joanna irl

Throwback Thursday: Kindergarten, or everything I need to know…

J and E in the kitchen, throwback

This week’s Throwback takes us to 1988 (or possibly early 1989) when I was in Kindergarten and my sister was still half my height. She’s a bit taller now.

Anyway, I chose this photo for a similar reason to the living room photo. It’s just a candid of us doing something (I’m not even really sure what, but my guess is that I’m snapping beans and E is trying to brush my hair. Always the fashionista, E’s been.) and it captures a moment in time really well.

Those shoes I’m wearing, for instance, are my VERY FAVORITE shoes I’ve ever owned. They are Chucks, or the Keds knock-off version, and I probably owned half a dozen pairs because they were the only ones I liked so my poor mother had to buy them in ALL THE SIZES. I just kept trading them for a bigger pair as I grew, which was a LOT back then. I was a tall kid.

The floor was linoleum, and I remember the blue squares being a lot more blue than they look in the photo. I used to try and stand in the small rectangular bits until my feet got too big. The heart-shaped rug wound up in my bedroom for a while, or a similar one did, along with some heart-shaped pillows. This was during the PINK phase of my life. Sometimes I still waffle back and forth in that phase. Dabbling in PINK if you will.

Yeah, I know I’m not wearing PINK in this photo, but that’s because I discovered teal (hence the shoes) and it rocked my world. I’m an 80s kid, what can I say?

Ohhh those ponytail holders. I had to have a HIGH ponytail and it had to be perfectly smooth or I’d have an absolute meltdown. If it got even the SLIGHTEST bit pulled, it had to come down or be fixed IMMEDIATELY. This was the year I acquired bangs, too. I kept them until 6th grade.

I remember that dishwasher, and how the lever locked it during wash cycles. The stove was directly opposite it. I feel like that microwave was very new and cutting edge at the time, too… and it’s funny how it doesn’t look much different than microwaves do now. I guess some things just can’t be much improved. Well, or they improve so slowly we don’t notice along the way. Incidentally, the green blobby thing on top of the microwave was a clay triceratops I made and painted. They were my favorite dinosaurs.

Even though it’s hard to see, there’s a purple violet on the window sill with a ceramic angel holding a number “1” in her hand. The angel was from my first birthday, and I’m kind of glad I didn’t wind up with an entire collection of them. Where would I put them now??

J in kindergarten, throwback

Oooh, you get a bonus! While digging for photos, I found this one, too, from around the same time. This was not long after my sixth birthday in 1988 and I’m with my two best kindergarten friends at the time (notice the qualifiers?), Katie and Shelley. We were in a class “play” as the Three Little Kittens. Sometimes I wonder what happened to them… but mostly just when I see these photos. It’s interesting to me how much I remember from kindergarten, and that I can look at class photos and remember names. It makes you realize how important it is when you tell kids things, because they absorb SO MUCH. Anyway, Katie and I (around this time) had a play date and we got into my mom’s eyeliner (which was in all sorts of fun colors… again, 80s) and did FACE PAINT. Eventually the eyeliner became face paint more than eyeliner anyway, but I recall playing with makeup and making an absolute mess.

So there you go. Kindergarten me. ^_^

joanna irl

Throwback Thursday: a day at the beach in 1984

old photo on the Gulf Coast

This photo is from June, 1984. Thanks, handy Sharpie marking at the top!

While I don’t have any specific memories from this particular photo, I would like to point out my mom’s adorable blue bathing suit (which looks like some current styles I’ve seen, actually) and my dad’s short-shorts as proof that this is absolutely in the 80s. I’m about 20 months old in this photo, and (finally) growing in my hair (remember the weird face photo and how I had none? yeah, that lasted a while…) and my dad is holding the same blue bucket that appears in the photo from the following year (taken in the dining room).

(I like parentheses today, apparently. Hope that’s okay.)

This photo is from the Florida Gulf coast, near my grandparents’ house. I know that from the sugar-white sand and green ocean water that you can generally only find on tropical islands but because of GEOLOGY also happens along the Gulf. It’s much prettier than the Atlantic is in a way, though nothing quite beats the Atlantic for a gray, stormy day with plenty of lightening. But I’m getting off track.

I remember that there weren’t usually shells of any sort on those beaches, because of the ocean floor dropping off about a mile off shore. I remember that it was hard to make sand castles because the sand was so powdery, but it was soft and nice to play in nonetheless. I remember my dad pulling me out on a raft to the sand bars where he’d find sand dollars and put them on the raft with me to crawl around and I’d watch their tiny feet wiggling and was terrified of getting in the water myself for some inexplicable reason (I’ve never been afraid of sharks so… water maybe?) and we’d ride the waves.

I remember clumps of seaweed washing up after high tide, or storms, and shaking them to get the little animals inside to fall out onto the sand and then scooping them into the blue bucket (filled with water, of course) and I’d have my own little aquarium until it was time to dump them back in the water and go home. I found fish and hermit crabs and tiny shrimp and even seahorses! When I was a kid, I thought they were baby seahorses because they were so small, but I learned recently that they were a species of dwarf seahorse, the smallest kind in the world. How about that?

I remember playing in the sea oats (when I wasn’t supposed to probably, though my grandmother was never big on rules if there was fun to be had) and running along the hot pavement between the house and the water.

And I really wish that beaches around here were as pristine (and empty) as that one in the photo looks. Gorgeous.

joanna irl

Throwback Thursday: a slice of life in 1985

baby photos, living room

This week’s photo isn’t the best in terms of composition (you can’t even see my face), but I love that it gives you a glimpse into my two-year-old life, and triggered a lot of fun memories for me.

I remember that carpet, and that the house got flooded and it had to be dried with giant fans that made it bubble up in the middle and I liked to play by hopping from bubble to bubble until my mom made me stop because I was hindering the drying. Eventually we had to get new carpet, though.

The fireplace usually had pillows against it so I wouldn’t bang my head on it, and as I got older I’d sit in front of the fire in the winter to let my (ridiculously long) hair dry. I still like to sit with my back to a fire and smell the wood smoke and listen to the crackling while my back gets warm and my front gets cold.

The yellow, red and blue thing was a lawnmower type toy that you pushed and the wheel spun and played music. I didn’t use it that way, though. It was totally a sledge hammer.

The blocks were fun for years, and I’d always stack them as high as I could until it wouldn’t stay balanced any more and I made my mom take SO MANY pictures of them. There are blocks photos everywhere.

My folks still have that TV stand. Or maybe it’s moved to my sister’s place. Either way, it’s still in the family. I used to curl inside of it (yeah, I was tiny once) and shove silly putty into the little holes where the shelves were supposed to fit. Sorry, mom.

I remember that TV, too! I don’t think it was color, or if it was, the picture was super faded, but I remember the knob on it and changing from channel two to channel four, and that I watched Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street on it, which aired back to back. I’d sit RIGHT IN FRONT of the TV. I also remember watching football with my dad on that TV and the players were SO SMALL. It was very exciting when the next TV had a remote and was a little bigger and had bright color pictures.

I think my mom still has some of those dolls. And if you look closely, there’s a blue bucket on the shelf that contained small wooden animal toys. I always liked how smooth they were, and I’d rub them between my fingers to feel them.

In the upper left corner you’ll see railing– that’s the kitchen, and the open slats looked across the floor. I used to sit up there and drop string over the side and pretend I was fishing, or put on puppet shows.

The teal green square-shaped thing is actually an A-frame dollhouse. And the blue and yellow thing behind my “sledge hammer” is a flat bed truck that I used in the sandbox.

I’m sure if I keep looking I’ll notice more, but that’s enough for now. ^_^

joanna irl

BEDA Day 1: Throwback Thursday

baby photo with Pepper

Well, it’s August 1st, and I’m going to try something a little different. There are going to be THEMES for different days of the week. Think you can handle it? Thursday is going to be Throwback Thursday (you’re welcome, Internet) and you’ll get whatever old photos (and maybe associated memories) I can dig up. This first photo is of me with my dog, Pepper. I’m about a year old in this photo, and wearing shoes with bells on them so my mom wouldn’t lose track of me. I thought Pepper was HUGE, though she probably didn’t weigh more than 30lbs, and I remember really hot summer days when we’d lay down on the back porch (not the one in the picture, the one at the next house) because the cement was shaded and cool. I also used to share my sugarcane with her, which is why I suspect I stopped getting sugar cane…

baby family photo in FL
Here we are at my grandparents’ house in Florida. This photo was taken by the babysitter, and I know that because there’s a matching photo with her in place of my mom, and I’m actually LOOKING at the camera because I’d look at my mom and not other people for photos, at least according to my little survey of the pile of old photos I have. My cousin, aunt and uncle are also in the picture, my dad’s holding me and my mom is in blue.

baby photo, stink eye

Aaaaand this one’s my favorite. Sometimes (okay a lot of times) toddlers just look drunk as they try to figure out how their muscles work, and this is one of my looking-like-a-drunk-toddle pictures. HA.

Y’know, this face looks a little familiar….

Comparative Facemaking.


joanna irl

Another evening in Old Town, San Diego

Old Town tin stars

Since I was running low on tea, J and I headed to the coffee and tea shop in Old Town this afternoon. I found some other random things while we were there, including a small tin shop with these gorgeous tin stars. They remind me of Moravian stars from back home in North Carolina, and I love that they light up with different colors of glass. I might have to get one in time for Christmas this year.

Old Town pickled beets

Another random find in a little shop: pickled beets. I didn’t think this was even a real thing, and had only heard of it because of (I’m not kidding) a Care Bears movie I watched all the time as a kid. Seriously. You’ll find it around the 38 second mark.

Old town churros

And since we were already there, and since we had a coupon for free churros, we ate dinner in Old Town, too. I have to say, these were the best churros I’ve had since Ensenada, and filled with vanilla cream. In fact, these are the only churros I’ve had with filling the whole time I’ve been in California, so kudos to this restaurant for having the real deal. Mmmm churros…. Oh, and that’s a chocolate sauce for dipping. I liked them better plain, but the chocolate was pretty good.

the geek life

Thoughts on Jurassic Park, 3D.

Last night I saw Jurassic Park in 3D.

The interesting thing (to me) about this movie is that I remember when it came out in theaters, but I never went to see it. Maybe because I wasn’t quite 11 and the movie was PG-13 (though, seeing it now, it’s a very tame PG-13 compared to current movies) or maybe because by the time I was nearly 11 I was over the dinosaurs thing and had moved on to horses, or maybe a little of both. At any rate, I remember this movie in the cultural landscape of, oh, fifth grade or so and what a big deal it was.

I also remember going to Universal Studios this past November and walking through the Jurassic Park section, and thinking how exciting it must have been when that bit of the park opened, and how much things have changed (with a comparison to, say, the Harry Potter section there now). It puts things into a cultural context where you can see things age.

All of that being said, it is important to know that I have never seen this movie, from start to finish, in its entirety until tonight. The only time I’ve seen it before was probably ten years ago, edited for TV on a tiny, square screen. Somehow the t-rex just doesn’t have the same impact in such a situation.

The movie absolutely withstands the test of time, apart from the obviously dated electronics (the theater audience all had a good laugh at the “interactive CD-ROM” in the Jeeps). The storytelling and pacing are still good, as are the visual effects, which really surprised me. There is no obvious green/blue screen, and I had no trouble buying into the humans interacting with the dinosaurs.

The 3D was some of the best I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a good bit. Most people complain about the “dimness” of the screen in 3D , or how the images look like cut-outs after conversion (like a diorama) but this movie doesn’t seem to suffer from either. The 3D was seamless from my perspective, and actually enhanced the movie– when I took off my glasses to squint at the “original” film on screen, the movie took on a dated look, but with the 3D it was like seeing something fresh. Which, of course, to me it mostly was, but I wasn’t aware that I was looking at a twenty-year-old film.

Besides all of that, it’s just a fun movie. It’s scary in all the right places, it’s got just the right amount of suspense, and a good sense of wonderment at the dinosaur sightings. I kept expecting the floor to shake with the t-rex’s footsteps.

So (if my opinion counts for anything) I completely recommend seeing this one in theaters. I know it’s expensive to see it in the 3D, but it’s a great experience and, I think, worth it.

And, for what it’s worth, now that I’ve seen the movie start to finish, the Jurassic Park section at Universal did a remarkable job recreating the Visitor Center.

joanna irl, the geek life

Dire Wolves and Saber Cats! (La Brea Tar Pits)

La Brea, mammoth

Ever since I was old enough to understand what they were, I’ve been fascinated by prehistoric animals. When I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be a piano-playing-astronaut who was a paleontologist when I wasn’t in outer space. Seriously. (And what happened with that? You’d think I’d have gone all sciencey, but instead I went all artsy. Weird.) Anyway, I had this book with full color illustrations of extinct animals, and half of it was dinosaurs and half of it was ice age mammals and I probably destroyed the book, if my mother doesn’t have it stashed somewhere. (Hey mom, is it stashed somewhere?)

The point of all of this is that the dinosaurs and giant ground sloths and such have always been my FAVORITE parts of natural history museums, and there’s a reason that the Smithsonian Natural History Museum is the one I’ve visited three times (and am on their mailing list even though I haven’t lived on that side of the continent in years). So when the chance came to drive up to La Brea (and see the tar pits) one afternoon, I jumped at it.

La Brea, bubbling lake

It only takes about two hours to get to the tar pits from our house, and we enjoyed the drive to Los Angeles. We got to the Page Museum right around lunch time, so we walked to a NY pizza place and had a really good lunch before heading back to tour the museum. They have a pond out front with tar leaking into it that bubbles from the methane-producing organisms on the bottom of it, but they also have several pits currently being excavated.

La Brea, bones in excavation

I didn’t know that the tar is actually a natural asphalt, and hardens when it’s cool outside, so when the water is removed and it’s dry, they’re basically chipping away at something solid and not at gooey tar. Pretty interesting. It’s also why they don’t tend to find nocturnal animals in the pits: at night, the ground was hard.

La Brea, J with dire wolf skulls

There is a huge collection of fossils on exhibit, as you can see from the number of dire wolf skulls in this photo, and they have so many saber cats that they can show a row of skulls at different stages of teething. Really. There are also camels and ancient bison and all sorts of things. But my favorite?

The mammoth.

La Brea, Jo with Mammoth

This was the first time I can remember ever seeing a real mammoth skeleton.

La Brea, giant jaguar

All of the fossils in the museum are real, which is sort of mind boggling. They even have some North American lion fossils, which they now think was actually a giant jaguar and not a lion like the ones in Africa. Pretty cool (and terrifying) to think of a jaguar that’s almost twice the size of a saber toothed cat!

We got to see some current excavation sites, and see volunteers sifting through the tiny fossils found in the tar matrix (insects and seeds and other tiny things get preserved, too) and the project they’re working on that involves the most complete mammoth skeleton they’ve ever found. Very exciting stuff.

So kindergarten-me was very excited. And I’d totally volunteer there… except for the two hour drive! (Check out more photos here!)

joanna irl

Easter Monday

I missed my post yesterday because of the holiday. And today’s will be brief.

Easter was nice. There was extra music at church and I went to a pot luck with an egg hunt, which was fun. The Easter bunny doesn’t seem to be a big thing here, though, which is a little weird for me, but I did read myself The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes as is my Easter tradition. That link takes you to an article in the New Yorker where the author says she has only met one person who read the book as a child. I’m one of those people. It’s interesting because the book has (especially in recent years, it would seem) gained a lot of popularity for its message that despite racial, class and gender bias, a little country girl bunny with brown skin can realize her dream and be the most celebrated of all the (five) Easter bunnies. I’ve loved the book as long as I can remember, though I didn’t know until recently just how old it was.

So there you go. Find a copy of Country Bunny and enjoy it, even if you were too old for one of the Easter bunnies to come to your house this year.

joanna irl

Revisiting Childhood: The Valentine Ritual

Just a little memory I had tonight…

When I was little, my grandparents came to visit us quite often. Thinking back on it, they were probably at our home every other month. It certainly felt like that, anyway. Because of this, they would always come visit for Christmas, and then be back sometime around February. And every year (at least in my childhood-memory), my grandfather would buy me one of those big, red Russell Stover hearts. The kind with all the different chocolates on the inside, when they used to be wrapped in little papers instead of in a plastic form like they are now.

And my grandfather and I had a ritual: every day we could have one (and just one) piece of chocolate.

Every afternoon, he would lift the lid off of the box and I would study them closely (in those days I didn’t like the coconut ones, though they are now some of my favorites) and choose just one piece. And then the lid would be replaced and he would put it away again.

Even after they had gone home, I still only ate one piece of chocolate a day until they were all gone.

There is something about that ritual that has stuck with me all these years, and the big, red heart-shaped boxes always make me think of him. I kind of miss that little ritual we had.

So tonight I bought myself a (small) heart-shaped box of chocolate.

And I had just one piece. ^_^


the geek life

The Hobbit: Reactions to the new trailer

If you haven’t heard yet, the NEW HOBBIT TRAILER has just been released. Haven’t seen it yet? Go.

Watch it here.

I’ll wait.


Done? Good.

Okay, my initial reaction was just plain excitement.

Now please bear with me while I give you some background. It’s been ten years since Fellowship of the Ring was released and it was a huge deal to me back then. Lord of the Rings has always been one of my favorite series of books, I think in large part because it was my first set of “grown-up” books. In fact, I remember being in fifth grade and reading The Hobbit and my mother telling me I wasn’t quite old enough for the trilogy, so (sorry, mom…) I snuck them out of her room and read them anyway. When I got to the end of The Two Towers I quite literally threw the book across the room (it was my oddly shaped green room in Florida) and ran into my parents’ room to get The Return of the King. And when that was finished, I picked up Fellowship and read them all over again. All told, I think I read them about four times in a row (within a couple of weeks over Christmas break that year). I carried them everywhere– to school, to church, on vacation… And for years I didn’t know anyone else who loved the books like I did. I was thrilled in high school to discover they were actually somewhat popular (little did I know just how popular…) and as snippets about the movies began to leak, I got more and more excited.

The thing that frustrated me most about the Lord of the Rings movies at the time they were released were the liberal changes made to the story. I saw Fellowship no less than eight times in theaters (not exaggerating) and was always annoyed by the addition of Arwen, the skipping of Bombadil, and the other changes made to adapt the story for film. My excitement for seeing the world I loved so much on a big screen overwhelmed that annoyance, though (the ticket stubs should prove that), and it helped teach me that the movie does not have to be the same as the book. This is an important lesson to learn. Movies are movies and books are books and they can be similar, but if the spirit of the book is captured, that should be enough to enjoy the movie for what it is. Of course a movie can’t capture the amazing things in my imagination!

So all of that being said, we arrive after much waiting at The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

I love the way all of the dwarves look, first of all. Thorin Oakenshield is especially well cast and costumed. He doesn’t look at all the way I pictured him in my head but, and I must stress this, that is not a bad thing. When I first read the books and how old the dwarves were (they live a very long time), I imagined old men; Thorin in my head was round and had a long white beard and long white hair. This Thorin is much younger than that, and strong, and princely, just as he should be. We must buy that these dwarves are the adventurers. They are the young ones that have set out to reclaim their grandparents’ land. It is good.

Oh. When the dwarves started to sing was when I got the most excited.

Martin Freeman as Bilbo is perfect casting. He not only is a fantastic actor, and can carry Bilbo perfectly, he looks like a younger version of Sir Ian Holm. The casting was wonderful for this pair of Hobbit movies, really. My guess is that they didn’t need a well know lead (i.e. Elijah Wood) because they know now the movies will be successful.

Speaking of Elijah Wood, he and a couple of other actors are reprising their roles in this movie, even though they didn’t appear in the book. The reason this is okay is, as I said before, a movie is a movie and a book is a book, but also because of the way in which they are presented. The setup is somewhat like in Oedipus Rex or Episode One: you know more about what’s happening than the characters themselves because you know what happens next. And the elves that appear in the movie but weren’t in the book? Well, the places they live are in the book and the book can’t help that it was written before the Lord of the Rings trilogy; therefore it makes perfect sense that you’d at least see these other characters. It enriches a world that was not yet fully developed for the novel form when The Hobbit was written.

The thing to keep in mind is that The Hobbit was very much written as a children’s book, while The Lord of the Rings was not. This means that the story isn’t as deep, though there are references to many other, deeper things that J.R.R. Tolkien had in the back of his mind. After all, The Hobbit is set in Middle Earth and he was working on the mythology of Middle Earth the entire time. Glimpses we get in The Hobbit mean more if you know more of the story, and so we as the audience can appreciate more of the seemingly inconsequential things happening in peripheral to Bilbo.

So at the end of all this, what do I think?

It’s going to be an enjoyable and exciting movie. I can’t wait to go back to Middle Earth with technology that’s had ten years to do nothing but get better, and to experience the magic of it all over again.

I’m also looking forward to being the knowledgeable geek again, who can answer questions about “What does that mean?” again, too. ^_^