Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky.
Let’s be honest: concept books are almost always SUPER boring to read. These are the ABC books, the 1,2,3 books, the “this is a dodecahedron” books. Yes, lots of them have choppy rhyme schemes in an attempt to make it less boring, and sometimes you get to count monkeys! Or sheep! Or yaks! But regardless, they continue to be boring. If you were asked to choose between counting yaks or counting fish, which would you choose? Easy. The answer is: NEITHER.
This new abecedarian manages to weave in the story of an overeager moose who just can’t wait till his turn. All the other letter representations, the apple, the bear, etc. are patiently waiting in line. Moose, in his excitement, tramps across several scenes in an attempt to get to “M”. But when Zebra decides last minute to use the mouse for M, Moose loses it and begins to deface the other letters. “R is for Ring” is crossed out in angry black pen, replaced with “R is for MOOSE”
If your kid (or yourself) has a decent grasp of the alphabet, this is a good choice. It’s more amusing than it is educational. And they are sure to get a laugh out of hearing: O is for Moose!
There’s something about the holidays that disrupts my ability to smother the world with my hatred of things and I’m not entirely comfortable with that. Case in point: Garfield. Really, has there ever been a moment in this life when anyone has chuckled, chortled, or guffawed OUT LOUD at the antics, quips, and musings of America’s favorite lasagna-scarfing feline? A rather slovenly thing, Garfield exists on the periphery of popular culture not as an icon of hilarity, but rather as the comedic equivalent of Bugles corn snacks. He’s there; we ingest him; but he’s entirely forgettable (and doesn’t even, I might add, come in six unique flavors).
Come the yuletide, however, this tubby little marinara-soaked comic cat emerges from my cauldron of contempt and somehow finds a half-hour of redemption through the power of his poorly-animated holiday special, “A Garfield Christmas.” But why?
Surely, there is nothing in “A Garfield Christmas” that hasn’t been seen before: An elderly woman reminiscing of days gone by? Check. Brothers finding solace and camaraderie as they take holiday refuge from the industrialized age? Check. A dog and a cat discovering that perhaps-just perhaps-the hatred they hold for one another is unsustainable and spiritually unsound? Check, please!
Nay, “A Garfield Christmas” brings little to the table that hasn’t already been served. But it is that tepidness, that complete and utter lack of motivation (laziness, really) to reach beyond the usual Christmas cliché and aim for something profound and heartfelt, that for some strange reason makes the annual viewing of it a near-religious experience for me.
Oh no, I’m not going to lie and start calling this chicken a peacock, folks. This special isn’t very good. There are annoying songs; John’s mom has a scrunched-up face that make her look like a creepy panty-hose doll; Odie is just plain dumb; and Garfield continually breaks the fourth wall with comedic commentary that makes my stomach hurt. And yet, I find the whole December-themed debacle completely watchable.
You see, “A Garfield Christmas” is the kind of Christmas special that’s not cool to like and that, oddly enough, makes me want to act as its staunchest defender. Sure, it may lack the ironically hip stop-motion animation of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” is devoid of the severity of sincerity that permeates “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and cannot compete with the pomp and circumstance of the bizarre California Raisins-sponsored “Claymation Christmas Celebration,” but it is that inability to stand tall in a sea of giants that makes my heart yearn for only the best life can offer this seasonal special on a stick.
Like a wayward, rabid, odious opossum (I was going to say child, but that seemed too cruel) in search of a home, “A Garfield Christmas,” needs love precisely because there’s really not much to love about it—and that’s what makes it lovable!
Having just returned home from a long weekend at Death Valley National Park, I have to say that it’s nothing short of awesome. Whether you’re a geologist who wants to be stumped or a tourist looking to escape from the ordinary, Death Valley offers something for everyone. I wasn’t as excited as I should have been to visit at first, but now that we’re home I find myself wanting for dry desert air and tranquility that Los Angeles simply cannot provide. I highly recommend you consider seeing it for yourself.
One of the more popular attractions in Death Valley is Scotty’s Castle, which is sometimes referred to as the Hearst Castle of the desert. Formally called Death Valley Ranch, Scotty’s Castle got its name from one of Death Valley’s most famous inhabitants, Walter Scott —a con man of sorts. You can read more about the story here.
Scotty’s Castle was built in a Mission Revival/Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style, which I’ve long been a fan of. Although, I usually lump the general style into what I call “Mediterranean looking homes.” My girlfriend, on the other hand, is not as much of a fan of this style. However, after visiting Scotty’s Castle, we finally agreed that it would make a superb looking home.
While my future home likely won’t be as grand as Scotty’s Castle, there are a number of important elements inherent to any Mission Revival/Spanish Colonial style home: white plaster or stucco walls, exposed wooden beams, red clay roofs, iron trim, decorative terracotta floor tiles, and a relatively open floor plan.
The furnishings in a Mission Revival home are equally as important as the architecture. The furniture should be predominantly made of solid wood, complimented with rich, earth-colored fabrics. And since tile floors and stucco walls can be a bit cold on there own, you’ll want to use decorative rugs and heavy fabric window treatments to add some much needed warmth.
In the bedroom, a wooden or wrought iron bedframe works best, and plush bedding helps soften the sharp lines of the bed. Iron wall sconces and floor lamps are also a great way to enhance the look of your Mission Revival home while adding some much needed light. To me, you can’t go wrong erring towards more gothic/medieval style lighting options that look like they came out of an old European castle. To really tie the whole look together, think about sticking with a consistent theme throughout the home. For example, all of the iron trimming in Scotty’s Castle featured a dragon; a relatively small detail that really stood out once noticed.
Since the possibilities of designing your own Mission Revival home are endless, the best way to perfect the look in your own home is to see what other designers have done. Houzz has an excellent gallery of Mission Revival homes to admire.
What’s your favorite architectural style? Did I miss any important elements of Mission Revival? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
It’s about this time of year that I give up on my usual healthy breakfasts of yogurt or poached eggs, and convince myself that its okay to eat anything during the holiday season. Coffee cake, pie, and pistachio nuts come to mind as good options. 😉
As a young teen, I was often invited to traditional Italian Sunday dinner at my friend Juliet’s house. Aunts and grandmas began cooking several days prior. Mouth-watering aromas rising up from the basement kitchen became more dense and elaborate as the weekend neared. Courses were numerous and staggering – salad course, soup course, pasta course, meat course – a three hour food extravaganza. Desserts were surprisingly humble. Some fresh fruit and nuts, maybe spicy homemade wine or a bottle of stinging grappa.
On one such occasion, Julie’s grandmother decided to ramp it up. With a small paring knife, she deftly pitted several dates. Each one was quickly stuffed with a walnut half, then rolled in granulated sugar to a shimmery sparkle. She saw the hesitancy in my eyes, and urged me to try one. Wow! One amazing bite of sweet-on-sweet, soft-on-crunch, nothing-much-but-nature and I was hooked for good.
Here, cream cheese is added for depth and texture, and liquid gold honey replaces the sugar to keep the tender dates moist and juicy. With only four ingredients and a small investment in time, you may also be saying “wow” to this humble, remarkable, not-just-for-Sunday breakfast in bed.
8 dates (Medjool dates are a good choice)
¼ cup whipped cream cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
¼ cup honey
Slice dates lengthwise on one side and remove pits.
In a small bowl, mix together cream cheese and 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts. Fill dates with cream cheese mixture using a small spoon. Wipe off any excess on outsides of dates. Dip each date into honey to cover completely and set aside. Pour remaining honey into small, heavy pan, and heat on low. Place dates in heated honey, and continue to warm on low heat, about 5 minutes. Dates should be warm, and cream cheese will be slightly melted.
Transfer dates to a small serving plate, and garnish with remaining chopped walnuts. Honeyed dates may be served either warm or at room temperature.
Cock-a-doodle-doo! Huh? Cock-a-doodle-doo! What? COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO! Awakened by a rooster? I’m upset. I live in a city. Portland, Oregon to be exact. I know that many of us in the city are currently half-courting, half-sneering at our Portlandia driven fame and I know that urban farming is popular here, but a ROOSTER? Seriously? No. How quickly can I google Portland Chicken Ordinance (we have one) and turn that piece of poultry in to the authorities? I’ll put a bird on him…
These are my very grumpy thoughts as I try to will myself from my bed over to the computer. Just then, I hear my neighbor getting out of his bed on the other side of the wall (yes, quarters are THAT close) and I suddenly realize that the rooster noise was coming from his place. It occurs to me that what I was hearing was not a live animal, but rather an app on my neighbor’s phone. Damn. I guess you can take the guy out of Nebraska, but you can’t take Nebraska out of the guy.
Here are some neighbor friendly AND design friendly ideas for alarm clocks:
This is the DIY faceted wood alarm clock from Design*Sponge. Use it to creatively cover up your conventional digital alarm clock. As I am geometrically challenged, the plans are too complicated for me, but I’m sure you can handle it.