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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.

Posts Tagged ‘California’

Sunday funday

Posted on July 11th, 2010 by annakjarzab

One of the best things about working in publishing is summer Fridays, that beautiful tradition in which we work an extra forty-five minutes Monday-Thursday (which is sort of LOL because I usually work until about 6 PM or later no matter what time of year it is, so I barely notice) and then get to leave at 12:30 (or 12:45 or 1, depending on which house you work at, but mine is 12:30) on Fridays. My boss is very adamant that we take advantage of summer Fridays, so I do often leave at 12:30 or 1, and it makes the weekend feel super long. By the time Sunday rolls around, it feels like getting away with something.

So I’m sitting here on my bed right now with my computer in my lap, trying to figure out how to spend my Sunday. I could go watch the World Cup final with some buddies, but I’m still recovering from the swanky cocktail party I went to last night with those same buddies, and I’m not so sure I can take it. Also, I have much to do to prepare for my trip to California!

Have I mentioned I’m going to California? Next week! I’m going home! I’m so excited. I need a break like whoa. I’m super tired and the New York heat wave is making me cranky (I’m sure these are connected; I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in over a week). Plus, I’m going to get to see some old friends I haven’t seen in over a year (I think? Shannel, confirm?), and spend some much needed time with my family outside the shadow of my grandmother’s death. I really want to go to Filoli with my mom. It’s right up her alley, so much so that I can’t believe we’ve never been there before. My parents have always been very in to dragging us kids around to national parks and museums and weird old houses. One of my favorites, which I continue to remember vividly, is the Helmcken House in Victoria, B.C., which I thought was awesome because the tour was self-guided via audio tapes where the house “talked” to you about itself.

Anyway, Filoli is this mansion in Woodside, CA that has extensive gardens and beautiful architecture. I’d never heard of it until I read about it in Smithsonian a couple months ago. My first thought was, “Mom will really dig this.” So hopefully we can go.

I will probably spend my Sunday doing laundry in prep for my trip (I leave on Wednesday), cleaning my apartment, and figuring out what books I’m going to bring with me. Which is always my favorite part of any trip. I have so much good stuff on my hands, I can’t really figure out what I want to read first. My Kindle is already stocked with manuscripts for work, and hopefully I’ll make my way through some of those, but I also have Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, the sequel to Beautiful Creatures, which I LOVED; Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund, sequel to Rampant; Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto, my U of C thesis adviser; Counting My Chickens: And Other Home Thoughts by Deborah Devonshire*; Apologize, Apologize by Elizabeth Kelly, which is my book club book for next month; and City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, which I’m reading right now. I really shouldn’t bring all of them with me, because I will probably end up reading none of them anyway. I do this all the time. I bring a ton of books with me, and then spend the whole time I’m on the planes sleeping or working on my own stuff. Decisions, decisions.

*I feel like this one needs a little explanation. I’m sort of mildly obsessed with the Mitford sisters, and I own several books about or by them. My friend Cambria gave me this one about a month or so ago. Debo is my second favorite Mitford, so I’m looking forward to reading it.

Write on

Posted on July 29th, 2009 by annakjarzab

I realize that it’s been a while since I talked about my current works in progress, and that’s probably because I’m a little bit stalled. I’m not panicking, because A.) it is fruitless and B.) I don’t expect to be stalled much longer. I think what’s been happening is that between all the traveling to California, weddings, graduations, friend and family visits, trivia, work and work-related shenanigans, and putting the finishing touches on AUT, plus life maintenance such as grocery shopping and laundry (el oh el as if I’ve done laundry) and assorted errands, I just haven’t had the time, and when I’ve had the time I haven’t had the energy, to write.

I also realize that I meant to put up a post about my trip to California in June, when I visited the semi-ghost towns up near Sacramento, and I never did that. Now would be a good time, I think, considering that it was all research for GR.

Here’s the thing about my writing this summer. I have about three projects that I’m actively thinking about/working on, albeit in the small spurts that I’ve been able to fit in to my schedule. One is “big”, in the sense that it’s probably going to be on the long-ish side (and considering that my YA debut is going to be 352 pages, you might want to adjust your definition of “long-ish” in this situation), and that it’s what I’m calling a quasi-post-apocalyptic pseudo-mystery. It’s sort of a thriller, too. It’s crazytown, basically, and I’ve been referring to it as GR.

Then there are two “smaller” books in that they are going to be shorter (probably shorter than AUT, although maybe not, who knows). One of them is a family-type drama, and one of them is a comedy (by my definition, at least–you should know that I consider MB a comedy, and it’s about a boy who goes missing and has the word “murder” in the title, so…). The family-type drama doesn’t have a name (well, I have one for it, but it’s ridiculous and I’m a little embarrassed of it, so here I will call it “Fluffy”), and the comedy has a tentative name that is pretty boring so here I will call it “Lancelot.” I probably won’t be talking about either of these much, to be honest, because they’re not that hard, they just require time at the computer and a steady hand.

GR, however, is the bane of my existence. There are these moments in writing where you know what you want the end product to look like, and you know what you have so far, and there is such a huge gulf between those two things that you think you’ll never get across it. It’s so discouraging. Right now, I’m 80 pages into GR and just verging on the start of the action, which is a PROBLEM, and also the story itself is losing steam. I had a hard time building an outline for GR, so I decided to write up to the point where my outline stopped and then try again, because I have beats I want to hit, ideas for scenes, the end, and a good grasp of the character arcs, but I don’t have a sure-fire plan as such. This morning I think I might have thought of a way to accelerate the action, and some pieces seem to have fallen into place because of that, so that’s good progress. I have a long weekend starting tomorrow, so I should be able to get at least some serious thinking done, if not any actual work.

But whatever! Vacation pictures. For whatever reason I’m pretty protective of GR, so while these pictures and explanations might give you an idea of what I’m doing with it, I’m not going to be explicit about how the places and things I show fit into the story–you’ll just have to guess. And wait.

Okay, so first of all, this is apropos of nothing, but my sister graduated from high school:




Fun facts: the last time I was sitting in that pavilion (at the Alameda County Fairgrounds) I was there to see a Björn Again concert. True story! Also, that blue dress I’m wearing, I wore that to every single event this summer: two weddings, two graduations, plus a bonus BEA! It’s getting a workout, but it’s cute so that’s okay.

Earlier that day, my mom and I had gone to the Winchester Mystery House, for my research purposes. I took so many pictures and videos that I can’t possibly post them all here, but trust me, this place is awesome. This was my third time going, and I had just as much fun as I did the first time. We took the big tour, which is the Mansion Tour plus the Behind the Scenes tour, plus the Garden Tour, although that’s free and self-guided. The only thing we didn’t do was the Winchester Firearms Museum, which I plan to go back and do over Christmas. If you’re ever in the Bay Area, believe me, the Winchester Mystery House is totally worth it and fun for the whole family.

BUT: It is not scary. You should see the billboards that are up on all the freeways in Northern California, they’ve got, like, skulls and crossbones on them and give you the impression that the WMH is a haunted house, but it’s not. They’ve got their ghost stories, of course, all old houses have them, but for the most part it’s just a really weird place. Sarah Winchester moved west from Connecticut in 1884, after the death of her only child, Annie, in infancy and her husband from tuberculosis. Back then, San Jose was a total farming community, so she purchased 162 acres of land, most of which was orchards, and an eight-room farmhouse, which she built upon for the next 38 years–twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to the tune of $5.5 million, which in today’s money would be about $70 million. ON A HOUSE. A house that was worthless after she died, because the eccentricity and, in some ways, impracticality of its design, its size, and the massive amounts of money it cost to keep it up made it unlivable for anyone who wasn’t Sarah Winchester. And even SHE had other homes.


The house from the front, facing Winchester Blvd.

Now, there are all sorts of stories about what Sarah Winchester did or didn’t believe, why she built the house the way she did, who she was, etc., but the truth was that she was very private and left behind no written account of her intentions with regards to the house–no letters, no journals, not even blueprints. They say she moved to San Jose because a medium in Boston told her to. Supposedly she believed herself to be haunted by the ghosts of those killed by the Winchester rifle, and the Boston medium told her that if she were to go west and build a house without ceasing, she would never die. Sarah could afford to do this because she was, like, a gazillionaire. Truly. She inherited $20 million after the death of her husband–and this was before there was income tax, so she got to keep it all–and 50% ownership of the Winchester Repeating Arms company, which provided a $1,000 a day allowance. That’s still a lot of money! Back then it was a huge fortune.


Stairs to the ceiling

Anyway, so she built this house, all day, every day, for almost forty years. She did eventually die, though, because obviously eternal life is bullshit. The house is crazytown because there are no blueprints and never were–she used to sketch out plans for rooms on napkins and scraps of paper and just hand them to her foreman. That’s why the place is a virtual maze, with stairways that lead to ceilings, cabinets that are one inch deep, chimneys that stop a foot before the roof, winding corridors, six kitchens, thirteen bathrooms, two basements, forty-seven fireplaces, and much more.


The Room Where Mrs. Winchester Died, or the Deadroom


A door leading out from the seance room–into the kitchen sink, a flight below.

Okay, like all good rich Victorian ladies, Sarah Winchester was something of a spiritualist, purportedly anyway. She had an interest in contacting the dead, which is understandable given the losses she suffered, and had a seance room built in her house for expressly that purpose, but there’s really no proof that she ever actually had seances in there. It’s kind of small. It does, however, have that weird door that leads to nothing but a short drop and a sudden stop, if you will. There’s a lot of things like that in the house. I don’t know what happened to the photos I took of the seance room, that one seems to be the only one I have at the moment. Hm.


The north conservatory

The thing about Mrs. Winchester was that she was also something of a tech buff. I mean, she didn’t have an iPod or anything (although Apple’s headquarters aren’t very far away from the Mystery House–COINCIDENCE?! Definitely), but she liked cutting edge stuff. The conservatory pictured above has a slanted floor made of removable wood panels; when the wood is taken off, there is a second floor made of some kind of metal (tin?). This allows the plants to be watered and the unused water to fall to the floor, where it flows down the slant and into a container to be used again, in the conservatory or elsewhere. Go green! The conservatory also has an elevator, one of three on the property, which, as you might imagine, is a bit unusual for the Victorian age.

Other conveniences include steam and forced-air heating, indoor toilets and plumbing (including a hot shower), push-button gas lights, and a call system that allowed Mrs. Winchester to summon her servants to any part of the mansion from any part of the mansion. Pretty cool, if I do say so myself.


So you know how before I was mentioning that Mrs. Winchester would just build a room on to the existing exterior wall? Well, here’s proof. This is the unfinished second ballroom (Second! Ballroom! Because she needed two! To entertain the guests she didn’t even have!)–the walls hadn’t gone up at the time of her death–and you can see how the walls of the ballroom were being built right smack up against the outside, covering up a window and the old paint job and everything. This is one of the reasons why the house is so freakin’ weird. It’s also one of the reasons it survived (for the most part) two extreme earthquakes, because half of it is built on a de facto floating foundation, because all the rooms were built separately. That provided enough sway for the house to stay upright. Science!

Speaking of ballrooms, here’s the finished one:


Okay, this room is the best. First of all, it was built almost completely without nails. Second of all, it has a vault in it, hidden behind a wooden door, so heavy that it required its own foundation–and when it was opened upon Mrs. Winchester’s death, it was found to contain locks of hair from her daughter and husband, and their obituaries. That’s it. The silver chandelier came from Germany, with twelve candle holders. Mrs. Winchester, who was rumored to have a superstition about the number thirteen and scattered the number around the house (the thirteenth bathroom has thirteen windows in it, for example), had a thirteenth candle holder added. It looks terrible; as you can see in this larger picture, it’s lopsided. WHOOPS!

The stained glass windows each have a quote from a Shakespeare play on them. “Wide unclasp the the tables of their thoughts,” says the left-hand window (Troilus and Cressida, IV:5:60); “These same thoughts people this little world,” says the right-hand window (Richard III, V:5:9). What did they mean to Mrs. Winchester? Hell if I know. But they must have meant something to her. This guy has a theory, though, and it makes sense to me.

The grand ballroom cost $9,000 at a time when a whole house could be built for >$1,000. This was the point when my mom shook her head and said, “If she had to spend all of that money, why didn’t she just give it to charity?” The answer, of course, is that she did–she gave lots of her money away. But my mom has a point. What a colossal waste, and furthermore, if she really did believe building forever would make her live forever, what complete selfishness. HOWEVER. Now the house belongs to posterity, and we can walk through it and marvel at it and deconstruct it as a physical expression of one person’s psychology, and that is amazing.

Okay, I could show you a million more pictures and talk forever about this house, because it’s the coolest, but I won’t. As it is this post is super long; I’ll do another installment to talk about the semi-ghost towns we visited.

Matryoshka Mondays!

Posted on July 27th, 2009 by annakjarzab

Because apparently I’m now one of those crazy ladies with a creepy obssession, I came up with this really rather unnecessary idea to do Matryoshka Mondays which are basically posts put up on Monday (which I’m sure you gathered) with some sort of matryoshka item of interest (probably just to me)–from my growing collection, or just something I found on the Internet. Eventually, once I get my life sorted, these will probably involve a book giveaway, because I have a LOT of books and a teeny, tiny New York apartment with very little room in it. But that will have to wait. Today, it’s just this:


I found this print on Etsy, in the AutumnAndEve shop. It’s adorable, and only $14.99, but come on, I cannot just pounce on every single matryoshka related item on God’s green goodness. Save some water for the fish, as they say. So I refrained…for now. I did just buy a matryoshka print after all. I couldn’t resist, I thought it was too too funny:

uqq5a1ynqpckjmwmuamsajcro1_5002I especially like it because the surly boy doll in the hoodie is, like, the most accurate depiction of Neily I’ve ever seen.

In other news, I finally got home last night around 1:30 AM, after being delayed for almost two hours in Oakland (this is what I get for bragging that all my flights had been on time or early this entire year) and being put into a holding pattern at JFK because of the weather. Apparently there were huge thunderstorms or somesuch? I did see lightning from the plane, which is of course terrifying. But all was well, I landed safe and sound, the taxi line was long but not ridiculously so, and I gobbled up some mac and cheese and fell dead asleep.

Maggie’s wedding was awesome–very laid back and sweet–and I’ll be sure to post pictures soon, but until then…enjoy the matryoshki.

Brief updatelettes

Posted on June 17th, 2009 by annakjarzab

Hey guys. Sorry I fell off the face of the planet for a hot second there. I was in California, as you probably gleaned. I’m working up to a post about all the things I did there (hint: it was a lot, mostly for GR research which went SPLENDIDLY; I find myself approaching the manuscript with a lot more love and vigor, if caution), but for right now I need to catch up on some much needed sleep, visit my friend Jenny, who has been pretty seriously sick (she’s getting better, though, and finally coming home from the hospital!), unpack my suitcase and put it back under the bed so it isn’t taking up literally half the floorspace in my teeny, tiny bedroom, and attend to some other things that, um, need attending to.

Meanwhile, no news about ARCs or first pass pages or blurbs or…anything, really. I will keep you updated, though. And hopefully this week you’ll get a huge post (probably a two-parter, with the second part to go up on The A Team blog, because I’m sneaky like that) on all the GR research I did last week. If I can drag myself out of bed and away from How I Met Your Mother Season 1 long enough to write it.

My mystery’s history

Posted on May 5th, 2009 by annakjarzab

As most of my regular readers (hi guys!) already know, All Unquiet Things is set in a town called Empire Valley. EV is in Northern California, and though it doesn’t technically exist, it is an amalgam of the town my parents live in and a few surrounding towns. I was staying with my parents this weekend when I went to Nor Cal for Carmen’s wedding, and we passed something weird a couple of times on the way to the freeway.

Close to my parents house there is this sort of abandoned dead mall with a huge, unused parking lot, and it’s in the process of being torn up. There is also an old house in pieces and on trailers, and my mother told me that they’d recently moved it in, my dad says from the east side of town where they started building brand new McMansions maybe ten years ago. That land all used to be ranches–the whole area used to be ranches, actually, including the hills where my parents live.

One of my first memories of moving into that house (I was sixteen) was that my brother and I took a walk to this cul-de-sac that has a view of the valley, and as we were sitting there talking we could hear cows mooing on the nearby hills. In Illinois, we grew up literally behind a farm, but it didn’t have any animals on it (long, scandalous story involving murder, mayhem, organized crime, drugs, insurance fraud, and animal abuse–I’m not even kidding, you can’t make this stuff up sometimes), so we were a little thrown.

Anyway, my mother told me that the town had bought most of that parking lot and they were moving the house there to build a sort of historical center and park near the old church and cemetery. It reminded me of something I wrote in AUT, a short paragraph about the history of the town and what it meant for a relatively new place like California to put so much emphasis on preserving and displaying its history, that I really, really loved. And then I remembered that my editor had suggested I take it out, because it was the second paragraph of the novel and it was important to launch right into the action of the story on page one. We didn’t need it, so it hit the cutting room floor.

To tell you the truth, I was going to ignore that advice from my editor and keep it, because I thought it was important, but to be accommodating I took it out to see how the paragraph before it and the one after it would feed into each other and just…forgot to put it back in. Because my editor was right. We didn’t need it. The atmosphere of the town was established well enough without it, and it put an extra paragraph between the reader and the start of the action. Its absence didn’t leave a big gaping hole; the page read better and quicker without it.

BUT, it’s one of my favorite paragraphs I’ve ever written, so I’m going to post it here. I know it’s totally out of context and maybe you’ll be like, “Why was she so in love with this?” But I obviously missed it–because I’d forgotten the fact that I’d taken it out in the first place and got sad when I remembered it was permanently excised from the manuscript–so that means something, I think.

The place had a funny air of antiquity about it, the sort you hardly ever associate with California. Empire Valley prided itself on its handful of registered historic places—an old one-room schoolhouse where a local elementary school now stored athletic equipment, a clapboard general store that had been taken over by an evangelical Christian church, a cemetery near the freeway where some members of the Donner party were buried. They were all half-hearted claims to fame, reminders that we were a community with a shared past.

On the theme of revisions, my adorable fellow Tenner, Alexandra Bracken, posted a video describing her revisions process. It’s very similar to mine, to be sure. Suffer through editorial letter, cry about how you suck, start with the small stuff, work up to the big stuff, ditch the ‘tude, realize that you’re not a hack you’re just afraid of being a hack, start to see how the changes you’re making are better than what you had before and revel in that fact, then, happily, finish and think back, “That wasn’t that bad!” Remind yourself never to let revisions upset you again. Receive your next round of revisions, or your revisions on your next book, and forget all about how you can do it, forget about how you are a winner, suffer through your editorial letter, cry about how you suck, lather, rinse, repeat.

MOST importantly: doesn’t Alex have pretty hair? Totes jealy.

Vacation prep

Posted on April 30th, 2009 by annakjarzab

First things first: new post up about copyedits at The A Team, check it out.

Next: My tailbone hurts…why? I haven’t fallen down any marble staircases on my butt recently, at least not that I remember (that is a possibility, it has happened before).

Thirdly: I am going on vacation! Actually, that is a lie, it is a very short jaunt to California for a wedding, as I have previously mentioned like a bajillion times. But I’m leaving New York for the first time in four months, and that needs to be celebrated because I seriously never leave this island and I’m feeling a bit claustrophobic.

There are things that I know I should do to prepare to go out of town tomorrow. I should pack, first and foremost, but all my clothes are dirty. A sensible person would do laundry, but this morning in the shower I decided to go a slightly less economical route and just buy new clothes for my trip. This seems lazy and stupid, and it is, but also I was going to try to buy a new dress for Carmen’s wedding (way to leave that to the last second, self!) anyway, and I do need new summer clothes because I tend to wear things out rather than spend time and money to replace them, so, really, it is also very practical, albeit for impractical reasons. Also, I’m only going to California for two days, so really I only need, like, a new shirt in addition to the dress.

I don’t really care about packing for trips. I know there are some people who get excited by picking out and planning the clothes they’re going to wear, but I don’t. What I get excited about is what books I’m going to pack. I always take way too many because I never know what I’m going to want to read on the plane. I have so many options. I’m definitely bringing Mahbod Seraji’s Rooftops of Tehran with me–not only are Mahbod and I agency-mates, but he lives in the town next door to my parents’, which is an interesting coincidence. Then there’s the long-ago reduced bound manuscript of Kristin Cashore’s Graceling, lent to me, along with the ARC of Fire, by a friend. I actually have a ton of YA ARCs accumulated from various sources that I want to read, so I could take any of those with me.

Speaking of YA ARCs, I finished Justine Larbalestier’s Liar a few days ago and it was SO SO SO GOOD. I love YA that is edgy and pulls no punches, and Liar was that for sure (another example of a book I read like that recently is Courtney Summers’ Cracked Up to Be, which was wonderful–also, Michael Northrop’s Gentlemen took some risks that surprised me and worked out really well). I adored it, and I can’t wait to buy it when it comes out in late September. I can’t even really talk about it here because I’m afraid I’ll spoil it if I do, and, while I already knew the major twists and turns of the story before I read it and I think I loved it the more for it, Justine’s asked that nobody whoops such things on the Internet and I respect that. I’ll probably be posting a similar plea when All Unquiet Things ARCs start floating around, although the person most likely to commit such a sin is myself, because I love spoiling people and being spoiled.

Back to book packing, I picked up a couple of Simon Doonan’s books in pb a few days ago, too, and I might take Eccentric Glamour, which appears appropriately whackadoo, with me just for kicks (for I doubt it will make much of an impact on my style).

Anyone else got suggestsions suggestions*?

*Yes, I suggest you learn to spell “suggestions” right. Also, if you’ve come this far, there is more hidden content up on the site today, and there will be more in the following days, so remain vigilant.

California Dreamin’

Posted on April 28th, 2009 by annakjarzab

One of my weekly rituals here in New York is Wednesday night pub trivia. I’m not very good at it, but trivia has a really important place in my life here–it’s where I met most of my close friends in New York, and it’s at least one time a week when I can count on seeing most, if not all, of them. We’ve become tight with the bartenders, and the whole place feels so homey to me–it’s quite a touchstone for my life here.

Anyway, my friend Tony, who runs Wednesday trivia with his cohost Janet, started a new trivia night at a different bar and decided to have a rotating stable of cohosts, each delivering one round of questions per week. Last night, I was that cohost. I’ve been bugging Tony to let me cohost trivia for about nine months now, conveniently forgetting that I hate public speaking of all kinds and that I have trouble reading things aloud in front of people. I should be a joy to behold at readings and signings come January, you guys! So when Tony scheduled me, I was excited, until a few days ago, when I realized how anxious I was about all of it. Whoops.

But, you know, it’s good practice, and it went totally fine, although I did read too fast for a while as I am apt to do and there were only three teams who showed up this week. Ah well, can’t be perfect, and because there were only three teams my team won third place, so, silver lining. Tony did say that the questions I wrote were great and required almost no surgery from him, which was a nice compliment. Now I’m a little hooked on the experience and I! WANT! TO! DO! IT! AGAIN! Tony said I could in late July, so get excited for that, New Yorkers.

For fun I thought I’d post my questions (the theme of the round was California Dreamin’, although I was too afraid to say something so cheesy on stage so I just told them the theme of the round was California). I’ll put the answers in white below the questions. Let me know how many you get right!

1. Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill was founded in 1983 in San Diego after Ralph Rubio brought what local dish home from Baja California?
A: The fish taco.

2. Speaking of Baja California, the northernmost Mexican state is bordered by two bodies of water—the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Gulf of California to the east. What is the other name for the Gulf of California?
A: The Sea of Cortez

3. As of 2005, there are ten campuses in the University of California public university system, and they all share a school motto, Fiat lux. What does Fiat lux mean in English?
A: Let There Be Light

4. In San Jose, CA there stands a late Victorian mansion that features 160 rooms, 47 fireplaces, two ballrooms, cost an estimated $70 million in 2008 dollars, and requires 20,000 gallons of paint every time it is repainted. This house was built by the president of what gun manufacturing company’s eccentric widow?
A: Winchester

5. What other state besides California has elected a governor from the cast of Predator?
A: Minnesota

6. Because he’s so down with what the kids are doing these days, how did San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom announce his 2010 candidacy for Governor of California?
A: Via Twitter

7. The USC Trojan Marching Band was featured on a hit song that went up to #8 on the Billboard charts, and it’s still played at SC football games today. Give me the song and the band who released it.
A: Fleetwood Mac, “Tusk”

8. Los Angeles is a big sports city. Everyone knows that the Dodgers play baseball, the Lakers play basketball, and the Kings play hockey, but what sport did the Los Angeles Riptide play before they were shut down this year because of the financial crisis?
A: Lacrosse

9. What is the largest city in California not to be serviced by an Interstate freeway?
A: Fresno

10. What famous American model, credited with popularizing the naval piercing and currently married to actor/writer/director Ed Burns, was born in Walnut Creek, CA in 1969?
A: Christy Turlington

In praise of the internets

Posted on April 21st, 2009 by annakjarzab

I had a very productive night last night. FIRST, I watched one and a half episodes of Bones–major achievement! (Not at all.) Also, I cooked dinner, another one of my “lazy” meals (perhaps you are familiar with my Lazy Chicken Cacciatore, which I learned this weekend means “chicken for hunters” in Italian or whatever). Actually, this meal is only lazy if you consider the fact that I make it because I’m too lazy to go to Trader Joe’s, which is about twenty minutes from work in the opposite direction of my apartment. (So, forty minutes from my house.)

You see, Trader Joe’s has these amazing frozen pasta dishes that are low-cal and also delicious. My favorites are the mushroom linguine and the gnocchi, but because of the aforementioned farness of my local TJ’s I only go once in a while, stock up, and then when I run out I run out. I’ve run out. I ran out several months ago, in fact, and the last time I had a supply it was one I’d dragged back from Chicago because it was less annoying to bring frozen pasta from another city than it was to get it here in New York. Go figure.

Thus, I have to resort to reproducing these pasta dishes as best I can. I haven’t found a way to reproduce the mushroom fettucini, although believe me when I do figure it out I will tell you, but the gnocchi is really easy. First, I buy prepared gnocchi from the grocery store. Sometimes I get the frozen kind, sometimes I get the vacuum sealed kind, I haven’t found a noticeable difference except often the bags of frozen gnocchi (depending on which brand; I can’t remember what mine is called) yield more food.

First, I boil the gnocchi (this takes almost no time, because they cook almost instantly–you’ll know they’re done when they’re floating on the top, like ravioli) and drain it, then heat up a pan with a little bit of olive oil (maybe two tablespoons) and half of a forkful of minced garlic. (Again, I am lazy so I buy the kind in the jar. The garlic amount is for sure not hard and fast, because some people don’t like garlic as much as I do. Use what feels good to you.)

Once the garlic is nice and sizzly, I throw in the gnocchi and dump about a cup of pasta sauce on top (add more if it doesn’t seem like enough, and some will cook off). I use Brad’s Low-Fat Roasted Garlic pasta sauce because it’s my favorite (I also use it in the Lazy Chicken Cacciatore), but anything is probably good if it doesn’t have chunks of vegetables or meat in it. Then I throw maybe half of a handful of shaved or grated cheese (I’ve been using asiago recently, but parmesan works, and chunks of mozzarella would definitely work, mmmm) on top and mix the sauce, garlic, and cheese all the way in with the gnocchi. It takes about two minutes, and it’s scrumptious. I eat it with frozen vegetables sometimes (green beans or broccoli), but last night I had a salad with mesculin greens, cucumbers, grape tomatoes and balsamic vinegarette dressing (the spray kind).

Okay, so anyway, besides making dinner and watching Bones, I got some real work done last night. I got farther in my copyedits (I’m over halfway done now) and I even solved a little issue with the POWER OF WORDZ AND COMPROMIZEZ. Maybe I’ll tell you this story one day. I also wrote almost 2,000 words in GR, which I hadn’t touched in months. I was able to write because of research I did at the touch of a button online, which is pretty amazing.

As soon as I told my mother what GR was about, she suggested we go visit some ghost towns (California is lousy with them) on one of my trips home this summer. She sent me a link to a website that lists all the CA ghost towns*, and I think I’ve decided I want to go to El Dorado County–probably Coloma and Georgetown and maybe Placerville for the Gold Bug Mine–because that’s where GR is set.

I’m also toying with the idea of dragging the fam to Rescue (also in El Dorado County), because that’s the town GR is based on. Luckily for me, Rescue (which has a very anorexic Wikipedia page) has its own historical society, where I was able to get some documents describing the town’s people and past and a map of the historical sites that are still standing. El Dorado County also has its own historical museum in Placerville (another reason to make that a stop on the tour) and two websites devoted to its history. And that’s only the research for GR I did last night–I also used a great deal of research I’d already done on another Bay Area historical oddity, all of which I found on the web.

God I love the Internet.

*This website is a little weird, though, in that it lists my parents’ county as part of Southern California.


Posted on February 10th, 2009 by annakjarzab

I’m sure everyone has heard by now about the devastating fires that are raging in southern Australia, in the state of Victoria. As a Californian, I know a little bit about the damage that dry grass, high temperatures and strong winds can cause. It’s a problem every single year in California, most notably in Southern California, where the Santa Ana winds blow unabated for a good part of the fall and winter. When we were in college, Kim, who lived in Orange County, used to talk about how intolerable it was in her apartment, which didn’t have air conditioning, and because of the Santa Anas (also the cause of the heat) and the fires she couldn’t open her windows unless she wanted everything to be covered with soot and ash.

When I was a junior in college, the Cedar Fire literally tore through San Diego, and several of my friends’ families lost their houses. Last summer, Northern California (where my parents live) and Central California were covered in both human-caused and dry lightning strike-caused fires. It’s no joke. It wasn’t until I moved to California that I really started to fear fire because I grew up in a wetter climate, where a fire might spread house to house but it’s not going to spread county to county in the blink of an eye.

Although, I do remember there being a fire on the block next to ours and the fire department doing a tour of it, I guess to impress the necessity of fire safety, and my mother taking us (I must’ve been about eight, because I think my sister was with us in a stroller). It was terrifying. Everything was charred and black and unrecognizable, and while I hadn’t known the family who lived in the house (everyone survived, thankfully), the houses in our subdivision were really just three different layouts and then their mirror images, so this house looked exactly like the houses of several of our friends in the neighborhood. But that was just one house. Imagine thousands of houses, basically turned into blackened rubble in a matter of hours.

All Unquiet Things begins at the end of a hot, windy, dusty summer, where everything is bone dry and you’re waiting for either the rain to come and take away the danger or a fire to start and turn the whole place into an inferno. It’s a precarious time in California. So I can imagine the fear and the sadness people in Australia are experiencing right now. They’re saying that some of the fires can probably be attributed to arson, which floors me. I can’t imagine any reason why someone would start a fire at all, let alone during the windiest, driest season in a country full of brush that’s just ready to burn.

Anyway, this is all to say please keep these people in your thoughts and, if you can, donate to the Red Cross.

Highlights from my trip to California

Posted on January 6th, 2009 by Anna Jarzab

When my family first moved to California eight and a half (oh God, really?) years ago, I volleyed between despondent and massively pissed off. I was a senior in high school and had lived practically my entire life in one house in Chicago’s north suburbs, fifteen minutes away from my aunt and cousins and half an hour away from my grandmother. I had lots of friends at my giant, award-winning, nationally respected high school, I was on a very hardcore swim team and a State-winning water polo team, and I was taking all these advanced classes. Then we moved to the Tri-Valley, clear halfway across the country, where I was enrolled in a tiny (by my standards) public school with no water polo team and only a handful of AP classes. I basically resigned myself to just pushing through that last year; I didn’t really feel confident about making friends or forgiving my parents for depositing me unceremoniously in that hell hole, so I figured I’d just get through it as best I could and then go back to Chicago for college.

As with many preconceived notions, mine were dashed when I met probably the most important people in my life besides my family. I ended up making some amazing friends that year, and these girls are not only still my best friends in the whole wide universe, they’re pretty much my sisters. Anyway, usually my family goes to Chicago for Christmas for about two weeks, but this year my mother, who has been doing a lot of international traveling for her job, pretty much said “Enough planes already!’ and instead of all of us convening in Chicago, I flew out to the Bay Area for Christmas. Lucky for me, my best friends (whose families also still live in the Tri-Valley) were there as well, and we spent ten days hanging out, during which a lot of really fun stuff happened. Here is a partial list:

  • Christmas Eve brunch: I went out for breakfast with my friend Kim, her sister Jennifer, Jennifer’s boyfriend (of like five or six years who for some reason I’d never met) Steve, my friend Cambria, and my brother JJ. IHOP (I know, we so classy) was really crowded, so we went to this ancient breakfast place that I’d never actually been to and ate our fill of greasy food. The best part of that morning was going to our old high school (where my sister’s still a student), which is being razed to the ground and rebuilt. It was like exploring the ruins of Rome, except not as pretty–seriously, there were walls torn down and we saw a mural that we’d never seen before in our collective nine years of attending school there because it was in the teacher’s lounge. The new building was sleek and cool and we were all super jealous because we had to attend class in dark, cramped buildings from the seventies.
  • Christmas Eve: My mom cooked a full Wigilia dinner (delish!) and we opened presents. It was fun and low-key and I wore a kick-ass Blair Waldorf flower headband but I seem to have misplaced my camera and so the only pictures are on my parents’ ancient digital, good luck to me getting a hold of them. That’s actually the theme of this whole vacation–ten days and I have no pictures to show for it.
  • Town Dive Bars: We spent many of our nights exploring the limited number of bars in the valley, because we usually just go to one and, fun as it is, we thought we might have a better time at the others. Pretty much they were all let-downs, because let’s be honest: this is a suburb, and we all live in real cities. Still, the Bud Light is dirt cheap and the company was amazing.
  • Jenny’s birthday/mustache party: Jenny had been talking about having a mustache party for her birthday ever since she came to New York in October, probably, or at least since Th4nkSgiving. Anywiz, as luck would have it I received stylish mustaches in the office White Elephant game, so we wore them to one of the aforementioned dive bars one night. Let me tell you, it was amazing. Cambria’s mustache made her look just like her father, which pretty much creeped us all out. There were a couple of guys with us, but they were all clean-shaven, which made it all the funnier. These pictures are so hilarious, you guys, and if I ever get them I will defs share them on the blog (knowing Jenny and her current lack of any sort of computorial apparatus, it may be a while…possibly June). The best part of the whole night, though, happened before the party, at my parents’ house while my brother and I were getting ready to go out. My mother saw the mustaches on the kitchen table and asked, “What are those for?” I told her about the plan–wear the mustaches to the bar–and she gave me a huge hug and said, “I’m so glad I’m not young anymore.”
  • Harry Potter Clue: At the risk of sounding like a huge nerd here, Harry Potter Clue is THE MOST AMAZING GAME ON THE PLANET. It’s SO MUCH BETTER than regular Clue, which I find sort of boring. The board MOVES, with secret passages appearing and disappearing and doors opening and closing. Also, there are spells and Dark Marks and the whole thing is a Harry Potter fan’s dream. I even won once! I almost never win at games, and since Cambria has been playing Clue ever since she was a small child, and Kim is a veteran board gamer, I was pretty proud of myself to have beaten them. Oddly, we didn’t play Apples to Apples or Phase 10 this time, which are our staple games. (Someday I’ll blog about how Phase 10 is the answer to life, the universe and everything. It really is.)
  • Eating: Time at home with friends is usually our excuse to pig out. There’s a lot of great restaurants in the Yay* that we just don’t have in New York and even San Diego, so we try to do a nice sampler any time we’re home together. I went to Pasta Pomodoro, Jack in the Box, Red Robin, In ‘N Out, Zachary’s, and Fuzio, and the only reason that list isn’t longer is that I had of lot of dinners at home with my family, on purpose, because I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible.
  • Santa Clara: While I was home I went out to Mountain View to visit Carmen, my best friend from college. We had dinner at this lovely Mexican restaurant in the Pruneyard, El Burro, where the service was terrible but the food was delicious, and I saw an old acquaintance from college, Celeste, who was the editor of our literary review, the Santa Clara Review, when I was the fiction editor.** On our way back to Carmen’s house, where my car was parked, I asked her to drive us past Santa Clara, and I oohed and ahhed at the new fancy business school (Carmen was an accounting major, so she’s impressed by/slightly bitter about it) and the BRAND! NEW! BIG! LIBRARY! Because even though there was a whole article about it in the alumni magazine I inexplicably receive at work, there were no pictures, which is the dumbest thing ever. Anyway, our old library was a HOLE, totally inconsistent with the gorgeous mission-style architecture of the school, dark and ugly and pretty useless. They destroyed that monstrosity and put up this stucco-and-glass beauty. Direct quote from me: “Maybe if that had been the library when we were going to school, I would’ve used it more than once or twice a year.” On the way home I got slightly lost and ended up going past Santa Clara again (because I knew how to get home from there, curse the badly marked 101/237 junction), taking the long way to gaze at it one more time. Nostalgia has such a powerful influence on me; I sort of miss that place, and I can’t believe that my life now isn’t one long summer vacation and that I’ll never go back for another year there. Sad.
  • New Year’s Eve: Actually, this was sort of a weird night for me. Not bad, really, but I did end up going to sleep on the floor, freezing cold***, stone sober, at around five thirty in the morning, far after everybody else went to sleep, so…weird.
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Kim and I went to see this film super late one night, and let me tell you, I thought it was great. Anyone who knows me knows I couldn’t care less about Brad Pitt, but I loved the movie. It was long, yes, but the pace was leisurely rather than plodding, which added to the supple Southern feel, the story was beautiful and heartbreaking, and the CGI was terrif (I don’t agree with some reviews that it veers into the territory of the Uncanny Valley, because these weren’t CGI people, they were live actors)–I mean, when Cate Blanchett was supposed to be eighteen, she looked eighteen. I really thought for the longest time that they’d found a young girl who looked exactly like Cate Blanchett before realizing they’d done fancy computer stuff to her face. I cried about eighty-five times. People are complaining about how the plot has very little to do with Fitzgerald’s short story, which, come ON! You really couldn’t film that short story; the premise is great, but it’s ripe for a tragic love story and you don’t get that from Fitzgerald.

I’m sure I’ve missed some things, but those are the highlights. I really wish I had pictures of that mustache party. I think y’all would really enjoy them. Sigh. Someday. Related: I should find my camera before my birthday party on Saturday night. That I’m sure I’ll want pictures of.

*You’ve got to check out the Urban Dictionary page for “Yay.” It’s fantastic.

**Actually, that day was what I’m calling the Day of Randoms. I went to the mall with my mom and sister and we ended up seeing the mother of one of my sister’s friends, a family that my sister used to carpool to school with, my friends Kim and Jenny, and a girl my sister goes to high school with. Then we went to another mall and we saw our dentist. Then I saw Celeste. It was so so weird. I didn’t run into a single other random person while I was there. Curious.

***Actually, I was cold the whole time I was home. I don’t think I was ever really warm once. I didn’t bring a coat because I’m an idiot and ended up having to wear my old high school letterman’s jacket just so I didn’t freeze to death outside. People, listen to me: Just because it’s California doesn’t mean it’s going to be warm in January. Take it from me. I should’ve known better, I’ve lived through those winters. I thought all I would need was a rain coat. I was dead wrong.