Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 In Review Via Songs!

Charm City Jukebox is doing their annual review of the year in songs and I'm totally honored to contribute a post for it. Claire, one of the editors, literally grew up in a house made of vinyl records. Nope, not figuratively-- literally. (Ok, not literally, figuratively, but I'm working to build up her legend.) She really knows music and has great taste in it.

So she's going to be thoroughly sorry she asked me to write this because most of the songs I associate with 2013 come from my kids, who one way or another hear --and sing -- a ton of pop.

To alleviate the pain, then, I'm going to make two lists: One of songs I can't shake out of my head due to sheer exposure, and one of songs I love for their artistic merit. Some may argue that something has artistic merit if the listener can't get it out of her head, but I leave that for the comments...


1. I Knew You Were Trouble, Taylor Swift. 

My older daughter P performed to this as part of her acrobatic gymnastics work. So it has sentimental value. Also, she doesn't know many of the lyrics so she makes them up, which is always hilarious.

2. Home, Phillip Phillips

I think P liked this because she knows it was associated with 2012's Fierce Five. Billboard says it peaked in January of 2013, so there we go.

3. Roar, Katy Perry

Their school mascot is a large wild mammal, so P's school principal made them learn and sing this at the grand opening of their new school library. What has public education come to? Please, could they sing a song about Common Core? I would like to hear that song.

4. The Fox, Ylvis

Well, now you've done it. There's no going back, Norway.

5. Palladio (Diamond music), Karl Jenkins, aka That Diamond Commercial, aka the Russian acro pair with the guy with the ponytail.

As new acrobatic gymnasts, one of my kids' favorite things to do is watch acro videos. They've learned to love dramatic music, which I'm thinking is my gateway to playing for them other kinds of music to which they've been woefully underexposed, like Western classical and jazz.

If you've seen the diamond commercials with the fake Vivaldi, you'll recognize the music from the acro video they refer to as "that Russian guy with the ponytail." I recommend giving it a watch; acro is amazing!


1. Heart of Gold, Neil Young

I'm sure I've heard this song at various times in my life. But the other day during a rare and wonderful moment in which I was writing alone at a cafe, I heard this song come on. All I needed to be enchanted was the key line, "I'm a miner for a heart of gold." There's enough visually and emotionally inspiring there to prompt me to write a story. But I didn't write about longing or love or mining; I dashed out a couple of pages about a woman and her sister opening a cafe and what the woman thought about the people who came there. But it was that song that nudged a story out of me. A song that can nudge (or coax or provoke) stories out of me belongs on this list.

2. Girl on Fire, Alicia Keys

Starting the new year at the inauguration and hearing Alicia Keys sing this song was a highlight of the year, no doubt. Besides the fact I was at the inauguration and hearing Alicia Keys live, I was grateful to just be at a live performance. I love all kinds of live performance and haven't had a chance to go for some years now. But now I'm starting to make time for it again--just at the point when my kids are about at the age where they're able to absorb, enjoy and even analyze live performances. We've made it to another milestone, at which there's a higher potential for fun than disaster in going to some performances together. So even though they enjoy mangling "Girl on Fire"--loudly--, this song reminds me how many good times we have in store.

3. Abraham's Daughter, Arcade Fire

This selection is less about keeping with the fire theme (though I love themes) and more about the lyrics, which I couldn't get out of my head. The line that stays with me is where the song's protagonist, when asked what her name is, says she has none. Among the many nightmarish ways of dehumanizing someone, stripping away their name is one of the most profound and effective. It's standard practice for dictators around the world to strip away a person's name before kidnapping, illegally imprisoning or executing them. Names can signify nationality, religion, personality and more. The way your boss, teacher, or judge says your name may feel different from how your partner, friend, or mother says it. Names are part of our humanity in this sense, and "Abraham's Daughter" expresses this powerfully.

4. Where Did You Sleep Last Night, Nirvana covering Leadbelly

Another highlight of the inauguration was meeting Krist Novoselic, bassist for Nirvana. It was the beginning of a year in which Nirvana happened to figure prominently for me, from the spotlight of 20th anniversary of In Utero to my rediscovery of the band's poetic, aching longing and betrayal conveyed in their cover of "Where Did You Sleep Last Night." Grunge was so good to me the first time around, and it was good to come home to it again.

5. Tracy Chapman, Fast Car

To really purge the dead-to-me lyrics of the Disney pop stars my kids expose me to, I need a good dose of Tracy Chapman. Nothing clears away the debris of bubblegum glitter pop like Chapman's lovely voice telling the story of Fast Car. Nothing quite breaks me every time like:
I know things will get betterYou'll find work and I'll get promotedWe'll move out of the shelterBuy a bigger house and live in the suburbs
I remembering hearing that right after the Beatles' "Blackbird," and all right after one school shooting sometime in the past year, and it probably would have been a good idea to pull the car over and just cry and cry and cry.

There's a song to wrap up this list, a song and a video I come back to when I grieve as well as when I seek beauty. There's a video of super slow motion ballet set to Radiohead's "Everything in Its Right Place (gigasmesh discoteque remix)." I saw this a couple years ago and marveled at the precision and softness, the strength and ease. But the song comes back to haunt me. Remember when those children were murdered by their nanny in New York City? "Everything In Its Right Place" sounded like a prayer that could not be answered.

Perhaps if there's a thread running through these songs, it's a thread of humanity--what it is to be human, what it is to share a life. There are many ways to remember and celebrate that, and maybe these are the songs that will help me do it.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday movie: Zoolander

I've decided I've got to organize more leisure time into my schedule. Watching more movies and generally enjoying more great storytelling sounds appealing.

When you think "great storytelling," you probably don't think "Zoolander," but that was at the top of Netflix's suggestions when I clicked "cult movies." And I did want to see the origin of the famous GIF that's been modified a million ways. (It was so, so worth it to see that in context.)

I do think there's an issue of do-gooders' winkiness here (in which the perpetrators know there's a problem, know they're a part of it, and base jokes on their complicity, a syndrome well-captured by this headline: SNL Does A Skit About Having No Black Women, But Will They Hire One?). Zoolander is jam-packed with various cameo artists communicating "We know! Sweatshops that fuel our industry are bad!" It's mostly funny, but I could understand if audiences in Malaysia rolled their eyes at the parade of apparent back-patting.

That said, baby steps. There's a lot of unapologetic ridiculousness that we're loving. There are some actually interesting visuals (Zoolander's art hanging in his apartment was surprisingly fascinating). And there are more than enough clever laughs that we want to finish it. We're only halfway through but I think there's probably not much more that I'd want to add to this.  It's been around since 2001, but if you're like me and haven't watched it yet (and haven't been GIF-curious enough to do so yet), I recommend it.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Acro National Team Training Camp 2013

Brennan Atsatt made another terrific video of our US elite acrobatic gymnastics. Some amazing skills worked on here!

Monday, October 07, 2013

lipstick review: NARS Fire Down Below

My love of NARS has been revived.

It was my last day at BlogHer in Chicago and I walked over to the shopping area on Michigan Avenue for lunch. I had a few minutes to browse and remembered the friendly little Sephora in the mall there.

If you are thinking, "How different is one Sephora from another, how different is one MALL from another?" I'm in agreement with you and clearly we're both not from New Jersey. But really! The folks at this one were memorably helpful.

I was inspired by the bright red worn as an all-day neutral by Cheryl Contee (@ch3ryl; partner at Fission, a founder at attentive.ly) who, with the fabulous Katherine Stone of PostPartum Progress

In the tube, it looks fairly intense. It feels and goes on very matte and wears very well. There's no feathering, bleeding, drying out (surprisingly).
Ignore the messy bed hair! I loved how it turned out-- much easier than I'd expected, less "LOOK AT ME" and more "go with most anything." Who knew red could be neutral? This is light years away from horrifying "flesh tone" neutrals. This might be my new go to color (which, if you know my long and storied love of Clinique's Black Honey, is quite the pronouncement).

Thoughts? Tweet @wordydoodles!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Super fast and easy chicken dinner: Charmoula!

I actually pulled together a delicious dinner in record time. And the inspiration came, as it often does, from Sunset magazine.

I happened to remember to buy boned skinless chicken thighs over the weekend, so that was a plus. At Trader Joe's they sell it organic for a great price, but if you have the ability to get to a Whole Foods, it's worth trying out the air chilled chicken they sell. More for your money (no water weight), fresher and generally better.

Everything else in this easy dish I already had. I'm charmed by charmoula! The author says this is good not only as a marinade but also as a dip. I'm trying that next.

I didn't follow the Sunset recipe exactly since it was for charmoula grilled chicken sandwiches and I wasn't about to prep and clean the grill.

Also! I quadrupled the garlic because I love garlic. It was great. And the kids ate it up. I also was pretty generous with the lemon juice and the cilantro because my spouse loves it, but I think you could replace it with Italian flat parsley if you're anti-cilantro.

I prepared the marinade and set the chicken in the fridge. While the oven was preheating, I zipped a few zucchini through a mandoline, tossed them in olive oil and kosher salt and spread them on a baking sheet. I put them in a 375F oven for 15 minutes for the first batch which was too much, then 10 minutes for the second batch.

The kids loved these. I thought they might because they like kale chips, but these aren't quite as crispy as those. Still, the slight sweetness of the zucchini paired with olive oil, salt and a bit of browning made them irresistible.

I did some work during the downtime and during the marinating. (I will always be grateful to Debbie Koenig of Parents Need to Eat Too for teaching me via her cookbook the life skill of juggling food prep and work/childcare/etc.)

Then I pulled the chicken from the fridge and baked the thighs in the oven at 425F for 25 minutes, at which point they looked slightly overdone but tasted perfect. (More on food safety here, here and here.)

Pulled out some leftover brown rice and sliced up some fruit on the side. The kids loved it. They actually ate everything on their plates. I can't remember the last time that happened so the relief/satisfaction of seeing my kids eat heartily felt like some kind of win.

Here's the recipe for charmoula from Sunset.com, stored on myrecipes.com:


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • boned, skinned chicken thighs (about 1 lb. total)
  • Preparation

    Mix oil, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. salt, the spices, garlic, and cilantro together in a medium bowl. Set aside 1/4 cup of the marinade. Add chicken to bowl, turning to coat evenly. Let chicken marinate, chilled, at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Monday, July 22, 2013

chocolate review: TCHO! Local chocolate makes good

One of the many great pleasures of living in the Bay Area is easy access to Tcho Chocolate. We sometimes look for excellence from abroad when it comes to chocolate, but there's no need. We've got some passionate chocolate makers right here.

One measure of passion is how much someone talks about the object of their love. If that's the measure we're using, and we're measuring the packaging, I feel confident in saying no one tops Tcho in passion.

The front of the package is the beginning of the conversation.

The back of the package continues. Maybe it's not a conversation so much as a soliloquy. I tried flipping this picture over since it uploaded upside down, but now I'm kind of enjoying the visual right-brain exercise of just observing how many words are there. Note that the ingredient list is on the right side of this picture above the Nutrition Facts. That whole left side is just talking to you.

You think we're done here? We're not done here. Not by a long shot. Check out that beautiful polka dotted paper. Check out the flap with more about the chocolate.

Oh look! It's a picture of the chocolate maker! So friendly.

And then you lift out the actual bar of chocolate, and guess what? There's more to read!! It cracked me up. This is chocolate that does not want to be left alone. Because there's just one more thing!! Hang on! Wait! I forgot to tell you... and then you take a bite of the chocolate and the story is complete and they don't have to say anything more.

Tcho's Mokaccino is beautiful. It's creamy but not in a milky way. It reminded me of the creamy top of a well-pulled espresso-- flavorful, soft, strong. It satisfies without overpowering; it's powerful without socking you in the mouth. Like my favorite chocolate, it's well-balanced.

Tcho isn't inexpensive, but if you think of chocolate as a once in awhile thing and you love it, it's worth putting this one on your must-try list.

With a new focus, wordydoodling on...

Update! I've been going back and forth about the focus on this blog. I've decided to keep this space dedicated to:

  • Chocolate: Small pleasures.
  • Style: Design, art, clothes, makeup, culture, pop-culture, self-expression
  • Art and Sport: Info and photos from my kids' love of acrobatic gymnastics; posts on anything art or performance-related-- dance, theater, whatever is beautiful.

I wanted to have a separate space for other kinds of writing, including essays. That will be at http://www.anitasarahjackson.com. I'm so looking forward to writing more.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

last night

"Let me brush your hair, mama," said S. I sat on the green, vaguely frog-shaped stepstool and let her gently gently brush my hair, and I felt I had all I needed.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

plunging into the world of acrobatic gymnastics

The world of competitive sports is new to me. I danced through middle school, high school and college (and shoehorned in a class here and there during law school). I was in exactly one competition. My parents weren't the type to ask, "So, why aren't you joining the team? We really want to meet those other parents and do all that social stuff that accompanies kids' sports!!" Pretty much the exact opposite. So it was orchestra for me until I dropped violin, and then dance classes because I loved them so much and had a couple of friends who did it too.

I had a life-changing dance teacher during college. He left such an impression that I enrolled P in a kids' dance class when she was about 3, hoping that even this early exposure would give her some new knowledge of the amazing things she could do and express through dance. She seemed to enjoy it...until one day, she caught a glimpse of the acrobatic gymnasts practicing. P was transfixed, and remains that way today. Really! Her focus is remarkable.

She's joined an amazing team and has competed in exactly two meets so far. It's been a great learning experience for me from start to finish. I didn't know how she'd react or even how I'd be feeling.

I'll probably write another post about P and her developments in the sport. But here's the short story on what I observed about myself: Whether she got third or first place (she's gotten both so far), I felt no different. I just felt so happy watching her do something she loves to do, watching her make friends and develop maturity, and watching her reap the rewards of persistent hard work. Her triceps tell it all. (More than my own silent muscles.)

That was really interesting to me, to feel like the outcome that mattered most wasn't the score after all.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

dadheartsacro! And West Coast Training Center spring round up

Reblogging (I know, it's a tumblr thing, but stick with me) from dadheartsacro, a fabulous new blog that you should follow:

 Come watch Acro athletes compete at the West Coast Training Center Spring Round Up 
on Saturday, April 5th.  
Doors open at 8am!  
Athletes from around Region 1 will compete for placement on the road to Nationals in Louisville, KY.

I need to add that I heart dads who heart acro and support their kids' sports efforts! 

Don't know much about acro? Here's a taste:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

all that matters about today

is that at the end of it, my four and six year olds spontaneously decided to give me a neck and shoulder massage.

Monday, March 11, 2013


As usual, there's so much to say on this, but at the very least I want to publicly get this out there: Thank you Zerlina.

Volumes have been said about what happened to my friend Zerlina on Hannity, including by Zerlina herself. I'm going to let this "thank you" speak for itself.

And it's also prompting me to write something on the meta and personal side about speaking up.

Speaking up is a choice. Sometimes I don't do it. My blood pressure is so low and I don't get riled up that much over little things. And I do get annoyed at people who get really angry over little things and I don't want to be like those people. I know we all have our triggers, but. I try to keep my indignation and anger for things that matter most to me.

And, true confessions on speaking up: Yes, sometimes I get silenced by things that are meant to silence me, by things that are oppressive. It sucks!

When it comes to big things, though, I do speak up. But I have my own style. I'm not a hero feminist who has Slayed the Demons with her mighty Sword of Justice. I admire those women a lot, but my style isn't swagger. It's just not. And I actually like that. I like being careful with words, I like being diplomatic, I like the power of making a point incisively rather than bludgeoning the shit out of people. (Not that hero feminists do that either.)

Here's when I wield the scalpel: When I see something so wrong or unjust that if it happened to my family or to me, I'd want an ally. I'd want someone to be there. I can't imagine leaving someone alone, high and dry, without a public voice of support. To me, that's the best and highest use of my blog -- being there for someone else, building a community of support for someone who needs it.

My blog is my own place for other things too-- beautiful things, art of all kinds. That's deeply important to me, too. This is a well-rounded blog.

 And today I'm using it to say thank you, and I'm with you Zerlina. #tyZerlina. Don't stop.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

argh (one of those posts)

I'm starting to feel a breakdown from not having quite enough time to blog as much and as well as I'd like (although I also think I need to dial down my filter sometimes, too). "Starting to" is the wrong phrase. This is a long-simmering problem.

I'm thinking about pretending that this is my tumblr since it feels so much easier to blog there sometimes.

I have more to say and time is up!! HA HA HA. Ok, this is blog is going to be an exercise in saying things fast.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

creating the causes for goodness

When you plant seeds in the garden, you don’t dig them up every day to see if they have sprouted yet. You simply water them and clear away the weeds; you know that the seeds will grow in time. Similarly, just do your daily practice and cultivate a kind heart. Abandon impatience and instead be content creating the causes for goodness; the results will come when they’re ready.
Thubten Chodron, “Meditator’s Toolbox” Tricycle magazine

I read this a few times, then again slowly. Then again, thinking about parenting. The phrase "instead be content creating the causes for goodness" stood out.

And maybe I'll just stop there for now.