Thursday, February 27, 2014

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

Here's what caught our eye this week here at the Nest. Enjoy, and have an amazing weekend!! A/J

"How can anyone possibly pay attention to a book with no pictures in it?" Good question, Alice. Some days I feel like this myself. Oh, and if you don't follow Disney's Alice in Wonderland on Facebook, and you're an Alice fan, you should. 
I have fallen head over heels in intellectual love with Guillermo del Toro this week. If you are also a fan, you should listen to this interview with the director from NPR's Fresh Air. Because this man, he speaks my truth. 
On that note, here's a bit from the fabulous people at Brain Pickings on J. R. R. Tolkien on the power of fantasy and fairy tales
I just started reading this book last night, and it is fascinating. While many books about monstrosity tackle the importance of monsters in terms of our individual psychological reactions to them, Poole investigates the cultural fascination with monsters in America, beginning in the colonies and moving into the present day. While academic in nature, Poole's book is highly readable. Give it a read. 
Mix Jim Morrison and Little Red Riding Hood, as Sun Gazing has done here, and you have a winner. 
I love this project from Upcycled Treasures!! So simple and so cool. It's Spring Break Craft Week here at the Nest, and this one is definitely on the list:). 
Oh, Val Kilmer. Your decline makes me a sad, sad girl. But this scene is beautifully ugly.

This beautiful creature is my daughter. I marvel every day that my husband and I created her. Here's the song we're singing this week, because of her. 
I must, must, must have this leather jacket from It is perfection. 
That is all. Have a great weekend. You deserve it. Take some time for you. And enjoy it. 

Roasted Avocado =s A Revelation

How to Roast an Avocado
Yesterday, I came across this pin from Stone Soup about a Roasted Avocado salad, and I thought to myself, "Why have I not tried this before? That sounds like delicious creamy goodness." Well, let me tell you something, it IS.

Here's the version I came up with, which I tweaked from the Stone Soup recipe above:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve and pit one avocado (serves 2-4; more avocados for a bigger crowd). Then slice the avocado into eight slices.
2. Drizzle olive oil over the slices, toss them in the oil (to make sure the slices are evenly coated to prevent them from drying out), and then season with lemon pepper and a little salt (I looooooooove lemon pepper; it's an old fetish from childhood. I also think they would be good with paprika or cayenne or chipotle seasoning - they are a blank canvas).
3. Roast the avocado for about 15 minutes once the oven has reached temperature. Mine looked like this when I took them out (any longer and it seems like they would get dry).

4. I chopped mine into chunks to put over a taco salad. I also mixed them with the juice of one lemon, because I felt they needed a bright note.

Roasted Avocado Taco Salad
Delish!! And simple. Two of the most perfect words on the planet. A/J

Two Roads Diverged in a Wood: I Took the One Most Traveled

And that has made all the difference. 

The last month or so, I have been in a real rut with the blog. I've had a hard time coming up with ideas for posts, finding the energy and the time to write (and to write something good), etc. etc. Part of the problem, I think, is a result of blogging on the side. My day job is particularly taxing in the spring, which coincidentally leaves less time to invest in doing the other things I enjoy. Don't get me wrong, I like my job. I find teaching rewarding, inspiring, thought-provoking - all those buzz words that exhausted teachers usually spin about. But I am infinitely jealous of those people who create things for a living. I am one of those people who teach other people about what other people have done. One of those people who write about what other people have written. This, if I am being truly honest, I am beginning to find somewhat uninspiring. I am envious of those who have been brave enough to devote their entire life to their craft.

I sometimes wonder, if I had only been brave enough to take the proverbial less-trodden path, how might my life be different? Such wondering has begun to take on a sharper edge over the last year, since I will most likely find myself at a professional crossroads in the near future when my current unextendable contingent contract is up. Do I want to return to the wasteland of adjuncting, where I make very little money, with no healthcare for myself or my family, in order to continue doing the thing I've been doing for the last ten years or so? I will apply for other full-time positions, but who knows whether there will be any open in the area, how many, how tough the competition will be at that point in time, etc.

I also wonder how my life might be different if I had been braver in general. Several times I have been at the edge of very good things, only to turn back, for one reason or another. If I could go back and talk to the younger me, I would tell her a few things. Here they are:

Even when you think you are completely out of your league, you aren't. You just have to learn how to swim faster. Keep your head above water for a while, and you'll figure it out.

Have faith in yourself, in your intelligence. There will always be people who are smarter than you, but you're pretty damn smart yourself. Give yourself credit.

Being just like everyone else is not admirable. It's boring. Going back home and working in a hole-in-the-wall bar may be fun in the here and now, but it will get old and it will get old very fast. Travel, get an internship, move.

Don't be afraid to succeed because you are afraid of failing. Many times, you will want to say "Why bother? I won't get it anyway." If you don't bother, you most definitely won't get it. If you do bother, you just might.

Don't quit. Don't quit because a few mean-spirited people are making your life a living hell. Don't quit because you are inside your own head and you can't figure out how to throw a ball anymore after you got hurt and you're embarrassed. Don't quit because you don't know what the next step should be. Find out, and then take it. Most especially, don't quit when you most want to. That choice to stick it out might have made all the difference.

As Robert Frost once wrote in a poem that has resonated with so many people, generation after generation, "way leads on to way." Making one faint-hearted choice tends to lead to a series of faint-hearted choices. After you take the easy way out once, taking the easy way out becomes, well, easier. Way leads on to way. God bless those people who say that if given the chance to go back and change something that happened in their past, they wouldn't change a thing. I would. I would change a lot.

On a side note, I think the 36-year-old me could still follow some of this advice. A/J

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Making of Bram Stoker's Dracula

Bram Stoker's Dracula
If you're a fan of Francis Ford Coppola's version of Dracula, you might find this bit on the making of the film interesting. I came across it while prepping for class tomorrow and had to share. Enjoy! A/J

Thursday, February 20, 2014

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

This has been another busy week here at the Nest. Here's what caught our eye, made us think, and whipped up some excitement. Enjoy! A/J

These kitchen towels from One Kings Lane are rawther expensive. BUT they are so adorable, I think they are worth the splurge. 
Looking forward to starting the sequel to the first Miss Peregrine's book this weekend. I wrapped up the initial book last weekend and, while I was underwhelmed by the storytelling itself, I was enamored with the story. I'm also surprised the books are classified as horror. They don't seem all that horrific to me, but maybe I'm jaded. 
I'm also looking forward to teaching Pan's Labyrinth next week in my fairy-tales class. I think it is going to freak my students the freak out. Which is always a good thing. Plus, it is just fabulous. 
We're loving this outfit from I'm almost sad to see the snow ending soon. Almost.
My kids and I have both been clapping along to this song from Pharrell. It reminds me of some great Marvin Gaye jam. You cannot hear this song and not dance. 

I love the blog Manhattan Nest, which is largely about renovating an old property in Brooklyn and all things DIY, thrifting, and decorating. Plus, the author Daniel Kanter is witty, smart, and self-deprecating. The perfect combination.
So, this is a picture of my kid. She's amazing (and her first dance competition of the season is this Saturday. Wish her luck!!). But I'm really posting this here because we love these leotards from Alisha Lines, which help dancers concentrate on their alignment and the placement of their bodies in ballet especially. If you're a dance mom like me, check them out. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Cuss Box

The Cuss Box
When I was a kid, my grandfather collected piggy banks. Winding up the massive wooden staircase in his home, on shelves that stretched from the floor to the ceiling, was a wall of piggy banks. When he passed away, and the piggy banks were packed up, the Cuss Box was the one I kept. In fact, I think it is the only thing that I have that was actually his possession (not something that he made for me or for someone else he loved).

Swearing is bad and just aint funny, So if you cuss it will cost you money. 
When I was a kid, I was drawn to the box's risque nature, it's very rebelliousness. I thought it was funny. Now, it reminds me of my grandfather and his quirks.  This was a man who loved certain objects. Often, he crafted them with his own hands - hall trees, dollhouses, picture frames, clocks. When he couldn't create them, he collected them - piggy banks and golfing trophies, especially.

I also find it amusing that the Cuss Box looks like it got its fair share of use. My grandfather might have shared my admiration for the strategically placed curse word, but I never, not once, heard him swear.  I do know this, in our house, the Cuss Box consumes a nice, steady diet of quarters. And that's just from my three-year-old;). A/J

Pin of the Day: Perfect Pizza Dough

The Secret to Perfect Pizza Dough
We like to make our own healthier versions of the pizzas to be found in the freezer aisle here at the Nest on Friday nights. I love this recipe from Lisa over at Wine and Glue. Try it out:). A/J

Monday, February 17, 2014

Pin of the Day: Cheeky Water Bottle

He he he ...
Love this "water" bottle from Liberty Bottleworks. If it only came in a travel mug for coffee. A/J

Imagining the Unimaginable: Jane Yolen's Briar Rose

Jane Yolen's Briar Rose
One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time. Carl Sagan

Last week, I finished teaching Jane Yolen's novel Briar Rose. When I collected the reflections from my two freshman writing classes, I expected to find the same-old same-old responses I often get, plot summaries of the book dangerously close to the book synopses to be found on Sparknotes. What I read, instead, surprised me.

The majority of the students had found themselves deeply invested in the book, and their responses were intricate and vocally unique - the best stuff, in fact, they have written all semester. I suppose I really shouldn't have been all that surprised, since Yolen masterfully casts a spell over her readers, enticing them into a tale that initially seems rather syrupy and unassuming, but eventually becomes as harrowing as any story can be. As the book winds outward from the framing device of the traditional fairy-tale "Briar Rose," Yolen carefully knits the Grimm tale to one woman's experience of the Holocaust, leading the reader toward a confrontation with the mass graves in the Nazi extermination camp in Chelmno, Poland and the ~350,000 people who died there. Many readers may want to turn away from the portal this book opens up into one of the darkest periods in human history  - the survivor's story that anchors the book is graphic, brutal, and horrifying. But, as P.L. Travers once said, in a quotation used as an epigraph by Yolen at the novel's mid-point, "Once we have accepted the story, we cannot escape the story's fate." Once we are enticed into Briar Rose via the magic of the fairy-tale mystery, we must endure the narrative of death, terror, and survival that is truly at the book's core.

If you haven't yet read Yolen's Briar Rose, drop whatever you are doing and order it at once. It is a book that will endure in your memory and make you a better person for having read it. It's also the kind of book that leaves you wanting more. As one of my students put it, "I wish the book wouldn't have ended. Honestly, I wanted to keep reading it forever." A/J

Thursday, February 13, 2014

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

Yes, today is Valentine's Day, but it's also International Book Giving Day. Give a book to the ones you love!! 
If a lover of fairy tales is one of your lovers, you might gift them this little book, filled with illustrations of Grimm's fairy tales by contemporary artist and pop icon David Hockney
I have officially lost over 10 pounds on the Weight Loss Program I started in mid-January. I promised myself a new outfit when I had lost that much. I think this is the one I will try to recreate:). I'd pick something skimpier, but it is cold as hell in these here parts. 
As a good friend of mine said tonight, "The villains have all the fun." I think I would be Maleficent. Or Cruella. I hate dogs, and I love fashion. On that note, this post from The Main Street Mouse.
Check out who Wednesday Addams is burying. Poor Red. I guess she was fond of Charles Perrault's version. 
I plan on sending this Valentine to my husband. He would totally get it. ... Hey, babe ....
From The Onion, "College Grad First in Family to Waste $160,000." If it wasn't entirely true, it wouldn't be so f*@!ing funny. 
To close today, one of my favorite love songs, "Warm Love" by Van Morrison. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Destination Procrastination

I blame graduate school for the evolution of my finely honed skills as a procrastinator. Up until that point, I always started projects well in advance of the due date, worked on them piece by piece, chunk by chunk, until the entire project was completed, usually way before the deadline.

Then came graduate school.

There was always so much to be done that I could never seem to get to the end of one thing far enough in advance to begin work on the next thing in advance.

In advance ... These days, when I hear that phrase I think of getting an "advance" on my paycheck, which also regularly seems to show up a day late and a dollar short.

I've been trying to break myself of the procrastination habit of late. I start grading homework as soon as it comes in. I try to return email as soon as I read it (because if I don't, I'll forget about it and then never send said email). I am beginning to feel, however, like a hamster on a wheel, as my legs, eyes, and fingers never cease. I am constantly reading something, listening to something, thinking about something, writing something, cooking something, signing something, etc. etc. etc. I am nearing the point of exhaustion. Which makes me question whether just a little procrastination may actually be a good thing. At least, then, I can take a deep breath (albeit in the yoga class I have to schedule into my "free time" .... in advance).

Does anyone else feel like the treadmills we are running on have been turned up to high-speed? A/J

Monday, February 10, 2014

Pulling Back the Curtain: Why Thinking Is So Much Better than Not Thinking

Leave it to Toto to be the one pulling back the curtain. 
Having recently finished reading and grading a stack of over 40 essays on various fairy tales, I am weighed down by the realization that just under half of them sought merely to investigate the superficially conveyed and received moral of the tales. This after much critical discussion of said tales in class.

Jeanne Marie de Beaumont's "Beauty and the Beast" is about how we should not judge a book by its cover (oh, yes? Well, why can we judge Beauty by her cover - she is after all the most beautiful girl in town, hence her name - and not the Beast? And why must the Beast get a "beautiful" girl to love him? Why wouldn't a good old plain Jane do?). "Little Red Riding Hood" is about how we shouldn't talk to strangers (Uh huh. Isn't the Wolf in Perrault's version "old neighbor wolf"? Now what?). The moral of "Little Snow White" is that beauty kills (Perhaps, but Snow White is, after all, saved by the Huntsman because she is beautiful. And the necrophilic dwarves and Prince want to keep her in a glass coffin so they can stare at her dead body all day because she is so pretty. Thank goodness, because Snow White's life is saved when the Prince's clumsy servants accidentally drop her casket and the apple chunk pops out of that pretty throat. So, for Snow White, her beauty is actually an asset that helps her to live).

The thing that bothers me about such work is the desire to adhere strictly to the received moral of these stories. The denial. Yes, these stories purport the morals briefly intoned above. But there is a lot more going on behind the scenes. Students, I want you to look behind the curtain. I want you to see the false bravado of the great and powerful Oz and the real men and women working the controls. I want you to look beyond the smoke and mirrors and see the mechanisms that make those enticing gadgets work so wonderfully. The desire to adhere to received messages isn't just about resisting the critical thinking I'm asking you to do in this classroom and at your computer late late at night so you can do well in this particular course. It's about life. The desire to adhere to received messages is, on the whole, dangerous. This is why you must refuse to accept the narrative someone else has constructed for you. Dig deeper. Look beyond the superficial. Think, in the end, for yourself. You may come to the same conclusions as those others. But at least you have fought for them.

It is easier to receive than to resist. This much is true. But learning to dispel the magic while realizing what makes the very thing so magical, that is magical in itself.

So, here's my song for today, on the Beatles 50th: Students, Dear students, open up your eyes. ... Students, Dear students, won't you open up your eyes?  .... Look around round round round round. Look around round round round. (P.S. Many of them will. I am not discouraged. That's why I love my job. Because the awakening, when it happens, well, it's like the sun peeking over the horizon. It's a glorious thing). A/J

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Rap Sheet (This Week's Best at the Nest)

This week has been, well, a little nuts. I have been disconnected from the blog all week because there has been too much going on. So, today, you get a very personal Rap Sheet, filled with the highlights of our week. (Oh, and we officially broke the 100,000 mark today. I know to some of you bloggers, that's like a daily number, but it's a big milestone for us:)!! Thanks to everyone who stops by to read and share in our lives. We love you!!). A/J

Reason Number 1 this has been a stressful week: We had to buy a new car. Say hello to Bonnie Blue (we name all of our vehicles: I've had the Tempest, the Skate, Mean Green, the Purple Pinstripe, and Mama Jag, just to name a few). This one has four-wheel drive, because my other car was literally a skate in the snow. Phew.
#whatimreading/teaching: I absolutely love this book and think everyone should read it. It's about one woman's experience of the holocaust through the lens of the fairy-tale "Briar Rose."
My article on Edward Gorey and the Humour in Children's Horror appeared in the Winter 2013 edition of Inis Magazine. I am so thrilled with how it looks. I wish you could read it online, but it's not yet available in that format:((. 
I snapped this picture of my husband and my girls a few nights ago. It shows just how much they love him and feel comforted by his presence. Kind of how I feel about him too;).  
I have been rhinestoning everything in sight. Dance competitions start in two weeks. If you're a dance mom (see my post from earlier in the week to find out), enough said;). 
To try to get some stability back, I signed up for this free two-week "Mama Sanity Bootcamp" with my friend and fellow blogger Betsy at You should check it out and join me!! 
I swear things will be back to normal next week. Say it with me, Things will return to normal ... things will return to normal ...;)

Monday, February 3, 2014

10 Signs You Might Be a Dance Mom

10 Signs You Might Be a Dance Mom
10. You have thought seriously about rhinestoning your cat.
9. You really have no idea what a fouette or a jete is, but you can say "Point your toes harder!" and "Think about your facials!"
8. You can do a sock bun, put in a fake ponytail, or fashion a hairstyle that looks like a bird mohawk in three minutes flat.
7. You have tried to do either a front or back walkover in the last two years (to show that kid of yours "how it's done") and seriously injured yourself in the process.
6. Sitting in a high-school auditorium chair for 10 hours straight on a Saturday seems perfectly normal to you (also, a walking taco seems like a perfectly nutritious and filling lunch).
5. Your Instagram is filled with pictures or videos of either your kid bent in half/twisting herself up in knots or yourself drinking wine and rhinestoning costumes (complete with hashtags #iwishicoulddothat and #dancemomproblems. Oh, and your kid's dance teacher comments with "Make sure you don't get wine on that costume!!").
4. You schedule your yearly family vacation around Nationals.
3. In "season," you see your fellow dance moms more than you see your husband.
2. Your Dream Duffel has been in your trunk since last season and you have just decided to take it out and re-pack it (mainly because dress rehearsal is this Saturday).
1. The answer to the question "Car payment or competition fees?" is usually ..... well, we all know the answer to that question, right;)?

Here's to a new comp season!! A/J

Pin of the Day: Our Demons

Today's Pin of the Day, this great little quote from Coco. A/J