December 31, 2009

December and 2009 Reads

I've just read the 40th and final book on my list for 2009. 40 may seem like a decent number to some; I consider it somewhat feeble but a valiant effort all the same, and at the very least, an improvement on last year's total of 35 books. Always a silver lining, folks. My final read of 2009 is A. S. Byatt's Possession. Next to Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, I found it to be the most challenging book I read this year, and like Hundred, I'm very glad I stuck with it. It's the sort of book that is layered with meaning (a book about writers from a writer herself and the interesting framing device that entails) and begs several readings for all those layers to unfurl and make sense (and I'm counting on future readings to back me up on this). When I finished the novel, I sort of felt as though I had finally put together the disparate pieces of an intricately-designed puzzle that, incidentally, I'm still trying to sort out and analyze. It's the perfect book for rumination and I have a feeling it will stay with me for some time. However gratifying it feels to have completed the book, getting there took an unforeseen amount of determination and effort on my part, especially since I was told that I would absolutely adore this book. But I found it hard to adore, more like really admire and I also couldn't help but feel frustrated from time to time. Often I felt like casting the book aside for something at once more agreeable and palatable, but I still persevered because I really wanted to like the book and learn something from it. Not to mention, I have this weird compulsion to finish the books I start. Masochistic? Perhaps. But rarely do I regret persisting with a book, and Possession is no exception.

Possession is the story of a pair of contemporary scholars whose study of two Victorian poets brings them together. A thrilling discovery is made that could change the course of their study, and together the scholars unearth the Victorians' letters, journal entries, and poems to ascertain more clues. The book raises questions about scholarship and the past and whether we as a public have a right to the private thoughts of others, no matter if those thoughts emerge from buried past more than a century ago. Chock full of poems and literary allusions to other poems that delighted my inner English literature dork, this book seems entirely like my cup of tea. And it is, but I found it more dense and difficult to get through than I had otherwise expected of a book of this nature. At 555 pages, it's definitely not for the faint of heart, either. This is a serious, rigorous literary novel and I probably wouldn't recommend it to most people I know. Nevertheless, I am so glad I persevered, because I felt so gratified by the time I finished and instantly had the urge to go back and re-read certain passages, as only a book that makes an indelible impression does.

Looking back, I can say that I've really enjoyed the books I read this year. I was entertained, delighted, stimulated, and inspired. The following five books were among the most memorable for me in 2009:

One Hundred Years of Solitude--The first of a few difficult, yet rewarding books I've read this year.

Memoirs of a Geisha--This one also took awhile for me to warm up to, but I ended up being completely spellbound by it.

The Omnivore's Dilemma
--Probably one of the most important books I've read and again, took some time plodding through the difficult parts.
I'm noticing a theme here; apparently, I quite like a good reading challenge.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society--Loved from start to finish and just delightful all around.

Loving Frank--Thoroughly enjoyed this one and fell in love with the flawed main character, whom I found wholly sympathetic and fascinating. This might just be my favorite book I've read this year.

And because I cheated, Possession by A. S. Byatt makes six.
I really look forward to discussing it with my book club in the weeks to come.

I'm also super excited about my reading for 2010. In spite of the increase in visits to my local library this year, I still somehow managed to purchase more books than I care to admit. This just means I have more browsing through my own bookshelf to look forward to. Wishing you all the happiest of new years! See you in 2010!

December 29, 2009

It's Complicated (otherwise known as lifestyle porn)

I dragged the boyfriend to see It's Complicated the other night and for two full hours sat in my seat, completely agog at the gorgeous set design. Writer/director/producer Nancy Meyers is known for the stunning and plush homes she showcases in her films (they're referred to as 'lifestyle porn' for a reason) and in her most recent film, she did not disappoint. As much as I love watching the antics of Meryl Streep, John Krasinksi, and Steve Martin play out on the big screen, I have to admit that for me, the sprawling Santa Barbara home that's featured in It's Complicated takes center stage. It's my favorite character.

{Photos via Remodelista and Traditional Home}

{Painting as featured in the living room in Photo #3 by Mitchell Johnson}

December 24, 2009

One more sleep till Christmas

There's magic in the air this evening. Have you noticed? Kermit can tell you all about it. Wishing you a warm and merry Christmas Eve!

In case you experience technical difficulties with the video above, you can watch Kermit in all his Christmas glory here.

December 21, 2009

The darkest evening of the year

Happy Winter Solstice! In celebration, I've been chanting the following Robert Frost poem over and over in my head today. Right now in California, the sun is dipping below the horizon and casting the most magnificent rosy glow across the sky, and the briskness of evening is settling in. May you have candles aplenty to light you on this dark, dark night.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep

{Image via

December 20, 2009

What made my week

One night this week I arrived home to discover a package waiting for me on my doorstep. Intrigued, I tore open the box to find inside a charming letterpress 2010 calendar from Delphine Press. But I hadn't the faintest clue as to who had sent it. It wasn't until later that I learned that it was from T. It was so unexpected and lovely and it absolutely made my week. Thanks, T!

December 13, 2009

Origins Recyling Program

So we all know that makeup has a shelf life, but do you know that there's a better way of discarding the old containers than just tossing them in the trash? Instead, drop them off at your local Origins counter, where they will gladly accept empty, cleaned-out cosmetics containers, regardless of the brand. Plus, they'll even offer a free sample from their skincare range as a thank you. Now how sweet is that? Go to the Origins website for more information on their recycling program.

December 6, 2009

My latest obsession

Lately I cannot get enough of Rishi Tea. It all started with the earl grey. I saw it sitting prettily on the shelf at Whole Foods and decided to give it a whirl; it was the best earl grey I've ever tasted. I've since branched out and tried a few more varieties and haven't been disappointed (I especially like the silver needle and white peony white teas and the jade cloud green tea). Their award-winning loose-leaf teas and herbal tea blends are delicious, flavorful, and really refreshing. Additionally, Rishi Tea is committed to organic, fair trade practices and promoting education opportunities and community development in the places where their tea derives. They currently have ongoing one-day sales on their website, perfect for the tea-lover on your holiday gift list.

December 4, 2009

More photos from Santa Barbara

As promised, here are some more photos of T's birthday sojourn in Santa Barbara. The entire trip was all about sun, sea, and relaxation, with a little sparkling wine thrown in for good measure. I even got to try something completely new for me (but not for T, apparently he's a pro): horseback riding! I can't believe they let such a neophyte on a live animal. But I got the hang of it. Eventually. And I even enjoyed it and would do it again. Yay!

Now here I am little bit more in my element: lounging ocean-side at the Coral Casino, a membership-only health club open to Four Seasons guests. Except where did I place my book and glass of bubbly?

The path leading up to our tucked away, cottage-like room at The Four Seasons, our home away from home (I wish).

When can I go back?

December 1, 2009

Good Tidings

It never fails. December 1st rolls around and *all of a sudden I am overcome with the holiday spirit. Case in point: I just purchased these adorable Egg Press holiday cards which I plan on sending out to family and friends this year (I especially love that they're green in more ways than one). I'm so looking forward to taking some time to sit down and pen my holiday missives of good tidings and cheer, all while listening to some classic Vince Guaraldi and swigging a mug of hot cocoa. Does that sound like a raging good time, or what?!

*I say "all of a sudden" because as of, oh, a day ago, I just didn't feel ready for Christmas. Which is typically my state of mind throughout the month of November. Does anyone else really resent the fact that the autumn season gets hijacked by Christmas immediately after the Halloween festivities are over? Or is it just me?