Monthly Archives: June 2014

Day 180: Folklife Festival

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival was founded in the 1960’s at a time when, according to former director of Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage Richard Kurin, “many Americans were questioning the nature of their own identity, and the identity of the United States as a people.”

The festival allows visitors to explore the identities of different cultures, providing opportunities to learn about food, art, family, work and daily life. This year, the festival features the cultures of China and Kenya. In the course of about two hours, we witnessed a tai chi demonstration and a Kenyan cultural dance, sampled mahamari (a doughnut-type pastry made with coconut milk and cardamom), saw visitors attempting Chinese-style brush painting and paper cutting, watched girls being henna painted, and looked at art made from recycled products. 

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We also learned about a new program at the Smithsonian — Young Historians, Living Histories, an initiative by the Asian Pacific American Center. According to the website: 

YHLH is a national outreach and education initiative that engaged underserved and under-resourced youth and educators to deepen their understanding of Asian Pacific American history and culture.  After a weeklong workshop on Asian Pacific American history and culture as well as lessons about oral history, research and filmmaking,  participants were asked to make a film about Asian Pacific American heritage.  The result? An moving array of films depicting themes of migration, identity and belonging captured in one program.

 

I love the idea of any program that encourages and assists young people who are interested in knowing more about their family histories. It’s a great, valuable opportunity. 

For anyone in the DC area, the festival, which is on the National Mall, resumes July 2 and closes July 6. Programs vary each day. 

 

 

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Day 179: Brides and bras

I received my first bridesmaid proposal today. Once upon a time, I’m pretty sure that request was one that was made with a simple, verbal question, either over the phone or in person. Today, the expected etiquette apparently requires cleverness, creativity and a personal touch.

Fortunately, my sister excels at all three, plus panache. With due respect to all the ideas put forth in the links above, her “proposal” was just the perfect amount of humor and sentiment.

On the front of a pretty bag, she put a sign reading “I need your support.” Inside was a lingerie bag embroidered with her nickname for me, and inside that was a bra. (Get it? Bra, support?)

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Snazzy, eh? I promise, the only lingerie photos on this blog will be ones without people in said lingerie. You’re welcome or I’m sorry, whichever you feel is appropriate.

Finally, the bag included a note (again, the perfect mix of funny and heartfelt) ending in “will you be my maid of honor?”

Of course, this gesture was completely unnecessary. It was already long-established that I would be her “MOH,” as the kids say, and I certainly didn’t need any kind of formal request, but I loved this for two reasons: First, it just reminds me again how innovative she is. And second, as fabulous as a hot pink lace brassiere really is, the part of the gift that means the most to me is her lovely note.

Admittedly, I’m one to roll my eyes a little at things like bridesmaid proposals and “promposals,” (especially those,  God help these poor boys. In my day, a stuttered “so, like, do you, um, like, wanna, I dunno, maybe, like, um, go to prom? Or whatever” was all we needed, and I didn’t even get one of those. I did the asking, thank you). However, I feel like I understand the bridesmaid one a little better now. It’s really nice to have this token from this important time in the life of the person who I helped potty train and whose nose I once tried to pick when she was an infant.

Sisters are special, aren’t they?

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Day 178: My, how you have grown

I know, I said there was a 15-year rule on repeat experiences, but do you know how fast kids grow? It’s ridiculous.

In reality it’s been only a few years since I’ve seen my cousins’ children, but seeing them tonight at a family event, I was flabbergasted. The 14-year-old boy is my height, the 11-year-old girls are full-on “tweens,” with cell phones and pink hair streaks, and the youngest (seven, I think? No, apparently he is nine. Which is insane) is a smart aleck-y (my kind of kid!) ball of energy. I still picture them as being anywhere from about six months to four years, or as my sister called them, “our baby cousins.” It’s strange that all of them are too big to be picked up.

Yes, we were totally those relatives. The ones who say things like “Oh, my goodness, look how big you are!” and “I can’t believe how much you look like your father!” and “How old are you now? Oh, my god, that’s ridiculous.” We stopped short of pinching cheeks, but I’m pretty sure that was the next move.

They’re sweet, adorable, energetic (especially after a fair amount of sugar) kids, and it was so great to see how well they all get along. The oldest boy is obviously very protective of the youngest one (his cousin), and the two girls (also cousins, two mixed sets of siblings) are best friends. We saw a lot more of that branch of the family when we were all growing up, before everyone moved away and moved on, and started families of their own. Hopefully since I’m now living closer by, it’ll give me a chance to spend some more time with my relatives again, otherwise every time I see these kids for the rest of their lives, I’m going to “I can’t believe how big you are!” and by the time they’re 40, they might start to find that annoying.

Also, I am really curious to ask my cousins how they deal with things like social media or cell phones with the kids. I think it must be such a balancing act to figure out how to deal with those potential land mines that are part of daily life. I’m fairly certain I’m going to move to Amish country the minute I find out I’m pregnant so I can avoid all of that. And then my relatives can be like, “Do you remember your cousin Holly? She sent us some hand-churned butter for the New Year.”

 

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Day 177: Straight to Hell, wearing shinguards

Has everyone seen this fantastic piece by Ann Coulter on how American appreciation of soccer is a sign of our nation’s moral decay? Essentially, anyone who likes to watch people kick a black and white ball is on a path toward Hell. Oh, and one of the biggest problems, apparently, is that soccer does not provide enough opportunity for grievous injury. 

I know. That’s a shame. 

So, once I stopped laughing… oh, who am I kidding, I’m still laughing, but in the midst of that, I realized, “hey, I don’t think I’ve actually read any of Coulter’s work before.” 

I know who she is, of course — incendiary, very right-leaning conservative tall blonde who pisses off a lot of people. But I tend to avoid political commentary for the most part. It’s a bit sinful to say, since I live in the DC metro area, but I really don’t care for politics at all. A greater sin, considering my profession, is that I don’t tend to follow (other than on Twitter) any particular columnists or commentators. I mostly read according to topics that interest me. 

Most of all, though, I really don’t care for extremism on either side of the political spectrum, nor do I care to the similarly extreme reactions to said extremism. If the writings of a conservative columnist are automatically going to result in liberals dismissing the work, simply by the nature of the byline, and very much vice versa, I just find that counterproductive, both from writer and reader(s). And so I tend to avoid the articles in the first place.

But maybe I should have a little more faith in people to be able to engage in some rational conservation and well-tempered discussion, even if the source of that discussion is less than rational. And I’m not calling Ann Coulter’s diatribe against America’s “soccer fetish” rational, or anything other than hilariously funny, but actually reading the work of someone I’ve probably subconsciously avoided flipped this little light switch inside me that said, “hey, open your mind a little and start reading more things that might piss you off, or piss other people off, but don’t assume just because a certain person wrote it that you will be pissed off.” 

Okay, you know what? I completely hate this entry, but today was just not educational feeling at all, so I think I had to find some lesson in something I did, because the notion of a day without learning something new is not just bad for the blog, it’s also fairly depressing to me as a person. 

Posting now.

 

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Day 176: That Jew Died For You

I know, kind of a startling title, right? Today I was alerted to a site with a short video titled as seen above. As explained on the site:

Jesus has often been wrongly associated with the perpetrators of the Holocaust. In reality, he is to be identified with those who were the victims. As a Jew, if he were in Europe at the time, Jesus may well have suffered the same fate of the six million who perished in the concentration camps.

 

I hesitated to cite the viewing of this video as my something new, because I wasn’t sure at first how to do it without talking about my religious beliefs, which I consider private. My ultimate decision was that it should be shared, because it sparked an interesting discussion in my home, and maybe it will in yours as well.

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As a jumping off point, I will share this one thing:

I have never associated Jesus with the perpetrators of the Holocaust, and I never will. Before watching this video, however, I’d never actually asked myself whether any such connection had ever occurred to me. I’d never thought about it.

I think it’s worth watching and discussing, whether here or amongst your those closest to you.

 

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Day 175: Veggies at my door

For a lot of years (i.e. my teen – college years) I had a very complicated, unhealthy relationship with food, combined with a lot of bad body image issues, self-hatred, blah blah poor me, etc. 

The summer I graduated college, I started experimenting with cooking. I made jasmine tea swordfish with tropical fruit salsa, blueberry risotto, and molten chocolate cakes with ginger-infused cherries. I gained an appreciation for fresh ingredients. 

When I moved to Chattanooga in 2008, I was worried about how I was going to survive in the fatty, greasy South. To my very pleasant surprise, the Chattanooga area is rife with chefs and farmers who are very active in the local food movement. I spent the years I lived there frequenting the farmers’ markets, interviewing the people who grow and create food, and spending a lot of time in the kitchen myself. 

Having developed the appreciation for good produce that I have, I was really happy when my friend told me about Washington’s Green Grocer. For several years, I’ve wanted to participate in a CSA-type concept, but never did. So, here was my chance. 

Today was the first delivery:

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I’m excited. Getting this pre-designed box of produce is going to force me to be creative and try things I haven’t tried before. For example, I’ve never tasted mustard greens. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to experiment. 

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Day 174: I Learn Social Media Real Good

There are so many opportunities for learning online, it seems a shame to let so many slip by as I know I often do. Seriously, with all the time I’ve spent reading BuzzFeed lists, I could have learned to read Cyrillic. And, to be clear, I enjoy BuzzFeed lists. I just admit that some of them might not be the most valuable use of my time.

So, I found this site, Buffer, with a twofold purpose: First, the app will suggest and schedule social media posts. Second, the blog is composed of articles to educate readers about social media use. Considering that my field increasingly relies on social media, it’s important that my education in that area be ongoing. So, I look forward to a continued learning process.

 

 

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Day 173: Framed

Slowly, but surely, the project of organizing, furnishing and decorating my new home is coming along. You’d think it’d be easy to settle two people into a one bedroom apartment, but it’s really not. There’s a small space, a lot of stuff, and the need for places to put said stuff. There’s also the desire to appoint the space in a manner that is satisfactory to both parties, a consideration of the life expectancy of any items installed, cost, comfort, efficacy, efficiency, etc. So, um, no. Not easy. Not peasy. And certain not lemon squeezy. 

Part of this process is art: Selecting, debating, framing, hanging, etc. Several years ago, at the Chatty Crafty fair in Chattanooga, TN, I bought a small card by Durham-based artist Jordan Grace Owens. I kept this card in a file for years, always meaning to incorporate it into my home decor, and then getting distracted and failing to do so. 

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As you can see, I really mean that. The sizing was slightly (less than a half inch) non-standard, which means a pre-cut mat board wouldn’t work. But with the help of the lovely Vicki at Plaza Art in Downtown Silver Spring, I selected some complementary poster board, cut it to the proper size, and arranged it accordingly in the frame, which is now ready to be hung. 

Now, for those of you who are very visually artistic, you might have known what to do right away. But that’s not me. I write. I cook. Those are my art forms. I can take a decent photograph (evidence not shown above), but I’m not great at making art or making art look pretty. So, this was actually a new achievement for me, believe it or not. But, you know, we all have things that are a challenge for us, but are easy for others. This was one of mine.

What are yours?

 

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Day 172: Saturday in Savage Mill

How many places do you know that offer opportunities for both antiquing and ziplining? At historic Savage Mill in Savage, Md., you can check out a ropes course and a 19th century carved rocker in the shape of a skeleton. 

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A working textile mill when first established in 1820, Savage Mill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. 

The area was very charming, with sweet statues all around, and the opportunity to see artifacts spanning more than 200 years. I was, shall we say, not appropriately attired to enjoy the outdoor adventures (in these shoes, I don’t think so), so just another reason to return.

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On another note, I think I’m developing an addiction to antiquing. Is that something new?  

 

 

 

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Day 171: A pirate bar with bad P-Arrgghhh

I am both so proud and so ashamed of that fantastically hideous pun. 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, tonight I took my first outing to a pirate bar.

It was, I must say, both a relief and a disappointment. You see, the bar was relatively tame. It was a dark sort of space inside with a decent back porch area. There was, of course, a lot of pirate-related paraphernalia adorning the walls, a tiki bar, and some Davy Jones reference. The waitstaff were dressed in pirate gear, complete with puffy shirts and lots o’ cleavage, and had character names like Mai Tai and Captain Hook. The last one, I made up. 

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Other than that, at least this evening, it was a pretty ordinary bar. Maybe a little louder than I like, but nothing too out there. There were no sea shanties or plank-walkings or timber-shivering. On one hand, that was nice. You can probably tell by my reliance on Peter Pan for pirate knowledge that I don’t particularly care for characters and fictionalizing real life sort of things. 

On the other hand, kind of a Something New letdown, don’t you think? Really, if I’m going to go try to experience a pirate bar, let’s have a real pirate experience, even if it’s a horrifying and godforsaken one. And I’m not saying it would be, just saying it’s a possibility. It could also have been awesome. Oh, well. Win some, lose some. All in all, it was a perfectly fine experience going there, and as a customer, I have no complaints. I was just hoping to be able to offer a more colorful new experience.

Actually, though, the real color might be behind the scenes: In 2012, this establishment apparently butted heads with a show called “Bar Rescue” a while back. Apparently, this show tried to rebrand this pirate bar as a corporate-themed bar, which is sort of like trying to rebrand Queen Elizabeth as a stripper. I know, that was terrible. I’m sorry. I was going for a extreme example. Forgive me. God Save the Queen. (After Google-imaging that phrase, I feel less guilty). 

Moving on…

So, while even that small bit of information makes the owners’ (and loyal customers’) annoyance with the show quite understandable, I can’t really call this the best public relations/self-promotion I’ve ever seen in my life. Really, how does it help for “Our Story” to be all about how the restaurant got, and I quote, “fucked by TV”? I’m not saying they weren’t, but when I see the story about a themed establishment, I want to know the whys and wherefores. Like, how did the folks who run the joint get so into pirates? Wasn’t this a pirate bar before reality television screwed them over? So, talk about why you chose to create a pirate-themed establishment, the spirit of the customers, why the location was chosen…. don’t let your brand be “we’re the bar that got screwed by reality TV and we’re bitter.” That doesn’t make me want to patronize the establishment if I’m looking at that site as a potential first-time customer. 

I mean, did we learn nothing from Amy’s Baking Company? 

 

 

 

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