Renaissance Gal

Sharing Interests; Celebrating Renewal

Downton Abbey January 13, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Susan Seely @ 12:42 pm
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After watching the first episode of the Second Season of Downton Abbey this past week, I thought and felt one word — “DELICIOUS”!  The show is so lushly produced and acted that one (at least I, certainly) feels immersed in the world and pressing concerns of the residents and neighbors of Downton Abbey.  Although, we, of course, have a bird’s eye view of the action and storyline — a perch from which  we can readily judge who is not to be trusted, where the arc of history is heading, and so on — it is just an escapist delight.

And it seems that I am not the only one taken with it.

There are already abundant analyses of the show with respect to different cultural and literary paradigms.  Here are two that put a Jewish lens on the Downton Abbey phenomenon.  Enjoy.

Why Downton Abbey is the Least Jewish Show on Television

What ‘Downton Abbey’ Shares with ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ – Tablet Magazine.


Intentional Listening 101 January 12, 2012

Here is a thought-provoking and instructive post from a friend of mine.  She talks of a pro-active form of “Intentional Listening.”  I am being exposed to the importance of such skills more and more in my personal life and see how they need to be applied at the micro level to then make their way into the macro level where whole communities engage each other.  It’s particularly relevant in this very political season as we hurl headlong into another Presidential election.  Read her essay and sit with it — understand the healing potential of “Intentional Listening.”

Intentional Listening 101.


The Thankfulness Tree January 9, 2012

Filed under: Holidays — Susan Seely @ 9:51 am
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This is the small Lemon tree in front of my house.  On Thanksgiving morning, I presented my kids with paper tags and asked them each to write down something they were thankful for.  After they did so (with much grumbling and suspicion from my teen) I took the  tags (including mine) and tied them on branches of the tree.  Then I put a bunch of the blank tags in a clear plastic “pencil case” (the kind that go into school binders), in addition to a green Sharpie pen and a piece of paper that read: “This is the Thankfulness tree.  Please take a tag and write what you are thankful for!”

At the end of the day, there were actually a couple more tags hanging on the tree, but I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t more.  The next day, however, more people were out and about after spending Thanksgiving in with family, and the tree began to  fill up with beautiful blessings of thanksgiving!  After several days and then weeks (I left the tags up through New Year’s Day, not really having thought through when I would “end” the project), there were more than 150 blessings and greetings dangling from the branches of the tree.  It was such fun and so gratifying and uplifting for me to overhear people exclaim over their discovery of the tree and it’s function and others just stopped by to read some of the tags.  Interestingly, there were a lot more readers than there were writers.  I found myself sometimes silently saying — “c’mon, dive in, be silly, write something!”  Then there were people who just walked right on by, never noticing or caring that this tree was full of unusual tags — harumph!

I’m still not sure what I will do with the tags — right now they’re in a pile on my kitchen counter — but here is a sampling of some of the things folks wrote on them: “I am thankful for my wonderful husband and our first year of marriage”; “I am thankful for my sobriety”; “Gracias por que mi bebé esta en perfecto estad de salud”; “I am thankful for not living on the streets and for having Starbucks”; “I am thankful for this tree and and all the people who left such thoughtful messages”; “I am thankful for my familey (sic) and troop (sic)” (in a child’s writing); I am thankful for the life I have and all that I have — U.S.M.C GYSGT Retired”; “I am thankful for being a Muslim and living with other religions peacefully!”; “I’m thankful for Medicare”; “I am thankful for my bird, my dog, and my friends.”; “I am thankful for Jesus Christ and what He did for us”; “I am thankful I have God in my life he gives me so much I’d have to use up this entire tree!”; and, “I am thankful for you putting up this Thankful Tree!”.  There were also tags written in Turkish, Hebrew and Chinese.

That tree filled with those tags was/is an affirmation of my faith in the essential beauty of people.  It was such a joy to have it up in front of my house as a daily reminder of that.  Of course there were a couple of crude tags that my teenage daughter quickly discovered and disposed of, but aside from those, each comment was an expression of happiness, gratitude and blessing.  I owe a thank you to my teacher Keri Smith for the idea of the tree — her work is all about how to bring more creativity and fun into our lives.  Maybe next year we can spread the idea to many more neighborhoods!


Long Sentences

Filed under: Uncategorized — Susan Seely @ 9:01 am
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This morning I read an ode to long sentences by Pico Iyer which I found inspiring and evocative of the Renaissance Gal sensibility of always looking to appreciate and discover the nuance and the subtleties of the world and things in them, including language and the relationship we have with it. Of Philip Roth (not one of my favorite authors, but never mind), he says, “His is a prose that banishes all simplicities while never letting go of passion.”  Iyer’s essay inspires passion for the depths we can plumb through writing that isn’t afraid to be lavish, liberal with words and clauses, and, I would say, juicy.

Read the article in it’s entirety here.  Then go and write!


Women, War and Peace October 18, 2011

Filed under: Worthy Causes — Susan Seely @ 2:25 pm
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Last week I attended a remarkable event jointly hosted by the Orange County Center for Living Peace and UC Irvine.  It was a panel discussion promoting the new documentary series, Women, War & Peace.  Created by Abigail Disney, Pamela Hogan and Gini Reticker, the series is, according to the press information, the “most comprehensive global media initiative ever mounted on the roles of women in war and peace, utilizing U.S. and international primetime television, radio, print, web and worldwide community screenings.”  If that sounds impressive and LONG overdue, it is.  The panel featured producer Abigail Disney, Professor Roxanne Varzi and actress Geena Davis and was moderated by the Center for Living Peace’s founder, Kelly Thornton Smith.  The audience was rapt during the screening of the trailer for the documentary series which is being aired through PBS affiliate stations (Click here for the PBS link).  The series investigates the impact that war has on women and vice-versa through on-the-ground footage and reportage from Bosnia, Liberia, Afghanistan and Columbia and then concludes the series by driving home the point that women have greater influence in the realm of war and peace than they are conventionally credited with.  It is an important and moving and surprisingly hopeful and uplifting series.  Please visit the website, watch the series and SPREAD THE WORD!


Vegetarian…Brisket?! October 12, 2011

Filed under: Food Discoveries,Holidays — Susan Seely @ 5:44 pm
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Much to the horror of my friend, Karen, a.k.a. “Queen of the Brisket”, I have in my possession a recipe for Vegetarian Brisket and am attempting to make it for tonight, the first night of the holiday of Sukkot.  The recipe comes from my copy of “The Passionate Vegetarian” by Crescent Dragonwagon, copyright, 2002.  It’s a beautifully written cookbook — the poignant introductory story of how the book came to be alone is worth the price of the volume.  Crescent starts the introduction thusly:  “Invitation.  There is a feast waiting for you here.  Breathe it in.”  Isn’t that lovely and seductive already?  The chapter titles are equally compelling: “Soups for Spirit and Sustenance”, “Great Grains”, and “Satisfying Stews” among them.  Check it out.

I’ll post a picture of the results of the Brisket after the Holidays… Stay tuned!

…so here’s the update (doesn’t seem like it took that long, does it?).

It was VERY time consuming, but delicious!  Everyone, (everyone except my two exceptionally picky kids, that is), loved it!  I would make a couple of tweaks next time, but, for those very special occasions, it is definitely worth it.  Take a look:


Southern Culture on the Skids October 5, 2011

Filed under: Music — Susan Seely @ 9:56 pm
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Here’s a discovery I made just recently — one where I’ve been VERY late to the party…  I went to the Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa last Saturday night to catch Southern Culture on the Skids.  Loved them!  The music had everyone dancing (vertically, in place, because it was pretty packed), with some of the cognoscenti singing along to the lyrics and doing things like making Zombie arm movements for the song, “Zombified”.  Here’s a picture of me and singer/guitarist Rick Miller:

Here’s an apt description of the band from their website:

Long the bards of downward mobility, Southern Culture on the Skids have always embodied a sleazy, raucous, good-natured, good-time take on the culture of the South. Recently described by Dwight Yoakam (in Filter) as “really on the outside, like Dick Dale meets Hank Thompson,” SCOTS have mixed high and low culture for decades, endlessly touring, serving up moonshine martinis and poultry picking for fans everywhere.

Since 1983, when they formed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, SCOTS have played their unique hybrid of Americana, surf, R&B, rockabilly, and swamp pop (the band describes their sound as “toe sucking geek rock – kinda weird, but it feels good when you’re doing it”), all the while driving fans into ecstatic, sweat-drenched paroxysms of joy. Assisted by his cohorts in chaos — drummer Dave Hartman and bassist/singer/heartbreaker Mary Huff — Miller and crew have been prolific and ubiquitous for over twenty years.

Do yourself a favor if you’re feeling gloomy or like you need a kick in the pants — give them a listen.  Even better, go see them live — you will dig Mary Huff’s bass playing as much as her brassy red ‘do!  Check out all their info on their website: SCOTS.


A Favorite Bakery

Filed under: Food Discoveries — Susan Seely @ 9:24 pm

I am constantly amazed when I mention the name of my favorite bakery and my friends claim to not know of its existence.  It’s the:

Head Chef and Proprietress Rachel gave her business the moniker because: “she believes that the bedrock of the pastry world is made of butter, flour, sugar and eggs — the stuff that, in the middle of WWII, women on both sides of the Atlantic would buy on the real Blackmarket if the occasion required.”

The bakery is located just off of Main out by John Wayne Airport, but you can pick up their goods at Kean Coffee among other discerning outlets.  All their products are super fresh and taste sublime — the next best thing (or better, depending on whose doing the baking…) to homemade!  Check out their website and get the whole story and information on custom made cakes, amazing classes and more.  Click HERE for a link to their website!

My 13 year old daughter baked with Rachel one evening a week for 4 weeks over the summer in a class specifically for teens.  It was fantastic, both for her, and for those of us who got to share in the fresh-baked bounty she brought home!  Everything from naan and challah, to scones and chocolate tarts.  Yum, yum, yum.  Check them out, taste the wares and let me know what you think…


Steve Jobs Commencement Speech

Filed under: Philosophy/Self-discovery — Susan Seely @ 9:14 pm

This speech really puts things into perspective.  It’s all so simple… but it ain’t easy!

Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford, 2005.


Living a “Juicy” Life October 4, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Susan Seely @ 5:12 pm
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Hello and welcome to the Renaissance Gal Blog!  I call it Renaissance Gal, because I am embracing my interest in and curiosity about a wide variety of things… and my expertise in none.  I am also using “Renaissance” as in Renewal, Rebirth, Regeneration; the recognition that nothing stays the same and as such, we each have an opportunity to learn, grow and change for the better.

My intent is that this blog will be a place to share with a community of Like-Minded souls (you’ll know who you are), the things, experiences, places and other discoveries that add joy, or “juiciness” to the journey of life.  And I want you to share yours with me in comments and shared links.  In sharing, we can expand and extend our awareness and discoveries and learn to appreciate, and create, moments of joy.

Let’s dive in, shall we…?