Archive for the ‘Entertaining’ Category

7 Vintage Postcards For Easter

April 6th, 2009 by Amy

I thought these vintage postcards were priceless!

 

Who better to convey your Easter greetings than a smoking rooster or a small circus chick in a pink tutu?

 

Printed between 1908 and 1912, these lovely little bits of history are all for sale at Moody’s Postcards.

(click to enlarge)








7 Movies to Love

April 3rd, 2009 by Jane


My family has had a long week and all I want to do is sit down to a movie tonight with a gigantic bowl of popcorn. Here are some movies I will watch again and again.  It was difficult to narrow the list down to just seven, so this may become a series here at 7Of! Send us your favorites!

1. Amadeus
I do not know what ever happened to Tom Hulce who stars in this film about Mozart, but I have missed him.

2. Chaplin
If you are not sure whether Robert Downey, Jr. is a tortured genius or just tortured, then watch this bio-pic about the Little Tramp.

3. The Commitments
A group of Irish youth form a soul band. Hilarious with fantastic music.

4. A Lot Like Love
I do not think this movie did well at the box office, but it is a great renter. Ashton Kutcher is adorable in this story about friends who keep missing the window for romance.

5. Holiday
My husband and I both love anything with Cary Grant in it, but this movie is my favorite. He stars with Katherine Hepburn and you can really see his Vaudeville training shine in this romantic comedy. 

6. Real Genius
Early Val Kilmer. Notice the comic details like his t-shirts, house slippers and pencil erasers. I still laugh.

7. The Thin Man
There are only six of these in the series, but  William Powell and Myrna Loy left me craving more of their stylish combination of wit and brains. Want to see more of her? Watch her sparkle with Cary Grant in Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House.


7 Texas Songwriters You Need to Know

March 30th, 2009 by Jane

I am a native Texan, and there are many things that I love and hold dear about my home. One of them is the absolute plethora of great music that is incubated here. You say you’re not from Texas? Well I bet you’ve tapped your toes to at least one song from Willie, Lyle or the Dixie Chicks. Here are seven songwriters who are from Texas or who got here as fast as they could. None of these artists are newcomers. No, these songwriters have been around long enough to prove their worth and they just keep delivering it to their fans. Want more? Stream Texas Music Matters that airs on KUT, the radio station from The University of Texas. Enjoy!

1. Susan Gibson
This talented songwriter is best known for writing the song Wide Open Spaces that propelled the Dixie Chicks straight into the stratosphere. Try Do You or Baby Teeth.

2. Jon Dee Graham
The music and words of the gravel-voiced Graham will make little cracks in your heart. The documentary about his life, Swept Away, will break it wide open. My favorite song of his is Faithless.

3. Patty Griffin
Patty was born in Maine, but has made Texas her home for years.  Heavenly Day, Making Pies and a poignant cover of Springsteen’s Stolen Car make her a listening pleasure.

4. Ruthie Foster
Her voice is big and fabulous and beautiful. Watch her perform Harder Than The Fall live, with humor and heart.

5. James McMurtry
While talking to a friend about the many talents of James McMurtry, I lamented that I did not know a lot of his music. Three days later he sent me copies of nine of McMurtry’s CDs and I have been loving every minute of them. His songs are socio-political stories about relationships, big skies and miseries. Must be in the DNA he got from his dad, writer Larry McMurtry.

6. Abra Moore
Once a member of Poi Dog Pondering, Moore has found peace and balance in Austin, Texas. It certainly shows in her music, which is just peaceful and pretty.

7. Bob Schneider
There is so much more to cutie Bob Schneider than being a former love of Sandra Bullock. Sometimes touching, sometimes raunchy, this songwriter is always entertaining. The ones on my repeat list are the single Love is Everywhere, 2002 and God is My Friend. I love a man that can play the guitar and the harmonica at the same time!

7 Songs My Kids Love That Are Not Songs for Kids

March 24th, 2009 by Jane

Call me a bad mommy, but I do not play tunes for tots in the car. Driving in the car with three children is stressful enough without having an unending loop of nursery rhymes set to music. Or Hannah Montana, no offense, Miley. As a result of my selfishness, my children have had a pretty good start to their musical education. Now if the rest of their education goes as well, they will be set! Check out these songs on iTunes or your favorite place for downloads.

1. He Thinks He’ll Keep Her by Mary Chapin Carpenter
The album that this song is from got me and my oldest daughter through her early infanthood. I would hold her and we would dance to it until she fell asleep. At age 9, she still loves this song about an unappreciated woman starting over. 

2. The Long Way Around by The Dixie Chicks
This anthem for those who make their own path in the world has struck a chord with my three daughters. I love that.

3. Sparkle and Shine by Steve Earle
This is one of the sweetest love songs ever and my children beg to listen to it on the way to school everyday. They know a good thing when they hear it.

4. Breathe (2 AM) by
Anna Nalick
My kids like sophisticated lyrics, what can I say? They are brilliant.

5. Seasons of Love by the Cast from Rent
This is my eldest daughter’s favorite song from her favorite album. Her godfathers turned her on to show tunes. I can think of 525,600 reasons why I love this song, number one being Jesse L. Martin.

6. What I Like About You by
The Romantics
Who doesn’t like this song? Gets everybody dancing in my house.

7. My City of Ruins by Bruce Springsteen
My brainwashing attempts have been successful and my girls love “Baruce Stingstreen.” They love the chorus at the end of this song and they hold up their little hands while singing “Rise Up!” Makes a mother proud.

7 Retro Children’s Toys That Aren’t Sexy … Just Fun!

March 11th, 2009 by Amy

Barbie is turning 50 and little Dora is getting a sexy pre-pubescent makeover to appeal to the pre-school crowd.

 

All the talk of the appropriateness of breasts, provocative outfits, and come-hither hair has made me a bit weary. Frankly, the social development, identity formation, and pretend play empowerment arguments seem like thinly-veiled justifications for toys we know aren’t really an improvement over a corn husk doll

 

I’m not proposing banishing Barbie or dumping Dora – that feels a bit too much like blaming the victim – but I am thinking that if parents simply steered their children in a different direction, we’d get our priorities back on track.

 

As the economy drives everyone back to basics, consider the toys below. All are priced under $20, save one which is priced under $30. These are toys you can build with, hop on, and hug. They are universally appealing, shockingly educational, and wildly creative.

 

These are the toys you might remember playing with way back when.

 

And, look how well you turned out!

 

 

  

1.  Erector Set

The ingenious Erector Set set the standard and remains an amazing example of what kids love if you let ‘em!

 

Since 1913, these classic build & play toys have been challenging builders of all ages. Inspiring creativity, observation, deductive reasoning, logical thinking, principles of mechanics, physics & problem solving. Erector Sets are an impeccable example of a “child powered toy” offering wholesome play possibilities.” www.fatbrain.com.  

 

2.  Lincoln Logs

Invented by the son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, these little logs still captivate with their “realness.” I love that my kids’ overly-stylized and achingly cute Little Pet Shop posse currently live in a humble log cabin. When they aren’t raisin’ hell on pirate ships in the bathtub.

 

3.  Pogo Stick

In the 1920s, Pogo Sticks were all the rage as people bounced, danced, and jitterbugged their way through the raucous Roaring Twenties. Can you even imagine letting your child use such a contraption without head, wrist, elbow, and knee gear? Might be time to throw caution to the wind, stare danger in the face, and hop on a Pogo Stick!

 

4.  Raggedy Ann and Andy

Created by writer Johnny Gruelle for his daughter, Raggedy Ann and Andy were created between 1915 and 1920 and popularized through a series of books and dolls. What makes The Raggedys rare and so great is there are two of them – a girl and a boy. When is the last time you saw a pair of doll siblings?

 

A little known fact: When his young daughter died after being vaccinated for smallpox without his consent, Gruelle allowed his characters to be used as part of a growing anti-vaccination movement. Interesting.

 

 

5.  Slinky

Another classic crowd pleaser, the Slinky isn’t only clever and fun, it’s super inexpensive. Ever notice how a Slinky is almost always just a couple of dollars? Turns out, that’s by design. The wife of the inventor, who was also president of the company that made Slinky for decades, purposefully kept prices low so that the toy would be affordable for all families. Pick one up as a gift … it’s too perfect to pass up.

 

 

6.  Tinker Toys

The inventor of Tinker Toys got his flash of inspiration while watching children play with pencils and spools. Duh! Based on the “Pythagorean progressive right triangle” (oh … I don’t know either!), the toy has also been a popular plaything for scientists some of whom used it to build a computer capable of playing Tic-Tac-Toe!

 

 

7.  Top

A top seems so ridiculously simple now its hard to imagine today’s children sitting down and watching something go round and round and round. But this old-school toy is a classic for a reason – kids love hypnotizing themselves. Older kids will enjoy upgrading to a gyroscope. More complex, just as hypnotic!

 

 

Nostalgic for more retro toys?

 

Check out what the guys at Retro Thing have to say about various old-school toys and fall in love all over again.

7 Things to Do with a Carton of Plain Yogurt

February 27th, 2009 by Jane

I buy 2 large cartons of plain yogurt every week and make flavored yogurt for my children. This is an  easy and economical way to make them all happy, for a while, that is. I buy plain organic yogurt for the added health benefits.  Try some of these ideas or go get The Book of Yogurt for more yogurt yumminess! 

1. Tricked Out Yogurt
I add a little sugar to a  large carton of yogurt, pour in a little vanilla extract and mush up some fresh or frozen fruit to customize flavors for my kids. These days, when kids are getting sugar in almost everything they eat, I like knowing I can control their sugar intake by making our own flavored yogurt. You can also try adding maple syrup for the sweetener. We like it with frozen raspberries or granola mixed in!

2. Say Cheese!
I’m not kidding: this recipe is easy! Make some yogurt cheese and use it as a substitute for cream cheese. You can spread it on a bagel, stuff it into celery sticks and even cook with it. Just don’t put it in the food processor-it will break up!

3. Dips
When I am making anything that calls for mayonnaise, I use half plain yogurt and half mayonnaise. Try this easy dip for a healthier snack. Or for something zingier, try a cilantro dip!

4. Main Dish
Try soaking chicken overnight in yogurt for extra moist kebabs!

5. Elegant Sides
I am trying this sumptuous-looking Bulgarian take on gratin of potatoes.

6. Dessert
The addition of yogurt to any baked good, will keep it moist and flavorful without adding a lot of fat. Try this elegant version of banana cake for a dessert you could serve at your fanciest soiree.

7. Go Spa Yourself
Get yourself a carton of yogurt and mix up a facial,  a batch of muffins from the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls, or Yogurt Spa-ghetti by Amy Sedaris. Soak your feet and luxuriate in your loveliness! 

7 Examples Of Thought Provoking Translation

February 24th, 2009 by Amy

My grammar and spelling suck … which is unfortunate since I’m a writer. While I know folks who stress and strain over proper syntax, I routinely misuse semi-colons and flagrantly overuse ellipses. The rules regarding serial commas, verb agreement, and the subtle distinctions between words like “further,” “farther,” “then,” and “than” feel like speed bumps in the suburbs – nice suggestions, but hardly urgent.

 

When I was 20, I lived in France for a year and have returned several times to travel extensively, which basically means I have had plenty of experience mangling a language other than my native one. My grasp of French is so poor you’d think I’d be ashamed to have practiced so much for such small gain. (Listen to David Sedaris reading The Sex Of French Nouns.) But, where the words may have missed their mark, the smiles more than made up the difference. 

I know I should care more, I am certainly old enough to know better, and I have had enough education to have no excuse. It’s just that somehow language seems more fun when it’s more free-form. Every culture loves its own – in the hands of both experts and amateurs.

(All photos from engrish.com. Click to enlarge)
















 

























































7 Books for a Book Buffet

February 17th, 2009 by Jane

I have been in a monthly book club with the same group of women for over 5 years. All of them are whip smart, funny, generous, talented and connected to their communities. When we get together there is more conversation than will fit in the allotted time, fabulous food and  more wine (or cosmos, or vodka tonics) than we should drink. Lately, we have not reached a consensus on our monthly book choice, so we are now doing what I call a book club buffet each month. We each read what we want, then bring the book to our next get together and give a mini-review. Then if anyone is interested in any book, she may take it home to borrow. We thought this would give us a chance to save a little money and spread some book love around to many more authors. So, here is what I am going to be bringing to the next few book club buffets.

1. Happiness Delayed
I have been wanting to read Stumbling on Happiness  for a few years. Esteemed Harvard psychologist, Daniel Gilbert, reveals the science of being happy.

2. Real Food
I am a huge fan of Michael Pollan’s writing and I loved The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. So, I am anticipating another literary treat with In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

3. Poetry
Poetry is an acquired taste for many, myself included, but the works of Mary Oliver could win over most anyone. I’ll be bringing Thirst to a book club this year.

4. Short Stories
Jhumpa Lahiri’s stories are engaging and haunting. I am looking forward to another of her books, Unaccustomed Earth.

5. Tattoo
I read a review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, and now I am hooked! Going to buy this book tomorrow.

6. True 
I recently finished the novel Run by Ann Patchett and loved it. Truth & Beauty is her memoir about friendship that sounds irresistible.

7. Too Funny
I mean that, literally. David Sedaris’ books are so funny that I expect I will have to give them up eventually because my twin-pregnancy-abused-bladder will not hold up to the stress and I’ll only be able to read them at home while wearing a Poise pad. I’ve decided to chance it and get When You Are Engulfed In Flames. In my family, if you make someone laugh so hard that they wet their pants, then you win the award for Funniest Person in the Room. It’s a compliment. Really.


7 Characteristics Of Unbearable Cuteness

January 27th, 2009 by Amy

A recent rash of cuteness on the Internet has me wondering: Just what are the telltale traits that give folks the warm, fuzzy feeling of a cuteness rush?

  

1.  Big Head, Small Body, Huge Eyes 

While humans naturally find disproportionately large heads perched on tiny little bodies loveable, we’ve also been well-trained. Scientist Stephen Jay Gould, in an article for Natural History, pointed out that Mickey Mouse’s head has grown steadily over the years, making him cuter and cuter … and more and more marketable. Stare cuteness straight in its huge, round infant-like eyes and you’ll find it impossible to turn away.

 

2.  Roundness

The cuteness of roundness is almost unbearable. Roundness is like The Charmin – you just want to squeeze it and the more you resist, the more irresistible it becomes. It’s a vicious cycle of adorableness.

 

3.  Dimples

I’m not a scientist, but I think a dimple represents the desire we all have to poke the roundness. Poke, poke, poke. Cute, cute, cute. It’s maddening.

 

4.  Personality

Confronted with traits like playfulness, fragility, helplessness, curiosity, innocence, and affection, people find themselves gripped by an uncontrollable need to nurture, hug, kiss, and squeal “That is soooooo cute!”

 

5.  Pedomorphosis

Animals that retain their child-like characteristics into adulthood seem to be the ones humans fantasize about cuddling the most. Never mind that giant pandas and koala bears are large and possibly dangerous – we are powerless to defend ourselves against the cuteness of their oversized heads, enormous eyes, and little button noses.


6.  Universality

The standards and appeal of cuteness seem to be universal. The Japanese have embraced it with more fervor than most and we have them to thank for 99% of all man-made cuteness. Hello, Kitty. Need more cuteness? See some of the Cutest Things Of 2008 or make your own for a super cute 2009!

 

7.  Miniature

What is cuter than the cutest thing you can think of? The very same thing, just half as big!

7 Soups for National Soup Month

January 26th, 2009 by Jane

It is no wonder that the ultimate comfort food has a month dedicated in it’s honor.  Soup exists in all cultures and is the essence of what humans need to survive: water, vegetables, and protein.  It can be a humble dish of broth and leftovers to the most sophisticated layering of ingredients. The Japanese even eat soup for breakfast. I must be in perpetual need of comfort, because soup is one of my favorite foods. Some of the most memorable soups are those I ate while we lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you are visiting any time soon, try the Hangover Stew at Carlos’ Gospel Café, the Santa Fe Trails soup at Gabriel’s in Pojoaque and everything at Back Street Bistro. I swear, the Hungarian Cream of Mushroom soup that is served there is the best thing that you have ever put in your mouth. So, try a few of these recipes or visit the websites that use soup to help others and you will feel sated and restored.

1. Year-Round Tomato Soup
Try this recipe from television chef Michael Chiarello for a twist on the childhood classic. It uses canned tomatoes so you can make this anytime. Add a grilled cheese sandwich and you’ve got a meal any one of any age will love. Don’t forget the pickle on the side.

2. Chicken Noodle Soup
Driven by my parents’ refusal to stop adding onions to every main dish, my middle sister survived on Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup for approximately two years during her adolescence. If you want to make it from scratch, you can never go wrong with any recipe from Tyler Florence. We like it with Saltine crackers!

3. Bean Soup
Black bean soup is one of my favorites. Add some grated cheddar, a dollop of plain yogurt, chopped tomatoes and loads of cilantro on top and you will have a filling, healthy meal that stretches easily for a crowd.

4. Need Your Sinuses Cleared?
In Texas, when you are feeling poorly, someone who loves you might bring you Tortilla Soup from your favorite restaurant.  If not, try this recipe from Rachel Ray and keep some in the freezer! It will cure what ails you.

5. Vegetable Soup
I can throw together a pot of homemade vegetable soup in twenty minutes.  Just keep some good-quality broth on hand and use what you have.  Here is a recipe to use as a guideline. Throw in some alphabet noodles and trick your kids into studying their spelling words.

6. From Soup to Jobs
The Soup Peddler in Austin, Texas has one of the best jobs in the world. David Ansel started selling homemade soups to his neighbors, delivering the yummy goodness on his bike. Years later, he is a food business phenom! Check out his site and buy his cookbook for an entertaining read. The Women’s Bean Project teaches job and life skills to women when they are hired to work in this gourmet food company. Sales of soup mixes help fund the Denver, Colorado non-profit dedicated to stopping the poverty cycle.

7. Book Soup
Soup has even been the inspiration for many books including the children’s classic Stone Soup. This heartfelt tale about a village of stingy people illustrates a wonderful lesson on sharing. The charming book of poetry for children, Soup for Breakfast, would make a lovely gift for a child or teacher.

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