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  • I read a lot, and I have a lot of opinions, so I can't believe I haven't made a list like this before. If you are even a little bit like me or you want to get a peek into my psyche (you probs don't), these are the books to read.


Nested part deux

Posted on April 23rd, 2011 by annakjarzab

This is embarrassing, but I realized this morning, as I was filling my Brita filter (New York living–Glamo-R-US!), that I had forgotten to include one last (but not least) matryoshka item I own. Is it sad that I have so many that I forgot about one? It’s quite possibly one of the best ones, too, because it also filled a strange hole in my kitchenware. My friend Maggie visited around my birthday this year, and she brought me a pair of matryoshki salt and pepper shakers, which I love love LOVE. But since I wrote the last post in my room and I don’t usually keep my salt and pepper shakers in my room (although it has been known to happen on occasion), they weren’t right in front of my face and I forgot about them.

So, there. Now you know the depths of it. Nothing has been kept from you.


Posted on April 22nd, 2011 by annakjarzab

If you’ve ever been to this website (you have), or you’re a fan of my book (YOU ARE, RIGHT?), you know I have a little bit of a thing for matryoshka dolls (a.k.a. babushka dolls, a.k.a. Russian nested dolls). The funny thing is that I didn’t even care much about nested dolls until my parents came back from a Baltic (not to be confused with Balkan–good thing I fact-checked this post) cruise five years ago. They’d brought my sister–not even me!–a robin’s egg blue matryoshka and I was so taken with it that my sister gave it to me (or did I steal it? I don’t remember). I then wrote it in to All Unquiet Things, which started this whole matryoshka business in the first place.

For a long time, that little doll was the only matryoshka I owned. And then people started reading the book and I started to get matryoshki as gifts, and occasionally buying them for myself. At current count, I have:

  • Three real matryoshki–the original one from Russia (i.e. the one that started it all), one shaped like a Santa Claus that my friend Kim brought me from Denver, and one that I bought for myself in old town Sacramento (where, btw, there is an entire store of matryoshki run by a very friendly Russian woman). That Sacramento one is smaller than the rest of them but has ten dolls inside–the smallest one is about the size of a grain of rice.
  • One set of ceramic matryoshka measuring cups that are too fragile to actually use, so they sit on my shelf with the regular matryoshki. Perhaps I should invest in this plastic set as well. They were a gift from my friend Cambria, and I believe they came from Anthropologie.
  • One 8×12 print of a matryoshka family that is sort of hard to describe here, but will look great on the wall of my next apartment with the other 8×12 prints I’ve been acquiring (mostly from 20×200, although I think this particular one is from Etsy) which I fully intend to frame and hang French salon style.
  • Two matryoshka Christmas ornaments that are not at all Christmassy, and thus hang on my wall year-round. I got them a few years ago after Christmas from–I think?–Anthropologie. They originally retailed for something insane like $24 each (you know Anthropologie), but I got them post-holidays for $5 each. They’re really cute, though. They’re like little puzzles that have removable pieces. Again, hard to describe, but I adore them.
  • A cute fabric business card holder that my friend Jennifer (sister of Kim, who I sometimes mention here) gave me this past Christmas.
  • A matryoshka necklace (this one, but without that second charm hanging off).
  • Another matryoshka necklace, although this one is made of–I think?–papier mache and hangs on a ribbon. It was a free gift with purchase from that store in Old Sacramento, because I bought two dolls, one for my editor and one for myself. I don’t wear it because it’s so light that it hangs oddly, but I still love it.
  • A bunch of matryoshka buttons and magnets that I bought to use with AUT giveaways here on the website and then…never got around to it? Well, the book comes out in paperback May 10, so maybe I’ll do some prize pack giveaways on the AUT Facebook page I’ve been neglecting. They’re really cute, and were from Etsy.
  • A matryoshka doll throw pillow, again off Etsy.
  • A matryoshka doll tote bag, a gift from my good friend Mary Dubbs, the source of all the best blurbs I ever got for AUT.
  • A small matryoshka doll reporter-style notebook, gift from Kim.
  • Two–count ’em, TWO–pairs of matryoshka doll socks. The first pair was a gift from Mary Dubbs, and the second pair were a gift from my roommate, Eesha, just a few weeks ago. I may be the only person in the world who owns two pairs of matryoshka doll socks.

Okay, I’m sort of embarrassed, now that I’m cataloging all of this stuff for you. I knew I had a lot, but I had no idea I had this much. I’m not even counting the four little dolls I got after my grandmother passed away–they’re not real matryoshki because they don’t come apart, but they’re sort of shaped and painted the same and my aunt Kika insisted I have them because when she saw them she “thought of me”, so maybe we should throw that onto the pile, too. Oh, and I didn’t count the little matryoshka pin I bought at a Regina Spektor concert in 2007 that I just noticed was affixed to the strap of one of my tote bags. THEY ARE EVERYWHERE.

And, yet, I would buy more matryoshka stuff. For instance, this water carafe my friend Shannel just linked me to on Facebook, despite the fact that its very existence is a little bizarre. First of all, what? What’s wrong with just using a glass at bedtime? Do you need a carafe? Also, the picture of it with the head separated from the body: Gold. Not to mention the ad copy: “You’ll wonder how you used to sleep without this sweet little lady by your side” More like, “You’ll never get another night of sleep again with this creepy glass doll watching over you each night like a translucent Edward Cullen.” And yet, I added it to my cart. I mean, I still regret not buying one of those adorable matryoshka coin purses off Fredflare (there’s a lot of matryoshka stuff on Fredflare) when I had a chance, or the little dessert plates, and I know I’ll regret not buying the nested glasses or this matryoshka cosmetics case from Belgium. But I suppose you have to put a limit on your own crazy, especially when you finally recognize it after it’s been sneaking up on you for years. So maybe I don’t need the carafe; or the glasses; or the cosmetics case. Maybe, in the end, it’s best if the dolls find me.

Although, if you’re interested in becoming a weird doll lady yourself, by all means consult this helpful six-step guide on how to collect matryoshka dolls. Or you could give my one-step method a whirl: write a book with a matryoshka doll as a plot device. You’ll acquire more of them than you ever dreamed.

(No offense to anyone who’s ever given me a matryoshka item. I LOVE THEM! Seriously! And I also give matryoshka dolls as gifts, most notably to my editor and agent. Actually, I bought Joanna’s matryoshka from a nun at the Union Square holiday market a few years ago, which is oddly apropos considering the premise of The Opposite of Hallelujah.)

Don’t Look Any Further

Posted on April 12th, 2011 by annakjarzab

If you’re one of the handful of people who read my Make It or Break It recaps, you may notice I didn’t post one last night–but don’t despair! I was celebrating the twenty-eighth anniversary of the birth of my friend Cambria by consuming much wine and cheese, so I didn’t get a chance to watch, but I’m planning on spending some quality time with the Rock girls and boys tonight and will post a recap ASAP.

This is apropos of nothing, but I woke up this morning around 3:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep. I had this song playing over and over again in my head; it sounded very familiar, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember the words and/or title, and it was driving me INSANE. I kept trying to work it out until I realized that by doing so I was preventing myself from falling back asleep, if such a thing was even possible, and eventually I let it go and dozed off, only to wake up two hours later having finally worked out the title.

My friends, behold the wonder that is “Don’t Look Any Further” by Dennis Edwards. (Please, for your own viewing pleasure, watch the video. It’s cheesy and awesome.)

Why did I wake up with this strange, sort of creepy eighties song in my head at 3:30 AM on a Tuesday morning? Good question! I have no idea. I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard it playing anywhere recently. What makes it a little nightmarish is that I recognize the song from (NERD ALERT) a season 7 episode of The X-Files called “Orison,” in which the song serves as a “high school memory trigger/divine warning” (according to Wikipedia) for Scully. Considering that “Orison” is marks the return of fetishist/serial killer Donnie Pfaster, it’s no wonder I couldn’t fall back asleep after that.

Edited to add: Cambria shed some light on why I had “Don’t Look Any Further” in my head! Apparently, they were playing it at a bar we went to on Saturday night, but I guess I was too busy hating that bar and wanting to get the heck out of there to notice. Mystery solved!

Spam I Am

Posted on April 5th, 2011 by annakjarzab

Sorry folks, the spam filter is still broken. Before it would just send all comments to spam and then I would be able to fish them out, but now it won’t even do that! Dumb spam filter. Anyway, if you have any Very Important Thoughts about Make It or Break It (or anything else, really–perhaps a nice limerick? It is only Tuesday, after all), definitely email me at anna [AT] annajarzab [DOT] com. I would tell you to comment on LiveJournal, but it looks like my MIOBI post didn’t feed out to LJ…curious. What is going on with you, website? I’ve got some major maintenance to do on this beast.

Peaks and valleys

Posted on April 3rd, 2011 by annakjarzab

Today was kind of a rough week for me. On the one hand, my friends and I won trivia this week. And it’s not just that we won. We totally NAILED IT! We got almost every question right, which was pretty astounding. It was a dream team–me, Cambria, Monica and Brett. The prize wasn’t much, but hey, $25 off your bar tab isn’t exactly nothing.


For the record, that giant red number on the right side is a one, not a seven. I know. It looks like a seven.

But into each life, a little rain must fall. Hold on. I’m crying as I type this, I need to catch my breath…Perfect Couples was CANCELED, you guys! And it didn’t even both to TELL ME to my FACE–I had to find out via a trivia question. A TRIVIA QUESTION. I’m not even sure how I’m going to go on, but I guess I have to move forward. God, beer me the strength. That show was funnier than people gave it credit for.

At least Community is coming back.

Progress report

Posted on March 30th, 2011 by annakjarzab

So I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’m trying to be more active and go to the gym more, since, you know, I pay for it and all that, and that I’m doing Couch to 5K. I decided to repeat the first week of the program (so I did “week 1” for two weeks, well more like two and a half weeks) because I’ve never been able to run anything close to 5K (I think that’s around two and a half miles) and I thought I should take it slow to let my body adjust. But by the third day of my second week of “week 1” (does that make sense? are you still with me?), I was starting to feel like I could do more. I was crowding the front of the treadmill, which I assumed meant that I was running faster than the 5.5 pace I’d set the treadmill at, so I bumped it up to the 6 pace. That was Monday; I was proud that I pushed myself, and after the workout I felt really strong and capable. Hey, it was an accomplishment for me! I’m terrible at this running thing.

So yesterday (even though you’re supposed to take a day off between Couch to 5K workouts) I went back to the gym to start on Week 2. Week 1 sets are 5 minutes warm up, then 8 sets of 60 seconds running, 90 seconds walking, followed by a 5 minute cool down. My pacing for those workouts has been warm up: 3, running: 5.5, walking: 3, cool down: 2.5 (except Monday when it was warm up: 3, running: 6, walking: 3, cool down: 2.5). I was so sure that the Week 2 workouts would be a breeze because Monday felt so good. Boy, was I in for a surprise! First of all, they tell you to take a day of rest between workouts for reason. I’ve had bad knees for a long time, and when I started my warm up yesterday I realized, hey, my knees really hurt. But I was already dressed, I’d already stolen a treadmill from somebody (there are two kinds of treadmills at my gym and I don’t know how to use one of the brands, but the brand I have managed to figure out is also the more popular one, so sometimes you have to knock little old ladies out of the way to get one and I’m not above that), and I was already warming up, so I was like, whatever, I’m doing this. Apart from the knee pain, everything else felt fine.

It wasn’t the worst workout ever. It was hard, harder than I thought it’d be, and by the end I was sort of dying and wanting it to be over, but I was also feeling really proud for making it through. Week 2 workouts are 5 minutes warm up, then 6 sets of alternating 90 seconds running with 2 minutes walking, then a 5 minute cool down. I started doing the running on 5.5, but had to bump it up to 5.7 because, again, I was crowding the front of the treadmill so I knew I could go faster (but didn’t want to set it at 6, lest my legs break and I pass out). But I was really feeling it afterward. My knees were screaming with pain, and so were my ankles. I know part of it is just the way my body is–I have knee problems, this isn’t new–and part of it is the way I run. My balance is not great and I favor the sides of my feet even when I walk, so I probably have terrible, terrible running form and that is causing pain where it needn’t be. However, I seem to be bouncing back quicker from the muscle fatigue and pain caused by the running–the first few times I did it, I would ache for days, but even though my knees really hurt yesterday, they feel fine today. I even contemplated going back to the gym tonight, but then I was like, don’t do it. Tomorrow will be fine.

In other news (this is such an exciting post you guys!) I bought new running shoes. Mine were ten years old (I know! Ten! That shows you how much I’ve used them) and UGLY. I remember that I lost my taste for them when I saw a particularly unfashionable and unliked RA of mine wearing the same ones in college, but for a decade they’re all I’ve had. So I went to the Footlocker Run store in Union Square and bought new ones. I thought I deserved it for really dedicating myself to this running thing. I bought these Nike Free Run + shoes, because they’re really lightweight (which is invaluable in a city where you have to carry everything with you) and they simulate barefoot running, which I hear is the best but would never do EVER. So okay, a few things about these shoes: mine aren’t those colors (they’re just white with a royal blue swoosh) and, um, I had to get a pair of men’s instead of women’s.

Okay, but here’s why! It makes me feel like a colossus admitting this, but I wear a size 10 and these shoes run small since they’re almost like slippers–they have no tongue, they’re a little tough to get on, but they fit like a glove so you have to get a size up if you have any hope of fitting into them at all. But a size up from 10 is 11 and the store didn’t carry women’s 11s. So mine are a men’s 9. And actually, the guy who sold them to me told me that lots of women with small feet get upset when they can’t try on the men’s sizes because they think they come in better colors (they do–the lady colors are blinding neon and total ugsville). I’m sure he was exaggerating because he wanted to sell me some shoes and the way to do that is not to make the patron feel like a giantess, but whatever. I love them anyway. They feel amazing on and they don’t weigh down my bag like my old ones did, plus they’re much nicer looking.

So that’s where I am with the running. I’m sticking to it, and I’m enjoying it for the most part, so I feel like that’s all good news.

Running in place

Posted on March 18th, 2011 by annakjarzab

I am not a runner. I mean, the first rule of fight club is obviously “You don’t talk about fight club,” but the second rule is definitely “Let’s all be honest about whether or not we’re actually runners.” (No it’s not. Actually the second rule of fight club is “You don’t talk about fight club.”) So I’m not a runner. I don’t like to run. I’m not good at it. My brother and sister are both runners but I’m like, meh, I could do without the running.

But I’d like to be in better shape. I’d like to be a runner, although I hear tell in some circles that some people are just never going to be runners no matter how much they run? I don’t know. I’m not trying to be a runner. I’m just trying to run. For now.

In January I joined a gym using a corporate discount I got through work, which makes it slightly less expensive to belong to the gym, but not much. Because gyms in New York are insanely expensive. I pay $75 a month to belong to mine. SEVENTY-FIVE ENTIRE US DOLLARS PER MONTH! My new gym doesn’t even have a pool! Ugh. Whatever.

So I joined the gym in order to make myself work out, and then of course I kept putting off going for one reason or another (“I’m sick”, “I might be getting sick”, “I was just sick, I probably shouldn’t push myself”) and suddenly a whole month and a half had gone by and I’d only gone to the gym like once. Which is disgusting, spending all that money just to have the privilege of going to a gym I don’t actually go to. So I decided this week that I’m actually going to go, and not only am I going to go, but I’m going to restart Couch to 5K, which I began eons ago at my parents’ house over the summer last year and never finished. Couch to 5K makes a really awesome iPhone app and I still have it on my phone, so on Thursday instead of doing the elliptical I waited somewhat impatiently for a treadmill and completed the first workout.

And, okay, the beginning workouts of Couch to 5K are NOT that hard. It’s a 5 minute warm up (walking) followed by 8 sets of running for 60 seconds and walking for 90 seconds, followed by a 5 minute cool down (walking). NOT THAT BIG OF A DEAL. Except when you’re not a runner you’re like, “Holy crap, sixty seconds is a long time.” Now, my gym self is a lot like my real self, in that inertia is a big obstacle for me (an object at rest will stay at rest, etc.), but once I’m actually doing something I push myself really hard, stupidly hard at times. So getting motivated to go to the gym is a real struggle for me, but once I’m in my gym clothes and I’m on the treadmill, I’m like, “Well, I could walk at the 2.5 speed but what if I walk at 3. I could run at 5 but maybe I’ll run at 5.5.” I like to see how hard I can push myself. And once I’m in the groove I can go forever–I was once on the elliptical for 2 hours at my old gym because I was watching How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days on the TV and didn’t want to stop! (It was empty and there were lot of machines available, don’t worry, I wasn’t being a jerk.)

But…when you’re not a runner and you push yourself really hard on a treadmill, even if you’re not doing THAT much, you end up getting insanely sore. INSANELY. I could barely move on Wednesday morning. But, because an object in motion will stay in motion, I of course went to the gym that same night. You’re supposed to do the Couch to 5K exercises three times a week, allowing at least one day in between for rest, so I was planning on just doing the elliptical for half an hour and going home. But when I got to the gym there were tons of treadmills available and no ellipticals, so I decided to do Week 1, Day 2 of Couch to 5K instead of waiting. BIG MISTAKE. Yesterday I actually could not go to the gym because I could barely walk around the office.

I know this is just temporary, and my friend Cambria told me that the second day you’re always more sore than the first, and I feel so much better today that I’m definitely going to the gym and doing Couch to 5K Week 1, Day 3. But man, it was crazy how much just running for a grand total of about 8 minutes took such a toll on me. I just never use those muscles, not being a runner. But I’m going to finish Couch to 5K! This I swear to you. However, it would be a lot easier to do this if, say, all treadmills actually had Couch to 5K preprogrammed in, or that you could program your own intervals. (Actually, you probably can, I just don’t know how.) Because it is seriously annoying when the app tells me to “RUN” in this very scary computer woman voice and I have to fumble with the key pad to get the belt to move at 5.5 immediately. Someday I’m going to get tangled in my headphones and fall on my face. Anyone want to take bets on how long before that happens? The comments are yours.

The Oscars are officially senile

Posted on February 28th, 2011 by annakjarzab

Seriously, what was the Oscars last night? Somebody must’ve gotten fired afterwards, right? Like, everyone who worked on the Oscars got fired? Because if not, then something is really wrong with ABC. Because that show was NUTS. I felt like I was on drugs (not that I know what that feels like). That part where they brought out Kirk Douglas and he just babbled for a long time? I didn’t even realize he was presenting an award until someone brought him that envelope! And then they fought? Over his cane? I don’t get it! Was there anything to get? Was it a joke? And then how the first two Best Song performances were completely inaudible? I like that Toy Story 3 song! I would’ve liked to have heard Randy Newman sing it! (Also, did anyone else know that the guy from Chuck was in Tangled and/or could sing? I didn’t!) And how Anne Hathaway kept screwing up her lines the whole time (I did not find that charming, although I generally like her)? And how she sang that weird song about how Hugh Jackman wouldn’t perform with her this year even though she performed with him when he hosted? That was super weird! And boring! Which is WORSE.

Anyway, that’s my opinion: pretty bad. Which is exactly how my ballot ended up turning out. Behold.

Best Picture: The King’s Speech Yay! That is indeed what won!
Best Director: Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan Whoops! Tom Hooper totally won this for The King’s Speech.
Best Actor: Javier Bardem for Biutiful Whoops! No, in fact, Javier Bardem does NOT win all the Oscars–Colin Firth won this for The King’s Speech. (Side note: MR. DARCY 4 LYFE!)
Best Actress: Natalie Portman for Black Swan Ugh, yes, this happened. And she said that weird thing in her acceptance speech about how “her love” (that guy who choreographed Black Swan that is her fiance now) “gave her the best role of all” and then she touched her belly? Did anyone else find that creepy? There’s a better way to say that, Natalie.
Best Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush for The King’s Speech Booo! Christian Bale won this! He’s the worst!
Best Supporting Actress: Helena Bonham Carter for The King’s Speech Whoops! Melissa Leo won. I have no opinion about this except that A. her dress was weird and B. her acceptance speech was annoying. I’m sure she was great in The Fighter, though.
Best Original Screenplay: Inception: Christopher Nolan So the guy who wrote The King’s Speech won this, which I would normally be like, BOOOO, because I wanted to be right and also I thought Inception was great and it didn’t win anything except technical awards but then it turns out that this guy who wrote The King’s Speech was a stammerer and also that he had to wait for the Queen Mum to die to make this movie and by that time he was old and couldn’t get an agent to represent the screenplay and it was a heartwarming story and now I’m on board. If I had KNOWN all of that I would have PICKED him, but alas.
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network: Aaron Sorkin Got this one right! NAILING IT!

Obviously I ended up losing the contest, but that’s okay. Because I got this in return. I don’t know what’s happening with WordPress right now, but I can’t seem to embed YouTube videos. However, if you click that link it will take you to the Oscars autotune, which is pretty great and special and all the good things. You’re welcome.

In closing, here are a few of my favorite dresses of the night. You’re welcome! Happy Oscars everyone!




My official Oscar ballot

Posted on February 25th, 2011 by annakjarzab

My friend Joe is having an Oscars party on Sunday and he sent around an online ballot for us all to fill out (I believe there are prizes involved). These were my picks:

Best Picture: The King’s Speech
Best Director: Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan
Best Actor: Javier Bardem for Biutiful
Best Actress: Natalie Portman for Black Swan
Best Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush for The King’s Speech
Best Supporting Actress: Helena Bonham Carter for The King’s Speech
Best Original Screenplay: Inception: Christopher Nolan
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network: Aaron Sorkin

Now, I don’t really want Natalie Portman to win because, while I liked Black Swan, it was sort of silly and over-the-top and so was her acting. And also I just generally don’t like her very much. And I’m not attached to Javier Bardem winning for Best Actor, but I feel like he wins all the Oscars, so it feels like a safe bet.

As for Best Picture, I’ve actually seen most of the nominated movies, with the exception of 127 Hours (because, you know, je refuse), The Fighter and The Kids Are All Right. While I think it’s probably going to be either The King’s Speech (which I did love) or The Social Network (also really enjoyed that), I feel sorry for Christopher Nolan, because Inception was an entirely original thing that he created and it feels a bit like his magnum opus. It’s unfair to me that, like, Shakespeare in Love, in the running for the worst movie of all time and also a completely inaccurate portrayal of Shakespeare, won an Oscar and Inception might get overshadowed by newer, buzzier (which is CRAZY because Inception was hella buzzy!) movies like The Social Network.

I’m interested to see how it goes, and I’ll let you know if I win a prize!

I for one welcome our new computer overlords

Posted on February 17th, 2011 by annakjarzab

I stole that subject line from Ken Jennings because it turns out Ken Jennings is funny? Who knew? He was DYING on Jeopardy! Man Vs. Machine today. He played great, way better than he played in the last game, but it wasn’t enough to beat Watson, who actually got the Final Jeopardy question right this time (Bram Stoker), and every time Watson buzzed in before him he looked like he wanted to jump out of his skin. I’ve never seen a Jeopardy! contestant so visibly annoyed before.

Anyway, this was an interesting experiment (I loved how Alex Trebeck made sure to remind everyone that Watson was created by some really talented people at the end of the show so that we didn’t all take to Facebook going, “THE RISE OF THE MACHINES APPROACHES”, even though I did that anyway), but I’m looking forward to the upcoming teen Jeopardy! rounds. It’ll be a nice distraction from the fact that our computers are now smarter than we are, and possibly I will get more answers right, although probably not because the teens are in school and learning stuff and I’m just watching Jeopardy! all the time.