Everything But Books
Fun and more fun, but none of it relating to books (because I have another page for that)

December 12, 2012

Music of my Heart: Christmas Edition

Just like my previous top five film post, I have decided to name my top five Christmas songs. Now, these aren’t your regular Christmas songs, but I promise they are still pretty awesome. I hope you will find them equally awesome! ENJOY!

p.s. That is Brandon Flowers (below) of The Killers with a very cool Santa Claus (you’ll find them on this list).


5. “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”

This song just makes me so happy!! It’s very corny, but it’s also adorable and innocent. It makes me want a hippopotamus!


4. The Killers- “Don’t Shoot Me, Santa”

Definitely a far cry from the previous song BUT hilariously awesome. I mean, why would Santa shoot anyone? He’s Santa! He only shoots people with love and gifts! But, I love this song anyway. Plus, The Killers are awesome so…


3.*NSYNC- “Merry Christmas, and Happy Holiday”

You know I wouldn’t do this list without mentioning *NSYNC! Many people forget about their Christmas album, but boy did they have one. And a GOOD one at that!!! This was probably their most popular Christmas song. Excuse me while I go and sing it 15 times…

2. She & Him- “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

Last year, Zooey Deschanel’s wonderful band, She & Him, made a cute little Christmas record and I bought it, on vinyl. Why vinyl, you ask? Because I feel very old-fashioned around the holidays. So, grab some hot cocoa and snuggle up next to a nice fire, because this is one of those songs that is going to make you want to do that.

1. Coldplay- “Christmas Lights”

Okay! Okay! This song! This song is probably not only one of my FAVORITE Christmas songs, it is definitely up there in my favorite songs of all time. It actually bothers me that they don’t play it on the radio around Christmas. Every time I hear this song, I cry. Not a sad cry, but a nostalgic cry. The combination of Chris Martin’s voice and the beautiful holiday that is Christmas makes me want to grab a tissue box and call the people I love just to say hi.



December 4, 2012

Spy gadget stocking stuffers that would make James Bond proud

Usually, we would have played Spies on a Mission, our favorite game ever since Johnny Clay had thought it up last summer. I was Constance Kurridge– detective, spy, pilot, and sometime movie star. And Johnny Clay was Red Terror– fierce code breaker and member of the Russian secret police. He’d made up Red Terror all by himself and had given him super strength; the ability to speak ten languages; and, best of all, a limp.

Velva Jean Learns to Drive

If you’ve read Becoming Clementine, you know that Velva Jean would never have settled for being a Bond Girl. She would have wanted to be 007 herself.

Shops like Women on Guard and Safety Girl specialize in female-friendly spy gear. For those of you who’ve ever had the urge (and who hasn’t?) to play private detective or Spies on a Mission, here are some covert and clever, and often life-saving little gadgets to slip into the Christmas stockings.

This Aqua Net Hair Spray Diversion Safe features a hidden compartment for money, passport, or jewelry. (And how much do I love that it’s Aqua Net?)

The handy Lipstick Pepper Spray (“in Fashion Colors!”) contains twenty half-second sprays with a range of ten feet.

The Dictionary Book Safe can hold any secret documents that your Aqua Net safe can’t accommodate.

This wrist watch is really a spy camera. It not only takes pictures, it can shoot video too. And its waterproof!

The Cat Defender Key Chain looks cute and harmless, but when you place your fingers through its eyes and set the mouth on the palm of your hand, it packs a mighty punch against an attacker.

The Original Safety Girl Kit isn’t so much a spy gadget as a collection of emergency roadside essentials, including band-aids, water, a nail file, a sewing kit, tampons, directions on how to change a flat tire and jumpstart a dead battery, a blanket, deodorant, and, of course, chocolate.

November 29, 2012

All I want for Christmas is Film

Now that Thanksgiving is done and everyone is in a food coma, I think it is time to think about Christmas. Okay, it may not be December yet, but who cares? I’m ready for another holiday…aren’t you?

In the spirit of the holidays, I have decided to choose my top 5 Christmas movies. Now, some classics may or may not be in here but I promise you all these movies are well worth the watch. The list will go from 5-1, 1 being my favorite. ENJOY!


Because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love Macaulay Culkin. Am I the only person who wished her parents left her home alone so she could make cool traps like that? Sure hope not.



Like every sane person in 1he 90s, I was a huge Tim Allen fan. Although, if you think about it, the storyline is pretty morbid. I mean, he (SPOILER) kills Santa, then replaces him. Not sure that’s how things in the real world go… Great movie though.



Now, I know this should be number one…I mean it’s in my top 5 favorite movies of all time, BUT in my defense numbers 3 and 2 are kind of equal when it comes to how many times I have watched them (which is about 10 times each). This movie makes me seriously appreciate life and realize that the smallest things can have a huge effect on people’s futures.



My god do I love this movie and honestly, I never thought I would love a movie with Jack Black– but behold, I do. Jude Law isn’t bad to look at either. There are some really tender moments in this movie and some really hilarious moments. Definitely a feel good movie– especially toward the end.



Probably the most romantic/heartbreaking/lovable movie ever. My heart hurts a little every time I watch this for various reasons. And for the best reasons. A perfect article to read right after this movie is found below:


Dont try to read it before you have seen the movie, because it won’t make sense. It is probably the only all-star cast film that actually works perfectly. Again, I love this movie so much it hurts!

 Anyway, hope you enjoy this list and it helps you through the holidays. Now I’m going to go and watch Love Actually. So freaking good.


November 21, 2012

A Thanksgiving memory

This is one of my favorite Thanksgiving stories.

In 1992, I adopted two fluffy white cats from the Humane Society in La Jolla, California. The volunteers there warned me of the possible health problems I could expect with two male all-white part-Persians: bad teeth, bad gums, susceptibility to skin cancer, possible kidney disease, possible heart disease.

I barely listened. It didn’t matter. I was in love. Besides, George and Percy were young, wild, and healthy. It was hard to imagine anything bad ever happening to them. I soon discovered that George was accident prone and, in particular, that he loved to eat things he shouldn’t. He used up five of his nine lives by the time he was three. By the time he was fourteen, he was– as his doctors said– “onto the lives of other cats.”

For a while now, I’ve been collecting stories for a George book about his many, many lives. In honor of Thanksgiving, here is one of them.

Life Number Two — The Thanksgiving Turkey

When George was six months old, my mother traveled from the east coast to be with me for Thanksgiving. George and Percy loved the idea of a day in which we did nothing but eat, and they particularly enjoyed the turkey. In the four days my mother was there, they learned the word “turkey,” and would come running to the kitchen if I announced that it was being offered. Before Mom left for home, she—knowing my slothful and shocking kitchen habits—made me swear that I would walk the fifteen feet from my apartment to the trash chute across the hall to throw away the turkey carcass once I was finished with the leftovers.

“Throw it away after three or four days,” she said, “and whatever you do, do not eat it after that because it will have gone bad.” I didn’t need to ask her what “gone bad” meant– she had been telling me about the horrors of botulism for years.

So, of course, Mom left and I forgot to throw the turkey away. One night in mid-December, I returned home from work and found the entire apartment dark except for an eerie, glowing light coming from the kitchen. It was suspiciously quiet. With thoughts of burglars, I tiptoed toward the kitchen. The refrigerator door was swung open wide and there, on the floor, sat the old Thanksgiving turkey carcass, which– after all these weeks– had turned a kind of alarming gray color.

When I had left the apartment that morning, the door to the fridge had been closed. And the turkey had meat on it. Now, the door had been pried open and the carcass was picked entirely clean.

Realizing that the burglars were small and fuzzy and living right under my nose, I raced through the apartment calling the kitties. I found them on the living room floor, eyes closed, fat, furry bellies turned up toward the ceiling, lying completely, utterly still.

I had killed them. I couldn’t believe it. I had killed my cats. And now I was going to have to call my mother and tell her that, due to my negligence, George and Percy were dead of botulism.

Then George began to snore.

I burst into tears, which roused them from their naps. George chirped at me to be quiet. I picked them up and squeezed them– They’re still with me. There’s still time. Then I stuffed them into one large cat carrier and rushed them to the emergency vet.

He checked their vitals, he took blood. Finally, he said there was nothing more he could do, but all seemed fine. He told me to go home and wait.

So I did.

I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I stayed up all night watching the cats, playing with them, waking them up if they fell asleep, as if they’d suffered concussions and needed to be kept alert. I talked to them and sang to them and said loud, urgent prayers to the universe to pleasepleaseplease let them live.

Twenty-four hours later, I was bleary-eyed, and George and Percy were irritable and hiding from me, wanting their sleep. But miraculously they were alive.

That night, the three of us slept and slept, and when I woke up, they were already in the kitchen, wanting breakfast. As I stood watching them eat, my heart still pounding from the excitement of the night before, the phone rang.

My mom and I chatted for a minute and then she said, “I’m sure you’ve already done this by now, but you did throw away the Thanksgiving turkey, didn’t you?”

“Of course,” I said. After all, this was true.

Two days later, George and Percy were still alive and my heart was back to its normal rhythm. Then George discovered something else he liked to eat: thumbtacks. I discovered him in my office pulling them out of my bulletin boards and spitting every third or fourth one out onto the floor. I scolded him halfheartedly. Then, once again, I bundled him up and took him to the vet, but even the doctor seemed unconcerned. For some reason, this wasn’t as worrisome as the turkey. After all, as far I knew no one had ever gotten botulism from a thumbtack.

(For more on George’s love of office supplies, stay tuned to Everything Books.)

November 19, 2012

Weekly video crush — Simon’s Cat

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — jennifer @ 5:29 pm

For those of you who don’t know him, Simon Tofield is a brilliant British animator who loves, among other things, cats. He has four cats himself, and they provide constant inspiration for his hilarious (and all-too-accurate) videos (and the books that resulted from them).

As he blogged in the Huffington Post, “I’ve enjoyed drawing since I was a little boy. Back then I used to amuse my school friends with drawings of characters I would create from my imagination. A lot of those early characters were based on animals. And once I got my first cat at the age of 8, then cats became one of my favorite subjects.”

Here is one of his funniest films:

October 21, 2012

Pretty boots for a rainy day

In 2005, I traveled to the high Siberian Arctic (setting of The Ice Master and Ada Blackjack) aboard a Russian icebreaker. Quark Expeditions, which organized the expedition, provided everyone with giant, all-weather parkas to protect us from the cold. One of the things they didn’t provide but advised us to pack was a hale and hearty pair of wellies, as they’re called in the UK– more commonly known as rain boots.

Me being me, I was determined to find pretty and stylish wellies. I figured it was bad enough I’d be wearing a hat and polar bear-sized coat the entire time– at least my feet and legs could stand out.

All these years later, as I get ready for a trip to Ireland (where everyone tells me it will rain, no matter what the slightly less ominous weather forecast says), I’m dusting off my faux leopard rubber boots with the bright pink soles.

But if I didn’t have them, oh the fun I could have finding new ones.  Here are some boots so cute you might even want to wear them on sunny days.

Horse Print Wellies in Pink (or Yellow) from Winstanley Welly

Randi Too by Kate Spade (sold by Piperlime)


 Skull and Roses Mid-calf Rubber Cowboy Rain Boots from eBay

Hunter Original (High Gloss) from Zappo’s

Spy Love Wyre Valley “Autumn” Wellies from amazon.com

Zebra Rain Boots from Brandi’s Boutique


Marc Jacobs Heeled Rubber Wellington Boots from Net-a-Porter.

(Not sure these are still available, outside of eBay,

but they’re just too adorable.  Like rain go-go boots!)

October 15, 2012

Weekly Video Crush – Clothes of the Future!


In the 1930s/1940s, designers imagined what we might be wearing in the year 2000.

Were they accurate? Take a look and see.

(If only I had an electric belt and a headlight hair accessory for my book tour. Does anyone know where I might find them?)


September 24, 2012

Cousin Terri’s Coq Au Vin

My cousin Terri Day McJunkin, in addition to being brilliant and beautiful, is also quite the cook.  In keeping with our French theme a la Becoming Clementine, here is Terri’s recipe for Coq Au Vin.  As she says, it’s “one of the very best classic French recipes ever (absolutely to die for).”

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
(2 tablespoons good olive oil for searing meat)

4 ounces good bacon or pancetta, diced
1 (3 to 4-pound) chicken, cut in 8ths
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound carrots, cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy (I use Merlot)
1 cup good chicken stock
10 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pound frozen small whole onions
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Lay chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle chicken on both sides w. salt and pepper. When bacon is removed, brown chicken pieces in batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove chicken to plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.

Add carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are lightly browned. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add wine and put bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate into the pot. Add chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover pot with a tight fitting lid and place in oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just ‘not pink’. Remove from oven and place on top of stove.

Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into stew. Add the frozen onions. In a medium saute pan, add remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to stew. Bring stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.

September 21, 2012

Music of my Heart: The Melody of France

Because of the soon approaching release of Becoming Clementine, the Jennifer Niven blog posts have become, well, French. I’m sure most of you have tried out Phoebe’s wonderful French recipes (I know I have) so I thought, why not pair them off with some French music to get the full experience…

So get your ears ready and your handy-dandy translators in hand because I found some great French music that I’m sure Velva Jean would enjoy.

First, let’s start with the classic. Edith Piaf was one of the most famous French singers in the 1930s-1960s and is still today the most recognizable name in French-music history. Her hard life only made her voice even more beautiful and haunting. Aside from listening to her music, I suggest watching her 2007 biopic La Vie en rose which won the lead actress an Oscar. Here is her most famous song, La Vie en rose.






Next is my favorite, Charles Aznavour. Why you ask? Because, although his name does not end in “ian”, he is in fact Armenian (his actual last name is Aznavourian). Don’t think I’m biased because of his race though–when you hear his voice you’ll understand. He is the most famous living French singer and although he is 88, he does give performances now and again and boy, he’s still got it! Here is one of his most popular songs, La Boheme.



On to a more modern singer. Although she has the classic French voice, Carla Bruni only just became popular in the last couple of years after her song was featured on the (500) Days of Summer soundtrack. Although I only speak broken French, and by broken French I mean twenty words if not less, I pretend I know exactly what she is saying while I listen to her in my car. Enjoy her amazing song, which I can’t even pronounce, Quelqu’un M’a Dit.



Someone very similar to Carla Bruni is Keren Ann. I recently discovered her,and although she sings both English and French, I prefer her French music. She has a gentle voice that would be amazing on a rainy afternoon. Here is her song Ailleurs meaning “Elsewhere.”




Last but not least, a very famous band that many people do not know are in fact French:  Phoenix. The band gained popularity in 2009 with the release of there record Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which featured famous songs like “1901and Lisztomania.”  Although not sung in French, this song technically does count as a French song, right?




Well, that’s enough for now! I hope you enjoy this lovely music while you enjoy one of Phoebe’s delicious recipes– and play it in the background while you read Becoming  Clementine. Each of these artists have
other amazing songs, so look them up and enjoy!!!

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