Monday, December 28, 2009

A Gift to My Imagination

OK, I said I wasn't posting until 2010, but I totally lied. Turns out blogging is a wonderous procrastination tool, and I'm working on a new

Anyhow, I have a kind and generous family, and their gift-giving habits at Christmastime always remind me of this; however, of all the lovely things I received this year, the best, by far, came from Aunt Kate. Here it is:

Yes, it is a cookbook written by that Vincent Price, the one ha-ha-ha-ing at the end of Thriller. The one in Edward Scissorhands. The one from all those cheeseball Roger Corman films. Turns out he was a real Renaissance man--art collector, gourmet cook, historian, world traveller. As he and his wife Mary ate their way through major cities around the world, they collected menus and recipes and photos, all found in this stunning volume from 1962. It's so chock-full of great stories and recipes I'm reading it like a novel, my imagination taking off in all kinds of directions, always a good thing for a writer. So thanks, Auntie Kate, for searching high and low at the Winnetka Book Fair for this treasure.

Get anything really cool for Christmas/Hanukkah? Post in the comments box!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Freaky Friday: Ghost of Christmas Past Edition

Hey, all! This is my last post until--gulp--2010, so I thought I'd make it fun. In honor of Ralphie and his Red Rider BB Gun, I'm listing the stuff I really, really wanted Santa to bring me when I was a kid. Here goes:

1. Charlie's Angels dolls. I wanted all three, but Sabrina was my fave, probably because I always had to be her when we played in the `hood. Well, at least I didn't have to be Bosley.

2. My neighbors owned this game and I would go over to their house just to spend time with it. Obsessed is not strong enough a word.

3. A macrame potholder kit. My mom still has the potholders. That's how awesome they were.

4. A pogo stick. I became the reigning champion of my block, three years in a row (mostly because I was unchallenged). My pervy husband has way too much fun with this factoid.

5. A ouija board. Loads of fun at sleepovers. Also, leading cause of nightmares at aforementioned sleepovers.

So, what did you guys want soooo badly you whined and whined until your parents ran for the spiked egg nog?

Monday, December 14, 2009

What the Kids Are Reading

I just got notice that my old high school recently renovated its library, adding a college resource center and top of the line computers. The librarian was interviewed for the alumni magazine, and I thought it made for interesting reading. Her focus wasn't on the updated technology or even the library's newly created blog, but "enticing students to pick up a book and read for fun...ultimately we strive to match a girl with a book." How cool is that?

A sidebar to the article included a list of the most popular books in the library. Eight hundred girls (Oh, excuse me, young ladies, as the nuns used to insist) attend this school--quite the sample group. I'm fairly certain the titles are in no particular order:

Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
A Child Called "It": One Child's Courage to Survive by David Pelzer

What's most interesting to me about this list is the absence of paranormal/urban fantasy (with the exception of Twilight). I'm sure the girls read it, but it seems contemporary novels with relationships at the core, romantic and otherwise, are checked out the most. Hmmm...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Freaky Friday: The Stampfel-Volpe Version

In honor of Unofficially Official Agent Day I give you a special Friday list. Here are five reasons I love my fab agent, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe:

1. She can think like a writer, an editor, a marketing guru, a reader, a critic, a friend, a psychologist, a teacher, and a publishing biz insider ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Obama's lucky Jo didn't run for prez last year--he would have had serious competition.

2. She treats everyone with the utmost respect. Agents in training should scroll through the Nancy Coffey post on Absolute Write for lessons on how to treat prospective clients. Seriously.

3. She knows how to deal with writerly neuroses. I sent her an email telling her how nervous I was to send her my WIP. Her response? "Don't worry...we're a team now!" And you know what? I stopped worrying!

4. The girl eats, sleeps, and breathes books. Jo reads for work, for pleasure, for any reason--she just...reads. All the time. She must have a spare set if eyeballs or superhero glasses or something.

5. The little things...She likes the Fab Four as much as I do. She's a foodie who can talk gourmet with the best of them. She has a super adorable New York born-and-bred accent. She throws Mad Men parties and sends me the pics. And seeing her name in my email inbox makes me feel like I've won the lottery, every time.

So, thanks Joanna! And Happy Christmas to you!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Book Rec: Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Some Girls Are is not a feel good book. It isn't a whimsical teen romance. It contains no vampires or werewolves or fairies. It doesn't take place in a dystopian future, as Courtney Summers realizes the present provides chaos enough. This book is firmly planted in reality, a reality parents everywhere fervently hope isn't true of their kids at their local schools. But it is. And that's what makes Some Girls Are an important book.

Regina Afton is someone I would have hated in high school. As part of the mean girl clique, the Fearsome Fivesome, she ruled the school with her crowd of malicious little dictators, casually destroying people who weren't worthy of breathing the rarefied air of the truly popular. But, when something horrible occurs at a party, the high school rumor mill churns Regina up and spits her out, and she finds herself friendless, humiliated, and a target. Her ex-friends engage in a vicious revenge campaign, pushing Regina to the limits, both psychologically and physically.

As the bullying intensifies, Regina forms a tenuous friendship with Michael, a boy who was once a target of the Fivesome. Through this relationship she begins to come to terms with her past, and slowly tries to make amends for her prior awful behavior.

But Some Girls Are is not a trite after school special. It's hard for Regina to change. And she can't undo the damage already done. She's hurt people, so wouldn't it make sense to cheer on her destruction? It would, but we want Regina to succeed, even if we don't always trust her ability to do so. Regina is a struggling, morally complex character. She's someone trying to take responsibility for her actions in a world where life would be whole lot easier if she didn't. That study of actions and consequences, cause and effect, is a rarity in YA lit, and adult lit, for that matter. It makes for a fascinating, emotionally compelling book. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Feed the World

I love Christmas songs. Like, LOVE them. I bop around to The Lite on my way to work, and sing along with everything, even Dominic, the Italian Christmas Donkey. The Little Drummer Boy makes me cry every time; listening to White Christmas makes me long for one even though in Chicago that pristine snowfall turns gray and ugly pretty darn quickly. There is one song, though, that I love above all others--one Christmas song I have to hear every year. If you read my title you might have guessed, but I'll give you the pleasure anyway. It has to be, um, watched as well as heard.

My best girlfriend (Jean--still is!) got this Christmas 1984, called me over, and we played it again and again on her turntable (yep), and, because of the beautiful size of albums, poured over the photos on the cover. When MTV started airing the video (yes, MTV once played music--imagine that!) we sat glued to the television, and I fervently wished we could pause the video just as it framed Sting, Bono, and Simon Le Bon, a triumvirate greater than the three wise men, in my book.

So, some observations all these many years later? Other than the utter ridiculousness of asking if a group of people know it's Christmas when they most likely aren't even Christian? And of a line, like, There won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime? Well, there's a sweetness to this, a let's get the gang together and put on a show kind of attitude, something glaringly missing from the US version, We Are the World. This is for charity, and the Brits know it. Could you imagine today's rock stars doing this without an army of stylists? I mean, look at Bono's jeans! I love my Irish boys, but he looks like a Sears ad for Wrangler's. John Taylor and Paul Young apparently rolled out of bed, threw on sweats and ran out to the studio. And check out Bananarama! Even I looked better than that in the 80s. Boy George managed to slap some makeup on, but his outfit is nowhere near worthy of him. But, who cares, right? Fashion isn't the point. Charity is. And FEED THE WORLD is a great message. It's just too bad it's still relevant 25 years later, you know?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Freaky Friday (Eco-Lux Edition)

Now that Oprah isn't doing her annual "Favorite Things" nod to consumerism, I thought I'd pick up the slack for the first Freaky Friday of the official shop--er--holiday season. This is the lux edition, meaning, this stuff can be a little pricey*. The more practical list will post next Friday. Here goes...

1. Want to avoid the walk of eco-shame at the grocery store? Pick up some Reisenthel Bags, particularly this one. I keep it and bunch of others in the trunk of my car, as I've got a touch of the absent minded prof in me.

2. You can buy organic cotton t-shirts at Target now, for Heaven's sake, but you can outfit yourself in the stuff head to toe by shopping Gaia Conceptions handmade organic apparel. Quite plainly, Andrea Crouse's designs rock. I have five or six pieces, and every item has been washed a gazillion times, never needs a tumble dry, and still looks like new. Each style comes in a wide range of colors, with natural, plant-derived dyes available as well. She'll even cut to your exact measurements (I always have her cut my shirts two inches longer--boob ride up--I know! TMI). Crouse's new merino wool line will cost you some bucks, and I can't vouch for it as I only own cotton, but I've got to say, price tag or not, it's pretty tempting...

3. At my kids' school, children are allowed to keep water bottles in their desks, as long as they are disposable. You can guess how I feel about this. While I decide whether or not I want to be that mom, my kids tote SIGG bottles everywhere else. OK, they cost a freaking fortune, but I'd argue that it's money well spent. This is a good product and a trustworthy company. How often can you say that with confidence? My guys like having a personal water bottle, and love refilling them at water fountains (maybe that's what the school is afraid of!).

4. I have a super crappy bicycle, especially for someone who rides as often as I do. I'm asking Santa for this. It has just enough of that 1950s Flying Nun appeal, without sacrificing the necessary butt-cushioning updates.

5. This product line should offend me to no end, but I find myself...obsessed! The Rich Hippie line of perfumes is 100% natural, organic, chemical-free perfume created using methods not seen since before WWII. All that foraging and natural harvesting takes time and time is money which means, yep, this is a really expensive way to smell good. Like $425 for half an ounce good. Uh-huh. I've had the opportunity to take a whiff of the eponymously titled Rich Hippie (mmm, so good), but needless to say I don't actually own any of these. I do like scrolling through the perfumes listed on the web site, delighted by scents named "Purple Haze," "Shambala," and my personal fave, "Foxy Lady." Maybe someday. Sigh.

*So, um, I'm not telling you to buy anything and I don't get any kickbacks from companies like SIGG, though I really wish I did. Just so we're clear.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cheesiest Post Ever

The holiday spirit hasn't permeated the blogosphere yet; this week I've seen a huge rise in bitchery, whining, and all-around pettiness while trolling the net. As an antidote, I give you 15 minutes in the brain of a six-year-old, courtesy of my son, Jack:

--He sang Deck-the-Halls while combing his hair, including the "gay apparel" part. My 10-year-old giggled, but said nothing.

--He asked me what would happen if his shoes turned into meatballs and his laces into spaghetti.

--He asked how cold it would have to get before his puke would freeze before it hit the ground.

--He asked why there isn't a 25 on the Advent Calendar.

--He said "Whoo-Hoo," "Cool," and "Totally Cool" multiple times on the five minute walk to school.

So to paraphrase from that one movie with Denzel Washington, "Tell it to me like YOU'RE a six-year-old."

Let's find some joy!