Sunday, September 25, 2011

Happiness is...people watching.

I went with a couple of friends to a Renaissance Festival in Maryland yesterday.  What a truly interesting cultural experience!

There were all the entertainers to consider:

jousting knights

tightrope walkers

and people on stilts
And then there were the spectators:


guys in kilts

and orthodox Russians?!
Not to mention the countless costumed wenches with billowing bosoms (I'll spare you the pictures of those, you can thank me later!) It made for quite the interesting afternoon with a lot of follow-up conversations on the way home.

Just as God made the infinitely vast and varied worlds and creations, he made the vast and varied people to inhabit them. I'm amazed at just how different people can be and occasions like this tend to bring out the best, worst and weirdest among them! (We decided it ranks right up there with things like Comic-Con, NASCAR, Carnival.)

How did you spend your weekend?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happiness is...having tickets to this concert!

Trampled by Turtles....can't wait!  (Have I mentioned that I heart banjos? And fiddles? Yep, I do!)

Anyone care to join me?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Happiness is...having a project.

Or two.

My roommate's birthday was this past week.  She's a popcorn fanatic and decided she wanted to throw herself a popcorn-themed party. So, we set out to overhaul our house (which hasn't quite come together since the newest roommate moved in about 2 months ago), clean it up, organize it and then do all the food and party prep.  It kept us all pretty busy.

I re-painted all of our kitchen chairs from a smoky blue to black (and have a lovely spray paint effect manicure to prove it!) And then spent I don't know how many hours making cupcakes.

First were the popcorn inspired mini-cupcakes topped with mini-marshmallows.  Aren't they cute?

Then there were the leftovers which got the sprinkle treatment.

And then the piece de resistance: buttered popcorn flavored cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream frosting topped with caramel popcorn and sea salt.  Look how pretty!  They tasted pretty delicious as well.  (I found the recipe on Pinterest, you can find it here.)

We had 8 different flavors of popcorn, some sweet, some savory. And then there were the decorations.

On top of that I finally put the finishing touches on my bedroom. You can't see much of it, and you wouldn't really notice much if you hadn't seen what it looked like before, but there's the new mattress underneath it all, a black rug, new black and white photos in the frame on the wall (which didn't get painted, I decided to stick with just the classic b&w rather than trying to go with an accent color just yet...maybe that will be the spring project!)

It was quite the weekend of domesticity. Not my usual course of action but fun for a change and something I definitely need to work into my life a little more often.  Creativity and motivation are uplifting, if also somewhat exhausting! 

How did you spend your weekend?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Happiness is...writing a poem.

Even when the subject matter isn't necessarily happy I do get a bit of a lift when I create something. So, here is a poem to match my melancholy mood of late.

Loose Ends

It has been said
each new beginning
is really just the end of some other
beginning from long ago
'happily ever after'
is actually
'to be continued.'
But what happens
rather than a happy ending,
the ends of things are sad
and there are
to go around?
What happens to the possibilities
stuck in the middle
waiting to play out
for better
or worse?
How do I tell my story
minus its

c-Amy McMillan, 2011

Yeah, that's about how I'm feeling at the moment. Don't you hate it when things just don't go the way you want them to and there's not really anything you can do about it? I mean, it's one thing when life sucks and it's your own fault or you can at least construct a battle plan and put it into play (or sit back and dwell in your misery knowing full-well that when you're done dwelling and moping you can get up and kick its [whatever 'it' happens to be] butt and move on!) But when there's no apparent reason for any of it, no direction, no drive...yeah, that bites!

Any advice? How do you get over your discouragements? Find direction when you're lost? Or just beat the blahs?  I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Happiness is...a good book.

I feel a bit of a sense of loss in not doing the daily book reviews. And yet it was also a bit exhausting and in some ways I don't miss it at all! But I have been doing some reading since I finished my summer reading challenge. And lest you think I've just been slacking away, here are a few mini-book reviews of some of my favorite recent reads to prove it.

The Portable Dorothy Parker
Author: Dorothy Parker
Pages: 626
Age range: adult
Published: originally published 1944
Genre: Compilation?/non-fiction/fiction
Cover Score: ***
Overall Score: ****
Rating: PG-13

Acerbic wit and wisdom in the form of poems, short stories, articles and letters, these are perfect for reading when you are feeling spurned in love or angry at the world.  Here’s just a sampling of a couple of my favorites:
In youth, it was a way I had
To do my best to please,
And change, with every passing lad,
To suit his theories.
But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!

The sun's gone dim 
    And the moon's gone black;
For I love him 
And he didn't love me back.

Heart-breakers, beware!!

Lost Boys
Author: Orson Scott Card
Pages: 528
Age range: adult
Published: 1993
Genre: Horror
Cover Score: **
Overall Score: ****
Rating: PG-13
A horror story disguised as a day-to-day fiction novel.  It makes me never want to have children and have them subjected to the creepiness and horrible things that go on in the world. I’m not sure how I feel about all the churchy stuff mixed in and the characters were almost all completely nuts, and yet the ending somehow worked for me. It creeped me out, but it worked.

The Red Tent
Author: Anita Diamant
Pages: 321
Age range: adult
Published: 1997
Genre: Historical Fiction
Cover Score: ****
Overall Score: ****
Rating: PG-13
The fictional biography of Dinah, Jacob of the Bible’s only daughter (ie Israel, as in the 12 tribes of...) This was an interesting look at the ways of life in the time period from the woman's point of view.  It doesn’t follow the religious truths/accuracies I espouse but when I could separate the characters from my beliefs and simply read it as a historical fiction I really enjoyed it

Prudence Wants a Pet
Author: Cathleen Daly
Illustrator: Stephen Michael King
Pages: 32
Age range: 3-7
Published: 2011
Genre: picture book
Cover Score: ****
Overall Score: ****
Rating: G

Prudence will do anything to get a pet.  She has a series of 'non-pets' (a tire, a twig, and a shoe among them) before she finally convinces her parents to get something real.  Darling, clever, and a cute little voice throughout. You’ll giggle, I promise.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette
Author: Jeanne Birdsall
Pages: 252
Age range: 8-12
Published: 2011
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Cover Score: ***
Overall Score: *****
Rating: G

The sisters are back in their third adventure but this time they are being split up to go on separate vacations and their new roles and dynamics lead to a host of new troubles. Oh, how I love the Penderwicks! They are old-fashioned feeling stories with modern appeal. The girls are individually loveable and the writing is superb.  I debated pulling a few quotes but I honestly couldn’t decide which passage was my favorite. So, do yourself a favor and go read them all.

King Jack and the Dragon
Author: Peter Bentley
Illustrator: Helen Oxenbury
Pages: 32
Age range: 2-6
Published: 2011
Genre: Picture book
Cover Score: ****
Overall Score: *****
Rating: G
Jack, Zack and Caspar build a castle fort and spend the day fighting off dragons and imaginary beasties. But at the end of the day giants carry off Caspar and Zack and Jack is left to battle the night creatures all alone. An absolutely lovely little tale of courage and imagination with Oxenbury's perfect illustrations, a winner!

Some fun reads in the bunch, don't ya think?  And look how many adult books I managed to squeeze in!  Yes, I am a bit proud of myself.  Pick up one or all and I don't think you'll disappointed. And let me know what you think!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Happiness is...a new play list.

The anger of Tropical Storm Lee is upon us and Fall is here with a vengeance. The weather is dark and gloomy, it's rained practically non-stop since late Sunday night and I actually have natural cause to wear a sweater to work (as opposed to simply wearing it due to an over-exuberant AC system.)  So, what better way to celebrate than with some new music?!

I spent over an hour in traffic last night on my way to the temple but it sailed by thanks to the melodious sounds of the following:

  1. Don't Rain on My Parade                     Barbara Striesand
  2. Heartbroken                                         Meaghan Smith
  3. I'd Rather Be With You                        Joshua Radin
  4. Bells of New York City                        Josh Groban
  5. I and Love and You                             Avett Brothers
  6. Honeysuckle Rose                               Jane Monheit
  7. A Little Opera Goes A Long Way        Sky Sailing
  8. Fallin' For You                                    Colbie Caillat
  9. Haven't Met You Yet                           Michael Buble
  10. Let My Love Open the Door                Sondre Lerche
  11. Come By Me                                       Harry Connick Jr.
  12. 1, 2, 3, 4                                              Plain White T's
  13. Ain't That a Kick in the Head                Dean Martin
  14. The Friendship Song                            Carbon Leaf
  15. Wait So Long                                      Trampled by Turtles
  16. Your Personal Penguin                         Davy Jones
  17. Helplessness Blues                               Fleet Foxes
  18. All the Pennies                                     Mindy Gledhill
  19. God's Been Good to Me                      Keith Urban
  20. the 59th Street Bridge Song                  Simon and Garfunkel
  21. Say Hey (I Love You)                          Michael Franti
  22. Fly Me to the Moon                             Frank Sinatra

It's a bit eclectic, just the way I like it; a little old, a little new, a little traditional, a little quirky, a little soulful, a little sing-along.

What songs or sounds are your own personal background music of the moment?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Happiness is...big burly men wearing skirts and throwing things.

Also known as Scottish Highland games!

Yesterday a few friends and I braved the gloomy weather (ie downpour) to venture west to a little area known as The Plains, Virginia.  After a short detour to wait out the rain, find some umbrellas and some sustenance, we made it to the field and into a little bit of Scotland right here in America.

There were a ton of booths set up for food and merchandise (I indulged in a bit of buttery shortbread, a flaky pasty filled with beef and potatoes, a Welsh tea cookie and some non-Scottish but still tasty fresh-squeezed lemonade while ogling the countless tartans and silver and gorgeous wool sweaters and imported British/Scottish foodstuffs and more) as well as various events going on all around us.  Everywhere you looked there were people wearing kilts and toting bagpipes.  It made my heart happy!  Take a peek...

There were dancers and fiddlers and bands and a dog show and the battle sounds of bagpipes persisting in the air.  And then there were all the athletics...

Stone Tossing
Heavy Hammer Throwing

Caber Tossing
It's kind of crazy. Crazy fun! I loved every moment of it.  The overcast weather and the rolling hilly scenery was very reminiscent of Scotland itself, the food was fantastic, the kilts made me giggle (honestly, who can be sad in the presence of a kilt?!) and the bagpipes and drums stirred my soul. It was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon and made me proud of my Scottish heritage.

Oh flower of Scotland, when will we see your like again?*

Oh intrepid reader, where do you hail from? Have you carried any traditions from your ancestral home that still mean home to you? Are there any foods or events or days that have special meaning? I'd love to hear about them and maybe start a new tradition of my own!

*first line of the Scottish national anthem