Blue & Purple

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Last weekend, Andrew and I bought tickets to see a play at the Apollo Theatre.  We had never been there before and I saw that the play “Love in Idleness” was offering discounted tickets.  Later I found out that Anthony Head (Rupert Giles to all you Buffy fans) was in the starring role and I became starstruck!

I’ve been asked to borrow a chair by Vin Diesel and sat in the same rollercoaster carriage as Nicolas Cage, but I have never felt so giddy.  If you’re really confused as to why, just start with season one of Buffy and work your way up.

Anyway, this is the ceiling of the Apollo theatre.  It is a cover-up for the fact that the ceiling caved in last year during a heavy rain while a show was going on.  I thought this was so pretty and reminded me of a winter night in Minnesota, but horribly out of place with statues of the sun god all around.

The play was mediocre, but we still had such a fun night out on the town.  If you haven’t been to a play in a while, why not make a night of it!?

 

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Books of the Year

It was the year of reading for me.  I don’t think I have read so much since I was younger and read a Nancy Drew Mystery every week!  This year was a mix of book group choices, Booker Prize Finalists, and classics; trash that I’ll be donating straight to Oxfam and treasures that will be prominently displayed on my bookshelf.  With the long commute and the short, dark days, what a perfect time to reflect on the books of the year.   I have given each book and rating out of 10 and a brief description.

book10

This saga of life in post-war Naples was fascinating and addictive.  I tried to pace myself and savour each of the books by taking breaks in between, but I always ended up just reading them one right after the other. 8/10

book1

 

Many men’s lives are followed for a brief point in time and throughout different stages of the lifecycle.  Prep school boys on their first trip to Europe.  A rich yacht owner who is suicidal.  A guy cheating on his wife.  Who cares?  I sure didn’t.  In fact, I cared so little that I read almost about 30 pages until the end and gave up.  That close to the end and I gave up, because I really didn’t care.  2/10

 

 

book2One of the funniest, satirical, and poignant novels I have ever read.  I was laughing out loud and also taking a long, hard look at myself and our society.  One of the reviews on the back said, “You get smarter as you read this.”  I totally concur.    I attempted to read all of the Booker Prize finalists this year before the award was announced.  I was crossing my fingers for this guy, and he won.  First American to win ever and totally deserved.  9/10

 

 

 

 

book3

 

A mother and daughter go to the South of Spain in order to seek out specialized treatment for the mother’s psychosomatic health problems.  I loved every minute of this in-depth look at a unique and twisted relationship, especially the surprise at the end!  8/10

 

 

 

book4

This novel is revolting, disgusting, foul, and hilarious.  I would sometimes start gagging while reading it on the way to work.  Good thing I had an empty stomach.  I would also exclaim and twist up my face in the presence of strangers on the tube.  I have to say this was some of the best writing I have read in the last five years just judging by the physical reactions I had to Eileen.  She’s the character of the Booker Prize List this year and I would recommend to anyone who likes very dark humor.  This was one of our book group reads and most people hated it.  8/10

book5

I still don’t know if this book is based on a true story or not.  It is presented as one man’s attempt to research his ancestry in Scotland only to find that one of his relatives murdered some people (can’t say who so as not to spoil it) and then got sentenced to death.  Whether or not it is real, it is such a creative idea from the way it’s written to the order of events and the tone.  Another Booker Prize Finalist well deserved.

 

 

book6

 

 

Have you ever read Jane Eyre?  I don’t think it’s what you think it is.  9/10

 

 

 

book7

I thought I wasn’t going to be able to understand Tess, but actually, everything in it is relevant today.  Maybe it’s me, but I felt like it was really random.  Life would be going on very easy and then something really horrible would happen with no build up.  7/10

 

 

 

book8

Was intrigued to read this book group pick translated from Turkish.  I got really confused and nothing really happened.  Unfortunately I quit about 20 pages from the end.  Oops.  5/10

 

 

 

 

book9

This is complete trash.  It’s sexist, racist, and egotistical.  It’s not well written  This was also a book group read.  One of our members wrote ten pages on why this is the worst book ever written.  Unfortunately I was on a plane finishing this very book while the discussion was happening and missed one of the most controversial topics of the year.  I can understand why it became a bestseller, but I can’t figure out for the life of me why it won any awards.  3/10

 

book11

It has been almost a year since I read this in February and I think I’m still trying to make up my mind about this book.  Kate Atkinson can sure write a good story and with this prequel to Life After Life she goes above and beyond.  I think I’m just personally tired of reading about Britain in wartime.  But honestly, this is a great novel, as is Life After Life.  No need to read them together though, it’s just better if you do.  6/10

 

 

book12

A fun spy novel.  By fun I mean the typical misogyny, hard to follow and remember plot lines, and a real sense of gratitude to not have grown up in communist Russia.  5/10

 

 

book13

I did it.  I read it.  Just like half the population.  As I was reading it I was thinking, “geez,  they don’t need to write the movie script, they can just copy and paste from the book.”  Then I went and saw the movie and thought it was really good.  i also have to say I thought this book was good too.  It’s trash, but kind of complex and real in the sense of the theme and the heroine’s struggles.  6/10

 

 

book14

I love stories about cults.  My favorite is Man Crazy by Joyce Carol Oates, but this one comes in close second.  Really interesting easy read.

7/10

 

 

 

book15

Bill Bryson can be so mean.  There’s a whole chapter in here where he publicly humiliates a McDonald’s employee who did nothing wrong.  That said, I learned a lot about how Britain has changed since his days writing this and it did make me love it here even more.  5/10

 

 

 

book16

 

Every once in a while when I’m walking by the charity bookshop I will stop in and buy a book.  I always look for Agatha Christie.  They have these really fun mass paperbacks from the 70s that we don’t have in the US.   I found this one over the summer and read it in my nifty IKEA lounge chair on the back porch in one afternoon.  This is a really good one and it also happens to be an excellent episode of Poirot.  7/10

 

 

book17

Go ahead, judge it by the cover.  Another book group pick, but I have to say I really enjoyed reading this bizarre tale of a woman whose husband is being investigated for… (can’t say or it will spoil it.)  Fun trash.  But then if I think about it, it’s really messed up to this reading this is fun.  5/10

 

 

 

book18

 

I’m in the process of reading Middlemarch, one of the longest novels written in English.  I love it.  However, I needed a bit of a break over Thanksgiving and happened to pick up this little gem about a French Canadian detective in the small town of Three Pines trying to solve a murder.  And guess what?  It takes place on Thanksgiving.  (Probably Canadian Thanksgiving, but whatever.)  6/10

 

book19

Sequel to the above but it takes place on Christmas.  Features satirical commentary on health and wellness movements, three old ladies who live together and bicker all day, and curling.  What more do you need in a good murder mystery? 5/10

 

 

 

book20

Fab book of short stories.  Creepy, funny, and weird.  Highly recommend!  8/10

 

 

 

ruby

One of the best books I’ve read all year.  The descriptions, the characters, and the relevance of the novel are reasons to go buy and read if you get the chance.  9/10

Blue: ATP world finals and public shaming

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It has finally happened: I’ve made it to a tennis tournament.  We’re sitting in the 3rd to last row and I need glasses desperately, but we’re here all the same!

Attending a tennis tournament at the o2 centre is like going to an NBA game: there are fancy lights, popcorn for sale in the stands, deep-voiced and dramatic announcers, and cheesy sound effects.  The only difference?  The crowd.  Tennis crowds appear civilized on the surface, but when the time comes, they’re out for blood.

If a spectator produces even one decibel of sound or a small amount of illumination many players will refuse to serve, looking to Chair Umpire for support while the camera man hones in on the perpetrator, projecting the image on the big screen and thereby subjecting the poor fellow to public humiliation.  I mean, this crowd will hold back when it’s time to cheer for 40-Love, but when there’s an opportunity to publicly shame someone, they will let loose!

I used to think that the perpetrator (who shall hereby be referred to as “camera guy”) should know better.  I would assume the worst and conclude that camera guy deserves it.  But I realized at the last match a whole range of circumstances that could explain the “rude” behavior of camera guy.

  1.  It could be the person’s first match.  In fact, seeing the look on the guy’s face as the camera zoomed in on him…I think it might have been.  He was shocked and confused about what was happening.
  2. The person may not speak or read English well. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve made mistakes in foreign countries because I couldn’t read the signage or understand the person talking to me.
  3. They really just want that social media photo.  So even if 1 and 2 aren’t true, who cares?  Public shaming doesn’t work to change people’s behavior, it just breeds anger and hate.

This culture of public shaming is out of control, the most famous case being Justine Sacco.  Do you really think that “camera guy” is going to leave the match thinking, “I’ll never do that again.  Gee, I’m sure glad I see the error of my ways?”  Just like a child put in time out in the corner is not thinking about how to do better time, but instead bubbling up with anger and shame, so is camera guy.  Who knows what he’ll do next?  Lash out and someone who cuts him off?  Yell at an unsuspecting waiter?  Hate breeds hate, and booing at someone who just came to watch a tennis match is hateful.

It’s no better than a bunch of kids clapping loudly at a classmate who dropped his lunch tray in the middle of the cafeteria instead of offering to help him pick it up.  Grow up tennis fans.  I’m going to try and do the same.  The last thing we need are more bullies in this world right now.  Take it from Roger,

🌈 Steph

 

 

 

Follow the Yellow Staircase

Yellow Staircase

The famous yellow staircase is a fixture of the Southbank Centre and of the entire south waterfront in London.  Over the years, I find myself here time and time again whether it’s to see a photography exhibit, to see Andrew play, or to use their free public bathrooms.

Yesterday, I took a group of five middle school girls to see a play here.  Due to some disorganisation beyond our control and poor timing, we were actually about four hours early for the play.  At first, it seemed like this was going to be a hardship, however, the girls were immediately drawn into the various activities and stalls that the centre had to offer.  We were able to walk around the amazing food market where I ate Sri Lankan street food known as Kothu Roti, which is also yellow in colour.

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I’ve got to learn how to make this.  After the food, it was time for a little workshop on the United Nation’s Right of the Child.  I learned there are a lot of them, and they’re written in a child-friendly way on light yellow paper.

It’s good for kids to see how they have the right to be treated.  Appropriately after that workshop we went to see a play called Layla’s Room.  This is a three-person play written as a single story but is actually an amalgamation of hundreds of girls’ stories from across the UK.  The play is narrated by a young girl who was sexually harassed and assaulted in her school while she deals with her peers, the administration, and parental reactions.  The girls enjoyed it and found it to be relevant to their world.  I can’t wait to talk about it more when we get back to school.

🌈 Steph

 

Bus Stop Rainbow

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Every day I check my phone between 4:15 and 5:00 at this bus stop.  Some people might think it’s weird that it’s the only time that I check my phone every day.  I think I let the texts and the e-mails pile up for 24 hours because I really like having something to look forward to on this last leg of my journey home.  Today I had a long e-mail from an old friend, a text from Andrew saying he had a good flight, and one of my favorite blogs had an update.  What’s more, I looked up and saw this gorgeous, vibrant rainbow.  And then, I got home, and there was a rainbow in my backyard.  What a great day.

🌈 Steph

 

Green Georgia

I just got back from the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit for the second time.  I thought that this picture of Jimson Weed on the left looked just like a flower in my yard!  It’s not the same, but it’s close! Pretty soon it will be getting dark early and I won’t be able to see my backyard until the weekends.

This exhibit was one of the best I have ever seen.  The audio guide is fantastic and has all of her own commentary from an interview she did in the 80s.  My favorite quote of hers was :

“I’ve been terrified every single moment of my life but I have never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

She actually had a ton of really, what seemed to be, contrary and stubborn statements.  She basically wanted to make her exhibition so “vulgar” so that no one would ever talk to her about her art again or ask her anymore questions.

Did I mention this painting above sold for $44 million?

🌈  Steph

Yellow Trousers Found!

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Today was a good day.  It’s not even over yet.  I decided to venture into the wonderful world of Muswell Hill charity shops.  Everyone says they’re the best in London, but living here, I feel like there is never anything for me.  Well, now, I totally recommend them because I set out to find a white blouse, but I found two!  Then I spotted these trousers.  They looked too nice for the charity shop so I tried them on and they fit perfectly.  They were £9.99.  When I got home and looked them up, they’re retailing for €135!  Score!  They’re kinda funky, but I’ve been wanting to try something different anyway.

When we were in Croatia, we learned about these two types of winds:  The Bora and the Jugo.  The Jugo winds make people grumpy and depressed.  The Bora wind is more violent and therefore gets rid of all the bad energy.  I swear that yesterday in London we had the equivalent of the Jugo.  It was one of those days when everything went wrong.  But today, everything is going right, starting with these new trousers!

🌈 Steph

Muswell Hill has over 10 charity shops in short walking distance from the main roundabout.  Check out this blog post about it:  Charity Shop Tourism

 

 

Rainbow Tartans

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I had the coolest day today.  First off, I opened up my inbox and found this picture from my friend Bambi.  This is from her backyard.  Yes, she has a church in her backyard and it always looks this glorious.

Then, I walked into my colleague’s office, and he was wearing this tie:

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Then, I spent the whole lunch talking about rainbows.  It was magical.  So, if some of you remember, I posted a picture of a double rainbow the other day.  If you go back and look carefully at that picture, you’ll see something really crazy:  each rainbow is a mirror image of the other!!!!!!!!  Let me explain in case you can’t see it.  A rainbow is ROYGBIV.  However, in a double rainbow situation it’s ROYGBIV VIBGYOR, not ROYGBIV ROYGBIV.  Fabulous!  It’s probably obvious to many of you out there, but I never knew!

Now back to this tartan business.  I was so excited to see the combination of a tartan and a rainbow, I asked my colleague if I could take a picture of the tie.  After searching on the internet for about ten minutes, I finally found the history of this rainbow tie:

First woven in 1775, this tartan is believed to be an ‘apprentice piece’. The pattern is complex and would have shown the skills of the young hand weaver. This is probably the first time since its creation in 1775 that the tartan has been commercially manufactured. 

But, when you search for rainbow tartan, you get more information than you bargained for.  I was pleased to see these two designs:

The one on the left is a design created in 2000 as a symbol for the gay community.  Apparently it was quite controversial among the old dudes who probably induct the tartans into official tartanhood, but it seems to have made it’s way onto the official tartan registry.

The tartan on the right is simply designed to remind us that everyone deserves to be treated with love and respect.  Seriously, read it here! Maybe the tartan on the right reminded the Tartan Guys that the tartan on the left should be validated.

When you start looking for rainbows, you find them everywhere!  Thanks for the pictures,

Love,

Steph

Shoe-be-do

photo (1)When I woke up this morning I was in a quite a social mood so I texted my friend only to find out she was at Selfridges buying shoes.  I went to meet her there and found this unexpected rainbow of flip flops on the wall.  It’s probably been about two years since I’ve been in Selfridges.  Since my friend has just moved to London, this is her first time in the famous department store.  It reminded me of the first time I went there two years ago…

First, I needed a new pari of Nike’s and Andrew needed a pair of dress shoes.  He needed those shoes because he had a job interview the next day and I needed running shows because I had left my old, worn-out ones at the Goodwill in Portland.  Two years later my Nike’s are going strong and Andrew’s shoes need to be resoled, but so much has happened in between.

When we first got here, we got sucked into the traveling mentality fueled by the ex-pat community.  For example, instead of asking “What are you doing on Thanksgiving Break?” I’m asked “Where are you going on Thanksgiving break?”  it’s this weird rush to go to as many places as possible to take advantage of being in Europe.  Back home, we were lucky to take one vacation a year, and we were really lucky if that vacation was together.  But, here it’s just assumed that people will travel on holiday.

While I love traveling and seeing different places, Andrew and I have been in the mindset of traveling nearby recently.  We have some really exciting trips coming up, but they’re all by car and train and within two hours of London.  We’re really excited to share those with you, as well as some of our trips from last year that we have yet to write about.

In the meantime we’re enjoying spending time with friends.  LIke to today summiting Primrose Hill in the sun:

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Or last weekend, going to the Fun Dog Show to watch “My Dog’s Got Talent” and the “Golden Retriever Society” with our friends:

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And, I’m happy to say that my blog has inspired one of my dearest friend to have a little bit of fun doing the laundry, even with no dryer, and even if she is cleaning diapers:

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And here’s a double rainbow from earlier in the week:

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Love,

Steph

Rainbow Roundup Sunday

Three Rainbow sightings!  One from the bus window passing by Selfridges.  And two of them looking out my very own window.  I realized that our apartment in London faces the same exact direction as our Portland home.  This makes sky watching really amazing because with afternoon rain showers in the summer, you get amazing views of rainbows out the front windows.  Also, the moon rises from 6:30pm beginning at first quarter moon and gradually every night becoming more and more central until the grand finale of the full moon rising right in front of our flat every 28 days.

Which brings me to a few recommendations:

When I worked in Minnesota I always knew what phase the moon was in and where it was going to be, but living in the city where not only is it cloudy but you’re living amongst tall buildings, it’s more difficult to know.  I’ve been reading The Way of the Happy Woman which has re-inspired me to know where the moon is and what it’s up to.  It’s essential for my health and connection to the natural world.

I’ve been using this app to keep track (the only app that I use besides citymapper)

Luna Solaria

But I would love to get this watch, instead!  How neat is that???

The glass hanging in my really dirty window is from my dear friend, Bambi.  A few weeks ago I went to her house and I saw it in her window and I was immediately drawn to it.  She begins to tell me how she was in Glastonbury and she saw it in a shop and bought it for me.  But she loved it so much.  She confessed, “I bought it for you, but I kept it for myself.”  We laughed about it, and then, on the first day back at work last week, she brought me a package and inside was the glass rainbow.  She had ordered another one!  Thanks, Bambi!  i’m so glad we both have these.  They remind her of the chakras and I look at it every morning when I’m doing yoga.  See the glass hanging here.

I’m having a hard time thinking of a way to link up the Selfridge’s window.  Hmmm…I’ve got it!  For those of you who don’t know, Selfridge’s is a fancy British department store.  There’s even a show about it.  A period drama.  What else is a period drama?  Downton Abbey.  Who played the BAFTA Awards (equivalent of the American Oscars) Downton Abbey Special two weeks ago?  It was Andrew!  He shared a green room with the stars of the show and had a fabulous time.  Oh no!  Just as I finished writing all of this, I realized that’s not at all a picture from Selfridge’s!  I have no clue where I took that…oh well.

There you have it: Deep friendships, connection to the Earth, and British period dramas.  It’s all one needs.

Love,

Steph