Wendy’s Word

Not your mama’s blog….

Laptop Lunches January 31, 2009

Filed under: Food — wendy @ 10:21 pm

I hate packing lunches, so I was happy to discover the website http://www.laptoplunches.com/, which gives many ideas (with photos) for packing nutritious lunches.  They even have a monthly newsletter.  Of course, the main point of the website is to sell their lunchboxes, which is a bento-box style lunchbox.  Being a sucker for nice containers, I bought two.

I have been committed to packing waste-free lunches for years.  Everything goes in a reusable container, which I have in many shapes and sizes.  I manage to squeeze a lot of those little containers in my kids’ lunchboxes.  So I really had no need for a new lunchbox.  However, the laptop lunchbox makes packing lunches so much more fun.  The lunchbox is a hard plastic outer container with with inner containers of a few sizes what fit within.  The plastic is phthalate, BPA, and lead free.  The company was founded by two mothers from Santa Cruz, for goodness sake!

There are many things I like about the lunchboxes.  They are attractive.  My daughter’s comes in whimsical colors (yes, that’s how the colors are described on the website), and mine is black with red inner containers.  (My other daughter, being very practical, refused to get one, calling them Craptop Lunches. I hate to say, but the moniker has stuck.) Since the containers fit together like a bento box, there is no wasted space.    They come with silverware, so that’s one fewer thing to remember.  (Yes, my daughters have been unable to eat something in their lunch for lack of a utensil!)   The best part is that I don’t have to search for multiple containers in varying sizes for three different lunchboxes.  They are also easy to clean. 

The downside is that the containers are not large, so while it’s good for portion control, you might not get as much food as you could put in a ziploc bag.  Another negative is that the boxes don’t fit into all lunchboxes.  Although they are self contained, it’s good to put the laptop lunchbox into a soft lunchbox to keep it insulated, for ease of carrying, and to allow you to throw in other items such as a napkin or water bottle.  Luckily, the boxes fit into my daughter’s L.L. Bean lunchbox and into my Gap lunchbox.  However, it didn’t fit into my other daughter’s L.L. Bean lunchbox.   Good thing she didn’t want one!

Verdict? Probably an unnecessary expense if you already have reusable containers, but makes packing lunch easier and more fun, and actually got me to pack my own lunch a few times a week, which I never used to do.

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DylanRadio, aka Tangled Up In Bob

Filed under: Music — wendy @ 9:21 pm

Is it possible to listen to Bob Dylan for hours on end?  It is.  On many evenings or Fridays when few people are in the office, you can find me listening to DylanRadio on my computer while working.  DylanRadio plays, obviously, all Bob Dylan, yet there is variety in the offering.  They play rare tracks, live tracks, collaborations with other singers such as Johnny Cash, and covers.  There is also a great show called Theme Time Radio Hour, hosted by Bob Dylan, which focuses on a theme.  One recent show I heard focused on dogs (there are a surprisingly lot of songs about dogs!) and another one focused on the devil.  Songs on the Theme Time Radio Hour span many musical genres. 

There are also links to other Bob Dylan-related websites.  One great one is called How to Listen to Dylan  http://howtolistentodylan.com/, which instructs the non-Dylan fan on how to listen to Dylan starting with the most accessible songs and leading up to the more obscure. 

Give a listen at http://www.dylanradio.com/.

 

In Memorium – John Updike

Filed under: Books — wendy @ 8:16 pm

I was shocked and saddened to hear of John Updike’s death on January 27, 2009.  I recently read Widows of Eastwick, and I never heard anything about his having lung cancer in any of the media surrounding the novel’s release.  I love John Updike, although I’ve only read the four Rabbit books, the two Eastwick books, and short stories.  When I was in graduate school, I tried to start an exercise regime, and my reward for riding the exercise bike was reading John Updike short stories while I rode.  It was so enjoyable taking time out from graduate studies to sneak in some pleasure reading and get some exercise in the process.  Unfortunately, when I finished the short story collection, my exercise regime also ended.

I am going to massacre this quote (and a better blogger would look it up), but in John Updike’s autobiography, he offers himself as a specimen of a unique individual that serves as a stand-in for every other unique individual out there.  Sorry to make this concept sound trite, but Updike says it much better.  Anyway, that’s how I feel about Harry Angstrom (Rabbit).  He is at once distinctly himself and an everyman.  Even people who are very different from Rabbit (e.g. different gender, social class) can relate to him.  I disagree with the people who say that Updike is misogynistic and does not portray strong female characters.  I think Rabbit is a character with universal appeal, whether he’s male or female.

John Updike is one of those writers that I would look forward to reading when he published a new novel or short story.  Although I will miss looking forward to the next novel, I’m glad that there are plenty of books that I haven’t yet read and plan to do some catch-up.  Not too quickly though, so I can savor Updike’s writing for a long time to come.

 

Tea at Huntington Gardens January 23, 2009

Filed under: Food — wendy @ 7:40 pm

Today I had the lovely experience of having tea at Huntington Gardens with three of my friends and co-workers.  The rainy day, with clouds nestled in the mountains (which you could actually see, unlike the many Los Angeles days where smog obscures the mountains) added to the cozy atmosphere of the tea room. 

After we were seated, a waitress brought us a basket of delicious scones and described the house tea, which was a black tea with a berry flavor.  The waitress was quite enthusiastic when informing us that the tea was fully caffeinated.  I guess we looked like we needed it!  We ended up with a pot of the house tea and a pot of an orange herbal tea for the non-caffeine drinker in our group.  Although the berry tea was good, we later agreed that we should have had her describe all the available teas before we chose.  (more…)

 

Coverville, by Brian Ibbott January 18, 2009

Filed under: Music — wendy @ 12:17 am

I have always loved cover versions of songs, so discovering Coverville was a dream come true for me.  Coverville is a podcast devoted entirely to cover songs.  The shows, which are 30-40 minutes long and are broadcast (can you say “broadcast” for a podcast?) about twice a week, are either cover stories that focus on one artist or band, or request shows.  The cover stories include other artists covering the subject of the cover story and one or two songs where the subject artist covers someone else.  Some artists’ songs are made to be covered — for example Bob Dylan covers are often better than the originals, while covers of other bands (for example, the Beatles) are often disappointing.  I have been surprised at what shows I’ve enjoyed and which I haven’t.  I’m not a huge Elton John fan, but the Elton John cover show was great.  I also loved the ACDC cover show. (Believe it or not, Leslie Gore of “It’s My Party and I Cry If I Want To” fame does one of the songs, and it’s good!) On the flip side, I love the Velvet Underground but didn’t like the cover show at all.  The request shows have some great cuts, and include a funny music trivia segment at the end that the host, Brian Ibbott, does with his wife Tina.

In addition to cover shows that focus on an artist, some shows focus on a theme, such as a genre, a part of the world, or a current event such as election day.  I loved the Folsom Prison show, which covered the songs that Johnny Cash sang at the Folsom Prison concert, and which was podcast around the anniversary of that concert.  A few times a year, the show is called Originalville, and plays the originals of songs that are famous for their covers.  Cissy Houston’s original recording of Midnight Train to Georgia or Dee Dee Warwick’s original of You’re No Good are must-hears.  In the run-up to New Year’s, Coverville plays a countdown of the most popular covers, as voted on by listeners.  I’m behind on my episodes so I haven’t heard this year’s yet, but last year’s was fun.

If you like covers or just want to hear something different, check out Coverville at http://www.coverville.com.

 

Webcams January 4, 2009

Filed under: OeMmaG!! — eclaireintherain @ 7:15 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

If anyone is in a market for a new computer, one of the factors that you should consider is whether it has a webcam or not. A webcam, or as they call it on a mac, an isight, is easy to tell if it’s on a computer. Open the computer and above the screen you will see a little black square or circle. That is it, and when you turn it on on a mac, green lights will show up on the side of it. I think you can also buy webcams and attach them to the computer, but a built in one is better. Now that you know what it is, why should you get one? Using a screenname such as gmail or aim (http://www.aim.com or http://www.gmail.com and then find the sign up button) you can chat with other people who have a screen name. You will see a live video of them and they will see a live video of you. Instead of words appearing on the screen, you will see them talking to you. This is handy with people you hardly ever see or people that you need to show something to. For example, yesterday i did a video chat with my bubbie and zady who live in arizona!  I never see them, but since i got my new mac laptop, now I can see their faces and talk to them whenever I want, and they can see their granddaughter growing up without having to travel all the way to LA. It’s awesome!! It’s better than a phone call and you have to pay for phone calls, while this is free. GO WEBCAMS! 8D

 

The Widows of Eastwick, by John Updike January 1, 2009

Filed under: Books — wendy @ 10:37 pm

The Widows of Eastwick is the sequel to The Witches of Eastwick, which I probably would have liked better if I hadn’t seen the movie first.  The Witches of Eastwick is about three women living in the small Rhode Island town of Eastwick who meet Darryl Van Horne and discover they have magical powers.  Although it’s fun for awhile, things eventually get out of hand.  The Widows of Eastwick takes place years later, when the three women, who have gone their separate ways, decide to reunite in Eastwick for a summer. 

The Witches of Eastwick was made into a movie with Susan Sarandon, Cher, and Michelle Pfieffer playing the witches and Jack Nicholson playing Darryl Van Horne.  The acting is wonderful, Jack Nicholson is so funny, and the whole movie has a sense of fun.  When I read the book years later, I found it to be subdued and even slightly boring in comparison.  However, I suspect that had I read the book first, I would have appreciated the fine writing and the human scale of the story and might have found the movie to be over-the-top. 

I am neutral on The Widows of Eastwick.  On the positive side, it was well-written, as is everything by John Updike.  Although the main characters are witches, they are very human, and the story is really about growing older, losing beauty and sex appeal, losing a spouse, and the strength of friendship.  The widows go back to Eastwick in part to see whether they can redress a past wrong, but the stronger motivation is to recapture a part of themselves that they see slipping away with age.

On the negative side, I don’t really like the widows very much.  It’s hard for me to get past the fact that they don’t like their kids.  I can’t help but think that a woman writer would have never portrayed women who dislike their kids so much.  I have read many books where parents have difficult relationships with their kids (e.g. Updike’s Rabbit books, Richard Ford’s books), but such nuance is not expressed by these women.  The book would have been stronger and more believable if the women expressed their ambivalence about balancing love for their children with the desire to express their own power and independence (which they do by practicing witchcraft).  Aside from the unsympathetic nature of the main characters, the story itself is not compelling.  I felt I could have put it down at any point and not be disappointed at not finishing the book.

All in all, I wouldn’t put the Eastwick books on my “must read” list, but I wouldn’t recommend against them either.  Updike is just too good a writer.  If you are looking to read Updike though, I highly recommend the Rabbit series (four books about an everyday man named Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom).