Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Strong Female Role Model? Splendid!

I have a girl crush on the late Nora Ephron.  Admittedly this crush came about somewhat recently, but that does not diminish its intensity.  I had watched many movies Ms. Ephron had a hand in well before I knew who or how important she was.

The eldest of four daughters in a family full of writers, Nora began her career as a journalist at the New York Post.  In 1976 she married journalist Carl Bernstein who is well-known for two things.  First, he was one of the journalists who broke the Watergate scandal in the 1970s.  Second, he had a well-publicized extramarital affair with British politician, Margaret Jay, while he was married to Ephron.  Nora used her divorce as the material for her 1983 book Heartburn.  The book was turned into a film starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson in 1986.  Ephron and Streep worked together on numerous projects over the years, and of Streep's role in Heartburn, Ephron famously noted "I highly recommend having Meryl Streep play you.  If your husband is cheating on you with a carhop, get Meryl to play you.  You will feel much better."  I think it took a lot of courage to turn her personal misfortune into a book and film.  It allowed her to take something terrible in her life and turn it into something wonderful.

Ephron continued writing books and screenplays throughout the rest of her life, but there are a few specific ones that will always hold a special place in American pop culture history.  In 1989 she wrote and co-produced When Harry Met Sally.  The partnership between Ephron and director Rob Reiner created one of the most memorable and beloved romantic comedies ever made.  This also marked the first time Ephron worked with America's Sweetheart of the 1990's - Meg Ryan.  Ryan went on to star in two more of Ephron's biggest films, Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail.  Working consistently throughout the 1990s and the early part of the 21st century, Ephron's last film was 2009's Julie & Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.

While her legacy may be mostly rooted in American film and literature, that's not the basis of my girl crush on Nora Ephron.  As a graduate of Wellesley College, she was invited back to her alma mater to give the commencement address to the class of 1996.  You can find a copy of the address on the Wellesley College website.  In my opinion, it is magnificent.  If I ever have daughters, I will read this to them.  It is a reminder of how far women have come in the last 50 years and also a reminder of how far we still have to go.  Despite the fact that this speech was delivered 17 years ago, so much of it still resonates with me, a (relatively) young woman trying to make my way in the world.

There is one specific line in the commencement speech that speaks to me above the others. Looking out on the graduating class of 1996, Nora Ephron said to the women of Weselley College, "Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim."  I like that line so much that I decided I wanted to hang it on my wall.  I made an extremely simple design of it in four different colors.  This way I can hang whichever best matches my mood!

I want to pass this sentiment along to every woman in the world.  It's a reminder that you should be the protagonist of your own life story.  In the spirit of sharing this reminder, you can download the image as a jpeg or pdf here.  The image is designed to print on 11x17 paper.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

Custom made shirt design? Splendid!

So I was recently watching a YouTube video that featured Ingrid Nilson (Missglamorazzi) wearing a shirt sporting The Cure's song title, "Friday I'm in love."  I have been thinking about the shirt for a couple weeks now, so I decided to make one for myself the other day.

I used the freezer paper stencil method I first learned from Dana's Made blog.  Basically, I found a font I liked and printed out the words.  Then I taped the printout onto freezer paper and cut the letters out using an Xacto knife.  Cutting the letters was the most difficult part, but only because it takes precision.  After cutting the letters out, I positioned the stencils on a t-shirt I got at Old Navy and ironed them down.  The freezer paper has a thin plastic coating that acts as a light adhesive when ironed to the shirt.  It's what keeps the paint from seeping through the paper stencil.

After inserting a piece of cardboard into the shirt to keep the paint from leaking through to the back, I started painting with Jacquard Textile Color in 107 Ruby Red. I applied two coats of paint, and I think that gave me a great amount of color without drying too thick.

I let the paint dry overnight, after which I removed the freezer paper.  You certainly don't have to let it dry that long, so check the label on your paint.  Honestly, I just got side tracked with a visit to an ice cream shop and a few episodes of Doctor Who with my roommate.  Waiting to set the design doesn't hurt anything.  To set the paint, I put a towel over the design and ran a hot iron over it for 30-60 seconds. 

The finished product!
I'm trying to decide if I want to add a heart or leave it without.  I like the font I used (Handwriting - Dakota bold), but next time I do something like this, I'll probably use a fatter font.  I can definitely say I'm very happy with how it turned out.

This is the third time I've tried this technique, and it's so simple that I just keep coming up with more and more ideas for personalized apparel.  What do you think I should make next?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wedding Guest Suggestions? Splendid!

I'm at a point in my life where I go to a lot of weddings.  A lot.  In fact, by my estimation, my boyfriend and I have been to nearly 30 weddings in the last five years.  I think a lot of this can be attributed to the fact that he's three years older than me, and we met in the trumpet section of the Marching Illini.  (The trumpet section is usually 60-70 people, and at least one of us was in the section from 2000-2007.)  Basically, we had a huge circle of friends in college who love to celebrate.

Having attended so many nuptial ceremonies and the parties that follow, I feel like I've become somewhat of an expert on being a wedding guest.  With wedding season right around the corner, here the top 5 things I've learned:

1. RSVP - Make sure you send in your RSVP card promptly.  I admit that I may have been late in responding, or close to it, on a couple of occasions.  Sometimes it's unavoidable.  It's important to remember that the bride and groom are planning a very big event, and delaying your response does nothing to make the planning easier.  Also, pay attention to how the invitation is addressed.  If the invitation is not addressed to Your Name and Guest (generic or specific), then do not RSVP for a plus-one.  The easiest way for a bride and groom to keep the cost of the wedding down is to keep the number of guests down, and often they do that by only inviting couples in serious relationships.  If you're not invited with a guest, don't take it personally.  Just be honored that the couple wants you to share their special day.

2. Prezzies - One year we were invited to twelve weddings.  TWELVE.  Needless to say, I am now incredibly well acquainted with the Target Club Wedd registry and the Bed Bath & Beyond registry.  I know it takes some of the surprise out of gift giving to buy a gift of the registry, but it's the polite thing to do.  It's easiest to buy early when the price range is still broad.  And don't be afraid to buy whatever the couple has registered for - bath towels are not fun, but they are important.  The couple wouldn't have registered for them if they weren't needed.  Also, consider trying to save yourself the time and trouble of wrapping and carting the present to the reception.  By buying gifts online through a registry, you can have the gift sent directly to the couple.

This was on the registry! I swear!

3. Dress Appropriately - If it's a morning wedding with a brunch/lunch reception, full length formal dresses are probably not necessary.  Likewise, if it's an evening ceremony with a 5 course plated meal to follow, a sundress isn't really appropriate.  Take your cues from the wedding invitation.   Often the wedding description will include a line about how fancy the wedding will be.  If you're confused about the language used, check out this list.  Wearing black to a wedding used to be considered a bad omen, but these days, an appropriate tasteful LBD is totally acceptable at most weddings.  Unless you have been specifically asked by the bride, women should absolutely avoid wearing white - that's just tacky.  Guys can almost never go wrong with a suit and tie.

4. Reception Etiquette - Party on, but do it responsibly.  Many weddings feature an open bar (thank you!), and the couple certainly wants you to enjoy the party, but don't be "that guy".  Photos from the night should serve as happy memories not a way to piece together what went down.  Also, if you take a glass or bottle onto the dance floor, be careful not to drop it.  Anyone who has ever gone to a dance or reception with women in attendance knows that we rarely all keep our shoes on for the whole night.  At one wedding we attended last year, three different people shattered glass on the dance floor.  Not exactly awesome for the barefoot dancers. 

5. Favors/Centerpieces - I've seen a lot of different favors at weddings ranging from personalized chocolates to handmade coasters.  No matter what the favors are, the bride and groom spent a lot of time, money, and energy putting them together as a way to express their gratitude for your presence on their big day.  Please don't leave them behind.  On the other hand, if the bride (or an agent of the bride - mother, maid of honor, etc.) hasn't given you permission to take a table's centerpiece, don't do it.  It's fairly common for family members of the couple to be given the centerpieces at the end of the reception.

Other things to keep in mind:
-Thank the bride and groom and their families for inviting you.
-Don't criticize the ceremony or reception in front of the couple.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Pick-Me-Up Playlist? Splendid!

Quotes about the beauty and meaning of music run rampant throughout my Facebook and Twitter feeds.  It's not the least bit surprising, considering I've been surrounding myself with musicians for decades (yes, plural, mostly) now.  The quotes are true though, music does have healing powers - there's a profession dedicated to healing through music!  (Shoutout to my music therapist SAI sisters!)

I think most people have an album or a playlist they listen to when they need to add some spring to their step.  Here are the Top 10 songs on my Pick-Me-Up Playlist right now.

10. Dead in the Mornin' by Bleu

This is kind of an odd choice, I'll admit.  The lyrics literally talk about all the things the singer is giving away and/or won't have to do anymore because he'll be dead in the morning.  The thing that speaks to me, though, is that in addition to leaving tangible possessions to his survivors, he is also leaving intangibles - like sing alongs and a lust for life.  Also, the ending has a gospel feel that I really dig.

9. September by Earth Wind and Fire

This song is my jam!  There is no bad day this song can't help.  The chorus is literally half gibberish, so it's no big deal to forget the lyrics, because you can just sing the sounds you hear!  Ba de ya, baby!  I also love that the first line asks "Do you remember/the 21st night of September?" because my dad and his twin were born on September 21st.

8. (If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To by Weezer

The entire Raditude album gets a lot of play in my iTunes, but this song is the standout.  The title itself is empowering to me.  It reminds me that if I want something, I need to go after it.  Perseverance is also a theme as the couple in the lyrics progresses through a relationship.  It's got a "it may not always be easy, but it will be worth it" vibe going on.  

7. Change Your Mind by Sister Hazel

I wasn't a huge Sister Hazel fan when they hit the scene, but like most kids my age, I at least loved their hits.  I kind of rediscovered this song in the last year during a time when I needed an attitude adjustment.  I was unhappy with how my life was going, and I realized that the only one who could really make a difference was me.  Any song with a lyric "have you ever danced in the rain or thanked the rain just for shining over the sea?" has got to be uplifting.

6. One Week by Barenaked Ladies

The lyrics to this song aren't particularly uplifting - especially the choruses.  A song about a fight in a relationship doesn't typically get me pumped.  That being said, I cannot sing this song without smiling.  It may be a self-inflicted challenge, but the challenge to sing all the words during Ed's sections gets me excited every single time.  I didn't own the album Stunt, and I remember when I was in 8th grade (that's right, ladies and gents, that song is 15 years old!) listening to the radio at night, hoping the song would come on so I could record it on my tape deck and learn the lyrics.  When I eventually downloaded it (completely legally, and definitely not using Napster on my parents' dial-up internet), I was so irritated that people mistakenly labeled the song "Chickety China" because this was clearly a very important song that everyone should treat with respect!

5. It Gets Better by Fun.

Since it hasn't been released as a single, this song isn't as widely known as Fun.'s song "Carry On", but it sends a similar message.  Sometimes I need to be beaten over the head with a theme for it to really stick - it gets better.  When life feels like it's crashing down around you, remember - it gets better.

4. Do It Anyway by Ben Folds Five

I'm not sure if I heard this song before I saw the video or vice versa, but the two are cemented together in my mind.  The reunion of Ben Folds Five created a frenetic musical energy that just emanates from the group.  I also think it's mandatory for anyone who was alive in the 80's to love this video on a very basic level strictly because of the Fraggles.  There are two themes to the lyrics that speak to me.  First is the obvious "do what makes you happy" theme.  Second is assurance that although there are lists of things you never thought you would say or like, changing your mind about them is okay.  Also, I just really love that the video was produced by the folks at Nerdist Industries.

3. Dog Days Are Over by Florence + The Machine

I'll admit that the first time I heard this song was on Glee.  It was kind of a throw-away song stuck at the end of an episode, and it had no bearing on the plot of the episode at all.  The song has one hell of an ear worm though, as I found myself singing it repeatedly even though I didn't know most of the lyrics.  The lyrics aren't particularly uplifting, but you could find worse mantras than "the dog days are over/the dog days are gone."

2.  Magic by B.o.B. featuring Rivers Cuomo

I don't listen to a lot of hip hop, but I have loved this song since I first heard it in 2010.  I'm sure it doesn't hurt that Weezer front man Rivers Cuomo is featured on the track.  This song gets me so pumped that when I know I'll need a little extra push to get out of bed in the morning, I set my alarm to be this song.  It guarantees that I will not go anywhere near the snooze button.  Much like with "One Week," knowing all the lyrics makes me prouder of myself than should be allowed.

1. This Year by The Mountain Goats

Awhile back I wrote a post about John Green's book, The Fault In Our Stars.  I talked about how I watched the video from An Evening of Awesome which lead me to read the book.  The Mountain Goats were part of An Evening of Awesome, and they performed "This Year" at the end of the event.  There's something about this song that hits me right at my core.  It could be that I discovered the song at a transitory time in my life, but it doesn't change the effect it has on me.  I find the chorus so poetic: "I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me."  It's such a contradiction, but it still makes me hopeful.  I've probably listened to this song more than two hundred times in the last 3 months.  It's not really a positive song, but it gives me the pick-me-up that I need.

Listening to music is a very important part of my life, and I make playlists for just about everything - or at least every trip that will last more than an hour.  These aren't necessarily the songs I would listen to while getting ready for a night out on the town.  That's not the kind of pick-me-up I mean.  These are the songs that pick me up off the floor, dust me off, and help me keep moving forward.  This is also a list of only 10 tracks - there are so many more that I could list!

I want to know what would be on your Pick-Me-Up Playlist.  What's your go-to track to lift your own spirits?