Saturday, August 29, 2009

Here I Go Again

Shanghai, here I come. Because I live in the Deep South, I'm leaving before dawn cracks (2:30 a.m.) to catch the first leg of my flight in cajun country. From there to O'Hare and finally the city on the sea somewhere around a day later. My luggage is definitely overweight. Here's hoping I can avoid getting charged--there's no way I can sacrifice my new rain boots and agave nectar and all natural cleaning liquid and Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered raisins and fifteen books. Oh no! Ai yo!

Please pray for safe, uneventful flights!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Photographic Dictionary

For all you lovers of art look up The Photographic Dictionary:
" dedicated to defining words through the literal, figurative, and personal meanings found in each photograph."

The dictionary is organized by letter. Each letter has a list of words and corresponding photos with definitions beneath them. (Beware, some of them are very artistic, in case you're sensitive to that sort of thing.) It's a cool idea, especially since the words the artists have chosen would not necessarily be obvious choices and the definitions below them are both traditional and unusual. If you've got a shot to add, they accept photos. X, Y, and Z are particularly small lists.

I like breath, kiss, and citroen. Any of them strike your fancy?

How about this one by yours truly:

Oyster [oy-stur]
1. a bivalve mollusk with tasty meat.
2. a tight lipped person.
3. a potential treasure chest, just add sand.

Also, I just saw this too: I'm not sure what it is, but I love to look at trees and pictures of trees which Sierra Norte seems to be a collection of...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Compulsive Hobby of the Week: Apron (Part I)

As the first episode of this season's Project Runway aired on Lifetime last week, I too was doing some furious fashion design and construction. Anthropologie has these adorable throwback, patchwork aprons to which my ever fashion forward friend Carrie alerted me. When I was in Nashville, I popped into their shop and desperately wanted to buy one, desperately; however, my budget afforded me none of them (sniffle, sniffle, snort.) So I decided to go home and make one (or more, time permitting). I even used fabric I already had for this one! Yay.

Not to be self-deprecating, but I think it looks better in person. I couldn't get the detail in my picture.

Every time I wear it I'm going to say, "There's no place like home! There's no place like home! There's no place like home!"
If all works is a small hint to the sequel of this post:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Little Fiction, Literally

And now, here is an extremely short piece of fiction that was once a postcard I wrote to a friend and which shamelessly amuses me (oh how narcissistic) so that I keep making other people read it. The inspiration came from a true story a friend told me; however, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental. Purely.

The Breakup by G. Flynn
“Oh dear,” he said with some sadness, with some vexation and with considerable embarrassment. All the people sitting on nearby benches around the pond had stopped talking to watch them. She looked up at him longingly and he wondered how much she actually understood of what he was saying to her, if it would really sink in until he left. In time, she would realize he wasn’t coming back. As the days passed, she would forget him and she would learn, as he already had, to keep with her own kind. It would be better this way for both of them, but it had been fun while it lasted. They had been a couple that turned heads.

He thought back on their time together and knew he would miss her. “I’m really sorry,” his throat began to close and the air seemed heavy and sad. “I didn’t mean for it to end like this. I only want the best for you. I have to go now.” Gathering courage, he turned and took a few steps. She followed. He knew she would. “You can’t come with me. Please, just let me leave.” He could see in her eyes that, this time, she knew she could not come with him. She stayed steady, looking at him intently. He sighed deeply, turned to his path and walked away. In the wake of his departure, she uttered only a single, “Quack.”

What do you think? Isn't it just ducky?

The End of the Affair (3 Book Review in 1)

I recently finished reading Graham Greene's
The End of the Affair. My first Greene undertaking was The Power and the Glory, a story about a usually drunken, somewhat promiscuous priest in South America who was one of the few Catholic clergymen who had escaped persecution at a dark point in history. I know lots of people love this book and it's exploration of this broken character who just might be redeemed, but it was too slow (and too deep) for me. Despite this failure, I kep trying. My second Greene novel was Our Man in Havana, a humorous (though not laugh outloud funny) satire. The main character is a British vacuum salesman living with his less-than-thrifty teenage daughter in Havana. One day a ridiculous spy approaches him and basically strong arms the man into becoming "Our Man in Havana." Thereafter he begins making up spy stories to support his daughter's spending. It was amusing, but not a novel I would reread (if I did reread novels, which I don't.)

The End of the Affair. I am glad I didn't give up on Greene. Mainly I stuck with him because I'm always interested in how a Christian writer portrays his/her faith in literary fiction (notice the specification--literary) and Greene is one of the most prolific Catholic writers in the English language. So, I picked up a copy of The End of the Affair, a slight book at only 150 odd pages, and started reading. From the first page, the book had some sort of hold on me. It was, by no means, a page turner, but it had this comfortable feel to it, like laying in your bed on a Saturday morning. That's not to say the book was fluff or full of feel-goodies. As you might have guessed, it's about the end of a love affair.

Single writer Maurice Bendrix narrates the history of his relationship with the married Sarah Miles. When she inexplicably breaks off their affair, Bendrix, full of a complicated mixture of love and hate which even he cannot sort out, tries to find out why. Desperate, he hires a private detective, reads Sarah's diary, and almost tries to move on. What Bendrix discovers (and this might be a bit of a spoiler) is that Sarah's new lover is not a man he can hunt down but God. As the novel progresses, this slighted lover refuses to accept that Sarah will not come back to him and that God is real. Through Sarah's diary, there is a similar struggle--she longs to leave her husband, go back to Bendrix, and forget her pact with God (which you will understand if you read the novel). Something has changed in her though and she cannot wholly deny God's existence nor her love for Him.

Greene interweaves both characters' conflicted inner monologues with the progresion of their story, which helped me to stay engaged with the book and not bogged down in the turmoil of their minds. I know that for many this would be a slow read, but I was surprised at how Greene approached the subject of faith--with much wrestling, some intellectual argument, and a miracle or three. I also appreciated that the characters were not exactly at they seemed on page one. There's much more to the book than I've written here, and I could hardly to it justice. I suppose you'll just have to read it, but please don't ask to borrow my copy because my luggage is already full of 15 or so unread books.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Cheese Free Video

Don't call me a sap. I saw this video and I thought--sure it seems a bit cheesy, but that's only because some people have unhealthy aversions to being touched. Hugs are comforting (except for side hugs) and this is a nice campaign (as long as you make sure to keep your wallet elsewhere). As a friend of mine used to say, "Bring back the hug." Hugs not drugs.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To Be Refined...

As I prepared myself a cup of tea this afternoon and added some agave nectar for sweetness, I thought how ironic it is that the many items marketed to refined tastes are actually unrefined and as such, they cost more. I haven't done any research on this, but I'm fairly certain that raw sugar costs more than white sugar and agave sugar costs at least 200% more than both of those. Just using the word nectar instead of syrup probably allows "them" to up the price by a good 20 or 30%.

What extremely unwealthy person, after all, pours raw sugar into their morning cup? It is a bit better for you, of course, as is agave nectar (which has a lower glycemic index than sugar), at least that is the excuse. Doesn't it take less chemical processes, therefore less research to produce these all-natural type items and since "they" always package that kind of stuff in all natural brown bag wrapping paper, free of bleaching and refining, doesn't it stand to reason that these products would be significantly cheaper and in high demand amongst all classes of people? Perhaps raw sugar is the $250 pair of Girbaud jeans with the holes already worn in them. Who cares really if some people want to pay exorbitant prices to sweeten their drinks and confections? Perhaps the extra cents make everything taste a little sweeter.

Compulsive Hobby of the Week: Coasters!

Not to say that there will be one each week, but here's my creative undertaking for the week: quilted coasters! I've searched Shanghai for affordable, stylish coasters to protect desk, table, and all other vulnerable furnitur
e pieces from drippy drinks with no luck. I saw this project on Martha Stewart's Magazine and set to work. I've got 2 bins of fabric at home and this was a great project to get rid of some of those tiny pieces. You might notice that the squares are not terribly straight, but I think they're kind of nice anyway--so nice that I made 15 (I suppose I could always have some in the wash...) I hope the roommates like them.

I tried a few different patterns. This one was by far the ugliest. Oh my.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Throw Away Your Wallet: Free Music

I've come to dislike the recession vehemently. Aside from the great deals (5 Bath & Body Works liquid soaps for less than $20! Amazing), I really have no affection for it. Everyday NPR, the President, and other news sources say that the recession is over except for the fact that people are still losing their jobs and not spending any money. Aiyo!

In tough times, it's important to have nice flowers around (traditionally, flower sales go up during depressions) and good music so I've compiled a brief list of sites where you can find free music (mostly indie--but some good indie for the most part.) I really really like free stuff, especially when it's worth something!
  • Daytrotter: The legends of indie music come stop by the Daytrotter studio on their way to whereever they're going and record a few of their (usually already published) songs. Check out Bon Iver (whose CD you should own, especially for the winter months), The Avett Brothers (that's a long A. They're my new favorites--Laundry Room is gorgeous and must be listened to often), Erin McKeown and Fleet Foxes.

  • Spinner: An online music magazine complete with free MP3s du jour, plus some special exclusive free music and complete CDs you can stream. I haven't fully explored this site, but it seems like it could have some good stuff.

  • NPR has two free albums: One jazz, one folk both from the famous Newport (Rhode Island) Music Festival. They're pretty good too with some names you just might recognize. Don't wait on this one; it probably won't be up forever.

  • Amazon: New songs are added daily and weekly and during Christmas there is a festive new song every day. I've never heard of 80% of the artists, but if you're persistent I'm sure there are great discoveries to be had. Downloads include sampler albums from various record companies. An added bonus is that the music is of all genres. Sign up for their weekly newsblast and they'll tell you all their deals each week. Click here for the full song list.

  • Relevant: live music from the Relevant Podcast. There are songs from Jars of Clay, Denison Witmer, Sara Groves, Leeland, Future of Forestry and others you may or may not have heard of
Free Music Podcasts a la iTunes:
  • KEXP Song of the Day (or MPR: The Current Song of the Day--their music tends to overlap): At least half of these songs are not worth a second listen, but there are some great ones including Jose Gonzalez, Andrew Bird, M. Ward, Bon Iver, and Band of Horses.

  • NPR: Live Concerts With All Songs Considered--Live music from awesome acts, often with great recorded quality. Look back in the archives and find Nickel Creek, Jose Gonzalez, The Swell Season, Gillian Welch and more!

  • KCRW: Today's Top Tune--I just added this one, but it seems to have a different selection of songs from KEXP.

At least half of these were suggested to me by friends. Know of any other good free music finds? Do share!

Monday, August 17, 2009

I’m artistic. I just know it…

With the help of my good friend Puckey who is an amazing photographer, I purchased a Nikon D60. If you don’t know me, you’re thinking—oh you too, you sad pitiful wanna-be. I realized that perhaps a disproportionate number of people in the world have purchased this “pro-sumer” device in a desire to look and feel cool, but don’t judge me. (I was going to insert hilarious photos of myself with my new camera, however that would require me to use my old, inferior, digital.) Instead I will show you some of the pictures I’ve taken so far. Please don’t steal them and try to pass them off as your own brilliant artistic creations.

Merchandise from a rummage sale at my friend Carrie's.

My first try at culinary photography (that isn't the technical name is it?) Some of mom's cupcakes at her cafe.

Near the seaside. A little field of y-grass (also not the technical name).

A view of the shore only about a 15 minute walk from our apartment.

Julie, Julia & Clint

This weekend my mom and I went to the matinee and saw
Julie & Julia. It's the first and one of the few movies I'll see in the theatre while I'm here (in the States). I love seeing movies in the theatre. Home entertainment systems will never compare.

From the trailers to the interviews, this movie looked like it was going to be great and, happily, it did not disapoint. Plus it was clean (one unexpected f-bomb) with no nudity just lots of amazing looking cuisine. Now would be the time to invent the smell-o-vision or perhaps the smell-o-screen, even better: the silver smell-o-screen. Anyway.
Julie & Julia has a great message and, blissfully, the only cheese is on the food. Both the story of how Julia Child became America's best French chef and the story of how Julie Powell was inspired to cook and blog her way out of a rut are realistic and delightful. Plus who doesn't love Meryl Streep and Amy Adams?

The other movie we watched this weekend was
Gran Torino (at home, of course). Clint Eastwood sure does know how to direct amazing biopics (is that the right word?) on America. He also knows how to make a thoroughly depressing tale and I have yet to be able to watch one of his films twice. Gran Torino, if you haven't heard, is the story of a growling (literally) elderly white man (played by Eastwood) who has contempt for everyone and everything, especially the influx of Hmong people who have moved into the neighborhood. One day, however, he rescues his teenage neighbor from being carted off by a gang and becomes a bit of a hero. As he gets to know the family next door, Eastwood's prejudices subside. The story is infinitely more redemptive than Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby, but I hate gangs. I just hate them, and they feature prominently in the storyline. My heart definitely stopped beating at one point. This film was a reminder of the heartbreaking circumstances where so many live, often with little hope. Eastwood offers some here along with a good dose of honor. So...see Gran Torino, if you haven't already. It's one of his best.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Saltines: History in Your Mouth

Eating crackers can be a very passive affair. A little cheddar or perhaps some peanut butter spread generously on top for a snack, but that's not all there is to the cracker. So today I share with you one of my favorite facts: the history of the saltine.

Think of it. A covered wagon, the hot prairie sun beating down on a team of tired horses. Nothing in sight as far as the eye can see except more grass. Your stomach rumbles as you rock to the rhythm of the wagon on the uneven soil. Meat is scarce. Water must be rationed. What you do have, what you eat everyday, what you grumble against like a manna-eating Israelite is something called hardtack.

Hardtack was a simple concoction of flour, water, and salt baked to a crisp. The virtue of hardtack was that it would last indefinitely (though not without some vermin), which made it useful for anyone on a long journey from sailors on the high seas to pioneers heading west to soldiers fighting in the Civil War. And the coolest thing about this staple of antebellum America is the number of holes in it.

Unless you've eaten saltines with me, you've never counted them, but every saltine has 13 holes in it just as hardtack did. And why? This is the good part! Because of the 13 original colonies. Isn't that mildly fascinating? As the pioneers set out for new territories they poked 13 holes in their carb-loaded snacks as a subtle reminder of the foundation of the great U.S.A and the freedom it represented for them. No wonder they were Laura Ingalls Wilder's favorite prairie treat! (I made that up.) Now, go ye enlightened readers and partake of a saltine in honor of history.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Welcome to Flynneous

For all of you who know me well, you’ll understand the title. If you don’t, then no worries—it does not open any secret doors or portals to alternate universes.

This blog will be host to myriad subjects including the usual (books, music, beautiful things, and faith) and the unusual (China, rants on cinnamon and sugar, the number of holes in saltine crackers, and again faith). I hope you will be entertained and thought-provoked. Off we go...