Working At Play: A History of Vacations in the United States

Friday, July 31, 2009
A Book a Day:
Vacation Bureau

Dear readers, I’m so glad that you have decided to come along on my vacation with me, and wasn’t that clever of you to sneak into the suitcase when I wasn’t looking? I’m so sorry that I’ve been ignoring you all day,but I had to keep my location top secret, and as I’m sure you’ve already noticed, I don’t excel at censoring myself. But I do hate the distance between us that keeping this secret has created, so I’ve decided to give you a few clues to help you guess where I am.

Clue # 1 – The title of today’s book is your first clue.

Clue # 2 – I’m not roughing it. Of course that doesn’t really clarify things all that much since my definition of roughing it is traveling to a location that doesn’t have a bookstore. Rest assured dear readers, I have located a bookstore, and I may have bought a couple of books (what a shock!)

Clue # 3 – The streets smell like baked goods. I swear they must be pumping the smell in – and I’m so glad that I came armed with my own baked goods, or this would be pure torture.

Today’s book, “No one works harder at playing than Americans. Indeed, as Cindy Aron reveals in this intriguing account, the American vacation has seen a constant tension between labor and leisure. Aron offers the first full-length history of how Americans have vacationed.

Today’s book was not as fun as the cover made it look. It wasn’t awful, but it didn’t have that fun, retro kick to it that I expected. But, the book has enhanced my vacation vocabulary to include the following terms:

Excursions – In the mid-1800s the word ‘vacation’ was not a word frequently used. Instead the word ‘excursion’ was used. I officially love that, and will henceforth refer to this vacation (oops, I slipped) as a Top Secret Excursion.

Marginal behavior – My favorite sentence of the book occurred in a chapter that was discussing concerns that were raised in the early days of vacation resorts, concerns that resorts would lead to the moral decline of the nation, “Resort life seemed to encourage people to behave in what historian John Stilgoe has described as ‘marginal behavior.’ – I’m all about marginal behavior on vacation. As I’m sure you’re aware, after about five days straight of me talking about it, vacation time is when I get to suspend my no-sugar rule (well it’s not my rule, my immune system laid down the law on that one.) But what you may not know is that sugar affects me the way alcohol affects normal people, and so I’m a lot more fun on vacation –fun in this case being a euphemism for “one step away from having some serious regrets tomorrow.” Case in point: there is a rather incriminating photograph of me pretending to flirt with a statue. In my defense dear readers, he looked well-to-do, and how could I let a chance like that pass me by.

Coarse and vulgar – Another favorite passage involving a discussion of how James A. Bradley, the man who built and ran a beach resort on the New Jersey Shore, published a notice in the town newspaper informing the public: “BATHING COSTUME NOTICE! DO NOT GO THROUGH THE STREETS IN BATHING CONSTUMES. IT IS COARSE AND VULGAR.” – Another fun new phrase to toss around, and boy did it come in handy when passing someone wearing any of the following: fanny packs, peach socks, Crocs, tie-dyed shirts and. . . well I could go on and on, but why belabor the point. All you need to know at this time, dear readers, is that whenever passing someone wearing one of the preceding items I muttered, “coarse,” followed quickly by my sister’s reply, “and vulgar.” It’s always nice to be able to get one’s mocking down to short and manageable exchanges. After all, vacations are a time for streamlining one’s ordinary routine.

I look forward to reading your guesses as to my Top Secret Excursion location. Good night dear readers (and hasn’t this been the best vacation day ever?)

Going Home

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The vacation countdown continues - T minus 9 hours and 45 minutes. I've been doing that all day, because that's just how dorky I am. I had to do something to psyche myself up for vacation so I wouldn't spend the whole time having the usual pre-vacation what-if-I'm-allergic-to-everything-in-every-restaurant-I-go-to panic. This time I've decided to be more proactive, and I'm bringing my own salad dressing, fake mayo, and dessert to the restaurant with me. I've tried this a few times before, but I stopped doing it because I found it totally mortifying. But this time I've decided to embrace the weirdness, and sit back and enjoy seeing the confused looks on the waitresses faces when I say, "I won't be needing any dressing with that salad, I brought my own. And no need to bother with a dessert menu, I brought that too." Some people show up at restaurants and are crazy enough to expect the restaurant staff to do all the work. But I'm a team player, and so I bring 40% of the meal with me.

I spent the day trying to fit reading the book in around making fake cookies (which turned out really well once I put a bunch of frosting on them), fake brownies (which ended up the consistency of cement, despite remaining liquid the entire time they were cooking), fake cupcakes (which look so normal I could weep tears of joy just looking at them), fake Chicken-Pasta salad (for our we're-so-retro-and-fabulous picnic), and fake salad dressing (so I can see just how many weird stares I'm going to get while carrying my own bottle of salad dressing into the restaurant.)
And now I'm going to have a quick moment of whining: I really miss the days of being able to open that beautiful plastic wrapper on the Hostess cupcakes and then sitting back and eating something that was made in a factory and is laced with colorings, fat, and artificial preservatives. Those were the days.

I'm afraid that the food I'm taking on vacation is all that I can disclose about the trip at this time since the location is top-secret (except for of course with the people my sister has already informed. Memo to Alissa: Loose lips sink ships.) The books I read each day will provide the clues as to where I am vacationing at, and I'm actually going to be dorky enough to expect you to guess where I am. Or you could choose to look at it as me being arrogant enough to assume that anyone actually cares where my vacation is taking place. Either way, I hope you'll join me tomorrow for vacation-themed book number one.

Today's book, "In the sunswept beauty of San Francisco, Gillian Forrester is filled with the joy of a love that will surely last. But a painful betrayal forces her to flee to New York and a new life. There she discovers an exciting new career and a deep, enveloping passion . . . only to have her newfound happiness shaken to it's core."

I was very excited about today's book (and I'm not even being sarcastic), because it's Danielle Steel's first book. I was really looking forward to finding out if there was a difference in her writing style from this book, written in 1973, and the later ones I've read, most of which were written in the late 80s and early 90s. I quickly discovered several rather jarring differences:

  • The book was written in the first person. - I'm going to give you a moment to let that sink in . . . I understand your shock, I was stunned too. I'm trying to recall any of Steel's other books that were written in the first person, but I can't think of one. For those of you who actually have standards, and have therefore never read a Danielle Steel novel, I feel I should include some background information. Steel's usual writing style is a strange version of third person writing, in which the God-like narrator knows everything going on in every characters mind for 99.9% of the book, and then has occasional slips in which she doesn't seem to know what's going on. Jane felt sad and perhaps a little excited. Which always leaves me thinking, "What the hell do you mean, perhaps she was excited? You're the narrator, aren't you supposed to know if she's excited or not." I can't figure out why she does that. Is it just laziness? Does she just think, I don't really feel like deciding if Jane is excited or not, and I'm too tired to flip a coin, so we'll just go with "perhaps."

  • There are no elaborate descriptions of people's clothing. Instead the clothing descriptions sound like this, ". . . and I had just enough time to shower and climb into a pair of ancient jeans, a denim shirt, and my safari jacket." - Forgive me for being picky, but I just don't feel that sentence conveys everything that I need to know about the situation. A sentence like that produces far too many questions: Is the safari jacket in question similar to the one that J.R. Ewing wore on Dallas during his days off from work? Am I just the laziest person on earth when it comes to getting dressed, because never in my life have I ever climbed into my clothes? And most important of all: What about the shoes? Oh, but not to worry, Danielle does not leave us in suspense on the shoe front for long. She goes on to inform us that, "I dug my feet into an old pair of riding boots. . . " - But, once again, I am left with questions because I'm back to the "Am I a lazy dresser" issue, because I prefer to put my shoes on rather than dig my feet into them. Are there really people going through these Herculean efforts just to get dressed in the morning? I just don't think getting dressed should be that difficult for anyone who hasn't recently had a stroke.

  • Danielle is a big fan of profanity - such a big fan that if I was playing the drinking game using all swear words, my liver would have been totally destroyed by now and I would be writing this blog entry from gurney number four in the emergency room. Now I'm fascinated, and I want to read her second book to find out exactly when the profanity stops, because I don't remember it happening in her later books. I'm not offended by profanity - in fact, it often feels to me like a nice warm hug from my Maternal Grandmother, and yet even I found it to be a bit overwhelming. Although there is that part of my brain that will remain 12 years-old forever, that kind of wishes that I had counted up the swear words in the book, just to see how many there were. Just like I did when I was 12 and I spent the night at my Aunt's house and she let me watch My Cousin Vinny, despite the fact that my Mother would have never let me watch it, and I kept a running tally of the number of times a certain word beginning with the letter F was used. I'm going to take a wild guess and say that profanity was used about 750 times in this book.

I won't be posting the book for the day on Twitter or over here tomorrow, and I'm not sure if I'm going to keep up with Twitter at all while I'm gone. And any comments you leave over here probably won't get posted until the end of the day. But the blog entries will go up as usual, so I hope you'll still stop by tomorrow.

Miss. Buncle's Book

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Countdown to vacation continues. T Minus 33 hours. I'm sorry, you'll have to excuse me dear readers, I'm one of those annoying people who is relentlessly cheerful in the days leading up to a vacation. And I'm so happy on the morning of departure that sometimes I start to annoy myself. Just be happy you won't have to be in the car with me as I'm leaving.

Speaking of counting (lamest segue ever, I know), it's that magical time again dear readers, time for the end of the week count (and for those new readers, I swear I'm not a moron, I do realize that the week doesn't end on Wednesday - but I started blogging on January 1st of this year and so this is where the end of my blogging week falls.)

For the week:


PAGES - 1,887

For the year so far:

CHAPTERS - 4,256

PAGES - 54,280

Today's book, "The storyline of Miss Buncle's Book (1934) is a simple one: Barbara Buncle, who is unmarried and perhaps in her late 30s, lives in a small village and writes a novel about it in order to try and supplement her meagre income."

The plot for today's book was similar to a book I read for the blog just a few weeks ago, but the writing style of today's book was very different from that one. I originally planned to read this book a few weeks ago, but I read the first few pages and just couldn't get into it. So I set it aside and tried a second time, but again it just didn't hold my interest. Today was my third attempt, and I'm honestly surprised that I even bothered with a third attempt because I usually don't give a book this many chances. But, I'm glad that I did, because I ended up enjoying the book. The first couple of pages are rather dull - and a bit pointless - involving a long and tedious discussion of what time everyone in the town ate breakfast at, but once I got past that the book got a lot better.

Today's book was kind of like an old movie, where the plot really slowly unfolds - which turned out to have been a really horrible book for me to read today because I'm really tired. I seem to have the misfortune of picking out books that move really slowly on days when I'm really tired, and then I spend the whole day struggling to get through them. The one thing that did keep me awake was playing "Guess the time period." The copy of today's book that I read didn't have a dust jacket, and so I had no idea what time period it took place in until I went searching for a description for this entry. Not that it would have mattered if the book did have the dust jacket, because as I'm sure you've already realized by now I don't even bother reading those things closely enough to pick up on details such as the time period in question. I had narrowed it down to sometime between 1900 and 1960 (pathetic I know) - but I couldn't narrow it down beyond that. I figured it had to be at least the turn of the century because cars were mentioned a few times, but some time before 1960 because people wore hats a lot in the book. And, is it just me, or does a story instantly seem more fun when all the characters are wearing hats? Never mind, I'm pretty sure it's just me. Which reminds me, I almost forgot to pack my "I'm a Hollywood star from 1945 and I'm fabulous" hat.

Love, Lucy

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Today's book, "Although Lucille Ball died in 1989, this autobiography written prior to 1964 has only recently been discovered among her papers. She describes a childhood deeply affected by her father's death and her mother's withdrawal from her life. Raised by her grandparents, Ball craved attention and developed a tempestuous, vivacious, fiery, and yet insecure personality that would later lead her to comic stardom."

I really enjoyed today's book, once I fully recovered from seeing the scary eyebrows Lucille is sporting on the front cover.

Shallow thoughts:

  • I already knew before reading this book that Lucy and Desi named their two kids after themselves, Lucie and Desi Jr. (did they not make baby name books in the 50s?), so that wasn't exactly a fun fact. But, I have now been inspired to name my first child after myself, all the while pretending like I'm not by changing the spelling - what do you think of Angee? Or how about Angy? Anjie? Okay, maybe not. After reading the book, it appears that neither kid had a nickname - they always called them Lucie and Desi Jr. What must life have been like in their house? Lucy, could you come here? No not you, didn't you pay attention to my tone of voice, I was clearly saying Lucy with a y?

  • I wasted way too much time on the Internet looking up fried potato sandwich's (a favorite of Ball's) before finally stumbling across a recipe. Apparently you make a fried potato sandwich by cooking bacon, then frying potatoes and onions in the bacon grease, and then assembling the sandwich, which consists of bacon, potatoes, onions, white bread, and mustard. - That reminds me of a scene from a Golden Girls episode I watched a few days ago, where Rose and Sophia had set up a sandwich stand and had run out of tomatoes so they were trying to sell people bacon, lettuce, and potato sandwiches. It's really sad that everything that I read reminds me of something I watched on TV, but I should probably just surrender to it because it doesn't look like that's going to change any time soon.

  • And on that note, the whole time I was reading this book I kept picturing scenes from the really bad TV movie I watched a few years ago called Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter. It was just as bad as the title makes it sound. So of course, I've watched it three times. And I'm not going to lie, given the chance I'd watch it again.

  • I was disappointed that the book didn't offer up any behind-the-scenes information about one of my favorite Lucille Ball movies, The Long, Long Trailer. And the book ends in 1962, so there was no information about my other favorite movies of hers, Yours, Mine & Ours (which was about a hundred times better than the crappy remake.) I highly recommend both movies. You're probably reluctant to take any movie suggestions from me after all the horrible TV movies I've mentioned, but I can assure you that I actually have standards when it comes to movies that didn't originally air on Lifetime.

  • When Desi Jr. was born, Lucy and Desi received telegrams, letters, cards, phone calls, and baby gifts from one million people. - I can only imagine the childhood fights that produced, One million people sent cards and gifts when I was born. How many people sent you cards and gifts? About twenty - well I'm sure that was nice too.

And now, I'm going to go pack for vacation while watching The Long, Long Trailer.

The Mighty Queens of Freeville

Monday, July 27, 2009

Today's book, "Millions of Americans know and love Amy Dickinson from reading her syndicated advice column "Ask Amy" and from hearing her wit and wisdom weekly on National Public Radio. This is the tale of Amy and her daughter and the people who helped raise them after Amy found herself a reluctant single mother. Though divorce runs through her family like an aggressive chromosome, the women in her life taught her what family is about."

I'm not going to lie, I picked today's book because it was relatively short. I'm leaving to go on a short vacation later this week and I had a lot of things that needed to get done before then. I will still be reading a book every day while on vacation, and the blog entries will go up as normal. Plus, I have some really fun vacation themed books picked out which I'm really looking forward to reading and blogging about.

But, vacationing with 19 food allergies, while also working on this blogging project, is kind of a daunting task. So it's going to take a few days to get ready - and over packing is going to be the name of the game. I'm a little bit nervous about being able to pull this off - but that's the whole point of this project, to see what it's like to read a book every single day no matter what else is going on in my life. So, to make a long story short (oops, it might actually be too late for that), I had a busy day. Plus I had to fit in watching The Bachelorette finale as well because nothing gets in the way of my trash TV. Of course now that I've watched it, I wish I had my two hours back - but that's beside the point now.

I have mixed feelings about today's book. I think it was a good book - not great, but good enough to spend one day on - but I didn't feel a very strong connection to any of the people in the book. I'm willing to acknowledge that the lack of connection could have been my fault. It was hard for me to focus on the book I was reading while also trying to figure out how to bring all of my weird allergy-free food with me on vacation. And, by the way dear readers, I want to apologize for using the word connection twice in one paragraph (oops, that last one makes three). Let that be a lesson to me, never write a blog entry five minutes after watching The Bachelorette. Next thing you know I'm going to be using phrases like "When we started this journey . . . "

I think another reason why I didn't connect to the people in this book is because the family in the book claims to be anti-gossip. How on earth am I supposed to relate to a family like that? I'm trying to wrap my mind around the possibility that there are truly people in the world who don't ever say bad things about anyone - but I'm having a hard believing that. Every person I've ever met who claims to not judge and gossip about others turns out to be just as judgemental as the rest of us - they're just judgemental in a different way. We judge people, and the alleged anti-judgement people judge (and lecture) us for judging others. This reminds me of that episode of S&TC where Carrie says "Are we too quick to judge judging?" I personally don't have the energy to put up the pretense of not judging others - instead I restrict my judgements to bad clothes and people I can't stand. If that makes me a bad person, then fine I'm a bad person, I can accept that.

And while we're on the subject of my bad qualities, there was a part of the book that reminded me of TV (what a shock.) The author mentions at one point that she felt like her life had turned into a Lifetime TV movie. Which made me think, I haven't looked at the Lifetime Movie Network schedule in a while. I better go check that out right now, I could be missing out on some really great movies. And that turned out to be a very fortunate thing, because it turns out that they're playing She Woke Up Pregnant next week, which is my second favorite Michele Greene TV movie (second to the one where she becomes a surrogate to a snotty, yuppie couple who has everything but love, who end up only wanting one of the twins she's pregnant with.) If you've never watched the movie, I urge you to watch it. It'll change your life. I've already accepted that if you do watch it any shred of respect you may have previously had for me will evaporate within the first five minutes of the movie. But I'm not going to let that stop me.

And now, because I'm still in a Bachelorette mood - Dear readers, will you accept this rose? I just feel like we've been on the most amazing journey these last few weeks, and I think we could be really great together . . . for the next six months, until reality sets in and we end up having to break up on Good Morning America and then start complaining about one another to Us Magazine.

Under the Lilacs

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I've been in a bit of a reading/blogging slump over the last few days due to being sick with a cold, the effects of which were exceedingly bleak (okay, sorry, that last part won't be amusing to anyone who hasn't seen the movie Emma.) But, I have finally recovered, due to a ridiculous amount of vitamins and the restorative powers of Golden Girls, which I spent most of the day watching. I forced myself to stop in between each episode so I could get my book for the day read. It's really a wonder that I ever manage to get the book for the day read at all. I'm still amazed sometimes that a person with as little motivation as I have actually reads a book a day. I think people get a false impression of my life when I tell them about my blog. In fact, someone said a few months ago, in reference to my blog, that they wished they had as much drive as I have and I laughed so hard I almost broke a rib. Then I told my parents about that statement and they burst out laughing. And when I told my sister, we both laughed until we cried. I'm quite possible the least motivated person ever - which is why working from home while trying to write a blog is the worst possible course of action I could take. And yet, here I am attempting it anyway. Back at the beginning of the year I actually entertained the idea that writing this blog would help me to become more disciplined - but I'm slowly starting to accept that procrastination and the sense of panic that comes when midnight is almost here are all part of my creative process. So is whining. I spend at least 20 minutes before writing each blog entry whining about how I have nothing to say about this book, and I'm not creative at all, and my blog is a failure. Consider yourselves lucky that you don't have to witness the whining part, because it's like an episode of Thirtysomething.

Today's book, "Under the Lilacs relates the adventures of Ben Brown, his performing poodle Sancho, and the two young girls who feed and care for them after the boy and dog run away from the circus."

I'm really glad I didn't pick today's book based on the description, because I think the description makes it sound kind of boring. I picked today's book based solely on the author - I really didn't have any other choice but to go on the author since today's book was an old hardcover that didn't have a description on the back. So I figured, how can I go wrong with the author of Little Women. I've been meaning to re-read Little Women for quite some time now, but I'm nervous about it since the book is almost 600 pages. I just don't know if I can pull that off, but I'm really tempted to try.

I also picked today's book because I figured like reading something wholesome to wash away the feeling that yesterday's book left me with. It's a system I came up with when I was a child and sneaking behind my Mother's back to read the trashy novels that I wasn't allowed to read. According to the world that I have invented in my own head, if I read one really wholesome book after reading a trashier book then the wholesomeness cancels out the trashiness, two wholesome books and it not only cancels out the trashy book but some of the trashy TV I've watched as well. It's really a delightful world in my head - it's a world where I'm never wrong and no one ever wears stonewashed jeans or perms their hair.

And now maybe I should actually talk about the book (what a crazy idea.) The book sort of went in waves, first it was really good (despite the fact that the scene where the children were playing with their dolls reminded me of my own sad history with dolls in which they seemed to always accidentally lose their heads), and then a character I didn't care for (Ben) showed up and I struggled to stay interested for a few pages (so naturally I took a Golden Girls break), and then the book went back to being interesting again. So, if you enjoy reading books that were meant for twelve-year-old girls, then you'll like this book. If you have the reading habits of someone who is actually a grown-up then you'll probably hate this book. I personally have never had a problem with embracing my inner twelve-year-old, or giving in to her every demand to watch Brady Bunch and eat ice cream for breakfast (dairy-free, of course.)

Smart Girls Marry Rich

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Welcome to another installment of Suggestion Saturday dear readers. Today's book was suggested by Danimal. Actually, he didn't tell me a specific book but requested that I read a book about marrying up. So I agreed, with the understanding that I would only be reading the book and not taking the advice in it.

Today's book, "Why does society applaud a girl who falls for a guy’s “big blue eyes” yet denounces one who chooses a man with a “big green bankroll”? After all, isn’t earning power more a reflection of a man’s values and character? Smart Girls Marry Money challenges the ideals and assumptions women have blindly accepted about love and marriage—and shows how they’ve done so at their own economic peril. In this brazen manifesto, authors Elizabeth Ford and Daniela Drake use cold hard facts, real science, and true stories to present a compelling case for why mercenary marriages make the most sense for future happiness."

I encountered my first problem with the book rather early, the assumption of the authors that every woman in the world has blindly accepted the ideas about marriage that we saw in movies. Apparently we all think that marriage will be 24/7 romance and bliss, and then we're all devastated when it doesn't work out. I spent most of the book thinking What about the women who are cynical to begin with and therefore only have negative ideals? What about the women who never planned to get married in the first place and so never spent time imagining what marriage would be like? What about the women who aren't into the hearts and flowers ideal we're told we're supposed to want? I count myself in that last category since I seem to be missing the hearts-and-flowers gene entirely - I don't enjoy gushing displays of emotion, I don't plan weddings in my head, and I feel like I'm going to gag whenever I hear a bride say, "I feel like a princess." I also feel like I want to walk over to that bride and say, "Please explain to me why feeling like a princess is a good thing?" (No I'm serious with that last part, I really do want someone to explain it to me because I don't get it.) The authors spend most of the book arguing against an ideal that not everyone holds. They also spent a lot of time explaining how the euphoria of romantic love wears off with time. Is that supposed to be a newsflash to anyone?

But the book was amusing in its own way - as long as you don't take it too seriously (although that ship may have already sailed with my last paragraph.) The book was rather light on the advice. For the most part the advice consisted of reading two books, The Rules and How to Marry a Multi-Millionaire (don't get any ideas about suggesting those books Danimal.) One of the few pieces of advice the book does offer is to become a nanny. Now I did have those pesky morals getting in my way - and I worked for people who were repulsive - but that route obviously did not work out for me. Of course I foolishly wasted my time as a nanny actually providing love and care to the children - I guess my priorities are just totally messed up.

And here's your fun fact for the day dear readers: People who have five children or more have a divorce rate of practically zero. The book doesn't really specify how close to zero it is, so we'll just call it zero. It's not as if anyone's going to care enough to challenge you on it when you share that piece of information with them.

How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I'm very excited to see that I have more new followers today - and I'm not letting the fact that two of those followers are my parents take anything anything away from my victory. I finally convinced them to sign up. Actually, that's not true, I had to sign them up because they couldn't figure out how to do it. My Mom would like it noted on the record that she has been reading the blog from the beginning and didn't sign up simply because she didn't know how, and therefore her signing up in July is not a reflection on her as a Mother in any way. My Dad is comfortable with you thinking badly of him and has offered no apologies.

I'm also reveling in the victory of finally getting the picture of today's book up - although getting it up did require me to call my sister and give her the blogger password so that she could sign in and post it. There's so much behind-the-scenes stuff happening here at the A Book a Day headquarters - "Just like at NASA," as my sister put it.

Today's book, "What do a chamber pot, a famous poet, a family feud, and a long-ago suitor all have in common? In this delicious laugh-out-loud novel of love and loss, rivalry and reconciliation, treasure and trash, we see what happens when past and present collide. . . "

As always, I'm going to have to disagree with the laugh-out-loud part of the book description. They always go too far. There were parts of the book that were somewhat amusing - but I didn't ever laugh, not even once. Despite the lack of laughter, it was still a decent book. There were several things that kept it from being a really good book - several characters who were wearing on my nerves by the end and a main character who seemed to determined to make the stupidest decisions possible where men are concerned - but the plot was interesting enough to make the book an enjoyable enough read. So, while I'm not sure I could wholeheartedly recommend this book, the writing style did make me want to read some of the other books this author has written.

And now that I've talked about what I didn't like about the book, I feel compelled to tell you about what I did like:

  • The author doesn't cram the characters' life stories down our throats. There's very little back story mentioned for the minor characters - which is always a blessed relief to me because if a character doesn't appear on more than 50 pages then I just don't care to hear about the trouble relationship they had with their mother or why they chose to major in their current profession. I only want to hear about the main characters - and in that case, I want to hear those details slowly, throughout the course of the book, and not all crammed into the first 15 pages of the book.

  • The author uses the expression "dear reader" several times. - I don't suppose I even need to explain why I loved that detail.

The main character, Abby, runs an antique store - which was an aspect of the book that I got totally swept up into. I swear there were points during the book where I could actually smell that musty antique store smell. I love antique stores. I especially like to look at the sharp, dangerous, metal toys, so that I can sit around and wonder just how many injuries each toy was responsible for. It's alarming enough to look at antique toys by myself - but seeing them next to a toddler is truly alarming. In my Mary Poppins days I took one of the kids to a history museum when he was two - which created a look of fear on the faces of every person who worked in the museum and also resulted in nearly everyone I know saying You took a two-year-old to a history museum? Are you insane? For the record dear readers, he was so well behaved that the museum employees came over to tell me how impressed they were with his behavior, and he seemed to have a lot of fun. His favorite area of the museum was the exhibit with the antique toys, and while he was standing next to the display case all I could think about was How are there not more old people with only one eye? I mean really, those toys are terrifying. The next time I see my Grandparents I'm going to look at their faces and marvel at the fact that everything is still fully intact.

The Salt House

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

While posting on my Twitter page today (last time, I swear - and this time I mean it) I discovered a cold, black part of my soul. And that is that I really don't like writing when there's no comments section for people to tell me that they liked what I wrote afterwards. I've become addicted to feedback. I've become like those children who stand on chairs in the middle of weddings and funerals and start singing for everyone. Which is not to say that I'm going to stop using Twitter, because I've become too addicted to it to turn back now. So addicted, in fact, that I've noticed that I post more comments (I know it's called Tweets, but I hate that expression) than all of the people I'm following put together. That probably should be a light bulb moment that forces me to reassess my need to share every thought that pops into my head with people, particularly when I realized earlier today that I post more than the White House twitter page. For just a brief second it made me think, What the hell is wrong with me that I feel the need to share more with the American public than the people who are actually running the country? But that moment of self-awareness quickly dissipated, and now my observation about my Twitter activity has fueled me onward to see if I can somehow find a way to post twice as many comments as all of the people I follow put together. I like a challenge.

Today is the end of week 28, and I think you all know what time it is -

For the week:


PAGES - 1,873

For the year so far:

CHAPTERS - 4,103

PAGES - 53,393

And while I'm recapping the week, I want to welcome all of the new followers who have shown up in the last week (including two more of my relatives, Aunt Rita and Cousin Jennie.) Thank you so much for following - I'm so excited to see how close I'm getting to 200 followers. And for those who haven't become followers yet: Come on, you know you want to. All the cool kids are doing it. You'd be so popular if you did. Plus, if I hit 200 I may have to write another thank you speech (although the thought of that might actually deter you.)

Today's book, "Like a treasure from the sea, this memoir is polished, luminous and elemental. Poet Huntington and her artist husband, Bert Yarborough, spent three seasons in a single-room "dune shack" on a remote Provincetown beach she describes as "a place of such wild austere beauty that at first I had no word for its spaces, its dusty heat, the thrilling clarity of its air."

I have no idea why I keep reading books about people who go and live by the sea. I think I read a second one as well, but I can't remember what it was. I wonder if my subconscious is trying to tell me something. Maybe I'm meant to go live by the sea. I do have a really good beach hat that looks like it's straight out of the 1940s, but that hardly seems like enough to build a whole life around, although if anyone could build a life around a hat it would be me.

Today's book was a very slow moving book - which was quite possibly the worst kind of book I could have chosen on a day when I'm tired. The book moved at an incredibly slow pace - oh, why dance around the obvious, nothing happened in this book. And unlike the last book I read where nothing happened, this kind of nothing did not hold my interest. (Please excuse all the links I'm putting up dear readers, I'm just reveling in the excitement of actually knowing the correct way of making a link. It took 6 1/2 months of blogging for me to actually figure it out, and now I'm in a linking frenzy.)

The book also lacked a plot - it was kind of like a cross between a journal and a book of essays - which may have been the point, but I don't really care to read about other people doing nothing. It's just overkill. Although perhaps it's preferable to those people who feel the need to convince everyone that their lives are a crazy, non-stop whirlwind of activity. Why can't people just tell the truth about their lives? Why can't they just respond to people's questions of So what have you been up to lately? with the gritty truth about their lives, Well we don't really do anything, so nothing is new. Actually, I already know the answer to that question. People don't respond that way because they don't want to get blank stares in return, the very blank stares I've received the few times I've attempted that response. It's actually kind of amusing to respond to people that way - it throws them off their we're-friendly-acquaintances-enjoying-some-small-talk script and they have no idea what to say next. I can practically see the thought bubble over their heads that says, But wait a minute, she didn't respond the way it says she's supposed to on page three. Now how am I going to respond with "Sounds like you're staying busy" - and then the whole exchange starts to feel like that scene in Pleasantville where Bud's boss at the Diner doesn't know how to finish making the cheeseburgers because Bud wasn't there to put the cheese on top.

The Greatest Generation Grows Up: American Childhood in the 1930s

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Please excuse any incoherency that may occur during this blog entry dear readers - I spent way too much time outside today and now I feel like the before scene in a commercial for allergy medicine. And I can't take anything for it at this point of the day because allergy medicine makes me hyper. It always causes me to lose the ability to censor myself. And I'm sure there are at least a few of you who are sitting there thinking And how would that be different from how you normally are? Well, believe it or not, this is actually the censored version of myself. Or maybe it would be more appropriate to say that this blog only represents 50% of my personality, the other 50% rarely makes an appearance (although it will be making slightly more of an appearance in the book version of this years events, which I am currently writing.) But I'm having a bit of problem figuring out where the line is with what to put in the book and what to leave out. After writing a blog for months, and now being on Twitter (last shameless plug, I swear) I've become delusional. I've lost the ability to figure out what parts of my life people actually want to hear about and what stories should never see the light of day.

Today's book, "This latest volume in the American childhood series chronicles the life and times of Americans who grew up during the Great Depression and entered adulthood during World War II." - Okay, so you probably already figured that out from the title of the book anyway, but I can't help but notice that the books that treat the readers like idiots seem to sell really well, so that was my shameless attempt at greater popularity.

I'm very excited to find out that today's book was one of a series - and I should be embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize that until I typed up the book description, but embarrassment seems to elude me when it comes to this blog. I enjoyed today's book. I love history, but sometimes books about historical events can be so dull that I feel like I'm not really reading it but rather forcing myself through it. I didn't feel that way at all today - the book felt like a very quick read, which was a really good thing considering the allergy fog I'm in right now. I also had a little bit of trouble focusing today because reading this book made me want to read Kit's Story and watch the movie. Maybe I'll read that book for the blog some time in the next few weeks. What do you think dear readers, yah or nah (keeping in mind of course that I don't respond well to people telling me what to do, so if you say nah I want you to do so with the understanding that I'm going to disregard your opinion and read it anyway.)

Shallow thoughts:

  • This sentence jumped out at me as soon as I read it, "Throughout their lives the 1930s generation tended to be more frugal than those who followed." Tell us something we don't already know Ms. Author - anyone who has watched their Grandparents rinse and reuse a Ziploc bag, or save two bites of stuffing, or hand out "bottled" water to guests that was in fact bottled in their kitchen two minutes before the guests arrived, already knows that. But you go ahead and state the obvious Ms. Author, maybe you were just making a shameless bid at popularity as well. And I totally respect that.

  • This sentence didn't just jump out at me, it jumped out and horrified me, "For example, the Hastingses used baking soda instead of toothpaste, pages from mail-order catalogues for toilet paper. . . " - Whaaaaat? I didn't make it past the "catalogues for toilet paper" part. How is my brain supposed to compute anything after reading that? Okay, so I've now learned a very important lesson about not romanticizing the past - and tonight, as I'm falling asleep, I'm going to lie there and thank God for toilet paper. Hey why not - God probably needs to laugh every now and then too, after all He spends most of His day listening to people whine.

  • The Every-book-I-read-reminds-me-of-something-I-watched-on-TV phenomenon continues (this syndrome is otherwise known as Angie-needs-to-back-away-from-the-TV). The book mentioned the efforts made between the 20s and 30s to reform adoption laws, and it then went on to tell of an adoption scandal that took place in the mid-30s, involving a woman named Georgia Tann. And while I was reading it I kept thinking how familiar the story sounded - and then it hit me, I watched a really cheesy TV movie that was based on that story. The movie wasn't that great - so naturally, I've watched it about four times. I have no idea why I feel so compelled to watch crappy TV movies over and over again - or why it is that every time I watch I find myself saying things like, This movie is terrible - the acting is awful, the dialogue is a disaster, I already know how it's going to end, and CRAAAAAAAP I forgot to record it. Now I'm not going to be able to watch it again tomorrow. I mean really, sometimes I just can't figure out what's wrong with me.

So, in conclusion dear readers, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes history. I would also recommend that TV movie to anyone who enjoys flushing their spare time down the toilet.

The Long Weekend

Monday, July 20, 2009

Today's book, "New York, 1961. A group of old friends, who knew each other during the war, are reunited. They are all, in their different ways, involved in the arts. But when the Hollywood big-shot turns up, full of his success, the others start to ponder what they've accomplished or haven't."

Shallow thoughts (which I wasn't going to do today, but I've been left with no choice because the paragraphs in this entry refuse to separate no matter how many times I hit the space bar, and I have no idea how to fix it):
  • Today I slipped a little in my experiment with having standards - and I paid the price all day. I picked the book based on the cover - it seems I will never learn my lesson with that one - and the title, which made me think of the affectionate parody of The Long Winter that my sister and I wrote about a decade ago, during a blizzard. The Long Weekend was a harrowing tale of a family snowed in for so long that they had to break down and eat the low-fat Ritz crackers after running out of the real junk food. It was raw. . . it was gritty . . . it was real. It was also the reason why my Brother spent most of the weekend making fun of us - but we had a good time just the same. If you have to get snowed in, it's always nice to be snowed in with people who have good imaginations, and a battery operated TV.
  • I had a lot more fun writing that story than I did reading today's book. I struggled all day to try to connect to the characters, the plot, the time period - anything - and I couldn't manage it. I find my inability to connect to the time period the most disappointing aspect of all because part of the book took place in the 1940s, and I usually have no problem whatsoever getting swept up into any story that takes place then. In short - although it might actually be too late for that - I spent the whole day thinking Who cares?
  • There really weren't any passages that stood out - and by stood out I mean, passages that didn't bore me to tears - but I did enjoy the sentiment behind the passage that described the library as one of the characters' "second home." I wouldn't go quite that far with the library - although the librarians have become my patsies lately (and I mean that in the nicest possible way). I walk in and they start pulling my reserved books out of the basket that has my name on it and getting them lined up, opened, and ready to check out. Sometimes they're even doing that while I'm still walking in from the parking lot. I've already begun to write my thank yous to them in the book (is that weird?) : To my local librarians, who never complain about the extra work they have to do when collecting my reserved books, not even when I have more than 50 books checked out at a time. My record for most books checked out is 53, just in case you were on the edge of your seat wondering. I'm kind of tempted to see just how far I can push this before they're going to try to stop me. Would they be forced to stage an intervention if I got up to 60? Which brings me back to my personal motto: At least I don't drink.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Sunday, July 19, 2009


My obsession with the website that tracks my site continues. I've now become fascinated with the part of that site that tells me what googled phrases led them to my site. My favorites are, dysfunctional sleep arrangements; Duggars at the creation museum; Full House episode where kid gets head stuck in banister. I'm going to strive to be an honest blogger and not shamelessly look for ways to insert things into my blog that will lead people to find this blog. Michael Jackson - Oh oops, I'm sorry, that slipped out. What I meant to say was, after that little slip I'm not going to do that.

Today's book - If you don't already know what today's book then I just can't help you. So I think I'll skip over the book description today. Plus I'm too lazy to go look it up right now.

Shallow thoughts:

  • My sister peer pressured me into reading today's book. She's been trying to convince me to read it for years, but I've always avoided it. So instead she decided to sit back, bide her time, and wait until I started a book blog in which I take suggestions, and then she pounced. She's cagey that way. I think she's been secretly planning this for years. So I finally caved and read the book - and I wasn't crazy about it. I didn't hate it, but I'm not feeling the intense Harry Potter love that so many seem to feel. I almost feel like I should have been hanging my head in shame while typing that last sentence.

  • This is so sad and pathetic, but here's the sentence (or rather the part of the sentence) that stood out the most, ". . . the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them." - The sad and pathetic part is not that the sentence stood out in the first place, but that when I read it my first thought was of Hostess products. It's probably just my upbringing talking on that one.

Really Shallow Thoughts (because "Shallow Thoughts" just wasn't a strong enough title for what I'm about to say) -

  • I love the paper that this book was printed on. It was just delightful. Very few publishing companies seem to realize that paper matters - although I do allow for the possibility that I might be the only person who is concerned about such things.

The Charlotte Perkins Gilman Reader

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Suggestion Saturday is making it's triumphant return to the blog after a two week break. For those new readers who are just joining the blog, Suggestion Saturday is when I read a book that has been suggested by one of my readers. So if you have a suggestion for an upcoming Suggestion Saturday please leave it in the comments section - and please keep in mind that I'm incredibly shallow, so don't throw anything too deep and meaningful at me. Today's book was suggested by

Today's book, "The Charlotte Perkins Gilman Reader is an anthology of fiction by one of America's most important feminist writers. Probably best known as the author of "The Yellow Wallpaper," in which a woman is driven mad by chauvinist psychiatry, Gilman wrote numerous other short stories and novels reflecting her radical socialist and feminist view of turn-of-the-century America. Collected here by the noted Gilman scholar Ann J. Lane are eighteen stories and fragments, including a selection from Herland, Gilman's novel of a feminist utopia."

I'm not generally a fan of short stories, for the most part because I like getting totally lost in a story and staying there for awhile, and with short stories I feel like I'm just starting to become fully immersed in it at the very point where the story is ending. But, I've been trying to expand my literary horizons all year, and so I'm glad I had the chance to read a book of short stories. I've now tried science fiction (and hated it), courtroom novels (and enjoyed them more than I expected), and now short stories.

I enjoyed some of the stories in today's book, and then there were a few that I found a little bit dull. If I hadn't been reading this book for the blog I would have skipped over a few of the stories. But I guess that's the advantage of reading a book of short stories, if one of the stories isn't that great you can just skip over it and hope the next one will be better. My favorite story in the book was The Girl in the Pink Hat, although I did spend the whole story feeling bitter that I'm not living in a time period where people where hats. I love the kind of hats people wear in old movies from the 30s and 40s, but then I love pretty much everything about old movies; the hats; the clothes; the hair; the music; the country houses in Vermont; the way the women wear aprons even when they're doing things like laundry or bathing the baby. I really wish I would have thought of that apron-while-bathing-the-baby thing back in my Mary Poppins days. I love aprons and will use any excuse to wear one. I also expect everyone around me to indulge me in my little apron routine, which consists of me acting like I'm a sitcom Mom from the 50s while wearing one. Sometimes I even say really corny things like, "Don't forget to use a napkin. After all, a clean face is a happy face." And, to make the problem even worse, I actually expect those around me to find that amusing. . . no matter how many times I've already done that.

Since the dear reader who suggested this book in the first place did so because the book contained the short story The Yellow Wallpaper, I feel compelled to discuss that book. Call me shallow - and I'm sure you will, or at very least you'll be thinking it - but all I could think of while reading about a woman having a breakdown due to the very bad advice that she rest and do nothing (okay, so that's really bad paraphrasing, but good enough) was that a problem such as that would have never happened in the age of TV. There's no way a lack of activity could be truly be called a problem when you could pass that time watching Dallas, followed by an episode of One Life to Live, and then perhaps there might be time to squeeze in a quick episode of The Brady Bunch. Or maybe that's just me. But even without the TV I'm not really sure how people manage to get bored and go stir crazy since I never get bored, not even when I'm stuck in a really long line somewhere and I don't have a book with me. My family is always acting like my lack of boredom is the weirdest thing in the world - but I think it makes perfect sense, would you ever get bored if you were stuck in my head? How can a person who is amused by an apron, by the soap in the hotel bathroom being shaped like a flower, or by an inkless pen, ever possibly get bored?

The Book of Joe

Friday, July 17, 2009

I've officially become addicted to my new Twitter page (I promise that's the last time I'm going to shamelessly plug my Twitter page on here.) I started out telling myself that I was only going to post over there two or three times a day - but it seems that the combination of having a blog and a Twitter page has caused be to operate under the delusion that every single thought that pops into my head during the day needs to be shared, and with as many people as possible. This could become a dangerous thing. I'm becoming way too enamored with my own thoughts. If this keeps up then someone may have stage an intervention at some point and remind me that every single thought that I have is not fascinating.

It has been a welcome relief this week to have the Twitter page, where I don't have to worry about writing anything long each day, because this has been a difficult week with blogging. I've been having trouble sleeping and my brain has felt like it took a summer vacation, and so I have spent most of the week struggling to read the book and get this entry up. But that's okay, because one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to write this blog was because I was interested in seeing what would happen if I forced myself to read a book every day, even on holidays, even when I'm sick, even when I don't feel like reading - no matter what. And I'm finding out that I can still enjoy a book even when I don't feel like reading. I've also found out that every time I hit a wall with reading/blogging, and continue to push through the wall anyway, then I end up coming out on the other side enjoying reading, blogging, and my life in general even more than before I hit that wall. I'm sure there's some self-help, Dr. Phil-ish, personal growth moment to be found in there somewhere but I'm feeling too tired and lazy to look for it now. So I'll think about it next week when I'm well rested.

Today's book, "After Joe Goffman's Bush Falls becomes a runaway bestseller, he never expects to go back to his small Connecticut hometown and face the outrage generated by the dark secrets his autobiographical novel reveals. But when his father suffers a life-threatening stroke, return the unhappy and unfulfilled Joe does, to meet head-on the antipathy waiting for him."

Today is day six of having standards, and once again I enjoyed the book, which makes five out of the last six days. Wow, having standards works. Who knew? Well actually, probably everybody but me. What can I say, I'm slow to catch on.

The book was really good - although I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who is offended by profanity. There wasn't an overwhelming amount of it, but it was still frequent enough to offend if you don't like that sort of thing. Fortunately for me I find profanity endearing because it reminds me of my Grandmother who used profanity approximately every fourth word. Every time I hear someone swear I feel like I'm eight years old, standing in my Grandmother's kitchen, reveling in the joy of watching the Mother who bossed me around get bossed around by her Mother. In short, when I hear profanity I feel like all is right with the world - but if you have delicate eyes then steer clear.

Here's a passage that will give you a better glimpse into the book, " 'So let's review,' Owen says when I'm done, not even trying to conceal is merriment. 'In the last twenty-four hours, you've returned to your hometown, where essentially everyone hates you, you've been reunited, however awkwardly, with your estranged family, you've walked in on a sexual liaison, gotten in trouble with the law, been assaulted on two separate occasions, and met with an ailing friend and gotten drunk with him. Am I leaving anything out?' "

Join me tomorrow dear readers as Suggestion Saturday makes it triumphant return.

Hope In A Jar

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Today I started something new with the blog, I posted my book for the day on my Twitter page this morning. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake, at least today, because I discovered about an hour after I posted the name of the book that I've already read a similar book earlier this year. But at that point I figured there was nothing I could do about it so I just decided to go ahead and read it anyway. Lesson learned, I'm not going to pick out the book I'm reading the morning I'm reading it. I'm going to have to start planning ahead better.

Today's book, "In this lively social history of America's beauty culture, freelance writer Peiss traces the background and growth of the billion-dollar U.S. cosmetics industry over the past century."

I would have liked to have been able to sit back and be really smug while reading today's book while thinking How could people be so gullible about beauty products. But I'm afraid that I can't do that dear readers, because I once bought the Victoria Jackson Difference make-up off of an infomercial. So clearly my record is a bit tarnished in this area. Buying someone off an infomercial and believing that it would really work would have been just adorable if I was 11, but I was sadly quite a few years past that age. I'd like to believe that it was just my minds ways of trying to tell me that I needed to watch Dallas.

Fun Facts:

  • In1770 the English Parliament passed and act that annulled marriages of those who ensnared their husbands through the use of "scents, paints, cosmetic washes, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool, iron stays, hoops, high-heeled shoes and bolstered hips." - I think we need a sort of reversed version of this - but it needs to apply to both genders - any post-marital use of any of the following will be automatic grounds for annulment: Crocs, plaid shorts, fanny packs, visors, and perms.

  • In 1915, in Kansas, a law was proposed that would make it a misdemeanor for women under the age of forty-four to wear cosmetics "for the purpose of creating a false impression." - Oh how scandalous. Let's not worry about solving real problems like crime, poverty, and war, let's throw all of our effort into solving the global crisis of women using cosmetics to give off the wrong impression.
I liked today's book much better than the last book I read on this subject - I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys history.

Here If You Need Me

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I'm now officially on Twitter dear readers so, if you feel like you need more Angie in your life than what you already get from this blog, you're in luck. I've also decided that I'm going to start putting the name of my book for the day up in the morning - so if you want to stay in suspense then you'll have to avoid my page until after my blog entry has gone up each day.

So now you can keep up with my every movement (thrilling, I know). Although not really, because I have no idea how to send a text from my potato phone. Potato phone is my sister's affectionate term for my phone because she insists that it looks like a baked potato, which is so far in the technological dark ages that it belongs in a museum exhibit on the history of communication. The tour guide can show the phone to small children and say This is the kind of phone people used in the olden days. I keep thinking that I should get a new one, but I hate talking on the cell phone, so what's the point really? I'm actually on my third month now of not using it. I think the cell phone company must assume by now that my phone is broken.

Here's the chapter and page count for the week:


PAGES - 1,949

And for the year so far:

CHAPTERS - 3,952

PAGES - 51,520

Today's book, "Ten years ago, Kate Braestrup, her husband, Drew, and their four young children were enjoying a morning like any other. Then Drew, a Maine state trooper, left for work and everything changed. On the very roads that he patrolled each day, an oncoming driver lost control, and Kate lost her husband. Stunned and grieving, Kate decided to pursue what had been her husband's dream and became a minister. And soon she found a most unusual calling: serving a chaplain for search-and-rescue missions in the Maine woods, giving comfort to people whose loved ones are missing - and to the wardens who sometimes have to deal with dreadful outcomes."

Shallow thoughts:

  • Day 4 of having standards and the system has fallen apart. I usually shy away from books that are dark or sad in any way - so today I decided that I should try to push past my aversion and read a darker book anyway. That was a mistake because this book turned out to be both dark and gross. I realize of course that makes me a bit of a hypocrite after yesterday's dead bird story, but today's book was so much more disgusting than yesterday's bird story. For starters there were graphic descriptions of someone being cremated, then there were random points in the story where parts of dead bodies were found - there were just so many details that made me feel like I was going to gag, and I'm not even a particularly squeamish person.

  • Then there were the strange passages like this, "I don't want to live forever. I'm sick of myself already." - I guess humility is nice and all, but that's kind of pushing it. I usually feel guilty for being a little too fond of myself, but after reading those lines I see that there are worse things being fond of oneself.

I would definitely not recommend this book - but it did get good customer reviews on amazon, so that might just be me. If you disagree with my assessment dear readers then feel free to give me a call on the potato phone and tell me all about it.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day 3 of Having Literary Standards: rations are low but my spirits are high. Okay sorry about that dear readers I just got back from a really long walk with my sister and that's just a crazy thing that my sister and I do when we're on a walk and we get tired when we're still really far from the house. We get stuck twenty minutes from home and start getting dramatic by saying things like Day 20, It's been so long since we've seen civilization that we've forgotten what the sight of human faces look like. Day 35, rations are low and we've begun to give up hope. It's another one of those sister things we do that no one finds amusing but us. We didn't get tired before coming back on today's walk, but it was a harrowing experience just the same. We took along the dog who picked up a dead bird that he may or may not have eaten (I really, really wish I was making that up for dramatic effect), and now we are both scarred for life. My sister is a lot more squeamish than I am, and so she responded to the crisis by screaming Eww, eww, this is the grossest moment of my life, eww, eww, does he still have it, tell me he didn't eat it while running in circles. I'll spare you any further details, but let's just say it was gross and leave it at that. And now it's official, I have totally crossed that line and become the kind of blogger who will talk about anything on my blog. I think this blog is making me too enamored with my own thoughts - I'm reaching a point where I'm unable to accept that the reading public does not care about every thought that pops into my head - which is why it's a very dangerous thing that I now have my Twitter page set up. I haven't put anything up yet, and I'm not going to start until tomorrow, but here's the link in case you're just dying to know what I'm doing at 11 o'clock tomorrow (I'm sure you're on the edge of your seats in anticipation.)

Today's book, "This lively history looks at the Jazz Age through its greatest symbol, the flapper. A far cry from the staid Victorian angel of the house, flappers wore their hair short, dared to show their legs, drank, smoked, and cavorted with young men."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I really enjoyed today's book. Wow, I'm beginning to think that there's really something to this whole having standards thing. I'm going to have standards from now on. Oh who am I kidding, having standards probably won't even last the rest of the month.

  • Perhaps I should have called this section of the entry Mean Thoughts, because I'm having one right now: The book talks a lot about how attractive people found Zelda Fitzgerald, but after looking at her picture I feel I have no choice but to strongly disagree. Why is it that whenever a person who lived 80-100 years ago is described as beautiful, stunning, or captivating they always look like a man in drag? I realize that standards of beauty change over time, but was there ever a time when looking like a man in drag was a beautiful thing to see? As I was writing that last sentence I turned to my sister and I said, "I'm having a mean moment" and then I thought, Brilliant. Mean Moments. I should make that a segment from now on. Or maybe not.

  • There was a picture mid-way through the book, of feminists marching for women's suffrage, that made me want to go watch the documentary Not For Ourselves Alone which is my all-time favorite documentary. - Are you stunned that I even watch documentaries after my Bachelorette confession from yesterday dear readers? Sometime it stuns me too. I like to watch something tasteful and intelligent every now and then to balance out all the TV I watch that is totally useless trash. I try to tell myself that if I watch something decent it balances out the trash TV that I watch, and if I watch two decent shows then it erases the crap TV completely.

  • And here's your fun fact for the day dear readers: At the turn of the century Vermont required all motorists to hire a person of "mature age" to walk one-eight of a mile ahead of their cars while waving red warning flags to warn innocent pedestrians. - I think I should have employed this method when I first learned how to drive, perhaps then a few garage doors, signs, and utility boxes would have been spared. I do take comfort in the fact that I never hit any animals are small children, so at least I have something working in my favor.

Favorite Passage: "Louisa's mother probably didn't want to know everything that went on at the dance halls her daughter frequented. A high-minded reformer described with horror a scene at a typical venue, where 'one of the women was smoking cigarettes, most of the younger couples were hugging and kissing, there was a general mingling of men and women at the different tables,' and the customers 'kept running around the room and acted like a mob of lunatics." - A general mingling of men and women? I don't know about you dear readers, but I feel scandalized just reading about that.

The Diary

Monday, July 13, 2009

I watched TV today for the first time in almost three weeks. I guess that means the no TV phase is over. So I think it's safe to say that yesterday's book about giving up TV did not inspire me. In fact, I didn't just watch TV, I watched bad TV, The Bachelorette. I probably should be too embarrassed to admit that but I seem to have no shame when it comes to this blog. And, because I believe that if something is worth doing it's worth doing right, I'm now watching Designing Women. The phase is officially over and it ended in a blaze of glory.

Today's book, "When two grown daughters discover their mother's diary in her attic, they are stunned to learn her true love was not their father. But is all as it seems? That's the mystery they must unravel as their mother lies near death in a nursing home. Only the pages of her diary can provide the clues that will reveal the truth. In a richly detailed journey into the past, we see the young Elizabeth Marshall lose her heart to one man while remaining devoted to another. Finally, she must choose between the stable, loyal Bob. . . and the electrifying and unpredictable AJ."

Shallow thoughts:

  • A woman choosing between two men, what a perfect book to read on Bachelorette night. Although, unlike on the show, there wasn't a clear normal one that I wanted to get the final rose and a clear sickening person that I want to be sent home in tears. But I consider that a plus in a book. I really can't stand it when authors try to vilify one character in order to try to manipulate the readers into thinking the other character is the clear choice.

  • I had a very hard time getting my mind to accept the time period the story took place in. The book alternates between the present day and the 50s, and yet during the parts that took place in the 50s I kept imagining it being at least 50s years earlier. Since my imagination has proven itself to be extremely strong willed and totally unwilling to compromise I decided to just go with it.

  • The book Lady Chatterly's Lover was mentioned several times in the book and I was reminded of how I started reading that book when I was in junior high. I never actually finished it because my Mother discovered what I was reading and confiscated the book because It'll give you the wrong ideas. I think I'm going to have to read the book again sometime soon now that I don't have to worry anymore about losing my telephone privileges.

I would definitely recommend today's book - I really enjoyed it. Although I wouldn't hold it against you if you refused to take recommendations from someone who considers watching The Bachelorette a valuable use of my time.

The Big Turnoff

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I decided mid-way through last weeks Summer themed week that I really need to raise my standards when it comes to picking books. Okay, so I didn't exactly come to that conclusion on my own, it was pointed out by several people, one of them being my Mother who said, "It seems like you hate most of the books that you read." So I've decided to try a crazy new thing called having standards. Or, as I'm calling it, An Experiment In Having Standards.

I've never had book standards before, so this is a totally new thing for me, which made it rather difficult to figure out exactly what the standards would be. After reviewing some of the blog entries where I read books that I hated I decided to make a bold move, I'm going to actually read the description on the back of the book before deciding to read it. - Crazy I know. Normally I either pick the book based on the title, the front cover, the genre, or the author. Occasionally I read the first line of the description, but sometimes I get bored and just decide Good enough. Why on earth I would ever decide to read a book whose description bores me is beyond me. I'll just have to add that to the list of things I do that I don't understand along with buying that brown hat that I tried to convince myself would make me look like I should be going for an elegant drive in the country in the 1920s but really just made me look like a poverty stricken single mother who should be dropping someone off at the orphanage. I do take comfort in the fact that it made me look like a poverty stricken single mother from the 1920s, so at least I had the time period right.

So, after actually reading the descriptions on the back of a few books, here's what I came up with:

Today's book, "Currey-Wilson decides in the early stages of her pregnancy that her child will grow up without television so the family can form stronger emotional ties; the only problem is that she herself is totally addicted to the tube."

I thought it would be interesting to read about someone trying to overcome their TV addiction since I could very easily have been described as TV addicted as recently as a month ago. Although, in my case I didn't really try to get over my love of TV, it just sort of happened, and I'm still confused by it. I'm on week three of not watching TV (except for the five minutes last Tuesday that I spent mocking the hosts of Entertainment Tonight.) I haven't even watched the episode of 18 Kids and Counting that features Josh and Anna finding out the gender of their baby, and there's nothing I love more than screaming "SHUT UP" at the TV every time Josh is on.

I enjoyed today's book, for the most part anyway. I found it somewhat amusing in places and very interesting. The one shortfall was that the author got on my nerves a little bit. Throughout most of the book she was really self-righteous about her no-TV stance. She also spent most of the book smugly assuming that every parent who allows their child to watch TV sticks them in front of the TV constantly. She also seemed to overlook the fact that having a part-time nanny, part-time housekeeper, and a Mother who came and stayed for months made it easier for her to maintain her no-TV rule. Midway through I felt like writing the author a letter that says, "Watch TV, don't watch TV, it doesn't really matter to me - but for goodness sake stop acting like it makes you one step away from Mother Theresa if you don't watch." But don't let my annoyance with the author, or my desire to write her an angry letter, stop you from reading the book - I'm from the Midwest and if People Magazine's mailbag section is any indication, we seem to write a higher than average amount of angry letters to people.

When I came to the part of the book where the author was discussing her fears about the kind of adult her unborn child would turn out to be I thought, Finally, someone else who worries about stuff that's not going to even happen for years. But as it turns out, she was actually worried about the baby turning out to be a good person and not a serial killer, where as I sit around worrying What if I spend years trying to instill good taste in a child and she still turns out to be the kind of woman who wears ridiculous amounts of eye make-up, uses so much fake spray tanner that she starts to turn orange, and wants to wear Crocs? (Apologies to any Crocs fans everywhere, but I think they should be banned.) Maybe I could make up little flashcards like in the movie Baby Boom, but instead of holding them up and reciting Beethoven, Eiffel Tower, violin these cards could say Kate Spade, Coach, person wearing the appropriate amount of eye makeup. What do you think dear readers, too shallow?

And here's my favorite passage from the book in which the author is discussing how her previous TV addiction got in the way of her desire to write a book, "It was the summer after my first year of teaching and I made a writing schedule, which consisted of waking up by nine a.m. to watch reruns of The Golden Girls and Kate and Allie, followed by Little House on the Prairie at ten, Streets of San Francisco at eleven, and Perry Mason at noon. I would eat lunch and straighten up the house while watching Donahue and finally begin writing sometime between four and five p.m. until Bob came home, and then, of course, I would watch my prime-time programs after dinner."

Well overall, I think my Experiment in Having Standards went rather well today. I liked today's book a lot more than most of the books I've read this year. So I think I'm going to continue with that whole crazy reading the description of the book before reading it thing. And thank you Amy and Mom for the "The books you pick really suck" intervention. Clearly it was needed.

A Summer All Her Own


Thank you for your opinions on Twitter from yesterday's post - although I feel it's only fair to point out that this is an Angietatorship here on my blog, and so I probably would have joined Twitter either way. But I'm glad to have gotten all the feedback because I'm a benevolent Angietator who still enjoys hearing from the people. I'll let you know as soon as I (and when I say I what I really mean is my sister) gets my Twitter account set up, that is if my lame Angietator jokes have not driven you away from the idea of reading my Twitter page, I promise I will strive to be less corny with my Twitter updates.

And now it's time to take a trip in the time machine, back to that magical time known as 1989.

Here I am standing in front of the carriage house at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Mansfield, Missouri. This picture was taken during the zenith of my Laura Ingalls Wilder obsession and so I was happy enough that day for it to overpower how incredibly sick I was. I'll spare you the gruesome details, let's just say I spent the whole car ride there sitting in very close proximity to the trashcan and leave it at that. I'm so glad to see that despite severe illness I still got up and put on my perfectly matching outfit, with match socks and bow - because, after all, illness is no excuse for not looking ones best

I have no idea why this picture insists on being posted off center, so just pretend like I was trying to be artsy and creative with that one.

Despite feeling sick I still posed for several pictures - although I wasn't given much choice in the matter. My Mother has no concept of when it's appropriate to take a picture of someone and when it's not, and so there are times when she feels the need to hold the car keys for ransom until her demands are met, in this case her demands being "Okay, I know you feel sick, but before you go to the car to throw up could you just smile for one more picture."

As much as I hate to stop talking about me, I think it might be time to actually talk about today's book - although who am I kidding here, I'm still going to talk about myself even while pretending like I'm talking about today's book.

Today's book, "The roles of celebrity wife and mother satisfied Anna Sandoval completely-until her husband, a famed international journalist, suffered a fatal heart attack. Now, a year later, still young and with her children grown, Anna seeks an interlude from grief and a fresh start on the timeless isle of Crete. In a small Greek community of ancient hills soaked in sun and surrounded by sea, Anna adapts to a slower pace and simpler lifestyle. Gradually, she rediscovers a passion for drawing and becomes protégé to a local artist and his sage wife, whose combined insights help Anna transform life into art-and take charge of her destiny. But when two very different men invite her into their lives, she must decide not just what kind of love she wants, but whether love itself is worth risking everything she's gained."

I expected today's book to be kind of like Under the Tuscan Sun, which was a book I enjoyed. However, today's book lacked the charm Under the Tuscan Sun had, and there were parts of the book where it felt like the author was trying too hard. The characters in this book seemed to fall into two categories: 1. boring and 2. annoying. So I spent most of the book contemplating: Who would I rather spend time with, someone boring or someone really annoying? On the one hand, spending time with someone boring can have it's advantages because sometimes it's fun to be the most interesting person in the room. But, on the other hand, annoying people are more fun to mock on the car ride home. I guess I'd had to settle for boring, because sometimes boring people become more interesting with proper exposure to people who are more fun than they are, but annoying people seldom become less annoying no matter who they spend time with.

The one part of the book I enjoyed was the part where Anna decided that she didn't care what people thought of her since she was on vacation. I've always been a firm believer in that motto. Who cares if you do something really dorky or embarrassing - no back at home is ever going to know about it, and so it's as if it never happened. Although that attitude doesn't differ all that much from how I feel at home, where I take the attitude of "Who cares what that person over at that next table thinks. Why do I need to worry about the opinion of someone wearing stone washed jean shorts anyway?" Basically what I'm trying to say is that I'm equally mean, judgemental, and carefree on vacation as I am at home.

And here's your summer recipe for the day dear readers. I invented this recipe a couple of years ago when I was too lazy to go look up how to make homemade marinara sauce, so I decided to just invent my own way of making pasta sauce, and this is what I came up with:

Summer Pasta Sauce
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp oregano

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil for 3-5 minutes, or until soft. Add tomatoes and saute an additional 2 minutes. Add tomato paste, vegetable broth, basil, and oregano and stir to combine. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over pasta.