Monday, December 31, 2012

December Favorites

1) Happ & Stahns Rose Alba Perfume - I asked for this for Christmas after falling entirely in love with the bottle at Anthropologie. It's almost as if I designed it: a vintage looking green bottle with a pin cushion top where you can put in the five pins they include? The scent is alright, but it's the bottle I most adore. It's perfect--much preferable to anything by Gucci, Dior, or whoever. It just looks like me.

2) Violet Body Oil - I also received this as a gift. I had never considered violet as a fragrance (this is basically a pure violet aroma), but once I put some on, it just felt right. It's a sweet smell, but with an edge to it. I wouldn't have guessed I'd like wearing the fragrance so much.

3) Chelsea & Violet Sweater - I picked this one up for myself with some post-Christmas money. At around $110, it was a big purchase, but I had seen it before and liked it. It's one of those chunky, basic sweaters that I feel will still be wearable years from now. I also like the dimension in the cream color.

4) Tarte Collection - This was Tarte's holiday set, including a set of mini lip glosses, a brush, an eyeshadow palette, a mini mascara, a mini blush, and a mini finishing powder. It all comes in this carrying case that has a built-in mirror. I've been trying to get more Tarte products, so I knew I had to get this one. I was most excited about the eyeshadows: much as I love Urban Decay's Naked Palette, I was feeling guilty about not using a natural eyeshadow. But I've also really been enjoying the blush, and the lip glosses have a nice selection.

5) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles - Hobbit, people, you've all seen or heard about this book. It is an amazing collection of pictures, concept art, and quotes by all the wonderful artists involved in the movie. At $40, it's a pricey but also a statement piece--though my copy comes from Costco, where it was nearly half off. A must for anyone who loves The Hobbit and moviemaking.

6) Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Balms Trio - I talked about getting samples of some of these before. Once your lips feel this lip balm, they will never let you go without it. It has such a luxurious, healing feel. The colors also absorb nicely, giving you a fresh and natural look. Honey is more for everyday, while Passion and Berry are a bit darker.

7) The Movie Theatre - I love going out to movies, whether it's by myself or with other people. This month, it's been all about The Hobbit and Les Miserables. Both were great for being themselves. (By the way, I will soon be comparing the 3D version of the former to the HFR 3D version.)

8) Leggings & Tights - When the Arizona winter is cold but not arctic, I like to wear dresses with leggings or tights and set up a layered look. It can help me not look like an eskimo when it's a little cold but the sun is still out and also offers more variety than just wearing jeans all winter long.

9) Tarte Lip Color Collection - I was so happy to get this set as a present: Tarte makes such nice lip colors. I also like that this set doesn't have wild colors: they're ones I know I can use for daily wear without feeling like I'm overdoing it.

10) Mini Telescope Necklace - I got this trinket years ago at World Market and decided I could string it onto a long chain to make it into a necklace. It's ridiculous, and it looks great against the canvas of my new sweater.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Les Mis & Sorrow Turned to Hope

Yesterday was such a funny day. It consisted of present-opening, pumpkin muffins, a last minute realization that we couldn't both cook the turkey and go watch Les Misérables, a decision to go watch the movie and then come home and cook lamb instead, an encounter with a sold out afternoon showing that led to purchasing the evening showing and barely finding a restaurant other than Denny's that was open at 4:00 on Christmas for dinner without reservations, and finally a late viewing of the movie. It was a day of randomness, but also an entertaining one.

I would probably preface my thoughts on the movie by explaining that I do like musicals, but that's a difficult statement: musicals are as diverse as anything else and I can either like one or not depending on other factors besides just the involvement of music. Movies-wise, I like The Phantom of the Opera and Sweeney Todd, but found West Side Story boring. It just depends.

I also wasn't previously very familiar with the story of Les Misérables. The book is on my mind's list of books to read someday, but so are many others. And musicals don't tend to be terribly much like the books they're based on, anyway, do they? (Which I am not saying is a bad thing, just a fact.)

Les Misérables was filled with music, but not so much of the musical number variety; songs, instead, took the form of dialogue sung instead of spoken. It was the combination of the music with the actors' performances that made this movie such a piece of artwork. The one thing I think we all know about the story is that it's very sad material, and the actors all brought so much passionate emotion to their performances. Their singing was often tearful, but never fabricated.

This story was something of an ode to me. It's an ode to sorrow and oppression and an ode to the one thing that can have meaning under such conditions, love. Although the theme of love makes it a fitting movie to come out on Christmas day, it could also have come out on the Fourth of July for its themes of endurance, independence, and strength of resolution. These characters--I think it must be these characters that make this story compelling. While some I see as symbolic figures, others are so real--we feel their sorrows and hope so much for the world to change and grow better for them. Which brings us to the final note: the hope for the future that this story leaves us with. And that, further, fits in with the approaching New Year. A New Year for new hopes and new chances.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Adventures of Connor & Abby: Part 12

For the second time, the team has come across a miniature Triceratops only to find that it is a cookie, a product of my silly, dinosaur cookie cutter.

Gingerbread cookies have long been a Christmas tradition of mine, one all the more endeared because few people seem to make them. And most of the ones you can buy are too crunchy or just don't taste right. I quadrupled the recipe this year so as to have plenty for sharing; since I was making so many, I thought it wouldn't be too ridiculous to make a few gingerbread dinos, too. I'm sure Connor would approve.

Happy Christmas tomorrow.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Wreath of Snow

Author of the Thorn in my Heart trilogy and more recently the Here Burns My Candle and Mine is the Night pair, Liz Curtis Higgs released this past November a new historical fiction novella. While her previous historical fiction books have been set at an earlier time period, A Wreath of Snow takes place at the very end of the nineteenth century, though it is still set in Scotland. 

Since it's a novella, A Wreath of Snow is also a short two hundred or so pages, with a small amount of words on each page. And since it is, more specifically, "a Victorian Christmas novella," its short length makes it ideal for a casual holiday read. It only takes a few hours to read. While I've enjoyed some of Liz's previous novels for their heightened, frank emotions, A Wreath of Snow isn't quite so drastic. This, again, makes it fitting for a warm, vacation story.

Not to say that this story won't make you feel anything. While it, naturally, has a bit of a love story, it is the story of family that comes most into focus. It's a story about familial love and about bitterness and forgiveness. It's about all those emotions that come into being at the Christmas time of year--and the emotions that should come into being during this season.

The pretty, red and white book also happens to be a hardcover, making it perfect for a last minute gift.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Keychain Productions: New Vlogs & Website

I do love supporting (often random) artists, from Blondfire to The Hillywood Show to Keychain Productions.

Keychain Productions is the little team of filmmakers (including Andrew Lee Potts) who made such videos as the Little Lilly series and Bubble Wrapped. More recently was Little Larry, which was a sort of accompaniment to Little Lilly.

Today, Keychain released two new videos: a vlog and a behind the scenes for Little Larry.

As you can see from the vlog, Keychain has a new website,, where you can read about the team, watch their videos, donate, and all that sort of thing.

As per my love of supporting artists, I just wanted to give this update on Keychains today. It looks like there are plenty of new things in the works, and of course I'm always happy to get vlogs and behind the scenes. I get too excited when a new video by them shows up in my YouTube subscription box. So check out their website, check out their films, and let's sit and wait for more, shall we?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Harken Preview Chapters: So It Begins

Hopefully you've all been keeping up with my posts on Kaleb Nation's upcoming novel, Harken. This afternoon, the first three chapters of the book were released online (the book comes out on 1/13/13).

Harken is already distinguishing itself from the Bran Hambric books. These first three chapters are edgier and less quirky, but still intriguing. There are layers of mystery and some unexpected twists, including the reason why there is an eye hidden in the "a" of the book title. And Chapter 3 does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, leaving us all counting down the next month before the book comes out.

Until then, head over to and download the preview chapters for yourself. It'll be an hour or two's reading well spent.

Also, don't forget to add Harken on Goodreads

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: as Rich & Complex as Tolkien

Let's get one thing straight: this movie is all about intertexuality and the ethos of the myth. Got that? Alrighty, then.

In many regards, The Hobbit is amazing. It's about as flawless as a movie can be and gives further confirmation that Tolkien is safe in Peter Jackson's hands.

We all knew that he wasn't setting out to create only the experience of reading The Hobbit before Tolkien's other Middle-Earth writings. In a way, there's little need to do so. If the movie comes after The Lord of the Rings, why pretend otherwise? The beauty of Peter Jackson's approach is that what he does cinematically is much like what Tolkien does on page.

Tolkien's writing (in general, not referring specifically to The Hobbit) is dense. I've loaned people The Lord of the Rings only to have them return it to me unfinished. Although Tolkien now gets literary recognition (which has actually happened fairly quickly, if you consider how long it sometimes takes other books to become "classics"), it's also safe to say his style isn't for everyone. Peter Jackson is able to put these movies together as richly dense concoctions, as well. Occasionally, yes, I felt like the movie was dragging just a bit (it is rather long), but isn't that what reading Tolkien is like, too? Sure, we love the professor for his complexity, but you have to admit that that complexity results in a multi-faceted experience. Just like PJ's movies.

Because think about it this way: Tolkien was constantly rewriting his work. He wanted to rewrite The Hobbit after The Lord of the Rings was published, but his editors stopped that idea. So if we consider The Hobbit as an unchangeable text, we are doing what Tolkien himself did not do. This goes along with what I said yesterday about the different versions of the story Bilbo tells--you can read that post here (and I was exactly right in my prediction, I might add).

Peter Jackson and Co. did drastically change the text of the published book The Hobbit. But there is reasoning behind every single change.

What this movie was to me was an additional story set against the backdrop of Middle Earth, telling more about its characters and its peoples. If The Lord of the Rings is about Men and The Silmarillion about Elves, The Hobbit is about dwarves. This culture that was only somewhat alluded to in the original trilogy becomes more detailed and characterized in this movie, in much the same way that readers of The Lord of the Rings come to learn more about dwarves when they go on to read the Appendices. We also hear more about Gandalf's early investigation of the Necromancer, who is of course Sauron regaining strength. While all this detail isn't necessarily needed for the story of The Lord of the Rings, it is another aspect of this world that it is nice to be able to see. The complexity of including this miniature plot line mirrors Tolkien's constant rendering of Middle Earth as a vast, complete world with a rich history and mythology. Plot lines do interact, which is why no one reads The Silmarillion before The Lord of the Rings (and many people never read it at all), but going on to read The Silmarillion will further illuminate aspects of The Lord of the Rings. You see what I'm getting at by "intertexuality?"

Moving on. The casting of Martin Freeman was great: he portrayed both the silly, sort of cute, little Bilbo who is nothing but a hobbit out of his hole. But he also hinted at Bilbo's journey, his discovery of courage and the friendships he makes while he is away from the Shire. And Gollum. Goodness, Gollum. Any minor CG shortcomings the first time were solved: that's Gollum onscreen, not any fabrication. His skin and the way his mouth moves are amazingly well-rendered. And, yes, once again Andy Serkis did what no one else would be able to do with the character: "Riddles in the Dark" was every bit as creepy and delightful as it is on page. The CG was also probably the best I've seen on other aspects of the movie: the Goblin king, the Wargs, the trolls, the glimpse at Smaug, and am I missing anything?

Which leads us into discussing this movie visually. It was a visual feast, as even critics admit. Stunning, absolutely stunning. Like in the original trilogy, sets and locations are expertly designed and well chosen. The camera becomes a personality of itself, weaving in and around scenes and treating your eye to the best sights and angles. Cinematography works harmoniously with the 3D and .... the 48fps. Yes, I saw the movie in HFR 3D, and I don't know what people are talking about in saying that they just couldn't get used to it. Is it a generation gap? I don't know. And I realize that in order to properly analyze the 48fps, I would have to see the movie at a regular frame rate, too. But as it is, all I felt was that the frame rate enhanced the 3D element, smoothing out the visuals and all the movement of action or otherwise quick paced shots. It really was like looking through a window at the scenes--and how can I have a problem with that? What's wrong with being taken right into Middle Earth? Once again, the cinematography of this movie was stunning and beautiful. Not just what was framed in the shots, but the way the camera moved. And doesn't it make sense for visuals to be such a large part of the movie when descriptions are such a large part of Tolkien's writing?

This movie took all the chances and opportunities it could, which is why I think it is necessary to understand and admit what is going on in it from a literary standpoint. The critics aren't all keen about it because they say it stretched a children's book too far   But the reality is more complex. This movie, this trilogy, isn't intended to be just The Hobbit the children's book; it is a further look at the world of Middle Earth, framed around Thorin's and Bilbo's stories. It set out to achieve a certain effect, and it succeeded.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pre-Hobbit Thought

I'm so absurd. I posted about how, shopping at an antique store for Christmas presents last week, I found a picture that I really liked for myself but didn't buy because it wasn't in my plans. Well, today, I caved: after writing pages and pages for who knows how many essays in the last couple weeks and then taking a final this morning, I found myself back at the antique store headed toward my beloved picture. But it was gone. Tears. So instead, I bought more Christmas presents and a little $3 silk scarf for myself. That certainly wasn't the plan.

And that also isn't what this post is about. 

You see, it's difficult. I decided a long time ago that I wouldn't reread The Hobbit again before the movie (I last read it a year ago, which I think is still recent enough), for the same two reasons I didn't reread Breaking Dawn. I literally haven't had the time this semester, and I think it will be better to view the movie on its own first. Then I can think about how it differs from the book. Because we know it will differ from the book.

So I'm also not going to do a list of things I expect to be in the movie or anything of that nature. But I do want to give one thought that occurred to me last night. It's the framing of the story. (Most people know about this by now since it was even in one of the trailers, but if you don't know what I'm talking about and wish to remain unspoilered, you may stop reading.) While on one hand, it's a little ridiculous to have Bilbo telling the story to Frodo, it also makes sense on a number of levels. First of course is to put The Hobbit into context for people who only watched The Lord of the Rings and know nothing of Tolkien's writing. But it also mirrors Tolkien's evolutionary thoughts on The Hobbit. We know, of course, that he wrote The Hobbit before The Lord of the Rings--then he had to come up with a reason why the first book was written as a children's story. This is why the "extra" material of The Lord of the Rings talks about how Bilbo originally told and wrote one story, but eventually Gandalf and Frodo were able to discern the true story, with Frodo (and I think Sam, too?) making notes in the margins of Bilbo's writing. 

So there are already, in Tolkien's writings, multiple Hobbit narratives, if you will. What Peter Jackson and Co. may in fact be doing is uniting these narratives, uniting the backdrops of rich historical detail with the simple children's story. That could be an interesting unity. 

Only about sixteen hours until I watch the movie and finally find out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Adventures of Connor & Abby: Part 11

I title this segment "A Primeval Christmas."

Over at the ARC, someone brought in a tree to celebrate the season. I have my own guesses about which one of these three it was . . .

But then someone else showed up. It appears Connor was involved in bringing the green dinosaur as he seems to be quite friendly towards it. It is a little reminiscent of Rex, after all, isn't it?

The only thing is, this isn't Rex--it's my new ornament. After it greeted the Primeval team, it was time for it to find a place on the tree. Doesn't it look so happy, hanging on its branch and smiling? (If you want one--they're also in pink and blue--hurry/scurry over to ModCloth.)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Harken Cover Reveal

Continuing with my theme of Kaleb Nation's brilliance in marketing, just minutes ago we received the release of the cover art for his upcoming novel, Harken. The cover release--this isn't even the book trailer, yet look at it:

Now we see why everyone was encouraged to write the book title on their hands; it seems obvious now, but I never considered that this image was the book cover. This cover definitely looks different from Bran Hambric--though does anyone else think that the curve in the "H" looks like the Hambric half moon?

My curiosity continues. 1/13/13

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Calming Antiquing

It's like my professors are trying to punish me.

You see, every semester seems to get harder than the last. And I wonder if part of that is because, subconsciously, I'm expecting more of myself each time. But the fact of it is, these last three weeks are a brutal end to a busy semester. It seems like there are at least three papers or other writing assignments due each week (maybe more--I'm avoiding counting). Yesterday I felt like I was literally going insane from my nonstop working (don't worry, I'm making up for it by dressing in some of my more insane outfits--hello vintage scarf and red lipstick I wore today).

But today I took the morning off (well, some of it, leastways). I did a little of my Christmas shopping--in an antique store like an insane person with an insane family who will enjoy presents from an antique store. It's a big antique store, too, so you can spend a long time there if you really want to look through all the items (and we all know that sometimes that's the only way you'll spot it). I think I only spent about an hour and a half, but my, what that hour and a half did for me.

It was better than therapy, extremely calming. My tired brain had just the right amount to keep it occupied but not overworked. Glancing through items, trying to picture them in people's houses, imagining stories for them, regretting that the really cool things are so expensive, just enjoying the moment. Oh, it was wonderfully refreshing.

Plus, I got two presents out of it (one of them is really good), and another item I'm very tempted to go back and get for myself. Maybe tomorrow . . . or next week? Or maybe I shouldn't . . . we'll see. Maybe it'll be my end-of-semester gift to myself.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"We've Been Searching Our Whole Lives"

Guess who I got to see last night--Blondfire (aka. "my indie band of choice" for a few years).

It was so strange: I only found out they were playing here at about 3:30 yesterday (the show was at eight) and they were playing ridiculously close to where I live (and I mean ridiculously). There were three bands playing, and Blondfire was right in the middle slot.

Although I knew that the brother-sister duo had been playing live with one or two other people, I was surprised not to see Bruce--he wasn't there and I just didn't see/recognize him, right? No, I think not. It would have completed it better to have both him and Erica, but I've been waiting long enough for Blondfire to come to Arizona that I'm not complaining.

They opened with "Walking With Giants" and went on to play the other three songs from their new EP and a few from the upcoming album, Young Hearts, including the title track and a song titled "Kites." Erica's microphone could have been a little louder in comparison with the other sounds (it was loud--my eardrums took a while to get back to normal after leaving the venue), but I was still beyond thrilled. Blondfire also only played for half hour--if they had had more time, I would have loved to hear some of their older songs. But once again, it was wonderful to hear this music live after waiting so long.

After they played, I got Erica to sign my copy of their first full length album, My Someday. This album came out four and a half, almost five years ago, so I think it was a testament to my love of Blondfire that I even own the physical CD.

Oh, yes, and the quote in this post's title is from "Hide and Seek," which is a song I've really been enjoying.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What Did Those Dwarves Do to Poor Bilbo?

It turns out that I was right when I guessed that The Hillywood Show's video based on The Hobbit (which they have titled "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Parody") would portray the Unexpected Party scene at Bag End, starring Hilly as Bilbo.

First for the things that I like about this parody. Despite the dozens of characters Hilly has played in the past, I was having a hard time picturing her as Bilbo--but she's hilariously cute in this role. And all those dwarves, what a makeup and costume extravaganza. They go into the infamous pile of well-done Hillywood characters. I enjoyed Hannah's Frodo cameo: it's randomness fits in well with how the movie is incorporating Frodo even though he isn't in the book. Gandalf's line at the end of the parody has perfect placement, a little twisting of lines/meanings.

But there are things I don't like, too. I hesitated over how to put it since I do support Hillywood so much, but it wouldn't be worth anything to anybody to only say positive things, would it? So here it is: I don't like the song choice or approach. One of the reasons that I got into Hillywood was because, in the world of YouTube and parodies, there are only so many clean and wholesome laughs, if you will. And while Hilly and Hannah have said enough about themselves in interviews/livestreams/etc. that I know they're not advocating everyone going and getting drunk and wasted, I would still rather watch something else. The concept works just fine with the scene, but I was anticipating something different from them. Something a little more Middle Earth in tone and such.

I still enjoyed the behind-the-scenes, though. This was an intense day of filming for this parody. So I'll sit back and enjoy the things I enjoy and not fuss over what I didn't like.