Monday, December 31, 2012

My Year of Books, and, Oh, Yes, Happy New Year!

My year of keeping track of the books I read has come to an end. Sadly, I won't make it to 52 books - I'd really hoped to average one a week. (Sad, I know, but let me have my small pleasures!) I did, however, finish 51 books - just one off from my goal! I started my 52nd this morning.

I'm going to have to continue this habit into 2013...

So, here's what I've read this year:

1. The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
2. Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal
3. The Raising by Laura Kasischke

4. Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan

5. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (the only book I re-read this year - everything else was brand new, and a complete novelty to me!)
6. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
7. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
8. The Girl With Glass Feet by Ali Shaw

9. The Woman Who Heard Color by Kelly Jones

10. The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
11. The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
12. The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons
13. Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore
14. The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

15. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

16. About a Boy by Nick Hornby
17. Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell
18. Sister by Rosamund Lupton

19. The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

20. Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
21. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

22. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

23. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
24. Testimony by Anita Shreve
25. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
26. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
27. War Brides by Helen Bryan
28. Pink Smog by Francesca Lia Block
29. The Doll in the Garden by Mary Downing Hahn

30. The Aviary by Kathleen O'Dell

31. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
32. The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
33. Blankets by Craig Thompson

34. The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

35. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
36. Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James
37. Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt

38. The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

39. Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult
40. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
41. The Elementals by Francesca Lia Block
42. Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
43. The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor
44. Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
45. Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

46. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

47. The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo
48. The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
49. Summer House by Nancy Thayer

50. The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

51. The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

A few things I've noticed about my book choices:
-If it has chapters, it counts as a book. It doesn't matter if it was written for an 11-year-old.
-I like World War II novels.
-I like novels set in England. Or London.
-I like World War II novels that are set in England or London.
-While I can't seem to get through a non-fiction book about the sinking of the Titanic, I can easily get through a novel about the sinking of the Titanic.
-This was this year I started to secretly enjoy Nicholas Sparks.
-I like young adult novels that don't really seem like young adult novels because the stories are pretty messed up. Like a magician turning his children into talking birds to keep in an aviary.

Here's what I DIDN'T read in 2012 (that's not to say I didn't try...):
1. Titanic: First Accounts, various authors
2. A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From my Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg
3. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

So what are your goals for 2013?

Here's wishing everyone out there a Happy New Year! I hope that this year is filled with fun suprises, positivity, love, laughter, and all the magic you can handle!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fancy Nancy and Me

This is what happens when you combine an art gallery, Fancy Nancy illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser, and Bloomingdales:

Sharon, Robin Priess Glasser, Karen, and Moi, in our fancy finery

Ooh la la, what a Fancy Shmancy display!
 You get feather boas, feathered gowns, glitter, pink, and French phrases bandied about, complete with book signings and orignal artwork. (Available HERE at Chemers Gallery!) Plus, as you walk through Bloomingdales with Robin, people stop her and ask if she's a princess, or if she's getting married, and she gives your day that bit of extra sparkle. C'est magnifique!

If you've missed out on the whole Fancy Nancy craze, she's a children's book character who believes everything is better when it's fancified, so she Bedazzles everything in sight and uses French words and makes the every day into grandious occasions. My kind of girlie! Robin's illustrations bring her to life beautifully.

I seriously want another tiara. I say "another," because when I was a teenager and weird, I bought a tiara in some shop up in Berkeley and wore it around San Francisco the summer I was there. And then I brought it back to southern California and wore it out to dinner. And probably on dates. And sometimes (rarely) I'll dig it out and wear it around the house. That's not weird, is it?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's Always Best to Not Run Into Lawn Ornaments

I was writing a post about mental illness and the need to address it in this country and abroad. However, this hits too close to home and I find I'm not able to really write about it yet.

So, instead, here are some pictures from the holiday walk James and I took the other night!

Only in America would you find a blow-up snowman actually shivering with "cold," complete with fake southern California "snow."
This house has a USC flag and Christmas carols blasting from hidden speakers.

This house won "Most Beautiful."

We just liked this house

There's a street in our city that goes ALL OUT with holiday decorations. Each block competes against each other, and it doesn't matter if you don't celebrate Christmas.

This was one of James's favorite houses. They have beautiful stained glass windows.

Candy Cane walk
I kind of loved photographing people's houses. That's not creepy, is it?
 Growing up, my parents and I used to drive around our town to look at the Christmas lights. When James moved out here, I tried to do the same thing with him, but it never quite worked. One year, we got coffee and drove around but I don't think either of us were really into it. Other years we've just forgotten, or not had time. This year, we had a stroke of genius. We parked the car, got coffees, and walked around looking at lights. Why this never occured to me before, I don't know. But it's the best. You get to spend time together, and you both get to see the lights, as opposed to the passenger in the car seeing them and the driver just glancing at them whilst trying not to run into small children or lawn ornaments.

Methinks we've hit upon a lasting holiday tradition.

What do YOU do to celebrate the holidays?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Who Needs Baking When Trader Joe's is Across the Street?

I woke up and found myself deep into the holiday season - um, how did that happen? Wasn't it just October? One look around my house at the stockings and nutcracker collection (yes, I have a nutcracker collection, what of it?) and rolls of wrapping paper tells me that the holidays are indeed here, so make the most of it!

Boxes o' Goodies

Tiny gingerbread men - with Trader Joe's across the street, who needs baking?

My morning view

Decorating at my parent's house
As you can see, sugar and sparkel-y things abound!

On a seperate note, last weekend was the choir concert at church, which I did not participate in. Having some time off is wonderful!! We did attend, however, and sitting next to us was a woman who brought her Corgie dog and dressed him in a Santa outfit. Wish I'd gotten a picture!

In light of the major events recently in Connecticut and beyond, I'm not feeling terribly lighthearted these days. It feels really silly to be writing about holiday cookies and tree lights when there are so many other things happening all over the globe that are just so much more important. But I suppose focusing on small things that might give a bit of joy is important to keep spirits up. After all, who doesn't get cheered up by some yummy cookies? Especially those dark chocolate shortbread star cookies Trader Joe's hauls out this time of year?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We Did Not Take the Palm Tree

Saturday was the 21st Annual Children's Book Illustration Show at Chemers Gallery, where I work. We spend 6 months of the year planning, checking in artwork, shooting emails and phone calls back and forth between 5 different children's book illustrators, designing framing, ordering books, labeling books, showing artwork to clients, calling clients, painting the gallery walls, hanging the show, and finally, FINALLY it culminates into a one-day-extravaganza where all 5 illustrators fly in to southern California from around the country, sign hundreds of pre-sold books, meet and greet their fans, give talks and demos throughout the afternoon, sign MORE books, and then go to a dinner with the gallery staff, the children's charity the show is benefitting that year, and clients who have purchased artwork. (I think that's the longest sentence in the history of the world.)

So. Saturday was the big day! We were so busy that this is the only picture I manged to take during the actual event:

OMG, so many books and people!!
After so much excitement, can you blame me for being exhausted? BTW, we sold out of Fartiste. SOLD OUT! Luckily, I pre-ordered mine, and this is how it was dedicated:

Signed by one of the authros, Paul Brewer, who also happens to be an alumni of my high school

Apparently, this hasn't been a big seller for them. Why is absolutely beyond me.

The rest of the weekend was spent watching Parks and Recreation, The Office, and Mean Girls. We also went out to pick out our Christmas tree from the local tree farm. We got rained on. But we got a good tree.

 Despite the many Facebook votes for the palm tree, we went for a small pine tree.

We'll pick it up closer to Christmas.

I have 2 days off this week starting tomorrow, and I plan on spending it on catching up on holiday prep. I'm behind on cards, and I'm going to get out our wooden German Christmas tree to set up, plus find a good place to display my crazy Nutcracker collection. Maybe I'll get super-motivated and put up our outdoor lights, since the ones from last year that we never took down are mighty dark these days.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Children's Book Illustration Show, Plus November Reading

So this time of year, I eat, sleep, and breathe children's book illustration. "Why..." you may ask? It's because Chemers Gallery (where I work) puts on an annual children's book illustration show, featuring the original artwork from 5 different illustrators. (This year we're featuring Boris Kulikov, E.B. Lewis, Sylvia Long, Chris Sheban, and Matt Tavares. All so so talented!!) Plus we sell the books the illustrations are from, which is a huge undertaking. It's a ton of work, but we all love it. Especially me.

Artwork hung, books received
Layout - we're pretty technical, you know

Pre-sold books. We sold probably over 600 books. They will all be signed before 1pm on Saturday. OMG!

This year we've made it a family affair - all hands are on deck to help us, including James, who helped to hang the show. (Woot woot!)

James hard at work on the stairs
The illustrators all arrive tomorrow. Then the show kicks off Saturday from 1-5, although we'll all be hard at work from 9am. It's the biggest show of the year, and I'm so excited!

Speaking of books, here's what I've been reading this month, besides children's literature...

Plus I also read "The Girl Who Came Home," but I can't find a picture of the cover. And it's late and I'm tired and I have 2 long days ahead of me. See you on the other side.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I've probably already posted the picture, but I don't care. Here it is again!
I'm all about rolling with the punches these days. Cause the unexpected has become oh-so-familliar the last little while. I think the message here is "Stop trying to plan for everying." I'm dealing by just stepping back, taking stock, and trying my best to remember what's really important. Even if I'm also trying to resist at the same time.
James got back on Tuesday - hooray!!! It felt like he'd been away for 10 weeks instead of just 10 days. I "cleaned" the bathroom in preparation. I even took out the trash. Mostly. (I'm really not a slob, I promise. I just accumulate stuff. Like long hair around the sink.) And, as is the case when long-distance flights are concerned, he picked up a bug of some sort and I came home last night to a feverish husband with an upset stomache. I turned around and went right out again to get Tylenol, chicken soup, and the good crackers. Cause that's what you do when your husband is sick.

So we decided to postpone Thanksgiving until Sunday. It feels a little strange knowing every other person in America is gorging him/herself and slipping into a turkey coma while we're dozing on the sofa and eating scrambled eggs at 3 in the afternoon, but whatevs. I can still be thankful.

I am filled with thankfulness and gratitude for my wonderful family and friends, both in the US and in the UK. I am thankful for airplanes that land safely and bring James back to me. I am thankful for a job that I love and for the people I work with. I am thankful for books, for art, for music, and for having the senses that let me take enjoyment and pleasure from those things. I am thankful for my health, for the roof over my head, and for the food I eat. I'm thankful for having the freedom to make choices. And so many other things.

What are you most thankful for in your lives?

Pee Ess: Sunday? It's on!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I Swear I'm Not a Twi-Hard

James made a sudden trip home to see his family, and I'm here dealing with the damn ants that have decided to invade my bathroom and kitchen. I'm being suprisingly productive, although, sadly, not in a housekeeping kind of way. (Will I ever get a handle on all of the paper that covers our home? Or all of the art supplies??)

I'm focusing on the holidays right now. I've let some things go this year (like choir and handbells - it was time for a break), but life has thrown some other crap in the mix to deal with, which is just making me more determined to carry on and have as pleasant a holiday season as possible. So I'm getting a head start on our holiday cards, I'm considering an Advent calendar, and I've made a good start on my Christmas shopping. (My goal is to be done by the end of November. We'll see if I make it.)

I've wanted to get an awesome Advent calendar for years...
 I've also found a bridesmaid dress for my best friend's March wedding. Actually, I found two. She's a super easy-going bride and a bride after my own heart, telling us to just find a grey dress and yellow shoes. Easy, right? Sort of. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a grey dress that isn't encrusted in sequins (hooka-style) and doesn't look like a business suit?

Tried this one on. N.O.

Runner Up - It has pockets, y'all.
Do we have a winner? Minus the red tights/leggings?
Considering Carly caught a tiny glimpse of the last one through the bag and said "Oh my God, please wear that one, it's soooo pretty!!" I think that's the one I'll go with. Now, on to the yellow shoes!

One of the perks of being sans husband (not that there's many, I'm still a newlywed after 4 years, guys) is that I get to watch as many of the dumb Twilight movies as I want. And what's even better is the fact that I have a day off tomorrow and it won't matter that I'm watching 2 in a row...They are truly terrible and I can't wait to see the final one. I swear I'm not a Twi-Hard.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Four Years

photo by William Caspers, 2008
 Four years ago, it was another presidential election week. I was finishing up my first year at what was then a new job, where I've worked ever since. I had just moved into my first apartment. I also got to marry my best friend.

A lot of that day is a blur to me. Obviously, I was nervous. James and I spent the night before apart, and the first time I saw him was as I was walking down the aisle. I remember the feeling of breathing in and out when our music started and I was told it was time. I also remember that I forgot what I was supposed to be doing as soon as I got up to the alter. (Fortuntely, our pastor noticed my look of panic and subtly pointed to the podium, where our friend was reading.) Friends and family from all over the world were there, and I was just happy.

James and I have been together for 11 years, since our first year of college. We've been through a lot together, both good and not so good. We'll be going through a lot more together in our lives. I only hope that I can be as loving and supportive as he's been to me, and that I can always be strong enough to be the rock he may need me to be.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Who is the Freak of Your Household?

Card Catalog - Goshen Public Library
Did you ever use a card catalog in your local library? I remember when our local library went digital - I was amazed that I could look up all sorts of books on the computer. Some were by author, some were by subject...ahhhmazing. But I did use the card catalog prior to that.

Apparently, I am the freak of our household. While watching The Big Bang Theory tonight (which is a lot funnier after a couple of glasses of wine, incedentally), I noticed there's a card catalog in the apartment. I told James that I want one in our home, if we ever move to a larger place. Not to locate books with, just to store stuff in. (Like wine bottles.) And we had a discussion about how I remember using one, and James does not.

Also, I used to go to my elementary school's library and re-organize the magazine racks. First alphabetically, then chronologically. This was while I was in grades 1 through 3, so ages like 5 to 8.

As I said, I am the freak of our household.

Which brings me to what I'm reading this month.

Such a great story. I read this on a looong car journey that I'll tell you more about later.

Usually I like twists at the end. I didn't like the twist at the end of this. I just felt like the whole book was nothing but twists, and I wanted it tied up nicely. Maybe I was just impatient.

Maybe I've just been out of it, but I'd never heard of this series until I saw a preview for Beautiful Creatures at the movies last weekend. I whipped out a pen and paper right in the middle of the preview to write down the name, looked it up on my phone after the movie (Pitch Perfect - way better than Bridesmaids), and bought the book that night. Yes.

I love Francesca Lia Block. I found this in my local B&N, and was SO EXCITED beause I haven't seen her books in bookstores in YEARS. I'm anxious to see how this one reads, I'm more of a fan of her older works.

I'm such a sucker for the books in the craft section. Especially ones that talk about inspiration. This one got me thinking that I might actually be able to impact the world one day. It made me think that the possibilities are endless. And that was just from flipping through it, who knows what will happen when I actually sit down to read it!
 Who's the freak of your household? If it's you, be proud, because there's nothin' wrong with that!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Time Travel

Let's travel back in time together, to, oh, two or three weeks ago...

The Getty Center
Gustav Klimt drawing exhibition

Gorgeous L.A. day
Hansel & James

Yummy Itallian coffee in Beverly Hills
 James and I went to The Getty with our friend, Hansel. We wanted to see the Gustav Klimt drawing exhibition, and there were some beautiful pieces in there. I think my favorite was an oil study of the Hygeia, because I've never seen any of Klimt's paintings in person and this was probably the closest I've been to his actual brushstrokes. We had a fabulous lunch at the Getty's restaurant and then spent some time in the gardens. Hansel directed us to a coffeeshop in Beverly Hills after our museum time so we could avoid the traffic, and then we headed home. Badda bing, badda boom.

By the way, how awesome would it be to wake up and have access to a time machine when you've, ahem, overindulged the night before? Someone should get on that. You know, for the kids. Not me.