Tuesday, September 30, 2014

TV Timewarp with "Leave It to Beaver"

As I scrolled through my Netflix queue the other day, considering a new TV show to watch, I was reminded of something I hadn't thought about in years: I adore "Leave It to Beaver."

I remember when I was 7 years old, watching the old Nick at Nite line up, before the TV Land channel became a thing. My family would squat in front of the TV every night for "I Dream of Jeannie," "Bewitched," "I Love Lucy," "The Munsters," and "Get Smart," always to switch the OFF button when the theme song for "Dragnet" started. It was like clockwork. Some nights there was Mary, other nights some Dick Van Dyke, but never once was there "Leave It to Beaver." And I figured that was alright, because it seemed like a silly show anyways.

When I was in college, my dad felt it was time I was educated on the ways of the Beav (it shouldn't be a coincidence that he looked eerily like Jerry Mathers in 1959). I was 21 years old, and definitely not a little kid. I hummed and hawed, declaring how uninterested I was, but he popped in his newly received Season 1 DVDs anyways, and the rest was history.

On the surface, "Beaver" looks like a glossy, untainted view of life in the 50's—a mother vacuuming in pearls, a father peering over a newspaper, and a couple of rowdy kids with nothing better to do than get into mischief. The stakes are never too high and no one is ever too unhappy. But as you watch, you realize it's not nostalgic. It's not filmed with any sense of criticism or ironic hind-sight. It's not making an overt comment about progressiveness within a conservative system. It just is. The messages are subtle, but they're effortless.

We see it all as quaint and naive now. That doesn't diminish these truths, though: Wally is the world's best big brother to Beaver. June and Ward Cleaver may just be TV's most sympathetic, understanding, and patient parents. And seeing the show as an adult, I connected with it in a way I wouldn't have as a child. Where once I would have noticed only the trials of boyhood, I now see parents navigating parenthood, ending the cycle of corporal punishment, and the development of brotherhood.

All this rambling is just to say that I want to share my love of this show with you all. Netflix has all six seasons (which originally ran from 1957 to 1963), and I recommend you give it a try, if you haven't already. Watch it with your kids—especially if you have young boys.

Has anyone else watched the entire series? Were you a kid when you watched it, or were you an adult? What are your thoughts?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Project Cross Stitch: The Hair (part 3)

A busy weekend means all my updates come out in one fell swoop. After road tripping to the San Francisco Bay Area for my 10-year high school reunion, I'm looking forward to some detox time at home this week. And guys, I am this close to being able to start stitching in another color on my cross stitch project!

I think that color needs to be vibrant. Maybe red. Or bluuuue. Something—anything other than black. Although the feeling of accomplishment that will wash over me when that final black thread is stitched... Pretty epic.

As the stitching fabric gets softer and more pliable, the embroidery hoop impressions are beginning to fade. The wrinkles are flattening, and I get to see what she's really going to look like. And I may or may not have scrolled through the shop where I found it to decide on the next piece I'd like to tackle.

But one thing at a time. Next week, I promise there'll be some color to share.

Music Mondays: Lights "Up We Go"

Good morning! Let's have some fun, shall we? I'm rocking out to "Up We Go" by Lights today, from her new album Little Machines. Fun, energetic album, and since I loved her previous record Siberia so much, it doesn't surprise me that it has me boppin' my head.

I have plans to see her at LA's Fonda Theatre in November. But enough chit-chatting, time for some tunes. Enjoy "Up We Go," and its impressive, albeit silly, music video.

Artist: Lights
Song: "Up We Go" | download stream
Album: Little Machines

Friday, September 26, 2014

10 Years

It's hard for me to believe, but this weekend, I will be road tripping from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area for my (and my twin sister's) 10-year high school reunion. More specifically, for the Castro Valley High School, class of '04, reunion.

There will likely be a celebratory viewing of Romy & Michele's High School Reunion somewhere in there. And rather than strolling through the quad of CVHS, we'll be boozing it up at a brewery in nearby Berkeley. (Whatever happened throwing the party at the school's cafeteria, where you could sneak off and drink in front of your old locker? Was that just in the movies??)

Reunions are an interesting tradition. Especially now, with social media at our fingertips, when we don't need to have a face-to-face reunion to reminisce about the good old days, or find out who has the most successful career, or who looks different and who looks exactly the same.

We already see it all. Every day, when we scroll through our Facebook feeds. We know who has kids, and who recently traveled through Europe; who is on a career path at a major corporation, or who is preparing for their wedding. And honestly, I see and chat with all my good friends regularly, is it really worth a hefty ticket price just to clink wine glasses and say "Welp! It's been 10 years, crazy, huh?"

In short, yes. Yes it is. You only get one 10-year reunion, folks, and while everyone's high school experience is different, mine was one I have no issue celebrating. I'll see people this weekend that I forgot about, and who I didn't realize I missed. And likely, I'll get those "Am I where I expected to be in my life?" feelings that befall us all—and stress about the perfect thing to where, because duh, I wanna look good.

But that, in truth, is just another part of the tradition.

{picture of Castro Valley, CA circa 1970 by Paul MacFarlane via}

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Who is going to watch How to Get Away With Murder?

I can't possibly be the only one excited about the premiere of Shonda Rhimmes' new show, "How to Get Away with Murder," right? Following the season premieres tonight of my other favorites, "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal," we get to enjoy the melodrama and devilishness of Rhimes' brand new show.

I. Cannot. Wait.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, you should take a moment out of your work day to watch the trailer. And after reading this article from TIME about the pilot, which describes the show as a cross between "House," "Damages," "Scandal," and I Know What You Did Last Summer—I have very little doubt that this will be my new favorite show of the Fall season.

I'm a sucker for melodrama. The messy, romantic, angsty kind. My obsession with "Buffy" might be your first indication of that. Throw in whip-smart women (like the brilliant Viola Davis), witty quips, and creative crime scenarios (maybe some moral ambiguity), and you're singing my tune.

What about you? Are you planning on watching?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

AFI Top 100: #90 "Swing Time"

Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers in Swing Time (1936)

The oldest film (so far!) in our AFI Top 100 marathon countdown is Swing Time from 1936, landing at #90 on the list. The dynamo song-and-dance duo of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers star in this their 6th of 10 pictures together.

Like many of their movies, the stars don't venture too far away from 'type': Astaire plays Vaudeville dancer and self-serving gambler, Lucky Garnett, whose wedding is sabotaged by his equally self-serving dance troupe. To win his lady back, he must earnor win$25,000 in the big city. In strolls Ginger Rogers as Penny Carroll, a spit-fire dance instructor who is conned by Lucky into dancing with him and... well, it doesn't really matter. They sing and dance their way from contempt to love, some problems arise forcing them back to hate and then of course, back to love again before the final curtain. And he doesn't think too hard about his fianceeoh right! her!much at all along the way.

Ginger offers sex appeal while Fred offers a bit of class (to paraphrase Katherine Hepburn), exactly what audiences came to expect from them. The choreography is perfection, and there's a reason these two continued to make movies together. There's a spark, and moreover, she could actually keep up with him on the dance floor. Astaire isn't a singer, and you can really tell, but he is forgiven his attempts at the high notes because he is just so earnest about it.

Swing Time is considered one of the pair's best films, and while I would argue that Top Hat (1935) is better, this movie certainly does have the most memorable dance sequences (the rumors surrounding Ginger's bleeding feet after 47 continuous takes of the "Never Gonna Dance" routine are legendary). I can even almost forgive the film its 'black face' number, because the "Bojangles of Harlem" staging is so brilliant, and I can acknowledge that my 21st century head shaking wouldn't have amounted to the same reaction in the '30s.

It can't be ignored that Astaire and Rogers found a winning formula, which helped RKO Pictures churn out film after film, banking on the chemistry of its stars. They single-handedly saved the studio from bankruptcy during the Great Depressionnot unlike Shirley Temple being the saving grace for FOX, and Universal digging themselves out of a hole with Deanna Durbinand for that, they are spectacular.

Yet while I could view the movie itself through the lens of 1930s U.S. history, and cite how beneficial it was for audiences to escape their lives by watching plots filtered with glamour and magic and nothing more than self-imposed character conflicts... that just isn't what me or this review is about.

Like the above-mentioned, Depression-era studio saviors, each of the Astaire-Rogers films were simply a vehicle for the stars, with plots geared towards showcasing their premiere talents. However, unlike the films of Temple and Durbin, the grand Fred and Ginger dance musical epics had very little substance. And objectively, taking into account cinema as a whole, they also aren't all that good.

I feel blasphemous even thinking that—these two are legends that I grew up with and were easily childhood favorites. The dance sequences are unparalleled, even today, and RKO spared no expense on the Art Deco set design, lighting, and Ginger's flowing gowns. But between quicksteps and Viennese waltzes and exquisite songs from Jerome Kern... there is a slapstick-y, nonsensical romantic plot that shudders and trudges through contrived "problems," with no real grasp of time and space. To quote my friend Matt: This movie is super bizarre.

The instinct to put a Fred & Ginger film in the Top 100 was not misguided; it would feel wrong for them not to be represented someway, somehow. But giving Swing Time a leg-up because its stars should get recognition? It just doesn't merit it. None of them do. While the Astaire-Rogers team may be considered one of the best pairings in cinema history, their movies alone certainly can't hold a candle to America's best.

Rating:  ★★½ / 5 stars

[Watch the Trailer] | [Read More AFI Top 100 Reviews]

Check back next week for #89 on the list, The Sixth Sense — or better yet, have your own viewing party and watch along with us!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chunky Throws, It Must Be Autumn


What do you think of when you think of Fall?

This first day of autumn has me dreaming about big, soft, chunky throw blankets. The kind that you have to swim out of when you're nestled under one with your honey on the couch. A chill has descended on my office, so the above creations instantly triggered those "daytime nap" impulses.

From top to bottom: (1) Erin Blacks Designs, (2) Camp Kitschy Knits, (3) Lily and Peabody, and (4) Milo & Mitzy.

Considering the going rate for these blankets, it makes me want to take up crocheting again, just to make one for myself (even though it's been... so long, I can't even remember the last time I picked up a hook). But Erin Blacks Designs has the most beautiful DIY patterns; very tempting...

I hope the temps are cooling down where you are, because I'm as ready as anyone for this Fall season.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Music Mondays: CHVRCHES "Recover"

In honor of the concert I was lucky enough to attend this past Friday night, I wanted to share the video for CHVRCHES' "Recover" -- it includes footage of their touring and backstage shenanigans, which is a delight to watch. It's also John's favorite song of theirs.

Their live performance was like nothing I'd ever experienced. The venue, the Hollywood Paladium, isn't my favorite in LA, by far, but CHVRCHES had so much energy, the bass reverberated through my body until my hair follicles stood on end. I enjoyed every second of it (even when I was too short to see past the crowd onto the stage).

It's been exactly a year since their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe, was released, and it's a record that I adore fully and completely. If you haven't listened to this Scottish band before, you're missing out. Magical electro-pop.

Song: "Recover" | download stream
Album: The Bones of What You Believe

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Morning in Venice {Beach}

This morning, I woke up and looked outside. Cloudy. I told John that I didn't care how overcast it was, I was committed to going to the beach, and wasn't particular about which one. This is LA, after all -- muggy mornings become clear blue skies by 11 a.m. most of the time.

I dragged him out of bed, packed up our beach blankets, towels, and sunscreen -- confident we would actually need it -- and set out. We traveled to Venice, the West Side's eclectic beach town, grabbed the world's best iced Mexican Mochas at Groundwork Coffee on Rose Ave before heading to the Pier.

The beach was quiet, with only a handful of souls -- like us -- who anticipated the impending sunlight. I even got into the water, which I normally refuse to do (me and salt water aren't the best of friends.) But mostly, we just lounged and soaked up that precious Vitamin D.

It was too short of a trip, but necessary for my sanity. The water was warm, the breeze was cool, and the sun re-invigorating. John and I may have to make a habit of this kind of outing. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Project Cross Stitch: The Profile

A quick update today to show off the epic progress I made on my cross stitch. A quiet week with nights curled up in front of the TV really paid off. Just look at how this beauty is turning out? The scissors were added for perspective, because you guys, she is huge!

It's funny to me that something I haven't done in years has brought me so much enjoyment. We really underestimate the importance of our hobbies the older we get, don't we? No? Maybe just me? Well then, I'm happy to report that my eyes are open.

When this project first started, I felt instantly overwhelmed -- and more than a little silly for investing money in a craft I wasn't even sure I could do. But now, looking at how this cross stitch is turning out, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't proud of myself. The stitching isn't flawless, and there have been innumerable mistakes along the way, with plenty of backtracking and stitching to pull out and re-do.

But I did this. I made this with my own hands. And coming from someone who isn't the most crafty person in the world, that's saying something.

I hope that whatever project you're working on, it's going well -- and if you're discouraged about it, don't be! Pick it back up and power through, because it's worth it to accomplish something just for you, no matter how small.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, September 19, 2014

"I will carry you and give you life."

Friday has arrived, ya'll. Angelenos awoke to a respite from the heat, with looming rain clouds overhead.

But this hasn't dampened my weekend plans of lounging ocean-side. With (most of) the tourists wrapping up their summer holiday visits, the West Side is now free from beach traffic, and the warm sand is calling my name. A blanket, chilled rosé, and sunglasses are all I need.

Tonight, John and I are catching a show with our friend Tim at the Hollywood Palladium, seeing Chvrches for the first time. Their record has been spinning in my player for almost a year, so there was no way I would miss their stop in L.A. this time around.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone! xx

and here are some links for your perusing pleasure:
♦ Stevie Nicks "selfie" gallery show in the works
♦ this song from the best scene in The Skeleton Twins
♦ tattoo chic is sexy chic
♦ famous women discuss choosing not to have children
♦ Star Wars without music is awkward
♦ 2-year-old performs choreography from Sia's "Chandelier" (too cute!)
♦ my favorite redhead being as classy as ever

{image via Yvette Inufio}

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Green Tape

When I was a little girl, my dad would pick Stacy and I up from school every day. Throughout our childhood, he played the music that he loved on the radio and a variety of mixtapes. The tape that saw the most rotation in his old Chevrolet Lumina, however, was the one my sister and I called "The Green Tape."

"Play the green tape, play the green tape!" we'd demand.

We called it that because, you guessed it: it was green. The kind of dingy green cassette you might find in a box in the back of your parents' garage. According to my dad, he got the tape at an old music store in 1990, where they had a giant, klunky machine filled with records that you could use to make your own mixes. The song selections cost about $1/song, and there was a hefty wait time while your creation compiled.

Doo-wop, pop, rock'n'roll, country, and spoken word... this playlist has a huge variety from the 50's and 60's, the decades that most influenced my father. And what came out of that machine became the soundtrack of my childhood.

The tape is now lost to the ages. It may still be in the glove compartment of that beat up Chevy, getting renewed love from a new owner. Back in 2004, Stacy dug around online to find each and every song on the playlist, presenting my dad with the old Green Tape mix, now in the form of the Green CD. Today, the songs reside within my 3rd generation iPod Nano. It evolved with the times while the songs themselves still throw back to the past.

Enough chit chat. Below, please enjoy my very favorite playlist, The Green Tape.

The Green Tape Mix

1. "Hushabye" by The Mystics
2. "Old Rivers" by Walter Brennan
3. "Just a Matter of Time" by Brooke Benton
4. "The Unicorn Song" by The Irish Rovers
5. "Where or When" by Dion and the Belmonts
6. "It's a Lovers Question" by Clyde McPhatter
7. "Where the Boys Are" by Connie Francis
8. "Tragedy" by The Fleetwoods
9. "Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream)" by Crew-Cuts
10. "Only You" by The Platters
11. "My Special Angel" by Bobby Helms
12. "Come and Go With Me" by Dell Vikings
13. "It's All in the Game" by Tommy Edwards
14. "26 Miles" by The Four Preps
15. "Peggy Sue" by Buddy Holly

My family has a running joke that I can't listen to track #2, "Old Rivers," without crying. And they're right! I attribute my lifelong sappiness to the fact that this song played on repeat so frequently during my formative years.

I created a streaming list here to cycle through the entire 'mix tape,' or you can play it below. It is truly one of a kind, and the nostalgia factor is so off the charts, it simply must be shared.

{cassette art via Mollie Bryan} {playlist by Charles Johnstone}

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

AFI Top 100: #91 "Sophie's Choice"

Kline, Streep, & MacNicol in Sophie's Choice (1982)

Talk about a movie with a reputation. For the #91 selection on AFI's Top 100 list, there was a lot of hesitation from my group of friends about sitting down for an evening of Sophie's Choice. Even I, having seen it many years ago, pressed play with a bit of a sigh, readying myself for a very emotional ride.

I'm going to say first and foremost that the reputation surrounding the movie, citing it as one of the saddest films of all time, is completely unjustified. It certainly is emotional, with elements of undeniable tragedy. But none of it is unbearable. In fact, I believe that pigeonhole has kept many audiences in this generation from discovering this romantic and beautiful movie.

Sophie's Choice is told from the perspective of our honest and naive narrator, Stingo (Peter MacNicol), a transplant from the cordial South trying to struggle his way into becoming a great writer in Brooklyn. The year is 1947, and he finds himself renting a room at a Jewish boarding housethis is where he meets lovers Nathan (Kevin Kline) and Sophie (Meryl Streep). Their romance is heated, passionate, and volatile, and Stingo becomes entangled in a love and friendship for both of them.

The film is, essentially, two different stories. The present, which follows our threesome in the ups and downs of Nathan's love for Sophie and Stingo's youthful and simple perspective of that love; and the past—specifically, the secrets of Sophie's internment during the Holocaust at Auschwitz. Both Sophie and Nathan have built their lives on lies and a deep-seeded sadness, which contributes to the star-crossed power of their romance.

I could spend this entire review talking about the dynamics between these three characters. But I risk spoiling what truly makes this film great. The screenplay and the actors who speak these words are simply brilliant (no hyperbole). The characters are multifaceted and complicated, and they speak poetically about one another, building on top of the ever-present melodrama. It's impossible not to be transfixed.

Streep won her second Academy Award for playing Sophie (the Polish accent, along with the fluent Polish and German, didn't hurt), and it shocks me that her fellow actors weren't even nominated. Kevin Kline is insane perfection as Nathan, and his chemistry with Sophie is so intoxicating, you have no trouble understanding how she and Stingo can be so enamored with him and forget how horribly he treats them both. Vice versa, it's just as easy to understand the allure of the mystery that is Sophie.

By subtly incorporating the universal theme of suffering, and focusing on the Holocaust atrocities committed not only against Jews, but the Polish people, we are left with a character so tragically damaged and justifiably tormented by the choices she's made.

The film is based on the 1979 book of the same name by William Styron, and the pacing of the script indicates that they really fought to include as much from the novel as possible. This creates a fragmenting that hurts the film, contributing to the idea that it is trying to watch. At times, it's slow, taking a long time to "get to the point," and because the reveals are so intricate and weighty, the build up is laborious.

I go back and forth between looking at this as a problem. The impact of the film's finale is undeniable, and even with the consistent [melo]drama, the entire movie is very sexy with plenty of comedy. Does the heavy outweigh the light? Yes. Does it make it hard to watch? I don't think so. If anything, everyone should see Sophie's Choice to witness three incredible actors giving some of the best performances of their lives. For that reason alone, it deserves a slot on AFI's list.

Rating:  ★★★½ / 5 stars

[Watch the Trailer] | [Read More AFI Top 100 Reviews]

Check back next week for #90 on the list, Swing Time — or better yet, have your own viewing party and watch along with us!

Shades of White and Gray

This past Monday evening was spent with my best girlfriend, Shannon, lounging on the bright pinky-purple sleeper sofa in my office/guest room, catching up on episodes of "True Blood" and "The Killing". As I struggled to get comfortable, sprawling out to make full use of the chaise, I realized what was missing: pillows.

Lots and lots of fun, cozy, necessary pillows.

The couch is quite the color. Bright and unapologetic -- everything I could hope for in a sofa. So that got me thinking about incorporating some grays and whites for contrast. Today, I found a handful of fun pillows at Urban Outfitters that I think fit the bill, not to mention they would add a soft and plush texture. It's shocking how hard it is to find cute pillows on a budget! When did pillow covers become a thing only for the upper echelon?! If only I were better at estate and thrift shopping.

But that doesn't stop me from fantasizing of a couch gilded in pillows of gray and white.

{pictured: the rise and fall cat pillow, cable-knit pillowrounded pintuck pillow, waterfall ruffle pillow, texture diamond pillow via Urban Outfitters}

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Grab Those Boot Straps, Girl

I have the hardest time getting back up again after something small, but super-duper crappy happens. This morning I got into the tiniest fender-bender in the history of the world -- my fault, sadly. Too much on my mind, mixed with stop and go traffic... Mistakes were made.

Now my morning is in a funk. I'm not hurt (no one was, thankfully), but my sails have no more wind. My head is swimming at the thought of insurance rate hikes, back and forths with my agent, and all the ego-damage that goes with messing up.

What is it about that last one that makes us want to curl up in a ball and throw in the towel on our entire day (or week)? In the end, I can get over the marring of my driving record. I should be able to shake off the feeling that my day is ruined and not succumb to hanging my head and telling all my co-workers "Leave me alone, can't you see how bummed I am?"

As I type this, I'm trying to crawl out of that place. It doesn't do me or anyone else any good to wallow. Making people feel sorry for me and my (incredibly trivial) woes won't make it all go away.

I don't have a good strategy for letting things go. Some people do, and I admire them that. Me, I just want to overcome this downer like a dog shaking off water. Writing about it might be the best way to do that.

Okay, Kim, that's enough. Grab those boot straps and snap out of it!

{photo via Emily J Jepson}

Monday, September 15, 2014

Music Mondays: 30 Seconds to Mars "Closer to the Edge"

I felt compelled to do a bit of a throwback Music Monday today, looking to just a few years ago: my favorite music video of 2010, "Closer to the Edge" by 30 Seconds to Mars. This song - and subsequently, the video - entered my life during a really emotional point for me personally. I listened to it over and over and over again, pretty much to the point where it transcended everything and brought me a lot of strength.

It's been a long time since I played that song out for myself (or "killed it" as I like to say) -- but this weekend, it found its way into my playlist rotation once again. Remembering how distant that time feels, and how foreign those feels feel -- yet the song brings everything up again. Not in a bad way, but in a powerful way. A lot has changed in four years.

The music video is also one of my favorites of all time. A bit loaded with unifying message, as Leto's band tends to do, but it is easily the best edited, 'live concert'/docu-footage video I've ever seen. Show me one that's better and you will be my new favorite person (and the Cubbins-directed video for the band's song "Do or Die" last year doesn't count, since it's essentially a sequel to "Closer").

So today, I share "Closer to the Edge" from the brilliant This Is War album. Both song and video hit the spot and light a spark of much-needed energy.

Artist: 30 Seconds to Mars
Song: "Closer to the Edge" | download stream
Album: This Is War
Directed By: Bartholomew Cubbins

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Happy Birthday Dad, from {one of} your little girls

Today, my father turns 59 years old.

He is the reason I first fell in love with Humphrey Bogart. He is the reason I sing my heart out to the Platters. He is the reason I eat all the popcorn in the bucket. He is the reason I follow politics, and the reason I'm a collector of the things I love. He is the reason I am independent, and the reason I followed my dreams to Los Angeles. He is the reason I am so many things.

I love you Dad. Drink a finger or two of Laguvulin today.

Happy Birthday ♥

{picture courtesy of my lovely mama, taken at the San Francisco Zoo, 1989}

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Project Cross Stitch: The Hair (part 2)

This is what happens when the boyfriend goes out of town for a week-long conference. Major cross stitching is accomplished while simultaneously catching up on weeks of "Daily Show" and "Colbert Report."

If possible, try to ignore the crop circle imprints. Remember last week, when I mentioned I was working on the hair? I know, I know, it didn't look much like hair then. Well what about now? You see what I was getting at? It's so flowing and purdy, and clear outlines of what will soon be very colorful paisley flowers can be seen, as well.

I'm oh-so desperately close to being able to pull out another color and add some flair to this sucker. The progress is moving upwards on the left side and it's becoming increasingly more difficult to plan the stitching path. As a novice, I don't really have a strategy, but I'm pretty comfortable wigging it at this point -- and am also sure that the back of the cross stitch isn't supposed to look like such a clusterf***, which is does (purposefully not pictured).

But all that matters is the front, am I right? I thought so.

Friday, September 12, 2014

a little surprise

Yesterday, I received a small package in my mailbox. A little gift to myself that I'd been eagerly anticipating. Back in July, I featured some wares & things from Unurth Ceramics, and it didn't take long for me to decide on the exact ceramic planter I wanted to have displayed in my home.

Dimpled with a light fresh, mint hue, I hastily made my purchase and waited desperately for it to arrive.

But...it took a little while to get here. Unbeknownst to me, the shop owner, Jenn, had just embarked on her honeymoon -- and wouldn't you know it, she was so apologetic when she returned for keeping one of her customers waiting on their order, she included a second planter as a surprise in the box! This one with a hint of pinky-blush. Now that's customer service!

The planters are more than I could have imagined them to be, and the quality is impeccable. I can't recommend Unurth enough, even if just because it's worth supporting local artists and their trades.

Now I know that my Saturday will be filled with succulent shopping and some at-home gardening. Have a lovely weekend, everyone. xx

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Evolution of a Coffee Drinker

I've been daydreaming about coffee. Probably night-dreaming, too.

For 21 days, I'm tweaking my diet to get a bit of a metabolism boost, and maybe lose the couple of pounds I've put on since moving in with the boyfriend. (I was told it would happen, but I didn't expect it to happen so quickly!)

Anyways, on this short but strict diet plan (specifically, the 21 Day Challenge by My Fit Foods, which has a store located a block from my day job), it's 3 meals and 2 snacks per day... and no coffee. At least, not the way I like it (2 Sweet & Lows, light blop of French Vanilla creamer). Black coffee would certainly be allowed, if I could stomach that. Which I can't.

Drooling at the thought of my own coffee concoction in only 14 days time (I'm a week into the challenge, and boy, do I miss it more than anything else), I can't help but remember how my taste for coffee has evolved .

I found coffee pretty late, beginning to drink it at age 24, well after the all-nighters of my college years. I wonder now how I ever made it through. I gave it a chance, mainly because I was sick of going to coffee shops with friends and having no idea what to order. The issue was, I hated everything about the taste; blegh, so bitter -- so to mask it, I would only drink it cold-brewed (less acidity) with a large drizzle of Agave syrup and a metric ton of whipped cream. You know... super sweet.

This then evolved to, essentially, adding a bit of coffee to my milk. Mochas with sweetener turned to mochas without, which then led to lattes with sugar, and then... well, you get the idea.

It makes me think that I'm just on an ever-evolving path to drinking coffee in its natural, black state. Does losing a taste for the sweet of it all happen to everyone eventually?

How do you take your coffee? Have you been drinking it the same way for 10 years? Or does it change all the time?

{images via What Should I Eat for Breakfast Today?}

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

AFI Top 100: #92 "Goodfellas"

Joe Pesci & Ray Liotta in Goodfellas (1990)

It doesn't surprise me that our screening of the #92 on the AFI Top 100 list, Goodfellas, had a pretty full house. The Martin Scorsese-directed gangster flick is easily the filmmaker's best film from the '90s, and arguably one of the best of his career (though I'm a huge Departed fan, myself, and don't subscribe to the idea that Scorsese 'lost his touch' after Goodfellas, but I digress.)

A small anecdote before I begin this review: I saw Goodfellas only once back in the day, back when DVDs couldn't hold much data, and this 145 minute movie needed to be put on both sides of the disc. I popped that baby in and dismissed how perplexed I was by what was going on ("it's probably just edited all out of order?") until the credits rolled less than an hour later. I'd watched Side B before Side A. *head slap* I embarrassingly turned the disc over and watched the beginning, going "Oh, I get it..." every 5 minutes. Needless to say, the ending made a lot more sense.

The point is that I was long overdue for a refresh on this filmand this time, viewing it in the right order. I still liked the movie immensely back then, and thought it was astounding how well the story was constructed, holding up even taking into consideration my faux pas.

The story is simple, and the plot is loose. Based on the true story of Henry Hill (played brilliantly by Ray Liotta) and his involvement over three decades in the Lucchese crime familymore specifically, the crew within the family run by "Paulie" Cicero (Paul Sorvino). The film begins with Hill and his associates placing a 'hit' on an unknown man, with no context other than Hill's famous line that caps off the scene: "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster."

And that's the movie. The tale of how teen Henry grew into adult Henry, becoming an influential associate in the mob family along the way. The true story is complicated and intricate, including so many moving parts and individuals, and covering such an expanse of time.

Scorsese manages to wrangle all these details into a focused film, while still giving every character their due time on screen. The narration by Liotta's Henry Hill is the bones of the movie, and it keeps everything from falling apart. It's likely the most dynamic and purposeful film narration I've ever seen, and it's never used as an obvious crutch or coping mechanism for the screenplay or editing.

Instead, the screenplay is lean and quick, the editing is spot on (of course, it's Thelma Schoonmaker) and even the music plays a significant role, all-encompassing for each decade that passes. The actors are also in their finest form. This is particularly true of Joe Pesci (who plays the insane and wise-cracking hit-man, Tommy DeVito) and Lorraine Bracco as Hill's long-suffering but dedicated wife, Karen. Pesci is ludicrous and violent, which makes him simultaneously unpredictable, terrifying, and hilarious.

Bracco is probably the most relatable character (she even takes over the narration on a few occasions), because it's easy to see through her eyes how one could get sucked into the glamour and excitement of mob life, even when it gets really, really bad. In fact, being a gangster in the 50's and 60's seemed undeniably fantastic according to Goodfellasand as long as you could keep drugs out of the picture come the 70's and 80's, it probably would have continued to be worth itas long as you stayed in line, of course.

That's the incredible thing the movie does. These people do horrible, despicable things. They murder and cheat and lie and steal, yet the life of luxury and excess they live is clearly a draw, even for an audience that knows better. There are themes here that pop up in Scorsese's most recent film, The Wolf of Wall Street, that have the same impact. The characters are awful. But I totally understand why.

If I could describe Goodfellas in just three words, it would be "organized, maniacal cackling." Because that's how it handles the unapologetic violence that litters the film. The audience can stomach the endless stream of beatings and 'hits' and shootings, because when the characters are laughing like lunatics (as they do every time they're together in response to the insanity surrounding them), it cuts the edge of the scene and makes us laugh, too. Even if just in disgust.

I find this movie far more entertaining than the other Scorsese pictures on the AFI Top 100, Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, which sit happily at #4 and #52, respectively. It wouldn't surprise me to see Goodfellas make a considerable jump on the 20th anniversary list in 2017. However, I also believe that it isn't for everyone, nor is it written to be appreciated by the massesunlikable protagonists will do that. But being the Scorsese fan that I am, I can't ignore its brilliance, and nor should you.

Rating:  ★★★ / 5 stars

[Watch the Trailer] | [Read More AFI Top 100 Reviews]

Check back next week for #91 on the list, Sophie's Choice.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wares & Things: Light and Ladder

hanging ceramic planters | Light and Ladder

I don't know how many of you live with cats. But if you do, you'll certainly empathize with the dangers of placing potted plants on tables or counters. If the plants don't get eaten (that's our kitty, Hobbes' thing), it's only a matter of time before the pot gets scoot scoot scooted right off the edge of the bookshelf (Bartleby's M.O.)

So when I saw something about home accessories & design company Light and Ladder (via Elephantine) and their use of air plants and succulents in hanging wall planters, I immediately perked up. Handmade ceramics and metal, with organic leather or rope detailing, add a completely different look to a bare white wall. (I actually can't stop imaging the bright white planters against a vibrant burnt orange or turquoise accent wall -- mmm... like a Moroccan oasis.)

Owner and designer Farrah Sit is based in Brooklyn, and her studio has grown to include works by other local craftspeople. I may have spent all morning looking at her Etsy shop and eyeing that hive planter (pictured on the top-right). She also designs other home wares and one-of-a-kind exhibit pieces that are unbelievable (don't even get me started on her forged silver flatware!)

Given our cats' proclivities for destroying houseplants, these ceramic planters seems like a brilliant solution to keep the surfaces clear -- and add some unique decor to a bare wall or corner.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Joss Whedon x Gallery 1988

This past weekend, Gallery 1988 West opened their Joss Whedon-centric art show, the first exclusively "Joss"-themed event the Gallery has ever put on. All the work was inspired by Whedon's most famous movie and TV creations, including my favorite show of all time, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

After deciding to forego the opening night reception on Friday night, John and I hit the gallery up as they opened their doors Saturday morning. I knew that I would probably walk away with a print or two, and thankfully, we didn't wait until the weekend was over to go, since almost everything sold out by the end of the day Sunday (check their website for a full listing of the art showcased, and what is still for sale - it's worth a look!)

The small space had an array of pieces, many focusing on TV show "Firefly" and the 2012 film Cabin in the Woods (the Sugarplum Fairy was easily the most represented subject, with at least 6 different artist renderings.) The largest piece was a very spoiler-ific installation for Cabin, which included a mural on the actual gallery wall. John probably spent 30 minutes staring at just that.

There were also a handful of amazing "Buffy" paintings and mixed media works -- if I could have purchased all of them, I would have.

My only disappointment with the gallery show was that Joss' short-lived, but brilliant, TV show "Dollhouse" wasn't showcased at all (with the exception of one, partially related piece). How is that possible? I don't know, I just don't get it. Maybe these artist's just aren't as inspired by that show as I was. Too bad, but I can't lament for long.

Below are just a few of the pictures I took of the show. But if you're in the LA area, best go check it out for yourselves! The show is running now through September 27th.

If you're interested, you should check out the above [quick] video from Friday's opening night reception, where Joss HIMSELF showed up, as well as actor Seth Green (Oz!), and spoke with the gallery's owner.

And which ones did I end up walking away with? Two "Buffy" gems, of course. How could I resist the stunning Willow/Dark Willow piece, aptly titled "Bored Now" by Nan Lawson? (and check out her website, she's incredible.)

And don't get my started on the 'Fumigation Party' concert poster feat. Dingoes Ate My Baby, "Live at the Bronze" by Meagan Hyland. Fumigation Party for the win.

Lovely future additions to my wall, and I managed to snag both before they sold out!

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