Monthly Archives: January 2015

Photo Friday: The world is a funny place

Throw off the week’s stresses and celebrate Friday by giggling at stuff with me:

1) So I was out running errands and waiting at a stoplight when I turned and saw this charming establishment.

bikini beach bar

Then I looked more closely at the sign.

bikini beach bar closeup

I really hope that church is real.

 

2) I saw this on the deck of a bar. It made me happy.

20150125_145737

 

3) About a year ago I needed a new sponge and was digging around in the box of cleaning supplies when I found a soap-dispensing sponge and ripped open the package. Here is the back:

famous inventor big

Fortunately, I didn’t throw away the package before noticing this inventor’s self-proclaimed fame:

famous inventor

Happy Friday.

Love, Emily
Famous Blogger

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Filed under Life is good and here's why, True Stories, Uncategorized

Redesigning School. Yes Please.

I just stumbled across this fantastic video discussing whether our educational systems are actually harming our creative potential. The talk reminded me of an epiphany I had while at school, so I thought I would share.

It hit me toward the end of my second year of college. A singular notion, it had never occurred to me before. I was sitting at my desk in my dorm rewriting a paper on subject matter I thoroughly did not understand (Descartes’ astronomical physics–long story). I was so far from understanding it, in fact, that my professor refused to critique my first draft because it was so terribly off the mark (“It’s so bad I can’t even read it,” I believe were his actual words…nice, really nice). So I sat there struggling and it occurred to me that I wasn’t doing this for him. I wasn’t even doing this for the grade. I was at college to educate myself. 

Over the next few months this idea kept reemerging. I wasn’t there to passively fill the blanks on my transcript. My education should be cultivating ME. I could use it to design ME, use it as a tool to sculpt my future and the person I wanted to be. As painfully obvious as this observation might seem, many students of my generation and younger exist in such a highly structured system that we end up floating right through it, never wondering whether we have any say in how the structure is made or can question if the system is good or bad or a combination. Those of us who can endure jump through hoop after hoop after hoop, right up to the point that we realize we don’t know who we are, what we want, or what use we can make of ourselves in this world.

So there I was, half way through college and only just starting to realize why I was there at all. The extent to which I learned anything useful depended, not on my teachers or curriculum, but on whether or not I owned my education. A good friend of mine helped me, albeit unwittingly, see how far I was from achieving this. She had been homeschooled her whole life. For any interest she harbored, she and her family figured out how to pursue it, whether it was public speaking or language acquisition or fencing. She grew up thinking it was normal to choose her own paths of study, thinking it was normal to speak with adults as an equal, and owning the right to investigate, question, and create. I watched her, marveling at her utter lack on inhibition and her seemingly effortless accomplishments. How do I even begin to take that much ownership over my learning?

I am still learning this lesson. But now I am in the real world, lacking that safe harbor of college where I could try anything under the sun to see if I liked it. At least I could help my sister avoid the same mistakes. A few years ago, as my sister was making her college decision, she suffered from burnout and constantly felt disoriented.  I encouraged her to take a gap year. I wanted her to understand that diving back into school was not her only option. Many kids struggle with this. They just keep going from grade to grade to grade to college to grad school, etc. The idea of stopping, resting, and living their own lives–well, it warps their little paradigms. My sister took her gap year, and it wasn’t easy. For the first time in her life she had to figure out what she was going to do every day. She would get frustrated easily, but every adult she talked to confirmed her decision by declaring longingly, “Man, I wish I had taken a gap year.” In the end, she didn’t regret it. During that year she studied art history in Italy and the experience stirred such a passion in her that she has since excelled in her coursework at school and appears positively giddy at the idea of a career in art conservation.

This video touches on many of these similar ideas. Speaker Sarah Stein Greenberg, executive director of the Stanford d.School, says “If I told you that if you exercised everyday for four years and at the end of the four years you would be fit for the rest of your life, you would laugh… but essentially, that’s the model we have baked into college.” Four years is, when you think about it, an arbitrary timeframe for college, and most of us get it at the beginning of our adult life when few of us have had any experience of real world problem solving. The result is that students don’t know how to apply what they learn while at school and then they leave and discover they won’t know how to learn what they need to apply. One of the suggestions introduced in this video is the idea of a six year college program that students can start and stop as needed and in which they are encouraged to mingle real world work and big life problems with the safety and freedom of the classroom. See what you think. I’d love to hear your feedback.

FYI…sorry, but the video won’t embed properly. here is the link:
http://player.cnevids.com/embed/5461131c61646d38b4080000/5176e89e68f9daff42000013

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After all, everyone wants a little castle

We have begun to house hunt. This is not so much a signal of wanting to settle down. It’s just that here in Nashville the rental market is so high that we will, more than likely, SAVE a bunch of money by buying rather than renting. Sigh.

Anyway, we have begun to house hunt, and it forces me to ask, as I have many times in the past, WHY GOD WHY do so many houses look the same? Why do so many Americans go to extremes to keep up with the Joneses? Why do we think the Joneses’ have it right? Homes are such large investments. Surely we can be more creative!

Disclaimer: I understand that many houses look cookie cutter because they are cheaper to build that way, and the cheaper the cost of the home the easier it is for families to raise their children in a nice space. This is a good thing.

HOWEVER, I firmly believe that everyone wants their own little castle. These are homes with character, with nooks and crannies and unique features and potential for customization. We all grew up drawing pictures of our dream houses, so when did we start caring so much about what’s “normal?”  Is it just a cost thing?

All of these questions came flooding to mind when I stumbled across this fabulous Ted Talk. It challenges simultaneously the myths that “standardization” saves us money and that “standardization” makes us stylish. Dan Phillips builds houses out of, well, anything. Eggshells–who knew? While I’m not enamored of all of his stuff, he definitely stretches the limit of what will “work,” and for that I applaud him. His bent is all about reducing waste on the consumer end of home development. His designs attempt to break the subconscious sense of pattern we all harbor, showing us the difference between what is “broken and useless” verses something that can just be recategorized to new use. He argues that being creative about how materials get used we reduce waste, lower costs, and achieve unique style. Let me know what you think!

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Filed under Inspiration and Creativity, Running Commentary on whatever tickles the fancy

Photo Friday: Nashville in B&W

Today is one of this winter’s few sunny days here in Nashville. It has been exceedingly dreary, and this is coming from someone who survived many Chicago winters. So yesterday I made an effort to embrace the grey and practice my B&W composition. Here is the result. These were taken mostly in Nashville’s historic Germantown neighborhood. Enjoy!

porch row

star window bw

light string bw

Germantown 1 BW

discover TN sign

steps bw

dog fence bw

factory window bw

tree white brick

fence sign

highways

metal fence bw

capitol park 2

cardinal bw with red

Ok, well it might be grey, but who was I to deny a cardinal his colors?

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Look what I made! 3 Lessons in Macarons

My very first French Macarons!

My very first French Macarons!

So we made eggnog ice cream on Christmas. Heavenly.

Problem was the recipe used SEVEN egg yolks, which left SEVEN egg whites in need of worthy purpose.

CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING: MAKE FRENCH MACARONS!!

But was I really solving a problem, or just creating a new one? Time would tell.

Macarons are, supposedly, notoriously difficult to pull off properly. I knew nothing about it when I sat down to research it. I didn’t even pronounce it properly (It is macarOHN, not to be confused with macarOON, which is an entirely different cookie altogether). All I knew is that bakeries get away with charging a boatload for these little suckers and I wanted to see if they were really worth the hype and expense.

I read through a bunch of recipes before choosing this one. This recipe, in addition to having a handy video, gave me the weights of the ingredients. I needed these for two reasons: first, less room for error, and second, I had no other way to measure my egg whites which were already separated and all together in a big bowl.

Here are the lessons after the first try:

1) Recipes differ greatly. Tread with care. The recipe I chose did not call for letting the cookies rest before going in the oven. I still got a good texture (with “feet,” or at least on most of them), but I could see how they might have been a little nicer if I had let them form a crust. I also saw other recipes that included cream of tartar. Because my recipe came out a little too sweet for my taste, and I wonder if the little bit of acid in the tartar might help balance the flavors. I’m not sure if this is how it works, so this time I countered the sweetness by creating a cream cheese filling to give it a tart element, which was AWESOME.

2) Baking pans differ greatly. Tread with care. I used two different cookie sheets for the experiment. They went in almost at the same time, but one took way, way longer to finish. I don’t know what this is about. Next time I will use the same type of cookie sheet. I also read somewhere that it might be a good idea to double up trays for a more even baking, so I will try this too.

3) The color differs greatly the longer you leave them in the oven. Tread with care. This is related to the last lesson. Because one of the trays didn’t finish on time, I was forced to watch my intended baby blue coloring fade to a teal in the extended heat. This wasn’t a big problem, but if I were trying to sell these, it would look weird to have two shades of the same color.

Last thing: know that if you don’t have a sieve, as I didn’t, they will not turn out perfectly smooth. Other than that, I got the desired texture, that lovely, light almond flavor, and the glory of success.

Now pay me $3 each, suckahs!

DSC_0643 copy

 

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Photo Friday: The Feast of the Seven Fishes

DSC_0636Twas the Night before Christmas, when in our apartment small,
in the kitchen I was stirring, all burners going, ALL.

And what were we cooking, that wondrous night of nights?
Why, the Feast of Seven Fishes! An epicurean delight!

More rapid than wise, our knives made their slices
(This is what happens when left to our devices),

On Mussels! On Clams! On shrimp! On Cod!
How better to celebrate the dear son of God?
On Scallops, on Salmon, on Trout! And then,
a divine eggnog ice cream and a hearty AMEN!

Our bellies made full with the gifts of the sea,
We turned our attention to gifts under the tree.
As I sat and pondered all that we attempted,
I smiled and sighed, Merry Christmas, quite contented.

Enjoy the photos!

DSC_0588

Mussells Steamed in Vermouth with Fresh Tarragon and Tarragon Baked Fries 

From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, which I highly recommend. 

DSC_0591

 

 

The crown jewel: Grilled Trout with White Beans and a Caper Vinaigrette; Sides - My grandmother's dinner rolls and beans with garlic butter (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Grilled-Trout-with-White-Beans-and-Caper-Vinaigrette-353809)

The crown jewel: Grilled Trout with White Beans and a Caper Vinaigrette; Sides – My grandmother’s dinner rolls and beans with garlic butter
(http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Grilled-Trout-with-White-Beans-and-Caper-Vinaigrette-353809)

 

 

 

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