Thursday, October 30, 2014

Setting Up a Halloween Photo "Booth" ... #scaryselfies

They mustache you a question. Trick or Treat?
This week has been an absolute whirlwind of activity. I think I have only made it through thanks to sheer willpower. Buuuut, we are throwing our annual Halloween party tomorrow night, bigger and better than ever, and these two are super-excited.
One of the easiest things we did to set up was put together a #scaryselfie photo station (kind of like the photo booths with crazy props you see at weddings these days). Last year, on clearance, I bought Halloween photo props at Michael's (I think for about a dollar; if you can't or don't want to purchase them, you could make your own by cutting out images printed on stock and attaching them to dowel rods. For $1.00, I'd much rather not expend the energy;).

Pop those babies in a Mason Jar, set up a sign on a chalkboard-painted platter, and you are ready to go. I put ours by the front door so as people come in, they can take pictures.

Yeah, my handwriting is atrocious right now. Ah, well. I'm exhausted. C'est la vie. While you're at it, check out my Hollywood Tower Hotel bell. I love it.
Have a happy Halloween! I hope you enjoy laughing with your families, eating candy, and dancing as much as I will. With much love, A/J

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Top 31 Songs on Our Halloween Playlist This Year

The best dancing mummies there ever were. Via
I love a good Halloween party. This must be why my Halloween playlist for this year's party has 71 songs on it and is 4 hours, 31 minutes, and 37 seconds long. Here are the top 31 songs in circulation this year for the gigantic party we've decided to throw Friday night. Wish me luck (pictures Saturday:)))!
  1. "Pumpin' Blood" NONONO (I absolutely love this song right now. I turn it on every morning on my commute as soon as I hit the highway). 
  2. "Grim Grinning Ghosts" Los Lobos
  3. "Christine's Song (AKA Devil in Disguise)" The Flying Burrito Brothers
  4. "Black Widow" Iggy Azalea (featuring Rita Ora)
  5. "Psycho Killer" Talking Heads
  6. "Scarecrow" Alex and Sierra
  7. "Don't Fear the Reaper" Blue Oyster Cult
  8. "I Put a Spell on You" Screamin' Jay Hawkins
  9. "Beat the Devil's Tattoo" Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
  10. "People Are Strange" The Doors
  11. "Living Dead Girl" Rob Zombie
  12. "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" Bob Dylan
  13. "Season of the Witch" Donovan
  14. "Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me: The Pink Room" Angelo Badalementi
  15. "You're a Wolf" Sea Wolf
  16. "Give It Up" Lee Dorsey
  17. "Bones" Little Big Town
  18. "Time Warp" Little Nell
  19. "Friends" Band of Skulls
  20. "Maniac" Michael Sembello
  21. "Play with Fire" Cobra Verde
  22. "Howlin' for You" The Black Keys
  23. "Hungry Like the Wolf" Duran Duran
  24. "Hotel California" Gipsy Kings
  25. "My Body's a Zombie for You" Dead Man's Bones
  26. "Sympathy for the Devil" The Rolling Stones
  27. "Day-O" Harry Belafonte
  28. "Somebody's Watching Me" Rockwell
  29. "Thriller" Michael Jackson (I mean, come on; what kind of playlist would this be without that song?)
  30. "The Walker" Fitz and the Tantrums
  31. "Unbelievers" Vampire Weekend

Monday, October 27, 2014

10 Fairy-Tale Fashions I Wish, I Wish, I Wish I Could Rock

10. The red hooded cape, a la a grown-up Little Red (who just happened to fall out of an Anthro catalog).
9. Alice Goes to Prom (I think Alice is an English fairy tale, so this counts for me).
8. These Cinderella shoes. Wow.

Preferably with this vintage 1950s dress.
7. For the modern Rapunzel, the chunky braid, waist-length instead of tower-length. You know, for the girl on the go. (If only I had long hair).
6. Elsa would totally wear this. What I wouldn't give to wear it too.
5. A new belt for the modern Maleficent. (No chastity belt jokes).
4. The cape. The lace. The red lip. All of it.
3. Belle's Library. On a skirt.
2. Aurora at Work.
1. And finally, in a bit of cross-dressing, the Shadow Man. I will actually be dressing up as him on Friday for Halloween. And then, I just might wear a version of this outfit on Monday. You know. To scare the students a little;).  

A Dollar-Store Halloween

I love a good deal. I also love browsing my local Dollar Stores and the Dollar Spot in Target for fun things, especially for holiday decorating. This year, I scored big at these stores for Halloween. Here's what we found.

Cute dishtowels from Dollar General, $2 a piece for different designs.

More kitschy dish towels. Also from Dollar General.

Floating ghosts - $1 a piece from Dollar General. You could create a legion of ghosts in your trees.

A great sign for me this week, when I have nine million things to do and am throwing a huge Halloween party Friday night.

Love these window clings from Dollar General. The waving ghost is actually a window cling for your car, which would be fun this time of year. Only $1 for a sheet of clings!!

These "drapes" were $1.25 a piece, but everything is now half off - so they would be even cheaper now. I hang them over the doorframes and curtains.

Cute signs.

Spider "webs" and glittery spiders.

Skulls - black and white accessories for the living room.

A perfect Halloween door - for $1.
These lights are the best. They come in green, purple and orange. They were $3.50, but are now $1.75 on sale. Please don't buy them all. I need some more;).
Bottle labels from the Dollar Spot at Target. See below.

More lights. They are the perfect touch.
Not really Halloween, but I couldn't pass this little candle-holder up. I love it:). The Power of Positive Thinking.

Friday, October 24, 2014

My New Favorite Catstagram

This is Whiskers. She likes to sing, "I wanna be a lion. Ev-everybody wanna pass as cats." (Yes, I know this is a tiger, but still ....). Happy Friday!! Enjoy the weekend! A/J

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

You Can Never Go Home Again, But You Can Make Chicken Noodle Soup.

This is not my dad's chicken noodle soup. I don't even think he knows what soba noodles are. But it was just what I needed on this cold, dreary day.

Yesterday, when I came through the door after a long day of work, I could smell chicken soup. Granted, it was ramen chicken soup my mom had whipped up quickly for the kids after she had picked them up from the bus stop, but I was nonetheless immediately transported back to a time that was simpler and quieter. You know, that time when I was the kid.

When I was a little girl, I loved coming home from school to chicken noodle soup. It was one of the things my dad loved to cook, and on his rare days off, he often made it. I think it reminded him of his mother, who was the queen of chicken soup, complete with homemade, hand-cut egg noodles, sliced carefully on a cutting board that had a divot worn in the one side from many years of noodle-cutting. He would get out this giant, dinged-up aluminum pot (now that I think about it, I think it was his mom's pot) and throw in bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, a bouquet of herbs (tied in a bundle), carrots, potatoes, celery, sometimes diced tomatoes - you name it, it might have made its way into his chicken soup at some point.

One of the clearest memories I have from when I was young is coming in the front door of our old house on a cool fall day and throwing my backpack down as the scent of the soup hit my nostrils. I can smell this memory as well as I can see it and hear it. It hit me, physically, when I came home yesterday. That day, I think I was about nine years old. The house was crisply clean (a rarity in our house, if I'm being honest - we were always so busy, it was hard to keep everything spic and span). The windows were open (I can see the white curtains, fluttering). The TV was off. The soup smelled amazing. I know I ate bowl after bowl after bowl of that soup until my stomach felt like Winnie the Pooh's. I always did. I think I was trying to eat up the love I could taste in the bowl.

Smelling the chicken soup yesterday afternoon made me feel ... well, sad. I can't go home again. First of all, my parents don't live there. They have long been divorced and now live in different houses in different cities (which was the right choice for both of them, honestly). I'm older. I'm supposed to be the adult who has her shit together, her ducks in a row. The world is different - noisier, faster-paced.

What I wouldn't give to be able to turn back the clocks and walk through that door one more time, one more time when I knew that it would be my last time. And that I would have to grow up. When the divorce finally came down, I was living in a different state and avoided that house like the plague. As a child would.

And so, here's the soup I made today for lunch. It was quick. It was easy - which my grandmother's and my father's were not. You know, the faster-paced world and all. Sophie still loved it.

Chicken Soba Noodle Soup

One tablespoon of coconut oil
Five carrots
One medium-sized onion
One package of chicken tenderloins
Two cloves of garlic
One handful of parsley
One box of chicken broth
One cup water
One lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
One package of Annie's Japanese Buckwheat Soba Noodles

1. Over medium heat, melt one tablespoon of coconut oil in a large pot (I use a Dutch oven my dad bought me when I make soup).
2. Cook the peeled and diced carrots and the onion, diced, in the oil for about 5 minutes (until the onion is translucent and just beginning to brown). Season with salt and pepper.
3. While the carrots and onion are cooking, dice the chicken tenderloins and mince the garlic. When the 5 minutes are up, add the chicken and garlic to the pot. Cook until the chicken begins to brown.
4. Add one handful of chopped parsley, one box of chicken broth, one cup water, and the juice of one lemon. Allow all to cook together for about 15-25 minutes.
5. In the meantime, cook the Soba noodles according to the package directions. This is the first time I've worked with Soba noodles (I bought them on sale in my local market). Sophie looooooved them. If my four-year-old picky eater loved them, that is a definite win for the Soba noodle. I thought they were delicious. Delightfully chewy and toothsome, with a great nutty flavor to balance the lemon in the soup.
6. You know the rest. Drain the noodles, plate the soup with the noodles. Eat. Reminisce. So good. I mean it. And fast enough to make for a weekday lunch when you are working from home.

While I was making this for lunch, Sophie informed me that she was "skeptical" about what I was making. #ohsheoflittlefaith

Enjoy! A/J

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

#whatwerereading: A List of the Latest Books I Just Had to Buy (and Why I Loved Their Covers)

I swear, for me, books are like crack. I just cannot pass them up. Even if I know I will most likely not read a book for many, many, many weeks - maybe even months or years, I still feel compelled to buy it. And I totally judge books by their covers.

Here are the books I just couldn't pass up of late (and I tell you why their covers intrigued me, in the spirit of one of the books I recommend). Let us know if you've read any of them and what you thought. The only one I've tucked into thus far is How to Read Literature Like a Professor (I'll tell you what I think of it so far below).

I've heard really good reviews of this book, and the cover, I mean come on. It looks like a Bell Jar for the new generation of high-waisted-jean wearers. It also makes me want to run out and replace the Docs I so mistakenly got rid of years ago.

If I'm being honest, this cover is a little underwhelming. But I really want to know what Bone Clocks are. That's enough to make me want to buy it. A snappy title. Why can I not impress upon my students the importance of a good title?
This book, by Peter Mendelsund (famed designer of over 600 book covers), amasses many of those covers alongside insight into how he designs them. I heard Mendelsund interviewed about the book recently on NPR and had to purchase it. He claims, for example, that we don't really picture characters' faces when reading books, but only their bodies/shapes/etc. I don't know that I agree with that. I can see Jane Eyre, for example, very clearly in my mind's eye. What do you think?

Where to start with this one? I'm drawn to Moran's in-your-face-but-in-a-daze facial expression. Then there's the grey streak, which suggests that she just doesn't give a f*@% about those, which is then counteracted by the fact that she's working a red polka-dot dress slightly reminiscent of Minnie Mouse and a very carefully sculpted eyebrow. I also was drawn to the tattoo-like script and the fact that it seems to be a companion piece to How to Build a Girl.   
I read about this book in my local paper, of all places (my local paper is not usually where you find intelligent conversation about much of anything. Instead, it's usually where I read about my former classmates' run-ins with the police and some 65-year-old man who thinks a woman's place is barefoot and pregnant). I like the premise, that we are losing touch with important recesses in our brain by relying on automation.

Honestly, put Neil Gaiman's name on a book, and I'll buy it. End of story.

Being a teacher of literature, I just couldn't pass this one up. I wanted to know what exactly it meant to read literature like a professor to Thomas C. Foster. Turns out, dude knows his stuff, although his attitude is a little off-putting. He constantly has sentences that read like, "Voila; I just worked my magic on you. See how I did that? I. am. The Man." Still, fun reading while I'm sitting waiting for Sophie to go to sleep. I've actually been reading it aloud to her. Maybe she's learning something? The fact that it usually puts her to sleep is not promising.

Horrible picture, great book. My mother actually bought this for me in Disney World. She also can't pass up a good cover. This cover is perfection. The dark wood. The evolution of Maleficent. Tons of great images from the original Sleeping Beauty and the Maleficent of today (even if I didn't really love that movie - did I ever post about that??? Where has my brain been?). I highly recommend it.

I received desk copies of these two books from Broadview Press to review for future use in my classes. The Fairy Tales in Popular Culture one is highly readable (even though an academic text) and is filled with visual texts and great contemporary fairy-tale revisions in song, poem, and story form. If you're interested in the evolution of particular fairy tales, the Folk & Fairy Tales book is a good one, tracing different versions of the same tale over centuries. I highly recommend both for fairy-tale fans.