As many of you may know, I am no longer a New Yorker, so please check out my new blog A Library of My Own. If you are just reading Life and Times, you are missing out. Thanks!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Buckets of Snow

It's snowing buckets of snow today in the city. Schools are all closed but yes, I am still at work. So I snagged a couple of photos on my phone during the day.

This is my lovely walk, remember? I couldn't go my normal shortcut up the stairs because they were covered.
Even the sidewalks were covered so I had to walk on the street:
Here's the view from the window during one of the crazy whiteouts:
Here's a slightly less snowy time. I love the snow tiers on the tower behind St. Barts:
I love that we are right next to Waldorf Astoria. Actually, my company owns it which makes it nice when we have our Christmas parties there:
I posted more work window photos back in 2007 here.

Well, today is my last day of work here in NYC. I'll tell you more about it soon!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

I stumbled upon a HarperPerennial blog a while back called The Olive Reader. If you recall, I mentioned that they are starting their own book club called English 101. You can check out my post on that here. Anyway, they asked if I wanted to review any of their books and I picked The Bell Jar, a classic novel by Sylvia Plath. I had read probably twenty pages back in high school or college but never finished it. I thought I'd give it another chance...that and the Olive Edition with the purple cover is just too cool.

The story starts out with Ester Greenwood, a young, fairly attractive woman, who is spending the summer interning in NYC at a magazine. I'm assuming the time frame is the early 1960s. Sounds fun, right? Not really. She comes across as kind of glum or complacent. While her friends are going out to parties and being fairly promiscuous, Ester is just kind of going along with the flow but not really a part of it. Actually, many of her experiences are pretty terrifying, including a weird almost-rape scene at a party. Oh, and she's also engaged to a sickly guy who she isn't particularly interested in.

Returning home, she applies to attend a school for writing but is turned down. What proceeds is her spiral into depression. Concerned, her mom makes her see a psychiatrist who gives her electric shock therapy. Yeah. Apparently her depression isn't a symptom of her environment but of faulty wiring in her brain. Obviously the treatment doesn't work well and she becomes suicidal and is institutionalized.

I'm going to leave the story there.

Before picking up the novel, I knew somewhat what the book was about. I kept thinking about the movie Girl, Interrupted. While this book sounds incredibly depressing, it actually wasn't. Well maybe just a bit. Instead, it just made me think. I thought about what makes people go crazy or depressed. How I don't think I would have been a very sane person during that time period. How society puts so much pressure on people then and now that it's amazing that more people don't lose it.

I also thought, just maybe, Ester wasn't that crazy. But then again, maybe she was. The story is through her perspective but I never felt that I really knew what she thought or felt. I couldn't quite grasp what her depression spiral stemmed from but maybe that's just me.

While it is an interesting and thought provoking novel, I think it's notoriety comes from being the only novel by Sylvia Plath. It was published in the early sixties under a pseudonym. Apparently the novel is semi-autobiographical and shortly after it was published, she committed suicide. So yeah, this novel stirred up some notice.

**Have you read this novel? What did you think? Have you read any other books similar to this, such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or others?

Also Reviewed by:

I really like the Olive Edition's cover and particularly the spine of the book. Here's a picture:
I also remember the first time I noticed The Bell Jar was in the 1999 movie 10 Things I Hate About You - Kat is reading the book at home on the couch.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

That's How I Blog

I have something really cool going on tonight. Nicole from Linus's Blanket is going to be interviewing me for That's How I Blog, an on air show where we talk and anyone can participate as well. The show is tonight, February 23rd, at 9:00PM EST. Here is the link for you to call in to participate. How exciting! (Side note: I am a bit terrified of public speaking so come and help me out!)

I've been meaning to post this earlier so you'd have extra notice but I've been a pretty bad blogger lately so I apologize. But, lots of cool things are going on so you might want to check out the show.

For instance, we'll be discussing a book we are reading by Dan Simmons called Black Hills about a Sioux named Paha Sapa (Black Hills) and the ghost of Custer. So far I am really enjoying this book, although I haven't finished it yet. Eek! I read and reviewed his book The Terror and loved it.

Also, I have big big news that is going to be affecting my blog. You'll be the first to hear about it!

Go check out the That's How I Blog website and see the schedule! You can always hear the recordings of past shows.

Quick questions:

Is there anything you would like me to discuss? If so, email Nicole at nicole [at] linussblanket [dot] com.

Have you listened or participated in any of the past shows? If so, what did you like or dislike?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Discussing a Book

Here's just a few photos from our night out discussing Swimming Inside the Sun. This place makes great caprianas and yummy chips and dip.
Of course I have to play with my camera settings. I love the Canon's color accent setting:
Here's Robb writing down notes:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Swimming Inside the Sun - David Zweig

A couple of months ago, Doreen from Second Guess Media contacted me about reviewing the book Swimming Inside the Sun. Here's the synopsis from the back of the book:

On the verge of success, struggling New York City musician Daniel Green has his life’s dream snatched from him. Despondent, Dan seeks solace and answers from the comforts of women, great thinkers from Marx to Kierkegaard, and the security of rice milk. Suffering from a darkly comical state of extreme self-consciousness, Dan begins to lose his grip on reality, and in a meta-fictional twist, the narrative shifts from first to third-person as his depersonalization peaks. All the while, the signs of his existential dilemma become, literally, the writing on the wall, as his studio apartment is increasingly taken over by The Notes he can’t seem to stop writing. Battling loneliness and a mind that can no longer discern between fiction and real life, Dan’s only hope may be the redemptive force of music. In a culture obsessed with tales of winners’ ascensions to the top, Dan Green’s story, defiantly, irreverently, is about what happens when you fail and the roads you take to figure out what next?

Actually, Doreen asked if my husband and I could both read and give our thoughts on it. I have to say that this book is such a wonderful book for discussion, especially with mixed genders. We both read the book and went to our neighborhood restaurant for caprianas and margaritas to discuss. What follows is a rough synopsis.

First of all, did you like Dan Green as a character?


I didn't like him. His character is so extreme. For instance, while walking on the streets of New York, he sees different beautiful women and in his head, calls them "wifey" (I was mistaken, he calls them "wife"). Then they walk on and he is sad but knows there's another "wife" just around the corner. That whole thing bugged me. It is like he wanted a wife but didn't want to work to get one. Then, as a guitarist, he has an album that is produced but then shelved so he gets depressed and never picks his guitar back up. That annoyed me too. It seemed so unrealistic. I thought with that type pessimistic character flaw, the guy probably would have never learned how to play the guitar in the first place. And then he stops working all together. He was very self absorbed and egotistical, but then again I don't think he was written to be likeable.


I did not like him overall but I knew who he was and from where he comes. He had a little bit of that "Every Guy" characteristic. Every guy at some point has dealt with or asked himself the same things Dan deals with and it was interesting to watch the him process and bounce along. He is not an unbelievable character by any stretch which made the story stronger.

How did you like the style of writing?


I did really love the way the book was written. You are really inside the character's head and it is engaging. The realistic dialect and the vivid depiction of New York City really kept me absorbed in the story despite the annoyance of the whines and gripes of the main character.


I think the rambling narrative reflects how we talk and think. Dan Green may be an unreliable narrator because it might not be a 100% factual narration of the events but then again who does not embellish for the sake of the story? Because every event and action was being narrated, you could really get involved with that particular part of the novel. So, yes, I did like the style in the way it was used to build the character.

How did you like the New York City setting?


We both thought it was very stereotypical of a New York City story. Though the idea of a proud but depressed artist living in the East Village is a bit cliched. The only way it could be more cliched was if it was about a sad hipster in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But the story was told as a typical New Yorker would tell, from an introspective viewpoint and a lot of name dropping (people, places, streets, etc). As a whole the setting seemed too staged, but to a New Yorker it is plausible: financial safety net and rent controlled studio apartment. In that situation someone can take time off from the working realities. We could see maybe doing this a month or two but not for as long as he did. It would be slightly more realistic if he was living further out in Brooklyn or Queens.

What did you think about the depiction of the New York City art scene?


I thought his character was just too lucky that it became a bit unrealistic. From the various artists I've met here, it takes a lot of hard work with often not a lot of results. He literally just walked into favorable situations and he never really worked for any of it.


In it's perverse way, the book does reflect what I consider to be the NYC Art Scene. Specifically what is considered "art" and the varying forms of accepted mediums. Without giving too much of the story away, Dan's reaction to the praise is very entertaining however a mild let down for the role the post-it notes on his wall played. Music, as an art form, was dialed into NYC because you will always find an audience for anything different, interesting, progressive, etc, in this city.

Overall, how did you like the book? What were the best and worst aspects?


Best: I really like the writing style. It was engaging and vividly depicted New York City. I liked when I knew the bars, streets, and places he went to. While a lot of Dan Green's character was egocentric and unlikeable, there were aspects I did relate to regarding his personal struggle and I dog eared a bunch of sections. I think regardless of whether or not you like the book, it definitely provokes a strong reaction.

Worst: The length of the book is about 450 pages which I thought was way too long. While I liked the writing style, being stuck in an egotistical and often whiny head got to be too much. For example, I didn't need to know, for the fifth time, his obsession with alternative milk products or what he's thinking about in his apartment while he's waiting to have a bowel movement. I think the book would work better if it was shorter but then, like Dan Green, maybe David Zweig wasn't willing to compromise his art.


Best: Overall, I think the best part of the book is the writing itself. Just because I did not like the main character does not mean the book is a bad read. The author created a real person who is tangible, and as a reader I could follow. He also wove a story with a realistic and plausible origin and ending. My expectations going into reading this were slightly misdirected based on the back cover; I was waiting for the great big answer to fall out the sky. Answers are rarely that easy to find and I think David Zweig does a great job getting that "fact of life" across, we never know where we will end up.

Worst: In five words: abrigded edition.

Thank you Doreen for letting us read and review Swimming Inside the Sun! We had a great time discussing the book in our own little husband and wife book club.

**For my readers, what do you all think about this book and our discussion?

**Do you and your significant other share books or discuss books? If so what?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

I finished re-reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte last night. The first time I read this book was in high school and I hated it. I gave it one star on GoodReads which is basically unheard of for me. But all I remembered was that the main characters were ugly, self-destructive, and it was NOT your typical love story.

I am struggling to come up with a good plot summary and it's tough! This story is about Cathy and Heathcliff. Cathy and Edgar Linton. Love. Death. Anger. Jealousy. Revenge. Lots of revenge. It's basically what you get when you take two families, throw them out in the middle of nowhere among the moors and heath, throw in an angry and jealous orphan (Heathcliff). Oh, and of course there may (or may not) be a ghost (or two).

It sounds chaotic but it really isn't. The whole story is narrated by Nelly, the loyal housemaid who retells the story to Mr. Lockwood, a new tenant. I still wonder what a different book this would be if the story was told from Cathy or Heathcliff's perspective.

I've been in a reading funk lately but this was the perfect story to get me out of it. I loved it. While many of the characters are ugly and unsympathetic, I was absorbed in the story. It's definitely like watching a train crash or a Jerry Springer show, and I'm normally not a big voyeur. Wuthering Heights is now at five stars on GoodReads.

Go read it and don't stop until you read Chapter 34 (my favorite chapter).

For those of you who have read it, what do you think? Here's my rambling thoughts:

I understood Heathcliff. I didn't like him or excuse his behavior but I did feel sorry for him and I kind of understood why Cathy liked him (the younger him, not the older him).

Edgar. Come on. Who doesn't like Edgar. I mean, poor Heathcliff really didn't stand a chance. Although, oddly enough, I like the tall, dark, handsome look so I'd have probably liked Heathcliff.

Cathy. Eh. I thought she was kind of a brat and kind of wondered why everyone fawned over her. These kids seriously needed summer jobs.

The ending. LOVED it.

Favorite description of Heathcliff:

The light flashed on his features as I spoke. Oh, Mr. Lockwood, I cannot express what a terrible start I got by the momentary view! Those deep black eyes! That smile, and ghastly paleness! It appeared to me, not Mr. Heathcliff, but a goblin; and, in my terror, I let the candle bend towards the wall, and it left me in darkness.

Of course, I couldn't end this without pictures. What a portrait Emily paints of the moors and heath:

Funny thing, I read Wuthering Heights mostly on my iPod touch using a cool app called 101 Classic Novels and it's free!
So the photo at the top is the cover I always associate with Wuthering Heights. I really like this newer one from Penguin but it kind of makes Cathy seem timid, which she is definitely not:I was so addicted to the story I starting watching the newer movie version staring these two:But I'm going to have to go back and watch some of the other versions. Like this 1992 version with Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche:
Or this 1939 version with Lawrence Oliver. Seriously, Lawerence Oliver was cast as Mr. Darcy, Heathcliff, Orlando, Maxim de Winter...and those are just the ones I've seen.

I can totally see how Wuthering Heights can be a love it or hate it book. Obviously not all of the characters were written to be likeable or loveable. But the story of jealousy, revenge, love, and hate just sucked me in and I loved it.

Also Reviewed by:

The Raucous Royals (2009 movie review)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Walk to Work

This was my view on my way to work this morning. Our neighborhood looked so lovely with the new falling snow.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Interesting book...

I thought I'd just share this intersting tidbit I learned today.

I was commuting to work this morning and listening to my favorite podcast, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me! from NPR on my new iPod Touch (man is this iPod cool) when I learned about this book:

This is the blurb from Harper Colliins:

In Sneaker Wars, journalist Barbara Smit reveals the dramatic, character-driven story of these two power-houses. Started in their mother's laundry room in Germany, Adi and Rudi Dassler's shoe business was an instant success, their spikes worn by Jesse Owens in the Berlin Olympics. But a vicious feud soon pulled them apart: by the end of World War II, the brothers split the company, dividing their family and hometown.

What a bizarre true story! Did any of you know this weird fact about Puma and Adidas? I am going to have to pick this book up.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Eugenie Grandet - Honore de Balzac

The last book I read in 2009 was a short novel by Honore de Balzac called Eugénie Grandet which was written in 1833. I needed a short novel to be my 100th book of 2009 and this Balzac novel is on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list, so I thought, why not.

Here's the story:

The story takes place in a small town in France where Eugenie is the heroine. Her father was a cooper who has become wealthy but miserly. Think of him as a French Scrooge but with a wife and daughter. Terrifyingly horrid thought.

One day, Eugenie's cousin, Charles Grandet from Paris comes to town. He is a dandy, foppish, and cute. Eugenie falls hard. However, bad news follows in Charles' footsteps. His father has gone bankrupt and has taken his life. Charles must leave to earn his own way and try to earn money to gain back his family's reputation. Poor Eugenie is left to pine for his return.

I'm going to leave it there. I don't want to spoil the ending or what happens to these two star-crossed lovers. I thought it was amazingly realistically portrayed. I was trying to think what stands out in Balzac's writing and I think the word is "humanism." Beware that this is no ordinary simple love story. Things don't always go as plan or turn out right. But I just really felt for Eugenie and her evolution as a character.

Honore de Balzac wrote a collection 95 finished pieces of work (essays, novels, etc) of interlinking novels for a collection he called La Comédie humaine or The Human Comedy. It is divided up into sections and Eugenie Grandet fits into the section called Scenes from a Provincial Life.

I am absolutely fascinated by this massive undertaking of Balzac's and how his novels and works really dig deep into humanity with realistic characters. I'll definitely be reading more of Honore de Balzac's works.

I read Eugenie Grandet online at Online Literature.


Snowy Day - View from Office

This is a view from my office of the Waldorf Astoria towers. I've noticed that New Yorkers love to talk about the weather. I figure that everyone has at least one thing in common - we all have to deal with the weather.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Longitude - Dava Sobel

Let me just say right now that I love Dava Sobel. She is an amazing author. Back in 2008 I read her book Galileo's Daughter (my review) and just loved it. I have heard her other books are just as good so when I saw Longitude at the library I had to read it.

I love this book. I ended up buying this book so my husband could read it.

Longitude is actually subtitled: The True Story of the Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. This is non-fiction history at its best. It's a short book but it is thorough without being boring.

Here's the plot:

Throughout history, when people sailed the seas, they usually had to hug coasts to know where they were in the world. Then they figured out Latitude and people like Columbus could pretty much set a course based on Latitude and head on over to America. Or wherever they were going. But the problem was Longitude. No one at that time know how big the world was.

I don't want to give more away but the solution to the problem is fascinating. But I won't tell you who came up with the solution because that is the best part. I can't wait for my husband to read it so we can talk about it. This is one of those books you just want to discuss with someone.

Here's the cover of the version I bought:

I had no clue there's an illustrated version! My copy had some photos in the middle but I'm going to have to check this out too:

And there's a movie with Jeremy Irons!?! Oh the things you find when you Google search.
You can check out Dava Sobel's website for more information on Longitude and her other books.

Have you read anything by Dava Sobel?

Also Reviewed by:

Age 30+: A Lifetime of Books

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mrs Dalloway - Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Oh what to say about Mrs. Dalloway....

Let me warn you first that I've been in a weird reading funk this year. This is also my first foray into the works of Virginia Woolf, and while I didn't like Mrs. Dalloway, that doesn't mean I won't try again with a different work.

Here it is:

Mrs. Dalloway is the central figure of this story. The whole book takes place in a single day and starts off with Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway heading out to get some flowers for a party she is throwing that night.

It follows Mrs. Dalloway out into the city and there skips around in narration. The central figures are Clarissa and Peter Walsh (an old flame) who comes back from India and stops to see Clarissa. Other characters are Sally (a past best friend), Elizabeth (Clarissa's daughter), Richard (Clarissa's husband), and a few random park people. The story ends with Mrs. Dalloway's party.

Honestly, I loved the writing. Once I got used the rhythm I really enjoyed it. I was a little confused at the beginning because I had no clue how old Mrs. Dalloway was supposed to be. A bit into the book we find out she's 52 years old. But I guess I was thrown by the spunk of her character and the cover of the novel.

But halfway into the book I got bored. I lost interest in Clarissa, Peter, Richard, and the whole bunch. I really didn't care. The most interesting characters were Elizabeth, which we didn't hear much of, two very side characters of a ex-military man and his Italian wife, and a snippet of Clarissa's past friendship with Sally. Actually, had this book only been about those people, I'd have enjoyed it. I really just couldn't stand Clarissa or Peter.

In all honesty, I would never have finished this book besides the fact that I had signed up over at Sarah's blog for Woolf in Winter. That and I knew I'd never pick this book back up again...well at least not in the next couple of decades. I wonder if I'd like it more when I'm closer to Clarissa's age. Or maybe not. I guess I just felt that Clarissa and Peter just seemed so childish.

If you've read this and like it, or didn't, let me know what you thought! I'm off to read some reviews.

Also Reviewed by:

What we have here is a failure to communicate (and more)
A Striped Armchair
Regular Rumination
It's all about me (time)
Books, the Universe, and Everything
Rhinoa's Ramblings

Friday, February 5, 2010

Christmas Photos

I've been in a picture posting mood lately. Ok, a belated picture posting mood. So I thought I'd post our Christmas photos. Yeah. I'm not kidding. This what we did that day in our tiny New York City apartment. We cooked ourselves a feast. Ok. So that sounds really overindulgent of us. Believe me when I say we are STILL eating leftovers thawed from the freezer. And boy does it make for some great soups.

Ok. Here we go...

This is our little living room with our stockings and tree. I found some fun New York City Christmas ornaments at Duane Reade (and proceeded to break two of the four but that's ok). Forgive our wonky broken shades. We also used my husband's mechanical engineering drawings as wrapping paper. As he says, got to save those paper trees.

Here's a bigger version with our pups' stockings as well. And yes, we are recycling a tin can by putting a candle in it.
A Christmas tradition is to drink eggnog. I love eggnog and this is my favorite cup, made by the wonderful Brainella. Go check out her blog and Etsy shop for more fun stuff.
Of course we let the puppies open their stuff first. Here's Charlie with his new toy.I take more photos of Charlie because, well he's mine, and he's so photogenic. Look at those big brown eyes. Poor Anna. I think Robb is just taunting her with the toy.Finally she gets it:Charlie loves to sit or lay on my feet. I got a good picture of him giving me the crazy eyes look:
Then of course, like siblings do, they proceeded to fight over one of the toys while we finished opening up presents:Then it was on to the cooking. My goal was to make home-made cranberry sauce. I used the recipe I found over at She is Too Fond of Books. Absolutely delicious. I urge you to make this ASAP.

You take fresh cranberries: I had to take a close up:
Mix it with apples, pears, cinnamon stick, sugar, juice, etc: Boil it down and you get this yummy concoction. It was gone in about a day or two. Seriously yummy stuff.We also made green bean casserole. A must have for every holiday. In our fun little ethnic hood we couldn't find the traditional French's fried onions so Robb made home-made ones. For Christmas I treated myself to a set of mixing bowls I found at Urban Outfitters. Last time I cooked I had to use extra pots and pans as mixing bowls. So sad. But aren't the colors fun?Robb also made home-made stuffing. I know. We wanted to do it all home-made.Meanwhile I worked on the mashed potatoes (can you believe I'd never made them before?):And of course I made my favorite pie - apple. I make a mean apple pie: Go ahead, you can drool...We made ham AND turkey. I only managed to snap a picture of the ham. We thought, hey, while we are just cooking for us let's do it all so that if we mess up, it's won't be when we are entertaining friends and family. But they both turned out great! I love the turkey bag. That is a must.So this whole thing we managed in our tiny little kitchen. Seriously, when you open the fridge, it only misses the counter by a fraction of an inch. Here it is:Finally, dinner:

I hope you enjoyed our Christmas day pictures!