Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I can't let the month of thanks giving end without giving thanks for the newest addition to the Shackford clan. It's slightly ridiculous how much I love this dog. She really is just perfect, and she has brought a tremendous amount of joy to all of us. Besides family dinner, taking Lucy to Dog Beach is probably my favorite thing to do in Coronado.

These are from my visit to Coronado the week before Thanksgiving. Tom had accidentally taken off for the airport with my camera in his car, so all I had was my phone's camera. 

Lucy's so lovable that my parents can't even bring themselves to kick her off the couch when she forgets that she's not a lapdog. Although...I'm pretty sure they still deny that they let her on the couch. Sorry to blow up your spot, Mom, but Dad totally does it too.


When I read the title of this post, it sounds like Tevye in my head ("Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as... as a fiddler on the roof!"). Tra-di-tion! Oh here, see for yourself.

                                                                           {Skip to 5:50 to see Tevye bust a move.}

Ok, before I lost 15 minutes to Fiddler on the Roof clips on YouTube (If I Were a Rich Man and Matchmaker, fyi), I was going to attempt to finish out my half-assed attempt at daily gratitude by saying that I am grateful for, you guessed it, tradition

I think that is why this is my favorite time of year. November and December are packed with traditions, and I love them all. Normally I don't like watching movies I've already seen, but every year I will settle in for It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott version, obviously), The Family Man, and Love Actually. And because getting married means combining your spouse's holiday traditions with your own, I add Christmas Vacation to that list. The more traditions, the merrier. 

The day after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of Christmas tradition season, and we kicked it off right. After sleeping off our turkey hangovers, Tom and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Del for lunch and a peek at their Christmas decorations. We've done this every year since we started dating, and it's my favorite way to start getting into the holiday spirit. This year's theme is "Silver Bells."


The Dr. Seuss traveling sculpture garden is back as well.
 Much more tradition documenting to come. In the meantime...Joy to the World!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving was lovely, far lovelier than my photos will demonstrate. In fact, I was too busy drinking and chatting and eating to take many pictures at all. And it seems that I was too eager to continue the drinking and chatting and eating to spend much time on the pictures I did take so they are mostly out of focus and over exposed. I am choosing to see this as evidence of the fact that I was enjoying the moment.
{The Give Thanks glitter banner was the result of a lazy crafternoon last week.}

You don't really need pictures to get the idea anyway. We drank, we chatted, we ate...a lot, and we gave thanks. For the third year in a row, everyone wrote down what he or she was thankful for, and we looked back at the things we were grateful for last year and the year before.

This year we were extra fortunate to have some extended family celebrating with us. My dad's aunt and cousins joined as did my mom's brother, my uncle Steve. My dad's cousin Karen is also my godmother, and as a woman of excellent taste, she is a big fan of my blog. [Hi, Karen!]

{Karen and her mother, Caroline}
 I used to think of it as a pit stop on the way to Christmas, but I must say, I have really grown to love Thanksgiving. It's pretty great to have a day dedicated to focusing on all of our blessings, all of the things that make us happy. Plus, it unites us all as Americans. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists can all get on board with a holiday that calls us to draw our families close and tell them how thankful we are for them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Back on the Wagon

So I dropped the ball. Tuesday I was busy all day and reworking my resume with Tom most of the evening. All of a sudden, it was midnight blog. So then Wednesday rolls around. I wasn't particularly busy, but I had already failed at daily blogging for the month, so what was the point? I can see how benders begin...once you've blown it, might as well just say screw it. I have this problem with big dieting and exercising resolutions too. As soon as I miss a workout or eat a cookie, I think I have already ruined everything, might as well embrace my destiny and order a pizza. I exaggerate, but I really have a problem with the all or nothing mentality, so this is me getting back on the blogging wagon.

Today, I am thankful for books and libraries. [I'm pretty sure that a review of my documenting of the things that make me happy and the things I am grateful for will reveal that I am a huge nerd.] Yesterday, I decided to tackle something on my L.A. to-do list, so I headed to the Los Angeles Central Library.

First of all, turns out Los Angeles has a downtown with tall buildings and everything. I was rushing to my car hoping to beat over-eager meter maids (I did), and I only go one shot before the light changed, but...behold - skyscrapers!

Anyway, in the middle of all the tall buildings is the Central Library, and I must say, this library is next-level awesome.  And massive. In fact, according to Wikipedia, it is the third largest public library in the country; and according to the library's self-guided tour pamphlet, it is the largest public library "west of the Mississippi." It really says that. I didn't realize that people used that as a badge of honor in a non-ironic way, but...awesome!

This place is seriously huge and really beautiful. The Lodwrick M. Cook Rotunda was my favorite part of the library, and I was lucky to have a few moments with it all to myself. This is the focal point of the building as it was designed by Bertram Goodhue in 1926. [I only included that last sentence so that I had an excuse to write Bertram Goodhue. Is that not the best old timey name ever?]

Fun fact: the chandelier weighs one ton and is 64 feet off the ground. The 48 lights represent the number of states that were in the Union at the time the building was constructed.

Apparently, arson destroyed large sections of the library and 400,000 (oh, the humanity!) books in 1986. The fires prompted a major renovation that included this eight-story atrium in the Tom Bradley Wing.

{I really want to go back when I have more time and settle in at one of those tables on that skybridge.}
Each of the eight floors is dedicated to a different subject area; I was at a one-hour meter, so I only had time to cruise the top four floors.

Man, I love the seasonal display at the library. It encourages judging books by their covers, and I am totally into that.

I am definitely excited to go back and keep exploring because I know I only saw a fraction of the library's treasures.

Plus - self checkout, online renewal, and e-book lending? I'm in.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gratitude - Day Thirteen

Today I'm grateful for visits from lovely, low maintenance friends.  Kelsey is the perfect kind of friend and house guest, meaning while she's happy to get dolled up and go out on the town, she is equally happy (or at least she pretends to be equally happy) doing nothing more than sitting on the couch, shooting the breeze, and ordering pizza. I love that about her.

Since we moved to L.A., Kelsey has been down a few times for work, and each visit has involved a lot of couch time. I should probably step up my entertaining game, but it does feel really nice to be comfortable enough to just invite my friend into my regular life without having to distract her with fancy goings on. Anyway, our activities have not been particularly photo-worthy, but last night Tom snapped a few pictures with my phone. Here we were taking a break from all the chatting and eating excitement to flip through a catalog. I really pull out all the stops when friends come to town...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gratitude - Day Twelve

I am, of course, grateful for Tom every day, but he has been extra patient this week. On lazy weekends like this one, especially lazy weekends that follow disappointing weeks, I am more thankful than ever that I get to cuddle up on the couch with my best friend. Plus, he looks pretty hot on stage.


The pictures and video are from last weekend when Melly Frances and the Distilled Spirits lit up the Hotel Cafe.

In other Tom-related news, he seems to be holding up after finally parting with the CD collection that he spent the past twenty years developing.

We spent the past six weeks or so making sure that each of the two thousand plus CDs had been burned and saved on Tom's external hard drive. On Wednesday, it was finally time. Scott from Amoeba made a house call and carefully went through each disc before making an offer.

After some tense negotiation, Scott and Tom sealed the deal, and Scott carted the CDs away. Our next move (we're due for one in another six months or so) will certainly be easier...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Gratitude - Day Eleven

So, you know those extraordinarily lazy weekend days that leave you feeling slightly guilty but also super relaxed? The ones you rationalize because it's cold and grey and rainy? [My parents are shaking their heads no right now.] Well, today was one of those days around here; in other words, it was stupendously unproductive. And Tom and I are about to finish off the evening with a dumb comedy (The Change Up, most likely), so I'm copping out a bit on today's post.

Obviously, I'm grateful for lazy, rainy Saturdays that end with red wine and dumb comedies, but that's not particularly interesting. I am, however, also grateful for satire, which is interesting and far more entertaining than my day's inactivity. Satire directed at the media and current events is a particular favorite.

I believe this genre began with Weekend Update and the inimitable Chevy Chase.

The Onion was next, and it was this clip that inspired today's post. This perfectly captures the absurdity of the "news" reported by the 24 hour networks.

Breaking News: Some Bullshit Happening Somewhere

And then there is my favorite, The Daily Show. I might have a (not so) secret crush on Jon Stewart too. I love this show most when he points out the ridiculous hypocrisy of the talking heads and  politicians. The following two clips are several months old, but they are hilarious, maddening, and, speaking as a teacher, incredibly gratifying. I guess sometimes it's more productive to turn anger and frustration into comedy. Each clip is about five minutes but worth your time if you have it.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Crisis in Dairyland - Angry Curds
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Crisis in Dairyland - For Richer and Poorer - Teachers and Wall Street
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Lest you think they only pick on Fox News, here's a clip of Stewart poking fun at the bombast on MSNBC...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Olbertunity Knocks
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gratitude - Day Ten

Today I'm giving thanks for silly, spontaneous celebrations (and alliteration, apparently). When I was listening to, you guessed it..., NPR this morning, I heard a short piece that inspired me to throw a mini 11/11/11 party. The only guests were Tom and myself, and he left early, but still... Spontaneous parties for no real reason are fun!

Anyway, the NPR piece was commemorating 11/11/11 by choosing eleven songs that are meant to be played "at eleven." This is, of course, a reference to the scene in Spinal Tap where Christopher Guest's character talks about how his amps "go to eleven" instead of the standard ten volume setting.


The NPR broadcasters then continued to talk about songs (their choices and those sent in by listeners) that have to be cranked up to full volume - songs that when they come on, you reflexively reach for the volume control. In addition to being proof (in my mind at least) that NPR is not as stuffy as some people (coughTomcough) would make it out to be, I thought that this would be a super-fun basis for an evening's festivities. It had not previously occurred to me to celebrate this auspicious date, but I do love a holiday and this seemed like as good an excuse as any to drink wine and make a special meal. I headed to the store for some wine and the fixings for chile rellenos. [I'm not sure why chile rellenos are an appropriate choice for this particular celebration, but given enough time, I'm sure I could come up with some sort of connection to the Mayan calendar's prediction that we won't see 12/12/12.]

When Tom got home, I told him to start thinking about songs that have to be played at full volume. After some serious consideration, he made our party playlist. I was allowed to contribute three songs to the eleven (obviously) song playlist. Here's what we came up with...I'm sure you won't be able to guess which ones I contributed...

{If I had been allowed more than three selections, I might have also included I Wanna Be Sedated - Ramones, Music is the Victim - Scissor Sisters, Paradise City - Guns N' Roses, and Con te Partiro - Andrea Bocelli. I'm only partially kidding about that last one, which I suppose, is why I was not allowed more selections...}
So, that was it. We put on our eleven song playlist, cranked the stereo up (to a level that was respectful of both the neighbors and the songs), poured ourselves some ($11, now that I think about it!) wine, and chowed down on some chile rellenos. Happy 11/11/11!

{Apologies for the truly horrific picture, but it was getting cold; I promise it tasted much better than it looked!}
In case you haven't had the pleasure, I give you Con te Partiro...


You can't tell me that doesn't deserve to be played loudly... It also makes me want to speak Italian...and possibly cry. So, in closing, I am thankful for silly celebrations and Andrea Bocelli.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gratitude - Day Nine

Today was kind of a bust, or as Alexander would say, it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

It wasn't actually all that bad; I'm just rationalizing the pity party I threw for myself this morning. Sitting here now, with the benefit of a good cry and a healthy dose of perspective under my belt, I can admit that it was actually a pretty wonderful day.

                                                                                          Source: via Pinterest

Perspective was easily attained today thanks to some volunteer writing and editing that I have been doing lately for Wells Bring Hope, a nonprofit that digs wells for villages in Niger. Just last night, I spent a couple of hours working on a blog about the ways in which a village is changed when they get a well. I wrote that 68% of Nigerians do not have access to clean water and that 88% lack access to effective sanitation. I wrote about how this lack of clean water and reliable sanitation has created a situation in which one in four Nigerian children dies before his or her fifth birthday and life expectancy is 53 years. I wrote about how 40% of Nigerians have trachoma, a bacterial infection that leads to blindness if left untreated. I wrote about how the burden of gathering water falls to women and girls who walk as many as six miles a day, risking  physical and sexual assault and attacks by wild animals, in order to provide water to their families.

Finally I wrote about how, for $5,000, Wells Bring Hope can provide a village with a well that will completely transform the lives of the people who live there. Child mortality decreases by 65%, school attendance increases by 40%, and waterborne illnesses are virtually eliminated. All because of water. Water - something that I don't think twice about... until I have to go to the grocery store where I have to think about which of the 87 varieties I would like to purchase.

So today, I am grateful for water. Water that runs straight into my house. Water that I can, in fact, access instantly from three separate rooms in my apartment. Water that is hot when I want a shower and cold when I want a drink. Water that is clean and fresh and free of things that can kill me. 

I'm also really grateful for the perspective that helped me to quit my bitching today and realize how * lucky I really am.

*I tried writing fucking just there, but my mom reads this and I don't want to alienate one of my five readers.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gratitude - Day Eight

I realize that it's kind of cheap to stretch this LACMA visit out to two blog posts, but posting every day is no small feat for me so I'll take what I can get inspiration wise. Annnnyway, today I'm grateful to Fr. Reboli for teaching me the very basics of art appreciation in Renaissance to Modern Art at HC all those years ago. I'm also grateful that I seem to be growing more open-minded in my old age. I used to blow past all of the abstract and modern art on my way to my old standbys, but yesterday I lingered in the 1950s to the present wing and actually appreciated some of the "weird" art displayed there. Now, I still don't get some of these big installation pieces. I mean, it's a sink basin...what am I missing? [Some of my pictures didn't come out well, so apologies for the low-res versions from LACMA's website.]

{Robert Gober - Single Basin Sink -photo © Robert Gober}  
Or this one...giant pool balls. That is literally the name of this piece.
{Claes Oldenburg - Giant Pool Balls}
Ok, I actually really like this one. It looks so happy.

{Joel Shapiro - Untitled (Dancing Man)}

This kind of stuff aside, I decided that I'm into some modern art, specifically the stuff that people are fond of claiming "looks like something my four year old could have done." I used to say that too (although, I would have said that I could have done it since I don't have a four year old but rather have the artistic talents of an average one), but then I actually tried to slap some pretty colors on a canvas and call it abstract art...not so easy. I think I also like these paintings because they look more like something I would want to hang in my home. I mean if someone wanted to give me a Monet, I wouldn't say no, but in general, I gravitate to more abstract pieces when looking for something for our apartment.

{Henri Matisse - La Gerbe}
{Jacques Villon - Portrait of a Mile Y.D. - photo © Jacques Villon Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris}  

Here's another one that I had to refrain from touching.
{close-up: Joan Brown - Girl in a Chair}

{Wassily Kandinsky - Untitled Improvisation III - photo: © Wassily Kandinsky Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris}
Now this one obviously doesn't fall into the abstract expressionist category, but I had never seen this Picasso before, and I couldn't stop staring at it. I love the unexpected red of the flower in her hair and I am totally transfixed by his gaze.

{Pablo Picasso - Portrait of Sebastia Juñer Vidal}
In addition to all of the treasures inside the museum's buildings, there is much to explore on the grounds. As with the treasures inside, the art outside runs the gamut in terms of style.

There was this "interactive sculpture" made of yellow rubber rope/string things.

There was a Rodin sculpture garden which reminded me of the sculptures that made me fall in love with Holy Cross's campus.

Lastly, there was Chris Burden's Urban Light installation. This work is in front of the museum, right on Wilshire Boulevard, so it has gotten a lot of attention. Apparently Burden collected and restored over two hundred 1920s streetlamps from Los Angeles and surrounding cities. The effect of all of these lights together is interesting and dramatic, but I definitely want to come back at night to see them all lit up.

All in all, it was a lovely afternoon of art appreciation. So - thanks to LACMA for the free admission, thanks to Fr. Reboli for the lessons in art history, and thanks to Mom and Dad for funding the art history (and many other) classes!