Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Top Five Favorite Books :: Set in New York City

I recently finished a book called The Object of My Affection by Stephen McCauley, which was the inspiration of the 1998 movie of the same name, starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd (in his first big role after Clueless.) The movie was one of my favorites during my high school and college years, but I can’t really tell you why. It wasn’t a movie starring any teens, and it wasn’t written for teens, but my VHS copy was worn down with consistent use; in fact, that VHS has survived half a dozen moves and is still at my house today… and I watched it about six months ago.

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When I realized the movie was actually based on a book written a decade prior, I quickly ordered it without another thought. And while I enjoyed the book as much as the movie (although there are MAJOR plot differences), what really struck me as I read it was just how many novels I’ve finished that are set in New York City. Manhattan is by far one of my favorite places in the world, and while I have decided many times over that I don’t think I could actually live there permanently, I still get a crazy rush anytime I visit. I suppose reading books that are set in New York allows me to mentally pop in and out as I please.

So, without further ado, here are my top five favorite books set in New York City:

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5) The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
For the Downton Abbey-loving crowd, The Age of Innocence is a great read, although it's set almost 50 years prior. The story centers on a couple about to be married and the delicate unravelling of their relationship once the bride-to-be’s cousin shows up. If subtle satire is your thing, give this book a try. Despite the publish date, I sped through it. 

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4) The Ghost of Greenwich Village by Lorna Graham
I bought this paperback at Target a few years ago for very superficial reasons; I liked the cover and the story sounded mildly interesting. In a nutshell, the protagonist (Eve) moves to NYC to follow in the footsteps of her mother, who lived there during the 1960s. Her apartment is haunted by a ghost from the same era, but by no means is this a scary story. This book is not going to win any awards, but I love the way it weaves in and out of present and past. 

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3) An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
I know virtually nothing about the art world, but this book written by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) is a love letter to paintings wrapped up in the chronicle of a young woman named Lacey living in Manhattan in the 1990s and early 2000s. What’s most intriguing about the story is that it’s told in first person through the eyes of Lacey’s friend; he teeters back and forth between loving and hating her; and as the reader, I did the same.

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2) A Cup of Tea by Amy Ephron
This novel is based on a 1922 short story of the same name by Katherine Mansfield. You can likely read the book in two hours or less, and the term “literary irony” doesn’t do the tale justice. A love triangle set during World War I, A Cup of Tea explores how one small decision can change the course of a person’s life forever. 

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1)      The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman
Similar to An Object of Beauty, the lead character in this story is often unlikable. Nate is a writer who has just recently hit his professional stride and finds his love life gaining a boost in the process. Of all the books I’ve listed, this is the only one that takes place solely in present day, and I found Nate and his girlfriend, Hannah, to be written so unbelievably accurate as urban 20-somethings. If I was going to create a time capsule of this decade, I would add this book as a reflection of what dating is often like for young adults.

Any other New York City-based fiction I should check out?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Adventures in HEB Shopping

Last week, Andy left town to run his 55th marathon in Florida. (Why yes, he IS crazy.) When he’s away, I like to take the opportunity to eat a ton of junk food, stay up way too late, and watch bad movies. In other words, I pretend I’m 12 again.

So, in preparation for the weekend alone with the kiddo, I hit up HEB on my way home and had quite a good time in just 10 minutes. Allow me to document the events:

5:28 p.m. – Arrive at HEB, and make a beeline to the frozen foods section, where 99 percent of my bad decisions take place.

5:29 p.m. – Grab a cheese pizza, which was on sale – proof that I am responsible. Shuffle over to the ice cream section on the same aisle (good thinking, HEB!) and grab some salted caramel Greek frozen yogurt, which still baffles me as a concept. Shouldn’t Greek frozen yogurt stick to the core flavors at the risk of ruining the taste of the really yummy ones?

5:31 p.m. – Power-walk to the back of the store (getting my cardio in for the day!) where I grab a FAMILY SIZE container of macaroni and cheese WHICH I WILL EAT ALL BY MYSELF (#goals).

5:32 p.m. – Add some fancy cheese to my basket because I am fancy girl and a bottle of Malbec because I am also cultured. (Again, nice product placement, HEB. Everything is located in a very logical place around here.)

5:34 p.m. – Head to the cereal aisle to get my favorite cereal of all time, Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch, where the following conversation takes place:

Man: Geez, are there enough sugary cereal options or what!?
Me: Oh, I know! It’s so overwhelming!
Man: In my day, we stuck to the basics and there weren’t so many terrible options! But my kids love all this gross stuff! [grabs a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch]
Me: Yeah… Ha, mine too… [grab my box of Peanut Butter Crunch]

5:36 p.m. Run out of the aisle quickly, shamefaced, and vowing to never ever let Walter eat like me. I make my way to the medicine aisle to grab Claritin – and by Claritin, I mean the generic HEB kind (because not only do I care about my budget, I CARE DEEPLY ABOUT MY HEALTH).

5:38 p.m. – Realizing I forgot a bag*, I attempt to carry all my goods out of the store using just my hands. I assume I look like a very greedy – but very slow – thief.

In closing, I’d like to wonder aloud why I’m not losing as much weight as I should be on my Weight Watchers plan?

*Stores no longer supply plastic grocery bags within Austin city limits.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Happy New Year!

Hello, 2016! It’s time for my annual new year’s resolution post, which makes up approximately 25 percent of my total blog content each year. I’m so proud.

Last year, I talked about making progress in a few different aspects of my life, and as I reflect back on 2015, I’m comfortable saying I was mildly successful. While there were some areas that I feel lacked major attention (hello, dieting and exercising!), I think focusing on progress allowed me to ease up on the extremity I normally place on myself when it comes to goals. Typically, I follow a “go big or go home” ideology. My goals typically look like, “Wake up every day at 5:00 a.m. for an hour-long intense meditation!” instead of “Develop a morning routine that feels good and encourages productivity.” My focus on progress allowed me to be kinder to myself about the approaches I took toward self-enhancement.

In a similar vein, this year, I’m focusing on balance. The internal, emotional, psychological kind. (Anyone who has seen me exit a car, carry more than two bags of groceries, or walk across a room knows I don’t possess physical balance whatsoever.) I’d like to live this year with a mindful -– yet guilt-free –- approach to my home life, personal life, work life, and health life, embracing the opportunities I get in the moment to improve each one.

Cheers to the new year! And now, for no good reason, here’s a few photos from the holiday season!

[After Walter's holiday show at daycare.
No, he didn't just stuff 100 Christmas cookies in his mouth. That's just natural chub. Jealous?]

[The dudes on Christmas Eve.]

[I found Papa Elf!]

[A rare shot of all three of us.]