Nothing in Darcy Jones’s life has ever been simple. Or normal. Or stable. Left outside of a Chicago firehouse at an early age, she has been in and out of foster homes for most of her life, and her earliest years are a complete blank. She has alway chosen to leave the past forgotten, but when a mysterious boy shows up at her high school, she suddenly finds herself wondering about who she is, who she was, and why this young man seems to be the key to understanding it all.
When this mysterious young man, with whom she has been working on an English project, slaps strange flame-filled cuffs on her and calls her “Shade” I think Darcy realizes that she is about to learn a whole lot about herself. And when she manages to vanish into thin air and flee her captor, I think she realizes that what she learns will be pretty darn interesting.
This is the first novel by Marie Rutkoski outside of her Petra Kronos trilogy, whose third installment was released about a year ago. It is a much more complex novel than the Petra Kronos books, partly because it seems less evocative of other teen fantasy novels, partly because the main character is older, more damaged, less sure of what to do. It’s not the most incredible book ever written; nevertheless, I had a hard time putting it down at night.
Hello dear readers! Here we are again with another live-blog of a festive holiday special. Touching, topical, and tear-jerking, (at least I think it’s supposed to be) “Fat Albert’s Christmas Special” is here to teach us all the true meaning of the Christmas. Let’s begin!
0:01 – A luminous, star shines above the ghetto, inspiring all to raise up their… Oh, wait. It’s just the star on a Christmas tree. Silly me. Anyhow, we are now panning across a dilapidated cartoon landscape, witnessing the effects poverty has wrought upon a snow-covered, pudding pop-less world. FUN!
1:04 – Fat Albert is worried, folks. He needs to, “get this nativity scene down cold.” Words I never thought I’d ever write… Apparently, the Christmas pageant is in need of the tightest, most funkdafied manger you have ever seen.
1:25 – This cartoon has a laugh track. Glad to know half my work here is already done.
1:35 – Now the whole gang is getting into costume. So much zaniness abounds! A Christmas angel in high-tops? A wise man in a muumuu? What’ll they think of next!?
3:00 – Uh oh, a grumpy old man with a cane is at the clubhouse door! Looks like someone is in need of some holiday cheer and a tired, clichéd story arc involving redemption of the soul. Ho ho ho.
4:19 – Jeez, now there’s a kid at the door, suffering from the sniffles, clothes with too many earth tones, and a society that refuses to acknowledge the plight of the lower class. He’s whining cause his parents’ car is broken down, his mother is pregnant, and… oh… I’m seeing where this plotline is going.
6:52 – Remember that old man? He wants to destroy the clubhouse! Fat Albert is trying to explain that the clubhouse is necessary because, at the moment, a pregnant woman resides within. Seriously? She has NOWHERE else to go? I mean, I get what the whole point of this in the context of teaching Christmas lessons, but that’s not really a valid argument unless Mushmouth happens to be a midwife.
8:30 – The pregnant woman’s family is at the hospital, finding themselves rejected by the cold finger of bureaucracy. If they had done their research, they would know that all thinly-veiled-metaphors-for-the-birth-of-the-savior pregnancies are handled by the city hospital.
10:38 – Albert’s in a Santa suit, working for the old man’s discount store. His friends are accusing him of selling out, but in reality he is sneakily being taken advantage of by a grieving widower who has lost his ability to relate to a world that chooses to celebrate life rather than wallow in the pain of death. Will he ever learn THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS? There’s some seriously deep circle of life stuff happening here, folks.
14:05 – The little sniffle kid is out at night. Alone. In the ghetto. Perhaps this would be a good reminder for his parents to focus on, y’know, the child they already have. Never fear, however, because—as is common in the vernacular of the under-six set—he exclaims, “Don’t worry Mom and Dad. I’m cutting out.”
15:16 – Albert has just asked the visibly pregnant woman without a baby whether or not she has had said baby yet. Methinks it’s time to start collecting pudding pop box tops for education.
16:04 – So, the father has just realized Sniffles is missing. He reacts by opening up the clubhouse door, taking a gander at the dangerous urban blight his son is lost in, and then closing the door with nary a word. At this point, even I’m ready to call Child Protective Services.
17:54 – Fat Albert and friends have taken it upon themselves to search for Sniffles. Fearing for his life (would you want to be returned to such neglectful guardians?) he chooses to run onto an icy river in an attempt at recreating Virginia Woolf’s final moments.
18:55 – The gang returns to the clubhouse, Sniffles-less. The baby is born, everyone is smiling, and no one seems to care anymore that the other kid is missing. Out with the old, in with the… Who’s at the door??
19:25 – The old man back! And he has Sniffles! Thank the lord, another child has not been lost emulating the tragic death of a famous literary figure!
20:30 – Realizing the potential PR nightmare he has on his hands, the old man decides to spare the clubhouse! Hooray! Now everyone is giving one another gifts that have materialized out of thin air. Following suit, the old man reaches in his pocket, pulls out a baseball (he obviously does not wear skinny jeans), and gives it to Sniffles.
21:45 – Yearning for validation of this good deed from his dead wife, the old man looks upward towards the heavens, asking, “How am I doing, Martha?”
21:50 – In response, the credits begin.
And that’s the end, folks! What did YOU learn about Christmas? Did you get it down cold?
How small is too small when it comes to the size of your apartment? Sure a one bedroom would be nice and a three bedroom would be even better, but you could probably get by just fine as a single adult with a studio. What about a micro studio?
Popular in urban centers like London and Tokyo, so-called micro studio apartments have developed to meet the needs of cost conscious, single adults who want to live in the city. While micro studios aren’t the epitome of luxury living, they provide all (or most of) the creature comforts an urban explorer needs.
Embracing the trend towards smaller, more affordable urban apartments, San Francisco city officials recently passed an ordinance that allows the development of what will be some of the smallest micro studios in the world. At 220 square feet these new micro studios will feature a bathroom, closet, and integrated living space that serves as the kitchen/dining room/bedroom/living room (though not all at the same time as the bed has to be folded up before the dining table can be used). To meet code, each unit must have at least 150 square feet of integrated living space, a bathroom and a closet. Space will be tight! The plan calls for an initial 375 test units to be built before finalizing the ordinance.
As you can imagine, furnishing such a small space requires a lot of careful planning. A while back, I wrote an article on maximizing bedroom space in a small apartment, and many of those tips are equally applicable to micro apartments—you just need to scale down the furniture even more.
The bed is the first thing you’ll need to plan for in a micro apartment, since even a twin-sized bed can take up just under 21 square feet, or 15 percent of your total living space. A Murphy bed is a given to help maximize your space in a micro apartment. The dining table is also another space hog. However one clever combination of sleeping/dining area had the Murphy bed fold onto a support table, which doubled as a dining table when the Murphy bed was folded up. I thought it was a pretty smart use of space.
If you want to read more about San Fran’s micro apartments click here.
Could you make it in a micro studio? Maybe they could be marketed as a luxurious alternative to Alcatraz. Let us know what you think in the comments below.
I’m standing on the checkout line at Trader Joe’s, wheeling my shopping cart to the register, chatting inanely with the cashier as she scans my selections…
Me: “Nice day, no?”
Marge (the cashier): “That’s for sure, especially considering the terrible weather we just had.”
Me: “Yes. I see you had to replace the floor.”
Marge: “And all the registers, too!”
Marge: “Say, what are you going to do with these cranberries?”
Me: “Uh, make cranberry sauce?” (Didn’t want to tell Marge I wasn’t exactly sure.)
Marge: “Here’s what you should do – chop up an orange, juice and all, and add it to the cranberries. Then stir in ¾ cup of sugar, and just let it sit in the fridge overnight! People love it and are so impressed I don’t have the heart to tell them how easy it is!”
Me: “Thanks! I’m gonna try that!”
Well, I don’t have the heart to tell Marge that I couldn’t stop myself from cooking the sauce, but I will go back and thank her for the inspiration for a festive holiday breakfast in bed recipe!
1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries
1 orange, chopped into small cubes
½ cup orange juice or water
½ cup honey or sugar
¼ cup slivered almonds (optional)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
Place cranberries, orange, orange juice, honey, almonds, cinnamon and cloves in a small, heavy pot. Bring to a boil, stir, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook at a bubbling simmer for about 10 minutes until the berries pop and the sauce begins to thicken.
Makes approximately 2 cups sauce.
1 cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 – 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Powdered sugar for garnish
In large bowl, mix together flour and salt. Whisk in milk and egg until batter is thick and smooth. Let batter rest a few minutes before cooking.
Heat about 1 teaspoon oil in a heavy 6-inch pan over medium heat. When hot, but not smoking, add ¼ cupful of batter to pan, swirling to cover bottom. Cook pancake 1 to 2 minutes until cooked through and lightly browned, flipping once. Keep warm while cooking remaining pancakes, monitoring heat and adding oil as necessary.
To assemble, place crêpes on serving plates. Spread each crêpe with 1 to 2 tablespoons of cranberry-orange sauce. Roll up, top with an additional tablespoon or so of cranberry-orange sauce, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
In my spare time, I shop. Mostly online shopping during the wee hours of the night. Insomnia shopping is dangerous. Items that I don’t recall purchasing find themselves on my doorstep. Stores that I have visited recently include Anthropologie, West Elm, and Pottery Barn. These stores actually have more things in common than my credit card. They all have items that are featured in my blog this week about branch decor. A companion to my leaf decor blog a couple of week ago, branches are showcasing themselves within the bedroom as a natural and interesting alternative to decorating this fall. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, there was definitely not a shortage of fallen tree limbs. Inspired by mother nature and my shopping addiction, and not to mention Veteran’s Day is today, this week’s blog is a eulogy to all the fallen branches.
Towards this end of Anthropologie’s winter catalog, you will find this masculine water pitcher. Its antler like branches mean business. The Surroyal Pitcher is a creative alternative to the plastic water bottle that I tote to bed to alleviate any late night thirst. If not used as a pitcher, it could also be used a vase on the nightstand.
Branch decor can be in many different widths and thicknesses. Sandy’s aftermath brought down not only limbs, but entire trees. Throughout my neighborhood, tree trunks were being piece-mealed for disposal. What a shame to see such organically beautiful trunks being tossed out as mulch when retailers such as West Elm are selling them for close to $200. Stumps can be used alongside the bed in lieu or in addition to existing nightstands. The latter will give you the extra real estate space you need to set down Anthropolgie’s branch pitcher above.
At Pottery Barn Kids, Christmas is in full effect. Despite the overwhelming Christmas decor, the four poster tree branch bed was the only thing that kept my attention. Close up, the tree trunk was the perfect selection and texture of gray and white. It was attached to the headboard and footboard of a simple oak bed using nautical rope. Truly inspiring considering similar types of branches are currently being tossed as rubbish. Despite the havoc that Sandy caused, there is still beauty to be seen in it, even in the bedroom.