by_Andy  Uncategorized  pseudonymous_bosch  secret_series  summer_book_club  summer_reading_for_kids  summer_reading_series  from google
july 2011 by lacurieuse
Open Library offers libraries a third choice for eBooks
The library eBook scene, indeed the eBook scene for consumers too, is ever-changing and unpredictable.  Any library trying to plan more than one year out for eBooks is playing a losing game.  Don’t sign contracts for more than a year and don’t invest huge amounts of time in what might be dying models.

For the most part, right now libraries feel like we have two choices for eBooks:

paying beaucoup bucks for high-demand eBooks to third-party aggregator companies like Overdrive and 3M (for more on for-profit companies’ recent eBooks offerings, see David Lee King’s excellent post on what he saw at ALA Annual)
pointing users to the many free, lower-demand eBooks out on the web on sites like Project Gutenberg or Librivox

But there is a third choice, and it’s one that I think can change the landscape of library eBooks forever…and for the better.

Open Library is a project from the Internet Archive, a non-profit that has given us amazing web content like the Wayback Machine (historical snapshots of websites), the Audio Archive, the Moving Image Archive, and the Software Archive.  The Internet Archive is also technically a registered library, and they have long collaborated with local libraries for services and collections.  IA is based in San Francisco and I was lucky enough a couple of months ago to visit the headquarters for a stunning tour that included the “hands-down-most-awesome server room ever” and the most efficient book scanning workflow I’ve ever seen.

And that book scanning project has yielded Open Library.  Open Library is a digital library built partially from paper books from physical libraries.  Anyone can access the 1,000,000+ free eBooks through their website.  But wait, there’s more!  A new project with 1,000+ currently participating libraries, including mine, is the Lending Library, a swiftly growing collection of 100,000+ eBooks from the 20th century, including many popular titles (though not those from the most recent 15 years or so).  Did I mention that it’s currently 100% free for your library to participate in the Lending Library?  All you have to do is send at least one paper book to the IA for digitization.  That’s it.

Users can access the entire collection in-library or from home with remote access, as long as you set up authentication on your end through EZ Proxy, WAM, etc.  Books are added two primary ways: they are scanned in from discarded copies sent to the IA from member libraries -or- IA has arranged a lending agreement directly with the publishers.  Books do operate on a one-user/one-copy model, in keeping with copyright holder rights.

Here’s what it’s like on the user’s end: You click on the link from your library’s website, as you would for any other eBook collection, and log in with your library credentials.  Now Open Library knows you can borrow from the Lending Library.  If you access from inside the library, you will see this message alerting you that you have access to even more eBooks.

Browse or search for a book, then choose whether you want to borrow an “in-browser” version (which you view using the super smooth Internet Archive’s BookReader web app) or downloadable formats like PDF, ePub, Daisy, plain text, and Kindle.  One thing I really like is how all the various editions of a work are aggregated into one record.  Here’s what you see when you go to the “digital holdings” for the Scarlet Letter.

Each person can borrow up to 5 eBooks at a time for up to 2 weeks.  You can read these eBooks on the device of your choice: Mac or PC, laptop or desktop, tablet or smart phone. Read and smile: NO COMPATIBILITY ISSUES!

From Open Library’s About page:

One web page for every book ever published. It’s a lofty but achievable goal.

To build Open Library, we need hundreds of millions of book records, a wiki interface, and lots of people who are willing to contribute their time and effort to building the site.

To date, we have gathered over 20 million records from a variety of large catalogs as well as single contributions, with more on the way.

Open Library is an open project: the software is open, the data are open, the documentation is open, and we welcome your contribution. Whether you fix a typo, add a book, or write a widget–it’s all welcome. We have a small team of fantastic programmers who have accomplished a lot, but we can’t do it alone!

I <3 Open Library.  And I don’t <3 a lot of things.  So you know it must be amazing.  Here are some of the reasons that I think Open Library is a successful future model for library eBooks:

Open Library is an eBook library built by libraries, with library collections, for libraries.
A printed book in the public domain that is currently accessible to only one library’s users in a physical format gets turned into a digital book accessible to all participating library’s users. This is the ultimate in resource sharing.
The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization, so if they can arrange more contracts with publishers directly the cost to libraries will necessarily be less than it would be with the for-profit companies we’ve been dealing with so far.
It’s open: the code, the collection, everything.
Reading is a smooth, device-neutral user experience.
This solves the “last copy” syndrome in many libraries where we might hold on to an outdated printed item if it’s the last one in our catalog.  Send your last copies to the Internet Archive and share with other libraries while freeing up valuable shelf space at the same time.

Freaking awesome, period.

Libraries interested in partnering in this program should email  You can read more about the technology behind the project and the librarianship that built this collection as well.  And to learn more as things develop, keep track of what’s new with the Open Library through their blog.

Mark my words.  This is the future of eBooks for libraries.
Uncategorized  from google
july 2011 by lacurieuse
Congratulations to Mia!
Congratulations to our lovely manager of Golden, Mia Eriksson-Blundell, one of 27 women graduating from the 2011 Management Development Program for Women during the 19th Convocation on June 4, 2011!

The Management Development Program for Women (MDPW), is designed for highly motivated women who wish to develop management skills they can use immediately in a practical work environment. It has been offered since 1992 by the Centre for Research and Education on Women and Work (CREWW), Sprott School of Business, Carleton University.  Mia completed this 10 month program in addition to her Bridgehead Coffeehouse Manager Position, “Madeline’s Mom” Position and while also being elected President of the Board of the River Parkway and River Heights Children’s Centres.

The MDPW distinguishes itself by:

 providing an intensive, structured educational experience,
addressing the issues women face in management,
providing an integrated view of management,
helping participants improve their management skills,
enhancing participants’ self-confidence, and
providing opportunities for participants to network with other women.

Course work included:

Business Strategy
Business Writing
Financial and Managerial Accounting
Human Resources Management
Management and Organizational Behaviour
Management Information Systems
Program Evaluation
Project Management

She joins a distinguished alumni group that comprises over 500 members.  We are so proud of Mia and all of her accomplishments!

Click to view slideshow.
Events  Uncategorized  from google
june 2011 by lacurieuse
Fleece Play Squares for Babies
Here is a simple toy that I just made for LMNOP Magazine. It’s a no-sew, fleece version of my Play Squares for Babies. Making them takes only minutes, and an older child could even make them as a gift for a baby. All you need is some fleece (felt would also work) and some scissors, then just cut out different sizes of squares. When the squares are placed on top of each other, they gently stick together because of the nature of the fabric. My 4 year old son even had fun making a variety of designs with them for awhile. Now I want to cut out some different shapes and colors to make more complex designs. So get some colorful pieces of fleece or felt and start creating! And feel free to post your versions on the Made by Joel Facebook Page!

Uncategorized  from google
april 2011 by lacurieuse
Zigotos, Adèle, Crotte de nez et les autres.
Avant même de voir ma vie envahie par mes deux enfants, j’achetais des livres de littérature jeunesse. J’aurais d’ailleurs pu à l’époque prétexter devoir le faire pour mon travail, mais à quoi bon puisque j’ai toujours ressenti un grand bonheur et une grande fierté de lire des livres destinés aux enfants et aux ados. Oui, je me suis fait prendre par Harry Potter et par Bella et Edward. Je me suis fait même prendre par tous les livres de Mario Ramos, sans parler des Zigotos. Ces derniers m’ont fait tordre de rire sur mon divan. Seule. Sans enfant à côté de moi.

J’ai une grande chance dans la vie, celle de contribuer à former des futurs enseignants, particulièrement sur l’apprentissage de la lecture et de l’écriture. Chaque fois que je présente un album, une bd, un petit roman, même un livre en plastique à faire flotter dans le bain de bébé, je pourrais entendre une mouche voler tellement les étudiants sont captivés. C’est devenu un truc. Quand on revient de la pause et que la dernière partie du cours s’annonce corsée, surtout devant des yeux qui s’endorment et des bouches qui aimeraient tellement discuter de la fin de semaine, je présente un livre jeunesse. Mon intervention est redoutable. Je connais, soyons clair, les points faibles de mes étudiants. Et ces points faibles sont parfois très étonnants.

Voici donc mes armes les plus fatales, celles qui systématiquement remontent ma cote de popularité auprès des étudiants et me permettent de terminer un cours dans la joie et surtout, l’attention. Il sera question ici de quelques albums, mais je promets d’aborder d’autres titres et d’autres genres dans des billets subséquents.

C’est moi le plus fort et C’est moi le plus beau.
Parce que nous avons tous secrètement ou délibérément envie de voir notre pire ennemi, un harceleur, un manipulateur, un beau parleur, recevoir la monnaie de sa pièce. Jouissif au maximum.

Crotte de nez.
Je sais. Nul besoin de me faire remarquer l’étrangeté de la situation. Des adultes de 21 ans, futurs enseignants, tripent sans exception sur cet album et l’assument, à mon plus grand bonheur et surtout, au grand bonheur de leurs élèves.

Les fantaisies d’Adèle. Pour ceux et celles qui n’ont jamais manqué d’originalité et qui se sont battus pour la garder.
À lire avec les petits parce que c’est drôle, puis avec des plus grands frustrés de toujours se faire dérober leurs bonnes idées.

La rédaction

Un texte intelligent, une histoire de Skarmeta qui donne froid dans le dos et un héros qui est beaucoup plus brillant qui le laisse croire. Un album à lire avec des grands élèves pour réfléchir sur la le vie beaucoup moins rose des enfants vivant sous un régime totalitaire.

Parce qu’à 5 ans, on est souvent trop petite pour un tas de chose, Cropetite montre aux petits lecteurs, aux petites lectrices et surtout à leurs parents qu’on devrait plutôt lui faire confiance, l’écouter et l’inclure dans nos activités. Pour stimuler la confiance et le sentiment de compétence. Et pour aborder cette époque fantastique des premiers sapiens.

Mon papa et Ma maman

Anthony Browne est un auteur dont les histoires me fascinent. L’auteur amalgame originalité et extrême simplicité avec un grand talent, autant dans le texte que dans les illustrations. Je n’ai jamais rien vu de tel. Mon papa et Ma maman sont d’une douceur et d’une vérité terriblement touchantes. À lire et à relire avec nos petits et pourquoi pas avec nos grands, pour se rappeler toute la naiveté, l’émerveillement et l’abandon qui caractérisent nos précieuses premières années de vie avec papa et maman.

J’ai pas dit partez !
Admettez que vous avez vu cette scène de mauvais perdant des centaines de fois… Je ne vous en dis pas plus sur l’histoire. J’adore ces albums, dont le schéma mise sur la répétition, le minimalisme, tout en étant riche en détails. Simple comme bonjour, mais comme tout ce qui est brillant de simplicité, fallait y penser !

C’est ainsi que je vous laisse partir sur les sites des librairies et j’attends, comme toujours, vos propres suggestions.

En attendant, voici une collection pas encore testée auprès des étudiants, mais bien testée auprès de ma fille, qui étrangement (ironie) se reconnait bien dans les histoires de Lily Têtue.
À lire avec notre princesse en bmx, notre ballerine en patins, notre pirate en jupe rose.
Uncategorized  auteurs  lecture  littérature_jeunesse  passion  from google
april 2011 by lacurieuse
Twenty eleven
First of all, happy new year! May it be filled with that which your heart desires (maybe happiness and health isn’t really your thing, and who am I to shove those wishes down your throat?)

Before I amaze you all with my incredibly deep and earth-shattering resolutions for 2011, let’s check in on how I did with last year’s:

- get more sleep (8 hours-ish a night) – I think I did a little bit better, but there is definitely still room for improvement here
- never sleep in past 10 am (so, to respect previous resolution, never go to bed past 2 am) – slight improvement, but overall kinda FAIL
- take more photos – I did pretty good on this one
- watch every single Dr Who episode before 2011 – complete and utter FAIL. I’m deferring this one to 2011.
- try and waste less time online – definite improvement, but I could still a bit better at it
- craft more (this will probably be a resolution every year for the rest of my life) – counting all the shit I did for the wedding, I definitely crafted more. I’m still keeping it on the 2011 list though.
- take more weekend trips – success. A lot of those trips were to weddings, but that still counts, right?
- build better/stronger relationships with new Fredericton friends (making friends is so awkward, guys) – still a work in progress, but we definitely succeeded on this one in 2010.

And that I’ve shown you all that I generally fail miserably at resolutions, here are 2011′s:

- wear more lipstick
- support local business as much as I can (I’ve given up my iRewards membership at Chapters in favour of shopping at Westminster Books already – this is a big one for me!)
- stop using a paper agenda and use my smart phone as an agenda (for a gadget nerd, I really like my paper agenda for some stupid reason)
- watch every single Dr Who episode before 2012
- learn at least 5 songs on my ukulele before the end of the year
- craft more
- start a YouTube cover band with my husband. Make at least 3 videos.
- be more regular with my exercise routine

I’m feeling optimistic, dudes!
uncategorized  from google
january 2011 by lacurieuse
Library Awesomeness!
If you know me or this blog at all, you may know that I heart the Ottawa Public Library. I heart it so much, and even more after finding this amazing awesome feature on their website. (Now, this is specific to the Ottawa Public Library, but I would bet that most public libraries, if not all, would have a similar feature. You will need to have an OPL card number and password to use the section I link to below.)

When shopping at the Herb & Spice I often peruse a magazine called “Natural Living” but I never buy it (being both frugal and in the process of de-cluttering). I figured it must be available at the library, but unfortunately my search of their holdings turned up zilch.

But a few weeks later my librarian friend was talking about databases, and I had a flashback from university. Databases . . . like those things that you can find articles and stuff on? The public library has those?? Oh yeah, baby!

So I followed the link called “Articles and Research“. I had never been to this section before, despite the fact that I visit the library website more than any other on the world wide web. Lo, there on the Articles and Research page, was a link titled “Search for Specific Magazines and Newspapers“.

Amazing? Yes.

I searched “Natural Life” and found my magazine, in full text, going back a decade, on about ten different databases. Clicked the link for eLibrary Canada, entered my library card number and password, and I found a full-text library of the magazine in its entirety.

It’s free. It’s easy. It’s paperless. It’s clutter-free.

Library awesomeness.
Uncategorized  from google
december 2010 by lacurieuse
A Big Thank You
This weekend, I discovered that The Simple Poppy wrote a wonderful (unsolicited) review of my book on her blog. Read it here, and check out the rest of her fabulous site while you’re there.

I was so delighted, I wanted to give her a big, public “thank you” — and for that matter, extend my heartfelt gratitude to all the bloggers who’ve reviewed my book over the last few months:

Minimalist Woman | The Joy of Less is a Joy to Read and Use

Redefining the Meaning of Wealth | The Joy of Less by Francine Jay

My Journey into Minimalist Living | The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide

The Gardeners Cottage: the joy of less

Simplicity by Sunny | The Joy of Less by Francine Jay

The Simple Dollar | Review: The Joy of Less

Shopaholly | Women Who Inspire Me – Francine From Miss Minimalist

Married With Luggage | The Joy of Less: A minimalist living guide

Rowdy Kittens | The Joy of Less

We Live Simply | Miss Minimalist gets it right – the joy of less

(If I’ve missed anyone, please let me know!)

I’m also eternally grateful to everyone who’s written Amazon reviews of The Joy of Less. As a relatively unknown author, I rely on such “word of mouth,” and think such reviews are very helpful to others who are considering the book.

I just wanted you all to know how much I appreciate your time, effort, and kind words!

The Joy of Less is a Joy to Read and Use
The Joy of Less is a Joy to Read and Use
The Joy of Less is a Joy to Read and Use

Related posts:The Joy of Less Book Giveaway #2
The Joy of Less Book Giveaway – We Have a Winner!
The Joy of Less Book Giveaway
Uncategorized  book  minimalist  reviews  from google
november 2010 by lacurieuse
The water cooler for secular parenting groups
by Dale McGowan, author/editor, Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers

While writing and researching the book Parenting Beyond Belief in 2006, I went searching for secular parenting groups in the U.S. and found precisely one.

I may well have missed some, but the fact that a diligent search didn’t turn up more than one is a pretty clear indication of how few and far between they were.

Zip forward four years, and things have changed. Though we’re still a tad short of Starbucks-level saturation, the landscape had changed pretty dramatically. I’m currently aware of more than forty groups in North America ranging in age from three weeks to three years and in size from half a dozen to nearly 150 members.

As I’ve tracked the activities and growth of these groups, I’ve come to realize how isolated most of them are from each other. Most start from scratch, finding members and planning activities by trial and error. Wheels are reinvented — and they’re occasionally square. While some groups thrive, others disappear within a few months.

I created this blog as a space for secular parenting groups to help each other create effective communities for nontheistic parents by exchanging ideas and stories. If all goes well, you’ll hear precious little from me and tons from people who know what they’re talking about — the actual leaders and members of secular parenting groups.

Don’t wait for an invitation! If you are currently in a secular parenting group and would like to submit a post about anything related to your group — finding members, naming the group, childcare issues, what to do at meetings, field trips, book clubs, play groups, food, dues, online presence, community service, resolving disagreements, you name it — just write up a brief description of your intended piece and send it to me for consideration. If it looks like a good fit, I’ll invite you to write the piece.

Guidelines for posts: Submissions must be relevant to the blog’s purpose, under 700 words, well-written and engaging.

A small group of reviewers will help me select entries in the early going. Contributors who have a few pieces accepted will be considered for a position as blog administrator. And once we have a few of those, I intend to step quietly aside and let y’all run with it.

Questions? Register and comment below.

A brand new discussion forum for secular parenting groups is now in place at the PBB Forums. Drop in and say hello!
Uncategorized  from google
november 2010 by lacurieuse
OC Transpo: There are Other Ways to Travel
I need to vent on OC Transpo again. They tick me off so much each and every day —- with their high percentage of downright arseholerish drivers and filthy, falling-apart buses;  with their outrageous expenses for new garages; and with their overall distain for transit riders (let’s ban people with pets, let’s ban people who want to eat or drink on the bus, let’s ban people with strollers, let’s ban people who don’t know where they’re going and ask us stuff or expect us to call out stops, let’s ban old people who can’t get to their seat fast enough, let’s ban people who can’t squeeze through a jam-packed bus to get to the doors before we slam them shut, let’s ban people who aren’t at their bus stops 10 minutes early in case we decide to show up then, let’s just ban all those nasty, smelly people who can’t drive themselves around). I can’t contain the anger for too much longer without doing myself some internal damage.

But I’m not going to rant about all that.

Nor am I going to go off about the fact that fares are increasing as of March 1st. Again. Nevermind that OC Transpo already had the highest cash fares of any major transit service in Canada. Nevermind that they just raised fares by 7.5% in July and that an adult bus pass will now cost $91.50 per month.

And I’m not even going to rant about the fact that in the midst of this fare increase they had the gall to try to cut services to 47 routes – services ranging from cutting the routes altogether to cutting weekend and/or evening services to cutting a percentage of daytime services. Anyway, that proposal didn’t pass. So there’s no point in talking about it. Or is there?

Because OC Transpo has its own way of dealing with thwarted proposals. They may have to keep their schedules the same on paper, but I guess there’s nothing stopping them from just not sending out any buses for the routes they don’t feel like servicing anymore.

Fiendishly clever, eh? I don’t know how many times – especially on Fridays and weekends – I wait for buses that just don’t show up. When I call to complain they always tell me they “had no operator” for that particular run.

I’ve tried to ask them what that means. Was there no one scheduled for that run? Does a guy just not show up for his shift? Did the driver take an unscheduled break without telling anyone? Did the driver just disappear with the bus — maybe taking his girlfriend off for a little priority seating make-out session? Customer Service (as they ironically refer to the woman with the calm, but snarky voice) never has an answer beyond not having had an operator for whatever run I’m complaining about.

Michelle, my work-cubicle neighbour, has been doing battle with OC Transpo over this very issue for over 2 months now. Because of buses just not showing up, her son missed two important medial appointments in December. These appointments cost her $160 each, which she had to pay because she was not able to give the required 24-hour cancellation notice.

Michelle called OC Transpo both times and was given the usual  “no operator” story. She requested a $320 reimbursement for the missed appointments. (Without even factoring in whole issue of her son not getting the medical care he needed because of OC Transpo’s unreliability).

Michelle was told OC Transpo “doesn’t do” reimbursements but she could provide them with times and dates of the no-show buses and they’d make note of it.

In frustration, Michelle contacted CFRA radio and her issue was discussed on the Steve Madley show.  A few minutes after the show aired,  Michelle got a call from OC Transpo saying they would look into the matter further. What a coincidence.

Time passed. A lot of time. Like,  it’s now February. So, last week Michelle emailed CFRA/ Steve Madley again (with a cc to OC Transpo) saying she still has heard nothing back from OC Transpo.  Michelle explained that she has left several voicemail messages over the weeks with her contact person at OC Transpo but had had no response. Shortly after the email was sent, OC Transpo called Michelle. What a coincidence, again. They told her that her son missing his appointments was not their responsibility because (quote):


Are you, like me, laughing so hard you’re crying? OC Transpo is  basically telling Michelle it’s her own stupid fault for depending on the bus to get around.

Isn’t this a great slogan for a public transit system? Seriously, they should put it on the side of their buses in big letters: OC Transpo: There are other ways to travel.

And while they’re at it, they could add this to their website: Our mission is to actively encourage the use of private vehicles.

Anyway, after some further discussion, OC Transpo grudgingly offered Michelle a one-month free bus pass.  Now, probably after another fare hike or two, a one-month bus pass will be worth the $320 and whatever consequences Michelle’s son has suffered because of the missed appointments, but for now she told them to stick their one-month free bus pass. She’s holding out for some sincere restitution.


PS:  Michelle knows I am blogging about this and wholeheartedly supports me sharing her story.


Tagged: CFRA, customer service, cycling, OC Transpo, Ottawa transit system, planes trains and automobiles, Segway, walking
Uncategorized  CFRA  customer_service  cycling  OC_Transpo  Ottawa_transit_system  planes_trains_and_automobiles  Segway  walking  from google
february 2010 by lacurieuse
Roman Shades on a Dime. Or $24.
When I realized that I had enough leftover fabric from Jude’s duvet cover to actually make something with, my thoughts flew to the tiny window in his playroom. Sometimes, especially in the mornings when the time is just right, the light just pours into that window. I’m thinking we might could eke out a few more minutes’ sleep if that window had the proper treatment.

Lauren Corbyn suggested heading over to Little Green Notebook and checking out the amazing DIY idea of recycling those awful metal blinds we all have into fab roman shades. Since I didn’t have any kind of blinds on that window at all, I thought, hmmm, this could get expensive. I hopped into Goodwill and found a set of shades, but they were $12, and there was no hardware, and it was just too wide. So it was on to Home Depot, where I did not have high expectations. Well, apparently I am mini blind-clueless because when I went to price things out at Home Depot, I was shocked to find out that I would only have to spend $9 for my little tiny window, AND they cut it to size for me. Folks, it doesn’t get much better than that. So during my Mother’s Day Out, I spent the early afternoon carefully following the instructions from LGN et voila! I am amazed. The hardest part about this project was the installation of the darn thing, but it really was the easiest thing ever. We have really nasty miniblinds in all 3 bedrooms upstairs, and they are going to see new life now, thanks to this tutorial. Ugly blinds, be gone! I think that roman shades look oh-so chic layered under curtains, and I cannot wait to get my hands on them!

By this point, I figured I was on a roll, and I might as well do the other (ugly) blinds that were already hanging up in his room. For $15, I got a pretty yellow stripe fabric – ignore the terrible picture below. It was really hard to get a good photo of these. To be fair, this one was a lot harder because the window is so much bigger. It probably could’ve been easier w/ two people to do it instead of just one, but oh well. It could probably also use a little ribbon or something to spice it up, but I’m super pleased with the results. It looks SO much better than the mini blinds.

So for a grand total of $24, Jude now has a new window treatment in his room & playroom, and I couldn’t be happier. Thank you to Little Green Notebook for sharing your expertise with us here in blogland!
Uncategorized  diy  from google
february 2010 by lacurieuse
Places I have Never Been {via I am a greedy girl}
Fellow Oklahoman graphic designer Caroline Duke runs a fun blog called I am a Greedy Girl. She talked about these prints from JHillDesigns the other day, and I just can’t stop thinking about them. Places I Have Never Been is so fun.

I love the color, the typography — the imagery is fun, too.

Framed or unframed, a group of these on your wall would look fantastic.
Uncategorized  graphic_design  typography  from google
february 2010 by lacurieuse
Living in a Yurt in Alaska
Wow. This family of three lives in a yurt high up on a mountain in a remote coastal Alaskan town. The McKittricks have a woodstove but the place is only accessible by boat or aircraft. They have broadband internet but no indoor plumbing. Hello outhouse in the snow, you are hardcore. This sweet, expedition-loving couple has trekked over 7,000 miles together. Article here.

Photo Credit: Stuart Isett for The New York Times
Uncategorized  camping  in_the_media  inspiration  mobile_living  from google
february 2010 by lacurieuse
Survivor guilt
A tricky social situation I’d never thought of: what do you do when your identical twin dies?

Well, you bury and mourn him or her, of course, and then go through their stuff. (You know it will fit you!) But here’s what I’m getting at: when you show up at the funeral, many of the deceased’s friends, co-workers, etc. will never have met you. I’d guess that somewhere around a third of them might not even know he or she was a twin.

In other words: there will be whispers, pointing, dropped drinks, maybe screams. You will be widely assumed to be the dead, come back to life.

I’d never considered this problem before (believe it or not!) until last night, when I was talking to an eightysomething widow who lives in my neighborhood. Her husband was an identical twin, and this very thing happened at this funeral. His twin lived across the country, most of the mourners had no idea who he was, and the funeral was disrupted by mass confusion.

I don’t know if there’s an etiquette book to cover this scenario, but–to tide you over until Miss Manners weighs in–here are some Ken Jennings-approved suggestions on how to handle it.

If you are the twin, wear a disguise. Not a costume, like a zombie version of your dead sibling. That would be in poor taste. Just something simple to reduce the resemblance: changing the color or style of your hair, for example, or adding a big port-wine birthmark to one side of your face.
Conversely, you could perform a similar operation on the twin in the open casket: a tasteful little fake mustache, for example. This is a tempting option, since a dead body will obviously be less inconvenienced by cumbersome cosmetics than you will. What will he or she care? Be warned, however: many attendees might remember what he or she looked like before the change.
Embrace the problem. Attend the funeral as a walking piece of performance art: the deceased, as their loved ones would like to remember them. Perhaps you could install yourself at the entrance to the church, performing one of the deceased’s favorite hobbies (juggling, yoga, playing a favorite song on the tuba, reciting all the words to Rex Harrison’s patter songs in My Fair Lady) in tribute to your late twin. A small signboard (or addendum in the invitation) could warn attendees of this touching tribute, so they know not to be surprised.
Arrange to die together. Twins are always doing nutty, parallel stuff like that, buying the same neckties and whatnot, so no one will think anything of it.

If anyone tries out any of my tips in real life, I would love to hear. One in 285 U.S. births results in identical twins, which means that 1 in 143 American funerals will be for a twin. And in (almost) every case, one twin will be the first to go, thoughtlessly leaving the other in an awkward social situation! This is a real problem that happens thousands of times in this country every day. Time we stopped talking about the problem and did something about it!

Edited to add: Ed Toutant, leveraging the kind of free time only available to game show zillionaires, actually did the math and discovered that this only happens 18 times a day in America, not “thousands.” How dare he get in the way of my alarmism with mere statistics?
Uncategorized  from google
february 2010 by lacurieuse
Portland’s Airstream Food Cart
Sip is a smoothie & juice business that operates out of an Airstream trailer. It lives in front of Southeast Portland’s People’s Food Co-Op and serves fresh, vegan, organic goodies.

The 100 square-foot 1967 Airstream renovation was done — with a $950 budget for mostly reclaimed materials — by design team Von Tundra.

Oh, and the Food Carts Portland blog makes me want to move to Portland. As if I needed an excuse.

Photo: (top) Brian Heck, (bottom) Darryl James

*Note: It has been clarified in the comments below that this is NOT an Airstream.
Uncategorized  Airstream  cooking  food_cart  Portland  trailer  from google
january 2010 by lacurieuse
Monday Morning Treehouse No. 17
This 90 foot tall treehouse is a free roadside destination near Crossville, Tennessee. Made entirely of scrap wood around 7 trees, this multi-story structure includes a chapel, a bell tower and several hidden passages and rooms.

It is known locally as the Minister’s Tree House and the builder was apparently struck by divine inspiration.

Photo credit: Micha Michelle/flickr
Uncategorized  treehouse  from google
january 2010 by lacurieuse
Fun with Filing
Ha ha.  Got you on that title. 

Filing, fun ? Filing paperwork is about as fun as doing your taxes or getting a root canal.  Filing paperwork is zero fun as my daughter would say, especially if you’ve let it get way out of control, like I have.  Filing is the exactly the opposite of fun.  That is, until you come across some very pretty organizational tools. 

Hello my lovely. 

I saw this deliciously darling file tote at the local stationery store and had to have it.  Notice how it knows how chic it is by calling itself a “pretty file tote”.  Kind of like that 80’s Pantene commercial where Kelly LeBrock used to say “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” 

I don’t hate you “pretty file tote”.  No darling, I adore you, especially after you saved me from such wicked despair. 

Self proclaimed “pretty file tote” inspired me to tackle what was tormenting me for months – a ghastly pile of paperwork to be sorted.  I’ll spare you the photo of what my haphazard box of disorganized papers looked like a few days ago.  Let’s just agree It was the definition of a filing nightmare.  Besides, if I showed you, self proclaimed “pretty file tote” would gasp audibly and refuse to be associated with such a mess.

Enter attractive office supplies, and my dearest darling love – the Brother label maker.  


I had a pretty good plan awhile back.  I was really good at discarding junk mail the moment it crossed the threshold.  I separated and recycled it the minute it came through the door. 

The leftovers were the true problem.  I had a mediocre system in place before, “Bills” here, “Catalogs” there.  I had all the birth certificates and legal documents kinda sorta pretty much organized.  But way too much miscellaneous paperwork was slipping through the cracks.  The “mail to be sorted” multiplied like rabbits overnight.  It became my nemesis.  I would pass by it late at night, fist in the air, and mutter through gritted teeth “Curse you, vile mail to be sorted box”.  Yes, I hated it that much. 

My previous system was like any invention.  Often it takes the first edition to reveal the kinks in the design in order to work them out.  I think I’ve finally worked them kinks out. 

I’ll agree to reveal my plan, but you’re all sworn to absolute secrecy.  Never mind that I’ve published this for the world to see.  Details.   

First, I highly recommend you arm yourself with a label maker.  As you can see, we have a mutual attraction to each other.

I love my Brother label maker.  He had me at hello.  

He helps me do this . . .

And this . . . 

Boooooo. Taxes.  Blech. 


One of my biggest organizational problems was saving, organizing, and then finding receipts.  Thanks to “pretty file tote”, my dilemma is solved.   Now, I get kind of giddy filing receipts. 


And I can’t be the only one who adores this up close and personal shot of pretty labeled file folders.  Totally Fiickr worthy. 


My next organizational stroke of luck was finding these portable letter size hanging files at Tar-jay.  Okay, they’re plastic, but that’s just fine with me, because they will be completely hidden from view.  Plus they’re cheap.  


I printed up some Avery labels . . .


Slapped them on the side of these portable holders . . .

See, they’re not completely hideous.  Apple green lids ?  Me likey. 

They store ever so perfectly inside a standard depth cabinet. 


And they stack too, just in case anyone wants to store them vertically. 

Simple pleasures. 

Don’t forget when sorting through paperwork to get yourself another muscular helper.  Mr. Shredder is short, compact, and destructive to any document in danger of revealing my true identity. 


But oh no, I didn’t stop there.  Important keepsakes and lesser used texts aka ‘foreign language’ *hangs head in shame* get their own personal bin. 


Coupons get their own basket, cause I’m a big collector.


I have a teensy addiction to fabric swatches, so I corral my collection in this bin I picked up last year at Michaels.  


Recipes go in a simple three ring binder.  I’m dreaming of laminating them all someday to keep them from getting sticky, oily, or smeared from, dare I say it, drool.  


All that loose change was driving me crazy so I repurposed this candle holder.

Note to self.  Must train husband to deposit spare change here. 

There’s just nothing better than these acid-free photo boxes for storing all those pictures !


Kid workbooks and art get stored in these fun magazine holders and art boxes from The Container Store.


We make a big production out of storing their drawings here.  Call me a mean mommy, but in the dark of night I sneak in and separate the sillier doodles from the truly charming creations.  They haven’t caught me yet.   Sssshhhh.

All of their toys and stuffed animals are kept in these colorful bins and baskets with homemade labels.  



My home office supplies are kept tidy in this highboy I refinished last year.

I whittled down the magazines to just my favorites, and store them in these baskets in my home office. 

Computer software, cords, and scrapbook supplies all are hidden in a series of these pretty and functional woven basket boxes purchased last year from The Container Store. 


I keep CDs and other small items in these fabric boxes.


I read once that organization simply requires a ‘home’ for everything.  It helps if that ‘home’ is somewhat attractive. At least for me.  

Sooooo, what’s left in my house after this mad organizational spree?  The linen closet.

   But for the sake of fantasy, let’s just pretend that my linen closet looks like this. . .


and my bathroom closet looks just like this . . . mkay ?

 Better Homes and Gardens (both images)


What’s your best kept secret for clever filing and storage ?  C’mon, spill the beans.  We all want to know. 
Organized  Uncategorized  filing  fresh_start  from google
january 2010 by lacurieuse
I’ve loved books ever since I was a little girl. A good book is like an old friend – it’s so easy to pick up where you left off. However, the problem is with what to do with all of them. I have this fantasy of having a gorgeous library someday, complete with rolling ladders! In the meantime, though, I need to do something a little more pulled-together with what I’ve got.

This is my rolling tower from Target. I got it 9 years ago when I moved into my first place, in college.

It’s seen better days, though. At one point, it stored dozens tank tops for my first job out of college at Pink Sugar (may it RIP). Anyway, I don’t really know what to do with it now, so it’s been storing my book collection. We’re thinking that we’re going to retire it to our college, where it can once again store tank tops. And maybe some sweaters, too. So what to do with this leftover space in the bonus room? And what of all the books?

Here’s what the space looks like — it’s up in our bonus room, at the far end. THis photo was from when we had first moved in. It’s such an awkward little triangle. And it’s the FIRST thing I notice when I come up the stairs, so visually, I really want it to be pulled-together. Because right now it looks like a mess.

So what I’m thinking is that we need something not-so-vertical, but rather, more horizontal. Nothing higher than where the ceiling starts to slope upwards – something console-ish, but with storage. That got my wheels turning, and I started looking around on the internet.

This little number is pretty from Ballard. But not really enough storage, and because of its pretty little details, I’d want it more out on display. I think that what I’m needing is going to be more of a workhorse than this.

I also like this collection from Ballard, but I’m concerned it’s going to be more than I really can spend at this point.

I love beadboard, and this shelf from Pottery Barn Teen is cute. Once again, though, it would take multiples, and the price point isn’t exactly right.

So I guess this leaves us with your friend and mine, Ikea.

The Expedit may be my favorite choice of all and the price point is excellent; I would put this horizontally instead of how it’s shown vertically in this photo.

Other good Ikea picks –
Granemo Bookcase

LACK – because I adore the fun colors it comes in (but it doesn’t come in the right size. Boo.)

Any thoughts from you, dear reader? I’m accepting any and all suggestions for what I should do with this awkward little nook.
Uncategorized  furniture  shopping  from google
january 2010 by lacurieuse
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