Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Music: Dolly Parton

Thanksgiving is behind us, and you know what that means: my iTunes Holiday playlist will not get a break until December 25th has rolled through.

I grew up listening to Dolly Parton, thanks to my parents, and a lot of great childhood memories stem from her songs. This one, in particular, was always a favorite--I had no idea, back then, that it came from a movie called "The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas."

It's still a fabulous song..."Hard Candy Christmas."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Santa (and Charles Schulz) Threw Up In Here

There's a terrific moment in the second season of Grey's Anatomy when Meredith and George walk into their house to find that Izzy has gone all out decking the halls. Meredith and George are both feeling a bit "bah humbug" about the holiday season, but are determined to support Izzy, who has recently found Alex cheating on her.

But it doesn't stop Meredith from muttering, "It looks like Santa threw up in here."

I've always laughed at that, and since then, have used this line to describe what happens around my place in the month of December.

First, some favorite ornaments: My English collection (Shakespeare, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, a Beefeater, a Queen's Guard and a bobby, a London Cab, Big Ben, and a knight on horseback), three cute felt ornaments my mom made, and two new Snoopy ornaments I found at Home Goods after Christmas last year.

I have the most awesome tree skirt EVER: Mom and I found the fabric at WalMart and she made it for me because she's a lovely mom. : )

This is almost all of my Snoopy ornaments. There are a few not in the picture, believe it or not. Some go way back to my childhood (there's a round one from 1989) and some are even older antiques that I have found in antique shops. I have a ton of Hallmark ornaments from throughout the years and three gorgeous ornaments by Lennox.

Some favorites:

The finished tree. I love using a Santa hat as a topper!

The top:

The middle:

The bottom:

 Next to the tree, on my little round table, is a tiny tree with miniatur ornaments--all but five are Peanuts. The five non-Peanuts ornaments are a set of Harry Potter ornaments (Harry, Ron, Hermione, Scabbers, Hedwig).

A few years ago, I got the bright idea to turn to eBay in search of cute Christmas outfits for some of my old Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. Needless to say, I had great results, and every year now, I put out four (of ten, yes I was a spoiled child) on my chair. They make me smile. Delinda (the blonde one) is an original.

The corner of the living room (the London Shrine normally resides on the baker's rack).

I found the Charlie Brown Tree last year and nearly melted in delight in the middle of Target. Tonight, going through my stuff, I found the Gift Wrapping display (Charlie Brown and Lucy) and was delighted--Mom bought this for me at the Snoopy Gallery and Gift Shop in Sonoma after Christmas last year and I'd forgotten about it in the meantime! What a lovely surprise. The teapot is a Lennox eBay find from a few years ago.

The plate and mug are old antique store finds. The books are mostly from my childhood--that Rudolph book has both Aaron (in his childish scrawl) and Megan (in mine) written inside it, so it's kind of a family treasure.

My favorite piano student ever, Cailin, made this for me in 2001 or 2002. She was a special kid and I remember her fondly. She's in high school by now, and I hope she's doing well. She was whip-smart (I was doing high-level music theory with her when she was seven and she was begging for more) and very driven. Also very sweet. Her parents were awesome, too. They used to always give me a $20 gift certificate to the local movie theater each year at Christmas, but damned if this little snowman isn't the gift I treasure most. I display him every year.

A wonderful "Charlie Brown Christmas" display. So cute!

Snoopy and Woodstock plush dolls galore.

I bought the D and M stockings yesterday. I searched and searched in vain for an H stocking and couldn't find one. I finally settled on D for Doodlebug (that would be Harley) and M for, of course, Millie. Harley has a new blue striped collar (PetSmart no longer carries Harley Davidson cat collars!) and Millie has a red collar with duckies on it.

The top of my hutch. Pardon the candles being all wonky. I'll fix them later!

The overall effect: I LOVE IT.

I bought this at Mom's craft faire last year. I'll fill it with peppermints as soon as I buy some.

Ornament cocktails!

Finally, on the corner of the counter, a red doily that was made by my beloved Grandma Bean (a green one is under my miniature tree), a Lennox plate that I bought with the Lennox teapot, and a great Hallmark ornament that plays music (and is too heavy for my tree).

I have a little more I want to do (yes, more!) and I still have to take pics of the front window from outside (I have a Peanuts light-up display thing), but that's for tomorrow.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

I'd like to propose a toast.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It's not just about the food, it's about setting aside a day to think about the good things we have, the blessings in our lives. I am fortunate to have many, many blessings, and today is a day for me to be appreciative.

So I propose a toast to...

1. My family

It's been a tough year, but I have two awesome allies in the craziness--Mom and Dad. They have been nothing but supportive of me, even as I decided to tough out the unemployment in Stockton instead of saving money by moving home. They have helped me, they have watched my cats, they have not questioned my decisions.

I can't tell you how wonderful they are to me; they're pretty awesome parents and I love them very much.

And, of course, Millie and Harley, my furkids. They keep me happy, healthy and sane. Well, mostly sane (she typed as a certain 13-pound ginger feline raced across the desk, over her arms, to the kitchen counter in a flurry of kitty madness). Both are healthy, both are happy, and for this, I am thankful.

2. My friends

Where do I start? I'll start with Summer. We celebrated our 10th Friend-o-versary this year, and marvelled at how much we've been through together since college. Through moves to San Diego (her) and England (me) and Napa (her) and Washington (me) and Oakland (her) and Stockton (me), we've remained friends. This year she accompanied me to our second Keane concert, and she never once got frustrated with my over-excitement or my constant gushing. She even waited in the cold with me--in downtown Oakland, I might add--so that I could meet Richard. That's friendship. We were freezing. And did I mention it was downtown Oakland?

I have made some awesome new friends this year, through Keane. It started in July, when I noticed that I seemed to be interacting with a gal named Maayan a lot at the fan forum. I sent her a private message to thank her for being so welcoming. Before I knew it, we were constantly going back-and-forth all over the forum, excited for our chances to see the guys live again (me in Oakland, CA and her in Brooklyn, NY). The day after she went to the Brooklyn gig, she asked if she could have my phone number, as she had a question for me. She was worried about sounding like a stalker, but I just laughed and gave her my number. She called later and we found that yes, we can both talk a mile a minute. Her question? "How would you like something that was signed 'To Meg from Richard?'" A few days later, my autographed tour book arrived in the mail and we've been pretty much maintaining a very loud Wall of Sound across the USofA since then (people in Nebraska have started asking us to keep it down).

Then there's Lindsay in Michigan, Amanda in Holland, Sarah in England, Annie in New York (who came to San Francisco to see Mt. Desolation and Mumford and Sons and didn't once get embarrassed that I had a rubber ducky with me) and many others who have made me laugh, made me smile, built me up as friends do.

There's Meghan, Monterey-day-tripper extraordinaire. My Jezebel friends keep me in touch with my feminist side. My blogger friends, Lisa, Alana, Sara--their comments always make me smile.

My Chorale family--Gigi, Dianne, Robin and Randy (new friends!), and so many others. These people are a joy to know, a joy to sing with.

I have fellow crazy cat ladies in Marian and Diane, and the other wonderful volunteers I interact with through AFC. They understand my love of these wonderful animals, and they work so very hard to find homes for cats and kittens. I'm honored to be part of the good fight.

I lost a friend this year. I was, essentially, friend-dumped. The details are ridiculous. But now that I'm looking back on it, I'm thankful that I'm no longer tip-toeing around her, and I'm thankful that I don't have to pretend that I think her husband is a nice guy. I'm thankful that I had her in my life when things were good (back in 2004-2007). And I'm thankful that getting dumped by her didn't damage my self-esteem, as it might have a few years ago.

3. Speaking of self-esteem...

I haz it!

This year, more than any year in the past 15 years, I can honestly look in the mirror, or see a picture of myself, and think, "Hey, you're cute!"

I've come such a long way in my self-acceptance this year. I still have moments of uncertainty, but honestly, I haven't felt this good in a long time. I'm strong. I'm healthy. I'm confident. I'm still getting the third degree from Gershom every week or two, and while I grumble and groan at him about it, I'm actually glad he cares enough to threaten to weigh me in January.


4. My health

Aside from one terrifying ER trip and a week spent recovering from sudden-onset bronchitis, I'm enjoying the best health of my life. I attribute it to my working out and healthier eating habits.

5. Time

Let's face it--I don't love being unemployed. But I'm a silver-lining kind of gal and one of the best parts of being jobless this school year has been having some time to reevaluate. I'm searching for work, but I'm also using the time to explore other possibilities.

I have time to cook from scratch, and time to make pretty things. I have time to cuddle with my cats, and time to get a good, hard workout in. I have time to volunteer with AFC and Chorale. I have time to sell things on eBay and Etsy. I have time to keep my apartment clean, time to spend with my parents, time to bake for a bake sale. Time to send snail mail. Time to learn Keane songs on the piano--hell, time to play my piano.

I'm enjoying every minute of it. Next fall, I will be working again.


So today, I raise my glass and propose a toast. To family and friends who warm the heart and soothe the soul. To health, to happiness, to making time.

What are YOU thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday Music: The Rascals

I have loved this song for ages and ages. It's an oldie, but a goodie: "How Can I Be Sure" by the Rascals.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

I'm finally getting around to reviewing this. Yes, I was there at 12:01 am on Friday. Yes, I wore my Gryffindor shirt and scarf. Yes, it was a madhouse (my theater had FOUR theaters showing it--all sold out) and yet it was the most laid-back and fun madhouse I've seen in a long time. People were friendly, laid-back, and very excited for the movie. I got a decent seat, a bag of Sour Patch Kids, and settled in for the show.

And it was amazing.

I'll take this opportunity to warn you that if you continue reading this post, there will be spoilers galore. That's your warning. Turn back now if you don't want to know more because I'm going to spill.

As I've followed the books and movies, I've always been slightly distressed by parts of the movies that don't follow the book (Half-Blood Prince and your burning down of the Weasely's home, I'm looking at you!), so I was worried about what creative liberties might have been taken with this movie. I'm so happy to report that almost NONE were.

Let me start by revealing that the movie starts at Malfoy Manor, as the book does, and with Harry watching the Dursley's leave, and ends at Dobby's death (*sob*) and Voldemort stealing the Elder Wand from Dumbledore's grave. It seemed an excellent place to break the movie in half, as Harry's time at Shell Cottage is a recharging point in the book, from which he, Ron and Hermione move ahead with renewed energy towards the final battle of Hogwarts.

Sure, when Harry and Hagrid are on the flying motorcycle, there's a bit where they end up in Muggle traffic that didn't happen in the book and I was thinking, "OMG, the Ministry's gonna have a job clearing all those Muggles' memories of THIS." But it's such a little thing, it can be forgiven. The rest of the scene sticks very close to the book, except that they bypass having Harry and Hagrid go to the Tonks' home in favor of just going straight to the Burrow.

There are bits of the movie that felt slower in the book and rushed here--for example, Harry's time at the Weasely's home is rushed, as is the wedding...but it's easy to forgive this because there is simply a lot of story to tell. As in the book, a ton of time is spent on the camping and Apparating from one bit of England to another--some people find this hugely boring, but I don't.

I was a little disappointed by a couple of omissions, but not enough to rage about it: 1) Dudley, while in the movie at the very beginning, doesn't have his touching goodbye with Harry as in the book, and 2) Kreacher's Tale is cut very short, leaving out the bits about how much he loved "brave Regulus" and how Regulus died to save Kreacher.

I thought one addition was quite poignant--in the beginning, we see Hermione sadly fix the Memory Charm ("obliviate") on her parents and then watch as the camera pans across the family pictures, erasing her presence from the Granger's lives. It's not "shown" in the book, but it's mentioned that she sent them to Australia to keep them safe from Voldemort. Seeing it happen in the movie gives it that sad, "this is what we've gotten ourselves into" quality.

One thing I find myself kind of glad of is that while there is attention paid to Dumbledore's flaws, it's not quite as much of an obsession for Harry as it is in the book. There really isn't enough time in the action for him to be so worried about it, but we get glimpses of his confusion and even anger at Dumbledore for leaving him this task while he feels so unprepared for it.

In this particular half of the story, a lot of time is spent on Ron, and the movie didn't let him down at all. Indeed, we get his increased anger and resentment as the locket Horcrux remains undestroyed, and we see, just like in the book, his redemption when he comes back, saves Harry from the icy pond, and then destroys the Horcrux. We also see a new closeness between Harry and Hermione, which inspires Ron's jealousy but also strengthens Harry.

The best quality of the movie, however, bigger than any one scene or piece of story, is how it captured--brilliantly--J.K. Rowling's incredible ability to infuse a dark, lonely tale with moments of love, humor and light-heartedness. Just as in real life, there are sometimes moments of beauty even on the darkest of days, and I've always loved that just as Harry, Ron and Hermione feel they'll never reach their goal of defeating Voldemort, Rowling throws in a funny moment, some bit of cheer that reenergizes both character and reader. I thought the movie captured this very well.

The action scenes, of course, are top-notch, and the characters who die in the book (Mad-Eye, Hedwig, Dobby) have, so far, all died in the movie...with the notable exception of Wormtail. In the book, his enchanted hand kills him at Malfoy Manor as Harry and Co. escape with Dobby's help--this was skipped in the movie. Dobby, however, takes Belatrix' knife to his chest and dies near Shell Cottage after whispering, " be with his friend...Harry Potter..." I actually moaned out loud at this bit and am not ashamed to say that I cried a little. Such a heroic little house elf! Harry digs the grave manually, without magic, just as in the book.

In this half of the story, I missed Neville (he has one little thirty-second bit on the Hogwarts Express), McGonagall, and a few other characters, and I look forward to seeing them in Part 2. I thought the actor who portrayed Xeno Lovegood did a fine job and Luna was, as she always has been, perfectly cast.

I feel my review is disjointed--there's so much to think about and talk about with this movie. It goes a little past two and a quarter hours and is, in my opinion, the best adaptation of one of the books of all. I can't wait for Part 2!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Home Sweet Home...Part 3

I've been meaning to do this post for a while now, but just kept getting busy with other stuff. After a recent cleaning, I took some pictures of my bedroom looking its best.

My bedroom is sort of awkward in that there's really only one way you can position the bed, especially if, like me, you have a Queen bed. But it works for me, even though I have to walk around to the far side to get in and out--I'm funny like that. I sleep on the left side and I must enter and exit the bed from that side. One of my lovable little quirks.

My room has a sort of travel theme, you'll see.

To the right in this picture (or to the left if you're lying on the bed), is my night table. There you see my well-loved and well-worn old Snoopy doll, and Harry Bear, who I bought in England for those days when I just needed something to hug. There are a few dried tears in his fur. There's a mountain of unread books (recent Amazon purchase and recent trip to the used bookstore...yay!), my never-used alarm clock (we have random power outtages every few months and so I use my cell phone alarm instead) and a box of tissue. The cord haning down is my wall unit A/C.

What I was reading (since finished) when I took these pictures. VERY GOOD READ.

US History, European History, kids books, pithy tastes are all over the place.

Near the bed is this wonderful framed comic strip--Dad bought this off of Lynn Johnston's website for my birthday a few years back, so it's personalized and signed by her. Very cool!

Three layers of pillows--my king-sized pillows in faded light green cases, my regular pillows in the flowered cases, and two decorative pillows in shams.

At the foot of the bed is an afghan that Mom crocheted for me a few years ago. Perfect for cold nights!

The view out my bedroom window.

London poster

Yes, I have a map of England on my wall. I bought this in Washington.

The map even has Burnham on it!

Here's Burnham in relation to London:

And for my Keane friend fans, here it is in relation to Battle, East Sussex:

World map:

One of my coolest pieces is Dad's old footlocker. Please note, Daddy, that I have blocked off your SSN! The suitcase is from Michaels, and the pictures are from Rome.

Mom mad this adorable heart that hangs on the door handle. It's been mangled by kittens (Bella, Duchess and Harley) over the years.

From the door, a view to the right:

 The other night table, home to my jewelry boxes.

Mom brought this home for me from Asia. I keep necklaces and bracelets in it.

The mirror and candle were gifts from Summer on my 29th birthday.

Earrings and rings:

The top of my dresser: a painting by a street artist in Paris, two antique cat figurines, a cat painting from a street artist in Rome, a set of photo albums...

This was my graduation gift from Mom and Dad when I finished uni:

Inside is a compass--the inscription on the box has the date of my graduation.

One of my favorite pieces of my Peanuts collection.

I piss and moan about obnoxious neighbors and a galley kitchen, but let me tell you, my closet ROCKS. It's huge.

Workout stuff...

 Endless scrapbooks...

I love scarves...

I keep my wreath box, travel backpack (bought in England) and laundry-drying rack in the back corner.
 Some favorite bits of my wardrobe: The infamous "And That's When I Snapped" t-shirt, my adorable Snoopy "I Love Nerds" t-shirt, my Keane Night Train Tour shirt, and Dad's old jacket.

My trusty running shoes, kept off the floor, just in case a certain ginger cat should decide he's in the mood for eating shoelaces.

Back of the door: bathrobe, the bag has my Chorale dress-from-hell in it, my swimsuit and beach towel.

This is my awesome flocati rug from Spain. Mom and Dad gave it to me and I love this thing to no end. But it doesn't work in my living room with the way my furniture is set up, so I put it in the bedroom.

Looking towards the closet/dresser...