Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Product Placement

I often think that I should have gone into marketing.  There's just something about the whole process of conceiving a message and working out subliminal ways to insinuate it into people's minds that simply works for my devious brain.  I see packaging and billboards and think to myself, "Oh, no you don't, you sneaky marketing execs. and graphic designers...I see right through you!"  Take for example the packaging McDonald's puts on their chicken sandwiches.  It shows (in series) real pictures of a tomato, cheese slice, onion, and origami chicken.  Yes, folks, that's right.  The onion used in your sandwich looks like this:
But don't worry.  The chicken part of your chicken sandwich only looks like this:

See, kids, it's ok!  No actual animal was harmed in the making of your delicious white meat meal!  Isn't that great news! But onions, you had better run for your lives!  Thank goodness the advertising gurus can save us from reality. 

Yeah, I totally get this marketing thing.   

Well, that was one long and only slightly connected preamble to today's post, the subject of which is really several products that I can't live without.  In general, I'm a simple person.  I can travel pretty light and get by with very little.  But some things just make life richer, so I'll share a few of my picks.  And for the record, none of these companies is sponsoring me in any way (but if they want to...I won't say no...Chaco, if you're listening, I could use some love!)    

Which brings me to product numero uno:  Chacos.  I've been permanently wedged into mine since early 2005, and I am not sorry.  Cute, stylish in that earth-goddess sort of way, they are the most comfortable footwear around. Hiking, apre-skis, work, gardening, chillin' at the movies, any occasion, they're good for it.  I really love these things.
Number two on my list is the single best baby item we own.  I owe my good friend Stephanie big time for introducing me to, lending me, and ultimately creating my own MOBY Wrap.  Eden spends (by insistent demand) about twelve hours a day in it.  See?

We would die without it. On a side note, is the Boppy the most overrated baby item out there, or is that just me? 

Anywho, the thing I have to share next is an amazing band. Eden and I listen to The Avett Brothers frequently as part of our daily "music appreciation" hour.  They're a crazy eclectic mix of banjo, rock piano, acoustic guitar, southern accents and occasional screamo vocals.  They refer to their style as "punk-grass" and you should totally check them out.  In fact, they are so cool that you can listen to their songs for free by clicking here http://www.theavettbrothers.com/us/home.  And if that isn't enough to convince you, just try telling yourself that you don't need to listen to three people who look like this:

Can't be done.  You might as well just give in.  Start by listening to I and Love and You (the song, or just the whole album).  And then, when you can't deny your inner banjoist any longer, dig back through their older stuff...it gets all crazy up in there!

Alright, I'm done for now. I hope that you feel a little more hippie for having known me.  The end. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Summer Reading

I have to confess that between three weeks worth of NICU sitting and six weeks worth of nighttime feedings, I've been quite the voracious reader this summer.  Eden tends to be a little spitty, so after each feeding I have to keep her upright for a while and the Kindle has been a lifesaver for my sleep-deprived brain.  I'll try to keep this brief, but here's an annotated list.  Prepare to be amazed...

Picture of Dorian Grey, by Oscar Wilde  3/5 stars.  Witty as always, but not Wilde's most engaging story.  Part hedonistic celebration, part cautionary tale. 

Skeleton Man, by Tony Hillerman 3/5 stars.  A nice, clean mystery with engaging characters.  Not a whole lot of meat to the plot though.

Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery, 4/5 stars.  This was a reread, and Anne is just as engaging now as she was when I first read her exploits. But I still think that Montgomery tried to cram in too much time-wise and would have been better off with the series concept sooner. 

Kitchen Daughter, by Jael McHenry 3/5 stars. Clean other than a two-page explosion of F-bombs, this was a pretty good page-turner.  The protagonist is autistic and it helps you have a feel for what that would be like.  Cool idea.  But the main character also doesn't really have a sense of humor and it's harder to engage with her. And some of the plot "twists" were fairly obvious.

The Arabian Nights, by Andrew Lang, 2/5 stars.  I'll confess that I haven't finished this one and probably won't.  It's the most ridiculously complicated frame-story within a frame-story within a frame story, ad naseum.  Clever idea, but annoying after a while.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 3/5 stars.  A nice little collection of short stories, great for start-and-stop reading. 

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, 4/5 stars.  This one was just a lot of fun to read.  I can't help it, I like a good swashbuckling romance now and again.  And I've always been interested in the French Revolution.  I must protest though that this is not very subtly written.  There wasn't a single plot twist that I didn't see coming for miles.

Nurture Shock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman, 5/5 stars.  This is nonfiction reporting about various topics in child development (language acquisition, lying, racism, etc.).  It has a bibliography that's as long as a regular chapter, but it's written in a very accessible way.  Not everything in it was new to me, but it was all interesting.  Worth the read for anyone interested in the subject. 

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly, 3/5 stars.  The prose is lovely and the concept is a good one.  But I felt like the characters were insufficiently developed and the plot sagged.  I kept asking myself, "Why am I still reading?  To what end?" It's not like I need some huge battle between good and evil sort of a climax to stay interested in a book, but I need something to pull me along! 

Eden Emerson Bell and I are also working our way through the collected works of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Usually puts her right to sleep, but I'm loving it! And speaking of that little girl, isn't she cute?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I started this blog as a new beginning of creativity.  It wasn't (and still isn't) much, but in a time when I couldn't fashion so much as a haiku, it was a start.  We had just moved into our sweet old person neighborhood and I also felt really isolated and friendless.  The blog was a bit of a desperate bid for some kind of human connection.  With that loosely constructed idea of purpose I began setting loose to the net as we know it snippets of poetry, thoughts on books, accounts of vacations, random musings on life.  Dim little butterflies, perhaps some of them moths, freed from a crusty chrysalis.  Therapy, but cheaper.

I'm at a crossroad again.  In two short weeks there will be a breathless rush of nerves, excitement, dread, glitter and bad cologne (way too much glitter and cologne) as school resumes.  And for only the third time since my sixth birthday, I won't be a part of it.  If any of that sounds wistful and nostalgic, think again!  I'm thrilled to be out of that game.  Not many things have ever felt better than walking up to the HR secretary and saying, "Hello.  My name is Samantha Bell and I'm here to quit my job.  Where do I sign?" It was a heady moment, I assure you. But now what? 

Oh, I know.  Lest you think I've forgotten, there is eight pounds of PURPOSE snuggled up against my chest as I write this, her fingernails badly in need of a trim, reminding me that every inhale I have remaining is already spoken for.  And I love it.  Her.  Motherhood.  I can say that today without reservation because we slept for six uninterrupted hours last night-- joie de vivre has such simple causes these days.  So I know what my purpose is.  But I'm still figuring out HOW.  Still and for like the next eighty years.  It's a journey worth taking. 

I guess that all this transition time has me thinking about my dear old blog, and how its purpose may be changing along with my own focus.  I'm much more settled into our life now.  I'm immeasurably happier than I was two years ago. So much desperation has evaporated--or at least morphed into fears for why my baby has acne and how I can possibly make sure that she is the kindest, smartest person in the entire world. I have friends here.  So much of what I started this online thing for is obsolete.  I no longer need an audience in order to feel like I matter.  (There is an exhibitionist in us all.) This doesn't mean that I don't want comments--they make my day, truly, they do--but I think that I'm ready to post things without caring if they entertain or provoke someone else's interest.

Then what changes?  Fear not, those six of you who actually read this thing.  There are still bound to be book reviews and Eden updates.  Vacation pictures and occasional verse.  But I think that there are going to be a lot more posts like this one too: thoughtful, multi-paragraph compositions written for me.  Or rather written for anyone with the patience to read them, but written because I need to write them.  I AM a writer.  And rusty skills notwithstanding, I'm finally up to acting like it.