I’ve just finished reading “We Were the Mulvaneys” by Joyce Carol Oates. It was a heart wrenching novel- I kept feeling queasy with grief and pity for the characters, yet somehow couldn’t put it down either. It tells the story of a close knit farm family in rural New York in the 1970s. Their family unity begins to unravel when the only daughter is raped on prom night. Everyone in the small town moves to hush it up, and her own family isn’t sure how to respond. In fact, they end up sending her away in shame, as if she had never been, and she scurries away as if she deserved the humiliation.

This was the part of the story I struggled with most- whenever there is a character who can’t quite stand up for themselves or see their own worth, I feel impatient irritation. Why is it so hard for people to know they have intrinsic value? In Marianne’s case, I could see how she has been debased and shunned by her entire community and her own family and how she can’t quite set herself against all of that to fight. When at last a hint of redemption arrives for Marianne, I felt such gratitude. The scene I illustrated above is the one where she begins to heal at last- in a ramshackle old mansion and grounds that have been given over to the care of abused and neglected animals. The bedroom she chooses for herself overlooks the enclosure of two elephants rescued from an inhumane zoo, and finally, slowly, perhaps even reluctantly, she begins to become whole again.

With Christmas on it’s way, I thought I’d reinstate my “Etsy Portraits” series from last year. It is so much fun to comb through listings with someone special in mind, don’t you think? This collection was inspired by my dear friend Gwen who loves gnomes, the ocean and an exquisitely made cup of coffee. It was also featured on Etsy’s front page recently!

this rather macabre Sailor Hand Clock has just the right combination of whimsy and dark humor.
Gwen loves to be outside in the sunshine and saltwater, so this print would be perfect in her house.
As a devotee of all things miniature and woodland, this Handmade Hobbit Hole would be awfully fun to play with. Plus, it’s small and pretty enough to display on her desktop! (The seedpod bed is my favorite part.)

This stunningly Beautiful embroidered hat reminds me of folk art and the sweet acorn top shape calls up the woods perfectly. A bit impractical for Hawaii perhaps, but pish posh. It would be just the thing to wear on her fantasy jaunt to Scandinavia.
What could be better than serving perfectly made cappuccinos in this Stripey Vintage Coffee Set
with sugar cubes and tiny cookies on these Handpainted wooden dishes?

This handwoven nautical doormat would be the perfect welcome to her home overlooking the water. (She has an amazing view of the Hawaiian sunsets!)

And I couldn’t resist this Gnome & Deer Photograph– it’s just about perfect.
What are you wishing for this Christmas?

My lovely and talented Mum is always sending me interesting links off the beaten path in art and culture. Lately, she’s taking a course on Dance Pedagogy so the links have trended toward teaching creativity. I found this Ted talk by Dave Eggers to be really inspiring. (Thanks Mom!)

His enthusiasm for education is obvious, but what I love about his approach is that it includes FUN! In fact, FUN is the primary strategy for engaging the kids at his tutoring studio, 826 Valencia.
Because of a zoning law that requires them to have a storefront, it doubles as a Pirate Supply Company! They went all out to make it a delightful place for kids to come and hang out after school, and the students get to work with some of the brightest minds in writing today. (The Gallery of Signs is worth investigating, by the way.)
When I think back to my own educational experience, I remember a lot of fun. Over time, that led me to associating school with enjoyment. I can see now that the enthusiasm FUN offered led to a joy in engaging my intellect. I learned that making my brain think, consider and reason was pleasurable. I gained confidence from thinking something through and then expressing those thoughts.
I think another element to consider as a teacher is that to encourage creativity in your students, you must demonstrate it for them in your own approach to teaching. You must put yourself into what you are doing. Your experiences and interests are engaging to you and so they will help to engage the students. At least, that is the theory I’m operating under now as a novice teacher.
Other tutoring studios that are following this approach of FUN in learning include:
The Echo Park Time Travel Mart: Wherever you Go, You’re Already There.
Putting all these places on my “to visit” list! I’m sure many of you are also educators, and certainly all of us have the luxury of being educated. So what ideas and thoughts do you have on this topic? Did you enjoy school, or was it a drag? What were the contributing factors for you as a student? Let’s discuss dearies!

Hello Darlings!

Book Club Round Two was another lovely evening. We enjoyed some amazing comfort food and a great discussion of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. However, I won’t feel like our book club is officially rolling until we have the third book under our belts. (Third time’s the charm, so on and so forth…) So, it’s time again to choose a book for November. Please do read the synopses and cast your vote in the poll at the bottom of the post! May the best book win!



P.S) Our lovely Gwen mentioned a screening of the Swedish version of “Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” at the Aloha Theater to benefit a women’s shelter here in Kona on Friday November 12th. If that book is selected, we can tie our meeting in with that. If not, we can still make a point to go and support services for women in our community!

Motherless Brooklyn Hard-boiled crime fiction has never seen the likes of Lionel Essrog, the barking, grunting, spasmodically twitching hero of Lethem’s gonzo detective novel that unfolds amidst the detritus of contemporary Brooklyn. As he did in his convention-smashing last novel, Girl in Landscape, Lethem uses a blueprint from genre fiction as a springboard for something entirely different, a story of betrayal and lost innocence that in both novels centers on an orphan struggling to make sense of an alien world. Raised in a boys home that straddles an off-ramp of the Brooklyn Bridge, Lionel is a misfit among misfits: an intellectually sensitive loner with a bad case of Tourette’s syndrome, bristling with odd habits and compulsions, his mind continuously revolting against him in lurid outbursts of strange verbiage. When the novel opens, Lionel has long since been rescued from the orphanage by a small-time wiseguy, Frank Minna, who hired Lionel and three other maladjusted boys to do odd jobs and to staff a dubious limo service/detective agency on a Brooklyn main drag, creating a ragtag surrogate family for the four outcasts, each fiercely loyal to Minna. When Minna is abducted during a stakeout in uptown Manhattan and turns up stabbed to death in a dumpster, Lionel resolves to find his killer. It’s a quest that leads him from a meditation center in Manhattan to a dusty Brooklyn townhouse owned by a couple of aging mobsters who just might be gay, to a zen retreat and sea urchin harvesting operation in Maine run by a nefarious Japanese corporation, and into the clutches of a Polish giant with a fondness for kumquats. In the process, Lionel finds that his compulsions actually make him a better detective, as he obsessively teases out plots within plots and clues within clues. Lethem’s title suggests a dense urban panorama, but this novel is more cartoonish and less startlingly original than his last. Lethem’s sixth sense for the secret enchantments of language and the psyche nevertheless make this heady adventure well worth the ride.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir Freelance writer Walls doesn’t pull her punches. She opens her memoir by describing looking out the window of her taxi, wondering if she’s “overdressed for the evening” and spotting her mother on the sidewalk, “rooting through a Dumpster.” Walls’s parents—just two of the unforgettable characters in this excellent, unusual book—were a matched pair of eccentrics, and raising four children didn’t conventionalize either of them. Her father was a self-taught man, a would-be inventor who could stay longer at a poker table than at most jobs and had “a little bit of a drinking situation,” as her mother put it. With a fantastic storytelling knack, Walls describes her artist mom’s great gift for rationalizing. Apartment walls so thin they heard all their neighbors? What a bonus—they’d “pick up a little Spanish without even studying.” Why feed their pets? They’d be helping them “by not allowing them to become dependent.” While Walls’s father’s version of Christmas presents—walking each child into the Arizona desert at night and letting each one claim a star—was delightful, he wasn’t so dear when he stole the kids’ hard-earned savings to go on a bender. The Walls children learned to support themselves, eating out of trashcans at school or painting their skin so the holes in their pants didn’t show. Buck-toothed Jeannette even tried making her own braces when she heard what orthodontia cost. One by one, each child escaped to New York City. Still, it wasn’t long before their parents appeared on their doorsteps. “Why not?” Mom said. “Being homeless is an adventure.”

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Cases rarely come much colder than the decades-old disappearance of teen heiress Harriet Vanger from her family’s remote island retreat north of Stockholm, nor do fiction debuts hotter than this European bestseller by muckraking Swedish journalist Larsson. At once a strikingly original thriller and a vivisection of Sweden’s dirty not-so-little secrets (as suggested by its original title, Men Who Hate Women), this first of a trilogy introduces a provocatively odd couple: disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist, freshly sentenced to jail for libeling a shady businessman, and the multipierced and tattooed Lisbeth Salander, a feral but vulnerable superhacker. Hired by octogenarian industrialist Henrik Vanger, who wants to find out what happened to his beloved great-niece before he dies, the duo gradually uncover a festering morass of familial corruption—at the same time, Larsson skillfully bares some of the similar horrors that have left Salander such a marked woman. Larsson died in 2004, shortly after handing in the manuscripts for what will be his legacy.

The Red Tent: Skillfully interweaving biblical tales with events and characters of her own invention, Diamant’s sweeping first novel re-creates the life of Dinah, daughter of Leah and Jacob, from her birth and happy childhood in Mesopotamia through her years in Canaan and death in Egypt. When Dinah reaches puberty and enters the Red Tent (the place women visit to give birth or have their monthly periods), her mother and Jacob’s three other wives initiate her into the religious and sexual practices of the tribe. Diamant sympathetically describes Dinah’s doomed relationship with Shalem, son of a ruler of Shechem, and his brutal death at the hands of her brothers. Following the events in Canaan, a pregnant Dinah travels to Egypt, where she becomes a noted midwife. Diamant has written a thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating portrait of a fascinating woman and the life she might have lived.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao:

The titular Oscar is a 300-pound-plus “lovesick ghetto nerd” with zero game (except for Dungeons & Dragons) who cranks out pages of fantasy fiction with the hopes of becoming a Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien. The book is also the story of a multi-generational family curse that courses through the book, leaving troubles and tragedy in its wake. This was the most dynamic, entertaining, and achingly heartfelt novel I’ve read in a long time. My head is still buzzing with the memory of dozens of killer passages that I dog-eared throughout the book. The rope-a-dope narrative is funny, hip, tragic, soulful, and bursting with desire. Make some room for Oscar Wao on your bookshelf–you won’t be disappointed. -Brad Thomas Parsons

A few weeks back I watched A Star Is Born after reading the sad story behind the renowned film. After it’s release in 1954, it was enjoying big success and huge crowds at the box office. The head honchos at the studio decided to cut 30 minutes from the film so that they could fit in more showtimes each evening. Unfortunately, they made the edits without consulting the director and did them in such a way that they could never be recovered. The version that I saw had the original audio, but with still photographs standing in for film. Talk about a brutal triumph of commerce over art!

The film itself was interesting- lots of big razzle dazzle dance numbers, and belted out ballads, of course. The story is Hollywood’s best loved tale: the rags to riches story of a woman from the middle of nowhere with big talent. She is discovered and propelled to stardom by a past-his-prime leading man who is devolving into a drunk and town joke. But what made the movie so special was it’s star. Judy Garland was so vulnerable in this film. She plays a cracked and broken woman who comes to learn that above all, The Show Must Go On.
To me, the most moving scene comes after she has just had a devastating conversation with a close friend about her pathetic drunk of a husband. She begs her friend to help find her husband an acting job and pleads that above all, his last shred of dignity be spared. She is a wreck, crying, sobbing and shaking. Then comes the call. She is needed on set. And so she goes back to work, singing and dancing an energetic tap dance number that requires a joy she is nowhere close to feeling. But that is her job, and so she reaches in somewhere deep inside and pulls it out.
My curiosity piqued, this weekend I watched Judy Garland – The Concert Years. While I wouldn’t recommend sitting through this dull documentary to any but the most devoted Judy fans, (her obnoxious daughter Lorna does the film no service with her phony narration) this little gem was nestled in at the very end. I think it explains precisely what made Judy Garland so irreplaceable. She was unafraid to be completely vulnerable and the frailty let her gift shine through brilliantly, giving us a little glimpse of what life really is. Her story reminds me a great deal of Edith Piaf’s, and also of this quote:
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets through.” -Leonard Cohen
Watch this clip, and tell me if you agree.

First, I wanted to thank each of you for your thoughtful entries to this contest. I am always impressed with your comments and it means so much to me that each of you participates in the little community we’ve made together on this blog. I LOVE hearing from you. I plan to keep doing giveaways until each of you win at least one lovely thank you treat.

“A movie I saw recently that I really liked was Good, with Viggo Mortensen, which just came out on DVD. It depicts a normal German college professor’s gradual rise in the ranks of the Nazi party. What really set it apart from every other Nazi movie I’ve seen is that it depicts him as a good, if flawed, person who gradually makes small but significant compromises for his own sake and the sake of those around him, justifying them to himself in various flimsy ways.

[SPOILERS] First, he refrains from speaking out against Nazi book burnings, joins the Party and finally accepts an “honorary” position in the SS to advance his career under the pretext that he can affect change from within; he accepts an offer from Goebbels to have his novel about the ethical complications of compassion for the dying turned into a propaganda film for euthanasia; he makes only a half-hearted effort to secure his close Jewish friend exit papers.

However, though we aren’t asked to sympathize with him at the end, he never becomes a caricature or a monster; he is weak and complacent rather than evil and without humanity. The absence of faux-German accents and typically German first names among the main characters and the use of familiar (if British) colloquialisms underscore the film’s implication that what happens here could happen at any time and in any country.”

Sounds like a powerful film Liz- I’m adding it to my Netflix que for sure! Thanks for the amazing recommendation and please do let us know what you think of the novel! Congratulations!

Darlings, don’t ask why, but I’ve had Pinatas on the brain in a big way. A little Etsy searching yielded many results, but this Audrey Hepburn Pinata from Whack (inspired shop name, no?) was the clear standout. It gives me the giggles. I love the kitschy homage to Madame Muse of Givenchy and Preternaturally Elegant Fashion Icon we all adore. I think this would be the perfect addition to a bridal shower or birthday “bash”. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) Have you stumbled across anything amazing on Etsy lately? I’d love to hear all about it.

Have you heard the buzz about the new film “Never Let Me Go“? I absolutely loved Carey Mulligan in “An Education“. (I suspect her pixie cut is inspiring a lot of actresses to chop their locks!)

Never Let Me Go is based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, the celebrated author behind “The Remains of the Day“. It’s set in a dystopian British boarding school in which the students are set apart from the outside world for a mysterious purpose that is slowly unveiled as the story progresses through the relationships of three students. I can’t wait to see it.
Today’s giveaway includes some fabulous loot!
Film Poster signed by director Mark Romanek, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield
A Copy of the Book by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Never Let Me Go T-Shirt

To enter to win these fabulous prizes, visit The Never Let Me Go website and leave me a comment describing the best movie you’ve seen lately and what made it so memorable. I will choose my favorite response at the end of the week, so please make your entries thoughtful. Don’t forget to include your e-mail address so I can reach you if you are the lucky winner!

You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter so that you’ll never miss one of my Giddy Giveaways! Good Luck Sweeties!

This year I’ll be celebrating my golden birthday- 28 years old on October 28th! I’m imagining a very intimate, glamorous party with sequin clad guests, sparklers, champagne and foil wrapped Ferraro Rochers. These are the goodies I’d love to unwrap that night!

I’m crazy for this lady. She’s all the best things about pop music without veering into all the worst things about pop music. I’d love to add The Reminder to my i-pod so I don’t have to wait for Pandora to send one of her tunes my way.

This bow cuff from Madewell would be the perfect thing to slip on my wrist- and would look so elegant with a champagne flute!

This birthday card seems made for yours truly…
The cutest sunglasses case I’ve ever clapped eyes on, and the perfect place to store these shades from Fred Flare!
A piggy to help me save my pennies!
Maira Kalman’s Latest to add to my collection of beautiful art books. (I’ve got a few from Taschen and I love leaving them open to admire and turning a page or so every now- it’s like a rotating gallery for your coffee table!)
What are you wishing for lately? Do you like lots of little treats or one big fabulous gift on your birthday?

You may be just getting around to thinking about Halloween but Imelda, that otherworldly lady down the street with the snow white skin, raven hair and scarlet lips, has been preparing all year. See Witchy Woman live on Etsy here.

Her collection of Wax Seals are at the ready to seal up the invitations for the spooky soiree she’s planning.
She’ll fill her assortment of cast iron Candleabras with steadily dripping candles to cast a ghostly light.
Her collection of artwork tends toward the macabre, as in this Poison Apple photograph, so she won’t need to resort to anything as garish as fake cobwebs in the windows.
Her sinister pistol necklace is always around her neck, and that secret blade has come in handy more than once.
Her perfume has a fragrance of cloves and a touch of cauldron smoke about it.
Only the bravest kids in the neighborhood trick or treat at her door.
She favors eccentric black Hats like this one. No cliched cones for her.

A sparkly Dress worthy of Stevie Nicks.

A pair of sexy Fishnet Pumps complete the ensemble. Do you have anything spooky planned for this Halloween?