• creativity,  fiction,  film,  reviews

    In Defense of Gatsby

    I went to see the The Great Gatsby a couple of weekends ago, and I loved every over-the-top second of it. (No spoilers here, by the way, even if you’ve never read the novel). I know it’s been skewered in reviews. The Washington Post gave it two stars. Ouch. CNN called it garish, and The Independent said it lacks subtlety. Well, yes. I don’t know about you, but I don’t expect subtlety when I see movies directed by Baz Luhrmann. I mean, this is the director who gave us the epic Australia. He gave us Prince tunes and drag queens in his 1996 version of Romeo and Juliet. The whores’…

  • beverages,  booze,  food,  local,  restaurants,  reviews

    Local Spotlight: Umami Ramen & Dumpling Bar

    It’s unfortunate that the grand opening of Umami Ramen & Dumpling Bar on Madison’s East Side occurred just a few weeks before dump trucks and fork lifts rolled in to tear up Willy Street in a major road construction project that won’t conclude until October. Umami is located at 923 Williamson Street in a building that, from the outside, just looks like a renovated house. Inside, though, the space is modern and I dare say hip… all this in a neighborhood where tie-died shirts and Crocs are considered appropriate dinner attire. You can still wear your Crocs there, but you might feel upstaged a bit by the sexy lighting, bamboo…

  • books,  fiction,  reviews,  writing

    Book Review: An Urban Fairy Tale

    The Ballad of West Tenth Street: A Novel by Marjorie Kernan My rating: 4 of 5 stars A friend from my writing group (and the fastest reader I know) recommended this book to me. The back cover of The Ballad of West Tenth Street calls the novel an “urban fairy tale.” The story revolves around two Greenwich Village brownstones and their eccentric inhabitants. In one of the houses lives Sadie Hollander, the tipsy widow of a British rock star, and her adolescent children, Deen and Hamish. Her oldest child, Gretchen, lives away from home in a mental hospital. She was the only child who truly knew her father before he…

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  • blogging,  fashion,  reviews,  style

    Fashion Week Favorites

    My hometown of Madison, Wisconsin is known for a lot of things. Political activity, especially during the past couple of weeks. A thriving bike culture. Great microbrews. Fashion is not one of the things we areĀ  known for. Sure, we’re got some fantastic thrift stores, and major retailer shopbop.com has its headquarters in Madison. But unless you’re shopping for a pair of Keen sandals or a new Patagonia jacket, it can be hard to find the latest styles. So I look to the the internet for inspiration. While luckily celebrities, stylists, and bloggers crowded into the tents at Fashion Week in New York last week (yep, I’m talking about you,…

  • beverages,  food,  reviews,  tastings

    Sexy Beverages Sans Sauce

    A pregnant friend of mine recently asked a waiter, “Do you have any sexy non-alcoholic beverages?” The waiter looked confused, but rose to the occasion and came back with a Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew–a strong and sweet ginger ale. The eager young server watched as my friend took a first sip. “Is it sexy?” he asked. She declared that it was. See, we preggos get tired of seltzer and Sprite (which I think basically tastes like sugar dissolved in water). It’s good to have some options to mix things up when mixed drinks are off limits. In the last few months, I have become somewhat of a connoisseur of nonalcoholic…

  • books,  fiction,  reviews,  writing

    Review: The Help

    The Help by Kathryn Stockett My rating: 3 of 5 stars I feel like I was one of the last people in the world to read this book. That’s what happens when the stack of “to read” books next to your bed barely even fits in your nightstand–which I bought specifically because it had a nice, sizeable book cubby in it. But I digress… I’ve gotta say, Kathryn Stockett has some cojones. It’s not easy to write a book with multiple different voices and to make each voice distinct enough to be realistic and engaging. It’s also not easy to touch on the topic of race relations in Mississippi in…

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  • fiction,  reviews,  writing

    Putting Deadlines on Dreams

    November is almost over which, for me, brings the end of a frenzied month of writing. I signed up with several writer friends for NaNoWriMo, which means we each committed to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Some of us (like me) started with a work in progress. Some started new novels and some wrote nonfiction. What we have in common, though, is that all of us tapped into the positive peer pressure of making a public commitment–much like people do when they train for a marathon. I don’t run marathons; I write them. Novelist, screenwriter, and memoirist Dave Eggers sent an email today to all NaNoWriMo participants. I found…