Monday, February 27, 2012

R.I.P. Jan Berenstain

Jan Berenstain, beloved co-author and co-illustrator of The Berenstain Bears books, passed away on Friday. For many young readers, the books Jan wrote and illustrated with her husband Stan opened up our worlds. We were introduced to a lovely family of bears who lived in a tree house. I remember dreaming about living in their tree house.
It seems only appropriate that last night when Claire couldn't get to sleep that we turned on the TV and watched the Berenstain Bears. She seemed to like it just as much as I did then.

Oscar Fashion Picks

I don’t usually watch awards shows start to finish. They tend to be dry, corny or, even worse, both. I did watch part of the Oscars including the Cirque du Soleil performance, which Nick and I loved.

The only other thing that makes the shows less dry is the amazing (and sometimes questionable) fashion. I was both surprised and underwhelmed by the fashion this year. I dislike all of the nude dresses. They remind me of the tacky illusion costumes figure skaters have worn forever. If Kristen Wiig and Cameron Diaz had worn the same dresses but in color, I would have loved them. The cuts of both dresses were so perfect for each woman, but the color did nothing for them.

But, how about some good fashion? Here are the looks I loved:
Ethereal, Quirky & Bright: Michelle Williams

Elegant, Soft & Bright: Emma Stone
Gorgeous, Earthy & Sparkly: Ellie Kemper

Bright, Flowy & Sheer: Claire Danes
Simple, Flattering & Sparkly: Octavia Spencer
Perfectly Tailored: Pharrell Williams
Great Color & Tailoring: Zachary Quinto

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sometimes I Just Give Up

One of the reasons I rarely read bad books is that I don't finish them if I don't like them. I've always had a 20 page test. If I'm not at least a bit interested after 20 pages or I can't convince myselft to continue, then I just stop reading. I made it to about page 12 in this book, and that took me several days.

The premise of the book really caught my eye. As a reader, I've definitely cared about certain characters more than others. I was hoping to learn why I often care about them, but I just couldn't get into the book. It wasn't engaging because it was written for a scholarly audience. Not that I don't consider myself smart, but I really don't have the time and focus necessary to read something like this nowadays.

So, sometimes I just give up, and I'm OK with that because it means I get to read one more great book in my lifetime!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Things I Read This Week

I've read a number of interesting articles this week, here are my favorites:

You don't cut off Adele. (This makes me like her even more.)

Actually, Chris Christie needs to shut up.

I've experienced five of the 10 Classic American Experiences.

Glamour instituted a policy regarding touching up photos.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Did Rihanna Deserve It?

Yes, I'm going there.

Since the Grammy awards aired February 12th, there has been a lot of speculation about Rihanna getting back together with Chris Brown. Some have questioned her motives and her self esteem, but others have been downright nasty. Apparently, Rihanna deserved it because she sings about violence and S&M. And, as we all know, liking it rough in the bedroom means you deserve to be repeatedly punched in the face for any infraction outside the bedroom.

Here's where I stand: Even if Rihanna likes it rough, even if she hit Chris first, there was no reason for him to beat the shit out of her. There's never a reason for the one-sided beating Rihanna received. Does Rihanna owe Chris anything? No, in fact, he hasn't received and probably never will receive the punishment he deserved in the first place.

And the answer to this posts title is a resounding "NO."

Friday, February 17, 2012

My New York Fashion Week Top Picks

A fashion blogger, I am not, but I'm still fascinated by fashion, its impact on our culture and our current cultures impact on fashion. Here are some of my top picks from this week:

Calvin Klein from InStyle
Ralph Lauren wiped the floor with Calvin Klein, in my very humble opinion. Check it out:
How Gatsby of you Ralph Lauren! from InStyle

Love! Ralph Lauren from InStyle
Ralph Lauren's collection had a Gatsby feel, but also included menswear-inspired fabrics and cuts, black velvet, gold, fuschia satin and deep purple velvet. It was very rich, very fall and very chic.

Oooh, Cupid! Marchesa from InStyle
How apropo that Marchesa's line included several ethereal pieces that said "Cupid" to me. I loved the soft look they had.

Michael Kors from InStyle

Michael Kors from InStyle
Oooh! More plaids and unusual combinations from Michael Kors.
Sweet & Sexy~Oscar de la Renta
from InStyle
The cut, the flare: I love it all!
DKNY from InStyle
Power Woman! Jason Wu from InStyle
For fall 2012, I'll be on the lookout for black, black leather, lace, some feathers, menswear fabrics and cigarette pants. I don't think I've ever been more excited for a new season.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

30 Things Before 30

Overachieving Dog Overachieves, Via

I feel both like an overachiever and an underachiever for already creating this list. I'm really not sure if I'm just super excited to do things or if I need a lot of time to do them. Either way, I've kind of, sort of created a 30 before 30 list for myself. I say kind of because I only have 13 things so far. Whatever, here it is:
  1. Write a novel. (I always amaze myself with my abundant creativity.)
  2. Try to get an agent for said novel.
  3. Run a 5k.
  4. Try out for Jeopardy!
  5. Organize and decorate an entire house. 
  6. Take a big family vacation.
  7. Learn conversational Spanish.
  8. Read all books by my favorite authors.
  9. Send one card or letter a month just because.
  10. Have at least one date night a month.
  11. Read at least one new release a year.
  12. Read at least one classic book a year.
  13. Read at least 30 books a year.
Oh, I am so creative, and I'm sure the next 17 will be just as good.

Expanding on number eight, my favorite authors are Jon Krakauer (three books to read), Isabel Allende (10 books to read) and Tracy Chevalier (three books to read).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book Review: My Invented Country

By Isabel Allende

My Invented Country by Isabel Allende
Isabel Allende is one of my all-time favorite writers. Her blend of wonderfully rich stories with impeccable writing keeps me coming back for more.

I listened to this a few weeks ago during my commute. I have a love/hate relationship with audiobooks because my enjoyment hinges so precariously on the talent of the voice artist. In this case, I was not let down. Blair Brown did an impeccable job. Her clear, upper class assured voice was perfect for the simultaneously self-assured and self-deprecating writing that is indicative of Allende's nature.

Blair Brown: Television, Film & Stage Actress;
and Voice Talent
This book provided so much insight into Allende's books. Like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Allende writes the magical realism books that are the bread and butter of the modern South American literary scene. Marquez may be Colombian and Allende Chilean but both countries share the same belief in good and bad spirits. As she shares in the book, Chile is a country that believes in spirits, superstitions, themselves, and above all else, God.

As with her novels, a dramatic sense of nostalgia pervades the lives of Chileans on such a grand scale that the country is full of essayists and historians. This book itself is an exercise in nostalgia, as Allende recounts her childhood growing up in Chile, the revolution that lead to her leaving her country, moving to America for a man, and returning to her home country for visits that both relieve and increase the pangs of nostalgia.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in Isabel Allende, Chile, and the lives of writers.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Living the Simple Life

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.  ~Confucius

I can't say this any better than Confucius already did, which really makes me wonder why I struggle with living simply.

We've come so far as a society, and part of that has contributed to our inability to live simply. But I don't think living in the modern world means we can't also live simply. We can harness technology to our advantage and make our lives what we want.

Learning to live simply and to love it is a goal of mine.

Does any one else want to live the simple life?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Book vs. The Movie: The Help

Book by Kathryn Stockett
Adapted to Film by Tate Taylor
Directed by Tate Taylor

I jumped on The Help bandwagon a little late. (I'll revoke the hipster shades I gave myself.) I was thrilled when I opened this book up for Christmas for two reasons: 1) I really wanted to read this book but hadn't gotten around to it, and 2) my best friend, who I've never really talked about books with, gave it to me. It made my heart smile sharing a book with her.

The book was just as amazing as I had hoped. I wasn't let down at all, as is common with some over-hyped books. Stockett has a clear command of both storytelling and writing. Both were impeccable.

But, then I saw the movie. I don't want to get too down on the movie, but I wasn't super excited to see it until I after I'd read the book. Even then, my main interest in seeing the movie was writing a comparison post. The thought of Emma Stone as Skeeter was not appealing to me. I think she's an OK actress, but she didn't seem like Skeeter to me. And I was right.

Emma Stone as Skeeter in The Help
Skeeter was a fairly serious role, and Emma Stone didn't make it believable to me. Sorry, Emma! You're adorable, and I love you as Revlon spokesperson.

Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly in The Help
 Bryce Dallas Howard did impress me, though. She nailed the character of Hilly. She was so cute, perky, commanding and vindictive. Well, done, Bryce.

Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark in The Help
 Other standouts in the movie were Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. My only complaint is that it seemed as if they mellowed out Minnie's character (played by Spencer). Both women did fantastic jobs in roles that may not have been the most comfortable for them.
As usual, there were some changes from the book. Skeeter's mom was more sympathetic in the end of the movie, and I really liked that. The movie did lack some of the depth the book had, but it was a relatively long book to adapt to the screen.

My final thoughts: Read the book, skip the movie, and thank me later!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Random Things That Made me Smile

After this post on Wednesday, I needed to cheer myself up. Here are two things that did the trick:

The Father of the Groom couldn't attend his son's wedding due to an illness, so his daughter photoshopped him into some key pictures.

During this season of Republican primaries, a Jon Stewart slow clap gif is sure to come in handy. (Check out the link to see Newsweek's Tumblr page complete with a Rick Santorum Pinterest Board.)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

By Jonathan Safran Foer

Not to seem all hipstery, but this book has been on my to read list for years. A combination of factors prevented me from reading it until now.

The book was a bit hard for me to get into. Main character Oskar Schell was a difficult character to like. My feelings were so conflicted with him. He started out very annoying but morphed from difficult to lovable and back throughout the book. The following conversation with a complete stranger did endear him to me:

"I'm sure people tell you this constantly, but if you looked up 'incredibly beautiful' in the dictionary, there would be a picture of you." She cracked up a bit and said, "People never tell that." "I bet they do." She cracked up a bit more. "They don't." "Then you hang out with the wrong people." --Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (page 91)
The story was both unusual and unexpected. I really enjoyed it even when I was having a hard time liking Oskar.

I would highly recommend this book. The story was engaging, creative and beautifully written, and the characters were interesting (if not 100% likeable).

What did you think?

P.S. I probably won't watch the movie until it's released on DVD.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On Being Perfect

Last night Nick, Claire and I pulled into the parking lot of an arena for a rodeo when I realized I'd left our passes at home. I know it seems dramatic to say I was devastated, but I was. I've been trying so hard to remember everything and be the best person possible. Every time I mess up or fall short of my expectations, I'm deeply disappointed in myself.

The more I've thought about this (and trust that I've thought about it a LOT) I've realized that I've got to stop being so hard on myself. Emotionally berating myself isn't accomplishing anything, and dwelling on my mistakes takes mental energy I need to actually attempt to remember things. And there's the added anxiety tied to situations that shouldn't make me anxious because I've worried about it so much that I also need to deal with.

Creating anxiety over little things and subsequently conquering those things isn't new to me. I used to get really mad at myself if I forgot to use a $0.50 coupon until I realized IT'S FIFTY CENTS! It doesn't seem to get any easier, but I know I know I can do it.

I know I'm far from the only person who struggles to be perfect, but I still feel alone in the fight. I think it's because so many of us don't want to admit we're not perfect. But here's the thing, no one is perfect. I know it's a cliche, but it's how I get through the day. I wish I knew what everyone struggled with. It would make things so much easier.