Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What's On My Nightstand

  • The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. My dear friend Mariah gifted this to me way back during NaNoWriMo and now I'm completely stumped as to why I didn't dive into immediately after that hellish month was over. I've been juggling a few books recently and nothing's really stuck, so I finally picked up this little gem, and it's right up my alley! I'm loving the dollops of description, whimsical character names like Wiggins and Miss Heliotrope, and enchanting 1940s writing style that brings I Capture the Castle to mind. Hmm... it seems my favorites often have both Mariah's and J.K. Rowling's stamps of approval!
  • Gunner's Tea Bags. The perfect compliment to my current read! Isn't the ribbon bag darling? The Eastern Shore Tea Company always has a nice bit of art to go with their foil wrapped tea bags. Apple tea like this is always a win in my book, but their Starry Night tea is still my personal preference.
  • Fitbit One. I was a bit skeptical when my aunt gave me a fitbit, but I was an addict before I knew it! It's so much more than a pedometer and I have an irrational attachment to mine. Which is why I completely freaked when mine broke. Luckily, their customer service is excellent and they replaced my Ultra with this new model just in time for my Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run next weekend! Phew!
  • Cadbury Mini Eggs. Argghhhh!!!!! Would I could quit you! Out of all the holiday candy in the entire world, these are my ultimate Achilles' heel... Get this bag away from me!
  • Sugar Daddy Essie nail polish. This subtle yet shimmery pink is quickly becoming one of my neutral go-tos.
And, of course, no nightly routine would be complete without a little lullaby for comfort. This week I've been turning to "Little Bird" by The Weepies. 

What about you? Whether it's your nightstand, a lullaby, or both, I'd love for you to share! Sweet dreams, moonbeams!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

mardi muse: Awkward

Over the weekend, I fell into one of those miry pits of television quicksand you can never spot out before it's too late. You blink and suddenly you've blazed through two seasons in four days. Not that I... speak from experience...
But of course I am! Despite scanning synopses on Forever Young Adult for the past two years without ever having seen an episode and being created by the same people who gave me Teen Wolf i.e. the love child of happy surprise and television quicksand, I didn't realize just how bad I was going to have it with this show. 
How can you even look at Jake with Matty in the backseat?! (x)
However, with a day's worth of distance between us, I've finally determined why it is that I love it so much. I am invested in every. single. character. What a dazzling accomplishment to aspire to! Whether they're in the love triangle limelight, the kooky guidance counselor spreading drunk driving awareness through the halls in a grim reaper costume, or the this-sneer-is-glued-to-my-face cheerleader, I'm rooting for them all. Let me tell you, I watch a lot of shows where I feel like I'm being walloped over the head, being told that I should care about certain characters. A lot. Bonnie in The Vampire Diaries (ok, half the characters on the show), Charming in Once Upon a Time (ok, half the characters on this show too), Mickey in Doctor Who, I could go on. Somehow, even though you're seeing everything through the eyes of the main character Jenna and hearing her inner commentary, Awkward manages to have a hands-off approach when it comes to your FEELINGS. You're left to make your own decisions about them. It's so refreshing! And the verdict? "Four for you, Glen Coco!" Really, y'all. If I could give four holiday grams to each and every character, I would. Ok... make that four thousand for Matty McKibben! Yes, I realize I'm in my twenties. And no, I won't stop doodling his name and mine with a splash of hearts! But really. Watch it. Watch it and then I can give you a classic "You're welcome!" a la villainous cheerleader Sadie.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Like Choosing Chris Pine

Warning: this will be necessarily vague, undoubtedly nonsensical, and probably pointless. But they say there are no stupid questions, so I've gotta ask... Why can't making life-changing decisions be as easy as choosing Chris Pine?
Oh captain, my captain! (x)
I just finished watching This Means War, so you'll forgive me for comparing my own personal and non-romantically-themed two-roads-diverged-in-a-yellow-wood to that of a mediocre chick flick. There's a reason why I wasn't cast to play the female role in this movie and that is that given the choice between Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, I would choose Chris Pine in a heartbeat. The movie would be over in less than a nanosecond, script or not. He's the clear choice, no questions asked, not even a contest. It's not that I don't like Tom Hardy. He's British, easy on the eyes, and has a certain air about him that makes me think we could spend many a happy night together snowed into our cabin in the woods as he sands down his latest rocking chair masterpiece while I pour him a glass of whiskey. But there are two problems: 1. He was in Wuthering Heights. I h-a-t-e Wuthering Heights. So while everything else may be good, ultimately no amount of scruff can blind me to this red flag that we are not meant to be. 2. Did I mention Chris Pine? Because Chris Pine's blue eyes put protected-due-to-endangered-tropical-fish-and-ancient-shipwrecks Caribbean waters to shame. He is one part boyish charm and two parts grill-master (side note: he actually referred to himself as a grill-master in this movie, which you should know is what my best friend and I call our future husbands and is, thus, cause for it's-a-sign fan flails). His voice not only could ice cupcakes, but it also gave life to Jack Frost in Rise of the Guardians. And most importantly... HELLO, HE IS CAPTAIN KIRK!
So *spoiler alert* there's a scene at the end of the movie where Reese Witherspoon's standing at the edge of an unfinished spaghetti highway with Tom Hardy on one side, Chris Pine on the other, and a terrorist in an SUV bouncing its way toward her. Finally, she has to make a split second decision; a decision that would have taken me said split second at the very beginning. Unfortunately for me, I am Reese Witherspoon, standing at the edge of an unfinished spaghetti highway with Tom Hardy on one side, a terrorist in an SUV bouncing its way toward me, and option c, which looks a lot less like Chris Pine and a lot more like jumping off the side with nothing to catch me. So I can a) dive for Tom Hardy, knowing we can have some sort of happiness if I forget the past, but that we'll never be able to have the life I dreamed of, b) freeze and see what happens, but inevitably get wiped out by a terrorist in a SUV, or c) jump into the unknown where I will either discover I managed to strap on a jet pack that will lead me to Chris Pine or crash and burn, but happily(?) because at least I tried. Or maybe there's an option d that I just don't see right now! ARGH! See? This would all be so much easier if I could just dive for Chris Pine! So right now the scene just looks like me with a ticking time bomb and some really undesirable choices. Or maybe just a bed littered with tissues, half-drunk mugs of tea, chocolate wrappers, and chick-flicks-I-shouldn't-be-reading-into playing like broken records in the background.

I ask again... Why can't making life-changing decisions be as easy as choosing Chris Pine?!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What's On My Nightstand

  • My Mom's Chex Mix. It seems whenever she gives this stuff to me or my sisters, we ration it out so it lasts as... long... as... hu...manly... possible. Sure the recipe's on the side of the box, but I'm convinced it wouldn't taste the same if I made it myself!
  • Bullish on OPI nail polish. I'm perpetually on the hunt for that perfect shade of red. This is the closest I've come so far.
  • I'm with Lucy. Fate threw this movie into my path back in high school. I ask you, why does no one know about this movie?! I swear the only people who've seen it have done so at my insistence. You spend the whole movie guessing which of her five blind dates she ends up marrying and they start being weeded out halfway through. A little quirky and a lot entertaining, this is the film that brought Henry Thomas crashing into my existence. Ughhaahhhhdkjfslj!!!! To this day, I say his grand gesture is one of the grandest of any I've ever seen in a chick flick! *hand-over-heart-the-entire-scene*
  • My First New York. This weekend my sister Katy gave me this collection of 2-5 page stories from some of the city's most well known residents and it's been an absolute breeze. Think Paris je t'aime (yes, I realize there's a New York, I Love You, but it lacked that je ne sais quoi) except real-life tales spread from 1933 to the present. My favorite so far has been Liza Minnelli's, which is rather like a fan flail.
  • Odd and the Frost Giants. This is the first book I've ever read by Neil Gaiman and I'm just wondering whatever took me so long. His writing style is simple and fluid yet oh so fantastical. A real sucker for anything related to Thor and especially Loki, I'll be finished with this one in two shakes. 
Thanks to my recent fixation on Rise of the Guardians, and perhaps a string of Edith ugly cries, this week's lullaby is none other than the comforting "Still Dream" by Renée Fleming, which plays during the credits. My heart... cannot handle it. Which is why I have it on infinite repeat as I lie curled in the fetal position, hugging my stuffed animal. Vraiment. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

mardi muse: Jack Frost

You know, I really ought to start going to the movies by myself more often. All too often I invite someone to the movies and they say, "But that's a kid's movie!" As if that's a bad thing! Please. Long story short, I've been waiting far too long to see Rise of the Guardians. The wait was finally over this past weekend when it hit Redbox and oh! Jiminy! Christmas!!!!!
*pinching his cheeks*
I-AM-SO-IN-LOVE-WITH-JACK-FROST-IT-IS-NOT-EVEN-FUNNY-ZOMG-WHAT-IS-HAPPENING-TO-MEEEEEEEEEEE?!?!?! Ok... so... there were a lot of things I loved about this movie. The flawless plot, the flawless villain, the flawless voice casting, the flawless score, the flawless character development, but mostly... the flawless Jack Frost. I can't remember the last time I rooted so hard for a character. Likeable and mischievous from the moment you meet him, you'll be a goner. If I had a penny for every time I heart-clutched, I'd have a lot of pennies! Obviously any character voiced by Chris Pine is going to have an unfair advantage when it comes to winning me over. Newsflash: my jeep's not named Captain Kirk for nothin'! But aside from the voice and my bizarre magnetism to them in general (please, no questions, let me melt between the cushions of my couch in gooey-hearted peace), that Peter Pan like air, and the unfairly cute smirks that leave you questioning your sanity as you pine for an animated character (whatever, I know you have *cough* Flynn! Dimitri! Howl! *cough*), he was just a great character! Because of reasons!
  1. I love a character whose struggle is laid out within the first five minutes. And bonus! We all know the name Jack Frost and that he nips at our noses, but not really the story behind it. So when presented on a silver platter, or drowning in an icy river, rather... *grabby hands*
  2. He has an affinity for the moon and it's integral to his story. I love this. Because in case you haven't noticed, I happen to have a thing about the moon too!
  3. This kid's got some complex relationships going on. Not all acquaintances are created equal. Despite being on the same side as both of them, one minute he's acting chummy with the Sandman and the next he's calling Bunny the Easter Kangaroo. On top of everything he's always looking out for Baby Tooth, which is just plain adorable.
  4. The fact that his struggle lines up so much with the villain's makes his plight that much more interesting.
  5. That casual carefree way about him juxtaposed against being deliberate about his actions, his personality permeated everything.
  6. His back story! His back story! His frigglidy-gigglidden back story!
  7. Alright, I've held it off as long as humanly possible... WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT PERFECT SNOW ANGEL?!
And he has really cool toys!
Jack's story was magical and fresh and I absolutely lah-ha-oved every minute of it. I'm locking him up in my heart and throwing away the key! Not in a questionable there's-a-mad-woman-in-my-attic Victorian way, but... Obsession makes me inarticulate! You know what I'm saying. Forever inspired now that I see you, Jack Frost. I believe! I believe! Here's hoping one not-so-faraway day I'll be able to fashion a character as wonderful as he!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Mayhem That Followed

After finishing Wine & War last month, my ever-present WWII obsession had gained a lot of momentum. So I finally picked up a copy of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, which I'd been meaning to read since this past fall when it came highly recommended by someone in my writing for children class.
The perfect cover, no? (x)
This one was definitely worth the wait. I knew very little going into it and I'm glad for it, because it made quite the impact. I finished it a few days ago, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't still weighing heavily on my heart. I don't think it was until the final two chapters that I saw where things were going and when I did, I shouted, "No!" at the pages to little effect. It snowballed very quickly and I just sat there paralyzed with shock at the end.

What John Boyne managed to do was incredible. Seeing the war from the perspective of a nine year-old boy whose father is promoted by the Fury (Führer) himself? Brilliant. Little details like these painted the picture of Bruno's heart and mind perfectly. For example, at one point he salutes his father when turning to leave the room: Heil Hitler," he said, which, he presumed, was another way of saying, "Well, goodbye for now, have a pleasant afternoon.” From start to finish, Bruno thinks they've relocated to a place called Out-With. But watching what's happening in the changing world around him, conversations and events that he can't begin to understand, it doesn't take long for you to realize where he really is. His naivety throughout the story is utterly heartbreaking in contrast to the Nazis sifting in and out of his new home and their influence on his older sister Gretel. 

Somehow he manages to stay true to himself, because in his childlike innocence, he is living entirely in his own world. The world around him changes, but his doesn't. Perhaps that's why it's so easy for him to form an unlikely friendship with a boy in striped pajamas on the other side of the fence. 

In the afterword, the author details his belief that you can't really grasp the horrors of the camps unless you look at it through the eyes of a child. This story really couldn't be told from any other view point. Striking and poignant, it's a quick read that will leave you thinking for days afterward.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What's On My Nightstand

As a self-professed and scientifically proven (if only through the number of episodes of Doctor Who I can crank my way through in the late hours) night owl, I feel most creative when the rest of the world is winding down. So by default, the things that pile up on my nightstand tend to be the best indicators of my mood or taste du jour. This week I've got...
  • The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. This has been on my list ever since I read Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, which is one of my favorite books in the world. I'm only eight chapters in so far, but I'm a bit lovestruck. I often refer to Paris as the love of my life, so any story that opens with "Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris" is going to have my heart.
  • Scottish dialect coasters. When I was 21, I interned in Edinburgh for the summer and I simply couldn't leave that magical place without investing in a few of these at the welcome center by the Princes Street Gardens. I've always got one or two floating about. Galoot means bumbling fool or awkward and clumsy, in case you were wondering! Aren't they fun?
  • EOS Organic Lip Balm. I'm using sweet mint at the moment and absolutely loving it, but I've got my eyes peeled for honeysuckle.
  • Kate Spade Ivonne Eyeglasses. I've been wanting a new pair for ages and when I saw these in tortoise saffron... Sold!
  • Chocolove Toffee & Almonds in Milk Chocolate. Though more of a dark chocolate purist, I'm kind of glad my Whole Foods was sold out. This is the most divine companion to a little late night reading.
And what are a few evening essentials without a lullaby? Tonight Al Lewis will be singing me to sleep with "Make a Little Room," which was recommended to me by my sweet friend Katie. Ah! She knows me so well!

What's on your nightstand? Sweet dreams, moonbeams! 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

mardi muse: vlogs

In an attempt to both add a bit more structure to this blog and keep my creative juices flowing, I've decided to start shedding light on anything and everything that leaves me walking away feeling inspired. This week that thing would be vlogs. Side note: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They seem to be all I talk about anymore, so it only makes sense to showcase them first. After discovering The Lizzie Bennet Diaries earlier this year, I soon found myself mercilessly entangled in the black-hole-esque world of vlogs. But this time it wasn't fictional characters I was wrapped up with, it was real-life people. Though it's been quite some time, I've always enjoyed making little videos. So I suppose that's how vlogging initially captured my interest. But more than that, clicking back through content and seeing these vloggers change and grow, witnessing how their editing and storytelling adapted and improved, was fascinating. Besides, it's just plain cool when you find yourself relating to someone halfway around the world (an excellent A*Teens song, by the way! ha... no really)!

Without further ado, here are a few vlogs that I've really come to love. Honestly, I've started anticipating their weekly updates more than most tv shows. And that's saying something!

JacksGap. This is the exact vlog I can pinpoint for a) fanning the flames of vlog addiction and b) inspiring about 132 ideas for potential YA novels. Here's Jack with his twin Finn on their gap year, taking on challenges suggested by their subscribers:
Aren't they the cutest?! Ah! They make me feel like I'm aging backwards, because... akhfdkjflskfjslkdfj *fan flail*!!!!!! Love them.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Darkness is a harsh term, don't you think?

You want the moon. I didn't choose the name for nothing. Crazy love for It's a Wonderful Life aside, I've always been a dreamer on a large scale. While my dreams in life come in all shapes and sizes, they all seem rather big to me. They're big because they're special. Because they're mine. But while I'm standing on tip-toes reaching out for them, sometimes I get distracted... It doesn't slip my notice that some of my dreams look rather impossible to the outside world. And when I allow myself to shake off the blinkers and look around, I lose my balance. Suddenly I'm on my knees and wondering how I got there again. I beat myself up for not having an A-Z picture perfect plan, for struggling to keep my head above the water, for feeling left behind, for trundling through life without a road map, for nurturing my Peter Pan syndrome, for not listening enough and praying enough... For everything.

Usually dusting myself off after a fall like this is a rather quick affair. But yesterday, I was driving back from the airport and I completely snapped. I turned off the radio and started praying out loud; praying for clarity, direction, happiness, a shut door, an open door, a sign, peace, for His will to be my will, anything and everything. Before I could blink, I was in a flood of tears so blinding I almost had to pull over. It was like finally admitting something was wrong out loud just catapulted me backwards at full throttle. 

I don't know where I'm going. I don't know what I'm doing. And I hate that. But what I hate even more is that I somehow let myself get caught up in the dismal blah of winter, this strange transitional age, this funk, whatever it is. Somehow I got in the nasty habit I dislike most; comparing my chapter to everyone else's. Believing the lie that without a textbook plan or the job everyone fought over in the game of Life or a husband or a dog or a house without roommates who steal my ground chuck or aspirations that don't make strangers laugh out loud when you first meet, that somehow my life is not enough. That I am not enough.

I want a big life. I want the moon. And I believe that with a whole lot of help, I can lasso it and pull it down. Still, I need to remind myself that I'm going to aim and miss again and again and again... and again. It's not going to be a cake walk and it's not meant to be. Waiting has never been something I've really delighted in. Patience is not my forte. If anything, it's the opposite. But the moon isn't going to just fall out of the sky if I scream at it loud enough or stare it down long enough. Patience and skill take practice, conscious and never-ending practice. 

Not knowing the next step is a scary place to be. People talk about standing at the crossroads... I feel like I'm seeing that place approach, but instead of two or three roads branching out from it, there are hundreds and they look absolutely nothing alike. I want so much and that sight, the inevitability of making huge life decisions, is overwhelming. The beauty of it is, though, I don't have to make that decision alone. So before I get irrational in the face of the inevitable, before I so easily forget this game-changing and wonderful fact, I just need to remind myself that I'll never have to make that decision alone. *insert signature dance flail to the following*
"Roll Away Your Stone" ... Mumford & Sons live at Glastonbury 

Being hopeful, ridiculously hopeful, is a good thing. These desires weren't put in your heart for nothing. So know your ground, your Rock, get back on your feet, and reach for the moon all over again.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hold My Hand Because I Might Disappear

"Wow! Oh wow!" It's not often that I have this reaction to the ending of a book, much less say it out loud. Despite the whole of Jellicoe Road, especially the final page, being full of sad, I actually squealed. How I didn't burst into tears is kind of miraculous. And how Melina Marchetta was able to weave together two separate tales so seamlessly is just plain magical. But more than just the stories, it was the weaving together of pure joy and unadulterated grief that was even more astounding. And, of course, it reads like an absolute dream:
I remember love. It's what I have to keep reminding myself. It's funny how you can forget everything except people loving you. Maybe that's why humans find it so hard getting over love affairs. It's not the pain they're getting over, it's the love.
Numerous love stories are scattered throughout the book. And I love that. Sometimes I feel like secondary characters are shoved into muted lifestyles where they're exempt from romantic or meaningful relationships, because it will somehow shadow or take away from the main character's experience. I'm always wanting more relationships whether it's on the main stage or in aisles or tucked away in the foyer. I like knowing that love is flourishing all around in all it's forms. So with all these characters feeling deeply, this was a true delight.

That being said, I need to just take a moment and... Jonah Griggs! AHHHHHDFJLSDFSK JONAH GRIGGS!!!!!!! Bookmark him as your next fictional boyfriend, ladies. He comes into the scene so tough and prickly, but his transformation in Taylor's eyes is dazzling. He's there for her in a way that no one else can be, with his past peering around every corner just like hers. Their chemistry is magnetic and consuming, their first kiss is the best! thing! ever!, but romance takes a back seat to their journey. It's so refreshing. And he's so... mmph! I can't even tell you! I don't want to spoil the kiss by quoting it here, so instead I'll just share one little moment I loved. It's as simple as Jonah ordering Taylor's breakfast when she's too overwhelmed to speak. White toast with marmalade and hot chocolate. He doesn't need to ask her what she wants. He just knows. It was just the sweetest! So sweet that I got a craving for the exact same thing and promptly pulled on my running shoes to dash down to the corner store to pick up a jar of marmalade.
Attempting to cure my book hangover with toast and marmalade, hot chocolate, and Jane Eyre.
Today we had a snow day sans actual snow. So while it was sleeting nonstop, I was curled up with characters like Taylor Markham and Jonah Griggs, Webb, Fitz, Tate, Narnie, and Jude. Characters so alive that you feel like if you were to reach your hand under the table, they'd interlace their fingers with yours just to say, 'I'm here. I've got you.' What separates this story, a mysterious tale of love and redemption, past, present, and future is something quite extraordinary, I think. For the past two years I've been keeping a record of every book I've read and written a little blurb about what I thought. After staring at the page for a while, the explanation for my reaction to this book was simple, but big. "This book has a soul." I, for one, can't think of a better kind of novel to pass a non-snow day with.

Read it. Maybe invest in some marmalade first. But read it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

To Glitz and Grand Staircases

Yesterday, my friends and I curled up with the new and improved Upstairs Downstairs to pass the chilly day. We were in no way trying to replace Downton Abbey as 1) that would be impossible and 2) we are no longer on speaking terms with that show anyway. And while I can't say Upstairs Downstairs stirred up a mind-blowing love affair, it had a certain charm. I love all things WWII era, so it was just my cup of tea. A much needed cup of tea post-Downton trauma. Sure, there was still a death in this series, but since I wasn't half as attached to these characters, I wasn't having an existential crisis before my feet hit the ground this morning. 
Gah! I want to make a life with this dress! (x)
Fashion is undoubtedly one of the biggest reasons why I'm so enamored with this era. Luckily, the costuming for this series was no exception. I kid you not, but the moment Keeley Hawes (love! do yourself a favor and watch her in Under the Greenwood Tree) appeared in her gold sequin dress, we all started SCREAMING! I can't explain it, in fact it seems the very antithesis of my taste, but in the past year I have become obsessed with all things gold and glittery. So when I saw this dress... ZOMG-I-WANT-TO-GET-MARRIED-IN-THAT-DRESS! *grabby hands*