Holiday Traditions for the Librarian in the City

As most readers will know (or will probably have surmised from the many, many posts about my dog), the Librarian in the City is a solitary city dweller.  With the holidays approaching, I’ve been trying to get into the spirit, but it’s not the same when it’s just you and your dog.  Back in my early 20s, when I got my first solo apartment, I was very excited because I was going to get my very own, REAL Christmas tree.  As a child, we’d had real trees when I was young, and I just adored the smell of the Christmas tree in the house.  But later, we stopped having a real tree and switched to a realistic, but fake tree.  I know that’s probably better than cutting down trees, plus my brother had asthma, so he couldn’t take the real thing, but as a little girl I was so disappointed that we wouldn’t have that awesome pine tree scent ever again.  So from that time, I became bound and determined to have a real tree the first time I had my own apartment.

I did just that the first Christmas I had my own apartment when I was 20 years old, during my first year of grad school.  On a blusteringly cold evening when I didn’t have class, I went to the only place I knew to buy trees in that small college town.  It was starting to snow, and I got myself the tiniest, ugliest little tree.  It was probably about 6′ tall, but I didn’t have a very big apartment, and also, I was going to have to carry it up two flights of stairs by myself.  So I got the tree into my Honda Civic, carried it up the two flights of stairs, and put it in my apartment.  It smelled very pine-y and I was extremely happy with it.  I covered it with lights and ornaments in purple and silver.  For a couple weeks, things went well with the tree.  I didn’t have many guests, so it wasn’t like anyone really saw the tree but me, but I was so happy when I walked in the door coming from class, and there was my Christmas tree!

However, I watered it dutifully, but within a week or two it had started to drop needles.  I vacuumed.  I vacuumed some more. Finally Christmas came and went and it was time to get rid of the tree.  I’d purchased a huge bag that went under the tree, so in theory, when it was time to dispose of the tree, all I had to do was take all the ornaments off and then just pull this bag up around it.  Well, that didn’t go so well.  Needles ended up everywhere.  There were so many needles on the floor that I don’t even know how any were even left on the tree.  I swear, I was still vacuuming up pine needles in May.

So needless to say, I didn’t get a Christmas tree again after that.  However, I do want to feel like I’m in the holiday spirit!  It’s especially difficult living in Southern California, where the average temperature in December is 68 degrees F.  Not exactly the kind of weather that makes me think “holiday” for a girl who grew up in Dallas, where I even once had snow on Christmas!  I don’t really watch TV, so I’m not seeing all the holiday commercials, and I don’t really go out shopping, so I don’t see all the holiday stuff in stores.  It would be easy to overlook the fact that it’s the holidays up until the moment that I get to my parents’ house for Christmas.  So, in the absence of the usual holiday rituals – group celebrations, meaningful decorations like trees or menorahs, and what have you – here are some of the holiday rituals of this nerdy little librarian:

  •  “holiday” movie marathons.  I put “holiday” in quotation marks because the movies I associate with the holidays are probably not even remotely like what most people would consider holiday movies.  Some of them include:
    • The Lord of the Ring trilogy: because these came out around Christmas, I’ll always think of these as holiday movies, even though there is nothing remotely holiday about them
    • The Harry Potter….hepatology?  series? ouevre?  Whatever.  Same reason as the above, at least for the first couple movies.
    • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: yup, same reason.  Saw it last year at the holidays.
    • Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: this does take place not only around Christmas, but also in LA!  It’s a totally demented dark comedy, but I love it.
  • painting my fingernails with extremely glittery nail polish.  I used to work at Crate and Barrel, and like 90% of the Christmas ornaments we stocked had glitter, so I spent the months of November – December perpetually covered in glitter for the 5 years I worked there.  So when I think holidays, I think glitter!  Plus, December means the end of the quarter at work, and thus not much interaction with students, faculty, or anyone that I need to think of me as a Highly Professional Research Librarian Type, so I feel like glitter nail polish is more acceptable. 🙂
  • burning my Evergreen candle from Bath and Body Works.  This is a $10 candle that smells even better than any real tree ever did, and it can be carried into the apartment in my purse, rather than having to be hauled up the stairs like a dead body as I did with a real tree.
  • listen to holiday music, but I’m picky.  Since I’ve worked in retail for a total of almost 10 years, and in restaurants for 2, I’ve heard enough traditional holiday music that I would rather strangle someone with my bare hands than listen to some of that stuff again voluntarily.  For that reason, last year I devised a holiday music playlist on Spotify that I called “Holiday music that doesn’t make me want to kill someone.”  It’s a lot of really cool indie artists doing some decent Christmas/holiday music, if you’re into that kind of thing.
  • drink eggnog!  I usually just have it straight out of the carton.  That is to say, straight without any alcohol added – I am putting it in a glass and not drinking it straight from the carton.  I like it in coffee.  And every once in awhile, I do add a little bit of alcohol to it, usually in the form of 44.  I’ve not had any yet this year, so I must get some next time I go shopping.
  • buy my dog Christmas-themed toys that she will disdain and totally ignore.  This is because she disdains every toy that she is ever given, with the exception of this exact squirrel.  It is first toy I had for her when I got her, and it’s the only toy she will recognize.  I call it Squirrelly, and after just over a year, we’re on Squirrelly Number 6, with Number 7 waiting in my closet (yes, I buy more than one at a time now).  She plays HARD with Squirrelly.  So if you ever feel inclined to get Ophelia a gift, I advise that it either be a.) made of meat or b.) Squirrelly.

This is how rough Squirrelly looks when you buy him, right off the shelf. Imagine how he looks after three months with Ophelia.


So those are my holiday traditions!  How about you, my dear readers?  What kind of nonsense are you getting up to this holiday season?


The Librarian’s Strange Bedfellows

Strange bedfellows

When it comes to books, I’m afraid I must confess to be non-monogamous.  I usually like to be reading some combination of a variety of types of books: fiction, non-fiction, some sort of self-improvement (yoga or philosophy or something), and some sort of textbook.  And now that I have a nice queen size bed as a result of a very nice Christmas gift from my parents last year, the side I don’t sleep on is often full of books (and dog!)  Especially since I’d been sick recently and spent essentially two days in bed, a lot of books piled up there.  So in case you’ve ever wondered who a librarian shares her bed with, they are:

1. Sex on the Moon by Ben Mezrich: despite its salacious title, this is actually the true tale of the theft of moon rocks, evidently “the most audacious heist in history.”  Haven’t started this one yet.

2.  When She Woke by Hillary Jordan: only just started this one too, but it takes place in a dystopian future in which people’s skin is dyed a color to match the crime they’ve committed.  Bought this one at the Tattered Cover when I was in Denver – love that place!

3.  The third book in the stack is actually my journal, but it was in the bed so I tossed it in the stack so it wouldn’t feel left out. 😉

4.  Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche: a good friend is always quoting Nietzsche to me so I decided to give it a try, and so far I love it.  Going all former-English major and highlighting my favorite passages.  This is why I can’t generally check out library books!

5.  Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters by Gordon M. Shepherd: this is very science-y and probably wouldn’t appeal to your average foodie, but for the nerdiest of foodies, it is quite fascinating.  It’s very complicated, but the way I’d very briefly summarize it is to say that flavor is actually mostly neurologically occurring in the nose, though we perceive taste as being in the mouth.  It’s complicated but very interesting.

6.  Basic Neurochemistry by Siegel et al: well, you know, a girl needs a little light reading too. 🙂  In my work as a medical librarian I’ve become very interested in neurotransmitters and am learning all sorts of interesting things about research going on in this area, so I figured why not see what I can find out for myself.  So far some of it is over my head and I skip it, but I’ve learned some interesting things about how neurotransmitters work.

So that’s what I’m reading!  What are you Internet folks enjoying these days?  I’m always looking for a good book to add to the list!

On Mavens and Simple Pleasures

I’ve been trying to be better about blogging more regularly lately, though I’ve been very busy.  Part of that has included thinking about the raison d’être of the blog.  At first I intended it to be a librarian blog, but I also really enjoy blogging about other things that I think people might find interesting.  Given that I’m pretty eccentric, those “other things” include pretty diverse topics.

I recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s intriguing book The Tipping Point, a recommendation from my best friend.  The book basically discusses how ideas go viral, from a couple people doing something to it becoming a major fad.  Part of his thesis is that ideas spread via a small number of people who play specialized roles:

  • connectors, who know many people across multiple diverse groups and thus are able to spread ideas from one subculture to another;
  • mavens, or “information specialists,” who gather knowledge and take great pleasure in sharing it with other people;
  • and salesmen with strong powers of persuasion and negotiation.

As soon as I read this, I immediately identified with the role of the maven.  This, of course, is why I became a teacher, and then a librarian.  It’s why I write reviews on Yelp and blog about things I find interesting and pin pictures of things I like on Pinterest.  People who meet me even in passing flock to me for information, which I have to admit I kind of like.  I once met a girl at a party and we started talking about how she could never figure out where she was in Dallas, and how I had driven all over and really knew my way around.  From that day forward, I don’t think I ever saw her again, but every once in awhile I’d get a call or a text message from her when she was lost or wondered if I maybe knew a way around a bad traffic jam (and I could almost always help).  So in the spirit of being a maven, I’ve decided that I am going to talk about library stuff, but I’m also going to blog about whatever random things I find interesting and hope that some people get something out of it.  (I’m also planning on redesigning the page to make it a little easier to see just certain parts of the content.)

The thing that’s on my mind at the moment is simple pleasures in life on a budget.  One of my friends recently commented that he envied the sense of peace and calm I seem to enjoy.  In truth, I’m pretty high-strung when it comes to a lot of things, but I consider it very important to take time out to enjoy the simple things on a regular basis.  Living in Los Angeles is expensive, so since I can’t afford to go all out, I try to find little things that I really enjoy, which I shall share here from time to time.

Tonight I’ll mention Cristalino Brut Cava.  Usually when I say I’m drinking champagne, I’m actually drinking this (since I don’t think most people really know or care what the distinction between a cava and a champagne is anyway).  I’ve been able to find it for between $6 and $8 a bottle.  Pop a $7 champagne stopper on it and it’ll last for a week in the fridge, so even if you live alone you can enjoy just a single glass a night and not waste any.  And a glass of champagne only has 80 calories, if you worry about that kind of thing.  Cristalino is tasty enough to drink by itself, but I also like adding a dash of amaretto or creme de cassis.  The latter is called a kir royale, and is one of my favorite drinks.

Whenever I pop the cork on anything sparkling, whether I’m alone or in a group, I always say “woohoo!”  I do the same if I am out somewhere and hear someone else opening a bottle (although in that case I do it quietly to avoid having people think I’m insane).  It makes every bottle feel like a celebration.  A glass of it is cheap, and it doesn’t have that many calories or that much alcohol, so it’s a simple pleasure that you don’t have to feel bad about and can enjoy even on a budget.