Comfy Cat

Our little Hansel is usually a whirlwind, so being able to capture a pic of him dozing so sweetly made me smile. Oh, and? If you have a cat, consider dropping $8.00 on Ikea’s Lurvig play tunnel. Hansel LOVES his. I love that it packs up so small. I throw it down and let him romp for a while, then pack it away easily so it stays novel and interesting to him. A lot of fun for less than ten bucks.

Advertisements

Winter Food: Slow Cooker Indian

Cold weather and crock pots just seem to go together! I am a fairly terrible cook. Luckily, I had the great good sense to marry a man who is an awesome one. ūüėä With all of the cold lately, he was excited to try some recipes from this cookbook:

New Indian Slow Cooker  by Neela Paniz

New Indian Slow Cooker by Neela Paniz

It is a lovely book, with plenty of pictures and easy to follow recipes. For his first effort, he made curried chickpeas and butter chicken. It turned out very well! The book came from our local library, but he liked it so much that we plan to buy a copy. He’s very interested to try the recipe to make paneer (Indian fresh cheese) himself, saag paneer being one of his absolute favorites. I can’t wait to taste test his efforts!

Curried chickpeas and butter chicken, yum!

Curried chickpeas and butter chicken, yum!

Brain Food: Books!

Reading is a great huge love of mine. I read. A lot. Anywhere from 2-9 or more titles a week a lot. Some books I devour, others I graze on, some are confectionary treats, but all of them are food for my brain. It’s kind of odd to me that I haven’t discussed books on here before. It’s high time I corrected that! Here are a few recent reads:

image

“Home Style By City: Ideas and Inspiration from Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles, and Copenhagen” by Ida Magntorn, “Blood of My Blood” by Barry Lyga, and “Lost in Translation: an Illustrated ¬†Compendium of Untranslatable¬†¬†Words from Around the World” by Ella Frances Sanders.

For grazing? Decorating books! I love them. Luckily, ¬†between my local library and the nearby Half Price Books, there’s no shortage of decorating books for me to browse and dream over. I was a bit surprised by how much I liked “Home Style by City”. At 160 pages, it’s fairly slender, but it is focused and packs a lot into those pages.

The idea behind it is that the stuff to be had in local flea markets, thrift stores, and junk shops varies a bit regionally, and that one can learn a bit about the soul of a place based on what’s moving at its fleas. Then it highlights some residences that beautifully demonstrate some of these regional idiosyncracies as a way of exploring the cultures of the cities featured. Like the author, I try to always include stops at local fleas and thrifts when I travel, and I knew exactly what she meant. I thought this conceit worked well.

I look at a fair amount of decorating books…yes, look. Not all of them are particularly well-written! This one proves the old adage that brevity can be the soul of wit. Concise, with easily scanned lists and some fun things like playlists for each city, this was the rare decorating book that I actually read as well as looked at. And the looking was lovely, I enjoyed the eye-candy inside very much. Oh! and there was a craft for each city. They actually managed to be cute and doable looking and not crappy-crafty looking. I was especially intrigued by the lace doily hanging light shade DIY in the Paris section.

image

Another take-away? Houseplants! I felt like there were quite a few homes featured in the book with some very inspiring plants.   They looked fresh and lovely. As much as I enjoy gardening, I find houseplants challenging. This book is inspiring me to try again. When they work, as in the pictures in this book, they really add something.

To devour? “Blood of my Blood” by Barry Lyga. The final book in the “I Hunt Killers” trilogy, I have been looking forward to reading this title ever since I finished the last page of the second book, “Game”. The series is about a high school boy, Jasper ‘Jazz’ Dent, who is trying to move beyond a difficult past while keeping his secrets so he can create a future for himself. The difficult past? His jailed father is one of the most notorious and prolific serial killers of all time. His secret? His father believed in the whole take-your-child-to-work idea–and the authorities are unaware of both the full extent of his father’s crimes and the depth of Jasper’s knowledge about them. Then a copy-cat killer starts reenacting a series of his father’s crimes and his past and present collide.

This is a DARK series. Jasper’s father was trying to turn him into a perfect killer, and his methodology was very harrowing and upsetting. There are a few scenes I sort of wish I could unread. Lyga isn’t afraid to go to some pretty terrifying places. Jasper’s struggles to deprogram himself, to remember that people have feelings and that people matter, are compelling and heartbreaking.

“Blood of my Blood” was a very satisfying conclusion to this trilogy. It maintained momentum, had a few believable but from out-of-nowhere twists, kept the same darkness that made the first two books so good, and doesn’t cheese-up the ending. Although this is technically a ‘teen’ series, you absolutely don’t need to be a teen to enjoy it. Lyga doesn’t pander or dumb things down, and he credits his audience with being able to handle some challenging content. If you start to read this series, I suspect you’ll either hate it or end up devouring it like I did.

The confectionary treat? “Lost in Translation”. Sanders takes some fascinating words from around the globe, words that have no direct equivalent in English, and defines and illustrates them.

image

Pretty, charming, and light, I enjoyed the drawings and the chance to learn some great new words.

So there you go, a taste of a few of the books I’ve read recently. What are you reading?

Gild My Ride, or Why the Stax Museum is Awesome

We made sure to leave plenty of time to tour the Stax Museum of American Soul Music on our last morning in Memphis. Driving into the parking lot we immediately knew we were in for something special: it was immaculate and there were speakers blasting some very danceable soul tunes throughout the lot.  And the speakers had great sound quality to boot. They were robust and clear, not sad and tinny. This was not going to be your average museum, kids.

281 Stax started out as a small Memphis record store housed in a former movie theater. It grew into an amazing record label, launching the careers of artists like Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, the Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, Luther Ingram, Albert King, the Bar-Kays, Booker T. & the MG’s and more. You might not have realized it, but trust me, you’ve heard a lot of songs from the Stax catalog. The museum covers Soul as a musical genre, so there is plenty on Motown Soul legends, too.

This museum was fun! And jammed with history. Tours start with an excellent short documentary about Soul. I especially loved seeing the footage of several legendary Soul icons talking about how much they’d looked forward to the Grand Ole Opry growing up, about how their whole family would stop everything to tune in to the show. There was something unexpected and delightful about hearing Isaac Hayes sharing his love for the Grand Ole Opry. My mind just hadn’t equated Bill Monroe and Shaft in quite such a fashion, you know? The role of Country and how it influenced genres like Soul and Rock actually seems pretty obvious if you listen to the music, but I don’t feel like I hear Country getting the credit it deserves from people my age (or younger). Somehow that connection seems a bit lost, and it was refreshing to see props given equally to Gospel, Country, and Blues as foundational elements of Soul.

Following the movie, visitors guide themselves through the museum at their own pace. On exhibit are many expected sights.¬† But in addition to things like stage costumes and instruments, there are plenty of thoughtful, less-obvious extras. There’s an entire old one room southern baptist church that was taken apart, transported from the Mississippi countryside, and then rebuilt inside the museum.¬† Above the pulpit inside the church a television plays vintage footage of Sister Rosetta Tharpe rocking out gospel songs on her electric guitar… in a very similar church.¬† It’s a space and a moment that brings the Gospel roots of Soul into sharp, surprising, and palpable focus. I love that they dedicated the space that they did within the museum to bring that point to life.

That’s one of the signatures of this museum: bringing things to life and putting them into historical context in a very inviting, tangible fashion. Another such moment? There’s a room decked out with lights, a large dance floor, and a disco ball where old episodes of Soul Train are projected floor-to-ceiling on one of the walls. Nearby signage talks about the synergy between radio, television, concerts, and the music, and about how each provided inspiration for the other. Further on there’s an amazing space where you can pop on some headphones and listen to the entire Stax catalog…well, not all at once. But still. Awesome.

266

Isaac Hayes memorabilia.

218

Check out one of Tina Turners’ stage costumes!

229

Dance along with the Soul Train footage if you’re feeling bold.

The Cadillac.

The Cadillac.

 

078

Record store boy heaven.

This place takes you on a real journey: you find yourself dancing to the amazing music, awed by eye-candy like the pimped out splendor of Isaac Hayes’ gold-plated Cadillac, and then choked up by straightforward reminiscences like one shared by a DJ from the first black radio station in the United States, Memphis’ own WDIA, about how he helped get segregation laws that prevented black ambulance companies from helping anyone in need, regardless of color, changed (because of segregation, the black ambulance workers weren’t allowed to cross color lines even in cases of dire emergencies) after talking about the issue on air.

The balance between lighter, pop-culture stuff and heavy, profound social history is managed deftly. To be able to go from novelty oven mitts (“If it’s too hot to handle, it must be from Stax”) to one of the white members of the biracial Booker T. and the MG’s talking about the impact Doctor Martin Luther King Jr’s slaying had on their band is a tall order, but the Stax Museum pulls it off.¬† This is history that doesn’t feel medicinal. It’s vibrant and immediate.

So what I’m saying is, get yourself to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. It is small but mighty.¬† Your time will be well rewarded. Plus, admission is totally reasonable, the stuff in the gift shop is fun, the bathrooms were pretty lovely, and, as noted earlier, even the parking lot was cool.

075

I leave you with footage of the aforementioned gilded Cadillac that belonged to Isaac Hayes. This thing was decadent, and I don’t know when I’ve ever looked at a car and thought, “I want to get in that car barefoot and go cruising”. Hold on til the end for the wicked great sign…

Mosaic Menagerie

Ventured out to catch the “Marvelous Menagerie: An Ancient Roman Mosaic From Lod Israel”¬†exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art before it leaves town. ¬†This large and stunning mosaic was unearthed during a road expansion project in Lod, Israel in 1996. ¬†It is believed to have been created around 300 AD. ¬†It was reburied until funds were secured to properly preserve it, which happened in 2009. ¬†After its U.S. tour (exhibitions at 5 museums), the mosaic will be put on permanent display back in Israel, so I really wanted to make sure I saw it while I could.

CAMmosaic 027

It was wonderful.  And very macho.

CAMmosaic 016

The mosaic teems with all sorts of exotic animals- many of them either being devoured or, conversely, hunting their prey.

CAMmosaic 014I had fun trying to imagine the sort of Ancient Roman semi-psychopathic tycoon who would have commissioned this for the floor of his villa! ¬†(In a very Stewie Griffin-esque voice) ¬†“Yes, well, that’s nice, but how about some more blood, some more images of domination, let’s add some more of that, shall we?”

CAMmosaic 019

“There we are, that’s the stuff.”

All kidding aside, the mosaic was very impressive. ¬†There was so much movement and vitality. ¬†The level of detail was incredible. ¬†And there’s something so tactile about a mosaic, you can’t help but imagine the hands that worked on creating it, the feet that walked across it. ¬†When they were removing the mosaic to preserve it, they found foot and hand prints from the ancient craftsmen who created it in the bedding layer underneath the tesserae. ¬†It didn’t photograph well, but there was a chunk of this bedding stuff with a footprint on it displayed as well. ¬†Shivers. ¬† Just too cool.

Also cool?   I liked seeing all of the different kinds of fishes that were depicted as well as the stylized undulations of the geometric borders.

CAMmosaic 033

CAMmosaic 013To learn more, check here:   http://www.lodmosaic.org/home. If you get a chance, I highly recommend stopping by the Columbus Museum of Art to see this treasure.  Hurry, the exhibit ends 1/13/2013!

Vintergatan

Very excited for the upcoming release of the first album by Vintergatan, a lovely band from Sweden.  Check it:

Perfect music for a winter day (even though the title means summer bird -something about the glockenspiel makes me think of snow falling, I guess).  Martin, from the band, was in another band called Detektivbyrån, which I also love.  When my husband ordered the 2 albums by  Detektivbyrån, they came to us packaged in a pizza box. It was very charming and clever.  Anyhoodle, enjoy!

Show: Tinariwen and Kishi Bashi

Image from musictravellerstwo.blogspot.com

I was lucky enough to attend a pretty amazing show last night:¬† Tinariwen.¬† They are a¬†group of Tuareg musicians.¬† I won’t pretend to have more than a surface¬†knowledge about any of this, and I’m clearly leaving out an awful lot, but here goes: ¬† The Tuareg are nomads from the northern part of Mali and they are going through a pretty intense moment in their history right now.¬† They are an ethnic minority, and apparently are currently trying to break away from the rest of Mali after a strict form of sharia law was being imposed on them by the ethnic majority.¬† Then it gets a bit confusing, because apparently a whole different extremist Islamist group has since tried to co-opt their bid for independence?¬† So¬†the situation¬†sounds bad and like things are still pretty much up in the air,¬†and it’s anyone’s guess what’s going to happen to the Tuareg going forward.

My husband and I listen to their music, and the chance to see them live was a rare opportunity.¬† The fact that we’d get to see them at this moment in Tuareg history made it feel even¬†more important to go and to try and get some kind of further understanding.¬† I’m glad we went.¬† The show was good, and fascinating.¬† I often felt like I didn’t¬†really understand what I was seeing or hearing, and I wished I had translations of what they were singing, but it was still quite moving.¬† Particularly moving to me was seeing the Tuareg audience members who were clearly so proud of the band, proud¬†to be there, and just loving the show.

(I hope I haven’t totally muddled things terribly in my too brief synopsis, here’s an article with more detail:¬† http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/24/mali-africa)

A huge surprise and extra treat was that Kishi Bashi was the opening act.  Kishi Bashi is Kaoru Ishibashi, a crazy-talented musician who constructs the most amazing, beautiful music by singing, playing violin, beat-boxing in Japanese, and looping as he goes and then playing with the speeds at which he plays back the loops and layering it all.  And he does it all live, solo.  It was jaw-dropping, gorgeous, and very joyful.  So good.