Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Modern day hair dilemma

A girl could write about worse crises, but why? Right now what I'm concerned with is my obsession with bangs. I've been wanting to cut my hair and add bangs for months but keep talking myself out of it. I just know it's going to make my round head look even rounder. Still, I obsess. I want bangs like the ones below.

Source: here, here, here, here and here

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Creating Christmas Memories

Christmas this year has been special. Sometimes difficult, but special nonetheless. It's the first Christmas without my grandmother, the linchpin in all things Christmas, so I made it my job to ensure we've spent the holiday season being busy Christmas elves. I've been so perky about Christmas that I think I might be vying for the position of Mrs. Claus. We've baked, cut out paper snowflakes, and, yes, we even made elf hats for our Christmas photos. The photo below is from our attempt at a family portrait. As you can see, all we got was the top of Charlie's elf hat. This picture makes me laugh so hard a cry.

Monday, December 21, 2009

a little letter you might not want to read

Dear People in Charge of Healthcare:

The system is broken and allowing extremists to peddle broad generalizations and scare tactics only shines a brighter spotlight on why accomplishing something meaningful is near impossible. My grandmother spent 20 months in a nursing home. When she was 4 months in, her insurance coverage ran out. Conveniently, this was right when we could start to see rehab working. My family was faced with bringing my grandmother home (even though she was not well enough to be there) where she would have to be alone 5 or 6 hours a day (my family can't afford not to work) or paying an exorbitant monthly rate for her to stay. Because there was no way they could afford to pay for the nursing home out of pocket, there really was no choice until Medicaid stepped in. Medicaid allowed my grandmother to remain in the nursing home and receive around the clock care, vitally important to someone whose health saw more peaks and valleys than a rollercoaster. While Medicaid would not pay for any rehabilitation so that she could walk again, the nursing home provided some basic therapy anyway. It was about more than walking. It was about regaining her dignity and never giving up. After my grandmother died, I learned about a new reality of our healthcare system. Medicaid sent my family a letter expressing sympathy for our loss, while in the next breath informing us that they would like to try to collect on the money they spent trying to keep her alive. Please let them know about any property she owns because they will need to sell it to recoup their losses. What? She died, so she wasn't worth the investment? Do they think we suddenly hit a windfall with her passing and are in a position to now pay tens of thousands of dollars? She had no life insurance. No job. No car in her own name. Her name is on the house she shared with my grandfather. Basically where it's falling out is that, because my grandfather is still alive and living in the house they owned, they probably won't try to take it. It's like one of two potential "outs" they give you. I'm guessing they won't hear officially for another month or so. Evidently this is standard practice with Medicaid, but to me it feels like a slap in the face. A system like this doesn't need fixing?


Ms. Radical

Monday, December 07, 2009

Of unicorns, beer, and other mythical creatures

The holidays aren’t usually the time of year for goodbyes. It’s usually the one time of year I can almost guarantee that I get to see people I love. The past two weekends, however, have been spent saying farewell to one of my besties as she prepares to move to Heidelberg. One thing we manage to do well is to celebrate.

While everyone else stormed Old Navy at 3am and tried to avoid getting trampled at Wal-Mart, we headed to West Virginia on Black Friday for dinner at the Bavarian Inn and sprinkled a little Christmas magic on a cabin in Harper’s Ferry. The photo below isn’t our cabin, but it’s pretty damn close. Paper chains, twinkle lights, and a real Christmas tree in a cabin with my closest friends. Spiked cider, a holiday playlist, and strolling down memory lane made it complete. (We all wait in anticipation for Terra’s pictures!)

This past Friday we headed into Old Town Alexandria for a more traditional round of goodbyes over drinks at Pat Troy’s (who, btw, have a unicorn in their sign!). Mixing old friends and new, we took over the back of the bar and invited our friends Bacardi, Juengling, Harp and Smithwick to join us. This time around memories were shared through our favorite drinks. Remember those $5 Jaeger Bombs in Fredericksburg? Guess we’d better do one since you’re leaving. Remember Steven and Allie racing to finish Irish Car Bombs at Ravena’s? Guess you’d better do one since you’re leaving. Before long everything became a memory to be celebrated, and everyone had a new nickname. Whereas Harper’s Ferry was sentimental and intimate, Pat Troy’s was silly and joyous.

We had a great run in Virginia, Delegge. Can’t wait to visit and add some European road trips and shenanigans to the list.


1. texasbell01 2. platinumblondelife 3. martin_kalfatovic

Friday, December 04, 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Search for Stars Hollow: Shepherdstown, WV

You may or may not know of my love for Gilmore Girls. One of the many things I love about the show is the sense of community they have in Stars Hollow. Here is a (albeit fictional) town that has a number of thriving small businesses, the right amount of quirky characters, that quaint charm that seems so hip now, and an amazing assortment of community events. While watching the show, it slowly began to dawn on me that I want a town where I can walk to my local diner and they'll have the diet coke on the counter before I get there. I want to know all of my neighbors and be able to help plan a 24-hour dance-a-thon for charity or throw a parade just because it is Tuesday. I want small galleries and local theater and to be assured that growth will be capped*, and I want all of it within 2 to 3 hours of a larger metropolitan area.

So, for the past year or so, I've been on a quest for my own perfect Stars Hollow. I google-stalk the hometowns of people who seem to lead cool or interesting lives and venture off major thoroughfares in my travels in the hopes of coming across some hidden jewel. In an effort to get myself blogging again, I thought I would share some of my finds every now and then. I don't know everything under the sun about the towns or consider myself an expert. It's just fun to share!

Over the past couple of days, I ventured to West Virginia with a group of friends and stumbled into Shepherdstown. I've been to WV a few times (and even think I hit the corner of Shep once) but surprised to realize I'd never explored Shepherdstown (and know the least about it). I'm a sucker for a well-utilized downtown area, so was immediately taken with the number of cute shops (they put out cookies for visitors on the weekends...it's the details, folks) and restaurants taking up residence in the town's historic buildings.

This little town is nestled along the Potomac River and a hop skip and a jump from Harper's Ferry.

In addition to having great places to play in the water, it boasts the most adorable public library and the Four Seasons Bookstore with the entire upper floor dedicated to children's titles.

Theater is not lost on the denizens of Shepherdstown either. This little pocket of WV is also home to the Shepherdstown Opera House, the Full Circle Theater and is host to the annual Contemporary American Film Festival.

Personally, I recommend making a dinner reservation at the Bavarian Inn next time you're in town and settling in for tasty German fare (word is it's pretty authentic). The stunning views of the Potomac don't hurt.

Again, I was only in town briefly, but it was enough to peak my interest enough for future visits. Another selling point...I do believe they do not have a Wal-Mart.


1. Kyle Walton 2. thisisbossi 3. ChelseaMarieRoberson

*Even if it means I can't move there.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

I wish I could bring myself to write more substantive stuff, but after many long hours at work, I really just want to browse for eye candy and creative ideas when I get online. That being said, I thought I would take a moment and share the work of one of my favorite artists. I absolutely adore most everything that Lisa Congdon creates and constantly find inspiration in her work (even in her home decor). She's been featured like everywhere, but in the event you've existed without knowing her artwork, I want to do my little part to remedy that :-) All the work below is hers and links to various sites she has or has been featured on.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

we < 3 it

I think everyone should join we heart it. It's like Flickr faves but for all of the internet. Made of total win for all of you inspiration junkies.

courtesy of https://www.redvelvetart.com/art-prints/chrismerritt-nintendo

Monday, September 07, 2009

Summer isn't all bad

Even though I've been out of school for longer than I care to discuss, I still think of Labor Day as summer's last fling, and judging by the buzz on the internet, I am not alone. Despite that fact that I've never been a fan of the heat (and that fall is my favorite season OF ALL TIME), I thought I would mark the end of my summer with a list* of those things that make summer a-ok.

- popsicles
- flip flops and the ability to wear them without eliciting looks of concern**
- getting a little summer color and a new crop of freckles
- fireflies
- cool water on a hot day
- driving with the windows down
- outdoor concerts and movies (though I only took advantage of one of each this year)

* an easier way to get back into blogging
** You try wearing them in the winter time and see if you get weird looks.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Today I said goodbye

We buried my grandma today. She died* on Tuesday, August 25, and my world got just a little bit smaller that day. 

There was no funeral to mark the passing, but I can't let this day pass without recording a few thoughts about the woman who helped make me who I am. It's funny because as I reread that sentence it sounds so much more formal and "together" than I really am. Inside I'm a mix of being okay and raw at the idea of having someone so close to me no longer there. She was there every day of my life...from driving me to and from school to later watching Jenny Jones with me in the afternoon when I came home for a break between classes. Even after I moved away, there was comfort in knowing she was there. She was there for every major life event, never faltering in her support, and now all I can think about is how she won't be there to share my getting married or get to tickle her great grandchild**. She's better off now, but what about me?

My grandma was the friendly one. She was the person who would strike up conversation with a stranger in line at the grocery store while my mom and I looked on, wary and skeptical. She was both a bitch on wheels and a woo-er. She snagged my grandpa at the young age of 15 with her charm and was a nursing home favorite with all the staff in her last couple of years. 

She was a strong woman who always told me I could do or be anything I wanted. She was a Navy wife, a preacher's woman, owned a restaurant, raised an amazing daughter, and helped raise her grandkids.

It's my mom and grandpa I worry about most now. My mom lost a mother and a best friend, and my grandpa lost his partner of 61 years. One of my favorite recent memories of her is playing Uno as family when I went to visit at the beginning of this month. Crafty and cunning even as her body was ready to call it quits, she was vicious competitor who liked to pump her arm every time she won a game (and she did win most of them) and knew enough to trick me into thinking she was going to lose by faking a "loopy" spell. Man, she would have kicked ass at Poker.

I love her and miss her, but such is life. I'm just glad I got to spend the years I did with her. Not everybody is so lucky.

*It seems so much more frank than "passed away".
**IF I ever decide I want children.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Ways to make me happy

One of my new blog obsessions, Naomi over at Rockstar Diaries, has been
posting lists people send her of 10 things that make them happy.
Sometimes you just need to remind yourself of the little things that
make you giddy.
10 Things That Make Me Happy
1. Emails from special people who know just what to say to make you
2. Being caught in a rainstorm with my arms out and head back
3. Train rides along the coast
4. Roadtrips
5. Vintage cameras
6. Oversized sunglasses
7. Red toenails
8. Clear river water running over a rocky bed
9. Photobooths
10. When you can tell they wore cologne or after shave just for you
Sent from my T-Mobile Sidekick®

Friday, April 24, 2009

Last Tuesday, instead of hopping on the orange line out to Vienna, I chose a bus to the 9:30 Club to meet gal pal Allie for the Faint concert. It is not unheard of for me to leave my apartment bright and early with an idea for what I would like to do after work only to decide later in the day that my apartment just sounds more inviting. My grand plans to take in a different aspect of this great city fall prey to a long day at work spent saving the world. A girl can get a little tired. That's why I am so glad I was able to tap my energy reserves and make it to the Faint. It.Was.Amazing. I love the Faint (and have been known to proclaim this while pounding a fist to my chest after a couple of drinks). We danced our butts off (well, as much as one can dance their butt off in a small box of space). Everyone shared in the energy of the Faint's driving beats, jumping and writhing. We were sweaty and spent, and I can say without a doubt that there are few better ways to blow off steam after work than dancing with abandon*. Every week should contain this kind of release.

*Helllooooo...have you seen the therapeutic powers of the after work dance on Grey's Anatomy?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Evidently worse than zombies

So I hear that fat people are now a major factor contributing to global warming? I'm sorry, but please excuse me while I haul my giggly legs up on my soapbox and rant.

How convenient that scientists have determined fat people are to blame for much of global warming. Don't get me wrong...I'm not arguing that the way our society consumes food isn't detrimental to the environment, but the study in question makes so many broad assumptions. First off, thinner people don't necessarily consume a lot of food? I know plenty of thin people who eat just as much as your normal fat person. Oh, and let's examine this whole argument that fat people are more apt to drive and not walk. Maybe the scientists should visit my neighborhood and see that, while you may see thin people jogging or walking that 2-mile loop (and we'll ignore the fact that there are larger people doing it, too), they are also just as guilty of hopping in the SUV and driving 2 blocks to pick up groceries. Oh! Oh! I know! If we like stereotypes, what about the fact that I bet thin people are more apt to get married and have sex! This means they are more likely to procreate and have children. Great...more people on the earth to feed and to produce CO2. Damn you, thin people.

If scientists are looking for additional targets, why not look to gardners? Just look at all of the water they waste trying to keep their suburban lawns green. Speaking of green, scientist might want to have a go at golfers for perpetuating the environmental blight known as the golf course. In fact, why don't we let the owners factories, power plants, etc. off the hook and just target rich people? Their need to consume things and buy useless goods has to have a much bigger impact on the environment than your run of the mill fat person. Oh! I've got it! Maybe poor people should be to blame. Studies will probably tell you that they consume more fast food and keep McDonalds, Wendys, and that damn Taco Bell dog in business, and we all know how bad that is after reading Fast Food Nation.

Get a clue. We all suck. We all contribute. And, as for those scientists, they can kiss my big, fat...

Thursday, March 26, 2009


A little bit of what's inspiring and keeping me going lately. What inspires you?

Maira Kalman Lovely illustrations with remarkable lessons we sometimes forget.

The Ruby Press blog. Scroll through their archives for images like this!

Photo by ieve.

The Daily Heller Print Magazine blogger who provides a bevy of inspiration daily.

Faceout Books A new find thanks to the Daily Heller. This guy chronicles book cover design. So awesome. I think the bibliophiles here will love it.

Flickr. Nuf said.

Photo by extrasupercutie

Electra Bikes Mama want.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Stranger than fiction

Way back in the summer I promised myself that I would photograph a complete stranger, and that, instead of sneaking a picture, I would approach* someone and ask permission. This winter I finally managed to walk up to someone and do just that. With a fabulous winter hat like hers, how could I resist? It's not a good picture. I post it more to say that the first hurdle is over.

*I feel ridiculous walking up to someone with my little pink point-and-shoot.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

I love Valentine's Day. I have read plenty of articles and blog posts about how people are against the rampant consumerism it promotes, and I can definitely understand that. But how can you be against a holiday that encourages you to tell the people you care about most (friends, family, boos) how you feel about them and that they are special to you? I think it's an awesome opportunity to stop and smell those cliched roses. Besides, you can always avoid the aisles of $4.99 stuffed bears at Wal-Mart and try making some homemade Valentines.

Don't get me wrong. I wasn't always this understanding. Haha. I distinctly remember being 19 and much more set on the idea of having a Valentine celebration that looked like the love child of NBC and Hallmark. When I realized that my boyfriend at the time had not bothered to actually make reservations at the cute little Italian restaurant we were trying to go to and hadn't actually bought me a gift, I threw a bit of a hissy fit. Arguing on Valentine's Day is not attractive, and my much more laid back self looks back on that night with a bit of embarrassment.

Anyway, happy v-day. You guys (and you know who you are) are special to me :-)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

An ode to doing other things

I love my job on most days. However, I'm also a complex person who has a
lot of other interests. After a long day of doing this and that and
saving this and that, there is often nothing I would rather do than go
home and paint or take pictures or cut paper or plan my next film or
volunteer at the Workhouse Art Center or...
Anyway, you get that I enjoy winding down in a lot of different ways.
Activism is emotionally draining because I sink my heart into it.
Oftentimes the last way I want to spend the precious free time I have is
having a beer and talking about rivers. I need to develop other parts of
me. It makes me a happier, better person. I don't expect you to
understand me, and I mostly assume you don't and don't give you the
opportunity to really know me. I know this is wrong of me.
So, if you ask if I plan on getting a beer after work with the group,
just know that it's me, not you. And, when I lie and say that it's
because I'm tired, just know that it's simply easier to say than the
Sent from my T-Mobile Sidekick®

Monday, January 19, 2009

What's in a name

The weirdest thing happened to me this past week. I had a voicemail at work from a casting agent in LA who was on the hunt for "real" Serenas. She said they were interested in talking to me about being in an ad for Gatorade opposite Serena Williams. After I stopped laughing, I packed up my things and headed home for the day. I just couldn't stop laughing, wondering who had managed to play this joke on me. When I got to work the next morning, there was an email from the same casting agent following up on her voicemail. The email contained the website for the casting agency and more details about the shoot, including the fact that it was a print ad, they would pay me $3,000, and fly me to LA.

I'm nothing if not a sucker for a good story, so I returned her phone call. Upon returning my phone call, she went into greater detail about the ad and what they wanted to convey. I tried explaining to her that I was not what they were looking for. No way in hell does Gatorade want me pimping their sport drink. Diet Coke? Maybe. Gatorade. Right. Anyway, she was persistent in that my "story" was a good one. She instructed me to email a paragraph and some pictures to the rest of the team. I sent two headshots and a full body shot and assumed that would be that.

Nope. I received a follow up call from her on Friday telling me that the producers had liked me and wanted to interview me for the ad. By this point, I've determined that the folks at Gatorade must be crazy, but again, I like a good story. So, guess who has an interview on Wednesday with the producers of an upcoming Gatorade ad. Yep. Me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tuesday night at the oasis

Speaking of traditions, a new tradition at the La Casa de Serena is Gilmore Girls Tuesday. It is one of my secret missions in life t0 introduce a little Gilmore Girls (GG) into everyone's life. If you happen to become addicted and take a Connecticut roadtrip in search of the real Stars Hollow (*cough* Scarlet), then all the better.* It was through my constant GG references and catching snippets of the occassional episode when stopping by my apartment that I was able to build my friend Ravena's interest in the show. We decided to work our way through GG from that first day at Chilton to the final goodbye under the rain-soaked tent. Most every Tuesday, Ravena will come over and either she or I will cook. We then settle down for a few hours of our own Gilmore Girls marathon.

I like sharing GG with someone else and just being able to hang with a friend in a low key way. Whether we are catching up on our gossip or I am once again explaining that his name is Jess and not Jesse or I am yelling at her to shut up so she doesn't miss a good line**, we have a good time. Needless to say, Tuesdays are now one of my favorite nights of the week.

*Not that I can be held responsible for Scarlet's addiction. I think she was a huge fan before I learned to embrace my own fanaticism.
**Because, yes, I have seen it enough to know where they all are.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Traditions are for bucking

Every year since I can remember, our family Christmases have been about our little traditions. Even after my brother and I moved away we would find our way home sometime before Christmas Eve. We weren’t around to decorate the family tree or try to find secret present stashes while my mom and grandmother were out buying groceries, but Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were familiar. Christmas Eve was always spent buying last minute little trinkets to shove in stockings (which we just pinned to the wall). After the last of the family got off work, we would all gather in the living room for a dinner that usually consisted of our version of hors d'oeuvres: little smokies, pigs in a blanket, chips and dip. Once we managed to choke down enough food to quell our growling stomachs, either my mom or grandma would play Santa’s elf and begin passing out presents. We would then play games like Phase 10, Parcheesi, and Rook with my brother honing our trash-talking skills over the years. On Christmas Day, we would sleep late while my mom and grandma prepared Christmas dinner. This day was all about resting, snacking and watching our favorite Christmas movies (Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, ya’ll).

This year tradition went out the window. This is the first Christmas since my grandmother went in the nursing home, and things had to be different. Christmas Eve was just that…the day before Christmas. We spent the day at the nursing home keeping my grandma company and waiting for my brother to get off work and drive down from Austin. Once my grandma drifted off to sleep we grabbed a pizza and sat on the couch chatting with Charlie. He played computer guru and made fun of my smelly feet, and I just reveled in the good feelings of seeing him again.

When everyone else went off to the nursing home the next morning, I took over the mantle of cooking Christmas dinner. They even left me to carve the ham myself. My mom was seriously lacking in common sense because she even gave me an electric carving knife. Evidently my Iron Chef butchering of the ham scared my brother because he immediately complained to my mom about my trimming every centimeter of fat off of ‘his’ ham. Haha. After I finished cooking, my mom came back and helped me back the dinner into Tupperware containers and haul it and the presents up to the nursing home. We ate. I played elf. We unwrapped. We made sure my grandma made it back into bed before her pain meds wore completely off. It was simple, nice. And, for the first time ever, I felt like I spent Christmas as an adult. I was no longer the child sitting on the living room floor anxiously awaiting the next present handed to me.

The only tradition that really mattered was spending time with family.