Mystery Serials

A Little Poe for October

Photo from Freestocks on Unsplash

Since it is October, I thought I would read a spooky Poe story for my YouTube channel. I chose, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” one of the stories most commonly assigned for school reading. I thought, at first, I would choose a lesser known story of Poe’s, but looking through some lesser known options, I understood why didn’t achieve the same popularity.

I have always liked being dramatic — I was in drama competitions in high school — but this is, perhaps, the creepiest sort of role I have ever taken on. The narrator of the story is a fairly disturbed murderer.

I am getting ready to launch an English tutoring business, and one niche specialty I’d like to focus on is SAT prep. I hope to follow this video up with some teaching videos focused on the story, some other teaching content, and I would also like to add some more dramatic readings of stories and poetry.

I think anyone, student or not, can enjoy the dramatic readings. When the pandemic began, I noticed all sorts of celebrities reading for children on YouTube, but I don’t think children are the only ones who can appreciate a good story read aloud.

It’s not flawless. There are a couple of trip ups, which I didn’t edit out. I’m still fairly pleased with it.

What should I read next?

Musical Wanderings

Twelve Girls Band, Photo from YouTube

Interesting Cultural and Musical Mashups

With such things as Pandora radio and YouTube making recommendations based on music you’ve played or liked, your musical wanderings can sometimes take you to some interesting places, introducing you to new artists and new songs, possibly even new instruments or cultures. The more curious you are and open to new things, the more you will be introduced to more interesting new sounds.

This playlist features songs that have some relationship to folk or world music but aren’t purely so (with the exception of the first one.) It may be modern songs played with traditional instruments or western songs played with eastern instruments or some other mashup of cultural sounds. This first one by the Gothard Sisters is not so much of a mashup or twist, but it fits the theme of “wandering” so well, with the video featuring scenes from the group’s world travels.

In this next one, YouTuber Luna plays an American rock song, “Riders on the Storm” by the Doors on a gayageum, a traditional Korean instrument with 12 strings. It really has an interesting sound that some commenters described as “spooky.” It appears she had to play three different parts at separate times and do some overdubbing.

I’ve seen a few videos now from Paola Hermosin, Spanish guitarist. She is not just a “Spanish guitarist” in the sense of guitar style. She is also from Seville, Spain. Although all of her introductions are in Spanish, there are English subtitles, and I always learn miniature lessons on music history, composers and singers and song structure. In this one, she has arranged a song composed for the koto, a Japanese instrument somewhat similar to the gayageum, for the guitar.

This YouTuber, who calls herself Alina Gingertail, is from Russia. She is a multi-instrumentalist who plays all sorts of interesting traditional and folk instruments. She often covers video game theme music.

You would expect a bagpiper to come from Scotland or Ireland or to be someone with that heritage. You wouldn’t expect one to come from India, where this bagpiper, who calls herself the Snake Charmer, does. In this original song, she pays tribute to both Irish and Punjabi culture and even collaborates with a rapper, Raoul Kerr. I love watching all of the traditional dancing from both cultures.

I first discovered Twelve Girls Band from China in a PBS special. They play western music with traditional Chinese instruments. The instruments played include the erhu, a two-stringed fiddle, the pipa, a four-stringed instrument, the zhongruan, also known as a moon guitar, the dizi, a traverse flute, the yangqin, a hammered dulcimer, the guzheng, a zither, and the duxianqin, a one string plucked instrument. Here, they cover “El Condor Pasa” made famous in the English speaking world by Simon & Garfunkel, but the song has an older history than the folk duo. It was composed by a Peruvian composer, Daniel Alombia Rombles, in 1913. The Simon & Garfunkel version featured a different folk instrument, the pan flute, which originated in ancient Mayan and Incan civilization.

Patty Gurdy plays a hurdy gurdy. I’ve met a lot of people who play instruments, but I can’t say I’ve ever met someone who can play the hurdy gurdy. It’s a folk instrument that is hand cranked to turn a rosined wheel against strings. Keyboard buttons also press small wedges against strings. In this video, Patty Gurdy covers an ’80s song by the Eurythmics, “Sweet Dreams.”

The next video is from B&B Project, a duo from Ukraine, who seek to popularize their folk instruments, the bandura and button accordion. Here, they cover “Clubbed to Death” from The Matrix soundtrack.

Below is one of the most unusual yet, a Mongolian folk metal band, The Hu, (not be confused with The Who.) They use a singing technique called Mongolian throat singing, where the singer can sing more than one note at once.

I first got acquainted with music by Ahmed Alshaiba when he collaborated with Peter Hollens. Alshaiba is a Yemenite, and he often covers pop songs, giving them a bit of a Middle Eastern sound, with his oud and guitar. Here he covers “Blinding Lights” by the Weeknd.

Alex Boye is originally from London, England and now living in the U.S. He was born to Nigerian parents and likes to perform what he calls Africanized covers of pop songs. Here, he plays “Royals” by Lorde and has a little fun with African tribal masquerade and a little humor with a Christmas wreath. I discovered him on YouTube, but at that point, he had already gained some fame on America’s Got Talent. I love his harmonies on this one.

I first heard this cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Regina Spektor on one of my Pandora radio station, and I tuned in. It almost gave me chills. I’m not sure why. It is not my favorite song by the Beatles, and I’m not sure I agree with the message behind it. I think it’s partly due to the beauty of Spektor’s voice. This version with its unique Japanese instrumentation also seems oddly emotive. It was made for the soundtrack of Kubo and the Two Strings, a movie I’ve never seen. The song features the shamisen, a three stringed Japanese instrument.

Perhaps, I am more open than the average person to world sounds, but I hope you enjoyed your tour of interesting musical mashups. Which did you find the most interesting? Which did you like hearing the best?

Three Healthy Lunch Ideas

Here are three of my recent healthy lunches that might inspire you to do your own version. Two salads listed here are almost “recipes,” but I won’t call them recipes, because the measurements are more to taste than precise, and I used store bought bottled dressings. You can certainly use any of these as inspiration for a healthy and tasty lunch.

I often like to assemble salads on individual plates/bowls rather than in a big bowl. It makes for a nice presentation, but it also helps to make sure everyone gets an adequate amount of the good stuff and the right amount of dressing, neither skimping nor drowning it too much.

1.) Berry, Fig and Clementine Mesclun Salad

Berry, Fig and Clementine Mesclun Salad

Ingredients:

  • mesclun, rinsed and spun
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • Black Mission figs, quartered
  • clementine sections
  • pecan halves
  • blue cheese crumbles
  • bottled poppy seed dressing (I used Brianna’s Home Style brand.)

This next salad was made with a “spicy greens mix” from our CSA. I don’t think I can tell you what was in the mix other than arugula.

2.) Berry, Feta, Arugula Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts

Berry, Feta, Arugula Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts

Ingredients:

  • arugula, rinsed and spun
  • raspberries
  • blueberries
  • cubed feta cheese
  • toasted pine nuts
  • bottled raspberry vinaigrette (I used Ken’s Light Options raspberry walnut vinaigrette.)

Hint: It’s easy to burn pine nuts or any nuts. I’ve done it. Now, I turn the heat off after two minutes, and it comes out well.

3.) Strawberry, Kiwi Cottage Cheese Plate

Ingredients:

  • Low fat cottage cheese, about a third of container per plate.
  • Strawberry slices from four or five strawberries
  • One sliced kiwi

Simple. You can arrange the fruit on top or stir them in. I liked to take a spoonful of fruit and then get a little scoop of cottage cheese on my spoon.

I hope this inspires you that healthy eating can be delicious too.

Slice of Life: Cute Dogs, Healthy Food and “Rebel Makeup”

I’ve been reading lots of articles with blogging advice, and it seems I’ve read some advice against personal posts, but I enjoy reading other bloggers’ personal journal style posts and also vlogs of a similar format. I still plan to provide a variety of content, but you’ll have to let me know if you enjoy this type of post.

On Saturday, I went shopping at Ulta, the beauty supply store. It was my first time, since the pandemic started, shopping at any store other than a grocery store or pharmacy. I had run out of eye makeup and was looking for the same products I bought the last time. Earlier, I had purchased a Smashbox set of three eye colors. I couldn’t find the same product and, even looking over all the brands, I couldn’t seem to find a set that wasn’t basically all earth tones. I like a little bit of color, nothing berserk, but a little bit of lavender or green, to go with hazel eyes.

What I ended up buying will sound berserk, because I bought a larger set of eight colors all with rebellious names. The set is called “Punked” and the colors have names like Headliner, Anarkissed, Soft Punch, Destroyer, Punked, Studded, Riot Girl and Combat Boots. It was the only set I found that was close to the colors I wanted, but I don’t think it looks nearly as rebellious as it sounds.

Does this look rebellious to you?

And here I am, wearing a combination of Soft Punch, Destroyer and Combat Boots. Am I a rebel girl or what? It amuses me that I wore such innocent looking colors with such crazy names, but on a more serious note, at a time where there has been quite a bit of rioting and possibly anarchists, I have to wonder why the company would market their products this way.

This morning, I accompanied Dad to his doctor’s appointment at the Rutgers University Hospital in Newark. He and I both suffered bites from a dog in mid-August. Dad’s injury was much worse, and he had two surgeries, one to close up the wound on his hand with artificial skin and, later, a skin graft. This was a follow-up appointment with his surgeon.

University Hospital

We’ve been using Uber to get back and forth to appointments, mostly because I’m not comfortable driving to the city. Today, we had a driver, Bennie, who was fantastic. He waited for us to buckle up and said he would go when we were ready. He asked us if the temperature was right and if we had enough leg room. This is now my ninth Uber ride, and no other driver has been this courteous or asked us these questions. He was also genuinely warm and interested in us. When Bennie chuckled after Dad said he couldn’t find the buckle, I knew we had a different sort of driver.

He complimented us on our garden, and this prompted a discussion between him and Dad on gardening and other subjects that lasted the whole ride.

Our fence garden

I gave Bennie five stars on Uber and a compliment, but later, when I tried to give him a tip through the app, found I couldn’t do it. Sorry Bennie! Maybe, the compliment and tip had to be done in a certain order, but I hope the compliment benefits him in his driving business.

Dad in the waiting room

I meant to bring both a physical book and a Kindle with me to entertain me in the waiting room, but I left in such a hurry that I brought neither. So, I spent my waiting room time on Pinterest on my phone, pinning photos to my Flowers, Beautiful Places, Nature, Butterflies, Animals, Fashion History, Healthy Recipes and Transportation boards. Transportation is my board for anything transportation-related that is not a car, although it may include a few cars that are quirky like amphibious cars or bubble cars or Isettas. This was an interesting Transportation pin today.

Photo found on Pinterest, from Imgur

This mom found an interesting way to transport three kids. I suppose it isn’t technically a bicycle, but what is it? A quadricycle?

On Pinterest, I also found a recipe for lunch, a salad with cucumber, radishes, scallions and cottage cheese. We already had the radishes and scallions from our CSA and just needed the cucumber and cottage cheese.

Before we left the hospital, Dad, unfortunately, showed me a photo of his unbandaged hand which, instead of looking pink and flesh-like as he described, had quite a bit of black scab. I wasn’t ready to see that.

We headed home and, after texting some doggy care clients and taking some garden photos, it was time to head over to walk my little Maltese friend, Janie.

Janie

Janie likes to greet me by turning herself in excited little circles when I come in. I then lift her up, and she will proceed to kiss and kiss my face. I like exuberant doggy affection, but I don’t really like to be licked on my nose and mouth area, but now that I’m wearing a mask in her building, this area is covered.

Though Janie is tiny and has tiny little legs, she’s an energetic walker and our route is just a little short of a mile. We always walk past a pretty gazebo and fountain in her gated community.

We then loop around the community center in my town. We come down a hill past a football field. Lately, there are children playing on the field when we walk past, and Janie always wants to pull towards the field to meet some kids. But today, as we had a different schedule, we didn’t see any.

We then circle around past the police station, fire house and Department of Public Works and then up the hill and back into her gated community. I only brought one bag with me, and Janie did a second poo right in front of the police station. I thought I’d best do my civic duty right within sight of the police station and found a pile of takeout napkins in my purse for the cleanup. At least, a tiny dog has tiny poos.

Janie back home again

On my way home from walking Janie, I stopped at the store for the cucumber and cottage cheese and also bought some kosher salt and apple cider.

I passed through these floral and gift sections on the way to the produce.

I’m liking orchids more and more.

Warmies

I like the hamster. These stuffed animals are called Warmies and are microwaveable. I’m not sure if they are for sick kids or chilly kids, but they are, evidently, made for some extra comfort. I think even adults would like this, if they could get by without looking or feeling too foolish.

Even though I pinned the lunch recipe, it was simple enough that I didn’t consult it later. I just made my own version of it. I sliced one cucumber, four large radishes and one large scallion and combined with the whole container of low fat cottage cheese and plenty of salt and pepper. It was pretty tasty and healthy too.

Radish and cucumber salad

We watched an episode of Food Network’s Chopped with a healthy eating theme while we ate our lunch. After lunch, I cleaned up, loaded the dishwasher and helped Mom get several new westerns on her Kindle. She’s been reading all sorts of westerns lately, sometimes nonfiction like a book about Dodge City written by someone who lived there in its Wild West days.

For the rest of the afternoon, I studied to prepare myself for launching a business in SAT tutoring for the verbal section. I have this pile of material to look through.

After this, it was time to prepare dinner. We got some very curious string beans from the farm through our CSA. I’ve never seen, cooked or eaten beans that looked like this before.

They are flat, somewhat white and streaked with purple. The information from the farm didn’t identify them as anything other than string beans, but information on a future delivery listed “dragon’s tongue beans.” When I did a Google image search for dragon’s tongue beans, it matched what we have. They look exotic enough to be dragon’s tongues but taste similar to green beans. I snapped these and steamed them.

I also roasted an acorn squash (in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes) which we had with some Smart Balance spread, brown sugar or Splenda and cinnamon. Our protein was grilled chicken breast with Stubb’s Barbecue Rub. Lately, also, I’m enjoying some Bubly sparkling water.

We watched an episode of the Netflix series Virgin River during dinner. It’s a drama featuring a nurse and midwife who moves from L.A. to a rural small town in California. There is all sorts of drama, multiple story lines, and each episode ends with some sort of cliffhanger. We are enjoying it so far.

And that was my day … until now. What was most interesting? Would you eat a dragon’s tongue bean?

Cuteness Overload — Babies and Dogs Reacting to Movies and Music

Sensitivity can be a really good thing. Reading and the arts help nurture our ability to empathize with others. Watch these babies and dogs be moved by music and movies.

Baby emotionally moved by Bocelli song to Elmo

What a beautiful baby. He lights up with joy as Elmo sings and seems moved almost to tears by Bocelli’s singing.

French bulldogs’ adorable reaction to saddest scene in “Inside Out.”

I’ve been following these Frenchies, Griffin and Haru, for a while. Is it just coincidence that they decide to cuddle at that moment? Some dogs don’t seem to notice TV. I’ve observed some of the dogs I care for reacting to the TV, especially when there are dogs or other animals on the screen. Just wait until the last video. It seems it is possible for dogs to follow some of the action and to empathize.

Baby reacts to “Moonlight Sonata.”

This little boy had an emotional reaction to hearing his older sister play “Moonlight Sonata” at her recital. I think there is an artist in this boy. One of the commenters on YouTube suggested he should take piano lessons himself when he is old enough. I think that perhaps he is right.

Adorable dog reacts in cutest way to “Lion King’s” saddest scene.

Before seeing this, I really didn’t know that it was possible for a dog to understand and follow what is going on in an abstract scene on TV. This dog really seems to have some understanding of what he is watching and is sympathizing so much with Simba. No wonder dogs are so sensitive to our emotions and seek to comfort us when we are sick or sad.

We all need sensitive souls and the ability to empathize. I hope this touches you and makes you smile.