Passion, Prose and Crying Princesses

Guess what I did this weekend?  You’ll never in a million years guess.  Probably because it’s not something any sane person would do.  I took a plane to Long Beach, got a room at the Westin and attended the Passion and Prose conference.  

I told you it’s not something any sane person would do.  But luckily it’s something ladies just like me would do.  Because the Passion and Prose conference was a gathering of romance readers and the writers who love them.  It was the perfect thing for this wannabe writer. 

Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of this event.  That’s because I was completely overwhelmed at the gathering of so many fabulous ladies.  But honestly, I really was there.  Here’s a picture of the back of my head.  I’m having a great conversation with the up and coming Marissa Meyer, author of Cinder.  Of of the many new books I brought home, Cinder is the one I’m most looking forward to.  Who doesn’t love a good retelling of Cinderella? 

Conversations with great writers was pretty much what the day was about.  In addition to walking around and mingling I got to sit at a table and chat with the very charming Tessa Dare and the warm and generous Judy Duarte.  There were also some amazing keynote speeches given by M.G. Lord, Gail Carringer, and best of all, Meg Cabot. 

M.G. Lord was the event MC and also gave the opening keynote during which she revealed that her name is Mary Grace.  M.G. Lord is actually not a romance writer but rather a well respected journalist and also an instructor at U.S.C.  I had a wonderful conversation with her about being a paralegal, the Mattel v. Bratz case and copyright issues when she signed my copy of Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll

Gail Carriger gave the second keynote.  Thanks to my new discovery of this best selling author, who was a hoot and a half, I will be reading the first of The Parasole Protectorate series, Souless.  As I told Gail during our lovely conversation, I’m looking forward to reading about non-sparkIy vampires.  

Meg Cabot was, of course, the main reason why I and probably 90% of all the other ladies came to this event.  However, unlike the other intelligent ladies, being in the presence of Meg Cabot took away my power of speech.  This probably has something to do with the fact that I am a huge Meg Cabot fan-girl. In addition to my current project of methodically reading every one of her books, I follow her Twitter feed and blog religiously and at times fake myself into believing that she is my imaginary BFF.  Clearly I am crazy. 

However, when I put my copy of The Princess Diaries in front of Meg Cabot to sign I tried to forget about all that.  Instead I said hello and introduced myself and even reached over to shake her hand.  Then as I began to recite the speech I’d prepared in my head (i.e.: “I love your work. Thank you so much for sharing your words with the world.”) my voice began to crack and tears welled up in my eyes.  I was crying in front of Meg Cabot!   

Luckily she smiled at me very kindly and pretended like there was nothing wrong with having a 40-something woman cry in front of her.  I returned the favor by shutting my trap and getting the hell away from her as soon as possible. 

A half hour later I sat quietly composed and listened to her amazing keynote during which she talked about, among other things, attending the Princess Diaries movie premier where she met Anne Hathaway who also cried in front of Meg Cabot.  So see?  I have something in common with Anne Hathaway. 

Now that I think about it, extreme sensitivity is a sign of royalty.  Remember the story of The Princess and the Pea?  That princess was so sensitive that a tiny pea hidden under 20 mattresses and 20 feature beds made her toss and turn all night.  Hmmm.  Maybe the reason why I cried in front of Meg Cabot is not because I’m crazy but because I too am a true princess. 

princess diaries meg cabot

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Shellac Scam

Since my last post many of my Shellac Sisters have come forth with a crucial piece of information:  in order to get the magical Shellac polish off my nails I will need to make another manicure appointment. 

I suppose it makes sense.  If the stuff on my nails is strong enough not to chip it stands to reason that it won’t come off with a simple nail polish remover.  And therein lies the rub.  In order to get this stuff off my nails once it grows out I’ll have to go in for another manicure where they will, of course, convince me to have the Shellac applied again and suddenly I’m trapped in an evil Shellac cycle which I can’t get out of. 


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The Power of Shellac

I rarely get manicures because they never last. Usually the polish smudges within hours of leaving the nail place and I’ve never gone more than a day before getting chips.  However I got one last week and it still looks great. 

There’s a bit of outgrowth at the bottom and close analysis may reveal some wear at the tips, but miraculously there are NO CHIPS!  

I owe this miraculous manicure to the lady at SpaLuxe who convinced me to use Shellac Polish.  It took some convincing to get me to try it.  I scoffed at first figuring it was over-priced nail polish.  All nail polishes claim to be chip-free right?  “That’s OK,” I said “I’ll just take the standard polish.”  I spent the next fifteen minutes listening to the wonders of Shellac while the manicurist clipped my cuticles and filed my nails.  Finally I gave in and I’ve been amazed with the result ever since. 

Applying Shellac nail polish is, admittedly more involved than the traditional stuff.  It’s thicker than normal nail polish, almost like a gel, and prone to air bubbles when applying.  You also need to “cure” the freshly painted nail under a UV light.  The amazing thing is that it dries almost instantly.  After I removed my hand from the UV light the manicurist shined my newly polished nails with a soft cloth soaked in alcohol.  I gasped in horror at such a thing until she showed me there were NO SMUDGES!  Amazing! 

Most of my appreciation for this long lasting manicure goes out to the attorney I work with who gave me the SpaLuxe gift card for Christmas.  I immediately scheduled the appointment for the first work day after New Years so I could have a little post-holiday pick me up.   I am lucky enough to work for a company that closes the week between Christmas and New Years and coming to work after a week off is always hard.  For some reason I didn’t have the back-to-work-blues as bad this year and I’m wondering if my magical Shellac manicure helped?  

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Not a Crook But at Least a Bad Man

The other day my friend Kathryn posed the following question to her Facebook friends for comment and discussion: 

What historical event occurred when you were a child that made an impression on you and why? 

I didn’t participate in the discussion but I did think about the question and was reminded of the Watergate scandal and President Nixon’s subsequent resignation from office.  I was only 8 years old at the time of this event and clueless to the fact that political history was being made.  All I knew was that there was nothing on TV that night. 

I was in the back of the house in the bedroom we had designated as the “toy room” when my friend Lisa, who was staying for dinner that night filled me in on the significance of what was going on and why the president was hogging all four channels of the television.  She told me that we were getting a new president because the old one, Nixon, was a bad man.  The new president was Mr. Ford.  And while it was already clearly established that Lisa, also age 8, was way smarter than me, she did qualify her information with “My dad told me.” 

I responded back with something along the lines of “Good! I hate Nixon.” 

This was my first political discussion.  I’m still annoyed about missing The Waltons. 

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Thanksgiving Weekend

Jerry and I had a great Thanksgiving holiday as usual, spending it with family and feasting on Peruvian style turkey, pumpkin pie and the best, most addicting pate known to mankind. 

When we got home we retreated to our appropriate corners and for the rest of the weekend focused on our individual activities which for Jerry was this: 


and for me was this: 

So different and yet so close and reminding me how great life can be. 

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Passing the Ford

You know how a few weeks ago I got the shock of my life when Jerry got me a new car for my birthday?  Well last weekend I got to pass on some of the love by doing the same for my nephew Jonah on his birthday.  Since he is only turning 15 and doesn’t even have his learner’s permit it was most unexpected.  And if you’re going to be technical, the person I actually gave the car to is my brother Harlan, who will own the car and let Jonah drive it.  But the thrill factor was still the same for Jonah.  I got a huge kick out of it as well. 

The car I gave him was my old 1994 Ford Escort.  When I first broached the idea with my brother I was half expecting him to laugh in my face and tell me "No thanks” since the car is older than Jonah himself and pretty beat up.  Instead I got an overwhelming “Hell yeah!  That’s the perfect car for a teenager.  He’s going to be stoked!”  The more I thought about it the more I realized it was.  And based on Jonah’s reaction when he unwrapped the key, Harlan was right. 

What 15 year old wouldn’t look forward to driving this beauty into the high school parking lot every day? 

car full view

In addition to having air conditioning and heat, this vintage Ford classic also has a digital clock radio AND tape cassette.  They don’t make ‘em like this anymore. 


And get a load of this ADJUSTABLE cup holder:


It also came bundled with a few extra features.  This FREE water jug will come in handy during the summer months when the coolant level of the car runs lower than the rest of the year. 


We also included a brand new, easy-to-install bumper and left front fender. 


But the best part about my old car is it’s new driver. 

Jonah Car

Luckily he is no stranger to the car.  Jonah was 3 months old when he first rode in it.  Packed up in his infant car seat and securely buckled in the back seat by his Grandma Sharon (“Maga”) he was entrusted to my care for the day while his parents moved into the house he would grow up in.  Two years later that car took him the hospital to see his little brother for the first time.  That car was also where Jonah said the cutest thing ever…the story of which will be saved for his birthday next year.  For now, I’ll let him have his glory. 

Safe driving young man! 

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The Harrison

What little girl doesn’t want a dollhouse to play with?  When I was 3 or 4 I had a metal one that looked a lot like this: 


In addition to the painted on furnishings it also had a collection of plastic furniture that I spent hours arranging, although the painted on toilet paper roll in the bathroom always seemed to dictate where the toilet should go. 

I’m not sure what happened to the metal dollhouse but it didn’t last long.  I then spent several years with dollhouse envy.  One of my friends, an older girl named Lisa, had an amazing dollhouse for Barbie built by her dad.  It was three stories tall with curved staircases and carpeting.  It was open with no exterior walls and very few interior walls.  It was very modern looking, of course since it was for Barbie.  I didn’t spend much time at this girl’s house but when I did I could not be pried away from her dollhouse. 

Another friend, also named Lisa, and her sister Lynda had a beautiful dollhouse built by a family friend.  This was a more traditional looking dollhouse with partitioned walls and one side that opened.  It looked like a traditional farmhouse, painted white with green shutters and it was beautiful.  I don’t ever remember playing with it and I often wonder if Lisa and Lynda ever did. 

Seeing the dollhouses of these lucky girls only made me want one of my own.  One year my father did make one for me out of left over paneling.   It had no windows or or doors or even a staircase accessing it’s three floors.  The bottom floor was tall enough for Barbie to stand it but the top two floors where only tall enough for a Dawn doll.  I’m not sure why the inconsistency and when I pointed out that Barbie was unable to stand up on the upper floors Dad told me “Those are the bedrooms.  All she has to do is lie down and sleep.”  I solemnly played with it for a few years until one day I admitted to myself that it was not pretty at all.  (Sorry Dad!)  It was simply a bookshelf with a peaked roof, so that’s what I ended up using it as. 

When I was 12 Grandma Teetsel finally got involved.  We were having one of our talks one day and she asked me, “If you have anything your heart desired what would it be?” I told her and two years later she presented me with this:


This dollhouse, called The Harrison, was built from a kit you can still get today.  It wasn’t a complete surprise. We picked out the house style together and in the two years it took her to build it Grandma sought my counsel when picking out paint colors, shingles and wallpaper. She even added extra rooms. We were both troubled by the fact that by designating one of the rooms as the nursery we had sacrificed a bathroom.  043

So Grandma built a new one.

She also added a kitchen with see through walls so as not to impede the view to the dining room.


By the time I got the house I was too old to play with it but it did spark a passion for miniatures. I started collecting furniture and even made a few pieces from kits. Then real life happened. Boys, then college and then career took over and The Harrison kept getting shoved aside and for years was ignored entirely.

Last month, shortly after the two year anniversary of Grandma’s death The Harrison came back home and just like that first time in 1982 my passion for miniatures has been reignited.  Unlike before I have a great new source for ideas and pieces: the internet!  There are tons of blogs and websites about miniatures and of course eBay, oh my!  I will keep you updated as I furnish the rooms of The Harrison.  You can be assured, it will be done pursuant to it’s intended glory and in honor of Grandma Teetsel. 

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Do It Right

Jerry and I made a pact early on in our marriage: we don’t buy each other gifts for holidays and birthdays.  It’s a pact that works out quite well, especially for me when Jerry decides to break the pact.  Because when Jerry buys me a gift he does it right.  Like this year for my birthday, he bought me a car.  Yes you read that right, Jerry bought me a car.  A new car.  A 2012 Ford Focus.  Not only that but it was a complete surprise.  

He bought the car in secret last Saturday when I was at the hairdresser.  He was still gone when I got home but I thought he was  at Fry’s Electronics.  It was about 4pm when he got back and we decided to go out for an early dinner at our favorite pizza place in San Leandro.  Halfway to the pizza place Jerry decided to stop at the Ford Dealership on Marina Boulevard.  “Let’s kill a little time before getting that pizza,” he suggested. 

We start walking the lot and as expected a sales guy approaches.  “I hate these guys,”  Jerry mumbles. 

“Welcome to the Ford Store!” You could see the sales guy gearing up for his pitch.  “How can I help you folks?” 

“We’re here to look at the Focus,” Jerry told him.  “My wife has been nagging me to get one for her.”  (I have not!) 

So the guy took us to a white Ford Focus, Jerry handed me a key and said “There’s your new car honey.”  car

I  was confused as hell.  What new car?  We were just there killing time before dinner. 

“So we’re going to go for a test drive?”  I asked. 

“There’s not test drive,”  Jerry said.  “You’re going to drive it home.” 

Suddenly I was surrounded by Ford salesmen congratulating me on my new car. They kept telling me my husband bought me a  car.  My husband, Jerry, bought me a car.  A new car.  I stood there for close to 5 minutes in complete shock and disbelief.  I kept asking Jerry, “You bought this?”  And Jerry kept saying, “Yes, I bought this.” 

I think they were starting to get annoyed with me and they kept telling me to get in the car so I finally did.  And that’s when it finally sunk in that Jerry bought me a car.  A new car.  So then I burst into tears. 

There was a guy sitting in the passenger seat of the car and he had to wait another 5 minutes for me to stop crying so he could show me all the features.  (new cars are complicated these days; you can’t just get in a drive)  It was by far the most memorable birthday I’ve ever had.  And two weeks later I still have that “new car feeling.”  You know what I’m talking about right?  It’s that “oooh, I want to drive somewhere in my new car” feeling.  I’m not sure how long it’s supposed to last but considering I had been driving my old car for close to 20 years I’m sure I’ll have it longer than most. 

I also happen to think I have a better husband than most.  Thanks honey! 

Jerry cornfield fez

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Rising from the Dead before Cancellation

My name is Karen and I’m an AMC Addict.  No, I’m not talking about movies from the 70s and 80s and advertising themed key_art_all_my_childrentelevision shows with great vintage fashion and lots of cigarettes (although that could be another blog post once I get caught up on Mad Men).  I’m talking about the soon-to-be-off-the-air All My Children.  Never in my life did I ever think I would be hooked on a soap opera at the ripe old age of 44. 

It happened a few months ago.  I was browsing Hulu and saw that they had all the standard soaps available for on demand.  It not only proved to me once and for all that Hulu is just as good, if not better than that rip-off DishNetwork; it also peaked my interest in All My Children.  Since it was mid-May and all my other shows had ended for the season I decided to give the old soap a try.  I’d already heard it was going to be cancelled but I wasn’t sure when.  Besides, I figured I would be bored in a weeks time anyway. 

I booted up the most recent episode and was hooked by the first commercial break.  Not only that but I immediately felt some erica kanekind of weird kinship to the characters.  The show opened at the coffee shop/bar with Krystal and Tad right there.  Then came Bianca.  I shrieked her name out loud when I saw her.  “Is Bianca still a lesbian?” I asked no one in particular.  “Where’s Erica?”  (Causing Jerry to growl “Who are you talking to?” from the next room.)  I knew these people!  But how?  I had never watched the show before.  All My Children was such a part of our day to day culture that it was a household name even for people who didn’t watch the show. 

Erica Kane finally made her appearance looking a little too fabulous for her age.  I was fascinated by how preserved Susan Lucci appeared to be at what has to be age 65.  The poor woman must be half bionic and wax by now.  However it was the final scene of that first episode that sealed me to the show when it was revealed to me that the Erica Kane I had been seeing was actually an imposter and the real Erica was still kidnapped. 

After that I found myself watching every night.  It turned into a part of my day that needed to happen.  If I missed a day or two I began to get lonely to the characters.  I needed to see what was happening with the developing relationships of Kendall andkaylee ryan kendall Griffin and Kara and Tad.  I had to find out what fake Erica was doing to ruin real Erica’s life.  Suddenly the idea of living without these characters when the show ended in September concerned me.  I started to look around for another soap to watch but alas, General Hospital and Days of Our Lives can not take the place of All My Children

It was actually a good thing that I didn’t get attached to another soap anyway.  What little free time I had was now being dominated by All My Children.  I didn’t watch anything else.  I also wasn’t reading as much or keeping up with my blog.  All My Children was taking over my life so a few weeks ago I decided to wean myself off.  I still watch every episode but only on the weekends.  With only a week to go before the final episode and a bizarre storyline, including characters returning from the dead wearing chicken suits, reunions at Oakhaven Mental Hospital and Erica Kane walking over Susan Lucci’s star on Hollywood Boulevard, I think I’m now prepared to let the show go entirely. 

I know that All My Children has been licensed to Prospect Park which is planning to continue the show on the internet.  I may give it a try but I’m not optimistic.  I can’t see any of the major characters continuing with the show and don’t think I’d want to.  Besides, keeping up with a daily soap opera is hard work! 


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30 Days of Truth: A Book that Changed Your Views

A couple of years ago when the final Harry Potter book released, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I rushed out to get a copyHP Deathly Hallows (which I found at Fry’s Electronics oddly enough).  After three days of solid reading, including an all night bender to get through the final 300 pages I was thoroughly satisfied with the ending. For days I basked in the afterglow of destroyed horcruxes, wand lore and the truth, which I suspected all along, that Snape was not such a bad guy.  In the midst of all theses things I also had a revelation about the writing process.  It was something I never really took to heart even though people had been saying as much all along: writing means writing a lot.  

Based on what I’ve read about J.K. Rowling, she had all seven books plotted out before she started them.  The further you read into the Harry Potter books the more you realize how deep the story is.  Each side story and character is essential to the grand plot with all loose ends tied together securely in the end.  It took years of writing to bring everything all together and not just what we see in the books.  I like to think that J.K. Rowling has mountains of notebooks filled with stories and material we may never see, like the fully story of Neville’s parents, more on Dumbledore’s early years, details about spells and potions and maybe, if we really care but probably do not, what ever happened to the Dursleys. 

Rowling has launched a website, Pottermore, which is supposed to be a whole new way to experience the Harry Potter stories and it’s likely we may get a glimpse of the extra details she likely had to write in order to bring us the books.  Regardless the message to me is still the same: write and write and write some more and then pick out the cream to make butter. 

Case in point: I wrote a whole other blog post on a completely different book before I came up with this one.  It was when I realized I got that really good dairy reference I finally knew I had the right thing to say. 

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