You Learn By Living

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Today is the end of my third month of working on this project, and I think it's time to reflect. Well actually the VP of the blog thought it was time to reflect and I'm indulging her since she just gave me a blogging present (a bookworm mug which I'm drinking out of as I write this entry). March has been a difficult blogging month for me, because I've been focusing to much on what other people will think of the entries. I've been trying too hard to anticipate criticism that may or may not even come. Will people thing the entries ramble too much? Will they get sick of the constant references to myself and my family? Will they think I don't talk about the book enough? So I tried to make the entries shorter and more to the point, and I tried to talk about the book more and myself (and my family) less. Although that last one only lasted for the first week or so. And I've finally discovered, after a month of trial and a lot of error, that writing the blog that way does not work. Or as my sister says while altering one of her favorite quotes from The West Wing, "You've just got to let Angie be Angie." Which is not to say that I don't care what you think dear readers, because I do enjoy your feedback - just that trying to be something specific in anticipation of what someone may or may not like is never a good idea. Which is something I used to be really clear about back in junior high when I was "that weird girl who wears dresses all the time" despite the fact that no one else in the school dressed that way and everyone around me acted like it was the weirdest thing ever. So I think April will be a time for reclaiming that 13 year old who just did her own thing and didn't give a crap if people disapproved of it. Well actually, that's not completely accurate. I did care if they disapproved (hey, no one likes being disapproved of) but I never let it alter the way I talked, dressed, wrote, or acted. It's time to get back to that.

And now on to today's book: I can't find a description of today's book on any of the book websites I normally get my descriptions from, and I've borrowed today's book from my sister (who never keeps the dust jackets because they ruin the aesthetics of her library), so I'll just have to recap it for you here. Today's book was written by Eleanor Roosevelt, who is sharing the lessons she's learned in life with her dear readers. - (I think you can see, after reading this description, why I never got high grades on the book reports I wrote in high school).

I was amused by the part of the book where Eleanor describes her Grandmother's approach to childcare; "She believed that a daily cold sponge bath kept one from catching cold and I took cold sponge baths for years. She believed that if I caught cold or had a headache it was a result of my own foolishness and that I should be expected to keep myself in good heath." - This reminds me of a book of parenting advice written in 1910 that my sister bought for me at a library sale. She thought it would be amusing for me to read since I worked in childcare at the time and read a lot of parenting books. It became a sort of comparison study - and it turned out to be more entertaining than anything on TV. According to the childcare experts of 1910, children should not be shown much affection or it will ruin their dispositions for life. They should also never be hugged because their bones are too brittle and they will break if you try to hold them too close or hug them. So dear readers, I certainly hope you haven't hugged your children today or told them you love them - because, as we all know, hugging is the road to ruin. And all this time I thought that the road to hell was paved with good intentions, but it turns out it was actually paved with love and hugs.

Eleanor goes on to speak of many other things; fear, maturity, the proper use of one's time. That last one was a very amusing chapter as Eleanor lets us know how she effectively manages her hectic days of having breakfast, going over the days meals with the housekeeper, looking over the mail, writing her column, taking her house guest on an afternoon excursion, resting before dinner, dinner, and them letter writing. I'm so glad that Eleanor laid it all out for me like that, because up till now I had been squandering my time by first taking my house guests on excursions and then coming home to find that, without my supervision, the staff had planned meals that were served at 5:30 instead of 5 sharp like I prefer - and so the system just kept falling apart. But now with Eleanor's help, I am able to supervise the staff to meet their most efficient potential. And you have no idea what a comfort it is to know that I can write my evening letters in peace without constant pressing questions from the staff about what to serve for that dinner party with the Governor next Wednesday . . . Okay seriously, I enjoy Eleanor Roosevelt immensely, but the woman is just a teensy bit out of touch.

But all in all, I think Eleanor had some really good advice. And after reading her thoughts on life I feel I'm not being too presumptuous in saying that Eleanor would approve of my sister's borrowed-from-TV advice of "You've just got to let Angie be Angie."

Books: A Memoir

Monday, March 30, 2009

Today's book; "In this work of extraordinary charm, grace, and good humor, McMurty recounts his life as both a reader and a writer, how the countless books he has read worked to form his literacy tastes, while giving us a lively look at the eccentrics who collect, sell, or simply lust after rare volumes."

I found this book slightly irritating right from the start because there were 109 really short chapters. So I found it difficult to get into the story because it kept jumping so abruptly from one chapter to the next.

Despite the short chapters, there were some interesting parts of the book. For the most part the best parts were in the beginning of the book, when the author was writing about his childhood reading habits. I'm always fascinated to hear about people's childhood reading habits. So feel free to share in the comments sections dear readers, I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

Among those childhood memories were the memories of the first book he ever read. I've already written about the first book I read as a child in a previous entry (Little House in the Big Woods), and so I asked my sister if she remembers the first book she ever read. She shot me a dirty look and said, "You remember." The conversation didn't get any friendlier from there:
Me: How would I remember? What was it? Was it a Little House book?
Alissa: Yes. Little House in the Big Woods.
Me: Why are you giving me that dirty look.
Alissa: It wasn't a choice.
She claims that I forced her to read it. I object to that claim.

The author later mentions knowing how to read without having been taught how. I have quite vivid memories of learning to read because I was always so fascinated by the blow-up letters that had faces and were supposed to look like people that hung from the ceiling of my kindergarten classroom; Mrs. A and Mr. Z. I also remember the pretzels, oyster crackers, and pastel colored marshmallows the teacher would hand out whenever we got an answer right. I think I may be turning into my Mother on that one, whose childhood memories seem to all revolve around food. She can tell a ten minute story that all revolves around a Reese.

The rest of the book was kind of boring, so I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone else. I would however recommend reading the Little House books if you haven't already read them dear readers, and I promise I won't come to your houses and force you to read them . . . not that I would ever do such a thing to begin with.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Today's book was suggested by my Aunt Cindy, who joined the family when I was ten. For all of you dear readers who don't know us, I'll tell a few quick memories about Cindy. We were still being banished to the kids table when she showed up and she would always come over and sit with us and we would spend the whole meal making lame jokes about how we were going to hold the salt and pepper shaker for ransom until "The short people get some respect around here" - We went on a road trip once, and I accidentally packed just the allergy-free cookies and I forgot the regular ones at home, and she ate some before I had a chance to tell her they weren't regular cookies - they were dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free and sugar-free and were so gross that I couldn't even stand to eat more than a bite of them. And to this day she still pretends they were the greatest cookies ever, that's family loyalty right there.

Today's book; "All Things Bright and Beautiful is the sequel to James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small. In this book James continues the rich and rewarding day-to-day life of a small-town veterinarian, and we journey with him, meeting a whole new cast of unforgettable characters - humans, dogs, horses, lambs, parakeets - all of them drawn with the same infinite fascination, affection, and insight that have made Herriot one of the most beloved authors of our time."

I went shopping with my sister today, and since today's book is a long one, I took the book along and read it aloud on the way. It felt very old-fashioned, like we were characters in a Little House book who were reading by the fire - except we were in the car, so it was more like we were reading in the sled. Which was a difficult scenario to conjure up while sitting on heated seats in a climate controlled car - which led to us pretending like the seat heaters were baked potatoes. That's your fun fact for the day dear readers; baked potatoes where the pioneer way of staying warm in the wagon during the winter - you just throw a few baked potatoes in the wagon and it takes the edge off those brutal prairie winters. Which led to a whole crazy, baked potato conversation that went a little something like this:

Alissa: Is your potato warm enough?

Me: I'm alright.

Alissa: Are you sure, because you're only at 3 potatoes right now.
Me: Could you add another potato please.

That brings me to reason number 2,345 and 2,346 why I like my family; they always get what I'm talking about when I make Little House jokes, and they always indulge me in them.

I think the part of the book that resonated the most was about the part about the goat who ate a pair of long johns - probably because my parents recently got a dog (Oliver, who you read about in a January blog entry) who seems to be part goat. So far, in the three months he's been in the family, he's eaten paper, pens, pillows, shoes, a towel, a credit card bill, money, coasters, water bottles, and he's attempted to eat rocks.

What I enjoyed the most about this book the most was the way the author writes about his relationship with his wife. He writes; "But a realization of my blessings began to return when I slid into bed and Helen, instead of shrinking away from me as it would have been natural to do, deliberately draped her feet and legs over the human ice block that was her husband. The bliss was unbelievable. It was worth getting out just to come back to this." - I guess he and Helen didn't realize how useful baked potatoes are in staving off the cold.

The Lost Continent

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Today's book was suggested by C. Thanks for the suggestion C.

I took A Book a Day on location today also - because I was still helping with my Mother's garage sale. I'm using the word helping rather loosely here because the help I provided consisted mostly of me asking her questions about her past garage sales. I really wanted to find out how a person reaches a point where they have 5 garage sales a year, garage sales that include: a cash register, a refreshment stand, and a list of people who get into the garage sale the night before the actual sale begins like an exclusive store that caters to celebrities. Here's how the conversation went:

Me: When was your first garage sale?
Mom: It was when I was 11, and it wasn't technically a garage sale because we didn't have a garage, so we had to set up everything out in the yard.
Me: Did you feel like you hit the big time when you got to have your first garage sale that was in an actual garage?
Mom: Oh yeah.
Me: Do you have any amusing garage sale anecdotes that you'd like to share with the readers?
Mom: Well there was that one guy who came and bought one of your grandma's sweaters, and we assumed he was buying it for someone else. But then he kept showing up at later garage sales wearing the sweater.

She then launched into sharing garage sale tips, but I'll spare you that dear readers. Now on to today's book.

Today's book; "With a razor wit and a kind heart, Bryson serves up a colorful tale of boredom, kitsch, and beauty when you least expect it. Gentler elements aside, The Lost Continent is an amusing book. Here's Bryson on the women of his native state: "I will say this, however--and it's a strange, strange thing--the teen aged daughters of these fat women are always utterly delectable ... I don't know what it is that happens to them, but it must be awful to marry one of those nubile cuties knowing that there is a time bomb ticking away in her that will at some unknown date make her bloat out into something huge and grotesque, presumably all of a sudden and without much notice, like a self-inflating raft from which the pin has been yanked."

Shallow thoughts:

I seriously hope whoever wrote that review was being sarcastic when they said "kind heart" because I see nothing kind about making fun of people who are overweight. I'm not going to lie and pretend like I've never mocked anyone before - because in my family we have elevated mocking to an art form - but let's stop the dance already and stop pretending like mocking people is somehow kind. I'm also a bit disturbed that a man who appears to be at least in his 40's and maybe even 50's is speaking of teenage girls that way.

The part of the book I really enjoyed was when the author was talking about his Grandmother's cooking; her love of recipes that contain Rice Krispies, how she loves to make recipes that come from the back of boxes, how her cooking isn't quite hazardous but is close. It reminds me of my grandmother's cooking; her love of Tang, the way she considers recipes merely suggestions, and (most disturbing of all) her eccentric way she uses substitutions. She rarely checks before cooking to make sure she has all the ingredients, so she frequently needs to make substitutions, and her system of making substitutions is kind of random. For instance, if she runs out of milk, sometimes she will substitute any other liquid in place of the milk - and I do mean any. If you don't have milk, why not use Tang, they're both liquids so it words. But there are other times when she substitutes according to color. If you're out of milk then why not substitute mayonnaise instead - after all, they're both white. During the sale I was telling my mother that I was going to put that in my blog and she said, "Oh remember that time when she ran out of barbecue sauce and she used salad dressing instead because they were both red." That's just the magic that is Grandma.

The Penderwicks

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Today was an insanely busy day, filled with moments where I was convinced that I wouldn't get the book read in time. So I'm really glad I picked a book that was a quick read. Then I had a brief computer crisis in which I couldn't get the mouse to work, so there were a few moments there where I thought this entry was going to go up without a picture of the book. As you can see, everything got straightened out eventually.

Today's book; "When the four Penderwick sisters find themselves staying on a beautiful estate called Arundel for their summer holidays, they can't wait to explore the wonderful, sprawling grounds. And even more wonderful is Jeffrey, son of Arundel's owner - the perfect companion for their summer adventures. But Jeffrey's mother is less than thrilled with the Penderwick sisters and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will. Won't they?"

Oohh, cliffhanger. Will they stay out of trouble or won't they? Okay, so it's not the equivalent of a good Friday afternoon soap opera cliffhanger, but it was enough to keep me reading.

Shallow thoughts:

  • The book opens with the family car trip to Arundel. I love novels that feature car trips because they bring back such wonderful memories of childhood road trips; Mom handing out candy bars like they're daily vitamins, Dad handing out money like it's going out of style, us in the back playing a fun little game we made up called "Count the traffic violations Dad makes." Dad likes to think of traffic rules as suggestions rather than actual rules that have to be followed - suggestions that are aimed primarily towards all of those other drivers like that "yeh-who over there who can't seem to pick a damn lane and stay in it." Sometimes we would also play "Count the bad words Dad says while violating traffic rules." Ahh memories.

  • My one complaint about the book is that the characters weren't as well developed as I would have liked. Which brings me to another favorite car trip game. My parents would often let us bring along a friend on these road trips - and so my sister, her friend, my friend and I would sit around trying to figure out which person we would be out of each group of four we could come up with from books and TV; The Golden Girls, Designing Women, Little House, Little Women, Jane Austen. And that's now my standard of whether characters are well developed enough or not; would we be able to play the "Which one are you" game. Sadly, with this book, we wouldn't be able to (unless I was playing with a group of people who are exactly like me, and what are the odds of that happening). Which is not to say that it was a horrible book, because I actually really enjoyed it. I just felt like all four sister had pretty much the same personality.

The Road Home

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Today is the end of week 12 so it's time for the end of the week count.

For the week:


PAGES - 1,956

For the entire year so far:

CHAPTERS - 1,624

PAGES - 21,888

I'm so excited that I passed the 20,000 mark this week.

Today's book; "This gently compelling chronicle details the transformation of a dilapidated little house into a genuine home. After purchasing an abandoned Boy Scout cabin in rural Vermont, fortyish Eliza Thomas took stock of her life and realized she had neglected to put down any roots. Inspired by desire and necessity to create both a viable living space and a nurturing environment for herself and her newly adopted daughter, Thomas energetically tackled the seemingly overwhelming task of clearing four acres of land and rehabbing a tiny one-room shack into a cozy wilderness retreat."

Spring, when a young girls thoughts turn to home renovation. Okay, so I'm not really a young girl anymore, but you get the point. Spring makes me want to renovate something so I can experience the wonderful smell of new wood and paint. For today I'm going to have to settle for reading about other people renovating things. I could practically smell the new wood while reading.

The other reason I picked today's book was because it was short. There I said it. I'm a blogging slacker. I have a huge list of things that have to get done today and I'm on the verge of getting the flu (in fact, I'm feeling ever so slightly incoherent as I write this), so I needed a light and easy book to read.

At one point during the book the author describes her partner Julian cutting away the brush around their property with a machete. I was having trouble with the mental image of that because my Mother has always referred to my chef's knife as a machete. She completely terrified of it, and when she's in the kitchen when I'm cooking she says things like, "Your machete is making me nervous." So I kept imagining someone out in the woods, cutting away brush with a chef's knife.

Looking for Anne of Green Gables

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Today's book; "In June 1908, a red-haired orphan appeared on to the streets of Boston and a modern legend was born. That little girl was Anne Shirley, better known as Anne of Green Gables, and her first appearance was in a book that has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 35 languages (including Braille). The author who created her was Lucy Maud Montgomery, a writer who revealed very little of herself and her method of crafting a story. On the centenary of its publication, Irene Gammel tells the braided story of both Anne and Maud and, in so doing, shows how a literary classic was born."

Today's book, which I certainly didn't pick based on it's bland cover, was quite good. Although I'm not sure if it would be of any interest to someone who isn't a huge Anne of Green Gables fan (which I am).

I learned some very interesting things about L.M. Montgomery (whose initials stand for Lucy Maud) and the Anne of Green Gables books;

  • One of her non-Anne books, Emily of New Moon, is an autobiographical novel. (Which makes me want to go read the book again right away - but don't worry dear readers, I'm not going to subject you to two days in a row of L.M. Montgomery related books).

  • Diana was originally named Laura. (Every feeling revolts. I actually like the name Laura better than Diana, and yet Diana couldn't be named anything but Diana. It would be like trying to change the name of Oreos. It would just be wrong.)

  • Lucy Maud, or Maud as she was known to her friends and family, was a tease. She had a habit of flirting with certain men for months and then as soon as they would show an interest in having a relationship she would slam the door in their phase (metaphorically speaking - although who knows, she could have slammed the door literally). And apparently the men in Maud's life enjoyed being treated this way, because they just kept coming back for more. If Maud had been born a little later I would have accused her of being a Rules girl.

  • Maud wrote a short story that was a sort of prequel to Anne of Green Gables, called The Understanding of Sister Sara, which tells the story of Anne's parents. (I sense a desperate Internet search in my future to find this story.)

The thing I found the most interesting in the course of reading this book is that I walked away from the book really disliking Maud. It's so odd to love a book and not be able to stand the person who wrote it. I'm going to have to block the thought of Maud's personality the next time I read Anne of Green Gables in order to keep it from getting tainted. But that book is the kind that I get so totally swept up in that I think I can easily ignore the thought of how much I dislike Maud while reading it.

Women of the Homefront

Monday, March 23, 2009

March is Women's History Month, and it just occurred to me this morning that I hadn't yet read a book in honor of that. So I searched through my to-read stack to see if I could find anything on the subject.

Today's book; "Lois A. Ferguson was a training teacher for college graduates at a Japanese relocation center in California. Her husband set up a junior college and night school program. Their efforts were to help relieve the injustices done to fellow citizens. Kay Watson’s husband fought in Europe while Kay worked at one of the sites of a secret government project known as the Manhattan Project; she later learned that she might have played a small part in the plan to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Mary L. Appling was a librarian in a California high school when she met Hugh Appling, a serviceman just returned from the war; together, they worked in Foreign Service for the United States for nearly thirty years, a direction affected by their actions during World War II. The recollections of these three women and 52 others are edited and presented by Pauline Parker, who also endured the war. Many women had life changing experiences during this turbulent time—Parker has gathered the personal stories of such women as marines and government workers as well as single mothers whose husbands had gone off to fight."

I'm really glad I read this book, not only because it was very interesting, but because I have another subject to add to my "Things to discuss with my grandparents" list for the next time I see them. World War II is a subject we haven't discussed all that much, other than that time when I asked my Grandma if she remembered where she was in on VJ Day. She told me that she was shopping for her wedding dress.

Fun (and not so fun) facts about life on the home front during World War II:

  • People were strongly encouraged to pick up hitchhikers if they were in uniform. In fact, it was considered unpatriotic not to. Posters were hung that said, "When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler." (So let that be a lesson to you dear readers, if you want to do your patriotic duty, pick up lots of hitch hikers).

  • Shoes were rationed. People were allowed two pairs per year - with sneakers and some sandals not made from leather being exempt. (I'm not a big shoe person, so that doesn't alarm me all that much. Now if they had rationed books, cookbooks, or aprons then I would be horrified right now.)

  • Used cooking grease was collected to help in the war effort. (I always knew that things like rubber and tinfoil were collected, but used cooking grease? Eeeeewww. I pity the poor people whose job it was to collect the grease. And what exactly does that look like on a resume? Prior employment: Grease collector.)

My favorite part of the book was the story of Betty Wright, a young woman who moved to Washington D.C. during the war to work for the government. Back then, women who worked for the government were referred to as "government girls." I love that expression, it makes me want to get a job working for the government just so I can call myself that. In her essay, Betty describes all of the exciting things she saw when she moved to the big city; milk that came in cartons, kale, butter brickle ice cream, streetcars. I don't know how Betty kept her wits about her while seeing such exotic things as milk in a carton. I swear I'm not making fun of Betty dear readers, I found her very endearing, I'm just endlessly amused by someone considering milk found in a carton exotic.

Brightness Falls From the Air

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Today's book was suggested by my Aunt Brenda. I was thinking that Suggestion Sunday might be more interesting to all of you dear readers who don't know my family if I told you a little bit about each relative whose book suggestion I am reading - although it has been pointed out by more than one relative that the only time I mention them on my blog is when I'm making fun of them. To that I say, I make fun of myself on the blog too, so it all evens out. So here's Aunt Brenda in 50 words or less: When I was a child I was endlessly amused by three things about her; 1. The vehemency with which she used profanity (what little kid wouldn't be amused by that) 2. The way she would let us keep all money that we found lying around in her car (and for reasons beyond my understanding, we found quite a bit). I used to think she left it there on purpose but she swears she didn't, and 3. The way she never used baby talk words around us such as potty (even from the age of four I despised it when people would talk to me like that) instead she would always say, "Let's go find a restroom", which my sister always thought meant a room you get arrested in. Okay, so I don't actually know if that's less than 50 words because I'm too lazy to count and I'm too computer illiterate to figure out how to use the computer word count.

Today's book; "Thousands of years in the future, on the distant planet of Damiem, an extraordinary group of people is assembled for one single night to witness the spectacular passing of the fiery wave-front caused by the nova of the Murdered Star. And in the course of this one night of revelation, lit by the auroral displays caused by the charged particles, the lives of the characters are illuminated as they are brought into deadly conflict. Some will survive and some will kill or be killed on this one night of treachery, heroism, and redemption."

Shallow thoughts:

  • Right off the bat I was distracted because every time I hear the word nova I flash back to childhood visits at my grandparents house that involved being forced to watch Nova against my will with my Grandfather. For those of you who have never experienced Nova personally, it's a PBS series of that features science documentaries that are so boring they make me nostalgic for school filmstrips. I love documentaries and I enjoy PBS quite a bit (I've got to do something to balance out the effect reality TV is having on my brain) - but even I can't watch Nova and remain awake throughout the entire program.

  • Today's book was almost 400 pages, so I had to read it kind of fast to get through it the book in time, and whenever I read a book fast my mind refuses to read the characters names correctly. I have no idea why that happens, or why the names are the only thing that are affected - but when I kept reading about a character named Vovoka, my brain insisted on reading it as Vodka. Does that ever happen to you dear readers?

  • All in all, the book wasn't my scene. I tried to like it - I tried so hard - but I don't think I'm a science fiction kind of person. But at least I tried, and I can now say that there is no genre of books that I haven't yet explored. And I did manage to still enjoy myself somewhat because the futuristic aspect of the book made me think about The Jetsons which resulted in the theme song being stuck in my head for about four hours straight, and I also replayed a few episodes in my head while reading. For those of my dear readers who are not familiar with American cartoons (or for those of you who are that want to relive your childhood) here's a link to the theme song: Ah, that's good TV there.

Book of a Thousand Days

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Today's book was suggested by Coke - so thanks for the suggestion Coke.

Today's book; "When Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress, are shut in a tower for seven years for Saren’s refusal to marry a man she despises, the two prepare for a very long and dark imprisonment. As food runs low and the days go from broiling hot to freezing cold, it is all Dashti can do to keep them fed and comfortable. But the arrival outside the tower of Saren’s two suitors—one welcome, and the other decidedly less so—brings both hope and great danger, and Dashti must make the desperate choices of a girl whose life is worth more than she knows. With Shannon Hale’s lyrical language, this forgotten but classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is reimagined and reset on the central Asian steppes; it is a completely unique retelling filled with adventure and romance, drama and disguise."

I'm not terribly familiar with any of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales other than Rumplestiltskin - since I'm pretty sure that the Disney versions of those stories don't count and are nothing like the originals - so today's book was kind of unfamiliar territory to me. I was too busy back then reading Berenstain Bears and my Sesame Street book of the month club books - nothing too deep, nothing too gritty - just light, fluffy, pleasant reading. So I guess it's long past time that I tackle some of the classics.

At the beginning of the book the readers are told that Dashti and Lady Saren were given 7 years worth of food in the tower. Perhaps my childhood of being raised in a house filled with Tupperware and having a mother who throws away half a loaf of bread if it's not really fresh feeling, is coloring my perceptions here, but eeeeewwwww. Eating food that's been sitting around for years - that's disgusting. I guess there's no danger of me ever romanticizing the past since every time I read a story that takes place in another time period I get so distracted by the tiny details that horrify me that I almost miss out on the rest of the story.

Another detail that distracted me was the paranoia that Lady Saren began to experience after being in the tower awhile. I know I should have been focusing on the story itself, but instead all I was thinking was I bet Lady Saren is paranoid because she's got a vitamin D deficiency from being stuck in the tower away from the sunlight, and I think I can safely assume they weren't eating vitamin fortified cereal up in that tower. So that's your fun (well actually not so fun) fact for the day, a Vitamin D deficiency can cause a person to become paranoid. I've really got to stop reading books about nutrition, it's interfering with my ability to read novels.

The $64 Tomato

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy First Day of Spring dear readers. I have been looking forward to the first day of spring for weeks so that I could read this book. I also have a few Spring-related books for next week (I'm sure you're all trembling with excitement).

Today's book; "When the author of this hilarious horticultural memoir plants a large vegetable garden and a small orchard on his Hudson Valley farmstead, he finds himself at odds with almost all creation."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I found the book amusing, but not hilarious as the reviewer claimed - although what's new about that, I rarely ever agree with the reviews. I bought the book on impulse (what a shock) from the clearance rack in a bookstore, a method of book buying that usually ends badly for me. But this time I really enjoyed the book - with the exception of an unpleasant middle part in which the author described putting up an electric fence to keep the deer away from his garden - I would recommend skipping that part if you're an animal lover.

  • Here's your random piece of useless information for the day dear readers: Contrary to popular myth, Johnny Appleseed (whose real name is John Chapman) did not give away apple seeds. He sold them to people - and the apple trees that resulted from those seeds were used not for making something wholesome like apple pie but to make hard cider. That's right, Johnny Appleseed was a traveling salesman who helped people get sloshed. I feel so disillusioned - I haven't felt like this since that time I found out there was really a third sibling on Happy Days.

  • My favorite passage from the book was when the author was describing the results of his attempt to grow apple trees; "The following spring I was rewarded with a few blossoms and one Empire apple. I had raised an apple! Through the summer, my little apple swelled and showed hints of red inside its protective sheath as my family waited in anticipation for the crisp fall day when, dressed in our L.L Bean red-checked flannels, we would descend into the orchard and with great ceremony pluck the literal (and only) fruit of our labors."

What We Keep

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I went to a charity book sale today - which was bad, because my to-read stack is already bigger now than it was at the beginning of the year. So I spent the whole time I was at the sale telling myself that it's not such a bad thing because the money is going to charity - so I'm not really compulsively buying books, I'm doing good deed for someone else. Okay, so that's kind of stretch, but it's how I justified buying twice as many books as I had planned. I always have such good, sensible plans while I'm still in the parking lot, but all reason goes out the window once I get near the books. But, as one of my dear readers pointed out in the comments sections, it's not such a bad habit when you compare it to doing cocaine. Okay, so that's a stretch too, but I'm going with it.

Today's book; "Ginny Young crosses the country for a reluctant reunion with the mother she has not seen in thirty-five years. During the long hours of her flight, she returns in memory to the summer when she turned twelve and her family turned inside out."

This book has been in my to-read stack for a long time - I would guess about 6 years. I have picked it up many times to read it, but somehow I have never gotten past the first page. But today, in a fit of spring cleaning, I decided that I was either going to read it right away or get rid of it. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that once I got past the first few pages, which were a little dull, that the book was quite good. There was a minor little mishap when I turned to page 8 and discovered the squished bug that had crawled into the book and died - that'll teach me to keep books around for 6 years before reading them.

I usually save Elizabeth Berg novels for traveling because they are quick books to read - which require very little concentration which makes it the perfect book to read in an airport when I need to split my focus between the book and listening for flight announcements - and yet they are not fluffy and mindless enough to cause your fellow passengers to judge you harshly. Although I say if you can't make a fool of yourself when you're on vacation, then when the heck can you? So, I ignored the squished bug, overlooked the fact that I'm not on vacation, and read the book - and it wasn't bad, although I find Elizabeth Berg books are the kind of books that I enjoy the idea of more than the actual book.

The picture I used for this blog entry isn't what the cover of my copy of What We Keep looks like, but I like this one better, so I'm using it instead. And now I'm feeling totally ripped off that I looked at an ugly cover all day when there were better versions out there. I'm shallow, so I do judge a book by it's cover, and I think I would have read this one a lot sooner if it had a better cover. The three most important things for me in buying a book are; the cover, the title and the first page - which makes me wonder why I even bought this book in the first place, since I'm not crazy about any of the three? The mysteries of my shopping habits, will they ever be unveiled? It's so sad when even I can't figure out why I bought something.

Beauty Before Comfort

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Today is the end of week 11, so it's time for the end of the week count.

For the week:


PAGES - 1,709

For the entire year so far:

CHAPTERS - 1,489

PAGES - 19,932

Today's book; "Allison Grock has written an irresistible memoir about her maternal grandmother, Aneita Jean Blair, a woman who came of age during the Depression in a West Virginia factory town yet refused to succumb to the desperation that surrounded her. Instead, Aneita Jean rouged her cheeks and kicked up her heels and did her best to forget the realities of life in an insular community where your neighbors could be as unforgiving as the Appalachian landscape. Before it was all over, Aneita Jean would have seven marriage proposals and her share of the tragedies that befall small-town girls with bushels of suitors and bodies like Miss America, girls "who dare to see past the dusty perimeters of their lives."

Here's my favorite passage; "I must have been around ten years old when I realized that my grandmother was not like other grandmothers. Men would call - plumbers, pastors, Boy Scouts - and she would work them into a lather. "Oh my! My robe seems to have fallen open. How embarrassing." - The author then goes on to describe her grandmother's baking habits; "While she baked, my grandmother sang. Her voice was lilting and sweet, which nearly overcame the raunch of the lyrics, songs of her own creation. . . " - Both of those passage remind me of my maternal grandmother (not the part about her robe falling open) - because I also realized quickly that my grandmother wasn't like most grandmothers. She didn't knit or sew or do any of the things that I thought normal grandmother did - instead she compulsively shopped for stuff like video tapes of Dwarf on Golf (which were as awful as they sound), made fabric bag lady decorations as a hobby (again, as awful as it sounds), and talked like a drunken sailor. I learned every bad word, obscene gesture, and rude comment that I know from her. When I was a child I used to wander what it would be like to have a sweet old grandmother who acted like the kind of storybooks - but looking back now, I think that would have been incredibly boring, which is something no one would have ever accused her of being. So reading today's book brought back some pleasant memories of my loud, interesting, funny, offbeat, vulgar grandmother.

I learned a new expression while reading this book: hoopie, which means a person who you consider beneath you. So, next time you see someone in public picking their teeth with their car keys you should just shoot them a look of disdain and say, "I hate it when we run into hoopies in public."

I was cringing during the chapter that described a person hitting someone else in the head with a baseball bat because it was bringing back really unpleasant memories when I accidentally did the same thing to my sister when I was 8 - although I'm guessing the bad memories weren't nearly as bad for me as they're going to be for my sister when she reads this. Perhaps I should have put a little warning on this paragraph so she could skip over it. Sorry again sis.

The Wearing of the Green

Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Happy St. Patrick's Day dear readers. In honor of St. Patrick's Day I decided to read a book about the history of the holiday. I'm not wearing green today (it's not my color), but the background to my blog is green so I still feel festive.

Today's book; "The authors, both historians (Cronin wrote A History of Ireland), trace the annual March 17 festivities back to the fifth century when St. Patrick converted the pagan Irish to Christianity in this dry, lifeless account of the origins and development of the holiday in Ireland, America, Australia, Canada and Britain. Originally a day of commemoration for the saint (believed to have died on the 17th), St. Patrick's Day began in America with, surprisingly,Protestants. The 18th-century American celebrants included Irish officers in the British army, and their festivities revolved around feasting and dancing. It wasn't until the 19th century, with its vast influx of Irish Catholics fleeing the great famine, that parades became popular."

Shallow thoughts -
  • Wow, I really wish I would have run across this description before I picked out today's book. I agree, it was dry and lifeless. If I hadn't been reading the book for the blog I wouldn't have finished it - and not just because it wasn't terribly interesting - but because the book was gritty. And I mean that literally. I reserved the book at the library and didn't even bother to look at the book until today when I sat down to read it - and that's when I discovered that the protective plastic cover over the book was sticky, a stickiness that no amount of wet paper towels or Lysol wipes seems to be able to alleviate - and there were stains on a lot of the pages. I spent most of the day trying to figure out how to read the book without actually having to touch it. Oh, if only I had some rubber gloves. Has that every happened to you dear readers, where you reserved a book at the library and then got home and then it turns out to be so gross that you want to boil it before reading it? Or is it just me?

  • Most of the book was so dull that I struggled to pay attention and I feel like I didn't retain anything beyond the shallow, surface level stuff. But, since that's what my blog is all about, it's okay. I learned a new expression which I've never heard before drowning the shamrock, which means to go drinking on St. Patrick's Day. I don't drink, so I'm not up on the holiday drinking lingo, so that was news to me - but it probably won't be new information to anyone who hasn't let a boring, square, Midwestern life.

At this point, I don't even care what tomorrow's book is about. As long as the book doesn't have to be disinfected before I read it, I'll be happy.

I Sleep at Red Lights

Monday, March 16, 2009

I read today's book in between doing some spring cleaning, and I discovered in the process that my to-read stacks have not gotten any smaller since I began this project. How is that even possible? I'm reading a book every day, and yet the pile sits there, not one bit smaller than it was in January. I feel like it's mocking me. I think I need to avoid any future trips to bookstores and stop going to the library so much until those stacks start to shrink a little bit. It's starting to get hard to maneuver around them, and I feel like they're taking over the house.

Today's book; "If you've ever wondered what it might be like to have your family suddenly doubled in size, check out this extremely funny, extremely perceptive memoir by the author of Esquire's bimonthly "Crazy Talk" column. Already the parents of a three-year-old boy, Stockler and his wife find themselves expecting triplets, and nothing will ever seem quite the same again. The author documents the experience from the get-go (the joyful yet surreal news that they're going to have three little babies), through the months leading up to the birth, and on to the first precious years of the triplets' lives."

Shallow thoughts:

  • Today's book got good customer reviews on one of the book sites I frequently visit - with the exception of one hysterical woman who used the customer review section to engage in an angry rant about all that is wrong with modern parenting - and whenever that happens I approach the book with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, because I rarely ever like the same books that most people like. I'm weird that way. But I really enjoyed today's book - and the thing that I liked the most about it was that it veered from the typical formula that parenthood memoirs follow (I'm not even sure if parenthood memoirs is the right phrase or not, but I'm using it anyway. And what I mean by that I've found most of the book I've read from that genre slightly off putting because they seem to spend so much time showing us how hard parenthood and marriage are, and hysterical those difficulties are allegedly supposed to be, that it ends up consuming the whole book and there's no balance thrown in of also talking about the parts of the experience they enjoy. To me it always ends up sounding like they can't stand their kids, spouse, job, or life. This book has a nice balance acknowledging the difficulties, but also celebrating that good aspects of the experience. I found that very refreshing.

  • My favorite part of the book was when the author discusses how he met his wife. They initially met through a personal ad. Here's how he describes their first meeting and early dating life; "Roni wore a T-shirt, jeans with a foot-high cuff, and work boots to the first date. I wore black jeans and a black T-shirt, turned inside out for reasons that seemed appropriate at the time. We had no chemistry at all, and the conversation was extremely stilted. We were bored and unimpressed with each other, but ironically, each of us has vowed privately to date outside our usual-suspect list. So I called her a week later and we had a boring movie date. She called me one week later, and we had a boring bike-riding date. We stuck with it and dated once a week, as if taking an antibiotic regimen. Our weirdness seemed to fit." - I think that's the weirdest "How we ended up together" story I've ever heard. They have an equally weird engagement story, but I'll leave you in suspense on that one - I don't want to give too much away dear readers, just in case you decide to read the book yourself some day.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

For those of you who are new to the blog, Suggestion Sunday is when I read a book that was suggested by a relative. Today's book was chosen by my Grandmother, who told me I should read a Catherine Coulter book and left it up to me to chose which one. I chose this particular book because it sounded really cheesy, and I have just a hard time taking romance novels seriously that I am instantly drawn to the cheesiest ones. I'm feeling really good about having read this book because now I'll have a new topic to discuss with my Grandma the next time I see her.

Today's book; "Model Georgina Hathaway is more than just a beautiful face in a magazine. The twenty-three-year-old's career has brought her independence and a maturity that belies her youth. She can afford the finer things in life, but there's something else she wants: Dr. Elliot Mallory. He is older, more experienced and sophisticated than Georgina. Although he doesnn't want to have feelings for her, he's endlessly intrigued by her bright mind, humor and charm." (Yeah right, I think anyone whose ever read a romance novel knows it wasn't her bright mind and charm that he was intrigued by - but oh well, the descriptions on the back of the book are almost always filled with lies anyway).

Shallow thoughts:

  • Just like every other romance novel I've ever read (which at this point numbers about 7, so I'm clearly no expert), the book starts out with the future lovebirds being really rude to one another. Why does this kind of book always start like that? Is it just that the author can't figure out how to fill the entire 200-300 pages without throwing in 50 pages where they treat each other like garbage? So this basically follows the typical formula: boy and girl meet (although it's kind of stretching the limits of honesty to call him a boy, it would be more accurate to say: old man meets young girl), boy and girl treat one another badly and say really rude things to each other for 50 pages, boy and girl spend about 40 pages engaging in really bad, cheesy, junior high school level flirty, boy accidentally assumes girl is a prostitute (whoops, I guess we're veering just a bit from the formula on that one), boy and girl get together, boy spends 100 pages trying desperately to find a way to end things with girl while girl stupidly believes that everything is perfect, boy physically abuses girl and we're supposed to find that romantic even though it isn't, and then . . . Well now I can't tell you how things end, because that would violate rule number one of the blog: Never give away too much of the plot. Although it's sort of a given with romance novels that they all end exactly the same way anyway, so I suppose I could be safe just this once to let a few things slip . . . but I'm not going to. You'll just have to read it yourself so that you can have something to talk about with your Grandmother at Easter.

  • Whenever reading a book by an author who has written over a period of several decades I always avoid looking in the front to see when the book was published so that I can guess. I was having fun trying to figure out if Georgina's outfit comprised of a pale blue silk shirt with tan pants means that she's just a bad dresser or that the book was written in the 80's. And then the giveaway scene happened; Georgina goes into her bedroom that is decorated in white wicker. Well that settles that, it clearly was the 80's. The only thing that could have made me more sure was if she owned a waterbed. One a side note: I would love to know what went on in the first meeting that was held to discuss the invention of a waterbed. I picture it going something like this, "I have come up with an idea for a bed that is so amazing that it will make boring suburban families feel like they're living on the edge. Because every night they will go to bed knowing that they're sleeping in a bed that has the potential to drown them in their sleep." Am I the only one whose surprised that idea ever made it off the ground?

Born on a Blue Day

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Today's book was suggested by Kara. Thanks for the suggestion Kara.

Today's book; "This unique first-person account offers a window into the mind of a high-functioning, 27-year-old British autistic savant with Asperger's syndrome. Tammet's ability to think abstractly, deviate from routine, and empathize, interact and communicate with others is impaired, yet he's capable of incredible feats of memorization and mental calculation."

In January I wrote an entry that mentioned the way people imagine the calendar - which was something that I thought no one but me ever imagined, and then I got quite a few responses (all of them very interesting). Here's the entry: This book was filled with references to the authors thought processes that produced similar "I had no idea other people thought about that kind of stuff" moments. Here's what the author has to say about numbers: "Numbers are my friends, and they are always around me. Each one is unique and has its own personality. The number 11 is friendly and 5 is loud, whereas 4 is both shy and quiet. . . " - (I don't think of numbers as each having an individual personality, but I do think of even numbers as being happier, friendlier, and more pleasant and odd numbers as being harsh and somewhat aloof.)

Tammet goes on to discuss how encyclopedias were his preferred reading material when he was a child - which makes me think about the book The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs (I threw that mention in for you Kara because I know how much you like that book). I love that book - not only for what it contains, but also for what it reminds me of. I read it for the first time when I was at Disneyland, while waiting in line. So now when I go back and read it again I can practically smell the air at Disneyland (is it just me or does the air smell different there), and feel the sun beating down on me, and taste the sour Mickey candy (which I am totally addicted to). If you've never read The Know-It-All, go straight to your nearest bookstore or library and start reading - I highly recommend it.

Random fact for the day: Today is International Pi Day - I would celebrate by doing a few math problems, if I could remember any of the math that I learned in school, but I don't. And I can't even do a cute little play on words and celebrate by eating pie, because I'm allergic. So I guess I'll be skipping over this holiday. Bah humbug. Today is also Einstein's birthday. I'm going to celebrate that by putting up an Einstein quote, "The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives."

Fanny and Sue

Friday, March 13, 2009

It's opinion time dear readers. I've been on the fence lately about one aspect of Suggestion Saturday: Should I read a book someone has suggested if it's a book I've already read. At first I thought I wouldn't, but I do read an occasional book that I've already read, so maybe I should. What do you think? Or maybe I should leave it up to each individual person who recommends books. I guess I'm just wondering if it takes the fun out of suggesting a book if you know I've already read it. Tell me what you think dear readers?

Today's book; "Twins Fanny and Sue Logan are born just before the Great Depression in St. Louis. While the sisters are identical in appearance, and frequently dressed alike, as they grow up, their distinct personalities emerge. One is often in trouble while the other is the good girl or, sometimes, her reluctant accomplice. Whereas one twin is boisterous and even pushy, the other is more introspective and cautious. One thing never changes, though, and that is the way they are profoundly connected, capable of anticipating each other's needs and feeling each other's joy and pain."

I don't think the book's description does it justice. In fact, the description makes the book sound really boring and I never would have bought the book if I was going just on that. I bought the book because of the customer reviews on amazon - and the reviews did not let me down.

Shallow thoughts on today's book:

  • One of the main characters has the same name as my Mother and so throughout the book I kept imaging her (and the character of Fanny, since they're identical twin) as looking just like the childhood pictures I have of her. So her childhood pictures have now served two purposes: 1. I've found that it's really hard to stay mad at someone while looking at a picture of them when they were a child. Try it out sometimes dear readers, and I think you'll agree. Just try to yell at someone after looking at a toddler picture of them where they're standing there looking all cute and innocent and 2. I was able to have a lazy imagination today since I didn't have to take the time to imagine up the main character. Which left me plenty of mental space left over to rename a few celebrity children in my head. It's a fun little game - just take someone whose kids names you don't like and try to rename them using the same first letter. Okay, so it's actually not a fun game, but it passed the time while waiting for the repair guy to fix the hot water heater, so it served its purpose.

  • I was amused during the part of the book where Fanny is at the movie theater drinking a bottle of Root Beer. That probably doesn't sound amusing, but I'm going somewhere with this one, I promise. The root beer bottle has an advertisement on the side that says "soothing to the nerves, vitalizing to the blood, refreshing to the brain, beneficial in every way." Advertisements from the 30's-50's are so funny, in a disturbing sort of way - cigarette ads that talk about how healthy smoking is, Coke ads that assure consumers that Coke is good for your organs. And then there's my personal favorite, an ad for 7Up that I found in a magazine from 1946 that tells parents that the best way to ensure a healthy, happy baby is to give little Johnny or Janie a nice bottle of 7Up before bed. I certainly hope little Johnny/Janie's parents set aside a little money each month for the dental bills that I'm sure followed. On a side note: I'm really glad that the practice of sticking a y or an ie on the end of every kids name died out a while ago.

And here's your random fun fact of the day: Sugar water is nature's hairspray. Apparently if you spray sugar water onto your hair before putting the hair into curlers it will make the curls hold better. So, if you're ever stuck in the wilderness, without your hairspray, but you still want to look your best and you don't mind being attacked by bugs all day, then just mix some sugar and water together. And if you don't have any sugar on hand then just melt down some skittles and use that, and if you don't have any candy with you then . . . I'm not even going to finish that last sentence because I don't even want to contemplate a vacation that doesn't involve at least 5 kinds of candy for the car ride there. And here's your second fun fact of the day: hairspray (the kind that didn't come from the pantry) was invented in 1948. That's probably a subject that will never come up in your life . . . ever, but just in case it does, you will now be equipped to wow all your friends with your knowledge of the history of hairspray. That's just the kind of blog I write - one that not only entertains (I hope) but that also empowers people to more effectively discuss the history of hairspray. I give you the real facts here, so that you won't continue to embarrass yourself at parties by telling people that hairspray was invented in 1945 and then having your friends mock you in the car on the way home afterwards by saying, "Can you believe that fool thinks hairspray was invented in 1945. Any idiot knows it was really 1948."

Homesick: A Memoir

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I think that I am finally starting to get the hang of reading a book every day. It's starting to feel easier, and I think I'm starting to read a bit faster than I did at the beginning of the year (I really wished I would have timed it so I could compare). I'm finally reaching a point where I feel like I can get the book read every day and still have time left over for other things. I guess I'm just relaxing into the project more and more with each week that goes by, and worrying less about whether it the book will get done (it always gets done, so I might as well stop worrying about it) or whether I'll have anything interesting to say about the book (some days I do and some days I don't, and I think that's only natural), and I'm finally getting more comfortable with the idea of publicly saying when I don't like a book (which is something I had just a hard time with in the beginning). Now on to today's book.

Today's book; "This earnest memoir by Ward, the 46-year-old star of the 1990s sitcom hits Sisters and Once & Again and spokesperson for Sprint long distance, juxtaposes a jet-setting Hollywood image with a small town Mississippi past. More sugared up than a glass of Southern iced tea, the book will surely build Ward's reputation with her TV fan base, as it doesn't delve deep into Ward's psyche or tell all about the biz. The fascinating trajectory of Ward's ideal American woman's life she went from cheerleader and homecoming queen at the University of Alabama to fashion model and fixture of New York nightlife should intrigue readers who can relate to culture shock."

I have to disagree with the book description though, I do think that the book delves into her psyche, which is one of the things that I enjoyed about it so much. The other thing that I found really satisfying about this book was that it seemed to embody the feeling of one of the passages found within it; "I yearn for a string of lazy afternoons on the front porch of our farm cottage, a glass of sweet tea in my hand . . . " - That's how I felt the whole time I was reading this book. The book also reminds me a bit of an old movie, where the whole think gently unfolds - those are my favorite kind of books because they force me to read in a slower, more careful way - which is not something that I'm good at because there are always so many books that I want to read that sometimes I race through them too fast in order to get to the next one.

My favorite passage came towards the end of the book, where Sela and her friends are sitting around talking about the little quirks found in Southern culture. Her friends Liz and Beth share this story about Southern friendships:
"When something happens to your child," Liz says, "the littlest thing, like they don't get asked to spend the night when all the other girls are asked - it hurts you so badly. So you call your friends. And whenever I call Becky and tell her something like that, she says, 'Now what's that girls name?'
Becky knows her cue. "I say, 'I have never liked that girl, and she is not pretty.' "
That clearly isn't a quality that's limited to the South, because my mother talks like that all the time. I have a really vivid memory of being 10 years old and being totally devastated because one of my best friends didn't invite me to her slumber party, and my mother gave me one of her mom speeches that went something like this, "I know you're really upset about this, but the important thing to remember is that she is not pretty. Not even a little bit." To which I responded, "That doesn't make me feel any better." And then she said, "Well it should make you feel better, I mean would you want to go through life with a nose like hers." - As you can see my mother tried to instill those important values of shallowness and pettiness early.

I also really enjoyed the chapter where Sela discusses Hope Village - which she describes as "a permanent refuge for abused and abandoned kids" - that she founded with the help of her husband. Here is a link to the Hope Village website for those of you who want to know more:

Little House on Rocky Ridge

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It's the end of week 10 so it's time for the chapter and page count:

For the week so far:


PAGES - 1,738

For the whole year so far:

CHAPTERS - 1,354

PAGES - 18,223

Today I was in the mood to read a Little House book, but I didn't want to drive all of you dear readers insane with Little House books, so I decided instead to read a book about Laura's daughter Rose (which is kind of the same thing as a Little House book, but I'm pretending like it's not). I figured that some of you who enjoy the Little House books, but who aren't obsessed with them to the point that I am, might not be aware that there is are spin-off books series from the Little House books; the Martha years (featuring Laura's great-grandmother), the Charlotte years (Laura's grandmother), the Caroline years (Laura's mother) and the Rose years (Laura's daughter). It's a good thing that Rose didn't have any children or the series would never end, and they would just go write on milking this dead cow for the next hundred years or so. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that series extended to Rose, and I can even understand Caroline - but when they start reaching all the way back to Laura's great-grandmother it just starts to feel like overkill.

Today's book; "MacBride, the sole heir of Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter Rose Wilder Lane, delivers the first installment of his faithfully minded series sequel to the hallowed Little House books. As it opens, Laura, husband Almanzo and seven-year-old Rose embark on what will be a final migration, from South Dakota to Missouri. Pieced in part from Rose's written account of that trip, interviews with contemporaries and historians, and other research, the story centers on Rose's adventures and scrapes, and, like its models, pays tribute to the strength and security of a close family."

I wish the Rose books had been around when I was in the throws of my childhood Little House obsession, because I always felt so sad when I would come to the end of The First Four Years - and it would have been nice to be able to continue reading about Laura's life in novel form. I, of course, read every other book about Laura's life that I could find, but it just wasn't the same. I have read the Caroline years books, but I have never gotten around to reading the Rose books yet (I've been a negligent Little House fan), so I decided to remedy the situation today.

I've always wanted to know more about Rose because of the controversy that surrounds her and her claim to have been the real author of the Little House books. Maybe the word controversy is too strong since most people who aren't die-hard fans probably don't even know about that claim. I have done some investigative (read: half-baked and poorly executed) research on that subject and have come to the conclusion that Rose was full of crap (and was just the tiniest bit unbalanced). I've read several books written by Rose, as well as some other things that Laura wrote (mostly newspaper columns that she wrote before she wrote the Little House books) to compare the writing styles. And Rose's writing style just doesn't match up to the Little House books, and the writing style of Laura's columns (which Rose acknowledges were written completely by Laura) do match up to the Little House books - so I think the truth was probably closes to Rose helping edit the books and then being a great bit glory hog who was bitter that her mother was always more famous than she was.

This book was filled with references to different foods that are often mentioned in the original Little House books - foods that I have always wondered about but never taken the time to figure out just what they were. So I decided to look some of those things up.
  • Bread-and-butter pickles - The Ingalls and Wilder families seem to have eaten a lot of bread-and-butter pickles - and I know so little about pickles (oh the shame of not being knowledgeable about pickles, how will I ever show my face in public again) - so I looked it up, and tons of recipes for pickles popped up. Huh? People actually make their own pickles in the present day? I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around that one. Is it because homemade pickles are healthier than store bought, or do they just taste a lot better, or is it because they enjoy being able to say "homemade pickles" a lot (well it is kind of a fun expression to say, just try it dear readers - try to work the words homemade pickles into the next conversation you have and you'll see how fun it is)? I want to know more? But I don't know anyone who makes their own pickles so I have to one to ask these pertinent questions.
  • Fried Salt pork - I've always just assumed salt pork was a pioneer version of bacon, but I wanted to be sure. For those of you who won't be able to sleep tonight unless you know for sure what salt pork is: It's like bacon (it comes from the same cut as bacon) but it's not smoked and it's saltier.
  • Vanity Cakes - I looked this one up in the Little House Cookbook that I didn't even know I had until I did some spring cleaning (this would come in so handy during that whole ginger water debacle from January) - and discovered that Vanity Cakes are made by mixing egg, flour, salt, and lard (ewww) and deep frying the dough. I'm trying to imagine that tasting good without the sugar in it, but I just can't - it would be like eating an Oreo without the filling, a grilled cheese sandwich without the cheese, cake without the frosting - it's too horrifying to even imagine.

P.S. - I wanted to thank Loree over at Stories & Scribbles for the blogging award and for mentioning my blog so much on your blog. Thanks. Here's a link to Loree's blog in case you guys want to check it out:

Father of the Bride

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Today I was feeling in the mood to read a cozy, comforting sort of book. Well actually that's not true, I was feeling in the mood to watch a cozy, comforting kind of movie - preferably an old movie. Since that wasn't an option I decided instead to read a book that one of my favorite old movies was based on.

Today's book; "Stanley Banks is just your ordinary suburban dad. He's the kind of guy who believes that weddings are simple affairs in which two people get married. But when daddy's little girl announces her engagement to Buckley, Mr. Banks feels like his life has been turned upside down."

Shallow thoughts on today's book:

  • I enjoy both the old movie and the remake that were based on this book, and I've watched both so many times that the voices of Spencer Tracy and Steve Martin were battling it out in my mind while I was reading this. For the record dear readers, Spencer Tracy's voice won. It's rare for me to watch a movie before reading the book, but since I recently just discovered how many of my favorite old movies were based on books that's been happening more and more often. Consequently I always hear the voices of the actors from those movies in my head while reading - and it kind of bugs me. I prefer imagining the people up first, before seeing and hearing what they look and sound like - watching first and then reading later creates a sort of imagination deficit in my mind. What do you prefer dear readers, book before movie or movie before book?

  • Father of the Bride was originally published in 1948 - so there were lot of amusing references to the cost of wedding planning. Bridesmaids dresses that cost more than $24 dollars? Why that's highway robbery. The book mentions the wedding costing $3.72 per person (anyone who has recently planned a wedding will either laugh or weep at that number) - so I did a little research to compare that to a modern wedding. According to my research, the average wedding has 178 guests, making the cost of a 1948 wedding roughly $662 dollars. A modern wedding with 178 guests costs, on average, roughly $20,000.

  • During the chapter about the wedding gifts I began to wonder if they had wedding registries in 1948. I already knew they didn't have them for people who "aren't rich" (as my mother puts it) in the 70's, which resulted in my parents receiving a ceramic frog holding an umbrella, 5 Crockpots and an avocado green mixer from one of their friends even though, as my mother always points out with just a hint of disgust in her voice, "She knew our kitchen colors were gold." But since the Banks and the Dunstans sound wealthy I figured maybe they did have registries available to them. I did a little investigative research and discovered that wedding registries were first offered by Marshall Fields in the year 1924. Well good for Kay and Buckley, they won't have to spend their entire marriage trying to figure out how to re-gift a ceramic frog and a ugly Early American landscape picture that was, according to my dad, "so ugly it was worse than those pictures of dogs playing poker."

  • And finally, Stanley Banks' daughter Kay is marrying a man named Buckley Dunstan. I'm trying to imagine a scenario in which is would be possible to take a man named Buckley Dunstan seriously enough to even reach a point of wanting to marry him but, nope. I just can't do it. A 12 year old named Buckley Dunstan is merely a boy whose parents owe him a big apology. A 26-year-old man who willingly goes by the name of Buckley, well now that's a whole other story. Lest you think I'm too harsh towards other people's names dear readers, I'm saying this as a person who is seriously contemplating legally changing my middle name because it sounds like a name more befitting someone who spends their workday jumping out of the top of cake. - I tried to fight the urge to jump ahead to the part of the book where the vows are said so I can find out what Buckley's middle name is. That lasted for about 2 pages, before I jumped ahead and discovered that the book just skips right over that part. How disappointing, but it did give me a chance to exercise the imagination that hasn't been used thus far while reading this book, because I spent 3 or 4 minutes (okay more like 8 or 9) imagining what I think his middle name would be. Here's the list I compiled: Herbert, Norton, Winston, Chauncey, and Shelton. That reminds me of a car travel game my sister and I used to play where we tried to come up with the worst/most pretentious names for two boys and two girls. She won that contest with Nippy, Biddy, Chauncey and Crispin. It saddens me so much that I can remember that but I can't remember basic third grade history. Ask me what year anything happened in American history and I won't be able to give you an answer - but ask me to name all the kids on Family Matters and I can tell you. And just to prove it: Eddie, Laura, Judy (whose presence we weren't supposed to miss after she got sent upstairs one episode and never came back), and Little Richie.

Autobiography of a Fat Bride

Monday, March 9, 2009

The number of visitors to the blog has increased over the last few days so I just wanted to welcome all the new readers. Thank you so much for stopping by and checking out the blog. And I notice that I've gained a few new followers as well. Thank you for deciding to stick around awhile. I really appreciate all of the readers, new and old, who have taken the time to come here and support the blog. Thanks.

Today's book; "In Autobiography of a Fat Bride, Laurie Notaro tries painfully to make the transition from all-night partyer and bar-stool regular to mortgage with plumbing problems and no air-conditioning. Laurie finds grown-up life just as harrowing as her reckless youth, as she meets Mr. Right, moves in, settles down, and crosses the toe-stubbing threshold of matrimony."

I picked today's book because it had an odd title - and boy do I need to come up with a better reason for picking out books than that, because as it turns out choosing a book just because it has a really tacky title didn't turn out so well for me today. I have no idea why this continues to surprise me, but I just keep holding out hope that one of these days I'm going to break the streak - which basically makes me the reading equivalent of Pamela Anderson who just keeps expecting the fifth and sixth and seventh reunion with Tommy Lee to be the charm. Despite today's failure I'm still holding out a tiny bit of hope that the book I Love You Like a Tomato that's sitting in my to-read stack will somehow be different from all the others.

The book was intended to be humorous but there were only one part that I found amusing (not even laughing out loud funny, just kind of amusing). I think the author was trying too hard to show us how she can put the fun in dysfunctional. Now I enjoy a good "I'm kind of weird" story, and I've certainly told more than a few of those kind of stories in past blog entries - but I don't enjoy "Isn't it cute how totally screwed up I am" stories - and this book fell into the later category. I'll put an excerpt up of the one sort of amusing part of the book so you can save yourself the trouble of having the read the whole book - the author is talking about how her family has changed now that her nephew has been born; "As soon as he struts through the door, the atmosphere changes. Every member of the family becomes a servant, footman, lady-in-waiting, all eager to serve our thirty-three pound master. "You require someone to fetch your chocolate milk, sir? Pick me! Pick me!" He'll tell us where to sit, mutely pointing at a couch, a chair, or if you're angered the Little King, the floor. You can be banished for simply sitting in the wrong place, talking to him without being addressed first, or merely suggesting that it isn't particularly a good idea to rub purple Play-Doh into my mother's beige carpeting."

The chapters dealing with the author's wedding were so over-the-top tacky that they reminded me of that show My Big Redneck Wedding - which is a show that is so vulgar, tasteless, and totally devoid of any substance that I'm almost embarrassed to admit it (although clearly not embarrassed enough to avoid mentioning it on a public blog). Have you ever watched that show dear readers? If not, here's a brief summary: It's a show that is about real-life weddings that are so tacky and tasteless it'll make your jaw drop. I watched one episode - and I believe it will always be etched in my mind as my television low point - a show so bad it made me think, What is missing from my life that I find this a valuable use one my time. I knew it was time to reevaluate my incredibly low TV standards when I realized that the most tasteful part of the episode was the Hot Pockets that were served at the wedding reception. I normally consider Hot Pockets sheer perfection, second only to those Oreos that are dipped in mint chocolate, but even I have my limits and serving Hot Pockets at a wedding is where I firmly draw the line. So, even though I didn't find today's book particularly entertaining, it did remind me once again of why writing this blog is important; because it's takes up 6 or 7 hours out of my day that I would otherwise be spending on really trashy TV that would probably end up rotting my brain (it's not a lofty reason for writing a blog, but I guess I could have worse reasons).

Running With the Buffaloes

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I had my second dream about the blog last night. I think it's safe to say that I'm obsessed. It was a variation on a recurring dream I've had for years in which I keep trying to dial the phone and I can't get my finger to push the right buttons - but in this version of the dream I kept trying to write down my web address to give to someone and I couldn't manage to write down the right letters. I have no idea what a dream like that is supposed to mean because I'm not good at analyzing dreams - I'm going to take a stab in the dark and guess that it means I need to cultivate some hobbies other than just this blog.

Now on to today's book -
Today's book was suggested by my brother Chad who is a gym teacher/track coach/cross country coach - in other words, the exact opposite of me, a person who is so uncoordinated that I can barely master walking without getting injured. He told me that this is the only book he's ever voluntarily read in his life - and when someone tells me that I feel compelled to read the book - I also spend about 20 minutes trying to fathom what a life without reading would be like, but I just can't wrap my mind around it. And similarly he can't wrap his mind around why I love to read so much. When we were children he would introduce me to his friends by saying, "This is my sister. She likes to read . . . for fun. No one's even making her do it." I feel the same way about sports, "This is my brother who likes to run. . . and no one's even making him do it."

Today's book; "Colorado-based cross-country runner Lear follows the University of Colorado cross-country team, the Buffaloes, through its 1998 season, one with many high points but also marked by the tragic death of one of its team members in a bike accident. The University of Colorado's cross-country program is one of the best in the country and, unlike most major cross-country powers, relies mainly on locally born athletes. The book minutely details the training and coaching techniques used to produce a team that is a constant contender for the NCAA championship."

The only sport I know anything about is baseball, and it's been so long since I paid any attention to the sport that the details on that have become a bit fuzzy. So reading this book required me to look up a lot of running phrases that I was unfamiliar with (which would be all of them). It reminded me of when I was in elementary school and I would try to read books that were really advanced for my age - and I would make a vocabulary list for myself, look all the words up at the end of each chapter and then go back and read the chapter over again after I had written out the definitions of all the words - in other words, I was a dorky kid, the kind who inflicted learning on myself. Here are the words/phrases I had to look up (or call my brother about) while reading this book:

  • redshirting - each runner on a cross country team has four years where they're eligible to compete, and so if the player gets injured or the couch doesn't think they're good enough to compete for some reason they can redshirt that player - and the player will be able to practice with the team but not compete and that year won't count against their four years - this only happens with college teams and not high school - (I hope I didn't mangle that description too much - if I did, someone feel free to correct me in the comment section)
  • steeplechase - an obstacle race where the runners have to jump over hurdles and the last hurdle is the water jump, which consists of a barrier followed by a pit of water - (Reading about the steeplechase made me want to play the Super Mario Brother's video game for some reason. Fun fact about Angie: I was briefly obsessed with the Nintendo in the late 80's, a fact which my own mother doesn't even remember. What's wrong with her, doesn't she know she's supposed to have every detail of our lives memorized? Okay, so maybe I should let her off the hook considering she actually knows what color my eyes are and what year I was born, two facts that have completely escaped my dad).

Mid-way through reading the book I called up my brother to get his thoughts on whether he thought the book helped him as a coach. He said that it was eye opening to him to see how much harder college teams have to work than high school teams - and that he thinks it helped him to read about the philosophies the coach in the book used (crap I can't remember the coach's name right now - clearly attention to detail is not my strong suit). I found it eye opening as well to see how much work goes into a cross country team (not that I have anything to compare it to) - but I always thought, What's the big deal? You show up, you run, end of story. So I found out that it takes a teensy bit (or a lot) more effort than that. And to end the entry on a really sappy note, I found it really inspiring to read about the kids on the UC track team who overcame so many obstacles (the death of a father, the death of a teammate, making it from living in extreme poverty in Mexico to a scholarship on a college Cross Country team) in order to make it to where they were.

The Westing Game

Saturday, March 7, 2009
It's that time again dear readers, it's SUGGESTION SATURDAY.
Today's book was suggested by Belvia, who I accidentally skipped over last week, so thanks for your patience Belvia.

Today's book; "Sixteen people were invited to the reading of the very stranger will of the very rich Samuel W. Westing. They could become millionaires, depending on how they played the game. The not-quite perfect heirs were paired, and each pair was given $10,000 and a set of clues (no two sets of clues were alike). All they had to do was find the answer, but the answer to what? The Westing game was tricky and dangerous, but the heirs played on, through blizzards and burglaries and bombs bursting in air."

I'm feeling much better today, so that made reading/blogging easier - but the weather was bad today. There was thunder, lightening and heavy rain going on while I was reading this - which left me worrying that the electricity would go out and make it impossible to get this blog entry. On the upside, the weather did lend the perfect ambiance to the reading of a mystery novel.

Shallow thoughts about today's book:

  • The whole time I was reading this book I kept thinking about one of my favorite episodes of The Golden Girls, The Case of the Libertine Bell, where they participate in a murder mystery weekend. I think I may turn today into a murder mystery theme day and go watch the episode when I'm done writing this entry. - On a side note: I'm a bit disturbed that so often I read something and it reminds me of something I watched on TV. In fact, I can come up with a TV anecdote to go along with just about anything that happens to me (and I believe my sister can back me up on that one in the comments section).

  • I found myself looking forward to the introduction of new characters because so many of them had such odd last names; Windkoppel, Barfspringer, Theodorakis. I'm weirdly fascinated by really bad/odd names, whether they be first or last names, to the point where when I run across someone who gave their child a really bad name I end up hoping they'll have another child soon just so I can see if they can top that name the next time around - which is a really shallow reason for hoping someone will have a kid, but I'm a shallow person so it works.

  • I think that watching too many soap operas (where the murder mysteries are so obviously that everyone knows who did it six months before it's revealed) has completely dulled my brain, because I didn't even have the slightest suspicion as to how the book was going to end. Not even so much as a guess. But then maybe TV isn't totally to blame - I was never good at playing Clue as a child - I was more of a Monopoly girl. The only part of Clue I excelled at was making up funny voices to go along with the characters and acting melodramatic and saying things like, "Thank you, you've been exceedingly helpful," after someone shows me their card. I really got into the characters - and thank goodness my sister was sitting there getting into character as well, because no one else in the family would ever play along. They were never amused by our attempts to bring a little drama to the game.