March

Books:

  • Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan ~ I don’t know what I expected this book to be, but it blew anything I might have expected out of the water. Holy crap, this is a beautiful book. Seeing How to Survive a Plague first really informed my reading experience, and I recommend that you do this, too. Stunning.
  • Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick ~ This year’s Printz winner. I know that a lot of factors go into choosing the winner, but I can’t accept that any YA book last year could go against Eleanor and Park and emerge victorious under any circumstances.
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss ~ Reading this because Hank Green said to. It is taking me forever, but I like it a little more every day. I just need some actual women characters to show up and then I might love it.

Movies:

  • Dallas Buyer’s Club ~ Eh? Can’t muster strong feelings, weirdly. I feel very dissociated in general from this year’s Oscars experience.
  •  Veronica Mars ~ Had fun watching this with my brother but it fell a bit short for me. I think realizing that I am Team Piz was one of those moment when I felt like a true grown-up. But honestly.

Favorite things on Internet:

  • For several years during the 2000s, the website I read most faithfully was Television Without Pity. I still have my Mighty Big TV Buffy tote bag. I never commented or recapped, but I loved and I loved big, not just recaps by friends like Al’s Deadwood recaps and Anna Beth’s Everwood recaps but obviously everything Pam ever wrote there, Kim’s Felicity recaps, Deborah’s Joan of Arcadia recaps, Sarah’s Friday Night Lights recaps — I mean — these words truly enriched my thoughts and feelings about shows that truly enriched my life, right or wrong.  Half the time I needed Al to translate whole conversations on Deadwood. Anyway, I’ve been reading a lot of appreciative posts now that it’s shutting down, and I especially liked this one because of this:

I can, I suppose, understand why the wealthy overlords do not want to update TWoP anymore. But taking the archives offline is a weird spiritual crime against pop culture. The site is a shining example of how pop criticism changed in the 2000s, and closing it down erases part of TV and internet-culture history. The TWoP archives are more than just riffs about actors’ bad haircuts or exasperated rants about the inanity of Real World housemates — they’re a record of contemporary thought, a source of both entertainment and enlightenment.

  • Take the wonderful “April Is the Cruelest Month” episode of Sports Night recap by Daniel. I mean — this is just one example of what I wish could stay online forever. [UPDATE: The archives are staying up! Thank you Lord.]

Casey explains that he saw the video-store guy and got to thinking. “What?” asks Dan. “That I wouldn’t trade the last ten years working with you for anything. Not for anything, Danny, I swear to God.” And it was here, right here, right this very moment that I started to cry at this beautiful friendship, and I cried like I haven’t cried since Gretzky’s last game. And I wasn’t even drunk when I watched this show (for once) and the only other reason I could think of for getting so emotional was that perhaps I have some sort of Male Ovulation Disorder, but whatever the reason, I bawled my eyes out and it only got worse as they hugged (a real hug, not one of those fake-ass stereotypical TV-guy back-pat one-armed hugs) and Danny says, “Say ‘you’re doing good,’” and Casey says, “You’re doing good.” And they go in to the seder and Jeremy blesses the wine and the show ends, and in fact my eyes are welling up again as I write this recap so I have to end it here. I know I make fun of this show a lot, but in my personal Top Ten Things on Television, all ten are Sports Night.

  • Meanwhile, missing Enlightened never gets old. I will miss it forever.
  • Willa Paskin on Broad City and Billy on the Street. So good. Billy Eichner has been bringing joy to my life for many years, and Abbi and Ilana might have saved me in March. They are all I need right now.

Best Trip:

I ran away to Nashville on the first day of March to celebrate my birthday one day late and see my brother and friends who live there. It was a quick but satisfying trip … some of my favorite food, my brother & his brother playing a swell gig, a toddler, an infant, and quality visiting and good times. Aside from the snow, I loved it. (Snow: hate.) Nashville is a lovely, musical, magical place.

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Flying home …

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Best Food Eaten:

Brunch at Marche, Mitchell’s banh mi, and the chicken tortilla soup and sweet potato/quinoa tacks at Mas Tacos (all in Nashville) were all divine.

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Also, my red velvet chocolate chip birthday bunt cake was basically everything. My friends threw me a Mexican potluck birthday party, and I didn’t think I wanted or needed this, but apparently I did. I don’t know what I did to get the tribe of people I have in my life, but I am very dang fortunate.

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And of course the best food of spring is always this:

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Pets Still Alive:

 Both.

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Best Live Music:

I got to see my brother play both in Nashville and at home in March, and that is always my favorite live music.

Best Parade:

The St. Patrick’s Day parade day remains one of this town’s very best days, now and always. It starts with wonderful neighborhood breakfast parties and invariably leads to miles and miles of walking, finding old friends and new, music, and bliss. I love it for so many reasons, including seeing a couple on the railroad tracks in the distance and hoping they’re falling in love.

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And wearing a green wig and being silly with my rockstar baby brother. (P.S. I keep trying to shrink this photo but it keeps showing as extremely GIANT on my screen so apologies if it’s obnoxiously massive.)

 

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And wandering into a strangers’ backyards and finding scenes like this.

Health:

I feel good this month. I’ve gone from still really pretty bald to feeling like I have enough hair to go hatless at work and being like, whatever. I am used to the double-takes now and am just rolling with it. HONESTLY, WHO CARES. Yoga continues to stand between me and the mental asylum, and I love it so much even as I fall over and sometimes feel like I am going to break myself in half. I’ve also enjoyed trying to run again, even though I can only run for about 10 minutes at a time before I have to take a break, and by “run” I mean jog slowly. But sweating makes me feel very alive.

Best walks:

Oh, how I will miss the white pelicans when they go. I love our lakes in all the months but mostly in spring.

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I also enjoyed an afternoon spent walking around in the grey windy drizzle, making Anna Beth listen to Benjy’s “Here I Go” on my phone speaker along the way, a song about walking down the street in New Orleans, while we walked down the street in New Orleans, which might not sound very fun, but it was.

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Flowers, Plants, and Trees:

I bought an enormous fern. Enormous. It looks like Cousin It hanging down in the middle of the front of my house. I am in love with it.

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Everywhere you turn in March are blooms and life.

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Over and over this month I thought of the lines from Josh Ritter’s “A Certain Light” …

It’s been winter for a while
The north wind’s wail cut like a baby child’s
It was hard to think a smile
Could bring the springtime

But it did, and now it is.

 

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February

Books:

I tried to make my way through several of this year’s Newbery and Printz honor books this month, none of which I’ve liked as much as the Newbery winner,  Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo. (Currently in the middle of the Printz winner. Not sure how I feel about it yet. I’m kind of mad in advance at anything that could beat my beloved Eleanor and Park.) Anyway …

  • Paperboy by Vince Vawter ~ Cute.
  • The Doll Bones by Holly Black ~ I thought I would really love this, but I lost interest.
  • Hollow City by Ransom Riggs ~ The second book in the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series. Ransom Riggs is a really good writer. I still really like this series, and the found photos are GREAT, and I’m looking forward to the next one even though I got kind of lost before all was said and done.
  •  Maggot Moon ~ Good and scary in a real world kind of a way. I think if I read this book as a child that I would be terrified, much like I was when I first learned what a nuclear bomb was and would lie in the back of my mother’s 1978 Chevy Caprice station wagon while paralyzed in fear that one was going to fall on us at any moment.

Movies:

  • 20 Feet from Stardom ~ Very good Oscar-nominated documentary about back-up singers. So entertaining and kind of fascinating on a lot of levels.
  • Camp Takota ~ Cute. Of Hannah Hart, Grace Helbig, and Mamrie Hart, I knew the least about Mamrie going in and ended up liking her performance the best.

Favorite things on Internet:

  • I enjoyed the Reality Bites retrospectives like this oral history, power rankings then and now, and this ode to Vickie Miner. My roommates and I watched either this or A League of Their Own or VHS tapes of My So-Called Life reruns that aired on MTV every day the summer of ’95, when I lived and loved in beautiful Boulder, and I think I will be fond of it always because of the way it was always on that swell summer.
  • Titanic was not a great musical, but it has some beautiful music, including this duet between Brian d’Arcy James and Martin Moran that still makes my sister and me boo hoo to this day. OH, HOW I LOVE A BROADWAY REUNION.
  • Let It Go” — one diva, many divas. Amazing.
  • Bill Simmons & Lena Dunham – she is simply one of the most likable humans. I don’t understand how everyone does not know and accept this.
  • I just really love the way that Will Leitch writes about sports.

Best Trip:

I didn’t leave the state in February, but I did high tail it to New Orleans a few times, and I always love a sidewalk brass band and a crazy sunset on the drive home.

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Best Food Eaten:

As usual, the best food was eaten during various trips to New Orleans. Such as this sandwich and iced coffee at Cafe Pagoda.

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And this bread pudding at the Bon Ton.

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Pets Still Alive:

Both. This damn animal is sort of the bane of my existence but also a great love of my life. CATS.

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Best Live Music:

Shovels and Rope and Hurray for the Riff Raff put on a great, packed show. This was the latest I’d stayed out in months and months but it was totally worth it to hear some good music and reconnect with an old friend.

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Flowers, Plants, and Trees:

My neighbor’s Taiwan cherry tree takes my breath away every time I walk underneath it.

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My beloved tree that Herpreet gave me when Daisy died, thus known as the Daisy Tree, has gone from dead sticks to buds to blooms this month, and it is truly thrilling to me.

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Also, it smells like heaven.

Yoga

I went to the office every work day in February. Even though not full-time, this was by far the most I’ve worked since September, and when I wasn’t at work in February, I was at yoga. At the beginning of the month, I got good scan results and good bloodwork results and was told I don’t need to go back to the oncologist for three months which was obviously all good news but apparently cancer can make you kind of crazy because I didn’t feel happy or relieved about any of it. I felt sad and scared and numb and mad all at the same time. And I wasn’t sure what to do, so I decided to throw myself into yoga and went to more classes in the month of February than I have in any month in the history of my life, and it changed everything. Basically, it seems like yoga is standing between me and the dark side, and I feel better there than I do anywhere else lately. I am so grateful to these teachers who have changed my life in ways they will never know.

Birthday:

Please yell at me loudly if I ever express a negative sentiment about a birthday ever again. May we all have dozens more birthdays and the gift of growing a year older with with cupcakes and love galore.

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Best walks

I made my way outside as much as I could this month, and I just keep falling in love all over again with our lakes, again and again and again, forever and ever, amen.

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Best bracelet

One friend picked out the cuff, one friend picked out the lyrics, and another friend made it just for me. It makes me feel like one of the Wonder Twins or like Wonder Woman. The live oak branches etched on the outside make me happy and remind me of a poem that I’ve loved since ninth grade when I chose it for a project and that I love now more than ever.

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I Saw in Louisiana A Live-Oak Growing

I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,
Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous leaves of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself,
But I wonder’d how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone there without its friend near, for I knew I could not,
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it, and twined around it a little moss,
And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in my room,
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,)
Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love;
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana solitary in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near,
I know very well I could not.

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January

Books:

  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews ~ I can easily see that this book could have gone either way for me. I could have found its voice very annoying. BUT I DIDN’T. I loved it.
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater ~ I was so sad to finish this book because I have to wait until fall for book three. This series is so good. I am sitting here thinking about these characters like they’re real people in the real world.
  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black ~ I thought I would really like this, but I couldn’t get into it.
  • Ties That Bind: Stories of Love and Gratitude from the First Ten Years of StoryCorps by Dave Isay ~ Lovely gift from Herpreet. She told me it would make me cry a lot and she knows me very well.
  • Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo ~ I loved the only other books I’ve ever read by this author (Because of Winn Dixie and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane), so it’s no big surprise that I loved this one, too. It won the Newbery Medal this month, and it is clear why. It’s because it is wonderful. I felt like I could start it over as soon as I finished it and I would love it all over again.

Movies:

  • Drinking Buddies ~ So so. Honestly these characters all got on my nerves even though Olivia Wilde is clearly beautiful and a star. It sadly made me realize that Jake Johnson is ruined for me ever since Nick and Jess got together. This is a sad thing to realize.
  • The Guilt Trip ~ I’m not sure how I end up watching things like this instead of things I’ve never seen such as Sophie’s Choice but there you have it. And I thought it was kind of funny and sweet. This is a low point.
  • Stuck in Love ~ I watched this because of the Josh Boone / Nat Wolff factor — even though it was not my favorite book of all time, I’m excited enough about the film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars that I wanted to check out the director and the kid playing Isaac, who is — incredibly, to me — the son of Polly Draper, AKA Ellyn Warren on thirtysomething. This movie is not perfect, but it’s kind of good, and the performances are strong across the board. It also confirmed for me that Jennifer Connelly really is probably the most beautiful woman on earth.
  • Admission ~ More Nat Wolff! I thought this movie was kind of sweet and adorable.
  • Enough Said ~ Pretty much what I loved about this movie is whatever is written in any given moment all over the face of Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She just has the most amazing face and it tells a million stories at once.
  • Short Term 12 ~ The best movie I’ve seen in a while. I’ve loved John Gallagher, Jr. since Spring Awakening, and Brie Larson amazed. It is kind of a punch in the heart, but I loved it.
  • Broadway Idiot ~ I LOVE documentaries about the making of Broadway shows. Love. And this one did not disappoint. Bonus: More John Gallagher, Jr.
  • In a World ~ Funny and cute. I’m not sure how Michaela Watkins, HORRIBLE, WRETCHED Janice from Enlightened, ended up being one of my favorite actresses in anything she is in, but she is great in this, as well as Trophy Wife, which is an extremely funny show.

Music:

  • Benjy Davis is a local boy and like a brother to my brother, and he is also very adorable and talented, and I love his debut solo album, which came out this month, a lot.

TV:

  • American Masters: Marvin Hamlisch ~ This documentary on Marvin Hamlisch is one of the most well-done things I’ve ever seen on PBS, and that’s saying a lot. The part about how he met and proposed to his wife is beautiful. My other favorite part was A Chorus Line, obviously, and let me remind everyone about Every Little Step, a FANTASTIC documentary about that show. (If you watching nothing else, watch the segment on the Paul Monologue. It is tremendous.)
  • Sherlock ~ I am not a crazy Sherlock person. My favorite British shows will always and forever be Gavin and Stacey and Being Human and I doubt anything will ever surpass them. But it is enjoyable, and watching the third series in my pajamas this month made me very happy. Big thanks to my friend E.R. who made this possible. I’ve loved Martin Freeman since the Tim days, and I love him for the same I reason I love JLD – his face. It is everything. TALENTED PEOPLE ARE WONDERFUL AND MAKE ME HAPPY. Also, this.

Favorite things on Internet:

  • “Breathe” from In the Heights as performed by Robin de Jesus at 54 Below.
  • The best post on the best part of the Golden Globes by the best GIF maker.
  • I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I grew up with Pete Seeger because I didn’t, but posts like this and videos like this sure make me wish I had.

Best Trip:

My sweet doctor and friend told me on day 1 of this cancer nonsense that I needed to plan a trip for after chemo, and that seemed far off and impossible, but it’s not that impossible to just decide to go back to Seaside when you’re still very woozy on drugs after your final round. It was nice to utterly abandon reality with Anna Beth for the weekend, do yoga on the rooftop deck, play the piano and sing Whitney Houston songs, and wear sweaters to the beach and walk around and breathe the air where I first got my diagnosis in a very Bookends kind of way.

(P.S. I know it’s a classic song for the ages, but the first time I ever heard “Bookends” was on the episode of Party of Five when Julia married Griffin and the other kids gathered to give her their mom’s wedding ring and I cried my face off even though the fact that Julia got married was RIDICULOUS.)

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Best Food Eaten:

Beach food is some of my very favorite food.

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Pets Still Alive:

Both. Marley has been living under the covers with me, which is nice of her.

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Meanwhile, I made Zuko wear a sweater when I woke up one 20something morning and he was shivering in his crate. He hates winter, this sweater, and me.

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Best Live Music:

Josh Ritter is a smiley songwriting genius who put on a show with two guys who could play every stringed instrument like savant angels sent straight down from heaven, and I loved every minute of it. I’m so fascinated by how many of his songs are really nice and really mean at the same time. Linda’s post I linked to above spoke to something that’s very precious about certain shows to me, and this was one of them. Josh Ritter and his band led the audience in a singalong during the encore and it just stunned me all the way down to my toes, standing there with dear friends and letting that moment wash over me. Somehow it was so beautiful and un-cheesy and perfect.

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And Ani Difranco on a winter afternoon, sitting on a blanket in a park with a glass of cold wine in the cold sun, was just as swell as you might imagine.

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Also, I have loved Sutton Foster since the 2002 Tony Awards, which I’ve watched many times, along with this, but I’ve never seen her live until this month at NOCCA with Seth Rudetsky. She was beautiful, funny, and real, and I’ll always remember “Hey There,” “Being Alive,” and of course, “Gimme Gimme.” She is wonderful.  I’ve decided my two dream ladies for this swell series are Celia Keenan-Bolger and Laura Benanti.

Flowers, Plants, and Trees:

Winter camellias never disappoint.

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It got freakishly cold this month, and for a few nights scattered throughout January, everything turned to ice. It was weird and unfortunate, for we don’t cope with winter well and have no desire to experience it.

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And on the rooftop deck where we stayed at the beach, we were basically sitting in the treetops, which was peaceful and a joy. When I close my eyes and think of January, the month of the end of chemo and the beginning of the rest of my life, I hope I will always see this little piece of the sky.

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