Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pass the Paschka, Peeps...

If I am being perfectly honest, Easter is not my favorite holiday. I do appreciate the foods and traditions the holiday is steeped in, but I just can't get excited about its asceticism. Christmas is more my style, with the warm coziness of fires in the hearth, the beauty of the Christmas tree, the fun of buying presents and watching your children's eyes light up while they unwrap their treasures. Easter seems to me yet another of those holidays in which I lament the loss of times past. When my grandmother would conscientiously ready her Easter basket, filled with things like bread, salt, butter, to take to the church for it to be blessed. I miss her capable hands most of all, which seemed to flutter as she worked, cutting noodles, kneading bread, making so much from scratch that she had worn a trough in her countertop and cutting board.

One thing that I do love about Easter (aside from the Hrudka, Cwikla, and Pascha, if you are of Eastern European descent, you know what I'm talking about;)) - the beautiful photographs of my kids I am somehow able to capture (trust me, I realize I'm no Anne Geddes). On Easter, my children always seem lit up from the inside like little Christmas bulbs, their beauty glowing through their skin in the fresh light of Spring. 

Last year's egg hunt. 
Picking dandelions, again in 2012. Proof that Spring is waaay behind this year.
Running in the sunshine. Finally!! #thisyearislazy
Our little Easter bunny. At least the ears were upright here. Later, she tilted them backward to be aerodynamic. 
The day ended with a little water gun battle. Why not? (Check the bunny ears, btw lol). 
Happy Easter!! See you tomorrow! ~Alice

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sneak Peek Saturday...

Here's a glimpse of what's coming on the blog next week.

The Dance Moms Experience. I promise, it's coming. 
Girls' road trip to DC. 
My favorite dessert ever ... and why. 
Why I think it's so important to take your daughter to work. 
The wonder of Peter Pan. 
Katniss Everdeen in DC (this image is from the WWII memorial on the National Mall)
Haunting the American Imagination.
So many names:(((((.
Be sure to check back in this week!! The Wonderland Hop will also be live on Monday! Come to see if you were featured. Now, I'm off to try to fill up some Easter baskets and then a great dinner with some great family members. Happy Easter weekend:)!! ~Alice

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Wuggly-Ump ...

From the child-devouring Baba Yaga in "Hansel and Gretel" to the biting, snatching Jabberwock in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass to the innumerable ghouls and goblins currently haunting the shelves of the local Barnes and Noble, gothic and horror elements are everywhere in the child's literary world. Consider the fairy tales written by the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault, for instance, in which horrific elements are central to many of the stories: Little Snow-White's evil step-mother wants to consume the lungs and liver of her innocent step-daughter for dinner; a young girl watches another girl be chopped into pieces as she is prepared to be eaten; Bluebeard's dead wives are ranged along the walls of his secret chamber, their throats slit and their voices forever silenced. To take up contemporary currents in children's and young adult literature, today's most popular books depend heavily on the gothic tradition and the conventions of dark fantasy. Harry Potter, Twilight, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Coraline and The Graveyard Book, A Tale Dark and Grimm. The latest novels to hit the scene, The Hunger Games trilogy, make the entire world a haunted house, a scary space that must be navigated by the heroine if she is to survive. 

Typically, the monstrous in these books serves to allow the child reading to slay the dragon, to step into the world of the book and triumphantly defeat the monstrous, much as Alice leaps into a book in the Looking-Glass World to defeat the Jabberwock. In these types of books, the horrific rarely triumps, and the hero/heroine, in confronting it, is pressed further on his or her journey toward a more experienced, savvy personhood. In other texts that employ elements from the gothic and horror genres, however, the world becomes a Wonderland of terror and the inclusion of the ghastly borders on playful. 

Tomorrow, I leave for DC with my oldest daughter in tow to present on one of the authors whose work falls into this latter category, Edward Gorey. His work is unsettling. Often sadistic and mean-spirited. Downright funny ... sometimes. Rhymes that bounce over the darker substance boiling below. I love his work, and I am utterly disturbed by it at the very same time. It's a delicate sort of horror; think picture books for goths. 

My favorite, perhaps, is the tale of the Wuggly-Ump. This bone-crunching monster lives in a lair where he munches on mud, umbrellas, gunny-sacks, etc. Until one day, like the witch in "Hansel and Gretel," he decides that he has developed a taste for children. And he sets off hurtling across the hills, "Kerbash, Kerplump," in search of some tender morsels. Kids probably just find the Wuggly-Ump a tad scary, like Carroll's Jabberwock. For me, the Ump represents the onset of adulthood, which devours the unsuspecting children; the wolf at the door that consumes and alters you indefinitely. Terrifying. 

Gorey, in fact, probably would have hated the fact that I wrote a paper about his books at all. At least I didn't use the word "macabre." He hated that as well. Wish me luck! ~Alice

In the Confessional (and the Liebster) ...

I am the type of person who is really terrible at holding her tongue. Trust me. I've read the advice that "The Wise are Silent." I admire people who are capable of not letting the cat out of the bag, so to speak. But sometimes, I think the silent only seem wise because they don't say anything that might be construed as stupid. I like to think that my verbosity is brave, at heart, that I am willing to put myself out there and sometimes look ridiculous. Wishful thinking, perhaps. 

I'm thinking about the confessional today because, this past week, I was honored to be chosen for the Liebster Award by two of my fellow bloggers, Justina at Justina Who and Jules at A Dose of JulesThe Liebster Award is given to up-and-coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers by their peers in the blogging world....(or so I'm told;). Thank you ladies. You are awe-some:). The Liebster asks you to reveal little details about yourself that your readers might not already know. So .... without further ado, step into the box. I promise to say 10 Hail Marys when I am finished;). 

Eleven Facts About Me:
  1. I am really, extremely impatient. Which makes me awesome to live with.
  2. I collect editions of Carroll's Alice books, the weirder and goth-er the better. 
  3. I also adore The Gashleycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey, which is a really mean-spirited, terribly funny little book. 
  4. I grew up in the middle of nowhere alongside train tracks. I think I was initially from the wrong side of said tracks. 
  5. I was raised Catholic; I now prefer to think of myself as a lapsed one. That does not mean, however, that I am not a spiritual person. If you were brought up Catholic, you probably know what I mean. 
  6. The Puritanical side of me hates all forms of pomp and circumstance. 
  7. I teach one really killer Zumba class. I swear it. 
  8. I am a Gemini. 
  9. I am borderline dysfunctional because of my OCD.
  10. I just discovered my first gray hairs. Which was awesome. 
  11. I adore Martha Stewart, but I run out of patience about mid-way through any kind of crafting project.

Eleven Questions From Both of My Nominators:
  1. What's your favorite book to give as a gift? I usually give pop-up books by Robert Sabuda if I can find them. They are so intricate and amazingly detailed, especially for kids. 
  2. What is your favorite song right now and why? Merry-go-round by Kacey Musgrave. I love good country music that makes you feel something. Jamey Johnson is another favorite of mine.
  3. What is the greatest lesson you have learned thus far? Not to get so worked up over everything. This too shall pass. 
  4. Do you sleep on the right side, left side or smack dab in the middle of your bed? Depends when I have to get up, but always on my side. 
  5. What is your middle name and do you like it? Renee. I don't hate it. 
  6. What is your favorite brand of jeans? Lucky. I like how the zipper says "Lucky you." That makes  me laugh. 
  7. Watch TV or read a book? I hate to admit it, but watch TV. I read so much for work that the last thing I want to do when I sit down to relax is read more. 
  8. What's your favorite holiday? Halloween of course.
  9. What is your favorite 'throwback' movie? Goonies. Hi-lar-ious.
  10. If you could only choose one: Facebook or Pinterest? Facebook. Hands down.
  11. What do you splurge on? Haircuts, foundation, and really good dinners out. 
I Nominate the Following Blogs:
My Eleven Questions to You:
  1. E-book or real book? Why?
  2. What is your favorite book?
  3. Do you like to buy socks? Why or why not?
  4. What was your last really embarrassing verbal slip-up?
  5. iPhone or Droid?
  6. Why did you start your blog?
  7. Who do you think is hilarious on Twitter?
  8. Hair: Short or long?
  9. Disney World: Love or hate?
  10. Have you ever been to Canada?
  11. What is your favorite city?
Phew. That was kind of tiring LOL. Let me know if you decide to participate....but don't feel pressured to, especially if you have already done one of these. Catch you tomorrow!! ~Alice

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Wonderland Hop #2

Welcome to the Wonderland Hop!! Here at The Owl's Skull, we welcome all kinds of links, links to specific posts, to your Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest pages, to your blog in general. I tend to draw the line at giveaways; we want content - cool, fun stuff to read that inspires us and makes us want to dig in and be more creative, thoughtful, and smart - generally better people.  On that note, please click through the other links, drop the posters a line or two, follow the ones you really want to follow. 

Every week, we will feature our favorite links. This past week, we were crushing on:

A Dose of Jules
These yummy looking pineapple upside-down cakes from My "Not-So-Simple" Life
This post about packing a healthy lunch, at which I fail every single day, from Juggling Real Food and Real Life.

    A few pesky rules: 
    • Follow The Owl's Skull on some platform (GFC, Bloglovin', Twitter, Facebook).
    • Drop me a line in my comments to let me know that you were here so I can return the favor and follow you back. 
    • Tweet or share the hop on Facebook; the more, the merrier!! If you tag me in your tweet (@AliceinEW), I will tweet your link to my followers and pin it on my Pinterest boards. Promise. 
    If you were featured, feel free to grab a button and post it on your site: 

     photo Feature_zps9e94e779.jpg

    Peace, love, and link-up!! ~Alice

    The Problem with Bella Swan...

    I'm kind of cheating today, but so be it. I am redirecting to an old post of mine about Twilight after having taught the first book again this morning in my Literature for Children and Young Adults course. From my point of view, the Twilight series is dangerously seductive, holding out poisoned apples to unsuspecting young girls ready to take a bite. Here's why ... 

    Sunday, March 24, 2013

    Working Sundays Sucks...

    I hate working on Sunday. And I invariably end up working on Sunday; I really have no choice but to work on Sunday. Working on Sunday should be against the rules (wait, I think it already is;)).

    A little taste of what I am working on today, which is, at least, fun.

    Aside from that, yesterday at the Dance Moms filming was just a little bit crazy. Fake fighting, drama, etc. Look for a post later this week. Here's hoping your Sunday is shaping up to be much more relaxing than mine. And if it is, I hate you, and I'm jealous;). ~Alice

    Friday, March 22, 2013

    Bring it on, Abby Lee...

    As most of you know who read my blog, my oldest daughter dances competitively. We also live in the Pittsburgh, PA area, which means that I knew at some point we would cross paths with the infamous Abby Lee Miller. This is the weekend.

    I am curious to witness, even if from afar, the behind-the-scenes machinations that go into the production of this show. I've been a rather vocal critic of the program among my circle of friends, especially of the mothers who allow their children, not to mention themselves, to be berated by a woman who seems to revel in striking fear in the hearts of young dancers and generally antagonizing everyone else. Such, I realize, is also the nature of reality programming. I'm always wondering how much is fact and how much is fiction. How many of the fights are contrived. How much they film before the dancers even take the stage.

    I doubt this weekend will clear up any of these mysteries. But it should be interesting. ~Alice

    Thursday, March 21, 2013

    Rocking Old Wallpaper...

    Sometimes, when life hands you lemons, you have to make lemonade. When we bought our house this past August, there was, um, "interesting" wallpaper everywhere. In each and every bedroom. In the kitchen. On the ceilings. On the doors. You name it.

    In the kitchen. Turquoise and peach. Perfect combination. 
    The Master Bedroom. Blue toile wallpaper EVERYWHERE. The room looked so small with the paper and the custom draperies, straight out of 1982. Also, when we pulled back the wallpaper, we had to deal with mildew issues. Another reason never to put wallpaper on your walls. It traps everything:(. 
    This one was my absolute favorite!! It was put up, according to the son of the previous owners (who lived here for 48 years), in 1968. It covered the whole room. It was super-psychedelic. It was awesome. That carpet, not so much. Bright green, and when we pulled it back - horsehair padding. HORSEHAIR. Which is really, extremely super itchy. 
    Oh, yeah... There were also a lot of questionable carpets. Which we removed. Fast. 
    So, here is what we did with that rocking wallpaper. We made it work. I mean, werrrrkkk...

    We painted two walls bright green and one wall purple, and refinished the floors (future post on this). 
    This was the mess of a floor underneath the horsehair padding. 
    Some funky Ikea furniture, and  everyone thinks that wallpaper is the coolest part of her room.
    My rule? Make it look intentional. Like it was always supposed to be there;). ~Alice

    Linked up at ...

    Hurdy Dur ...

    I'm a huge fan of the Muppets. And the Swedish chef takes the cake (well, actually, he would probably blow it up). A little comic relief for this depressing week, from me to you. ~Alice

    Wednesday, March 20, 2013

    Seasonal Affective Disorder ...

    Mama said there'd be days like this. Days when your ass is really dragging. Days when you are dog tired. So tired that your body feels like someone just hit the off switch, powering you down.

    To be perfectly honest, I really can't put my finger on what's wrong with me this week. I feel curmudgeonly, misanthropic - all those big words that mean that you are generally annoyed with the world/feeling like a big giant bitch would suffice here.  Perhaps it's the lack of sunlight. Perhaps it's trying to do too much and, in trying to do too much, doing nothing well. Perhaps, just perhaps, I'm wallowing a little in self-pity.

    I think women like us, nowadays, driven, smart, ambitious women, have been taught to expect that we can have it all and be everything that we want to be (to steal a saying from the Army). Which is exhausting. I realize I am not saying anything new. Numerous others have already beaten me to the punch describing the dilemma that women today face. But I do want to say right now that I am really, really tired - punched in the face tired. And I have a conference paper to write. And I have two kids who are still running around downstairs like maniacs, the little one trying to cut her hair with fake scissors.

    Ah, well. When I was a kid, I would always tell my mom on days like today that she wasn't going to die from it. Basically, I was trying to make her feel better, but it must have sounded an awful lot like, "Suck it up, Ma. Unless you are on the brink of death, you really don't have any right to complain." Which, perhaps, is not bad advice. Perhaps I should take it. Just perhaps. ~Alice

    The Link is Working....Houston, there is no longer a problem...

    So, I realized just now that the link to Blue Mustaches wasn't working. We are now a go. It really is funny. Promise. ~Alice

    Monday, March 18, 2013

    Hop Around the Blogs #1 ...

    Today we begin a new tradition. Every Tuesday, The Owl's Skull will host a blog hop. The following Monday, before the next goes live, I'll feature my favorite posts/blogs of the week on all of my pages (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.). Of course, I'd love it if you follow me in some way, shape, or form. And visit at least three of the other links. Also, if you tweet and tag my Twitter handle (@AliceinEW), I'll give your post a shout-out on my Facebook page and Twitter. Every little bit helps right;)? Come one, come all:).

    It's 5:00 Somewhere...

    Today is just one of those days when you want to throw your hands up in the air. And pour yourself a big fat glass of wine. Both of which I have done in the last 30 minutes. Which is breaking my no-wine-during-the-week rule. I am also putting on some really kick-ass country music. Nothing else works on a day like today.

    Some of my favorites when I'm in this kind of mood:

    I like big hair and men in toboggans. ~Alice

    Sunday, March 17, 2013

    Before the Devil Knows You're Dead ...

    Stolen from a friend of mine: "May your glass be ever full. May the roof over your head always be strong. May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows you're dead." Amen to that. That bastard would totally be after me. Happy St Patrick's Day! ~Alice

    Friday, March 15, 2013

    Winter is Dead: The Spring Mantle

    She turned to the sunlight
    And shook her yellow head
    And whispered to her neighbor: 
    "Winter is dead." (A.A. Milne, When We Were Young)

    I will miss this sight.

    Our very first Christmas morning in the new house:). 
    I will not, however, miss the conditions outdoors that precipitate the need for the fire. My ire for the cold, along with the sun filtering insistently through the windows this past week has ignited my desire for a change.  A minimal change, but a change nonetheless.

    Just to provide some context for the progress we have made this year, here is where we were in August.

    You couldn't even see the mantle for the first month because we had a sheet over it. Navajo orange was everywhere. They had even painted the molding in the dining room this godforsaken color. 
    And here's where we are today.

    Oh, the blood, sweat, and tears that went into this room. 
    I changed out the pine boughs (which were cutaways from our Christmas tree and have lasted since the end of November!!) for some springy vines and ornamental bulbs purchased for $4.00 at Dollar General. I've had to go low-rent for this project -  my daughter's dancing is cleaning out my funds!!
    I also removed the snowflake ribbon and pine cones, going back to something of a clean slate. I like a spare mantle in the Spring. The season makes me feel Puritanical. Even when it whispers.

    I think I feel the softness of the lamb rising from the dead grasses. Clean, pure, and innocent. Praise baby Jesus;). ~Alice