Thursday, February 23, 2017

Easter treats reviews

I picked up some Easter goodies. Some of them are new things I've never seen before.

1. Oreos with Peeps marshmallow filling- These are limited edition, the oreo cookie is the golden color vanilla cookie and the filling is bright pink. I generally prefer oreos with the chocolate cookie (and various flavors of filling), but I gave these a try. They are okay but they really just taste like vanilla cookie with vanilla filling, which is not very interesting to me.
2. Cadbury mini eggs  chocolate crunch and creme flavor.  These are your typical cookies & cream flavor with white chocolate and chocolate cookie crispy bits. They are okay but i think not as good as the  original  cadbury mini eggs.
 3. Peeps Filled Delights triple chocolate- These are a new thing, I have never seen  filled peeps before.  The peeps themselves are chocolate flavored,  then they have a fudgy cream filling, and the  bottom of the peep is dipped in chocolate. They are actually pretty decent.

4. Peeps Filled Delight vanilla caramel brownie flavor- The peep is white (vanilla), the filling is caramel, and  it's dipped in chocolate. I  don't really know where the brownie  is supposed to come in, but again they are pretty good.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I tried depotting eyeshadows

 The last year or two, there has been a trend of people depotting their  makeup from the palettes or packaging it  came in, and putting  them into Z palettes. 
These are empty magnetic palettes that you can customize  them, so for example if you love some colors in a large palette and hate others, you can  get rid of the ones you never use and  make your own palette with just your favorites. It's also a good way to save storage space. I decided to give it a try, but the 20$ Z-pallette  is a big Nope for me! That is just for the EMPTY  box with no  makeup in it! I figured I could DIY something for free.

 I used an old metal tin from an AOL cd. Remember those?  AOL used to send out their stupid installation Cds all the time in the early 2000's, , sometimes just in a cardboard sleeve, but sometimes they came in a metal tin.
It must be around 15 years old, but that is how I am, I  kind of hoard random things for craft supplies  thinking I will eventually use it for something. And I did use it! I spray painted it to  cover up the AOL logo. And it is nice and thin, just perfect for a makeup palette. The metal is steel, so  magnets stick to it.
So far  my cost is 0$.

Next I had to depot the eyeshadows from their original packaging. I watched some youtube videos that involved using heat to soften the glue, but I skipped that and just  pried them out with brute force and a ceramics tool that is similar to a dental tool.

Now there are two ways to make the eyeshadows stick in the palette. You can either have a magnetic layer in the  bottom of the palette, and the  eyeshadow pans will stick IF they are a ferrous metal. Some of mine were not ferrous. The other  option is    to glue little magnets to the bottom of the shadow pans, and they will all stick to the steel tin.  I decided to use this method since some of my pans were non-ferrous metal.
You can buy the magnets to stick to the back, but you know I wanted to do this for free, so I just  found some old magnetic business cards  that were stuck to the side of my fridge, and I cut them up into little squares and glued them on the back of the eyeshadow pans.  One of the magnets  was for Webvan, which was an old online grocery deliver company that went out of business in 2001. LOL Did I mention that I save craft supplies FOREVER? But I do eventually find a use for them so don't tell me to purge my treasure trove. I just saved $20!

My end result is here:

In this one tin, I  have 6 Colour Pop singles,  a Physicians Formula Quad (the rectangles), 2 L'oreal   duos (the  half circles), and a Stila "Dare to Bare" palette which contained 6 eyeshadows  plus a highlight and bronzer.. (I don't use bronzer so I just use it as eyeshadow).  I was able to condense  5 separate packages into this one tin.

I  can also take out just a few of the colors at a time and put them in an empty Altoids tin if I want to take them in my purse or for travel.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Internet Movie Data Base has deleted their discussion forums

I just found out that iMDB has closed their forums, and deleted all  the past discussions.   Apparently this just happened today, although it was announced 2 weeks ago. I hadn't been to the site in the past 2 weeks  so I didn't know it was happening. Their reasoning was supposedly that there was too much trolling and flame wars and shit (as there are in   most open forums) and  they want people to use Facebook for discussion instead. They are keeping the data base but just removing all discussions.

I reckon it was a budgetary reason because  forums do take a lot of moderation , which means a real person has to be paid to do that  job. I never  had a registered account at iMDB so I had never posted in their forums, but I had often read them, so I am  unhappy they are gone.  Often times after viewing a movie or Tv show, I would have some little question or confusion about a plot point, and I could always go check their forums and there was always someone who had already asked the question I was wondering about. These were questions not  answered by the summary or cast lists, these were plot questions, like "why did that guy do that thing". I never needed to post because  someone else inevitably had already asked my exact question and it was always answered by someone  else.

 So I am not happy it's all been erased , and Facebook is a poor replacement. Many people don't want all their internet activity linked under a single account. If you get in some trivial debate about a movie with someone, you don't need them to be able to see where you work and who all your friends and family are in one click. Facebook also does not lend itself to in depth discussions, it truncates longer comments so you have to click to see the whole thing. Facebook is just built around quick mindless actions like thumbs up or thumbs down,  emojis and brief sentence fragments, not based around written, reasoned  communication.
I will certainly admit that the iMDB forums had their share of trolls, racist and sexist comments, etc. But so does  the comments on Youtube, and I would never want them to delete all commentary on Youtube! How else can you ask the content creators a question? I never had any problem just scrolling past the low value posts to find the high value posts. It's really not that hard.

 It's very sad to me that the format of message boards/forums/discussion boards is  dying out. When I first got on the internet in 1999,  the first sites I joined and participated in were message boards. I met many friends there who I later met up with in real life.
I got  a job moderating message boards,  that later led to other jobs as moderators and  community managers. Even now,  that is still my preferred format to interact with people online. I like it better than twitter, facebook, instagram,  live  chatrooms or  blogs. I feel like the message board format lets you get to know people the best and it is the most conducive to  thoughtful conversation. I went to weddings and to  funerals of friends I had met in message boards. I fell in love, I traveled to stay with friends in other states and countries, all from  friendships begin on message boards. I don't believe that would ever happen with twitter and  instagram!
Do they  have the potential for abuse and negative speech? Of course, but the positive still far outweighed the negative.

I did find this site which has apparently archived the  discussion boards from the top 1000 movies and shows. (or  top 10,000?) Anyway it's backed  up the busiest boards from imdb, and has empty boards for all the other movies and shows,  which can have new discussions posted.
Maybe I will actually register there and post occasionally.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

What I'm nomming- snack reviews

 Just  a few goodies I have been enjoying lately.

1. Moondarra cheese
Flavors Apricot & Almond, and Honey & Pistachio. (those are the only ones I have found  locally)
I'd love to try some of the other flavors but I've only  ever seen the two. It's  like a flavored  cream cheese with  add-ins. I like it on  very crisp crackers that also have some fruit or nut in it.  For example:

2.  Hazelnut and Sultana Pan Forte Crostini
They are  kind of similar  to Thin Addictives , but less sweet and they use raw cane sugar and it has  an almost faint anise flavor to it. I like that they are SUPER crisp and crunchy, which makes a nice contrast to a soft cheese.
I'd love to try the Tart Cherry, Cacao Nib and Almond flavor but I have not seen those around.
3. Clover Hoppy Hour ice cream. 
It's beer flavored!   with Bear Republic Brewing’s  Racer 5 IPA.

 4. Goat milk caramel sauce from  King Arthur Flour
It goes on top of that beer ice cream.  yeah buddy!

5. Lindt Strawberry Cheesecake chocolate  bar.  Pretty self explanatory. It's milk chocolate and strawberry and cheesecake. It's good stuff.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What I'm watching in February

What am I watching this month?
may contain spoilers!

1.  The Walking Dead is back! I loved the  first episode of the new season , especially the stunt with the cable stretched between the 2 cars  mowing down the herd of walkers. I feel like it would not have killed them since it just cut them in half and didn't destroy their brains, but it turns them into crawlers instead of walkers.  Carol's whole "I want to be alone" storyline is boring me, but hopefully she will snap out of it in time to help defeat Negan. What is Gabriel up to, stealing all the food and runnign away with it?

2. Project Runway Junior-  this has been  better than the last few seasons of adult PR. Those kids are  crazy talented and there are some weeks that there really is not a terrible look, they are all decent or good.  There is less backbiting and drama than the adult version. The only thing I don't like is when  Tim makes some pop culture reference like David Bowie or Gilligans Island and the kids all just have this  blank look because they have no idea what or who that is. I mean COME ON, Bowie only died a year ago and there is the internet these days and youtube, so kids today have more access to entertainment that happened before their time. If you are interested in fashion,  the burden is on you to learn a little something about fashion history, even just the 20th century at LEAST.

3. Sneaky Pete- this is a TV series on Amazon Prime that was co-created by Bryan Cranston (from Breaking Bad) and he also has an uncredited role as the villain. It also has some great character actors from The Americans ( one of my favorite shows that is coming back next month YAY!).  Margo Martindale is  in it (she plays Claudia on The Americans and also had a recurring role in Justified), and the actress who played Martha on The Americans is in it.
The show is about con artists  and it  has a lot of tricky plot twists and turns- I love movies and shows like this,  shows  about heists and intricate  plots. The  finale episode had a cliffhanger so I hope they are doing a season 2.

4. Z- The Beginning of Everything. This is another series on Amazon Prime.  I got Prime to watch Sneaky Pete, so then I just started watching the other Amazon original series to see how they are. This is a period piece about Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald in the 1920's ,  starring Christina Ricci as Zelda.  It's got great costumes and sets and the acting is pretty good, although I think  Ricci is a bit old for the role.  She's 36 and she's playing a 20 year old  in season one (I think the series starts when Zelda was only 18). Later seasons may go up to when the real Zelda was  older, so  the age gap won't be as obvious as time goes by.
The episodes are only 30 minutes, so you can binge the whole season in a day.

5. Victoria- This is a PBS Masterpiece Theater series about Queen Victoria.. Season one is just the beginning of her reign and marriage,  and the birth of her first child. I'm assuming there will be more seasons since she reigned so long.  It's currently in the middle of the season  on TV, but  they  have the whole  season on the PBS website if you want to binge it. I had to  make a donation to PBS  in order to unlock it, but that is okay because it's a good cause, and the membership also gets discounts on some  local museums and stuff.

6.  Good Behavior-  This was a TNT series from last year but for some reason I never watched it when it was on. It has Lady Mary from Downton Abby as an American ex-con and recovering drug addict.  She's supposed to be from North Carolina, but has a very flat non-specific midwestern American accent with occasional slips of British upperclass crispness leaking through. She just basically talks way more posh than the character should,  being from a small southern town and a working class /criminal background. She also dresses very classy,   even though she's always out of work,  has nowhere to live,  always saying she's broke... but every scene she has a new designer outfit and she always has money for taxis and drinks at the fancy bars. I guess she must be stealing a lot off-camera.
I am enjoying it though, despite these quibbles. I am about halfway through the season.
For some reason, my Xfinity On Demand only has episodes 1-5, and episode 7. But it's missing episode 6, 8, 9, and 10. Amazon has those missing episodes though for $3 each (they aren't included in Amazon prime), so  I guess I am  going to buy them.

7. La La Land- I went to see this in a theater since it seemed like something you should see on a big screen. I  am not a big fan of musicals, but I did like it. I didn't LOVE it like a lot of people seem to, but the visuals were amazing. The production numbers were beautiful. The singing is mediocre, but it's more about the visuals I think. The plot confused me and kind of had this depressing middle section where they were fighting very unconvincingly, for no discernible reason.  It was  just like the plot arc says  that they break up, but it seemed to come out of nowhere and had no logic or reason behind it. Also, it reminded me a little bit of Woody Allen movies in the sense that it takes place in an alternate universe that  only has white people in it. Woody's New York is always shown as all white, and this movie's fictional Los Angeles was all white. (when in real life those are both incredibly diverse cities).

8.  Deadpool.   Got this dvd  from netflix, but they don't have it streaming yet, only on disc. I am not really  into all the comic book movies,  I think I have only seen a couple of the X men universe movies, but  I really enjoyed this.  It had  great special effects and stunts and action scenes, which is typical of this genre, but it  also had GREAT  witty writing and clever dialog, which is not that common for the genre.

9.  Taboo. This is a  TV series on  FX which is currently running (it's in the middle of the first season) , but I didn't start watching when it started. I just binged the first 6 episodes in the past 2 days to get caught up. It's  set in 1815 London, the same time period as Jane Austen novels ,(and it should be obvious by now that I love a good period piece!)  but instead of genteel country  squires, it's in the dirty underbelly of  London. The plot involves the East India Trading  Company, the Prince Regent of England,  The War of 1812.   There are spies, intrigue,  criminals,  prostitutes and street urchins, as well as incest and mystery, and some kind of a supernatural aspect which I don't fully understand.  The visuals are simultaneously gorgeous and  ugly. Instead of unrealistic period pieces where  everyone has 21st century hygiene with clear perfect skin, hair and teeth,   this series has a real  dark grittiness to the look,  there are great character actors in the supporting roles and  many of the  side characters have a certain grotesqueness to them. The  Prince Regent is especially grotesque. Jonathan Pryce plays the boss of the East India Trading  Company, and is a chilling villain.
 I often have to  scroll back and watch a scene 2 or 3 times. The first time, I am just absorbing the visuals, which are stunning and so textured.  The second time, I focus on the actor's delivery of lines, their voice and  mannerisms and expression. Then the third time, I can actually focus on the dialog itself and the exposition and plot details that are being revealed.

10. Saturday Night Live-
 The only good thing I can say about this presidential administration, is that it is providing comedy GOLD for the late night shows. Sometimes they don't even have to do any writing, just use the actual real,  insane,  rambling doublespeak  verbatim. Melissa McCarthy  is KILLING IT as Sean Spicer. Unfortunately they had a 2 week break when so many crazy things are happening.

What I am looking forward to watching:
The new season of Bates Motel starting next week
The new season of The Americans  starting next month

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Orleans Trip, part 7

Feb 14
This was my last full day in New Orleans, I was flying home on the 15th. Finally on this day, the weather returned to what it was the week before I arrived. Tuesday the 14th it was a gorgeous sunny day in the 70's, with beautiful clear blue skies. Everyone was out and about in t-shirts and sleeveless shirts, enjoying the warmth after the frigid weekend! THIS is the weather I had packed for! I definitely wanted to spend the day outdoors, so I decided to go to the Audubon zoo.

The zoo is one attraction that was not in close walking distance to the French Quarter and the Business district. It's located in a large park on the western side of the city. So I would need to get there by bus.

new orleans feb 14
click picture to see full size.
The red line is the bus and streetcar routes and the blue line is where I walked.

I started by taking the St. Charles streetcar line, which is the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the world! I got the day pass for $3.00 which is good for unlimited rides all day on any New Orleans bus line, this is the best deal when you will be getting on and off or transferring. You can ride this streetcar all the way to the park, but I decided to get off on Washington avenue in the Garden District, so I could see some of the mansions and the Lafayette Cemetery.

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Lafayette Cemetery number 1 is laid out much more orderly and graceful than St. Louis cemetery number 1. The tombs are arranged in wide avenues, with trees lining them, so it really feels like a miniature city.

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While I was there, I saw a skywriter who spelled out "You + God = :)"
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Then I continued walking down Washington to Magazine street, where I caught the Magazine street bus. This bus line also goes to the Audubon park and stops closer to the zoo than the St. Charles streetcar.
By the time I got to the zoo it was around noon and it was really warm! This is good news because all the animals were out soaking up the sun. This zoo only has animals from warm places like Africa, the Amazon, etc. It doesn't have polar bears or other cold climate animals. So I just know, that if I had come to the zoo during the cold snap, all the animals would have been in their indoor heated enclosures and there would be nothing to see.
But on this gorgeous day, lions were out sunbathing
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white tigers were out sunbathing
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pink flamingos were out sunbathing
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red foxes were out sunbathing
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turtles were out sunbathing
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alligators were out sunbathing
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everyone except for the white Leucistic alligators, who have to stay indoors so they don't get a sunburn!
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In the great apes area, the gorillas area was right across from the orangutans area. The male silverback gorilla and the daddy orangutan were having a staring contest!

Are you lookin at me??
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I'm look at YOU!
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The baby orangutan wanted his dad to play, this is the cutest thing EVER.

The best place to eat in the zoo is the Cypress Knee cafe in the Louisiana Swamp habitat area. Don't eat at the main food court area, go to the swamp exhibit in the very back corner of the zoo. It's got a big covered shady deck with ROCKING CHAIRS, seriously! You can order your food and a cold drink and enjoy it in a big comfy rocking chair overlooking a swamp full of alligators! And there is awesome cajun music playing! I could have sat there all day it was so relaxing and nice.

When the zoo closed, I took the Magazine street bus back to what I call "The Hipster Quarter". There is a stretch of Magazine street uptown that has lots of little indie boutiques, shops, bars and restaurants. i got off the bus at Magazine and Louisiana street and just walked for a bit, exploring.
I was drawn to this gorgeous little sweet shop called Sucre. It was very crowded because this was Valentines day, so all the forgetful frantic men were in there buying last minute gifts for their ladies!
They also had Mardi Gras King Cake, which was voted the best King Cake in all New Orleans.
I bought a little valentine gift for myself, a box of beautiful, jewel-like Macaroons.
The flavors I got were: Hazelnut, pecan, salted caramel, almond, pistachio, chocolate, and chocolate-covered. I didn't try them until I got home (aren't you proud of my willpower?) and they were all just delicious. My favorites were the salted caramel and the chocolate-covered. This shop is a must if you are exploring Magazine street, and the packaging is so pretty I saved the box and the shopping bag!

For dinner I ended up eating at Joey K's. I got an Abita Fall Fest beer which was very good. I also recommend the apple cobbler a la mode!

After dinner I caught the Magazine street bus back to the business district, and from there it was a short walk back to my hotel.
Then I started packing and trying to figure out how much of the beads and throws I would be able to cram in my bag to take home!
Luckily my flight going home was not as early as the one going to N.O., so I was able to get a good sleep, and the next morning have breakfast at IHOP on Canal street, and do a little last minute souvenir shopping before I had to catch the bus for the airport.

On the flight home, I sat next to a woman who lives in Sonoma (north of San Francisco) and we were chatting about the similarities between New Orleans and San Francisco. She mentioned that both cities are a food lovers paradise, but in New Orleans restaurants everyone is so FRIENDLY and warm to you! I guess that is what they call southern hospitality. You won't see that in San Francisco restaurants very often, it seems like servers here are a bit standoffish or act like they don't want to be there. That is something California restaurants could learn from NOLA... we got the food part nailed, but we could work on the service and the attitude.

I had an awesome time in New Orleans, I just fell in love with the architecture and in the weeks since I have been home, I find myself thinking about the city often. Even having random fantasies about living there, although I know I could not tolerate the heat for at least 4 months of the year. Oh well, maybe if I ever win the lottery, I could buy a little shotgun house and just spend the winters there!

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Orleans Trip, part 6

Monday, Feb 13
Monday the weather started warming up again. It was in the 60's which was such a relief. I had made plans to go on a plantation tour at Oak Alley Plantation. There are a handful of plantations near New Orleans that have tours, but I picked Oak Alley because of the landscaping on the grounds.

I walked to the Grey Line Tours building on the riverfront to catch the tour bus.
The red line shows my path for Monday.

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This map shows the location of Oak Alley Plantation upriver from New Orleans
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You have probably seen this plantation in movies, it's been in a lot of movies because of the amazing trees, such as Interview with a Vampire.

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These magnificent live oak trees are almost 300 years old, but the plantation and house are only 173 years old. The trees were actually planted a long time before any house ever stood here! No one knows who planted the trees or why. (they are definitely planted by a person, because they are all lined up in perfect pairs for 1/4 of a mile. ) These trees are mysterious and magical! Walking underneath their arched branches is an amazing experience.
You would imagine that the trees were planted to highlight the house, but it was the other way around. The house was built at the end of the alley of oaks, which were already large and mature in 1839 when the house was built.

The plantation house is beautiful but it's not actually that large. It looks bigger than it really is, because it has 13 foot wide verandas on all 4 sides. The footprint of the house is much bigger than the actual indoor space. The wide verandas are to make sure that direct sun never strikes the walls of the house, and keeps it much cooler inside.

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It's only got 4 bedrooms upstairs, and a parlor, dining room, study and butlers pantry downstairs. (for fire safety, the kitchen was always a separate building in those days, not attached to the house)
There used to be some additional "bachelor houses" for the sons of the original owner, but they are not there anymore. The old kitchen was turned into a garage and has some nice antique cars in it.

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The slave quarters are not there anymore but they are being rebuilt. I think some of the other plantations do have slave cabins, but I doubt if they are original. They are probably reconstructions, because the slave cabins just were not built very sturdy like the big houses. They were shacks so I don't think they could survive for 170 years. The main house has brick walls 16 inches thick, in comparison!
They did have a display that showed a slave "inventory" from 1848, as well as the dollar value of each person.

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The slaves all had French names because the original owner was French.
Oak Alley was a sugarcane plantation and I think sugarcane was one of the most backbreaking crops to grow and harvest before the invention of tractors and whatnot. Cotton was hard too but I think cane was the worst. Seeing the names and ages of these people, and then a dollar value, really reminds you of the ugly side of this history. The house is beautiful but it could only exist through the suffering of so many people. But then the same is true of any historical building, when I visit old churches in Europe, I can't help but think of the Spanish Inquisition! When I visit castles, I think about how the peasants lived.

The tour guide was an older gentleman named Tom (all the guides wear period costumes) who was wonderful to listen to, he had a real French-creole accent. Very different from most Southern accents, it has such a debonair lilt to it. He told a lot of great stories, including about the descendant of the original owner. After the civil war, the family lost their fortune, so by the 1960's, the descendant was just an average working joe. He married into the Fernandez family who owns Cafe du Monde, and then his son helped expand Cafe du Monde into the worldwide business it is today (selling the coffee and beignet mixes all over the country).

The plantation also has a restaurant and gift shop, and a historically accurate working blacksmith shop.

After I got back to the city, I had an early dinner at Ralph & Kacoos and had a sidecar, to make a little change from beer.

After that I went to have a massage at Serenity Spa in the J.W. Marriott hotel. I had the 60 minute swedish massage plus 20 minute foot massage. My feet needed it more than anything! I am a work-from-home couch potato desk jockey, so all the walking this week had really been rough on my feet. This was the first professional massage I've ever had so I don't have much to compare it to, but it was very relaxing and made my sore muscles feel much better. I wish I could have had that foot massage every night on the trip!
In my regular life, I would probably benefit from a neck, shoulder and upper back massage on a regular basis. I sit at the computer all day and have terrible posture at my desk, so I often get soreness in my rhomboids and trapezoids. (especially on the right side because that's my mouse hand)

So after a good dinner, cocktail and massage, I'm sure you can guess I went strait back to the hotel and had a great night's sleep!

Today's musical selection is Muddy Waters - Louisiana Blues

I'm goin down to Louisiana, baby behind the sun
(aw, take me wit you man, when you go!)