Feb 25, 2010

Crazy Heart

Okay, so Maggie and Kate got me super excited for this film and it's soundtrack, but I took my sweet time finally getting to see it. Finally did on Tuesday night (dollar popcorn night, naturally). This ban on running and/or exercise due to the heinous shin splints is giving me lots of free time.

I loved it- one of those movies you want to live and breathe for a little bit. I noticed the book (which I didn't realize it was based on, did you, Maggie or Kate?), at Target the other day. Has anyone read it?

Anyway, I love old country. Waylon Live is one of my desert island albums, and when I lived in NYC I listened to Hank Junior everyday on the subway ride home from my internship (yeah, I did not have the happiest experience living there for a summer). Oh, then there's Billy Joe Shaver, and Jerry Reed, and David Allen Coe (on who's tour bus I wet my pants once due to fear, but that's another story), and all the real old stuff, goodness. So the whole movie, I was keeping an ear open for who Bad Blake, the protagonist resembled in sound. To me, the soundtrack reminded me most of J.J. Cale- one of my favorite artists to see live.  I got home last night and compiled my own Bad Blake-esque album of some of my faves-

1.  T is For Texas- Waylon Jennings (from Waylon Live),  I challenge you to not sing this song at the top of your lungs

2.  Cajun Moon- J.J. Cale- like many of his songs, it's quiet, a little spooky, and addictive

3.  Georgia on a Fast Train- Billy Joe Shaver- an autobiographical tune of his, this is another one I prefer to sing at the top of my lungs

4.  Long Haired Country Boy- Charlie Daniels Band- It's the lake, it's a cold beer, it's windows down in the car.

5.  Please Come to Boston- David Allen Coe- one of his tamer tunes, I really think it's a beautiful song.

6.  Lukenbach, Texas- Waylon Jennings- no explanation needed.

7.  Knoxville Courthouse Blues- Hank Williams, Jr.-  For obvious reasons, I like this song by title alone, but I also love speculating whether it's a true story.  I  know James Brown has been to jail here, not sure on Hank.

8.  Highwayman- The Highwaymen- Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, does it get any better?

9.  Ride Me High- J.J. Cale- one of the sexiest songs ever.

10.  Amos Moses- Jerry Reed- Me and brother love this one (especially after a few beers).

11.  Mama Tried- Merle Haggard- I love the guitar in this song- first heard the Grateful Dead's version which got me into Merle in early high school.

12.  Sensitive Kind- J.J. Cale- I remember in college falling asleep to this song in college, wondering where the guy was who would appreciate that I am a sensitive kind.

13.  Magnolia- J.J. Cale- I like this with Sensitive Kind- feel like two parts of the same song.

14.  Me and Paul- Waylon Jennings- I think Bad Blake would definitely identify with this one.  Outlaw country life on the road.

15. Guitar Town- Steve Earle- see above.

16.  Live Forever- Billy Joe Shaver- I was so excited when they discuss this song in the movie, because I just adore it.

17.  Call Me the Breeze- J.J. Cale- he wrote this, Cocaine, After Midnight, Traveling Light, Crazy Mama- I mean the man is an incredible songwriter.  Eric Clapton once said that Lay Down Sally was his attempt to write a J.J. Cale song.  I love me some Slow Hand, but he doesn't even come close.

What would you add to my "Inspired by" soundtrack?  Have you seen Crazy Heart?  Or any other Oscar contenders?

Feb 24, 2010

Mwalimu and Watoto

This is Mary, the Shinda School's headmaster's second child.  She was tough as nails, and in true middle child fashion did not take any guff from anyone.  It was confusing to my Western eyes at first, that all children regardless of their gender had short hair.  However, when the complexities of bathing when you don't have running water were presented I understood the ease and practicality of short hair.

Speaking of hair, y'all are seeing my natural hair color dried in the breeze, and no makeup.  I still can't believe I went that long without fixing myself up.  When my Mama came to take me on safari at the end of my teaching sojourn, after pouncing on her, I immediately pounced on some mascara.

 These are all of Mr. Kimaro's children- Betty, who was 6, Mary, 8, Rose, 9, and Wisdom 10

Rose is actually Mr. Kimaro's niece from Kenya, who lived with his family. Tanzanians seemed to have a certain, um, bias against Kenyans. Rose, was as sweet and mild-mannered as you could get, yet I was told to watch her.  Why?  Oh, because Kenyans are "shifty".  This was told to me in various forms by pretty much every Tanzanian I encountered, which I found rather hilarious.

Betty was the youngest and smallest of my students, and barely spoke a word. Sometimes, she had tea with her father, the other teacher and myself during the mid-day break, while the other children had their porridge outside. This is because she is "petticated", as Mr. Kimaro put it.  An English word invention of his own, it means exactly like what it sounds like.  Sometimes, I catch myself using it in conversation and receiving askance looks.

My favorite teaching tool became the spelling bee when I discovered that Betty could beat everyone in both classes in spelling.  She rocked out the bees!  The best part was when she won this is what the class looked like!  They were so excited, that they would carry her in the air, like she had just scored the winning touchdown, chanting "Bate-tee! Bate-tee!".  Adorable!

Mtoto (child) and Mwalimu (teacher).

Feb 23, 2010

Ball Questions Answered

Here's the back of my hair- that whole section on the left is stuffed with a big wad of cotton (like cotton-ball cotton, which my stylist ganked from the nails part of the salon).  She had never done this before, and came up with it on the spur of the moment. You can also see the wad in this picture- please ignore my roots, and posture- I'm loading my evening bag with essentials.

For those who asked about the jewelry, I decided at the last minute that I would regret the funky danglers from Anthropologie, because they didn't really look good with the neckline of the dress. So I raided my grandmother Samma's jewelry to find these beauties.
I thought they would be more suited to my other accessories, since I was wearing my grandmother's South Sea Pearl cocktail ring.
And gold bracelets (which actually might be my Grandmother Faye's- I'm sure Mama will let me know).

On a side note, I am freaking out because (a) the half marathon is in a month and (b) I cannot currently walk.
I have done something to my knee and shins, which have been periodically acting up.  However, this is a whole new world of pain.  I ran 6 miles on Sunday, and was forced to walk the remaining 4 miles home. I was in pain trotting around Target last night.  This is bad. I am icing, wearing compression sleeves, bathing in Epsom salts, and not exercising for a week.  Hopefully that will do it?  Aaarrrghhhhh!

Any tips?

Feb 22, 2010

After the Ball is Over

Hubs and I before dinner- Tins and MOH came over before to help me into my dress (aka somehow maneuver over my hair- which was stuffed with cotton).  Yes, like many a middle school girlie, I stuffed.. .my hair.  My hair stylist wanted more volume for the side bun, so she got creative and stuffed it with a massive amount of cotton- between that and the hairspray, I was a walking fire hazard.

We had a lovely dinner before with SF and her husband, B, who were also being presented.

All the girls were ready to dance!

During the dancing, my hair remarkably stayed intact.
Hubs and I- love looking compared to my rents.

Feb 19, 2010

It's Ball Time

So, after a post where I talk about not wearing makeup for four months, let's talk makeup.  Since y'all have helped me choose my dress-

Now it's time to talk makeup- I love a red lip like Michelle is sporting above, but the thing is I never remember to reapply lipstick.  Just this morning I rocked out Goodbye Earl by the Dixie Chicks, complete with interpretative dancing perfected freshman year of college, and not performed since.  Why I can remember all those lyrics and gestures, and not to put on lipstick is a mystery best left unsolved. So that leaves me dramatic eye.  What do y'all think about these?




What do y'all think? Should I take these pics in, and which one do you like best?

Feb 18, 2010

I've Seen the Rains Down in Africa

I saw a short clip on CNN the other day about Kenyans using solar power to provide electricity to villages and Nairobi's biggest slum (read about here) It immediately brought me back to my time in East Africa, where I taught school for four months after graduation from college.

My father later admitted that the only reason he allowed me to do this was because he thought there was no way in hell I would actually go.

This is Anna, the housegirl, and me in my "Mama"'s kitchen.  I was the first mzungu (white person) she had ever seen and I think at first I freaked Anna out.  But then she got over it, and we bonded quickly over our love of Nanansi (pineapple).

Here in the living room was where I ate breakfast every morning- avocado from the tree out front, hardboiled egg, mango or watermelon, and sometimes leftover popcorn.  I just went with the flow, but I still can't eat mangoes due to the amount I ate there.

My Mama had about ten different businesses ranging from a cleaning service to a nursery and florist. This is pretty amazing because most women I encountered in my part of Tanzania did not work out side the home.
I taught school in a village about 3 miles away from where I lived.  Most people took the Dala-Dala's, which are Toyota vans crammed with about 15-25 people.  I have a very strong personal sense of personal space, which does not exist on the Dala Dala. So I walked.  No problem right?

Here's the thing.  It was rainy season, which equals mud, and lots of it.  About a mile and a half of my walk was paved.  The rest was slogging through the mud.

My students were well aware of my mud hatred.  They would battle for who got to clean my shoes before stepping into the classroom.  Check out the chalkboard.
I taught 4 4th graders and 20 (!) third graders in a one room trailer type building which was divided in the middle.  No electricity, no notebooks, but a bunch of watoto (children) who were so excited to learn.
My fourth graders- who were very well behaved.

My third graders, who were not so well behaved.

More to come on Africa next week. . .

Feb 17, 2010

Big Weekend in Pictures

Opera, out on the town, Thunder Road burgers,  steaks as big as my head, wiener dog races and proposals at minor league hockey games, sports bar, hanging on the porch in fur coats?  All in all a wonderful weekend.  Thanks so much A.S.S. and her hubby for visiting (and letting me gank the pics you posted)!

Any fun plans this weekend ladies?

Feb 12, 2010

Feeling a little Puffy

I woke up at 3 this morning, and could not go back to sleep.  The worst!  I finally gave  up at 4:30, and started cooking, then went to grocery and did a five mile run.  Now, I am crashing at the late hour of 8:30. 

Before I subside into a twilight sleep, I want to share with y'all a delightful  recipe.  Please keep in mind a) I do not bake b) I have the gas oven from hell (which I suppose all gas ovens are), and c) these have always scared me due to their inherent Frenchiness.

(aka cheese puffs, but I prefer to be fancy- after all they are for a pre-opera cocktail party)

Recipe and photo courtesy of allrecipes.com

Notes: These easy puffs are especially good made with strongly flavored, aged white English, Irish, or Canadian cheddar. We like to use an imported sea salt with pretty, crunchy crystals, such as fleur de sel, Halen Môn, or Maldon, but any coarse sea salt will work. The puffs can be made up to 1 month ahead and frozen; cool, then freeze airtight. Reheat thawed puffs, uncovered, in a 375° oven until crisp and hot, about 5 minutes.

Yield: Makes 48 puffs; 12 to 14 servings

1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (see notes)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh-ground pepper
Coarse sea salt (see notes)

1. In a 3- to 4-quart pan over high heat, bring 1 1/2 cups water and the butter to a full rolling boil. Remove from heat, add flour all at once, and stir until mixture is a smooth, thick paste with no lumps. Add a quarter of the beaten eggs at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition until dough is no longer slippery. Stir in cheese and pepper.

2. Spoon dough into a large pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch round tip. Pipe in 48 equal mounds on two cooking parchment-lined or buttered 12- by 15-inch baking sheets. (Alternatively, drop dough on sheets in slightly rounded tablespoon-size portions.) Sprinkle each mound with a few grains of coarse sea salt.

3. Bake in a 400° regular or convection oven until dry and well browned, about 30 minutes. Serve warm

I sprinkled some more cheese on top for obvious reasons.  These little dudes are scrumptious.  Hubs (and, er, me) were getting into them so much last night, that I made a new batch this morning (at 4:30 A.M. because I am a crazy person).  Everything involved is usually in your fridge and pantry, and you can't mess these up.  Seriously- I'm sure I would have if possible.

Anyway, keep your fingers crossed that "February's fury" as dubbed by the Weather Channel, does not prevent A.S.S. and her hubs from making it for their visit this weekend.
I need to see this lady so stupid February Fury better watch it, yo. 

Feb 11, 2010

Dear J.Crew

Please return to the era of healthy models doing things while looking fresh scrubbed and independently wealthy.  The following does not make me want to purchase clothes-

She looks like she is wearing the socks that shoe stores provide to give the effect of wearing a shoe with panty hose (or if you are not wearing proper socks?).  Here's Wallabies (J. Crew version) with the panty hose socks and a pencil skirt.  Blech.

There are no words.  I understand you are trying to push your new fashion forward image, but this is not Vogue, Elle, or even Teen Vogue.  You are a J. Crew catalog, and you need to start behaving as such.

"Cute!" I think.  Then I notice she is wearing shorts.  Ugh.

At least the website is not as bad.

I like this- and appropriately styled!
Then we get to this monstrosity which you can purchase for a billion dollars.
According to their relentless e-mails, if I spend the billion on this dress and can get free shipping!