Looking Forward to a Happy New Year

Let's feed my list addiction. Here's what I'm excited about in 2009:


Forever Princess, the tenth and final book in Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries series, will be released this Tuesday, in addition to a special bonus novel, Ransom My Heart.


I'm a HUGE Meg Cabot fan. HUUUUUGE. Seven years ago, I discovered The Princess Diaries, and it's been all young adult for me ever since. Basically, Meg is the reason why I read what I read, and I write what I write.

And as you know, I'm pretty much all about the reading and the writing. It's kind of what I do.

The series has had its ups and downs, but the last two entries have been her strongest, and the newest promises to be a stellar ending. How can it not be at FOUR HUNDRED pages? That's nearly twice as long as the others! My mind spins at all the wondrous Michael Moscovitz goodness headed my way.

Because OF COURSE Mia is going to end up with Michael.


Ransom My Heart is a romance novel (written by Mia, during her senior year) being released the same day. It was printed on recycled paper and all of the proceeds go to -- where else?! -- Mia's favorite charity, Greenpeace.


JD + Turk = Guy Love

HIP HIP HUZZAH! Thank you ABC for saving my favorite television show! How often does that happen? Um, practically never. But ABC acknowledged the perfection that is Chocolate Bear and Vanilla Bear (and their lovable stuffed dog, Rowdy). Not to mention Dr. Cox's rants, Eliot's freak-outs, Ted's barber shop quartet, Dr. Kelso's addiction to muffins, Janitor's aversion to pennies, and the most rocking soundtrack on television.

Fingers crossed the new network treats Scrubs with the respect it deserves. It starts next Tuesday the sixth. Which is the same day Meg Cabot's books come out.

Clearly there is something magical about January 6th.

I suggest you buy a lottery ticket.


I can't wait for two films, both of which were supposed to have been released THIS year. Sucky studios.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (obviously)

And Rudo y Cursi.

Rudo y Cursi was directed by Carlos Cuarón, brother of Alfonso (loooove Alfonso), and co-writer of Alfonso's film Y tu mamá también (one of my top ten favorite movies EVER). Which starred Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, who are also the stars of Rudo y Cursi.

See why I'm excited? This movie will be GOLDEN. Upon exiting the theater, I will probably be crying rainbow tears of joy and dancing the Roger Rabbit.

Because it's either the Roger Rabbit, the Running Man, or the Davy Jones. I don't know any others, sorry.


And finally . . . I'm thrilled about the arrival of my first niece or nephew.

Our first picture.

I will totally be the cool aunt who rents them R-rated movies, drives them to get their first tattoo, and rots their teeth with extra sugar-infused bubblegum.

The mystery baby (BOY OR GIRL? Only the ultrasound technician knows!) is due mid-January, and currently goes by the name Jack Jack.

(Jack Jack)

Since my sister's uterus was exposed to thermonuclear radiation during a Martian mission gone awry, we are expecting Great Things from Jack Jack, such as the ability to fly, voluntary invisibility, or -- at the very least -- earlobes large enough to break a Guinness world record.

What are you looking forward to this year?

Coming soon:

Two more lists! HA! My best books and best films of 2008 (see 2007's book list here and 2006's here). The book list will be hard -- I read many incredible novels, how to choose?? -- as will the film list, but for totally different reasons.

Cinema kind of sucked this year.

Don't get me wrong. I saw plenty of GOOD movies, just not many GREAT ones. Whereas last year, I couldn't even narrow my list to ten. And I had to blog it in three parts! (One, two, three.)

And though the order has changed (Once and Sweeney Todd would be higher up, and Across the Universe would be first), I stand by them all. In fact, I like them so much I own ten of the thirteen! How many films would I buy from this year? Answer: Not many.

So stay tuned, put on your party hat, and drive safely. See you in 2009.


Fun with Lights + My Tree Gets Nerd-eh

Blogland has slowed down this month for the holidays, and my humble abode is no exception. This week, I've been busy with the usual Christmas trappings -- wrapping gifts, cookie baking, and singing along (loudly) to corny music on radio stations that normally I wouldn't be caught DEAD listening to.

You know what stations I'm talking about. Admit it, your car dial is totally tuned to them too.

So Jarrod and I waited until it was raining before picking up our tree -- because we are idiots -- but had a lovely time putting it up.

After the tree dried off, of course.

Many of my friends scratch their heads when they hear I buy a REAL LIVE tree. I have a wee reputation as a hippie . . . minus the Grateful Dead t-shirts and sandalwood incense. (Incense makes me sneeze, and I have a 87% allergy rate to jam bands.)

And for a few years, I felt guilty for this yearly arbor-icide. But THE SMELL, people! I require real-tree smell for survival. Every Christmas I spend hours underneath its skirt, refilling my sniffer tankard to "full" with its glorious piney scent, so that by the time Fourth of July rolls around and I'm sick sick sick of the humidity and barbecues and American flags, I can tap into my reserves and remember better things are coming.

Or something like that.

Anyway, I felt guilty until a very helpful issue of Vegetarian Times pointed out that at least while they're being farmed, Christmas trees provide a valuable service to our environment -- purifying the air and all that good stuff -- and once they die, they decompose quickly. Meanwhile, our landfills are up to the wazoo in fake trees, which are not exactly compost-friendly.

So if you feel guilty for your real-tree love, I hereby give you permission to sigh in relief. A real green tree IS the real green solution.

Anywho. After we put up our tree, we had fun playing with the lights:

Are those neat-o? Totally easy (and addictive) too. All you have to do is set a low shutter speed on your camera and wiggle it around while it takes the pictures, like the classic Picasso pen light trick. Whee!!!

So like a lot of couples, we celebrate every Christmas with a new ornament. This year, we picked up this handmade, knitted one on eBay. Check it out:



I love being a nerd. It's so much easier (and more fun) than being cool.

Jayne, modeling my ornament.

Speaking of ornaments, this daytime picture might help you spot something peculiar about our tree:

What's that, you say? We only have (non-breakable, plastic) ornaments on the top third of our tree? Noooo! How did that happen? And where are the pretty vintage glass balls???


I am not sure if I've mentioned this before, but there is this THING living in my house now. This THING that finds little dangly doodads irresistible.

It's called a cat.

And because I am annoyed with him right now -- for the ornament situation, for which I am told Mr. Tumnus might grow out of. Maybe. -- I am posting an embarrassing picture of him, in hopes that the calico next door he's been crushing on reads this blog and never meows at him again.

HA! Take that Mr. T.

(The dogs never give me half this much trouble.)

And look! Cookie proof!

So far we've made these gingerbread men (half with Red Hot buttons for me, half without for Jarrod who is WEIRD and doesn't like them even though they are CANDY and CANDY IS DELICIOUS), lemon bars, and these yummy pink peppermint meltaways, one of Laini's finds.

Next up: Chex Mix (you knows you loves it) and something chocolaty and peanut buttery. Jarrod lives for chocolate and peanut butter like I live for real-tree smell. In fact, he loves it so much I'm convinced he'd smoke Reese's in a crack pipe if, you know, we had one.

Which we don't.

Though sometimes I wonder if the cat does.

Happy Chanukah & Winter Solstice, everyone! And if I don't get back here in the next few days -- Merry Christmas too!


White Grapefruit & Charlie Kaufman

It's only Saturday, and I've already scored twice this weekend.

Not that kind of scoring. Or that other kind. Or, like, soccer goals or anything.

No! My friends just got back in town and look what they brought me! I mean . . . us. Me and Jarrod. Yeah. Us.

White Grapefruit!

You must understand, white grapefruit is like the HOLY GRAIL of fruit for me. It's more sour than the pink variety and difficult to find in stores. In fact, I've only found ONE PLACE in Asheville that carries it (Greenlife). So every winter I get, like, two grapefruit. And then they're gone.

And then I'm stuck with the pink variety which is totally snooze. I mean, it doesn't even make my mouth pucker or anything fun like that.

My parents have a white grapefruit tree in their yard, and every December, we'd have buckets of grapefruit and gallons of juice. And it wasn't until I moved away from the desert that I realized how much I took it for granted. Because you really can't get great citrus in the rest of this country.

I don't care how close I live to Florida. It's not the same.

(And don't even get me started on the OJ situation. My parents also have an orange tree, so I was a ridiculously spoiled child.)

Anyway, my friends Tai and Staci brought these as a gift today -- and they didn't even know how much I love them! And they're organic, and they're from someone's yard, and not a big nasty pesticide-y farm, and I am so so SO in heaven.

White grapefruit.


Tai and Staci, by the way, were in Miami last week because Tai was in ART freaking BASEL! If you aren't familiar with the art world, Art Basel is only one of the most prestigious shows in the WORLD.

I've bragged here before about having a lot of talented friends. See? I wasn't joking! In fact, I have a constant reminder of how talented this particular friend is in my living room:

Um, yeah I have life-sized bust of Elvis on my piano. What's it to you?

That's the painting he did for Jarrod's band, Lewis, last year. (And, yes, that's Jarrod on the left in it!) Isn't it amazing? It's HUGE and BEAUTIFUL and I feel so lucky every time I see it. Because seriously. Tai is way, way talented.

Like look at this gorgeous carousel painting:

The Internet doesn't do it justice. It's pink and gold and ENORMOUS and the detail is so incredible you lose yourself for days. I see something new every time I look at it. Check out more of his work here.

Whoops. That was supposed to be just about the grapefruit. I kinda got sidetracked.

So my other big weekend score?

Charlie Kaufman's new film, Synecdoche, New York!

Charlie is my favorite screenwriter. Ever. Period. I sort of piddle myself just THINKING about Being John Malkovich (Academy Award screenplay nomination) or Adaptation (another nomination) or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (finally the win!).

So when his latest -- and his directorial debut -- arrived in town? Oh yeah. You know I was there opening night.

If you haven't heard of it, Synecdoche -- which is a Very Cool Literary Term that means a figure of speech where the part is a stand-in for the whole (ex: "all hands on deck") -- is a crazy funny sad insane film about a theater director who receives the MacArthur grant and devotes the rest of his life to making a play.

But not just any play.

A play that involves models of New York built inside models of New York, giant warehouses inside warehouses inside warehouses, and THOUSANDS of actors.

Including actors playing the theater director and everyone in his life.

And pretty soon the lines between fiction and reality -- which were fuzzy to begin with, due to the director's mysterious illness -- are blurring and tangling and spiraling epically out of control.

So does the film actually work, you ask?

Well. Yes. Sort of.

The reviews are mixed, with most critics finding it smack dab between absolute brilliance and absolute rubbish. And I'd agree with them, but I'd say it hits brilliance with far more frequency than rubbish. And, like all of Kaufman's scripts, it tells a LOT about its author and his writing process.

Which is, naturally, fascinating to me.

Plus the cast is stellar -- Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton, Emily Watson -- so if you have any interest (and if you have a dark sense of humor), definitely check it out.

And because I'm feeling major Charlie-worship right now, here's a great interview with him from The Colbert Report earlier this week:

Hope you're all having a lovely weekend and baking cookies.

(I've spied a lot of cookie-baking in blogland lately. I have catching up to do.)


Shop Happy: Siriusly Smiling + Bead for Life

Two recommendations, while you're in the midst of holiday shopping...

Numero Uno:

Do you like music? Do you like Harry Potter? Do you like helping children?

Of course you do.

Which is perfect, because my wonderful, thoughtful, kind husband has spent the last few months putting together something that I am VERY excited about -- Siriusly Smiling, a compilation to raise money for the National Foundation for Facial Reconstruction.

To paraphrase their mission statement: The NFFR helps children with facial disfigurements by supporting treatment, research, psychosocial support and medical training. They founded the Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery, which diagnoses and provides medical treatment and psychosocial services for over 1,700 patients every year, regardless of the severity of their condition, the length of treatment or the family's ability to afford care (72% of the patients seen at the Institute are uninsured, Medicaid recipients or clinic care patients).

Pretty incredible, right?

And what would you get? Well. I'm glad you asked.

For $9.99 on iTunes, you get NINETEEN NEW SONGS (!!!) by the funniest, smartest, cleverest, most talented wizard rock bands out there -- bands like Harry and the Potters, Draco and the Malfoys, The Remus Lupins, and The Whomping Willows. (For my wizard rock primer, read this.)

So if you have a Potter fan in your life -- no doubt depressed by the delayed release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (as I am) -- cheer them up by downloading Siriusly Smiling! They'll LOVE it, and you'll feel good about where your money is going.

Plus, it's funny.

Really really funny.

Funny like this is funny. But with slightly less blood.

I mean, how can you NOT love a song called "Werewolves > Zombies"? Or "Creepy Mustache," a rap about Lupin's John Waters-esque facial hair? And Oliver Boyd & the Remembrall's "Give It Up" is just. plain. good. You'll happily hum this for the rest of December.

Plus you MUST hear my husband -- Gred and Forge -- take a very naughty joke waaaaay too far in "Brotherly Love" ("I saw them there by the light of the moon/Bill was riding something but it wasn't his broom").

I'm so proud of Jarrod for creating and organizing this charity album, and we're both thankful for all of the amazing musicians who contributed.

So. Siriusly Smiling! On iTunes! YAY!

(And how great is that cover art, by the way? Made by the fab Frak Franco.)

***On a related note, Jingle Spells 2 -- a wizard rock holiday compilation raising money for Book Aid International and the HP Alliance -- is on sale now too. Last year they raised more than thirty-five THOUSAND dollars for literacy!

Numero Dos:

See these beautiful women? Do you want to know why they're so joyful?

They're the ladies of Bead for Life, a group that's working to (and I quote their website): "[eradicate] extreme poverty by creating bridges of understanding between impoverished Africans and concerned world citizens. Ugandan women turn colorful recycled paper into beautiful beads, and people who care open their hearts, homes and communities to buy and sell the beads.

The beads thus become income, food, medicine, school fees -- and hope. All profits from Bead for Life are invested in community development projects that generate income and help people work their way out of poverty."

Pretty amazing, no?

I went to a Bead for Life party (think Tupperware, but a billion times cooler) this week and was blown away by the gorgeous jewelry. Look at these colors!

I bought sooooo many gifts for my friends, family, and myself.

(I, um, bought a LOT for myself.)

But unlike shopping at the mall, there's no guilt. Because look who you're supporting!

The jewelry -- and there is SO MUCH TO CHOOSE from -- is very affordable and available online here, along with more beautiful photography and music and videos.

Happy shopping, everyone!


Two Happy Happys and a Guessing Game

As my favorite Asheville graffiti exclaims -- YES!

I did it! I won another NaNoWriMo.

The challenges were different this year. I had confidence that I would win -- but that made it easier for me to procrastinate. And even though I KNEW I was embarking upon a month of terrible writing, it was heartbreaking to witness it in action. Last year I was just so surprised at the volume being written, that I didn't care it was horrible! So this time, when volume was a given, the weak language hurt.


I did it. And I'm proud of myself.

My Totally Brilliant Novel (as it has been "saved as") has a beginning, a middle, and an end -- though not necessarily in that order. It has peculiar characters that change repeatedly throughout the text, but I liked by the conclusion. I still don't UNDERSTAND them. But I like them. And I want to know them better.

There is still no plot, but there is HOPE for a plot.

And there are shiny silver threads tucked here and there, waiting to be plucked out this January and held up to the light and stitched together to create a new story.

A better story.

So that's what I've been up to. As you can see from my Handy-Dandy NaNo Word Counter (oh how I love thee, Handy-Dandy NaNo Word Counter!), the majority of my writing took place recently. Very recently.

Which is okay.

Not -- cough cough -- something I recommend doing again next year, but I met the goal, and that's what matters.

Because at this stage in my life, I'm the only person holding myself accountable. There's no agent, editor, or publisher setting deadlines. There is no contract. There is nothing but me and my laptop and a few nighttime hours to get this thing done.

The way I see it, the ONLY option I have is to finish. Graciously accept the deadline and run after it. Tackle it by its ugly, curly horns and wrestle it to the ground and DEMAND IT CALL ME PRINCESS.

'Cause, you know, I've always wanted to be a princess.

Anyway. I did it! Yay for me!

In other good news -- good news that comes without the bittersweet twinge -- I met someone AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING last Saturday. That's right. Someone worthy of three amazings.

In honor of this miraculous feat, I'll give you three guesses:

1. Jim Sturgess?

I WISH! But no. If I had met Jim, you totally would have heard about it by now. I would've written it in the sky or spray painted it onto your car door or, at least, sent you a crazed text:


Guess again.

2. Jim Henson?

So, what, you're just going with people named "Jim"? Yes, this would have also been amazing amazing amazing, especially because HE IS DEAD. Honestly, people. Stop wasting guesses.

3. Kermit the Frog?

Okay. Now you're just being rude.

No. I met . . . JOHN GREEN!!!

John Green as in John Green. As in the guy who makes me want to give up writing because he is SO TALENTED that I bawl like a two-month old with diaper rash just to think about it.

He came to my favorite bookstore in the entire world -- Malaprop's -- and he was very very nice and I tried not to talk too much, because every time I meet someone I admire I start babbling crap and embarrass myself.

So I just stood there with a dazed grin on my face and tried not to lick his elbows.

Because, you know, that's where your creativity is stored. In your elbows. And if anyone licks your elbows, they can TOTALLY steal it.

It's true, I plomise.

John Green, carefully hiding his elbow behind my back

So JOHN GREEN signed his complete works for me, and now I am a very happy Stephanie.

Plus he gave everyone sprinkled cookies. How can you dislike someone who gives you sprinkles?? It is cosmically impossible to dislike sprinkles. Because even if you don't like how they taste, you have to admit the rainbow-colored sugar bits are lovely to look at.

But they DO taste good.

Just so you know.