Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Resolutions We Wish People Would Make

Instead of making New Year's resolutions for ourselves this year, how about we create a list of New Year's resolutions we wish other people would make -- and keep?

I will start off the list, but feel free to add to it via a Comment.

(Note: You do not have to have a Blogger or Gmail account or a blog to leave a comment. You can check Anonymous or just leave a Name, no URL necessary.)

Herewith, 14 New Year's Resolutions We Wish Other People Would Make -- and Keep -- for 2014 (listed in no particular order):

I resolve not to talk so loudly into my mobile phone that the guy three seats away can hear me.

I resolve to not chat on my mobile phone during movies, shows, weddings, funerals, while on the toilet, or during gynecological appointments.

I resolve not to chat on my mobile phone handset or text my friends while driving and to pay attention to the road and the drivers around me.

I resolve to play my car radio or music at a volume you can't hear three cars or even one car away.

I resolve to use my turn signal -- before making a turn.

I resolve to not drive like an a-hole and nearly run you off the road for driving at (or slightly above) the speed limit.

I resolve not to be such an a-hole (in general).

I resolve not to constantly name-check.

I resolve not to constantly brag about my kids or assume you will agree that they are the cutest/smartest/most [insert adjective here] by constantly posting sh*t about them on Facebook.

I resolve to return emails and phone calls within 24 hours.

I resolve that I will not wait until I am 15 minutes late to call or text you that I am running late.

I resolve to fact check all political statements or promises before assuming they are facts and/or mass emailing them.

I resolve not to forward spammy chain or "good luck" emails to my friends and family members.

I resolve not to make promises, commitments, or resolutions I can't keep.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2014!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Remember when pajamas were for sleeping?

When I was growing up, I had a male cousin who, instead of sleeping in pajamas, insisted on sleeping in his clothes. It would save him time in the morning, he told his mother.

How times have changed. Now, instead of sleeping in their clothes, people wear pajamas during the day. (No word about this trend from my cousin who, last time I saw him, was nicely dressed in an Oxford shirt and trousers. Though I wouldn't put it past him to wear a onesie to a client meeting.)

I'm not exactly sure when the pajama-as-day-wear trend began, but I'm guessing it was shortly after stores like Old Navy (and its chicer retail cousins) began selling mix-and-match pajama bottoms and tops that looked and felt more like lounge wear or apres-ski wear than sleep wear -- that also, btw, looked fabulous with a pair of UGGs. Not.

At first the pajama-wear trend was confined to teenage girls in private schools and on college campuses and weary mothers in SUVs dropping their kids off at school. But now it seems pajamas as daytime fashion has gone mainstream. (I hesitate to call pajamas in public a fashion or fashion statement as I'm not sure what that statement would be: "Look at me! I'm lazy!" or "I couldn't bother to get dressed this morning"?)

Personally, I am okay with people wearing pajamas outside the bedroom -- within limits. You want to wear them around the house or to drive your kid to school in PJs? Super. I think it's also perfectly fine for early morning and late evening dog walkers to do the deed in their pajamas, albeit preferably with something over them (and under them, in the case of males).

However, I draw the line at strolling around in public in onesies, footie pajamas, and, pajamas that clearly look like, um, pajamas.

I especially draw the line at entire families gallivanting around in matching Christmas jammies.

[Dude, seriously, put on some underwear.]

But maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy.

Where do you think pajamas belong? In the bedroom? Anywhere inside? Wherever? Let me know via a Comment.

[For more on the "pajamas in public" topic, check out this New York Post article my friend CK sent me.]

Thursday, December 19, 2013

You can't spell Christmas without C-a-t

Christmas is almost here, people! And nothing makes one merrier than a bunch of adorable cat and kitten videos. Indeed, there should be a holiday just for celebrating cats. You could call it Catmas! (Or not.) Anyway, consider this post my Christmas present to all of you fellow cat lovers.

First up, "How to Transport Your Cat," which has got cute in the bag.

Next vet visit, forget about the cat carrier. Just get out a plastic shopping bag!

[H/T to Cuteoverload.com]

That cat video not ringing your bells? Perhaps you're in the mood for something a bit more festive. Well then, how about a chorus line of adorable kittens bobbing their heads to the tune of "Jingle Bells"?

Or perhaps you'd prefer something slightly more menacing, slightly more mature, slightly more... Maru.Well, you are in luck, my friends. Live from Japan, just in time for Christmas, the latest Maru the cat video, featuring Maru and kitten Hana.

All together now: Aaaaw.

[That video totally reminds me of Garfield and Nermal. Though no way would Garfield ever share his bed with or groom Nermal.]

And no Christmas cat post would be complete without a video of Simon's Cat.

[While there are newer Simon's Cat Christmas videos, this one, titled "Santa Claws," is still my favorite.]

Wishing you all a meowy Catmas!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Year without a Chrismukkah

As some of you may know, Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights (aka Christmas for Jews), begins on the twenty-fifth day of the Jewish month of Kislev (which is not Hebrew for December, though it typically coincides with December).

As the Hebrew calendar is based on lunar cycles, this means that Hanukkah -- also known as Chanukah -- can fall anytime between November 28th and December 26th. And this year, for the first time in many moons, Hanukkah fell on Thanksgiving, giving us Thanksgivukkah -- or eight days of turkey and latkes.

That also meant, a year without a Chrismukkah.

A year without a Chrismukkah? Why, that's like a year without a Santa Claus, but without the cool songs.

[I never get tired of watching the Snow Miser/Heat Miser songs -- or an excuse to feature them on the blog. Thank you Rankin/Bass and ABC Family.]

While many Christians are happy not to have to share Christmas* (even though Christ was actually born in June and what we now call Christmas is actually the Roman pagan holiday of Saturnalia, which Christian leaders co-opted in the 4th Century CE or AD), this has posed a dilemma for interfaith families and New York Jews for whom Chrismukkah is a tradition. (I still have fond memories of singing the Messiah with my other Manhattan private girls school Jewish friends.)

For example, do you still put the Hanukkah topper on the Christmas tree?

[Yes, Virginia, there is a Hanukkah tree topper. (You're welcome, Morri.)]

And can you still sing "The Hanukkah Song" at Christmastime, even if Hanukkah ended nearly three weeks before?

So many questions.

Fortunately, order, and Chrismukkah, will be somewhat restored next year, in 2014, when Hanukkah begins on December 16th and ends on Christmas Eve (aka December 24th).

Until then, have yourselves a merry little Christmas, or Kwanzaa, or whatever.

*Or as Dave S. calls it, the Holiday for Everyone [unless you are Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu, or an atheist]

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The gift of Michael Bolton?

Is it just me or is Michael Bolton in every fourth (or third) television ad right now? (And I don't even watch that much TV!)

First there was the Optimum campaign...

[Do not worry, Michael Bolton. I have no intention of calling you.]

Then the Starburst fruit chews Orchard ad...

[Boltonizing? Now he's a verb? Also, "His voice is so smooth it creates the juiciest flavors in the world"? Ew.]

And now Michael Boston is pimping for Honda, too?!

[The snow isn't the only thing about to blow, Michael.]

It's like the 12 days of Bolton.

[How am I supposed to live without you, Michael, if you won't go away?]

All I can say is Michael Bolton owes a major debt to Lonely Island and Andy Samberg.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter storms should have cooler names

It is hard to take a winter storm named Cleon or Dion -- or Nemo -- seriously. It is not that I do not take winter storms seriously. I do. I just find it hard to take seriously some of the names the Weather Channel assigns these winter storms.

(I actually blame the Latin class at Bozeman High School in Bozeman, Montana. Zephyr, guys? Really? Do you even know what zephyr means? For those too lazy to look it up, it means "soft, gentle breeze." Sheesh. Also, what is with all the rhyming names this year? Cleon, Dion, Leon... Ion, Orion... Janus, Maximus, Quintus....)

Look, I get it's easier to talk about a particular storm if you give it a name, like we do hurricanes. But Weather Channel (and you know we love you), you can do better than this:

Personally, I think every storm should be called Khan (last year's K storm, which wasn't much of a storm), or something appropriately wrathful, or violent, or unpredictable.

I know, how about naming winter storms after football players, or wrestlers, or tantrum-throwing celebrities? (Snow storm Alec or Lindsay anyone?)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Hot guys & cool cats

Finally, someone has figured out a way to successfully combine two of the Internet's hottest memes, photos of sexy guys and pictures of adorable kittens (and cats).

And if that was not enough, it's French. Oo la la!

Presenting le blog le plus virale du moment, Des Hommes et des Chatons.

To see more hot guy, cool cat mashups, click on the Des Hommes et des Chatons link above.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My 13 Favorite Books of 2013

Every year, I read so many great books, it's often hard to pick my 10, or 12, or even 13 favorites. But I have once again managed to narrow it down.

Following are my favorite reads of 2013 -- books I particularly enjoyed either for their wit, their writing, and/or their ability to amuse and/or enlighten me -- listed alphabetically by author. I have mentioned some of these in previous Book Nook posts. Several others I have not yet blogged about. As per usual, there is something for everyone.


The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank. I loved this book, and I am totally not into the whole Southern ya-ya sisterhood type of novel. But Benton Frank had me cheering for the heroine, Leslie "Les" Carter, the put-upon (by her husband and adult children, who take Les for granted), about-to-be 60 "last original wife" among her close-knit group of couple friends -- and had me chuckling to myself repeatedly. She also made me want to move to Charleston.

While guys will probably consider The Last Original Wife menopausal chick lit, that's selling the book short. To me the book is a heartwarming (dang, I used heartwarming!) yet humorous tale about self discovery, taking charge of your life, and going after what you want -- something apparently you're never too old to do. Highly recommend.

The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence. I loved this book. Which is saying a lot because, as the spouse would say, "it doesn't seem like a Jennifer read." What can I say? I guess I'm not that predictable after all. So why did I love this book, which is about a teenage boy, a loner who is the only child of a single mother who runs an occult bookshop, who at 10 years old was struck down in his bathroom by a meteorite (the boy, not the mother), develops epilepsy, and winds up befriending his much older, pot-smoking, Kurt Vonnegut-loving neighbor? I'm not sure. Must have been the writing. Though I found the characters and their relationships with one another endearing. Just read it.

The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood. Beautifully written -- a sensuous, sensual read about the power of taste and smell and the desire they can inspire. (The author mentions in his acknowledgements that he had originally planned to call the book Taste, which I think would have been a better title.) The book takes place in late 18th Century France and is the tale of one French aristocrat's quest to taste everything -- food, as well as women -- the world has to offer. A must read for food lovers as well as lovers of historical fiction , particularly works set in France.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. I loved this book. It is charming and funny and sly, all of the qualities I appreciate in a book -- and it is an original. As for how to describe the book, Amazon does a pretty good job in its one-sentence summary: "A reluctant centenarian much like Forrest Gump (if Gump were a [Swedish] explosives expert with a fondness for vodka) decides it’s not too late to start over..." As the main character journeys across Sweden, meeting other interesting characters, we learn about his fascinating (and explosive) past -- much of which involves his role in critical moments of Russian, U.S., Chinese, and Indonesian history. A thoroughly delightful read.

Together Tea by Marjan Kamali.I know it's cliched, but I really did laugh then cry reading this fabulous, heartwarming book about an Iranian mother and her Iranian-American daughter -- and their quest to belong in the United States after fleeing Iran in 1980. Indeed, I found it hard to believe this was Marjan Kamali's first novel, it was so beautifully written and flowed so effortlessly.

I think any woman who has lived in a foreign country -- or far from where she was raised -- especially if she raised a family in a new place, will relate to this story. The book also gave me a fresh prospective on what it was like to be an Iranian in Iran in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as well as what it was like to be an Iranian in the United States just after the hostage crisis.

Above all, though, the book is a warm and often funny love story, between a wife and a husband, a mother and a daughter, and the daughter and the boy she meets while visiting Tehran in 1996 (when much of the novel takes place). I cannot recommend this book enough.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The romantic in me loved this book. Loved. One of the most beautiful, moving books I have ever read. I was captivated -- and I don't care a fig about the Jacobites or Scottish history (though I love a man in a kilt -- if he has the legs to pull it off). In brief, The Winter Sea tells the story of best-selling historical fiction writer Carrie McClelland who, while researching her next book about the 1708 attempt to return James Stuart to the throne, comes across a story line she did not know existed. Compelled to pursue this new story line, she finds herself on the shores of Scotland at an ancient castle, where, though genetic memory and research, an ancient secret and love come to light. (Hmm... Maybe I should write jacket copy for a living.)

Brilliant by Marne Davis Kellogg. I stumbled upon Brilliant, which was published in June 2004 (long before the financial crisis), while looking for something else in the stacks at my local library. And am I glad I did. It is my definition of a guilty pleasure: a funny, sexy romp through fabulous places (in this case London and Provence), involving jewels, thieves, fast men and fast cars, the auction business, and a sharp-tongued, sharp-witted narrator who is not what she seems. Highly recommend for those looking for a little escapist literature. 

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. Several people in my Book Buzz group told me I would enjoy Where'd You Go, Bernadette, and they were right! Part mystery, part coming of age story, though it's often unclear who is coming of age here, the precocious 15-year-old narrator (for lack of a better term), Bee, or her brilliant but neurotic and reclusive architect mother, who one day disappears. Full of warmth and humor, as well as a kind of valentine to Seattle. I loved it.

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro. I know I keep saying it, but I loved this book, the tale of two women, one French, one British, which moves back and forth between Paris in 1955 and New York in 1927 (with a stopover in the South of France in the early 1930s and Paris in the early 1940s). The title is a bit of a red herring, at least in my opinion, though a large part of the novel does involve perfume.

At its heart, however, the novel is a tale of betrayal, hope and love. The central question or mystery: Why did Eva d'Orsey, the mistress of a famous French perfumer, who died at the age of 41 or 42, leave her considerable fortune to Englishwoman Grace Munroe, a young woman of 27 who didn't even know d'Orsey? And did I mention it's mainly set in Paris -- and there's food and Champagne and shopping and romance? A must read for my female readers (maybe some of the male ones, too).


The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell by Rachel Herz. Why do some scents repel us while others give us pleasure? And what role does smell -- or scent -- play in romance and procreation? These are some of the topics Herz, an expert on the psychology of smell, tackles in The Scent of Desire. A fascinating, informative read, one which had me constantly saying to the spouse, "Did you know...?"

In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman. WARNING: This book will make you crave a hamburger, constantly. Specifically an In-N-Out burger. And fries. And a shake. East Coasters, you are screwed. That said, I thought this was one of the best business books, or books about a business, I've ever read.

While I have never had an In-N-Out burger, I knew about the chain -- and greatly enjoyed Perman's most recent book, A Grand Complication, which I recommended in a previous Book Nook post. If you are at all a fan of the burger chain or enjoy a good nonfiction book about business, in this case an iconic family business with a side order or scandal and intrigue, check out In-N-Out Burger.

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone. One of the best business books -- or books about a business -- I have ever read. Yes, another one. Well researched and well written. Stone spent years getting to know Amazon and Bezos as a business reporter, and and has a knack for making potentially dry business topics interesting. A must read for entrepreneurs and people who like reading about successful entrepreneurs, as well as those who have ever wondered, How does Amazon do it? And there are those pesky Amazon same day delivery drones. (Click on the link to read reviews by Amazon employees and Jeff Bezos's wife, MacKenzie.)

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson. The subtitle pretty much says it all. A fascinating look at the evolution of the kitchen, or the technology (both low tech and high) behind food preparation and consumption. Very informative, often humorous, "a book to savor."

So what were some of your favorite books from this past year?

Please leave me a Comment with the name of the book and the author.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Oo la la!

Alternate title: Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

I have always known the French have a more laid back or open attitude toward sex and the female body, having spent a summer in the South of France as a teen and seen several French films. But I was a bit gobsmacked to see a 15-foot-tall topless woman on the back of a bus in Paris, in the middle of Place de la Concorde. (And I wasn't the only one who did a double take.)

Forget prudishness. Can you imagine the number of traffic accidents this ad for lui magazine would cause if placed on the back of a bus in New York?

The spouse and I were also greatly amused by this giant ad for "ejaculation precoce" prominently displayed at a Metro stop.

(Note: It is purely coincidence that this picture was #69.)

Hey, it makes more sense than two people sitting in separate bathtubs holding hands.

So, what do you all think? Too racy or Vive la France!?