Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Fancies, and To All a Good Night!

Just a few fancies this week, before signing off for the holiday.

(image via here)

If my gifts weren't already wrapped, I'd definitely try some of these ideas. I'll be filing away the tiny wreath idea for next year.

These Disney World cinemagraphs might make you dream of a winter vacation to the happiest place on Earth.

And tonight I'll have my annual viewing of White Christmas. 'Til then, here's an idea of what it would be like to live inside that movie.

Happy Holidays to all! Now I'm off to make some rum buttercream frosting for a nutmeg spice cake!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm

Cold Comfort Farm was one of the first books I ever blogged about, waaay back when this blog was only a few months old. Recently I was in the mood to read something with a holiday theme, so when I found out that Stella Gibbons had written a Christmas companion to her hilarious novel, I knew I had to read it.

Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm is actually a collection of nicely varied short stories by Gibbons, only a few of which revolve around Christmas. Many touch on themes of social conventions and the fallout that occurs from awkward interactions between mismatched sets of characters. There's also a sort of detective story with a great twist in "The Murder Mark" and a sweet, holiday tale in "The Little Christmas Tree". The title story itself actually serves as a prelude to Cold Comfort Farm and offers a peak into the Starkadder clan's Christmas before the era of Flora Poste. Not as blatantly clever as the original novel, it's the kind of piece that's probably only interesting if you're already familiar with the oddball characters.

I don't think this will ever be a widespread Christmas classic, but I do think it's a fun holiday read for anyone who's a fan of Gibbons' other work.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Picture Frame Ornaments

In case you haven't noticed, I've been a little bit scarce around here since my holiday vacation started. It's not because I'm rushing around trying to get last minute things done before Christmas. The stockings aren't quite hung by the chimney with care, but all of my gifts are bought and wrapped, my cards have been sent, and I only have a couple of things left that I still want to bake. My absence has actually been due to the fact that the lure of cozy nights with tea and Christmas movies set against the backdrop of twinkling tree lights keeps winning out over the urge to blog.

That being said, I thought I'd pop in to quickly share one of the several little trees my mom has around the house. Over the past 5-10 years, she started accumulating picture frame Christmas ornaments, and eventually collected enough to have a small tree filled entirely with pictures of our family.

It's a nice way to enjoy family pictures from years past and to pay a little holiday tribute to relatives near and far.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Fancies

As of 4:30 today, I'll officially be on a whopping 17 day break from work! To say I'm looking forward to it would be an understatement. And of course, there's an argument to be made for tonight being the best day of it all, with the entire vacation still stretching out in front of me.

Here's what caught my eye this week, in the midst of all my holiday excitement.

(image via here)

My mom has an extensive Santa collection, so I was interested in getting this peek into someone else's.

A cute DIY for Christmas surprise crackers. (Not that I'll be making them any time soon. There was a past family mishap involving one of these, a shattered piece of china, and a months-long search for a replacement.)

I liked this shiny, glittery ensemble....mostly because it was inspired by a Fitzgerald cover.

I love all of the Black Apple's art. This free paper doll download would be a cute extra to tuck in with a little girl's gift.

And this article, in which some big name authors sound off against Amazon's tactics against independent bookstores, may just make you want to do your last minute holiday shopping somewhere else this year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Fortnight in September

Between posting about beachy, wavy hair and a book about a British family's end of summer holiday, I seem to be a bit out of sync with the season this week.

It ended up taking me a fortnight in December to read The Fortnight in September by RC Sherriff, another Persephone classic. It's a really lovely novel that quietly and delicately chronicles the Stevens family's annual two week vacation at the English seaside. As each day of the fortnight passes, we get to see the holiday through the perspective of a different member of the family and observe their individual dramas as they go through the minor daily events of a family on holiday. So many of their experiences resonated with me. I can't remember another novel that had me thinking, "Yes! I know exactly how that feels!" so often.

Besides just reading this in the first place, I'd recommend two other things. First, take time to read the Introduction in the Persephone edition. It's taken from the author's journal and is a very sweet account of his experience in writing the book. Second, wait until a bit after the holidays to pick this up. I think the reason it took me weeks to get through this is because Christmas is the one time of year when I'm not really in the mood for summer vacation escapism. This book would be much more appropriate for a time when there aren't cookies to bake or holiday movies to watch.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Sparkles

I kept the Christmas decorations in my apartment pretty much the same as they were last year, with just a few additional sparkly touches added in, like a new glittery wreath on the mirror and a vintage-looking garland on the tree. Combined with the lights on my tree, mantle, and windows, make my living room twinkly and festive at night.

Next year I'll have to work on bringing the sparkle into a few other rooms, too.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Magic Hair Potion

That's what I've started calling my new favorite beauty product, A Perfect Mess by Charlotte Ronson.

I normally don't rave about hair products, largely because I'm lazy when it comes to styling. My hair is naturally slightly wavy and I've always had to blow dry it straight to get it to look presentable. I end up letting it air dry and pulling it back way more often than I'd like. If I use a product, I want it to magically work on its own with little effort on my part. After trying it out for a couple of weeks, I think A Perfect Mess might be that magic product.

I've tried other products before that are meant to create messy waves, but find this works a hundred times better.I spray it through damp or dry hair, then pin my hair into three low buns (this style, to be exact). Even after just ten minutes or so, I can take it out and end up with waves that look more intentional than messy, last all day, and have a slightly beachy vibe (or how about a snow-swept vibe, since it is December?) without being overly stiff or crunchy.

I won't go so far as to say it's a miracle product, but I will say that it's let me start wearing my hair down in it's natural, un-blown dry, state for the first time since, oh, maybe elementary school.

What about you? What's your favorite beauty product? Bonus points if it's one that yields great results with zero effort.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Fancies

My biggest Friday Fancy today is simply the fact that it's finally the weekend! This week felt very hectic and too often I found myself just skimming over some of my favorite blogs to avoid a Google Reader backlog. A few things did manage to catch my eye in the midst of all that skimming.

(image via Pinterest)

An easy recipe for a sweet breakfast, perfect for a chilly morning.

Some interesting life advice from Hugh Jackman.

I'm still not 100% sure what exactly this is, but I think I want to get some next time I'm at Trader Joe's.

And with my own post from yesterday as proof, it's official- gift guides are popping up everywhere. This is one of my favorites so far, offering twenty pairings of books and related objects to give as gifts.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gifts for Bibliophiles

I absolutely love getting books as gifts. That being said, I can see why some people might be hesitant to give someone a book for Christmas. Even if the recipient is a book lover, there can be a lot of variables at play. What if something isn't really their taste? Or what if they've already read it? Luckily, book-related gifts can be great, too. Here are a few of my favorites that I've gotten over the years.

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die is a big, hefty volume covering top book picks from the 1600s through the early 2000s. Really fun to browse through, it includes all of the classics you'd expect plus some surprising and obscure choices. I was given this a few Christmases ago and still flip through it a few times a year to get new ideas for my To Read list.

I know e-readers have become hugely popular gifts, but for those who still love the printed page, it's nice to give a gift that helps turn print books into objects of desire. A personalized embosser does just that. One that's made up with someone's monogram and "from the library of..." is a nice way to customize a book collection.

Though I don't actually own one myself, I'm pretty sure that any bibliophile would be smitten with one of Paddywax's author candles. The scents are meant to evoke a sense of authors like Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Edgar Allen Poe (I'd burn his candle on Halloween night, wouldn't you?).

This last idea isn't really a gift in itself, but more of a way to add an extra little personal touch to a book you might be giving. By snipping off the corner of an envelope, you can create a little bookmark that sits right over the top of a page. You can use decorative craft scissors to create a pretty edge and stamp on a monogram or festive image.

Or feel free to get really fancy if you want:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Santa's Little Visitor

On a much lighter dog-related note than yesterday's post, over the weekend Millie had her picture taken with Santa!

Contrary to her placid demeanor, she actually wasn't too happy about it. She first started to get agitated when a PetSmart volunteer (aka, a stranger) picked her up to bring her over to the big man. She was wiggling and squirming like crazy while she was on his lap and even managed to pull Santa's beard off at one point! I just hope she didn't ruin the myth for any young puppies that might have been in the store at the time.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Dogs of Babel

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst was another "find" from the free book shelf at work. I started reading it with a bit of trepidation. I remember it being pretty popular a few years back, but saw enough scathing reviews of it online to make me unsure about what to expect.

I actually found myself feeling really unsettled as I was reading it, but not because of anything that had to do with the quality of the writing. If anything, I thought the author managed to take what could be perceived as a somewhat gimmicky plot-- a grieving linguist loses his wife in a mysterious accident witnessed only by his dog, and subsequently tries to teach said dog to talk-- and treat it with enough sensitivity and depth to make it feel believable. Instead, I guess you could say that the dramatic irony had my stomach in knots, dreading what was next for the characters as they walked into trouble I could see coming from a mile away.

I last felt this way while reading Swamplandia!, but this time it was even worse, since the situations I found myself dreading involved horribly cruel treatment of dogs. The worst that I was imagining ultimately didn't happen, but that almost doesn't even matter. Though an interesting book, I can't honestly say that I enjoyed the reading experience.

Has a book ever made you feel unsettled like this?

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Snack

I recently discovered the Power Foods cookbook, by the editors of Martha Stewart's Whole Living Magazine. It's filled with recipes built around healthy, natural ingredients, which are perfect for a little detox time between the indulgences of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It's in this book that I found my current favorite snack: a toasted slice of whole wheat bread, spread with a thin layer of goat cheese and topped with fresh, slightly crushed raspberries and a thin drizzle of honey.

I made this as an after-dinner treat every night last week. It would be great as a decadent but healthy breakfast, too.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Fancies

Look at me, keeping up with these Friday posts three weeks in a row! Here's what caught my eye this week.

Rifle Paper Company seems to be everywhere lately. I think these notecards are some of the most charming designs I've seen from them yet.

Christmas wreaths are starting to pop up! I always love when boxwood is incorporated into holiday greenery, and these succulent wreaths are really pretty and unique. (I know, some of you are probably amazed that I'm talking about plants, huh?)

Some dog gift guides (like this one and this one) have me thinking about what I'll stuff in Millie's stocking this year.

On the flip side, here's what happens when dogs go shopping for human gifts.

And I really enjoyed seeing this Felicity-inspired fashion roundup. It made me nostalgic for that show! Anyone agree that the freshman year Thanksgiving episode was one of the best of the series?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

SoHo with Leslie and Diana

Today I took the afternoon off from work and spent it lunching and shopping with my friend Leslie, who's in town this weekend. Besides eating a delicious beet salad at Balthazar and scoring two JCrew skirts at amazing sale prices, I also snapped a few pictures using the new Diana lens I got for my birthday. It's a plastic lens meant to replicate the light leaking effect of vintage Diana cameras. I first learned about Diana cameras when Leslie got one, so it was only fitting that I tried it out on our outing.

Two points if you can spot me in this picture:

Street vendors have finally figured out how to tempt me:

The little streaks of light in this picture are actually bubbles that someone was blowing.


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