Monday, December 19, 2011

Fun with Kubb

My family is still savoring our Thanksgiving trip to Washington DC.  We had such a great time that I'm actually going to post a picture of myself on the internet.  

Look!  There's me with the original Kermit the Frog and proto Kermit peeking over his shoulder.  I don't gush often but . . . Stiching!  I could see Jim Henson's stitching on Kermit's froggy little fingers!   

We carried a lot home with us from this trip: I'm slowly working my way through the Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook, my son wants to be an astrophysicist, my daughter discovered minerals and geology, my husband has tons of fuel for his designing hobby and we have Kubb in our lives.  

Get ready.  I'm going to gush again.  

Kubb is the best lawn game ever!  We saw a group of friends on the Mall one evening playing a game with blocks of wood.  They looked so happy and relaxed that we had to ask what they were playing.  

Kubb is a Swedish mix between lawn bowling and horse shoes.  We got home, looked up the rules and made our own set.  The rules are hard to explain so I've posted a video link.  It's simple yet strategic.

I made a few minor changes to the specs in oder to make our first set out of scraps from the garage.  Within three hours we were hooked on Kubb. 

Each kubb set has 6 batons.  Players throw these 12" long 2" in diameter pieces of hardwood at the Kubbs and the King.  I strayed from tradition and made our batons out of pine 2"x4"s split down the middle.  We have small children playing with our kubb set and I didn't really want to arm them with a chunk of oak.  Plus, using what was in the garage spared me a run to Home Depot.  These batons worked fine, but make sure you have sanded and waxed them really well before playing.  Splinters are a buzz kill. 

The standard King is 4"x4"x12".  I used a scrap of pressure treated 4"x4" rounded over a bit to make it pretty.  The king sits in the middle of the field.  It's just like the 8 ball.  If you accidentally knock it over you lose the game.  

Kubb's are towers.  They are supposed to be 2.75"x2.75"x5.9".  Most instructions online tell you to make them out of 4"x4"s. I didn't want to do this for two reasons.  First, I hate working with freshly purchased pressure treated wood.  Its so wet and chemically.  Second, I didn't feel like taking the riving knives and guard off the table saw.  Sloth or safety, I'll let you choose.  

I made our 10 kubbs out of 2"x4"s cut down to 3"x6" pieces then glued together.  For strength and a bit of asethetics I pegged them with 3/8" oak dowels.  

Each team gets 5 kubbs.  The kubbs are set up evenly along the opposite baselines about 5 paces from the king.  The goal is to knock over the kubbs.  When Team A knocks over one of Team B's baseline kubbs, Team B gets to pick the fallen kubb up and throw it into the field.  It is now a field kubb.  

Team B must knock this field kubb over before they can attempt to knock over any of Team A's baseline kubbs.  This is where the strategy of placing field kubbs comes in to play.  If Team B fails to knock over a field kubb then Team A gets to throw from that field kubb during their next turn.  Advantage Team A.  

Once a field kubb is knocked over, it is removed from play.  When a team has cleared all five kubbs from their opponents baseline, they may shoot for the king.  

Sorry to mix building instructions with rules of play.  Just watch the video.  From what we have read, part of the art of Kubb is the arguing.  Each house has their own rules.  There are tons of videos and descriptions online.  Here are two good ones to start with.  

Here is This Old House's video on Kubb:

How to Play Kubb:

Enjoy and if any of you receive a heavy Christmas present from my family, you know what you got.





Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Storytelling

Every career has busy a season and it didn't take long to realize that this writer/mom/teacher combination just won't work during August and December.

It takes almost the whole month of August to retrain feral kids, launch them in to the school year, promote Science Time and celebrate my daughter's birthday.

December is December.  Holiday programs, Santa's workshop in the garage and kitchen, visitors, vacations and birthdays.

The first year that I was brave enough to call myself a writer and chain myself to the desk chair, I tried to work the year through.  Anything written during those two months had to be deleted and the family (myself included) was frustrated.

Now I know to shrink down to two careers and just take a vacation from writing.  Luckily being a writer is the most forgiving career.  Even though I'm not actively submerged in a manuscript, I can still advance my craft while taking "time off."

This year winter hiatus I'm going to try a little storytelling.  Eli at Mama's Coffee House has been wonderfully supportive and is lending me a venue.  What a great chance to spin some stories and watch my target audience at the same time.

I'm not going to read from any of the Titus and Annie stories but all of that Christmas Around the World research for Book 2 will definitely come in handy.

If your in the Charlotte area, come on out to Mama's Coffee House (716 Main Street, Pineville, NC  28134) on Tuesday, December 20 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

George Washington's Mangel Wurzel

Mangle Wurzel at Mt. Vernon in November.
We took the kids to Washington DC for 5 days of pure geeky pleasure over Thanksgiving.  Tons of fun was had by all.  But one funny looking plant with a big name at Mt. Vernon inspired me to get one of my projects off the back burner.

Mangel Wurzel is Swiss Chard.  When the roots are as big as the ones we saw at Mt. Vernon, they are only tasty to barn yard animals.  But the greens are quite yummy.  More subtle than turnip greens and just a little peppery.

Occupy the Garden?
The grownups at our house love greens, especially kale, chard and collards.  Seeing George Washington's Mangel Wurzle thriving in November made me come home and finally put together the little cold frame green house that had been living in my head.

The core of my garden is a row of 4' by 4' raised beds. I put another course of boards on the first container before adding old wheat straw and a few bags of compost to the soil.  Each planting my beds get a little higher up off of their base of red clay.

Peas and a string trellis for the kids to enjoy.
The top of the greenhouse is made up of 2' by 4' trellises which I built this spring for the tomatoes. I leaned them against each other and tied them at the top to a 4' piece of bamboo to lend some stability.

The plastic is a painters drop cloth left over from another project.  So far the staples have held nicely.

At first I fretted that plastic was too opaque but I drove by a professional green house the other day.  Their roof looked milky white compared to mine so I think I'm fine.

I started to over engineer the access sides of the greenhouse but I stopped myself.  Instead of hinges or pegged panels I ended up not trimming the excess plastic.  There was enough on both sides to fold like wrapping paper triangles at the ends of a package and fasten with a small alligator clamp.  Easy peasy.  I love a project that does not require a run to Home Depot.

Look Ma!  First leaves!
 I dream of tomatoes in the winter but played it safe the first go round.  Last week I planted mangel wurzle, kale, basil, deer tongue lettuce and peas.  Today I took a peek.  The kale, basil and deer tongue lettuce are sprouting.


Boxer burrowed under her house this year.
So far we have only had a little frost on the ground and lows of 31.  But colder weather is coming.  My turtle tells me so.

I also checked on Boxer the box turtle today.  It rained a lot yesterday.  She took advantage of the softened soil and dug her burrow a few inches deeper.  Hopefully my seedlings and the box turtle stay snug and happy in the garden over the coming winter.  Fingers crossed.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's not hoarding, honest!



Maggie from the Read or Die series.
Last night I attacked our Maggie Closet.  That's what we call the closet under stairs.  Even I couldn't take the chaos any longer.

My husband coined the term after Maggie from Read or Die.  It's just the type of space she would love to nest in, surrounded by books.  


Our Maggie Closet houses collections of dust mops, brooms, kitchen appliances, lunch boxes, reusable grocery bags, cake pans, cookie cutters and spices.  This is also where I shove everything that needs to be dealt with later.  It doesn't take long for this space to become a total disaster.  



Last night was a total closet purge.  The spice shelves took the longest.  Partly because I maced myself right good by pouring white chili powder into a mason jar.  But mostly because 78 jars survived the purge.  No repeats.  Honest.   

I read cookbooks like novels.  When I grow up, my next degree will be in culinary anthropology.  The spice cabinet reflects that.  

Travelling In Laws supported this growing trend.  I will not tell you where my saffron came from and I still feel bad that they had to spend so much time in customs once because of some cumin seeds. 


Recently I've learned how to find really good spices locally.  The online spice catalogs are just too pricey and the quantities are too small.  

For instance, one purveyor of spice wanted $4 for a tiny envelope of sumac.  Two tablespoons at the most.  I got 8 ounces for $3 at a local Indian grocery store.  Sumac is a yummy lemony brightener perfect for garnishing hummus, sprinkling over steamed vegetables, or replacing the salt on the table habit for people who have to watch the sodium intake.  


Who needs Whole Foods?  During my last trip to Bombay Bazaar I stocked up on cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice and ground cloves.  It's time to make gingerbread!  



My gingerbread recipe was wheedled out of a close friend and has so many spices boiled together that it makes your lips tingle.  There's no teaspoons in this recipe, just tablespoons.

Another great find has been Compare grocery stores.  There are several in the Charlotte area but my favorite is on Arrowood.  This grocery store is predominantly Hispanic.  Fresh garbanzo beans in the hulls and a bin of dried chilis that smells so smokey spicy good I wish I could bottle it.  This store also has Indian, African, Thai and Chinese food stuffs. 

In one trip I can get my bean curd thread that sates our noodle fetish yet cuts the carbs, bulgur wheat by the pound at 1/4 the price of Whole Paychecks, and whole ancho peppers that find their way into almost all of my recipes.  

Don't even get me started on the lentils - they are kept in the pantry and that will have to be another blog.  

If you like to cook and enjoy flavor, buy some mason jars and start building your own spice closet.  Just say no to $5 little bottles of desiccated flakes at the conventional grocery stores.  You will save a lot of money, learn about other cultures and put great food on your table.  





Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Getting Back On Track


Yes, this is a picture of all three cats in one place.  That's how far behind I am on my blog.  The usual one cat post is not enough.  

No, they are not devouring a writer who fell behind on her blog.  It's bad, but not that bad.

The blogger may have been on hiatus but the writer was busy.  Titus and Annie Book 1 is sitting on two different desks.  Titus and Annie Book 2 is complete and sitting on one desk.  Most exciting of all, the first Vinyl Village Mystery has begun.  Right before Thanksgiving I identified the middle of the book.  Always a momentous event.

And look . . .

My two fellow Art Web conspirators got together and made me some spiffy business cards.  Thank you Catherine for the art and thank you thank you Lisa Finley for the excellent design.  I have the best creative support group ever.

Now I better get blogging since my daughter found the box of cards and has been handing them out all over town like coupons for free Frosties.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I do love a good series, really I do


As a reader I love a good series. They are like having a good friend you can call when you need to talk. You know what to expect but there are still some surprises.

Now that I am starting my second series, the Leo and Arnold Mysteries of the Vinyl Village, I am enjoying some of the freedoms for the writer.

There are 50 pages of back story, character maps and anecdotes in my Vinyl Village notebook. Yet this morning, while I started chapter 2 and plotted out future chapters, I didn't feel any pressure or anxiety to force all of that good material into the book. Eventually all those little nuggets will find their way into one of the volumes. Never fear.

Writing a series lets me kick back and grow the text. It's kind of exciting to see where the chips will fall. Here's a few teasers:

Grandma Lily loves hunting thrift stores for furniture and refinishing it. Yet she will not give up her red Miata convertible nor will she let Grandpa Bob have the truck he has always wanted. Instead, she calls one of her daughters, much to Rachel and Susan's chagrin, with their oversized SUV's every time she finds a new treasure.

Arnold's cat Cali hates Leo's dog Bobo so much that eventually her feline reason snaps and she tries to bury the dog where it lies sleeping on the kitchen floor. The ultimate picture of impotent hatred: a cat scratching the floor in front of a dog who just keeps snoring.

Arnold has a neighbor who is a self proclaimed urban homesteader, swears that the slow food movement can save us all while preaching the gospel of whole food and recycling. The boys catch her coming home one day with sacks full of Bojangles fried chicken. I'll have to change the name of the restaurant chain, but you get the idea. I love hypocrisy in adults.

This is not a vinyl village.
Ok, enough teasers. I'm off to write some more on Chapter 2.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Random Line Friday

 “Mmmmm Hmmmm.” She made the noise her mother made on long phone calls with friends. Annie had been waiting to try it out. 

I like the way children test out adult behaviors on each other.  They are little social scientists.  Like walking around the corner and hearing two little girls having a tea party while discussing cholesterol very seriously. 

Annie wonders what Mmmmm Hmmmm does.  When she tests it out on Titus she discovers that it gets people to keep talking, even gets them to spill their guts.  She loves the power of that sound and Titus falls for it every time.  

This week's random line is brought to you by Titus and Annie Book 2 and by my new desk chair.  Do you think this chair is funky enough to break my crippling habbit of sitting cross legged in an office chair?
Smilodon trying to figure out how to nap on such a funky chair.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Art Web Update

Catherine has the week off and plans on spending the whole time painting. She's also lined up a place in Hendersonville to hang some of her work. More details to follow. Catherine also teaches at Design with Wine (http://www.designwithwine.com/ ) in Greenville, SC. Her next class is October 25th, Night Reflections.

Lisa went through 50lbs of clay this weekend but she's not stopping there. It's art show season for her. Time to load the kiln then load the van.

I stopped by her last kiln opening. She did some utensil jars with a circle pattern and a bit of color that I just love. Can't wait to see where else that new pattern and delicious blue color pop up.

As for me, I'm done with querying for a while. Titus and Annie Book One is making the rounds. Titus and Annie Book 2 is done and even got to go out on one little query of its very own.

Time to start the next book. Titus and Annie Book 3: C is for Centurion will be a fun project. Part of me can't wait to dive into that story. It's always fun to start en medias res with Annie mad at Titus. But as tempting as this is I am going to focus on Leo and Arnold for a while.

Leo and Arnold are cousins who live in the same vinyl village. Their first mystery will be The Stolen Swarm.

For me, the hardest part of a new project is the names. Blank page? No problem. Framing a plot arc? Getting easier each time. Conflict and action in the first chapter without the albatross of too much exposition? Easy peasy. Naming the characters? Eeeeeek.

I am notorious for simply naming every character Meg and forging ahead. Why Meg? Honestly, I haven't a clue. I hoped that actually naming a character Meg in Billington would get the name out of my system. Alas alack. No such luck.

So, I enlist help. My children named Titus, Annie and Julia. My husband helped me come up with last names for families who move to the neighborhood in Books 4 and 5. My sister used her lyrical ear to come up with their first names.

To kick start Leo and Arnold, I invited friends Kym and Nicholle over for coffee last week. We were fortunate to have Catherine with us that morning. It was a lot of fun building family trees and naming neighborhoods. An excellent brainstorming session with fresh new perspectives. On my own this process makes me eat Tums like M&M's. With friends, we laughed and smiled the whole time. Much better.

Putting the names down on paper plants the seeds. Now time for my favorite part of a project: organic growth. The plot arc has been mapped out for months but I don't necessarily know how those characters will get from point A to B and I haven't gotten to know their personalities yet.

In order to get to know my characters I like to start a notebook titled “Things I know about . . .” I carry it around with me everywhere, jotting down whatever comes to mind. It's a lot like lingering at the dinner table with friends long enough to hear new stories about each other.

Eventually, the notebook can't hold the story any longer. That's when I hit the computer. I highlight passages whenever I pull from the notebook. Not everything will make it in but it is nice having a home grown resource to fall back on when the blank computer screen becomes daunting.

Keep your eyes open for more Leo and Arnold updates plus pictures from Lisa and Catherine.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Random Line Friday

Today's Random Line is brought to you by Annie and is more of a random paragraph:

Annie was ready.  She put on her winter coat the minute the street lights flickered on.  Then she pressed her face against the window so hard she could feel the cold glass all the way to her gums and settled in to wait.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Random Line Friday

Titus did not say that anyone riding an invisible bicycle upside down while wearing a gigantic blue tutu and swim fins in December clearly needed some help. 
  

Today's Random Line is brought to you by Titus and Annie, book 2.  Annie is having a dilemma.  She doesn't know if Santa is real or not and her social status (big kid/little kid) has become wrapped up in the issue.  When Titus offers to help, Annie naturally responds that she didn't know she needed help.  

Titus has grown up a bit since Book 1.  Three months of friendship with Annie has been a crash course in socialization.  He now knows when to apply his internal filters.  
I hope this line brought a giggle or two and I hope everyone has a great weekend.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Random Line Friday?

Illustration by Catherine Gurri



Perhaps this is not the best place to showcase new illustrations.  It's not exactly a random line.  More like a random thought brought to life by my illustrator and collaborator Catherine.  But Friday's are for having fun, even if the resolution is wonky. 

Catherine visited last weekend and brought a sheaf of new drawings.  I'm so excited.  They look wonderful.  The Clone Trooper vs. Centurion will not make it into the final draft but I still had to share.  Forgive my impetuous nature and rinky dink scanner printer combo.  I vow to wait for a flat bed scanner and proper jpegs before sharing any other illustrations.

The kids and I are heading to Tryon, NC this weekend.  Grandma and the kids can play.  I will harvest this year's honey and work with Catherine on illustrations and rough drafts. Labor on labor day weekend but I am looking forward to it.

Titus 2 is almost done.  Progress stalled a bit on Chapter 10 so I spent yesterday mapping out themes and conflicts.  My neighbors must think I'm nuts because I spent the day outside reading out loud while making notes with colored pencils.  One more chapter to go this morning.  Fingers crossed that this, plus a pot of coffee, puts enough fire in my belly to finish the first draft. 

Have a great weekend.



Thursday, September 1, 2011

Making Mud Pies

One of the greatest things about being an adult is being allowed to use portland cement.  I love cement.  It brings back all the joys of making mud pies.  Mixing up a batch is time consuming and methodical, just right for mulling over a troublesome transition or dialogue that just isn't flowing right. 

I hadn't mixed up a good batch of cement since we lived in Florida.  Then, this past Spring, I helped my daughter's Girl Scout troop make some paving stones for Mother's Day.  I've been making word bricks ever since.  My daughter helps out with the spacer bricks. 

Phase one of the Word Walk.
Once the kids went back to school I was able to place the first section of my Word Walk.  To keep the ants away and to stay environmental I prepped the ground with 20 Mule Team borox and diatomaceous earth topped with a thick layer of newspapers.  Before I put down the leveling sand I added one more layer of borox and DE.  I hate ants almost as much as I hate pesticides. 


The path curves so I will have to sink wooden spacers every few feet.  The spacers also let me work in small sections at a time.  This is a long process so I don't want a huge swath of red clay open to kids and dogs. 

The first quote is one of my favorites from A. A. Milne:  One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.  This could be my personal motto if it wasn't too long and awkward to translate into Latin. 

Everyone needs a favorite A. A. Milne quote.
Then there is the ubiquitous Tolkein quote: 
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost. 
 
 Waiting to be set in the next sections of bricks is the opening line and title of my favorite Gerard Manley Hopkins poems:  As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame.  This stuck in my head the moment I read it in college.  It reminds me of growing up on the Indian River lagoon and all the time I have spent near water and marshes. 

Some of my "words" have made it into the word walk as well: Billington, Titus, Nessie, Annie, Lavender Scented Lake Monster,and Garden of Good Intentions. 

While serving as my editor and collaborator, Catherine has taken a few words away from me:  smug and really.  I have dutifully listened to her but out of stubborn sisterly spite I set them in the Word Walk. 

I am looking for a good quote about curiosity to put on the outside of the gate.  Any suggestions?  I would like something less menacing than "curiosity killed the cat."  

What would you put in your word walk?



Friday, August 26, 2011

Random Line Friday

2009 Christmas Swords, Poplar with beeswax finish.
As a rule, Titus's mother liked to get parental permission before arming children. 


Today's random line is from the second Titus and Annie book. 

That little magic charm or snit fit on Tuesday did the trick.  Titus and Annie Book 2 is sailing along.  Not only is the Befana letter finally written it is also funny.  There are only five chapters to go until the first rough draft is done.  Plenty of time to make my Friday deadline.

Catherine and I are getting together for Labor Day Weekend and working.  It's time for a sit down illustration and editing session on both books. 


Five chapters in seven days?  No problem. 

My french press and I can do it. 

In fact, I am rather looking forward to some nice quiet writing days right after I arm my daughter with a candy apple red electric guitar for her seventh birthday.





Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Routine Returns




The village thyme needs a mow.
Thanks for putting up with yesterday’s rant and cat picture. It always takes me a while to rebuild my routines.

Being stuck on a plot point doesn't help my patience any. I keep telling myself that this is only the first full week of school.

The grapevines have topped out the arbor.
The house almost completely recovered from this summers around the clock occupation. The backyard looks much less Sanford and Sons and much more Shabby Chic. Chapter six has a new stronger opening. Even though I still haven't written Annie's Befana letter, things are going in the right direction.



Another fun routine has returned. Art Web is up and running again.

Remember Art Web? My excuse for starting this blog? A potter, a painter and a writer.

We were all on creative hiatus over the summer while Catherine adjusted to her new work schedule and Lisa and I herded three children through summer vacation. So I'm not the only one rebuilding routines this week.

Catherine was the first of us to get back into gear. She finished a painting of a steeple chase scene. She has also been cranking out illustrations for Titus and Annie book one. I cannot wait to see them. I promise to post some as soon as we get them scanned in. Catherine assures me that Mr. Holt, Titus's teacher, is very cute in his horn rimmed glasses.

Lisa stopped by yesterday on a quest for materials to back a mold. She's finding her way back into the studio. The nice weather helps.

Wind chime with a hint of Miyazaki from Lisa.
She found me in a corner of the backyard working at a folding table barely big enough for my legal pad and my cat. We had lunch and a rambling talk about yard projects, plot lines and all that other random stuff. I made puppy eyes and bribed her with a few more lunches if she would help me design a business card. Lisa is a great sport and an excellent graphic designer. She said yes.

Lisa headed off to her studio and threw two pots. I went back to my little table to fill up a few more pages.

Not bad for a Tuesday that started with a ranting blog.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Domestic Magic


Yes. I believe there is magic. Subtle little steps we can take to invoke the deities of irony and mirth.

For instance, I lose things a lot. Keys. Wallet. Library card. Cell phone. I try to save face and find these things on my own so I don't have to admit to the family that I pulled a Kristen once again because I am still getting grief for misplacing my keys in the refrigerator butter dish. That was six years ago.

When I give up looking and decide to just take it on the chin, be a grown up and admit to losing something again, the item shows up. Magically.

Those drill bits weren't on the table before I e-mailed my husband. My wallet did not appear in the bathroom sink until I told my daughter I couldn't find it. Magic, right?

Now let me see if this works with writing. If I admit that I'm stuck, will I magically become unstuck? Here's hoping.

Chapter six of Titus and Annie 2 is an important one. This is the turning point when Titus gets on board with Annie's logic about the whole Santa Claus issue. He goes from empathy to interest and active engagement.

The chapter revolves around the Italian tradition of Nona Befanna. Children in Italy write letters to their parents promising to be good in the upcoming year. The letters are read outloud at the dinner table. Then the children go to the fireplace and burn the letters, saying a little rhyme to Befana as the ashes go up the chimney. They ask her to send them a treat.

For the life of me, I cannot write Annie's letter to her parents. This should be easy. But I'm stuck stuck stuck.

My husband is not sympathetic. He rather enjoys writer's block. The backyard looks awesome because of all the thinking and muttering I have been doing. The garden is almost ready for the fall planting. If this keeps up much longer, the shower in the master bathroom may end up regrouted.

Gratuitous Cat Picture:  Gravy and Smilodon "counting" baby turtles.
Ok. I have publicly admitted to being stuck and added one more gratuitous cat picture to the cosmos.  Hopefully this invokes whatever cosmic forces make my keys reappear. Let the magic and the writing begin . . .

Friday, August 19, 2011

Random Line Friday


“You're not busy. Your five.”

I cannot claim today's random line. Credit goes to Hayao Miyazaik from his movie Ponyo. The dialogue is between two 5 year old children. A girl asks Sousuke, to play and he says “I can't, I'm busy.”

Everytime Catherine and I get together to collaborate on the illustrations for Titus one of us inevitably quotes this line. It just sums dear Titus up quite well. He is a busy child. Titus gets cross when he is accused of playing and don't even think of calling his model soldiers toys or action figures.
Enough about Titus. Let me gush about Ponyo.

Hayao Miyazaki has been my daughter's favorite director since her daddy gave her Totoro for Christmas when she was 3. Not every Miyazaki movie is good for the younger set. It's going to be a long time before we let our kids watch Princess Mononoke.

Everyone should watch Ponyo, Miyazaki's telling of the Little Mermaid story. The animation is beautiful. The soundtrack alone is perfectly married to the images, like a deep breath. I could go on and on. But I won't.