7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 175)

— 1 —

I’m back from my whirlwind trip for the Journey Home taping. It was even better than I thought it would be to meet everyone at the Coming Home Network. I think the taping went extremely well, with just one tiny hitch: I was allergic to something in the studio.

This happens to me occasionally, most often in restaurants. I’ll be sitting there, chilling, then — BOOM — my nose suddenly feels like it’s been doused in extra-strength itching powder. Coherent thought processes come to a screeching halt, and all my energy goes into furiously rubbing my nose. I used to think that dinners out were some of the worst occasions on which this could happen, since it’s distracting and bizarre to sniff and snort and rub my nose all over my face while other people are trying to eat. Alas, I had not considered “Semi-Live TV Tapings” on my list of “Worst Times This Could Happen.”

The Journey Home is taped-as-live, i.e. there’s no editing and no do-overs, and so when the itch bomb hit about 20 minutes into the hour-long program I knew I was in trouble. It is my most fervent prayer that I understand correctly how the cameras work. As far as I know, when a camera’s red light is on, that indicates that it is the one being used for the shot. When it goes off, they’ve switched to another camera. Based on this theory, when the red light would go off on the camera that was pointing at me, I would throw my hand up to my nose and scratch furiously like a madwoman for about five seconds, then put it down just in time for that light to come back on. If I am incorrect — if by some macabre twist of fate the red light indicates that that camera is not in use — then it’s going to be a really, really weird episode of the Journey Home.

— 2 —

A couple of pictures from the taping:

On the left is me with author/speaker Kevin Lowry, who blogs at Grateful Convert; then with host Marcus Grodi, who has a new blog called From Our Back Porch. Also, I note for the record that I am 6′ 0″ and wore shoes with a two-inch heel. (Yes, I had to throw in a few jokes about the Coming Home Network discriminating against non-super-crazy-tall people.) I also got to meet JonMarc Grodi and his wife Teresa, which was another big highlight. Really great group of people.

— 3 —

When I was going through security at the airport, while I was having my ID checked an officer who’d been standing nearby walked up and asked me, “Who is that in the picture?” His tone caught me off guard; he asked it almost in an admiring way, not like he was suspicious of anything, but like he meant it as some kind of compliment. I didn’t think my driver’s license photo was all that great…though I did fix my hair that day…and seeing my children acting like rabid animals at the DPS office did put that intense look in my eyes that could be interpreted as energetic enthusiasm instead of the rage it actually was. I blushed and answered the officer, “It’s me!”

Then, after I went through security, when I looked down to put on my shoes I caught a glimpse of this:

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Necklace - Axis Mundi

My Our Lady of Perpetual Help necklace from Axis Mundi…which is what, in fact, the agent had been asking about. Sooooo, the right answer to his question as to the identity of the gloriously depicted woman in this pendant, so worthy of praise as to be crafted as an icon, surrounded by glitter, holding the infant Christ, was “The Most Holy Blessed Mother,” not, “Me.”

— 4 —

We just got our Chinese CDs. I’m psyched. Which reminds me: Remember that Chinese language poster I mentioned when I first brought up the subject? You can’t believe how much mileage we’ve gotten out of that thing. Folks would come over doubting my homeschooling abilities, perhaps recalling the time I asked if Watch Mommy Surf the Web could be considered a subject, silently noting that I am often available by phone by what should technically be homeschooling time. Yet they see that poster, and all doubts are erased. They remark on it with amazement (in facial expression if not words), like, “I didn’t realize you’re the kind of family that has a Chinese poster!” Their attitude transforms from one of skepticism to one of deference to me as a Chinese-poster-owning homeschool teacher. What’s amazing is that I have never lied and said that we actually use it to learn Chinese; I’ve ever even implied that it has any use other than covering my three-year-old’s attempt to create a portrait of Barney on the wall. Yet people see that poster and just start attributing competence to me left and right!

— 5 —

My dad is a big astronomy buff, and got this great shot of the Venus transit this week:

What’s crazy is that he did it with his hand-held camera:

He detached his telescope’s solar filter, and looked through it to see when Venus appeared (I didn’t realize you could see it without magnification!) Then he held the solar filter in front of his Nikon P500 and snapped the shot (at ISO 1500 with 1/100 shutter speed). He’s very clever like that.

— 6 —

I was glad to see that Grace posted the apology I emailed her about the whole margarita incident. It’s an important lesson for anyone who would dare seek out drink recipes from me: We often concoct our own beverage recipes, and usually just eyeball the amounts. Thus, when I am tying up the instructions, I’m forced to estimate quantities. And I am not very good at that. As Grace and Simon found when their margarita turned out to be flammable.

It was something that occurred to me late at night a couple of days after I sent it. I was lying in bed, about to fall asleep, and suddenly my eyes shot open and I thought, “I think I told Grace to put way, WAY too much tequila in that margarita!!!” The next day my husband suggested we pull up a traditional recipe online and see what it suggested. “See!” he assured me. “That’s very close to what you wrote down!” I breathed a sigh of relief, but no sooner had I begun to relax when I noticed with horror the note at the bottom of the online recipe: SERVES 4.

— 7 —

I’m always on the hunt for good Spanish-language songs. Anyone have any good suggestions? I like a lot of Shakira’s old stuff before she broke into the English market. In general I’m not a huge fan of mariachi music, with the shining exception of Los Caminos de la Vida, which brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. I also recently discovered Las Piedras Rodantes, and have listened to it about 50 times in the past three days. But I think my favorite song en español — which is one of my favorite songs, period — is La Ciudad by Gustavo Alberto. I cannot manage to find anything about Alberto as an artist, nor can I find where to purchase this song. All I have is this Youtube video, which was recorded here in Austin at SXSW, which I listen to all the time. Enjoy:


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  1. says

    LOVED the margarita comment. Oh, the things we think of as we fall asleep, huh? Usually this is when I ponder what’s going on with my checking account. “Sigh, it feels so good to lay in bed… I wonder if the insurance withdrawal was today or tomorrow…did that Big Gulp at 7-11 actually overdraw the account?!” So much for sleeping.

    Notify us when we can see your Journey Home episode!

  2. says

    Awesome that you met some Grodi’s! I had the pleasure of seeing JonMarc, Teresa, and their son at my bff’s wedding last month. Such a wonderful family!

    I don’t know what exact genre of Spanish language songs you’re looking for, but I love listening to some of my favorite artists’ spanish renditions of their famous songs. I love Beyonce’s Oye (http://youtu.be/_364VqJ1Gb4) and Jojo’s Too Little Too Late (http://youtu.be/9BUuFAY0M6s).

  3. says

    The thought of you on TV frantically rubbing your nose cracks me up! Hope that doesn’t end up being the case, though. :)

    That is a great picture!

  4. says

    I love your story about your necklace! That is exactly how I would have responded, except I probably would have gone on to explain that I was wearing the baby in a sling for my driver’s license picture so that’s why it looks like I have a shoulder deformity, since you can’t see the baby, and yes I have colored my hair since the picture was taken so the gray isn’t showing as much, and I usually don’t make that pained expression but did I mention I had a baby in a sling while they were taking my picture at the DMV?

    • says

      I second Mana! I’ve really enjoyed their music since my time as an exchange student in Mexico in 1994, and they are still great!

    • Kim says

      I would suggest getting their “Unplugged” CD – very good overall. If you like the older Shakira stuff and you like Alberto’s acoustic type music, you will enjoy this album!

  5. B. says

    I was wondering about the Journey Home: If it is taped, do they fake the callers and emails?
    Or was it live until a short time ago and now they don’t have audience participation anymore?

  6. says

    I am looking forward to your Journey Home appearance. It sounds like you did well, don’t worry.

    My entry this week… For Greater Glory opened to rave reviews. One pastor’s good catechetical work in his parish. Recruiting young women to the consecrated life. Do evangelicals need to confess their sins to a priest? Father Andrew Kemberling speaks from the heart on the threat of socialism. The Wisconsin victory for sanity, fairness and justice. Another happy puppy.

  7. says

    #7: I’m a fan of jut about everything by Selena Y Los Dinos. They did a few mariachi songs when Selena was little but most of their stuff is Tejano (and family-friendly).

  8. Nellie says

    It was actually frustrating to me that I haven’t seen the Venus transit although I am not really into astronomy.. Anyway, I love this post here..

  9. says

    I’ve been sitting on some German language cds for a month and it’s way past time to get started with them! A Western language sounds downright simple compared to Chinese.

    But Spanish? All I know is La Cucaracha from elementary school :)

  10. Hermanth Edwin says

    I watched the song La Ciudad by Gustavo Alberto and loved it a lot. He is a very talented guy.

  11. says

    I’m kind of a a music snob, so I think of Mana as…bland. I would recommend Pequena Orquesta de Trovadores who have their album available for free on Bandcamp (http://potrovadores.bandcamp.com/) or Manu Chao (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzZWXUfIyIs), Julieta Venegas (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pj2ntDiXJCk), Natalia Lafourcade, and if you like a bit of hip-hop, Ana Tijoux (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=177-s44MSVQ) cannot be beaten. Ceci Bastida & Carla Morrison both have beautiful voices and Furland is an awesome Beatles-esque band. My favorite song of theirs is “Queiro Ser Un Color” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH9wJ1MfnTo).

  12. says

    That story about misunderstanding the “who’s that in the picture?” question IS SO FREAKING ME. Really. I’m always having conversations with people that aren’t about what I think they’re about. Oh, Jen. We are socially awkward twinsies.

    Also, six feet tall? Wow. I have always wanted to be tall and gorgeous. I guess I’ll just have to settle for being gorgeous. (haha)

  13. says

    This has got to be one of my favorite sets of takes ever. The combination. Chinese poster at the pinnacle, enthroned by itchy noses, mistaken identities, and flaming beverages. Awesome.

  14. Maria says

    I love Shakira’s old stuff too. Another one I got into when I lived down there was Thalia. I don’t know about her newer albums, but the arresando one is a good one:). Good luck!

  15. says

    Re #7: Mana, for sure. Alejandra Guzman, if you want some hard rock and the kids aren’t paying close attention to the words. Ricardo Arjona is great and complex, although again, maybe not all his songs are family friendly. From South America, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs ( um, again, another parental advisory) and you can’t go wrong with Carlos Vives (Colombian poet laureate!)

  16. says

    If you are looking for Spanish-language songs I strongly recommend you check out Maria Dolores Pradera, who is a legend in Spain and in Latin America for singing both traditional music from those places, as well as songs written for her in a traditional way. She has an amazingly expressive voice and beautiful diction, so is easy to understand.

  17. says

    I’ve had that nose-itching thing in restaurants too. It makes me want to get down on my all fours and rub my nose vigorously into the industrial carpet, because my fingernails just aren’t adequate.

  18. says

    You have such a great sense of humor, Jen, I really love reading your stuff.

    As for Spanish-language music, check out Lila Downs, Gina Chavez, Gaby Moreno (“Ave que emigra” is very pretty and quiet), Julieta Venegas (“Limón y sal” is a quirky love song), Juanes, Gepe (“Alfabeto” is absolutely gorgeous, with a really weird video), and Ozomatli (a mix of every genre under the sun, my favorites are “Déjame en paz” and “Cuando Canto”). Los Lobos also cover a lot of different styles; my favorite album is Kiko, and also the song “Chuco’s cumbia.”

    “Paula Ausente” by Marta Gómez is a heartbreaking song about the death of Isabel Allende’s daughter. For old school music, you can’t go wrong with Buena Vista Social Club, Tony Croatto, Celia Cruz, Juan Luiz Guerra.

    In general, check out NPR’s Alt Latino — they have a great podcast that covers all sorts of music, Spanish- and English-language, by Latino artists.

  19. says

    Jen, I was just rereading your chapter in Style, Sex, and Substance, about looking for a modern image of Mary and being directed to the mirror, so it was fresh in my mind when I read this seemingly unrelated post, where you tell the officer “It’s me!”

  20. says

    Oh, and there is a Gustavo Alberto on iTunes with a 5 song EP called “La Ciudad” (doesn’t have that song however) who I think might be the same guy.

  21. Kim says

    Since you like hip-hop, there is a Cuban group called Orishas that I have really enjoyed – you can listen to their song Naci Orishas here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiRI-rlHxHE (I never watch videos though so don’t vouch for visual content – I just like the sound!) Very bouncy and catchy :) That song is from the CD El Kilo (I know, but …) You might like it.

    Also I like Julieta Venegas – Limon y sal is a good album.

  22. says

    My favorite Spanish-language song is “La Guadalupana” which tells the story of the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego. It’s got a very singable fun melody and it’s just a lovely way to celebrate that event with joy. :) I don’t know any good recordings of it, but maybe YouTube has one.

  23. says

    Missing the Venus transit is my one regret concerning having a lay Dominican meeting that evening. Especially since my version of “viewing” would have been to meet up with my astronomy department colleagues and watch from the RLM rooftop….

  24. says

    Oh, allergies. I have them too. And as a result, I also have my share of TOTAL ladylike moments at assorted places.

    And oh my goodness, I do believe a Mexican restaurant here is using your margarita recipe. A few sips in, and I find myself rather drowsy. But boy are they good!

    Loved reading these quicktakes, as usual.

  25. says

    I am very curious to watch the episode and see if your nose gets mysteriously redder and redder as the show progresses!

    I also wonder what went through that security officers head thinking you had dressed up so elaborately to have a portrait of yourself made and then put onto a necklace which you then wear!

  26. says

    I can’t wait to see you on The Journey Home, and not just because I’m curious about whether you read the camera lights correctly.

  27. Carrie says

    Okay, I have nothing good to add…but I just wanted to say thank you to those who shared Spanish song recommendations! It is so helpful to have a few good artists to look into rather than searching blindly. :)
    Oh, and almost everything that you all mentioned has been on Spotify – so I’ve been listening to it for free! Awesome….

  28. says

    ““I didn’t realize you’re the kind of family that has a Chinese poster!””

    HAHAHAHAHAHAH! So you’re THAT kind of family, eh? Too cute.

  29. Heather says

    My husband has a pretty extensive collection of Spanish music. I don’t speak Spanish so I can not comment on the lyrics, but here is a list of some of his favorite artists in no particular order: Nicho Hinojosa, Mana, La Oreja de Van Gogh, and Ricardo Arjona.

  30. Andrea says

    Vicentico of the Fabulous Cadillacs fame has a great solo career, too. His first and third albums are favorites of mine.

    If you want Catholic music in Spanish, the group from my parish is great, Los Walkirios: http://walkirios.com/

  31. Marion says

    For Spanish music, I second Mana (unplugged) and Juanes; Oreja de Van Gogh for something pop and upbeat; Jorge Drexler for something more low key and meditative… Gypsy Kings isn’t technically Spanish, but fantastic music to check out. Jarabe de Palo is often good too (try “la Flaca”). If you like Simon and Garfunkle, you might like Mexicanto, which was a similar folk duo…

    My husband says Thalia, Moenia or Paulina Rubio, although I’m not a big fan of those.

  32. syd says

    this might sound lame, but I really like Ricky Ricardo’s music. He really was very talented.

  33. towanda says

    There are many but I like and I’d recommend you Kiko Veneno, Antonio Vega, Los Secretos and Los Rodriguez…

  34. says

    I recommend flamenco. But not gypsy kings flamenco, the real deal flamenco. Anything by Paco de Lucia or a good buleria will be perfect. The singing can be a bit of an acquired taste (and can be a little in your face) but it’s beautiful music. If you’re you-tubing, be sure to watch a video with a dancer in it. Farruco is my favorite. :)

  35. says

    For really upbeat, catchy spanish music, try Espacio Sideral by Jesse y Joy (or most anything by them!) Juanes is good, but sometimes verges into sketchy territory. I second Mana and Julieta Venegas, as well!

  36. says

    I loved your story about the necklace! It brought to mind your chapter in “Style, Sex, and Substance”…with a twist. 😉
    The itchy nose problem sounds just like something that would happen to me. I hope you were right about the red light! Regardless, it’s sure to be an awesome episode.

  37. Ana says

    Hi Jen,If you like good catholic spanish music, look for Ministerio de musica Jesed.specially the songs dedicated to Our Blessed Mother.

  38. Nellie says

    The Venus transit is actually very popular last week and I actually wished I have notice it before.. Anyway, I love your post here..

  39. Laura says

    Spanish songs hmm… agua by jarabe de palo, estar lejos by fonseca and willie colon, ojalá pudiera borrate by maná :)

  40. says

    We have a whole section of itunes that we title funky Latin. Mano Chao features heavily of course, but the defining song is called La Camisa Negra, sung by Juanes. The lyrics are actually kind of depressing but the sound, the beat, the groove are a lot of fun to listen to. You might like it. Just create a La Camisa Negra station on Pandora and you’ll find all sorts of great, funky, interesting Spanish songs.

    There’s an album called guitar music for Small rooms that has a great number of artists all on one album. A lot of it is instrumental but I love it too.

  41. says

    Hi, I love your blog, i’ll recommend to you a song of a new band called “La Fievre Looka”, the song name is “A Donde Vas” a very good song, from “Jumbo” Fotografia and Ximena Sariñana