Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Today's Poll: Bella, Katniss, or Tris?

I'm curious today. Which of these heroines appeals to you the most? Why?

Also, does it bother anyone else that these three look oddly similar when you put them side by side? Or am I being over-analytical? A/J

Don't forget to enter our book giveaway!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Grimm Project: Tale 2 (The Gold Key) {Giveaway}

Tale 2: The Gold Key  
Once in the wintertime when the snow was very deep, a poor boy had to go out and fetch wood on a sled. After he had gathered it together and loaded it, he did not want to go straight home, because he was so frozen, but instead to make a fire and warm himself a little first. So he scraped the snow away, and while he was thus clearing the ground he found a small golden key. Now he believed that where there was a key, there must also be a lock, so he dug in the ground and found a little iron chest. "If only the key fits!" he thought. "Certainly there are valuable things in the chest." He looked, but there was no keyhole. Finally he found one, but so small that it could scarcely be seen. He tried the key, and fortunately it fitted. Then he turned it once, and now we must wait until he has finished unlocking it and has opened the lid. Then we shall find out what kind of wonderful things there were in the little chest. The Grimm Brothers, "The Gold Key"

What wonderful things indeed. The first time I read this story by the Grimms, I was unbelievably frustrated by it. The tale completely leaves the reader hanging. Like any good, old-fashioned reader, I wanted to know what was inside that box. I don't generally like books that leave everything open-ended at The End, books the point of which seems to be to befuddle. I like a traditional Victorian novel where all the threads are tied up very neatly by the writer as the pages turn toward the close. A well-wrought mystery. A joke with a strong punch-line. Open-endedness makes me uncomfortable. In life and in literature.  

Petite Golden Key from Dollieboutique
The magic of "The Gold Key," however, is that anything could come out of that box. ANYTHING. Golden snakes could slither over its lip. Flying monkeys could shoot out on brooms. Little doll versions of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty could dash out on unicorns, chased by Bluebeard dressed up like a swashbuckler. Whatever your brain can conjure up, it's in there. 

"Pandora's Box," Kiersten Eagan
I think the box in "The Gold Key" is really the Grimm's book. When you open it (or any book for that matter), you open the Pandora's Box of the imagination. The key here, also, is that you open it. Not someone else, as in a film or a tv show that recreates a story for you. The power of the imagination is in your hands. Yes, you're relying on a story that someone else wrote, but the images that emerge from the deep cool pools in your brain are entirely your own (that's why so many women have fought tooth and nail over what a character like Christian Grey should look like on the screen ... Reality is almost always a disappointment). 

“Hope,” 2009.
So, today, I charge you to open a book. Let it work it's sorcery upon you. We're giving one away, if you're interested. A little ditty by Anne Sexton called Transformations, which incidentally opens with a poem called "The Gold Key" and is one of our favorite volumes of poetry ever. A/J

Anne Sexton's Transformations. Who wants it;)??
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 11, 2014

This Saturday: Drop Everything and Read

Drop it. All of it. And pick up a book. 
Tomorrow is Drop Everything and Read Day. In honor of the event, here's a little ditty about how much I love the Scholastic Book Fair, which visits our University the very same week as DEAR day every year.
When I was in elementary school, little (except for perhaps Track and Field Day) was more exciting to me than the Scholastic Book Fair. The sight of those giant metal bookcases filled with paperbacks and picture books rolling into the school's lobby filled my little heart with glee. I waited impatiently for my class's scheduled time to visit, gazing longingly at the glut of new books every time we filed past the shelves on our way to gym, lunch, or music.  When it was finally our time to go, I was usually the last student to decide what to purchase, lingering over the choices, positively overwhelmed by the options. I always left the fair with my hands weighted with a new pile of books, a sensation I still love to experience.

Luckily, for the nine-year-old still living somewhere inside this 30-something body, the Curriculum Center at our university holds a Scholastic Book Fair on campus twice a year, and it's running this week, the same week as Drop Everything and Read Day. The same giant rolling bookcases. The same tantalizing covers of children's and young adult books beckoning from the silver shelves. Here's what I already bought.

Now, if you would kindly excuse me, I am rushing out to buy more before they close. Happy weekend! ~A/J

Oh! And don't forget, today is the last day to enter our Grimm giveaway at the blog. If you've already entered, stop by to tweet the giveway and earn five more entries or tell us in the comments about your favorite fairy tale for 10! Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Please don't take my sunshine away ...

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine,

You make me happy
When skies are gray,
You'll never know dear
how much I love you,
Please don't take my sunshine away.

The other night, dear,
While I lay sleeping,
I dreamt I held you in my arms,
When I awoke dear, I was mistaken,
And I hung my head down and cried ...

I've been singing this song under my breath a lot today after the recent stabbings at a school about an hour away from where I live. One of my greatest fears since my children bloomed into this world is that their little lights might be put out by some set of circumstances beyond my control. I do whatever I can to protect them. I don't let them play outside when I'm not out there with them. I hold their hands in the parking lot. I make them wear their seatbelts. I put covers on all of the outlets. I've taught them not to talk to strangers. Despite all of that, there could be that one moment when they wake up inside of someone else's bad dream. Everything I have done to bring them safely into this world and to shield them from all the bad in it could be gone just like that. Poof.

Sometimes, it seems to me that trying to protect your kids from the world outside is like pulling the blanket over your face at night when you're afraid there are monsters under your bed. What good is that blanket going to do? That said, I also don't want my children to grow up fearful of the world outside our door. There are so many wonderful things to be experienced, but to experience them, we have to put ourselves in contact with other people, people who are different than us, believe in different Gods and political systems, and conduct themselves according to a different code. I vow to refuse to live as a victim of fear.

All I can do this morning is offer up this little song like the prayer that it is. And hug my kids and teach them to be kind to others, to be brave, ... and to be tolerant. ~A/J

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Confetti-Pepper Quinoa Recipe

Confetti-Pepper Quinoa 
Spring must really be settling in around the Nest, because I suddenly feel like cooking again. And what I made for lunch today was so absolutely delicious I had to share. Here you go:))!! A/J

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 small red peppers (I buy the multi-colored peppers that come in a bag at the grocery store)
3 small orange peppers (The red and orange peppers should be cut into small rings)
1 average-sized green pepper (diced)
1 can of fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
1 cup beef broth (or chicken broth, either would work)
1 package of quinoa/quinoa blend (I used a package from Urbane Grain)

1. Add the olive oil to a large skillet or pot and warm over medium heat (I use my orange Dutch oven because I like the way stewish-style dishes turn out in it ... I don't know why I felt compelled to tell you what color the pot is, but there you go;)).
2. After the oil has heated up, add the onion and peppers to the pot. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes until the vegetables begin to break down.
3. Add the tomatoes and broth, stir, and allow the mixture to come to simmer (BTW, you could stop right here and serve this sauce over spaghetti or chicken. Very good on its own!!)
4. Stir the package of quinoa into the tomato mixture, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, until the quinoa softens and the liquid from the broth and tomatoes absorbs into the grain.
Urbane Grain Quinoa (I used the Sundried Tomato and Basil, which went great with this particular dish)

YUM! Good and good for you. And this recipe makes enough for three days worth of lunches!

My littlest helper, "reading" to me to keep me occupied.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Grimm Project: Tale I (or How "The Frog-King" is Like the Softball Alarm Clock I Had When I Was Nine)

The Grimm Project: Tale I
The tale I was reading when I was struck by the idea for the Grimm Project is "The Frog-King." This story seems like a perfect place for us to start, because it is a tale that is so skewed in the general cultural memory, it barely even resembles its former self. Let's spin it this way: when I say the words "The Frog Prince" or "The Princess and the Frog," most people probably think of a story in which a marriageable girl locks lips with an amphibian and miraculously, through the powers invested in her kisser, turns him back into a Prince. Either that, or you think of the most recent Disney version, and the Shadow Man, Tiana, and Prince Naveen. Either way, we are waaaaaaay off base (although I must say, I do have a soft spot for the Shadow Man).

The Grimm's version of this tale is much creepier, steeped as it is in a young girl's forced acceptance of a "frog" into her bed. In the story, a princess makes a promise to a frog that, if he will retrieve the precious golden ball she has accidentally dropped into his well, she will love him and let him eat off of her plate, drink out of her cup, and sleep in her bed.  Even though the girl is disgusted by the frog - the sounds he makes, his cold and slimy body, his needling, she is forced by her father to take the frog into bed with her. What ensues is not what we've been conditioned to accept. In fact, after the girl tries to put the frog in the corner for the night and he "cre[eeps] to her and sa[ys], 'I am tired, I want to sleep as well as thou, lift me up or I will tell thy father,'" the Princess gets "terribly angry, and t[akes] him up and thr[ows] him with all her might against the wall," saying "Now, thou wilt be quiet, odious frog."


When I was about nine, imagining myself to be the same age as the girl in the tale, I equated the Frog Prince with this pain-in-the-ass alarm clock that I had bought myself that looked like a softball. When you wanted to make it snooze, you whizzed the ball against the wall, where it would land with what was initially a very satisfying thud. I imagined the Princess throwing the Frog with as much hateful might as she could muster, the same passionate hatred with which I threw my alarm when I didn't want to get up in the morning (which was, if I'm being honest, every single school day). Now, the only problem with this ball/clock was that, when your 10-minute snooze was up, it would blare again and you had to get OUT of bed to turn it off (I imagine this is probably the point, but it absolutely infuriated me as a young girl ... they should make alarm-clock boomerangs).

If you want to really annoy your tween-age kids, order them a softball alarm clock. They'll think they are going to love it. April fools.  
Turns out, for the princess, throwing the frog against the wall does not have the satisfactory results she expected either. For when the frog flops onto the ground, he transforms into a King's son, who "by her father's will was now her dear companion and husband." In this, the frog is transformed by an act of violence on the princess's part, not by an act of romance, which I found somewhat thrilling as a young reader. Kisses seem rather, well, been there, done that, imaginatively speaking. A girl hurling her future lover into the wall .... that's a whole other can of worms.

Speaking of worms, this tale, nowadays, seems very disturbing, mainly because the girl hurls her future lover (mandated thus by her father) into the wall because she finds him completely repulsive. He has a "thick, ugly head"; he comes "creeping splish splash, splish splash, up the marble staircase"; the girl is "afraid of the cold frog which she did not like to touch" that wants to lie in her "silken bed" with her, so afraid that her heart beats violently when he is near (the phallic/sexual imagery here is obvious). What is interesting to me is that the girl doesn't play the victim, accepting the frog's overtures. Instead, she literally tries to kill him.


This is what I love about the original Grimm tales. They are filled with the unexpected. Most of today's versions are like morbidly obese cats that have gorged themselves on old stories and that only lie in the sunshine. The Grimm tales are lithe and lively. They are also filled with some of the most exquisite language, as the opening lines of this tale reveal. In old times, when wishing still helped one, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun itself, which has seen so much, was astonished whenever it shone in her face. So simple, and yet so evocative.

I hope you keep reading to see what else lies in store. A/J

P.S. If you haven't entered the Grimm giveaway yet, we draw the winner Friday night. Enter for your chance to win below!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Rap Sheet (The Week's Best in Looks, Books, Nooks, and More)

Here's what caught our eye this week at the Nest!! Have a great weekend!! A/J

I love pins. And fairy tales. Ergo, I love this pin.
If you haven't signed up for the Grimm Giveaway yet, why not do it now?? The Grimm Project starts Monday.
This look from Stylish Ashley =s perfect Saturday evening shopping look (with comfier shoes;)).  
Last Saturday, I took my students on a tour of the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. I was again struck by the dark beauty that is the German Room, which contains these amazing stained-glass windows depicting Grimm's fairy tales (you can read more about them here). If you're a fan of the fairy tale, you must visit them. They are stunning. I sooooo wish I could teach in that room. Sigh.

After our visit to the Cathedral of Learning, we got takeout from this place called Conflict Kitchen (located in Schenley Plaza), which features a rotating menu of foods from different countries that are in conflict with the United States. The Kitchen is currently featuring Afghan food, which was absolutely delicious. I had the Lamb Tikka Kebab and Sharbat-E Rayhan (a lemon-rosewater-basil seed drink that tasted a lot like Lavender Lemonade). I give the place five stars! Try it out if you live around Pittsburgh.
I just got my hair cut and colored like this. I absolutely love it!! Thank God for Pinterest;).

Meanwhile, my hairdresser had these Tom's Desert Wedges on the other day when I got my hair done, and she informed me that they are super-comfortable (I trust a girl who's on her feet about 10 hours a day). They seem like the perfect shoes for Spring:)).
I'm in lip love with the Rimmel London Kate Moss Lipstick collection. The colors are unique... and they last! A very affordable way to update your Spring makeup look (learn more about them over at Some Sweet Little Dreams).