Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving

This year for Thanksgiving, instead of driving to Kalamazoo to have dinner with my family, I stayed on this side of the state and had dinner with my boyfriend Greg's family. I'm not sure if I've ever done Thanksgiving with a significant other's family before. Christmas, yes. Possibly New Year's. Maybe other holidays. But Thanksgiving seems to have been largely reserved for my own clan.

Greg and I helped prepare dinner with his aunt, who was hosting. I made herb butter for the rolls while Greg made the stuffing for the turkey. I also assembled the salad complete with homemade dressing per the recipe in his aunt's Thanksgiving dinner three ring binder. I really think having a binder or notebook with recipe pertaining to a specific holiday is a pretty grand idea. Especially when those holidays have certain requirements or expectations. Like turkey, and stuffing, and casseroles. You know what I mean.

There were only five of us at dinner, which is small for me when it comes to family gatherings. Greg's mother had left that morning to spend Thanksgiving with her daughter's family, so that lowered the numbers some. I enjoyed myself, and the food was fabulous!

On Saturday, my roommate Kimmy and I popped some Christmas music into my car stereo and headed to Kalamazoo for a gathering of my family. Greg was working, so he couldn't come with us. Along the way, we stopped at Sweetwaters Donut Mill for the best donuts ever. I later had a red velvet cake donut with Neapolitan ice cream on top. It was so delicious. 

It was great to see my brother and his family again. My baby nephew is crawling now and can even pull himself upright with the use of immobile objects. He tried to pull himself up using the dog's tail, but it didn't work out.

We were supposed to decorate my mother's Christmas tree, however, the box of ornaments were nowhere to be found. Until after half the guests had left for home and Kimmy and I went down to the basement to retrieve our own Christmas tree to bring back to Belleville with us. Kimmy found the ornaments tote against the wall beneath another tote. So she and I ended up decorating the tree with my mother and her new friend. We also all watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, a family tradition. (God, I love that movie. Minus the part with the cat. That bit annoys me.)

So Thanksgiving was a success for me, and I even managed to relax a little! And today, I had the tastiest leftover turkey sandwiches. Slices of juicy white turkey meat between an everything pretzel bagel slim with a slice of Muenster cheese warmed in the microwave for 30 seconds. Little slice of food paradise.

Clipart from the Best Collection of Webimages & Clipart. First image modified by me to include text.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Finding Steampunk in Ann Arbor

Over the summer, Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan had a steampunk themed front window display. Time passed, and when the window displays changed, the steampunk display moved inside, where it continued to garner quite a bit of attention. Being a fan of steampunk myself, I often wore a T-shirt while I worked in the bookshop with a clockwork seahorse on it, prompting a number of conversations with customers about steampunk. This is how I learned about the Steampunk Michigan Facebook Group.

Now, at Crazy Wisdom, instead of just a short-lived window display, or a shelf of extra items on their way out of the store, there is an entire section devoted to steampunk. Here you will find novels, like the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, or The Mammoth Book of Steampunk by Sean Wallace. A recent acquisition that I am personally quite fond of is Steampunk Fashion. I couldn't find this particular one in the online shop yet, but there are a number of steampunk fashion books that I did find. In fact, a quick search for "steampunk" and "clockwork" resulted in a great many hits! All of these books can be ordered through the store if they aren't there already. If you order them online, you get 10% off the cover price, and can pick them up from the store in person at no additional cost, or have them shipped to your house for a small shipping cost.

In addition to books, Crazy Wisdom also carries a modest collection of steampunk jewelry scattered about the store, and a few pieces of art and wallscrolls, too. Strangeling artist Jasmine Becket-Griffith has also been dabbling in steampunk, and you will find statuettes, prints, and others of her work at Crazy Wisdom. One of my personal favorite little statues, though I don't know the artist, is a clockwork dragon which has made appearances as a standalone figure and perched on a box. And I can't forget the steampunk tarot deck! (And matching bag.) I want to buy it and one day make some shadow boxes with it. 

So if you live near Ann Arbor, Detroit, or even in the Toledo, Grand Rapids, or Kalamazoo areas, and you are looking for places to indulge in your steampunk passions, make your way to 114 S. Main St in Ann Arbor, MI. In fact, come dressed up. I'd love to talk shop with you. 

Note to steampunk artists and artisans: Looking for a place to sell your steampunk wares? Click here for Crazy Wisdom's vendor policies

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What Am I Listening To?: ZZ Ward "Til the Casket Drops"

One of the perks working in a bookstore is that we get sent all kinds of freebie promo items. Usually this means books, but occasionally we also get sample CDs. One such CD that I picked up a couple months back featured a number of new lady artists that I had never heard of before. I popped it in my car's player on my way home that night and was immediately impressed.

The first track was called "Til the Casket Drops." The lyrics - specifically the use of the of word casket - certainly caught my attention, but it was the singer's voice that really grabbed me. West Coast based ZZ Ward's voice is strong, full, and fearless. Her bluesy tones and attitude fill a void in my life that I didn't realize was there. When the second track "Move Like U Stole It," also by ZZ Ward started, I knew I had to find out more about this woman.

Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of info out about her yet. Her debut album Til the Casket Drops wasn't due out until October 16th (coincidentally, right before my birthday). Wikipedia couldn't even tell me what ZZ stood for. I found her Facebook page and clicked like, something I do very rarely because I'm terrible at keeping up with celebrities I "like," which is how I discovered she had played in Ann Arbor the week before at the Blind Pig. Ugh! Come back, ZZ! I want to see you perform live!

More digging turned up this video on YouTube for the song "Til the Casket Drops" that played on ABC as a promo for season three of their show Pretty Little Liars. This was my first real glimpse of ZZ, and I was struck by her style. Love the hat! Love the jacket! Love the hair, too. She is one classy young woman. Also, I think the video was pretty seamlessly combined with clips from the show (which I have never seen), so good job on that end, too.

Naturally, one video led to another, and I found this great acoustic of "Move Like U Stole It," a song that I find endearing because it is about seducing a nerdy guy. The mentions of both "glasses" and a "bow tie" of course make me think of Doctor Who, too. Hey, I can't help being a bit nerdy myself. It's in my blood!

If you're into Soundcloud, ZZ Ward has two sets posted, her mixtape Eleven Roses that features some, but not all of the songs also on her debut album, and her EP Criminal. As I said above Til the Casket Drops came out on October 16th, and my dear roommate Kimmy bought it for me for my birthday. I love it. It's one of those albums I can play in my car and dance to. In fact, I am not sure I could sit still while any of these songs are playing. Even "Last Love Song," a slower, prettier tune, has my body grooving. 

If you enjoy strong female vocals and/or a more bluesy tone to your music, check this woman out! I really look forward to following her career. I hope you do, too.

Video for "Put the Gun Down":

Monday, November 5, 2012

Halloween 2012 Part II

I wish I had more of an update. Greg and I ended up not going to the haunted hay ride because I was feeling too sick. I continued to feel sick off and on over the next few days, including on Halloween night. 

I was actually a little surprised that we didn't have any trick-or-treaters at our apartment. Our doors face the outside world (as opposed to an inside hallway like the previous apartment), and I know there are tons of children around here. It's probably good that they didn't stop by, though, since the three of us all forgot to buy candy. Even our party on the previous Saturday was candy-less. 

Since my dragon horns broke a few days before, and my attempt to fix them did not work out, I had to come up with a new costume. I decided on a demon-ish thingie. I clipped my hair up with two barrettes shaped like bat wings, did my eyes all dark, and bought fake black nails from CVS that I had half a dozen compliments on since I refuse to take them off because they look so cool. Seriously, everyone thinks I got some high-end manicure, but nope. I think they were $7, and I probably have enough nails in there to put on another set once these fall off. 

While waiting for Greg to get off work and come get me, I played with make-up and nails in my room while watching the original Dark Shadows on my laptop. (I'm only on episode 100, so no vampires yet, just some ghosts and attempted corporate takeovers.) Then we headed out to explore downtown Ann Arbor because everything Halloweeny seemed to have shut down. It's like Halloween was canceled or something.

As we passed by the Ravens Club on Main, we found a sign out front attached to the window advertising live New Orleans jazz music. Being hungry, and having been intrigued by the Ravens Club for some time without ever having gone inside, we decided to pop in and have a late dinner if the kitchen was still open. It was. I ordered the roasted chicken on a bed of greens with an herb butter sauce that was fabulous, and Greg got rabbit gnocchi, which he also enjoyed.

I was told by a friend that the Ravens Club is where the local bartenders go to drink. I believe it, too, because the drink menu is both fancy and extensive. It's the second place I have seen "sidecar" on the menu. (The other being Old Town Tavern, also in Ann Arbor, a block over from Main.) I ended up ordering the #2, a vodka cocktail with blackberry puree, among other goodies. I believe Greg ordered the New York Sour, which had egg white in it, which I think is weird. It tasted all right, though. 

The music was a bit loud, but enjoyable, and we were not the only people dressed up for the holiday. A few tables over was a girl being mauled by a bear. She had strapped a giant teddy bear to her back and smeared fake blood all over her throat and T-shirt. Two Waldoes walked in while we were eating, one male and one female. I don't remember any other costumes specifically. I thought the being mauled by a bear one was clever and told my roommate Bri she should do that next year. Bro is from Alaska, and somehow Alaska and being mauled by a bear go together in my head. 

After dinner and drinks, I wanted ice cream, so Greg and I drove over to Steak 'n Shake in Ypsi for some milkshakes. I suddenly realized that I hadn't had their seasonal shakes yet, an activity I used to partake in every year in Kalamazoo. I got a caramel apple milkshake and Greg got the new winter seasonal white chocolate shake with sprinkles. 

When we left Steak 'n Shake at about one in the morning, we noticed two people making out in the back seat of the car parked in front of us, much to our amusement. I think this should be the new trend. Next Halloween, everyone go to Steak 'n Shake and make-out in the parking lot. It could be fun! Those two certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves. If you don't have a Steak 'n Shake near you, then you just miss out. Southern Californians, I suggest you try Vegas.

Happy fall, everybody!