Friday, December 31, 2010

my 2010 was...

It's here. The last day of 2010.

I know this year was a tough one for me. My toughest since I moved to New York three years ago. To be completely honest, there were times when I seriously thought of throwing in the towel. I was tempted to quit everything and leave, try something completely new or go back "home." I always thought year one would be the hardest. After all, I moved there without real friends, a permanent home, and a steady and permanent job. But I took the changes in stride and soon established myself. I began opening up to people and making lasting friendships. I began confiding in some, dating guys, putting myself out there.

This year all of that was tested. Friendships. Resolve. Work. Everything. I hope that a year from now, when I look back on the end of 2010 and 2011's posts, that I will find my life has not only grown and changed for the better in ways I can't even anticipate (today that is) but that I will realize that though 2010 kinda sorta sucked, I learned a lot. That the bad days were stepping stones, setting me up for the for what is still to come.

I know that fortune is waitin' to be kind. So give me your hand and say you'll be mine. - Bob Dylan, "Mississippi"

My 2010 was . . .

January - I honestly don't remember much about the beginning of the year. I know I started it with a big head cold and big hopes for the year to come at home doing family things with my fam. I stayed in So Cal several days into January to attend a work conference, making me a tourist in my own town. I'm pretty certain I also went to dance class a lot this month. This year I really got back in to dance.

February - I went on a date at a good wine bar (it is worth nothing) with a guy who I liked, seemed interested in me, and then completely disappeared. I spent Valentine's Day with co-workers on another work trip in Denver. My bone marrow donor experience officially ended. I quit (Uh, yeah... that stuck.) February was also a dull month.

March - I met MCW and Stephanie for drinks making it the first time I'd ever met blog people. I went on a few ill-fated dates with a guy who doesn't like dogs. My laptop died and I purchased my first-ever Mac. I won't go back!

April - This month was all about Texas as I spent quite a bit of time there. First on a "paid vacation" helping to squire three little boys around town with a good friend while their parents worked. The second trip was for a work conference and I got to spend some extra time with BFF.

May - More travel! I went to London to visit a friend who was interning there and re-immersed myself in the city that was instrumental in my move to The City -- or at least that's the way I look at it. I also vowed after this trip to make international travel a huge priority. I came back, promptly came down with strep throat, and came back down to reality.

June - Drama. It started in June really. My apartment flooded. That was loads of fun. I also went to Washington D.C. for work.

July - I spent the 4th in Montauk. I served two weeks on the New York State Special Narcotics Grand Jury and learned a LOT about drug law. I can usually successfully spot an undercover drug bust in Times Square now. I spent a fun weekend completely by myself, not really focusing on anything but spending quality time alone. I need to repeat this soon... (What I thought was) a good friendship ended.

August - My apartment flooded. Again. I took 2 days off of work to clean up and supervise some major construction. Other friendships were tested and, in that way, my heart was broken and mended. I saw fireworks on Coney Island. I took a group of kids to the circus. I went "home" to California for my birthday and had a great few days catching up with old friends, teachers and mentors and driving down Hwy 101 with the windows rolled down.

September - Major major apartment drama. I took my first trip to the Hamptons and had more fun than I expected to, finding a bit of solace also. I lost something I really wanted to someone else and went on a couple of dates with a nice guy before he bailed too. More testing in the friendship department.

October - I celebrated 3 years in NYC. BFF visited and we painted the town red in our walking shoes and were too tired to enjoy any nightlife. The drama reached crazy proportions. Serenity-prayer-on-repeat-in-my-head kind of proportions. I gritted my teeth and dug in my heels. I ended the month on an upswing as I moved into a different room in my apartment and found a little light. My favorite roommate and good friend moved out and a new girl moved in.

November - I went back to Denver for work and while I was there I was offered another position at a different company, which I accepted. I went back to Texas to visit a friend for Thanksgiving and started my new job right when I came back. My blog was discovered by an author!

December - I really began my new job and got my bearings for a couple of weeks before leaving for a fairly lengthy holiday vacation in California. Once again, I'm ringing in the New Year with my family at "home."

My 2009 recap was a little more lively. Read it here. I have forgotten a lot of the smaller details of this year. I think a lot of things were simply overshadowed by the larger issues, or for privacy sake, cannot be included. But the general gist is this: I went on fewer dates but still had difficulty with quality vs. quantity, I struggled to find my place in a changing work environment and changed my environment to make it work for me, and my general motto became KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.

Not to be presumptuous but I think karma owes me. And I am going to make it work for me. Here's to a great 2011!!! What was your year?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

more shop talk: counting down 2010 faves!

Here it is, my list of favorite reads from 2010.

I won't break it down this year. I want to make sure they all get on this blog since I have a bad habit of starting things and not finishing them. Hmm... I wonder if that would make a good New Year's Resolution...

Anyway, without further ado, here's the list.

10. The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald - Henry House is a "practice baby" living in a house run by Home Ec students on a college campus in the 1950's. These programs really existed and historian Lisa Grunwald does a wonderful job of fictionally answering question: What happens to these babies as they grow up? The babies were orphans, "adopted" into this "home" for the first year or so of their lives before they, like their young female "mothers" moved on. Only Henry did not. A really interesting story and a fun romp through the 50's and 60's.

9. Bloodroot by Amy Greene - This book inspired a period of Appalachian fiction in me but after reading a few more books set in the area, I was unable to find one was well written as this one. It seems I love me stories about generations of women eeking out an existence in dire circumstances and this one certainly does not disappoint!

8. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - Having been told to pick this one up for a while by multiple people, I finally did while I was on jury duty this past summer. It takes place in the 1940's in Barcelona and has that touch of magical realism to it that (as you can tell from my previous post) I just love.

7. Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner (coming in Summer 2011) - This one is a delightfully charming story of two young friends, children of Russian immigrants, growing up in Brooklyn.

6. The Help by Kathryn Stockett - I avoided this one for a while, thinking it was fluffy Southern women's fiction - not really my style. But I was wrong. This one has depth and heart that I didn't anticipate. I'm anxious to see the upcoming movie.

5. One Day by David Nicholls - For a while, I couldn't get on the Subway without seeing this book in some girl's hot little hands. The premise is great - it takes place on the same day, hopping back and forth through the 80's, 90's, and today. A wonderful love story, One Day takes place in Britian and is chock full of tidbits any Anglophile (that's me!) would love.

4. Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran (coming in Spring 2011) - See my "review" of this one here. (Hi Ms. Moran! *Big wave*)

3. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson - I guess the theme this year was "Listen to your friends already and read this book!" as I delved into the Millenium series this summer. This is the last book in the trilogy.

2. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson - I always knew the trilogy was likely to take the gold, silver, and bronze in this year's round up and I realize I'm out of order here. I really did love this book, it was the first in the series and thus set up the kick-ass character of Lisbeth Salander. It also stands alone better (with a better arc, I believe) than the 2nd and 3rd titles, which tie together more...

1. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson - I put this one in the #1 spot because it was just so charged and action packed. It really put Lisbeth, and the series, on the map for me. I don't think I'm alone in my love for this series. It remains on the NYT Bestseller list and the books were the number one holiday sellers for the Amazon Kindle.

Calling all fellow bookworms! What are your top books for 2010?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

shop talk - books that will ruin your life: contemporary literary fiction

This morning I woke to an e-mail from lovely blog/NYC pal, Stephanie, asking for book recs so she can load up her Kindle. My first thought was, "So many suggestions! I need to narrow it down!" So I zipped her an email back asking what she likes to read. This got me thinking in general terms though, and since I am a bonafide bibliophile and list-making nerd, I thought I'd share some of my utmost favorites. I'm focusing today on literary fiction.

I've already posted my top historical fiction picks. To find them, go here.

Top Contemporary Literary Fiction

5. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

I'm crossing genres a bit here because this one is also Young Adult. (I'll probably do a post on YA novels at some point for those who are interested.) It is an incredibly unique and powerful story of a young girl growing up during the Holocaust. I know there are a lot of those out there but this one is different. First, the young girl is not Jewish (Most stories are told from the perspective of Jews.) and second, the narrator of the story is death. Morbid, yes. Amazing though. Definitely unlike anything you'll have ever read before.

4. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto is the story of a group of people held hostage in South America after a birthday party full of diplomats is crashed by a group of terrorists. In these dire circumstances, Roxanne Coss, an opera singer performing at the party, and Mr. Hosokawa, a Japanese businessman must learn to communicate with one another, a task that eventually evolves into friendship. A great and interesting read!

3. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I read this three times in college. It is a finely woven tapestry of Latin American history, family, and amazing storytelling. Oh and Oprah really liked it too.

2. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

This is easily the best book I have read in the past 10 years. It tells the story a girl, Callie, born in Michigan in the 1960's who eventually became Cal, a teenage boy. And for the record, I "picked" this one long before Oprah did!

1. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

I first read The House of the Spirits in 10th grade and was immediately struck by it. I've loved magical realism, Latin American authors, and Isabel Allende ever since. It is the story of three generations of women--Clara, Blanca, and Alba--and is simply gorgeous, heartbreaking and thought-provoking. I met Ms. Allende in college and was like a blubbering teenage girl at a Justin Timberlake concert when I stood in line to get my well-loved copy of the book signed. I saw her speak again recently at the 92nd St. Y in New York and will say that if there is one author to see, it is her. She is lovely, personable, hilarious, and so interesting.

Runners Up (These books are also amazing.)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini (I liked this one better than The Kite Runner.)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

Find other book recommendations and reviews here.

PS - Steph, I hope this helps a bit!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

fingers crossed!

Here's to hopin'!

I had a lovely day today. This morning I took this boy

on a walk. Or rather, he walked me...
Then this afternoon I met an old friend with whom I've recently reconnected (Thanks Facebook!) for lunch. We had fun trading crazy roommate stories and catching up on where we've been since middle school.

Tonight I went to a one year old's birthday party. The first of many to come, I'm sure, as it seems everyone is having a baby these days!

It seems after I'm done with this holiday vacation I will have seen a record number of people when compared to trips before.

It is like a very special episode of "This Is Your Life..."

Monday, December 27, 2010

miscellaneous monday: holiday recap

1. I need to be cut off from the cookies. Really. Smack me if I go near the jar!

2. I went to the beach today with a friend to just walk around and enjoy the lovely sun. They have piled the sand up near the shore and a bunch of kids were "sledding" down it on toboggans and boogie boards. Oh So Cal. How I love thee.

3. I'm missing a HUGE blizzard at home. So sorry for the bragging, NYC pals. I hope you all haven't gotten stuck somewhere and are at least enjoying it somehow. I kind of want to be there just because it is such a big deal but I'm sure if I were there I would be wishing I was here!!

4. Snapped this awesome shot today. (Again, sorry!) I wish camera phones didn't make photos look so pixelated. I'd love to blow this one up.

5. I am in love with iPhoto. I can't hide my feelings anymore and I don't care who knows it!

6. I had a lovely Christmas weekend with my family. I baked and cooked for hours, played Apples to Apples, Just Dance 2, Wordfued and my new Kindle (a huge Christmas morning surprise!)

7. I found heaven in a burrito.

8. The diet starts when I get home.

Hope you all enjoy the rest of the year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

don't let the light go out

Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

I was just reading last year's Christmas Eve post (and a couple before and after it) and it is crazy to see how quickly a year goes by and how much life can change.

I'm in a very different place this holiday than I have been in years past. (Part of that is probably because I didn't just get "dumped" by a guy I really liked the way I did the two previous years. HA! That'll do it.) But part of that is because I'm feeling a great sense of peace this holiday.

I have been listening to one particular "holiday" song this year, Light One Candle. My version is from the Peter, Paul and Mary Holiday Celebration concert that aired on PBS back in the 80's. My parents bought the CD and we would listen to it as we road tripped to visit grandparents for Christmas. The album and it's songs are my childhood Christmas memories and this song is one of my favorites. I found the video below and aside from Mary's hideous outfit (seriously!) it just makes me teary eyed (or maybe that is partly because of ensemble!)

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday season. May peace be with you in 2011 and may you never let the light go out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

miscellaneous monday: impatient and all over the place

1. Yep. That's right. I loved this one so much I was obnoxious and posted it on Facebook. I think I shall also make it my wallpaper on my computer.

2. Is it time to go "home" for Christmas yet?

3. Overheard today at CVS: Mom to daughter: "Why are you acting weird? No one likes a weird kid." I nearly cracked up in the middle of the pharmacy.

4. Is it Christmas yet?

5. My CVS receipt included a $30 off coupon for "GPS for Dummies." CVS is bizarre.

6. Seriously, do I HAVE to go to work this week?

7. I am ridiculously excited for the premiere of Teen Mom 2 next month. 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom and Teen Mom 2 I will never want for a dose of underage pregnancy and schadenfreude. I think I should find a program for my addiction.

8. I love this video:

9. Yes, I realize I just put the word "bitch" and a video about the birth of Christ in the same posting. Sorry Grandma!

10. That's all!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

miscellaneous monday: the thursday edition

1. I just learned that Mark Zuckerberg RENTS his house in Palo Alto, CA. RENTS. And he is a billionaire. I don't get it.

2. Found in my new cubicle at work: a book jacket autographed by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Just the jacket.

3. Today someone I'd spoken on the phone with told me in an e-mail that she's glad that my predecessor was replaced by a "warm and well-spoken woman." Sounds like something my grandma would say but I thought it was sweet.

4. It is C-O-L-D here and super cold in my room. I'm thinking of sleeping with my coat on.

5. I was thinking of going to Montreal with a friend next month until I looked up the temps on The low there today was ONE degree. Yeah, now I'm thinking I want to go somewhere else... Any suggestions? It has to be fairly cheap!

6. The Jersey Shore made Barbara Walter's Most 10 Fascinating People (yeah, I'm watching it right now... That's where I got my Zuckerberg info.) of 2010. They earn 30,000 per episode supposedly and "The Situation" made millions of dollars last year. I just might cry.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

and every mother's child is gonna spy...

My new route home has me passing a posh chocolate shop with a giant window that allows me to spy on the creators as they do amazing things and yummy looking things that make me want to run in there and buy up the store. This time of year it is especially fun because there are lots of holiday themed treats to peer at. I got to see Santa from start to finish. One morning he was pure white, the color of his beard. That evening he had the beginnings of his red suit. A day later I saw he had a friend so I snapped this photo.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

the one where i review movies and you all tell me if you agree, disagree, and what you've watched lately...

'Tis the beginning of the season.

You know which one I am talking about. Not holiday season, Christmas season, or gain-20-lbs season.

Movie season.

Last weekend I caught (count 'em) 3 flicks in the theater. I think that was a personal record for me. Then I saw another movie on Friday night with a friend, got a Netflix via mail yesterday and watched 3 more via Netflix super-cool-instant-gratification-via-computer thingy today. (For the record, I'm not a complete bump on a log, I went to brunch, saw the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, took a brisk walk through Central Park, and went grocery shopping today as well.)

What can I say? When temperatures dip (and even when they don't!) I can get in running around the city and loafing around like a drain on society in equal parts. Now on to the movies. I've done book reviews but this is my first movie "review" attempt. Here goes:

1. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (a Swedish film)

For those unfamiliar with the book trilogy (who have been living under a rock, really), this is the last book-to-movie installment in the series, the way God intended it. That is NOT starring James Bond (who will be featured in the American versions). Not that I have anything against Daniel Craig, I just don't see why the US has to do its own version when the Swedes did a very good job. That said, I found the last one to be a bit on the slow side and they cut out some really good and suspenseful parts and changed others so they could cut out chunks of the book. I would have liked it if Noomi Rapace played a more interesting part in the first half of this movie. But I felt the same way about the book. I also think that she's an awesome actress. By and large I did enjoy the movie but not as much until the last third.

SEE IT (but read the books and see the first 2 first).

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Believe it or not, this is the first HP I've seen in the theater. And I hadn't seen movies 5 and 6 until just recently. I knew that this was one not to miss on the big screen as the books kept getting darker and darker as the series progressed. So when BFF mentioned she wanted to see this in the theater, I happily agreed. And I'm thrilled I did. The film did not disappoint, except at the end when we both were lamenting about how we didn't want to wait until next summer to see the end of it. Having read the books, we knew how it ends and it was disappointing not to see it right then. The actors have really come into their own and (as I mentioned before) the teenaged love stuff got my former teenaged heart all a flutter.


3. Tangled

The last Turkey Day weekend movie I saw was simply just to satisfy the little girl in me who LOVED Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast. Tangled is the Disney cartoon story of Rapunzel (but with a twist) and aside from the parents, I think BFF and I were the oldest ones at our Sunday afternoon showing. While I have more to say about theater etiquette (yes, even at kids movies!) than I do about this one, it was cute and funny and the animation was good. (My one complaint is that Rapunzel had GIANT eyes that made her look like those crazy stuffed animals with giant heads and eyes and really small bodies.) The music did not compare to the princess movies of yore but over all it was enjoyable.

RENT IT (to satisfy your inner princess)

4. Love and Other Drugs

I saw this one this weekend and I must say I liked it a lot more than I thought I was going to. It was funny and watching Jake Gyllenhall for 2 hrs is never that bad of a time, but more than that it was an insightful and touching look at love and relationships sans sap. The characters in the movie are reluctant and resistant from the get go but I saw that as more realistic than a lot of the rom-coms out there. A word to the wise, there is a lot of s-e-x so if you're squeamish, hide your eyes. But like I said, JG... ain't bad. The ending was a bit predictable and mushy but overall I did not exit the theater thinking, "It is so obvious. A woman wrote that."


5. Sex and the City 2

I knew this wasn't going to be Oscar worthy but I put it on my queue yesterday. The first one wasn't amazing either but I enjoyed it and found it satisfying. Half way through SATC part duex I almost shut the TV off to read instead. Very little about this movie is satisfying. In fact, it is just bad. Really bad. Now I can get past the cheese and the cliches. The series wasn't exactly my cup of tea until I actually moved to the city and found all the NYC-isms infused in SJP's narration to be charming. But in this one I just found her annoying. It was like they couldn't get the regular (good) writers to participate in the project and a decent screenplay written. Instead it was an exercise in everything over the top to beat the original movie. I mean Liza? Miley Cyrus? the United Arab Emirates? Yes, I knew what I was getting into after I saw the first commercial of them strutting through the Arabian sand like it was Fashion Week to the background tune of "Empire State of Mind" but c'mon people. At least get decent enough writers. You could have taken a cut of SJP's money. I'm sure she's not hurting for it.

SKIP IT (unless you are THAT die-hard of a fan in which case you won't care that the movie is crap.)

*These next few are oldies...*

6. My Girl 2

Don't laugh. I loved this movie as a kid so I was happy to see it make the insta-queue. The best thing about it was probably the romp down childhood lane. It's cute. It's good for a Sunday morning. It's not as good as the first one. (But it doesn't make me burst in to tears while watching it the way the first one does.) Even without Maculay Culkin, I wasn't disappointed.


7. Curly Sue

Somehow, I escaped seeing this one when I was younger. But I remember that the preview for it was on my Home Alone video tape and my brother and I watched that one 1000x so somehow I thought I'd seen it. It is about a little girl (Curly Sue, duh) and her con man guardian (Jim Belushi) and how they swindle people out of money and how cute she is in the process. And I agree. She's cute. I looked her up on IMDB and she's older than I am but she was a convincing little actress. Beyond that, I didn't like the story line. And I'm not THAT picky. I watch Lifetime movies, for crying out loud.


8. About a Boy

Another cool thing about Netflix viewing via computer is that they have all the movies that are currently playing on Starz, including this one, which I had never seen but had always meant to. Despite my best efforts not to, I really enjoy Hugh Grant and find him incredibly charming and witty. I think it is mostly the British accent and wit, really. Gets me every time. I loved this story and might actually make a note to read the book. Toni Colette was great. The lead kid (don't know his name) was also wonderful and end damn near had me a giant blubbering sobbing mess. It is one that I would buy and watch frequently. Two thumbs up.