Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I received the advanced reader's copy of this book at the ALA convention back in June, and am embarrassed to say that I just got around to reading it.  It's been sitting on my bookshelf, just watching me read all of my other books, waiting for its opportune moment to drag me in.  While packing for our two-week road trip, I shrugged and threw it into my bag; hey, it's a paperback and only 310 pages.
Why didn't I read this sooner?!  Upon closing its' pages, I immediately called my mom to leave her a message that said, "Mom, have you finished Stiltsville?  I just put it down and am completely affected by it."
Frances goes down to Miami in 1969 at age 26 to attend a friend's wedding.  While there, she befriends Marse, a native Floridian, who takes her out to Stiltsville, a group of houses a mile from the beach off the coast of Florida.  There, she meets and falls in love with Dennis.  Eight months later, she's moved from Atlanta to south Florida, where she marries Dennis, has a child, weathers personal and physical storms, and debilitating illness.
There is nothing extraordinary about the plot of this book; Susanna Daniel has simply written the story of a woman's life in south Florida.  In this simplicity, though, is an entirely relateable version of life.  Most people don't lead superhero lives; we love our families, we encounter temptations, we put ourselves back together after storms hit.  We make small observations about others, we do our best to make mistakes out of the public eye.  Frances feels like someone I knew intimately, and the last sentence of the book has stuck with me.  Daniel writes, "Thank you for my life," and that's exactly what I want to say sometimes to those who have been major players in my own simple life.  This book just felt like a clear, effortless way to end 2010.
I should mention that Grandma in North Carolina read Stiltsville over the summer, and told me it was wonderful.  Thank you for the excellent recommendation, and I promise not to take so long on the next book you suggest!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Favorite TV Shows of 2010

This show is the most irreverently funny, ridiculous show on any network.  The second season has shown a sharpening of jokes and slightly deeper character development.  Any show who has tribute episodes to both zombie movies and action film cliches is okay by me.  Oh, and Joel McHale, Alison Brie, and Donald Glover are just comedic gold.

Mad Men
You know, it's almost not even fair to compare other shows to this one.  Each season keeps getting more interesting and complex, with unparalleled character development, intriguing plot twists, and the season finales are the BEST!  Is there another man on TV as watchable as Don Draper?  This year's focus on his daughter, Joan and Roger's relationship, and the slivers of hope the advertising agency held onto were more mature and personal than previous seasons.

Bored to Death (Season One)
I bought the first season on a whim from Target (it was on sale and I'm a sucker for Jason Schwartzman), and fell in love with the opening credits.  The rest of the show is earnest, funny, and full of amazing Ted Danson scenes.  Jason Schwartzman plays Jonathan Ames, a writer who's stuck on his second novel and decides to be a private detective on the side.  Ted Danson is his boss at a men's magazine, and Zach Galifianakis is his cartoon artist best friend.  Granted, 2010 was the year of season two, but I can't comment on that yet.  In the meantime, check out the credit sequence.

Modern Family
A consistently funny, sweet show that documents three families (all related) in their day-to-day lives.  It's a mockumentary, a genre that's getting a bit played out, but all of the actors, including the kids, do a stand-up job of delivering great lines each week.  My only question is where is Lily in half the episodes?  She is the world's quietest baby!

Cougar Town
Cougar Town has really blossomed in its second season.  It's kind of like Friends-lite: funny grown-ups who don't take themselves too seriously and do mundane stuff together, but make it entertaining.  I will say that Jules can be a bit grating, and overbearing to the point of meanness, but the other characters are endearing.  If they get Laurie and Travis together, though, it's going to get weird.

Parks and Recreation
I just love Amy Poehler on Parks and Recreation.  The supporting cast, including Ron Swanson and Andy, are just hysterical as the Director of Parks and Rec and shoeshine guy, respectively.  The second season ended with the county in an upheaval because of budget cuts; will the P&R department make it out with all of their people?  The third seasons starts in January, so tune in!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Favorite Movies from 2010

The Ghost Writer
Ewan McGregor is hired to ghost write the memoirs of the former British Prime Minister, a Tony Blair-like Pierce Brosnan.  Intrigue and mystery follows, as well as some perfectly moody settings.  Great acting, great story.

Toy Story 3
If you saw this movie and didn't cry, you probably don't have a heart.  A great way to end the story of a bunch of toys, and the boy they love.

Oh man, what a cool film.  Amazing special effects, Marion Cotillard is unbelievably creepy, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is gorgeous.  The end will leave you hanging, but good films should end with a question or two.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Fun to watch.  Michael Cera isn't his usual emo self, and Jason Schwarzman is pitch perfect.  No, I didn't read the comic, but don't hold that against me.

Never Let Me Go
This film was absolutely gut-wrenching.  The main characters are clones who have been raised solely for their organs, and spend the film trying to come to grips to it.  Are they capable of emotions?  Do they have souls?  Everyone gives stellar performances, and I spent a good 20 minutes crying during the movie.  Beautifully shot.

The Social Network
Look at this film as more of an examination on power, popularity, and relationships than a Facebook biopic.  Zuckerberg has created a social phenomenon that gets people to connect digitally, but at what expense to his own friendships, and our own?  Facebook has only been around about six or seven years, but has changed the way we communicate online and off.  This film raises some really great questions about how we interact, and David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin did a great job helming it.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Yes, I like the Harry Potter movies, and I totally saw this the weekend it came out.  Part 1 was moody and mature, with the characters finally delving into their complex emotions.  I'm so glad they're releasing this as two films to cover everything from the final book; can't wait for the end!

Black Swan
I asked John Paul if he ever thought he would want to see a psychological horror film based in the world of professional ballet, and he responded, "No way!"  Nonetheless, the build-up to this film was almost palpable for me, and I delved into every scene and word.  Natalie Portman plays a star ballerina obsessed with perfecting both the White and Black Swan parts of the ballet.  But can she handle the stress of both?  Is Mila Kunis really out for her role?  Portman is unparalleled, the direction (by Darren Aronofsky) is superb, and you'll be on the edge of your seat from scene one.  If your nerves can take it, rush out to see this asap.

What were your favorites?  Any great rental suggestions for the first few months of 2011?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas Break!

Scarf: Handmade by my wonderful sister for Christmas a few years ago!
Sweater and coat: J. Crew
Skirt: F21
Socks: Madewell
Oxfords: Aldo
Pins: Vintage and Gap
Christmas, Christmas time is here
Time for joy and time for cheer!

This years' is a bit untraditional for me; for the first time, I'm going to wake up next to John Paul on Christmas day!  I haven't spent a Christmas away from Haley before, so it's somewhat bittersweet, but my feelings about holidays are evolving a bit.  Now I think of anytime I get to spend with my wonderful, wildly loved family as a holiday, so there's less emphasis on specific calendar days.

Anyway, on to the outfit. Last Saturday I ran to the USPS to mail some gifts last minute (as per usual), but any trip to Georgetown can count as a time to dress up a bit. These socks are supercomfy (with some wool in them, to add warmth), the skirt adds some flair to the neutrals, and I will use any excuse to wear my favorite scarf from Haley! In all, I was the perfect temperature: not boiling hot under the layers, not freezing with my knees showing.  
I'll be taking tomorrow off, mainly so I can focus totally on Christmas Eve with the Diegos, but also to stuff my face with jamon serrano.  I hope you're all having a magnificent, cozy holiday!
Next week, because I know you're all dying to know, I'll be posting my favorite random things for 2010, and taking suggestions for what to check out in 2011.  It'll be fun...!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Food Matters

Mark Bittman does not tell us anything new in his book about the connection between our food choices and the environment, but he does write more succinctly than Michael Pollan. I considered the first half of his book a primer in how to eat more consciously, while the second half is comprised of recipes (the oatmeal cookie recipe is completely delicious!). 
The gist of Bittman's book is "Eat less meat, think about what you're buying, and use common sense when it comes to cooking." None of his ideas are too radical, and I already enjoy eating vegetarian food several times a week, so his ideas made sense to me. A lot of the first 100 pages was repetitive, though, so feel free to scan as needed.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lightning Strikes Twice!

Sweater: UO
Pants: Seven for All Mankind
Flats: Gap
Scarf: John Paul's (his grandma knit it!)
A couple of weekends ago, John Paul and I were invited to a party at the house of one of his fellow interns.  I didn't know anyone there, and we weren't quite sure of the attire necessary.  Dressy?  Casual?  Ugly Christmas sweater?  When in doubt, I generally go for the white jeans.  Hear me out: they're crisp, perfectly hemmed and, oh, there are glittery lightning bolts on both butt pockets.
Seriously, everyone should have jeans like this.  They say, "I don't take myself too seriously, and my ass is completely worthy of sparkle."
Not all pictures come out great.  Sometimes I talk in the middle of them.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Baked Pasta with Winter Squash Puree

Mmmm...can you tell I love the squash and pasta combination?  First the Spaghetti (Squash) Pasta, now this.  This is a particularly great meal for the winter because it makes a lot of food, and reheats beautifully.

When butternut squash is pureed, it has a silky texture, and it's the perfect foil for subtly crunchy breadcrumbs and salty fusilli. There are also caramelized onions, which is my weakness. I couldn't find winter squash puree at my grocery store, so I made my own. Just peel a medium butternut squash, cube it, then steam it until it's soft, about 20 minutes. Put into a bowl and blend it with a hand blender, or toss it into a standard blender. Find the recipe at Everyday Food.

I served this as a meal in and of itself, but think it would be great with some green beans or asparagus and some hearty protein. You really can't serve it the wrong way!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Best. Purchase. Ever.

Leggings: Gap
Sweater Coat: Banana Republic
Scarf: April Daze
Button down: H&M
Boots: Anthropologie
I probably shouldn't even tell you this story, for fear of my life.  Retail doesn't have many perks, but one of them is that customers return items after the season is over, and they usually get discounted.  While looking in the Anthro shoe closet one day, organizing the heels, etc., I saw these in a corner.  They were two seasons old (we sold them in the fall, and it was the end of spring), in my size, and seriously discounted.  As in $20.  I practically ran to the register to pay for them.
Here's a better look:
These shoes made the late night closings worth it.
These photos were taken about an hour after my 10k, and my hair was totally rocking.  So much so, I decided to forgo makeup.  Hence the lack of close-ups.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Decor in DC

Merry Christmas!  John Paul and I decorated our place a couple of weekends ago, and it looks really cute.  This is our first year with a tree, so we don't have a ton of ornaments.  We just used some silver and different colored balls from Target.  The ornaments with sentimental value will come later.
A red beaded necklace spruces up a table lamp.
The sentimental pillows, though, are under control.  Thanks Grandma in North Carolina!
We used some leftovers from the tree to make the mantle look even cuter!
Garland along the bookshelf, and a Santa-hatted antique fan, make the room even more festive.
Merry Christmas, y'all!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

World War Z

This novel, by Max Brooks, perfectly fits in with my taste in post-apocalyptic literature as of late.  It's modeled after The Good War by Studs Terkel, which is a collection of firsthand accounts of World War II survivors.  There are fictional interviews with  everyone from deep sea divers to the doctor who treated the first reported zombie case in China, and it's all just so intriguing.
So the premise is that Brooks has written a UN report about the zombie war that destroyed governments and societies all over the world, but his supervisor thinks the report has too much human interest.  Brooks has taken out the personal interviews and put together his own book, which describes the effects of war on several aspects of life.  Brooks hears from a US soldier who fought in the well-publicized Yonkers mission, a failed military attack against zombies; a black market surgeon in Rio who accidentally gives a man an infected kidney; the man who helped blow up a bridge between Iran and Pakistan to stop the flow of zombies into the country.  The book is broken up into several sections, describing the beginning of the zombie infection, then the way countries deal with the outbreak, and the eventual rebirth of society.
Though there's not really a plot here, it's fascinating to see the way an author thinks the world will react to an attack of this magnitude.  Obviously, only read if you're also in a post-apocalyptic mood.
Oh, and think a zombie attack is even mildly possible.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Cookie Party

A couple of weekends ago, some friends came over for a Christmas sweets get-together.  What does that involve?  Sugar cookies cut out in Christmas trees and snowmen, lots of sprinkles, Trader Joe's holiday supplies and apple cider.
A cute apron doesn't hurt either.
People decorated cookies on individual squares of aluminum foil, we made peppermint hot cocoa, and Tara brought over almond-flavored sparkling wine (oh Lordy, supertasty!).
The leftover treats: sugar cookies, peppermint sticks, candy cane Joe-Joe's, fleur de sel caramels, and chocolate-covered shortbread.
They're pretty cute, no?

Monday, December 13, 2010

10K! 6.2 miles! 10000 meters! A lot of steps!

I did my first 10K yesterday!  It was a cold and wet morning, the race started at 7:30, and it allowed me to eat everything in sight the rest of the day.  All in all, I was incredibly happy and proud that I finished, not with a bad time either.  John Paul denied my requests for him to rip my legs off because they hurt so badly...I've decided to forgive him and love him anyway. 
My good friend, Christina, suggested we run  the Jingle All the Way 10K ( as a way of motivating us out of the apartment when it's cold out.  We've been getting together to run a couple mornings a week, and done a couple of long runs on Sunday mornings.  The run isn't for a particular cause or charity, purely a fun run.  People were dressed as Santa, elves, reindeer, even a snowman!  A great time was had by all.
When all was said and done, John Paul drove me home and I sat right inside of the fireplace to warm up.  Winter is rough.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Layers, layers, layers!

Sweater vest, tank top, thigh-highs, cardigan: Gap
Skirt: Urban Outfitters
Shoes: Gianni Bini
Coat: J.Crew
Scarf: Ann Taylor
Well, winter held off until December 1.  Since then, it has been flat-out cold in DC, with flurries predicted today!  It's time to break out the layers and start bundling up.

On Saturday, John Paul and I spent our day out and about: saw Black Swan, Christmas shopped, painted pottery in Alexandria with Summer and Luke for her birthday (so fun!), decorated our home for the holiday, and went to dinner at Eola (I could write an entire entry about my wild boar ragout and pork belly croquettes). Needless to say, this outfit had to work for outdoors and indoors, as well as be willing to put up with some paint and walking.

These heels are nice and chunky, so wearing them all day wasn't a problem. Ribbed thigh-high socks are a great alternative to tights; they're not itchy and breathe a bit more. The coat stayed on for outdoors, while the cardigan could be taken off in the warm painting studio. I like the pops of red to bring in some color!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Spiced Pumpkin Cake

So you know that my mom, sister and I were in charge of desserts for the Thanksgiving dinner held at Andrea's new house (so cute!), and they were aching for the pumple.  I was desiring something hearty and not overly-sweet, and this dessert from November's issue of Real Simple was calling my name. 

As much as I enjoy pumpkin taste, I'm not wild about pumpkin pie; sometimes it's just too silky and rich. Baked goods, like pumpkin muffins and cakes, are much more up my alley. Add in my love for Bundt pans (they always look impressive and pretty!), as well as a thick lemon glaze, and I was done for.

 This cake turned out beautifully: dense, perfectly spiced and a beautiful, deep orange color. Be sure to grease your pan within an inch of its life, and use some flour, too. You'd hate for half your cake to stick to the pan! Also, be sure to let it cool completely before even attempting to slide it out of the pan.  All of those are hard-learned tips, I promise.
This could also work as a brunch offering, with some berries scattered on top. Or dress it up with a chocolate glaze, instead of lemon. Go nuts!