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Best Discoveries of 2009–Boston Places, Web Clips, and Recipes

December 31, 2009 Leave a comment

Yesterday you got to see my best discoveries–aka I encountered them for the first time–of 2009 in movies, tv shows, and websites.  The day before in my reading stats for 2009 you saw my favorite books I discovered.  Today I’ll be finishing up my discoveries lists with Boston places, web clips, and recipes!

Boston Places

  • The Friendly Toast (1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA)
    Known as a hipster joint, this restaurant serves breakfast/brunch foods all day long.  It’s decorated with fun vintage posters, many of which are scifi themed.  The portion sizes are huge!  You really get the bang for your buck here, and vegetarian options are numerous.  You even can get vegetarian sausage!  The servers are also super-friendly.  This is currently my favorite breakfast place in Boston.
  • Berk’s Store (50 JFK St, Cambridge, MA)
    I was hunting everywhere for waterproof knee-high boots without a heel, when I wandered into this store.  Crowded into a small space is the best shoe store I’ve found in Boston.  The styles reflect the needs of Bostonians–good for walking and the weather without sacrificing style.  The employees are friendly and–get this!–you can put a deposit on shoes and have them hold them for you to pick up later without paying anything extra.  This is great for if you find a great pair of shoes/boots but don’t want to drag them on your commute with you.
  • Boston Bed Company (1113 Comm Ave, Boston, MA)
    More than just mattresses, they offer bed frames, bedroom furniture, living room furniture, sofas, and chairs.  This business is locally-owned, and they understand Bostonian’s needs.  Everything is reasonably priced, the sales associates are friendly but also understand giving you space to wander about the store on your own, and you get free delivery (over a certain price point, which I forget right now, but I easily reached it when buying my mattress and box spring).  Definitely check them out for any furniture needs.
  • Hootenanny (36 JFK St aka The Garage, Cambridge, MA)
    The clothing off-shoot of Newbury Comics, this store is great for funky clothing, shoes, and bags.  I got my Glomits there, as well as a steampunk skirt and dress.  They also offer vegan shoes for my vegan friends.  The prices can be a bit steep on some items, but they have continuous sales which knocks them right down to reasonable.
  • Jacob Realty (279 Newbury St, Boston, MA)
    I had to apartment hunt this year, and after many phone calls that ended with me mad at an agent who couldn’t accept my price limit as a real price limit, I finally landed on Jacob Realty.  My realtor actually listened to me and treated me with respect, and she helped me land a great apartment!  Definitely check them out if you’re on the apartment hunt.

Web Clips (yes I know there’s a lot of cats on this list)

Recipes

  • Emeril’s Vegetarian Egg Rolls
    Confession.  I have a deep fryer, and for my housewarming party I wanted to use it.  I’d made egg rolls with my dad when I was a kid, but those were meat-filled (this was before I went veg).  Anyway, I was shocked to discover Emeril has a vegetarian recipe.  They require a bit of work what with making up the filling and wrapping them, but they came out very good.  Even my friends who don’t like egg rolls liked these.
  • Little House Apple Pie (The Little House Cookbook: Fronteir Food from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker)
    I’d gone apple picking with two of my best buddies, and I wanted to make apple pie.  The problem was that I’d never gotten the family recipe from my mother who I disowned, so I needed to find a good new recipe.  Omg, people, you should ditch family recipes more often.  This pie is so good!  Side-note, I always use Emeril’s Basic Sweet Pie Crust with my pies.
  • Vegan Sweet Potato Latkes (current issue of Vegetarian Times, apparently isn’t on their website yet)
    I wanted to make latkes for my Chrismukkah gathering, but wanted a healthier version than the traditional one.  I love sweet potatoes and already had a stash of them, so this seemed like it’d be cool to try.  Instead of eggs, the recipe has you boil some sweet potatoes and mash them to use for binding the shredded potato together.  I was skeptical as to whether this would work, but it totally did.  These were a big hit.

That’s it for my best-of lists!  Hopefully next year I’ll have more recipes to share with you guys.  I hope you all made some fun discoveries of your own in 2009.

Best Discoveries of 2009–Movies, TV Shows, and Websites

December 30, 2009 1 comment

You guys got to see my favorite reads of 2009, but what about all else entertainment?  I do, surprisingly, do things besides read with my (little) free-time.  So here’s Part One of my best of all-else entertainment list from 2009.  I’m not limiting myself to things that came out in 2009, just things that I encountered for the first time in 2009.  Consider everything listed as accompanied with the highest recommendations.

Movies

  • Coraline (2009)
    The story of a little girl rightfully frustrated with her parents who discovers another world is delightfully creative, but the animation is what makes this a must-see.  It is truly a feast for your eyes.
  • The Hangover (2009)
    Bust a gut, laugh out loud funny. A groom and his buddies go to Vegas a few days before his wedding for his bachelor party, and when they wake up the next morning, the buddies can’t find the groom or remember what they did the night before.  Uproariously awkward situations make you feel way better about that one night you can’t remember.
  • Inglorious Basterds (2009)
    A troop of American Jews led by Brad Pitt go on a Nazi-killing spree in WWII Europe.  Confession.  I fucking love WWII history.  I have ever since I was a kid.  I also absolutely love blood and guts movies.  The more gruesome the better.  I also love Jewish fellas (I blame my undergrad university for that one).  Additionally, I love Brad Pitt. *swoon* German is also my foreign language, so I didn’t even need the damn sub-titles.   Can you say must-see movie?  My only gripe is that not enough time was spent on the awesome group of American soldiers.
  • Kill Bill Volume One (2003)
    The Bride has a score to settle with her old boss Bill and everyone who helped him commit the slaughter of all present for her wedding day (not to mention almost killing her).  So many epic fight scenes.  So many bad-ass women.  Not to mention the whole blood and guts thing previously mentioned.
  • South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999)
    The boys’ parents get all upset when they sneak in to see the R-rated Terrence and Phillip movie, which clearly leads to a war with Canada.  This basically is South Park The Musical and gave us the gifts that are the songs “Uncle Fucka” and “Blame Canada.”  Top it off with a giant talking vagina, and you have a seriously hilarious movie.
  • The Shining (1980), review
    Jack takes his family with him on a live-in caretaker job in a remote, empty hotel in Colorado.  Did I mention the hotel is sinister?  It takes a lot for a film to scare me, and this did.

TV Shows

  • Lost (2004 to present)
    The tale of the survivors of a flight that crashed on an uncharted island.  I remember when this first came out that I avoided watching it because I knew I didn’t have time to get addicted to another tv show.  Netflix Instant and my boyfriend spurred me into watching it, and holy shit.  This show’s mystery and scifi are so good that I am literally yelling at the tv (yes, I bought the complete set).  Me yelling at the tv is a sign of a good tv show, btw.  I’m on the fourth season and am bound and determined to catch up before the new season starts in February.
  • The Simpsons (1989 to present)
    That sound you hear is the collective shock of everyone reading this, but I seriously had never watched The Simpsons ever before this year. No, not even one episode.  I really can’t explain why.  I just never got around to it.  Well, now I get what the obsession is with it, and I’ve watched a ton of episodes, let me tell you.
  • South Park (1997 to present)
    No big surprise here with the movie listed above, but I also was newly introduced to this show this year.  The pop culture commentary is epic.  All you need to do is see the Kanye West fish sticks episode to understand.
  • True Blood (2008 to present)
    A small Louisiana town deals with daily life and the recent coming out of vampires with the Japanese invention of synthetic human blood.  This show has everything: bayou setting, vampires, sex, drugs, comedy, and mystery.  Watching an episode is like taking a vacation.  It also provided me with the hilarity that is me imitating Bill saying “Sookie is mine!” I can’t wait for the second season to come out on DVD so I can watch it!

Websites

  • Etsy
    Buy and/or sell handmade or vintage items and supplies.  It’s kind of like having a craft fair in your browser, and I love buying one-of-a-kind earrings there.
  • Regretsy
    My friends and I were doing what this blog does for a while–finding the hideous things people offer up as “vintage” or “handmade” on Etsy (not the majority of things found there at all) and mocking them.  This blog is sure to send many giggles your way. (or horror)
  • Sock Dreams
    I love wearing snazzy socks, tights, and legwarmers, and this website has the best selection for the best prices.
  • Tor
    I’m a scifi freak, and their theme months are great.  This month was Cthulu Christmas, for instance.  Also they host a bunch of amazing give-aways.

Coming up in Part Two, Boston places, web clips, and recipes!

2009 Reading Summary

December 29, 2009 14 comments

At some point (oh, about two or three weeks in), this blog that started out as a purely opinions blog (with a focus on libraries) turned into an about 50% book blog.  This really shouldn’t have surprised me.  I mean a librarian with a blog about opinions is going to *gasp* review books?  Say it ain’t so.

Being the reading freak that I am, I keep track of the books that I read over on LibraryThing.  I just finished a book, and I doubt I’ll finish another one in 2009, so without further ado, here are my reading stats for 2009.

Total Books Read: 52
Average Books Per Month: 4.33
Month Most Read: August with 10 (The only month I didn’t have school? Surprise, surprise).
Month Least Read: January with 1 (I was really sick).
Fiction: 47
Nonfiction: 5
Genres (some books counted as multiple genres):
–Scifi: 12
–Romance: 12 (This really surprised me!)
–Dystopian: 10
–Horror: 8
–YA: 8
–Classics: 5 (Pleasantly surprised by this).
–Historical: 4
–Memoir: 3
–Contemporary: 3
5 Star Reads:
–The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, review
–Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
–The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
Honorable Mention with 4.5 Stars:
–Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Read and Reviewed on This Blog: 27

I’m not the type to set goals for myself with reading, since I do it for fun.  However, I will try to work in a few more nonfiction books as I’m a big believer in life-long learning.  I do think this is a bit skewed since a lot of my nonfiction reading is in the form of current scholarly journals as opposed to books.  I also think a book a week is a good pace for reading to still be enjoyable, but also not a neglected hobby.  We’ll see if I naturally speed up or slow down next year.  If you guys have any suggestions as far as specific books or genres for me to try in 2010, I welcome them!

Book Review: All I Want For Christmas Is a Vampire By Kerrelyn Sparks (Series, #5)

December 29, 2009 4 comments

Summary:
Toni never meant to wind up working as a daytime security guard for vampires.  She meant to be spending her December focusing on finishing up her masters degree so she and her best friend Sabrina would be one step closer to their dream of running a high-quality orphanage.  But Sabrina was attacked and her claims that vampires orchestrated the attack has led to her uncle locking her up in a mental institution.  Toni is determined to prove to Sabrina’s uncle that vampires are real, so she has gone undercover guarding the good vampires seeking some definitive way to prove their existence.  Much as she wants to hate vampires, a certain Scottish highlander vamp named Ian has a way of making her feel very much alive.

Review:
Since I received this book as a present and there was no indication on the cover, I had no idea it’s the fifth book in the series until I was partway in and did a little bit of investigating.  So, I haven’t read any of the other books in the series.

Of course, I don’t particularly think I would want to.  The book starts out strongly.  Toni is a character who it is easy to identify with.  She’s a young adult with dreams and struggling with her self-esteem via a list of positive affirmations she says every morning.  She is fiercely loyal and intelligent.  Toni’s character does develop throughout the book, unfortunately not in a good way.  Instead of realizing her own strength, she now has a whole new set of people–vampires and shape-shifters–to feel inferior to.

The vampire world that Sparks creates is simply not appealing.  She sets up two groups of vampires–the good guys and the bad guys, or as the good vampires call them, the “Malcontents.”  The Malcontents enjoy making others feel fear and pain and want to kill off all of the good vampires.  The good vampires, no kidding, have their own priest and Mass.  Yeah, you read that right, the vampires are Catholic. WTF?!  That’s almost as bad as vampires that sparkle.

Additionally, the good vampires seem to have a thing for marrying mortals, and the leader of the good vampires has come up with a way to splice male vamps’ genetic material so that the mortal mother can give birth to a child who is half-vampire.  Naturally these children have super-human abilities, such as levitating, but they also seem to be able to miraculously heal the sick.  Reading these scenes gave me the same feeling as fingernails on chalkboard.

On the other hand, the romance portion of the plot is actually quite good.  Toni’s and Ian’s witty banter reads realistically, and their sex scenes are fun.

If you’re just after the romance element and won’t mind the world Sparks has created, you’ll enjoy the book.  All others should stick to Charlaine Harris and Nora Roberts.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift from a friend

Previous Books in Series:
How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire
Vamps and the City
Be Still My Vampire Heart
The Undead Next Door

Buy It

Why New Year’s Is My Favorite Holiday

December 28, 2009 3 comments

Christmas is finally over, which means it’s time for my favorite holiday: New Year’s!  All week on the blog I’ll be doing a few special New Year’s related posts, starting out with why it’s my favorite holiday.

People often ask me why, out of all the holidays, my favorite is one where you don’t even get presents.  Well, there are a lot of reasons.

It’s secular. Everyone can celebrate without any of that religion or country worry and mumbo jumbo.  Even people and cultures who follow the lunar cycle can still also acknowledge the change of the Gregorian calendar.

You’re supposed to drink. Any holiday that largely revolves around drinking cocktails and champagne gets my vote.

There’s no societal expected norm as to who you should spend it with. It’s perfectly acceptable spend it with friends as opposed to family, but you can still spend it with family if you want to.  Nobody is going around asking me why I’m not off in some other state visiting family, and also my friends don’t all simultaneously disappear for the weekend.

Reflection. It’s a regularly occurring time to reflect on yourself, your actions, your life and have a palaver with yourself and make sure your life and your behavior are what you want them to be, which leads to

Resolutions. I am all about being a self-made person.  I’m about deciding who I want to be and working to be that person instead of just laying back and playing with the hand I was dealt in life, aka nature and nurture.  I take initiative and choice and use it to kick nature and nurture’s butt.

Clean slate. The new year isn’t exactly a clean slate, but you can make it one if you want to or need to.  You can also just make a clean slate in certain areas of your life.  Maybe there’s a friend you need to come to terms with or a habit that’s bad for you that it’s time to get rid of.

New Year’s is great in that it asks you to celebrate and enjoy life, but it also asks you to take a good look at your life and make sure it’s what you want it to be.  New Year’s is the best of both worlds–celebration and accountability.

Friday Fun! (Merry Christmas!)

December 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Ayla playing in wrapping paper. You can just see her ear sticking out.

I know, I know.  I’m posting on Christmas!  The thing is, I have time, so I may as well, eh?

I really did have a lovely week.  I was home sick Monday, and I spent the day destressing and recentering myself.

Tuesday night I went out for dinner with my friend, her boyfriend, and my boyfriend.  My friend is moving to California on Sunday, so this was our goodbye dinner.  It was sad, but also lots of fun.  My friend chose the restaurant, so I had Peruvian food for the first time ever.  It wasn’t bad, but it was a bit bland for my taste.

On the 23rd, my sister-in-law went into labor and gave birth to my niece via a C-section.  Welcome to the world, Clara!  She’s just over 5 pounds, and I’m excited to get to meet her next month.

Yesterday I was the only librarian in my library, something I actually enjoy.  This may be a sign that I’m suited to small hospital libraries, hehe.

Today I’m actually just chilling at home.  I’ve already been to see my family, since we knew my sister-in-law was due right around Christmas, and we thought it’d be best to visit prior to the baby being born and after sometime in January.  Since everyone else is obviously with their families, as they should be, I’m enjoying a day of watching Lost, snuggling my kitty, baking cookies to mail to my librarian friends, and reading obviously!  Tomorrow one of my best friends is coming over to hang out for the day, which will be our last chance before she goes to Israel for two months.  I should go get some of that reading and baking done.  Merry Christmas to those who celebrate, and happy day off to those who don’t!

Book Review: Truly, Madly by Heather Webber (ARC, Feb 2010)

December 24, 2009 1 comment

Summary:
Boston socialite Lucy Valentine isn’t too keen on running the family’s matchmaking business while her mother and father take a necessary trip out of country to let a scandal settle down.  You see, she lost the family’s genetic ability to see auras that has led to their matchmaking success.  When she was a kid, she was hit by an electrical surge that removed her ability to see auras and replaced it with an ability to see lost objects when her palm touches the owner’s palm.  When a potential client shakes her hand, and she sees a dead body wearing his ring, she gets caught up in a bit more adventure than she ever thought her ability would lead her into.  It doesn’t hurt that she manages to enlist the aid of the hunky private investigator whose office shares the matchmaking business’s building.

Review:
I was excited to discover a book set in Boston that has nothing to do with the Irish mob or the Kennedy’s.  Unfortunately, I have this problem with reading about the modern wealthy.  I simply can’t identify, and it tends to irritate me unless the book is all about how they’re a serial killer or something.  Lucy is decidedly in with the Boston wealthy.  Her family owns a building on Newbury Street; they employ a driver; and she has a trust fund.  Of course she refuses the trust fund, but she’s still living in a cute, perfect cottage on her grandmother’s land in the South Shore.  She calls her grandmother by her first name, “Dovie,” and her mother “Mum.”  *shudders*  I cringed every time she said either.

On the plus side, once I manage to overlook the whole poor rich girl scenario, the plot is good.  It is full of twists and turns that have a slight supernatural bent without going full-tilt building an entirely populated other world of faeries, sprites, vampires, etc… that is seen in a lot of paranormal fiction.  Lucy’s attraction to Sean, the PI, is believable and progresses at a good rate.  The main mystery actually managed to surprise me with the ending, so that’s a major mark in its favor.

I also enjoyed the little life details Webber put into the story, Lucy’s cat’s activities, exactly what T lines are nearby where the action is happening, etc…  However, I did not like Lucy’s personality quirk of doing math problems in her head when she was nervous.  I don’t know what it is with romance writers lately having their characters do some annoying thing when they’re nervous, but to me it screams that Webber couldn’t figure out a better way to signal this emotion to the reader.

On the whole, it was a fun mystery plot with a dash of paranormal set in Boston  marred by the choice of making the main character part of the wealthy elite with an annoying, unnecessary personality quirk.  If you enjoy paranormal and wealthy characters, you will enjoy this book.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Received from publisher, St. Martin’s Paperbacks, through LibraryThing‘s Early Reviewers program

Projected Publication Date: February 2010

Buy It

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