Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why I Love Bollywood Movies So Much!

As some of you know, my husband and I are in the process of adopting a child from India.  (It has been over a year now and the waiting is getting really tiresome!)  Anyway, I thought that if I was going to raise an Indian child, I should become familiar with his/her culture.  This is why I started watching Bollywood (short for "Bombay Hollywood") movies in the first place.  As it turns out, I fell in love with the genre!  

Why do I love these movies so much?  Well, in American films, we seem to have lost the idea that movies should include a big song and dance number.  Bollywood movies are chock full of them!  It reminds me of when movies were made in a more wholesome time like when Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers graced the screen.  Indian movies are not allowed to show kissing, so they show couple dancing together to show the love between them.  Did you know that a dance can actually be more sensual than a kiss?  Also, showing longing gazes is actually more powerful than showing a couple slobbering all over each other.  Don't take my word for it, see for yourself!  I love the outrageous costumes, dance moves, ethnic music, all of it!  Sure they can be cheesy, but sometimes you just gotta have a bit of cheese in your life, right?  

My favorite Bollywood movie of all time (and probably my favorite movie period!) is Kal Ho Naa Ho.
This is where I saw my true love, Shahrukh Khan for the first time.  I'm totally gaga over him!  I have never gone coo-coo for a movie star the way I have over this guy.  I never liked Brad Pitt (too pretty), or Tom Cruise (too crazy), or Jude Law (too pervy), or Leo Dicaprio (too....I don't know).  I like Shahrukh because he is just so much fun to watch!  He totally throws his whole body into the dance moves and he looks like he just LOVES every minute.

Shahrukh is smart too.  He knows what he is doing.  He made the following statement in response to the cheesiness of some of his dance numbers:  "I make movies that must appeal to both the 5-year-old child and the 90-year-old grandma".  (...and the 30-something American, apparently!)  He is the biggest movie star in the world if you go by the number of fans he has.  He is not only the biggest star in India, but also in all of Asia.  (I have so much competition.....sigh...)  A self-made man from humble beginnings, Shahrukh now owns his own studio.  He doesn't like the term "Bollywood" because, as he says, "If you are David to someone's Goliath, it is better to be called 'David'.  Not 'Boliath'." 

If you want to see what I'm talking about, here are my favorite Bollywood movies.  (These days, you can Netflix them!)

Lyn's Bollyood Picks:
1.  Kal Ho Naa Ho (Tomorrow May Never Come) - My fav!
2.  Rab ne Bana Di Jodi (A Match Made By God) - Super sweet.  You'll love the Surinder Sani character.
3.  Om Shanti Om - Pure marshmallow fluff for the eyes!
4.  Veer-Zaara - a beautiful love story which shows a bit of the problems between India and Pakistan.
4.  Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Something Happens) - a much-loved Indian classic.

Check them out!
BTW - Bollywood movies are longer than the ones we're used to.  They can be 3 or more hours.  This is because their songs are longer (usually 6 minutes) and they usually have 5 or 6 songs per movie.  All I can say is, it's time well spent!

Here are some pictures of when I dragged my poor husband to Madame Tussaud's in London (this past July) just so I could see a wax copy of my hero.  My hubby thinks I'm nuts!  I am lucky to have a guy who is cool with all of this.  Of course, he has a Michelle Pfeiffer thing so he can't say too much.  (BTW - I have lost 30 pounds since these pictures were taken.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why Take Music?

As a musician and a music teacher, I get really annoyed when other people devalue my subject.  It upsets me when school administrators see music as a "stress reliever" class to provide students with a break between the "real" classes.  I was very happy to find this article which sums up my feelings on why music has intrinsic value.  Next time I have to justify my subject to an administrator, I'll use this.  Thanks, Dr. Tim!

"Why Take Music? (By:  Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser)

Music is a science
It is exact, specific, and it demands exact acoustics.  A conductor's full score is a chart, a graph which indicates frequencies, intensities, volume changes, melody, and harmony all at once and with the most exact control of time.

Music is Mathematical
It is rhythmically based on the subdivisions of time into fractions which must be done instantaneously, not worked out on paper.

Music is a foreign language
Most of the terms are in Italian, German, or French; and the notation is certainly not English - but a highly developed kind of shorthand that uses symbols to represent ideas.  The semantics of music is the most complete and universal language.

Music is history
Music usually reflects the environment and times of its creation, often even the country and/or racial feeling.

Music is physical education
It requires fantastic coordination of fingers, hands, arms, lips, cheeks, and facial muscles; in addition to extraordinary control of the diaphragmatic, back, stomach, and chest muscles, which responds instantly to the sound the ear hears and the mind interprets.

Music is all these things, but most of all, Music is art
It allows a human being to take all these dry, technically boring (but difficult) techniques and use them to create emotion.  That is one thing science cannot duplicate:  humanism, feeling, emotion, call it what you will.

Not because you are expected to major in music
Not because you are expected to play or sing all your life
Not so you can relax
Not so you can have fun

BUT - so you will be human
           so you will recognize beauty
           so you will be sensitive
           so you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world
           so you will have something to cling to
           so you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good - in short, more life.

Of what value will it be to make a prosperous living unless you know how to live?


If you have ever studied music or played an instrument, you have done all of the above things.  It kills me when school systems want to cut the arts.  Kids need this!  Did you know studies show that students who are involved in their school music program have higher test scores than the students who aren't?  I don't think this is a coincidence. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jamie Oliver is a super cool dude!

Last night, I watched the sneak preview to Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.  This famous, British, "Naked Chef" is trying to educate America about what we're feeding our kids.  I would encourage everyone to watch it (the 2-hour premier is this Friday).

School lunch just is not the same as it was when I and my fellow genXers were in school.  Rarely does anything actually get cooked in the cafeteria.  I remember having some kind of meat with some kind of vegetables every day when I was a kid at school.  Also, they used to make the bread and we had a salad bar option.  Not so now!  As a teacher, I see all the junk that passes for school lunch around here.  Kids are being given pizza, nachos, hamburgers, or hotdogs almost EVERY day!  They count ketchup as a vegetable!  Also, too much starch is put on there.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen chicken nuggets with mashed potatoes AND french fries on the plates.  (They count potato as a vegetable, apparently.)  This is wrong!  If I were a parent, I would raise hell about this with the school board and I certainly would  not sign my child up for the school lunch plan!  As a school, we should be educating the kids about what they should be eating.  We should not be programming them to think that junk food is okay to be eaten every day.   

Unfortunately, we have allowed the food lobbyists and big agri-business to hi-jack our health.  Jamie is trying to point how exactly how bad processed food is for us.  He makes a good point about how most people laugh and say, "yeah, I know this food is bad" and act like it's no big deal.  But when confronted with the fact that they are killing their children (taking as much as 14 years off their lives), suddenly it becomes much more serious for them.  There are so many scary chemicals added to processed food these days....and we're giving it to kids!

Jamie has already done a show like this in England.  In it, he proved that school lunches COULD be made from fresh, healthy ingredients and cost the same as the junk!  (In some cases, the healthy food actually cost less.)  The sad thing is that a lot of the schools in England couldn't start serving the healthy food because of contracts they had with the food companies.  I fear that in America, the deals with the devil...I mean food companies....will be even more restrictive.  Still, I love what Jamie is trying to do here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Leap of Faith

It's a busy week so I'm going to cop out and post another picture.

Do you see this bridge?  We actually had to walk across it in order to get to a monastery in the Meteora when we were there this past Christmas.  Can you believe my husband, who is terrified of heights, went across it too?  It took a leap of faith that the bridge wouldn't collapse while we were on it!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Map of Christianity in the U.S.

I love this blog called  It shows maps of various things.  Most recently, they posted a map the various types of Christianity in the U.S.  I find this really interesting!

Floating Sheep's Map of Christianity

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Another thing that ticks me off in the trash

Uh's time for another installment of my ongoing photo series entitled, "Things that tick me off in the trash"!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What's Your Birth Order?

I just started reading this book about birth order.  Apparently, a large part of your personality is shaped by whether you are a first born, a middle child, or a "baby".  Parents unknowingly condition their children to have certain personality characteristics according to where they are in the birth order (and where the parents were in the birth order).  I'm only on the third chapter and I already find it helpful in understanding my own family dynamics as well as in understanding the students I teach.  (Especially when I teach siblings.)

Here are some of the characteristics I've learned:

First borns - are usually more responsible at an earlier age (because the parents had them help out with their younger siblings).  They are list-makers, perfectionists, are reliable, and are natural leaders.  In fact, most of our presidents are first borns (or are functional first borns).  Note:  If there is an age gap of more than five years between siblings, the younger one may have more first born characteristics.

Middle Children - are the most likely to live far away from home.  (This is absolutely true with my brother and my cousin who are both middle children.)  They are usually good mediators, avoid conflict, are loyal to peers, and have lots of friends.

Youngest Children (babies) - are used to getting a lot of attention.  They are also used to other people doing stuff for them.  They are usually charming, attention-seeking, natural sales people, blaming of others, and affectionate.  Most actors and comedians are youngest children.

Now, you don't have to subscribe to these things, but I find it helpful to be aware that this phenomenon exists so that you can make a choice as to what characteristics you will embrace instead of just going along with your programming.  I recognize myself as a classic first born.  In fact, I'm starting to think that most of the friction between myself and my mom when I was a teenager stemmed from the fact that she was a youngest child and I was an oldest child.  She thought I was bossy and I thought she was  irresponsible.  It also explains why she gets along better with my youngest brother.  Usually, the parent identifies more strongly with the child of the corresponding birth order.  I find this fascinating!  Do any of you out there find that any of this relates to you and your family?

By the way - interestingly enough, most of my friends are also first borns as is my husband.  I guess I am drawn to people with like characteristics! 

Friday, March 12, 2010

Do you need a reason to eat cheese?

Sometimes, my students crack me up!  Today, I wanted to bring a treat for them since they just did so well on their Music Festival performance.  Movie day is a good way to do this.  (I only do this once a year.  Any more than that, and it's no longer a treat!)  The symphony in which I play will be performing the music from "West Side Story" on the next concert.  In order to encourage my students to go to the concert, I brought a copy of the movie to watch.  Even if they don't go to the concert, I thought it would be worthwhile.  Besides, as part of their music education, they really need to know about Leonard Bernstein and his work.

In the past, I have brought donuts as an additional treat to have while watching the movie.  However, since I have been reading so many books about nutrition lately, I just couldn't bring myself to buy donuts for my students today.  When you know exactly what trans fats, sugar, and white flour does to the body, you just can't give that stuff to kids.  I just couldn't do it.   SO, I bought some fresh, local strawberries and some cheese.  (Gouda, Cheddar, and Mango-Ginger Stilton.) 

I didn't know how the kids were going to react to the new "healthy" treat.  (I mean, I didn't really want them to think of me as the lady that gives apples or raisins when trick-or-treaters come around!) It turns out though, that kids love fruit and cheese!  They were so excited.  Some of them didn't really like the Mango-Ginger Stilton, but the ones that did REALLY did.  By far, the favorite was the Gouda.  They all said I should just bring a big wheel of that next time.  The strawberries were also a hit.  (There's nothing better than fresh strawberries that have been ripened on the vine!) 

The thing that really cracked me up was that one student said, "Ms. Lyn, I feel rich!  I mean, eating cheese all by itself for no reason?!"  I guess he thinks that rich people sit around all day and eat cheese.  How funny! 

So, wanna make your kids feel special and rich?  Treat them to fruit and cheese!  (It actually isn't that expensive. The snacks today were only a few dollars more than the donuts would've been.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The "S" Rule

Lately I've been taken with the idea of eating awesomely delicious food while maintaining health and a healthy weight.  To this end, I came across a good tip today.

The "S" Rule:
No Snacks, no Seconds, and no Sweets; except for days that begin with "S".

This way, you can still enjoy them, but not every day.  I'm going to add this rule to my life.  Except for the snack part because I have found that I HAVE to have a mid-morning snack or else I totally pig out at lunch.  (A handful of nuts usually does the trick!)

Another good tip I found is to limit "treat foods" (and we all know what they are:  chips, fries, cookies, cakes, ice-cream, etc).  America has the highest amount of processed food in the world.  We also have the highest obesity rate in the world.  Do you think this is a coincidence?  I don't!  The food companies have turned special "treat foods" into everyday foods.  It used to be that in order to have fried chicken, cake, or ice-cream, you had to spend a lot of time to make it so people only had these foods for special occasions.  Now, you can snarf them on your way to work or any time of the day or night!

If you want to have a "treat food", make sure that only have those that you make yourself (and I don't mean from a mix).  This will help to limit your consumption of them (and also limit your waist line).  It's a pain to make these things from scratch so you won't want to  do it everyday.  Also, the treat will be healthier because it won't contain all the horrible chemicals that food companies add in order to prolong shelf-life (they don't do anything good for your body).  If it's your birthday, and you don't want to cook, make sure your treat is made by a person (like a good chef) and not from a corporation's assembly line.  Not only will it contain less harmful chemicals, it will taste SO much better!

Do any of you out there have any good tips that you are willing to share?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Yummy Asparagus "Fries"

I used to think I didn't like vegetables.  The more I learn how to cook them well, however, the more delicious I find them.  Asparagus is one of those vegetables that I learned to enjoy.

Before I learned how to make asparagus "fries", I had only had the soggy, slimy, canned asparagus.  Yuck!  No wonder I thought I didn't like it!  It turns out that I only didn't like the canned kind.  (As with most canned vegetables.)

The way I like to cook asparagus is to roast them in the oven.  Here's how:

1.  Wash the asparagus
2.  Bend the asparagus from tip to tip and let it break where it breaks.  It will "show" you where the tender part ends and the tough part begins.  (I learned this tip from watching Rachel Ray one day.)
3.  Spread the asparagus tips on a cookie sheet and spray with olive oil cooking spray.  (or you can drizzle with olive oil, but I find the spray works better b/c it's more uniform.)
4.  Sprinkle with Celtic Sea Salt and oregano and put it in the oven at 350 degrees or so.
5.  Roast for about 20-25 minutes until the asparagus gets slightly brown and crunchy at the ends.
Serve immediately as a side dish. 

They taste delicious this way.  It's almost like eating fries!  (...well, almost.)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Living (and eating) Well, a la Audrey

"I'm not a huge snacker, but I eat awfully well at meals and all the things I like.  ...I much prefer an extremely simple meal that's exquisitely done."  - Audrey Hepburn

I'm currently reading the book "What Would Audrey Do?".  The more I read about Audrey Hepburn, the more I like her.  She was a beautiful, classy, yet down-to-earth lady.  

                                    Food and diet: 
Audrey had a perfect figure, but never dieted.  Her philosophy was to eat simple, perfectly prepared food and apparently she had a big appetite.  Audrey adored things like chocolate souffle, roast duck, steak, and perfectly ripe raspberries which she ate with gusto!  Her secret to staying slim was to eat only the highest quality, organic food and to stop eating immediately as soon as she was full.  ("...a little hatch closes and I stop.")  Also, she never snacked.

Julia Child had a similar approach.  She said that you can eat all the delicious, buttery French dishes and not get fat by following these rules:  eat small portions, no seconds, and no snacking.  Neither Julia nor Audrey ever ate diet food.  Julia was known to say, "the only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook".  (Don't you just love her?)  I also LOVE that she said, "I think shopping for food is more fun than shopping for a dress".  Me too, Julia!  I find that nothing gives my self-esteem as serious a smack-down as when I'm shopping for clothes.  Food, however, always fits and makes me feel happy!    

 Hanging around the house:
According to this book, Audrey loved being home.  She did not slob around in her sweatpants and t-shirts, however.  Audrey loved to wear black leggings, a long-sleeved black shirt, and ballet slippers when she was relaxing at her house. 

Along the same lines, I came across this post about what to wear when lounging at home.  It's nice to have some classy yet comfortable things to wear when you get home from work.  I am a usually a total sweatpants-wearing, snack snarfing, slob-on-the-couch kind of girl then I get home.  However, this post made me feel like I needed something more chic.  I went and bought some "lounge-wear" at Steinmart over the weekend.  (Some flowy, soft, shirts and some pretty yoga pants and things.)  It's really just as easy as throwing on the sweats.  Now I feel much more stylish and I'm not embarrassed when unexpected company (or the UPS man) comes around! 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Oscar "Party"

I love the Oscars (and movies!) and this year, I decided to have an Oscar party.  (Okay, so there will only be 4 people there, but it's still a party, darnit!)  I think the fact that it's on a Sunday night put people off.  Most of my friends have to get up crazy early on Monday mornings.  I suppose people who work in the movie industry don't actually live in the real world and don't have to get up early on Monday mornings.  (I say this jealously.)  C'mon Oscar people!  Can't we have the Oscars on Saturday night for people who work in the real world?  Oh well, I'll just be tired on Monday.  I'll live.

The party supply shop near my house had a very limited selection of Oscar party stuff, but I was still able to get some cute things.  Check out the spirally hangy things look like movie film:

Also, I got some star coasters:                      .....and an adorable clapboard.  (I don't know  
what we're supposed to do with this but I had to have it anyway!)

We have some print-outs of the 2010 Oscar Pool sheet which we'll fill out before the show.  We decided to all put in a fiver and whoever gets the most right answers will get the loot, plus this little "Star Award":

There will be plenty of food there.  (Click here to see more about it.)  You're supposed to have a movie-themed dish at an Oscar party.  I couldn't really think of anything (I did not want to have blue food coloring in everything for Avatar!) so I got these Bacon Caramel Toffees.   ...because everything in the movies relates to Bacon!  (Kevin Bacon, that is.)  Okay, so they're not dairy and sugar free.  They are however, gluten-free and I'm only going to have one, just to see what it tastes like.  It should be interesting.  (I love that it says "Crunchy, smoky, sweet love" on the package.)

Is anyone else as excited about movies and the Oscars as I am?


Saturday, March 6, 2010

An Amatuer Blogger's Blogpost about Blogging

Why do I like blogging so much?  I don't really know.  Less than 2 months ago, I started my first blog.  Before that, I had no idea this whole blogosphere existed.  I mean, I'd heard of blogs but I didn't really have anything to do with them other than reading a few friends' posts on their blogs.

Now, I'm a total addict!  Not only do I love maintaining my own blog, I love reading everybody else's!  It must be filling a need people have to share their experience with others.  We used to have more time to sit around and chat, I guess.  (I feel like I used to anyway.)  But now, we've gotten so busy we don't really have a chance to swap ideas and get each other's opinions on stuff.  Maybe also, we don't listen to each other in the real world.  In the blogosphere you feel like someone is going to read your take on things.  Oh well, I could speculate all day.  I have no idea why blogging makes me so happy but it does.

"Musings" is kind of my practice blog.  I try to add new things and make changes as I make my way through books like "Problogger" and "Blogging for Dummies".  (I also follow the Problogger blog for helpful tips.)  I've learned things like "content is king!" and "design is queen!".  I recently bought a domain for this blog (, but haven't pointed my blogger address to it yet.  I'm kind of afraid people may not be able to find it easily any more.  Oh well, I suppose I should try it and see what happens.  Also, I learned that when you register a domain name, you must include the "www" if you want it.  I thought I was buying "", but if you type that, it says it doesn't exist.  I thought it would add it automatically.  Silly me!  Rookie mistake, I suppose.  (That's why I have a practice blog!)  Luckily, it only costs about $10 per year to buy a domain.  I see it as a $10 lesson in how not to do it.

As far as design, I haven't really done anything about it.  Apparently, a bad design (or no design) can put off potential readers.  I found a helpful post on the subject.  (Click here to see it.)  When I'm ready to deal with design, I'll take her advice.  (BTW - I think her design is super cute!)

I recently added Sitemeter to my blog and I LOVE it!  There is a free version that I am using and I find it works great.  It's really fun to see where people who view your blogs are.  I've had hits from people in Germany, France, England, South Africa, India, and New Zealand.  I can't tell you how happy this makes me!

I'm still trying new things.  I just found out about the following:
  •  - apparently, this site allows you to see what questions your readers are asking search engines in order to get to your site.  It also lets you see how people arrive at your site.  The only thing is it's not free.  (Booo.)  But there is a free trial so you can see how it works.  I might try it out.  I'll let you know what I think of it.
  • & - Both of these site are "social bookmarking sites".   They say that sites like these can send lots of visitors to your blog based on the titles of your posts.  (Again, I've not tried it yet myself, but I'll keep you posted.) 

Has anybody out there tried these already and do you have any other advice for a rookie blogger?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Teacher Act

Sure, I could probably earn more money doing something other than teaching, but I feel like what I do has intrinsic value. The best part of my job is when I get to put on music performances with my students.  Last night, a small vocal group of mine sang the music from "Sister Act" for a public performance.  If you've ever seen the movie, you know that this music is very upbeat, happy, and just fun.  It was a hit!  

I know "Sister Act" isn't considered to be a great movie or anything (even though I like it).  However, the scenes which involve the transformation of the choir are inspiring!  Whoopi Goldberg plays a woman who is a lounge singer, witnesses a crime, and has to go into the witness protection program.  She has to pretend to be a nun and live in a convent.  When she first hears the convent's choir, they sound terrible.  Among others, there is an old nun with a low voice; a shrill, operatic-sounding nun; and a shy nun who barely makes a sound.  When they sing together in unsion, they sound just awful.  Whoopi works with them to try and improve the sound.

Later in the movie, they show the choir singing in the next church service.  They start all prim and proper singing "Hail Holy Queen".  Then, they break out into the same tune accompanied by boistrous clapping and gospel-style harmonizing.  (There's a bit of a musical joke as well when they use Beatles-esce ascending dominant 7th sequences as transitions during the "alleluias".  If you're a musician, you'll be chuckling when you hear it.)  The same nuns who were terrible in one context were transformed into being fantastic in another context.  The low-singing nun sang a chant-style solo, the shrill nun sang an awesome high solo, and the shy nun was given a solo in which she belted it out!  Whoopi had taken each nun's apparent weakness and turned it into a strength!

This scene in the movie is a perfect way to describe what I feel my job is.  My goal is to find each student's strength and to put them in a context where they can really shine.  While I certainly don't always succeed, I do try.  I feel like I'm Whoopi, taking each student's gifts and combining them into something beautiful.  (Well, I'm not nearly as cool as Whoopi but a girl can dream, right?)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Old (but fun) Stories: Thanksgiving with Cranky 'ol Grandma

Here is a story from Thanksgiving this past year:
Okay, so I have this 90-year-old Grandma who is so cranky and rude that it's actually entertaining. Her behavior at Thanksgiving yesterday inspired me to add some crazy Grandma stories to my repertoire. Cathartic for me, and entertaining for you. Enjoy!

1.  My grandma was using her shiny, red walker to inch across the living room to her chair. In the middle of the floor, my cousin's 4-year-old daughter was playing. (oblivious to said Grandma.) Inch, inch, inch. When she finally got up to where the child was playing, she stopped and yelled, "Well, get out of the way!!" Classic.

2.  After the big meal, we were trying to get desserts to the kids first. (You gotta give sweets to the kids first, and then the adults, right?) Well, Grandma was having none of that. She said loudly to my cousin's grandma, "I GUESS they'll get ours in a little while!" Okay. I can take a hint.

3.  When I gave Grandma her pie, I asked if she wanted coffee. "Not THAT stuff!", she replied.

4.  My poor British husband (well, half-British & half-Greek) always has to endure her questions about why the Brits don't have Thanksgiving. This year, she added "I guess you British aren't very thankful people".

5.  My brother reported to me that she was watching TV when a Levitra ad came on. "Well that's one problem I've never had", says Grandma. "..or maybe that is what I had right before my heart attack a few years ago. Maybe I should take that!" Who knows what she thinks Levitra is for! ;-)

Let's just say I'd rather spend time with Daisy than with my Grams. (Sad to say, but true.)