The Wind in the Willows

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's that wonderful time again, chapter and page count time.

For the week:


PAGES - 1,908

For the year so far:

CHAPTERS - 5,657

PAGES - 72,059

Today's book, "Mole, Water Rat, Badger, and the mischievous Toad live a quiet life on banks of the River Thames with the rest of their animal friends. But Toad tends to get into trouble, and his passion for cars eventually results in his being caught and kept a helpless prisoner in the remotest dungeon of the best-guarded castle in all the land. Dressed as a washerwoman—and with some help from his friends—Toad manages to escape the castle and begins his journey home to Toad Hall."

I don't even remember what book I read yesterday, so of course I have no idea if I read this book as a child. But I have been on the Disney World ride that was based on this book, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride - and since I never pass up an opportunity to talk about anything related to Disney, I simply must discuss it here. It's out of my hands. My favorite part of the attraction comes right before actually getting on the ride. I like to stand in line and watch the four year olds as they get into their cars and slide behind the wheel, completely believing that they are actually going to be driving the car. It never stops amusing me to see the looks on their faces as they become drunk with the power that they think they have. And then of course, I like to get off the ride and turn to whoever was in the driver's seat and say, "You're a terrible driver" - and, like a four year 0ld, I actually expect the other person to be amused every single time I say that. As I'm sure you can imagine, people are rarely amused by this. Perhaps next time I should go on the ride with a four year old - I bet they would get a good laugh out of my joke.

But, there is one part of the ride that has always confused me, the part where we all end up in Hell. So, I was looking forward to reading today's book and getting the back story on Mr. Toad's Trip to Hell (which is what I think the ride should have been called.) But alas, the mystery has still not been solved. The book does not include a trip to Hell. I guess when they were creating the ride the Imagineers just decided what the heck, let's just throw in a trip to Hell for fun, that will be exciting for the kids. And really, when is a trip to Hell not fun? The answer: everything is fun at Disney World, even Hell. But, of course, there are those uptight, spoiled-sports - the kind that I imagine read the newspaper specifically looking for things to write to the editor about - who protested the ride, and even managed to get it shut down for awhile. I don't mean to be judgemental (okay, I do), but is that really the best use of ones time? Are there not more pressing issues in the world to deal with than whether a Disney ride sugar-coats reality enough to keep little Jayden and Makenna believing that nothing bad has ever or will ever happen to them. Personally, I say we bring back the good old-fashioned fear to parenting. Do you remember how warm it felt on that ride? Do you want to have to experience that every day for all of eternity young man? Okay dear readers, it's confession time, the last three sentences were written entirely for the purpose of finding out if my blog is popular enough for people to protest something that I have written, because I continue to be jealous of those whose blogs are so popular that complete strangers leave them rude comments.

And now I'm actually going to talk about the book (it's a crazy idea, I know, but I'm willing to give it a whirl.) I loved today's book - reading it was like being wrapped in comfort, and normally TV is the only thing that makes me feel that way. Perhaps I enjoyed it because the pictures added a certain cartoon element to it. Back in nanny days there was nothing I enjoyed more than using the children as an excuse to watch cartoons. Well I have to supervise what the children are watching. What kind of third-rate Mary Poppins would I be if I didn't make sure they were watching TV that is wholesome. But, now that there are no children in my life I certainly don't waste time watching cartoons. Okay, I do. And not just semi-respectable cartoons that are geared towards adults or even older children, but the kind that is made for toddlers, Franklin, Berenstain Bears, Rugrats, you name it. Perhaps I shouldn't admit that publicly, but for some reason when I sit in front of a computer I am unable to access the part of my brain where shame lives. And, since tomorrow is October 1st, I will of course be getting out the It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown DVD, which I will watch at least five times between now and Halloween (no really, I'm not kidding.) Mock me if you want dear readers - in fact, I am almost looking forward to it as mocking is very close to a negative comment and that would make me feel ever so popular. As expected, today's book strongly appealed to my inner four year old, who technically doesn't qualify as an inner anything since I do such a poor job of keeping it hidden. Instead, I like to think of myself more as having an inner thirty year old, who occasionally (but not too often) makes an appearance.

Favorite line, "After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see other fellows busy working." - So true. Well maybe not for those of you who aren't petty. But since I am, I can't help put agree - and I'd also like to expand on that, and say the second best part of a holiday is if you're spending is somewhere warm while the people back home are in the middle of a blizzard.

Alissa would like it noted on the record that she sees a lot of similarities between Mr. Toad and Winston Churchill. I'm going to have to take her word for it on that one, since I don't know as much about Winston Churchill as she does (although I sense there's a Winston Churchill tutorial in my future.) My thoughts on Mr. Toad: he brings the fun and excitement to the book. The parts of the book that don't involve Mr. Toad are still really good, but in a calm, gentle sort of way. Mr. Toad provides all of the action.

Sleeping Naked Is Green

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'm feeling much better today, and so my big blogging challenge has turned into a mini-challenge. Plus, I am doubting whether my challenge was a real challenge since the flu happened to hit during the time when I was on an upswing with what I like to call "The Reading Challenge Cycle." The Reading Challenge Cycle seems to last for six weeks: 4 weeks where things feel normal, natural, and relatively easy, but not necessarily effortless; followed by about a week where I hit a serious wall and feel like I don't want to read anymore, and probably never will again, and I really struggle with writing the blog entries; followed by one week where I feel reinvigorated about the challenge, and am practically euphoric with the excitement I feel about the project. Last week I had hit a serious wall, and felt like the blog was flying completely off the rails (shocking that I would be so dramatic about things, isn't it?) but this past Saturday was when the wall came down and reading/blogging became incredibly fun and exciting again. I am still in this euphoric state now, and it seems to be counteracting any difficulty that might come from reading and blogging while sick. I am really looking forward to seeing what will happen once this year is up and I continue to blog but at a slightly less hectic pace. Will the Reading Cycle continue? Will all of my entries improve? Will I be excited about reading and blogging all of the time? So many questions which I am looking forward to finding out the answers to.

Today's book, "No one likes listening to smug hippies brag about how they don't use toilet paper or lecture about the evils of plastic bags and SUVs. But most of us do want to lessen our ecological footprints. With this in mind, Vanessa Farquharson takes on the intense personal challenge of making one green change to her lifestyle every day for a year, to find out what's doable and what's too hardcore."

Shallow thoughts:

  • The book description failed to mention that the author of today's book originally wrote about this project on her blog, before turning it into a book, and so naturally I had to check it out because I am fascinated by all blog-to-book projects. Although reading about such projects makes me feel like I am attempting to get into some corny trend which will most likely die out before I even manage to finish writing the "A Book a Day" book. Nevertheless, I continue to read, with fascination, about those who have already successful made the blog-to-book leap - as I also continue to be deluded enough to believe that writing this blog will somehow land me on The Today Show. Can't you just imagine it dear readers - me sitting on The Today Show next to Meredith Vieira (whose last name I just now learned how to spell correctly), with a book in front of my face?

  • The author of today's book didn't stop at mentioning her own blog. No, it also mentioned a few other green blogs, one of which I am going to check out based on the name alone. It is written by a man who refers to himself as Greenpa, who writes a blog called Little Blog in the Big Woods. How could I not visit a blog that has a name like that? It's out of my hands, I must go and visit the blog of the man who finds Little House-related jokes amusing. And maybe while I'm there I will share with him my tips on making jokes about baked potatoes, how to incorporate Little House jokes into the holiday season, and how to make everything funnier by putting the word "prairie" in front of it.

  • Favorite passage, "When I was a kid, I went through a pig phase. I just decided out of the blue that I really liked pigs and went around telling people why they were my favorite animals as well as writing school projects on subjects like truffle-hunting pigs or the cleanliness of pigs, sketching Piglet and Wilbur and Porky over and over, and collecting various porcine paraphernalia from pig stickers to pig figurines to pig key chains. Eventually, I got sick of them, but it took years to undo the reputation - every birthday, every Christmas, any gift-giving occasion whatsoever, the only present people ever thought to give me was pig stuff." - Oh how I wish I could tell you that this paragraph didn't resonate with me. But, unfortunately dear readers, I went through a bunny phase, which involved everything from stuffed bunnies to hideous bunny wallpaper (which took several weeks to scrap off once I recovered a proper sense of shame and decided that I couldn't be a healthy, full-functioning human-being while staring at bunny wallpaper every day.) The bottom line here is, enjoy your collections, revel in them, fill your house with them if you must, but under no circumstances should you ever let your collection/obsession spill over into your wallpaper choices. I can absolutely guarantee that you will come to regret it if you do.

And, in conclusion, I definitely would recommend today's book. It was amusing and fun, and I actually learned a few things from it (for instance: there's such a thing as vegan dental floss.) And, just so I don't end up getting a desperate phone call from my sister later today, no, regular dental floss does not contain any kind of meat product in it.

How I Became A Famous Novelist

Monday, September 28, 2009

Today I got to find out what it's like to read a book and blog about it while in the midst of a mild case of the flu. It's perverse to say this, but I've actually been looking forward to this kind of blogging challenge all year, and have had moments of disappointment that I haven't been truly tested as a blogger yet. That's right, I've actually complained about not getting the flu. I whine when something goes wrong and I whine when something goes right. In other words, I'm turning into a character from Thirtysomething.

I didn't have all that much trouble reading the book - helped along by the fact that the flu didn't hit until 5:30 in the evening (so basically, I've been sick for slightly over two hours and I'm already acting like I've lived through an illness of epic proportions.) But when it came time to begin writing this blog entry I finally met with my first real flu-related blogging challenge, a lack of coherency that resulted in me getting really upset that the picture of today's book wasn't in desktop where I put it . . . and then I realized that it wasn't there because I hadn't actually saved it to desktop yet. So, I'm off and rolling and not in a good direction. I'm going to do my best to imitate a coherent blogger for the rest of this entry, but I can't make you any promises dear readers (although I've been told that I'm amusing when I'm sick - apparently I whine in an amusing fashion.)

Today's book, "Biting, hilarious and improbably affectionate, comedy writer Hely's debut skewers the literary world with a send up of the quest to write the Great American Novel. Words are Pete Tarslaw's thing, and after watching a bestselling novelist prattle on about the truth, his calling, and other ridiculous ideas on TV, Pete concludes that the sole way to save face at his ex-girlfriend's upcoming wedding is to become a famous novelist himself. His quest to construct a by-the-numbers bestseller is guided by rules like At dull points include descriptions of delicious meals, and where to live."

Shallow, illness-induced thoughts:

  • While I can't agree with the book description and call this book hilarious - I do think it was amusing - and the perfect book to read while sick, not to heavy, not too sappy, and it didn't require much brain power. It was just a fun, light book - but then I should have known it would be a good book, because People magazine has never steered me wrong yet (except for when it comes to CD's.)

  • And now dear readers, we simply must talk about how much I enjoy books that acknowledge the readers. It's one of the things that I love most about my favorite books from the 40s and 50s. But it's something that I rarely see in books written in the present day, and I find that almost as sad as people not wearing hats and white gloves anymore. Readers deserve to be recognized, plain and simple.

  • Favorite sentence, "Before long, Mom was paying me to write thank-you notes for her, a dollar a pop." - I love this idea, not only because I am lazy, but also because I write the worst thank you notes ever. I have two methods of writing them: 1. the thank you note that sounds more like a casual e-mail and never quite strikes the right tone, which is actually preferable to the other method 2. thank you notes that are so over-the-top schmaltzy, so filled with Hallmark card sentiments, that I actually feel the need to apologize to people when they acknowledge that they have received the note I sent. I'm so sorry that you had to read that. That must have been just awful for you. I can't seem to thank a person as if they have given me a simple gift and instead end up thanking them as if they have given me one of their kidneys - it's absolutely mortifying.

  • Favorite passage, "Sadly a memoir isn't an option for me, because my youth had been tragically happy. Mom never had the foresight to hit me or set me to petty thieving or to enlist us in a survivalist cult. I wasn't even from the South, which wouldn't bought a few dozen pages. Lying wouldn't work; these days memoir police seem to emerge to make sure you truly had it bad. And the bar for bad is high - reviewers have no patience for standard-issue alcoholics and battered wives anymore." - I have often lamented (where the hell did that word come from, I've never used that word before in my life, I think illness is actually increasing my vocabulary) my own lack of a childhood tragedy to write about. Actually, that's not completely true (illness also makes me dishonest apparently) I've actually always thought that literature will cycle around just like fashion does, and eventually people will grow bored with the tragic memoirs and want to read about someone whose spent childhood passed happily, and then I'm going and I'm going to be all ready with my sickeningly happy tale of a childhood where the worst thing that ever happened was someone made fun of my braids on the school bus (I was in a Laura Ingalls hair phase) and then I'll become a literary sensation and hire a personal assistant and I will force him to change his name to Henderson, and every morning I'm going to make him lists of things to do, written on really nice stationary and sealed in an envelope, which I will slip under the bedroom door of the servants quarters . . . I'm sorry dear readers - you'll have to excuse that last part - being sick generally means that I end up having more pretend time than usual and sometimes things get out of hand.

And now I have to go deal with my illness in the only acceptable way, by eating lots of carbohydrates and watching massive amounts of bad TV.

Early Bird

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Today's book was suggested by one of my most faithful commentors, Amy. Thanks for the suggestion Amy (and the frequent comments.)

Today I have decided to actually apply myself to this whole blogging thing - you know, actually read the book before flaking off and watching seven episodes of Brady Bunch (not that I would ever do anything so irresponsible), try to get the blog entry posted before 11 o'clock at night, that sort of thing. We'll see how that goes, but my goal for the rest of the year is to try to get the entries up closer to 5 or 6 in the evening (I'm clearly easing into it.) But don't worry dear readers, becoming a more responsible blogger is not going to make my blog entries any less shallow and mindless - that aspect of the blog will never change.

Today's book, "Everyone says they would like to retire early, but Rodney Rothman actually did it - forty years early. Burnt out, he decides at the age of twenty-eight to get an early start on his golden years. He travels to Boca Raton, Florida, where he moves in with an elderly piano teacher at Century Village, a retirement community that is home to thousands of senior citizens."

Shallow thoughts:

  • First, I'm going to get all of the shameless blogging activities out of the way first. There's the shameless plug of other blog entries in order to artificially inflate my page count, in the form of reminding you that I have read another book on the subject of retirees. And then there's the part where I talk about whether I like the book or not, in order to add an extra paragraph to the blog entry, thereby making it look (hopefully) as if I have put much more effort into the blog entry than I really did. I am happy to report that I really liked today's book. And now it's time for me to tell you whether I recommend the book or not (that part is just to flatter my own ego, because I like to think that people are waiting every day with bated breath to see what I'm going to recommend next) - and I would definitely recommend this book (and so does Dave Eggers so now I can shamelessly plug that blog entry as well.) Now, I think I can safely move on to something with more substance. Ha Ha, just kidding. There will be no substance in this blog entry, but I think we can move on now to something less shameless (unless of course I feel the need to fill up the blog entry with pointless stories about relatives of mine that you have never met.)

  • My only real experience with communities filled with retirees is when I used to visit my Grandparents in Florida - who decided that it would be a really good idea to move to a mobile home retirement community (no that's not a typo, they really moved to a trailer in Florida) conveniently located in the middle of the state - far, far away from any pesky traffic that might be created due to anything interesting being located nearby. Although I really shouldn't mock it because I did have a lot of fun looking at the newspaper dresses my Grandmother and her friends had all created. That was also the moment when I decided that I don't ever want to get old. Coincidence? I leave it up to you to decide dear readers. But, the fun didn't stop with newspaper dresses - oh no indeed it did not - because there was also lots of fun to be had from driving 20 minutes to buy ice cream that tasted like someone had stirred orange juice concentrate into frozen yogurt, and the endless fun of going to a restaurant named Fat Boys which was so gritty I was genuinely shocked when the Department of Health didn't show up mid-meal and shut the place down. Lest you think I am being too hard of my Grandparents dear readers - let me assure you that my Grandmother is the first to laugh when I mock her (it's part of her charm) and my Grandpa would respond by smiling and saying "You didn't like the restaurant?" in a tone of fake outrage (charming as well) - so I feel certain they would enjoy this entry . . . if they knew how to turn on a computer to read it.

  • I think my favorite part of the book was when the author was gently chastised by a senior citizen on an airplane for not being well-dressed while traveling. I believe the exact quote was, "Is that how you travel?" So, I guess, when it comes to travel I'm a lot like a senior citizen because I have trick travel rules: 1. No ugly clothes cross the state line - workout clothes only go along if they're going to be used for an actual workout (and I'm too lazy to do that sort of thing on vacation - so no workout clothes) 2. Dress like a character in an old movie while flying whenever possible (this is the rule I violate the most often, because I'm lazy) 3. travel hair should always look even better than regular hair (f0r some reason my hair always seems to be able to sense when I'm on vacation and it does cooperate.) In short, I'm shallow, and that's something I will never take a vacation from.

The Hazards of Good Breeding

Friday, September 25, 2009

I had a boring day today where the most interesting thing that happened to me was making salad dressing, so let's just skip past the whole how-my-day-went portion of today's blog post and get right to talking about the book.

Today's book, "Caroline Dunlap has graduated college and returned to her father's house in the genteel upper-class world of suburban Boston for lack of a better option. Her sensitive, 10-year-old brother, Eliot, is quietly launching a search for his baby-sitter, Rosita, who his father, Jack, summarily fired six months ago. Faith, Jack's ex-wife, who is still in the process of recovering from the nervous breakdown that precipitated the end of her marriage, is in town to see a play Eliot is starring in and visit some friends. The characters are all stuck in a sense, in need of a push to disrupt their apathy."

Shallow thoughts:

  • Today's book was really good for the first 50 or 60 pages, and then it got kind of boring from there. But I have often wondered throughout this year of blogging if the books that slide down hill are really bad or if it's just me hitting a wall. Reading a book a day is difficult - not even so much from the perspective of being able to actually get the book read - but more in terms of being able to move past the resistance to reading the whole book all at once. Sometimes it would be nice to be able to take a break and come back the next day with fresh eyes - which is something that I'm looking forward to doing next year. I've also had times when I have hit a wall with not wanting to read the book at all. The resistance sometimes last for a few days or even a week, and I start to panic - because I'm the kind of person who panics if the mail is late - and I become convinced that I will never want to read again. But then a few days goes by and I get back to that place where I am really excited about reading again. I'm looking forward to finding out what will happen next year when I can have a break every now and then.

  • What kept me reading, despite the boredom I was starting to feel, was that the book kept referring to the two oldest kids as "the twins" and wouldn't tell what their names were. This always drives me insane - although I have no idea why. If you are odd like me, and you simply can't sleep at night if you don't know what people's kids are names (real or fictional) then skip to page 142 and end the suspense.

  • Reading this book made me want to watch an old movie. That's not really an impressive distinction since waking up in the morning makes me want to watch an old movie. Nevertheless, this book provided some additional motivation because one of the characters was named Rock, which naturally led to thoughts of Rock Hudson, which led me to Doris Day, which made me think about that movie she was in called The Thrill of it All, which I believe I'm going to have to watch now - there's just no way around it.

The Game Makers

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Yesterday I learned that a blog entry written while half asleep looks exactly like a blog entry that was written while fully awake. I can't decide if this is a good thing, and perhaps a sign of how effortless blogging has become for me - or it's a very bad thing and I sign that I write all blog entries on automatic pilot. I'm going to go with the explanation that makes me look better - so option number one it is.

Today's book, "Ever gotten rich playing the Monopoly Game? Solved the whodunit in Clue? Impressed friends with your knowledge of random factoids in Trivial Pursuit? If so, you'd be one of the millions who have enjoyed the thrill of a good game, courtesy of Parker Brothers - one of the world's best known and most enduring game publishers. Yet while Parker Brothers' classic games have become part of Americana, few people know the fascinating story behind the firm that George S. Parker started."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I had another "Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap, I've already read this book for the blog" moment earlier today, which resulted in me making a desperate run for the computer to search through the archives. I discovered that I have read a book that is similar to this one earlier in the year - but it was about the history of the game Monopoly. The books I've read this year have turned into such a huge blur that I can't even remember what I've read and what I haven't.

  • I didn't care for the book on the history of Monopoly, despite loving the game, but today's book was much better. I'm not sure what it is that compels me to continue to read books on the same subject as other books I have intensely disliked - perhaps I'm expecting some sort of literary compensation for having read a crappy book, and I'm hoping that if I keep trying I will stumble across that magical book that was so good it will make up for the bad ones that came before it. I'm still waiting for that to happen with the by the sea/back to nature books I compulsively read - but I can call off the search with books on the subject of board games.

  • And now it's time to talk about my childhood love of Monopoly - a detail I sadly left out of my last blog entry on this subject. I've always loved the game Monopoly - although I've never had the attention span for it and so, like an eight year-old, I get bored mid-way through the game and always want to quit. But while I'm playing, I'm completely totally obnoxious about it (also like an eight year-old) - I'm hyper-competitive about it, I trash talk the other players, I whine when I'm not winning. And once, at a slumber party, when I was leaving the other players in my dust, I took advantage of their desperation and starting bribing people with the fake Monopoly money. I have no idea why they actually responded to my attempts at bribery, but for some reason they did, and so I spent most of the evening saying things like, "I really want a drink, but I don't feel like moving. I'll give you 500 dollars if you bring me a Coke." Why anyone responded to that ridiculous request with, "Okay," is beyond me, but when someone is humoring me I don't ask questions.

And now dear readers, I'll give you 1,000 dollars if you leave a comment telling me what your favorite board game is.

Abigail Adams: A Writing Life

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

For the first time in several week, I have actually remembered to put up the end-of-the-week count on Wednesday. I'm considering this a personal victory even though it really isn't.

For the week:


PAGES - 1,885

For the year:

CHAPTERS - 5,554

PAGES - 70,151

Today's book, "Gelles, a senior scholar at the Institute for Research on Women & Gender, Stanford Univ. provides a literary-biographical analysis of Adams's letters. She shows that Adams began as a relatively traditional wife, though one in a marriage based on choice and mutual friendship, but was then transformed into a farm and investment manager for her family, hostess for her ambassador husband, and confidante and adviser when he became the second President of the United States."

Shallow thoughts:

  • Today I discovered that trying to read a book, and write a coherent blog entry, on only a few hours of sleep is a very bad idea. And I think it may have skewed my feelings on today's book - which I didn't hate, but didn't love either. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had felt more awake, so I will add it to my list of books that I'm going to read again when this year is up - and then I will promptly misplace the list and it will never be seen again.

  • And now, we simply must discuss the cover of today's book. Is it just me or does Abigail look a little bit like a man in drag? I think she has a face that's just crying out for bangs, or something to soften her and balance out that oddly shaped head. All in all, it's a totally unflattering portrait, which must be such a disappointment. It's bad enough wasting time on taking a picture that turns out badly - but can you imagine posing for hours for a painting and having it come out looking like you have a head that's shaped like a light bulb?

  • While reading the excerpts from Abigail's letters, I had the same feeling I always have when reading the private correspondence of someone who lived a long time ago, guilt. It feels so wrong to be rifling through some one's private letters like this - although that guilt has never stopped me from continuing to read them, not even after reading this sentence, "She would have been mortified had she suspected that it would be read by any person other than her husband. . . " - This set off an internal dialogue in which I debated back and forth whether the author could have possibly known if Abigail would be mortified or not, followed quickly by more guilt over using some one's private words for my own personal amusement, followed by a ten minute daydreaming session in which I tried to imagine what people in the future would think if they rifled through my own personal correspondence. Here's what I think they would be thinking: 1. She has really crappy stationary - why does all of her stationary look like it was bought by a ten year-old girl who is going to write to her first pen pal (which is clearly a question for the ages, and one I still can't come up with an answer for.) 2. She spends entirely too much time watching crappy TV and then forcing others to hear about it. Why doesn't she develop some standards (another question for the ages.) and 3. Does she ever get sick of the sound/sight of her own rambling? (answer: Yes - but she is unable to control it.)

So, dear readers, I am unable to decide whether I should recommend today's book or not. I think if I was rating it, I would give it a 5, but factoring in the tired factor (in which I hate everything but TV when I am tired), I think I would have to put it at an 7 or 8. Do what you will with that information.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I hope you enjoy the picture of today's book dear readers, because it took me almost an hour to post that stupid thing. Do I sound like a nagging mother? I hope you appreciate all of the effort I just went to for you, because it practically killed me. Perhaps Julie of Julie & Julia got 56 comments because she doesn't nag her readers - and yes, I plan to continue to harp on that for at least a few more days - but I will try to restrict the harping from now on to my non-blogging time so I don't drive you all insane.

Today's book, "Fishel's collective memoir provides a worthwhile glimpse into a misunderstood generation of elite and well-educated but disappointed women. Intimately portraying 10 of her cohorts from the prestigious Brearley School (class of '68), she illuminates the struggles and triumphs of what she calls an "in-between generation, neither as traditional nor as radical as the generations that buttress it."

Shallow thoughts:

  • Today's book did not get a very high rating on amazon - but there was a passive-aggressive, mini verbal cat fight going on in the comments section - so I decided that any book worth insulting complete strangers over was a book worth reading. The book was good - not great, but still good - which means that I'm on some sort of strange upward trajectory (a word I've never used before in my life but always wanted to) with the blog this week. Each days book has been better than the last - which doesn't say much since the first book was so bad - but if things keep up like this then by the end of the week I should be reading a book that is amazing.

  • Despite the Brearley School not being a boarding school, I still was unable to get the Facts of Life theme song out of my head today. It just kept playing on an endless loop, until I felt like I was going insane - and the worst part of all was that I couldn't remember the end part of the song, so it was just the beginning part playing over and over again. TV has such a delightful way of making things that aren't fun at all - boarding school, camping, dentist appointments, the first day of school - look so fun and wholesome.

  • And, I'm seduced once again by the word Vermont being thrown into a sentence - in this case the mention of a weekend in Vermont. It sounds fun!!! And I'm sure it is, since nothing bad could ever happen in Vermont. I'm adding this to my list of "Things I Want to Do For Reasons That Don't Even Make Sense to Me," along with 1940s hair and going to Dollywood (please don't ask me to explain that last one because I just can't.) And then the book mentioned Jackie Kennedy and her pillbox hats, which brings me to the next item on my list, I NEED a pillbox hat, it's absolutely imperative to my future happiness - but again, don't ask me to explain why - some things will never make sense.

A Year in the Maine Woods

Monday, September 21, 2009

Now that MANIPULATION WEEKEND is mercifully over, it's time to share with you the other thing I did this past weekend - I went to see the movie Julie & Julia. I decided that I simply must keep up on what the other members of the blogging club are up to (I like to really dramatically pretend like we are all part of some secret club that no one else could possibly ever get into because being dramatic about blogging makes it twice as fun.) I discovered three things: 1. Julie and I have more in common than just blogging - we both turned thirty the year or our blog, we both started our blogs out of boredom, we're both really melodramatic and have blogging-related meltdowns, which brings me to 2. Despite how melodramatic my blogging-related meltdowns are - and they're quite dramatic, as anyone who came in contact with me throughout the month of March can attest - I have left out one critic step that will make the meltdown extra dramatic, a step which Julie does not leave out: throwing myself on the floor while sobbing. The sobbing part has occurred, but I'm sad to say that I was standing up while it happened. I will not make this mistake in the future. The next time I have a blogging meltdown, I'm taking it to the floor. 3. I'm much too obsessed with the number of comments I get. I knew I was before this - but when Julie talked about getting 56 comments and I let out an audible gasp and then spent the rest of the movie repeating "56 comments" over and over again, I knew that I had a serious problem.

Today's book, "A professor of zoology at the University of Vermont, Heinrich here recounts a recent year he spent in the western Maine wilderness. With his pet raven Jack, he began his sojourn at the end of May. His cabin, without electricity or plumbing, sat in a clearing a half-mile up a steep brush-filled hill accessible only to four-wheel-drive vehicles. His mailbox was at the foot of the trail, and his nearest neighbors lived on the road beyond the mailbox. To keep in touch with family and friends, Heinrich, author of the National Book Award nominee Bumblebee Economics, installed a phone and answering machine in the neighbors' outhouse. He takes us through his busy summer and fall of chopping wood and making repairs to the cabin, all the while observing the wildlife around him."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I picked today's book because I wanted to read something wholesome that would wash away the filth from MANIPULATION WEEKEND. The book wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great either - which has led me to decide that perhaps I need to take my "No More Books About Moving to a House by the Sea" rule and extend it into "No More Reading About People Who Are Getting Back to Nature in Any Way" because clearly I don't find this topic interesting enough to read a whole book about, despite what the part of my brain that picks the books thinks.

  • The book starts out talking about Vermont. I have no idea why but whenever something is labeled as being from Vermont I instantly like it better. Maple Syrup? Oh, no thanks, I'm not crazy about that. Oh, wait, it's from Vermont - well on second thought. . . Let's just try that out with a few other things. Would you care for some cheddar cheese? It sounds good doesn't it? But Vermont Cheddar cheese - why that sounds amazing, wholesome, and the perfect compliment to any cracker. Regular cheese might be good on a Ritz cracker, possibly even a Wheat Thin (can you tell I was raised on preservatives dear readers?) But a Saltine? Why it's unimaginable. But I have a feeling that Vermont Cheddar cheese would taste good on any cracker, even those horribly misguided Cheez-Its that don't even taste like actual food. And then there are the country houses in Vermont, which people in old movies always seem to own. Occasionally they have country homes in Connecticut, and that sounds nice to. But a Vermont country house sounds like the kind of place where no one is ever unhappy and everyone always has good hair and perfectly coordinated outfits.

  • And now it's time to address the horrifying notion of a person living without electricity. . . no Dallas DVD's . . . no hair straightener . . . no lights to allow a person to stay up to a totally unnatural hour that no one has any business being awake at anyway. Why it's too horrible to even think about. Although I am able to handle a brief (no more than a few days) bout with no electricity because it gives me a chance to get out the Little House book, The Long Winter, and be really dramatic and then spend the whole time deluding myself into think that I'm far more resourceful than I really am, all the while walking around saying things like, "We're practically pioneers."

So, in conclusion, I really wouldn't recommend this book to you dear readers - unless you have a deep and abiding love for nature.

The Game

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Welcome to day two of MANIPULATION WEEKEND dear readers. Today's book was kind of, sort of, suggested by a reader who shall remain nameless because I'm not really sure if they want to take credit for having planted the idea of reading this book in my head. But, you know who you are, and I expect at least two good book suggestions out of you in the future in order to make up for having sort of suggested this book.

Today's book, " Are you just another AFC ("average frustrated chump") trying to meet an HB ("hot babe")? How would you like to "full-close" with a Penthouse Pet of the Year? The answers, my friend, are in Neil Strauss's entertaining book The Game. Strauss was a self-described chick repellent--complete with large, bumpy nose, small, beady eyes, glasses, balding head, and, worst of all, painful shyness around women. He felt like "half a man." That is, until a book editor asked him to investigate the community of pickup artists. Strauss's life was transformed."

I spent the day reeling between being amused by this book and horrified. There were points where it was hard to say which feeling was stronger. Overall, I did find the book entertaining, but it was in a can't-turn-away-from-the-train wreck sort of way. And by the end, I felt very tired - just reading about people putting so much effort into being repulsive was exhausting. The book did get less sleazy towards the very end, so if you do decide to read this book and get disgusted mid-way through and want to quit reading, I recommend you jump ahead and at least read the ending before giving up completely.

And now it's time for some fun facts about my experience with reading the book:

  • Number of pages it took for me to become sickened by the book: 130 (unfortunately, at this point I still had 314 pages to go)

  • The point at which my brain began to refuse to process what I was reading: Page 250 (it just went on strike - and, keep in mind, this is the same brain that will happily watch The Brady Bunch or read Danielle Steel)

  • The point where I began to think the book must be a satire, because there's no way that people could take it seriously: 305 (seriously, I did some Internet research afterwards, because my mind just could not accept that there are people who read that book and actually take the advice.)

I was amused throughout the book by the thought of what would happen if a woman who was following The Rules met a man who was following The Game. Since both books advise waiting and letting the other person speak first, I guess they would both just sit in icy silence for awhile before losing interest in one another and moving on to other people who hadn't read crappy advice books.

The other similarities between the advice in both books; play hard to get, wear something that will catch the attention of the opposite sex, treat the person you are with as if you are not interested in them at all (that should be easy, just pretend like you're in the 6th grade again), and train the person you are with to follow you around like a lost puppy dog (I wish I was paraphrasing on that last part, but The Game actually mentions using a dog training manual on women - which kind of reminds me of that old movie If A Man Answers, where a woman does that to train her husband.) Basically, both books are completely nauseating, but since the authors of The Rules aren't advising people to act like trashy, totally indiscriminate sluts, I'm going to have to go with that one as my favorite from the weekend.

And, I've now had time to conduct a few man-on-the-street interviews with every man in sight, and so I have an update to share with you in regards to The Rules, which will not come as a shock to anyone with half a brain, but here goes anyway: following them will make a man think that you are not interested in him at all. Or, in some cases, it will make him think you are not interested in men at all. That last little gem came from my brother, who has decided that if a woman does not respond to his advances it couldn't possibly be because she is not interested in him personally, it simply must be because she is a lesbian. Apparently, there are no straight women anywhere on Earth who are capable of resisting his charms. Prior to this conversation, I thought I was aware of just how big his ego is - but it seems that I have underestimated the situation.

The Rules

Saturday, September 19, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, when I read a book about marrying a man for his money, Alissa suggested that I read The Rules. I agreed, with the understanding that I would only be reading the book and not taking any of the suggestions - which was basically a moot point since I don't even have the capability of following most of the those rules anyway.

So, I decided to read today's book - largely because it reminded me of the Manhunt episode of Designing Women - where Suzanne becomes Mary Jo's dating coach and spends a weekend helping her trap a man, using an advice book - so I pushed aside all sense of shame and went to the library to check the book out (I refuse, on principal, to contribute to the snake oil salespeople, I mean authors, getting any richer off this book.)

And, because one day of ridiculous books isn't enough, I've decided to make a weekend event of it (and no, I won't be reading The Rules 2 tomorrow - although I will be making fun of that book with my sister then.)

Just in case you're lucky enough to have never heard of this totally demented book before now: Today's book, "An unexpected bestseller, this self-help book for women who want to hook a man seems to have struck a chord with desperate American women. Fein and Schneider, whose main credentials seem to be that they are married, lay out the rules to be followed for successfully snagging a dream hunk. And these rules are hard as cast-iron--Rule Five: Don't Call Him and Rarely Return His Calls. The idea is to return to pre-feminist mind games, exploiting the male hunting urge by playing hard to get."

Shallow thoughts (and what other kind could I possibly have about a book like this):

  • I hadn't even opened today's book when I already started having a problem with it. Before you start to think a feminist rant is coming, let me assure you dear readers that there will be no ranting in this blog entry because I don't take today's book seriously enough to work up to a rant about it. My problem with the book is the hideous, and incredibly small, engagement ring on the cover of the book. I'm personally not a big fan of engagement rings of any kind - but, I do know an ugly one when I see it - and I think that if you're going to treat a man like prey and trap him into marrying you, then you should at least get a decent engagement ring out of the deal. Basically, what I've gathered from reading this book, and looking at the awful cover, is that the authors were hoping that women everywhere would flock to this book in the store, think to themselves I want to toss aside my dignity, and all so I can end up with a man who is too stupid to know I'm trapping him, who will give me a tiny, hideous engagement ring. I certainly don't advocate tossing aside your dignity dear readers, but if you are inclined to go that route then for goodness sake, get a decent engagement ring out of the deal. . . and a vacation house in the South of France.

  • Then the book hit a few more snags, because it was written in 1995, and therefore only gave instructions for rules on how to approach telephone conversations with men (make them call you, never call them and rarely return their calls) - leaving me wondering What do the desperate women who use this book today do about e-mails and text messages. I would assume that the telephone rules apply, but how can I be sure? I think the authors need to write another book on the subject called "Still Desperate? We Can Help." In the meantime, the women of America will just have to stick to trapping themselves husbands the old-fashioned way.

  • And now we come to the most important rule of all: Don't talk to a man first. Apparently, if you are the first one to approach a man, he will get bored because there is no thrill-of-the-chase aspect to the encounter, and you will end up alone and living in a shack on the edge of town with 100 cats and a Precious Moments collection (I might have added that end part.) So now I have a question for all of my married readers: Which one of you was the first to speak to the other? This has become my new favorite question, which I will spend the next six months asking every married person I know.

Favorite lines/passages from the book (favorite of course because of how completely, ridiculously absurd they are):

  • ". . . we mistakenly tried to be "friends" with men rather than elusive butterflies. . . " - What wonderful advice, now if only I could figure out how an elusive butterfly would act. I guess I should stand around all day long thinking Angie wait a minute - what would an elusive butterfly do in this situation?

  • "When you go to singles dances or parties, you pump yourself up. You pretend you're a movie star. You hold your head high and walk in as if you just flew in from Paris on the Concorde." - While I do enjoy the advice to pretend to be a movie star, an activity I've spent ridiculous amounts of time on anyway (although I only pretend to be a movie star from the 40s, I'm not like those freaks who pretend to be a movie star from the present day, that would be absurd), I have yet to get a reaction to that little routine that was anything other than laughter of outright annoyance. Shockingly enough dear readers, pretending to be a movie star does not result in multiple proposals.

  • "Men aren't interested in women who are witty in a negative way." - There was also a line later in the book that said to never make sarcastic jokes. So basically, what I'm gathering from those two sentences is that I should pack my bags for the convent now because there's no hope - trying to stop the sarcasm would be like cutting off my oxygen supply.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this book dear readers - but only if you're going to read it with a sarcastic friend or relative - make some popcorn, gather round the hearth, read the book out loud, and make fun of the book until you get tired. . . then take a short break and rest up so you can make fun of it some more.

Blooming: A Small-Town Girlhood

Friday, September 18, 2009

Today was a very busy blogging day - I had stuff to do and episodes of TV to watch, and before you start thinking Watching TV does not count as a daily obligation, I can assure you dear readers that in my life it does. If I go more than a few days without it I start to feel disoriented, as if I have woken up in someone else's life. But, I'm a multi-tasker, so I pulled it off, and still read today's book (it's inspirational, I know.)

Today's book, "Slumber parties, swimming pools, boyfriends, lakeside summers, family holidays--Susan Allen Toth has captured it all in this delightful account of growing up in Ames, Iowa, in the 1950's. Charming, wise, funny, poignant, and true, Blooming celebrates an innocent and very American way of life."

Shallow thoughts:

  • Today's book was another one of those gentle books that slowly unfolds like an old movie - where practically nothing happens - and yet, I really enjoyed it. And then later discovered, while I was on page 91, that I have already read this book a few years ago. How sad is it that I was actually able to make it all the way to page 91 before realizing that I've read this book before. I think I'm becoming too indiscriminate of a reader.

  • Favorite passage, "When she was four years old, my daughter, Jennifer, began to develop a sense of history. "What was it like in the old days, Mommy? Did you wear long dresses? Did you ever ride in a covered wagon?" - Wow, there's nothing like being asked if you were alive in the covered wagon days to make a person feel youthful. I know because I was once asked in my Mary Poppins days if I was alive before cars were invented.

  • Favorite sentence, "We all knew that the Wards wished Sara would find somebody more suitable to go steady with, which made their romance seem somehow threatened and even more exciting to watch." - Ahh, the drama of youth when everything feels like it's the MOST DRAMATIC THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ANYONE. If only I could say that I left that quality behind, but it seems that every day of my life is the MOST DRAMATIC THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ANYONE. I think it might be time for me to accept that it wasn't youth that made me do that - although I have stopped reenacting funeral scenes from movies (Beaches) while throwing myself on fake coffins (piano benches) so I think I'm making progress in that area.

So, in conclusion dear readers, I would recommend this book with the caveat that it's probably not the book for you if you don't enjoy slow, gentle books.

House Calls and Hitching Posts

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I forgot to do the end of the week count yesterday.

For the week:


PAGES - 2,170

For the year so far:

CHAPTERS - 5,444

PAGES - 68,266

Today's book was suggested/lent to me by Kim, the woman who saved me from the bad hair abyss that was my late teens and early 20s, thereby earning the title "the hair goddess." And if you saw what my hair looked like pre-Kim you would see exactly why she deserves that title.

Today's book, "A country-boy-turned-country-doctor goes on house calls among the Amish of eastern Ohio in this warm collection of true-life tales. Alert to his patients' preferences to have their babies born close to home, and their illnesses and injuries treated in a home-like atmosphere, Dr. Elton Lehman also created a treatment and birthing center in the hills of Wayne County, Ohio."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I loved the idea of today's book right off the bat. I have spent years whining about doctors, saying things like, "Why can't more doctors be like Dr. Baker on Little House . . . or Dr. Quinn. . . or that doctor that Dr. Quinn hired to help her out when she had her baby, the one whose name escapes me but who I had a totally embarrassing crush on when I was in junior high." Okay, so it's possible that last part has nothing to do with today's book, so just overlook that. I think I had a point when I started writing this paragraph . . . oh, right, my point was that I have often wondered why there can't be more Dr. Bakers/Dr. Quinns in the world, so I was excited to read about a modern day version. I enjoyed today's book, but more for the story than the writing style - which had an amateur feeling to it - but if you can overlook that sort of thing then you might like this book dear readers.

  • And since this book takes place in Ohio, I think it might be time to throw out a totally pointless plug for the state of Ohio. Here goes: they have the cleanest rest stops I've ever been in. I haven't traveled extensively throughout the state, so I'm sure there are some disgusting ones that I haven't run across, but the ones I've been in were delightful. And they know how to advertise their state too - they have the most pleasant displays set up in the rest stops that feature books about Ohio - and every time I pass one of those displays I find myself thinking Maybe I don't know enough about Ohio. Maybe today is the day I should correct that problem. So good people of Ohio: Nice job and keep up the good work. And to the rest of the states: You need to get your act together. I'm sick of going into your rest stops and feeling like I'm not going to survive the experience without extensive psychological scars.

  • And now it's time for something that I haven't done enough of lately, gently mocking my mother. There was a chapter about an Amish couple who unexpectedly had twins and didn't have a name picked out for the second twin, so they decided to go the cutsey rhyming names route (which, in my opinion, should be outlawed) and named them Checky and Becky. I think it's a very good thing that poor child is going to go to an Amish school, so there won't be any lockers for him to get stuffed in while his name is being ceaselessly mocked. And now for the segment which I think should henceforth be called a "Mocking Mom Moment" - I grew up really close to a large Amish community, and so the names of those babies were often listed under the "Weighing In" section of the newspaper. My Mother has an unfortunate habit of NEEDING to share everything she reads in the newspaper with everyone within a fifty mile radius - which resulted in quite a few breakfasts that involved hearing all about the people we don't even know who died, the advice Dear Abby is handing out, daily comparisons to Marmaduke (with a great deal of shock always expressed that Marmaduke and our dog have similarities) and (her favorite) the names she doesn't like from the newspaper. For some reason she never feels the need to share names she likes, but instead sticks to saying things like, "Carla Sue? Who would ever name their child that? How could anyone name their child that when there are so many good names in the world? Oh and listen to this name. . . Levon Darrell. Isn't that awful?"

Jane and Prudence

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Today was a good blogging day. I felt weirdly productive. I was able to read this book, part of another book, and fit in a few episode of Dallas and still have time for actual, grown-up, responsible things like work. I'm clearly invigorated by Fall. The leaves are falling, the air is crisp and I feel the overwhelming urge to make applesauce (don't ask me to explain that one dear readers) and visit a pumpkin patch. And it's dangerously close to time to get out It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. And yes, I do actually watch that every year, and I'm not going to let the fact that I'm now in my 30s stop me from watching it again this year. And, I've been known to get the DVD out as early as late September (because I watch it more than once.)

Today's book, "One of Barbara Pym's first novels, this story of the friendship between two women - one the less-than-perfect clergyman's wife, the other younger and unmarried - will delight readers who have come to love Barbara Pym's gently mocking tales of English life and manners."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I picked today's book because I liked the cover (because it reminded me of cartoons) and because I thought How can I go wrong with a book that is filled with mocking? As it turns out, I still went wrong. The bad streak continues, with another book that I didn't like. I am determined I will break the streak tomorrow. Stay tuned dear readers.

  • Today's book was one of those novels where nothing happens. Those can go either way - either they feel really cozy and relaxing, or they can bore a reader to tears. Today's book started out feeling cozy and relaxing, and lulled me into a false sense of security, and just when I started to think it was a really good book, it began to bore me to tears.

  • Favorite sentence, "Prudence Bates was twenty-nine, an age that is often rather desperate for a woman who has no yet married." - I have no idea why that sentence amuses me since I am now past twenty-nine (I'm just tossing that piece of information out there for those of you who didn't witness my 42 day long "My Birthday Is Coming And I'm Going To Be 30" extravaganza) and so I should really be slightly irritated by that statement. The same thing happened to me when I saw the movie Pride & Prejudice shortly after turning 27 and one of the main characters was talking about how she was 27 and had no prospects. I laughed until people in the movie theater started to look at me funny. It's beyond me why I'm amused by the kind of thing that normal people are offended by - but I don't even question it anymore, I just go with it.

And now dear readers, I simply must get back to Dallas because I have to find out who ends up as president of Ewing Oil, Bobby or J.R.

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop

Monday, September 14, 2009

I couldn't act like a responsible grown-up for one moment longer, so today I decided to watch Dallas while reading the book. Actually, it was more like alternating between reading and watching, I would read ten pages and then watch 5 minutes of Dallas although that turned out to be a very bad idea because I have reached the season where Sue Ellen has a permed mullet, and it was so heinous that it was all I could think about while I was reading the book. I've learned a very important lesson from this, reading is bad and TV is good. No wait, that wasn't the lesson. The lesson is that TV and books are like Oreo cookies and Hot Pockets, wonderful little pieces of perfection on their own, but really overwhelming when combined. And now of course that really bad metaphor has led to me wondering which is the Oreo and which is the Hot Pocket in this scenario? I think Dallas is the Oreo, but I'm not 100% sure. What do you think dear readers?

Today's book, "Buzbee, a former bookseller and sales representative, celebrates the unique experience of the bookstore - the smell and touch of books, the joy of getting lost in the deep canyons of shelves, and and the silent community of readers."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I know, I know, I've already read a book similar to this one. But the other one wasn't very good, so I thought I would give the subject another try. As it turns out, this might be one of those hand-on-the-hot-burner kind of situations. I need to just accept that I'm going to get burned every time and move on with my life. But it continues to baffle me that I could love bookstores this much and yet not enjoy any of the books that are written about them. Knowing me, I will continue to read books like this, despite never liking them. But I promise dear readers, I will spare you the trauma of having to go along for the ride.

  • I didn't intensely dislike today's book, but I didn't enjoy it either. It was just kind of blah. And it was filled with sentences that sounded like they belong on a bookmark featuring a kitten who is reading - such as, "A great book will never go out of style - books go with every outfit." Can you just imagine the kitten, propped up on the book, possibly wearing wire-rimmed glasses?

  • Favorite sentence, in which the author describes his childhood reading habits, "Nothing too heavy, mind you, and not too much of it, because there was a lot of TV to watch and a lot of bike to ride." - Ahhh, finally a person who loves to read, who also acknowledges the joy - no, the necessity - of TV. I have been told on more than one occasion that it's rather odd that I am so addicted to both books and TV. And I supposed it is odd - but in a twisted sort of way, I'm kind of proud of it. Do you have any idea how hard it is to juggle such hard core addictions. I realize that I make it look effortless - but I can assure you dear readers, it requires a great deal of effort and strategic planning.

  • Favorite passage, "A book will not crash or freeze and will still work when filled with sand. Even if it falls into the bath, it can be dried out, ironed if necessary, and then finished." Or if it's left in the rain . . . or dropped in the toilet. Just kidding on that last part - I did drop a book in a toilet once (that's what I get for trying to brush my teeth and read at the same time) - but I just couldn't bring myself to finish reading it after that. There's just something about having to fish a book out of the toilet that kills the reading mood.

The Roots of Desire

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Welcome to another edition of SISTER SUNDAY dear readers. Today I am being forced to read (I mean, being given the privilege of reading) a book about redheads.

But first, I am told, I need to either tell a few Alissa stories or share a few of my favorite Alissa qualities. I'll go with favorite qualities: 1. She does a really good blind Mary impression. I forced her to play Little House on the Prairie over and over again when we were children and I decided that even though Mary was the oldest, I should be Laura because she's the writer, which left Alissa to play the part of Mary while I stood around saying things like, "I'll be your eyes Mary." 2. She has a delightful way of conning people into doing things for her and bringing her things on trays, all without appearing to be excessively manipulative. I respect that. 3. She's the only person I know who could make a joke about a baked potato sound funny.

Today's book, "To get to the bottom of our perceptions and experience of red hair, she explores the ancient legends of Lilith and Set, the traditions that depict both Judas and Mary Magdalene as redheads, and an Eve in London's St. Paul's Cathedral that has blond hair before the Fall and red hair after it. She visits "witch camp" in Vermont, a high-end hair salon in Manhattan, and Emily Dickinson's house, where a carefully preserved lock of the poet's red hair transforms Roach's image of her. Along the way, Roach (Another Name for Madness) makes some poignant points about what it means to belong to the redheaded minority in Western society, making gently suggestive comparisons to more overt patterns of prejudice."

Shallow thoughts:

  • My sister has informed me that reading today's book about redheads (or as she calls them, "my people") will help me understand her better. She told me this, and I smiled and nodded and pretended like I don't already spend every waking minute of my life trying to understand her. But, as it turns out, I did learn something new about her from this book.

  • I learned that redheads feel pain more intensely than non-redheads. Which I guess explains why she acts like she's on her death bed every time she's the slightest bit sick - she walks around saying things like, "Death . . . is. . . imminent," she request (demands) that people bring her things on trays, she tries to make people sit by her bed and read to her and then when they do she says, "What - you're not even going to do accents?"

  • Fun fact about redheads: In 1912 phrenology revealed that redheads make the best waitresses. - I beg to differ. I have spent years trying to get my sister to bring me something on a tray, to balance out all the times that I have brought her stuff on trays, but the response I get seems to run somewhere along the lines of, "I don't bring people things on trays. Other people bring me things on trays." So, I will have to disagree with that fun fact and say a more accurate statement would be, redheads want the whole world to be their waitresses.

So, what have I learned about my sister from reading this book? That she will always whine like a character on Thirtysomething when she's sick, and that "her people" have some fascinating quirks.

Little Women

Saturday, September 12, 2009


And so we have come to the last day of birthday week. Did you all eat a cupcake in my honor yesterday dear readers?

My sister and I attempted to put up a new fall background today, but we finally gave up after nine failed attempts. So, unless we meet with more failure tomorrow, there will be a new fall background up when that blog entry goes up.

Picture time:

Here I am holding one of my all-time favorite birthday presents, a painting of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s house in Mansfield, Missouri that my Grandmother painted for me. Unfortunately the painting doesn’t show up very well in that picture.

Behind me is one of my other favorite presents, a new chalkboard (and I really needed a new one because I had really worn out the old one by forcing my sister to play endless hours of school.) The chalkboard was a present from my Uncle Andy who has a delightful habit of hiding money in birthday presents. Not only does he hide it, but he manages to strategically cut the plastic on the gift and slide the money in, all without any detectable opening in the package. I have no idea how he does.

Today’s book, "Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War."

Shallow thoughts -

  • After reading today’s book I’m feeling very torn about what my favorite book is. I was so sure that Anne of Green Gables was my favorite book, but reading today’s book made me start to question that. Actually, reading every book this week made me question that decision - each book made me think This one is definitely my favorite. So, now I’m back at square one, unable to chose a favorite.

  • I’ve always loved today’s book - and I have been wanting to read it all year - but I’ve been saving it for birthday week. I first read Little Women when I was about 10 years old, and it took me slightly over a month. So I thought it would be really fun to try to read in one day a book that I couldn’t even read in one month 20 years ago. The edition of the book that I read is not the same one I read as a child - I have no idea what happened to that edition but I do remember it was a really ugly shade of blue.

  • The edition I read today starts on page 15, and I really enjoy that, because if I’m going to go to the arduous task of actually having to turn those first few pages then I want to get credit for them. I’d had to think I had turned those pages for nothing.

  • While reading today’s book, I was struck once again by how my sister is just like Amy March (actually she’s a cross between Amy March and Emma Woodhouse.) She dramatic, shallow, self-involved . . . oh wait, that sounds like I’m describing myself. Perhaps we’re both Amy March. Here’s the sentence that reminded me of her, "Amy, though the youngest, was a most important person, - in her own opinion at least." - Oh my, that does sound like me. Just the other day I was telling someone that I like to think that people are losing sleep at night over the mystery of what I really look like. Deep down inside I know this is not true - but I like to pretend like you are all unable to sleep, struggling to focus on your jobs, and basically losing all ability to think clearly in the midst of the mystery.

Sense & Sensibility

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sorry for the delay dear readers. My page froze for a few hours while I tried to learn to reacquaint myself with my inner calm. I went to my special happy place, which is a combination of Brady Bunch and Dallas in which J.R., Sue Ellen, Mike and Carol are all sitting around trying to have a conversation with one another and each couple if totally horrified by the other. It's like my own little version of The Jetsons Meets the Flintstones.


Is my blog starting to feel like that Berenstain Bears book "The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday" dear readers? Because it is a little bit for me. I sat down to write this blog entry and I thought Crap - is it still birthday week? Basically I think the problem is that birthday week is no longer fun once the sugar supply has been cut off. I need a constant supply of chocolate frosting and Dallas episodes in order to enjoy birthday week. Since that is not possible, birthday week has lost its zest. But I will soldier on (aren't I just so brave - don't you feel inspired by the way I carry on?) and continue telling unflattering stories about myself.

Here I am wearing a smile that says, "Consumerism can be fun." Yes dear readers, my parents instilled those truly important lessons in me early. And I'm really not kidding with that one. When I was a child and I had trouble falling asleep, did my Mother tell me to count sheep? No she didn't dear readers. She told me to close my eyes and think about all of the stuff I was going to put on birthday list.

And, because I didn't want you to have to muddle through another day without the chapter and page count, here it is:

For the week:


PAGES - 1,839

For the year so far:

CHAPTERS - 5,294

PAGES - 66,096

Today's book, "In her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen presents us with the subtle portraits of two contrasting but equally compelling heroines. For sensible Elinor Dashwood and her impetuous younger sister Marianne the prospect of marrying the men they love appears remote. In a world ruled by money and self-interest, the Dashwood sisters have neither fortune nor connections. Concerned for others and for social proprieties, Elinor is ill-equipped to compete with self-centered fortune-hunters like Lucy Steele, while Marianne's unswerving belief in the truth of her own feelings makes her more dangerously susceptible to the designs of unscrupulous men. Through her heroines' parallel experiences of love, loss, and hope, Jane Austen offers a powerful analysis of the ways in which women's lives were shaped by the claustrophobic society in which they had to survive."

I've always had a great deal of difficult deciding which of Jane Austen's novels is my favorite. I often debate back and forth - but then in the end I come back to the sisterlyness (which is so clearly not a word, but it's my blog so I'm using it anyway) of today's book. I love a good sister story. Is there anything better than having a sister? I just don't think so. I feel very sorry for those who don't have a sister - in fact, I often think of it as a disability (I call it the sisterly impaired.) I look at those people and think about what a bleak existence that woman must be leading. But then I remind myself that since I'm not at drama camp I should probably rein it in a little bit.

I think that another reason why I enjoy this book - beyond the sisterlyness of it - is that I have always seen a little too much of myself in Elinor, and my sister of course is Marianne. I'm emotionally repressed and she just throws it right out there. I do this all the time - where I read/watch something about sisters and then try to figure out who we are in the book. I've decided also that we are Julia and Suzanne Sugarbaker, but I leave it up to you to guess which one of us is which - a game that my dear readers who don't know us might have trouble with. But come on dear readers, don't you like a challenge?

Favorite line, "He was not an ill-disposed young man, unless to be rather cold hearted, and rather selfish, is to be ill-disposed." - Well of course it doesn't make him ill-disposed Jane. What were you thinking. Some of my favorite people are cold hearted and rather selfish. (On a side note: Am I the only person who finds themselves talking to the author as if he/she is in the room? And I the only one who is undeterred if the author in question has been dead for several hundred years?)

Anne of Green Gables

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


The self-indulgence continues (did you really expect anything less from me dear readers?) with another day of birthday week. Today I am officially 30 years old - and it feels really good. Of course part of that could be the sugar high that I'm on from the cupcake I ate earlier. And now, it's back to being sugar-free until Thanksgiving. But, I'm almost certain that most of that happiness is not in any way tied to the consumption of baked goods.

And now dear readers, let's travel back in time to my second birthday. The picture I am about to share with you is one of my favorites because it so delightfully captures my shallowness. When I discovered the birthday pictures from that year in my Mother's photo albums, I noticed that there were several pictures of me opening clothes. And I asked her, "Who gives clothes to a 2 year-old on their birthday?" - to which my Mother replied, "It's what you liked. You always loved clothes." And then I turned the page of the photo album and discovered the proof of that:

I call that picture "Pure joy" or sometimes I call it "Angie has always been shallow" - one of the two. I still get that look of joy on my face when it comes to clothes. I see a dress across a crowded store, our eyes meet (it's entirely possible that last part doesn't make any sense, but I blame the sugar for that), and I get that same look on my face.

So, I think what we can all learn from this dear readers, is that shallowness is something we are born with, not something we inherited - the seed was clearly there when I was born - although my mother did water it and nurture it and help it grow (thanks for the great metaphor Kara.)

Today's book, "As soon as Anne Shirley arrives at the snug white farmhouse called Green Gables, she is sure she wants to stay forever. . . but will the Cuthberts send her back to the orphanage? Anne knows she's not what they expected - a skinny girl with fiery red hair and a temper to match. Anne is not like anybody else, the Cuthberts agree; she is special - a girl with an enormous imagination. This orphan girl dreams of the day when she can call herself Anne of Green Gables."

Shallow thoughts:

  • So apparently I'm completely transparent, because I thought it would be hard for people to guess what my favorite book - but one of my dear readers (Loree) guessed what it was right away. I guess the mystery pictures are the only thing mysterious about me.

  • I've always had a certain affection for the author of today's book, L.M. Montgomery, not just because of the wonderful books she has written, but also because she is the one who inspired the writing of my birthday letters. A few months before I turned 19, I was reading a biography of L.M. Montgomery which told of the letters Lucy Maud (what a horrible name) used to write to herself. At the age of ten, she wrote a letter to herself to be opened in ten years. I loved the idea, and quickly adopted it on my 20th birthday. And I have written one every years since - with the exception of one year and I can't even remember why I didn't write one that year. So I spent the day reading the birthday letters in between reading today's book. I highly recommend writing birthday letters dear readers - reading them today was a lot of fun.

  • The one good thing about my inability to retain what I read is that when I go back and re-read old favorites, I feel, to a certain extent, as if I am experiencing the books for the first time all over again. And today was no different. I had the same debate I always have while reading the book, about what my favorite part is. And I think I come up with a different answer every time. Today I was torn between the part where Marilla forced Anne to apologize to Mrs. Rachel Lynde as part of her punishment but Anne gets so caught up in the drama of the moment that she begins to enjoy it, and the part where Anne accidentally gets Diana drunk. I think I'm going to have to go with the part where Diana gets sloshed.

And now dear readers, it's opinion sharing time. What is your favorite book? And, I would also like to hear about your birthday memories.