Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Guest Post: Joe's Miami P.O.V.

It has been a very busy month since Thanksgiving!  We've been to San Fransisco and back.  I've been swamped at work with helping students register and scheduling for Summer and Fall of 2013.  I also had two friends purchase from my Etsy store (thanks E and A!) so I was working on their orders and shipping those out.  I was able to do a little freelance work  to help out a local woman start up a very cool business (which I will tell you more about later).  On top of all of that, I was scrambling to make/buy/send gifts for our families back home.  J and I have also been taking some very serious steps to get ourselves out of Miami and on to our new adventure.  I will write more about San Fransisco when I get a chance, but for now, I asked J to write a guest post to give you his take on life in Miami:

This is Joe, Becca's husband (I think I am referred to as "J" in this blog even though I don't care if she uses my name). Becca asked me to do a blog post about Miami from my perspective, hopefully I don't repeat anything:

My view of Miami is different than Becca's because I came down here with a distinct purpose: my grad school appointment was already set and I literally began classes the day that we arrived. It's much different arriving at a new place with a built-in network of people sharing similar interests (i.e. grad students who can bond by telling stories of long hours of studying and research). In addition, our grad school (like any other) is made up of people form all over the place, so most of us share the same general beliefs about Miami (that is, we don't really like it). There is of course a stronger Florida and Caribbean influence than other places, but even most of the Floridians are from other places (often Ft. Lauderdale) which are entirely different than Miami. As they say, "The best part about Miami is how close it is to the United States!"

Now, saying we don't really like Miami might seem wrong to you, especially since I am writing this with the windows open on Christmas day and nice 75 degree breeze blowing in and you are probably freezing your butt off somewhere up north for the next 4 months. So I might say to you, come down and visit us, and I'll prove to you what this place is really like. However, you will probably end up liking it because Miami knows how to treat its tourists and you will have a great time seeing all the cool things that Becca has posted pictures of in this blog. It can be a little awkward to be a local going to some of these tourist traps, but our pale white skin and (still persistent) northern accents blend right in. For instance, we went to Fairchild botanic garden yesterday and didn't hear a single word of Spanish for like 3 hours. That is probably a record. Although sometimes the Spanish speakers are tourists also, usually from South America, so they probably feel right at home here. Miami Beach is very culturally diverse, it is popular with both European and South American tourists, and of course also as a spot for wandering 20-somethings to live for a few years.

The day to day experience is much different outside of the beach area. First of all, we have to deal with the traffic, which is definitely the #1 complaint that I hear about Miami. The traffic volume isn't necessarily that bad here, many other big cities are worse and they have made an effort to improve the highways in Florida. The issue is that people drive very poorly. I think there are a number of causes for that--too many BMWs and Mercedes on the road, people chatting with abuela in Cuba on the way to work, and maybe just that Miami tends to wake up late (service economy) and everyone rushes to work around 9:00. Rush hour peaks about 60-90 minutes later here than the Midwest, if you are on the road at 7:30-8 you will have no problems. Other people we have talked to don't like how much Spanish is used here, but it isn't really a big deal to me. I'm a blonde boy so I don't look like I can speak Spanish and almost everyone can speak English even if they don't want to at first.  (Becca is often mistaken for Cuban, go figure.)  Rudeness is definitely a major problem, again that is something that you will rarely see in tourist heavy areas we encounter it all the time in places like Target. Running errands is never a pleasant experience here. At the beginning it was especially bad, now we generally know which places to go to and which to avoid (voicing our opinion with the almighty dollar). It seems like the average person doesn't care, otherwise some of the notoriously bad places wouldn't be in business. Much of the reason they are in business comes down to perspective, if we grew up in Cuba instead of squeaky-clean Milwaukee suburbs, we probably would just be happy to be here too.

As for other interesting observations, I can give you this:

1. In Florida, the farther north you go, the more "Southern" it gets.

2. Florida might be full of old people, but most of them don't live in Miami. This is a very young city, there are lots of people in their 20s and 30s with kids. You have to go west to Naples or north to Palm Beach to find the retirees. Fun fact: Sunrise, FL used to be named "Sunset" but the chamber of commerce must have decided they didn't like the connotation.

3. When the temperature drops below 60 degrees, people dress like there is a blizzard coming. We've lost some of our acclimation to the cold, but not nearly as badly as some people. Usually I wear my sweaters not because I'm cold, but because it's the only time that I can.

4. As a culture, people are very obsessed with image and material things, especially plastic surgery and Mercedes-Benz. The people driving these cars live in the Miami equivalent of West Allis. We have spent way too much time trying to figure out what goes through the mind of some of these people. It clearly does not make them happy if you are wondering, Miami is often ranked as one of the unhappiest cities in the US (and also the least-educated).

So that's a quick review of Miami for you. I hope you don't get a bad impression of the place or think that I can't stand it. I just wanted to give an honest opinion. I do many fun things here in my spare time which Becca has asked me to share in future posts.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend Picture Post

I am really overwhelmed with work, personal projects, and the holidays right now...  So here is another picture post instead of a lengthy description of my holiday weekend.

We had J's friend over for a semi-traditional American Thanksgiving.  She has treated us to traditional Chinese food on more than one occasion and this was the least we could do to return the favor.  Ever since J and I started going to one another's family functions I have been in love with his Grandmother's Sage Stuffing.  I asked him to ask his mom how to make it - and for his first attempt at stuffing, he did an excellent job!  He also wanted to do most of the food on a grill, so we grilled potatoes instead of mashing them.

Our table for three.  We skipped the turkey (see the last post) and aside from stuffing and potatoes we had steak, vegetarian squash tart, salad, and grilled corn.  I was the only one who wanted the pumpkin pie, though... More for me!

A better view of our feast.  We sent our friend home with a ton of food and we still have leftovers.  I guess that's the American tradition- overkill.  (She liked the sparkling cider.  Personally, that is always one of my favorite family traditions.)

J and I went on a day-date on Saturday.  We decided to go to South Beach.  We hit up Bolivar again (we went their on a food tour with my in-laws).  We've both been craving their fried plantains and we decided to give tapas a try.  I've never had tapas before, but I think that it will be how J and I dine from now on.  We had a lot of fun, got to try a lot of different things- all wonderful, and it was reasonable ($40, tip included, for two people).  By the way- we did not touch the ketchup, the sauces (in the background) were amazing!

The purpose of our SoBe trip was to visit the Wolfsonian Museum.  We've been wanting to go to more art museums, but sometimes it is hard to justify the price.  This one was free for us.  It was a pretty small museum and had more of a "design" aspect than a straight-up "art" aspect.  It was neat, but we don't have to go back.  Me with the Wolfsonian Museum's famous "Wrestler" statue. 

J in front of the "Lo and Behold" or "Miro y Ve" fountain.  This picture doesn't do it justice.

It wouldn't be a blog post by me if I didn't include my babies.  This is an older picture that J took when walking the dogs.  Now Lily is as big as Ruby.  They are a funny duo. 

What a doll.  I like the way she crosses her paws.  You can tell how much bulkier she is than Ruby just by her paws alone.  This was after a particularly trying day at work a couple of weeks ago.  (You can tell because my hair is frazzled.  It likes to do that when I'm stressed.)  I love coming home to a full house.

Lily loves everyone.  Equally.  And she doesn't take the hint.  Tashi is an opportunist though, so if she thinks she'll get some nice cuddles out of it, she'll stay.  Lily is in her new sweater that we bought her last week.  Ruby has the same one in red.  I don't know WHAT we will do with them when we move to a colder climate.  They are wusses.
Saturday was a good day.  We had our day-date, went to the dog park, and then I came home to my Etsy package.  I had been spying on this little creature for several weeks and I decided that because I've made two sales (plus the ones to my mom) that I would treat myself to an Etsy item.  She's custom made and all the way from Australia.  You can't really tell, but she is sitting on a half-shell.  (You should check out the artist's work- she's great: http://www.etsy.com/shop/scarletsbones?ref=search_shop_redirect)  It has been a long time since I have ordered something online, so I was anxiously waiting for her arrival   


So, that's my holiday weekend in a nutshell.  (Minus the top-secret holiday preparations for work and family/friends... and the two loads of laundry... and the massive cleaning on Thursday... and the grocery shopping... you get the picture- I just gave you the highlights.)

I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend with your loved ones.  I am glad that J and I were able to host our first successful psuedo-Thanksgiving.  We had fun.  I don't know what we'll do for Christmas, but honestly, I'm not even ready to think about that.  Now, I'm off to pull my laundry out of the dryer.  Fun stuff!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Picture Post

I have been busy with work and preparing for the holidays.  J and I will be hosting a guest for Thanksgiving and we want to show her a semi-traditional dinner (sans turkey because -hey- we're not the best of chefs and what is the chance of finding a heritage, free-range, ethically treated bird down here for less than $25 and how the heck can three people eat something that big anyways...).  I'm a bit nervous because she has had us over for traditional Chinese food twice now and she is an AMAZING cook. 

I have also been working on Christmas gifts.  I submitted some stuff to Ramble Art Festival down here again this year, and some sold.  I'm not sure how much because I haven't picked my things up yet, but it did take me awhile to pull everything together.

Instead of writing a long missive on what has (or hasn't) been happening in our lives, I figured I'd do a picture post.  I'm not the best photographer and I'm using J's camera (some of these are from his iPhone).  So please, disregard the quality.  I make no claims to be an artful blogger.  Just an honest, and hopefully sometimes funny, one. 

My Halloween costume inspiration.  Every year J and I watch something for Halloween.  The last two years we watched Hocus Pocus and The Nightmare Before Christmas.  This year, in honor of my Classic Movie Challenge, we watched the first season of The Addams Family television show (circa 1964).  They are a loving family through and through.  Gomez and Morticia are sickeningly romantic (they'd take that as a compliment).  John Astin is my favorite incarnation of Gomez, but Christina Ricci is my favorite version of Wednesday.  I loved Wednesday as soon as I saw the movie as a kid (circa 1991).  I have always had a soft spot for Cousin Itt, though.  In college I had The Addams Family comic day planner.  I wish I would have kept it.  That dark humor oddly brightens my dull Miami life.    
This isn't my best costume ever, but it was just for work.  People kept saying I looked cute.  They didn't realize I was in costume.  All I could think was, "Wednesday would be mortified."  The only thing I had to do for this costume was braid my hair.  I guess I have a dark wardrobe if no one noticed the difference.  :)

What do you see in this picture?  I see three sunbathing cats.  Sassy puppies.  For the record, their mommy doesn't let them lay on top of the couch cushions like that.

My lovely Lily.  I wish a camera could do justice for her beautiful hazel eyes.  I adore her so.

I took these pictures a couple of nights ago when Trini and I were lounging in bed, wasting too much time on the Internet.  I have had her since I was seven.  This is what 18 years of friendship looks like: love, slight annoyance, and complete understanding of one another.  She is experiencing some difficulties lately due to age.  Her one eye is completely covered in a cataract (and the other one is going too).  She used to keep it closed all of the time, but after a couple of visits to the vet we seemed to ease the irritation for her.  Now her legs are giving out to arthritis and she doesn't move much.  She tries hard to make it to the litter box, but sometimes she doesn't realize she's in it and she misses.  My mornings are messy, but I would do just about anything for this cranky old broad.
Happiness is warm puppies.  My lap, and my heart, are always full thanks to a house full of animals.

Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving Weekend!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Since September...

I haven't posted since September... yeesh.  In my defense, J has been working diligently on his thesis and I have been trying to help around the apartment in little ways (planning meals, cooking dinners, cleaning, keeping a watchful eye on animals). He's finally done with writing and he'll be defending his thesis in the beginning of November.  I'm incredibly proud of him.  Aside from working like crazy for school, he is an excellent puppy parent, an avid runner, and he's been working on side projects like his blog: http://www.wxnotes.com/blog/

Our animals have been keeping us busy.  We've been taking the dogs to a new dog park that was recommended to us by a fellow UW-Madison graduate.  Sometimes we meet up with her there on the weekends.  We've started Lily in Puppy Classes with the same trainer that worked with Ruby.  We keep them busy because happy dogs are tired dogs... but that also makes for tired dog owners who'd rather relax than blog.  Guilty. 

I haven't been lazy though!  I have been working hard on my goal of reading 75 books in 2012.  I am currently reading two books (60 and 61).  If you want to keep up with what I am reading, you can check out my Shelfari account.  (http://www.shelfari.com/beccaf)  There is no doubt in my mind that I will meet my goal, but despite my fast reading pace, it still takes a lot of time to read that much.

I also was able to go home for a week in late October.  My mom and dad paid for my ticket to come home so that I could celebrate my second cousin's wedding.  It was really beautiful.  She and her mom did some cool things for me when I was planning my wedding so I would have been disappointed to miss hers.  Aside from the wedding, I was able to spend good time with my family.  My mom and I hit up a Wisconsin farm-stand and I bought goodies for the girls at work.  I also indulged in New Glarus Raspberry Ale and cheese curds.  I was able to get all of my favorite food stops in: Kopp's for Red Raspberry frozen custard, Bluephie's for Ooey Gooey Pasta (with two of my best buds), Noodles, and The Comet Cafe.  It was a really good trip.  I was dying to get as far away from Miami as possible for the last couple of months.  I needed a reality check: somewhere where people are nice and there are a few of them who care about me.  Sometimes it is hard living so far from family and friends- even if it is an adventure.

Going back to Wisconsin helped also get me back into my creative groove.  One day my mom and I made a pumpkin still life that was inspired by some of her home decorating magazines.  I miss having a crafting buddy.  I always did my scrap-booking and card-making with her.  I hate doing those things alone- so I haven't done them in years.  We made a lot of elements for my wedding together and making those pumpkins was a fun activity.  When I came back to Miami (after I was sicker than a dog for two days) I pulled out my crafting supplies and started on some new projects.  I'll add some pictures below.  You can see more at my Etsy site.  And speaking of Etsy- I made my first "outside" (as in someone I don't know) sale two days before my trip!!  Someone in Nova Scotia bought some magnets.  I jumped for joy!

Current projects I've been working on:

The first altered Moleskine journal I made.

Another altered journal.

Another.  I'm sort of addicted.  I have to wait and see if these sell before I buy more journals to alter.  I don't want to end up with too many sitting around like some of my other crafts. *See footnote*

A Fairy Ornament that I decided to try.  The idea came to me when I was trying to sleep and after I thought of it I couldn't actually fall asleep because I was so excited to try it out.  It finally gave me an idea of what to do with all of the bits I've collected/found over the years.  This one is sea-themed.

This one is Halloween-themed.  I wanted to do one in colors that reminded me of the holiday.  Please don't judge my photo styling.  I'm not a photographer and I was trying to get the pictures taken while there was still some natural light outside.

Where my ornaments are currently residing: on the wine bottles that we don't drink. :)


On Monday I go back to work.  I know I'll have a lot on my desk.  I was supposed to go in to work the two days after I got back, but I was sick on Thursday and worse on Friday.  I got up and took a shower at 7:00 AM both days.  On Thursday I was exhausted from traveling and had a headache/sore throat, so I didn't even bother getting dressed.  On Friday I woke up feeling even worse, but I figured I really had to go in since it would only be me and one other office member.  I pulled on my clothes, told Joe that I might be home early, drove about a mile, and then pulled into a gas station so I could get sick all over myself.  I called my co-workers and explained that I would not be in, I needed a shower and different clothes, and then I went home and got sick three more times.  It was, by far, one of the worst days of being sick/having a migraine in my life.  I couldn't keep anything down: water, saltines, Sprite, or medicine.  I just iced my head in bed until 1 AM when I finally fell asleep.  On Saturday I still had a bit of a headache, so I took it slow in the morning, but by Saturday night I finally felt better.

I should go get ready for my first day back at work since the 17th.  Besides the work I have to get a campus parking pass and schedule an allergy test- a tale for another day- so I'm sure tomorrow will be crazy.  But I kind of don't want to get up to make my lunch right now.  I have two tuckered puppies cuddling my feet and I don't want to disturb them.  They look so angelic... then they wake up.  :)

 - - -

* I went a little crazy with the magnets I was making.  I liked repurposing magazine pages and it was so easy to put the magnets together that I made more than I needed.  I personally like the painted ones best, but I can't make too many at a time without getting a headache from the fumes.  When I was meeting with another Etsy crafter (http://artzazzle.blogspot.com/) she mentioned that it would be cool to leave crafts like geo-caches.   I used to geo-cache with my mom and I loved the idea.  I'll save the geo-cache idea for when I live in another city, but I decided to leave some gift bags around town of some surplus magnets, my business card, and a note that reads, "Surprise!  A gift for you or someone you love.  Just a little way to brighten your day."  I hope people find them and enjoy the fun that is finding a little secret. Who knows?  Someone will probably find it, hate it, send me an e-mail telling me what a jerk I am for some inane reason, and then instead of making their day better they'll ruin mine.  (I've been living in Miami too long; I expect the worst of people.) *


Sunday, September 2, 2012

5 Things: Songs to Write To

I once could not do any homework, reading, or writing unless it was dead silent.  Then I went to college and I learned quickly if I didn't make the most of every moment because I was bothered by noise, I would never get anything done.  Still, I do not like to read with music in the background- moderate ambient noise is okay.  When writing for this blog or for fun I have to listen to low-key music.  Anything too bouncy and my mind focuses on the beat (probably because I'm daydreaming about being the best drummer that ever lived!).  Here are five songs from my iTunes Music for Writing To playlist.


My Only Swerving by El Ten Eleven

So Long by Guster

North by North by Faded Paper Figures

Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Easier to Lie by Aqualung



Let me know of any music you like to work to.  I'm always looking to expand my playlist.  :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lovely Lily

I haven't posted much lately, and for that I apologize.  Work has been really hectic and then we had to leave town to go get Lily.  Despite the tropical storm, things went off without a hitch.  We lost power for a short while and work/school was cancelled on Monday.  Today was rough- I am fighting one of the worst migraines I've had in awhile, but I did want to post pictures of my second fur-baby.  I will write more about her personality and our story of the first couple of days with our little Lily in the near future.

Ruby in July

Adorable and Tired

Beautiful Blue Eyes- those won't stay like that.  Lily is very cute, very soft, and very affectionate.

All my girls in one picture.  (Ruby in the background, moping, Tashi, Lily, and Trini)

It is taking Ruby a little while, but gradually she is warming up to Lily.  Lily follows her big sister's lead.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

5 Things: Places I Want to Live In

Portland/Seattle

I have been to Portland and I have been dying to go back.  J and I have wanted to do a roadtrip through the Pacific Northwest for our honeymoon.  I have no idea when we will get to that.  All I know is that this region is beautiful.  These cities are big enough to be cultured, but the surrounding areas are beautiful enough to escape to.  (The closest thing I have to that here is the Everglades, and trust me, you don't want to "escape" to that.)  The dining and music scenes are also phenomenal.

San Fransico

J's brother is currently living here.  Boy, I am jealous!  Actually, I'm really happy for him.  San Fransico is iconic and has a rich history.  It's more laid back than other big cities and unlike L.A., appearances aren't everything.  I've been told that UW-Madison was based off of the Berkley campus, and I've always wanted to go and take a peek (and maybe a class or two).  I hear that there are lot of excellent restaurants there, too!

Denver

Another great city that is surrounded by nature.  As a kid and a teenager I enjoyed being outdoors.  I would love to go white water rafting, canoeing, and hiking.  I feel like I am out of touch with nature living in Miami.  I do like living next to a large body of water (I grew up with Lake Michigan in Milwaukee and Lake Mendota and Menona in Madison), so being landlocked is the one thing I wouldn't be crazy about here.  But I'm sure there are plenty of things that would make up for that if I was living in Denver.

Abroad

I have dreamed of living abroad.  One regret I have about college is that I didn't take the chance to do so.  I didn't really have the funding for it, but it is one of the few times in your life when it is exceptable to pick up and move without being too tied down for a couple of months or a year.  Living in Miami is sometimes like living in a different country and I've made life work for me here, whose to say I couldn't do it elsewhere.  J and I sometimes discuss the post-doc oppurtunities abroad.  I don't know if we'll ever have the chance to live in Europe or Asia, but if the oppurtunity ever came, I'd be hard pressed to turn it down.

Madison

I don't know if I'll ever live in Wisconsin again.  I'm okay with that.  In some ways I really miss the state and in others I don't.  Madison is the place I think of when I think of home.  It was my first time out on my own.  I had to establish myself and figure out a lot about life.  Madison was a great city to test out my wings.  I didn't always fly beautifully, but there were times like I felt I was soaring there.  I have not been able to recreate that feeling here.  In Madison, during my college years, I had a mix of friends, school, work, community, art, music, food, comfort, and new experiences that I don't think I'd ever be able to recreate.  If J's career brought us back to Madison, we'd be pretty happy campers.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Classic Movie Challenge: The Gay Divorcee

I went a bit academic in my review for The Seven Year Itch.  I couldn't help it.  That movie had me itching in disgust (bad pun intended).  I actually watched that movie and The Gay Divorcee on the same Saturday.  I had a rough week at work and I wanted to curl up with movies and unwind.  I am having another crummy week, but I don't know if I'll have the luxury to catch up on movies this weekend.  Then, next weekend, Lily comes home!  And J and I will be catching up on sleep (due to new puppy parenting) and not classic films.  So, I apologize for two reviews back-to-back, but a blogger has to do what a blogger has to do, and I scheduled them to post a couple of days apart, so it's not that bad.  ;)

Instead of critiquing the story and its execution behind The Gay Divorcee in the way that I did with The Seven Year Itch, I am going to instead, focus on the lighter things.  However, I would like to mention that I thought this movie was interesting in Mimi's approach to getting a divorce: get caught cheating and your loser husband will HAVE to acquiesce to the split.  Here is the synopsis from Wikipedia:

Mimi Glossop (Ginger Rogers) arrives in England to seek a divorce from her geologist husband Cyril (William Austin), whom she hasn't seen for several years. Under the guidance of her domineering and much-married aunt Hortense (Alice Brady), she consults a bumbling and less-than-competent lawyer Egbert Fitzgerald (Edward Everett Horton), who happens to be one of Hortense's previous fianc├ęs. He arranges for her to spend a night at a seaside hotel and to be caught in an adulterous relationship, for which purpose he hires a professional co-respondent, Rodolfo Tonetti (Erik Rhodes). But Egbert forgets to arrange for private detectives to "catch" the couple.

By coincidence, Guy Holden (Fred Astaire) an American dancer and friend of Egbert's, who briefly met Mimi on her arrival in England, and is now besotted with her, also arrives at the hotel, only to be mistaken by Mimi for the co-respondent. While they are in Mimi's bedroom, Tonetti arrives and holds them "prisoner". They contrive to escape and dance the night away.

I've seen Astaire's dancing skills in Funny Face and I was excited to see him dance again.  Although I adore Audrey Hepburn (she has a background in ballet), she doesn't compare to Ginger Rogers.  I know that people have often commented on the dancing duo of Astaire and Rogers, so I'll keep it brief: they are amazing.  I smiled while watching them dance.  This was the first musical where I was willing to be swept away in the silliness while not worrying about the plot.  I didn't know a thing about Rogers before watching this movie and I was really captivated by her beauty and gumption.  She brought Mimi to life in a complex way: she's guarded, but sweet, beautiful, but strong.  The dances were awesome.  Astaire was awesome.  Rogers was awesome.  But the thing that I loved most about the movie was the CLOTHES!  Oh. My. God.  I'd die for that wardrobe!

Rogers in an early scene of the movie.  I love the beret.





If they sold this outfit at Anthropologie, I'd buy it in a heart-beat.  She's sad, but she's so chic!

This dress was poetry in motion.  What is is about black and white movies that make diamonds sparkle more?  I wish there was a better picture of it.  I was mesmerized during this number (Night and Day).

Everything that Mimi wears in this movie (even what her older aunt Hortense wears) is simply stunning.  Her day-to-day fashion was adorable.  Oddly enough, some of the fasions in this film could be applicable today.  Just look at this jumpsuit from the number Knock Knees (sorry that the picture is so small):

Eggbert's socks and sandals are an affront to fashion- but I forgive him since he's the lovable goof in the film.  (You're not off the hook, Dad!)  This jumpsuit, while I wouldn't wear it, is similar to what pop stars are rocking today.  (This is not Rogers, by the way.)


The women in this film were glamorous, the men were dapper, and the interiors were beautiful.  I wanted to take the hotel room Mimi was staying in and make it my living room.  It was fabulous and graphic- I guess it had to be when film was black and white.  The writing and performances were pretty good too.  Unlike The Seven Year Itch, there was only one character I didn't like (Mimi's husband).  In The Seven Year Itch I only liked one character: Monroe's.  But one thing that both of these movies have in common is that they were both adapted from plays.  It sort of goes to show you that there hasn't been an original idea in Hollywood for a loooong time. 

I would highly recommend this movie for someone who is looking for something pleasant and light to watch with a glass of wine after a long day at work, for a musical lover, or for someone who wants to enjoy some serious fashion. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Classic Movie Challenge: The Seven Year Itch

Do you know how hard it is to find an image from the movie The Seven Year Itch without it being a still from the subway scene?  It took me five minutes to find a photo of Marilyn alone that I considered to be halfway decent.  

Marilyn's character (The Girl) considers how dreadful it would be to spend another night in her apartment that doesn't have A/C as she enjoys her Richard's cool apartment.

Since we've all seen the iconic imagery that is Marilyn with her skirt blown up over her knees, I will spare you the redundancy.  :)

The reason I got into watching classic movies was because of the film My Week With Marilyn.  Michelle Williams did an amazing job portraying an actress on the edge and I wanted to know more about Marilyn Monroe.  (As well as other iconic actors and actresses from Hollywood's golden years.)  This movie was the first Mayriln Monroe movie I had ever seen.  I must say, I was taken back by the context of the film.  The story was adapted from a Broadway play in which the men of Manhattan send their wives and children to the countryside during the heat of the summer for an opportunity to misbehave.  I found this to be shocking for a time that is known for the Leave it to Beaver vision of the perfect nuclear family.  Of course people have been behaving badly since the dawn of time, but I didn't know that a movie like this could be made int he 1950s.

It turns out, it was toned down from the Broadway play considerably by the Haze Office that censored Hollywood.  Films like this one would eventually make the Haze Office a thing of the past.  Maybe you haven't seen the movie and you are wondering, "How scandalous could it be?"  Well, I was pretty shocked from start to finish.

Upon dropping off his wife and bratty son at the train station our "protagonist," Richard, immediately begins oogling pretty women.  He vows to be good, unlike some other men who drink, smoke, and get tattooed.  He takes himself to a vegetarian restaurant for dinner where everything is made out of soy and the waitress forgoes a tip and instead asks him to donate to the nudist cause.  She, of course, is not pretty.  Richard goes home and during his narration he makes sure to mention that he likes his neighbors, even the two male interior decorators who live together above him.  He monologues about how he would describe his day to his absent wife, "Oh you know, I shot my boss through the head and then made violent love to my secretary..."  What the hell?!  This guy is a creep.  Ten minutes in and I hated the protagonist.  Not only is he a creep, he is also paranoid to the point of schizophrenia and he is struggling to keep his vices in check.  Clearly, this man has no self discipline.

He is a repressed middle age man, according the the work of a psychologist from the film.  Richard goes on to fake a conversation with his wife about all of the women who have thrown themselves at him.  He tells her that they cannot help it, he arouses something within them.  Sure, I sneered to myself, you arouse disdain.  Pig.  The women he fantasizes about are portrayed as hysteric nymphomaniacs.  He slaps a nurse in one scene and in the next, he pushes his wife's best friend off of him and she welcomes it and tells him that he knows she'd come crawling back for more if he would let her.  Clearly, a man wrote the play.  Where the comedy is in this, I'm not sure.  Richard criticizes the looks of his perfectly beautiful 31 year old wife and within the next few minutes, after a phone call from her, flies into a jealous rage because a male friend has stopped by where she is staying in the country.  I know, I know, Richard is imagining things.  He has an active imagination.  My favorite character with an active imagination is Walter Mitty, at least his daydreams are fun.  And not degrading.  (You should really read the short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty- it is my favorite.)

I was beginning to sincerely regret renting this film and I wondered how it could ever have been as popular as it was.  Then Marilyn Monroe came on screen as the sub-letter of his gay neighbors and I understood why it was popular: you cannot take your eyes off of her.  She was a far more compelling character than her male counterpart.  She's not the most amazing actress, but there was an undeniable magic to her.   She is earnest and fun.  She is a girl who eats potato chips while drinking champagne.  Richard immediately falls head over heels for her and invites her into his apartment to be neighborly.  She agrees and is immediately pleased at her choice because he has costly A/C and the apartment she is sub-letting does not.  He lies about his wife and son and even tries to put the moves on her at the end of the night.  When she refuses, he feels guilty and kicks her out.

The next day at work Richard fears that his wife will catch wind of the indiscretion and he says aloud that he would kill Monroe's character (known only as The Girl) with his bare hands if she blabs.  This is what I mean about schizophrenic.  Add misogynistic to the list.  He disintegrates into ticks and paranoid visions while he fights his amorous desires.  When he finally makes the decision to act on them he gets thwarted.  (This grinds my gears- he doesn't have the chance to fight his urges, fate decides for him, he won't cheat.)  Meanwhile, bless her heart, Monroe remains as likeable as ever.  Sure, she is a bit of a ditz, but she's got heart.  She figures out that Richard has the hots for her and she kisses him on the cheek (and once on the lips- yuck) because she appreciate his kindnesses.  When he laments that he is a wallflower, a nobody, and that his wife would never feel jealous of other women putting the moves on him, she assures him that he is someone special and that girls don't prefer handsome men all of the time.  Most women are looking for men with good hearts.  (Let me just say that she has not seen him at his craziest, but if she had, I think she would have avoided him like the plague.  Then again, she wanted to enjoy his A/C.)  Eventually, thankfully, the movie ends and Richard makes the decision to be with his wife and son on holiday.

Honestly, I didn't like this movie.  I know you are thinking, Gee, I couldn't tell.  But I am glad I watched it anyway.  It gave me a deeper appreciation for Monroe.  I never understood why so many young women idolize her.  I think some do for the wrong reasons, but she was talented behind all of that tragic beauty.  Monroe was falling to pieces behind the set of this film.  The images of her on the subway grate drew a wedge between her and her then husband, Joe DiMaggio.  He was embarrassed and wanted a wife that would stay at home while she wanted to build her career.  Less than ten years later, Monroe, the icon, would meet her untimely death.  I have a couple more of Monroe's films on my Netflix queue: Some Like It Hot, Monkey Business, and Gentleman Prefer Blondes.  I hope I like those more than The Seven Year Itch.  But if this film was any indication, I am sure I will enjoy Monroe's raw star power despite the quality of the stories.

(Coming up soon: Classic Movie Challenge: The Gay Divorcee)


Monday, August 6, 2012

I Remember...

In my writing class our teacher suggests different free-writing prompts.  We are supposed to pause our lesson, do the prompt, post it to the discussion board if we want, and resume the lesson.  Considering I'm usually jamming lessons in at work or between household chores and volunteering, I usually stick to the assignments and not the suggested activities.  I know, bad pupil. 

I try to practice my writing on this blog and though I may write in a conversational tone, I reread each post out loud at least once and try to polish it up a bit before hitting the "publish" button.  Practice makes perfect, but practice doesn't have to be perfect... so I am going to publicly attempt a writing prompt on my blog.  I figure people who know me would appreciate some of these things more than my numerous classmates (over 100) who remain faceless and I only know them by discussion board names like ABC or Trapper

* I am not editing this portion of the post.  I will correct my grammar, even though I'm not supposed to... but I'm not going to change my overall thoughts... here goes nothing. *

I remember when I was in fourth grade and I decided that I would let people other than my family call me Becca.

I remember when my brother wrote me a note telling me he was running away because he was mad at me but that he still loved me.  He slid it under my bedroom door.

I remember when we both convinced our youngest brother that he was invisible.  It took us a long time to convince him that he actually wasn't after that.

I remember when I was convinced that aliens were behind acid rain.

I remember the tree house in my backyard.  I remember how sad I was when that tree had to be taken down.

I remember going to my first concert.  It was John Mayer, but I liked the opening band, Guster more.  I am listening to them right now.

I remember my first dance in 6th grade.  I didn't go to another until 8th grade because I was slightly anti-social even back then.

I remember the first time someone used the nickname Bee for me.  I called that friend Mango.  That was a simpler time.

I remember when my science teacher used to toss us candy for getting questions right. 

I remember having a daily quota that I couldn't go over when answering questions in high school history classes. 

I remember hearing my grandfather sing my name from various corners of the house.  I sang his name from the Empire State Building.  I asked him later if he heard me.

I remember my grandfather dancing in front of the television to get my attention. 

I remember zero-depth entry kiddie pools and frilly swimsuits.

I remember when my dad bought me a Winnie-the-Pooh t-shirt in 5th grade for getting an A+ on my Revolutionary War History Test.  I still have that shirt packed away at my parent's house.  I'll never get rid of it.

I remember that I hated the smell of popcorn for six months after starting to work at the movie theatre.


***

This was harder than I thought- especially since it is supposed to be no more than a five minute exercise.  I didn't write all the "I remembers..." that walked through my head.  I paused to think quite a bit.  Some of these brought tears to my eyes.  I probably should do this more often if I expect to continue creative non-fiction.  It reminds me of my idea of writing an essay about my paternal grandparents and calling it The Adventures of the Cowboy, Geeze Louise, and Lady Jane.  The title is a bit long, but it paints a funny picture. 

For my writing class I decided to work on a fiction fantasy story that I've had in mind.  J has had the pleasure of having the first three chapters read aloud twice now.  I accidentally spoiled the plot twist for him tonight and he was disappointed.  I have other stories in mind and this current one isn't my favorite, but it is the farthest along.  I'm also scared to share what I consider my best idea.  My classmates seem very supportive,  but most are much older than me and I don't think they would understand the point I'm trying to make with that story.

Right now, my biggest hurdle for writing is just making the time to write

Work today was brutal, I am turning in after I finish this post.  My jaw and throat hurt from talking so much.  I told J that I felt like a doll with a string in it's back, "Becca the Secretary! She comes with 20 distinct phrases!"  Unlike other days, I helped the most patient and understanding folks in the world.  Their positive attitude and graciousness make all the difference in a long day.  Instead of feeling weary, I feel like I made a difference- even the tiniest one- in someone's day.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

5 Things: Simple Things that Make Me Smile

I liked doing the 5 Things: Miami post, so I figured I would do some more.  Instead of flooding my blog with 5 Things everyday I decided to make it a bi-weekly post.  I also used to think that if a post didn't have to do with Miami Life specifically (new experience, funny story, good restaurant) then I shouldn't post about it.  Well, I am living in Miami, so I figure writing about my life in general is worthy of blog posting, too!

I also added labels to all of my blog posts.  For example, if you are looking for a particular post where I wrote about food then you can look through the Food Love label.  The other labels I have included are: 5 Things, Books, Crafting, Etsy, Miami Life, Puppy Love, Quelle Horreur (for those funny-because-it-wasn't-happening-to-you stories), Wisconsin, and Work.  It was a interesting to read what I had to say about life in Miami these past two years.  I also noticed my readership went way down after I stopped posting links on my Facebook page.  I've been boycotting Facebook for awhile (I hate the Keeping Up with The Joneses feeling it gives me...) but I have to gone back recently to keep in touch with friends and to be able to share my blog with those who care.  That being said, I really appreciate those of you who do take the time to sort through my jumbled thoughts.  One of the main reasons I write is to try and entertain you.  I hope that you enjoy the silly things I have to share.

***

5 Simple Things that Make Me Smile

My Turtle Collection

I don't know why, but I like turtles.  Maybe it is because they appeal to the minimalist in me?  They can compact themselves and take their homes with them.  Maybe it is because I had a turtle growing up?  His name was Freddy and he lived in my brother's room.  I think some turtles are decidedly cute and others are not.  I've been acquiring cute turtles from friends and family over the years.



The wooden turtle was from a high school friend.  It was probably the single most thoughtful thing he ever gave to me.  The red and green turtle is from my littlest brother.  He brought it back for me when I couldn't go on a family vacation.  The sea turtle is a gift from a friend when she went to Hawaii.  The rubber turtle is a bit banged up, but I love him.  I found him outside of a grocery store the day that I picked up my family from the airport when they came to visit.  I named him Terrance.  The green stone turtle is from J.  He bought it for me when he went to Milan and I stayed in Lyon with the friend who gave me the wooden turtle.  Oddly enough, he went to Milan with the friend who gave me the sea turtle.  The last turtle is a Littlest Pet Shop toy.  I am a sucker for anything cute and I spent a summer searching for this toy in every Target and Wal-Mart in Milwaukee and Madison.  J finally bought it for me online.  :)


My Maneki Neko Collection

It is a small collection, but I love Maneki Neko nontheless.  They represent good luck and prosperity in the Japanese culture.  Shop keepers will often have them in their windows.  I went to a seamstress in Madison on State Street mainly because she had these little guys inviting me in.  She was a good seamstress.  I hope one day to travel to Japan.  I have been dreaming of that for a long time.



I got my first Maneki Neko from The Icing (teeny bopper store) at Brookfield Square.  It was originally a key chain, which I was collecting at the time.  I was drawn to the colors and I thought he would bring me more money so I could buy Gelly Roll pens (another collection).  The second is the gold one from the Morikami Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach.  I love Japanese gardens and I wanted to take my parents there.  They have a really well curated gift shop.  I saw this pudgy guy and fell in love.  The third one is light green and it is from St. Pete's.  J and I were on our way to get Ruby and we stopped in a shop that had all sorts of neat stuff.  I like this one because it reminds me of a fun trip with J and when we got to meet our baby.


Foot Prints on the Fridge

I made this project while I was in the School of Education during the Art/Math semester.  In our class we had to teach lesson plans to our classmates and a couple of girls did a lesson plan about how unique individuals can be.  We were to trace our shoes on paper and then make a collage on one footprint represent to ourselves and another for an important person in our lives.  I did mine about J.  These have been hanging on my fridge since the day that I made them.  They remind me of how different we are, the things I admire about him, and how we are walking through life together.

 You can probably figure out which footprint is for me and which is for J.  Mine has the laughing Buddha, the stuff about cleanliness and simplicity, and my birth month.  J's has food on it (because he does most of the cooking), radar and clouds and sky (to represent his career), IQ (because I think he is smart), a lemur (because he thinks they're funny), and a little piggy (representing me having to crane my neck to look at him).


My Goat Print

My mom has this print, too.  It is called Nap Time.  I don't think of the little goat yawning so much as I think of him bleating.  It made me laugh the first time I saw it.  It was the first picture J and I hung up.  It is odd.  It is funny.  It fits us perfectly.


Like I mentioned, this print is named "Nap Time."  I can't really make out the artist's name... artists should print their names so you can read it and buy more stuff from them, but I digress.  I think it is A. Connor?

My Uglydoll Calendar

My family will tell you that I like the ugly, the kitschy, and the weird.  It's true.  I have often purchased things thinking, "Oh, this funny little stuffed animal needs a home.  Don't worry, I'll take care of you."  I've gotten better at making more thoughtful purchases over the years, but now friends and family have taken to fulfilling my need of the odd things in life.  My dad and I share a love for the Hobby Shop that is in Greenfield, WI.  Aside from hobby supplies it also sells newspapers, magazines, and calendars.  He saw this one and thought of me and the two-sided Uglydoll I proudly brought home from my freshman year of college.  He shares my sense of humor (or I share his) so he immediately understood why I would want such a stuffed animal.  This calendar helps me keep track of the days, but it also reminds me not to take things so seriously.  (And that when all else fails, call Dad because he'll make you laugh.)



***

There you have it!  5 simple things in my life that bring a smile to my face.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Balancing Act

I don't know how I do it, but I manage to keep myself busy!  I always have.  In high school, after a freshman year that was exceedingly dull, I was busy seeing friends and causing a polite ruckus.  I didn't do anything illegal, I just did some things that were silly and stupid (like walking across the waterfall at Whitnall Park and riding in shopping carts).  In college, I just got busier.

Despite having moved cross country with no friends my age down here, I haven't slowed down.  (Well, there was the time I was unemployed and looking for jobs like mad!)  I volunteered last week Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and again tonight and will again on Thursday.  I am taking my writing class and trying to figure out where to go with blogging in the future. 

I realized last night that I have piled a little too much on my plate.  Work is essential, volunteering feeds my soul, my writing class will hopefully help me grow, and I need to have time to work on my hobbies.  All of this plus making time for the husband and the fur babies (now three, soon to be four).  I was getting a little anxious and feeling overwhelmed. 

I dropped my Coursera class because it made sense, but I still feel like a bit of a failure.  I hate quitting.  When I drop a class or bow down from a position I feel like there is a rock in my gut, even if I knew I wasn't going to do my best in the class or even if I absolutely hated the job.  It's my Midwestern work ethic.  I aim to please.  I am my harshest critic.  Anything anyone has ever accused me of is nothing in comparison to the monologue running through my brain.  I'm really bummed about the class because it seemed like it would be interesting, but the minimum 8 hour a week commitment was too much. 

I think I'm struggling with this in particular today because I had a rough couple of days at work.  I've been trying to streamline processes and help students to the best of my abilities because I want to see the department and students succeed, but I am met with resistance nearly every step of the way.  The other thing that sets my teeth on edge is that in my work environment, communication is not merely talking... it's loud and frantic talking.  I am a person who likes to find the underlying problem, brainstorm solutions, and find the best one without raising my voice and while using professional vocabulary.  Even if both parties desire the same end goal, we cannot seem to agree in how to get there despite our best efforts to compromise. 

I approach life as a teacher, even though I am not teaching right now.  I cannot shut off five years of preparation for that career.  I'm aware that people learn and communicate differently.  It's hard to understand one another and meet in the middle.  I also take almost everything personally.  I try very hard to keep things light for the rest of the day when I have had a situation like I did this morning, but in my stomach I still feel that rock weighing me down and I get shaky (literally) and unsure.

I need time to step back from Miami life.  I want to recharge my batteries.  If I had the money and the time off of work I'd be on a plane to a new and exciting location in a heartbeat.  I also need to learn to let things go.  Does this mean I will have to step back from some things?  Yes.  Does this mean that if I don't do 100% on every task at work it will be okay?  Yes.  Does this mean that sometimes people might not be pleased with me?  Probably. 

I am only human.  I can only do so much.  And I wasn't getting college credit for that class anyways. ;)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

New Classic Movie Challenge: Funny Face

I have always loved the movies.  I know people use that line a lot, but my first job was at a movie theatre, so I think it holds a bit more weight.  Unless you are talking to Martin Scorsese.  Then he definitely loves the movies more than me.  In high school I wrote my first ten page essay on how I wanted to be a film director.  I guess you could say that I've always been interested in telling stories in one form or another: through illustration, through song, through writing, and I daydreamed of doing it through film as well.  I filled out postcards and had information for film schools sent to my house during the college search.  I wonder if I had followed my artistic pursuits at a younger age if I would be happier with my career... but that is neither here nor there and I wouldn't trade my college years in Madison for the world.

Given that I love the movies I don't go as often as I would like here in Miami.  In Madison I was spoiled with a Sundance Cinema.  There were only two in the country at the time (now there are six) and I made the most of the student deals on Tuesday nights.  I went so much I even had a card that got stamped for each ticket I bought.  Sundance 608 had the big movies and the little art ones.  It had awesome popcorn and even better ambiance.  Here I am fighting the throngs of teeny boppers and their poorly behaved parents (yes, parents) just to get a ticket- I avoid the concession stand at all costs.  I like feeling like I'm escaping the world when I go to the movies.  In Miami, more often than not, I struggle to keep my attention on the film and not on the people in the audience.

When I moved down here I got myself a Netflix subscription.  It was better back then because I could watch streaming television and older movies while requesting DVDs of newer releases.  I've changed my plan now that Netflix has changed their policies.  I get three DVDs a month.  I watch a lot of newer releases and television shows.  I was watching some British programs like The IT Crowd, and some American ones like The Big Bang Theory.  While I make room in my "queue" for the occasional drama, I spend most of my time with comedy.  I love to laugh.  There is enough drama on the world's stage to keep me glum for a lifetime.

After watching My Week With Marilyn I realized that I have virtually no experience with classic cinema.  I've seen Gone with the Wind (snore), For Whom the Bell Tolls (double snore), The Maltesse Falcon, The African Queen, and Breakfast at Tiffany's.  That's it.   I can't even remember what happened in most of those films.  Considering I've adored Audrey Hepburn and all she stands for since I was in high school, this is appalling.  I decided to load my "queue" up with some of the funnier classics: Auntie Mame, Some Like It Hot, Roman Holiday, The Gay Divorcee, and a few others.

Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face


I started my classic movie marathon with  Funny Face and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.  I've been in musicals in high school, but I'm not a die hard fan of them.  But this one had music by Gershwin in it and I'm sorry, but you cannot go wrong with him, or with Fred Astaire's dancing.  And to me, Audrey Hepburn is gold.  I thought the story was very cute and surprisingly modern.  It asks the question: can you value fashion without being vapid?  Can you enjoy the seemingly frivolous while holding your own philosophies about the important?  Kay Thompson as fashion editor Maggie Prescott was amazing.  She was an older character that displayed as much vitality, and PIZAZZ (her favorite adjective) that the younger Hepburn did.  I was pleased to see such a large role for an older woman.  And she can sing!  I sort of have a bad taste in my mouth for older, female characters (unless played by the goddess Meryl Streep).  It has to do with growing up in a culture that emphasizes youth and with being relegated to "old lady roles" (save for once) in my high school drama career because I had a different body type.  I was forever playing the mother, the brash older broad, or the stern British senior citizen.

While the movie ends on a happy note, it didn't complete like movies of our day with the stereotypical wedding and a baby.  I feel like every story I've read recently, whether it be sci-fi, fantasy, action-adventure, or realistic fiction, ends with the characters getting married and finding out shortly afterwards that there is a baby on the way.  (Or, if the book/film doesn't end like this, there is sure to be a money making sequel...)  This isn't the dream for everyone, including myself, despite the fact I married young.  As a viewer, we get the idea that even if Hepburn and Astaire don't end up together, she's still a tough cookie with a well-educated mind of her own who'll get by just fine.  I like that.  I like Thompson's no-holds barred attitude that doesn't also take a cut-throat approach along with it.  There are no true enemies in this film.  Sure, it's not entirely realistic, but movies don't have to be.  Some of the best movies and books are ones where we suspend our fantasy and enjoy the story for what it is.

At this point in my cinematic life I am going to educate myself with the seemingly simple yet deceptively layered stories that invoke glamor, romance, and slapstick comedy; where the images are not as sharp as high definition, but they are not as flat as some of the movies today.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lifelong Learning

Right now, I am the busiest I have ever been while living in Miami.  It is exciting, slightly overwhelming, and encouraging.  I have challenged myself to write more on this blog, and I have.  I have also been poking around on my Blogspot account to see what my reader statistics are.  Did you know there is someone in Russia who came to my page?  And Sweden and Germany?  Crazy!  I don't know if these are spammers or flukes, but it is still interesting to think about.  I am still a teeny, tiny blog in this vast blogosphere, but I'm trying my best to grow and learn each day.

I've mentioned the writing class that I am taking online and the literature one as well.  I have been keeping up with the writing one, but I have serious work to do for the literature one.  At least J is taking the second with me, so he will keep me motivated.  Tonight I also took a social media class at Fairchild and I came away feeling like I can build my "brand" or internet presence (Etsy, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, blogs, etc...).  I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I think that one day I could get my writing out there on a well-read blog.  Or sell handmade gifts to people across the globe.  I'm not sure what path I'm headed down, but for right now I am going to go with the flow and keep learning as much as I can.

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” ~ Henry Ford

Monday, July 23, 2012

Places I Love in Florida

Originally I was going to blog about this in one of my 5 Things posts, but I am quickly realizing that I have far too many ideas for that and I need to keep working on posts about life in the Sunshine State.  J and I have been trying to explore our new state within our meager budget.  This can be hard to do.  Miami is a great city for the rich and famous.  Every other day I see that some pop star or actress is frolicking on Miami Beach.  If you have the cash to spend there are a lot of shopping, dining, and entertainment options.  You can get a valet anywhere here (even at Bahama Breeze which is a chain like Chili's).  We've had to dig a little deeper to find some of these gems, but they make life in Southern Florida a little better.


Matheson Hammock Park is located right next to the botanical garden where we volunteer.  It is a good find for families on a budget.  For just five dollars per vehicle there is a little atoll (an enclosed lagoon) that is perfect for swimming with wee people.  There are a lot of tiny shells for kids to collect and minnow-ish fish for them to observe.  There are lifeguards on duty during designated times.  There is a restaurant in the park too (The Red Fish Grill- haven't tried it yet).  There also seem to be oppurtunities for various water sports just off of the parking lot.  We take visitors here because they can see out to Key Biscayne and get a great view of the Miami skyline.  The only issue I have with this place is that it is surrounded by mangroves- which can be stinky at times- but they are important to our ecosystem, so I can't rag on them too much.

Me with Key Biscayne in the background, Thanksgiving 2011

Me in front of the Atoll, Thanksgiving 2011


While driving through Coral Gables you will realize it is truly a one-of-a-kind city.  Surrounded by the ugliness that is most of Miami, Coral Gables is a green oasis.  The trees lining the streets are like nothing I've ever seen before.  Banyans, Live Oaks, and Palms make for strange bedfellows, but here they work together in a strange, jungle harmony.  Banyans are positively huge- I daydream about making one into a little cottage.  They have all sorts of nooks and crannies and they provide shade from the oppressive Miami sun.  I grew up admiring the Village of Greendale and I always appreciated the historical significance of that small town.  Coral Gables has an interesting history and if you are in South Florida you have to drive through.  (Check out the Biltmore Hotel, the Venetian Pool, Coral Way, Granada, and the various "themed villages.")

The Southern Gulf Coast of Florida (Naples to St. Pete's is what I've seen) is absolutely beautiful, in my humble opinion.  I know there are better beaches out there, but the beaches of Miami and Fort Lauderdale don't hold a candle to those on the Gulf Coast.  The sand seems softer, there are bigger and prettier shells to collect, and life seems a bit more relaxed (probably because it's vacation central).  I also happen to like being out-and-out there more than I do in Miami.  Many of the people living there have some Midwestern roots, so they're a bit kinder.  We haven't spent too much time on the Gulf Coast, but if we had the time and money for a Florida vacation, I would like to spend it there.  (If we had the time and money for a vacation we wouldn't head to the beach, but if my parameters were Florida, I'd pick the Gulf Coast.)

There are a couple of more places I love to visit: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens (where I volunteer), Wynwood Art District, and Dining at Food Truck Rallies and on South Beach.  Since I've written about them before I figured I'd stick to newer experiences.  If you've missed any of my posts, check out ones with Miami Life and Food Love labels.

Me, Volunteering for the Ramble at FTBG, November 2011 (I made and sold the scarf on the table)

Me and the Littlest Brudder under a Jacaranda Tree at FTBG, April 2011

J in front of a Baobob at FTBG, April 2011

Me at the John Lennon Installation Piece at FTBG, April 2011


Sunday, July 22, 2012

5 Things: Miami

5 Things I Love About Miami
  1. Food from Ms. Cheezious!
  2. Dining, in general.
  3. Comfortable weather from November to March.
  4. I live in an international melting pot (I have co-workers from around the world and the Cuban/Islander culture down here is like nothing I've ever seen before).
  5. I got Ruby! And soon I'll have Lily!

5 Things I Hate About Miami
  1. Anything medical. Ever.  (Getting prescriptions, going to the doctor, having tests done... it is all a pain.  I don't speak the language of the medical field down here.  I have been raging mad about treatment we have received.  The only medical personnel I like down here are the people at the vet's office.)
  2. Driving and traffic.  (And paying tolls.)
  3. Horrible weather from April to October.  
  4. Lack of a Midwestern work ethic.  ("Miami time" is a real thing.  It's delayed from usual time by two weeks.  Nothing gets done fast here.  Nothing is done with a smile either.  You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but it still bugs me.)
  5. Laundry.  (I have never hated doing laundry this much in my life!  I've been doing it since I was in grade school.  I just hate our laundry set up so much.  I have a huge pile of dirty clothes staring me down as I type this.)

5 Things I Learned in Miami
  1. Dance music is a movement and it's not half bad.  (Even if I don't go clubbing.  Oh, and Pitbull is the King of Miami, Flo Rider is the Prince, and Gloria Estefan is the Queen.)
  2. I now get all of the jokes in the Sh*t Miami Girls Say YouTube video.  I think it is funny and scary (I've started doing some of those things).
  3. Speaking of which, I can talk really, really fast with wild hand movements now to demonstrate my excitement or anger over a situation.
  4. People don't know where Milwaukee is.  (I've been told I was from Ohio, Chicago, and the state of Washington.  It would be funny if this wasn't one of the least educated large cities in the U.S.)
  5. I learned how to bead-weave, string pearls, knit, crochet, make mosaics, and develop an Etsy website.  (Not half bad.)
5 Things I Hope for in a New City
  1. A sense of pride in the community, a recycling initiative, a decent farmers market, and city parks.
  2. A beautiful, comfortable, reasonably priced place to call home.
  3. Being admitted to a graduate program for Creative Writing.
  4. The ability to drive forty minutes away from the city to find gorgeous, peaceful scenery and places to explore.
  5. Friends who uplift me and appreciate the same things I do.