Thursday, April 29, 2010

Crazy Heat on DVD!

I had first heard of the movie “Crazy Heart” sometime in the winter when it had first come out and was gaining some recognition. On a random weekend evening I happened to catch Conan, and Jeff Bridges was on to promote the movie. Being the great Bridges fan that I am, I bounced up and down in my seat like a kid at an amusement park. Conan convinced Jeff to sing a part of the song “I Don’t Know” from the movie, and I was in love. The next available opportunity, my husband and I went to the Jane Pickens Theatre here in town to see “Crazy Heart”, and I am still gushing about how wonderful this movie is.

As I mentioned, I absolutely adore Jeff Bridges, from “White Squall”, to “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People” to “The Big Lebowski”, I would pretty much pay to watch him read the back of a cereal box. His performance as Bad Blake, the aging, alcoholic musician was nothing short of phenomenal and moving, and he more than earned his Oscar in my eye. Putting him opposite Maggie Gyllenhaal with a little Robert Duvall thrown in, and it is cinematic bliss. The story is powerful and gritty and will sit with you long after the credits roll. If you didn’t catch this in the theatre, do yourself a favor and rent it tonight, you won’t be sorry.

As if the film could get any better, the music and accompanying soundtrack knocks it out of the park. Between Bridges’ exceptional (and unknown, at least to me!) singing, the use of classic country and western tunes, and the movie’s theme song “The Weary Kind”, I can’t get enough of it. If I had this on vinyl, I surely would have worn it thin by now.

I’ve grown so tired of Hollywood re-making and re-engineering old movies and recycling dull plot lines, and “Crazy Heart” was like a breath of fresh air. Well acted, powerful, at times humorous, and above all a beautiful work of film. I would like to personally thank Jeff Bridges for his outstanding performance, and tell all those up-and-coming actors that this is how the old boys do it, so you better step up your game.

Friday, April 23, 2010

French for Grapefruit?

I recently discovered the unique, quirky and whimiscal stylings of the musical duo Pomplamoose thanks to NPR, and am in love! The duo (not quite a band) of Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn are out of California, and first gained noteriety on YouTube with their "Video Songs", which in a nutshell are their live action music videos- no lipsyncing, not music played over the motions, what you see is what they are actually singing/playing. They are most known for their covers and re-working of both classic and current popular songs with their own indie/jazz flavor. Nataly's voice is very sweet and soft, and the use of just about any instrament to be found is refreshing. After hearing about them on NPR and subsequently checking out their YouTube postings, I ponied up the cash and downloaded their album "Tribute to Famus People" on iTunes (they have never actually pressed a record, their recordings are only available digitally), and I LOVE IT. The covers of "Single Ladies" and "Telephone" are the Converse wearing cousin to the original. Nataly's voice on "Vie en Rose" makes you swoon, with thoughts of springtime in Paris' dancing through your head, and "Makin' Out" is sweet and lovely in it's subtle presentation.
Their take on the music industry and their stripped down approach is refreshing in an era  that has seen music culture pushed to the point of extremism. If you get the chance, visit their MySpace or YouTube pages and give them a shot. It's the perfect soundtrack to warm spring evening and drinks with friends in your backyard.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Small Changes, Big Impact

Happy Earth Day! It’s amazing that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the celebrating of Earth Day, and I thought it would be a perfect topic for a Humble Home post. In this day and age, almost everyone has made some sort of changes to their day to day routines to live a more eco-friendly life, and I think my husband and I have a pretty good “green routine”, and I wanted to share some of the things we do to help eliminate some of our waste, and do our part to protect the environment.

1. Reusable Shopping Bags: This habit actually started with my parents back in high school when Shaw’s started to offer a $0.05 reimbursement for using a reusable bag. At that point, they were selling really well made heavy duty canvas bags in their grocery stores, and ours are still in use today (I've been a bit dissapointed with some of the filmsy bags sold today, not as durable!). My husband and I have a variety of reusable bags- such as the one shown to left from b.happy bags that I purchased on the Reusable Bags website- and I try to keep one in my work bag or car at all times just in case. I also wrote up the Flip & Tumble reusable produce bags over on The Humble Table, and have been really pleased with their durability and also keep those tucked in my car for quick sprints to the market.

2. Travel Mugs & Water Bottles: I think this is probably the most popular eco-friendly option, as almost everyone I know uses a travel mug for their coffee in the morning. Somehow, we have ended up with a plethora of travel mugs at our house, but I find they’re great to offer guests if you’re going out for a walk in the morning or a trip around town. There’s usually at least one rolling around in my car, and after a trip out to sea, Kyle usually comes home with 3-4 that have put in good hours up on the bridge. I was a huge fan of Nalgene bottles in college, and still have most of them (I checked to make sure that they were the BPA free models), and I also have a Kleen Kanteen metal bottle that I use most days to take to the office. They’re super durable, and the 27oz. model holds enough water that you’re not running to fill it all the time.

3. Reusable Food Containers & Cloth Napkins: Almost every home probably has a couple of reusable food containers (Tupperware and whatnot) in their cabinets, so this is a bit of a no brainer. Additionally, many households probably have implemented washable cloth napkins into their dining routine as well. This is a habit that is standard in our house, as both my husband and I grew up in homes where paper table settings weren’t really used. Beyond just your table though, tucking a cloth napkin into your work bag is an easy step for when you’re eating in your office. It’s easy to reach for a paper towel or napkin when eating at work, but if you make a habit of keeping a cloth napkin at your desk, you can cut down on a lot of wasted paper products. The same goes for your kitchen towels- instead of using paper towels to clean and dry dishes and the like, keep a stack of good quality, absorbent kitchen towels on hand to cut down on waste. And if you can’t quite break the habit of using a paper towel for some tasks, switch to a towel made of recycled materials, such as Small Steps or Seventh Generation.

4. French Press Coffee Makers: This might sound a bit strange, but think about how many pots of coffee you make in a year, and how many paper filters that get thrown away. On top of that, if you’re using an electric coffee maker, it probably stays plugged in most of the time, and is left on the “warm” setting all morning, which is a slow drain on electricity. I adore our stainless steel insulated French Press from Thermos- it has a 34oz capacity (great for a house with two coffee lovers), is vacuum insulated to keep coffee hot, and since it’s stainless steel, it’s pretty indestructible, unlike it’s glass sibling. Granted, the glass version is lovely to look at, but I think we went through two of these before we realized we need a bit more rugged of a model. To be quite honest, I think French Pressed coffee tastes best too! As an added bonus, used coffee ground are great when used as mulch for flower beds, cutting down even further on what goes in your garbage.

5. Switching to Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products: Whether is going with a company like Seventh Generation, Field’s Organics, or even making your own cleaners at home, changing up this routine can make a big difference. I recently invested in a set of fabric softener balls, which soften clothes, are reusable for 100s of washes, and don’t contain any harsh chemicals and I’m really impressed with their softening capability when tossed in a load. If you’re making your own cleaners at home (there are plenty of websites out there that provide you with instructions- Care2  is a great resource for a lot of green ideas), you can make them in reusable bottles, cutting down on your waste even further.

So there you have it- a couple of simple ideas for making changes to support a healthy environment. Now, on your next sunny Saturday, you can take a walk to your local Farmer’s Market with your travel mug of French pressed coffee and reusable bags in hand and pick up some locally produced treats knowing that you’ve made changes to help protect the environment for the future. Well done!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Little Patch of Earth

Last spring in Maine, I came down with a major case of the gardening bug. Kyle and I had just relocated from Annapolis to my father’s house for the summer while Kyle was in officer training, and I found myself with a fair amount of spare time on my hands. The house has a beautiful 3-tierd stone garden in the backyard, and I had visions of tomatoes, herbs, sugar snap peas, eggplants, peppers and anything else I could sow flourishing in the space. When the weather began to warm, I went to the local greenhouse and stocked up on seedling trays, seeds, stakes, and planters, ready to make my mark on the land. I spent weeks tending to delicate seedlings, repotting and replanting as I went along, and soon enough it was time for the big transfer. Everything looked perfect as my father and I took to the earth over the course of weekend, setting my little guys into the earth. There was a solid week where all I could dream about was fresh produce. We kept a watchful eye on watering and the soil, and the plants began to grow, showing signs of flowers and the fruits to come. And then it happened. One of the wettest summers in Maine. Almost everything in the garden succumbed to root rot from oversaturation, sans a few peppers, the peas and the herbs. Sadly, nothing more could be done on our parts, and I savored what few yellow tomatoes I could scare up like they were manna.

This year I was determined to take matters into my own hands and outsmart the elements. This may also have a lot to do with the fact that we live in a third floor walkup with no outdoor living space. Thus, the birth of my wonderful new container garden. Bearing in mind the heartbreak of the year before, I vowed to make this a success, and enlisted the help of container gardening experts McGee & Stucky and their book “Bountiful Container: Create Container Gardens of Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Edible Flowers”- it is the bible of container gardening, as far as I am concerned, and I have become a happy student of their theology.

Following their advice, I started small and simple- an array of hearty herbs, a pot of sugar snap peas, arugula for salad greens, two heirloom cherry tomatoes, and two yellow tomatoes. I planted seeds using Scott’s Miracle Grow Organic Choice and placed the pots on a long board over our radiator in good sunlight. It didn’t take long for things to take off. Last week I successfully transplanted all of my herbs into larger pots, and am getting ready to do the same with the tomatoes and peas. It’s been wonderful to have fresh herbs for cooking (we recently used the parsley and arugula in homemade fresh sausage- amazing!), and it is rewarding knowing that you were able to coax these plants from seeds yourself- it may even make them taste better. It’s been great for the cat as well, as he’s now enjoying his third pot of cat grass, and spying on the birds outside through his makeshift jungle.

Through creating this container garden it’s reaffirmed to me that no matter what your living situation, be it the middle floor of a high rise or a small patch of land in the county, there is always room for a little garden, and there is nothing like the pride of enjoying something you created with your own hands.

Come On In...

I have been working on my food/recipe blog now for a couple of months and have found it to be a really rewarding experience. I love the idea of writing about the food that I love to create and the memories wrapped up in each dish, and I figured why not get a little deeper into my life? Although it’s true that food and cooking are probably my top pursuit, there is much more in my life that I want to catalogue and preserve, and hopefully share with others. So as with The Humble Table, I’m using my new platform, The Humble Home to not only record the happenings in my life, but share stories and ideas contributed by others. I’m also striking out with the goal of simplifying life, using my cooking philosophy of simplicity to better my lifestyle in general, and taking time to appreciate all that I have and the things that are coming my way. Make no mistake, I am no perfectionist or Zen master, there is certainly a fair share of disarray and chaos in my life, to say the least! However, perhaps through working through things on “paper” I can gain a better sense of myself as a person, and incorporate others experiences into enjoying a less complex life. And with that being said, away we go…!