Saturday, December 8, 2012

Song I'm Digging This Week

I don't need your sympathy - I'll always be just fine...

"Helena" - Nickel Creek

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christina Aguilera makes me angry.

I can't stand Christina Aguilera.  Cannot.  Stand.  Her.

Yes, this probably makes me mean.  But I can't help it.  I'm sure if she met me, she'd dislike me, too.

I have many reasons for my annoyance with Xtina (as if her re-creation of her name wasn't enough).  Her smug attitude on "The Voice" just cemented all of them.  She's constantly smirking.  She has a fancy fan with her at all times.  I'm convinced that she's rude to anyone she feels can actually sing.  I think she believes she's the most talented person in the entire universe.  I think she'd challenge God Himself to a sing-off, and then refuse to believe she had lost.

But honestly, I've disliked her since she was a 12-year-old(ish) kid on "MMC."  

Did I have a real reason back then?  Nope.  I just didn't like her.  There was something about her that made me cringe.

My theory is that we each have one celebrity we dislike for real or unexplained reasons, and we get weirdly, passionately mad about them when they're on TV or in a movie.  

My sister despises Hilary Swank.  She says it started with "The Next Karate Kid," (which, yes, was really awful), but her irritation with Ms. Swank has lasted for about 15 years. "She's just...ugh," Holly Jo told me the last time I was at her house.

My best friend Ashleigh feels violent about Joseph Gordon Levitt.  Every time he shows up in a show or in a movie, she makes a face and says "I would like to punch that guy."  Why?  No real reason.  She just doesn't like his face.  Or speech pattern.  Or dance moves.  Or speaking voice. (I actually think he's pretty cute.)

Donny Osmond makes my dad angry.  Literally angry.  Why?  Dad says it's partly because he just cries too much for a man.  Whenever Dad and I are watching TV and Donny O. shows up, Dad turns to me and says "Just wait.  He'll start crying in a second."  And he usually does.

Am I right about this?  What celebrity do you dislike?  Do you have a reason?  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Less-Than Girl

I'm going to be totally honest today:

Sometimes I wish I was better at being a girl.

Now before some of you get all weirded out on me, let me try my best to unpack that statement:
1.  I haven't decided to bat for the other team.  Still like the fellas.
2.  I was not born with lady-bits and man-bits.  Straight up female here.

What I really mean is that sometimes I read magazine articles, books, and different blogs and then end up feeling like I'm just not doing a great job at being a girl.

My eyes aren't large, blue, and "full of womanly tenderness".  They're average-sized (one is actually a tad smaller than the other one), brown, and...brown.  My neck isn't long and graceful.  My hair doesn't tumble down my back in glossy waves.  It's curly and usually a little frizzy.

And that's just in the looks department - really, that's just above the chest.  That doesn't even begin to cover my lack of cooking prowess or the fact that I have never successfully "crafted" anything.  I'm not even going to begin to talk about the barren wasteland that is my love life.

I want to be careful here, because I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea - I really do love reading blogs, novels, and magazines.  If it weren't for some of these mediums, I would never have perfected the art of the adult non-80's side ponytail and I wouldn't have figured out how to make the world's best scrambled eggs (gently nudge the eggs - just nudge).  But I think that sometimes they make me feel a little "less than," a little stupid, and a little clumsy.

So here are some images from blogs that I saw yesterday.  I'm not going to say where they came from, because I really don't want hate mail, and once again - I follow these blogs because I like them.  I really do.  But here's how they occasionally make me feel:

#1:  "We look perfect, even first thing in the morning."*
This particular blogger states that these pictures were just part of her normal morning routine.  Now.  I dig the looks, honestly.  The girl on the right is all kinds of cozy, what with her wintry pom-pom hat, chunky cardigan, and slouchy socks.  The girl on the left did a bang-up job of mixing patterns.
How I felt when I saw this picture yesterday:  I was feeling good about the fact that my bangs dried straight.  Now I feel like I should have a floral crown.  How could I step outside without a floral crown?!
Reality check: Come on.  I have never, in the history of my time on this planet, looked this adorable first thing in the morning.  I have never seen anyone in real life who looks this adorable first thing in the morning.  I  have never worn a floral crown that I made myself (except for that time I was Ophelia in "Hamlet").  Even when I am rockin' my style, I don't ever conveniently have a great photographer on hand to capture it in the most flattering detail.

#2: "What?  You didn't bake cookies from scratch this morning?  You don't have three kinds of sprinkles in your cupboard?"
This blogger claims that at this time of year, homemade sugar cookies "are a must!"  She makes them every year. Several times a year.  Everyone loves them, and everyone wants the recipe.
How I felt when I saw this picture yesterday: I heated up a frozen waffle in the toaster oven for breakfast.  I reheated pizza in the microwave for lunch.  Yep.
Reality check: Ok, so I'm not the greatest cook.  Also, I don't want diabetes, which I would completely get if I made cookies all the time, because I would eat them all.  All.  Of course, I just checked on Facebook and my best friend just made about 14 batches of Christmas cookies in her limited spare time today.  Ugh.

#3: "We handcrafted this play kitchenette today.  No biggie."
This blogger loves her kids.  I mean, really loves her kids.  Enough to work with wood.  And hammers.  Enough to build a toy kitchenette on a random Tuesday.
How I felt when I saw this picture yesterday: I was pretty pumped to find someone who would embroider "My Aunt Manda Loves Me" on a bib for my niece for Christmas.  But now I'm feeling like maybe I should have set up a buzz-saw in my living room and made her a homemade Easy Bake Oven.  Will she think I don't love her?  Will she wear that bib and realize that a stranger embroidered it?  Will this cause her to take drugs in 2028?
Reality check: I don't have any kids.  My niece is six months old.  And since I like my limbs, I should never come near a buzz-saw.

Of course, most of these bloggers make a living by being beautiful, cooking, and crafting on a daily basis.  But that's just not real life, is it?  Real life is a lot messier.  Real life is more, well, real.

Maybe you can relate to this feeling of inadequacy, or maybe you're totally unlike me and you woke up this morning confident that you're going to work out, cook a ten course meal for your man, knit sweaters for your two perfect children, and gaze upon your entire family with womanly tenderness before you go to bed. Of course, maybe you'll do all that today, and then wake up tomorrow and do nothing but watch an all-day marathon of DVR'd "Revenge," eat a carton of ice cream, heat up Lean Cuisines for dinner, and run out of toilet paper just before bed.

Either way, let's just accept that most girls struggle with "less-than" feelings at some point.

We can all be these blogtastic girls every once in a while, but most of the time?

Let's just be us.

I will now get back to taking lots of pictures of my adorable cat.  Just keepin' it real.

*I have created titles for all of these pictures.  None of these bloggers are that annoying.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Song I'm Digging This Week

So many things I could have written down in the passing of a restless night...Some of those were worth keeping...There are things which you should never write...

"Everything's Gonna Be Undone" - Band of Horses

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

October Reading Recap

1.  The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
All three of you who actually read my book reviews have probably noticed that I love a good mystery.  I mean, I love them.  I also love anything (anything) set in the turn of the 20th century in England.  So a novel about a mystery involving Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, set in the early 1900's and in England?  Yeah.  I'm gonna be all over that.  This story bounces back and forth between a mystery concerning Doyle and into the present day and a member of the illustrious Baker Street Irregulars (sort of the literary version of Trekkies) who is trying to solve a mystery about what happened to Doyle's long-lost diary.  Based on actual events, this book hit all the right spots.  Murder, intrigue, deduction -- just great.  I was actually sorry for it to end.

2.  Jane Slayre by Charlotte Bronte & Sherri Browning Erwin
I've always been a little more Team Bronte than Team Austen (I know- gasp!, right?).  As much as I love Elizabeth Bennett, I think I prefer Jane Eyre.  She's just a little darker, a little edgier.  I've always thought that Jane Eyre was a spooky story on its own, and this version, which adds vampires, zombies, and werewolves into the mix, is a fun diversion.  I love that Erwin stuck to the original story and just added some hilarious plot twists -- like Helen Burns coming back as a zombie, Bertha not only being nutzo, but also a werewolf, etc.  My only small gripe is that sometimes the language doesn't quite fit in with the original writing.  Bronte didn't use a bunch of contractions, and when it's the "new" story, Erwin uses too many of them.  But all in all, this made me laugh out loud several times at the witty storyline changes.  Fun reading.

3.  The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
My dad told me this was an amazing book a few years ago, and it's been sitting in my "to read" pile until this month.  I was fascinated throughout the book by Lee Strobel's exhaustive journey towards literally proving beyond a shadow of a doubt (in my opinion, anyway) Christ's existence and deity.  Strobel came to Christ in 1981, after years of atheism.  He was a celebrated Chicago editor and journalist (Yale educated to boot), who had a hard time just accepting that Christ really was the Messiah, so he set out to prove that He wasn't. In the course of his investigation, he proved the exact opposite.  This book is perfect for "thinkers" -- for both skeptics of Christianity and Christians who are struggling with doubt.

4.  All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn
Mary Downing Hahn was my favorite ghost story writer when I was a kid, and since October is the month of all things spooky, Amazon was selling her books for $1.99 apiece.  I racked up.  This book (about a haunted bed and breakfast) is definitely, without a doubt, for kids, but I still loved it.  It transported me back to around 1989, when I would devour her books in the back of our motor home.  And then, of course, I'd be afraid to go to sleep at night.  In the best way.

5.  What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman
This was my first Laura Lippman book, and it won't be the last.  She writes a great, taut mystery.  This story, about two young girls who went missing in the 70's only for one to resurface almost 30 years later, is completely gripping.  Lippman does a wonderful job fleshing out each character's storyline without boring the reader with unnecessary details.  By the end of the book, I actually cared about what happened to each person.  There was also a great twist that surprised me, and I love when that happens.

6.  The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
I read a bunch of Agatha Christie in high school, but a few of them escaped me.  This mystery, which introduces the amateur sleuths Tommy and Tuppence, was just utterly charming.  I found myself thinking I'd figured it all out about ten times, only to doubt myself again and again.  And of course, I turned out to be wrong.  Christie is famous for her red herring writing, and she usually gets me.  I've heard that Agatha Christie herself was a pretty fascinating person, so I'm looking forward to reading more about her, too.

7.  Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
This was my first Hahn book, and it scared the junk out of me.  Seriously.  It really is the first book I can remember reading and needing to sleep with the light on afterwards.  Even as an adult, there are some chilling moments (when Helen tries to drag Heather into the pond with her, promising her that "there are mermaids down here" - shudder), and I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading the book.  I did sleep without the lamp this time, though.

8.  The Final Reckoning by Sam Bourne
When I bought this book, I didn't realize it was about the Holocaust.  I tend to shy away from books on that subject, mainly because they're so sad.  This one was no exception, but at least this one was about some Jewish people who kicked major butt and got big, satisfying revenge on some awful Nazis.  The story begins with an old man from London being mistaken for a terrorist at the United Nations, and subsequently being killed.  A former UN lawyer is hired to go and "make nice" with the man's daughter, but then realizes that maybe the old man wasn't as innocent as everyone originally thought.  And of course, the lawyer falls hard for the daughter (which is my only gripe with the story -- the love story seemed a bit forced).  But the ending left me feeling triumphant, and I'll check out some more of Bourne's work.

9.  The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
This is the first time readers were introduced to the little Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, and I have to say - he gives Sherlock Holmes a run for his money.  In fact, Poirot and Holmes are almost polar opposites in personality - Poirot is boisterous and highly emotional, while Holmes is removed and analytical - but their methods are really pretty much the same, down to the bumbling Watson-esque sidekicks.  And again, I didn't figure out who the murderer was until Christie revealed it in the last chapter.  Thwarted again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 you wanna know a secret?

photo found here

Yesterday, Dane, a seven-year-old piano student, got up to leave at the end of his lesson, suddenly turned to me and whispered (even though we were the only ones in the room) "Wanna hear about the grossest thing I've ever seen?"

I didn't, but he didn't wait to hear my answer.  He got even closer to me and, in a hushed voice, said directly into my ear:

"Once, my dad lost his balance and fell right...into...a big pile...of dog poop."

He was very serious.  No smiling.  I looked back at him with as straight a face as I could manage and said "That is gross."

He walked slowly to the door, turned back to me, and said "You cannot tell my mother.  She will freak.  Out."  

I sort of felt like there was an unspoken threat somewhere in that last bit.

And I'm really, really glad that's the grossest thing he's ever seen.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Time Traveling Amanda, Pt. 2: Middle School Years

Middle School Years: 1991-1993

Ok.  Get ready, because I think middle school, for everyone, is possibly the most miserable and confusing time in life.  Seriously.  Your body is changing, your skin turns on you, cliques are forming, and popularity is suddenly the most important thing in the world.

My middle school years were honestly torture.  I don't think I spent one comfortable moment in my own skin from the ages of 11 to 13.  I was homeschooled up until 6th grade, and to say I was unprepared for real life adolescence is a major understatement.

I was the definition of nerd.  I can say that with no embarrassment almost 20 years later, but at the time -agggh.  It was the worst.  I used to go home and fill up diary pages with plans to reinvent myself via new clothes, shoes, better haircuts - you name it.  I would give myself a stern talking to in the mirror every morning, telling myself not to use big words, not to talk about books or music too much, and to get better at volleyball (focus!).


So here's what I would change:

1.  Sixth grade, 1991: Friends
I can still remember walking into Ms. Pettyjohn's science class with my heart in my throat, and watching everyone turn as Ms. Pettyjohn introduced me.  Some kids were friendly, but some...were not.  Unfortunately, I was so eager to make friends that I just attached myself to whoever was nice to me in those first few weeks.  This was a bad decision, because I made "friends" with some of the meanest girls in the world.  They put the characters in "Mean Girls" to shame.  Less than a year later, two of those girls wrote me a letter informing me that I wasn't cool enough to be their friend.  Aaaand self esteem goes into the toilet.
Time traveling Amanda would smile politely at these girls on the first day and then go and sit with the people who turned out to be my actual friends all through high school and into adulthood.

2.  Sixth grade - Eighth Grade, 1991-1993: Volleyball
I am, without a doubt, the least athletic person I know.  The only "sport" I'm somewhat good at is ping pong.  Which, unless you're Forrest Gump, so does not count.  The first rainy day of sixth grade, the entire P.E. class was corralled into the gym and divided into teams for volleyball.  I was utterly confused.  I grew up in a motor home.  I had never seen a volleyball game, much less played it.  Everyone else seemed to know all the rules, and I was way too embarrassed to ask, so I went ahead and lined up with everyone else behind the net.  Of course, the first volley came right at me.  I had no idea what I was supposed to do, but the logical thing seemed to be to catch it.  So...I did.  I have a very vivid memory of a girl named Cassidy wheeling around, giving me a look of pure hatred, and hissing "Oh, my GOD!  Are you a retard or something?!"  Half of my class laughed, and half (mostly my team) started yelling at me.  From that moment on, I was horrified by the thought of my having to play any organized sport.  In high school, I even made a deal with our P.E. coach: if he would excuse me from playing basketball, volleyball, etc., I would write him a short story based on P.E. every day.  And I did.  That's how much I hated it.
Time traveling Amanda would learn how to play volleyball (duh), but would also dismiss girls like Cassidy.  In fact, time traveling Amanda would just launch the volleyball at her head and say "Is that what I'm supposed to do?"  I literally, to this day, have no idea if I could have been ok at a sport of some kind.  If I could go back, I would at least try to find out.

3.  Seventh grade, 1992: Shaving
My mom wouldn't let me shave my legs until 8th grade, so I partially blame her for this one.  I wasn't a yeti, but by 7th grade, I was a little...furry.  I was starting to notice, and unfortunately, so were some of my classmates.  This did not help improve my popularity.  One day in band, a guy named Scott passed my chair, pointed to my leg, and yelled "Amanda's legs are hairier than my dad's!"  Cue shame.  I went home and asked if I could please shave, but my mom wouldn't budge.  The next week, my parents went out of town, and I decided that if I couldn't shave, I would fake it.  I decided to wear floral overall shorts (remember those?  Eek.)...with pantyhose.  I figured that not only would it make me look tan, but it would hide my hairy legs.  Our babysitter was a family friend, and he was a guy.  He didn't seem to notice that my legs were a full four shades darker than my arms and face, and he let me go to school.  My friend Bett (who I now know was trying to be helpful) asked me "Um...Amanda?  Are you really...tan?  On...just your legs?"  I was all cheerful. "YES! I so am!"  Sigh.  And of course, the pantyhose totally didn't hide my hairy legs.  It just mashed it up into disgusting patches.  My mom came to pick me up from school that day, took one look at me, and laughed.
Time traveling Amanda would sneak a razor from her mom's bathroom and shave.  Yes.  Justifiable rebellion.  And she would burn those floral overall shorts.

4.  Eighth grade, 1993: Shoes
My mom bought our shoes from wherever she thought was a good buy.  I didn't have a brand name pair of tennis shoes until 8th grade, because I honestly just didn't care.  Payless was ok with me.  But then two of the Triplet Mean Girls - Tiffany, Julie, and Elaine - felt it was their duty to point out that I didn't have cool tennis shoes.  Tiffany commented dryly that "your shoes look like they come from KMart.  My shoes cost $75."  And then they made a comment about it every day for weeks.  It was the first time I had even noticed that my shoes didn't have a name running along the side.  And of course, it became my new obsession.  I went home and begged my mom for a pair of Asics or Nikes.  I got some for Christmas that year, but my insecurity had been pretty much cemented by then.
Time traveling Amanda would say "Good for you!" to Tiffany, and completely ignore the rest of them.  When you're 13, it's so hard to realize that it won't matter in ten years, but I would definitely try to figure that out a bit earlier if I could go back.  Maybe I would have given them some shoes from KMart for Christmas, and tell them I bought them for them since they seemed so obsessed with mine...

5.  Eighth grade, 1993: Talent show
I sang "Swinging on a Star," as made famous by Frank Sinatra.  Of course, with lyrics like "...or would you rather be a pig?," this didn't really win me any cool points.  My friend Amos would go on  to bring up this talent show every time I did something embarrassing, all the way into college.  He would say "At least you're not singing about people being pigs!"  Touche, Amos.  Touche.
Time traveling Amanda would sing something else.  Like "Loser" by Beck.  Much more appropriate.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Song I'm Digging This Week

I've been on a French music kick lately.  It makes me feel like I should wear floaty dresses and red lipstick while doing crossword puzzles in a little cafe.  Le sigh.

"Je Cherche Un Homme" - Eartha Kitt

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Self Realization #11

I think I've been 20 pounds away from complete happiness my entire life.

Give or take.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Time Traveling Amanda, Pt. 1: Elementary School Years

I follow Richard Marx on Twitter.

Yes.  That Richard Marx.  Mainly because I loved him as a kid (um, hello?  "Right Here Waiting," anyone?), but also because he's dang funny, too.

On Daylight Savings day, he tweeted that he'd love to set his clock back to 1989.  I don't know why, but it made me start thinking about how cool - or horrifying - that might be.  And then, because I relate everything to how I might be able to come up with some writing project/book, etc. with whatever idea I might have, I wondered, if I did go back, knowing everything I know now, what would I specifically change about my upcoming "future"?

Trouble is, I can't just go back to one specific moment and think "Oh, I would definitely have done that one differently."  There are just too many pivotal moments in my past.  I've done one about high school before (and for the record - I haven't watched "Glee" since it got unbelievably stupid about a year ago), but that was just high school.  I was already set in a lot of my ways by that point.

So here's what I think I'm going to do.  I'm going to do a couple of posts about different periods of my life where I would (if I could) go back and fix some stuff that might make me a better/more interesting/less neurotic person today.

And listen up - I totally get the whole "our mistakes make us who we are today" stuff.  I do.  And I agree.  But this is just for fun (and maybe just for me).

Here goes.

Elementary School Years: 1986-1990

1.  First Grade, 1986: Johnny
I met my first boyfriend, Johnny, in first grade.  He may have set the tone for me when it comes to guys.  He was a great boyfriend for the whole week we were "dating."  We held hands.  He shared his Twinkie with me at lunch.  He let me wear his super cool leather jacket at recess so I could pretend to be Cyndi Lauper.  Then he introduced me to his other girlfriend, Shauna.  That was the end of Johnny. Although, I just sort of watched them walk away to the swings and went home and cried.  I didn't listen to Cyndi Lauper much after that, either.
Time traveling Amanda would keep Johnny's leather jacket and maybe punch him in his freckled little face.  And then I'd vow to not let that kind of jerk get the best of me ever again.  And then I'd go home and listen to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" on repeat.  Well, it was 1986, so more like I would go home and listen to the song, then rewind it on my cassette player and listen again.  Then rewind it...

2.  First grade - Fifth Grade, 1986-1990: Nap times
I would have listened to my parents and gladly - joyfully - taken a nap every.  Single.  Day.  I would not complain.  I would not lay in bed just counting the minutes until I could safely get up.  I would sleep.  I would sleep hard, with no guilt.

3.  Third grade, 1988: Memorabilia
I would have never let my mom sell my "Star Wars" and "The Dark Crystal" lunchboxes at a yard sale.  Or my "Star Wars" play figurines.  I would have convinced her that yes, they would totally be worth a whole lot someday.

4.  Third grade - Fifth grade, 1988-1990: Hair
I would have said no to the perm.  Enough said.

5.  Fourth grade, 1989: Barbies
My little sister, Holly Jo, loved to play Barbies. She's three years younger than I am, and I was totally over Barbies by fourth grade. I thought they were completely babyish, and every time she'd beg me to play with her, I'd refuse.  Sometimes my mom would force me to play with her, but I was pretty jerky about it.  Lots of eye rolling and trying to kill myself off (this was usually easy because Holly Jo loved to have a good death in our Barbie sessions.  She always left behind an orphan son or bereaved husband/boyfriend) so I could go read or something.
Time traveling Amanda would play with Holly Jo every time she asked, because she loved it so much.  I would definitely be a sweeter big sister.*

6.  Fifth grade, 1990: Swimsuits
There's a picture in one of my parents' photo albums of Holly Jo and me in our swimsuits, in front of a pool.  I think we were in Oregon or something.  Holly Jo is grinning in her butterfly one-piece, her arms out, totally and completely happy. I'm sort of shrinking behind her in my orange and black swimsuit.  You can tell that the body insecurity was already starting for me.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that's the last picture of me in a swimsuit in existence.
Yes, I was a chubby kid, and I've been "chubby" -- nice word for it -- for the better part of my life.  But if I could go back, I would tell myself to relax.  I was ten, for Pete's sake.  There's no reason I should have stopped enjoying swimming or felt like I needed to hide because I thought my stomach was too poochy.  I would go back and fill up entire albums with swimsuit pictures.

7.  Fifth grade, 1990: "MMC"
Every year, "MMC" (the re-vamped Mickey Mouse Club) held auditions in Florida for the new Mouseketeers.  I was convinced I could make it if my parents would let me try out.  But I never really pushed for it.  I just watched the show every day after school, crushed on Tony Lucca, and thought "what if...?"
Time traveling Amanda would convince her parents to let her try out.  Of course, I would make it.  I would beat out annoying Britney.  And then I would have dated Justin Timberlake (we would have had a disastrous and tear-filled ending, natch).  Keri Russell and I would still be hang-out friends, and I would have had a few guest spots on "Felicity," where I would have mastered my meaningful-looks-set-to-slow-music skills. And by now, I would so be married to Tony Lucca.  You know I would.

*Holly Jo - anytime you want to play Barbies, I'm down with it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Song I'm Digging This Week

You're the shadow in my mind...I am hollow all the time...

"Along the Wall" - Leigh Nash

Monday, October 8, 2012

Song I'm Digging This Week

Here we go again...I kinda wanna be more than friends...

"Animal" - Neon Trees

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Song I'm Digging This Week

I belong with belong with're my sweetheart...

 "Ho Hey" - The Lumineers

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

September Reading Recap

1.  Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon
Jennifer McMahon seems to specialize in the type of thriller that reminds me of yellow-tinted, spooky 70's movies, and I love them.  This book starts with a kidnapping, witnessed by a troubled young woman, and spends the rest of the time on the subsequent search for the victim, which of course brings back tons of demons from the past for everyone involved.  Even though I figured out (most of) the ending about halfway through, I still thought this book was well-written.

2.  An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
I really don't think there's anything Steve Martin can't do.  He acts, sings, plays the banjo, writes, and is a completely competent art connoisseur, to boot.  This book, which centers on the art world and the greed and dishonesty that takes over one girl's life, was so well-written.  It wasn't an enthralling story so much as that it was so real.  I didn't particularly like any of the main characters, but I don't think Martin wanted his readers to really like them.  Really good stuff.

3.  The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
This book reminded me of everything I love about Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, and every other great storyteller who ever wrote a book.  Ren is a 12-year-old orphan who is missing a hand, and he has no idea how he lost it.  He's been living in squalid conditions at a boys' orphanage when a stranger shows up, claiming to be his long-lost brother.  They leave the orphanage together, and the adventure begins.  There were so many great twists and unique characters, and I was just thoroughly enchanted.

4.  C by Tom McCarthy
I honestly don't know how to classify this book.  Obviously, the letter "c" is a common thread (the main character's last name starts with "c," and he seems to gravitate towards other "c" words, like "cocaine"), but as to a plot, I don't think I could really find one.  I felt like it was maybe a study in what happens to a child who is given everything he wants, as far as material needs go, but is completely neglected when it comes to affection or parental concern.  Some of the language was really beautiful, and I don't doubt that McCarthy is a great writer, but the book was so depressing and meandering that I was glad to finish it.

5.  The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds
This book looked so promising to me - based on real events, it's set at an insane asylum in England where Alfred Lord Tennyson's brother has just been committed.  John Clare, another poet, is also an inmate.  The book started with such beautiful prose (which continued - Foulds is a poet, and his writing makes that evident), and then...nothing.  Literally, nothing happened.  I was unbelievably bored for the duration of the story.  The only slightly interesting character is the head doctor's daughter, who has a completely unrequited crush on Tennyson.  Disappointing.

6.  They're Watching by Gregg Hurwitz
I thought this was a so-so thriller about a guy who suddenly realizes that Big Brother has taken over his life - bugs in his house, people videoing his every move, etc.  The problem for me is that I didn't feel like this thriller was all that thrilling.  I kind of quit caring whether or not the guy was going to make it.  Just too long and too drawn out for my taste.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Self Realization #10

image found here

Sometimes, the only reason I make sure my house is clean when I leave it is because if I'm murdered and the CSI team has to come back to my place to look into it, I want them to be impressed by my neat, cute house. 

Because, of course, that's what they'll be thinking about after they find my dead body:  

"Who could murder someone who was such a great housekeeper?  She must have been so interesting."

Monday, September 17, 2012

August Reading Recap

Yeeeah.  I'm pretty late with this, but better late than never.

1.  The Book of the Living Dead edited by John Richard Stephens
This book of macabre short stories, all dealing with vampires, zombies, mummies, and/or a combination of all three, was supremely entertaining.  I had read several of the stories before, but I enjoyed all of them.  I think my favorite (which totally surprised me) was Mark Twain's tongue-in-cheek contribution, "A Curious Dream."  The scariest story was definitely "Thurnley Abbey" by Perceval Landon.

2.  The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
I read a few of Henry James's ghost stories in high school, and I thought they were spooky. This book was scary, too, but more psychologically frightening than anything else. 

The whole way through, I couldn't decide if the ghosts that the governess was seeing were actually real or if she was completely insane. Each time I would lean one way or the other, James would throw another wrench into my thought process.

Even after the last sentence, I'm still not sure.

3.  Snakewoman of Little Egypt by Robert Hellenga

The book synopsis sounded pretty interesting - a woman who has been in jail for six years because she shot her preacher husband after he forced her to put her hand in a box of rattlesnakes is released and moves in with an anthropologist who becomes fascinated with her snake handling past.

I just couldn't get past the fact that I really didn't like any of the characters, and I felt like Hellenga pulled out every backwoods and religious typecasting cliche he could find.

4.  The Surrogate by Tania Carver
I'd gotten so used to reading less-than-great thrillers lately, that I'd forgotten what it was like to read a really, really good one. This book was fantastic. 

Set in a small town in England, the police are desperately searching for a serial killer who is targeting pregnant women in order to steal their babies to create his own "family." There's a lot of fast paced action and unexpected plot twists -- I literally didn't see the final revelation coming. 

I've already put Carver's next book on my "to read" list.

5.  Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
Oh, I liked this. Set in Quebec, it reminded me of a good old fashioned Agatha Christie-type mystery, and I've already fallen in love with the quirky characters. Looking forward to another installment.

6.  The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan
This was a Kindle cheap buy, and I thought it was...ok. 

The story begins with the death of the town recluse (thus the title), and of course, she's not at all what people thought she was. Fairly predictable, but I will hand it to Chan for making the character of the priest thoroughly delightful (he steals spoons). Nice lazy-day reading.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Song I'm Digging This Week

You're gonna make me wish for the time right before I was born, when every living breath was another new dawn...

"On Peak Hill" - Stars

Monday, September 3, 2012

Song I'm Digging This Week

I will try to know you, but you defy my grasp.  Your beauty is static, but steady and fast...

"Unison Falling into Harmony" - Great Lake Swimmers

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Self Realization #9

I'd really like to be the kind of girl who is completely comfortable wearing hats.  In public.  Even if Kathleen Kelly thinks that almost all hats turn out to be mistakes.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Song I'm Digging This Week

And you will go to Mykonos with a vision of a gentle coast...

"Mykonos" - Fleet Foxes

Monday, August 20, 2012

Song I'm Digging This Week

There are things that drift away like our endless, numbered days...

"Passing Afternoon" - Iron & Wine

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I love, love, love this, because it's so true:

found here

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Won't you be my neighbor?

image found here

I'm moving in nine days (yikes!), and I realized yesterday that I really don't know my neighbors at all.  I've lived in this apartment for three years, but unfortunately, I've never made the effort to get to know anyone in the building.  We all seem to have really different schedules, and we all just seem to keep to ourselves.  Maybe at my new place, I'll make friends with my neighbors and we'll be just like "Friends."  And I can be Rachel.

I do know a few things about some of my neighbors:

Lady across the hall from me: She has said "hi" to me maybe five times in three years.  She always seems to be in a bad mood, probably because I think she works the night shift somewhere.  I often hear her leaving around midnight and then coming back home just as the sun is coming up.  She does have a penchant for Frank Sinatra and old swing-type music, so she can't always be in a bad mood.  She also cooks a lot of bacon.

Guy right below me: Honestly, this dude makes me uncomfortable.  He seems really secretive.  If we're both coming into the apartment building at the same time, he'll hurry to get in before me and make an effort to shield me from seeing what's in the grocery bags he's carrying (seriously -- what's in those bags?).  He also "accidentally" opened some of my mail once.  I don't trust him.  He has all the makings of the unassuming serial killer that lives below me.  Bah, ha,, ha (that's my evil laugh).

Couple across the hall from the guy right below me: They're about the same age as my parents, and seem very nice.  Unfortunately, they love to eat boiled cabbage, which smells exactly like 50 bags of garbage.  After they'd been here about a month, a gel air freshener mysteriously appeared on top of the mailboxes in the hallway.  They also decorated the communal front porch with really awful silk flowers.  I've been tempted to make those mysteriously disappear, too.

How about you guys?  Do you know your neighbors?  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Books by Color

I've always organized my books by the author's last name -- I'm sort of like a library that way. 

But lately, I've been seeing all these pictures of books organized by color.  I'm digging the way it looks -- sort of like little pops of color for your shelves. 

I've got six boxes of nothing but books packed already.  Surely I could get some sort of color scheme going.  Surely.

Here are some of my favorites from my Google search for "color organized bookshelves:"

Monday, August 13, 2012

Song I'm Digging This Week

 "Last Known Surroundings" - Explosions in the Sky

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What I'm Watching

I don't have a lot of time to watch TV these days (what with the whole opening my own studio stuff going on), but I have gotten caught up in a few shows this summer.  Of course, since I sent my couches off to an estate sale over the weekend, I'm having to sit in a straight-backed kitchen chair to watch TV -- not the most comfortable seat.  So I've been reading a whole bunch more the past couple of days.

But here are some of the shows I'm into lately:

"The Newsroom"

Ok.  I'm actually surprised that I really like this, because I'm the least politically minded person that I know (literally).  I get completely uncomfortable when people start debating news topics around me.  I hate awkwardness in any format.  But this show is so good.  Every episode makes me all proud to be an American, and it makes me wish my mind worked as quickly as all the different characters' -- the witty banter is fantastic.  Some people have told me I should check out reruns of "The West Wing," which was head writer Aaron Sorkin's other supposedly genius show.  I think I will, since I love this one so much.  (Warning: it's on HBO, so the language is a bit graphic.  So adults only.)


I've always been a sort of "why does the brain do that?" geek.  I really hated most of science in school, but I really enjoyed any psychological studies.  This show centers around a college professor (played by Eric McCormack -- Will Truman to all of us 90's "Will & Grace" fans) who has schizophrenia, but has been able to channel his disability into an amazing tool for the FBI.  He's able to help them solve crimes because his mind literally works in a completely different way than everyone else's.  I think part of the reason this show fascinates me is that my maternal grandfather also had schizophrenia, and I feel like it's giving me a small peek into what his life was (sort of) like.


I only watched this show because Holly Jo told me that the lead character, Michelle (played by Sutton Foster), had the kind of dry and sarcastic humor that I would love.  She was right.  Lots of great one-liners and wordy, snappy monologues.  I shouldn't be surprised, since it was created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, the lady behind another dear and departed show, "Gilmore Girls."

"House Hunters International"

I have about 34 episodes of HHI saved on my DVR right now.  Even though, in some ways, it sort of depresses me to watch all these insanely rich people getting to buy a dream house in a dream location and know that I will most likely (unless I win the Publishers' Clearing House sweepstakes) never be able to do that, it's also really fun to get a little inside look at exotic locales.  My favorite episodes have been based in London, Paris, Spain, and Australia.  Can we say Pied-a-Terre?

What are you guys watching this summer?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Design Inspiration

I'm moving in about three weeks, and I'm pretty excited (and a tad stressed) about getting to choose a new, more "who I am right now"-type style for my new place.  I'm selling my old cream colored couch and loveseat and tired black recliner, and I think I'm going to go for a brown leather loveseat with some patterned armchairs.

I'm also obsessing about paint colors, curtains, bedspreads...the list goes on.  Ashleigh keeps reminding me that I don't have to have all these things when I move in, but I want to have a plan.

So I've been scouring design blogs and magazines for the past couple of weeks for inspiration, and I came across this house in Nashville (via Design Sponge), and I promptly swooned.  This is the closest thing I've found to my exact style, down to the brown leather couch and cat:

I'm not sure about the color in the dining room -- I love it in these pictures, but I'm thinking about going with a light coral since I have a lot of turquoise accent pieces.

I just love the simplicity and vintage feel of this design.

What do you guys think?  What's your style?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Song I'm Digging This Week

You're like a party somebody threw taste like birthday...

 "The Party" - Regina Spektor

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Faves

image found here

This weekend is going to be crazy.  Tonight, I'm covering the Michelle Malone concert for Event, and then on Saturday, my dad is coming up to haul away some old furniture that I'm selling.  I can't wait to get all the packing, painting, furniture picking, and moving chaos behind me. 

What are you guys up to this weekend?

A few of my favorite things this week:

*Tips on asking your friends to help you move on Apartment Therapy

*How cute would this striped dress look with a bright cardigan?

*Help us raise funds to find a much needed cure for cystic fibrosis by Moving for Madelyn!

*Check out Joanna's adorable bathroom makeover.

*I lived in a motor home for over seven years, but it wasn't nearly this cute.  If it had been, I'd probably still be there.

Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

July Reading Recap

1.  The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
I wish I had liked this book more.  Most of the other reviews I read just raved about how thought-provoking and life-changing it was, but I just felt like it was...blah.  I did enjoy getting a peek into wealthy Parisian life, but I just felt like the main characters thought waaaay too much of their own intelligence.

2.  Dracula's Guest by Bram Stoker
This is a collection of short stories by the author of Dracula (the first really spooky book I ever read).  I have to say, these stories passed the shiver test.  They still made me feel like I needed to look over my shoulder, and I think "The dead travel fast" is one of the greatest lines ever.

3.  Boneman's Daughters by Ted Dekker
As awful as this sounds, I really feel like most Christian fiction is poorly written.  It's like the authors can't get a "normal" publishing contract, so they become Christian writers, where the competition isn't as fierce.  I'd heard good things about Dekker, but sadly -- it's still poorly written fiction.  It actually wasn't too bad until the last couple of chapters, when it seemed like he just couldn't figure out how to tie the story up neatly, and so he just wrote a really hurried ending.

4.  Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
This was a Kindle Daily Deal, so I bought it on a whim.  I think it's a pretty fascinating book, especially since it's told from a child's perspective.  I didn't read anything that I felt didn't coincide with the Bible, and I hope that the Burpos' story is legit, because it really is a supremely comforting book.

5.  The Accident by Linwood Barclay
This was a pretty good standard thriller.  The story centers around a married dad, Glen, and his eight-year-old daughter Kelly, who are recovering from the sudden death of Glen's wife, Sheila, who was killed in a drunk-driving accident.  Unfortunately, according to the police, Shelia was the one who was drunk and caused the accident.  Glen refuses to accept the police's explanation, since Sheila didn't have a drinking problem, and he knew she would never have gotten behind the wheel while she was under the influence.  And of course, he's right.  There was a pretty good twist towards the end, so I'll check out some more of Barclay's work.