Thursday, June 28, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Cara, one of my favorite coworkers, tried to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone. After just 20 pages she was annoyed by the characters' fanciful names, and she handed it to me with a frustrated hffff. I wanted to hate it, simply out of loyalty to Cara, but honestly? I loved it!

Twilight comparisons can be off-putting, but bear with me: Imagine if Twilight had a quirky protagonist with a strong personality, a love interest with wings rather than fangs, and an author with a decent vocabulary and strong sense of whimsy. That's Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

As I read the first few pages, I was a little annoyed, just like Cara. The main character, Karou, is a 17 year old girl living on her own in Prague. She attends art school and recently broke up with a man in his early twenties. Who is in charge? Where are the adults?! Stories in which teenagers have complete freedom and act like sophisticated adults are a pet peeve, because they're so unrealistic. But keep reading--when you learn more about Karou, this will all make sense.

I kept reading partly because I liked Karou's sense of humor, but mostly because the narrator kept dropping intriguing breadcrumbs of information, leaving unanswered questions. Karou's hair is naturally peacock blue--why?! Karou receives languages for her birthday--how?! Karou's necklace is made of unused wishes, which is demonstrated in a hilarious revenge scene--what?! Karou's father figure runs a mysterious shop where he buys animal and human teeth but never seems to sell anything--why?! As I followed the breadcrumbs, these questions were answered but followed by more. I was hooked.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Protomen, Tenacious D, and the Unbearable Hipness of Storing Your Stuff

It was kind of an epic weekend.

On Friday, Keith and I went to The Protomen's long-awaited Queen CD release show at Exit/In. Have I mentioned how much I love this band? It was a fantastic night, and The Protomen nailed every song. They sounded exactly like Queen, and there was so much energy and excitement in the air. Everyone we know, or ever knew, or attended second grade with was there. Seriously, everyone was there--including Tenacious D. When the D took the stage to play "Bohemian Rhapsody," I thought I'd explode. That might be me screaming like a drunken banshee, for which I apologize.  Use my library voice? Please! "Bohemian Rhapsody" is dear to me. It was the first piece of music I ever spent money on (cassette single, age 9, 1991). I spent months learning to play it on piano when I was in high school, and won second place playing it in a talent show when I was 17. But I'd never heard it sound quite like this.

Saturday was spent preparing to move, and yesterday Keith, our friend Cal, and I spent nearly 12 hours moving Keith's mammoth crapton of stuff into my place. And riding the dolly around the storage unit, wheeeee! Most of Keith's stuff went into the most painfully hip storage unit I've ever seen, but I still had to sidle through a maze of boxes to feed the cat and get to my laptop this morning. 

I am so not making this up.
But let's talk about the awesome hilariousness of Amerisite Sixth Avenue Storage: Located next door to the Zombie Shop, it has a reception area with Dwell magazine on the coffee table. When you arrive, you're offered a complimentary coffee or Pepsi Throwback. And when you become a client, you get a free ringer tee that says "Practice safe storage. Use bubble wrap!" I can't make this up. My only previous experience with a storage unit was a horrible 130 degree pod in a rural area bordering the Mojave desert. Going there made me feel like someone was about to give me Gwyneth Paltrow's head in a box. So I love Hipster Storage. And I don't care who gives me crap for using the word Hipster; in this case, it applies.

I'm going to go wiggle through the cardboard labyrinth.
Anyone care to share advice on happy cohabitation?

Friday, June 22, 2012

In Which Jen and Keith Go To Texas, Tricia and Jason Get Hitched, and the Queso Flows Freely

Last Thursday, Keith and I took off for his aunt's wedding in Tyler, Texas. I was so excited to meet his extended family and go on our longest road trip yet. Here we're smiling because we didn't know how awful those 13 hours on the road would be! We hate Arkansas! Every little thing that could go wrong did: The interstates looked like parking lots, the bathroom lines were so long they snaked through the gas stations, and a car fire blocked a bridge just 15 miles from our final destination. 
The next day, as we drove to Keith's grandparents' house, I realized I wasn't even slightly nervous about meeting them. That was weird! I've always been terrified when it's time to meet a boyfriend's family, and for good reason--it's always been awkward. But Joyce and Marty were so warm and welcoming. Their home reminded me of my parents' house, and I felt so comfortable there. I love storytellers, and as soon as I arrived, Marty was telling me stories about his dog, the caterer, and Keith's great grandparents. When he asked me about myself, all of my responses were met with resounding approval. By the time we went to the rehearsal dinner, I felt like a part of the family.
Don't the bride and groom look like movie stars? Tricia and Jason are obviously so smitten! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Makeup Reviews - Yes, Orange Lipstick CAN Be Pretty! Or, Why Operation: Cohabitation Requires Me To Buy Makeup

Are you looking for new summer makeup? Read on! Operation: Cohabitation is in full swing at my house. I've been busy getting my place ready to be a two-person home, starting with the bathroom. There are just two drawers in there, and one of them was a scary makeup graveyard. Don't play--you know you have one, too! I had lipsticks, congealed bottles of foundation, and broken blushes lurking from when I lived in Los Angeles seven years ago. Barf.

Armed with this list of makeup expiration dates, I mercilessly purged the drawers, vacuumed out the insides, laundered my nearly empty makeup bags, and presented a pristine drawer to Keith. Then I went out to buy new makeup, of course! It was a hit or miss shopping trip, but you can learn from my mistakes.

Maybelline Dream Bouncy Blush
I hate powder blush because it usually looks chalky and fake, but a lot of cream blushes break me out. Maybelline Dream Bouncy Blush is my new favorite drugstore blush. It blends easily, stays put all day, doesn't give me zits, and looks just as pretty as my beloved Stila Convertible Color, but at less than half the price. I love it so much, I bought it in two colors. My only complaint is that the packaging doesn't seem airtight; I think one of my blushes is already drying out. But for $7.99, who cares? Highly recommended.
Maybelline Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner
I'm not a liquid eyeliner expert, but my favorite vintage bloggers (I'm looking at you and you!) make me want to be. I imagined that a felt-tip applicator would be easiest, so I tried Maybelline's Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner. For two weeks, I loved it. It applied easily and made me feel like a vintage diva, but then it dried out completely and tugged at my skin. After just two weeks?! Eyeliner fail! Not recommended.
Covergirl Eyeshadow Quads in Urban Basics, Dynamite Drama, Blue Notes, and Pure Romance
I threw away almost all my eye shadow when I purged my old makeup. Covergirl is cheap, so I didn't feel bad about stocking up on their eyeshadow. But oh, you always get what you pay for! Don't get me wrong; the colors are pretty, they blend and wear well, and they don't fade by the end of the day. Urban Basics, in particular, is very flattering and perfect to wear to work. And Dynamite Drama is surprisingly easy to wear; I love the gold shade. But, they crumble and break if you even look at the compact wrong. If I'm not careful, they're going to make a huge mess. I'll buy Urban Basics again because the colors are perfect for me, but I'll look elsewhere for fun, high-drama colors. Mostly not recommended.
Revlon Colorstay Liquid Eyeliner in Black
After chucking out the Maybelline liquid eyeliner, I bought Revlon instead. I like that it looks like a wand dipped in an inkpot; it feels charmingly old-fashioned and dependable. I'm still a liquid eyeliner novice, and this eyeliner has a firm stylus tip instead of a flexible brush, which offers a lot of control and makes application very easy. Last week someone even admired my eye makeup and asked me what eyeliner brand I use. WIN! I'll definitely buy it again when this expires or dries out. Highly recommended.
Olay Regenerist Night Resurfacing Elixir
Buying so many cosmetics made me want to do something nice for my skin. So after reading this great review, I picked up this mild alpha hydroxy acid treatment. I'm 30, and if I take good care of my skin now, I'm hoping to reap the benefits later. The product itself is thin, dries quickly, and doesn't feel strange or tight. After using it for nearly a month, I love what it's done to my face. My complexion is clearer than it's been in years, marks from old acne have faded considerably, and the fine lines I was beginning to notice are much more subtle. I look more awake and refreshed. I raved about it so much that Keith bought it, too, and I'll definitely continue using it. Highly recommended.

I also bought gorgeous fluffy white Calvin Klein towels, hand towels, and washcloths. They're so luxurious! From now on, all my ratty old towels will be used as dog bedding. As soon as Keith brings over the medicine cabinet I gave him as a housewarming present two years ago, we'll be done fixing up the bathroom. Now to go through my closets... Ugh!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book Review - Switch: How To Change When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

I don't read a lot of nonfiction, because when I think of popular nonfiction, I usually think Subtitles: How Secondary Titles Inflate a Sense of Importance. Yawn! So when I checked out Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard from work, it sat on my nightstand for weeks. I was going to take it back to work unread, but when I noticed that a list of people had placed holds on it, I thought hey, I must have something good here and selfishly hoarded it for myself. Half a dozen library patrons were right: I loved this book. Thank you, Chip Heath and Dan Heath!

Switch takes a rational, well-researched, clever survey of what makes change difficult and the techniques that can help individuals and organizations overcome these challenges. Sometimes the rational mind knows change is necessary, but the person lacks direction or doesn't know where to start. Other times, the emotional part of one's mind balks because change is frightening, or seems unnecessary, or feels too big. And sometimes, the problem is environmental. Seriously, arranging furniture can improve your performance review at work. How can I not love this book?!

I can't take credit for that joke, nope.
Stories and psychological studies with quantifiable data support each point. The Heaths describe an accountant who won't work well with others, a charity trying to improve results of a canned food drive, an environmental group trying to rally interest in an endangered species, a couple trying to improve their communication, a school principal trying to reduce misbehavior and distractions at her school, and more. The variety ensures that Switch will appeal to a wider audience than a cheesy self-help book or boring business solutions manual.

Switch avoids obnoxiousness by not saying "By George, YOU can change too!" Gag. Instead, it presents a variety of case studies, shows you what works, and lets you draw your own conclusions. The techniques are versatile and can be used with colleagues, family, significant others, or even on yourself to finally get your butt to the gym. Or, you can just enjoy the information and stories. But I employed one of the techniques before I even finished the book, and I'm already pleased with the results. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

This Faceted Labradorite Headband Is My New Favorite Thing.

I love labradorite. It's more subtle than opal, darker and more mysterious than moonstone. It's gray one moment, then silver, and then it unexpectedly lights up sea green and aqua as if it's hiding a tiny ocean inside. Labradorite is an iridescent neutral that matches any outfit. It's a mermaid's tears. That was melodramatic, y'all.

These are the brightest, most fiery labradorites I've ever seen.
My beautiful sister Erin visited Nashville in May. She lives in Hong Kong and knew she wouldn't be home before my birthday in July, so she gave me my birthday present two months early. We were at a Jasmin Kaset show at The High Watt when Erin handed me a swanky, heavy black box. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw the gorgeous faceted labradorite headband inside. It was made by her friend, a jewelry designer in Hong Kong who owns Dakini & K. I immediately put it on, completely conscious of how silly I looked trying to fit it over my head, because I love it so much. Erin asked, "Do you like it? Are you going to blog it?" HA! Yes, and yes.
That bright light washes me out, but holy moly it makes those stones flash!
The stones are amazingly iridescent, and the workmanship is incredible. This headband will last a lifetime. Unfortunately, you can't buy Dakini & K pieces online, but if you ever go to Hong Kong, stop at General Store to see Dakini & K wares alongside rare, mint-condition mid-century furniture. Or, if you have a hankering for faceted labradorite, take a look at these luminous, fiery pieces from etsy.

Faceted Labradorite Necklace by TheAtelier
Labradorite Earrings in White Gold by JenCo8 
Faceted Labradorite Pendant by AestheticsUnlimited
Faceted Labradorite Ring in Sterling Silver by HelenesDreams
Labradorite Pendant with Aqua Apatite on Sterling Silver Chain by RazzleBedazzle

Thank you so much, Erin! I love my new headband, and I'll wear it all summer with strapless beachy dresses and elegant all-black ensembles. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Slow Cooker Chili with Steak and Black Beans

Keith is very proud of his Texan roots. Maybe that's because there is an entire genre of Texan romance novels, bwahahahaha! Trashy novels aside, I am very proud of the chili he made last night, adapted from this recipe. No canned peppers or ground hamburger for this Texan! It was so much better than the chili I usually eat.

Keith's recipe, with serrano chile peppers, after the cut...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Protomen Present: A Night of Queen

I love the Protomen. Their live shows are theatrical, hilarious, exhilarating, and always a good time. I might be a bit biased because they're my friends, and because their music was the soundtrack to the beginning of  my relationship with Keith, but no one can get me out of my seat like this band. Way back in December 2010, they covered Queen for an entire night at Exit/In, and it was one of the best shows I saw that year. This librarian was singing, fist-pumping, and dancing like a maniac. Wayne channeled Freddie perfectly

So I've been waiting impatiently for this album for, like, ever. It's finally out, and it's awesome! As Death & Taxes says: "Its biggest fault, if I’m to be truly honest, is that it literally sounds exactly like you think Queen would sound playing at the top of their careers in a small venue. That is: too good to be true." It's big perfect fun, y'all.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Book Review: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

Stephen King's seven-part Dark Tower has a very special place in my heart. In those seven volumes, King tells a perfect, complete, balanced story that would be unbalanced and diminished by additional material--or so I thought. So when I first heard that King was writing an eighth Dark Tower book, I was dead set against it. But The Wind Through the Keyhole isn't at all what I expected, and I because of that, I love it.

The Wind Through the Keyhole is to The Dark Tower what The Tales of Beedle the Bard is to the Harry Potter series. It doesn't continue the story of Roland the Gunslinger where the series left off. Instead, it gives the reader a taste of Roland's world by telling a bedtime story from his childhood. As any book lover will tell you, stories are powerful. The stories we hear as children can shape us, and this story was an important part of Roland's life.

The Wind Through the Keyhole is an utterly original, frightening, and fantastic piece of fictional folklore. It tells the story of a young woodcutter's son who is tricked by a malevolent warlock into going on a journey to save his widowed mother. On the way, he finds a nasty green fairy, a dragon, a tribe of people devolving into trees, "ancient" 20th century technology, and Merlin. Yeah, that Merlin.

But the book actually tells three stories, which nest seamlessly within each other.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Moonlight Madness: A Summer Reading Program Based on Clue

Hello, librarians! Are you looking for a unique and engaging Summer Reading Program for adults that you can easily implement with a handful of creativity and just a wee bit of cash? Check this out! I'm so excited about my library's summer reading program. Our creative and talented Programming Coordinator created a completely original summer reading program game for adults based on Clue. I think it's brilliant, but I might be biased--I'm a suspect! My colleagues and I had fun getting into character and posing for our pictures. Which one of these lovely ladies do YOU think was the killer?


A male identified to be approximately in his late 40’s to early 50’s has been found dead in the library. His body was removed for an autopsy and the police are investigating the crime.

No witnesses have been found.  After further investigation the following information has been determined regarding the victim, and all alleged suspects who may or may not be connected to what police have ruled a homicide.

Mr. Vickery is a new volunteer that has been with the Library for four weeks. His duties include shelving materials on Tuesdays and working in the Administration Office on Fridays. On the evening of the crime, he agreed to work after hours to help move shelving and furniture for a large fundraising event taking place the next day.


Vic’s fiancĂ©e is soft-spoken, sweet, and always presents herself in a reserved manner. However, she has recently been prone to dramatic outbursts about the attention Vic is giving to other female staff members of the Library. She walks around mumbling under her breath, because Vic has been driving her half-mad with jealousy!

The Library Director is adored by all her staff. She loves to laugh and has many eligible suitors knocking at her door. However, she rarely agrees to go out with anyone. This may have something to do with the fact that she was once engaged to Vic Vickery, who broke her heart when he called off their engagement… BY A TEXT MESSAGE! Prior to her present career in Library Science, Susan earned a degree in chemistry and had worked five years for a prominent pharmaceutical company.

The Southern Diva works in Tech Services at the Library. She loves anything that sparkles, the color pink, and her tiara. You seldom see her without her stiletto heels! She has been carrying a personal vendetta against Vic Vickery ever since he took over her family’s pew in church. That's a crime worse than murder in the South!

The Master Gardener has been the Children’s Librarian at the library for 25 years. She has the patience of a saint dealing with high-spirited children day in and out. In her spare time, she has spent ten years nurturing a Titan arum, better known as the Corpse Flower, which only blooms once every 10 years. Days before the flower was expected to bloom, her next door neighbor’s dog jumped her fence and destroyed her prize possession. Her screams were heard throughout the neighborhood: She would get her revenge on Vic Vickery!

The Chameleon is Vic Vickery's long-lost step-sister. She earned the title "The Chaneleon" because she changes her name and appearance as often as necessary to escape the deep, dark secret that has haunted her family for the past decade. It's a secret that is well known to Vic Vickery… a secret that, if exposed, would destroy her!

The Librarian was Vic Vickery's high school classmate. Vic tried to coerce her into doing all his homework. When she refused and threatened to turn him into the Principal, Vic planted marijuana in her locker and turned her in to the authorities. She was expelled and ostracized for the remainder of her high school years.

The following items have been found near the crime scene:

·         One Stiletto Heel – found just outside the library main entrance
·         Poisoned Envelope – found on the floor of the Director’s office (the glue was laced with poison)
·         Fallen Chandelier – found in pieces on the floor of the library (hanging cable had been tampered with)
·         Garden Shears – found hidden behind a stack of books
·         Revolver – found lying in the grass at the back of the library
·         Lamp Cord – found in a waste basket at the reference station

I feel so lucky to work with such fun, creative people. I love my job!
This is how the game works: