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Showing posts with the label arts&creation

Pockets of Joy

As we enter the second year of the pandemic, we should all agree on two things (besides the science of hygiene and vaccination, obviously): that this situation is truly awful, and that it has never been more important to cultivate little pockets of joy in our lives anywhere we can. The light at the end of the tunnel is dim and seems to keep moving, sometimes closer, sometimes farther away. Even the rollout of vaccines is being undermined by new virus variants that are riding the waves of spring fever to whip Michigan up into the country's hottest of hot spots for rising infections. Herd immunity feels like a pipe dream around here, especially because almost half the population still says they will refuse to get a vaccine. And children won't have a vaccine this year at all, so families with children won't be able to socialize safely with other families (without masks and social distancing) before the end of this year at least. My daughter already knows that she'll probab

Budget Bride IX: Dance Floor Management

Budget brides , if you don't have a DJ in your family willing to work the dance party for free, you can automate the flow by carefully setting up the two dimensions of dance floor management: physical space and musical time. For ideas on how to set up a space with optimal traffic flow, see these four tips by Rescue Flats . For tips on timing the beats, read on! Dance Floor Management Automate your dancing-and-shenanigans playlist if you find yourself without professional DJ services. We used my laptop computer, hooked up to a cheap rented set of gigantic speakers and a funky light show. Our playlist began with sentimental first dances and then moved through progressive stages that we set up in advance--but were still able to modify on the spot as needed. Our silly garter toss happened in the middle, after most of the older folks and all the little kids had gone home, and it marked a transition to the louder, drunker phase of the night. We found that it's good to put some o

Good Lighting Is Happiness

If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams, and you will always look lovely. – Roald Dahl In the photo above, Gretchen MurderMittens also demonstrates that if you have murderous thoughts, they will slice out of your face like claws, and you will always look fierce, even while loafing in the soft glow of fairy lights within a pastel child's bedroom. Mood affects our perception of light--we appear to glow from within when we are happy, and the world looks brighter to us when we are energized--and mood and physical lighting both affect beauty, and beauty and lighting affect our moods . All these factors swirl together synergistically. We feel better when we are surrounded by beauty and when we feel beautiful ourselves, and we and our surroundings look more beautiful in good lighting. I kept all of this in mind when I helped my preteen daughter choose a new paint color for her bedroom last year: Oleander by Sherwin-Williams with a matte finish. It's

Budget Bride VIII: Let the Good Times All Roll Out

My favorite kind of wedding is a joyful wedding. Who cares how pretty the pictures are if the day wasn't any fun? Perfectionism is a big old party pooper. Don't invite it. Instead, minimize fuss and maximize fun. Design your day so that the tasks requiring order and focus (such as formal portraits) come first and aren't too complicated, and build lots of flex time into the schedule so that the unexpected can be handled gracefully and everyone has time to actually enjoy being there, in each other's company. Put some laughs and silly surprises into the reception to signal to your guests when it's time to loosen belts and ties, kick off high heels, and hike up those bustles. You want to create a mood transition between the reverent ceremony and the raging celebration. My wedding day began with elegant, well-rehearsed precision accompanied by live cello and ended with unexpected combinations of people making out in an elevator to gay dance music. That's #goals! If y

Own Your Sads and Your Glads

All human beings have complex emotions, especially in complicated times. At this moment, we all have things we are sad about and things we are glad about. Every emotion tells us something true--but not everything that is true. There is healing and wisdom to be found in embracing our emotional complexity exactly as it is, not dramatizing, romanticizing, or wallowing in our mood swings and also not repressing ourselves. We don't have to feel guilty about our positive feelings when bad things happen, and we don't have to feel guilty about our negative feelings just because somebody else in the world has it worse.  Instead, we can practice gratitude for all the lessons our feelings teach us about what we need to do and how to make it happen. This peak pandemic winter (with the spring just weeks away), I am learning how to pay better attention to the full spectrum of my emotional responses to life so that I can accept the truths they bring me and the tools they provide me to care fo

Budget Bride VII: The Magic Words

The words of a marriage ceremony describe what is happening ("Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today...") and how it's going to work (the vows). My husband and I, like most Europeans and an increasing number of Americans, had two marriage ceremonies, a legal process at the county courthouse and then a spiritual/social wedding celebration. We got the contractual issues buttoned up at our legal ceremony, so we felt free to be more creative on our big wedding day. Instead of repeating our courthouse vows or writing additional vows, we decided to express why we had already committed the rest of our lives to each other. We used English-translated passages by Spanish poet Pablo Neruda to illustrate the story of our relationship leading up to the celebration of our union in the springtime of the year and of our life together. The Magic Words Love is free. So is expressing it in words. All brides, regardless of budget , can bring beauty, personality, and meaning to a wedd

International and Time "Traveling" on the Silver Screen

As the pandemic marches on, one of my favorite ways to escape the feeling of cabin fever safely (and without spending any money!) is to "travel" to different countries and time periods through the magic of historical and international films. I use my library card to access the Hoopla streaming service, which is similar to the Kanopy service offered by some other library branches. Check with your local library about free film streaming services you can access, and then sign in on your laptop, smart TV, Roku, Fire stick, or outdoor projector if you live someplace warm!  If you find that your appetite for international films surpasses what these free services can satiate, here is a list of the 10 best streaming services for international content .  I live in Michigan, which is currently in a beautiful polar vortex, so I fit my movie watching time into the early morning hours before dawn (seriously, one of my favorite ways to wake up, with a hot cup of coffee) and after dusk. Ado

Budget Bride V: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Potlucks are a classic loaves-and-fishes trick to feeding lots of people on a budget, though buffet-style meals are, for sad reasons, quickly going out of fashion in the 2020s. Cue the food trucks! Food trucks can be a great alternative to a buffet because they're mobile, they can serve personally customized meals on-demand, and they come at a variety of price points. "Healthy" food doesn't just mean fiber and vegetables or avoiding fat and sugar. (What fun is that at a wedding anyway?) "Healthy" can also refer to safety from contamination. Plagues and food poisoning can really poop on a party, so I'd err on the side of hot, made-fresh, even fried foods. It's a special occasion, after all!  Heavily spiced foods also lend safety in feeding large numbers of people due to the antimicrobial properties of many herbs and spices. Complex, bold dishes can offer a balance of special-night flair, comfort, safety, nutrition, and price. Check out your local Lati

It's BEAN a Long Time

The days are lengthening, and hope is returning to humankind! I feel like starting something new--something that will complement the slow, gradual fade-out of the pandemic rather than put me and my family at premature risk. Instead of making travel plans or even party plans beyond distant daydreams, I'm confidently moving ahead on plans to grow a new and improved vegetable garden this spring. I'll use compost and wisdom that I've collected over the past 15 years on the ol' homestead, and I'll re-start my veggie garden using a mix of tried-and-true and new techniques. Over the years, I've learned which edible plants grow best on my suburban Michigan property: beans, peas, corn, cabbage, onions, garlic, sunflowers, potatoes, tomatoes. This year, I'll continue tending to my fruit and nut trees and only plant a few seasonal veggies that I can trust to thrive--unless a fun opportunity comes along, like when someone gives me a plant as a gift or my daughter brings

The Book List of Champions

I don't always read nonfiction by male authors. But when I do... I read self-help comedy by true champions. After a decade in which I enjoyed reading stacks of great fiction by mostly women and also gulped down a sickening load of nonfiction texts by authors of assorted genders for social justice education and historical research purposes, I made a fresh literary start in the 2020s with three comedic "self-help" books that are hilarious, yet legitimately inspiring. I've always said that a spoonful of humor helps the knowledge darts go down (or something to that effect), and these three quarantine reads helped me to sort out a lot of thoughts and feelings. They also caused me and my husband to choke a few times when we tried to read passages out loud to each other. I haven't had this much fun with words since Amy Sedaris taught me how to keep house. For whatever reason, the books that resonated most with me over the past year have all been written by men. I have gr

Budget Bride II: Dress for a Mess

Something marked down, something askew, something old, something like-new--anything but a pretentious designer outfit you'll only wear once, with a four-figure price tag! Since my own wedding at age 24, I've attended many weddings of friends and family and seen many different styles of wedding dress--formal, casual, homemade, upcycled, discounted, and haute couture. At all of those different weddings, I have only ever heard family and friends of the bride throw shade on one gown--a very expensive, custom-made, imported piece of couture with a whole fussy and dramatic backstory. There was nothing objectionable about the dress per se, but the rumors of how much money, time, and effort it required sort of elicited snark and disgust among the practical Midwestern guests. Ouch!  I don't recommend that anyone choose their wedding attire primarily to avoid criticism or to people-please the whole guest list. Your big-day drag should celebrate you and your partner, and it should ref