Sunday, February 21, 2010


Reading about people from a new perspective is fun to me. Which is why I rarely miss the Sunday NY Post and the “In My Library” column.

Each week a “name” of some sort (actors, politicians, authors, scientist) choose four books from their library and let us know why they love them. I choose to believe some publicist didn’t make the selections for them however there have been a few I highly suspected. It is one of my NY fantasies to be the feature of this column before the printing of newspapers completely disappears but since I don’t have a life worthy of a publicist to get me featured I’ve decided to feature myself this week.

IN MY LIBRARY - Kristen Kentner

I was not a reader growing up I was a TV watcher. I never had a love of words and was extremely intimidated by any book over one hundred pages or with no pictures. Knowing this is how my life with books began it makes me happy that I now own more books then anything else. When I was nineteen I donated the 476 VHS videotapes that had made up my movie collection and I started to read. I had to. If I was going to make it through college with a bunch of people that had been reading their whole lives I had to make up for a lot of lost time. Since that time I've covered the classics, business books, children’s literature, romance, biography…you name it, I’ve tried it. Along the way, I’ve discovered a love of history that I didn’t know I had and have made friends with characters I only new from their movie persona. I could list hundreds of books that have made an impact on me but lets start with four.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

by Shel Silverstein

One of the books I did read as a child and it has always stayed with me. I don’t know anything about poetry but the characters in this classic are so alive that I never cared what this book was characterized as. The illustrations are witty and wonderful and the poems cover nose picking, pancakes, garbage, deserted homes and most poetically childhood.

This I Remember

By Eleanor Roosevelt

Biography and memoir are two of my absolute favorite genres and choosing one to highlight is not easy, but Eleanor Roosevelt and I connect when I read this book. What puts this story ahead of the others is the complete honesty she shares about how hard she had to work to become the Eleanor Roosevelt history recorded. She may have been born into privilege, but nothing came easy for her and I admire that. This is not a gossip filled biography like the ones popular now. This is a memoir of a journey.


By Charles Kuralt

Could you imagine taking a year off to spend one month in twelve different places you love? Well, add that to my lotto dream list because I can and the idea first entered my mind thanks to this book. Travel books are very special to me because I don’t get to go many places, but they can be brought to me. Charles Kuralt is the master of travel writing and even if I never considered going to Ely, Minnesota he makes me want to pack up and hit the road. Charles Kuralt had the ability to find the most special thing any place had to offer and the even better ability to perfectly capture that thing with words.

The Most Beautiful Libraries In The World

Photographs by Guillaume De Laubier

Text by Jacques Bosser

Forward by James H. Billington, The Librarian of Congress

One day I am going to own a coffee table to display all of my amazing coffee table books, and this one will go on top of the pile. This book reminds me that all books used to be so revered that their homes were built with as much care and spectacle as a cathedral. I want to live in every photo and travel to every library featured…a book about how beautiful books are…and I look at it over and over.

Friday, February 19, 2010

John Adams on a Friday Night

I’m thinking of the John Adams portrait by Gilbert Stuart from 1826, not your normal Friday night thought – I understand that. But that portrait is one of the paintings that pops into my mind every so often.

When I think of that picture I think of accomplishment, I think of acceptance, I think of openness. Stuart painted Adams before, and while good, the earlier portrait is not hypnotic like the later one. Stuart’s technique was the same but the person sitting was not. At the end of his life what I see is contentment of choices. I see a person who failed in some ways and succeeded in others. He is a man not afraid of opinion or history’s record of him he is looking straight into the future knowing he did his best.

I first saw the portrait as a reproduction and I loved it then, but when I saw the original it got saturated into my soul. It did what good portraits do - depicts the message within the person as well as the likeness. The John Adams is a perfect example of that in my opinion. He is old, his hand curled around the top of a cane, he’s sitting a bit canted but looking forward. He looks at me and lets me know that he may be close to death but his life is not over. There is precision in his look and experience in his manor and Stuart captured it all, I suspect because Adams let him.

I’ve always wondered what Adams was thinking as he sat there and Stuart painted. Was he remembering his life or thinking of summer? Was he thinking of nothing and maybe just being. That feels right…he’s just being.

Maybe this picture comes to mind when I need some time to be.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Kristen's Top 11 Romantic Comedies*

Nora Ephron has inspired me. She published her top 11 romantic comedies (11? Ok, whatever I’ll take the extra slot). Her list includes His Girl Friday, The Apartment, Charade, It Happened One Night and Splash (I did not see that one coming) all very deserving classics, but would they make my list of great romantic comedies? I’ve been pondering that question in honor of and all the ways movies have made a boy gets girl ending. I offer this refute:

Kristen’s Top 11 Romantic Comedies*

1. Pillow Talk – Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Thelma Ritter, Tony Randell, split screen technology, a party line, great cloths and romantic hijinks that cultivate in a fertility goddess and a display of the most un-sexy pajamas every worn on screen. It is what you get when you have perfect casting up against an airtight comedy script (which won the Oscar, by the way).

2. The Philadelphia Story – The ultimate love triangle - Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart all in one movie! Directed by George Cukor this film brought Hepburn back to Hollywood but more importantly it perfectly captures the high-society mating dance. I’d also like to give a special mention to Ruth Hussey as photographer Liz Imbrie, the girl who waits for her guy to figure out she was in front of him all along.

3. Moonstruck – There are so many great lines in this movie instead of quoting it it’s easier to recite the whole thing. Cher sparkled, Nicholas Cage was not desperate for money, Olympia Dukakis stole every scene she was in and Toronto actually looked like Brooklyn. I have watched this movie over and over and I can watch it again.

4. Bridget Jones’s Diary – I love this movie because Renee Zellweger as Bridget had to gain weight to play a “normal” girl and Hugh Grant is perfectly cast as Hugh Grant (I mean Daniel Cleaver) and lets bottom line this really…it’s because of Colin Firth as Mark Darcy, he’s Mr. Darcy again only in suits. It is a modern day Jane Austen telling, and I never get tired of Jane Austen.

5. Working Girl – That stupid song gets me every time. I admit I hear it in my brain the minute I step onto the Staten Island Ferry and I LOVE it. Which is better - the random coked up Kevin Spacey or the young and thin Alec Baldwin? Joan Cusack as Cyn should have won the Oscar and I haven’t even mentioned the lead actors yet, that’s how great this movie is - every bit part is memorable (Hello Ricki Lake at the wedding!!). When Jack packs Tess’s lunch I sigh and when Tess walks into her own office (with a window) I want to cheer. It has it all.

6. Casablanca – So many people think Casablanca is just a romance, but it is a comedy I assure you. The best lines are between Rick and Captain Renault. They riff off of each other so well you can miss it. I have to agree with Nora on this choice.

7. The Princess Bride – It is a fairy tail, it is an adventure it is a perfect romance with laughs that keep coming even into the culminating kiss being interrupted by Peter Falk and Fred Savage. Where else can you find such romantic enchantment wrapped up in a land of crazy characters and not have it animated?

8. When Harry Met Sally – I get that Nora could not put her own movie on her list, but you know she thought about it. A classic friends to lovers story with an amazing shelf life, you can only tell it’s not current because Meg Ryan’s lips are normal size.

9. What’s Up Doc – The first time I saw this homage to 30’s screwball comedy I laughed until I cried. Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal, and Madeline Kahn (in her first movie) are so funny you forget they are movie stars – well you never forget Streisand is Streisand – but everyone else is believable. It is madcap fun and a romance that succeeds in honoring what came before it.

10. Something’s Gotta Give – The best grown up romance on screen, Diane Keaton is so sophisticated and sexy that you never question young hot Dr. Keanu Reeves going after her and Jack Nicholson finally does what he can’t seem to do in real life – date age appropriate women. It is the ultimate fantasy where every home is perfect, every life is filled with creativity and wealth and two men chase the lady to Paris.

11. Richard Curtis - the man behind Notting Hill, Four Weddings & A Funeral, Love Actually….I could not choose between them so I am honoring the man. His stories of romance and the obstacles on the path to the happy ending never get old. He has a formula that mixes crazy best friends and roommates with movie stars and chic American strangers, but why he’s great is the infused heartbreak in every story. He turns down the saccharin levels with reality and that’s why his stories are believable. For every happy ending there is also someone hurt; remember Fiona telling Charles she loved him; or Emma Thompson getting the CD? Even Notting Hill had the hurt of a failing restaurant. He tells the whole story of love and we can all relate.

*This list is subject to change because I will remember a movie as soon as I hit publish that I won’t be able to believe I forget.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Can Opener that Changed My Life

I’m not a cheap person except when it comes to one thing – household stuff. I don’t have a household I have a room with a small space that a relater would call the kitchen, but I call the hallway. So when the occasional household need presents itself I cringe. First, because I don’t know where I would put it no matter its size or purpose and second because my place is so small I must prioritize what physically comes in. This priority is usually reserved for books, shoes and cloths (in that order). Even my shower routine I’ve outsourced to my spacious gym with complementary Kiel’s products.

My resources go towards the other aspects of my life. My life outside my room and it bugs me when something slips through this pattern. Its like having to buy a wedding gift for someone you barely know; you resent it. Which is where my can opener comes into the picture.

On 911 I started a canned goods collection. I dealt with my fear that day by acknowledging for the first time ever that I had no food in the house and with the masses I headed to the grocery store. No one had a clue what was coming next and…well it was something to do besides panic. I was not alone in dealing with my fear by stocking my cupboard. The guy behind me had nothing but cookies and beer in his basket (looking back I should have introduced myself to him) and the woman in front of me had about 50 cans of cat food and five bags of litter. I had a cart filled with water and canned goods. Beans, soup, and vegetables it was a selection that any bunker supplier would have been proud. Plus my two-dollar can opener. In that moment, facing uncertainty and starvation, I could not be bothered to purchase the five-dollar deluxe can opener. I guess the fact that this device was going to give me access to my only food supply didn’t cross my mind. I imagined my immediate future being that of Greer Garson in Mrs. Miniver and she had a can opener, so I got one, but I was not going to spend five dollars on it.

Thankfully the restaurants and deli’s of Manhattan were not closed for long and Happy Wok never closed at all so my bunker in the making was as necessary as all those Y2K stashes. Over time I did eat all of my emergency provisions. There were moments when I enjoyed some home warmed soup or found the desire to make a three bean salad but what kept driving me crazy was that damn can opener. It worked so badly it would sometimes take me twenty minutes to get my white beans.

Every single time I tried to open a can with it I had the thought to replace it, the thing barely worked and it drove me batty. The problem was there was not enough regularity to my using this cheap tool to remember to get one that worked, so the cycle continued for years. Every six months when I found the need to open a can I would go through the same drama of feeling like getting to my condensed food product was about as easy as breaking out of Shawshank State Prison.

Its been nine years of can food frustration with that stupid opener, but no more. I found myself in Williams-Sonoma yesterday buying a wedding gift and there it was – the Kuhn Rikon can opener, designed in Switzerland, in red. I grabbed it not even caring about the price. I needed a can opener that worked. Yes, the long path of frustration and blaming the can is over. I have a can opener and not just any can opener but an amazing can opener, its European, it works and I have been joyfully opening cans all weekend with a smile on my face. I can get to the beans in enough time where I still want to eat them by the time they are out of the can. I'm going to finally look forward to the annual Shop-Right Can-Can sale. It’s a whole new world.

I paid top dollar for this can opener and I don’t care! I LOVE it, even if I only use it once every six months it’s going to be worth every penny.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pink Pink Pink

I need inspiration and when I need inspiration I look around for fabulous women who make it look like anything is possible – I didn’t say easy – I said possible. Today I need the lady in pink. Pink coat, pink glasses, pink hat, pink gloves, pink scarf…pink pink pink; she wore it, she owned it, she smiled and posed when I asked if I could take her picture. This is a woman walking around the world not afraid to be noticed even on a casual errand to the store. She does not need tickets to Lady GaGa to dress to wow. All she needs is the dawn of a new day.

The next time I’m headed to the store to buy cornflakes I’m going to wear a full face of make-up, my highest heels and something that makes me feel pink all over. Lets all send out some inspiration.