40th Annual American Music Awards: Live Thoughts

Usher’s opening performance is entirely unappetizing. Awkward choreography, bad live singing. What is with all those green lasers? Usher, I know you have talent hidden away there somewhere … ?

12 minutes in and these AMA’s are already/still not impressing me. Justin Bieber’s acceptance speech for Pop/Rock Male Artist is ridiculously cocky. “I want to say this is for all the haters who thought I was here for one or two years. I feel like I’m going to be here for a very long time.” And only after that does he reference his mother? What a terrible attitude he has!

18 minutes in and Taylor Swift just won an award. I should turn this off now, shouldn’t I? It was obvious she’d win it, but I’d rather hear Carrie Underwood give a genuine acceptance speech for something she deserves based off of talent than watch Taylor Swift botch her way through a “thank you” speech that clearly displays she’s bored with all the (undeserved) awards she’s gotten over the past few years.

The Wanted. Can actually sing live. Please get those female dancers off the stage. Who are these guys, anyway?

“Call Me Maybe” live is worse than the produced version. I didn’t realize that is possible.

Kelly Clarkson … I was actually looking forward to her, but now she’s singing Miss Independent? Please stop. I’m so ready for this to be over, Kelly. My little brother- “It’s like someone threw a bottle at her – her make up is horrible!” Hahaha. Ah, a montage of her songs through the one that’s popular today? Of course. What’s with the straining in her voice? These songs were not made for live performance. That’s the problem with pop music today. These songs are all too over-produced in the studio to the point that the singers can’t  capture the same intensity when they’re attempted live.

***

A personal intermission while I switched TVs. Had to reprogram the universal remote. Had to figure out the digital stream box. (We’re so high tech here in our household.) What did I miss? I’m sure nothing much.

A performance by No Doubt is where I’m picking this up.

Aaaaand okay I’ve got to turn this off now. What is she wearing? The sound quality on this TV is terrible … though I almost feel like Gwen’s singing well.

Ah, the Black Keys are nominated for Alternative Rock. At least there’s someone good showcased tonight. But … of course Linkin Park takes it. One could only hope. Oh, and their fifth win? That explains it.

Taylor Swift’s live performance! I was SO waiting for this!!!!! Not.

I wish that someday she could learn that she doesn’t know how to sing. Why has no one told her yet? That eye make up makes her look like she has tears streaming down the sides of her face. Oooh tricky costume change. Not particularly enjoying the theatrical aspect of this performance either. At least she’s yet to over-sexualize herself, I’ll give her that. But please, Taylor, get some voice lessons to back up all those vocal awards you’ve won. (For more ranting on Taylor Swift, please see my post on the Grammys from earlier this year.)

Flashback to Sarah McLaughlin and Cyndi Lauper singing Time After Time. That was when pop music was good. When singers had to be talented to gain recognition. I’d pay to see that performance in its full.

Skipping ahead … I’m actually pleased to see Nicki Minaj is sticking to what she’s good at. After that ridiculous performance at the Grammys earlier this year, she’s back to rapping. I’ll ignore the costume and focus on how she’s properly displaying her talent instead of making a fool out of herself with some sort of spectacle of a performance. Again, see that Grammy post.

You know, I really can’t spend any more time on this. I’ve lasted an hour and a half. I’d love to see Fun. win Best New Artist. I’d love to see some good performances. I’ve a feeling the rest of the AMA’s are going to be full of what this first half was full of. Cocky attitudes, bad live performances, the wrong artists winning awards because people these days do not recognize talent. I’ll conclude this post prematurely and turn off the TV. I really was just hoping to be entertained. Someone please regale me later with what I (don’t care about) miss(ing)!

15 minutes

Start time: 7:00am

I was in the middle of a dream about listening to a Chris Martin song when I heard, yelling into my ear, “Rebekah! I have a problem! Rebekah! I have a problem! REBEKAH!!!”

I opened my eyes and there was little brother, in his pajamas, jumping and wriggling all around. He saw my eyes open and once again yelled at me about his problem. My alarm clock happened to start going off as soon as I opened my eyes.

I expected the worst- perhaps the entire container of orange juice was spilled on the kitchen floor, or the stove was on fire, or a squirrel was running around the house. So I took a second to wake up, and told little brother I’d help him just as soon as I put my contacts in.

In went the contacts and little brother pointed down a flight of stairs to his problem: a hairy black spider, probably 2/3s the size of my hand, hanging out on the wall.

This is what I got woken up for?!

“You’re going to have to wait a few minutes, I need to change out of my pajamas.”

As was changing, my phone rang. It was the man who transported my car- I was expecting his call. “I’ll be there in 30 minutes,” he said. “There” meaning a place that would take at least 20 minutes to get to. And it was the beginning of rush hour, so who really knew?!

I made a quick call to my Dad who was just outside the house. He needed to drive me to where my car was being dropped off. And we needed to leave five minutes ago. As I was talking with my Dad, I had an incoming call from Mom. I transferred over to her to hear “Beck, Sarah’s bus is 40 minutes late. I just left her at the bus stop so I can get Levi to school on time (juggling 3 schools between 4 siblings) … you and Dad need to drop her off at school right now please.”

Oh, so now we needed to leave 15 minutes ago.

I ran down the stairs (the spider was no where to be found), found Dad, explained the situation, and ran across the wet grass to pull his truck around to the front of the house. He made sure little brothers wouldn’t hurt the house while we were gone, and we drove a short distance and then stopped.

“Here’s the problem, Beck, Ty (dog) was watching the sheep, and I know he was just right here, but now we need to find him … TY! TY, HERE! TY! TY! WHERE ARE YOU?!” Ty appeared, we put him in the truck, and headed down the street to pick up Sarah and get her to school.

End time: 7:15am

Thankfully, I am a morning person. How do you handle busy mornings?

The Watch

I received a gift this past Christmas from an employer I had been with for three months. I received this gift after wrapping and labeling almost every present that was exchanged in the household of eight people. I wrapped presents that arrived from Skymall with expedited shipping two days before Christmas. I wrapped presents that entered the house after a $1500 shopping trip to Target. I wrapped a cashmere scarf after taking off its expensive price tag, only to find later that it never actually made it to the recipient. I wrapped presents for the dogs and cats. I wrapped presents for all of the other close employees to the family. I almost wrapped my own present, until it was found in a pile last minute and taken to another room.

I later received my present unwrapped.

It was in a simple black box containing a massive amount of unspoken words- a simple black box that easily gave away its possession at first glance. (I had seen the other presents in the house, after all.)

“I noticed you don’t wear watches …” These were the first words vocalized upon handing over the little black box to me. My thoughts were confirmed.

I was actually happy that some attention had been paid to me and who I was. Be it my character, my mannerisms, my style of dress, or the tiny fact that I do not wear watches … at least my employer paid attention to some detail of my life- I don’t wear watches.

But if that was the only detail you ever noticed about someone, if it was the only thing you were ever able to deduce about someone- would you buy this someone a watch?

I didn’t think so.

“… so I got you one … see … this is my favorite brand of watches, I’m wearing one right now!”

I feigned something nice about her watch and held my breath as I opened the box containing my own. Perhaps it would have at least been taken into account how petite I am. Her watch looked huge on her wrist, and she was much taller and more filled out than me. Maybe this brand of watches made something, anything, that could look alright on a tiny wrist. And hopefully it wasn’t sparkly silver with lots of diamonds or rhinestones. I had already seen that watch and wrapped it for someone else. Hopefully it wasn’t being re-gifted so soon.

The first glance at my watch provided no sincerely thankful words to the gift-giver. Luckily, they weren’t necessary, as said employer just started raving about how much she liked it. She had a thing for big, and chunky, and plastic-y. The face was essentially as large as the flat of my wrist (okay, slight exaggeration, but not by far). I had no business owning such a piece of jewelry.

“Do you like it? Will you wear it?”

There was so much enthusiasm behind those sentences that I lost my own words for a moment and finally stumbled into saying thank you.

I brought that watch home with me over Christmas break and had my uncle take all the removable links out so that I could go back to work with a watch on my wrist.

And I did that exactly. For two or three long workdays in the course of three weeks, I was bothered by this bulky piece of jewelry on my left wrist that was still even a bit too large.

When the job ended, the watch lost its purpose. The little black box was its only home. And so the hopeful selling began. Multiple ads on Craigslist have elicited only spammers. No friends or acquaintances have need for such an inconvenient article. And so for eight months this watch has sat, hidden away, on a shelf.

The problem with this watch is that it retails for $200. And while I didn’t spend that money, it is worth a bit too much for me to justify just giving it away to anyone or anywhere. But at the same time, it is not fancy enough to sell to a jeweler. It is made out of something called “plasteramic.” No precious metals, no sparkles, no worth to some high-end place that buys to re-sell. This watch is stuck in the middle. And I’m stuck with it until I can find someone else in the middle who suits it.

Would you like a watch?

downsizing, simplifying, and letting go

September 20, 2012

This life in LA is now becoming this life in PA. A simple change of that first letter brings a not-s0-simple change for my life as I currently know it. This not-so-simple change means getting rid of things that will weigh me down on my trip back across the country. Simplifying what I own, in an effort to simplify the thoughts running through my head.

That to say, I don’t own very much to begin with. I’m not a hoarder, and I typically do not buy things unless I need them. When I came out here a year ago, everything I deemed necessary for living fit into the back of my Ford Fiesta.

Yes, it still looks like a lot.

But keep in mind it’s a compact car.

But now that Fiesta is being shipped across the country and federal law prohibits personal items from being stored in shipped cars.

And checking bags on a domestic flight can become a bit pricey.

So, out with the old.

But it’s really something I’ve not very good at doing in the past.

I’ve tried getting rid of things time and time again. I got rid of plenty in an effort to fit all of the above into my little car. I left many of my belongings scattered across the country- some in my parent’s basement, some in Jeremy’s parent’s basement. I gave away a few replaceable items. But I held on to a lot.

This time around it’s different. I suppose that in the difficulty of letting go of what I emotionally hold dear, it’s much easier to let go of what I tangibly have. Most of my replaceable items have been sold or given away. I’ve been scouring freecycle boards to see if there’s anything people need that I can give them. I’ve been posting and reposting on Craigslist daily. I’ve taken a trip to Goodwill with a full car trunk of clothes and left with it empty. I do still have some pricer items that I can’t happily just give away, if anyone’s interested (watch, silverware, looping pedal), but all in all, I’ve been amazed at what I’ve been able to let go of.

I do hope that I’m able to continue this mindset of downsizing once I am in PA and go through my belongings that were left in the basement. I am not sure I could ever have the true minimalist mindset or successfully employ the 100 Things Challenge, but there is a lot to be said of living with only what you need.

September 25, 2012

And I have been trying to hold on to only what I need. But what does “need” mean, really? I’ve (male) friends who have moved  with only a backpack or two. Maybe one checked bag at the airport. It seems so simple. But how could I do it? I have a violin. I have a laptop. I have various music electronics- a microphone, a mic stand, a looping pedal, an m-box. I have shoes (and I don’t own as many as most females I know, but I still have six or seven pairs of shoes. Is even that many pairs necessary?) I have clothes and I have hangers to go with those clothes. I have a small floor fan. I have kitchen utensils. I have a small food processor. I have bedding and two pillows. I have toiletries. I have miscellaneous office items. I’ve let go and gotten rid of so many things over the past month. But was it enough? Am I still holding on to things I don’t actually need?

My car does not look half as full as it was when I drove across the country last year. From the outside, you can’t even tell there is anything being stored in it. But a big help for that was two 50lb checked bags at the airport, and an overstuffed carry-on. So perhaps I’m leaving with the same amount of “things” I came with. At what point is too much too much?

I intend to continue to be aware of what I own and any purchases I make. I want to keep whittling down my tangible items to what I actually use and need.

Is there anyone else out there trying to do this? What constitutes an item’s need? What constitutes letting go of something?

concepts of being on time

As may have been made apparent in my lazy day post, I have a fairly straightforward “type A” personality (while being introverted, yes. It’s fun to be both of those things, I catch people off guard if they do not know me well). This plays in to a lot of areas in my life, one of the big ones being Time- I like to be on time, I refuse to be late.

Some dear friends of mine got married a few years ago, and I was involved in the festivities. I will never forget what the bride’s father said at the beginning of the wedding weekend while talking about the schedule to all of us playing a role in the day: “Early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable.” I know that wasn’t the first time I had heard those words put together before. But when I heard them at that moment, it was all I could do to keep from jumping up and down and screaming because I had found someone like-minded (yes, that someone being the bride’s father). Those specific words have stuck with me day in and day out ever since.

When I am expected somewhere- if it is a matter of someone waiting for me- I am Always early. Being early gives me time to prepare for whatever it is that is about to happen; I am able to scope out what is going on in my surroundings. If I am meeting friends for dinner, this means I can get a table and choose the seat at the table that best faces the door. If I am going to an interview this means it may be noted that I am prompt. If I am arriving at my job it gives me time to sit back and breathe for another few minutes before working. If it is rehearsal with other musicians, I then have time to tune my violin and warm up.

I have never been to a job interview less than 15 minutes early (at which point I wait in the parking lot and then make my presence known 5 minutes before the interview is scheduled). I leave for work every day at exactly the same time. Most days I get to work 15-20 minutes early and I wait until 8:58 and then walk into the house. I leave myself so much time because of the darned traffic here in this city. There have been days when I’ve arrived and had only enough time to park my car and get into the house at 8:58am. But Never any later than that.

The time that everyone decides on is supposed to be the time that event begins. Not the time that everyone arrives to start preparing for the event.

Now, if it is a large social situation, it is the opposite for me. Unless I am hosting a party (rarely happens), I am a good half an hour late, typically. I allow myself more leeway for a few reasons-

1. I am not good in large social situations, nor do I particularly enjoy them.
2. People rarely arrive at parties early, and if they arrive on time, they are normally the only ones. I do not like to be the only person present at a party. It makes need for small talk. I do not like small talk.
3. I can arrive unnoticed, most of the time, if I am late. Then I can find a couch or chair in the corner of the room and do what I do best- observe. Observing is my favorite form of engaging in social activity.

However, if said social situation is starting at a specific time for a reason other than “let’s get together and eat food and maybe eventually play games or watch a movie,” like perhaps a surprise party, or a get-together with a purpose where everyone realizes that timeliness is necessary, then I go back to my “early is on time, etc.” mantra.

—–

I was privileged to spend two weeks in Northern Ireland at the beginning of August, and one night we were all at a get-together  to meet my brother-in-law’s very large extended family. The festivities were due to start at 8pm. We arrived around 8:45, I believe. Late, yes, but at least I already understood two things:

1. This is how my sister and her husband work, most of the time.
2. This seems to be the Irish way of thinking to begin with.

And then I got to talking with Ted, my sister’s father-in-law, after meeting one of his sisters. I either apologized for being late or at least made reference to it (it wasn’t in my control anyway), and Ted laughed at me. He pointed to his sister. “She got here at 7:45! The house was dark! My wife and I were not even here yet!” (Ted is one of 12 siblings, or some other large number. His youngest sister was the one who got to the party at 7:45. Not a single other soul, including the hosts, arrived at the house until at least 8:15pm, if I am not mistaken.)

WHAT?! The hosts of the party were not even at their house 15 minutes before it was supposed to start? It wasn’t like they just needed people to arrive. They had food to put out and tea to make and other sorts of get-together things to do.

I laughed with Ted and his sister, and then explained to him my way of thinking, which seemed to be his sister’s way of thinking. “Ted, what do you think if I say ‘Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable?'”

Lots of chuckling. That’s what he thought.

“You mean to say, Bekah, that getting somewhere early is a benefit?” … more chuckling.

“Well, Ted, how would you phrase that statement?”

He pondered for a moment, and then threw out this re-phrasing: “Early is unnecessary, on time is early, and late is on time.”

So there you have it- a clashing of cultures, or perhaps just personalities. I can appreciate it. But I cannot implement it.

What are your philosophies for being on time? How have you found it in other cultures? How has this been a problem? How has it been a good thing?

Northern Ireland- the north coast

Safe travels overseas led to a then lovely trip up to the north coast of Northern Ireland. Carrickfergus CastleDunluce Castle, White Rocks Beach, and Giant’s Causeway were on Saturday’s agenda. It is so nice to be exploring this countryside again- and this time with my entire family!

Carrickfergus Castle

Dunluce Castle

View at Dunluce Castle

Walking down to Giant’s Causeway

Giant’s Causeway

Mom at Giant’s Causeway

my sister and me

 

More of the Causeway

 

Looking down on the Causeway (quite the hike!)

 

Levi at the top of a rock- he’s a mountain goat! (White Rocks Beach)

 

Learning cricket on the beach.

 

Siblings on the rocks.

 

This rock looks like a sheep.

Sunday CSA Birthday- a few of my favorite things

Here are some thoughts that are all related somehow:
(Actual CSA stuff about halfway down.)

You know it’s a good day when a CSA pickup falls on your birthday, right?

Especially after a wonderful birthday weekend to boot.

The best part about now being a quarter of a century- it means my parents have been married for 26 years. I am so thankful to have such good role models in my life.

I was with my family on the east coast last week, and spent my birthday back on the west coast. Family is fantastic, and so are friends- and I have the best friends here in LA. It’s the only way to stay sane in this crazy place.

My birthday weekend included frisbee at the park in the sunshine, sea salt and turbinado sugar dark chocolate almonds, multiple episodes of Parks and Rec (the only TV show I actively watch (and re-watch, and re-watch, and re-watch. I’m on my 3rd time through season 4. Season 4 just ended two months ago. It is the BEST show)), Kerrygold dubliner cheese, fresh tomato, and sundried tomato pesto sandwiches on ciabatta, and games of Farkle and Bubble Bobble while in the company of a small group of friends. My birthday day brought about a three player game of Canasta (hand and foot) and dinner at India’s Tadoori because there is nothing better tasting than vegetable korma over rice with naan. Nothing, you hear? And of course, my CSA pick up, which ended up being probably the best one yet. More about that in just one second.

Presents were a vegan cookbook, teacups, and tickets to see Mumford & Sons at their sold out festival in Monterey.

What does all this mean, really? It means I am surrounded by people who love me and know me almost better than I know myself. Honestly. Everything listed above basically describes who I am. Right down to the fact that I celebrated with just a few friends. In fact, that was the most important of it all. I love having a small community. My introverted self needs time and ability to interact on a personal level with those who I love. A weekend spent with only my closest friends is my favorite way to spend time. Huge kudos to Jeremy, who has been a significant part of my life for two years now, and has learned all of these things about me and more, and planned everything that happened this weekend.

I talked with my littlest siblings (who aren’t that little anymore) on the phone at the end of the night, and naturally each of the three of them asked me “What did you get for your birthday?” I simply listed the three things I just listed above (trying to explain quality time, and good people, and good food, etc, wasn’t going to work- they only wanted the tangible), and two of the little ones were not entirely impressed. But the other, my 9-year-old brother, had a reaction that almost brought me to tears:

“The small things in life matter the most.”

It is SO the truth. But what 9-year-old child can really know that and truly believe it? My little brother is among the few, or the only. He is one of the most sensitive and beautiful kids I have ever known.

An old picture, but one of my favorites. I love this little kid. And the rest of my siblings.

So, with all that to say, I’ll stop the sappiness and get on to the produce. Would you LOOK at this lot?!

Basil, kale, lettuce, apricots, plums, nectarines, patty pan squash, carrots, broccoli, onions, and potatoes.  I mean, seriously now! Everything here is AMAZING!

I am beyond excited for the basil, because I’ve been wanting to try my hand at homemade pesto and use my friend Megan’s recipe. I’ve always avoided making pesto because most recipes I come across call for pine nuts. My grocery budget does not have room for pine nuts. So when I read Megan’s blog and found she uses sunflower seeds, I went right out and bought a package, and they have been sitting in my pantry ever since, waiting for the right time to help me with my pesto endeavor whenever it should happen. Well, it will be happening in a day or two. And I can’t wait!

I was getting tired of not having kale in my fridge, so I bought some curly kale from Whole Foods last week and made four cookie sheets of kale chips with garlic and cayenne pepper (and ate them all) within two days. This kale is not curly kale, and I’m getting tired of kale chips for the moment anyway, so I’m not sure yet what will become of my kale. Perhaps a green smoothie along with my lettuce- because, as always, I never know what to do with a head of lettuce. It’s just not appetizing to me. But it is a beautiful head of lettuce. I tore it into bite-sized pieces and rinsed it all out yesterday, and it’s nice and fresh and a beautiful color. If only I enjoyed it more.

I also recently had a want for carrots and bought a two pound bag just last week. I’ve been craving muffins, and so when I saw that I now have an over-abundance of carrots, my brain immediately went to baking. I’m thinking of trying something truly vegan, with avocado and applesauce included in the ingredients list. I have to do some looking around to figure out how to make that happen; there will definitely be a post about it once I make the muffins.

The fresh fruit, as always, will be (and already has started to be) consumed as is. I know there are a ton of delicious recipes for stone fruit, but I like snacking on it way too much to justify making something different out of it.

The broccoli is being had for dinner tonight alongside orzo with feta, lemon juice, and olive oil. The squash and potatoes will find their way into some roasting pan or stir fry.

What does your CSA look like this week? What exciting recipes would you make with some of these veggies that I use so matter-of-factly and simply? What are some of your favorite things? What would your perfect birthday weekend look like? Have you ever baked with applesauce? (Because I haven’t and I’m just crossing my fingers that it will work.)