Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bat For Lashes, The Haunted Man, October 23rd 2012

I liked Bat For Lashes' other albums, in theory. The blend of dark, magic, and ethereal with pop was intellectually satisfying to me. But somehow her music didn't really capture me.

Until The Haunted Man.  On this album, Bat For Lashes has grown into her strengths somehow. It is sophisticated and strong. No longer trying too hard to be interesting, she has found her voice. The album grows on me with each listen, the lyrics beating into my brain, the drums connecting with my body, most notably in the song "Horses of the Sun." Another song, "Marilyn," has a much softer sound, with musical accents from the 80's, given a modern twist with her echoing, soulful voice.  There is no bad song on this album.

This is my new favorite album! A must listen.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dragonette, Bodyparts, September 25th 2012

The entire album fell flat, save for one song "Riot."

Here's a live video of the group performing the song.

Here's the actual song:

This song is great for work out mixes or dance parties! Other than that, this album was a bust. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lord Huron, Lonesome Dreams, October 2nd 2012

For an album titled Lonesome Dreams, Lord Huron certainly has come forth as the next great indie folk artist - this time with a happier tune. With similarities in sound to Band of Horses, Bonnie "Prince" Billy and maybe even a little bit of Smog, Lord Huron is my new favorite crooning, acoustic dude music. To boot, this guy is a cowboy-style cutie. At least by the looks of his marketing:

What a hottie! Who cares if he is hot if his music were to suck, but the fact of the matter is, I have fallen in love with his music, and am having a hard time believing this guy knows the meaning of lonesome. Maybe if he is super picky and only waiting for the right one...

The album's first song starts off mellow, but picks up speed; "Ends of the Earth" is probably the song at the album that sets him farthest apart from the previous mentioned indie folk dudes. The following songs have a similar upbeat (not lonesome) sound. His voice definitely has that lonesome country singer sound, but paired with the music, the overall sound is really not that of a lonely cowboy but rather has ecstatic build-ups that feel a bit like you just climbed a beautiful mountain on a horse and found your true love up there. The entire album is fantastic, with no particular song standing out, although "The Man Who Lives Forever" has a little bit of an extra country twang twist. My only complaint is that this album is too short. With only ten songs, I am always surprised when it is over, and  just end up playing it again.

So far, this appears to be his only full length album. He has a couple EPs with entirely different songs. I intend to check those out too! For now, Lonesome Dreams is a great album, one you should definitely check out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Teachers 4 Social Justice Conference 2012, San Francisco

What an inspiring event! It took me many years to make it there - in the past I was too exhausted and perhaps worried the conference would leave me feeling overwhelmed at the work ahead in creating equality in and out of the classroom. I may have been worried that I wouldn't feel radical enough too, as if I wasn't good enough to be there.

On the contrary, the conference made me feel good about my continued pursuit of teaching through a social justice lens. My purpose was affirmed in one workshop (A Mindful Approach to Creating Inclusive Classrooms by Robin Morales and Ebony Sinnamon-Johnson), and another workshop (Talking in Math Class: Using Discourse Practices to Promote Equity by Rick Barlow ) gave me new tools towards achieving an equitable math class discussion.

This is a picture of the keynote speaker, Seam Arce, an ethnic studies teacher from Arizona. He described how he used Mariachi music to successfully inspire his students, but how other teachers and the institution actively de-valued his methods and achievements. Additionally, he lead a protest with his students to fight the state's ban on ethnic studies. So far, because of their efforts, Arizona officials have not been able to meet to make this ban official. Ethnic studies continue! This isn't a very good picture, but it's the only one I took since I was too busy having a great time!

If you have not gone to a T4SJ conference yet, I highly recommend it. If you are a math teacher, or aspiring to be one, I highly recommend an upcoming math for social justice conference called Creating Balance (in an Unjust World). This conference is held over the MLK Jr. weekend. This may be the last year it is in SF For awhile- the conference started in New York and may end up in Chicago or LA in the future.

Mark your calendars for these two exciting events in 2013! January for Creating Balance and early fall for T4SJ. Both of these conferences are held at Mission High School, in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Niki and the Dove, at the Rickshaw Stop, October 5th 2012

What do you get when you cross Stevie Nicks and Cyndi Lauper?

Niki and the Dove!

Niki and the Dove's album Instinct blew me away. The first song I heard was DJ, Ease My Mind and my body started moving and I thought, "yes, yes, yes!" This is definitely my new favorite band.  The song In Our Eyes moved me, made my body pulse, made my heart swell. The entire album is fantastic, opening up with the song Tomorrow, only to be followed with great song after great song.

I was fortunate enough to hear about their show at the Rickshaw Stop on October 5th, at the last minute, and find someone selling tickets on craigslist, as this show was sold out FOR GOOD REASON. This was a magical show. Niki, captivating us with her quirky beauty. People were moving. So was I.

This is the only video I found of the show online. It really doesn't capture how amazing the show was. I can see myself dancing, although it would be too hard to describe where I am. I do believe I am moving around more extremely and erratically than anyone else.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Healing Our Relationship with the Planet through Food

In my attempts to eat healthier, I've been going to farmer's markets. The quality of the produce continually strikes me. Waxed apples and bagged veggies at Trader Joe's no longer feel healthy enough to me and I am now wanting to only buy my produce at the farmer's market.

There are just so many reasons to do that, and not too many good reasons to buy food at the grocery store.
1. Local food means a greater energetic connection to your surrounding community.
2. Buying directly from your farmer increases this connection.
3. Produce is fresher; wasn't shipped and stored for days. This also means it will last longer in your fridge or pantry!
4. Eating seasonally puts your body in rhythm with nature - your energetic being can function in congruence with nature's energy, rather than against it.
5. Shopping at farmer's markets reduces your exposure to ice cream and processed foods.

Decrease your eco-footprint even more by walking or biking to your farmer's market!

While the prices might seem higher, I think the value is worth it in the long run, both for your own life and the future generations.

Alternatively, I theorize that if I do 70% or more of my shopping at farmer's markets, I will actually spend less money on higher quality food. No more sodas, cookies and excess carbs. I'll buy mostly veggies, some fruits and meat, eggs, local honey, olive oil, nuts, and maybe an occasional goody like the lemon lavender elixir they sell at the Inner Sunset farmer's market. My plan is to eventually spend 70% of my food budget at farmer's markets. Over the winter, I'm going to aim for 50/50.

Summer 2013 I'll be onto an even bigger goal: growing my own food! I wanted to do it this last summer, but I didn't know where to begin. My yard is concrete, which in San Francisco is a blessing even to have that. I'll have to get bins for growing and I'll make my own soil with a worm compost bin.

How will I go from zero to urban farm goddess in less than a year? I signed up for Hayes Valley Farm's Urban Permaculture apprenticeship! This is a six month program that meets every other Saturday. What is urban permaculture? It is about re-connecting the urban environment with the earth, through growing our food, healing ourselves and our relationship to the planet. The prime directive is to take responsibility for our own role on the planet; our health, our foot print, our affect on the other people we share our city with.

Save yourself from Nature Deprivation Disorder! Learn more about the urban permaculture movement!

If you are in San Francisco, you can volunteer at Hayes Valley Farm which is soon to be morphed into "49 Farms."  If you are elsewhere, you can always google! Feel free to leave a comment and I can ask my teacher to help find programs in your location.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Nopalito, Inner Sunset, San Francisco

Nopalito has delicious, upscale Mexican food, with many gluten free options. Modern remakes of Mexican classics have a refined feel in this ambient space, with prices that are reasonable.

I was apprehensive about trying Nopalito. My friend's boyfriend works there, and he had told me there were many gluten free options. But I'm trying to avoid contamination. And my ideal restaurant has no gluten I it. Fortunately, I learned, Nopalito has very little gluten ingredients. My friend explained to me that only their pork and meatballs have gluten.

I of course, wanted the other thing on the menu that has gluten - the mole has bread crumbs. This is also the source of gluten for the meatballs. The pork is marinated in beer. There is some risk of contamination, but at least it is minimized by the small presence of gluten. Although bread crumbs are a pretty dangerous form of gluten, easily getting all over the place and into my supposedly gluten free food!

I ended up getting the waiter's recommendation, which was something with perfectly cooked salmon, large beans (fava?), and a really yummy sauce. The tortillas are hand made on site, and you can watch the process as the kitchen is on display. This is always a nice perk for Celiacs.

Other treats included delectable champagne with hibiscus (see picture), ceviche on a crispy tortilla, a dairy free chocolate cinnamon paleta (Spanish for popsicle) and another champagne cocktail, this one with ginger and lemon. All of this was fantastic, and I would highly recommend this place to those who are not concerned about contamination. The risk seems minimal, so I may come back. I'll have to ask some more questions about contamination before my next visit.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Mature Themes, Aug. 21 2012

Critics can't agree on the mishmosh that is Ariel Pink. Mature Themes has been labeled both Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti's most-likely-to-weed-out-the-die-hard-fans, as well as their greatest cross over album. So which is it? When Pitchfork described the album as grittier then the previous, I'm not sure what they were taking about. To me, this album seriously lacks the grit that I originally loved about Ariel Pink. NPR's First Listen review seems to have the opposite, more accurate take - that this is the album that win over the masses. But I think it's actually neither. I don't think this album will appeal to die hards, nor your average Joe.

When my favorite indie artists achieve mainstream status, it's usually because they lose their creative edge in favor of something more generically appealing. Mature Themes is supposed to be a great work, if you get into the musical intricacies of it. But to me the album is only mature in the sense of old and boring.

Few songs stand out; It seems like a rehash of old themes. Without the edge of the previous albums, Ariel Pink is not mesmerizing me, as his music never really spoke to me on a deeper level- I just liked him for his signature 80's warbly mixed tape sound. Speaking of vintage, there is one song, which when I listening to it on shuffle with other artists, I thought it was an old Doo Wop song. "Baby" is a beautiful song, perfect for a dreamy mix for the one you love.

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh about this album. It's good in many ways, but with only one song that struck me, it's hard for me to be excited. The rest of the album sounds like the band America writing dreamy pop folk tunes for commercials about wiener schnitzels.

In the end, Mature Themes is my least favorite Ariel Pink album. I can see how music nerds could appreciate the music technically speaking, but maybe they are the only die-hards anyway.

Apple-berry crisp - Gluten Free and Vegan!

My sister made this fantastic crisp for a dinner party, and being a good sister, she made it gluten-free and dairy-free for me!

It was so fantastic,  I had to make it myself. My sister is quite the baker, (check out her blog here), and she simply made up the recipe herself, to accomodate my dietary needs. Here are the directions she gave me, noting that they were all approximate:

1 bag frozen mixed berries (no strawberries because they are too watery)
1 cup oats
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
Pinch of salt
about 1/3 cup of sweetener

The topping mix should be dry. Cook at 350F until the fruit is bubbling and condensed, and the topping is browned, about 40 minutes to an hour.

Being an improvisor myself, this is what I did:

1 bag Trader Joe's cherry berries
2 small apples, diced into small/medium pieces
1/2 cup certified gluten-free quick oats (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 cup certified gluten-free almond meal (I used Bob's Red Mill)
2 Tablespoons safflower oil (I was out of coconut oil)
a couple grinds of Himalayan sea salt
1/3 cup of sweetener dehydrated maple syrup granules
a few dashes of cinnamon
a few dashes of cardamom
Tablespoon of vanilla extract

I accidentally baked it 450F for the first 25 minutes, and then had to take it out, to go do something. 2 hours later, I baked it for another 30 minutes on 350F. It came out fantastic! 

The cardamon and the vanilla added amazing dimensions to the tart-sweet flavor. I highly recommend using these spices - I use them in pretty much all of my desserts these days!

Variations to try:
  • Use ghee! This is not vegan, but you can get ghee that is lactose and casein free. 
  • I might try it with a bag each of blackberries and raspberries. I am not the biggest fan of the cherries and blueberries. 
  • Add a little more topping. 
  • Bake in individual Pyrex dishes in order to easily pack for lunch! 
  • Use peaches in the summer, instead of apples. 
  •  Try palm sugar, 1/2 a cup, for the sweetener. 

If you try it, please let me know how yours worked out in the comment section!