Pumpkins on a Toy Camera

Happy Halloween!!!



Friday Foto - Aglio

AGLIO (m.)
Translation: Garlic

(Simple photo for a simple word...)


Dr. Sholl's

Whenever I find a product that works surprisingly well, I feel like I need to share the discovery.  My latest revelation is Dr. Sholl's For Her High Heel Insoles.  I realize this product has been out for a while and I may be behind the times, but I haven't had many occasions to wear heels until recently. 

This past weekend, I went to a beautiful wedding in Sonoma.  I really wanted to wear my 3.5-inch nude heels that I bought as a graduation gift to myself.  The shoes were significantly more pricey than what I usually go for, but I justified the purchase in many ways - they're nude, they'll go with anything, they're elegant and classy, I can wear them to work, blah blah blah.  Well I didn't consider the fact that they're incredibly uncomfortable.  I've worn them twice since May and the second time I wore them I had to take them off after about an hour.  Still, I was determined to wear them this weekend so I decided to give Dr. Sholl's a try.  I have to say, these little things are amazing!!!  The inserts don't look like all that much, but the little bit of arch support is surprisingly perfect.  They actually do shift your body weight and relieve pressure from the balls of your feet.  Now, I should say I've only used them once so I don't know how many "wears" a single pair of inserts can withstand.  But I had the shoes on for nearly ten hours, including a couple hours of pretty out of control dancing, and my feet didn't bother me at all.  In my book, that makes it successful product!

Note: If you decide to give these babies a try in your high heels, be sure you get the inserts specifically marked for heels 2 inches or higher and not the ones that are also for flats and boots.  I have no idea how good the other ones worked, but these did the trick for me.


Funny Stories

I had a dream last night that Johnny Depp was on the run from the Sicilian mafia.  For some reason, he came to me and the boyfriend for help.  No idea why.  Then the mafia sent us a threatening note saying if we tried to contact the cops, they'd know.  I woke up before finding out if we handed Johnny over.

I sent a lovely text to the boyfriend this morning wishing him a good day and some other romantic sweet nothings.  Except I accidentally sent it to my friend, who's name is next to the boyfriend's on my phone's contact list.  Thank goodness it was a G-rated text.

When I came home the other night, a woman was standing in my apartment parking area wearing a garbage bag.  As I got out of the car, she told me there was a crack in my window.  There wasn't.  Then she says, in her own cute crackhead way, "Happy Hanukkah.  You're Jewish, right?  Happy Hanukkah."

How was your Tuesday?



Thanks to a suggestion from a lovely reader, I discovered and downloaded an app called "FXCamera."  If you don't have an iPhone, this seems to be the closest thing to the trendy Hipstamatic app.  FXCamera lets you choose between Toy Camera, Polandroid, Fish Eye, Warholizer, and SymmetriCam.  Within each "camera" you can set different configurations.  For example, the shot below was taken with the Polandroid using vintage film in the square (1:1) format.  I think this will be a great, fun way to take a few quick pics when I don't have my dSLR on hand.

Taken from my office window around 4pm today.  Not too far off from the real thing, huh!?


My New Phone

Thanks to my job, I am now the owner of a Smartphone.  I'm so excited (though I may regret it very soon - one of the partners said he was glad to know he can now reach me any time of day)!  I'm a Sprint customer so I didn't get the iPhone, but honestly, I don't care.  I LOVE the phone I got - the HTC EVO.  I'm still studying up on it to see what kind of camera apps are out there.  I downloaded an app called Retro Camera.  It's pretty cool, but I wish the images were of better quality.  The phone has an 8 megapixel camera and takes beautiful shots, but when I use that particular app the images aren't the best.  If any of you non-iPhone users have suggestions, please pass them along!

Here are some examples of what Retro Camera can do.  Basically, there are four "cameras" to choose from - The Barb, Little Orange Box, Xolaroid, and Pinhole Camera.  I kinda love the imperfection of the shots, but when blown up too large it gets a little pixelated.  These are really photos that are fun to look at on the computer but won't make very good prints.



Sunny Flowers And Peeling Paint



Wild Boar Feast

We had a wild boar feast this past weekend.  The boyfriend's dad is a pretty awesome hunter and he got a wild boar not too long ago.  Now, most people assume that because I'm an environmentalist I won't approve of hunting.  Quite the contrary.  I have no problem with it, as long as you eat what you kill.  And, boy, did we eat that boar!  You'll notice there aren't any recipes to share, though.  My job was to make apple pie and assist on the meat sauce.  Unfortunately, I can't tell you how to make the sauce - it's a secret family recipe.  But if you ever come for a visit, we'll make a batch just for you!

Now that's a thick meat sauce!

Grilled boar tenderloin with salad, for a little nutrition

Grilled boar leg with a jerk sauce marinade


Mad Men Finale

I had to wait a bit to write this because I wasn't sure what to say.  The Season 4 finale was this past week and the split in reviews is just as interesting as the finale itself.  After just reading a few, I noticed (in general) women liked it and men hated it.  Why is that? 

The episode was notably more emotional than many other season finales.  Don is searching for himself and finally coming to terms with his past.  The near-exposure a few weeks ago is forcing him to realize he can't keep this secret forever.  And while he didn't explain all to Megan, little glimpses of Dick Whitman appeared when he was with her.  His body language was noticeably more relaxed and loose.  The stiff, constricting gray suits made a very limited appearance.  He was comfortable and relishing time with his kids, rather than nervously tending to them.  Don has never been this loose and relaxed around a woman - except, of course, for Anna Draper, the one woman he's ever really loved.  The episode was romantic, lovely, and hopeful.  Maybe the fact that Don is coming to terms with his past is a sign that his marriage to Megan will have some staying power.  After all, would the Don Draper married to Betty ever be able tell his kids that he's sometimes called "Dick"?

But still, the episode was slow.  Everything wrapped up nicely for Sterling Cooper Draper Price.  Peggy's success with Topaz saved the hemorrhaging firm.  Business seems like it will return to normal soon enough.  Of course there was Joan's revelation, but did that really surprise anyone?  From the moment she told Roger, I suspected she'd keep the baby and find a way to make it work.  After all, this may be her only chance at that happily-ever-after she secretly but so desperately wants.  Other than that, there were no cliffhangers, no edge-of-your-seat moments.  Everyone was left in a sort of limbo.

So is this the cause for the gender split?  I love cliffhangers and action as much as anyone but women do tend to be more romantic than men.  I freely admit I was drawn to the notion that Don may change - that, in Megan, he's found not only a positive healing influence for himself but also for his children.  Finally the children have someone sweet and caring who will do more than just chide them.  Finally Don has a softer, sympathetic side.  But is this the reason a few male reviewers were disappointed in the finale?  And, if so, was this muted tug on the heart calculated to appeal to our softer sides?  If that's the case, then I find it a little ironic the show that shines a spotlight on a past generation's gender gap is creating a gap all its own.


Manu Chao

About a week before I left Chicago in the summer of 2007, I was on the Red Line heading over to visit one of my best friends.  As I stared thoughtlessly out the window, my eyes caught sight of the Riviera Theatre.  The marquee said "Manu Chao Playing Tonight.  Sold Out!"  As soon as I arrived at my friend's apartment, I searched Craigslist for some last-minute tickets.  I was desperate to see Manu Chao live.  He's one of my favorite musicians and I knew this might be my last opportunity for quite some time.  But no one was selling.  In fact, all the hits were for people also looking to buy.  The disappointment of my failed search was alleviated only after some wine, chit chat, and Super Nintendo.

I first discovered Manu Chao while in college.  I took a Spanish class with the very same friend I was heading off to visit that day in 2007.  As part of the course, we had weekly language labs.  The professor who conducted our lab would start a lot of the classes off by handing out printed lyrics and playing music for us to listen to and translate.  That music was Manu Chao.  The man is amazing.  He sings (and speaks) Spanish, French, Portuguese, Arabic, and English.  His music transcends boundaries - both linguistic and political.  I can only understand a few of the songs - or a few phrases in some of the songs - but he's found a way to communicate through more than just the literal word.

After about eight years of seeking out his not-so-easy-to-find-in-the-States music, I had just about given up on seeing him live.  He doesn't play in the US very often, and I was convinced I'd only be able to see him if I just happened to be in Europe when he was on tour.  Well guess what I did Friday night?  I saw Manu Chao live in San Francisco!!!  Besides making great music, the guy also puts on one hell of a live show.  He's nearly 50 years old but has more energy that most people half his age.  Accompanied by only a drummer and guitarist, the trio played for nearly two hours without taking a break, bopping and jumping around the entire time, then played two decently long encores.  The Manu Chao concert experience was all that I imagined it would be.  The space was intimate, the crowd was electrified, and the music was phenomenal.  Overall, a great way to end the week (and a special "thank you" to my handsome date for the evening).

Did I mention we were thisclose to him?



Friday Foto - Gatto

Translation: Cat (m.)



Ansel Adams Influence

"Nobody trusts a painting, but people believe photographs." - Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams is the first photographer I remember "learning" about.  I don't remember how or when, but I remember seeing his black and white photos of Yosemite in a book when I was little.  I remember thinking they were the coolest, most magical photos I'd ever seen.  Maybe he's the reason I love photography.  Maybe he's the reason I'm still fascinated by the West.  And while I like to credit Captain Planet and Full House for my love for the environment and California, maybe Ansel Adams had a hand in that, too. 

(This photo is one of my own of Yosemite, but I think he'd appreciate it.)


Good Reads | The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Can I tell you a little secret?  I judge books by their covers.  I know you're not supposed because it's what's on the inside that counts and all that but if the cover doesn't draw me in, that book will have a hard time winning me over.

I know this book was popular months ago.  I know I'm behind the times.  But how could I resist those three little birds?  Whether Stockett was thinking of Three Little Birds when the cover was designed, I don't know.  What I do know is, I couldn't help but think of that song when I finished this book.  Lucky for me, the inside lived up to the cover.

The Help tells the story of Jackson, Mississippi in 1962, just as the civil rights movement was beginning to take hold.  Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, a young white woman, finally arrived home from college and is desperate to start her life as a writer.  She's advised to right about something that disturbs her.  She decides to write about the relationship between white women and their black maids.  The book is told in the voice of three characters: Skeeter; Aibileen, a maid who's raised white children for 17 years; and Minny, Aibileen's best friend who's mouthed off to every employer she's ever had and, as a result, lost every job she's ever had.  What results is a glimpse into a world most people my age have heard about but can barely imagine - a glimpse into the world of segregation in the Deep South. 

Skeeter's book (the book within the book) reveals twelve heartbreaking and heartwarming stories of love and inequality.  It brings hope and pride to the black community of Jackson and gives Skeeter the courage she needs to break away from her binding Southern ties and pursue her dream of being a writer.  Though Skeeter's book initially brought very dire consequences to some of the maids brave enough to tell their stories, in the end, well... I won't give it away.  But I will say this - I was left with the feeling that, somehow, everything's going to be alright. 

Sometimes Stockett's little ploy of writing in thick Southern dialect can be difficult to follow but, overall, the book is a compassionate and original story that makes for an absorbing and provocative read.


Imperfect Fall

It's mid-October and all I want to do is cozy up in a sweater and boots while sipping a pumpkin spice latte.  Why am I not doing that?  Because it's about 90 degrees outside today.  The calendar says it's Fall's turn to take over but Summer is holding on for dear life.  Looks like this poor little leaf tried to follow Summer's lead.  He clung to his tree for as long as possible till Nature shoved him to the ground.  Maybe Nature will finally force Summer out the door, making room for cool breezes, rainy days, and a few more colorful leaves.



Friday Foto - Schizzare

Translation: To Splash



Owls Owls Everywhere

Big changes happening in Big Mario's world!  I moved into a new apartment this past weekend and started my new job this week.  As far as the job goes, I'm excited, grateful to be employed, and a little nervous.  As far as the apartment goes, I'm sitting in an almost-empty room!  I don't own a couch (or any living room furniture for that matter) and I'm in serious need of wall decor.  But ... my kitchen is fully stocked and I have a lovely new flat screen TV!  Can you tell where my priorities are?

While trolling websites late at night looking for decoration ideas, I noticed a lot of owls.  Is this the new trend in home decor?  Some are horrendous, of course, but most of the owls I found have a cute, quirky, modernly chic feel to them.  I kinda dig it!

Owl Catch-All - $9.99

Owl Rug - $18.00

Owl Light Switch - $24.00

Owl Dish Towel - $18.00

Owl Pillow - $39.99

Owl on a Branch Vinyl Wall Decal - $17.00


Good Reads | Every Man Dies Alone

Every Man Dies Alone is based on the true story of two courageous yet simple Berliners who scattered postcards advocating civil disobedience during World War II.  After the death of their only son, Otto and Anna Quangel were determined not to sit idly by and watch the Nazi regime destroy their beloved Germany.  Their protest was small and, to some, insignificant - most of the cards were immediately handed over to the Gestapo as soon as they were found.  After all, such acts were treason and meant a hanging if caught. 

Woven between the stories of fellow Berliners and their own struggles with the war, Fallada tells the full tale of Otto and Anna.  What's beautiful about his storytelling is that he doesn't give any more meaning to the postcards than what they deserve.  The cards never achieved their desired affect.  They didn't incite others to rise up against Hitler.  They didn't bring comfort to those who read them.  If anything, the cards induced panic and fear in all who found them.  But for Otto and Anna, the "ridiculously small" act of leaving the cards throughout Berlin allowed them to remain decent, even if doing so would cost them their lives. 

Every Man Dies Alone is an interesting peek at another perspective of World War II - the Germans who did not agree with Hitler but were powerless to stop him.  The book is quietly thrilling and suspenseful, offering a glimpse into the distrust and paranoia that permeated Germany at the time.

Though written in 1947, the book wasn't translated into English until 2009, and the story behind the novel is just as interesting as the novel itself.  During World War II, Hans Fallada was addicted to drugs and alcohol and imprisoned in a Nazi insane asylum.  After his release, he quickly sat down to write Every Man Dies Alone, completing the novel in just 24 days.  He never lived to see its publication.

With a focus on a personal conviction to remain good, Every Man Dies Alone reminds us that no matter how insignificant our actions may seem, they have the potential for a profound and lasting effect.


Friday Foto - Mela

MELA (f.)
Translation: Apple

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