The Littlest Reviewer

My daughter Liliana completed her first movie review this week. Thanks to the spirit and humor of  the editors at Cinefilles, Lili made her debut as a MiniFille reviewing Planes: Fire and Rescue. I was proud of her because she treated it professionally. She practiced reviewing movies in advance, paid attention during the actual movie, was thoughtful about several elements of the movie, and made her deadline. Check it out here:

Planes: Fire and Rescue

Feeling like a pretty proud mom,

Amber

Regional Stripper Wear

A couple of months ago, I was sitting in an Austin burger joint with some ladies, enjoying a house-made veggie burger when someone mentioned an urban shoe-myth: that somewhere in Austin exists a sex shoppe catering to professional waitresses and strippers by creating comfortable, tip-worthy shoes. My ears perked up. Comfy yet insanely high heels? Could such a thing exist? I still don’t know.

My friend Katie and I did attempt to investigate, but came up with nothing. What we did discover was an anomaly that I have still not sorted out. In the middle of the “dancer” ie. stripper costumes, there was a wall of neon knee socks in various patterns. Something about that struck me as odd–neon stripper socks? Is that a thing? And how does that even work in the stripper world?

The next Monday as I sat giving a final exam with my colleague Jenee, I told her of the neon stripper socks. She shared my confusion and added more questions. (We also discussed a sexy pilot costume I saw for women–is that really a fantasy?) We could not decide if neon stripper socks were local to Austin, or even to particular club due to how many options were available. Further research was necessary.

A few weeks later I found myself in a lingerie store in Las Vegas killing time while my kids and parents napped. There, once again, were the neon knee socks. Although they weren’t as obviously for strippers, the idea was still present, this sort of Jem meets Britney Spears accessory.

Earlier this week Jenee’s boyfriend received a message from his brother, joking that he was in a sex shoppe. Her immediate response, because she is amazing, was to ask him to check for neon stripper socks. Sadly he wasn’t really in a sex shoppe, but it got us thinking.

There needs to be research conducted on regional stripper wear. Austin and Vegas both have the neon stripper socks, but what about other parts of the country? Other big cities? Or even small towns?

While some people might frown on this type of discussion about strippers (I have already been judged for being in a sex shoppe looking for shoes), I find the aesthetics and associations with sexuality in our conflicted country fascinating. Our Puritan roots tend to make us incongruous regarding sexuality.

So should anyone be in a lingerie store or sex shoppe and come across a display of neon knee high socks, please let us know!  Or even better, if you have seen these types of socks in action, we have so many questions for you. We need data. Also, if you know of the actual place to find the mythical comfy sexy shoes, that is also a crucial piece of information.

Read, Write, and Be Merry,

Amber

Valentina’s Cocina: Andalusian Rice Cream

Summer makes me crave Spanish food. Maybe it’s because I equate the heat with living in Madrid, huddled in my tiny kitchen making food for friends. Although I am not a fan of rice pudding normally, I love this version that hails from Andalusia. It can be a bit tricky to master the timing, but is totally worth it once you do.

Ingredients:

1/4 of a cup of short-grain rice (you can use brown, but up the milk)

5 3/4 cups of milk (6 if using brown rice)

1 vanilla bean, split

1 cup of sugar

6 egg yolks

ground cinnamon

2 lemons

1 cup heavy cream

Preparation:

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Rinse the rice and add to the water. Cook 5 minutes, then drain.

2. Heat two cups of the milk in a pan. Do not bring to boil. Add rice, half of the vanilla bean, and 1/3 cup of sugar. Bring to gentle boil and simmer for 25 minutes or until the rice has expanded and the mixture has thickened.

3. Cream together the remaining sugar with the egg yolks. Heat the rest of the milk and pour it into the egg/sugar mixture along with the rest of the vanilla bean. Cook over low heat, stirring until the mixture forms a custard that coats the back of the spoon. Remove the vanilla bean.

4. Stir the rice into the custard. Add a pinch of cinnamon and allow to stand until cool.

5. Using a hand mixture, whip the heavy cream and fold it into the cooled rice.

6. Cut six discs from the lemon peel and blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes. Refresh under cold running water. Push into the lemon peel into the rice at regular intervals. Chill for several hours or overnight.

7. To serve, dust with cinnamon. Depending on what it in season, top it with some fresh fruit.

Read, Write, and Be Merry,

Amber

 

From Ploughshares: The Literati Ladies Who Lunch

Happy Fourth! Yesterday Ploughshares featured by article on presenting to book groups and other community organizations:

“Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch”

And in honor of the holiday, this American girl leaves you with some Tom Petty.

It’s About Time: Falsettos and a Wedding

June is national Pride Month. For those who don’t know, June was designated as Pride Month in honor of the 1969 Manhattan Stonewall riots. As a supporter of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), I am thrilled to have several opportunities to celebrate love equality.

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to view a local production of Falsettos, the brilliant musical by William Finn and James Lapine. Even if I hadn’t known the director and several of the cast members, I would have rushed to see this thoughtful, heartbreaking musical performed. The story friendship, family, and love, it is a testament to the transformative social relevance of theatre, even without elaborate sets and costumes. This production was particularly fantastic is its use of performance in the round and recreation of the Keith Herring artwork from the original production.

I first saw the show’s second act, Falsettoland, when I was in high school and the national community theatre performance festival was at the community theatre where I was a member of the youth performance troupe. Two different groups performed it that year; I recall some of the adults being shocked at the subject matter, in particular the gorgeous balled “What More Can I Say?” sung by central character Marvin while in bed with his lover, Whizzer. Thinking back, I realize how lucky we all were not only to see two interpretation of the show (one of which went on to win the festival), but to experience a play we might not have seen otherwise.

This coming weekend I am honored to be joining two friends in New Mexico, where they can legally marry, as they make a commitment to each other. As momentous as this is, I am not attending as some sort of political statement. Rather, I feel so fortunate to be invited to share this part of their lives. I only wish that we lived in a country where two people wanting to marry each other was not seen as a political statement, it was seen as what it should be–an act of love.

So as pride month wraps, I share my pride at experiencing the Mark 10 Theatricals performance of Falsettos and knowing some of the brilliant and brave people involved. I share my pride for my friends as they take this next step. Thanks to all of you for letting me into your lives.

From the original Broadway cast, I leave you with the finale of Falsettos (and a shout out to my friend Matt for his chill-inducing take on this gorgeous song).

 

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays

From Cinefilles: Father’s Day Feature

Last weekend in honor of Father’s Day, Cinefilles featured a series of posts on Father’s Day, specifically movies the Filles watch with their fathers. Find my contribution here:

“Our Red Hair and Our Love of Jaws”

Read, Write, and Be Merry,

Amber

Feels Like Burning

Heaven help me, I have started working out again. It started out easy enough–some light boxing before bed, free weights every now and then. Then I decided to amp it up to 45 minutes of lifting, cardio, and stretching a day.

And let me tell you I am feeling it.

My shoulder blades, abs, legs, arms, and butt feel like salt water taffy on that stretching machine thing they have at Six Flags that someone randomly decided to set on fire. I’m a burning taffy puller, mon amies.

I wish I could say something like I’m doing it for my health, but the truth is not so profound or Zen. The truth is that I have a closet full of fantastic clothes that are wasting away by not fitting me. Already some of them have gone back into rotation. But there are some, like the magical Calvin Klein sheath (magical because it is the only orange piece of clothing that has ever looked good on me), that are still on the bench.

Here’s the thing–it’s never going to be easy or fun or appealing to work out. There will always be a show to binge on or a new Buzzfeed quiz to take. However, while you are deciding what Hollywood Diva you are (I’m Marilyn Monroe), that Calvin Klein dress that once literally stopped traffic is hanging in the closet feeling neglected. And there may come a day when it isn’t just a few inches away from fitting; instead it may be an entire lifetime away.

So this summer I have my eye on the magical CK dress because I owe it another few years back in the game. In the meantime, I’m putting together a workout play list. What songs gets you going, readers? Below see one of my favorites.

Read, Write, and Be Merry,

Amber

From Ploughshares: Literary Tattoos

Today on Ploughshares I discuss my own love of literary ink in honor of my new Frank McCourt inspired tattoo.

“Literary Lines that Make a Mark”

Read, Write, and Be Merry,

Amber

Come On, Get Happy

This morning for the first time in weeks, I took my dog on a walk. As we were wandering through our neighborhood, I remembered a summer a few years ago when I walked my dog every single morning and I realized how much I have missed that regularity.

Lately I’ve been rediscovering things that I had forgotten I love. In the storm of semester’s end, I’ve tried to make time to listen to music, write, read, and mess around with my new guitar. Granted, I normally do these things, but somehow it has shifted. I find myself listening quite a bit to Weezer, fittingly as their debut album (actually called Weezer, but usually referred to as the Blue Album) just turned 20 years old. I was barely a teenager when it came out.

Have I changed that much from then? I still love Weezer and wear Converse, after all. How much do any of us really change? Maybe our dreams shift as life teaches us about disappointment and endurance, but in the end, are we that different at the core? Instead, I think maybe we get used to burying, suppressing, and even ignoring some of those things that once made us happy.

When I was a kid one of my favorite things was being inside a car during a rainstorm. The drops racing down the window, the feeling of safety from the world, the beauty of the moment–I loved it. Yesterday afternoon I got caught at work during a rainstorm (which is novel for Texas). At one point I looked out the window and felt that same thrill I had as a kid: the wonder and excitement and awe.

Sometimes I think we get caught in the adultness of being grown ups. That happiness has to hinge on things defined in a specific way, by a specific set of values. While we don’t need to revert back to childhood, shirking responsibility, remembering and embracing happiness in the form that most appeals to us (even if it’s Weezer and some raindrops), can strip away some of the shell time has built, transforming us, if only for a moment.

Read, Write, and Be Merry,

Amber

When I fell in love with Weezer . . .

When It’s Over . . .

Ten Things I Will Do Now That Finals Are Over

  1. Stare at the wall for an hour without wondering if student emails are piling up.
  2. Spend more than one day a week in my pajamas.
  3. Possibly just wear pajamas for the next three weeks.
  4. Read an actual book with an above sixth grade reading level.
  5. Catch up on every television show I have had to put off to grade annotated bibliographies. First stop? Season Two of House of Cards.
  6. Walk my dogs. While singing “School’s Out for Summer.”
  7. Trounce my kids at Candyland.
  8. Dance around my living room for no other reason than I don’t have to teach (and I wanna get down).
  9. Stare at my shoe collection because it is that pretty. Possibly while wearing my pajamas.
  10. Sleep. And then wear my pajamas until the end of time.

Read, Write, and Be Merry,

Amber