Saturday, November 29, 2008

Seems to be a problem with the clutch

Day one goal: Buy Christmas gifts for others, not for self.

Instead I bought this clutch/wristlet for a fun jeans outfit.

Day two goal: Buy self a nice warm hat.

Instead I bought this clutch to potentially match my Christmas party dress and also for a fun jeans outfit.

I have two regrets. One - pumping money into the Irish economy instead of the American one. Need to work on that online shopping. Two - when I come back to the suburbs, I will once again turn to Banana Republic sweater sets and repress the fashionista in me that wants to run wild. Am I ever again going to wear the cowboy-style boots I bought in Northern Ireland?

I have become the paparazzi

Today, on my journeys through Dublin, specifically at Eason bookstore, I officially became a member of the paparazzi. I walked in, unable to resist this large bookstore in the middle of O'Connell street, one of the widest streets in Europe. Inside it was madness -- people crowding and jostling and holding their digital cameras at the ready. I asked an employee if there was a book signing. Yes. Who is coming? Sarah Ferguson. As in the Duchess of York? The original Fergie?? I joined the crowd and got the Canon Rebel out of my bag.

She was fashionably late. I randomly took a picture of the bookshelf on my right.

This is what it looked like when Sarah Ferguson was rushed through the crowd to her seat.

This is the best shot out of ten horrible shots. Photojournalism at its best.

I did not feel like braving the crowd further to get a signed copy, but the book was called Tea for Ruby.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


by Stephenie Mayer

To see what all of the hype is about and of course to be in style, I picked up the first book of the Twilight saga and read it over the course of two days. It is a book about typical teenage girl woes. Does he like me? Does he not like me? Oh wait, he's a VAMPIRE. I definitely found myself lost in the story. Especially in passages such as these:

"About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him -- and I didn't know how potent that part might be -- that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him."


"I don't want to be a monster."

For much of the book I felt like I was eating cheese balls. But actually they were Cheetos. A delicious guilty pleasure.

4 out of 5


Monday, November 24, 2008

Ran over to the bakery for 20 minutes of free internet

Last night I finished re-reading Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl. I bought this commemorative copy in the Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam:

Something new I learned from the book and the museum: there were several versions of the diary. Version A is the diary Anne originally started writing. While listening to the radio, she heard that the Dutch government encouraged people to save their letters and diaries to have a record of people's wartime experiences after the war. Anne started re-writing bits of Version A and adding notes in the margins. This became Version B. When her father published the diary, it was a combination of Versions A and B, with certain passages excluded, for example parts where Anne talked bluntly about her sexuality -- Version C.

For a change of pace, today I walked into my favorite book shop and purchased the first book of the Twilight series. To make my humiliation more complete, when I couldn't find the book and had to ask the cashier to check if it was in stock, she directed me to the "Teens" section. I can already tell that it's going to be great.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth
by Ken Follett

Pillars is an epic-sized historical novel that centers around the building of a cathedral in England in the twelfth century. I was thoroughly engaged in the beginning of the book. Quite soon however, reading the story resembled watching a tennis match and watching the ball go from one side of the court to the other and back again. Constant pushing and pulling. Defeats followed by victories followed by defeats again. The story is also peppered with some violent and graphic rape and war scenes that I suppose are meant to enhance the feeling that these are the medieval ages. Times when people would have to walk for days through the forrest to get to the next village, wearing wooden clogs on the feet for shoes, and having to be on constant alert for fear of an attack from an outlaw. If you enjoy historical fiction AND are willing to commit to more than a thousand pages of book, I would recommend this read.

4 out of 5

{Frauenkirche, Munich}

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A year of books...well, ten and a half months of books

Today I pored over Amazon's Best Books of 2008 lists. This activity was both enjoyable and highly stressful, as my TO-READ list has grown to such gargantuan proportions that I am likely break out into hives the next time I look at it. The book that seems to be the most popular at the moment in the blogging community is 2666 by Roberto Bolano. It's everywhere! The novel was published posthumously in Spanish in 2004, and the English translation came out last week. It's on my list...somewhere.

What was your best book of 2008? I am picking The Forger's Spell -- it certainly transformed my appreciation for Vermeer into an obsession this year.

Billy & Chopin, Elliot & Frédéric

I was not terribly fond of the scathing review in the Wall Street Journal of the Billy Elliot musical, which opened in New York last week. Karl Marx in a tutu?? Say what?? I saw the show in London, maybe three years ago, and hardly remember the show turning into "sequin-spangled feel-good socialist kitsch". However, I am biased because the movie is one of my all-time favorites. There's family drama, the overcoming of obstacles, and a boy who just wants to DANCE. (The NYT review is friendlier.)

I was terribly fond of the WSJ article about Chopin and his 27 Études. However, I am biased because Chopin and I are thick as thieves.

This particular piece is probably ingrained in my mind forever. Pour yourself a nice glass of pinot noir before you hit play.

Sviatoslav Richter plays Chopin Scherzo no. 2 Op. 31


Monday, November 17, 2008

Matrioshka Couture

In celebration of Vogue Russia's ten-year anniversary, several designers were called upon to design outfits for the Russian Matrioshka. Here are three of my favorites:


Ralph Lauren

Yves Saint Laurent

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Listening to Billie Holiday and seeing everything in black and white

One of the many things that make Amsterdam my new all-time favorite city is all of the fantastic art from the Dutch Golden Age. This is a poster of Vermeer's "The Milkmaid" on the wall of the Rijksmuseum.

Christmas lights are up all over the city. The streets are beautiful.

Candy cane street corner.

Perfectly autumn.

Let's ride by the canal.

Candy cane street.

Nationaal Monument and lion, commemorating Dutch WWII casualties.

I AMsterdam, a mini photo-journal

For more favorite Amsterdam photos, click here.

Using my blog to catalog Vermeers, because I am perfectly comfortable with my nerdiness

Vermeers already viewed:
1. The Milkmaid
.....(The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
2. The Glass of Wine
.....(Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)
3. View of Delft
.....(The Mauritshuis, The Hague)
4. Woman in Blue Reading a Letter
.....(The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
5. Woman Holding a Balance
.....(The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.)
6. Woman with a Pearl Necklace
.....(Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)
7. A Lady Writing
.....(The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.)
8. Girl with a Red Hat
.....(The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.)
9. Girl with a Flute
.....(The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.)
10. The Girl with a Pearl Earring
.....(The Mauritshuis, The Hague)
11. The Love Letter
.....(The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
12. Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid
.....(National Gallery, Dublin)
13. A Maid Asleep
.....(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
14. Officer and Laughing Girl
.....(The Frick Collection, New York)
15. Girl Interrupted in Her Music
.....(The Frick Collection, New York)
16. Woman with a Lute
.....(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
17. Study of a Young Woman
.....(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
18. Mistress and Maid
.....(The Frick Collection, New York)
19. Allegory of Faith
.....(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

Vermeers for future viewing:
1. Diana and Her Companions
.....(Mauritshuis, The Hague)
2. Christ in the House of Martha and Mary
.....(National Gallery, Edinburgh)
3. The Procuress
.....(Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden)
4. A Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window
.....(Gemäldegalerie, Dresden)
5. The Little Street
.....(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
6. The Girl with a Glass of Wine
.....(Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Brunswick)
7. The Music Lesson
.....(The Royal Collection, The Windsor Castle)
8. Young Woman with a Water Pitcher
.....(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
9. The Concert
.....(Isabella Gardner Museum, Boston)
10. The Art of Painting
.....(Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)
11. The Astronomer
.....(The Louvre, Paris)
12. The Geographer
.....(Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main)
13. The Lacemaker
.....(The Louvre, Paris)
14. The Guitarplayer
15. A Lady Standing at a Virginal
.....(National Gallery, London)
16. A Lady Seated at a Virginal
.....(National Gallery, London)
17. A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals
.....(Private collection, New York)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Omnivore's Dilemma

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan

This book was an eye-opener for me. The point of this book is not to get you to stop eating meat. The point of this book is to get you to start thinking about where that meat is coming from. My take-aways from the read were:

The U.S. has a surplus of corn, which is subsidized by the government.

This corn is fed to cows, who are naturally not predisposed to eating corn because they are ruminants that should be eating grass.

Feeding corn to cows makes the cows grow bigger and fatter more quickly.

Feeding corn to cows also takes care of and perpetuates the surplus corn problem.

The cows' digestive systems quickly fail trying to process the corn diet if they are not given antibiotics.

These antibiotics end up in our food.

In addition to corn, the cows get supplements that include protein, which in some instances includes/included cow remains from slaughter houses.

Mad cow disease.

Since the cows are not eating grass, the nutrients in the meat change, and the meat becomes less healthy for humans.

Cows in the U.S. are mainly raised on CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations).

CAFOs are large-scale, industrial operations that take the cows off of farms and allow farmers to focus on growing a monoculture of corn.

Cows are more likely to get sick when living in confined quarters on a CAFO.

More antibiotics.

Lots of science behind the hazards of farming monocultures.

Surplus of corn.

Farmers have to use artificial fertilizers as they have no cows on their monoculture farms to naturally fertilize the pastures.

Instead of using solar energy to produce food (grass photosynthesizes sun, grass grows, cow eats grass, cow fertilizes grass) we are using excessive amounts of oil and other fossil fuels in our food production, among other things, for acquiring and using artificial fertilizer and removing toxic cow manure from CAFO's.

Many other interesting points. Read the book!

Pollan splits the story into three parts, or three different food chains -- the corn or industrial food chain, the grass or pastoral food chain, and the forest or "personal" food chain. My favorite was the middle section, which describes a self-sustaining farm in Virginia called Polyface, where most of the manual labor is performed by the animals and the grass and the intellectual labor is performed by Joel Salatin, the farmer. Pollan spent a week on the farm learning about its operations and participating in all of its aspects, from rotating the cows to different parts of the pasture to slaughtering chickens. His descriptions make it sound like a farm utopia. The circle of life in all of its glory. I was very excited to learn from Polyface's website that the farm distributes some of its meat and dairy products to a couple of local places in Arlington, Willow Restaurant in Ballston and The Liberty Tavern in Clarendon. I have been to both of these establishments but definitely foresee going there more often, especially to find out what they buy from Polyface and what they do with it.

Finally, while Kingsolver made me want to make my own cheese, Pollan has inspired me to go hunting for mushrooms. It's more of a European and Russian pastime than an American one, and I actually remember, back in the day, my parents driving out to some woods in Pennsylvania, or was it West Virginia, and hunting for mushrooms. I think I would like to do that again.

The book did not inspire me to go hunting for wild California pig, although I commend Pollan for that undertaking.

5 out of 5

Irish cow picture #23

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Depeche Mode has announced a TOUR OF THE UNIVERSE in 2009.

Six years ago I went to see the EXCITER tour with my brother, and it was a defining moment in my life. I had grown up hearing a constant stream of Depeche Mode in our household for as long as I could remember, watching my brother watch their videos and concerts on video, yelling at him to turn down the speakers. They were as familiar to me as my mother's pierogi (called vareniki in Russian). It wasn't until I saw and heard the live show that the realization came: I just couldn't get enough. It was as if I had been eating vareniki indifferently all this time, and then after a huge vareniki feast, I realized that vareniki were the essential staple of my sustenance. Deep.

This is an excerpt from the Exciter tour from their DVD called "One Night in Paris". Watch Martin get a little funky on the guitar at around the 4:40 mark.

Two years ago my brother and I saw the TOURING THE ANGEL tour, which was even better.

My brother skipped my graduation and got to go see them again that year in Atlantic City. I was not so lucky.

Papa T has actually never wholly approved of us listening to Depeche. Says it's too dark and depressing. Well. Each and every one of their songs is a love song. Of course sometimes things get a little dark and depressing.

You can fulfill
Your wildest ambitions
And I'm sure you will
Lose your inhibitions
So open yourself for me
Risk your health for me
If you want my love
If you want my love

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's just gonna get into this ridiculous Russian doll situation

Flight of the Conchords on youtube. Amazing social commentary. I can't embed, so you'll have to click here and here and here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday night POD

Mickey Mouse street art.

Lifestyles of the middle class and unknown

Today I bought the most expensive and ugliest bag that I have ever owned. It's only redeemed by the fact that Marc Jacobs uses the nicest leather known to man, and it will perfectly hold an umbrella and book and many other items.

Being a brand whore really takes a toll on the psyche.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Parliament Square at Trinity College

back of flower stall on Grafton St.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sideways Face

European Katya totally wants to be Lady Gaga in this video. American Katya kind of just enjoys the song.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Freak of nature

Palm trees are sprinkled all over Ireland, presumably because Ireland gets little frost. So the palms flourish all over the place, and I always do a double-take. Especially when I am wearing a heavy winter coat, hat, scarf, and gloves, and Ireland isn't, you know, a tropical kind of place.


I won't burden you once again with any belligerent rants about American beef production. Instead, I will let you please feast your eyes on some typical Irish cows.

Those were all taken on Aran Island. I also captured on camera a few other domesticated farm animals. This is Rusty. He enjoys Beef o' Reno from The Price Club Costco, but it makes him farty.

Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of the dogs encountered on the walk around the island, as I was preoccupied with screaming my head off. Yes, there was a dog incident. My friend Emily and I were walking down the road in a neighborhood that looks like this

when we saw two dogs approaching us and possibly also a man coming up behind them far in the distance. The dogs saw us and proceeded to full on gallop in our direction, barking madly. Instinctively, Emily and I started clutching each other, hopping around, and screaming bloody murder as the dogs circled us and continued to bark. Again, we were in the middle of the road in a neighborhood much like this one:

The man, still sauntering, finally reached us on the road, and told us that this was the dogs' way of saying hello.

Well holy shit, mister.

The shame continues

This past weekend, my Singaporean friend and I went to Galway, in the west of Ireland. From there we took a ferry to Aran Island to see more glorious landscapes and, you guessed it, go bicycling.

We lasted about forty-five minutes before we took the bikes back and set off on foot. I mean there were all sorts of helmet issues and gears falling off chains or chains falling off gears issues -- I don't know proper bicycle terminology. The worst part was trying to ride up some of the treacherous hills, evidenced here:

and here:

We must face facts and accept that bicycling is just not a finer thing, because the problem certainly is not user error.