Random things that make me happy, pt. 3

1. Tea.

The quickest way to perk up my afternoon is to make myself a cup of hot tea. I have no less than six different kinds in my desk drawer — and I often find that the most exciting part of my work day is choosing a flavor. (It’s the little things . . .) When my boyfriend’s parents were in town at Christmas, I took his mom to an awesome local tea room. I just wanted to gobble up everything there!

2. Pretty postage.

I send lots of mail. Whether we’re talking postcards, love letters or old-fashioned mail to family, I better have a hefty stack of stamps at my disposal. I have the “Garden of Love” stamps now and use them to death.

3. Spencer’s wrinkle-nosed laugh.

Everyone has a Face. It’s the look you make when someone has really tickled your funny bone, you know what I’m sayin’? I’m not talking an obligatory chuckle here — I’m talking a big, from-the-gut, uncontrollable laugh that cannot be controlled. And when I say something that really makes Spencer double over or do something clumsy and hilarious, he wrinkles his nose and gives me a look of utter disbelief. That makes me laugh. And I love to laugh — especially with him.

4. Beautiful book cover art.

I totally judge books by their covers, and sometimes their covers are awesome. The books themselves? No clue. But at least they’re pretty.

5. Nail polish.

My obsession has reached a critical juncture. I joined the Julep Maven (affiliate link) program and am now treated to surprise nail shades and goodies coming to my mailbox every month, and let me tell you: this is bad. Well, I mean, it’s good; it’s awesome getting surprises in the mail. But it’s bad because I have to pay for it. And I have very little self-discipline when it comes to cosmetics.

It’s also bad because I’m the nut who now needs to change her polish constantly, and since I’m rarely sitting down long enough to do it . . . well, I’m typically up at 11 p.m. trying to keep my eyes long enough to give myself a manicure. Don’t stare too long at the smudges.

6. Post-Christmas clean-up.

I love holiday decorating as much as the next guy (or gal), but I’m very eager to pack up the inflatable snowmen and Christmas bulbs once the season has passed. We cleaned up our house last weekend and Spencer packed up his place this week, too. My desk is now free of miniature pink Christmas trees and my officemates have helped take down all the hanging icicle lights once strung along the ceiling of our office space.

The new year always feels like a clean slate, and I like having a (literal) clean space in which to embrace all that possibility. It feels good to have order restored, you know?

7. Instagram.

Yes, yes — after joining the iPhone world, I’ve become completely obsessed with the Instagram app for photos. You might have noticed my own recent shots look a tad bit different than the photos I normally share, and that’s because I can’t stop snapping shots with my phone.

While I once judged this and judged this harshly (I mean, what kind of quality are you getting with a phone?), I understand now. Instagram is awesome. And if you thought I took too many pictures of my food before, be afraid.

I’m also doing a 2012:366 project (leap year!) wherein I take one iPhone photo daily for 2012. I’ve seen lots of folks doing similar but always thought they were unrealistic for me. Since I’m not going anywhere without my phone, it’s easy to remember to document at least one small part of my day — and it gets my creative juices flowing on otherwise hum-drum occasions. And yes, there’s an app for that.

With the book that is not my book — but feels like it is

Every writer dreams of the day they’ll hold their book — a real, tangible thing — in their slick, excited palms. We peer at the typeface; run a finger over the shiny, beautiful cover. We probably don’t crack the story open because, you know — it’s too late for changes.

But we hold it. Admire it. Show it to friends, family, strangers in bookstores. We sign copies and send them to buddies.

And that’s where I am now.

Only it’s not my book.

It’s Michael Kardos’. One Last Good Time, a new collection of short stories set in a fictional Jersey beach town, was just released from Press 53 — and that’s my Ferris wheel on the cover.

When I received an email from Kevin, the publisher, about my Ferris wheel photo last fall, I was surprised — and excited. As with all opportunities that arrive via email, my initial reserve was up; you just never know with people. But it soon became obvious the offer was legit, and my photo — which Kevin found via a Flickr search (see, Flickr works!) — is now Michael’s cover photo.

Grinning like a fool, I tore open the package from Press 53 on Thursday morning and immediately slid a copy of the book into my purse. I’ve been carrying it around everywhere since, flashing my headshot and bio in the back when called upon. I asked Spencer to take a series of photos of me holding One Last Good Time, which is probably really narcissistic — but I was thrilled.

That photo is one of just three I shot last spring while walking into a mall. Out shopping with my boyfriend and mom, we parked near a carnival that travels through our town periodically on our way into JCPenney. The bright blue sky was what really captured my attention; I love finding “blank space,” as I mentioned in November. I took three pictures with my point-and-shoot camera, uploaded them and promptly went about my business. Kevin found the photo months later.

You never know where a random shot will lead you.

It’s the friends you can call at 3 a.m. AND buy postcards that matter

When I met my good friend Erin for dinner on Monday, I noticed the square-shaped, impeccably wrapped present sitting on our table at Panera and thought, Book? Like recognizing the iconic Barbie-shaped box when you were a kid, I can spot a book-shaped gift a mile away.

Well, it was a book — but not the kind I’m used to. With a squeal, I unveiled Postcards From Penguin: One Hundred Book Covers In One Box — and, if I’m being honest, it’s probably the most perfect gift for me. Ever.

Erin and I have been friends for a very long time — like, I-was-14-and-an-unequivocal-hot-mess long time. She’s seen me caked with mascara, face running with tears, but also bobbed with me in poodle skirts for our high school’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie.” We’ve survived the madness of high school, college and the “real world” (part of it) together, and stayed friends as we morphed from teens to young adults to grown women trying to Figure It Out. She knows my secret crushes and deepest fears, and I can share with her anything. And everything. And everything that comes between anything and everything.

In an age when friendships come and go based on jobs, school and proximity, I know that Erin will always be a treasured co-conspirator and ally — a woman I’d trust with my life. She’s getting married in September and I’m teary-eyed just thinking about it. We took a Shakespeare class together in college, and the afternoons when we’d walk to our cars together and talk boys, life and poetry are crystalline and untouchable in my memory. Through every major life change, she’s been at my side — and I hope to always be by hers.

I’m going to be one soggy, frazzled mess of a bridesmaid.

But postcards! This post was supposed to be about postcards. And there I go, getting all sappy and emotional on y’all.

So sayeth Amazon:

This is a collection of 100 postcards, each featuring a different and iconic Penguin book jacket. From classics to crime, here are over seventy years of quintessentially British design in one box. In 1935 Allen Lane stood on a platform at Exeter railway station, looking for a good book for the journey to London. His disappointment at the poor range of paperbacks on offer led him to found Penguin Books. The quality paperback had arrived. Declaring that ‘good design is no more expensive than bad’, Lane was adamant that his Penguin paperbacks should cost no more than a packet of cigarettes, but that they should always look distinctive.

Ever since then, from their original — now world-famous — look featuring three bold horizontal stripes, through many different stylish, inventive and iconic cover designs, Penguin’s paperback jackets have been a constantly evolving part of Britain’s culture. And whether they’re for classics, crime, reference or prize-winning novels, they still follow Allen Lane’s original design mantra. Sometimes, you definitely should judge a book by its cover.

Yes, Penguin. Yes, you should.

I’d love to say that all my bookish friends should soon expect a little something in the mail, but it hurts my heart to think about breaking up my set. I’m thinking about creating some sort of modern art with a selection of my favorites, and maybe keeping the rest handy to look at the pretty whenever I feel like it.

Years ago, my sister bought me a super-awesome collection of original London art on a series of postcards, and I enjoy going through those and lovingly running my fingers over the textured lines from time to time. I won’t send them, and I haven’t framed them, but I like to just . . . know that they’re there.

It’s one of my many endearing quirks.

Cover art: Let’s chow down

I’m not going to dance around the issue here, friends: your girl Meg likes to eat. I come from a long line of very fine folks who enjoy a good meal, I’ll add, and no — that’s not a reference to weight! I mean, we just like food. My grandmother Wilma loads us up on the meaty stuff, piling cabbage rolls and stews on me, while my grandmother Margy provides all the sweets: sugar cookies, white chocolate-covered pretzels and her famous peanut butter cups, most especiallly.

We’re no slackers in my house, either. Brownies and ice cream are usually milling about, and Spencer and I love baking. I’m improving my own culinary skills slowly but steadily, and I’m looking forward to the day I can prepare a whole meal — from scratch. (When I have the time. So, you know, maybe never.)

So it makes sense that, when browsing for books, my eye goes straight to anything featuring a delicious treat. In fact, just the knowledge that a book features food — or a chef, baker, etc. — is enough to entice me to pick it up.

Inspired by Kay’s lovely “Artsy Shelf” posts at The Infinite Shelf, I’ve been keeping my little brown eyes peeled for any cover art that looked so good I would, well, want to take a bite. A giant one. And it just turns out the some of the covers I remember best of the hundreds (thousands?) I’ve seen feature something delectable-looking. And most of the time? Well, as you’ll see, we’re talking cupcakes.

Some of these books I’ve read — and some I haven’t. If they’ve worked their way onto my bookcase or wishlist, it’s probably because I thought they sounded like an appropriate blend of delicious food and awesome storytelling. Here’s to hoping I’m right.

Are you attracted to cover art featuring food? Why or why not?


Cover art: The pinker, the better

Standing in a bookstore with shelves of paperbacks lined up neatly before me, I can tell you something with absolute certainty: my eye is professionally (er, habitually?) trained to seek out pink.

During yesterday’s LitChat, a Twitter-based chat for book lovers happening at 4 p.m. EST on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the subject was chick lit — that occasionally controversial, usually light and fun genre. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of chick lit — or women’s fiction, a term which is sometimes used interchangeably, sometimes not — and spend a good deal of my time reading authors like Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin and Meg Cabot.

Getting into what defines “chick lit” is a topic unto itself, and I’m not here to get up on my literary soapbox and debate the general merits of a subgenre I really enjoy. Some folks dig it; others don’t. That’s perfectly fine. Should those who enjoy chick lit novels be derided? Of course not — just as those who enjoy graphic novels, romance, science fiction or any other type of literature shouldn’t be criticized. We like what we like, and I don’t judge. (Too much.) We’re all reading, and that’s what’s really important here.

No, friends, I’m here today to talk about pink books — and, specifically, how quickly my eye falls to them. During LitChat, some folks mentioned a book having a pink cover is actually a major deterrent — and that they might miss a great book simply because it has a silly or “frothy” cover. I can definitely relate and see where they’re coming from, though I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum: I tend to shy away from books without pink covers. Or ones with “boring” covers, at least.

And I’m sure I’m not alone in that. Some really fun stories I’ve read had very “girly,” chick-lit covers — the ones you can spot a mile away. As readers mentioned on Twitter yesterday, the types of covers you can spot immediately: maybe with a giant, overflowing purse, or a spike-heel shoe, or a gaggle of cartoonish women gathered together. Usually the colors are bright with a healthy dash of pink thrown in there. And who do they attract? Ladies like me, apparently.

Want some pink, girly book eye candy? I have plenty to share. And I know that for every book with a “frothy” cover I love, someone else will dislike the look of a novel for just that reason. Again, no worries — I can see both sides of the issue! And just because a novel features my favorite hue doesn’t mean it’s pure froth — quite the opposite, usually. Many of the books with seemingly innocent covers have some pretty heavy content, which is another criticism of some of the cover art. False advertising, if you will.

But for me? The pinker, the better.

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