Review: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey

It is no secret that I am a fan of the Masterpiece Classic series Downton Abbey (despite any annoyance with a certain conclusion of a certain third season). Neil gave me this book for my birthday. He said it was a book he knew I’d like, but that I’d probably never buy for myself. He was right on both accounts.

by the Countess of Carnarvon
by the Countess of Carnarvon

The book is written about the house in which Downton Abbey is actually filmed. The grand estate is named Highclere Castle in real life and it is inhabited by the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon to this day (no Crawleys to be found). The book was written by the present-day Countess Fiona about one of her predecessors, the indefatigable Almina, the fifth Countess of Carnarvon. The work is  primarily a history filtered through the point of view of Almina’s life and lifestyle. This means there is a lot of talk of her husband, her children, her children’s children, her children’s spouses, her father, her mother, her husband’s siblings, the staff of Highclere, and then, of course, dignitaries, notable people, and politicians.

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Review: The Shining (Also, 23rd birthday)

I have been avoiding Stephen King’s The Shining for years. I knew the gist (a hotel, a kid, crazed murder, redrum spoken in a grating drone), mostly from peeks at the film, but I’d never read it nor seen the movie. I like Stephen King (it was his Dark Tower series that hooked me), but I am not actually that big a fan of that which scares. I have an overactive imagination and am susceptible to keeping myself up at night. Despite all that, the time I had come and so I hunkered down and prepared to be horrified.

by Stephen King
by Stephen King

The Shining tells the story of Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and, most particularly, his exceptional and gifted son Danny. Jack is at the end of his rope, having truly messed things up royally for his family after attacking a student at the preparatory school he was teaching at in Vermont. A recovering alcoholic with a bitter temper, Jack hopes he can mend his past transgressions and begin anew with the one opportunity opened to him: as the winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel high in the mountains of Colorado. As the  isolation of the winter and building snow progresses and mounts, the hotel’s sinister history becomes clearer and its hold on the family much more disturbing and malevolent.

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Review: Slaughterhouse Five

“The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is silly for people to cry at his funeral.” – Billy Pilgrim, Slaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse Five

I finished Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut today, which I picked up on Neil’s recommendation and also Mike’s since it was his copy that I borrowed.(Borrowing books I’m reading is something I haven’t done since middle school. It is much less costly.) The edition was utterly gorgeous. I’d love to get a set of his work with that design scheme. I can’t believe it took me this look to delve into the complex and wonderful world of Vonnegut. Today seemed a particularly apt day for finishing this particular novel.

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Sick Cold Candy

I worked from home today because I have a touch of a head cold. This was excellent timing because for some reason our heat did not work all day. I had to call the maintenance people and have someone come repair it (which they eventually did). But most of the day was spent shivering under blankets with Neil and trying to copyedit with frozen fingers. Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it is my belief that there is nothing worse than being ill and cold. One just aggravates the other.

To reward myself, I ate a single Jaffa cake (Neil was kind enough to get me  box for Christmas). It was heavenly. I don’t know why I didn’t stuff my face with them when I was abroad. I could have, but I didn’t. I believe that all European candy (and specifically English candy) is superior to what we have in the U.S. My favorites include the aforementioned, Mars bars, Kinder, and Jammy Dodgers. Seriously. I love Jammy Dodgers.

In this time, where I cannot breathe out of my nose, nor really taste things as they should be, I like to pause and think of these foods and think on the future when I will be able to process oxygen normally again. Additionally, I will consume massive amounts of tea. Cheers!

Until next time. xx

Review: Frozen

Today, Neil and I learned the best kept secret of Boston cinema viewing. If you go to the Loews on the Common before noon, it’s only $7  (!), which is totally reasonable. It is possibly one of the few things that could get me out of bed before ten o’clock on a Sunday.


This particular Sunday we went to see  Frozen. I love Disney animation. I think they do beautiful films and explore great stories, so perhaps I am a little biased. However, how great this movie is cannot be understated. It is visually stunning and emotionally complex. I pretty much cried throughout the entire hour and forty minutes, and while I am a very empathetic person, I believe it was mostly due to the incredibly heartwarming and versatile story and magical ambiance.

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Songbook and Art

Songbook by Nick Hornby

I just recently finished Songbook by Nick Hornby. Pretty good collection of essays on music. But one of my favorite bits was about the importance of  what I like to call “happy art.”

“It’s important that we are occasionally, perhaps even frequently, depressed by books, challenged by films, shocked by paintings, maybe even disturbed by music,” wrote Hornby. “But do they have to do all these things all the time? Can’t we let them console, uplift, inspire, move, cheer? Please? Just every now and then, when we’ve had a really shitty day?”

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Twenty Fourteen

Sparkling cider all the way.
Sparkling cider all the way.

Happy New Year! It is 2014. I like the sound of it. It sounds a bit more exciting than 2013 or maybe I’m projecting. But say it out loud. Seriously. It’s got a kick to it.

And since this is a new year, I must resolve to try harder and be better and mean it this time. There are many things I would like to accomplish in the coming 364 days, in addition to the work I am already doing, and I would like to declare it before the whole internet:

  1. Writing on the regular, both fiction (i.e., revising my novel [lol novels] and writing short stories) and updating this very blog.
  2. Read at least 40 books (I felt like this was manageable).
  3. Making at least one new recipe every week.
  4. Writing in my journal every night (no matter how sleepy I am).
  5. More travel (New York and Vancouver could be a good start. I also have pipe dreams including California and New Orleans and Scotland. Also England. Again. I can’t have enough England).
  6. Singing and making music.
  7. Be more positive.

That last one is kind of a big deal for me. I have a slightly pessimist disposition and I tend to stand in my own way. No longer! I want to put bad thoughts and anxiety behind me and focus on what I can do and will accomplish.

I am looking forward to this year and I hope you are as well. Until next time!