Monthly Recap

I haven't had the time or photos to compose a weekly recap for nearly a month now so I feel as though most of my recent posts have been fairly impersonal. With Thanksgiving this month, however, I had a few free days to relax and catch up on capturing the goings on in my life. Here are just a few shots from November!

Brussels sprouts were consumed with gusto this month, especially these ones that I roasted with grapes for Thanksgiving  dinner.

I did a little reorganizing in the kitchen one morning and put all the leftover mason jars from our wedding to good use displaying colorful grains, pastas, and beans.

Digby. my quirky cat, basking in the November sunshine.

Started decorating for Christmas as soon as Thanksgiving passed. My little sister gave me this adorable wooden Christmas tree after traveling to Germany last winter.

I definitely sneaked this trio of glittery gold trees, a gift received from my mom last Christmas, out of the basement a bit sooner than the rest of our decor this year. They're subtle and festive enough decorate with before the season truly starts.

The one thing I have been able to find the time to do recently, however, is to read. I recently picked up Bill McKibben's collection of essays entitled The Bill McKibben Reader and was particularly moved by a few of his articles in the 'Community' section which focused on religion. I don't consider myself a religious person as I don't adhere to any doctrine, nor do I attend church regularly or engage in any other traditional religious practices. Reading these essays, however, made me realize that my mentality and actions are more aligned with the wonderful principles of Christianity than are those of so many other Americans who claim to be Christian. 

I'm not trying to downplay the kind hearts or good intentions of so many people in this country, nor do I think that I am a model citizen and faultless person - not at all. But McKibben seamlessly links caring for the environment, reducing our consumer-driven mentality, and generously giving to the downtrodden in our society with the religious principles that motivated Jesus and are the central tenets of his teachings. Even though some of the most liberal people who devote their lives to these causes are not necessarily religious individuals, it is interesting to note how the messages of Christianity are so often convoluted and misinterpreted so as to serve our own interests as consumers and individuals.

I tried to compose a few essays on the subject but found myself repeatedly frustrated with my inability to succinctly summarize the wisdom and insight McKibben brings to this topic. Instead I've added links to the articles below so as to let the man speak for himself. But my frustration went beyond my mere limitations as a writer. If only more people were to read McKibben's words, if only more people would take to heart what he says, if only more Christians and followers of other religious creeds would truly question their beliefs and probe through what they are taught until they find those essential meanings on which their doctrine was originally founded. I know plenty of great Christians and plenty of great atheists and agnostics - it isn't necessarily an issue between the religious and the non-religious, but rather one that stems back to individual and societal mentalities. McKibben seems to believe, and I would heartily agree, that we have lost touch with the true meaning of Jesus' word. If we were still, as a primarily Christian nation, true followers of this religion, climate change, inequality, and consumption would not be such large social problems overflowing our plate. 

There is little more I can say that McKibben doesn't cover himself, so please read The Christian Paradox and/or Will Evangelicals Help Save the World? for yourselves, and if you like what you find, I highly recommend The Bill McKibben Reader. I hope your November has been a delicious, eye-opening, inspiring, and festive one and that you become a Bill McKibben fan and tell all your friends too!


The Dew Breaker

After a bout of reading uninspiring novels and dull nonfiction, I decided that I needed to find a reliable source for future book recommendations to restore my faith and interest in the written word. Lists of prizewinning writing seemed like a good bet and has proven to be thus far. I discovered Edwidge Danticat's novel The Dew Breaker because it was a finalist in the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

The story opens with in the modern day. A Haitian sculptor named Ka travels with her father to deliver one of her pieces, inspired by her dad, to a famous actress of Haitian descent. When Ka's father is nowhere to be found when she wakes up one morning in a hotel enroute, she frantically tries to recover him. He returns soon enough, but when she discovers why he left, and what he did with the sculpture of which he was the subject, Ka finally begins to uncover long-hidden pieces of her father's story from back home in Haiti that make her question what type of man he actually is.

The novel progresses with each chapter devoted to a new narrator, so that it almost reads like a series of short stories. At first, it doesn't actually appear that the novel is centered entirely around Ka's father, but by the time the final chapter unfolds, there is no doubt to who this novel belongs. A seemingly quiet, gentle, and good-natured person to Ka, the multitude of others whose lives her father has touched in dark and painful ways reveals a troubled and previously impenetrable side of this man.

Danticat's unique style of character development is unlike nearly any novel I've ever read. With each chapter I found myself guessing how the new story could possibly relate to the one to which I had initially been introduced. The Dew Breaker speaks to events both personal and political, to the ties to family and country, to the sometimes opposing sides of ourselves that we may want to hide or forget about completely. Blending experiences of 1960s Haitian upheaval and immigrant life in New York City today, Danticat creates a story that is highly emotional but remains grounded in very terrible and tangible realities. The Dew Breaker is easy to become absorbed in and hard to ignore. I'm curious to see what other novels are among the ranks of this one in the National Book Critics Circle Award as my efforts to find fiction among the lists of prize winners and finalists has proven quite successful thus far.


Spinach and Cheese Puff

Around this time of year, I find myself in an unusual food funk. The harvests of the season are some of my favorite foods of all - butternut squash, cranberries, and sweet potatoes. But in an effort to enjoy these seasonal delights, I find myself resorting to the same dishes over and over again. They're tried and true recipes that are emblematic of the holiday season to me, so I eat them in full force during this time of year. But by indulging in traditional seasonal fare, like stuffing, roasted brussels sprouts, and mashed sweet potatoes, I stifle my culinary creativity.

So I took to Martha Stewart to find some new seasonal favorites. I wanted to bring something new to the Thanksgiving table this year (though I ended up making Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grape like last year on account of family requests) and find a few side dishes that diverged from my favorites that I resort to time and time again. Though her Sweet Potato Cannelloni was a beautiful and intriguing side dish option, I found the flavor to be rather dull and my ability to recreate the gorgeous rolls of thinly sliced sweet potato shown in the photograph accompanying her recipe severely lacking. Needless to say, this dish was not the one I was searching for.

But I did come across a brilliant, simple, healthy, and elegant side that is perfect for any time of year. The Spinach and Cheese Puff looked almost like an indulgent spinach dip at first sight, which was what drew me in. I'm a big fan of spinach as it is, but when I saw that this recipe included delicious Gruyere cheese and was so easy to prepare, I quickly made up my mind to give this one a try.

With just frozen spinach, Gruyere cheese, half and half, and eggs, this puff could not be more simple to make. I had the greatest difficulty with the cheese. During a stop at Trader Joe's I couldn't find a single bit of Gruyere, so I substituted Havarti to much delight. But grating cheese can definitely be a struggle, so I borrowed a tip learned from hours of devotedly watching the Food Network and stuck my Havarti in the freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes before grating.

The tasty spinach and rich cheese provide all the flavor you need, while the eggs and half and half keep this dish light and fluffy. And a sprinkling of cheese on top creates the most subtle of golden crusts. This is the kind of dish I could eat by itself as a meal, alongside a smorgasbord of other vegetable dishes, or even served alongside some fresh tomato slices and Italian bread. And the ease with which it can be prepared makes this puff perfect for entertaining or busy weeknight meals. This has become a new staple in my kitchen, one that is healthy but rich, simple but impressive, and versatile enough to never grow old.

Find the original recipe on Martha Stewart's site here.


Reduce, Reuse, and when all else fails Recycle

Maybe this post will seem a bit redundant given that I reviewed a book on upcycling just last week. But while walking my dog Louie the other morning, I passed a dumpster belonging to the nearby apartment complex and saw a whole living room of furniture sitting out awaiting a landfill. The pieces all looked to be in decent shape - or at least, it appeared they were quite usable before being thrown outside to be taken away. A simple suede couch was standing on its side, an armrest broken most likely from the trip to the dumpster. There was a floral print armchair turned upside down that could have easily been slipcovered and made to fit any room.

It just seemed such a waste to me that these and other pieces of furniture were immediately sent to the trash when their owner was done with them, rather than donated to a store that would distribute them to people in need or given to someone who could use them, or at least creatively improve them if they needed updates. Or see if there is some way you could reuse these items for your own good. Storing an old table in the basement may prove useful during a redecorating stint or if the need for a workspace arises. It may not always be reasonable or feasible to hold on to these large items when you no longer have a need for them, though sometimes doing so comes in handy later on.

But at the very least, there are a whole host of alternatives to the landfill that are beneficial to others in ways that far exceed the good that comes from environmentally responsible practices. Seek out the local Goodwill or secondhand store, post an ad on Craigslist, email your friends and family to see if anyone could make use of your hand-me-downs, or distribute a flyer on a college campus because there are likely to be student apartments in need of affordable furnishings. Mike and I found a new sofa on Craigslist for a mere $250, including an armchair that is now in my sister's college apartment. We weren't completely crazy about the sofa's back pillows - they were a little too short and fat for our tastes - but it wasn't difficult for me to reuse the stuffing to create tall, thin pillows that were perfectly comfortable. Simple creativity and minimal skills can make all the difference.

Once Mike and I threw out our air conditioning unit. My mom was helping me to take it out of the bedroom window when the weather turned cold, and due to a miscommunication, we dropped the air conditioner out of a second story window. Our trash men will take nearly anything we leave out there, so we put the AC unit out a few days early, awaiting pick up. Before trash morning came, however, the air conditioner was gone. Someone came up the alley and found an old AC unit that they knew they could use, whether in an effort to make repairs or to gather scrap metal. Regardless of that unit's ultimate fate, I realized that nearly anything I try to get rid of can be used by someone else. And now I always try to do my best to re-allocate my used goods as effectively as possible. Sometimes simply putting them out in the alley prior to trash day will suffice, other times a quick donation to Goodwill works, and there's always the possibility of passing it along to a friend or sibling after a few phone calls.

I just hate to think of the volume of potentially useful items that have entered our landfills already. If we can change our mode of thinking, maybe we cam stem the tide of this trend. When you can no longer use an item for its original purpose, wait a few days or week and think of potential reuses. If none come to you, attempt to recycle it through your social network or within your community. And then if all else fails, head to the trash. But if you follow these few steps vigilantly, I'd surmise that few to none of your old goods will be added to a trash heap, which is good for you, your community, and the whole environment.

And for more ideas about how to reuse and recycle smaller items, check out my post on Danny Seo's book Upcycling, pick up a copy of the book for yourself, or stop by his blog Daily Danny.


Thoughts on Thanksgiving

I posted about Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals a while back but he makes a few noteworthy points regarding the Thanksgiving holiday in the conclusion to his book that I think are worth considering.

First of all, Thanksgiving is kind of the ultimate holiday - it encompasses all the varied values, beliefs, and ideals that other holidays celebrate on an individual basis. Foer suggests that each particular holiday encourages celebrants to be thankful for something in particular, whereas Thanksgiving allows us to demonstrate thanks for anything and everything. I like the ambitious nature of the holiday and the flexibility with which we can all relate it to our individual lives.

Foer also advocates Thanksgiving not so much as an American holiday but one that celebrates cherished American ideals. No, I'm not talking about consumerism, excess, and commercialization but rather freedom, family, love, community. Though I value being an American and living in a country ripe with opportunity, there are times when my patriotism wanes and my faith in our realization of democracy grows weak. But Thanksgiving gives us all a gentle reminder of the foundational values that unite and guide us all. And sometimes all I need is that friendly shove to reinstall my fondness for what makes us American.

Finally, Foer recognizes Thanksgiving as the one meal a year that "we try most earnestly to get right. It holds the hope of being a good meal, whose ingredients, efforts, setting, and consuming are expressions of the best in us. More than any other meal, it is about good eating and good thinking." Thanksgiving is a meal full of hard work, good intentions, and a deliciously comforting payoff. No matter who gathers round your dinner table the rest of the year or how long and hard you labor to feed yourself and your loved ones, Thanksgiving is the meal to top them all. I like that, in addition to providing necessary sustenance in the form of foodstuffs, this meal can also offer a healthy dose of cheer, camaraderie, optimism, gratitude, and generosity.

In the context of the book, Foer can't help but relate the holiday and it's central source of protein, the turkey, to his cause. And, while I agree with a majority of his maxims and can't argue against his logic, that discussion is for another time and another post. In fact, if you want to read more about it, you can check out my review of the book from earlier this year. Though these words of Foer's are a bit removed from their original context, they've stuck with me enough to warrant sharing and they still ring clear and true.

I want to encourage any and all of my readers out there to cherish this holiday for what it's really worth. Thanksgiving is the one time of the year, more than any other, when we really do see the best in others (I think even more so than Christmastime). There is so much for each and every one of us who are sitting down before a computer and reading this post to be thankful for, no matter what struggles may fall heavy on our shoulders in our normal day to day lives. I like how idyllic Thanksgiving is - how we can focus on all that is good for one night of feasting, immerse ourselves in food comas to help block out the bad. But in forcing us to acknowledge all that we have, Thanksgiving also makes it possible to recognize what others lack. Like your neighbor who has no family with whom to spend the holidays, or the turkey whose life was defined by the cruelty of a factory farming operation, or strangers on the other side of the world who could only dream of a feast as abundant as the one on your Thanksgiving table.

In giving thanks this Thursday, I hope you also take the time to recognize those who have less for which to be grateful. If we could all commit a few acts of kindness and self-sacrifice, maybe we could afford others just a little bit more to rejoice in on Thanksgiving Day. And ultimately, I think that's what it's all about - rejoicing in all that we have and rejoicing in all that we give to others.



You know the kind of book that is so good you never want it to end, but at the same time, so compelling you just can't finish it fast enough? The kind of book that transports you to a completely new world you never want to escape but fills you with anticipation at the thought of discovering the secrets held on the final page. 1Q84 was just that kind of novel for me. Haruki Murakami took me to an exciting fictitious place I never wanted to leave, whether because I had to go to work, sleep, eat, attend to social obligations, or engage in just abut anything else that would take me out of the story in which I was totally wrapped up. The wonderful thing about Murakami's most recent book is that, clocking in at 925 pages, I oftentimes felt like I never would reach the last page and have to leave the world of Murakami's imagination.

1Q84 is a fascinating blend of Murakami's incomparable literary style, elements of science fiction, and the never-too-distant fear of Big Brother, a concept made popular by George Orwell's iconic and similarly titled novel 1984. It is definitely a darker novel than most of Murakami's other fiction, however, with elements including religious occultism, murder, child sexual abuse, and painful loneliness. Humor and love, of course, have their places, but the overall tone of the story is a bit of a departure from what some of this author's fans have probably come to expect.

1Q84 follows the both Aomame, a 30 year old fitness instructor, and Tengo, also 30 years old, a mathematics teacher and wannabe novelist. Their two stories are obviously fated to be intertwined, though the full extent of their past connection and fated future involvement is revealed little by little in an enticing, page-turning fashion.

Aomame is a serious woman, one who takes good care of herself, performs her work dutifully, and has little time or concern for socializing with others. On the side, she performs jobs of a heavy, criminal nature for an elderly client of hers from the gym where she is employed. After the completion of one such task, she notices strange changes in her life and the world in which she finds herself. She begins to question whether she's even in the same world as that in which she spent her previous 30 years. To differentiate this unintelligible new place from the world she knew in the year 1984, she refers to it as 1Q84.

Tengo finds himself thrown into a situation that is of questionable legality as well. Though he has yet to write a prize-winning piece of fiction, or one that's even been published, his high-powered editor Komatsu recognizes and values Tengo's talent and keeps him in close touch. In fact, Komatsu has Tengo screen potential pieces for a new talent fiction award. When Tengo comes across an unusually fantastic novella entitled Air Chrysalis, he immediately takes it straight to his editor. Though the writing itself is desperately in need of thorough revision, the story contained therein is an imaginative tale unlike anything that has ever crossed Tengo's or Komatsu's desks. Better yet, the novella's author is a 17 year old girl. With his finely honed instincts, Komatsu knows this piece of fiction has what it takes to win prizes and become a bestseller - that is, after he can convince Tengo to ghostwrite a revision.

Air Chrysalis' author, Fuka-Eri, is a remarkable character as well, an unusual girl who never utters more than a single sentence at a time and fails to end her questions with the inflection typically indicative of a query. Her mannerisms and personality are distinctively odd but compellingly so, while revelations from her background offer a continual flow of surprises. As she comes to know Tengo, he can't help but find himself compelled to rewrite this strange girl's work and figure out what exactly it is that has shaped her into the peculiar person she is.

It's hard to review a book like this - its very length guarantees that 1Q84 contains a multitude of plot elements that beg to be shared, but the joy that any reader is bound to feel upon uncovering them for his- or herself makes it entirely ridiculous for me to consider sharing them here. But any fan of Murakami's work is undoubtedly familiar with his talent for story construction, his penchant for seamlessly blending fantasy and reality, and his patient method of guiding readers to uncovering the mysteries he creates. His work is quite a treat to read and 1Q84 is no different.

For such a long novel, 1Q84 rarely failed to keep me engaged and excited. There was a span of about 100 pages toward the end that dragged a bit, though this may be more owing to the intermittent nature of my reading opportunities rather than any faults of Murakami's. At this point, I was mostly concerned with figuring the story out and full of anticipation for the seemingly elusive conclusion. And I am happy to report (without giving any specifics away!) that the ending was satisfying and well-suited to the nature of the entire book.

I highly recommend this novel, but if you don't think you can devote the amount of time necessary to completing a 925 page book, save this one for a break during the holidays. I thoroughly enjoyed it but think I would have even more so if my reading had not been so choppy. In the meantime, pick up any of Murakami's other books because they are all truly fantastic. If you're interested, I've reviewed a few of his other works already including Norwegian Wood, South of the Border, West of the Sun, and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.


Immersion Blender Morning Smoothie

I'm a big fan of fresh, homemade smoothies and juices, but pretty lazy when it comes to making them myself. I love a rejuvenating and tasty apple carrot juice or watermelon broccoli cooler (trust me, it's delicious), but I hate to clean my juicer afterwards. For so long I had the same issue with smoothies. Throwing a bunch of fruit together in my blender made for a nutritious and delicious morning drink, but the prospect of cleaning out the blender often kept me from making any concoctions in the first place.

Enter the immersion blender. I originally asked for one as a wedding gift in the hopes of making smooth and creamy soups. When I realized just how easy it was to clean this blender, however, I broadened my sights and came up with a whole array of new recipes and ideas for this most handy of kitchen tools.

My favorite is the morning smoothie. With a combination of just fresh and frozen fruits and a little touch of water, I can whip up a sweet, healthy, additive- and sweetener-free smoothie in minutes. Below is my favorite recipe that I have been making on a pretty regular basis these days. Even though the weather has turned cold and most people are probably starting their mornings with a warm cup of tea or a bowl of oatmeal, I always feel refreshed and awakened by the combination of tart and sweet ingredients in this smoothie, as well as pretty full by the time I'm finished. And knowing exactly what goes into my breakfast drink makes me even more confident that it's a healthy choice!

But don't worry - even if you don't have an immersion blender, this recipe works just fine in a traditional blender. The key is using some frozen fruit to get a nicely chilled and textured drink, while gradually adding as much water (or fruit juice if you prefer) to attain the perfect consistency for your taste. This is a highly adaptable recipe and the proportions aren't set in stone - feel free to play around and make your own perfect smoothie!

Ultimate Immersion Blender Morning Smoothie


  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1/8 cup frozen cranberries
  • 1 whole banana
  • 1/2 cup fresh pineapple
  • 1/4 cup of water 

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl (or in the bowl of your blender if using a traditional blender).
2. Blend until desired consistency is reached, adding more water as necessary.
3. Enjoy!


Writing to Change the World

It was only after I began reading Mary Pipher's Writing to Change the World that I realized another of her books, Reviving Ophelia, had been sitting on my shelf for years, anxiously waiting to be visited. Pipher got me so inspired and fired up with Writing to Change the World that I won't waste any time getting around to Ophelia, or any of her other books, now. But on with the true subject of this review, Writing to Change the World.

Even if you aren't considering writing to change the world, Pipher's book is a veritable bounty of inspiration for making the world a better place. From the plethora of affecting quotations contained therein to her contemplation on what each of us can offer to the world in unique and unrepeatable ways, Pipher makes a case that we all have particular voices and deeply felt causes about which we can make change. If you're a passionate writer, she inspires you to put that voice to paper and make your one-of-a-kind perspective known. If not, her words still encourage challenging the status quo and thinking about how to leave the world in which we live a better place. A psychologist by training, Pipher offers content that can be applied beyond the written world to improve readers' relationships, careers, states of mind, and general levels of motivation.

At times the book's inspirational ways verge a little too cheesy for my tastes. But I do think that anyone with true intentions of changing the world requires a touch of the sentimental if they have any hope of making their dreams into a reality. If nothing else, Pipher encourages readers to challenge their patterned modes of thinking and writing, to dream big, and to allow individual personalities and passions to fuel great the sharing of great thought.

For bloggers and writers with a passion for doing good, social justice, and big change, Pipher's Writing to Change the World is definitely worth a look. And I can personally attest to this book's inspirational qualities as I've been doing a whole lot more writing in my spare time after I started reading. Pipher's writing gave me an increased sense of confidence in my own. Writing to Change the World helped me realize that I have a lot of valid things to say, things that I sometimes worry are too obvious, inconsequential, or common. But exercising my writing muscles will only help to clarify the unique messages that I have to share and to improve my talent and aptitude in sharing them.


Like Crazy

Mike and I finally saw Like Crazy this weekend. I've been anticipating the release of this one for a few months now and drooling over the trailer again and again (I actually posted about the trailer here). I won't say that I was disappointed (doing so would satisfy Mike too much), but it wasn't quite as satisfying as I had hoped. I think it was the kind of movie I had idealized to the point that my expectations were too high to reach.

It was still a lovely movie and definitely had plenty of highlights and post-viewing discussion points. The film follows Anna and Jacob, two college students in LA who fall in love. Anna is from the UK and has dreams of becoming a writer while Jacob, a US-native, is a wannabe-furniture designer. The movie tracks their relationship from its very first date through all the struggles the couple deals with regarding immigration and deportation issues after graduation. Anna wants to stay in LA and violate her visa in order to be with Jacob, but this ultimately poses major obstacles in their effort to live in the same country.

Reviews have been pretty good all around but I was worried that this would be a real bummer of a movie. It wasn't nearly as depressing as I thought as there were a fair amount of both highs and lows scattered throughout. Anna and Jacob's problem isn't as simple as it appears, just as nothing ever seems to be once emotions become involved. And their story isn't completely hard to relate to - anyone who has been kept apart from someone they love can understand the experience of these two.

The acting is a true strength of this film. Felicity Jones, who portrays Anna, and Anton Yelchin, who plays Jacob, improvised all of their lines, but the movie never once feels ad libbed. Director Drake Doremus (who also directed Spooner, a movie of which I was a big fan) does a great job of capturing this story. Oftentimes, in films which lack written direction, scenes can seem to last for hours with little or no point, but the flow of Like Crazy was surprisingly satisfactory. Though extremely realistic, sometimes uncomfortably so, the movie grows dull and boring. In addition to the improvised nature of the movie, that true to life feeling can probably be attributed to the fact that Like Crazy is based on Doremus' own experience in college, falling in love with an international student.

Despite my few misgivings with this film, which would have probably been lessened if I went in to the theater with lesser expectations, I think Like Crazy is definitely worth watching. Though I don't see myself returning to watch this movie again and again, I was completely enraptured for the film's entire duration and found much to appreciate in terms of acting ability, direction, visual style, etc. The recognition it has received at Sundance is well-earned and I hope Like Crazy continues to do well. I just wish I could have been a little more satisfied with the storyline itself, a discontent that is probably much more attributable to me than the movie itself.


On Positivity

Occasionally I worry that I'm not a good critic. On this blog, for instance, all the books, movies, artists, and recipes that I share and review get positive marks. To the reader, it may appear that I love everything I consume, that I'm an undiscerning patron of the arts and food.

In reality, this is hardly the case. I can complain just as much as the next person and the list of books I start and never finish because I find them boring, incomprehensible, or dull is much longer than I wish it to be. But the reason things get such a positive glow on Radiator Tunes is because I don't see the point in dishing out negativity. Why would I waste my time elaborating upon the reasons why I think you shouldn't read a book that I found particularly horrible when I could utilize that post as an opportunity to sing the praises of another worthwhile read? I guess negative reviews are ultimately antithetical to what I'm trying to do on this blog.

Though my goals are fluid and constantly taking new form, I generally hope to reach and share with others in a positive way. Some blogs share thoughts and ideas on fashion, others on motherhood and family life, and still others on design and homemaking. For me, I could never place limitations on the vastness of my curiosity and the spread of my interests, so I share whatever it is that I find particularly moving on any given day of the week. I think my blog is ultimately shaped by who I am and the interests that I have as a person, which gives it a particular personality (or at least, I hope it does), but also a positive spin. My posts are fueled by whatever it is that I find myself passionate about and that enthusiasm infuses and fuels Radiator Tunes.

I'm not really sure where I intended for this post to go, but this is a general line of thought that has come to me again and again as of late. Am I being too undiscerning by not posting about books that I found less than overwhelmingly wonderful? Am I letting readers down by failing to refer to movies that failed to entertain or recipes that failed to please? Ultimately I think the answer is no. I allow whatever I consume with enthusiasm and joy to become a topic on this blog. And doing so creates a positive atmosphere, one that I am proud to put my name on and to share with others.

I have yet to come across many (if not, any) blogs out there that are primarily devoted to bashing other people, their work, passions, or interests. Most of the blogs you'll come across have nothing but positivity and enthusiasm to share, for anything less would be a waste of a blogger's and her reader's time. This little community is one that thrives upon support, connectivity, enthusiasm, and good cheer. I hope to see this trend continue and for the goodness to keep on coming. Thanks for reading.



We all know about reducing, reusing, and recycling - but what about upcycling? The concept is to utilize things you already have and recycle them to create more beautiful, useful, and eco-friendly products than you started with. The idea isn't difficult to grasp and is one most crafty-minded people have probably put into action plenty of times before. Danny Seo's book Upcycling, however, takes this fairly familiar concept to a whole new level.

Seo's upcycling projects are classified into one of five categories: ideas for decorating, ideas for entertaining, ideas for giving, ideas for kids, and utilizing materials from the great outdoors. And each of these categories contain an unbelievable amount of ingenious ideas for making the most of what you've already got around the house or would otherwise throw away. From a bath mat made of wine corks to fine-tooth-comb bookshelves, leather-belt doormats to cute zip-tie vines for organizing electronics cords, chopstick trivets to paint-stirrer candle lanterns, the ideas contained within this book are seemingly endless and endlessly inventive. Seo's book proves that, with just a few basic tools such as a glue gun and some thread and needle, nearly any item of trash can be turned into a treasure for your home, your next party, or your best friends' birthdays.

Wine Cork Bath Mat

Homemade Tiered Trays

Chinese Take-Out Chopstick Trivet

Though some of Seo's ideas verge a bit too much on the kitsch for me, flipping through Upcycling is still a great way to generate new ideas and push your creative abilities to the limits. The techniques and modes of thinking requires for Seo's projects can easily apply to whatever item your home needs or whatever types of excess you've got lying around and want to use up. Mr. Seo is truly the upcycling king and for anyone who wants to learn more, consider his book your new bible.



I've been finding myself a little more optimistic about the state of music these days, probably in large part thanks to the band Givers. Their music is able to stay peppy and positive without sacrificing substance or artistic talent. Their percussion-driven tunes are highlighted by beautiful harmonies created through the fusion of two talented lead vocalists, one female and one male.

"In Light," Givers' debut album, is one that I can play all day as I drive around for work and never (at least not yet!) get bored with. And these danceable tunes are perfect for beating boredom when stuck in traffic or at a long stoplight.

Here are just a few of my favorite tunes from Givers. I highly recommend checking out their entire album because there really isn't a single track on it that doesn't deliver joyful and wonderful music!

"Up, Up, Up" is the opening track from "In Light" and it's pretty unbeatable in the danceability department!

This live performance of "Atlantic" recorded during SXSW really sold me on this band. I found myself captivated by the variety of instruments (some traditional and others not-so-traditional) being utilized but even more so by the lead female vocals which are tinged with just the subtlest of rasps.

Though I genuinely enjoy the album versions of all Givers' songs, I thought this SXSW session highlighted their talent and the simple beauty of their music so well that I couldn't resist including this video of their single "Saw You First."

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