Reading progress so far has been positive! I finished my second book last night, and honestly, both books could not be more different from one another.
I started the year off with something light, mostly because I had a long plane ride ahead of me … and I didn’t want to have to focus TOO hard. I selected Maneater by Gigi Levangie Grazer, who wrote The Starter Wife, which I read a few years ago. Maneater is the perfect kind of chick lit that you want, when you don’t want to think. It takes place in LA, the characters give the illusion of being “women of leisure”, but base most of their leisure time based on other people’s money. In this case, Clarissa Alpert, our heroine, is living life through her father’s money, and is on the hunt for a husband. She finds it in the dashing Aaron Mason, but of course, he is not what he seems. This book was an easy read, but beyond that, it was really FUNNY. Levangie Grazer does a great job of skewering the life that she certainly comes from (she is married to producer Brian Grazer), and gives a great insider perspective to the outside reader. Of course, this book is certainly not one that I would put on any college syllabus – nor am I SUPER proud that I read it, but hey, you have to start off somewhere, and for me, this book made sense, as it is a perfect one for travel.
The second book of the year was When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. Jordan wrote one of my more favorite books in the last couple years, Mudbound. Mudbound and When She Woke could not be more different, though. Where Mudbound is a piece of historical fiction about race relations in the deep South in Mississippi after WWII, When She Woke is a dystopian novel, set in America in the not-so-distant future. In this America, Church and State have no separation, and criminals are dyed or “chromed” to match their crime, so that the world is able to distinguish them from other citizens, and shun, abuse, rape or kill them. The main character of When She Woke, Hannah Payne is a Red, and has been chromed after having an abortion, the result of an affair with her married pastor. Hannah refuses to reveal the father of her baby, and is sentenced to 16 years as a chrome. The novel takes her through her time in jail, her time at the Straight Path Center (a placement given to her by the pastor that impregnated her), and her harrowing escape to Canada, where she hopes to find her freedom.
When She Woke really was a departure for me, as far as reading styles go. I normally try to stick with realistic fiction, but because I enjoyed Jordan’s last novel, I decided to give it a go. I did really like the book, even though it’s not my normal style. This book is a not-so-veiled retelling of The Scarlet Letter, which certainly made it more interesting, especially considering that age old saying, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Technology and environmental landscape may have changed vastly since Hawthorne’s time, but the casting out that Hannah Payne received rivals that of Hester Prynne’s. I’m not chomping at the bit to read any more dystopian fiction, at least not in the near future, but I think that it was certainly worth it, for a step outside of the norm.
Reading Progress for 2012:
Off the Shelf Challenge: 2/15
Personal Reading Challege for 2012: 2/43
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SO, I have disappeared off of the face of the blogging universe, both on this blog and on my other blog, Saucy and Bossy. Marc and I have been SO busy, and this year just literally ZOOMED by.
One of my new year’s resolutions, though, is to be a better reader. I work better with goals, even reading ones, and I have always been impressed with other people’s reading challenges. I don’t want to get TOO specific with my reading or my challenges, but I want to do SOMETHING … and also chisel away at my to-be-read pile at the same time. Because of that, I’ve decided to take the Off the Shelf challenge in 2012. This challenge has various levels of involvement, and for myself, I think that it would be best to not go super crazy right away (especially because I think I have a book-buying addiction, yikes…), so I will be trying level two, wherein I will read 15 books off of my TBR pile, either on my Kindle or with paper books. I will be writing reviews, short or long, for the books in this challenge, and therefore will also be blogging more often! Win-win all around.
Wish me luck! Can’t wait to get this underway.
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Do you know that I haven’t updated this blog in a long time? Of course you do — if you’re one of my four readers. My apologies. We’ve been cooking and posting on Saucy and Bossy and that has taken all the blogging life out of me — well, that and the insane amount of stress I’ve been under lately just in life. Quarter life crisis? At 28? Probably not but I’m developing adult acne and I have a bad cold sore outbreak for the past couple of months (yuck!). It is no excuse for NOT blogging, but it’s what I’m going to go with.
Crisis or not, I have been reading a lot, per usual. For Christmas, my sister purchased copies of Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor for my mom and me, with the instructions that we all had to read it together and discuss. I wasn’t on the fence about reading this book, but I have to say that I was really really nervous about it. My mom and my sister have both read and loved The Secret Life of Bees, which I haven’t read yet. Since I had not had a “Sue Monk Kidd experience” (as my sister said), I was afraid I’d be left out in the cold — what if I didn’t like her but everyone else did? What if her ideologies didn’t give with mine? What if I just thought Traveling with Pomegranates was fluffy (gasp, horror….)? (Disclaimer: Normally I do not obsess about other people’s opinions about book — like in book club — but it makes things different when it’s all in the family.) I obviously thought a lot about this before I started reading.
Before I let you know a bit about the book, I have to say, I was wrong in my assumptions. I truly did enjoy this book (and I’m not a non-fiction reader, really). Conceptually, this book is a dual travelogue, chronicling the trips to Greece and France that Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor took together from 1998 – 2000. In a greater sense, though, Sue Monk Kidd (SMK) and Ann Kidd Taylor (AKT) write about their lives, and the changes they learn about themselves throughout the journey. SMK is on the precipice of fifty, hoping to figure out what to do with her aspirations of becoming a novelist. At the time of her travels, SMK has written several successful pieces of nonfiction, most of which surround feminism and religion, but she has a greater hope to write fiction. AKT is fresh from collegiate life, and without a clue as to what to do next. She is afraid of losing herself in her partner (something she has done before) and feels lost and depressed because her graduate program of choice has rejected her. Both mother and daughter are not incredibly forthcoming with their senses of loss and confusion, and yet it’s clear that they want to share.
Through their travels, their intense connection and passion for the historical women (mythical and not) that came before them, and their strong senses of spirituality, SMK and AKT are able to figure out their paths and find the strength and empowerment to move forward with their lives. Using the Demeter and Persephone myth, as well as a somewhat alternate understanding of the Virgin Mary (and the Black Madonna), SMK and AKT explain their internal journeys through their external travels.
I don’t want to risk being redundant in my conversation with my sister and my mom, so I won’t go too far into what I thought about the book and how it personally resonated for me, but I will say that I felt a strong connection to both of these women. I often struggle with my career path and what I want to do — and still am drawn to the “necessary fire” of writing, though I haven’t chained myself at my desk to write in ages. Like Ann Taylor Kidd, I also have struggled in the past with marriage and the conventions that society (though, thankfully not my parnter…) have implanted in me about what it means to be a wife and not wanting to lose myself in that definition. I even feel like I have wrestled with a spiritual self that I don’t let shine through enough — and maybe need to begin to find my own personal female triptych of inspiration and adulation.
Overall, I would say that this book has really allowed me to reflect on myself and my own journey, and has perhaps encouraged some self-dialogue that I have been ignoring. It even drove me to blog too, which I’m grateful for. I hope to keep it up, at least get some of my words out there.
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Tags: book review, books
Yesterday was an off day for us (though not for everyone, I realize). Around 9 a.m., we saw a preview for the new Drew Barrymore-directed movie, Whip It. “Let’s go!” I said to Marc. He agreed and we were able to get it together to attend the $6 pre-noon showing in Burlington. Score!
I didn’t know much about the movie, except that it was about Roller Derby, and that Ellen Page was in it, who I loved in Juno. I was pleased that it also included a bevy of fierce female actresses — including Marcia Gay Harden, Eve, Kristen Wiig (who I definitely love more than ever), Alia Shawkat (Maeby Funke, to some), Juliette Lewis, and Ari Graynor (the drunk and hilarious friend from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist). Page is Bliss Cavendar, a teen stuck in rural Texas hell, with a mother who loves her but wants her to embrace her inner pageant queen, instead of encouraging her to find the place where she really belongs.
On a shopping trip to Austin, Bliss grabs a flyer for a roller derby night — featuring fearless, tattooed, and pierced women who aren’t afraid to duke it out in the rink. She and her best friend, Pash (Shawkat) sneak out and head to the derby. Bliss becomes entranced with the scene (and the cute boys on the scene) and she quickly decides to join the derby scne, lying to her parents about her whereabouts and hopping a bingo bus every other day to Austin for practice. Bliss is placed on the Hurl Scouts, the worst (but most fun-loving) team on the league. There, she connects with her teammates in a whole different way — finally coming into her own with people who aren’t interested in conforming to the stereotypes of polite womanhood, with no apologies.
Bliss (or Babe Ruthless, as she’s known on the Roller Derby scene) goes to great lengths to hide her interest from her parents, for fear that they won’t approve. Through the course of the film, though, Bliss learns that her parents want what’s best for her, even if it doesn’t necessarily comply with their original plan for their child.
Neither Marc nor I really knew what we were in for with this movie. I thought it would be a goofy, rompy film, a la the Judd Apatow flicks that have been plaguing the movies lately, where women are shrewish, or ditzy. I should have put some more faith is Drew Barrymore, though, because this film was absolutely NOT any of those things. The movie was FUNNY, but it also featured strong messages for young women. The Hurl Scouts embraced each other as sisters — there was no in-fighting among the women on the team. They propped each other up, and gave each other encouragement — no matter the outcome of their derby match. Their friendship spread past the rink, and continued to “real life”. Beyond the roller derby friendships, the film also features a really great and supportive friendship between Bliss and Pash. The girls are clearly similar at heart, wanting to get out of their little town, but each have different goals as to how to do that — and support those goals, despite their inherent difference.
Make no mistake, this movie is definitely a sports flick — a true underdog story. However, the beauty of Whip It is that it’s not just that — and it’s not just a comedy — it’s a 2 hour long reminder that girls, despite their age, their ability, their goals in life, can kick major ass, and have fun doing it.
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Tags: Marc, movies, ruminations, self
As you may or may not know, I work for a non-profit agency in Boston. Our staff is small, but our goal (and our reach) is pretty big. We serve a lot of people, without a lot of staff or resources, and we do it well, which is great. Anyway, this isn’t about the actual work we do, but rather about our work SPACE.
We rent an office in downtown Boston, pretty close to Newbury Street and directly across the street from Berklee School of Music — home of famous college dropouts like John Mayer. As of last year, Berklee acquired our building and we now rent space from them. It’s not really a glamorous office, because it’s pretty old, and we’ve been there for (I think) over a quarter of a century. Our office furniture doesn’t match, there are holes in the carpeting…etc. It’ just your typical, somewhat run-down Boston area office. There are millions of them. We just extended our lease with Berklee, however, and part of the deal was that we asked if we could paint the office space (at least the common areas) to spruce things up a bit. Surprisingly they said yes, and even MORE surprisingly, they gave us the paint to do it.
Of course, free labor was not included with free paint (natch) so guess who painted the office? WE DID. At first I was pretty hesitant about painting at work — it’s one thing to do it in your own house where, if you mess up, it’s your house and your partner won’t (or shouldn’t…) get mad at you. It’s another thing entirely to paint the place where you work, especially with your peers — I was afraid of messing up, putting a big paint-covered footprint on the carpeting, knocking over a bucket of paint … you name it. My fears ebbed and flowed (I mean, we’re all amateurs, right?) until the big day. Led by our fearless leader, the head of HR/painter extraordinaire, and joined by various community volunteers, we didn’t just paint, we were on FIRE. We were scheduled to paint through the day, but the morning shifters (I was one of them!) got everything done by 12:30 — including multiple coats of paint.
In just that morning, we were able to paint: the 2nd and 4th floor conference rooms (I worked on the 4th floor!), a 14-foot “accent” wall on the fourth floor, the front desk/reception area, both 2nd floor bathrooms, the 2nd floor kitchen and 2 interview rooms. The colors are bright and optimistic, and I’d imagine that they really DO make an impact when potential volunteers or donors enter the space.
And as far as my fears went about painting the office? They were all in vain. I should have realized that our painting guru/HR rep would have been more than super prepared for any beginning painters. Everything was covered in plastic and taped down and out of harm’s way. I don’t think anyone stepped in paint, spilled paint, and most people didn’t even splash it on their clothes. Phew.
My only regret is that I didn’t take pictures of the places I helped to paint — though I know that whenever I want to see my hard work, I can just mosey up to the 4th floor conference room and feel good about myself!
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I can’t believe how long it’s been since Project Runway has been in my life — too long! I already filled in my work pals with comments and observations about last night’s THREE HOURS of the show. We had a lot to say, but it’s hard to wrap it up into one little blog post. I’ll share the highlights with you, and you can feel free to add your own commentary…if you have some.
First of all, let me say that I am SO thankful that Lifetime has not made Project Runway any softer or mushier than it needs to be. There’s still the hard edge, there’s still the banging drum elimination music, and the network switch didn’t trademark any of Tim’s catchphrases. It’s all still there, and it’s great.
a. Chris March has, I think, sleep apnea. He’s got some issues with the spontaneous slumber, and I’m not sure if he just requires more rest because he’s older than everyone else, or what. But yikes! Ironically, my own father (who resembles Chris March in many ways) has sleep apnea. Whoa. Either way, he pulled out some fantastic looks, so he couldn’t have been asleep on the job the WHOLE time. Just during big stuff — like the model casting.
b. Uli has developed QUITE a mean streak. I didn’t expect her to come back and be so vicious to Sweet P who I so dearly love. She has come a long way as a designer, but I’m pretty sure that I dislike her. The cattiness was out of control.
c. I never watched the first season of PR, but I’m not sure I’m going to, after seeing Santino’s antics. I have been told, by a reliable source or two, that he wasn’t that bad, but yikes. I do like his Tim Gunn impression, though.
d. Jeffrey’s Fu Manchu mustache has GOT to go. He looks like he’s been living under a rock for the past couple of years, but apparently, he’s in a band? What?
Regarding the actual episode … I don’t always like the first few episodes, because it’s hard to keep track of who is who. BUT, since I took notes, I think I will have some decent observations:
a. Though I love Christopher Straube and I thought his dress was INCREDIBLE, I just need to point out about his “poor me” attitude. WHO doesn’t know what smocking is? I know what smocking is, and I think I have since I was like 4 and had a Polly Flinders dress.
b. Qristyl? Really? Awful name. Awful dress. Sorry girl, you know it’s true. And Lindsay Lohan was SO mad when she found out that Qristyl made it with her in mind. Her look could have knocked the dress right off the model.
c. I’m not sure how I feel about PR being in LA, but I’m glad there’s still Mood. “Thank you, Mood!“
d. I got goosebumps (both times) when Michael Kors was introduced. I love him. He’s still as orange as together, but he had some excellent one-liners yesterday, like calling Ari’s “runway fashion” a soccer disco ball. He also has an incredible chemistry with Diane Von Furstenburg, the guest judge on the all-star challenge. They’re the BFFs of the fashion world. (At least in my head)
e. I like Epperson and I think that he’s gonna go far – I hope, anyway. Dr. Thorpe, my mom’s boss, said that his dressed looked like a “wolf on the hunt,” but I thought it was well constructed, and an excellent first effort.
f. I also REALLY loved the red number (I’ve been trying to find pictures online, but there are none at this time). Heidi REALLY loved that dress and totally wanted one for herself — it could accommodate her fourth pregnancy pretty well, too. I only hope the designer doesn’t cry in every episode. We do not need another Ricky on our hands.
g. Lindsay Lohan looks TERRIBLE. Drugs and rehab have aged her permanently, obviously.
h. I liked the retro chick’s 2 tone dress. I expect good things from her and I hope she’s not Kenley-ish.
i. And last, but not least, I’m REALLY glad that Ari is gone (even after the first episode). I have to give her props, though, because she did not do the typical reality show departure. I always thought it is/was annoying when contestants CRY so hard when they’re the first ones to get kicked off. Wait, let me take that back, I don’t care if they CRY, but I do care if they talk about how many nice people they’ve met and how we won’t hear the last of them. We always hear the last of them – and the people they work with kind of make fun of them the whole time.
Until next time…
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Tags: Project Runway, Television
Marc and I don’t get to take vacations terribly often — we usually find ourselves traveling to see our families or taking days off to do various household tasks. It’s rare for us to get away (for more than just a weekend…) for the thrill and relaxation of it all. This year, we were invited to join Marc’s grandparents, his aunt and uncle and his cousins (and their babies/significant others/guests) in Damariscotta Mills, Maine, where they visit every year. The house that they rent is right on Damariscotta Lake, and everyone just kicks back in the most serious of fashions.
I don’t think I have EVER been on a vacation in my entire life, where the main object of the trip was nothing but pure relaxation and pleasure. There were absolutely no expectations coming from any direction, except that everyone was required to have a great time. Some people fished (I did not, as I have boat-a-phobia…), some people played cards, other people read. I played in the water pretty much 50% of my waking time, as I haven’t really had the chance to swim at ALL this year, because of the cold and rainy weather. Most people were into hanging out, which was great, but also respected the need for quiet time. It was the perfect set-up. Everything was relaxing and great, and I left feeling totally relaxed and really happy. (Though I did miss my own bed and my lil’ doggie!)
We also had a lobster dinner … my first. I have had lobster in pasta once, but never the “full experience” of the lobster, boiled whole and in the shell. I have to admit that I was completely intimidated by the whole thing (yes, I psyched myself out….I admit it — but the lobsters they got were at least 3 pounds a piece!), and so Seth offered to split a lobster with me, and do all the work. I totally took him up on it, and had JUST enough lobster to get the experience. Marc, on the other hand, is in LOVE with lobster, and happily took one down and and split another with his stepbrother, Jason. The two of them were pretty much professionals at it, and stayed at the table and gobbled up their lobsters with the greatest of ease. It was easily the best part of Marc’s vacation, and though it wasn’t necessarily MY favorite part, seeing his great job in demolishing the lobster amused me.
And now, we’ve returned to Arlington in the HOTTEST part of the summer. We are currently suffocating in our house, and I’m contemplating a really cold shower … though I wish I was jumping into the lake right now, instead!
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