Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Carolina in My Mind

If you're thinking that Sullivan's Island by Dorothea Benton Frank looks like one of those typical women's fiction novels....well, you're right. It is. The main reason why I picked it up is because of its setting- Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounding coastal islands. After vacationing there a couple of times, it's become an area that I absolutely love. Unfortunately, the book- with an okay story and some questionable dialogue (the author makes a seven-year-old character sound like a thirty-year-old, and a teen from the nineties sound like a teen from the fifties)- wasn't quite enough to take me back there.

Instead of dwelling on any negative impressions, I would have shared some pictures from my past trips to Charleston. BUT...my hard drive crashed last week and I lost everything, save a handful of documents that I serendipitously backed up just days before.

The Apple store installed a new hard drive for me, although I think it's still time for me to start thinking about replacing my older MacBook in the next year or so. A MacBook Pro seems like it might be the right choice, although the tiny MacBook Air is also kind of tempting. If anyone has any opinions about either one- or has any preferred methods for backing up your files on a regular basis- I'd love to hear them!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

My BEA Day

Yesterday I was lucky enough to get to spend the day at Book Expo America, the publishing industry trade show going on in New York this week. I used my iphone to snap some of the highlights, like the nice displays in the Penguin, Chronicle, and Workman Press booths.

Of course, I was partial to the fact that Penguin had an entire wall decorated with their Classics editions. And as if they don't already have me wrapped around their finger, I learned that they'll be releasing a new series of Fitzgerald titles in the fall featuring art deco cover designs.

Something else to look forward to- a new Shabby Chic book.

At the Workman booth, I noticed that they were promoting the upcoming book based on the Missed Connections blog.

As I was looking through a sample of the book, the girl working the booth told me that they were giving away prints of one of the Missed Connections illustrations. And, oh by the way, the artist herself is right over there signing them. So I got to meet her and got a lovely signed picture to frame and hang near the bookshelves in my apartment (once I actually get some).

American Girl had a big booth showcasing their books. They were promoting their new historical dolls, two girls from New Orleans in the mid-nineteenth century. Am I too old to put these on my Christmas list?

I didn't pose with my head behind these life size figures. But yes, I kind of wanted to.

I can't lie, though. One of the biggest highlights was the free stuff I came away with. From the moment I stepped into the exhibit hall, I was overcome by the hunt for freebies, no matter what they were. YA book about how to rock braces with a tie-in compact mirror? Sure! Giant Tin Tin tote bag? Why not! Not to mention the galleys and catalogs I picked up. I already paid the penance for my greediness in the form of an aching shoulder after lugging my loot laden tote all the way home.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Making Up

This is the pattern I tend to fall into with makeup: I find a product, love it, start using it all the time and vow that I'll never be without it again. Then, a certain amount of time passes and I start to get antsy. I read about something new, can't resist the pull of Sephora, and suddenly the old favorite is relegated to the bottom of my makeup bag. To be honest, this cosmetic fickleness is half the fun of wearing makeup in the first place.

There are two products, though, that I've become extremely loyal to. I've kept going back to them over and over for the past year or so. I've just about used them completely up, which is a rare feat for me, and am pretty sure I'll be buying more once they're completely gone.

My first favorite is Medieval lip color by Lipstick Queen. They say it's a universally flattering shade, and I truly believe it. It gives a lightweight coating of color that bright enough to make it look like you're wearing red lipstick, but sheer enough so that you don't feel like you're Wearing Red Lipstick.

Next, is Philosophy's Divine Illumination Love At First Light Skin Luminizer. Kind of a mouthful to say, but a great product to use. Another universal color, it can be applied all over the face or just as a highlighter, and gives a fresh, dewy look. It's usually the last thing I swipe into my cheeks before I leave the house.

Do you have any longtime beauty favorites?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Adventures in Asparagus

Ever since spring began, I've been in the mood to cook something with asparagus. I decided to try a Jamie Oliver recipe for an asparagus and potato tart (classified, for reasons unknown, as a Royal Wedding celebration dish). Made up of a crisp filo dough crust spread with a layer of cheesy mashed potatoes and topped with asparagus spears, it was supposed to look a little something like this:

Instead, I ended up with a crust-less, improvised mashed potato casserole that looked more like this:

As the filo dough ("now in new, easy to use sheets"), crumbled into tiny, unusable pieces in my hands, I thought about tossing the entire dish. Luckily, I decided to try my hand at salvaging the meal by eliminating the crust and baking everything else in a deep casserole dish. All in all, I felt pretty good about my kitchen ingenuity.

Most importantly, I came away with a few lessons from this misadventure. I learned that TV chefs who rave about the ease of frozen filo dough are lying (Giada, Ina, I'm looking at you). I learned that I should probably invest in a potato masher so that I can stop looking silly using the attachments from my hand mixer as a substitute. I learned that using an elaborate arm flourish to sprinkle spice into a dish will likely result in an overabundance of nutmeg. And I learned that cheese infused potatoes are never a bad thing, no matter what form they take.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bright Before Us

From the very first sentence, I knew I was going to love Bright Before Us. The debut novel from Katie Arnold-Ratliff, it reads like something by a skilled, veteran author. By the time I read the last sentence, it had become one of my new recent favorites.

Set in San Francisco, its lovely, misty prose draws the reader into the fogginess of the Bay Area and tells the story of Francis, a twenty-something teacher who becomes undone after he and his class stumble upon a decomposed dead body during a field trip to the beach. We watch him, and at times despise him, as he tells increasingly bold lies about the incident, cruelly pushes away his pregnant wife, and lets his career fall to shambles. These scenes of unraveling are interspersed with flashbacks of his relationship with a girl from his past- his first love and fleeting first wife. Through an incredibly well done first person narration--the flashback scenes are actually addressed to "you", putting the reader in the shoes of the former girlfriend-- the reader gets inside Francis's head without ever full understanding him. I found myself alternately hating Francis and rooting for him. Ultimately, though, I found myself thinking endlessly about the sympathetically complicated characters in this book.

I'm so glad I stumbled across this at the library. Katie Arnold-Ratliff better get busy. I can't wait to read what she does next.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Notes on Jane

The covers on these annotated editions of Jane Austen novels caught my eye during a recent browse at the bookstore

Flipping through them, I discovered that, instead of the dry, scholarly notes I was expecting to find, they were actually filled with charming little illustrations, showing things like what a carriage looked like, or a common ladies dress of the time period.

Okay, maybe there were some dry, scholarly notes too, but I still think these would be a nice addition to any Austen-lover's library.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May Flowers

What I'm about to say may be a bit controversial: I've never been a huge fan of spring. In fact, it might be my least favorite season. I love summer for all the obvious reasons; fall has that crisp, back-to-school-shopping feeling, plus the lead-up to the holidays; even winter, with all of its flaws, provides the perfect excuse to curl up inside with a book and some tea. But spring has never done much for me. It always seems like spring just jumps right over what it's supposed to be, breaking from the tedious cold and going right into weather that's too warm too soon, forcing pale legs to go tights-less before they're ready.

This year has been different, though. Maybe it's the perfect weather that we've been having recently, but I feel like I'm enjoying the spring season more than ever. I've especially been taking note of all the flowers and greenery in bloom everywhere.

(Yes, I know this is actually a weed!)

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Tiger's Wife

I've been putting off writing about The Tiger's Wife because I've been trying to think about how to do it justice other than simply saying that it lived up to the hype surrounding it. It's gotten a lot of buzz as being the first book by Tea Obreht. At twenty-five (but looking closer to sixteen in her author photo on the jacket) she was chosen last year as one of The New Yorker's "20 Under 40" writers. I'll admit that I was on the lookout for some flaw that would discredit all of the hype when I started reading, but had forgotten all about that by around page 40, when I found myself completely absorbed in the story.

The Tiger's Wife is a mutli-layered, meandering kind of novel. It's narrated by Natalia, a young doctor in the former Yugoslavia who, while on her way to set up a clinic at an orphanage, gets word of her grandfather's mysterious and sudden death. Natalia's story is then layered with stories of her grandfather's boyhood, which are in turn entwined with the stories that are part of the superstitions and folklore of the village where he grew up. Each section of the story is so vividly written that I can only imagine the force of creativity that it took to get it all on the page. The very end of the book didn't do quite as much as it could have, but the rich, engrossing story that preceded it makes that seem like a minor, inconsequential complaint.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Delightful Doodles

Has anyone else been enjoying the great Google Doodles that have popped up on their home page this week? Between today's mesmerizing Martha Graham animation and Monday's tribute to Roger Hargreaves' Little Miss and Mr. Man series, I've been going out of my way to search for things online just to get a look at them.

These reminded me of how much I loved those books when I was little. I probably had most of the series, but my favorites were the fascinatingly small Little Miss Tiny and Little Miss Helpful. The disastrous results of her good hearted meddling would get me every time.


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