Monthly Archives: December 2012

New Year’s Reading Resolutions

large2012 is almost over! So much has happened, but one of the things I am most proud of (besides that whole getting-married-moving-to-NYC-getting-an-editing-job-adopting-a-cat-daughter ordeal) is actually keeping my New Year’s Reading Resolution. My goal was to read 40 books — any 40 books — and I surpassed my goal. As of today, having finished Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of A Funny Story, I’ve read 52 books! That’s one book for every week of the year.

This is also 16,623 pages, as calculated by Goodreads, which isn’t the best estimate because a number of these were Kindle ebooks. I got a good mixture of stuff in there from “serious” literature reads like The Color Purple and The God of Small Things to absolute fluff like the Gossip Girl prequel (hahaha) and Confessions of A Shopaholic. Some were really short, like The Law and Here Is New York, which are technically essays but are published in book-form, so THERE. The only book I’d read before was Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, which is to say I’ve read it at least a dozen times so it shouldn’t count but I did include it anyway. You can see the full catalog of my 2012 readings here.

For 2013, my goal is to read more non-fiction books. 2012 was the first full calendar year of my life since I learned to read that I wasn’t in school, so I had no idea how much time I would be able to dedicate to reading, especially with all of those major life changes listed above. It turns out, a reader is a reader is a reader. I can read a lot, so this next round I’m going to try to break out of my English lit major mode and get in touch with my journalism side by reading more narrative/long-form nonfiction, including about subjects that don’t usually interest me as much.

Here’s a list of books I’m hoping to read this next year, but I’m setting my measurable goal to 20 nonfiction books. Some of these are ones on our bookshelf at home already, some I’ve been pining after for ages, and some were the helpful suggestions of my Facebook friends. (:

Nonfiction books I’m finally (hopefully) going to read:

This should all keep me very busy. I also try to keep up with my weekly Time magazine, and now I will be getting New York magazine each week, thanks to a Christmas gift subscription! I think my brain will be full of knowledge, that’s for sure.

If you have a favorite nonfiction book (long-form journalism, biography, memoir, a David Sedaris book I haven’t yet read), please suggest it in the comments! I’m open to all suggestions.

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Kurt Cobain…with a book! And a kitten!

P.S. If you, too, are a reader, check out the lovely photographs at Underground New York Public Library, of fellow bibliophiles getting lost in a book while on the subway.

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Travel guide: It’s Christmastime in the city.

This is going to be a quick and dirty guide to visiting New York City between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, a.k.a. THE HOLIDAYS. (True story: I went to my first ever real “holiday” party on Friday. I say this because half the attendees celebrate Hanukkah and not Christmas.)

This is a list of things you can do FOR FREE in NYC during Christmastime (and some you can do year-round).

“The Tree” at Rockefeller Center

IMG_0453This was simultaneously one of my life’s most overwhelming and most underwhelming experiences. Not to downplay The Tree, but it is really just a tree. A big tree, but it doesn’t look that big next to all those BIG buildings. In all truth, it’s something that would brighten your day if you worked at NBC Universal and got to walk by on your way to and from the office each day.

BUT it’s not really worth it to make a cross-country trip just to get trampled by a million other out-of-state visitors (and locals) all competing for their little patch of asphalt from which to take a picture of The Tree. I felt as if I was swimming upstream, if the river was made of hoardes of people. Not my idea of fun.

Tip: If you want to take a family or friends shot in front of a large, festive Christmas tree, check out some other gorgeous large ones in less crowded areas, including Bryant Park (there’s a skating rink and holiday market there this time of year, too), Washington Square Park, and even on Broad Street in front of the NY Stock Exchange. My Park Ave. office also has a nice one, and you don’t even have to pass security to see it. You’re welcome.

Fifth Avenue store window displays:

IMG_0450Yes, yes, yes! This something I am totally up for doing year after year, because these change. Fifth Ave is awfully crowded, especially near the Rockefeller Center area, but it’s worth it. I loved Saks’ funky yet traditionally festive displays (see example above) and Tiffany’s quaint, bedazzled holiday scenes. My absolute favorites were at Bergdorf-Goodman’s (see below), which is the least stereotypically Christmas-y, but they featured stunning vintage jewelry and 20s-inspired fashions with a flashy theater theme. I’m obsessed.

IMG_0475Union Square Holiday Market:

I don’t have a picture, but this event is like Hogsmeade. If you know what Hogsmeade is, then you want to go. Admit it. This is a great place for some gift-shopping, if artisanal candles, handmade soaps, and alpaca hats are your style. Or you can just browse for free. (Or give in and buy a whipped-cream-topped treat from the Wafels and Dinges cart, and some piping hot apple cider from one of many booths. I did both, and it was a great decision.)

SantaCon:

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This is a blurry photo I discretely took of some hipster Santa in Grand Central Station. But they were everywhere. All day, I tell you.

Please don’t participate in SantaCon. No matter what they tell you, it IS a giant, all-day pub crawl that gives people a sad excuse to dress in morally questionable, holiday-themed outfits. At first, it was fun to see all the Santas out in about this past Saturday (and elves, and reindeer, and snowmen), but then I got a little sick of seeing Santa smoke, start street brawls, engage in PDA with female elves on the subway station platform, stumble drunkenly into a cab, and engage in a lot of activities that should have landed him on the Naughty List. Many childhoods were ruined that day. I am not the only one who feels this way.

Central Park:

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I absolutely adore Central Park. It’s different every time you go. This time of the year a lot of the lawns are closed off for the season, but the skating rink is open and it’s fun to watch the swarms gliding round and round. I also love the lookout tower at Belvedere Castle, the Shakespeare Garden, and the passageway below Bethesda Terrace (see photo, stolen from Gossip Girl, below). Just park on a bench and watch the parade of sweater-wearing dogs pass by. Whatever makes you happy.

024Brooklyn Bridge:

IMG_0522I’ve walked across the bridge three times now, and I consider that a point of pride. It takes energy and time to walk across the bridge, especially after all of that other city-walking. It can be crowded when the weather is pleasant — this weekend it was quite chilly, hence, more walking room — but it’s a small sacrifice to walk on a piece of history. You get stunning views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines. It’s also just really cool because, um, it opened in 1903. I don’t even know how humans did that. In 1903. Humans are incredible.

And when you get to the other side…

Fulton Ferry Landing at Brooklyn Bridge Park:

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This is a fun place to take goofy-looking photos with your friends, family, and significant others with Manhattan in the background. There are Whitman quotes on the railings! You can spend a little money and get a delicious afternoon snack from Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, if you aren’t too cold already. NOTE: The ferry landing location of the ice cream factory is undergoing renovations due to Hurricane Sandy damage. Please join me in crying a little inside.

Also! If you are a Texas Aggie, this pier is a great place to have crazy-random run-ins with a member of the Class of 1999, who will spot your husband’s Aggie Ring and then kindly take dozens of photos of your group of four Aggies in front of the Manhattan skyline. This man of ’99 will bring you great luck and you will run into Aggies from the Class of 2015 on the subway mere hours later. However, these results are not promised for those who graduated from a school less awesome than A&M. Sorry.

Staten Island Ferry:

IMG_0531This is completely free. Once you get to the Bowling Green subway station in way downtown Manhattan, walk over to the Staten Island Ferry station. If you time it just right in the evening, you can go out toward Staten Island and see the Statue of Liberty from a fairly close distance in the sunset. Then, when you get to Staten Island, follow the other hoardes of tourists around to a Manhattan-bound ferry to see the city lights illuminate as the sky darkens. It’s about an hour round-trip, completely free, and entirely worth it. Check out the intimidating Freedom Tower! And it’s not even finished yet.

This last activity is not free. It costs $25 per person, if you are an adult. But it is WORTH IT for a $1 million view. And you saved all that money by doing free stuff earlier, remember?

Top of the Rock:

IMG_0549This picture says it all.

And at the same time it doesn’t really say enough.

I want to go again. And again. And again. In different weather, at different times of the day and night. I actually just want to move up there, camp out, and enjoy my surroundings every few hours. I mean, who really needs to see twinkling lights on The Tree, when you can go up 70 floors and see ALL OF THE LIGHTS. *cue Kanye West song*

Also, just so you know, you buy a ticket to go UP at a designated time, but you can stay up at the observation deck as long as you like. So technically, why come down?

More information on the Top of the Rock Observation Deck can be found here.

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Cats are devious creatures: a short story

149711_10151338566421743_785199339_nThis evening, during a bout of pre-weekend visitors cleaning, I looked at Ali’s neglected cat bed and wondered why it was taking up precious floor space. You see, a couple of months ago, she had the ingenious idea of vomiting in her cat bed, and while we tried our best to clean it up, I guess the emotional stains are still lurking there for her.

She now prefers to leave her white belly-fur in other places: “her” third of the couch, the arm chair, MY dining chair.

And the sad, empty vomited-on cat bed just sits there neglected.

So I turned to Sean and said, “So I’m thinking about throwing her bed out. I mean, it was a donated to us anyway, and she never uses it. Plus, it’s covered in cat hair and is kind of gross.”

Sean: OK. Whatever you want.

I turned to gather up the rejected cat bed and take it down to the trash in the basement along with a hefty pile of newspapers and magazines for recycling, and what do I see?

Ali, “kneading” the bed she hasn’t intentionally touched for months. She gave me a look that said, “Just watch this, Mom. Try and throw out my ‘gross’ bed.”

Then she circled around about 95 times until she found that utterly perfect spot, curled up, and proceeded to nap there for at least an hour.

She migrated to a new napping spot when she noticed I left my cushy, pre-warmed spot on the couch for all of a minute to pour myself a new glass of water.

Cats, they are devious creatures, I tell you.

As a side note to cleaning and cats, can someone please explain to me how Ali has lost not one, not two, but FOUR cat toys in a 400 square-foot apartment?!? I moved around pretty much all the furniture tonight in order to do a really thorough sweeping, and I even took out everything under the bed and did some indoor-spelunking with a flashlight. They are NOWHERE to be found.

There are some more toys in our coat closet that the cat adoption people gave us, but they have bells in them and Sean hates them. I kind of do, too, but one evening Ali was looking so forlorn and bored (and Sean was out), I snuck one out and gave it to her. She chose 2 a.m. to get really rambunctious with it, and Sean was completely angered and baffled as to how she got an annoying-bell-toy. He thought we threw them all out.

He then proceeded to dispose of Ali’s toy IN FRONT OF HER. In the garbage.

No wonder she is so devious.

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The Laziest Saturday

MV5BNzQ1NDA3ODg2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjczNzEyNw@@._V1._SX640_SY501_We slept in until nearly NOON today…after going to bed at 10 yesterday. How is that even possible? I guess a busy, busy weekend last week with our special visitor and then a full work week caught up to me. It doesn’t help that our bedroom is like a cave with a tiny window (with a curtain) that gets next to no natural light because it looks into an air shaft at other people’s windows.

Sean likes to refer to sleeping for such long periods of time as “hibernation.” That’s a nice way to put being lazy.

I achieved very little else today. We did finish most of our Christmas shopping (online), I read some more of my current read (The God of Small Things), and then we ate gyros and watched A Hard Day’s Night, The Beatles’ first film. It was cute, and featured The Beatles in their early matching-haircuts-matching-suits-with-skinny-ties days. The plot was basically: The Beatles run away from swarms of crazy, screaming fans, and play some songs. Like “A Hard Day’s Night.”

What I really want to watch is:

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As in, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, as performed by the New York City Ballet. You know, the 1993 filmed version starring Macaulay Culkin. But Netflix says “very long wait” when I put it in the queue, because I guess everyone else had the same idea, so now I’m just going for pure nostalgia.

ckWgV3viStWazMYo7PBc6ZfrapPThis is the 1990 animated film The Nutcracker Prince, which I used to watch on the Disney Channel this time of the year EVERY year with my younger brother. You can find the entire movie on YouTube, which I think is probably illegal for the person to have uploaded, but not illegal for me to innocently watch.

It’s no ballet, but it does feature the original Tchaikovsky musical score…and animated battle scenes between rats and dolls. What more could you want to get in the holiday spirit, really? Except for maybe a free Kindle download of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which I think is totally going to happen.

Like, I said THE LAZIEST SUNDAY.

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Happy almost-Friday!

It’s almost Friday.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is God’s gift to womankind.

jglYou’re welcome.

588_640You’re really welcome.

12772223240Did I mention tomorrow is Friday? How happy are you right now?

I used to think celebrity crushes were dumb, and then I saw JGL. So most celebrity crushes are dumb.

This post is inspired by my end-of-week laziness and new male co-worker, who dresses like JGL’s character in 500 Days of Summer. Sweater vests, skinny ties. Gentlemen! Take note. This is how to win over the ladies. There are no single young ladies in my office, but when New Male Co-Worker walked in with a sweater vest and skinny tie, we all turned into giggling schoolgirls and individually complimented him. “You look NICE today!” “Someone dressed classy today!” You know…
 
(Single ladies of New York, let me also mention that this fellow is very polite and calls his mom during lunch breaks and enjoys Lolita, Parks & Recreation, and playing basketball. He also told me he thought the female receptionist on our floor was cute, so I know he’s not too good to be straight. Did I mention that in addition to wearing skinny ties, he is also easy on the eyes? We share a cubicle, so I can let you know everything. Please let me play matchmaker. My love life is predictable.)
jgl clothesThe last couple of paragraphs were primarily included so that I could include these photos of JGL in 500 Days of Summer, to illustrate what good fashion taste his character has. I mean, if you walked into your office and saw THAT, I promise you that you would be there at 9 a.m. sharp every. single. day.
 
Did you know that my in-laws think I look like the actress Anna Kendrick? I don’t really see it because she is a million times prettier than me, and I think they only say that because she is really awkward in 50/50 and I can also be really awkward. But then two other random people also told me I looked like her.
 
And I’m OK with that because…because JGL totally likes her in 50/50. And *spoiler alert* they go on a date at the end of the movie. And if people think I look like someone JGL would want to take on a date, then fine. I can handle that.
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I’m glad I got that out of my system. I’m also glad that Sean only thinks I blog about my cat. Ha. Silly boy. He thought by taking me to see Looper I would no longer be obsessed. That film simply taught me that JGL is the world’s most attractive druggie hit-man.
 
 
 

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Blog challenge! – Day 2 (9 loves)

10-days-you-challenge

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1. New York City! This was a given for this list. One of my favorite activities is walking around NYC by myself in the evening, or quietly with someone else (you know, like Sean) if it is later at night. There is something so fantastically surreal about when the big, bustling city begins to wind down, and the streets in the residential  neighborhoods are empty and you can count the number of people you can see on your fingers. These are good thinking times. Right now it is the holiday times in New York, and it makes you really understand why there are songs like “Silver Bells” about it. There are decorations everywhere! Even along Park Avenue, where my office is, there are “corporate Christmas decorations” to replace the “corporate artwork.” In case you’re wondering what this means, it’s simple Christmas trees in the landscaped medians loaded with twinkling white lights. My favorite decorations are the seasonal window displays along 5th, which are the perfect blend of consumerism and festivity that suits an all-American Christmas, I think. (Tiffany’s, below.)

tiffanys

2. When I finish a novel that is so perfect, I close it upon finishing the last page, and then just stare blissfully at the wall for at least five silent minutes. This is a rare and beautiful moment. I cherish them for all their worth, because you can never replicate the wonder of finishing a truly great book for the first time. At least not with the same book.

3. Looking at the groom at a wedding right as the bride begins coming down the aisle. I think this is mentioned in the chick flick 27 Dresses, but it’s true. By all means, admire the beautiful bride in all her wedding day glory, but glance at the groom when he thinks everyone is looking at her. I did this at my good friend’s wedding this past summer, and he was getting choked up in the anxious moments before they opened the back doors of the church and her father walked her up the aisle. This alone made me have to fight back tears. I am an emotional mess of a bridesmaid; never ask me to be in your wedding party. Just kidding. Being a bridesmaid was one of the greatest things I’ve ever gotten to do. Except, of course, being a bride.

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4. A foamy, piping hot latte in the middle of a boring work day. It’s such a small treat and welcome change from the free stuff in the breakrooms, and it makes all the difference.

5. A frenzied desire to bake late on weekday evenings. This is how I keep my sanity, folks. And my sugar tooth satisfied. I’ve totally given into the urge to make, say, zucchini muffins or coffee cake at 10 p.m. on a Wednesday.

6. Indie bands with weird names you’ve never heard of. Unless you, too, listen to such bands. In which case, let’s indulge in a cult classic together:

Time to be serious.

7. A paying, full-time job that lets me be both creative and OCD. I get to create page designs AND correct other people’s grammar…WHILE GETTING PAID. Crazy, huh? Sometimes, I spend hours just editing photos in Photoshop. It’s really not fair. Also, I work at a charming family-owned publishing company with a grandfatherly CEO who plays jazz on a jukebox in his corner office and gives out apples from his Montana ranch. My other 2o-somethings in the office are also the so sweet and we spend all day having conversations that begin, “Did you see that story in the news about….?” Oh, and I can wear jeans to work and take a bus to get there. It’s the best.

8. My adorable cat-daughter! She’s made of cute and cuddles. She can also be handful, with her strange tendency to pretend-bury her food and water bowls when they are not exactly to her liking, her bad habit of caterwauling in the wee hours of the night, and her unintentional spreading of white belly-fur EVERYWHERE. But I love her to pieces, and I can’t imagine life without her anymore. She’s a purring machine and a bringer of much laughter (and warmth!) to this household.

photo9. My best friend and husband, who gives me smiles, laughter, and love. Every. Single. Day. A lot has changed about us and our lives since we started dating at 18, but we’ve only grown more inseparable. We are the completely the same and totally different in all the right ways. We’ve seen each other at our worst, and yet he still tells me I’m beautiful when I’m wearing my glasses and sweatpants and feeling most un-beautiful. And it still melts my heart. Every. Single. Time. He is simply the best, and you don’t need to tell me twice that I should be a million times grateful for meeting my special someone at so young an age. As of December 2, we’ve been married for six months! Crazy. Where has the time gone?!? It’s been a whirlwind of change, challenges, and joy. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us in the journey ahead!

IMG_8118P.S. Sean says no more cat-children, so I guess what’s in store is definitely not any feline-siblings for little Ali Cat.

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Blog challenge! – Day 1 (10 secrets)

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My best friend Kristen came to visit us for this past weekend, and since she’s been to this city a number of times already, we tried to give her a more authentic New York experience. Which included such activities as listening to this fantastically talented fellow hammer out classical tunes on a grand piano in Washington Square Park. Blessed.

More on her visit later. For now, there’s this:
10-days-you-challengeI have no shortage of things I want to write about, don’t get me wrong, and I usually think blog challenges are lame, but sometimes it’s fun to take a moment to reflect on oneself. OK. That also sounded lame. I doubt I’ll do these on consecutive days, but I am going to try to do all 10 days! I need excuses to write.

10 Secrets:

1. I have seen every single episode of The Brady Bunch, including the three-part special where they go on vacation to Hawaii and the other three-part special where they go to the Grand Canyon. Also the one when Desi Arnaz, Jr. kisses Marcia. I watched all of them in elementary school. I’ve always known I was born in the wrong decade.

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2. The one thing I wish I could change about myself more than anything is my total inability to sing. I love music, and I will always be jealous of anyone blessed with a beautiful voice. Or even a decent one.

3. One time my friend’s older brother told us if we inhaled Pixie Sticks, our sneezes would be colorful. So we did. It was a bad idea. Don’t listen to friend’s older brothers, especially if you are a silly little kid.

4. I floss twice a day, but don’t change my bed sheets nearly often enough. (Gross.)

5. Speaking of which, I graduated with a 4.0 from college, with two majors, AND I CANNOT FOLD A FITTED SHEET TO SAVE MY LIFE. Which partially explains No. 4.

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6. I cried myself to sleep after I read the first Harry Potter book in middle school and realized I was just past the age to receive my acceptance letter into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. You mean to tell me you didn’t do that, too?

hogwarts_school

7. I have not played the clarinet in nearly six years, and I still have stress dreams about band auditions. Those sight-reading pieces, man, I tell you. I also have weird stress dreams about general high school academics in which I do very un-Rebecca-like things, like skip all my classes, cheat on tests, and totally forget about major projects. It’s the worst thing ever, as I never seem to learn to do better from one stress dream to the next.

8. I am one of the least picky eaters I know, but I have difficulty swallowing raw tomatoes. Of all the strange things I will eat, raw tomatoes are my problem food. They are just so…slimy.

i-hate-tomatoes

9. I feel faint when I see anyone else’s blood. My blood, OK. Anyone else’s? I can feel my heart pounding in my ears and the ground begin to go out from under me. They used to have blood drives all the time in the English department building at A&M, and I had to put my blinders on and charge through the main corridor because I was certain I would pass out if I saw those bags of blood. Fun fact: one time recently at my new job I searched for “patient with wound” on our subscription stock photo service, hoping to find a photo of a patient with a bandage/gauze I could use for a continuing education lesson for pharmacists. That is not what I saw. At all. Oh, God. So much blood. I cannot un-see what I have seen. There are so, so many reasons I could never be a doctor.

10. If I am forcibly asked to reveal a “special hidden talent,” the only thing I’ve got is reciting all 50 states in alphabetical order in less than 20 seconds. Basically, I just go up to someone and say, “Hello, I am a huge nerd.” Nothing cool, like doing a backflip or bending my tongue into weird shapes.

 

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