Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Things I'm digging right now

In no particular order...

Handwriting as computer font. A friend sent me to this site on National Handwriting Day (better known as January 23rd) to get a free font of my own handwriting.

It is ridiculous how much joy it brings me.

For the record, I don't have particularly neat or fantastic handwriting. My mother once told me "the problems" with my generation were that we had poor penmanship and didn't enunciate. But that's a different post. :0)

Back to the font-- it's really cool. A quick web search shows me there are several sources for a free chance to get your handwriting as a font. Here's one and here's another. Do it. You won't regret it.

Rembert explains the 80s. If you are a child of the 1980s you will love this feature as much as I do. Rembert Browne is a devilishly handsome 24 year old writer at Grantland (if I do say so myself). His older colleagues send him videos (music videos, clips from TV and movies) from the 1980s that he's never seen before and ask for his interpretive comments. It is hilarious.

His breakdown of the montage dance scene from Breakin' and the outdoor concert from the movie Lost Boys both had me guffawing. Don't even get me started on his assessment of the 1987 Crystal Light Aerobics Championship. 

It's nostalgia at its best.

Behold. Slate's new photo blog. What would life be like without the internet? I shudder to imagine.

I am a regular Slate reader. (Dear Prudence's columns keep me feeling good about the fact that many people are much, much crazier than the crazy people I know). Their new photo blog is MESMERIZING.

It's not just a way to learn about fascinating photographic works, it's a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration for writing. This week's feature about suitcases saved from an insane asylum had me itching to write stories for every forlorn suitcase. Indoor clouds. Magnificent chickens. Re-enacting childhood photos. Don't miss it.

Check these out and let me know what you think!

Saturday, February 16, 2013


I saw the talented Katy Upperman post this several weeks ago and loved it. She got the idea from Kate Hart, who picked it up from Amy Lukavics, who found the post by  Dani Hampton at Sometimes Sweet.)


Snow days. And I cannot believe I'm saying this after a full week home. My husband's schedule was also impacted by the snow and we've all had a lot of cabin fever  time together as a family. Sure the kids have probably forgotten everything they've learned since Christmas, I have a ton of work to catch up on, and my hubs paycheck will suffer, but we've also had a lot of good times in the snow and snuggled up warm inside.


A Canadian friend loaned me Fifth Business by Robertson Davies at least a year ago and asked me to read it. I recently re-organized my bookshelves and am tackling it now. So far so good. It reminds me of old black and white movies like The Magnificent Ambersons (not in content, just in era). At least that's how I'm imagining it.


We are watching the US version of The Office. I know. Chuckle quietly to yourself. That is so 2005. I get it. We lived in Europe when the original British version of the Office came on-- we watched and loved that series, so we weren't really motivated to watch the US version. (Especially because the first episode is nearly a line by line repeat.) We finally gave it a chance and have enjoyed it. The differences are interesting-- of course the US version is a lot longer than the 2 "season" Brit series. The lead character is much less repellent in the US version. It's super funny and we're loving it. Now if only someone would remake Extras.

Thinking about

Changes I want to make on my MS... always thinking about that. :0) Now that school is beginning again maybe I can squeeze in some time to work on them.

A cool project I'm working on with my students, those revisions I'm dying to make, three research articles I need to put the finishing touches on and then... a well-earned Spring Break. :0)

Listening to
I've been watching videos with the boys on YouTube. They are big fans of Gotye, One Direction, Taylor Swift, and Ke$ha.

For Spring. I feel like the whole region has paid their dues this fall and winter. Power Outages. Hurricanes. An Earthquake. A Blizzard. We've been good. We dealt with 4 1/2 foot snow drifts. Now bring on the buds and shoots of spring.

Making me happy
Thank goodness for Legos, lego tables, and these guys.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Review: Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink by Stephanie Strohm

Okay, let me admit I meant to read this 2012 debut in 2012 but I fell off my game. 

I originally picked up the book because before I left my agent, this author would have been my agency-mate. That being said, I don't know the author and have never met her, not even via email. 

And what a pity I never got to connect with her because this book is utterly charming. Wait-- I don't want to get ahead of myself-- here's the basic premise from Goodreads:

Libby Kelting had always felt herself born out of time. No wonder the historical romance-reading, Jane Austen-adaptation-watching, all-around history nerd jumped at the chance to intern at Camden Harbor, Maine’s Oldest Living History Museum. But at Camden Harbor Libby’s just plain out of place, no matter how cute she looks in a corset. Her cat-loving coworker wants her dead, the too-smart-for-his-own-good local reporter keeps pushing her buttons, her gorgeous sailor may be more shipwreck than dreamboat — plus Camden Harbor’s haunted. Over the course of one unforgettable summer, Libby learns that boys, like ghosts, aren’t always what they seem.

Great concept, right? 

But it's not just a great concept. It is a perfectly executed realization of a great concept. Let me level with you, as a research nerd myself I really appreciate when you get a strong sense that the author knows what she is talking about. 

Do you know what I mean? 

I see glitches in books sometimes that totally turn me off, particularly if it's the kind of detail that would take a five second Google or Wikipedia search to clarify. It's not like you have to drive to the library anymore to look things up. (Who remembers those days?) When I feel like the author is a complete and utter expert I can relax into the story and enjoy it more. And the details in this book are fantastic. Stephanie builds an authentic world by weaving all kinds of awesomely nerdy history facts into the book-- but she does it seamlessly without EVER giving you the sense that she's "teaching you something historic". 

The setting is fantastic-- I spent most of the book picturing nearby Mystic, CT, which I visit whenever my parents come up to CT. The storylines, large and small, are excellent. And the romance. Damn. It is a doozy. Because it is totally contemporary but nestled into this historical (or mock-historical) setting. The best of both worlds. 

Find this book.  Read it. 

You will not regret it. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Kenya Update

I posted a few times about my adventures working on a sustainable agriculture project in Kenya this summer. You can find the posts here, here, here, and here

I also talked about how I felt a desire to help some of the people I met there in a post for the Kindness Project in October. 

I wanted to end with an update on the two packages I sent. 

Package number one was filled with fabric and sent to a rural school for seamstresses. When I met them I learned that they had no fabric to work with and instead used paper bags to sew (which in turn damaged their machines). 

Package number two included mini-soccer balls, yarn (at their request, for making crafts to sell) and school supplies for the orphanage. 

Together, sending the packages cost me about $90.00 USD, which is especially costly considering they each contained less than $20.00 worth of goods. So, in essence, the bulk of my "gift" was spent on getting the items to the recipients. 

And I wasn't even sure they would receive the packages in whole. 

I was happy to hear about 4-6 weeks later that both friends had received the boxes. I was sad to learn that both had to pay a fee to pick up the items (around $10.00 USD, not exorbitant by our standards, but a big deal for them). They were thankful to get the goods but I was a little heartsick to think that I'd spent so much time and effort with relatively little "bang" for my buck. 

With Christmas approaching I was hoping to do something else for them. But I was feeling frustrated about the constraints of budget, time, and postage. 

So, I contacted my friends and asked them candidly if I could send them a small amount of money through Western Union. They said that would be fine. It was much easier (it arrived the same day I sent it), convenient (they could pick it up at any Western Union location in their region), and the fees were small (between $5-10).

So, for me, this was a workable solution. But at the same time I can't recommend it to others. I feel comfortable because I have met these people, I have seen their school and orphanage, I have met the children they work with. I trust them. 

That being said, the school is not technically a non-profit, it's just a rural school without a lot of funds. The orphanage is a non-profit... but it doesn't have anything like a secure website that would allow interested parties to support them. So in many ways I feel like my hands are tied in terms of taking this to the next level. 

Since you've been following my relationship with these groups in Kenya via the blog, I wanted to post an update and let you know how it had all worked out! 

I guess the short story is: Like a lot of things in life, it's complicated!

But it was wonderful to touch base with my friends-- I had nice notes from both of them thanking me for the gifts, which was really cool. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Art Opening YAY

I had an art show opening this Saturday at the Gallery Arts Guild in Lakeville, CT. It was a show called Animals We Love and included some really cool work.

There were these amazing bronze animals that were massive and had a sort of steampunk quality to them (That artist's kids were there-- two little girls about my sons' ages-- and they were so awesome. You could tell they had been to a lot of art shows. They walked around with the price lists and talked to the artists. So cute! We had a great time talking about bugs! My boys on the other hand were not so well trained. Their dad took them on a field trip during the show to see some nearby horses.)

Then there were ceramics, paintings, sculpture, and drawings, all of cats, dogs, horses, owls, even a frog-- in general more popular kinds of animals. I was thrilled to have my bugs included!

I liked how they placed this whimsical ceramic frog among the bugs (his dinner).

One of my basic woodcuts was included, this framed praying mantis.

The rest of my pieces in the show were woodcuts with an inlaid collage of vintage postage stamps. These are popular and seemed to be a big hit-- the first sale of the show was my dragonfly. Yay! You can barely see the tiny pink dot that shows it has been sold in the photo below.

Here's what they look like up close:

The show will hang until mid March, or you can find my work on ETSY.