Monday, August 31, 2009

Are you ready for some football?!

You are familiar with the stereotype – the beer-guzzling husband, abandoning his family responsibilities on the weekend, to watch 15000 hours of college and professional football from every sports package available from satellite. The tolerant wife, rolling her eyes, grumbling under her breath, “Honey, is it over yet…I need you to…,” (insert chore du jour here) “mow the lawn, rake the leaves, start the project I had planned for you last weekend.” Husband, in between rants and raves over a blown call by an official says, “Sweetie, the ball is on the 15 yard line and they are almost ready to score – I’ll be there in a minute. By the way, did you make any Queso?”

Welcome to our house on any given Saturday from September to November – minus the beer guzzling of course, and the fact that it is the wife using strategic delay tactics – usually involving the children (most likely feeding them) – while patient husband maintains order and continues functioning as a responsible parent. Yes, my fellow bloggers, I am football junkie.

I know, it is not suppose to happen this way. Women are supposed to be ambivalent about football, participating only in the party planning and that goes along with the games: the couples come over, the women gather in the kitchen, the men in front of the brand new plasma. Parties are forbidden in our home. They are a distraction to any important game, especially when there are two or three games on of particular interest. Guests get perturbed with the host is constantly trying to channel surf between them all. Me, I like to avoid the conflict.

I’ve always told my husband that he married every man’s dream woman – not the blond, bikini, super-model dream. But the woman who can tell you whether the linebackers are lined up ready to blitz; or the corners are playing “Cover 2,” or if the quarterback, on the option play, is more likely to keep the ball than to pitch it.

You know when the disease is bad when, prior to a family vacation, you scan all the forthcoming games and tape (in our case TiVo) the games that are of particular interest. By the time we have returned home, I already know the outcome, have seen most of the spectacular highlights on ESPN and have read every news commentary and analysis of the game. But I still sit down and watch it from start to finish (minus the commercials of course) as if it were live. Pathetic!

My illness began early. I was raised with football – it was a way of life: Dad was a football coach, brothers played high school and college ball, Mom was a coach’s wife – I knew nothing else. At the age of 8, I took a fellow third-grader to a brother’s high school football game. When she didn’t understand the basics of the game, I proceeded to enlighten her, “you get 4 downs to move the ball 10 yards. On the 4th down, if you haven’t moved 10 yards, you have two choices, punt the ball to the other team, or go for it. But you don’t want to do that if you are on your side of the field.” She looked at me confused and asked, “Do you want to go play under the bleachers?” “Nah,” I responded, “I can’t miss the next series of downs.” I guess that is where my delay tactics began.

Like any family “profession,” where children are expected to follow in their father’s footsteps, I always assumed I would be involved in football. And why not, I’ve been snapping the ball since I was three. It didn’t take me long to realize there aren’t many women playing or coaching football. My dreams were dashed. The closest I got to a life in football was while I was working in New York City. The NFL headquarters were at 280 Park Ave – I worked at 270 Park Ave just south of their building. Every day as I walked from the subway to my office I would stop and gaze at the “temple” of football, like a kid looking at a FAO Schwartz window and Christmas time. What was it like? Did you get to watch football 24 hours a day? Were the doors shaped like goal posts? I would never find out. Oh well, c’est la vie.

So instead, I’m an armchair quarterback like the rest on Monday morning. Complaining about the BCS system, the Heisman trophy candidates, and Bob Stoops’ coaching ability. But every Saturday, I raise my college banner outside my house, get the remote and ask, “Darling, is the Queso ready yet?”

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Holy Cow!

That's what I said when I read the following from today's New York Times Book Review:

À LA MODE: Everyone seems to be firing up the ovens this steamy August, or at least pretending to. The classic first volume of Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” enters the hardcover advice and how-to list at No. 1 this week — its first appearance on any Times list since it was published back in 1961. (Merci, Meryl Streep!)

And, I think I'm adding this to my list of book needs:

“Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom,” culled from Child’s oil-?spattered handwritten kitchen notebooks and first published back in 2000, holds the top spot on the paperback advice list.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Book Buying!

I went on a bit of a book buying spree this weekend. Not like I don't have enough unread books on my shelf...but sometimes I just can't help myself! These were all on my Goodreads list. One I got at the used book store for $3 -- the others were all discounted at various book stores.

My $3 purchase was this:

I have the PBS version on DVD, but books are always better!

Next I picked up:


"Charlotte Bronte" was 30% off -- and Lousia May Alcott was only $5.

Finally, I found this at Sam's:

Who knew they carried Georgette Heyer at Sam's??? They had 4 titles to choose from...this one had the best cover!

Oh, soooo many books to little time! If the children would only feed, clothe, and raise themselves, I would be set!

(Oh, and my daughter bought this...why didn't they have books like this when I was her age? All I remember reading was Little House on the Prairie).

Friday, August 28, 2009

Book Give-a-way

I wish I was the one giving away books -- but over at Booking Mama, she is giving away two copies of this:

I've not read much Middle Ages fiction, with the exception of Sharon Kay Penman, but if I'm ever in distress, I want the guy on the cover to come slay my dragons!

Book Review -- Austenland

Austenland Austenland by Shannon Hale

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Ugh…I hate having to admit I was wrong. In my mind I wanted to detest this book, probably because The Actor and The Housewife was such a disaster. But, this was much better, if only slightly so, than the author’s current work.

Jane Hayes is obsessed with all things Austen. When her Aunt dies, she sends Jane to an Austen-like them park, where they dress in Regency clothes, speak in Regency English, and fall in love with Regency wannabes.

Shannon Hale has a gift for opposite sex dialogue and banter. It worked much better in Austenland with single adults. She made Austenland sound like a fun place to take a vacation and play dress up for three weeks. And it’s got a sappy-sweet, happily ever after, ending.

I should have finished this book in an afternoon. In fact, I checked this out from the library a month or so ago when I committed to the Austen Challenge. Oops – I forgot it was in my stack until I got a notice it was nearly overdue. I needed to finish it before I started The Help, and thought it wouldn’t take me anytime to do so. Nearly a week later it’s finally done (kids going back to school has somehow cut into my reading time).

However, I’m still waiting to be won over by Shannon Hale.

(This was a TOTALLY Clean Read)

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Yard Sale Blues

We had a huge yard sale on Saturday – sold tons of stuff that has been accumulating in our garage. I’m constantly amazed at what people buy, and how my friend Tracy can find the best things EVER, when I’m only selling junk.

However, it was with a bit of sorrow that we sold…

The crib

The bassinette


The high chair

I married at 32, so I knew my child bearing years were limited. We didn’t get pregnant until I was 34 and had our last at 39. Our youngest was born with a congenital heart defect, and when your genes start morphing at 39, the thought of rolling the dice again on getting pregnant, is severely repressed. Now after our son’s successful open heart surgery, his three years of physical and speech therapy, and my advanced age of 42, I think my womb is officially closed.

But that didn’t make it any easier when I saw the buyer of the crib load it up haphazardly in the back of his pick-up. I wanted to shout, “Please be careful – that crib has been the sanctuary for my three precious children! It is where they all learned to sleep through the night. One end was put up on books, so when my son was recovering, he could sleep on an angle. It has been climbed out of, thrown up on, and shaken to bits. I hope it will take care of your babies like it has taken care of mine.”

But regret seeped back into my heart today when I was reading an article in the Dentist’s office on Meryl Streep, and that she had her last baby at 43. “Gosh,” I thought to myself, “I still have time -- I need my crib back!” But I was also reminded that Ms. Streep has a bigger paycheck, a bigger house, and a lot more resources, than I do at present. I barely have enough space for the three I have or, after the summer from Hell, the patience.

So, my womb will remain closed. The crib will provide sweet, peaceful, dreams for some other child. And I will continue to enjoy my cleaned out garage.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Temple needs to be condemned

I hate having to teach a lesson where I am failing so miserably at the doctrine being taught.

Today it was making your home a Temple, from the May Conference talk by Elder Gary Stevenson, Sacred Homes, Sacred Temples.

He asks us to take a “virtual tour” of our home to see if it compares to the Temple – let’s take a peek behind Melissa Mc’s door, shall we?

Is it a place of love, peace, and refuge from the world, as is the temple? No, it is a place where children are fighting and mother coming unglued and everyone running for the doors.

Is it clean and orderly? No, it is a place with several loads of laundry sitting in baskets waiting to be put away, and several layers of dust on every horizontal surface (and if dust can settle on a vertical surface, it’s there too); and Barbie dolls in a state of half dress under her daughter’s bed, and hundreds of matchbox cars in every corner.

Do you see uplifting images which include appropriate pictures of the temple and the Savior? Well, I see lots of pictures, and one is a James Christiansen, but it’s of Shakespeare and his many characters, but most are slightly askew, and I think they are dusty too.

Is your bedroom or sleeping area a place for personal prayer? My bedroom is barely a place of 6 hours sleep and an occasional meeting with my husband…not much else goes on there.

Is your gathering area or kitchen a place where food is prepared and enjoyed together, allowing uplifting conversation and family time? Food is prepared here, but the children are mostly complaining about what has been cooked and how they don’t like it and how they wished they were eating rocks instead of what I fixed.

Are scriptures found in a room where the family can study, pray, and learn together? The scriptures are usually found under months of old magazines. But I learned today, that a lot of sisters keep theirs in their bathroom, because that’s the only place they get any time alone. May have to try that.

Can you find your personal gospel study space? If I could travel to Mars, possibly.

Does the music you hear or the entertainment you see, online or otherwise, offend the Spirit? Does The Disney Channel or Radio Disney count?

Is the conversation uplifting and without contention? I’m almost positive that whatever I say, does not count as uplifting or without contention.

Finally, he adds: That concludes our tour. Perhaps you, as I, found a few spots that need some “home improvement”—hopefully not an “extreme home makeover.”

I need to call Ty Pennington to see if there is anything he can do about my home’s abysmal state, but something tells me, he is busy with other projects.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Next Up!

I'm finally starting this...

The Help

So many people have RAVED about this book...I've had it on my shelf for months and it keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the stack.

But, the time has come!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Book Review -- Enemy Women

Enemy Women: A Novel (P.S.) Enemy Women: A Novel by Paulette Jiles

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Enemy Women is the Odyssean tale of Adair Colley during the final years of the Civil War. Adair has lost her family and her home to a gang of renegade militia men patrolling southeastern Missouri. She is later falsely accused of being a spy for the confederacy, and sent to prison. There she meets Union Maj. William Neumann, who is in charge of deposing her, and in doing so, they both become besotted. Ultimately, Adair escapes prison and spends the remainder of the book trying to get back “home.” And the reader is taken along on the arduous trek with her.

This novel tackles a part of history that I knew nothing about – the role of outlawed militias and guerilla soldiers during the Civil War in Missouri. Also, the widespread imprisonment of women, who the Union charged with aiding and abetting the Confederacy. The author’s descriptive narrative was spot on when portraying the grand scope of the war off of the front lines and the devastation inflicted on families. However, when trying to convince the reader that there was a romance between Maj. Neumann and Adair, she failed miserably. I never once believed these two were in love, let alone, in like. Or that either one would be willing to cross the country in search of each other. Adair had a stronger relationship with her horse and beloved family quilt, than she showed for her Major.

Another criticism – and I’m not sure where to point blame, the editor or author – but this book was written entirely without quotations, which was horribly distracting. I had to re-read passages over and over again to remember who was or was not speaking. Adding punctuation would have made this mediocre book, border on the side of GOOD.

I did luck out by reading this on my vacation to southern Missouri. I kept envisioning the Reeves gang appearing out of the forests of the Ozark Mountains. Ultimately, I thought this book was a fine history lesson, but a marginal, wandering, story, much like Adair.

(Oh, and don’t ask me about the ending! Ugh!)

My Clean Reads rating: Other than a few gruesome war scenes, this was free of any sex or language.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Books of Interest from the NYTimes Book Review Sunday, August 16th

Once on a Moonless Night
by Dai Sijie (I didn't read Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, but maybe I should read both)

Once on a Moonless Night (Wheeler Hardcover)

Once on a Moonless Night is full of tales within tales and worlds within worlds, ranging from ancient Chinese empires through communist China to modern Beijing….Everything in all these interwoven tales is extreme, from intellectual obsession to the cruelty of empresses, from the mountain landscapes to cabbages….Sijie writes wonderful descriptions….There is always a sense of the pressure of numbers of people and things, which seems to provoke in the characters a ferocious determination to be individuals, to make their own fates, single-mindedly. Places and events are shocking….the reader feels a readerly excitement, even pleasure, as he or she is swept along from disaster to disaster.
- A.S. Byatt, The Guardian

Four Freedoms: A Novel (Hardcover)

by John Crowley (WWII fiction and Oklahoma, what more can I say?!)

Four Freedoms: A Novel

From Booklist
*Starred Review* Although nominally about life at an American aircraft factory during World War II, Crowley’s complex and subtle novel is much grander. He explores the minds and hearts of people compelled by history to radically change their lives. Unaccountably optimistic Prosper Olander, orphaned as a child and crippled by a failed surgery, discovers that even he can find important work at a distant aircraft company in rural Oklahoma. Connie Wrobleski, frightened of nearly everything except her infant son, also travels to Oklahoma to reunite with her domineering husband, only to see him desert his family by enlisting. Prosper, Connie, and half a dozen other characters are developed in intricate detail and used as lenses on the massive relocation, dislocation, and societal change caused by the war. Crowley’s characters offer depth, nuance, and pathos to the traditional image of Rosie the Riveter. Four Freedoms is also a triumph of both research and imagination. Crowley’s aircraft company is an invention, but his detailed descriptions of sights, smells, and sounds in the plant, and his evocation of everyday life at home during WWII, are compelling. A wonderful novel that readers won’t soon forget. --Thomas Gaughan

Right of Thirst: A Novel
by Frank Huyler

Right of Thirst: A Novel (P.S.)

From Publishers Weekly
Doctor-author Huyler offers in his first novel (after story collection The Laws of Invisible Things) a clear-eyed if occasionally overwrought exploration of grief and redemption in a refugee camp set in an unnamed mountainous Islamic country. After witnessing his wife's slow death, cardiologist Charles Anderson volunteers to be the doctor at a remote refugee camp set up in the aftermath of an earthquake. He is joined by Elise, a German geneticist studying the DNA of a mountain tribe, and Sanjit Rai, a local military officer assigned to protect the camp. As the days pass and the refugees fail to appear, Anderson questions the motivations of those who put him there and his own reasons for fleeing into the mountains, including his decision to not face his devastated son. Anderson's desire to heal becomes twisted up with the clash between east and west, rich and poor, as well as with regional conflict. The prose is sturdy and evocative in this perhaps too sincere and sentimental exploration of what limited power any given individual has to change the world. (May)

Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press
by Eric Boehlert (Liberal bloggers, presidential elections, politics -- you betcha!)

Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Award winning journalist Boehlert (Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush) introduces the new generation of political muckrakers who took the 2008 presidential campaign-and old guard, by-the-numbers reporting-by storm. From the banner names of newly minted powerhouse The Huffington Post to the vitriol dished out by established liberal outposts like The Daily Kos, Boehlert presents a Web's-eye-view of the American left's grand reawakening. The netroots, as they became known, "literally kept the lights on during a very dark period for liberals"; prominent blogger Digby puts it more bluntly: "The Internet became available just as American politics turned crazy." That craziness only accelerated through the presidential campaign, including the polarizing campaign of Hillary Clinton, Obama calling small-town Pennsylvanians "bitter," and the entire shock-and-awry VP candidacy of Sarah Palin. Boehlert also examines the use and misuse of social networking sites like MySpace, and some seismic changes in televised news (including mainstream media's biggest new star, unlikely MSNBC news host Rachel Maddow). Blogger Markos describes his site as "a place for passionate activists, not conflict-averse weenies"; Boehlert illustrates that ethos well in this opinionated, impossible to put down narrative, chronicling with cagey insider detail the failures of copycat reporting and the inspired citizen-journalists picking up the slack.

The State of Jones
by Sally Jenkins, John Stauffer (Because I love Civil War history).

The State of Jones Review
Amazon Best of the Month, July 2009: Make room in your understanding of the Civil War for Jones County, Mississippi, where a maverick small farmer named Newton Knight made a local legend of himself by leading a civil war of his own against the Confederate authorities. Anti-planter, anti-slavery, and anti-conscription, Knight and thousands of fellow poor whites, army deserters, and runaway slaves waged a guerrilla insurrection against the secession that at its peak could claim the lower third of Mississippi as pro-Union territory. Knight, who survived well beyond the war (and fathered more than a dozen children by two mothers who lived alongside each other, one white and one black), has long been a notorious, half-forgotten figure, and in The State of Jones journalist Sally Jenkins and Harvard historian John Stauffer combine to tell his story with grace and passion. Using court transcripts, family memories, and other sources--and filling the remaining gaps with stylish evocations of crucial moments in the wider war--Jenkins and Stauffer connect Knight's unruly crusade to a South that, at its moment of crisis, was anything but solid. --Tom Nissley

Monday, August 17, 2009

Things I learned while on vacation:

1. That driving 60mph on country roads is REALLY slow compared to 75mph on the interstate.

2. That “people watching” at amusement parks is VERY entertaining (and slightly scary!).

3. That my kids will fight, even when they are having a good time.

4. That Marriott mattresses ROCK and I’m trying to find out if they are for sale retail.

5. That after a musical called “Noah”, I wasn’t expecting to be called “to revival” at the curtain call.

6. That when your three year old presses the “emergency stop” button at Build-A-Bear it ceases ALL operation and requires 3 employees to re-start after a VERY long time.

7. That the water temperature at the time of the sinking of the Titanic was 28degrees, while the air temperature was 31 degrees – try keeping your hand in a tub of water that cold for more that 45 seconds! Ouch!! Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!

8. The joy of DiGiorno frozen pizzas and hotels with ovens.

9. That a certain city, in the Ozarks of Missouri, known for its “entertainment” is really quite bizarre.

10. That $1 McDonalds ice cream sundaes are perfect at midnight.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Gerbera Daisy Mom on Vacation!

I'm off on a 5 day vacation with my family before school starts! Will return next week with photos and posts. I hope to get lots of reading done while I'm gone -- so book reviews should be forthcoming!
If anyone is in Branson -- look for us!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New York Times Book Review and Book Page

I wish I could say that my 3 hours at church was my favorite part of Sunday, but if I did, I would have to repent later.

My Sunday afternoon refuge is spent perusing the NY Times Book Review magazine for new releases, new paperbacks or anything else that looks interesting to add to my Goodreads list. I will NEVER in my lifetime read all the titles I have on my list, but I like to keep track of things I’ve read about or have been recommended to me, because more than likely, I will remember them next time I’m at the used book store or at the library. My other source for reviews is Book Page, which is the best book review publication I read and it’s FREE (from my public library)!!

They may or may not be added to my list, but here are a few reviews that caught my attention the past two weeks:

From the Aug 2nd NY Times Book Review

Exiles in the Garden, by Ward Just (in a previous life, I worked on Capitol Hill, so this sounds intriguing):

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Few if any novelists have captured Washington politics with the astute insights of Just, who here casts his dispassionate eye on a man who comes to question whether one can achieve a well-lived life on the outskirts of political action. Born and bred to the political arena, Alec Malone, son of a powerhouse U.S. senator, becomes an outsider twice removed, first by choosing photography as his profession and then by turning down an assignment in Vietnam. Content with his wife Lucia, the daughter of a Czech refugee, Alec dislikes the neighborhood cocktail parties, where a cosmopolitan mix of émigrés and exiles makes Lucia aware of the cultural chasm running through her marriage. Alec is devastated when she leaves him and bemused when, much later, his daughter follows in Senator Malone's footsteps, though it's the sudden appearance of Lucia's long-lost father that provokes Alec to question the meaning of an existence that has avoided the barricades. Just writes with confidence and authority as he works through larger themes of politics, history, war and historical judgment. This intellectually rigorous narrative is absorbing, timely and very Washington. (July)

Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Eyewitness to an Era by Caroline Moorehead (Oooohhh…French Revolution and French Nobility – right up my alley – but at almost 500pps, not sure about this one):

Product Description
Her canvases were the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette; the Great Terror; America at the time of Washington and Jefferson; Paris under the Directoire and then under Napoleon; Regency London; the battle of Waterloo; and, for the last years of her life, the Italian ducal courts. Like Saint-Simon at Versailles, Samuel Pepys during the Great Fire of London, or the Goncourt brothers in nineteenth-century France, Lucie Dillon?a daughter of French and British nobility known in France by her married name, Lucie de la Tour du Pin?was the chronicler of her age. La Rochefoucauld called her "a cultural jewel." The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire favored her for his dinner companion in Paris. Napoleon requested she attend Josephine. Her friends included Talleyrand, Madame de Sta?l, Chateaubriand, Lafayette, and the Duke of Wellington, with whom she played as a child. She witnessed firsthand the demise of the French monarchy, the wave of Revolution and the Reign of Terror, and the precipitous rise and fall of Napoleon. She spent two years as an ?migr? in the newly independent United States (on a farm in Albany) but was also a familiar of Regency London. A shrewd, determined woman in a turbulent age of men, Lucie de la Tour du Pin watched, listened, reflected?and wrote it all down, mixing politics and court intrigue, social observation and the realities of everyday existence, to offer a fascinating chronicle of her era. In this compelling biography, Caroline Moorehead illuminates the extraordinary life and remarkable achievements of this strong, witty, elegant, opinionated, and dynamic woman who survived personal tragedy, including the loss of six children, and periods of extreme danger, exile, poverty, and illness. Meticulously researched, brilliantly written, and vastly entertaining, Moorehead's chronicle of Lucie's life is an incomparable social history of her times.

We've Always Had Paris...and Provence: A Scrapbook of Our Life in France (Paperback)by Patricia Wells (because I’m a closet Francophile):

With charm and insightful anecdotes about the Parisian and Provençal food-driven life, cookbook author Wells and her husband, Walter, artfully recreate their quarter-century–long courtship with flavorful France. Their two distinct voices—complemented by black-and-white photos and more than 30 simple recipes for couscous salad, salmon tartare, and scrambled eggs with truffles—detail the couple's forays into going native. As they endeavor to adapt to the fashions and lifestyle of the French capital, Patricia takes on the task of researching a city's worth of tastes, textures and smells, visiting tea salons, pastry shops, boulangeries and chocolate makers for her Food Lover's Guide to Paris, while Walter settles into a new position as editor at the International Herald Tribune. Their Parisian interlude soon turns into a permanent French sojourn when they are seduced by the parasol pines and terraced vineyard belonging to an 18th-century farmhouse called Chanteduc. With their purchase of this northern Provençal abode, the remains of urban life fall to the wayside. This thoroughly enjoyable narrative describes the lavish, flavorful rewards of a life spent abroad. (May)

From the Aug 9th NY Times Book Review

The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America (Hardcover) by Douglas Brinkley (I will probably NEVER read this because at over 900pps, it’s a tad over my pay grade…but it still looks VERY interesting): Review
Amazon Best of the Month, August 2009: "The movement for the conversation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method." So wrote Theodore Roosevelt, known as the "naturalist President" for his efforts in protecting wildlife and wilderness, merging preservation and patriotism into a quintessential American ideal. The Wilderness Warrior, Douglas Brinkley's massive(ly readable) new biography, intrepidly explores the wilderness of influences (Audubon and Darwin), personal relationships (Muir and Pinchot), and frontier adventures (too many to mention) that shaped Roosevelt's proto-green views. Topping 800 pages (ironically, one wonders how many trees fell for the first printing), The Wilderness Warrior makes an excellent companion to Timothy Egan's The Big Burn and Ken Burns's The National Parks: America's Best Idea.

Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde by Thomas Wright (because it has an AWESOME COVER!):

“Entertaining and highly original, Oscar’s Books is animated by a real intellectual passion. It should be read by anyone interested in Wilde or in the art of literary biography.”
— Peter Ackroyd

Been Here a Thousand Years: A Novel (Hardcover)
by Venezia Mariolina (Author), Marina Harss (Translator) (Because in addition to being a closet Francophile, I’m also a closet Italian):

From Publishers Weekly
Venezia's tale traces five generations of the Falcone family, beginning with Don Francesco Falcone—a rich, powerful, feared and often unsympathetic man—and his mistress, farmworker Concetta, who bears him six daughters before delivering a much-longed-for son. The women form the rich backbone of the story as they strive to overcome their sometimes unbearable circumstances. Through Gioia, a fifth-generation Falcone, Venezia travels among each generation. Sickly as a child, Gioia finds comfort and fascination in the stories of her forebears, then becomes a voracious reader of everything from Dostoyevski to calendars. Her own love of storytelling paints a word-picture of each of the eras of the family as well as the history of Grottole, the Southern Italian town where the story is set. Venezia also neatly weaves an Italian history lesson throughout, from WWI to the excesses of the '80s. Sometimes heartbreaking, always beautiful, these women will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned. (June)

The World Before Her (Paperback)
by Deborah Weisgall (more Italian “show me the love”)

From Publishers Weekly
Two women in Venice, separated by a century, search for love and identity in the latest from novelist (Still Point) and memoirist (A Joyful Noise) Weisgall. It opens as Marian Evans—aka Mary Ann Evans, aka the novelist George Eliot (1819–1880)—is on her 1880 honeymoon in Venice with Johnnie Cross, who is 20 years her junior. Evans is trying, after a long and scandalous love affair with fellow author George Lewes, to have a normal marriage. One hundred years later, in the same city, Caroline Spingold travels with her husband, Malcolm, on his business trip aimed at revitalizing the Venetian economy. Caroline is a sculptor with a childhood history in Venice, financially supported by Malcolm, who is 20 years her senior. Malcolm does not share many of Caroline's perceptions, and she grows increasingly weary of her stale marriage. Weisgall shares the stories of Marian and Caroline in alternating chapters, sensitively developing their similarities in artistic and sexual ambition. Both face the deaths of men from their pasts, making love to their memories while their current partners struggle to beautify their lives and aid them in their work. Weisgall's well-researched historical fiction is dense, romantic and provocative. (May)

From Book Page, August 2009

A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True (Hardcover)
by Brigid Pasulka (because I love WWII fiction)

Product Description
The novel opens on the eve of World War II. In the mountain village of Half-Village, a young man nicknamed the Pigeon, under the approving eyes of the entire village, courts the beautiful Anielica Hetmanska. But the war's arrival wreaks havoc in all their lives and delays their marriage for six long years. Nearly fifty years later, their granddaughter, Beata, leaves Half-Village for Krakow, the place where her grandparents lived as newlyweds after the war and the setting of her grandmother's most magical stories. Beata yearns to find her own place in this new city, one that is very different from her imagination and the past. Her first person insight into a country on the cusp of change--and the human toll of Poland's rapid-fire embrace of capitalism--transports readers to another world. When two unexpected events occur, one undeniably tragic, and the other a kind of miracle, Beata is given a fresh glimpse at her family's and her country's, history and a vision of her own essential role in the New Poland. With the effortless, accomplished grace of a gifted storyteller, Pasulka weaves together the two strands of her story, re-imagining half a century of Polish history through the legacy of one profound love affair--that of the Pigeon and Anielica--which readers won't soon forget.

The Calligrapher's Daughter: A Novel (Hardcover)
by Eugenia Kim (just ‘cause)

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This debut novel, inspired by the life of the author's Korean mother, is a beautiful, deliberate and satisfying story spanning 30 years of Korean history. The tradition-bound aristocratic calligrapher Han refuses to name his daughter because she is born just as the Japanese occupy Korea early in the 20th century. When Han finds a husband for Najin (nicknamed after her mother's birthplace) at 14, her mother objects and instead sends her to the court of the doomed royal Yi family to learn refinement. Najin goes to college and becomes a teacher, proving herself not only as a scholar but as a patriot and humanitarian. She returns home to marry, but her new husband goes without her to study in America when she is denied a visa. As the Japanese systematically obliterate ancient Korean culture and the political climate worsens, so do Najin's fortunes. Her family is reduced to poverty, their home is seized and Najin is imprisoned as a spy while WWII escalates. The author writes at a languorous pace, choosing not to sully her elegant pages with raw brutality, but the key to the story is Korea's monumental suffering at the hands of the Japanese. (Aug.)

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects (Hardcover)
by Karen Solomon (because I need to learn these things!!)

Food and crafting enthusiasts look forward to the weekends to create, experiment, and stock the pantry with handcrafted edibles and gifts. For creative urban dwellers, the kitchen is a workshop space, and JAM IT, PICKLE IT, CURE IT is its how-to guide. This savvy collection of 75 recipes for creating homemade artisan foodstuffs features delicious projects easy enough to be completed in one to two days. Detailed instructions, prep-ahead tips, shopping lists, and optional extras outline the shortest route between crafty cooks and a pantry full of hand-labeled, better-than-store-bought creations.

(And as a side note: Why is Mommywood by Tori Spelling #10 on the NY Times Non Fiction best seller list?? Who on earth is buying it let alone reading it??)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Middle Friends

How do you introduce yourself? If you are like me, it’s, “Hi, I’m Annie/Joe/Max’s Mom,” “Hi, I’m Sis. Mc.,” “Hi, I’m M’s wife,” “Hi, I’m Mrs. Mc.” When are you ever just YOU. When do I ever say, “Hi – my name’s Melissa.” I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be just Melissa. I have so many other characters, that Melissa is often pushed to the back of the closet. I was reminded this weekend that I AM MELISSA!

My reunion with “my middle friends” pulled me out of my closet, put me on, and wore me out in public. Why are they “my middle friends?” Kelly Corrigan published a book called “The Middle Place” (I HIGHLY recommend it!!) where she describes the time between when you should be an adult (mortgage, children) – but at the same time – you are still someone’s daughter (a crisis where you need to call home). “My middle friends” are those who clearly know me independent of my parent’s home – but before I took on the rolls of Mrs. or Sis. or Mom. Those friends who were college roommates and “sisters” and rescuers and confidants. We were Kelly, Pam, Missy, Deb, Meredith, Shannon, Blair, Sue, Jill, and Betsy (just to name a few), without any prefix or suffix added to our name. Those who will remember the night one of us threw up in the study hall in the middle of finals, and had to be taken to the health center for an IV; those who will remember Fiji Island Princess; those who will remember the permanent designated driver with everyone’s car keys are her key chain; those who will remember the epic of the black boots – that will live on in the folklore of our collective memories forever. Things are parents or spouses or children may never know or ask about.

My middle friends reunited this weekend. We are spread far and wide – Vegas, Atlanta, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma. We don’t see each other very often – but it is glorious when we do. We shared gifts and laughs and hugs – but most importantly we shared each other. We have one middle friend who was noticeably absent. She is suffering through stage 4 breast cancer and couldn’t travel. We heaved a collective sob to think she won’t be with us. We are young college co-eds, aren’t we? We aren’t old enough to be afflicted with life ending diseases? We can’t bear to think one of our middle friends being absent – missing her distinct voice, her love for the Denver Broncos or her pink lipstick.

My middle friends were a welcomed tonic for my troubled soul. It has been a tough summer for “Annie’s Mom” – but they showed me that Melissa is alive and well, and will be able to endure through even the toughest times. Because that’s what middle friends do – and that is what they are there for – to come to your rescue and make you believe in yourself again – and remind you that MELISSA is the best thing you can be!

(Must share Kelly Corrigan’s essay on Women and Strength, because it seems appropriate.)

Book Reivew -- The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Genre books – how many are there: historical fiction, chick lit, religious lit, et al. I would like to add another category: Dan Brown-knock off lit, which would be characterized as one part myth, one part ancient history, one part ancient locale, mix in one studious expert, add a villain and a potential romance, and voila, you have a novel.

That’s how I felt about The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane – it was trying too hard to be a Dan Brown novel, and falling way short.

Connie Goodwin, a PhD student at Harvard, stumbles onto an old family mystery when she moves into her grandmother’s house in Marblehead, Massachusetts. What transpires is an alternating narrative between Connie’s research into her family secrets and voices from the Salem witch trials of 1692.

I really love reading about the Salem witch trials, which is why I was intrigued by this book (and perpetuated by the hype from the NYTimes bestseller list and the Barnes and Noble “Recommends” display). But the author, who succeeded beautifully in descriptive narrative, crashed and burned on substantive plot development. Even I, who normally can’t predict any novels outcome, had this plot pegged fairly early.

One of the most interesting parts of the book was the author’s postscript. I would recommend reading this first before reading the novel – it doesn’t contain any spoilers – and would have provided me intriguing back ground information to file away for reference during the course of the book.

To sum it up: This book needed a witch’s spell to make it live up to its hype, but an entertaining, albeit, plot-weak, novel. I recommend The Heretic's Daughter for a good Salem witch trials book.

View all my reviews >>

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

PTA Term Begins

Yesterday, I began my two year term on the PTA board for our elementary school. Can I tell you that I have NO idea what I'm doing!! But I look forward to the challenge, and hope I can share my ideas and talents with the other board members and all the other wonderful volunteers. It takes a village to run a PTA!

I'm off tomorrow to reunite with my college sorority sisters. For some, it's only been months since we've seen each other. For others it's been 20 years! I wish I had a picture of us in our '80's hey day (they are buried deep in boxes in the garage) so this will have to suffice!

I really hope we looked better than this -- but something tells me, not likely!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Motherhood: Week of Aug 3rd

I’ve confessed that I’m struggling with mommyhood at the moment: I’ve run away to a hotel, I’ve sought the treatment of Doctors and I’ve yelled myself silly. Some days I’m working on all cylinders – other days LIKE TODAY – I just fall apart. Annie and I had an appointment at Children’s Hospital to volunteer for their PULSE program that helps train med students how to be better Doctors. I knew going into this that my two boys would be joining us when Daddy had to drop them off on his way to work. I’d explained to the Patient Educator, that if they wanted us to volunteer, I would have to bring my two other children because of lack of child care. It was a package deal – you need me and my daughter – you get my boys too. She immediately said, “no worries – it’s very relaxed around here.” Well, it didn’t quite work like that. There were other parents there that weren’t quite so forgiving, and I’d made myself a completely ineffective volunteer by constantly reminding my boys how to behave and to be quiet and to stop hitting each other. You get the routine. I’d promised them once we were done, I’d take them to the hospital cafeteria for lunch. Problem was, it was 10am and they had already cleared the breakfast items and hadn’t started lunch. So, all three pitched a fit in the middle of the cafeteria because there wasn’t anything to eat (or that I was willing to buy). The older two managed to sulk their way out of the hospital, but my 3 year old screamed all the way to the parking lot.

I knew I should have cut my losses, but I NEEDED to go to the grocery store. Next stop, Kroger. I’m not sure what it is about the grocery store that turns my kids into trolls, but their behavior is somehow adversely affected by vegetables. They were ALL over the place. Running into carts, running down aisles, knocking things over – I was a disaster and so was the store. I should have left the full cart in the middle of the aisle, but I REALLY needed milk. What am I doing wrong as a parent that I can’t communicate effectively – “you can’t do (fill in the blank) -- run, yell, scream, hit – in the store??!!” When I got home, arms full of groceries, and patience completely empty, they started demanding lunch. I proceeded to make the “usual” when they all started complaining. At that point I put down everything and said, “if you are going to complain, you may fix it yourself and you better clean up,” and walked away. I’ve been in my room ever since. My three year old told me he was tired and got in bed and is now asleep. The other two, remarkably, have been fight-free for over an hour.

Maybe I will let them feed themselves more often.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Saturday is a special day….

It’s the day we get spend several hundred dollars on school supplies.

I wonder how much a slate and a piece of chalk cost back in the 19th century? We had three supply lists this year. One had, “10 pack washable markers” another had, “8 pack regular markers, thin tip” the last one had, “8 pack washable markers, wide tip.” I felt like I was shopping for the three bears. Why can’t they all be the same? I couldn’t find a 10 pack of washable, so my daughter will be going into 3rd grade with only an 8 pack. Do you think she will be psychologically harmed by having only 8? Do I have to buy new scissors every year? Can’t they reuse the perfectly good ones they brought home from the previous grade? They all got new underwear too. Why can’t I buy boys underwear in a package containing more than 3? I found an 8 pack for my daughter. Do boys not need to change underwear as often? And is it possible to buy white underwear anymore? If it’s not an action figure or a sports implement or a Disney character or a princess – it’s stripes or dots or flowers. Do kids not care if their underwear shows thru their clothes? And what really ticked me off, after we got home I noticed they charged me TWICE for the one pair of new school shoes we bought for my son. I hate that!!! I think there should be a rule that if you are over charged, you should get the item free. Because now my husband has to drive back out to our retailer, 30 minutes before they close, and try to convince them we only bought one pair of shoes. They over charged me for toothpaste too.

Now, I’m going to eat my chocolate – and hope no one notices that it was a package of 24 and only 8 pieces remain.