Posted in Learning Things, Listening to Music

The Awesome 13 – Putumayo World Music

The only way to truly branch out when to listening to music is to listen to music from other parts of the world.  Many of us are so sheltered when it comes to music, whether it’s listening to only one radio station or one genre or, in this case, only one language.  How can one truly appreciate music when that person is only listening to 10% of the music out there?

That’s where Putumayo World Music comes into play.  Putumayo is basically a record label that puts out hundreds of different compilation albums based on different regions of the world.  It started in 1993 and continues to introduce us to amazing artists to this day, both for adults (Putumayo World) and for kids (Putumayo Kids).


I first discovered Putumayo about four years ago when I checked out one of their Putumayo Kids CDs called Hawaiian Playground.  The cover is what caught my eye at first, and I thought the songs would be fun for my then 6-month-old daughter to hear in the car.

Well, the album was awesome, and I was hooked.  I decided I was going to start collecting as many Putumayo albums as I could (project!!), and thanks to the wonderful libraries to which I belonged, I found many.

To date, Putumayo has churned out 213 albums.  213!  That’s many, many hours of music.  I’m nowhere near that, but I’m getting there.  All the albums are pretty awesome, but here are 13 of my personal faves that I highly recommend you go listen to if given the opportunity.


Acoustic France (2008)


  • “Sombre Con” by Rose
  • “Quotidien” by Sandrine Kiberlain
  • “Clash Dans Le Tempo” by Constance Amiot

Africa (1999)

putumayo africa frontHighlights:

  • “Doly” by 4 Etoiles
  • “Anoma” by OOM
  • “Wassiye” by Habib Koite & Bamada

Brazilian Beat (2012)


  • “Samba Na Mao, Eu Tenho” by Tamy
  • “A Coisa Mais Linda Do Mundo” by Monica Da Silva
  • “Feriado Pessoal” by Bruna Caram

Celtic Dreamland (2007)


  •  “Cagaran Gaolach” by Mary Jane Lamond
  • “A Phluirin Mhillis” Susan McKeown
  • “Ye Banks and Braes” by The Cast

Celtic Tides (1998)


  • “Caledonia” by Dougie MacLean
  • “An Gabhar Ban” by Clannad
  • “The Maid on the Shore” by Solas

Gypsy Groove (2007)


  • “Zsa Manca” by Deladap
  • “Yor Uzga” by Karen Gafurdjanov
  • “Amari Szi, Amari” by Luminescent Orchestril

Hawaiian Playground (2008)


  • “Right On” by The Moonlighters
  • “Po La’iIa’i” by Raiatea
  • “Holoholo Ka’a” by Willie K

Italia (2009)


  • “Il Mare Mi Salva” by Rossomalpelo
  • “Gina” by Lu Colombo
  • “L’Americano” by Marco Calliari

Jazz Around the World (2009)


  • “La Mer” by Chantal Chamberland
  • “Young and Naive” by Heather Rigdon
  • “Te Reo o Papatuanuku” by Kataraina Pipi

Music from the Wine Lands (2006)


  • “Tita” by Pauline Croze
  • “Puerto Claridad” by Amparanoia
  • “Liebe” by 2raumwohnung

Quebec (2008)


  • “Cette Ville” by Mathieu Mathieu
  • “Un Homme” by Annie Villenueve
  • “Brulots” by Chloe Sainte-Marie

Salsa Around the World (2007)


  • “Flores y Tambores” by Orquesta de la Luz
  • “Havana Mambo” by Malanina
  • “Haris Catsimichas” by Forest Flower

Turkish Groove (2006)


  • “Kimizi Biber” by Bendeniz
  • “Sinanay” by Gulseren
  • “Dudu” by Tarkan

Besides the awesome music these albums contain, I can’t help but swoon over the album covers.  The artwork is done by Nicola Heindl, and if I could have actual prints based on all these albums, I would totally cover my walls with them.  Or maybe a Page-a-Day Calendar that has one album cover a day.  Maybe I could make that myself!  Anyway, LOVE THEM.


Of course because I’m a collector, half the fun in all this is the actual search for all these albums.  I’ve purchased some, but only because I hadn’t been able to find them at libraries.  I currently have five albums on request from the Hennepin County library, meaning they’re being sent to my local library two minutes from my house so I can pick them up there instead of driving all over the place to find them.  Don’t get me wrong, I love going to new libraries and discovering new Putumayo CDs, but sometimes this way is just easier.

Of course all the libraries aren’t going to have all 213 albums, which means there are some that I may never find.  Some albums on my wish list that I have yet to find are as follows:

  • Islands (1997)
  • Romantica (1998)
  • Women of Spirit (1998)
  • Italian Musical Odyssey (1999)

I’ve never seen those albums at any library or any store, but time will tell.  I may get lucky.


Up until last year, Putumayo albums were only available for purchase at music stores like Barnes and Noble and at Whole Foods.  But thankfully you can now buy them on iTunes (for a lot cheaper, too).  The only downside is that you can only download the albums from 2012 and later.  Anything older than that you can only get the actual CD.  But Amazon carries a bunch, and finding a used CD for cheap isn’t too difficult.

But the search aside, it all comes back to discovering new music and opening your eyes to all the different cultures in this world.  There’s more to music than just what you hear on the radio or see on MTV (well, USED to see when they actually played videos) or purchase on iTunes.  There’s a whole world out there just waiting for you to hear it.

So open your ears.  You won’t regret it.

Posted in Learning Things

This May Make Me Sound Totally Shallow…

…But I just spent half my day trying to figure out if my new Burberry handbag is authentic or fake.

God, I know.  It sounds horrible.  Because why does it matter?  It doesn’t.  It totally doesn’t matter.  Yet I’ve become rather obsessed with finding out the truth.  Which I can handle.

Let’s back up a bit.  I’m a person who loves purses.  Loves to the point of lurves.  Any shape, size, color, texture, whatever.  I love purses.  The more I have, the better.  But I’m definitely not a designer purse kind of purse.  I’ve never felt a desire to shell out $500 for a purse that I’ll probably get bored with after a month and want to change out.  And as I see it, if I want a lot of purses, I have to put a price cap on them.  I tend not to spend over $30 for a purse.  And you’d be surprised at how much you can find for under $30 in the purse department.


$10 from Target

I find most of my purses at Target, TJ Maxx/Marshalls (they’re the same place, right?) and thrift stores.  And none of them are designer brand.  Now, when I say “designer brand”, I’m referring to Coach, Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, Prada, etc.  The ones that start at $300 and up.  In the past I have purchased a Fossil bag for around $60 (with birthday money) and a LeSportsac bag for $80 from Hawaii, which I bought as my only souvenir from the trip.  But according to my mother-in-law, Fossil and LeSportsac aren’t really “designer brands” per se.  So whatever.

Anyway, that’s what you need to know about me and my purse-buying habits.  I’m pretty thrifty.  One of my favorite bags I own is a $12 Franco Sarto bag I got from Arc’s Value Thrift Store because the colors are awesome and it holds everything.  And the most expensive bag I own is a black leather purse from Ann Taylor which retailed at $228 but I got for $35 because I worked there and totally used my discount.


$12 Franco Sarto from thrift store

Enter yesterday.  I spent part of my Mother’s Day with my mom at a huge thrift store seeing if we could find any aweome deals, mostly on clothes for my daughter.  Side note:  If you have something against thrift stores, you’re just silly.  You can find some really great things for super cheap and not feel an ounce of guilt over them.  So there.

So yesterday I was looking at the purses (of course) and I spotted one that clearly looked like a Burberry handbag.  If you’re not familiar with Burberry, go here.  They’re very classy and very British, and if I had millions of dollars I’d probably buy all my bags and coats and scarves from them.


Anyway, I grabbed the bag and noticed right away how thick and sturdy the bag was.  Not in a cardboardy way, but in a “wow, this feels like really good quality and really well-made” sort of way.  I checked the hardware and tags on the purse (not that I knew anything about the hardware, but whatever) and thought that whoever made this bag did a pretty damn good job of doing it.

The bag was listed for $40 which, by thrift store standards, is a pretty high price tag.  But name aside, I really like the bag.  It was the perfect size (meaning it held my iPad, current 500-page book I’m reading, wallet, phone, iPod, and tube of lotion), it was in really good condition, and it…um…kind of made me feel like Emma Watson (because she does the ads for Burberry.  Shut up.)


Now, if my mom hadn’t offered to buy it for me, I probably would have passed.  There were other things I should get instead of a $40 knock-off purse.  But since she offered, I couldn’t say no.  I would have thought about that damn purse all night long.  So five seconds later, it was mine.

Leaving the store, I was pretty confident that the purse was a knock-off.  Because why would a $600 purse be in a thrift store to begin with?  And I really didn’t care.  I have a knock-off Kate Spade purse that my mom got at a purse party that’s totally adorable, and I couldn’t care less that I can take the black “Kate Spade” tag off the front because it’s just glued on.


Half-peeled Kate Spade

But the more I started to study my new “Burberry” purse, the more I got to thinking.  What if this really was an authentic Burberry bag?  What if someone really didn’t want it and decide to just give it away, not caring that they were giving away hundreds of dollars?  What if I totally scored the DEAL OF THE CENTURY???

So I started doing research on the interwebs.  I Googled such things as “How do I know if my Burberry bag is real?” and “How to spot a fake Burberry bag”.  And let me tell you, I sort of feel like an expert at the Burberry brand right now.


According to the site on Ebay that educates the buyer on real vs. fake, Burberry bags will have even lines that meet up exactly (or pretty damn close to exactly) at the seams.  The hardware will look the same throughout the whole bag, interior and exterior.  The interior label will say “BURBERRY LONDON” on the front and most – MOST – will say “MADE IN ITALY” on the bag.


Now, my label says “BURBERRY LONDON” on the front, but nothing on the back.  It doesn’t say made in China like many fakes do, it’s just blank.  Now, is it blank because it’s a fake, or does it fall into the “most” category of the authentic ones?

Then there’s the zipper situation, which is one thing I’m worried about.  And, okay, I’m not really worried.  Seriously.  I don’t care if this is authentic or not.  I just kind of want to know for my own knowledge.  And DEAL OF THE CENTURY bragging rights.  But on the authentic Burberry bags they use a particular kind of zipper that will have the zipper brand on the back.  The zipper pulls will say “BURBERRY” on both sides, which mine do, but the actual back of the zipper thing is blank.  Does that mean it’s a fake?


Also, the interior lining.  Authentic Burberry bags have three different types of lining:  black canvas, beige pigskin suede, or Burberry signature fabric, which is a jacquard type fabric with “BURBERRY” woven through out.  Well, I don’t have that, and I don’t have beige pigskin suede.  I have black lining with a Burberry pattern on it.  Does that mean it’s a fake?

And do the seams line up?  While not perfect, they’re not horrible either.  So that one could go either way, I guess.


The stitching overall seems really good, except for maybe at the end of the exterior zipper.  I guess if I had to find a flaw, it would be this.  The stitching here could probably be a little better.  But what do I know?


So in this research that I’ve done, I haven’t really figured out if the bag is real or fake.  I guess you could say that I’m about 99% sure that it’s a fake.  I’ll leave the remaining 1% for “well, you never know!”  And even if it’s fake, like I said, I don’t care.  I love the purse.  It’s the perfect purse for me, and whether or not that “BURBERRY” is real or not makes no difference to me.

Though it would be the DEAL OF THE CENTURY, am I right?

Posted in Learning Things, Living Life

My Thoughts About the Weather

As I type this, thousands of Minnesotans are complaining about the weather.  I guess they have every right to do so – I mean, it’s May 3 and it’s SNOWING outside.  Granted it’s a wet snow that is melting as soon as it hits the ground, but it’s still snow, and it’s still May.  It shouldn’t be snowing in May.

The sun should be shining and the flowers should be blooming, rain should be falling and thunder should be booming.

I just totally wrote that poem myself.  Jealous?  Of course you are.

Minnesota - Mpls. Bike Path Spring 3 LR

Anyway, I should let you know right now that I’m a total weather geek.  Seriously, I GEEK OUT when it comes to anything involving atmospheric activity.  When I was a kid and everyone else wanted to be ballerinas and veterinarians, I wanted to study the weather.  I used to read books about tornados and hurricanes and snow and thought they were the most interesting books ever.  I loved winter because it because it brought us snow – sometimes lots of it – and I loved summer because it brought us thunderstorms – sometimes crazy ones.  And of course I thought fall and spring were perfect because they were both gorgeous and amazing in their own ways.


Then after college I moved to California and all that disappeared.  When I told people that I had moved to CA, one of the first things they would always say was “Oh, you must have great weather all the time.”  And you know what?  It’s true.  I had great weather pretty much all of the time.  But you know what “all the time” also means?  It means it becomes BORING.

Now, some people may disagree with me.  I know people who are happy with 300 days of sunshine a year and get upset when it’s cloudy the other 65 days.  And that’s fine.  But for me, having good weather all the time gets so old and boring that I tend to develop the opposite of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and get depressing when there’s no change in the weather.


Oh sure, at first it was great having 80 degree days in December and January.  It was nice to know that I could plan outdoor activities without having to worry about whether it would rain or not.  But believe me, that got old really quickly.  Suddenly the holidays felt weird because there wasn’t any snow on the ground and the coldest it got was 50 degrees.  I started to forget what it was like when the leaves start to change and when the grass grows back.  I found myself longing for a loup clap of thunder on a warm summer night, or hell, even a snow day or two.



What I love so much about the change in seasons is that it always gives you something to look forward to.  After those long winter months, just when you’ve “had it up to here with winter”, spring arrives.  And after you can barely stand one more hot summer day, fall suddenly arrives and cools everything down.  It really is a constant cycle that always keeps you on your toes, always keeps you looking ahead.

You can’t do that in California, at least not really.  What they call “winter” is still mostly sunny days (depending on where you live), sprinkled every now and then with “STORM WATCH”, which happens when a couple of raindrops fall from the sky.  Seriously, the most excited I ever got about “weather” is when I lived near the ocean and the heavy fog would roll in.  That was pretty much as close to interesting atmospheric phenomena that I got.  And despite what people tell you, there’s no such thing as “earthquake weather”.  And wildfires, while triggered by hot Santa Winds, don’t count as weather, at least not in my book.  Wildfires are FIRE and they suck.


Luckily I after eleven long years I was reunited with the good ol’ Midwest weather system, which meant I got to enjoy stifling hot, humid summer nights and cool, crisp autumn afternoons and cold, snowy winter days…and hopefully soon I’ll see spring once again pop up underneath all this weird May snow we’re getting today.


So even though the weather does kind of suck right now, you won’t hear me complaining too much.  Do I want to slip on a t-shirt and shorts and go for a walk outside while I sip on cold iced tea?  Of course I do.  And I know I will be able to do that soon.  But I’d rather wait for it to come at the right time rather than do it on Christmas morning with the sun beating down on me.

So bring it on, Mother Nature.  You know I don’t mind.  Just, you know, get it out of the way quickly before it’s suddenly November again and we all missed out on summer completely.

Posted in Geeking Out, Learning Things

The Awesome 13 – Figure Skating!!

This may sound like completely uninteresting news to, well, MOST of you, but 25 years ago today, Brian Boitano won the gold medal in Mens’ Figure Skating at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Ontario.  ALSO…15 years ago today Tara Lipinski won the gold medal in Ladies’ Figure Skating at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, making her the youngest (15 yrs) to accomplish that feat.*

*Side note:  It’s actually 25 and 15 years ago yesterday, February 20.  It’s just taken me two days to write this damn thing.

Ladies Skate

So, why are those moments so significant?  Why, in a blog filled with posts about books and movies and music and TV shows and sometimes tea, do I even care about these events?  Well, ladies and gentlemen, the truth must come out.  I LOVE FIGURE SKATING.  There, I said it.  LOVE IT.

It’s no secret that I sort of loathe sports in general.  Which is actually kind of funny, considering I entered college as a sports journalism major (quickly realizing after a year that it was definitely not for me).  I enjoyed sports in high school, but only because my friends enjoyed sports.  And to be honest, I only watched sports for the cute guys.

But figure skating is the one sport (and yes, it is a sport even if it doesn’t involve a ball or running around) that I have truly loved ever since age 8 when I saw Brian Boitano win his gold medal at those ’88 Games.  I saw him do those triple jumps with his arm straight up in the air, and I was hooked.


So to celebrate this sport and the fact that the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, are only ONE YEAR AWAY, I give you 13 Awesome Things I Love About Figure Skating.

13.  Surya Bonaly’s Backflips


 If you followed skating in the 1990s like I did, then you know Surya Bonaly.  She was the one who did all those crazy backflips out on the ice.  And not only did she land those backflips, but she landed them on one freaking foot.  Bonaly was known for her jumping ability (obviously, what with those backflips, but she never won a gold medal at the Worlds or the Olympics.  In fact, in 1994 when certain team members sat out the Worlds in China right after the Olympics, Bonaly was certain she would take home the gold.  But the gold went to Yuka Sato instead, and even though Bonaly got the silver, she was totally pissed and refused to stand on the podium or wear her medal.  Maybe she should just stick to doing backflips in exhibition shows.

12.  Stefane Lambiel’s Spins

Vancouver Olympics Figure Skating

Sometime around the mid-2000s a skater from Switzerland emerged during a time when quad jumps in men’s skating were just starting to become all the rage.  If you weren’t doing the quad, then you just weren’t good enough.  Well, guess what.  Lambiel said “Tu m’emmerdes!” to all that and showed the world his crazy-ass spins on the ice.  Seriously, this boy could spin like a freaking top and not show signs of slowing down until suddenly he did.  It really says something when you can go on to win gold medals at the Worlds two years in a row because you can literally spin circles around all the other skaters.  I doubt we’ll see another spinner like Lambiel in our lifetime again (unless he has kids and forces them to spin like he did).

11.  Yu-Na Kim’s Perfection


Now, whether her name is Yu-Na Kim or Kim Yu-Na (everybody says it differently), I’ll probably never know.  But what I do know is that at the 2009 World Championships in Los Angeles (which I totally attended!!!) she skated what was probably the most perfect skate of anyone ever.  Yes, it’s a bold statement.  But when you realize that she put up a score of 207.71 (under the crazy ISU scoring system), making her the first woman to surpass 200 and shattering all sorts of records all over the place, you have to give her mad props.  AND THEN…at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver she did the whole I’M AWESOME thing all over again and completely crushed her own record, scoring an insane score of 226.56 overall.  WHAT?  I know.  She’s amazeballs.

10.  Alexei Yagudin’s Fancy Footwork


It’s one thing to incorporate intricate footwork into your choreography during a skating routine.  But to suddenly become freaking LORD OF THE DANCE ON ICE is something completely different.  That’s what Russian skater Alexei Yagudin did when he started getting everyone’s attention in the late 1990s.  Suddenly skaters began to realize that their choreography paled in comparison to what Yadugin was doing with his feet on the ice.  To quote Chandler Bing “His feet flail about as though independent from his body!”  Seriously.  Why did Yagudin win the gold medal at the 2002 Winter Games?  HIS FEET (and probably some awesome jumping skills as well).  Other skaters took notice and quickly tried to imitate, usually totally tripping up their footwork and falling on their faces (I’m looking right at your curly mop-head, Timothy Goebel).  To this day, no one comes close to his fancy footwork.

9.  Jamie Sale and David Pelletier’s “Love Story”

Sale Pelletier

Every now and then a pairs skating team comes along that makes you think, “Oh, gee, they’re cute together”.  But then there’s the Canadian pair of Sale and Pelletier who makes you think, “Oh god, they’re ADORABLE.”  Seriously, these guys are perfect together out on the ice (and apparently off the ice as well) and will have you feeling the love after just a few seconds into the routine.  Their free skate to “Love Story” at the Grand Prix final and the 2002 Olympics will bring out the feels in anyone with a soul.  Even the scandal at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, in which they placed second behind the Russians until a silly French judge admitted she was pressured to vote for the Russians no matter how they skated, didn’t break these Canadians up (they eventually received the gold medal after the Games ended).  If anything it made them stronger.  I saw these two lovebirds skate at Stars on Ice to Norah Jones’ “Come Away With Me” and it was probably the most intimate routine I have ever seen a pair skate.  Swoooooooon.*

*Side note:  While searching for pictures for these two I found out that they DIVORCED back in 2010.  SO SAD.  But still a better love story than Twilight.

8.  Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto’s Energy

Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto of United States2_0.preview

I never used to enjoy watching ice-dancing.  To me it was lame pairs skating without the jumps.  And the US admittedly sucked in the ice-dancing department.  That is until Belbin and Agosto came shimmying their way onto the ice and sort of exploded all over it.  Finally, an American team (well, technically Tanith Belbin is Canadian but she totally converted to Americanism to compete in the Olympics) that actually has a chance to win something!!  Not only that, but they were so much fun to watch.  I’m pretty sure these guys got hopped up on pop rocks and Mountain Dew before they stepped onto the ice because they seriously radiated energy in every spin and twizzle they did.  Unfortunately they never got the Olympic or World’s gold – silver in 2006 was the closet they came – but they still managed to US ice-dancing on the map again after many, many years of NOTHING.

7.  Brian Boitano’s Jumps

brian boitano

Yes, folks, this is what started it all 25 years ago.  I was only 8 years old, but I remember watching him skate, and I remember feeling so proud and excited and emotional when he jumped with one hand straight up in the air – something that no one else was doing at the time.  And even now when someone does a jump like that, it’s a nod to Boitano and how hard he fought for that gold medal in 1988.  He competed in the games along with hometown fave Brian Orser of Canada, in what would eventually be dubbed “The Battle of the Brians”.  They both went into the free program tied after the short, so it literally was a battle for that gold.  But it was Boitano and his awesome jumps who took that gold back to America.  Battle won indeed.

6.  Evan Lycacek’s Deserving Win


The year was 2010, and the American men hadn’t won a gold medal in figure skating since the aforementioned Brian Boitano 22 years ago.  It had been a sport dominated by Russian men (every year since 1992!!), and it was high time that the US take that shiz back.  So American skater Evan Lycacek did just that.  HE TOOK IT BACK.  In what was probably his best skate ever (complete with real tears at the end because he knew he did so awesome), Evan did about 50 billion jumps and everyone knew before he even finished that this gold was HIS and his alone.  So take that, Russia.  Another miracle on ice.

5.  Michelle Kwan’s Consistency


Because of the news ISU scoring system (which after ten years no one still understands), there will never be another skater like Michelle Kwan.  Back in the days of the 6.0 scoring system, she DOMINATED ladies’ figure skating (except when it came to the Olympics).  She’s a five-time World Champion (1996, 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2003) and a nine-time U.S. Champion (1996, and then every year from 1998-2005).  She’s more known for her artistry on the ice rather than her jumps, which probably cost her the gold medal to Tara Lipinski at the 1998 games.  But Michelle had what Lipinski and other rival Sasha Cohen lacked, and that was her insane consistency.  Seriously, this girl was so good every time she got out on the ice.  Who else can say they got 8 perfect 6.0s in one routine the way Kwan did at the 1998 U.S. Championships?  Well, no one now, thanks to the new scoring system.  Thanks, French judge at the 2002 Games.  It’s all your fault.

4.  Johnny Weir’s Confidence


Despite all the crap that people talk about him, I love Johnny Weir.  I first saw him skate at the 2002 Games and thought, “Wow, this guy skates differently from all the other guys.”  The guy can jump with the rest of them, but it obvious that he puts his blood, sweat, and tears into the artistry of skating.  He’s a beautiful skater on the ice, while sometimes flamboyant, which causes some people to criticize his skating, even calling it “too feminine”.  But that Johnny Weir, he doesn’t even care!  He loves to skate, he loves to wear feathers and sparkles, and you can see that he’s happiest on the ice when he can be himself.  And when he’s happy, he’s an awesome skater.  Who likes to wear feathers and sparkles.

3.  Tonya and Nancy’s Feud


Oh, come on, you loved it, too.  And all it took was one swift whack to the knee to make the world recognize figure skating for what it is:  a blood-thirsty, violent sport!  But seriously, this was by far the most interesting and entertaining thing to come out of the 1994 skating season and the Winter Games in Lillehammer.  To quickly summarize if you were born yesterday:  After a practice session during the 1994 U.S. Championships, Nancy Kerrigan was leaving the rink when somebody suddenly came up to her and clubbed her on the knee, making her cry out “Whyyyyyyy” over and over again.  The suspects were quickly identified as Tonya Harding’s husband and his cronies.  Tonya denied involvement, but who the hell knows.  All we wanted to know was if Nancy would be able to compete at the Olympics, and what will happen if she could?  Well, she did, and ended up getting silver behind unknown Ukrainian Oksana Baiul, while Tonya performed understandably horribly.  It wasn’t U.S. Figure Skating’s most proud moment, but it was its most popular, and no one who watched will ever forget it.

2.  Sasha Cohen’s Ballet


She was called The Ballerina on Ice, and it was easy to see why when you watched her skate.  Sasha Cohen is still my favorite skater of all time, despite the fact that she was painfully inconsistent and never won gold at the World’s or the Olympics.  I didn’t care about any of that, though, because I just loved to watch her skate.  She was pretty, she wore pretty costumes, she skated to pretty music, and she skated pretty.  Oh, and her I-spins and Biellmann spins were INSANE because she was so flexible and could pull her leg straight up into the air like a crazy person.  It’s unfortunate that she didn’t achieve status the way Michelle Kwan did because I think she’s a much more artistic skater and – when she’s on – a very good technical skater, but she will always be remembered for holding everyone’s attention for 4 minutes like no other.

1.  Gordeeva and Grinkov’s “Moonlight Sonata”


Oh, geez.  This is going to give me the tears and feels even before I start to write it.  Back in the 80s and 90s, the Soviets/Unified Team/Russians sort of ran the whole Pairs Skating scene.  And none were greater than the child partners-turned-couple-turned-husband-and-wife team of Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov.  Omigosh this couple was gorgeous.  And their skating?  Absolutely flawless.  They won the gold at the 1998 Games, and then stopped competing until their return in 1994.  And it was there where they proved to be one of the best pairs of all-time.  For their long program they skated to “Moonlight Sonata”, which pretty much left everyone speechless and teary-eyed.  I taped that performance and used to watch it every morning before school because it was so awesome (and he was so gorgeous).  On an extremely sad note, Grinkov died not even two years later of a massive heart attack, which makes this particular performance even more haunting and beautiful.  Seriously, I have nothing snarky to say about this.  It’s just awesome.

Posted in Geeking Out, Learning Things

Birthday Toast Post – Shigeru Miyamoto

You may not know his name, but I’ll bet you your lunch money that you’ve encountered him at least once in your life.  Okay, well, maybe not him, but his creations.  In fact, you may have even played one of his games last night.  And to gamers – casual or hard-core – he may be the reason why they started gaming in the first place.

So, who is this guy?

Well, let’s see.  Ever heard of Mario Bros.?  Donkey Kong?  Zelda?  All creations of Shigeru Miyamoto.  Do you have a Wii system in your house?  Also a Miyamoto invention.  So yeah, this guy is pretty much the reason why video games still exist today.

And today also happens to be his 60th birthday!  And as we all know, the Japanese take the 60th birthday very seriously.*

*Okay, so not all of you may know that.  I only know because I married one.**

**Not a 60-year-old.  A Japanese person.  FYI.

Anyway, since it’s Miyamoto’s 60th birthday, I think he deserves a birthday toast post.  Super Mario Bros. was the first Nintendo game I ever played waaaaaaaay back in the day when Atari was pretty much obsolete and the NES system was the coolest thing ever.  I played the crap out of that game, changing the way I played it each time (do I warp right way?  Do I warp to level 8?  Should I just play every single level?)  My favorite worlds were the ones that involved trees in the air that you had to jump on to get across (3 and 6).  My least favorite were the ones that involved the spiky guys you could only kill with fire power (4 and above).  The castle levels made me so nervous that I would break out in a sweat (until I managed to jump on that spiky dragon guy three times at the end).

Super Mario Bros. 2 was kinda weird and nothing at all like its predecessor, and I never got even close to beating the entire game.  Of course the game was originally called something else – wasn’t even supposed to be a Mario game – but they slapped the Mario name on it at the last minute and it became a sequel.  In this one you could pick what character you wanted to be, and I always made sure I was Princess Peach because she could fly (re: hover) for about five seconds, which was helpful when jumping over large areas.  Too bad she was hella slow at everything else.

When Super Mario Bros. 3 came out (after its 90-minute commercial via the movie The Wizard), it sort of changed everything…and also made me never wanted to play the first two versions again because this third one was all kinds of awesome.  The worlds were amazing (Giant Land!  Pipeland!  Iceland!), and Mario could do so many more things (like change into his Tanooki suit!), and there were games to play in between levels.  The flying ship you had to get through at the end of each world made me even more nervous than the ridiculous castles from the first Mario game that my hands would be shaking the whole time.

In addition to The Legend of Zelda being, well, kind of adorable, it was one of the first games to use nonlinear gameplay that included riddles and puzzles for the player to solve.  Honestly, I don’t remember much about Zelda except for how cute Link was – I was too busy trying to reach level 8 in the Mario games.  But it was extremely popular, spawning numerous sequels and gaining a more roleplaying-type feel to the game, which is probably why it continues to be popular.

In 2006, Miyamoto introduced the world to the Wii system, which made people get off their butts and move their bodies, which was another way Miyamoto revolutionized the game industry.  Suddenly your whole body was part of action, whether you’re playing the new Zelda games or challenging yourself to a game of bowling in Wii Sports.

I loved the Wii when it first came out (I still do – I just haven’t played it in a while).  My husband and I spent hours playing Wii Sports, whether it was bowling or tennis or golf, and we enjoyed watching each other figure out our “Wii age” by how fit you are (I was always older than him).  My husband even did yoga on the Wii for a long time, which goes to show you don’t have to sign up for a gym or classes.  The Wii made gaming a physical activity, working both your mind and your body.

Miyamoto has been criticized in the past that his “casual” games don’t keep up with the “hard-core” games, but he’s said that there shouldn’t be a difference.  Games are games, no matter how you categorize them.  People are always going to play them no matter what.  And Miyamoto is still putting out games, mostly now for the new Wii U, which will be released in the States THIS SUNDAY.  Wii U will the first hi-def gaming console, and will still be compatible with the original Wii.  It comes with a touchscreen and can be played on the TV or on the hand-held screen when the TV is off.

In other words, Miyamoto continues to spread his awesomeness everywhere.

So join me in raising a toast to the man of the day, who created a generation of thinkers and dreamers and strategists, and who still changes the way we play.

Happy birthday, Shigeru Miyamoto!

Posted in Catching TV, Learning Things, Listening to Music, Watching Movies

My Streaming Life

If you were to tell me ten years ago that in 2012 I wouldn’t have TV, radio, a CD player, or a membership to Blockbuster, I would have thought you were nutso.  How would I watch all my favorite shows?  How would I listen to music?  How would I get my news?  How would I rent movies?


Well, thanks to that wonderful thing we call technology and the interwebs, I can do all that without having to have all the junk.  Now, I know some of this is old news to some of you.  You might be thinking, “Well, duh…I haven’t listened to a CD since I got my iPod eight years ago.”  Or, “What’s Blockbuster?”  And yet some of you might be thinking, “Wait, you don’t have television?  How do you watch TV?”*

*Which of course I’m reminded of the scene in Back to the Future when Marty is having dinner at Lorainne’s house and they ask him if he has a television set and he’s all, “Well, yeah, we have two of them” and the mom is all, “Don’t be silly, nobody has two television sets.”  Haha.  But I digress.

I was inspired to write this blog from a friend and fellow blogger who also wrote about not owning a TV and how she gets by in life.  And thought it may seem like the end of the world, it’s actually quite easy.  Let me explain.

When we moved from California to Minnesota, we were pretty wiped out in terms of money.  We carefully went over what we needed and didn’t need and decided – quite bravely, I might add – that we would forego getting television.  Oh, we have a TV set, just no channels.  We figured that by just continuing our Netflix subscription, we would save over $100 a month.  And friends, let me tell you…it has been pretty awesome.  Netflix has loads of TV shows that we watch, plus loads that we’ve always wanted to watch but never got the chance.

Edwardian awesomeness streaming on Netflix

And here’s what’s even more awesome:  no commercials (take that, politicians!), and most shows in HD on our TV.  And they stay on Netflix for a really long time.  It’s like buying the entire series of a show without having to spend all the money on the DVDs.  The downside, of course, is not being able to see new episodes.  You have to wait a while before new episodes get on Netflix.  But like I said, if there’s that show you’ve wanted to watch but missed when it originally aired, and now you have to catch up on seven seasons (like me and Supernatural), Netflix is the answer.

Finally get to watch you, boys

But what about that show that you just have to see that you can’t wait a year to see on Netflix?  Well, that’s where Hulu Plus comes in.  We just recently decided to suscribe to Hulu (which is $8.99/mo just like Netflix) because they’ve finally partnered up with Apple TV (which we have), which means we can watch Hulu on our TV.  Of course you’re not going to find every show you want on Hulu, but I’ve been lucky with a couple of my shows.  I still can’t watch the show live (but who can these days?), but I can watch shows like Glee, Supernatural, Castle, The New Girl, and Once Upon a Time the day AFTER they’ve aired.  Which, if you have a DVR, is when most people are able to get to their shows anyway.  So it works out.  I still feel like I’m connected to the real world by seeing new episodes of my shows.

Keeping up with the fairy tale

Of course there’s going to be the one show that’s not on Hulu but you have to see.  For me that’s Doctor Who, and the way I solve that problem is iTunes.  Yes, I’m going to have to spend a little money.  But it’s Doctor Who, and I love it, so I’ll pay to buy the season in advance.  It goes into my iTunes, which I can watch on my TV, and new episodes are downloaded the day after they air (technically they download at midnight, so you can stay up and watch them and feel like it’s still the same day).  But I’ll only put money into the shows that I really, really, really want.  Other than that, Netflix and Hulu are pretty damn amazing.


I also turn to Netflix and Hulu (well, more so Netflix) for movies.  Netflix has hundreds and hundreds of steaming movies, and I can always find one to match my mood.  We still watch our DVDs and Blu-Rays, of course, because Netlflix doesn’t have any Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc, or any Disney animated movies (which are all we watch when it comes to movies), but everything else is pretty much watched on Netlflix.  Even some that we own on DVD we’ll watch on Netflix because it’s easier (sometimes I get lazy and don’t want to put a DVD in the DVD player), and the picture is better (Netflix=HD, DVD=not HD).

Every day is Thor’s Day on Netflix 

And if for some reason we want to watch a new movie, we don’t have to rent it from Redbox or any other place that rents movies.  We can just rent it from iTunes (for usually around $5 in HD) and watch it until it disappears a few days later.  We don’t usually do this, though, because of our hook-up with someone who rents blu-rays from Netflix (my dad) who lends us the movies when he’s done.  So again, we’re still connected.

But what about music?  We all know that iPods revolutionized the whole music industry ten years ago, sending CDs into oblivion.  I haven’t listened to a CD since I got my new car four years ago that came with an iPod adapter.  I listen to my iPod in the car, at work…pretty much everywhere.  But sometimes I need something new.  I can listen to the radio in my car, but what about when I’m not in a car?  I don’t have a radio at home.  But I do have an iPad, and I can stream music through that.

This should be on everything

We’ve all heard of Pandora Internet Radio, and that’s all well and good, letting us make our own playlists based around one artist (I once caught my husband listening to my Lady Gaga Radio playlist and still make fun of him for it).  But I recently discovered Songza, which is all about the playlist.  They actually create playlists for you based on your mood.  For example, when I got ready for work this morning I went to my Songza app and the first thing it did was say, “It’s Wednesday morning.  What are you in the mood for?”  and then listed playlists called “Waking Up”, “Working Out”, “Reading the Paper”, “Singing in the Shower”, and “Feeling Confident”.  I picked “Waking Up” because, well, that’s what I had just done.  Then after I selected that, it went even further by asking me what genre I wanted: Bright & Happy Pop, Timeless Pick Me Ups, Indie Pop & Rock, Hip Hop & R&B, and Country.  I picked Bright & Happy Pop, and then it listed three different playlists to choose from.  Since it was 4:45 in the morning I didn’t want anything too bright and happy, so the playlist “Soft Pop” was perfect for getting ready.

I find that I like Songza better than Pandora because not only are there no commercials, but I have an unlimited time limit.  With Pandora you can only listen to so many hours per month.  Of course since I’m usually listening to my iPod I’ll never come close to reaching those hours, but Songza is just more fun to play with than Pandora.  So that takes care of my music listening.

This post has become a lot more long-winded than originally planned, but I guess I had a lot of information to share.  Basically what I’m saying is that if you have the right tools (internet, tablet/smartphone) it is very possible to get what you want and stay connected to the world without breaking the bank.  It’s just coming to terms with cutting the cord that’s the hard part.

But it’s 2012.  You can do it.

Posted in Learning Things

The Random Birthday Post

Before you start to wish me happy birthday, let me just tell you that it’s not.  My birthday, I mean.  I still have another six months until I have to light another candle.  Today is just another merry unbirthday for me.

However, there are people in this world who are celebrating a birthday today.  I discovered this as I cruising the Wikipedia website, a site I refer to far too much.  But sometimes when I’m at a loss for words I like to go to the site and type in the date to see if anything extraordinary happened on this day that’s interesting enough to write about yet requires minimal research.

As far as events on this date in history, nothing really relevant has happened on October 11.  There have been a couple of natural disasters (earthquakes, floods, etc), some battles during some wars, and Saturday Night Live premiered on this date in 1975.  But since natural disasters and wars are depressing, and I haven’t watched Saturday Night Live since 1996, I’m not really up to writing about them.

But I noticed as I cruised the list of birthdays that there were actually people I had heard of – and not just in passing, but people that have actually mattered to me at one point in time.  So to the following I wish you a happy birthday, along with many more (that is if you’re not already dead, which some of you are.  Sorry.).

Henry Heinz – Born in 1844, Turns 168 Today (But Died in 1919)

Just by looking at the last name you should know who I’m talking about.  Yep, this is the guy behind those bottles of ketchup you see on tables in restaurants everywhere.  And why is he important to me?  Um, because I love ketchup.  Plain and simple.  I can’t eat burgers, hot dogs, or french fries without ketchup.  And thanks to the birthday boy, I can easily get it wherever I am.  Thank you, Henry Heinz!

Joe Simon – Born in 1913, Turns 99 Today (But Died in 2011)

Let’s just get one thing straight:  Without Joe Simon, WE WOULD NOT HAVE CAPTAIN AMERICA.  And without Captain America, WE WOULD NOT HAVE THE AVENGERS.  So yes, Joe Simon is kind of a big deal if you’re a fan of comics and superheros like myself.  He was the co-creater of said Captain with Jack Kirby, and was the first editor was Timely Comics, which eventually evolved into Marvel Comics.  Which, you know, is awesome.  So thanks, Joe.  Joss Whedon owes you some money!

Daryl Hall – Born in 1946, Turns 66 Today

News flash:  I love Hall & Oates!  Seriously, those guys were putting out hit after hit in the 1980s, and still TO THIS DAY have sold more albums than any other music duo in history.  Some of my favorites that he has written or co-written include “Rich Girl”, “Kiss on My List”, “Private Eyes”, “I Can’t Go For That”, and “Maneater”.  So let’s all celebrate his birthday and the fact that he made (and continues to make) great music to drive to.

Dawn French – Born in 1957, Turns 55 Today

Who is Dawn French?  Well, she’s a British actress.  And I honestly haven’t seen much of what she’s done, even though she’s been acting since 1982.  But she played The Fat Lady in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and was the voice of Mrs. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which means she’s pretty awesome in my book.

Michael J. Nelson – Born in 1964, Turns 48 Today

If you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, you know who I’m talking about.  He was the head writer for the show during its entire 11-year run, and then the host of it when creator Joel Hodgson left.  The show remains one of the funniest spoofs ever made, and thanks to Netflix I can watch it and laugh whenever I want.  It’s not every day a writer like that makes me laugh consistently, so yay!  Happy birthday, Mike Nelson.

Sean Patrick Flanery – Born in 1965, Turns 47 Today

Sean Patrick Flanery, aka Young Indiana Jones, aka SPF (as my friend and I liked to call him) was the object of my affection for a brief period of time sometime around 1993.  He played Young Indy in the short-lived TV series “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”, and since I was 13 years old, I thought he was “soooooo cute” even though he was 14 years older than me.  I have no idea if he’s still “sooooo cute”, but he’s still pretty awesome.  And almost 50.

Luke Perry – Born in 1965, Turns 47 Today

I never thought I would see the day when Dylan McKay would turn 47, but today is that day.  Like many other girls my age back in the early 90s, I had a MAJOR crush on Luke Perry from Beverly Hills, 90210.  Even though I tended to switch from Brandon to Dylan on a weekly basis, Luke had a slightly greater pull on my 12-year-old heart.  Especially when he did the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 1992.  This guy definitely deserves a happy birthday.

Emily Deschanel – Born in 1976, Turns 36 Today

I used to be a big fan of the show Bones, which stars the birthday girl and David Boreanaz , but to be honest I haven’t watched it for a few years – not because I stopped liking the show, but because other stuff got in the way.  But even so, I’ve always liked Emily Deschanel.  I think she’s gorgeous, smart, and seems pretty cool.  So here’s to your birthday, Dr.!

Matt Bomer – Born in 1977, Turns 35 Today

Guess what, Matt Bomer?  You’re HOT.  And yes, I realize I have ZERO chance with you (I’m married, you prefer boys).  But that doesn’t mean I can’t look and compliment you on your hotness.  I first saw Matt Bomer on the TV show Chuck, and then he went on to do the show White Collar (which I have yet to see).  And then of course there was his appearance on Glee as Blaine’s older brother, which sort of blew me away.  So happy birthday to Matt Bomer…and please come back to Glee.

Bradley James – Born in 1983, Turns 29 Today

Okay, I hardly know enough about Bradley James to write a small paragraph about him.  But I know he plays Arthur (Prince, and then King) in the somewhat-awesome-yet-I-never-have-time-to-watch Merlin, and he’s kind of fun to look at (re: hot).  It doesn’t matter if he’s four years younger than me.  I can still wish him a happy birthday.  Hail, King Arthur!

Michelle Trachtenberg – Born in 1985, Turns 27 Today

Yep, you’ve heard it here first:  Dawn, Buffy’s little magical sister, turns 27 today!  She’s officially not a little girl anymore!  But that’s okay, she’s still pretty cool.  In addition to appearing on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she portrayed my favorite literary heroine Harriet M. Welsh in Harriet the Spy and once in a while plays a totally annoying bitch on Gossip Girl.  And she still has plenty of years left in her, so happy birthday, person whose last name is fun to say.

Posted in Geeking Out, Learning Things

Corsets and Heat Don’t Mix…and Other Things I Learned from The Renaissance Festival

Yesterday I attended and survived my very first trip to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival and, as expected, a merry time was had. Merry enough to where I’m already excited to go next year. And as is the case of any new thing I experience, I learned some very valuable lessons. For instance:

1. These Turkey Drumsticks Are Not Your Usual Thanksgiving Fare

One of the first things we did upon arrival to the festival was get in line for our lunch, aka The Turkey Drumsticks. Now, I need these things were big, but you don’t really understand the magnitude of what you’re about to injest until you’re actually holding one in your hand. It’s like when an actor wins an Oscar for the first time. They run up on stage and are handed the award, and the first thing they say is, “Wow, this is a lot heavier than I imagined.”

lot heavier.

Well, that’s what the Renaissance Turkey Drumstick is like. Seriously, the thing probably weighs close to three pounds. Three pounds of tender, juicy, greasy as all hell, hot turkey meat for you to eat without the help of any utensils. It’s quite filling, and I had to pass the rest of mine to my husband to finish because I couldn’t eat another bite. But you really only do it for the experience, because when else can you walk around eating a giant turkey leg and actually blend in with the rest of the crowd? Huzzah!

2. Some Men Really Do Like to Wear Tights

I wasn’t surprised that more women came dressed in costume than men. I mean, we get to wear pretty dresses and wings and show our cleavage while men don’t have many options other than dressing like a pirate and wearing a bandana on their heads. However, I was surprised by the number of men who fully embraced the wearing of tights. And not just tights, but codpieces as well. Oh yes, they’re not just for baseball players. And these men wear them – and the tights that cover them – with pride. Huzzah!

3. Don’t Do Free Beer Tasting on an Empty Stomach

This weekend’s theme at the Renaissance Festival was Shamrocks and Shenanigans, and the Free Beer Tasting was sponsored by Guinness. For those of you who have never participated in Free Beer Tasting, it’s really quite simple: just sit down and listen to someone explain the history of featured beers while they pass around about 3 or 4 oz of different kinds of beers. Since it was sponsered by Guinness, we were treated to samples of Harps, Smithwicks (pronounced “Smitticks”), Guinness Stout, and Guinness Extra Stout, all which followed a delicious pre-drink sample of Smirnoff’s Mandarin Corkscrew (which I could easily have for breakfast everyday).

Patiently awaiting our beer.

Now, five samples don’t really seem like a lot to some people. But you’re drinking these samples in a very short amount of time. Add up all the samples and you’re drinking 20oz of beer in about 15-20 minutes. Again, may not seem like a lot. But I’m a total light-weight, and the effects of the beer hit me as soon as I stood up and realized all I had in my stomach was some turkey meat from two hours ago. Huzzah!

4. Don’t Make Fun of Fainting Couches – You May Just Need One

In the morning before the seven of us headed out, we had all gathered at Lady Elizabeth’s dwelling (aka my friend’s house) for a lovely breakfast of quiche, muffins, fruit, and juice. At that point I was all decked out in my corset and skirt, and feeling quite skinny and amazing. After my second muffin, I joked about how I wish I could wear a corset all the time because it sort of holds everything in, but how I would probably need a fainting couch because back in the day corsetted women used to pass out all the time from lack of oxygen, therefore needing a couch on which to pass out.

Little did I know that I almost needed one myself. After standing in the heat and drinking numerous ounces of free (and purchased) ale with nothing but turkey meat in my stomach, I began to feel faint and sweaty and actually saw spots in front of my face. Luckily a bench and Lady Elizabeth came to my aide and removed said corset – just like Keira Knightley in Pirates of the Caribbean! – and after a long guzzle of water, I was good as new (sans corset). Bottom line: you may feel amazing in your Renaissance Spanx, but make sure you have back-up help. Huzzah!

5. You Don’t Get Dirty. You Get DIRTY.

The Renaissance Festival is held outdoors in a gigantic open field, and to make you feel like you’re actually living in Renaissance times (despite the fact everyone is holding an iPhone), there are no roads and hardly any grass to walk on. All that’s left to walk on is DIRT. Lots and lots and lots and lots of dirt. And when thousands of people are walking on lots of dirt, the air tends to get dusty. Now, you don’t really realize this as you’re partaking in the festivities. You’re drinking, laughing, eating, shopping…you don’t have time to look at your arms to see if they’re a shade darker than they were before you left that morning.

And then you get home. You’re standing in your house, back in civilization, back under normal lighting. And you notice that you’re tan. Oh, wait. That’s not a tan. That’s not from the sun. That’s a layer of dirt. And you realize that you have dirt coming out of every oriface of your body. You blow your nose. BLACKNESS comes out. You take your costume off. You have to vacuum where you just stood. You take a shower. The bathtub turns gray.

And then you feel amazing. Huzzah!

So the rules for next year are quite simple: Bring handwipes for Turkey Leg, eat more (but drink just as much), convince husband to wear tights (won’t happen), and tie corest a half an inch looser (maybe). Unfortunately, nothing can be done about the dirt. But hey, it might rain next year! Then you can play in the mud!


Posted in Geeking Out, Learning Things

Come Hither to Ye Olde Renaissance Festival

When I arrived at work today, there was a brochure in my mailbox for the upcoming and ever-so-popular Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Ever since I was a tween many moons ago I’ve wanted to experience the grand adventure that is the RenFest but I’ve always been either too lame or too far away to attend.

But not this year.

Oh, no, my fellow comrades. NOT THIS YEAR. For this year will be the year I don medieval dress and fill my stein with medieval ale and nosh on ye olde turkey leg. This year I will embrace all that is RenFest and not let the fear overtake this girl.

Though I probably won’t be dressed like this.

A quick history regarding the Minnesota Renaissance Festival: It began in 1971 and is currently one of the oldest and largest Renaissance Fairs in the US with an average 280,000 people in attendance during its run. Penn and Teller did their first show together at RenFest in 1975, and Jason Mraz once worked there as a pickle boy.*

*I’m sure he sold pickles on a stick, or something like that, but all I can picture in my head is Jason Mraz dressed up as a pickle singing “Lucky”.

Anyway, after reading the brochure, it’s obvious why people love to go RenFest. Besides getting to dress up in costume (peasant, pirate, wench), check out these awesome-sounding theme weekends:

Italian Carnivale
6th Annual Pet Fest
Weiner Dog Races
Arabian Horse Show
Bocce Ball Tournament
Spaghetti Eating Contest
Italian Vendors & Events

Royal Ale Fest
BBQ Competition & Festival
Homebrew Competition
Bird Show
Free Beer Tastings
Silk Road: Discover the Riches

Fairy Festival
Longbow Competition
Belly Dancing Lessons & Performances
Middle Eastern Music
Belly Dance Competition

Highland Fling
World Highland Games & MN Highland Games
Sign Language Saturday
Kilt Competition
Scottish Village
Free Beer Tasting

Wine, Chocolate & Romance
Wine & Chocolate Festival
Free Vow Renewals
Chocolate Pie Eating
Charity Auction
Grape Stomp
Free Wine Tasting

German Dancers & Music
Bavarian Village
Keg Toss & Bier Pong
Beard Competition

Festival Friday
School Days
Ladies Shopping Day
College Discount Day

Shamrocks & Shenanigans
Irish Village
Harvest Market
Irish Dancers & Music
Kilt Competition
Free Beer Tasting


So…all that sounds mind-blowing. Really. Especially when they use words like “kilt” and “beer” and “longbow”. I seriously don’t know what weekend I want to go on, because they all sound like WAY too much fun. Luckily I have a friend who goes every year who told me months ago that she was dragging me to RenFest, but after reading the schedule I don’t think any dragging will necessary. Even my husband wants to go, though I’m sure he thinks he can go without having to dress up. I’ll just have to tell him that he’ll look totally stupid if he doesn’t.

The RenFest planning begins!

Posted in Learning Things, Writing Stuff Down

Copyright Laws and Why My Head May Explode

You may have noticed a slight change in my blog as of late. One look at it and it’s easy to ask oneself…


Well, I’ll explain that.

The other day I read a horrifying article about copyright infringement in blogs, ie, taking other people’s photos and posting them into my blog. Turns out I’m totally breaking that law (along with millions of other people) without even realizing it. The person who wrote the article had the unfortunate instance where a photographer actually contacted her and not only told her to take the picture down (which she did right away), but that she has to pay him an obscene amount of money for the previous use of his photo. She didn’t have the money, lawyers got involved, and it was a big ol’ mess. All because of a single photo that she innocently posted on her own blog despite the fact that she credited it.

So you may be thinking that the odds of this happening to you or me are slim. Very slim. But there’s proof that it definitely does happen. Larger companies actually hire people called “infringement trolls” to scope the web looking for photos used without permission. And really, all those infringement trolls have to do is go to Pinterest, because that site is about 99% copyright infringement. That’s the point of Pinterest. You find a picture you like and you “pin” it so you can show everyone else how cool it is.

But most of those pictures you find are copyrighted, and most of us don’t get permission from the original source to pin them. Because that would take all the fun out of Pinterest.*

*Here’s an interesting article regarding the legality of Pinterest, if you’re interested in more info:

This really sucks for bloggers like me. I happen to think that certain photos add a lot to blogs and make them more readable. And like Alice once said, “How can one possibly pay attention to a book with no pictures in it?”*

*Damn, I’d better source that quote. Um…Lewis Carroll wrote the book…but the quote is from the Disney movie…so…um…I don’t f***ing know. Sorry.

But after reading this article and doing loads of brain-numbing research since then, the fear set in. I felt the same fear ten years ago when I got my first iPod and discovered how to get free songs from the internet (that quickly stopped after I heard about the first lawsuit).

Which brings me to another tangent…when does music fall into Fair Use or copyright infringement? Remember back in the day when you’d make mixed tapes (or CDS, whatever) for your friends? Those things were my go-tos for awesome birthday presents. They were free (except for the cost of the blank tape or CD), they were personal, and everyone loved them. But they can apparently also throw your ass in jail. All because you wanted to share your love of music with others.

I’m not making these tapes or CDs to sell on the black market. All my friend is going to do is listen to the CD in her car on her way to work. So where’s the harm?

What if I post a video of myself dancing to a Rihanna song (which I would never do…that’s something you never want to see…)? Can I be sued for using her song and publishing it without permission? I’m not commenting or reviewing it, but is it still Fair Use?

Where do we draw the line?

Anyway, last night I spent three hours going through this blog, all 104 posts, and removed any image that could get my ass in trouble.

Needless to say, my blog is fairly boring now.

I didn’t take everything out. I left in pictures I took myself (which aren’t very many), and I left in book covers and movie posters. According to the many articles I read, book covers and movie posters should be covered by the Fair Use Act, which means you can use a picture of something if it’s used for commentary or criticism. For example, many people like to write reviews for books and movies in their blogs. And the natural thing to want to do is post a picture of that book or movie to accompany the review. Apparently that’s okay.*

*Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer so don’t take any of this seriously without consulting a real one.

I understand if you’re an artist or photographer and you put your stuff out there and then someone tries to claim it as their own. Yeah, that would piss me off. But according to the law, that would only be plagiarism. There’s a different between plagiarism and copyright infringement, one being protected by the law, and one not. But if you post a photo of something you like, even go so far as to credit and link to the original source, how is that a bad thing? You’re not gaining anything from it, and I don’t think (re: I’m totally not sure) the artist is losing anything from it. If anything you’re helping promote their art, right?

Am I totally in the wrong here? Maybe I need to talk to actual photographers and artists about this. I’m sure they look at it from a completely different point of view, since that’s how they make their living. But in all honestly, bloggers and reviewers like me only have good intentions when we post something that “belongs” to someone else. I’m not trying to post a picture of Ryan Gosling on my site and saying, “Hey, look at this awesome picture I took!” Trust me, if I was able to take a picture of a half-naked Ryan Gosling with my own camera, YOU WOULD KNOW.

I talk a lot about books and movies in my blog posts, and I love to show the covers of things. Since I’m writing about them as commentary, that should be fair use.

But all the screen caps, all the pictures of celebrities and cute boys…GONE. Everything I love…GONE.


This isn’t to say that you can’t put any pictures on your blog. Obviously you can upload pictures you’ve taken yourself, which means that I’m going to have to start taking more pictures (I’m very lacking in that department). I still don’t have an iPhone (can I use that word? Is it copyrighted???????), so I don’t have the means to easily take pictures and upload them. I have an iPad (COPYRIGHT????), but people tend to make fun of other people who take pictures with their iPad. And it’s not the most convenient way to do it anyway.

There are also FREE pictures to use online from sites like Creative Commons, Flickr (though you have to check on Flickr to see if it’s copyrighted), and Morgue File, and you can also pay a small fee more access to thousands of stock (re: boring) photos.

It’s not the same, but in this day and age where people like to sue for anything, it’s the only safe way to do things. I still don’t know how the government and their little trolls are going to combat billions of people from doing this because EVERYONE does this without even knowing it – just look at Facebook. Those pictures you took the other night at the U2 concert? Totally illegal. It seems impossible to control, especially given how fast the internet has grown over the past ten years, but apparently they’re trying.


*Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer so don’t take any of this seriously without consulting a real one.**

**But they’re still probably watching what you’re doing RIGHT NOW.

Posted in Learning Things, Living Life, Traveling to Places

The American Anglophile

England was the center of attention this weekend when The Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee and sixty years on the throne.  The royalty, the boats, the fanfare, the people!  And just like the wedding of William and Kate, people went nuts over this.

I don’t blame them.

It’s not that I’m only obsessed with royalty, I’m obsessed with everything British.  I’m a total Anglophile.  If it’s British, I love it.  The weather, the accents / dialects, the pubs, the countryside, the slang, the history, and even the food!  Spotted dick?  Hilarious.  (It’s pudding with dried fruit, in case you’re wondering).

Um…does not look appealing.

My love for the British is just another one of the many things I’m blaming on Christian Bale.  When I was 13 and learned that this handsome boy came from a place called Bournemouth in southern England, I decided that England was the best place in the world.  From there I discovered that England is much more than cute boys (though there are many of those as well).

My husband and I traveled to London nine years ago, back before we were married.  It was our first big trip together, so it was a pretty big deal.  We went during the week of Valentine’s Day, because where else would I want to go to celebrate the man and the country that I loved?

The weather was frightfully cold and rainy, but we didn’t care.  We were in London.  We walked everywhere and saw everything there is to see in London.  The London Eye, the Millennium Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Harrods, Kings Cross Station, Portobello Road (where I ran into Minnie Driver, like, literally – the woman nearly plowed me down), the West End, Kensington Gardens, Buckingham Palace, and Whitechapel.  We paid for our tea with British currency.  We drank British beer.  We bought British editions of books we already owned.  We stayed at a hostel with a bunch of crazy Germans.  And we also spent Valentine’s Day itself at the Tower of London, which is like the most romantic place on earth.  Seriously.

Love is in the air.

And since at the time I was going through my Lord of the Rings / Orlando Bloom phase, I made sure we stopped by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, which is where he attended school, and where his sister was currently attending.  We went inside and walked around, and then when I was looking at one of the bulletin boards I noticed a class list that had the name “Samantha Bloom” (his sister) on it.

So I stole it.

I also accidentally left my gloves in the girls’ bathroom.  *karma*

We also spent one of our days in Oxford, which is another awesome place to hang out, especially if you’re a Tolkien fan like us.  It was freezing that day, but we found refuge in an 800-year-old Pizza Express, which turned out to be our favorite restaurant chain while we were there (we went to three different ones).

After our trip, I was fully in love with England, even though I had only been to two cities.  It suddenly seemed that all my favorite actors were British…Orlando Bloom, Christian Bale, Keira Knightley, Christian Coulson, Jude Law, Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet…I could name about a hundred of them.  I started watching a lot of British TV shows like Doctor Who, Footballer’s Wives, Mile High, Eastenders, The Catherine Tate Show, Coupling, and Top Gear, which of course made me love British cars.

Aston Martin…you know, the kind that James Bond prefers.

I also decided that British football was much better than American football and frequently stole my husband’s Manchester United David Beckham jersey.  This was before David Beckham was David Beckham.  He was super popular in the UK, but not too many people knew who he was on this side of the pond.

Oh, and British music?  I have two words for you.  The Beatles.  That is all.

I can’t write about being an Anglophile without mentioning Harry Potter.  Part of the reason why I love those books so much is because they’re so British.  I love that J.K. Rowling didn’t try to Americanize them too much (though I’m still kind of annoyed that they changed Philosopher’s Stone to Sorcerer’s Stone for us silly Americans).  Whenever I feel like I’m homesick for England, I’ll most likely read a Harry Potter book.

Or watch Love Actually and Bend It Like Beckham.

And speaking of literature, just think of all the literature that has come from England.  You have Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Chronicles of Narnia and everything Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and The Brontes ever wrote, not to mention England’s famous mythologies of Robin Hood and King Arthur?  And who doesn’t love a juicy Arthur/Lancelot/Guinevere story?

Although I consider myself to be “a very unpublished writer”, I began writing a story that took place in London about a girl who grew up in Carlisle, which is located in northern England near the Scotland border.  This story required me to do a TON of research.  I had to learn everything about this northern city located in the Lake District.  I had other characters from places like Cardiff, Wales; Manchester, UK; Birmingham, UK; and Cambridge, UK, and I had to research those places as well.  I spent hours and hours doing research, and I know I wouldn’t have put that much effort into it had I not been absolutely in love with the country.

I got so good at recognizing regional dialects of England that I could tell where a person was from just by listening to them talk.  A customer came into work one day and I could immediately tell that she was from somewhere around Newcastle, and when I asked her this I think she was a little frightened that some girl living in southern California knew something like this.  I didn’t want to explain the whole “I’m writing a story and I’m doing research” thing, so I just lied and said that I have a friend who lived in Carlisle.  I guess it was kind of true, right?

I love learning about British history, whether we’re talking about the early Druids or the Roman invasion or World War II or even as recent as the 1980s riots.  Hadrian’s Wall and Stonehenge are fascinating to me.  And of course I love learning about British royalty.  You can’t call yourself an Anglophile without a little bit of Royal Love.

I loved Princess Diana growing up because we kind of had the same name, and she was pretty.  When I was 13 I also decided that I liked her son William, even though he was younger than me.  I think I knew that he was going to be kind of gorgeous when he got older.  And like much of the world, I was devastated when Diana died.

Shortly after his mom died, William became sort of a heartthrob (duh) and his brother became a rebel (duh) and his dad married the woman he was cheating with while still married to Diana.  But luckily William has a good head on his shoulders and 14 years after his mom died he married his longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton, who is lovely.  I was one of the many millions of Anglophiles who stayed up until the early hours of the morning when William and Kate got married, because no way in hell was I going to miss that.

Since we were only in England for a week, I definitely want to get back to my other home away from home (I am, however, excluding New Zealand from this because it runs a very close second, and I’ll explain why in a separate blog post).  There are many, many more places I want to see in England that we didn’t get to:  Windsor Castle, Cambridge, Hampstead, Carlisle (I feel like I know so much about it that I kind of have to go), Newcastle (my favorite beer), Stonehenge, Wales, and many many many other places.

In just a couple of months, the Summer Olympics will be taking place and you can bet that every Anglophile out there will watch every minute of it, just because it’ll be The British Games.  I’ll be cheering for the American athletes, of course, but deep down I’ll be cheering the most for my favorite country.

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” – Samuel Johnson

Posted in Learning Things, Living Life, Watching Movies

Itsy-Bitsy Evilness

I know this is going to sound like a total cliché, but I hate spiders.  Like, seriously HATE them.  I’m not a killing person, but if I see a spider, I WILL MURDER IT.

I don’t care how cute it may appear.

Spiders, or arachnids (meaning eight-legged monster) are the one thing that will cause me physical paralysis.  I’m serious, when I see a spider – doesn’t matter what size – I will not be able to move.  For the first few moments of contact, all I can do is pray that it will suddenly disappear before my eyes.

They never do.

When I’m finally able to move, I look for the nearest thing to me with which I can throw at the spider.  It has to be within reach, because if I take my eyes off of the spider for even one second, that sucker will be off and running, and for all I know it’s jumped onto my face and is ready to kill me.


As soon as I find something to kill it with, I will do whatever it takes to make sure the job gets done.  If that means breaking a window because of the shoe I have to throw at it (true story), then so be it.  Because if you expect me to go to bed with a rogue spider loose in the house, you’d be WRONG.

And even worse is the phenomenon I like to call Zombie Spider, where after you’re 100% sure you’d killed that spider to the point where it doesn’t even closely resemble a spider anymore, it’s suddenly gone.  Like, the thing freaking GOT UP AND WALKED AWAY even though it doesn’t have any legs anymore.

Thought you killed me, eh?

I don’t know where this fear of spiders stems from – it’s not like I’ve had a horrifying, life-altering incident with a spider in my lifetime.  But I know that millions of other people share this same phobia, so I know I’m not alone.

So, why am I suddenly writing about spiders?  Well, I was planning on doing a post about some of the scariest movies I’ve seen, and then realized that only one movie causes paralyzing fear in me.  I’m not saying other movies haven’t – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre , for example, remains to this day as the only movie that has ever made me scream out loud.  The Blair Witch Project still makes me check every corner of the house.  And The Strangers actually made me somewhat sick to my stomach because it was so uncomfortably horrifying.

But the movie that combines all those fears into one 90-minute terror fest contains just one word:



First off, let me just state that when this movie came out in 1990, it was marketed as a comedy.  A COMEDY!!!!  Like deadly spiders who bite your hand while you’re eating popcorn is something to laugh about???  I hope they got hate mail from people who couldn’t sleep at night anymore because they thought they were seeing a FREAKING COMEDY.

The premise of the movie is simple:  a new family moves to town, and the dad (Ross) becomes the small town’s new doctor.  Then suddenly all these people start dying, and while the townspeople don’t know what’s causing the deaths, we as an audience know because the film actually makes us watch these spiders attack these poor victims.  We know these spiders are deadly because we saw them kill at the beginning of the movie down in the Amazon forest, and then saw one of the spiders get shipped off to America, thus procreating an entire army of deadly spiders.

All because of this idiot.

Of course all the people dying just happened to be patients of Ross, so everyone thinks he’s some kind of witch doctor.  He starts to think these people were killed by spider bites, and then we find out that he’s more scared of spiders than anyone else in the world.

Of all the towns in the world to become a doctor…

The final battle of the movie comes down to Ross and the Spider Queen, who’s a little pissed off that he’s trying to kill all her kids.  But she has to realize that her kids have taken over the ENTIRE HOUSE, thus making escape impossible for Ross’s family.  This scene is horrifying for any arachnophobe to watch, because the spiders are EVERYWHERE.  They’re coming out of the walls, they’re covering the floor, they’re piling out of the bathroom sink, and as an audience we’re just sitting there because a) we can’t move due to extreme terror and b) we’re afraid we’ve peed our pants and don’t want the whole world to know.

And then just as we think the world itself has ended and spiders now rule the earth, Ross – with some help from John Goodman, who plays a bad-ass exterminator – destroys the Queen and her disgusting egg sack and everything burns, and the spiders are gone forever.

Ross and his family move back to San Francisco because it took a deadly spider attack to make them realize that they like city life way better, and they’d much rather die in an earthquake then be covered by 5000 spiders.  And I don’t blame them one bit.

What do you say we get out of this s***hole?

This movie seriously scares the crap out of me.  I can’t even write this post without getting chills up and down my body, imagining some spider hiding behind the computer, just waiting to make his move.

Because they can jump, you know.


Happy watching (out for spiders)!

Posted in Learning Things

The Personality Test

It was a slow Friday afternoon at work when my co-worker introduced me to the joy of Jungian Personality Tests.  You know, the silly tests you take to tell you crap that you already know about yourself but like to see if the computer thinks differently (it never does).  So she sent me the link, and I placed my personality fate in Carl Jung’s psychoanalytical Swiss hands.

The questions were simple:  Do you prefer a quiet night at home, or a night out with friends?  Do you prefer a set routine, or spontaneity?  When your phone rings do you wish to ignore it, or pick it up right away?  Do you make friends quickly, or over time?

I knew before I took the test what kind of personality I have, so it came as no surprise to me when it was revealed that I am an ISTJ personality, aka The ExaminerISTJ stands for the following:

I – Introverted

S – Sensing

T – Thinking

J – Judging

According to the website, ISTJs are “ responsible, loyal and hard working. They have an acute sense of right and wrong and work hard at preserving established norms and traditions. Because of their deep sense of duty they are dedicated to everything they do and are very dependable. ISTJs care deeply for those closest to them”.

Okay, yeah…I get that.  I’ve always been one to follow rules and don’t like when people get away with breaking the rules.  I’m way into routines, I think we should uphold silly traditions, and…for the most part…am pretty dedicated to whatever I do.  Unless it’s emptying the dishwasher.  Because I’m totally not dedicated to doing that.

I also learned that we’re obsessed with punctuality.  Um, yes.  I am.  If you’re scheduled to work at 8:00am and you get there at 8:00, you’re late.  I’m early for everything  – work, dental appointments, library sales…you name it.  I’m there before anyone else.  The comfort in that, of course, is knowing that I’ll never miss a plane, I’ll never get written up for tardiness, and I’ll never get a speeding ticket because I’m running late.  It all makes sense in my head, I swear.

ISTJ’s tend to take things seriously, and yes, to a point that’s true.  That doesn’t mean that I’m gullible or can’t recognize sarcasm when I hear it.  Trust me, peeps, I’m the Queen of Sarcasm.  Seriously.  Crown and all.  And we ISTJ’s also know how to have fun, though it’s not in the party animal, let’s-dance-on-the-tables kind of way.  That only happens after a few beers, and only if Joan Jett comes on the jukebox.

Otherwise we have an offbeat sense of humor, which probably explains why I find certain things hilarious while some people don’t.  I don’t think Adam Sandler is funny.  I find Two and a Half Men to be ridiculous.  Not a fan of stand-up comedy, except for Mitch Hedberg.  But for some reason I laugh during iCarly and think the movie Heathers is hilarious.

We’re also described as “super dependable”, so if you have a secret, I probably won’t tell anybody.  Unless you tell me that your favorite movie is Drive Me Crazy.  Because I can’t keep something like that a secret.  The world must know so you can be ridiculed.

We do make good friends, though, and the close friends I have do mean a lot to me.  I like hanging out with nice, funny people who aren’t idiots or asses.  I enjoy good conversation and can talk for hours about things that interest me.

Which means don’t start talking to me about reality television.  Because I will mock you.  Silently in my head, of course.  Because ISTJ’s don’t mock in public.  We’re much more reserved like that.

There have been famous fictional characters who also share the same personality type.  Darth Vader, for example, is also an introvert.  Which explains why he didn’t like hanging out at the bar after work with the guys and preferred to go home and watch episodes of Pawn Stars.  And Bruce Wayne?  Also an ISTJ personality.  Hence the Batsuit and weird voice in The Dark Knight.

I was also informed of possible career paths in which ISTJ’s tend to excel, and I was not surprised to see that Retail Manager was NOT on the list.  Apparently that career choice is only for the criminally insane.  Instead I’m told that I should consider being an accountant, detective, librarian, or steelworker.  Or maybe even a math teacher!

Honestly I think I have a better shot at being a steelworker than a math teacher.  Just look at my report cards from high school.

I understand that while there are a lot of people out there like me and Bruce Wayne, we only represent  8.5% of the population.  Turns out not a whole lot of people want to be like Darth Vader and strive to be more like Indiana Jones.  But how many of those Indiana Jones’s are just faking it?  How many of them are forcing themselves to go to that bachelorette party for that co-worker, when all they really want to do is stay home and watch The Vampire Diaries?  How many of those people ARE LYING TO THEMSELVES?????

Just remember:  Some of us are Phineas, and some of us are Ferb.  And once you’re okay with that, the rest is cake.

So if you haven’t figured it out yet and you’re curious about what kind of person you are, go and take the test.  You may discover some new things about yourself – maybe you really are Indiana Jones!  But if you’re Darth Vader, it’s okay.  Because he was, after all, a total bad-ass.  Until he screamed “Noooooooooooooooo!” at the end of Revenge of the Sith and we ISTJ’s all snickered to ourselves.


Happy testing!

Posted in Learning Things

Dreaming of Being Crafty

There are so many blogs out there about arts and crafts and creating beautiful things out of toothpicks and paste, and instead of inspiring me to become One of the Craft, they all just make me feel inadequate.  Thirty seconds on Pinterest, and I feel like a loser.  I know it’s not these people’s intention, and it’s not that I don’t enjoy watching them create, it’s just a constant reminder to me that I couldn’t be crafty if my life depended on it.

I have friends that can knit and sew and crochet, and it fills me with envy to see them showing off their latest scarf or hat on Facebook or their crafty blog.  It seems to come so easy to them, yet something like would probably take me at least a year to do, if I was even able to finish it.

Apparently this is crocheting.

You know what I can make?  Friendship bracelets.  And I am pretty handy with an old plastic loom from 1970.  When I get in the mood – which is rarely – I have been known to break out the loom and make a coaster for the table.

But they are so embarrassingly easy, my three-year-old can do it.  And since I only make them about once every five years, they don’t qualify me as “crafty”.

I suppose I shouldn’t say that I’ll never lean how to knit or sew or crochet.  It is possible for one to learn how to do such things if they just put a little time and effort into it.  The thing is, my patience level is so low for things like “art”, that I’m just not sure if I have the time and effort to give.  Unless this was involved:

If I were to have time and effort, the one thing I want to learn how to do besides make my own outerwear accessories is the Japanese art of crocheting tiny creatures, known as amigurumi.  These little crocheted creatures are so freaking adorable, and I’m totally jealous of anyone who can do it.

There are thousands of different amigurumi patterns you can find on the net, and people have done some amazing ones of well-known characters, including these awesome movie characters:

I have a category on Pinterest devoted solely to Amigurumi because it’s so awesome, and it has 78 followers.  There is a market for this stuff out there, and people will buy it if they see something they like. In fact, my husband just told me that if I learn how to do it, I don’t have to work.  Dude, I need to take him up on that offer!

So if there’s anyone out that knows the art of Amigurumi, or wants to learn and drink wine with me, let me know!  Because it would be awesome to not have to work and just stay at home making this shiz.


Happy crafting!

Posted in Drinking Tea, Learning Things, Living Life

Getting Adjusted

It’s been almost three weeks since I made the move from Los Angeles to Minneapolis, and let me tell you…it hasn’t been easy.  I made a similar move ten years ago when I moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles right after graduating from college, and that was cake.  Seriously, all I took with me was a large suitcase full of clothes and a handful of books, and then whatever would fit in my 1993 Pontiac Grand Prix that my parents so willingly drove across the country for me while I took a plane.  I don’t remember feeling that much stress, except for the “oh-my-God-I’m-moving-to-California” stress that was to be expected.  Other than that…easy.

Since meeting my husband, we have moved five times, all within the Los Angeles area.  All moves were pretty easy, even the fifth one from Corona to Torrance when our daughter was just 10 months old.  So when we finally made the decision to move 2000 miles, I thought, “Well, we’ve done this so much, it’s gonna be easy!”

Way wrong.  This move – for lack of a better word – sucked.  For one thing we have way too much stuff ( I, however, have just the right amount of books), and it took forever to pack up all our stuff.  We also only had one 16 ft POD in which to pack our belongings, and that made for a tight squeeze, even after selling a lot of our stuff, and packing that thing was like the ultimate game of TETRIS.

Minus the cool creepy Nutcracker music.

Don’t forget that our daughter is now 3 and a half, and fully aware that we were packing up her precious toys.  I won’t go into detail about how much that sucked.  Just use your imagination.

But after all that (and a lot of money spent), we eventually made it here to Minnesota.  And while I thought getting the move over and done with would bring relief, it hasn’t.  At least the relief that I wanted.  We’re in completely different state, surrounded by completely different people, and even though I was born here and lived in this state for 18 years (and Wisconsin for four), things are just…different.  Let me explain.

1.  The Weather

Ah, yes…the one thing most of the people commented on when we told them we were moving.  “But it’s so cold there!”  Yes, people, it’s cold in Minnesota.  I’ve lived here, so I know how cold it can get.  And yes, it was a bit of a shock when I got off the plane.  But it’s just something you get used to.  It’s only 10 degrees outside?  You dress for it.  Add another layer, throw on a scarf, stick a hat on your head.  Wear some fuzzy socks and some ugly boots.  You just deal with it.  On the upside, however, it has been unseasonably warm this January, and yesterday it even got above 40 degrees, making me want to break out the spring jackets.  Of course had I been in LA and it got down to 40 degrees, I probably wouldn’t have even stepped outside.  Because it just becomes all relative.

Wait…is that supposed to be below the zero?

2.  The People

There’s this thing people talk about called “Minnesota Nice”, which refers to niceness of the natives of this state.  Growing up I never really noticed it, probably because not everyone is nice in middle and high school.  But living ten years in Los Angeles made me appreciate the whole “Minnesota Nice” phenomenon, because you know what?  People are really nice here!  I’m not saying that there aren’t nice people in LA, because there are.  But working in retail for the past six years made me realize that there are a lot of NOT nice people there.  Even just walking down the street people looked either upset or pissed off or just plain mean.  And while I’m sure there are some not nice people in Minnesota, my experiences with the public have been very pleasant.  Where else would a complete stranger at IKEA offer give us some rope from his truck and help us strap a mattress to the top of our car?

3.  The Freeways

I’m not going to talk about the obvious difference in traffic between Los Angeles and Minneapolis.  We all know the difference.  What I’m talking about here are the actual Twin Cities freeways themselves, and how I don’t understand them one bit.  Freeway driving in Los Angeles, despite all the traffic, is actually really easy.  They all pretty much go East/West and North/South, and you always have the mountains and the ocean as a directional guide.  Going north?  Ocean’s on your left.  Going West?  Mountains are on your right.  You know that, and you can’t get lost.  But here?  Seriously, I feel like I’m driving in circles.  All the time.  If it wasn’t for my GPS, I’d probably be in South Dakota right now.


4.  The Coffeehouse

Living in LA, I was used to finding a Starbucks on pretty much every corner I turned.  Getting my Venti Unsweetened Black Iced Tea became a thing of routine, something I had to get everyday – plus a free refill – or else my day would be total crap (I’m serious – I did a study on it).  So when I came here I thought, “Well, since there are more Starbucks than people in LA, I’m sure to find a few in my neighborhood here!”  HA.  Not so.  Minnesota-grown Caribou Coffee seems to have the “one-on-every-corner” market taken here in the Twin Cities, and while the iced tea there isn’t bad, it just isn’t the same.  It’s not like we don’t have Starbucks here – most of them being inside of Super Targets – but out of convenience I’ve had to resort to the ‘Bou just about everyday.  It’s just something I’m going to have to get used to, I guess.  Le sigh.

It’s a slow process – especially for my daughter – but I know things are going to get better.  My husband and I may be unemployed and living in my parents’ basement (PARTY!), but as of the writing of this blog we both have interviews lined up, so I’m actually typing with my fingers crossed.  Seriously, try it sometime.  It’s not easy.  But it can be done.

It can be done.

Happy living!

Posted in Learning Things

2011: Good Riddance

Once again that time has come, the time where we say goodbye to another year and hello to one full of hope and promise.  Back in the day, the turning of a new year used to be a huge deal to me.  My friends and I would always reflect on all the fun stuff that had happened that year, and in lots of cases we would sob uncontrollably into our cans of Mountain Dew because “1993 was the best year ever!!!” and we were so sad to see it go.

Well, that time has long past.  Gone are the days when candy and soda and nostalgia ruled December 31, and welcome to adulthood when New Years Eve simply means trying to keep your eyes open long enough to see the clock on your DVR turn from 11:59 to 12:00.  The years don’t seem to be filled with amazing moments to cry over when the year ends.  Nowadays we just remember the few good things that happened that year, say goodnight, and go to bed.  Or, in my case, you curl up on a couch with your husband while simultaneously watching a movie, checking Twitter and Facebook, and harvesting your Smurfs Village crops.

It’s important stuff, people.

2011 will be remembered as the year I read 79 books (not hitting my goal of 100, but still pretty impressive), the year I mourned the ending of theatrical Harry Potter, and the year I become a blogger.  It was also the year I worked 40 hours a week, ate three meals a day, and slept at night, which doesn’t make it any different from any other year, does it?  To summarize:  2011 wasn’t a very spectacular year, and I am sooo ready to move on to the year of the Mayan apocalypse.

2012 promises to be a year of change.  After ten years of living in the City of Angels, I’m packing up my CA-born husband and daughter and moving them to the tundra we know as The Land of 10,000 Lakes.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do for over five years now, and I can’t believe it’s finally happening.  More importantly, I can’t believe I managed to talk my husband into agreeing into it.  But I think it’s the right thing to do for our future (and my sanity), and I’m pretty freaking excited.

2012 will also bring about a movie I’ve been awaiting for about ten years…The Hobbit.  After seeing the first teaser trailer for it a couple of weeks ago, I can say with confidence that this will be a definite highlight of my year, despite the fact that it won’t be happening for another 11 and a half months from now.  But I have to have at least one midnight movie premiere to attend this year, right?

You know what else I’m looking forward to?  New episodes of three of the best shows on TV right now: Doctor Who, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones.  It may seem trivial to some people who look at the upcoming year with a wider scope, but come on.  It’s the trivial things that get me through my day.

I also hope to expand on this blog in the coming year and work towards my goal of totally copying the format of Hello Giggles and creating my own webzine.  It will be similar to this blog – basically me talking about the most random things I can think of – but at a greater scale.  Title of said webzine to be determined, though I am currently taking any ideas.  Much welcome.

When it comes to reading, I am definitely going to hit my goal of 100 books, and I expect this will be even easier given the fact that I go both ways now.  There are a lot of YA books coming out in 2012 that I’m anticipating, for example, the sequel to Lauren Oliver’s Delirium (which was one of my 2011 faves), Pandemonium; the third book in the Seven Kingdoms trilogy, Bitterblue; and the sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s Wither, Fever.

When it comes to personal resolutions, I’m not really one to make any, except I usually tell myself the usual “Less complaining, more enjoying” life mantra.  It’s pretty good advise for anyone, especially for someone who works 40 hours a week in a clothing store and has to deal with some of the rudest people on the planet.  But like I said…2012 is the year for change.  And maybe that someone won’t have to deal with the rudest people on the planet anymore.

2012 is also the year of the much-awaited Summer Olympics in London, which I’ve been counting down to since they announced the location back in 2005.  I’m a huge fan of the Olympics – summer and winter – and I find nothing wrong with spending 17 days watching swimming, gymnastics, and other unknown sports from other unknown countries.  It’s the one time I watch sports, and the one time I feel patriotic and love my country, when it isn’t pissing the hell out of me.

I can confidently say that I’m looking forward to 2012 more than I have any other year in a long time – probably not since LOTR release years.  I know it’s gonna be a good one, and if the Mayans were right and it will be the last, then we’d all better make it count.

Happy new year!

Posted in Learning Things

Sixth Grade Country Report: Redux

Back in sixth grade, we were all required to do a report on a country.  We were in groups of three or four, and we had to draw from a hat which country we were going to have to write about.  I was hoping for Sweden.  Instead I got Portugal.


I’ve always wished I could go back and redraw another country from the hat in hopes that I get Sweden.  And then I realized that I can go back in time!  I’ll just jump into my imaginary TARDIS and go back 20 twenty years and make my report way better.

So let’s pretend I’m in sixth grade again, and I just pulled out my country: SWEDEN!  Here’s my report in full:

Sweden is awesome.  It’s part of Scandinavia, which has lots of snow and trees and blond people.  It’s been rumored that Santa lives there, though the Finnish like to think that he lives in their country.  It gets really cold there in the winter, and during summer in the northern parts the sun doesn’t even set.  It’s called midnight sun, and it sounds totally cool.  Like, you could ride your bike at midnight because the sun is still out.


Swedish people are obsessed with these red horses called the Dalecarlian Horse.  People used to make them for children out of firewood when there were no iPads to play with.  It looks like this:

There’s no app for this.

Christmas is a huge deal in Sweden.  The celebration begins on December 13 on St. Luica’s Day, where the youngest daughter from each family wears a bunch of lit candles around her head and, without totally burning all of her hair off, she wakes her parents and serves them coffee and Lucia buns.

Like Kirsten on the cover of this American Girl book.

Swedish people like to put up their tree two days before Christmas.  They usually decorate them with candles, apples, Swedish flags, scary gnomes wearing red hats, and straw ornaments.  They also like to fill the house with red tulips though, according to my mom, no one can get tulips in December.  So I don’t know where those Swedish people are getting them.

Do they know their tree is crooked?

Then after eating a really gross Christmas Eve dinner consisting of Christmas ham, pickled pigs feet, lutfisk, and dried codfish, someone dresses up like the tomte, which is another totally scary gnome that lives under the floorboards of your house, and passes out presents.

Actual picture of a tomte.

Name Days are also a big deal in Sweden, as well as other Scandinavian and European countries.  Each name has its own day of celebration, for example, today is Helga / Olga Day.  To all the Helgas and Olgas out there, happy Name Day!  Is it just me, or do Name Days sound way cooler than birthdays?

There is an app for that!

Swedish people have really cool furniture that they all get from Ikea.  Ikea was founded in 1943, and has continued to supply millions of people with furniture that you have to put together yourself.  I can’t pronounce any of the items they sell at Ikea, but their showrooms are really cool and I like to pretend that I live in Sweden when I walk through them.

Trivia:  Do you know what IKEA stands for?

Ingvar Kamprad from Elmtaryd, Agunnaryd

Sweden looks like a really pretty place to visit, judging by the pictures I find on Google.  Whether it’s spring, summer, fall, or winter, it looks way better than where I live.  

Because it gets really cold in Sweden, Swedes have to wear lots of cute clothes to keep warm.  They like to buy their clothes at H&M, which is headquartered in Sweden.  And instead of wearing Uggs, they like to wear boots like these:

You can find more cute Swedish footwear here.

Most Swedish people speak English, and pretty much all of them drink coffee.  They all drive Volvos like Edward in Twilight, and they all enjoy the music of ABBA, Ace of Base, and Roxette.  Britney Spears, ‘N Sync, and Backstreet Boys all got their start in Sweden.

Marriage isn’t a huge deal in Sweden, and lots of people decide to live sambo, which means you live with someone while still getting the rights of a married couple.  No strings attached!

So in conclusion, Sweden sounds like a totally cool place to live, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to go there.  Maybe I’ll make my sambo take me there on our “living togethermoon”.  We’ll stay at the Ice Hotel.  It’s a “cool” place to visit.  Bork, bork, bork!

Obviously Swedish.

So while I was back in time redoing my country report, I decided to hang around until my teacher graded it.  I just got it back like ten seconds ago, and she gave me a C.  I didn’t include a bibliography, and my information was “poor” and “inaccurate”.  Well, that just goes to show you…


Happy learning!

Posted in Learning Things

The Raddest Decade Ever

Sometimes at work when conversations about what we watched on TV the night before start to dwindle, we start asking each other random questions like, “If you could buy just one song from iTunes, what would it be?” or “What’s one movie you never ever want to see again?”  Or more recently, “What’s your favorite decade?”

I’ve known a lot of girls who have answered “the 1950s” because of the fashion or “the 1920s” because of the illegal drinking of alcohol.  And at times I have agreed with them.  1950s dresses were adorable, and I’m pretty sure alcohol tastes better when it’s forbidden.  But when it comes down to it, there’s only one decade in the history of the world I can truly say was the best.  The awesomest.  The freshest.  The wickedest.  Yes, my friends, I am talking about The Decade of Decadence.  The Decade of Greed.  The Decade of Popped Collars and Fashion Plates.

I’m talking about the 1980s.

I can easily stand behind my decision because unlike those other equally interesting decades, I actually lived through the 80s.  That’s a pretty beg deal, considering about a billion Facebook users today were born after 1990.  And I feel bad for them because while they may think that wearing leg warmers and bangles and off-the-shoulder sweatshirts are cool now, they never got to experience how cool it was to wear them when they were cool for the first time.  Today’s teens are just wearing recycled fashion from a decade they can only read about in history books.

Let’s get physical!

When it came to pop culture, the 80s were so choice.  So let’s take a moment here to recognize the decade that brought us Martha Quinn, Punky Brewster, and Big Red gum.  Just sit back…and relax.

The Music

There’s no denying that some kick-ass tunes came from the 80s.  From Madonna to George Michael, Michael Jackson to Prince, some of my favorite songs came out before I was even ten years old.  I officially started listening to music in 1988 when I was nine and my dad got me this thing called a “compact disc” from this place called “Columbia House”.  He had to order a minimum number of CDs to become a member, and when he asked me what I wanted, I pointed to this:

Thus began my obsession with music.  I was young, so of course I loved Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, Paula Abdul, and New Kids on the Block.  Not considered to be the best music that came out of the 80s, but influential to me all the same.  Here’s my top ten faves in 80s music by year:

1980 – “Rock With You” – Michael Jackson (and we gonna ride the boogie)

1981 – “Jessie’s Girl” – Rick Springfield (where can I find a woman like that?)

1982 – “Mickey” – Toni Basil (cause when you say you will, it always mean you won’t)

1983 – “Total Eclipse of the Heart” – Bonnie Tyler (we’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks)

1984 – “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” – Wham! (you make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day)

1985 – “Take On Me” – a-ha (it’s no better to be safe than sorry)

1986 – “Walk Like An Egyptian” – The Bangles (Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh)

1987 – “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” – Whitney Houston (Don’tcha wanna dance? Say you wanna dance! Don’tcha wanna dance?)

1988 – “Sweet Child O’ Mine” – Guns ‘n’ Roses (guitar riff)

1989 – “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)” – New Kids on the Block (I’ll be loving yoooooooooou)

The Movies

“They just don’t make movies like they used to.”  We’ve all heard that saying, and when people say it they’re usually talking about the 80s.  I’m not saying that great movies didn’t come out in the 1990s or 2000s, because there were plenty.  But there’s just something so simple and ridiculous about 80s movies that makes them classics.  They’re like comfort food or a hot cup of tea and roaring fire.  They just make you feel good.

Like Jake Ryan.

Comedies ruled the 1980s.  The reason why I’m not a huge fan of comedies these days is because they just don’t make me laugh the way they did back in the day.  Were things just funnier in the 80s?  I think they might have been.  Take Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for example.  Hilarious, and part of my all-time Dirtop ten.  John Hughes just knew what was funny without going overboard, and the fact that he knew exactly what teenagers were like made that and all his movies strike a chord with everyone.  That just doesn’t happen anymore, at least not to me.

The 80s also brought us great action movies and introduced us to Indiana Jones, Ewoks, and Maverick.  Here are some of my top ten favorite movies from the 1980s, again by year!

1980 – “The Empire Strikes Back” (Who’s scruffy-looking?)

1981 – “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (Wave it at anything that slithers.)

1982 – “E.T.” (I’ll believe in you all my life, everyday. E.T.)

1983 – “WarGames” (Let’s play Global Thermonuclear War.)

1984 – “The Karate Kid” (Get squish just like grape.)

1985 – “The Goonies” (That’s my mom’s most favorite piece!)

1986 – “Top Gun” (That’s right! Ice… man. I am dangerous.)

1987 – “Dirty Dancing” (God wouldn’t have given you maracas if He didn’t want you to shake ’em.)

1988 – “Cocktail” (Never show surprise, never lose your cool.)

1989 – “Batman” (Where does he get those wonderful toys?)

The Toys

Since I spent the first ten years of my life in the 80s, toys were very important to me.  It’s probably made me bias, but I think they’re waaaay better than toys nowadays.  Kids only want fancy gadgets now.  Back then we played with actual toys, and cool ones at that.  Can you imagine a kid today spending a rainy afternoon poking holes into a piece of paper via the Lite Brite?  Can you imagine the look on some kid’s face when you show him an Atari?  They would think you were totally nuts!

What the hell do you do with this?

Luckily my daughter is the exception, because she’s 3 and she’s awesome.  My mom saved all my toys from when I was kid and recently sent them all to me to give to her.  And my daughter loves them.  Granted she’s three and doesn’t have friends to compare toys with, but it’s so cool to see her having so much fun with my old Care Bears, My Little Ponies, and Strawberry Shortcake dolls.  I know that there are new versions of all that in stores now, but they don’t really compare to the originals, am I right?

Toys from the 80s will always be near and dear to my heart, only because it represents my childhood.  Here are some of my faves that I will always place high above any toy that comes out today:

1. Cabbage Patch Kid (Mine was born on November 2 and her name was Ann Maureen).

2. Barbie (who will always have way better clothes than me)

3. Strawberry Shortcake (Blueberry Muffin was my favorite)

4. Glo-Worms (because I love bugs with faces and top-hats)

5. My Little Pony (I loved braiding their tails)

6. Care Bears (the movie made me cry)

7. Rainbow Brite (she had a freaking star on her cheek, simply because she was awesome)

8. Pound Puppies (they made me so sad with their droopy eyes)

9. Jem (duh…she was a rock star)

10. Rose Petal Place (she was a flower!!!!)

The Fashion

I wasn’t really into fashion in the 80s, to be honest.  Nor was I in the 90s, for that matter.  Oh, who am I kidding, I’m still not that into fashion, despite what I may do for a living.  The extent of my “fashion” was twelve different colors of stirrup pants and sweaters with snowflakes on them. But the 80s were definitely full of fashion trends, and to ignore them would be like turning a back on a friend.

Hair was big, jeans were stonewashed, and t-shirts were oversized.  What made people think they looked hot is still a bit of a mystery.  Then again, it was the 80s, and girls just wanted to have fun.  And fun meant piling on blue eyeshadow and snapping on that banana clip.  Which should totally come back, by the way.

A rainbow of colors.

Whether people like it or not, 80s fashion is back in a big way.  Here are some top trends that you just might see back in stores this coming year:

1. Shoulder pads (they’ll make you look like a monster)

2. Mini Skirts (especially with leggings if you lived in the tundra called Minnesota)

3. Leg Warmers (I really did wear mine to dance class.  And while sledding.)

4. Huge earrings (they had to touch your shoulder)

5. Fingerless Gloves (aren’t your fingers still cold though????)

6. Parachute Pants (don’t attempt jumping out of a plane while wearing them, though)

7. Stirrup Pants (very handy while ice-skating because they didn’t ride up)

8. Oversized Tops (to cover up the muffin top from the low-rise jeans)

9. Jellies (my feet would get ridiculously sweaty in those things)

10. Slap Bracelets (these are banned now, thanks to my generation. Ha!)

Now, I’m sure there are some people out there willing to argue that the 1980s was far from being the greatest.  But if you were a kid during that time, I can bet you that you’ll probably be on my side.  And that’s because humans are a nostalgic people, and we tend to love whatever it is that reminds us of our childhood.  The 80s was my childhood, and to me it remains to be the greatest decade in the history of the world.

Happy reminiscing!

Posted in Learning Things

In Fourteen-Hundred and Ninety-Two…

You know the rest.  But how much do you really know about Christopher Columbus?  Yeah, we learn the basics as kids.  We learn that he “discovered” America while he was trying to find the East Indies.  We learn that he made contact with the natives and actually set up shop here in America for a while.  Is that why we celebrate Columbus Day?  Or is that why these people protest?

Actual picture of a Columbus Day protest I saw last year in Los Angeles.

I’m not here to get all political on you.  I know why we celebrate, and I know why we protest.  Whatever.  I’m just here to give you a little run-down on what you may not know about the Spanish explorer.  Just because, you know, it’s kind of his day today.  And I need something to blog about.

1.  Christopher Columbus was born on Halloween.

That’s right, the guy is a Halloween baby.  That would totally explain the crazy get-ups he wore, if it weren’t for the fact that Halloween didn’t even exist until fifty years after he died.

2.  Columbus was originally searching for Japan.

Because, you know, he was probably totally digging on green tea.  And anime.

3.  Columbus wasn’t the first one to reach America.

The Viking Leif Ericson beat him to it.  The Vikings pretty much beat everyone to everything, didn’t they?  Well, except where football is concerned.

4.  Columbus thought the earth was really small and Europe really big.

As most Europeans do.

5.  Columbus sailed west from the Canary Islands smack-dab in the middle of hurricane season.

And he didn’t even have The Weather Channel to warn him about it.

6.  Columbus requested he be made “Great Admiral of the Ocean” and named Governor of any place he discovered.

And it wouldn’t even consider the popular or electoral vote.  His request was rejected.

7.  Columbus was kind of a cocky asshole.

“They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them…I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased.”  ‘Nuff said.

8.  Columbus discovered Cuba on Christmas Day.

Feliz Navidad!

9.  Columbus named one of the islands he found “Virgin Gorda” (Fat Virgin).

After that one chick he met at that one bar.

10.  Columbus required the Taino people to bring him 25 pounds of spun cotton every three months.  If not, their hands were cut off and they were left to bleed to death.

See fact #7.

11.  Columbus thought Cuba was a peninsula rather than an island.

It’s well-known that Columbus sucked at geography.

12.  Columbus would scare natives by predicting lunar eclipses.

Easy to do when you have an astronomy book to cheat from.

13.  A hurricane stranded Columbus and his men on Jamaica for over a year.

They drank a lot of Red Stripe to pass the time.

14.  Columbus was imprisoned at age 48 due to complaints against him and his brothers.

See #7 and #10.

15.  Even at his death, Columbus was still convinced that the lands he discovered had been along the east coast of Asia.

It is well-known that Columbus really sucked at geography.

16.  Columbus died at age 54 of a heart attack due to reactive arthritis.

Not a fun way to go.

17.  Canadians don’t celebrate Columbus Day

Because Canadians don’t exist.

18.  Christopher Columbus is regularly referred to by Rastafarian singers and musical groups as an example of a European oppressor.

See #7 and #10.  AGAIN.

19.  1992 the world celebrated the 500th anniversary of Columbus by releasing the movie 1492: Conquest of Paradise.

It wasn’t very good.

20.  America was named after Amerigo Vespucci.

Because he was way better at geography than Columbus.

So now you know all there is to know about Christopher Columbus, the discoverer of our country.  Well, sort of.  Not really.  Whatever.  He did something, I guess.  Just think…if he had only realized where the hell he was on the map, we could all be living in Columbia right now.  Or Columbus, Ohio.

Happy Columbus Day!