Cinnamon Stick Ornaments

I’m not handling the holidays very well this year. We have a pretty tree, stockings, gifts and unfortunately I don’t feel a drop of Christmas spirit. I’m hoping it will miraculously appear on Thursday at noon when my office officially closes until the new year. We’ll see. In the meantime I’m trying to force myself to feel EXCITED. Operation “Finding My Inner Christmas Queen” began today with a simple little craft that I found in Real Simple.

I originally wanted to have a themed tree this year, and in typical delusional-Erin-fashion, I thought I was going to string popcorn and cranberries and then festoon the tree with oodles of cinnamon stick ornaments, but that didn’t happen. Of course, before I decided that was way too much work and that I’d just use my usual hodgepodge of wacky mismatched ornaments, I had already purchased several feet of skinny red ribbon and a pound of cinnamon sticks.

In the end I figured I might as well try making a few. At first I used some clear craft glue to hold the cinnamon sticks together before tying them with ribbon, but then I realized that the bundles held just fine simply with a firmly secured bow. The living room smelled amazing while I made about a dozen of the cute little crafts. Then I hung them on the tree with hooks and felt accomplished. I’m thinking that next year I might make more and tie them with a variety of colored ribbons. What do you think? By the way, the cranberries in the picture are part of another craft I’m going to attempt later this week. Wish me luck!

Announcing My Official Engagement to Prince William

Are you guys sure Prince William is engaged to Kate Middleton because it sure looks like I have the ring.

Just kidding. This mega-gem is from Avon circa…I was probably in Kindergarten. My grandmother’s neighbor was an Avon Lady and I coveted her sample knock-off Princess Diana engagement ring so much that she gave it to me. Obviously you can see that I had “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” from a VERY young age.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Jennifer Donnelly’s initial foray into young adult fiction, A Northern Light, was the first and only selection in the Young Adult Book Club Anna and I tried to start when we were living in Portland. We even bought a copy of the book for our friends Jaime and Kelly, who lived across the street from me, and left it in their mailbox, gently “encouraging” them to participate. In the end our failed book club consisted of Anna and I sitting in the Barnes and Noble Cafe drinking lattes. Although, to our credit we did discuss the book. That’s not something you can claim with most book clubs, right?

As much as I loved A Northern Light, I have to admit that Revolution trumps it completely. Donnelly’s ability to weave her extensive historical research into such tight and cohesive plot is uncanny. I simply couldn’t put the book down and found myself extremely sympathetic to the main character,  Andi Alpers, and her struggle with depression and the guilt she harbors over the tragic death of her young brother.

Andi’s life is one of privilege. She attends a posh New York city school with the creme de la creme of society. She’s a gifted musician and guitarist but she has become completely consumed in the deep blackness of a depression she can’t escape. She’s addicted to prescription drugs, her geneticist father has left the family, and her mother is in a constant state of mourning for her brother. When Andi’s grades reveal that she may not graduate high school her father drags her to Paris so that he can monitor her activities as she attempts to write an outline for her required thesis.

In Paris, Andi discovers the diary of Alexandrine, a passionate actress who worked as the companion to the young son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Via Alex’s diary entries Andi uncovers an amazing story of heroic proportions. It’s difficult to write about the book as I truly don’t want to give an iota of real plot away. Trust me. The scenes that take place in 18th century Paris are just as outstanding as those that deal with the present day.

As an added bonus there is an immense amount of music, both present day artists and classical works, mentioned throughout the novel. A quick Google search doesn’t appear to show any listing for an official author’s play list so maybe I’ll take the time to scour the book’s pages and pull something together? In the meantime, definitely read this book!

Room by Emma Donoghue

I received an arc of Room via Shelf-Awareness during my summer of moves. It sounded intriguing at the time but a bit dark for a summer read so it was packed away for future consumption. Now several months later it’s on numerous bestseller lists and everyone is talking about it. In case you’re wondering if you should pick up the book on your next bookstore excursion or Kindle splurge I’m going to offer up a resounding yes!

Room by Emma Donoghue is the first book in quite some time that made me want to stay up all night reading. I literally couldn’t put it down and practically broke my leg one morning when I was so engrossed in the pages that I didn’t notice the escalator had arrived at the top of Porter Square Station. If a book makes you look like a fool then it has to be a keeper.

Admittedly I was a bit wary of the subject matter examined in the story. Lately the press has had a field day recounting the stories of kidnapped women who were held captive for years by sadistic people — did I really want to read about that sort of horror in my free time? To help the reader overcome these feelings Donoghue has quite brilliantly written this harrowing and heartbreaking tale from the point of view of Jack, the captive woman’s five-year-old son. A son she conceived against her will during her years of imprisonment.

Jack and Ma live in Room which is essentially a fortified shed in their captor’s backyard. Room is the only world that young Jack has ever known. The only contact they have with the outside world is via an old television and the nightly visits from “Old Nick” their jailer. The imaginative use of language and the world that Ma is able to weave for Jack is truly astonishing. I believe you’ll find yourself simply overwhelmed by the creative ways she manages to teach, inform, protect, and entertain her son in such a hostile environment.

I know I’m bordering on gushing over this story but I honestly don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it. I promise you’ll fall in love with Jack and revel in his bravery and perseverance. Don’t shy away from this title just because it’s “ripped from the headlines” a la a Law and Order episode. Room is a book that begs reading and then a prompt hand-off to your best friend so that the two of you can discuss it over wine.

Beta Testing Cataclysm for World of Warcraft

Hilariously enough I was randomly chosen to be a beta tester for the upcoming Cataclysm expansion pack for World of Warcraft. Serious gamers around the world are now giving me the finger in earnest I assure you. I only recently started playing WoW again in the last few weeks after not touching the game for probably six months. So far I’ve only played Cataclysm for a few hours. I made a Worgen (aka werewolf) which I promptly christened “WatsonTKitty.”

Now every time I’m asked to do something serious — you know like save the world, everyone is pleading for WatsonTKitty to help. It cracks me up. I know…I know. I’m a total geek.

Gilneas, where Worgen characters start their journey, is very Dickensian which really speaks to my inner anglophile. Although I’m pretty annoyed that you can’t create a female Worgen character yet. When I finally can I think I’ll name her “Mini-Me.” Just kidding!

I also made a girlie girl goblin which I drive around the little goblin town in a car. I’m terrible at this so I inevitably keep running over the villagers who angrily yell things back like, “I’m going to sue!” I’d share a picture with you but the goblins have been disabled for days now due to a crashing issue.

Below is an image of my current favorite non-beta character, Deyadora, and her pet “Catra.” I recently leveled Deyadora, who is a Blood Elf hunter to level 36. The reason I snapped this screenshot was A. my cat jumped on the bed in this cottage — hmm…just like in real life and B. there was pineapple wallpaper on the walls. Adorable!

The Carrie Diaries

Oh boy…what to say.  I alternated between disliking and loving this book practically every other chapter. In the end I think I finally decided that I liked it but do yourself a favor and read it at a beach while you’re slathered in sunscreen. I think it will come off in a more positive light with a little personal atmosphere.

One of the problems I had with The Carrie Diaries was simply that it would have been much more interesting had it not been framed as a Young Adult novel. Now, before anyone jumps down my throat I adore YA. I eat it up weekly with a fork and spoon, but since the general audience of Sex and the City is decidedly not the 13-17 set in 2010 (or maybe it is…I think they’re more in-tune to Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber at the moment though) it doesn’t seem to make sense to release the title as YA. Why not spice it up a bit and ship it off to the adult market ? Just because YA is super hot right now doesn’t mean that every mainstream author needs to release books in the genre. It’s total overkill.

That being said it was entertaining to watch Carrie morph into shades of the woman, writer, and fashionista that she becomes later in life. I feared that the outfits Bushnell would describe her wearing would sound way too much like a Claudia Kishi out take from a Baby-Sitters Club book but much to my chagrin clothes weren’t really mentioned very much. Carrie sports a mink stole of her grandmother’s at one point and has the dead animals heads drink beer at a bar — that’s about as quintessentially Carrie as the fashion gets. It’s been a long time since I read the original book though so I may be basing my thoughts on how the character should dress a little too much on the Carrie from the television show.

The Carrie Diaries opens in Carrie’s senior year of high school. The class of 1980 is filled with your typical cliques and Carrie pals around with some interesting characters including:

Mouse — the brainy plain friend
Lali — the competitive frenemy
Maggie — the neurotic romantic
Walt — the gay BFF (who only comes out half way through the book but believe me this isn’t really a spoiler as you’ll see it coming a mile away)
Sebastian Kydd — the bad boy

Sound familiar? Yes, it’s all a little too cookie cutter. The strength of the book was almost always internal scenes where we are granted access to Carrie’s inner thoughts, feelings, and confusion over her future: to go to Brown or not to go to Brown, whether or not to lose her virginity, and how to deal with her broken family.  Yes, Carrie actually has a family. Two younger sisters, a scientist father who cries at the drop of a hat, and a dead mother.

The love interest, Sebastian Kydd, (to be frank) is a total dick and it’s excruciating watching Carrie attempt to date him. He’s definitely no Mr. Big.

In the end what I enjoyed the most was the sprinkling of 70s and 80s references to pop culture and I loved that Carrie and her friends were constantly going to their small town’s local bar, The Emerald. Yes, once upon a time the drinking age used to be 18. In case you’re wondering Carrie’s signature drink is the Singapore Sling. Every time she ordered one I cracked up and my stomach churned a bit as I recalled my early drinking days of hideous Midori and Whiskey Sours.

Fans of the book, television show, and movies (of which I most decidedly am) will undoubtedly enjoy this book even with the flaws, and those of you who haven’t had conversations with your girlfriends trying to decide if you’re a Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, or Charlotte should definitely stay clear. I hope the next book is about Charlotte. I can’t wait to hear all about her tennis lessons and pearl shopping.

Goodbye Loft. Hello…Lexington?

The loft we’ve lived in for barely four months has been sold. CK and I looked at a number of apartments locally and they were all either lacking hugely in aesthetics, or completely devoid of necessities like parking, closets etc… The one place I loved was the second and third floor of a renovated Victorian with the most fabulous kitchen but it just wasn’t practical or frankly affordable. So other avenues had to be considered and CK managed to find us a cute three-story townhouse for a really reasonable rent in Lexington.

It took me a long time to agree to this new arrangement. My biggest issue is that I like living in the city — or at least a city like neighborhood. In fact I was a little hysterical about the whole thing until CK rationally pointed out that I was being ridiculous and that we were moving a whopping ten-minute drive from Cambridge and not to Antarctica. So while I can’t roll out of bed ten minutes before work anymore (I suppose I’ll have to push it to 30 now) and when I feel like a bottle of wine I can’t walk out my door and down one block — I will have an on-site gym, swimming pool, central air, a private garage, kitchen cupboards (!) and an enormous balcony for my tomatoes and herbs to grow on. There’s even a complimentary shuttle in the neighborhood that will drop you off at Alewife in the morning and pick you up at night to bring you home.

The management company also offered to paint accent walls if I want. I’m pretty excited about that because I haven’t lived in a place where I was allowed to paint in 5 years. What color do you think I should use in the bedroom and which should I use in the living room? I really like the blue that is the fourth from the left. I’m sure that would work for the bedroom…maybe the creamy yellow for the living room?

One small potential issue is that the door handles are once again “Dexter friendly” so CK and I will undoubtedly be locking ourselves into our bedroom at night, but at least we’ll have a door to lock.

Here’s the thing though…I know NOTHING about Lexington. Is there anything exciting there? Good places to eat? Nice grocery stores perhaps? Please clue us in to what we need to check out in our new suburban hood.