Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloweens Past

A little throwback Halloween Friday from a cheeky little rabbit. A young costumed me circa 1989.

Have a safe Halloween and a wonderful weekend, all! xx

A Horror Movie Fix for the Curious Scaredy-cat

Psycho set, 1960 © Universal

Happy Halloween, everyone!

One undeniable truth about me is that I'm a big scaredy-cat. I don't love horror movies, though I've seen my fill of classics over the years. Hitchcock, '30s monster movies, the occasional psychological thriller, and anything by Del Toro... I have my limits, and thankfully, after many horrible choices (don't let your friends convince you to watch The Devil's Rejects when you know in your gut it's just not for you), I've learned what those limits are.

But as a lover of cinema... I've had a hard time disregarding an entire genre just because I'm such a wuss. Turns out, I'm actually more curious than I am scared; I want to know about all these movies that other people seem to love or devour with frightened delight--and when I was in college, I found something that made that possible.

Obviously, lists and countdowns are my jam. In 2004, the Bravo network aired a countdown called the 100 Scariest Movie Moments--and I have watched this three and a half hour fright-fest every year for the past 10 years in the days leading up to Halloween.

Since it's a free cable network, they can only show you so much--but it's just enough to give me the taste of fear, and the education on the world of horror that my scaredy-cat self would normally miss and dismiss. Many of the "talking heads" they get to give comedy and commentary are luminaries of horror, and more than anything, they make it entertaining and thrilling. While a lot of it still makes my stomach churn (I just walk away when they talk about the original The Last House on the Left), I have to admit: I love watching it.

And thanks to the world of the internet, every segment has been broken out into 100 short videos on YouTube. Watching it is my own personal tradition, and for anyone like me who hates horror movies but feels that tinge of curiosity... this epic countdown might just be for you.

Even if you're in the opposite camp and love horror films, seeing what Bravo considered (in the olden days of 2004) to be scariest movie moments is pretty interesting. Enjoy! And have a great Halloween!

Click below to watch a playlist of the entire countdown, courtesy of ThatHorrorMovieGuy:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Everything's Coming Up Jalapeños

It may be Fall, but our little balcony garden is about to overrun with spicy, (hopefully) delicious mammoth jalapeños! Just three weeks after I shared my delight on Instagram about our first budding pepper, the plant has grown 4x larger and is producing a half-dozen more! I snapped a few quick pictures, because I can't contain my excitement about this.

I've never been the best at keeping plants alive. Succulents, maybe, but this is my first attempt at growing a vegetable plant—especially one in such a small container. We recently had to move it to a larger pot, because the first one we put it in was beginning to topple over under the weight of the growing jalapeños. The last thing we wanted was for the plant to fall over onto the ground, or have the peppers alone fall off and, inevitably, be devoured by our little Gretchen pups.

Neither John or I had any idea what the peppers would look like when they were actually starting to form. We kept looking at it every day, trying to figure out what stem might become a jalapeño. Once the plant started to flower, I got nervous when the petals would brown and then fall off. Maybe I wasn't caring for it properly?

Little did we know that the shedding of the petals would give way to little green nubs, so long as the stem stayed attached. So I did my best not to mess with any part of the plant (no poking or prodding), and voila! Pepper-y goodness!

John is waiting as patiently as he can for these guys to grow to their full size. He already has plenty of recipe ideas, which is good, because I have a sneaking suspicion all of these jalapeños will be ripe at the exact same time. Perhaps it's time to learn how to jar and pickle these veggies.

Do you have any jalapeño recipes you love? Other than using them on top of pretty much everything, I've never really cooked with them. Ideas would be welcome!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

AFI Top 100: #85 "A Night at the Opera"

Groucho, Chico, and Harpo Marx w/ cast in A Night at the Opera (1935)

I feel like I should preface this review by stating upfront that I am in no way a Marx Bros. aficionado. I watched their films as a child, but frankly, I remember them most (Harpo specifically) from that famous I Love Lucy episode. That being said, there are themes across their thirteen total films as a "comedy troupe" that I am just not familiar with. And that's okay!

The #85 spot on AFI's Top 100 list is filled by the 1935 Marx Bros. classic, A Night at the Opera. This isn't the only film of theirs on this list (Duck Soup comes in higher on the countdown at #60), but like Swing Time, it feels like a purposeful, debatably necessary, inclusion to represent this zany brand of 1930s comedy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wares & Things: Out of Print

Yesterday, I briefly mentioned a must-visit stop in Little Tokyo, The Hob Nob—an adorable shop with a slew of clothing, bags and jewelry from independent vendors.

What caught my eye (and really, the whole reason I walked into the store) was their display of literary t-shirts. These shirts are made by Out of Print, a clothing and accessories retailer that specializes in prints that showcase the covers of, you guessed it, out of print and original editions of classic novels. I went into the store and immediately tore through the rack, because every shirt was better than the next! I seriously wanted every single one!

The quality of the shirts is so soft, and their women's tees come in a variety of v-, crop, or scoop neck styles. The best part? For every item sold, Out of Print donates one book to a community in need through Books for Africa! How amazing is that?

Since I had to limit myself with the spending coming out of Hob Nob, I walked away with only one literary t-shirt score: A Clockwork Orange!

I'm wearing it as I type this, and so it's no surprise that the moment I got home, I did a search for more Out of Print shirts that I could put on my wish list. My favorite book of all time is Frankenstein, and considering Halloween is coming up, of course I was drawn to the "horror" novel covers, of which they had plenty!

(1) Dracula by Bram Stoker, (2) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, (3) The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, (4) A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

I love that you can search by title. Are any of your favorite books on there?

* Note: this post was not sponsored, just as none of my posts are sponsored. I simply love sharing fun wares (and wears) with all of you! :)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Food & Lib: Shabu Shabu House

It's been awhile since I've written a full Food & Lib post (save a couple of food trucks here and there), and I believe this one has been a long time coming.

Sunday morning, John & I met some friends for the unique dining experience at Shabu Shabu House in the center of Downtown's Little Tokyo. While there are many other Shabu places to be found in the Sawtelle or Sherman Oaks neighborhoods here in Los Angeles, this place is the real deal original. The owner, Yoshi Maruyama, has been welcoming patrons for nearly 20 years in this same location (the first in America, according to Serious Eats), and their formula (i.e. menu) hasn't changed much over that time, either.

Just a little background, for those that maybe aren't familiar with "shabu shabu" (I know I wasn't): shabu-shabu is basically thinly sliced beef cooked quickly in boiling water. Its name comes from the sound it makes swishing through the water, onomatopœia-style. It takes mere seconds to swoosh the meat through the water, rendering it medium rare, and then it's into the sauce (traditionally, ponzu or peanut or another variation), on into the rice and into your mouth.

The first time I sat down for shabu was my third date with John, early last year. The dinner crowd waiting outside was large and overwhelming, and I didn't feel any less overwhelmed sitting down at the busy counter of Shabu Shabu House, the servers piling bowls and plates in front of me with various foods piled high. So much pressure! I didn't even know where to begin!

A couple dining trips (and maybe a heads up on the first one) would serve any patron well. Here's the gist at this Shabu Shabu House, which doesn't pull any punches: the experience is very In, Eat, Pay, Out. This isn't because they're trying to rush you or move you through or interrupt your dining experience. There are just many people waiting to sit where you're sitting.

Our wait for seats on Sunday took just under an hour—and that's with arriving at 11:20 AM, ten minutes before they even open. Lunch hours are 11:30 AM - 2 PM; Dinner hours are 5:30 PM - 9:30 PM, Tues-Sun, and the same rules (for the most part) apply for both:

1. Arrive at least 45 min - 1 hour before you hope to eat
2. If "hope to eat" time is at either opening, arrive at least 30 minutes before opening
3. Sign your name on the sign-up sheet inside (sometimes it's outside on the bench)
4. Be patient; it's worth it

Ordering is probably easier here than at any restaurant in the world. You mark it on the sheet when you sign up, and you have two options: Medium (10 slices) or Large (15 slices)—also the option of extra lean or marbled, but just get the marbled. You'll be glad you did. You get the same rice, veggies/noodles/tofu, and sauces/toppings for both. Oh, and it's cash only, so have a couple twenties on hand.

It sounds like this is some hoity-toity place that makes its customers wait for a mediocre experience, but that's really not the case. The simplicity of Shabu Shabu House is what makes it so special. It's a small joint, with ~26 seats, and in no way fancy. The Prime USDA marbled beef is sliced right in the center of the room, surrounded by happily eating customers—and this meat is the good stuff, better than any other shabu place in Los Angeles (in my humble opinion).

More than anything, it's like a dance. Knowing the steps makes everything move more smoothly and heightens the experience that much more.

I'm sure many people would scoff at the wait time for a seat at this place, but coming from someone who doesn't usually enjoy waiting, it doesn't bother me one bit. The restaurant is located in the Japanese Village Plaza in Little Tokyo, which houses countless shops, restaurants, cafes, dessert counters, and markets. Jot your name down at Shabu Shabu, then take a stroll over to Cafe Dulce for a latte or pastry, or over to Mikawaya Mochi Ice Cream for the yummiest mango mochi bites, only a dollar apiece. And if you have the time (like I did on Sunday) drop into the adorable Hob Nob clothing boutique. But word of advice: do it before you stuff yourself at Shabu Shabu... because you undoubtedly will eat your fill before you've even realized it, and it'll be oh-so-satisfying.

Place:  Shabu Shabu House
Neighborhood:  Little Tokyo / Downtown
Food:  Yes
Full Bar:  No | Japanese beer only

Music Mondays: Robyn "Call Your Girlfriend" + Parody

Last night, I spent longer than I'd like to admit listening to Taylor Swift's new song, "Welcome to New York" on tireless repeat... I almost considered posting it for Music Monday. But only for a second. What I realized I liked so much about it was that it reminded me a bit of one of my favorite artists, Robyn. Except Robyn is a million times better (IMHO).

She has a dozen songs I'd be proud to post here today, but the one that popped into my head is one that I spent quite a bit of time laughing about recently. "Call Your Girlfriend" and its amazing video, which was parodied (i.e. paid homage to by a loving fan??) a few years back in a video posted by Taran Killam (behind the scenes of Saturday Night Live).

The original video is pretty memorable, and Robyn does this weird, addictive dance choreography (that she also does perfectly on stage, by the way)—it's no surprise that someone as hysterical as Taran would absolutely slay these dance moves! Probably my favorite thing about the above video is the side-by-side, which shows just how... good Taran actually is! He clearly loves the video, the dance, and Robyn. My second favorite thing is that he decided to do the dance in the smallest possible writers' room, surrounded by all of his [patient and helpful] cast members.

So take a break from listening to the new Taylor Swift album (I know it's addictive, okay!), and listen to the true genius that is Robyn. And have a laugh with Taran, too.

Artist: Robyn
Song: "Call Your Girlfriend" | download | stream
Album: Body Talk

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Project Cross Stitch: The Skin

I realize it's been two weeks since my last update on this project. The reason being... it was kind of hard to post a picture and really see a difference.

I began working on the face, which is a barely visible white. I predicted I could pound through it and move on to more vibrant colors in less than a week, but that turned out to not be the case. Thankfully, two weeks turned out to be enough time, and I'm happy to say she's feeling significantly more complete. The skin (the face and neck) was a large chunk of what I have left to do, and I knew I didn't want to wait until the end to tackle it.

I also managed to sneak a new color in there (some canary yellow), which is only a fraction done in this update.

A little note about finding mistakes: There were several stitches I came across while stitching the white that were... let's just say "f*cked up," for lack of a better phrase. Moments of panic and then denial and then acceptance would set in. How the hell am I going to undo all of this?!? I'd stammer. Nope, not gonna, nope, and then inevitably... Ugh, fine.

It's difficult to accept you made stupid mistakes, but alas, there is no doubt you will at some point in your project. You have two options: (1) set aside time to do a bit of back-tracking, undoing, and re-doing in order to make it picture perfect, or (2) embrace the mistake as an acceptable blemish on your work, leave it be, and move on.

For me, I'm finding that I can do both. Trying a new hobby means navigating that learning curve, yes, but it also means figuring out within yourself exactly what "end product" is acceptable to you. And I realize now, over these last few months of stitching that I am no perfectionist. In fact, I can get over mistakes pretty easily (once I stop berating myself for doing it in the first place), and embrace that final cross stitched picture may be a tad flawed.

When you can avoid getting discouraged, it certainly makes it easier to keep that hobby going strong.

Friday, October 24, 2014

"Transparent": The Best Show Not on Television

My friend Ross and I have a TV night every week. The shows change, frequently, but 'tis the season for some bone-chilling "American Horror Story." Because I'm a big scaredy-pants, Ross had the foresight to pair the FX show with something a bit more tender: "Transparent".

This show isn't airing on your TV sets. Rather, it's streaming its first full season now on Amazon Prime's Instant Video service. I was one of the skeptics who thought it adorable that Amazon would try to compete with the likes of streaming original programming giants like Netflix and Hulu; but consider me a wholehearted convert.

This is their first smash hit. At least... it will be. Once people hear about it.

"Transparent" is set in the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and tells the story of the Pfefferman family. The three offspring have all grown up and live drastically different, but equally self-absorbed, lives. Their divorced father, Mort (played by the wonder that is Jeffrey Tambor), has reached a time in his life where he wants to be honest with the world—and his family.

His truth is that he is really a "her"; specifically, Maura. "Transparent" follows his late-in-life trans journey, and focuses heavily on his children's acceptance and navigation of this reality. It also explores how much the world has changed in the last 20 years by taking the audience back in Mort's past.

I can't really even type about Jeffrey Tambor's Maura without tearing up. His sweetness, his nervous excitement, and his bravery are captivating. I might just be a little in love with Tambor, and Maura, as well. His three children are almost just as fascinating: Sarah (Amy Landecker), the unsatisfied housewife; Josh (Jay Duplass), the womanizing record producer with a heart of gold; and omg Ali (Gaby Hoffmann), the baby and self-sabotaging, unemployed mess.

The show is a comedy, first and foremost. It has so much heart, it makes me bust at the seams a little bit—but the humor is so rooted in truth, and feels so familiar, it resonates in a way I rarely get with television these days. The show's creator, Jill Soloway, constructs the most relatable stories, and has an understanding of people that is clearly evident in her characters. There isn't any melodrama or fantasy. It's painstakingly researched and the Pfefferman family is perfectly realized. The transgender experience (and LGBT one, at that) isn't something I've experienced first hand, but living in Los Angeles, it's certainly one I can connect with. The characters in the show are liberal and progressive people. It's a breath a fresh air to watch a show where the entire concept of "transgender" isn't a complete mystery—they don't need an explanation, and they certainly don't live in a state of denial, regardless of how accepting they are.

The show also navigates the city of Los Angeles and uses its neighborhoods the way that "Girls" utilizes New York.  Those living on the West Side are different than people living in Silverlake, and we all know how prime the real estate is in the Palisades. It uses city landmarks to ground its story, and as a resident, that makes me oddly giddy.

I love this show, and can't recommend it highly enough. Considering it just got picked up for a 2nd season, I suspect it's going to be the show that makes Amazon Prime the next must-have streaming service. Season 1 is available to stream in its entirety now. Go go go, you won't regret it.

If that doesn't sell it, how about this: Bradley Whitford in drag. Yeah, it sold me too.

{images © Amazon Studios}

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Only Tip You'll Ever Need to Purge Your Closet

I have a sneaking suspicion this may be one of the most popular topics out there in the blogosphere. Every blogger I read has something to say on the subject, and most of it is a variant on the same advice: separate into piles. maybe. yes. no. winter. etc. That's just a recipe for negotiating items back onto the rack.

This may work for some, but for me, there's is a much simpler approach that I've taken for years. It's the reason why many of my friends call on me to be the voice of reason as they tackle their own closets. When I go through my semi-annual closet purging, I ask myself one, and only one, question:

Would I rather do my laundry than wear this?

Putting it another way: Would I overcome laziness and wash that growing pile of dirty clothes over there in order to avoid this article of clothing being my very last option? Subtext: I'd rather wear anything other than this.

If the answer to this question is Yes, get rid of it. It's jarringly simple, and extraordinarily effective. The first time I did this 3 years ago, I purged more than half my closet. That's right: HALF.

We've all been there. Stood outside (or inside, if you're lucky!) our closets, frustrated, staring at the bevy of clothing on their hangers, grumbling that we have nothing to wear. But you do have clothes to wear. What you really mean is that what you have isn't worth wearing. You're over it; you just haven't quite accepted it yet.

Sure, there are other factors, like seasons and dress codes to account for... but the majority of our clothes can and should be worn or layered all year 'round. The ones that aren't, the ones we bypass for other outfits time and time again, those are the ones you purge. No bargaining, no trying it on one last time, only to be reminded why you always reach for the button up blouse instead of that. In many ways, this is a nearly foolproof, non-negotiable tactic.

I prefer to do this purging when I have a laundry bin full of dirty clothes. The clothes in the hamper have proved themselves at least partially worthy of being worn. So ignore them. Instead, grab that grouping of shirts you haven't touched in 6 months, ask yourself that one simple question, and put them one by one in the donate (or toss) pile without another thought.

Your closet will thank you for it.

What are your strategies for closet purging? Or is it one of your biggest hurdles every year?

{photo via jek-a-go-go}

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

AFI Top 100: #86 "Platoon"

Tom Berenger in Platoon (1986)

With traveling this past weekend, we didn't get around to watching the week's AFI Top 100 feature until last night. It didn't help that I sort of kept putting it off. The Oliver Stone-directed film, Platoon, comes in on the list at #86; appropriate, considering that's the same year it was released (and the year I was born). That timing coincidence is really the only thing that excited me about sitting down to screen this movie.

The Vietnam, anti-war film is semi-autobiographical for its director, who wrote the script more than a decade before about his own experiences as an enlisted man in combat. The story follows Private Chris Taylor (Martin Sheen Charlie Sheen) as he's dropped in the middle of the Vietnam jungle, the newest recruit to 2nd Platoon. He's green, and he's baby-faced, and no cares about him, because he hasn't earned that yet. He also volunteered for combat, unlike many of his drafted countrymen, so already, none of the men can relate to him.

The dynamics within the platoon take precedence over most of the goings-on with enemy Viet Cong combatants. The platoon is divided into different factions, all led by very competent, experienced, and jaded Sergeants (Barnes, Elias, and O'Brien)—and one not-so-qualified Lieutenant (Wolfe).

It quickly becomes clear to young Chris that the superior officers are playing a dangerous game, testing the loyalties of their men and navigating their morality in increasingly questionable ways. The film focuses on this in-fighting within the regiment, and how political agendas, resentments, and fear can tear a platoon apart.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Music Mondays: Angus & Julia Stone "A Heartbreak"

I write this from my Vegas vacation spot, just off the Strip. A low-key trip gives way to a low-key Music Monday. This song, "A Heartbreak" by Angus & Julia Stone, has a strangely appropriate desert-love vibe, which couldn't be more fitting for this Nevada locale.

Short and simple, with a pulsing thump of the drums. Taken from the Australian brother-sister duo's self-titled LP, released this past August, "A Heartbreak" is unexpectedly catchy. I didn't think I'd remember the song 5 minutes after hearing it, but found myself humming and murmuring its lyrics the entire day. It's about time we featured some good old bluesy-folk on this here blog.

I return from this much-needed, long weekend getaway tomorrow with more blogging goodies to share. Have a happy Monday!

Artist: Angus & Julia Stone
Song: "A Heartbreak" | download | stream
Album: Angus & Julia Stone

Friday, October 17, 2014

Let's Drive to the Desert, the Heat Will Bring Us Life

Today, John and I head east through the desert to spend an extra-long weekend in expansive Las Vegas. No, not that Vegas. We won't be gambling on the Strip (much) or taking in a show (probably)—the jaunt is to escape Los Angeles for a little while and take a long-awaited vacation just off-Strip. That means no work; which probably won't be difficult, since our condo doesn't have internet.

I'm also going to try to abstain from blogging too much while there—though hopefully, a visit to the Red Rocks or to one of my favorite coffee places will inspire some posts on these reels in the coming weeks.

I look forward to the stretch of open highway, the required stops in Baker and "Fake Vegas" (as John calls it), but mostly, I'm thankful for being able to take a few days to rejuvenate my mind and body.

Have a lovely weekend, all. xx

{photo via Flavio}

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Cleveland Christmas

It feels odd to be talking about this already, considering Halloween is only just upon us; but as the months tick down, I realize it's becoming crucial to start planning for all those holiday travels.

Me? I'll be spending my Christmas vacation in the lovely metropolis of Cleveland, OH. It might sound like I'm saying this in a less than enthusiastic tone. Truth is, I'm pretty ecstatic about visiting Cleveland—it's my boyfriend's hometown and a place I've never been! I am, however, less than enthused about the travel bit of it.

I've never had a problem with flying. I actually really like it. But it's been many, many years since I was one of the millions of masses boarding a plane to visit extended family at the holidays. My travels always included me, my pets, and a pile of dirty laundry, all packed into my comfy [private] car on the drive from LA to San Francisco. Easy-peasy.

Not this year. This year, I'll be having a much colder Christmas. And I have been warned that my California blood can't possibly prepare for the chill coming off of Lake Eerie that time of year. Oh, and don't even get me started on forking over $700+ for a round-trip plane ticket... my mouse is hovering over that "purchase" button this very moment. It's a click that'll sting a bit.

Okay. I might have some hesitations. So tell me friends: aside from visiting the Christmas Story House Museum—what is there that I shouldn't miss while in the lovely city of Cleveland? My itinerary planning starts... now.

{picture © Turner Entertainment Co.}

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

AFI Top 100: #87 "12 Angry Men"

The Jurors of 12 Angry Men (1957)

Admittedly, last week was a rough one. I was momentarily tempted to skip right over it, straight to this week's film: #87 on the AFI Top 100, 12 Angry Men. One of my favorites on the list so far, I'd been gifted the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray for Christmas from my brother-in-law. Knowing I was going to eventually launch this "AFI club," I held off on watching it by myself. It's inaugural viewing should be in front of the largest group I could gather.

12 Angry Men, directed by Sidney Lumet, is a remarkable ensemble piece. Originally, this story was a 1954 television play, adapted slightly for the stage in 1955, and then for the big screen (not to mention, scoring significantly more A-list actors). Sometimes seen today with the title 12 Angry Jurors, in order to incorporate female talent, it is a story that has remained a popular tale for half a century.

The plot could not be simpler: twelve jurors in a seemingly "open and shut" first degree murder trial are sent to deliberate until a verdict can be reached. It must be unanimous, because the defendant will automatically receive the death penalty given a guilty verdict, and one doubtful juror stands in the way of all the others getting on with their lives.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Outline of a Tattooed Lady

This past weekend feels like kismet. On Friday, I was at work in Los Angeles, and by Saturday at lunch, I was sitting down for an exhilarating tattoo session in the suburbs of San Francisco. It was a blur.

Two weeks ago, my sister shot me a message, instructing me to check out this tattoo artist, Marie Scherping. I spent hours scouring her Instagram... her original drawings, her line work, the coloring—I was floored. Immediately, I sent her a rambling email with all my dream specs, and was resigned to not hearing back for months. By the next morning, I woke up not only to a response, but to an initial sketch!

A week later, I made my appointment with her shop in Castro Valley, CA (my hometown!), Fura Body Works. I was accompanied by Stacy and my mom (who was adorably fascinated by the whole process—"It's so sanitary!" she whispered.) Stacy photographed everything, from start to finish. Now, two weeks after reaching out for a consultation, I'm typing this update, happily distracted my the new ink on my arm.

I'm grateful for Marie's professionalism and expertise in helping create this art with me. I can't recommend her enough as an artist and tattooer, and I'm proud to have had a lovely woman like her design and gift me with something that I'll carry forever.

It's only been three days, and I'm already hearing what I'm sure I'll hear for the rest of my life: "Who is she?" The answer is, she doesn't represent any one person; she just embodies what I love: 1940s glamour and women with a soft, but sexy, presence. The bedroom eyes are also a personal favorite. Partially inspired by the late Lauren Bacall, she is honestly my vision of the perfect woman.

Here are some pictures from my session, getting the full black outline. Color and shading session is scheduled for next month, so I'm going to enjoy it like this while it lasts.

{design & tattoo by Marie Scherping @ Fura Body Works; top and bottom images property of Through the Reels; other images courtesy of The Sleepy Peach}

Monday, October 13, 2014

Project Cross Stitch: Red & Teal

Now that this cross stitch is moving away from showcasing any one section, but rather highlighting with new and vibrant colors, I'm trying to complete (at least) two of the 48 remaining colors per week.

This week: Red and Teal.

These two colors are significant stand-outs in the final cross stitch, so I was immediately drawn to them. It's so lovely seeing a spattering of color in there—the little filigrees in her hair are taking shape. It's daunting to think about the expanse of browns that will work their way into the hair down the line... I may have to put those off for the time being. Maybe a bit too boring right now? The blues and yellows and reds are just more fun!

Though you might be able to see that I started working on her face this weekend (which is, of course, a barely visible white), filled in only above the eye so far. The white consists of a large number of stitches, and may take a full week (or two) to complete. But I hope to power through it quickly, even though my sewing arm is a bit sore these days (more on that tomorrow!)

Even though filling in the color is bringing to light some previous mistakes (like the 30+ black stitches I had to take out and redo because they were off by one row), it's teaching me to suck it up, get over my annoyance at myself—then work my hardest to fix them.

Thanks for checking in on this humble weekly update!

Music Mondays: Lady Gaga "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)"

During my recent speed drive up north, I got through the 9 hours total of driving by blasting music and singing my heart out. Don't we all? The primary song on my road trip playlist was Lady Gaga's rendition of the Nancy Sinatra classic, "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)."

The song is featured as a bonus track on Gaga's new jazz duets album with legend Tony Bennett, Cheek to Cheek, and while every song on the album is worth a listen, this one packs a punch. Gaga takes the stage alone, and the build of the song gives me chills. The original song is so iconic, Gaga's powerful singing chops serve only to enhance it.

The vinyl version of this record is being released tomorrow, October 14th, and according to Gaga and Bennet, vinyl is the way it needs to be heard (adding to my shopping cart now!)

I've always been a fan of Gaga's stripped down music, because god, can this girl sing. Tony Bennett, of course, just sets the standard, and his working relationship with Lady Gaga is one of a kind.

So check out the "Bang Bang" live performance above, recorded for an upcoming "Great Perfomances" PBS special, Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek To Cheek LIVE!, airing October 24th @ 9 PM. If you only know Gaga from her "Poker Face" and "Bad Romance" singles, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you see here.

Artist: Lady Gaga
Song: "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" | stream
Album: Cheek to Cheek

Friday, October 10, 2014

Paint Me a Lady

Lately, one thing that has been endlessly on my mind is tattoos. Beautiful and fine-lined.

I got my first one back in winter 2011. It's small, just black lines on my left wrist, that form my sister's name: Stacy (she has my name on her right wrist, fyi—go twins!)

Since then, I've been obsessing over what my next piece would be: the bust of a classic, 40's-style woman; flowing hair, colorful flowers, and a sultry, bedroom-eye gaze. I could see it so clearly... yet still had no idea what she would really look like.

I love classic pin-up tattoos, and always wanted my own take on one. There is something so stunning about a lady in full glam, and considering my vision, I knew I couldn't just walk into any parlor, pick any artist, and sit down in their chair expecting perfection. It's taken almost 3 years, but my wait is finally over. With the help of my sister, I found an artist that speaks to everything I could have ever imagined, and then some.

This weekend, I make a quick trek back up north to the Bay, where I will finally—finally—make my vision a reality.

For a second tattoo, I'm nervous about how big it will be. But I have no hesitation. In fact, I can't barely contain myself! Next week, I hope to share with you more details about the who, what, and where of it all. Until then, wish me luck!

Have a wonderful weekend, all! xx

{vintage image of 50's tattoo enthusiast, Pam Nash, adding to her extensive body art - via The Daily Mail}

Dogtown Dogs

Another day, another food truck! It's been over a month since I wrote any LA food-related posts. Mostly because I was stuck on a pretty intense and strict diet (I'd complain about how I'd been separated from all my favorite things, but I lost 9 lbs, so I really can't say anything bad about it! More on that later...)

However, now that the diet is over, I don't have to escape the building when the varying Wednesday food trucks arrive at my place of business. A this week, it was Dogtown Dogs who graced our lot!

I've had this truck before. It has a frequent presence at all the Los Angeles outdoor movie events (Eat|See|Hear, Street Food Cinema, you name it!) Considering my love of all things hot dog, it's not a surprise to anyone that even with an endless array of gourmet foodie truck options in LA... I always gravitate towards the dog.

Just like every other time, when the truck arrived in our West Hollywood lot this past Wednesday, I didn't resist it's pull. Every dog on the menu is unique in flavor—and presentation.

Their formula is simple: All beef dogs with fresh, local ingredients (some wrapped in bacon!), and a sprinkling of their signature tots for good measure. [You can also purchase a variety of tots on the side, but trying to be good in my post-diet choices, I opted for dog-only.]

I dare you to look at the Dogtown menu and not immediately begin to salivate. Every dog is like a salty, edible work of art. This time around, I chose my favorite of the bunch: the Spicy Angeleno (pictured below-top; $6-). This is Dogtown's take on the infamous L.A. Street Dog. Bacon-wrapped with spicy pico de gallo, it's the salted fried slices of jalapeño that set this dog apart from it's street dog roots. Highly recommend this as a first pick if you happen upon the truck.

Most of my workmates, however, chose a different dog from the menu: the California Dog (pictured above-bottom; $6-). This is quintessential California; like a salad on a bun. Arugula, basil aoili, vinaigrette, avocado and bell peppers, it only departs from the healthy and fresh fare with the crunchy toppings: fried onion strings and, of course, a couple tots. This has a very opposite taste compared to the Spicy Angeleno. Since it's not bacon wrapped, it's incredibly light—which makes it particularly guilt-free!

I still haven't tasted all the dogs that Dogtown makes. Their signature dog, aptly named the Dogtown Dog (not pictured; $5-), might be their most unique; which makes it not for everyone. I had this one earlier this summer at a Street Food Cinema screening of Ghostbusters, and while it was a perfectly constructed dog, the flavors weren't for me. I've learned over the years that fennel doesn't agree with my palette, so combined with gourmet whole grain dijon mustard (which I normally love), it has a very powerful kick.

If you love fennel straws and mustard, I can't recommend the truck's namesake dog enough. It would be unlike any dog you've ever had, that's for sure! But for me, I plan to stick to the Angeleno or maybe try the Morning Commute next!

Follow the Dogtown Dogs truck on Twitter for updates on where they'll be around the city on a daily basis. If you're in Los Angeles, you won't regret hitting them up.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Novel Opening

Several years ago, my sister, Stacy, started a Twitter account to honor her love of books. The concept was simple: Share the first lines from novels in 140 characters or less. That was the beginning of A Novel Opening.

I latched onto the idea, because I found that just by reading the opening lines from these known (and unknown) books, it got me itching to pick them up and devour their contents. I adore reading, but I don't do it as much as I'd like. A full stack marked "to read" sits at my bedside, and the list keeps growing, but fewer and fewer are getting checked off.

While its been 2 years since my sis began work on the Twitter account, the busyness of life took her away from it. But now she's back (with a little help from me)! Posting a new opening every day, and it's truly getting my literary juices flowing.

This post is to serve as an advertisement for A Novel Opening; an attempt to reach out to all you book lovers out there. Follow, read, and enjoy!

A few of my favorite openings posted so far:

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. — THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD

✪ Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl.LITTLE BEE

✪ There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. — HOLES

✪ The moment one learns English, complications set in.CHROMOS

✪ There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. — THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER

Do you have any favorite books with opening lines you've never forgotten? Feel free to share with us; our collection of hundreds of first lines is growing every day!

{image via Jeremy Nelson}

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

AFI Top 100: #88 "Bringing Up Baby"

Cary Grant & Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby (1938)

There was a lot of conversation about this film leading up to our screening Sunday. Sadly, many people were unable to attend who wanted to, which is a shame. At #88 on the AFI Top 100 list, Bringing Up Baby may be the most highly contested—at least by me—and I thought it would benefit the movie to have more stalwart supporters in attendance, even if merely to defend it.

Why does it need to be defended? you might ask. Isn't it one of the funniest movies of all time? Some would say 'yes.' It features Cary Grant's renowned comedic timing, and the lovely Katharine Hepburn playing against type to stretch her comedy muscles. The first film to be designated a "screwball comedy" by director Howard Hawks (you know, because everyone is so 'screwy'), it appears on the surface to be a recipe for success.

Every time I see this movie, I try to give it a fair shake. I really, really do. I want so badly to see what everyone else sees, because they all seem to be having a lot more fun. But alas, it's just not to be. A quick recounting of the plot before I get into the whys and hows of its failures.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Project Cross Stitch: The Crown

There were plenty of late nights this past week/weekend, and I spent quite a bit of that time trying to keep my promise from last week to make sure some color found its way into this cross stitch.

On Friday night, I completed the full black outline, which consists of easily 8x more stitches than even the next most used color (which happens to be white). I immediately snagged a few pictures (see below), because I knew that by adding color, it would change the entire piece. Like a tattoo, there's a beauty to the basic black/gray outlines, and part of me felt the merest satisfaction that she was "done," as is. No color needed.

But of course, that just wouldn't suffice. I'm in this for the long haul, and for my first color, I knew it had to be the one that offered the most contrast. And this bright, ruby red, certainly does that! There will be more red spattered throughout the hair and the decorative rose. My plan is to tackle one color at a time—rather than trying to complete a specific area. It all should move a lot more quickly now, since counting stitches won't be as time consuming, or for that matter, risky. It's amazing the extreme delays being off by one stitch can create.

How about you? Are you working on any of your own projects? Are they coming along the way you'd like? I'd love to know!

Black/Blue Outline Completed:

Music Mondays: Betty Who "Somebody Loves You"

Good morning! While I may be a bit laid up at home right now (feeling under the weather), I still felt like today warranted an upbeat tune. "Somebody Loves" by Betty Who is just that. The Australian artist's debut album Take Me When You Go comes out tomorrow, and she is a delightful hybrid of Katy Perry and Robyn, which is everything I could hope for in a pop star.

Her 50's style and 80's dance beats make the music that much better, and I'm eager to hear the entire record. Hope you enjoy this track as much as I do!

Artist: Betty Who
Song: "Up We Go" | download stream
Album: Take Me When You Go

Friday, October 3, 2014

"You are still the bread and the knife"

What do you have planned for this weekend? Part of me wants to laze about and do nothing (read: cross stitch), but that may not be in the cards this time. The boyfriend has planned a special [surprise] outing all day for us tomorrow, and I'm eager to see what he's cooked up—I have a sneaking suspicion it may actually involve cooking. Likely because not 5 minutes ago, he insisted on going "alone" to the grocery store. So sneaky, so adorable.

That may prompt me to push for a lazy Sunday. Maybe finding our way to another warm, sunny beach, with just a blanket and a book.

Have a beautiful weekend, all! xx

{image via Charlotte Bland}

Wares & Things: Confetti Riot

Look at these lovely hand stamped tea towels from Confetti Riot (found via The Dainty Squid).

My sister has a theory that there is one thing you can't have too many of: tea towels. More specifically, in the kitchen, ready and available wherever you turn. And the difference between tea towels and dish towels, in this day and age, is negligible. Sure, tea towels may not be as absorbent, but they're certainly more beautiful and delicate—all while taking up less space in the towel drawer.

These, in particular, have the most adorable block stamped patterns. The artist and maker, Kathryn, puts them on everything, from the tea towels to pillows to pursues. Her shop is based in Oklahoma, and I'm kinda sorta loving her Instagram right now.

Considering the state of my current dingy dish towels, it might be time for an upgrade. Which pattern is your favorite? I can't decide between the cactus or the rising sun!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

AFI Top 100: #89 "The Sixth Sense"

Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense (1999)

This past Sunday, even with all the travel and the back and forth, John and I still managed to sit down to continue our AFI Top 100 marathon. This time, it was just the two of us. Date night! What better way to snuggle up with your BF than to pop in a scaaaaary movie? The Sixth Sense comes in at #89 on our list (we made it into a new set of tens! woohoo!), and while it has the distinction of being one of only a few horror movies on the list, it's also one of the newest films to be included in the 2007 10th anniversary edition.

Now, I shouldn't have to say this... but this post will contain spoilers. Hence the jump on the main page for anyone—anyone—who doesn't know or want to know the secrets this movie holds. Are there still people out there who don't know how The Sixth Sense ends? I have to believe there has to be, even though it likely means you've been living underground since the turn of the century.

The Sixth Sense is the mainstream directorial debut for M. Night Shyamalan, and it tells the story of Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), a successful child psychologist trying to make up for mistakes that he made decades ago with a patient that he quote-unquote failed. Following a violent attack by that child-patient-turned-troubled-adult, he dives head first into an eerily similar case, this time with a nine-year-old boy named Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment). Cole is odd, introverted, and prone to violent outbursts. He lives alone with his single mother, Lynn (Toni Collette!!!), and keeps secrets from everyone around him.
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