Monday, April 30, 2012

How to Drink Tea... Weirdly

Some of these teapots I've found are gorgeous. Some are... interesting. Some are just totally bizarre. I think I want all of them.

Most of all, I like this trio, but I especially love the dragon one.

Speaking of cool animal-shaped teapots, anyone ever seen rhinoceros teaware?

Didn't think so. I am happy to oblige.

Of course, I prefer the monkey teapot.

The hilarity is not lost on me: if any of these critters came in contact with these items, we'd have a mess instead of teatime.

Of course, none of these that I've posted so far is really that affordable for us common people. (The monkey one? Yeah, $3,500. Not my kind of teatime.)

This musical teapot, however, is less than $50, elegant, and fun.

I'm a big fan of the Republic of Tea, both their beverages and their drinkware, like this pretty red set.

This set is on sale right now, 30 percent off the original price. (Spousal Unit loves their mango ceylon tea.)

Unfortunately, despite its coolness, I can't figure out who sells this teapot, or how much it is. I love the pretty red design, the shape of the pot, and the double-spout action. If I at least knew whether I could afford it, such knowledge would set my mind to rest.

Last, I have no clue what this one is supposed to be, but it's got three legs.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Getting to the Other Side of Tired

Some days suck for no good reason.

Yesterday was one of those days for me. I was mentally tired all day, and little things kept getting to me. (In the light of a new day, they weren't that little, and it's kind of reassuring to know they were things worth worrying over.) I struggled through the morning, and then fought my way through work.

By the time I left at the end of the day, I decided that only a bottle of my favorite wine would make me feel better. So I stopped and got one, and it turned out that my favorite wine is not my favorite anymore. (Or maybe I got a bad bottle.) It made me want to throw things and break stuff and scream, but instead I just sat in bed with Spousal Unit and hated on crossword puzzles.

On days when I can't figure out what set me off in the first place - days when I'm just a little down or need an extra hug and no one's around to give it - I always end up thinking of a particular poem. Reading it, while it doesn't cure anything, reminds me of the happy stuff I have. It reminds me that Spousal Unit is there for me with nothing but love. It reminds me that there are beautiful things out there, even if the haze of sadness is obscuring them from my view. It reminds me that everyone gets tired. Everyone just wants to collapse sometimes, and that's okay.

Better things will come.

You are tired,
(I think)
Of the always puzzle of living and doing;
And so am I.

Come with me, then,
And we'll leave it far and far away—
(Only you and I, understand!)

You have played,
(I think)
And broke the toys you were fondest of,
And are a little tired now;
Tired of things that break, and—
Just tired.
So am I.

But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight,
And knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart—
Open to me!
For I will show you the places Nobody knows,
And, if you like,
The perfect places of Sleep.

Ah, come with me!
I'll blow you that wonderful bubble, the moon,
That floats forever and a day;
I'll sing you the jacinth song
Of the probable stars;
I will attempt the unstartled steppes of dream,
Until I find the Only Flower,
Which shall keep (I think) your little heart
While the moon comes out of the sea.

~ e.e. cummings

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Swearing and Cross Stitch are a Great Combo

*Fair warning: Quite a bit more coarse language in this post than usual. Proceed with caution - and maybe a sharp stick.*

Subversive Cross Stitch is one of my favorite things about this version of planet Earth. If there are alternate universes, where subversive cross stitch does not exist, then I deem them dry, serious places where I would not care to dwell.

What exactly makes something subversive? I'd say it's three parts sarcasm...

Thanks For Sharing 

...and two parts ugly-ass frame.


I made this delightful one for a friend a few years ago - a phrase she commonly used at work when something bizarre happened.

This one hangs in my kitchen - I believe I've shared it before, but now you can see it again.

The Subversive Cross Stitch Flickr group has a crazy collection of awesome. There, everyone can post the happy, fun ideas they've come up with, based on commonly used phrases or lines from their favorite movies. The Tumblr page is similarly freaky/fun.

I've had lots of cross stitch ideas in the last few years, but little time in which to make them. Here, have a few. If you've never done this before and want to, check out the Subversive How To page - it's amazing. There are two keys to this, I think: a boring font and a really old-school doodle of some sort. Think early 1900s cross stitch sampler and you'll be on the right track.

Or, you can make it more modern.

  • Destruction is nice (featuring the Irken symbol, which would also make a nice tattoo...)
  • Danger Zone
  • Knock knock, motherfucker (featuring a chicken)
  • That's how you get ants. (Yes, more Archer. Pretty much every line from Archer would make an awesomely terrible cross stitch.)
  • It's like riding a psychotic horse toward a burning stable. (The Birdcage - yes, it's long, but think how happy you'd be seeing it each day as you head to work!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How to Make a Get Well/Birthday/Fun Card

Remember that cute card I made? Here's the tutorial for how to make one of your own!

First, cut out a bunch of cardstock hearts and some kind of little critter. You can use a straight edge or a pair of scissors. For the hearts, I cut out three different sizes, then traced them to make multiples. I also made some really small ones with a heart-shaped hole punch. This cute bunny is from a poster for the book Moon Rabbit - a cute story of two lonely bunnies not being so lonely anymore.

Find a spare envelope in the mess that is your stash of goodies. Take a large piece of cardstock, fold it in half, then cut it to size so that it will fit in the envelope. (I love my paper cutter for these projects!) Be sure to put the card in the envelope so that you know it will fit. There's nothing worse than getting to the end and having to make an envelope from scratch after you thought you were done.

Cut a thin strip of green cardstock to size for the bottom of the card. Use a pair of fancy, crimpy scissors for the edging on the grass. Attach it with double-sided tape. (Another favorite item for making cards!)

Lay out all your hearts and the little critter on the card. This is the step where you rearrange things over and over till you're satisfied with the placement, so move things around a lot. Keep in mind - those bigger hearts will have thread attached to them. Little things like a heart's angle or the arrangement of the colors can make a big difference.

Next, glue on the smaller hearts. The glue I used is a clear craft glue, which dries without marking the paper.

Now, attach the bigger hearts. For this step, you will need double-sided craft foam, as pictured above. This gives the heart balloons an extra dimension on the page. Cut small pieces to size and affix them to the back of the hearts, one at a time.

I used silver embroidery floss as the balloon strings - depending on your colors and theme for the card, almost any color can work. Lay one thread on the sticky foam, and then you're ready to attach it to the card in the desired place.

After attaching two of these, I decided I wanted fewer, bigger hearts, to eliminate the clutter from the strings. Because I hadn't attached the medium-sized hearts, that was an easy fix.

After you've affixed all the balloons with their strings, it's time to glue the thread in place. For this part, I used good old Elmer's glue because it's stronger than the craft glue. I put down a pea-sized drop where I wanted the strings to meet, then kind of rolled them in it. Then the threads were all coated with glue in that spot. (Use the size of your critter to decide where you want the threads to meet - it should be floating above the grass.)  Next, trim the strings to the desired length. Put some glue on each end, then press it to the paper.

Keep in mind, the Elmer's will show on this paper, at least a little, so keep it minimal - you can always add more. In the above picture, the glue is still drying.

Use your double-sided tape to attach your little critter, so it looks like it's floating away with the balloons. Again, cut the tape to the desired size so that it doesn't show from the front - not only will it look messy, it will attach to the envelope, and something will end up ripping.

For the inside of the card, I cut a contrasting rectangle and used the same crimpy scissors as for the grass. Practice writing the phrase on scratch paper first, so that you know how you want it to look. Once you've written it on the rectangle, add a little heart. Leave space at the bottom so you can sign it. The whole piece is also attached to the card with double-sided tape.

I included my signature design on the back, as I always do. This is completely optional, but I think it's fun to have your own "company" label.

Above all, have fun with a project like this! Make it your own.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Poetry Anthologies

April is National Poetry Month. Now that the month is almost over, I ought to mention something about it.

I love poetry anthologies, mostly for their element of surprise. You never know who you'll find in them, or which poem will be your new favorite (because the book isn't usually named after it). Some have themes, like love, or a certain author, or cultural tradition. Some anthologies are mostly terrible. But I believe that as long as an anthology introduces me to at least one great new poem or author, it's done its job.

A Thousand Years of Vietnamese Poetry (tr. Nguyen Ngoc Bich) is one such anthology. I discovered it at a used bookstore in downtown Eau Claire, which may or may not yet exist. The poems and poets provide an intriguing view of Vietnamese history, culture, and folklore. My favorite poem is an excerpt from "Sorrows of an Abandoned Queen" by Nguyen Gia Thieu. Speaking of her prince, the queen laments:

And oh, within the screens, his awesome majesty shone
and every moment was bliss.
Gold coins by the thousands
would not buy a spring dream by his side.
Now I wander in cinnamon walls
through the night's five watches, gradually despairing.
In night rain at the Moon-waiting Pavilion I pace,
toss through the dark hours on the Cool Wind Terrace.
Copper-cold are the inner rooms,
smashed the phoenix mirror,
shredded the bonds of love.
I wander in a dull dream,
my mind is lost.

This book may have been my first solid introduction to poetry in translation, which now fascinates me. I love the different cadence and phrasings English has, when it has the imprint of another language upon it. Pablo Neruda is another translated author I love, whose work sometimes has such an imprint.

Perhaps one of my favorite examples of a surprise bit of awesome in an anthology is "Little Elegy" by Keith Althaus. I found this poem in Poetry Daily (ed. Boller, Selby, and Yost), a book we used in a college English course.

Even the stars wear out.
Their great engines fail.
The unapproachable roar
and heat subside.
And the wind blows across
The hole in the sky
with a noise like a boy
playing on an empty bottle.
It is an owl, or a train.
You hear it underground.
Where the worms live
that can be cut in half
and start over
again and again.
Their hearts must be
in two places at once, like mine.

I particularly love this poem because I discovered it right after Spousal Unit, then simply a love interest, had taken off for a semester in France. I yearned, I longed, I pined for him in his absence, and this poem described that feeling perfectly - even then, before we were together, I knew something wonderful was waiting for us. (Cue collective groan at the overabundance of sap.)

I picked up Poets Against the War (ed. Sam Hamill) in 2004, and I loved how it mixed famous poets like Lawrence Ferlinghetti with people who'd never published a book in their lives. These poems cry love for America, while begging everyone to listen, as Lucille Clifton does with "stones and bones."

here is a country where old men
gather in the capital and
speak their language filled with
their syllables are chips of bone
they speak of lifting up a creed
while cold and still there under
their tongue is somebody else's child
or mine
bones and stones
our ears bleed
red and white and blue

Garrison Keillor has been a favorite writer of mine for a long time, ever since my introduction to A Prairie Home Companion (go listen to last Saturday's edition - it was hilarious and delightful). His poetry collection Good Poems is just that - poetry that doesn't require a reader to dig for meaning, but the words are simple, and pull at the heart, and make people dream. "Living in the Body" by Joyce Sutphen is direct and sad, and a little on the longer side, but it's worth reading the whole thing.

(Fair warning: I can never read this one without crying. But that's part of poetry: getting at that thing you can't quite put into words, and making you appreciate it so much more.)

Body is something you need in order to stay
on this planet and you only get one.
And no matter which one you get, it will not
be satisfactory. It will not be beautiful
enough, it will not be fast enough, it will
not keep on for days at a time, but will
pull you down into a sleepy swamp and
demand apples and coffee and chocolate cake.

Body is a thing you have to carry
from one day into the next. Always the
same eyebrows over the same eyes in the same
skin when you look in the mirror, and the
same creaky knee when you get up from the
floor and the same wrist under the watchband.
The changes you can make are small and
costly - better to leave it as it is.

Body is a thing you have to leave
eventually. You know that because you have
seen others do it, others who were once like you,
living inside their pile of bones and
flesh, smiling at you, loving you,
leaning in the doorway, talking to you
for hours and then one day they
are gone. No forwarding address.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Original Crankster

I am incredibly cranky this morning, and I'm pretty much never cranky when I wake up.

Maybe it was Spousal Unit's NPR, waking me up 45 minutes before I like to get out of bed. Maybe it was the downstairs neighbor's bathroom fan, which is broken and rattles like a herd of elephants stampeding during an earthquake, and is always turned on in that morning moment when you're half awake and trying to go back to sleep. Maybe it's the low-grade headache I've had since then, which, if it doesn't go away soon, will likely get worse. Maybe it's having to work my third closing shift in this week when I only have one day off, meaning I get a total of two hours with Spousal Unit tonight before bedtime - and no dinner with him. Maybe it's knowing I have to work all weekend, too.

Whatever the reason, I'm in the mood to pillage, burn, and kick flowers today. I should probably fix that before I go to work, or before 5:00 I'll be muttering about a stapler as I stalk away from a burning building. I'm off to engage in happy activities, and I refuse to do any cleaning or responsible stuff this morning.

On a positive note, here are some fun things I did yesterday. I will think about them often as I remedy the horrible muck monster that is my personality right now.

Lilac Blossom 14.5 oz. 3-Wick Candle - Slatkin & Co. - Bath & Body Works

I bought a lilac candle. It's perfect. It smells the way lilacs smell outside, when the breeze is wafting the scent here and there and you catch a hint of it before you even see where it's coming from. You know how when you bring them inside, they smell so strong you almost can't stand it? Not happening with this candle. Lilacs are my favorite, and I always wish they lasted longer. Now they kind of can. I might have to go back and buy ten more.

I made sushi for the first time. They had too much rice and not enough fun stuff in the middle, but they held together like they're supposed to and weren't all that difficult to assemble. This batch consisted of carrot, red pepper, and zucchini in the middle; maybe the next batch will have avocado...

I made a card for my grandma, who has not been well lately. The inside says, "Sending some love to lift you up." I'll have a tutorial next week, showing how I made it.

May your weekend be free of cranksters like me.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Working on That Novel, Hm?

Yesterday was Wednesday, which, as you know, is the day I set aside the blog and work on the novel instead. I've really been plugging away at it lately, so I wanted to share some of my progress with you.

Ideally, I'd share the most recent myth I wrote for it. But the novel is reaching a certain point where I don't really want to post much of this stuff on the Internets, because I don't want it to be stolen. I am also hoping to publish the myth I just wrote, and many places have strict rules against previous publishing in any format.

So instead of sharing what I've written, I'll tell you about what I've been doing to get the book ready for human consumption.

  • Adding myths. So far I have one about the world's creation, one about the end of the world, and one about a trickster/shapeshifter.
  • Adding segments from another character's perspective. This is to help add depth to the story, and to give it more than two main characters.
  • Edits. I'm only on the first round of edits, but they're really improving the story so far. I edited twelve difficult pages yesterday - difficult because they were high emotion, which is easy to write poorly and hard to write in a way that won't make people gag. I've reached page 120 of 197 in the first round of edits, and the book will likely be another ten to twenty pages long by the time I finish with it.
  • Character development. On the initial draft, the main character was really more of a non-character, to whom things happen. To give him more substance, I've been writing character sketches, and I changed his age from 12 to 15. That age allows him to still be a bit naive about his world, but gives him the presence of mind to ask appropriate questions. I've never done a piece from a male perspective before, either, and that alone is difficult enough for me, let alone making him a kid. Not to mention...
  • World building. Adding history, nature, mythology, and cultural bits that are specific to this world, to make it real and believable. I'm having a blast with this part, but creating an entire world from scratch takes a lot of time and pondering.
  • Plotting the sequel. Still not sure if this will be a two-book series or just one long book, but I need to know what happens next before I can finish this book.

There's a lot more going on beneath the surface here, too. This is part of why it took me so long to get around to actually editing this thing: it's less a face lift and more of a deep tissue, full body reconstruction.

Today, I hope to perfect the myth I mentioned to you and start hunting for publishers. Wiley creatures, those publishers. And despite how long I've been working on it, I still feel weird telling people I'm writing a novel. In part, it's because I feel like they internally react like this:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Hay Tosser and the Lingerie Model

Once upon a time, toward the end of my time as a grocery store supervisor, one of my coworkers asked me out.

We'll call him Carl. He was fairly new at the store, and a true farm boy. He was nice, and often had funny things to say. I enjoyed talking to him during down times at work. At a certain point, I realized he had a crush on me, but there was nothing I could do about that; I just tried not to say or do anything that he might misconstrue as romantic interest on my part. I didn't want to date him.

Unfortunately, he didn't pick up on that. He asked me out, and I asked for some time to think about it. That may sound cruel, considering that I was just going to say no to him. But it was a delicate situation. I was about six years younger than him, and his supervisor. Regardless of what I said to him, we would have to keep working together. So I wanted to come up with a gentle way of saying I wasn't into him.

After asking for some time, Carl and I had a conversation wherein he tried to impress me by talking about things like how far he could toss hay bales. This may have impressed a girl specifically looking for a strong guy and little else; for me, it just reinforced that I didn't know him and wasn't all that keen on knowing him more. (Hay bale throwing contests aren't really my thing.)

I decided to break it to him by saying I wasn't interested in dating anyone at the time, which was true - this job was in my hometown, and I was heading back to college soon, three hours away. I also threw in the issue of me being his supervisor, and not wanting things to be awkward at work. But apparently those weren't very good reasons for him.

"That's okay," he told me, in a tone that said it totally wasn't okay. "I already told all my friends that we were going out. And that you're a lingerie model."

Wait, what?

To say the least, that did not end up going like I had hoped. Carl was so rude toward me (then and when we worked together) that I ended up taking it to the manager and asking to be scheduled separately from him for a month or so. It never did get resolved; every time we worked together, he had some surly comment or dirty look ready for me. I couldn't understand his immaturity in the matter.

It just made me even more glad I'd said no.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The One-Language Mindset

Last week, two Germans came to the bookstore.

It took me a little while to figure out they were German; one responded in accented English when I asked if he needed help (first clue), and I heard them intently discussing a road map in German later on (near giveaway). As they wandered the store, I began to mentally whisper the German I remembered, hoping to recall something I could say that would not make me look like first-year student, and I began the Great Internal Debate of whether or not to speak with them.

You may think this would be an easy decision - I am capable of speaking with them, why not just do it? If the situation was reversed, then it certainly would be an easy decision. Most Germans can speak multiple languages, and an American going over there (more often than not) will even expect the Germans with whom they interact to speak English. But the double-standard is that Germans coming here are expected to speak English. Such is the common American mindset: we speak English, and so should everyone else.

I abhor that mindset. It's arrogant and rude and unrealistic, and it needs to change. Lots of Germans visited the bookstore in New Mexico, and half the time it was my shyness that kept me from speaking to them. The other half, it was a combined fear of a) looking like an idiot to the foreigners, with my broken speech, and b) looking smug and superior to everyone around me who didn't speak German. There's a sense in America of almost being viewed as a show-off if you suddenly start using a second language. Immigrants and Spanish-speakers often get a pass on this, and being surrounded by Hispanics in New Mexico made me somehow feel more comfortable using German. But for Americans in 95-percent English-speaking communities, abandoning your Muttersprache is a no-no.

The thing that, in the end, made me push aside my shyness and speak with them was the idea of being in a country where most people don't know or care to speak your language at all. Vacations can be stressful enough, but when you're functioning in another language the entire time, it's exhausting - even a little bit lonely, I imagine, if you have no other option. I knew that if I was in their shoes, I would feel welcome and just a little more at home to have someone speak my own tongue with me.

And so, I spoke to the Germans from Stuttgart, who actually thought German was more difficult to learn than English (as Mark Twain did). They politely said I spoke very well, especially considering it's been ten years since I went to Germany. One especially seemed to appreciate that I stepped out of my comfort zone to speak with him, and told me about the son they came to visit, who was studying medicine at the university.

I only made a fool of myself once or twice as we talked. It was totally worth it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Redneck Window Shopping

There are two rather delightful places I walk past on my way to work.

The first is a bar. It's one of those mysterious places that seems to be open 24 hours, or at least every time I walk by it. It's in a tiny red building, which it shares with an equally seedy laundromat. They're likely in cahoots with each other - it's just too easy to imagine an owner breaking into the dryers for a handful of coins, then spreading the wealth next door in the form of water-esque PBRs.

The bar has no windows to speak of, except for the tiny one stuffed with desperate neon. A country twang resounds from the door, and all manner of creatures congregate just outside, blowing smoke into the lungs of passersby who are passersby for a reason. It's about as Wisconsin as a bar can get without also being in a corn field or surrounded by cow pies.

The other place I walk by is really nothing like the bar. It's a furniture/knick-knack emporium, with classy lettering on the sign and a whole wall of glass windows for display. The colors within are modern and bright, and I'm sure everything would take at least four dryers's worth of quarters to purchase.

But the glass antlers are the reason I tie them together in my mind. They sat on a table in one display nook for about a month after I started my job. What a bizarre thing to sell, I thought each time I walked by. They were hollow, and apparently meant for hanging on the wall, to impress everyone with your ability to shoot a glass deer without shattering the antlers. The kind of people who would buy them would either think they're absolutely hilarious, or (more likely) pronounce vase so that is rhymes with Oz. Not okay.

I guess one person or the other must have actually purchased them, though, because that table is now home to something else bizarre: a pair of... table-bushes, I guess. They're little pieces of fake greenery, ensconced in what look like those cups you use to hold hard-boiled eggs. But they resemble shrubbery much less than they resemble distraught artichokes, wondering what the heck they're doing where they are, and why they exist at all. You hear that, knick-knack emporium? You make artichokes question their existence.

With the disappearance of the mysterious glass antlers, I guess I have no reason for the bar and the shop being tied together in my mind anymore. But thanks to the existence of the most fragile deer in the world, I think they'll stay connected forever.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

These Beads Have Formed Their Own Mafia

I've more or less finished a shawl I started a couple of weeks ago. Up until my grand idea to make this project something more than average, the shawl was a breeze.

I crocheted this with a size K hook and two yarns: Universal Yarn's Uptown DK and Patons Lace acrylic/mohair/wool blend. I ran out of the greenish blue Uptown DK (which they call "sea") before finishing, and as it was yarn I'd bought while friend-visiting on the other side of the state, I didn't have easy access to more - none of the local yarn shops have any Universal Yarn products. But luckily, I found an almost exact match in my stash - the only difference is in shine, which is almost impossible to see if you don't know it's there.

I used this pattern for another shawl when I was first learning to crochet, and I wanted to add something to make this a more complex project. I wanted a little bit of sparkle, and a reason to use these beads I rediscovered in my craft cabinet. So, I threaded lots and lots of them onto the lace yarn with the tiniest needle I had, and then started threading back through them to create a triage of dangling beads for each corner of the shawl.

Unfortunately, beads are stupid. They might allow a needle and yarn through them once, but they get stingy about any subsequent passes. Sometimes, they get stuck. Sometimes, they decide to impede your Brilliant Ideas by forcing the needle into your fingers over and over again.

I have, therefore, given up on beading for the moment.

Yes, I can go back and try again with black or white thread instead of the fine yarn. But what I really want is one of those wire needles that jewelry crafters sometimes use to thread beads. (I tried fashioning one out of a twist tie; the wire was too thick.) I've had trouble finding one of those needles, mostly because I don't know what to call it. It's like all the beads in my collection are conspiring to leave me with stabbed, sore fingertips.

In the meantime, my new shawl will still be awesome, with its single tiny bead-tassel. It's just waiting for some friends to keep it company. Now if you'll excuse me, my stabbed fingers and I are going to practice mandolin.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Letter to Writer's Block

Dear Writer's Block,

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more obnoxious and more idiotic.

You are not the bread and the knife, because I am the one wielding the knife, shaking it in your face in hopes that you will be frightened off by my mad antics. You are not the crystal goblet, nor the wine, which I imbibe in hopes of shaking loose some thread of creativity from your evil clutches. I often think the wine has done its bidding, only to wake up the next morning with the ache of a thousand puns raging in my skull. On my desk is a page full of words not even Dan Brown would publish.

I do not love thee, Writer's Block, to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, because my soul does not extend to all four corners of the earth with a murky, hopeless darkness; only you are so special. I shall not love thee better after death, even though you (being the devil's most wicked torture) will not follow me to heaven. Freedom and rights have nothing to do with how I feel about you. None at all.

I don't love you as if you were a rose of salt, because you're about twenty times more despicable and useless. (Sorry, Writer's Block, but it's time for some hard truths.) You're like a plant that doesn't bloom - ever - but is supposed to, thereby driving the keeper of the plant to madness while she searches out the reason for her failure. But it is not her fault the blooms have gone silent - it is yours, oh maddening flower-thief.

You are not like a red, red rose. You do not smell fragrant, nor does the sight of you make me smile. You don't make me think of summer, nor melodies sweetly played in tune. You are a discordant violin played by a tone-deaf three-year-old and his pet cat, whose tail is being trod upon. You are the dank city-smell which wafts from stained subway tunnels and alleys.

I suggest that you go now, far away into the silent land. I hope that I will forget you and write to my heart's content; I know I will not smile to remember you. You are a rat in my creative well, a Harlequin nestled in my Nobel prize, an apocalypse curled up in my summer of plenty. Be gone, before I write all over your face with a permanent marker.

With the loathing of a thousand suns,

*Many thanks to the poets Shakespeare, Collins, Browning (E.), Neruda, Burns, and Rossetti for their assistance in describing my anguish.*

Monday, April 9, 2012

Awesome New Tunes: The Civil Wars

I saw The Hunger Games a couple of weeks ago, and I really enjoyed it. I'll post more of my movie thoughts later, but this post is devoted to one of the bands used for the film soundtrack: The Civil Wars. The haunting song Kingdom Come was featured in the closing credits; this video includes that song and a little snippet of interview with Joy Williams, talking about her band mate John Paul White.

I love how haunting this tune is, and I think their sound really captures what the music of District 12 would sound like. It captures the sound of the Appalachians around modern-day Tennessee and West Virginia. Bluegrass is perfect for the coal-mining district.

The Civil Wars were also part of the song Safe and Sound, which circulated quite a bit as a pre-film promotional piece. Taylor Swift is the "star" of this song, but The Civil Wars are the unsung heroes of it. Usually, I can't stand Swift. I don't enjoy her music, for more reasons than just not being a fan of modern country. But I think it helps that she had co-writers for this song. (I swear I remember seeing Suzanne Collins credited at the end of the movie for writing the lyrics, but I can't find that anywhere else. So maybe I was seeing things.) Swift's voice is allowed to shine through here, rather than her tendency toward flaky lyrics.

The Civil Wars have only produced one album, but they already have a Grammy under their belt for their album Barton Hollow. The title track from that album is enough proof of why.

If you're not convinced yet, try out this cover of the standard Dance Me to the End of Love. It's a song that's been done over and over again - but I don't think I've ever heard it this way, with a bittersweet mix of light country and gentle jazz.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops and The Decemberists, two other groups I love, are also featured on The Hunger Games soundtrack. I really appreciate that those in charge of the soundtrack for this movie really went for songs that fit the overall tone of the movie, rather than picking songs that totally didn't fit anything about it.

(No, of course I'm not referring to the appearance of Supermassive Black Hole by Muse in a certain baseball-focused scene of a sparkly vampire film; why would you think that?)

Friday, April 6, 2012

From Unbearable to More Than Wearable

Not long ago, I purchased some comfortable walking shoes. The search for such a thing was eternal, as I have rather high arches, and for some reason, many stores don't have a walking shoe section any more - they just get thrown into the corner with all the other shoes no one loves. Poor shoes.

The ones I finally found with enough arch support were Avias - the oil and slip resistant ones, like I wore when I worked at Old Crusty Buttface. (That's Old Country Buffet - I have colorful nicknames for places I hated working.)

These are the lovely shoes I purchased.

Ten kinds of ugly, right? Plus, they're the kind of shoes that are extra chunky on the sole, so people like me with size ten feet feel even more like hobbit-esque freaks than usual. But they were comfortable, which was the most important part for me. Looks are something I can work with, and work with them I did.

First, I found a silver sharpie. Next, Spousal Unit reminded me we had an extra pair of purple laces from back when we did the wedding thing. And POOF! It's a different pair of shoes.

On one shoe, I did my usual doodle designs of little swirls and the occasional star - I even put them on the tongue. On the other, I put my favorite words and phrases, such as calliope, juniper, cellar door, and "Winter is coming" (from A Game of Thrones). I even had enough room for one of my favorite poems, which is by David Ignatow and most appropriate for a pair of walking shoes.

The City
If flowers want to grow
Right out of the concrete sidewalk cracks
I'm going to bend down to smell them.

I still have room for other favorite words and doodles, so I get to keep recreating my shoes as I get bored of them. Meanwhile, they'll keep getting me to work with less of a limp than usual. Hurrah for that.

My aunt, upon seeing these, suggested that I make shoes with little swirl designs and sell them. I joked that I should just sell black shoes with a silver marker. Actually, that's probably one of my better marketing ideas...

(Wow, for someone who claims to hate shoes, I sure blog about them a lot, don't I? Weird.)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Silly Circus

Today I bring you odd, weird, and otherwise bizarre things I found on Etsy. (Don't ask me how I found them; that will just raise awkward questions for both of us.)

How weird can it get, you may ask? Weird enough that there's an entire site devoted to failed Etsy projects - it's called Regretsy. The items I found aren't from Regretsy, but they're definitely strange, unusual, odd, and... interesting. (Warning: extremely creepy doll head in this post. I'm still not over it.)

For example, this lovely cat butt keychain.

Red Cat Butt Ornament or Keychain

Comes in any color you'd like! Doubles as a Christmas ornament! (I know I want a dozen of these on my tree.) This seller has many other bizarre projects (involving less cat butt) such as plush monsters and a pattern for a crocheted aviator hat, which is truly awesome. So, props on that. And on being able to sell cat butts.

I'm not so sure about this one, though.

Upcycled Doll Face  Cap Pendant - Harold

Nothing says terrifying quite like a bug-eyed disembodied head on a necklace.

Ugh. I can't even look at that one anymore. NEXT!

This one, I'm mostly curious about.

Prickly and Bizarre Barbed Wire Tumbleweed

This barbed wire tumbleweed is 18 inches across. How does the seller plan on shipping this? Very curious, very confused. Also, does that hand only have four fingers on it? Oh wait, there's the other one. Hm.

Screaming Baby Steel Refrigerator Magnet

The seller who makes these refrigerator magnets is very talented... I'm just not sure a screaming baby was an excellent idea. Especially when it looks like it's warding off monsters. Reminds me of zombie movies.

And the grand finale: Silly Songs with Larry.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tyger, Tyger, Brewing Bright

Remember how I mentioned Spousal Unit and I were going to wait and slowly add to our teapot savings as people came to visit us? Remember that good plan we had in place, where every time we saved money on something (such as with coupons) we would put that money toward our new cast iron?

Some plans aren't meant to be followed.

This is our awesome new teapot, from Teavana. As you can see, one side has a tiger growling and prowling through the grass; the other side has a tiger sleeping under bamboo with a sun overhead. (Yes, I have a favorite side: it's the sleeping tiger.) On top of the cover is a little tiger statuette.

We ended up choosing one that we hadn't considered before, and I'm glad we chose the tiger. The two sides together make it feel fierce, but peaceful. According to the little booklet of symbolism, it represents courage, determination, and bravery. I guess no one told their copy editor that courage and bravery are the same thing. But I like that symbolism - even if they have trouble with synonyms.

We've brewed several pots of tea with it so far, including black, oolong, and herbal. There's something about brewing it in the pot rather than in individual cups that really adds to the tea's flavor. All the sales people said that was the best way to brew it, but I don't know if I really believed them till I tried it. The taste difference is hard to describe - maybe richer, or fuller-bodied. It's like you can taste parts of the tea's flavor that you didn't know were there before (in a good way, of course).

We have some shelves in the kitchen area for our various teas and cups, and the new teapot just barely fits on it, a happy rounding out of our tea corner.

We didn't get any accessories to go with the teapot - things like a trivet to set the pot on, a teapot warmer to put a tea light under the pot, cups, coasters, etc. What we spent on the pot itself was good enough for now - plus, we have to have something to get each other for birthdays.

Now, when I sit down to write, I can have a whole pot of zen and inspiration all to myself.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hummingbirds on Parade

Today, I bring you beautiful hummingbirds on various items, such as teapots.

I love the flower lid, and the hummingbirds are beautifully painted.

That's probably the most adorable hummingbird I've ever seen. I like the pearly shine on the wings! I can't imagine this costume being tolerated for more than a few seconds, but babies don't tolerate costumes in general. It would have to be a onesie to be acceptable, and even then, I'm sure kids can wriggle out of those if they put their minds to it.

This is carved out of wood. Look at the details on those feathers! This artist, Randal Martin, specializes in bird carvings (not that the studio name gave it away) and I can't stop looking at the incredible detail on them. He's been commissioned around the world for various pieces.

Now that I know this exists, I want it. I love the flow of the design, the way it's almost more about the idea of a hummingbird. It makes me think of some Pacific Northwest Indian designs.

These little hummingbirds are adorable! I love how rounded and cute they are. They go very well with a topsy-turvy cake.
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