Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gnome Sweet Gnome (or You don't Gnome me!)

I'm coming clean. I love gnomes. Okay... I feel so much better to get that off my chest!

I do though. I think they are so funny and absolutely bizarre! And how fitting with Carolyn traveling and sending me postcards that I am reminded of a few several famous traveling gnomes, hence, the title for today's fun little entry!

So we all know the Travelocity Gnome. He is cheeky little roamer who happens to save you a bundle on your vacation plans. (Also a sponsor of The Amazing Race on CBS, which may one day be featuring these bloggers as contestants... just gotta fill out that application form...) I've used the Travelocity search engine just because I wanted that furry little face to tell me the best air fare! I've done a bit of traveling myself as of late and hope to do TONS more. And knowing that....

my sister bought me this as a joke for my birthday, born out of a few compounded jokes. First was that when our feet hurt the Toe Gnome is hunting for a new Toe Home and at the time I had no idea where I would be living next so I was gnomeless, I mean homeless. I wish I had had him when I was Down Under and Back East, but for now he travels around my room. (Really I move him from place to place for no other reason but to move him from place to place.) He is very friendly and like my cats. I think they play very fondly in the middle of the night which explains how often I find him across the room from his last destination. Anyway, my little gnomad comes with a passport and a booklet full of fun.

This Traveling Gnome phenomenon may have been spurred by Amile, a French film starring Audrey Justine Tautou. In the film Amile, a sheltered French girl, has a life changing epiphany in which she decides she will devote her life to bringing happiness to others. In one scene she steals her father's garden gnome and gives it to her air hostess friend asking her to take pictures of the gnome all over the world. Amile wants her recluse father to stop mourning her mother and fulfill his life long dream of world travel. And of course, before fin hits the screen, he is off. *Sigh* So cute.

After that I remember there have been several human interest stories about merry pranksters who steal lawn gnomes and copy Amile.

I assuming that's where the Traveling Gnome game originated, but Lawn Gnomes themselves can trace back their beginnings to Germany after the Second World War. They quickly became a staples for every yard, garden, terrace, courtyard, and patio throughout the UK and US. Gnomology maintains that there are three main categories of lawn gnomes, of which a Traveling gnome can be any.

First there are leisure gnomes.

And working gnomes.

And culture gnomes.

Also, you know who loves to travel? Tyra Banks! So be sure to catch ANTM tonight...
I would like to leave you with this final thought:

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop. - Confucius

Monday, March 29, 2010

Brittaney Recently Finished {Alice I Have Been}:

Book Review: Alice I Have Been, Melanie Benjamin

With all the fervor surrounding the new release of the classic tale, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, I naturally "(said with three syllables, please) wanted to capitalize and bring to you a review of Alice I Have Been, a faux autobiography of Alice Liddell, the 7 year old girl who supposedly acted as muse and inspiration for the beloved children's classic.

I have to say I like the idea of the book. As a long time fan of Alice, I was really interested in the story behind story. Ms. Benjamin takes us through the middle Liddell's life starting as a young girl traipsing about the Oxford Quad with only her sisters and governess for company. The girls quickly befriend a nervous young mathematics professor who would later provide the world with one of the most iconic pieces of children's literature until J.K. Rowling. Charles Dodgson, who takes the pen name Lewis Carroll. The novel follows Alice as she grows from a curious and precocious child to a flirtatious and ambitious young lady. My favorite part of her grown up life might very well have been looking up the lineage of Queen Victoria. It was roumored that Prince Leopold courted the Liddell ladies. I think royal heritage is fascinating. Anyway, Alice must deal with her legacy not only as a famous fictional child but the scandal surrounding her relationship with Dodgson. And here is where author Benjamin gets carried away.
There was a lot of controversy surrounding Dodgson's relationship with the Liddells. Benjamin clearly suggests it was Dodgson's fascination with Alice that caused the family to break all ties with him. Channeling the Lolita effect, Benjamin wastes no time in delivering to the reader a sense that Dodgon likes little girls. But unlike Nabokov, she doesn't elicit any sympathy for the man. She certainly tries, but it just comes off creepy. So that bothered me throughout the novel.

Also I wasn't captivated by Benjamin's language. The voice she gave to Alice seems muddled and lacked a strong character. I'll give her some credit, the girl did grow to be a woman, but it wasn't subtle or elegant they way a Victorian lady is often praised to be.

Clearly inspired by the photo taken by Dodgon of Alice Liddell, Benjamin spends a good portion of the novel describing her fictional account of this day and its ramifications. I think it would have been better spent describing the day Dodgon began telling stories to the Liddell children to entertain them. Maybe she was trying to downplay Dodgon's storytelling skills, or maybe she just likes this photo.
Also, and I'm no author, I wonder what this novel would have been like with several narrators. Would it have been more compelling for a few different points of view? Food for thought.

It's an easy read. I wouldn't say go out and buy it now. Maybe wait for it to be in paperback or borrow from a friend who hopped on the Alice Bandwagon.

And speaking of Alice Bandwagon, there are plenty of things to get your fill of wonderland. You can always read the original.

Or see one of the three films, two by Disney and the other a youtube sensation.

Alice has certainly inspired generations. From photo shoots to dinnerware, Lewis Carroll has certainly left fingerprints on the hearts of millions, even if he wore gloves 100% of the time.

I say brew some hearty English tea and set up a croquet course in your yard. You'll probably have more fun! Or riddle me this: Why is a Raven like a writing desk?

I'm thinking about books for April, and since April is nation humour month, I think Kathy Griffin's autobiography, Kathy Griffin:Official Book Club Selection might be fitting. What do you think?

p.s. Both are almost never backwards.

Friday, March 26, 2010

MUSIC: Folk Friday {Lykke Li}

To prepare for my travels today {flying to The Netherlands for a week!} I have been gathering some new music to keep me company on planes & trains. Usually when I fly I like to listen to something soothing, like Thelonious Monk or something like the new She & Him album {which is amazing by the way}. I have a bunch of new stuff for my flight, but something that I legit cannot get out of my head is this CD: Youth Novels by Lykke Li {especially the song "Little Bit"}.

Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson {stage name Lykke Li} is a 24 year old singer originally from Sweden. Her family has moved around to an impressive number of places {I wonder if it influenced her sound in any way?}, including Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Nepal, India, & Brooklyn, New York, & back to Stockholm.

Her debut album, Youth Novels, was released in May of 2008 & I can't stop listening to it - just the right amount of soft vocals paired with fun beats.

Check out the video for Little Bit below:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Carolyn Recently Finished {Tess of the D'Urbervilles}:

Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy {1891}

I have many, many thoughts on this selection & since I just finished it last night, I'm still trying to process them all. I've talk to some of my friends who have read this {my father included} & people just love it, I know Brittaney on the other hand isn't a fan -I think I fall somewhere in between these two perspectives, but probably closer to Brittaney. Here's why:

This era of writing is hands down my favorite, you just can't beat early 19th century novels. I love the poetic style & the drawn-out descriptions of characters & the plot. Therefore, Tess should have been an easy fit for me, however, I found myself incredibly angry or annoyed throughout the whole experience. For me to be wicked into a book, I really have to be on the same team as the main character, if not relating to them, than at least empathizing with their plight or successes. I was on Tess's team up until she went to work with Alec D'Urberville's mother's chickens. Prior to this, I got the impression that Tess was a simple country girl - sweet, but by no means unintelligent. She was someone who was very connected with her town & would do anything to help out her family, since her parents seemed unable, or unwilling, to put down the bottle & take care of her & her multitude of siblings. Tess lost me when I realized that she was truly simple, but not in the good way - in an ignorant, even pathetic way.

I read reviews of the book online to see what other readers thought & the general concensus seemed to be that Tess was a good girl who bad things happened to - wrong place, wrong time scenario. I found Tess' reactions to the unpleasant, tramatizing one might say, situations to be highly masochistic. It was like the extreme religious notion that greater suffering leads to greater reward.

She didn't have to let Alec walk her home, especially when she was so tired & it was so late. She could have spoken up & asked her friends to stop dancing & walk back with her. I found her meek to the point of consummate vexation. She didn't have to keep her pregnancy a secret from him. She didn't have to be so melancholy {um..sure an unwanted pregnancy is well...unwanted, but did she have to name the baby Sorrow}.

She was not obligated to take the most difficult jobs as a farm laborer that she could locate. She didn't have to be ashamed of her beauty. She didn't have to stand for Clare's abandonment on their wedding night, especially for such hypocritical reasons. She absolutely did not have to beg him to let her commit suicide so as to save him the embarrassment of divorce. She didn't have to do what she did to Alec at the end when he was basically stalking & harrassing her {I'll leave out the details in case you're planning on reading this -wouldn't want to ruin it for anyone}. She didn't have to give every bit of her self & soul to Clare -hoping that if she was good enough he would come back for her. I just found the whole thing rather pathetic. Elizabeth Bennet never would have acted like this. I just wanted to shake her & pull a Cher: "Snap out of it" indeed!!

While I could care less for Tess & her miserable plight, I do feel good that I finished this book. The imagery is simply amazing - you really feel transported into Hardy's Wessex. And while it may sound like I'm being harsh, I did enjoy this book on a certain level. I can put aside my distain for Tess' weakness & put it into the proper context. Hardy was creating a conversation on the hypocrisy of English gender roles. Taken as a message about the absurdity of it all - how rules & social norms can ruin perfectly good people- it can be enjoyable, but taken as the story of a girl living her life - utterly frustrating!


Some peculiar coincidences I have been dying to share since I started this book - I'm a sucker for coincidences, it's like the universe is telling you your going in the right direction. Two terribly odd things occured while I was reading this book, which make me believe that I was supposed to be reading it.

1. During a lecture in my Building Sustainable Communities class, the first quote on the PowerPoint was by Hardy -talking about cities & their design

2. While reading a book on Cultural Tourism {for my thesis, not for fun} dating to 1989, the author uses Hardy & the Wessex of Tess as a case study for literary tourism.

They probably aren't super zany, but early 19th century novels don't usually fit very easily into the field of historic preservation.

A few of my favorite quotes from this selection, either beautiful or infuriating:
  • "And probably the half-unconscious rhapsody was a Fetichistic utterance in a Monotheistic setting; women whose chief companions are the forms and forces of outdoor Nature retain in their souls far more of the Pagan fantasy of their remote forefathers than of the systematized religion taught their race at later date."
  • "So easily had she delivered her whole being up to him that it pleased her to think he was regarding her as his absolute possession, to dispose of as her should choose."
  • "She tried to argue, and tell him that he had mixed in his dull brain two matters, theology and morals, which in the primitive days of mankind had been quite distinct."
  • "With that curious tendency evinced by men, more especially when in distant lands, to entrust to strangers details of their lives which they would on no account mention to friends, Angel admitted to this man as they rode along the sorrowful facts of his marriage."

Now, there are a 2 movies based on this book that I have in my Netflix queue to watch & I promise to review them as soon as they are delivered. This might sound unusual, but I have a feeling that I might enjoy a film version of this tome more than I appreciated actually reading it. The imagery & costumes might turn it into a soap opera, which in my mind, it is more apt to be than a novel. These two films are:

1. Tess {1979} directed by Roman Polanski. It was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards in 1981 for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director, & Best Actress in a Motion Picture & was also nominated for six Academy Awards that same year {Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction, Best Director, Best Music Score, & Best Picture}. Polanski dedicated the film to his late wife, Sharon Tate {brutally murdered in 1969}, whose favorite novel was Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

2. Tess of the D'Urbervilles {2008} produced by the BBC. This recently played on PBS in January, but, I, unfortunately, missed it. The still-frames from it look exquisite.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better

Last night I went to a lecture given by Mia Hamm. Now, if you're into soccer or women's sports or just sports in general you should know who she is. Or, if you're more of a baseball fan you might know her as the wife of former Red Sox player, Nomar Garciaparra. Or as the player who co-starred with Michael Jordan in those Gatrade commercials. Or as the youngest player to be on the US women's national soccer team, at just 15.

Or as the youngest women to win a World Cup, at 19. Or as a founding member of Washington Freedom, the women's professional soccer club based out of D.C. Or as the FIFA Player of the Year in 2001 & 2002. Or as the person - male or female - to have the highest goal count in history. Or when she helped the US women's soccer team win gold in the 2004 Olympics. Or you might be more familiar with the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup game versus China, in which the US won in overtime during a penalty shot scored by Brandi Chastain {shirt ripping, sports bra exposing to follow}.

To sum it up - MIA HAMM ROCKS!

As a former soccer player {& current soccer watcher}, Hamm, and her 1999 team of champions, were the first female athletes I looked up to as role models. Instead of wanting to play like Pelé or Alexi Lalas, me, & the girls I played with, dreamed of being like Hamm, Chastain, Akers, Scurry, Overbeck, Foudy, & Lilly.

Last night, in her speech, she talked about making the choice to be great everyday. Her answers to audience questions were real & thoughtful. It was so great to see little girls, 9-11 years old, with their entire team decked out in cleats & shin guards with #9 jerseys on -even after all these years, she is still an inspiration. She said she doesn't do many speeches & didn't think what she had done in her life was earth shattering....Oh, Mia I have to disagree. You changed the game, of soccer, & sports for girls.

"You Play Like A Girl" finally became a compliment instead of an insult.

Do you have an athlete you look up to as a role model, perhaps someone who changed the rules of a sport, so more people could play {think: Jackie Robinson, Wilma Rudolph, & even Britt's fave, Babe Didrickson}?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Snap out of it!

I apologize for doing two fashion-y posts in a row. I'm trying my hardest to finish Tess of the D'Urbervilles in the next two days, so I can start a new book during my plane ride to the Netherlands {where I will be spending the next 8 days!} & get a review up for our lovely readers. Our book blog is in dire need of a book review! eek!

However, I just can't stop thinking about what I want to wear when I finally have more free time to shop/dress...I'm in a "play dress up" mood & I can't help it. I think the summer breeds wardrobe re-do moods. I'm really feeling a Peggy Lipton/late '60s- early '70's vibe for Summer 2010. I'm also really missing my long hair & am on a quest to grow it out.

Right now, I'm totally inspired by these early photos {think 1960s-late 1970s} of one of my most favorite people. I'm sorry, I can't help it. I'm just gonna come out & say it: I LOVE CHER. I love her. I love her music {avec Sonny & solo}, I love her movies {uhh Mermaids anyone!?...I love a good Catholic joke. I'm allowed to -I paid my dues with 12 years spent in plaid skirts & kneesocks}, & I love her style...she does what she wants. She is Cher after all. I think it's safe to say her look from 1980 to the present might be a little too much for everyday inspiration -leather onesies for class? Not for me! I tend to prefer her earlier, more natural looks.

{image: Cher Style}

{image: Cher Style}

Do you have a favorite Cher look?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rachel Comey Spring/Summer 2010

Warm weather means warm weather clothing & regardless of weather or not I'm in need, I just always have an itch for pretty new dresses & cute sandals when the weather gets right. {Wow, do I get points for using 'weather' that many times in one sentence!?}

Today, instead of doing anything that I should be doing I was online shopping {hands down the best & worst thing about internet}. I came across these lovely finds on, which I sometimes frequent for inspiration {I would be crazy if I could think of affording any of the designers on there}. These current lusts come from Rachel Comey's S/S 2010 designs.

I just absolutely want a cute pair of overalls, but not the farm hand/utility kind, & I would absolutely pair it with an oversized hat. Now, this does have a function of utility- to protect my pale pale skin from the mean sun.

I would also like an adorable summery dress {with a little bit of sex appeal} that would look great at night with a cardigan {my absolute favorite item of clothing} or for some errands around town during the day. Although, I do wish it had a cute little cap sleeve...I'm not a fan of strapless.

However, this next outfit would fit right into my current closet. Non-skin tight/yet still sweet shorts {well, maybe it counts as a skort?}, a flouncy top, a cardi, & cute, yet walkable flats? Yes please! My birthday is in May btw.

So, what's on your wish list for the Spring?

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Spring has indeed sprung!! And if you are looking for something to do with all the extra light in your day... here is a look at a classic craft with endless possibilities!
For the edification of all our readers I did a little research on the origin of this shadow play.

Apparently in 1759, French finance minister, Etienne de Silhouette, found a cheaper way to capture the likenesses of the French people. With the severe economic demands on the county post the Seven Year's War, people were quick to request this art, as photography would not become available for another 80 years. (Its also important to note, that shadow puppetry had been functioning as entertainment and historical education in Indonesia for centuries. Hurray for Puppets!!)

Okay, I won't lie, this post was sparked by searches into fun jewelry and antiquing for my sister, Amanda (see my post: Buried Treasure). Having just seen the new Alice in Wonderland movie and reading Alice I Have Been, a fictional account of Alice Liddell, the girl who supposedly inspired Lewis Carroll to write the classic tale, I have reclaimed my fascination for Victorian Era finery. I purchased this today.

In the same family are cameos. A favorite of sister Amanda, cameos are a beautiful blend of relief artistry and Victorian silhouette charm. They add a touch of class to any outfit and always seem to be a conversation starter. "Where did you get that?" "Oh, it's a family heirloom.... a little shop in Florence... this thrift shop."
Arts and Crafts
Like I said, it all began in France but Victorian era England produced some of the most lovely pieces.


I also think it makes an absolutely awesome craft for young and old alike. For those of us up to a challenge, you can be as detailed as possible. I remember one of Puppetry friends cutting her shadow puppet silhouettes with nail scissors! For those with a little less patience (or dexterity) making silhouettes is a great Rainy Day Craft! Here is a step-by-step guide that I used for inspiration during my art camp counseling days.


Silhouetting does not have to be confined by busts. Framing one of your own failures and displaying in your home is definitely Victorian and a fun wall accessory, but what if you don't want to harken back to the days of corsets and coy ladies. Any bold pattern without any inner details can give that silhouette feel.

Before I close for the evening, I want to give one more shout out to Shadow Puppets! I recently was given this

And I think you will love watching this, one of the original use of animation ever! I could go on about this piece by Lotte Reiniger forever, but I'll let you admire her work and be inspired!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Oh what a Day

I don't know what it's like over there on the West Coast, maybe Britt can enlighten us, but all I know is that as soon as it's even remotely sunny out everyone's first thought is: "SUMMER'S HERE!!!"

Indeed, when it hits the 65F range I push the sweaters & jeans & hiking socks to the back of my closet & wiggle my legs into an easy breezy summer dress & let my toes fly free {so they can shake it better with the grass} - even though I'm almost always cold & the sun & I don't always get along very well {i.e pale as paper} I just absolutely love sunny, summery days.

Knowing the East Coast, it will probably snow next week, but today I'm going barefoot & loving every second of it. I packed my frisbee in my bag & perhaps I'll even break out my hoola-hoop!

I'm feeling a little like this today & I hope you are too:

Friday, March 19, 2010

MUSIC: Folk Friday {Florence & The Machine}

This week I continue the apparent tradition of not featuring folk music. After I get off this kick & as the suns warms up a bit & my toes & the grass reunite I promise to play some soul soothing folk.

Florence & The Machine

Florence Welch, a 23 year old from London, & her back-up band make up Florence & The Machine. Her debut album, Lungs, was released on July 6, 2009. Apparently, she's very popular in the UK, but is basically unknown here. Her voice is insanely powerful & I'm very jealous of her hair {I harbor not so secret desires to be a redhead} & her style rocks. I think she might be a little bit of a kook {watch her videos}, but I like that quality in a person.

Interesting non-musical fact: Florence has been diagnosed with dyslexia & dysmetria, but also thinks she has OCD, ADD, & insomnia. Oh, those creatives!

Check her out below:

This video reminds of of a Rock&Roll version of this scene from one of my most beloved movies: Anne of Green Gables. In the beginning of the first movie, while the credits roll, Anne can be seen walking through the woods repeating the poem Lady of Shalot & in the scene below, Anne & her friends recreate the poem in a watery burial that doesn't go as planned. Oh, that Anne!

Lady of Shalot by Alfred Lord Tenneyson

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

{image: The Lady of Shallot by John William Waterhouse, 1888}

It's about 17 more stanzas, so if you're truly inspired go read the rest here.
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