Friday, December 30, 2011

My Favorite Things: Memories

meet Maude

Rather than create another official year-end countdown, today I'd like to simply list some of my favorite memories of 2011.  Some snippets, if you will.  In no particular order.  (Ok, ok!  They are more or less in chronological order.  I can't help it.)   

Running my fastest mile since high school; running on the beach during a weekend getaway to Santa Cruz; listening to The 21st Century perform the song I requested at their kickstarter show; seeing Mom's reaction on Pirates of the Caribbean; picking strawberries + turning them into strawberry shortcake (the dessert, not the doll); scoring cute clothes at second hand stores; watching an afternoon thunderstorm by myself over the Serene Lakes in Tahoe National Forest; meeting my niece Maude when she was two hours old; seeing Van Gogh's La Salle de Danse à Arles at the Musée d'Orsay; eating fondue + drinking wine from a baby bottle in Montmarte, then walking up many a stair to catch the Eiffel Tower sparkle lights from Sacre Coeur; people watching at the Stravinsky Fountain; seeing Love Locks on bridges all around Europe; seeing street art all around Europe; seeing yarn bombing twice in Europe (in Salzburg + Leipzig); reflecting on the nature of humanity after visiting Anne Frank's house; frolicking where (film versions of) Maria + the Von Trapp kids sang Do Re Mi; seeing Klimt, Schiele + contemporary art at the Belvedere in Vienna; learning of + about Hundertwasser; doodling in my moleskine; taking photos (of both the staged + sneak attack variety); and everything I already mentioned in my Extra-Curricular Activities Countdown, of course.

which were staged? which were sneak attacks?

When I look back on 2011, these moments are what I want to remember.  Moments of pride, freedom, heart-swelling, merrymaking, beauty,
adventure, learning, magic and laughter.

I hope for even more.  For me, and for you.

Here's to a magical and laughter-filled 2012.
Cheers, Loves!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Favorite Things: Books

Among my favorite things to do when I can choose to do whatever I want
to do: reading.  Here are my favorite reads of 2011, aka

Sarah's Top Seven Books Read During 2011 (catchy, no?)

7. The Hunger Games trilogy.  I'll admit it: I was prejudiced against Suzanne Collins trilogy.  Figured all the buzz was hype.  I didn't read THG till this summer, and I wasn't really hooked until Katniss (our powerful, if flawed, protagonist) was launched up the tube into The Hunger Games arena.  But once I was hooked, I was enthralled.  Truly thought provoking and downright captivating, all three books are excellent.  I hadn't expected the story and message to be so political.  (I guess I thought it would be sci-fi-ish fluff?  See?  Prejudiced!)  But I am very impressed with how Collins portrayed violence and power.  Perhaps it's not for all, but I know where I'll be on March 23, 2012.*   

*in a dark theater, cursing the Capitol regime, and throwing popcorn at President Snow

6. Graceling.  Apparently I'm a sucker for Young Adult Fiction with a strong female main character.  I kind of want to be Katsa when I grow up.  She's clever, witty, and completely bad ass.  She's one of few in her kingdom "graced" with a special power, and we get to watch her make mistakes, learn, and grow—come-of-age, if you will.  Part adventure, party mystery, part bildungsroman; totally enchanting and so very cool.  A nice, and unexpected, combo. 

5. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.  Aaaaaand, here we are again with Sarah's "strong [teenaged] female main character" paradigm.  Though I didn't love TDHoFL-B like the other books already noted, I did enjoy this read.  Frankie attends a boarding school, and when she feels she is wronged by an all-male secret society at said school, we get to watch her exact her revenge, which consists of carefully plotted, elaborate pranks.  The setting, plot, and characterization are reminiscent of John Green (which is a very good thing), but if you want to read "John Green" at its finest, read Paper Towns.  Sigh.  The best.

4. Dash & Lily's Book of Dares.  A fun read.  I'm not usually into "romance" or "rom-com" type books, but this one's pretty cheeky.  Dash and Lily are both smart, savvy, word- and literature-loving types.  Before they ever meet in person, they interact with cryptic messages passed back and forth in books (!) in a bookstore.  Solid. 

3. The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee.  Disclaimer: Sarah Silverman's humor is not for everyone.  Most call her crass; some call her much worse.  I find her hilarious, and laughed out loud at least once per chapter.  If you don't dig her style, nothing I say will make you dig this book.  For what it's worth, I was thoroughly entertained by The Bedwetter.  

2. Great House.  In an effort to prove that I do read books intended for adults . . . ahem.  Nicole Krauss is the author of one of my favorite books of all time: The History of Love.  Though I wasn't equally enamored with her Man Walks into a Room, I was really looking forward to reading GH.  

It neither dazzled nor disappointed me.  Like always, Krauss' phrasing is gorgeous.  Her words, mesmerizing.  But I didn't really ever grow to care about the characters, so my desire to feel moved as the story unfolded, was unrealized.      

1. The Book Thief.  Truth be told, I read The Book Thief before 2011.  However, I'm including it in this countdown because I re-read it.  For the fourth time.  I want everyone in the world to read The Book Thief.  Just once, even.  It is stunning and heartbreaking and powerful.  A treasure.  It's magnificent.  A magnificent treasure.

Up next for me?  The Night Circus and The Fault in Our Stars (John Green's soon-to-be-published latest effort).  Is it possible that I'll enjoy more adult literature in 2012?  Sure, anything is possible.  ;]

What were your favorite reads of 2011?
I'm always seeking recommendations!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Favorite Things: Extra-Curricular Activities

Day 3 of "My Week of Favorites" Countdowns: 
Sarah's Top Five Free Time Activities of 2011

5. Sing-A-Long Sound of Music at the Castro Theater.  A few years ago, I sang-a-long with Grease, which was fun and all, but my heart belongs to the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.  I've been on the Castro Theater's e-mail list for years, patiently awaiting the notice proclaiming, "Yes! Sarah! Soon, you will be able to sing, er yodel, along with Maria about the Lonely Goatherd".  Two of my favorite cousins, a like-minded friend, and a couple CouchSurfers joined me.  We sang about raindrops on roses, warm woolen mittens, and brown paper packages tied up with string.  Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.

Cousins! + the Wurlitzer dude playing Rodgers & Hammerstein of course
photo credit for Wurlitzer photo: my wonderful cousin, Melissa Mayes
photo credit for Cousins! photo: a kind stranger

4. Fantasy Football.  2011 marked my third endeavor into drafting and managing a fantasy football team.  I originally joined two years ago because Ben's league needed an even number of teams, and apparently they were having a tough time finding #8, so I reluctantly agreed.  Sure, I liked watching actual NFL games, but I knew nothing about this so-called fantasy football.  Seasons 1 and 2 were full of heartache and disappointment (for a freakishly competitive person like me, who expects to win everything she attempts, even if she knows nothing of the "how-to"), but definitely enough amusement and excitement to go for a third try.  I'm quite proud of how much I've learned and applied, and I had a good feeling going into this season.  So back in August, I dubbed this year's squad The Charm.  The third time is, well, you know . . .

sorry for the fuzzy screen shot; I blame Yahoo!

3. My Birthday Balloon Walk around Lake Merritt.  Using my birthday as a day to spread cheer, both to friends and strangers, is an annual ritual of sorts.  In 2011, I decided we would walk around the lake with bouquets of rainbow-colored, heart-shaped balloons.  Because, balloons are pretty darn magical.  (See: UP and The Red Balloon.)  To elicit maximum merriment, I encouraged friends to give balloons to children we encountered on the path.  The number of smiles I saw > the number of balloons we started with.  :]  

photo credit: Marianne Szeto

2. CouchSurfing.  In case you've no idea what I'm talking about—in a nutshell: folks from all over the world, who are willing to host people in their homes, create a profile on the CouchSurfing website.  Folks who wish to "surf the couch" of said willing hosts, make their own profile, and browse profiles looking for a good fit.  The surfer sends the potential host a couch request, and if the host accepts, the host and surfer arrange a time and place to meet.  Ben and I stayed in twelve different CS homes while we were in Europe this autumn.  And I was completely charmed by the whole experience; I am not exaggerating when I say it restored my faith in humanity.  Our hosts exuded natural hospitality, and made me feel completely home in a foreign land.  I learned so much about the daily lives of the locals.  Most hosts provided breakfasts, a few even cooked us dinner, and some either joined us at their favorite restaurants or at least recommended their favorites.  All of them served as expert translators, transportation advisers, and insiders who shared more "off the beaten path" locales to check out.  Emmanuel in Brussels taught us about Belgian chocolate and beer; Tamara in Katsheuvel cooked us pannenkoek (Dutch pancakes) and gave me dry, wool socks when we arrived on her doorstep soaked to the bone; Lena in Essen guided me on an epic bike ride through the hills and along the Baldeneysee (a reservoir surrounded by gorgeous hills); Verena and Markus in Munich cooked us some spätzle (egg pasta), recommended we visit Starnberger See (a stunning lake), and forced us to wear their lederhosen and dirndl (see evidence below); Jacques in Berlin took us on a walking tour and showed us amazing street art in an alley I'm sure we never would have stumbled upon on our own; Ermanno in Copenhagen took us to a free viewing of Pan's Labyrinth at a centuries-old church (granted, the subtitles were in Danish, but it added to the international feel of the evening!); Late and Sõlvi in Copenhagen let us play with their crazy-yet-adorable kitten when we were missing our cats somethin' fierce.  I could go on, but I'll just say that I am forever grateful for the experiences gained through CouchSurfing, and I would not hesitate to host one day.  When I have a couch of my own.  :]   
me + Lena; secret spot in Berlin; earning street cred in Munich;
psycho kitty in Copenhagen; Belgian beer options; Jacques + Ben

1. Mini-adventures with Ben, my partner in whatever the opposite of crime is.  Yes, we traveled around Europe together, which is not a very mini-adventure.  And he was the ideal travel partner.  Anywhere I wanted to visit or eat, he joined enthusiastically.  I dragged him to not one, but TWO theme parks, and nary a complaint was heard.  And let's just say that I'm not sure Ben would've chosen to go to quite so many museums had he planned every outing.  But, really, even when we're back in the States, one of my favorite ways to spend time is doing ordinary stuff with Ben: running around Lake Chabot, drinking bubble tea and playing board games, discussing fantasy football strategy, playing with the cats, even just reading side by side.  When Ben's around, all this stuff seems not so ordinary.  :]

Kinderdijk, Delft, Paris, Versailles, Versailles, London

What were your favorite extra-curricular activities of 2011?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Favorite Things: Gifts I Gave

At the risk of sounding a tad saccharine, I believe that gift giving can bring just as much, if not more, joy to the giver than the receiver.  The gifts we give send a message to the recipient, and I love showing friends, family, and sometimes strangers that I care about them, their interests, and what's going on in their lives.  And sometimes, it's just fun to make something shiny to make them go, "Ooooh, how did you do that?!"  ;]

Hence, for Day 2 of my "Week of Favorites" Countdowns, I present to you (get it? present. Ha!):

'Tis So Much Better to Give Than Receive -
Sarah's Top Five Gifts Given in 2011

5. Sparkly cookies.  Because who doesn't love glittery anything, really?  Especially glittery cookies that look like little butts.  I brought dozens to each holiday celebration I attended, and folks told me they were delicious.  Which is probably true.  That, or they were hypnotized by all the sparkle.

4. A cover for Ben's mom's NOOK.  She acquired the ereader Thanksgiving weekend, and did not have a case yet.  Sarah + her sewing machine to the rescue!  I followed a process very similar to the instructions in this tutorial, with a few minor adjustments (e.g. I figured the dimensions for a NOOK Simple Touch, used a strip of elastic rather than velcro, and I chose to have the device slide in from the top rather than the side).  There were a few minor snafus—my machine's timing is off now, so I had to finish by hand, and that elastic was a wily rascal!  All things considered, I think it's pretty cute, and I'm sure that NOOK is safe + snug!     

3. Saffy the Giraffe for my niece, Maude.  The moment I laid my eyes on The Simply Small Series of books, I knew what I was giving Maude for Christmas: a copy of the first Saffy book, and a handmade, stuffed Saffy the Giraffe.  I don't have a photo of the finished Saffy to share, but I'm pretty sure my niece approved.  The moment Maude laid her eyes on the giraffe,
Saffy went directly into her mouth. :D

 2. I sent a t-shirt to my adorable cousin.  The back story: a few years ago, when I was going through a tough time, a dear friend sent me a little care package that included an Angry Little Girls t-shirt.  That t-shirt did me a world of good.  Full of cheek and cartoonish anger, it literally made me laugh and smile each time I saw it in my dresser.  The shirt also helped me feel loved and supported; it became a symbol of my recovery.  A visual reminder that everything will be ok.  Fast forward to a more recent time when my cousin was going through a tough time of her own, and I knew what I had to do.  The t-shirt had served its purpose with me, and now it was time to spread a little cheer to someone else in need.  I love gifts that keep giving.  :D

1. 2011 marked my mom's 60th birthday.  Since that's kind of a big deal, I wanted to do something extra nice for her.  My mom freaking loves all things Disney, and hadn't visited The Land since 1994 (California Adventure didn't even exist!).  Again, I knew what I had to do.  In retrospect, what I didn't have to do was ride Splash Mountain in 58° weather.  But, the smile on my mom's face was definitely worth it.  :] 

Mary Blair concept art for Alice in Wonderland; Mom + me after Splash Mountain*

What was your favorite gift you gave this year?

Also!  Reminder that Janet is still giving away $ in the name of your simple Acts of Goodwill!  Jump on over there + tell her about all the elfin' you've been up to during this season of giving!  ♥

*photo credit for Splash Mountain aftermath: my wonderful friend, Valerie Rangel,
who also helped make the Disneyland trip for my mom possible. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

My Favorite Things: European Junk Food

Welcome back from the festivities, folks!  I hope your holiday weekend was full of nestling, snuggling, and visions of dancing sugar plums.  Or spiked egg nog.  Whatever. 

Since there are five more days of this calendar year, I'd like to spend this week reflecting on My Favorite Things of 2011.  I'm feeling a whole lot of gratitude + a little levity is in order.  ;] 

Today's topic?  Well, you may or may not have noticed that I nonchalantly alluded to the fact that I was in Europe this autumn.  It's true.  I was there.  And, yes, I saw priceless works of art, wandered about in many a picturesque park, and heard some world-class musicians do their thing.  I also took advantage of the opportunity to taste regional gourmet cuisines.  But, today—today, I'd like to focus on the wonderful gift of the not-particularly-nutritious foods Europe bestowed upon me.  Therefore, I present to you:

Sarah's Top Six Sweet Snacks To Nosh On 
Whilst Frolicking Around Europe 
6. Grom ice cream in Paris.  Heaven in a cone.  The best ice cream of my life.  I savored every lick of pistachio + salted caramel that my tongue had the honor of tasting.  In fact, I was so engrossed in the experience, I failed to take a photo of the gorgeous confection.  Instead, I give you a shot of soft serve enjoyed outside the Centre Pompidou, my favorite people-watching locale in Paris (but that's for another post!).
NOT Grom. Rather some soft serve outside the Centre Pompidou.

5. Galler chocolate.  Our CouchSurfing host (again—a story for another post!) in Brussels gave us a brilliant tip regarding Belgian chocolate.  The chocolate available in local markets is just as delicious and not nearly the cost of the schmancy stuff in the tourist shops.  I can vouch for the truth of this fact.  Sorry I don't have photographic evidence; even sorrier that I haven't been able to locate Galler in the States yet . . .  

4. This Alnatura Mandel thing, found in the dm (drugstore chain) in Austria.  Each package contained about ten soft, chewy rectangular pieces
made of almonds.  Kind of like marzipan, but even dreamier.

must locate U.S. retailer . . .

3.  Ladurée macarons.  I don't even know what to say.
The first bite brought a tear to my eye.

2. Stroopwafels in the Netherlands!  When we were at a farmer's market in Delft, I tried my first stroopwafel—two warm waffle rounds sealed together with fresh caramel!  Henceforth, I hunted them down on a daily basis.  Almost every corner store sold the pre-packaged ones, which were pretty darn tasty.  Before leaving Amsterdam, I may or may not have purchased a substantial stash to bring to Germany in case they didn't exist there.*
*smuggling stroopwafels into Germany

1. Toffifee!  Yet another treasure hidden on the shelves of the local grocery markets in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic.  Hazelnut, caramel, nougat, and chocolate all in one bite.  So much awesome packed into one bite.  Toffifee is the overachiever of the bunch, but Oh! does she succeed!

as if the taste weren't enough, toffifees are shaped like lil' nuts. TOO cute.

Ok, your turn!  Do you have any favorite snacks from elsewhere in the world?  I gotta know what to look for when I travel the rest of the globe!  ;] 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dear Global Winter Wonderland,

You are equal parts creepy,
(the snowman, not my darling pal, Grayce)
blue fox with a beak (?) kickin' it @ "your favorite childhood shoe house"
bikini-clad woman guarding pirate ship with gun + sword
how happy does Santa look to deliver those TWO packages to the boys + girls of the world?!
libra + gemini
 and genius!

I mean, WHO would've thought to include dinosaurs in the mix with other traditional Winter Wonderland fare?  Not I, Global Winter Wonderland, not I.  You are awesome, and I thank you for an evening of pure entertainment.  Consider yourself added to the illustrious list of activities that get me feeling all Christmassy.  Cheers! 


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Coutdown within a countdown within a countdown

Top 5 activities that'll get me in the Christmas spirit, even when it's 65˚ here in sunshiney Northern California:

5. Listening to Christmas music
4. Viewing strings of lights festooning homes
3. Baking cookies
2. Consuming peppermint-flavored anything
1. Watching my favorite Christmassy movies

Top 5 movies that are guaranteed to give me warm fuzzies:

5. Home Alone
4. Elf
3. Scrooged
2. A Charlie Brown Christmas
1. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Alternates that will suffice in a pinch if none of the above are available for viewing:

3. Edward Scissorhands
2. You've Got Mail
1. Watching Puss in Boots tell the story of "Santa Claws" about 27 times in succession 

I'll give you a cookie if you work the line, "I have shamed myself," casually and naturally into a conversation today.  Please include a transcript in the comments.  ;]

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I recall forcing my mom to listen to Christmas with the Chipmunks, Volume 1 once or twice.*

*Or 8 times a day, 7 days a week, 4 weeks a year.  For approximately 13 years.  If she didn't want to hear it that much, she shouldn't have given me a boom box with auto reverse, right?  I still stand behind my DJing skillz.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Secular Christmas Goodness - a playlist

Since I gifted music to a complete stranger last week, I thought it only fair I should do the same for you.  I originally made this playlist in 2005 for my mom.*  But I listen to it every year because I think it's swell.  I hope it brings you warm fuzzies as you sip on hot chocolate and watch the yule log.  Or sip on wassail and wrap gifts.  Or sip on egg nog and dance! 

*Hence the Mariah Carey. Don't judge.  I stand behind my DJing skillz.
**Also of note: the original playlist included Rosemary Clooney's version of Rudolph, but didn't have it.  Still!  Burl Ives is pretty classic, no?  I always loved how Sam the Snowman glided through the snow + left that little trail.  :]

Friday, December 16, 2011

Go forth + spread goodwill, my friends!

wait a second...this is NOT the Trader Joe's photo I meant to publish here...
Yet another person who continues to inspire me is Janet of This Confetti Life.  Her whole mission over there at TCL is to encourage celebration on the daily.  Brilliant, I say!  The world definitely needs more of that

And like a good champion of cheer, Janet has accepted GOOD's Creative Microphilanthropy Challenge.  She has pledged to donate $1 for each act of goodwill that we tell her we accomplished.  See what she did there?  Rather than just give $30 to a charity (which is totally noble in istelf—don't get me wrong!), she's giving $30 and 30 acts of kindness to the world!  It's like fancy math.  She's making the goodwill multiply!  Plus, we get to be her goodwill elves!  Where are my pointy, curly-toed shoes . . . 

When I read Janet's post a couple days ago, I knew I wanted to do something simple, quick, and inspired by the "spirit of the season".  I considered Color Me Katie's Tiny Messages, which are definitely simple + quick, so now I just needed something Christmassy.  (Adding "y" to a noun magically makes it an adjective. Try it!)  And what's more Christmassy than Christmas music?  If you answered, "Nothing. Nothing is more Christmassy than Christmas music, Sarah," you are correct.  So I burned a CD, wrote a little note to a stranger, and left both in a shopping cart at Trader Joe's*.     

photographic evidence of my Act of Goodwill

Don't you want to join me in spreading cheer as a member of Janet's Elfin' Crew?  Grab your pointy, curly-toed shoes and don't forget to tell her about your Act of Goodwill!  And tell me if you tell her, too (please + thank you!).

*Thank you, Janet, for turning my completely selfish Candy Cane Joe-Joe's run into a more meaningful endeavor.  ;]

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Did somebody say fear?

Milton Glaser – on the fear of failure. from Berghs' Exhibition '11 on Vimeo.

Oh, that was me.  Much like Pablo Picasso + Hannah Dancing, Mr. Glaser helped remind me of the truth.

Fear is unpleasant.  Fear is uncomfortable.  Fear is downright icky.  When we fear that something we create will suck, our brain is trying to help us avoid the emotional pain caused by enduring (potential) criticism from peers, critics, and ourselves.  Fair enough.  Makes sense to avoid a (perceived) source of pain considering that whole survival of the fittest thing.  So, without our explicit permission, but rather an instinctual will to survive, our brain is perceiving a threat and preemptively implementing the evasion tactic.  Decoy set, distraction engaged, paralysis full speed ahead!  But, wait.  An emotion that begins with such good intentions . . . actually suppresses growth and progress?  Go figure.

Luckily, there is a solution.  The facts according to Mr. Glaser: There is no avoiding the suck.  Just suck.  It's the only way to ultimately not suck.   

The moral of today's post?  Go forth + suck, my friends!* 

Originally found via Brain Pickings.

*Okay, okay, Mr. Glaser's musings are slightly more eloquent than my paraphrasing.  Enjoy his message + take heart! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pretty sure Katie* would totally approve of the Colour project too

from Oliver Schwarzwald's Colour project

The world needs more color, no?

Found via Melanie over at You Are My Fave, which incidentally, is 1 of my favorite blogs - chock full of eye candy + crafty inspiration.

*See Monday's post to truly understand the Katie reference.  ;]

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Love you today + everyday

Today marks a heavy-hearted anniversary for a good friend.  I wanted to let her know I was thinking of her, but I wasn't sure exactly how.  When I remembered yesterday's post (specifically the nod to the chalk walk), and that I happened to have colored chalk in my car . . . presto!  A little sidewalk chalk art/love message to send.  ♥

Monday, December 12, 2011

Yet 2 more awesome quotes re: being creative and/or a child

Color Me Katie + her balloons
Let's pretend that 5 out of my first 12 posts aren't "Quote of the Day" bits, okay?  I swear I'm not that girl who adorns her walls with motivational posters and compulsively refreshes her twitter feed after searching #motivational or #inspiring.  However, a handful of quotations I've read over the years resonate with me and align quite nicely with my purposes here.  And so, I like to share the curated few with you.  Without further ado:
Quote 1: "The creative adult is the child who has survived." - Ursula K. Le Guin
Quote 2: "Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." - Pablo Picasso 
Seems Miss Ursula + Pablo are advocating we all unleash our inner Peter Pan.  Fine by me!  Easier said than done, though, especially for the most hardcore of us "grown ups".  So, uh . . . how?  Since there is no step-by-step how-to guide out there (well, if one exists, google is hiding it from me), we must look for inspiration elsewhere.  Enter Color Me Katie.  This gal is all sorts of artistic.  If you'd like to get back in touch with your innate creativity and child within, but don't know where to begin, pick from 1 of these rad ideas, and give it a go.  Here are my Top 7 inspirations from Miss Katie:
1. Build a tent.
2. Relax in the rain.
3. Enhance your environment with dry erase markers.
4. Blow bubbles.
5. Arrange a balloon bouquet.
6. Walk with chalk.
7. Write + plant happy notes for folks to discover
handing out balloons to children on my birthday*

Photo credit goes to the extremely creative + fantastic, Marianne Szeto.
*an activity I'm certain both Katie + Peter Pan would approve of.  ;] 

Friday, December 9, 2011

If you really must give STUFF

Smokey gives 5 claws!

With the weekend upon us, you may be fixin' to go on a holiday shopping spree.  I've already given you my on the matter.  Lest you think I am one of those Grinch or Scrooge types though—I do understand the desire to have physical presents under that tree, lookin' all purty + just begging to be opened.  And, so, I bring you a round-up of (drum roll, please) . . . my favorite Stuffs You Can Make for Loved Ones!
If you simply do not have time to do-it-yourself, take advantage of all the craft fairs in December (Bazaar Bizarre!, Renegade Craft Fair!, and other Bay Area options listed @ KQED Arts) and purchase local + handmade gifts.  If you prefer to shop from the comfort of your footy pajamas, cozy sheets + laptop, go to town searchin' for fabulousness via the Local feature on Etsy

Whew.  And with that, I think I will shut up on the subject of holiday gift giving.  Probably.  ;]

Cleo gives 10 claws + a pink nose to the cardboard kitty scratch pad!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

But back to that whole gift giving thing


My car's thermometer registered 61˚ today.  Which can only mean one thing: it's the most wonderful time of the year.  Much mistletoeing, hearts will be glowing, and all that jazz.  Not trying to rain on the Christmas parade, but, as previously noted, I think the holidays provide a wonderful opportunity to give gifts that encourage loved ones to hang out with one another, help build community, and increase participation in cultural events. 

The very creative + sage Jordan of Oh Happy Day! agrees with me.  Check out these 10 brilliant gift ideas she suggests.  My favorites are tickets to a lecture series, reserve a campground, and the offbeat city tour.  If I may, I'd like to add to the list of awesomeness.  Behold:   

  •  If you live in the Bay Area, you may know about The Parkway Theater.  'Twas a wonderful spot to view a flick.  Think couches, pizza, and beer.  Cozy, no?  Unfortunately, it closed its doors in 2009, and a group of dedicated, community-minded, film-loving souls embarked upon efforts to re-open The Parkway.  I remain hopeful that good will triumph over evil, and Bay Area cinephiles will soon enjoy beer with their movies once again.  Gift a membership to one such lucky duck.
  • And speaking of the joy of film.  How about a subscription to Netflix (or if they pissed you off with their shenanigans this Fall, choose an alternative service)?  One of my favorite gifts I ever forced my father to give me was a Lord of the Rings marathon.  When I learned he had never seen any of the trilogy, I said, "Faja! You. Me. Peter Jackson's masterpiece. All. In. One. Sitting. I want nothing else for Christmas!"  He obliged.  We chose a particularly grey Saturday morning, gathered a bunch of comfort food (couldn't sell him on lembas, though), and watched the heck outta those movies! 
  • I already mentioned museum membership, but it's such a rad idea, it bears repeating.  There are so many cool museums
  • Is your friend or loved one keen on art, books, games, music, and various other creative ventures?  Donate to a Kickstarter campaign in his or her name.  You can easily discover projects to fund based on category or location.  With your pledge, you are helping artists', musicians', and creators' dreams come true, while simultaneously snagging goodies for your gift recipient.
  • Want to make your parents smile?  Take a photo with Santa.  Yes, as an adult.  Bonus points if you + your siblings (or significant other) wear matchy matchy outfits.*  Print it, frame it, possibly festoon the frame with glitter.  Or candy canes.  Your call.  Don't pretend like you don't want to.

What are your ideas for "experience" gifts?

    *We didn't dress as twinsies last year (see photo above) because we were pleasantly surprised to see Santa at the airport + this was an impromptu photo shoot.  On our part, at least.  :]

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Which brings me to my next post, re: Fear and two more awesome quotes

    a book on magic

    Quote 1: "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working." - Pablo Picasso

    Oh, that Pablo.  So brilliant, so prolific.  Such understatements.  But I digress.  And I do apologize for the fact that these first nine posts probably feel like a collection of digressions.*  Here's the thing.  I've wanted to create my own blog for years (nay a decade!), but something unseen, yet almost tangible, has held me back.  That something?  In a word?  Fear.  Fear of not being good enough.  Fear of cluttering the unsuspecting cyber-world with worthless drivel.  Fear of having nothing to say, nothing to write about, nothing to contribute.  Fear of confirming what I feared.  So, I didn't; I haven't.  It was a vicious cycle, you see.  After all these years, I get what Pablo's saying.  Yes, Sarah, it's true: you have not written any crap—because you have not written anything at all.  Alas.  The gist of Pablo's quote?  One cannot create inspired art if one is not creating anything at all.

    Which brings me to the second Quote of the Day, and why I finally decided to just start posting, even without a clear theme for this blog.

    Quote 2: "It doesn't matter how big it is; it doesn't matter how fuckin' good it is.  If you're putting it out . . . it's worth something." - Hannah Dancing**

    Hannah's talking about creating, and she's right.  I'm finished feeling this fear, and I'm tired of not writing about the things I care about.  Whether the result is "good" or not.  So, bear with me as the origins of this project seem to meander a tad.  This blog will not focus solely on crafting or fashion or yummy recipes or my cats (ha! You wish!).  I may choose to write about all of the above or none of the above.  Regardless, just because I don't have a theme, doesn't mean I don't have a purpose.  Prepare to read about the things I care about!  Prepare for joy, art, and hope!  :]

    a sketch inspired by Harlem

    What would you work on right now if Fear was not an obstacle?

    * a "collection of digressions" actually sounds like the muse for a cool art installation.
    ** Hannah Dancing is a talented + all-around cool person, who is darn creative.

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    At the risk of being TOO discursive,

    and forsaking a cohesive narrative, I give you a gem of a quotation. 

    From Roald Dahl: “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.”

    spotted @ the Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna

    through the Berlin Wall

    sparkly Nyhavn in Copenhagen

    And indulge me once more, as I add my elaboration.  Glitter and magic and wonder are everywhere.  All around us, everyday.  But, if all that sparkly whimsy is eluding your vision, make your own magic.

    love locks in Englischer Garten, Munich

    MacArthur overpass in Oakland

    on the London Underground

    Where did you spot some magic today?

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    On gift giving

    Speaking of helping Mother Earth look her Sunday best, see that image down there on the previous post?  That's a temporary tattoo designed by Marc Johns.  Available here @ Tattly.  Dontcha think a monthly subscription to these truly stunning tattoos would make for a fun + memorable gift?  I wish more folks would remember that experiences trump stuff* when shifting into gift-giving mode during the holidays.  And all that crap we buy that comes in all that packaging and fancy, non-recyclable gift wrap?  Destined for landfill.  And all the pollution we create in the manufacturing of all that crap?  Sweet Valley High!  We can stop this.  In lieu of ye olde tradition of bestowing white elephants upon loved ones, consider giving theater tickets, museum memberships, donations in their name to organizations they support.  Or temporary tattoos. ;]  


    *stuff won't make you happy, experiences will