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November 2011 (130 posts)
5 products beauty editors wear down to a nub
This month's best beauty buys
After all, there's more to tell if everything went wrong. Holly Robinson writes of this phenomenon in her Huffington Post piece called, fittingly enough, "Cherishing the Memory of Bad Vacations." (Read the whole piece for some hilarious descriptions of family fun gone very wrong.) She writes: "Here's the thing: bad vacations are the real family keepsakes, because you survive them together (ideally). You have to play games or tell jokes, you have to get each other through the hail or the flat tire or the flu. Surviving a bad vacation as a family requires everyone to step up and show determination, loyalty, and yes, even courage. Blue skies, sunshine, and a white beach are all pleasant, but what fun is that kind of vacation to reminisce about later?" It's true—what I fondly recall about our disastrous canoeing trip is how my brother and I made our own fun, in a time of our lives when at home we mostly ignored each other.
A good thing to remember as we plan our own family vacations. Every time I organize even the smallest of weekend getaways, I am struck by an urge to make it perfect, as if each botched meal or tantrum-punctuated outing were a major parenting failure. But nothing ruins vacation fun faster than a stressed-out, crabby parent. Robinson's story of beloved, terrible trips seems to me a call to be easy on ourselves, to remember that the most disastrous family dinner or, ahem, holiday gathering might end up being the one you all cherish the most.
In the immortal words of Clark Griswold, "I'm just trying to treat my family to a little fun."
Give yourself a break:
A reformed perfectionist on setting yourself free
3 ways to focus on the positive
1. Couscous, quinoa or pilafs
2. Thanksgiving stuffing
3. Roasted apples, sweet potatoes or winter squash
4. Teriyaki (really!)
5. Tuna or chicken salad
6. Turkey wraps
7. Brie wrapped up in crescent roll dough and baked
8. Cookie batter (they go especially well with white chocolate)
9. Banana bread
10. Apple pie
Tyler Florence's recipe for Broccoli Slaw with Cranberries
7 ways to cook with fresh cranberries
November's must-try food guide
Those hearts you make in my latte foam? I know it's a little thing, but getting lattes is an extra-special-only-sometimes treat for me, and those wispy hearts really make it even nicer. I know you are on your feet all day, I know you go home reeking of coffee so much that you probably don't even like it anymore, and I know people get crabby with you and snap when you mess up an order. And I know that you are a kind soul, and most importantly of all, you are YOU, the only you there is, and that means something, even though I totally don't know your name.
The Girl in the Corner With the Laptop
This is my contribution to The World Needs More Love Letters, the endearing ongoing project of Hannah Brencher, who started writing love letters to strangers on her morning commute to work, when she looked around the train she was riding and realized she wasn't the only one who could use a boost. Since then she's written over 400 love letters, leaving them scattered around for people to find, and invited many others to join her in various good-will-spreading projects across the world. This month, the focus is those wonderful people who make our lattes, sling our coffees, warn us about how hot the tea water is: baristas.
I've been a barista, and ever since a lady yelled "You ruined my family's Christmas!" at me (the cafe had run out of her favorite cookies), I've made an effort to be nice to people working behind counters. Especially around the holidays, when everyone's on edge, orders are a little more complicated, people a little more unhinged. Personally, I just like the idea that by such a small, simple act, I could brighten someone's day. Particularly my latte lady, since she so often brightens mine.
Everyone is invited to leave love letters for their own baristas, or to send them to the More Love Letters PO Box, from whence they will be dispatched to various cafes. Visit the More Love Letters site to see the love letter map, read testimonials by people who have found letters, and find out how you can participate.
More small, good things:
4 secret acts of generosity to try today
Start a kindness chain
Men! What are they thinking? We can't always answer that, but we'll be posting our favorite glimpses into their world in this space every Thursday.
* For the Parks and Recreation fan who is also observing Movember, Nick Offerman, who plays Ron Swanson, has hand crafted these limited-edition mustache combs in his woodshop. (Nick Offerman Woodshop)
* Aspiring Hollywood celebrities can learn something from this essay on Paul Newman and how he proved there was "a second path to enduring stardom, one characterized by decency, fidelity, and philanthropy." (The Hairpin)
* "Practically everything I know about writing, then, I learned from music. It may sound paradoxical to say so, but if I had not been so obsessed with music, I might not have become a novelist."—IQ84 author Haruki Murakami. (NYTimes)
Good thing it's the inaugural Picture Book Month for a few more weeks yet. Started by a group of authors, storytellers, and illustrators, Picture Book Month works to remind us of the value of actual, paper picture books, and how key they are in children's lives. Every day the site features a different children's book writer or illustrator, talking about why these books are so important. Some highlights:
Jane Yolen, author of more than 300 picture books: "I have always believed that literature begins in the cradle— the poems we say to the babies, the stories we tell them—prepare them to become part of the great human storytelling community."
Librarian and folklorist Margaret Read MacDonald: "This sense of owning a book—of having a book belong to them—sets the path to a love of books and learning."
Illustrator Elizabeth O. Dulemba: "People need three things to survive—food, shelter, and wonder."
The official Picture Book Month site has lots of ideas for ways to celebrate (even if you don't have a kid to read to), as well as information on the benefits of picture books. Personally, this is shaping up to be my favorite thing to celebrate this month. Let's see, I don't have to cook or clean or buy anything. All I have to do is pick a favorite picture book —I think we'll start with Oh What a Busy Day, or wait no, Knuffle Bunny, or wait no, Henry In Love—snuggle up next to my daughter, and read.
More about books:
Picture books for grownups
A book for strong girls
Make reading fun for kids
Fear of failure is the theme of the Stockholm Berghs School of Communication's student work exhibition, and in honor of this some respected creative types have shared their thoughts on the value of failure. Brainpickings has a wonderful roundup of videos of these writers, artists, and designers talking about the nobility of failure and what they have learned from their own various failings. I love this one, in which designer Milton Glaser says, "Genius occurs very rarely. So the real embarrassing issue about failure is your own acknowledgement that you’re not a genius, that you’re not as good as you thought you were. [...] There’s only one solution: You must embrace failure. You must admit what is. You must find out what you’re capable of doing, and what you’re not capable of doing." When you're trying to be creative, when you're trying to do anything at all, it's easy to say, "Well, I'm just not good at that so I won't even try," but as we're always telling our kids, how do you know if you don't at least try?
(Watch the entire video, and many more, over at Brainpickings and the exhibition site.)
More on the upside of failure:
3 successes in life only failure can give you
Turn a failure into a success
Yes, it's a flipbook, and yes, it will probably make you cry a little. The sweetest birthday video ever.
Spicy Sausage Dressing. Cranberry Carrot Chutney. Thanksgiving side dishes from the world's best chefs.
How this world-famous photographer reconnected with her creativity (and took some gorgeous photographs along the way).
"Loving the land you live in, while still celebrating your heritage:" A thought-provoking exploration of what it means to be an American.
The Life-Lifter: A heroic 9 year-old girl stays calm while trapped in a wrecked car for 2 days, and survives to tell the tale.