Monday, December 28, 2009
Time to squeeze in the last four books of the year! Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was a debut novel. Jamie Ford writes of a topic seldom addressed in American literature: the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. The novel is a love story that spans several decades. I think it touched a chord with me as it reminded me of the intensity of first love. Henry Lee, the son of Chinese immigrants, falls in love with a second generation Japanese American. Against the backdrop of the prejudice spawned from the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Henry and Keiko form a life long friendship. I give this one two thumbs up because it made me smile.
Geraldine Brooks' A Year of Wonders had me up to the last chapter. And the epilogue. I am convinced that this author has the Stephen King syndrome: she just does not know when to stop. Anna Firth is a noble main character. She is strong, intelligent and still flawed. Inspired by the village of Eyam, Brooks writes about the year that a small town quarantines itself in order to prevent the spread of infection to its neighbors. The characters are all distinct and their examples of bad behavior and hard work are all believable. But then she writes that last chapter. And that epilogue. I would like to know if there was a fight with the editor over this one.
These next two are young adult novels. I believe I have mentioned that I am often and 'interactive' reader during SSR time..great role model, huh? Well, only one of these got a real response from me. Wild Girls was a nice book. Definitely a 'girl' book, this one would have appeal to the middle school reader. Twelve year old girls need to know that they are not the only ones who yearn for a place and to form strong relationships with their parents and others around them.
Incantation was an unexpected gem. This is the story of the Spanish Inquisition and I learned so much! As the reader follows Estrella through her daily chores, the reader feels truly immersed in this colorful time period. And the textile junkie in me enjoyed the references to her mother's dye business and colorful yarns she produced. I really cannot see this having a strong appeal to young adults as most will have no background knowledge of this time period, and I do think a bit is necessary to help them through it. In addition, the tortures suffered by Estrella's family may prove a bit much for the type of child who would actually read this one. But still, a good book.
So my reading for 2009 now draws to a close. I was able to read 31 novels this year, beating last year's total of 26. For 2010 the goal will be 35. Happy reading to one and all.
Friday, December 18, 2009
A man's Christmas experience:
"Wow! Doesn't that tree look nice?"
"My goodness, look at all the presents under the tree!"
"Gee, who wrapped those?"
"Golly, how much did we spend on my family? We really don't need to be so generous."
"Who cleaned up all that wrapping paper?"
"What happened to all the dead needles under the tree?"
"This dinner is smells wonderful."
"You know, I really don't understand why so many people thing Christmas is work; I find it a breeze."
Now here is what my women friends confess to:
"After shopping for five hours for gifts I knew would only be returned or re-gifted, I picked up a pizza for dinner so that my husband and grown son would have something to eat. As I slipped on the ice and dropped the cheese and pepperoni on the curb I screamed at the top of my lungs, 'I hate Christmas! I hate Christmas! I hate fucking Christmas!"
"Every Christmas Eve I have fantasies of stuffing my husband up the chimney and telling the kids Daddy ran off with the reindeer."
Two weeks ago I announced to my book club that I hate Christmas. My book buddy felt my opinion was total "Bull Shit". Mind you, she's Jewish.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Honestly, I did not plan to spend my entire weekend planted on the couch knitting my fingers to the bone, but up until today it has been rather gloomy and wet. Add to it some really great TMC flix and that was that!
The piece on the left is my second "Dr. Knitting" favor. A co-worker's mother made two of these sweaters many years ago; one was better than the other. This particular one was seldom worn as the left sleeve was uncomfortably tight. Recently she ruined the comfy one and has been hiding this from her adult daughter who likes to wear the sweater when she comes home for a visit. It took me most of the morning to tease out the yarn that was holding the sleeve in its death grip. I nearly had a heart attack when I found it thinking I was unraveling actual knitting - it appears that the sleeve was crocheted in place! The blue is obviously my basting thread and I shall get to that later today.
The center piece took me less than one half of The Devil and Daniel Webster to do. I had some re-used Noro Silk Garden and The Yarn Harlot's One Row scarf pattern and that was that. This one is destined for Helen so that she may walk her dog in comfort. She is also the only one in my Tea Group that appreciates hand knitting.
I have spent the last two full days getting about 9" of the Christmas sweater done. The resulting hand cramping is making me wonder if I can really knit for more than two hours at a stretch! Fat chance...life begins again tomorrow and this has been an exceptionally empty weekend.
But here is the big news of the weekend! Our fledgling spinning and dyeing guild now has a name: Common Threads. We had our first board meeting yesterday and realized that a name had to be chosen to get our checking account, membership forms, post office box and the like. I think it is a good choice because it is 'symbolic' and open to some interpretation. To clarify our purpose, our stationery and such will say, " a guild for spinners and dyers". So we are set for our first guild meeting at the Hull House Farm and Homestead on January 17, 2010.
Our initial program will consist of membership, dues collection, etc. We will also be looking for folks to fill the empty of archivist, co-librarian, and web master to name a few. As we have no idea how many folks will be in attendance, we are also asking that the first meeting be a drop spindle only program. I am so excited!
Saturday, November 28, 2009
When my oldest daughter was almost three, Baby All Gone was the only item on her Christmas wish list. Each and every party we attended that involved presents also involved a temper tantrum when the little trinket she opened was not this doll. I don't know how many of you remember this doll, but it is now easier to purchase this plastic baby on e-bay than it was that holiday season of 1991. My mother, eager to be the miracle worker, hit every store in the Western New York area. And she found it. She convinced the store manager at a JC Penney catalogue only store in Lockport, to box up the one in the store window as its mere presence was driving the employees crazy. The doll was impossible to get by Christmas and to have it in the shop was nothing short of mockery to many a mother and child.
So Christmas at Beachie's arrives and Amanda is fully expecting to find Baby All Gone under the tree. She has asked for only one gift and this is the first Christmas that she fully understands the "true meaning of Christmas" - ask and you shall receive. My mom is the hero, the BEST EVER. The bottle is refilled, the cherries are slurped, the diapers are chan....
STOP! The baby doesn't wet? What do you mean she doesn't wet? My little peanut has provided Baby All Gone with countless bottles, just where is all that milk going? Thankfully, for my mom, it took Amanda three or four days to figure this out. My little genius realizes that the doll does not have the properties of a real baby and she is feeling betrayed. Truly.
And so was I. The Baby All Gone Christmas taught me a huge lesson about buying my children exactly what they "had to have." I learned that there was no toy really worth the effort my mom put into finding that gift, that the BEST toy, gizmo, or trinket was eventually going to the bottom of the toy box. That Christmas taught me not to be an East Amherst Mommy.
I drag out that memory each and every year and am very grateful my children do not beg for the impossible. As they have gotten older, their requests are more within the realm of reason and they no longer feel short changed when comparing themselves to the neighbors. But I remember Baby All Gone. May she rest in peace.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
- If I do not answer my phone, please assume that I am busy. Kindly refrain from calling me repeatedly until I ask the person on the other line to hold, or stop what I am doing to so that I may attend to your immediate needs.
- Kindly refrain from leaving your grocery cart in the middle of the aisle, block one third with your person, and the other third with your misbehaving child.Please do not look so put out when I gently say, "Pardon me, please."
- If you are a creepy old, or young, or in between guy, do NOT ask my daughter to "jump on up there" when you ask for lots of everything on your sub. You are neither clever nor amusing.
- Do not call your mother at the pharmacy and scream at her like a banshee. Your mother is getting your medication and thought she had a full hour before you needed to be driven to work.
- Listen to your mother when she tells you she is now leaving for the pharmacy to get your medication so that you can tell her, very sweetly, that you need to be at work now and not in one hour.
- Please refrain from screaming at your mother for her obvious inability to read your mind when you drop her away for the workplace entrance to avoid embarrassment. How far away is too far?
Saturday, November 21, 2009
And now a question: Am I the only one who truly dislikes Daylight Saving Time? I get up so early, it is dark regardless of the hour difference. Instead, I get to drive home in the dark and feel as though I somehow missed the best part of the day. And I find myself wanting to pull on my jammies and crawl into bed at 7:00 which I refuse to do as I am fully grown! Yet, I am so inexplicably tired I do not have the energy to do even that. I have also found myself spending inordinate amounts of time on the commuter playing stupid PopCap Games that are truly mind numbing. I should be knitting, or rug hooking, or reading, or Christmas (!) shopping or doing something semi-productive.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Our book club's November meeting was delightful. Lucy by Ellen Feldman was an easy read about one of America's most celebrated presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I must admit, this title did leave me with more questions than answers. How does a woman have an affair with her employer's husband? How does she keep in close contact over three decades once the affair ends? Why does a woman allow herself to be snuck in and out of the White House?
After reading, I felt little pity for FDR and a great deal for his wife Eleanor. Which brings me to why book club was so delightful. Our lovely hostess, Shirley, always spoils the group with a welcoming smile, an abundant selection of food and wine, and a sincere joy in hosting our group. Shirley usually has some little parting gift: pins for the lapels of our winter coats just brought out of the moth balls, or handmade table pieces for an upcoming holiday. You get the idea. Anyhoo, this month she tricked us all.
Upon our arrival, we meet Shirley's friend, Denise. She tells us she has invited her because she is an historian who is well versed with the era under discussion. As we begin our talk, Denise disappears. Upon her return she has morphed into Eleanor Roosevelt! She entertained us for a half hour with an entertaining narration of this famous lady.
The things I learned about Eleanor! I shall sum it up by saying she was indeed a gracious woman. And FDR? He was Bill Clinton's role model.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Could someone please explain the title? Was it Erdrich's first choice, or the preference of a confused editor? Yes, Fidelis was was the butcher - who sang- and came to America after the great war- with his knives - chasing down a slice of bread - only to find himself in North Dakota.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
With that in mind, I selected the colors you see on the left and I must say I am very pleased with the outcome - just not for a baby. Full of doubt, I went to the local Babies R' Us with the intention of keeping the blankie for someone else, but changed my mind the second I got to the layette section. Brown and green are indeed the new blue and pink. To re-enforce the color scheme I purchased a little brown and green outfit. Does that make a theme?
My knitting buds have been a bit puzzled by my yarn choice: Lion Brand Vanna's Choice. But we all decided that giving a mom the 'gift' of hand wash and air dry is not really the kindest thing to do. This acrylic is soft and snugly and washed up like a dream. And if they don't like it, they can always make it the car blankie!
Friday, September 25, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Saturday was girl family bonding day. Mom, sis, sister-in-law, daughter, and moi did something truly unique. We had dinner with my Amish poultry 'dealer'.
So here's how it happened...Years ago a small group of Amish families moved from Pennsylvania and Ohio to Lyndonville, NY. No fallings out, just cheap land and lots of it. They have a nice furniture store, lumber mill with custom cabinetry, a general store or two, and a bakery. My parents have been supporting their businesses for years. Recently, we found a flyer at Yoder's Market for a fresh chickens and eggs.
Saturday evening, James and Clara, opened their home to their customers for an evening of fun and fellowship. We arrived at the farm around 4:00, in time to take a short tour of the property. This young family has been on the property for about three years. They have a lovely horse, turkeys slated to be Thanksgiving dinner, over 100 laying hens, numerous chickens being raised for sale in the very near future and three cows. We went to the family's pasture via hay ride courtesy of one of their Amish neighbors and were given a proper tour by James and his three very young sons. Their oldest child, all of seven, was bursting with pride (a non-Amish quality to be sure) in show us how well he and his father were running their operation.
Learning how much work goes into the raising of these fine fowls gave me a real appreciation for their quality. Each and every day their pasture area is moved, no small feat, as this requires the moving of a fence, small shed, water and feed stations, and various bits and bobs. The chickens feed on live insects and high quality feed. Their health is evidenced by the quality of the meat in the young birds and the volume of eggs produced each day - close to 60 per day.
After our hay ride back to the farm we enjoyed a wonderful dinner prepared by Clara. Homemade whole wheat spaghetti, sauce from their garden tomatoes, meatballs from their own steer, deviled eggs, and an out of this world applesauce. Dessert was a strawberry smoothie made with the farm milk, yogurt, strawberry preserves and maple syrup.
I left with a new found admiration for this family. Five children with one on the way, a spotlessly clean home, the children so healthy and happy, and a group of new friends. A very nice day, indeed.
Monday, September 07, 2009
Growing up, I had never had any experience with the Mormon religion; my only exposure was the father of a family in town who left his wife for a Mormon woman. Ironic, don't you think? The 19th Wife has certainly done a job filling in the blanks.
Ebershoff's novel was read by the majority of the girls in my tea group, so when I found it at the library I thought I would give it a go. First, read the NY Times review. Now I am asking that you take that and eliminate all the negative adjectives. Yes, he did do all those things in his narrative, but 'cacophony'? 'Exhausting'? Hardly.
Jordan goes home seeking the truth about his mother's role in his father's murder. Along the way he befriends creepy little Johnny - that did not move the plot. The second thing that did need scripting was the love affair between Jordan and Tom, the excommunicated LDS managing a hotel. Time would have been better spent on the roles of the attorney defending Jordan's mom, and his secretary, Maureen. But I found the story of the "Firsts" a renegade sect straight out of Big Love fascinating.
The second story line focused on the 19th wife of Brigham Young, Ann Eliza. This section showed the real research of the author. Frankly, I found all the bits and pieces intriguing; I learned a great deal about John Smith and his early ministry. How the church moved to and from polygamy was also fascinating; the political moves of powerful men...how does one resist?
Great literature, it is not. But well worth the ink and paper.
Friday, August 28, 2009
- Monday I attempted to go to a doctor's appointment that was for the following week.
- Monday I received a telephone call from my credit card company that someone had attempted to make a $2000 charge on my account. My account is now closed.
- Tuesday I was late for the dentist as I failed to note a time change on the 'master' calendar.
- Wednesday I was nearly T-boned by a NYS Trooper when the car I was in went into oncoming traffic.
- Wednesday the dog groomer could not contact me as I was in a 'concrete bunker' of a building preventing cell service. It never occurred to the three people at home that they could get the dog.
- Thursday I entered my bank and ran into the wall thinking it was the door.
- Friday I went shopping to find my (still valid) credit card was not in my wallet.
- Friday I...as I see a pattern emerging I am waiting for the second thing.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
I think I have seen Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat so many times, I have it memorized. The only age group that I have not seen perform it is grammar school! Now, this means I really like it, or it plays so often I just can't avoid it! My opinion: no surprises. Liked the set, costuming was good, lighting was effective. My only issue was the lack of a full orchestra. When did it become acceptable to have sound track with a few life tracks? I just find it odd - and a bit flat. Why? It has to be a huge cost savings because WNY in no way lacks musical talent.
The highlights of the evening were the curry ravioli and hearing about my friend's new 'man'! I love it when other people are in love! I may sound sappy, but I get a thrill when my friends gush over something!
Today I hit another one of my favorite hometown spots: The Clarence Center Coffee House. Nothing fancy, just a tad funky. But the heat of the afternoon just begged for a sit on a porch with a cold drink - and I am a sap for iced chai. So Helen and I had a lovely visit, I had the opportunity to forget my responsibilities and dirty laundry, and to sit a spell.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
Today was a blast! Several of us from Raveloe Fibers met for a natural dye day. As I have been bitten by the rug bug, I was gifted some wonderful wool for a future project. The mordant was a combination of alum and creme of tartar done the evening before by our lovely Linda. Donna had prepared dyes of black walnut, onion skin and logwood - the lovely purple. Phyllis offered a fresh indigo, madder, dahlia, Osage orange, and black eyed susans. Linda, in addition to doing the prep work and offering the space at the shop, gave us a lesson in a 'fermented' indigo dye bath.
Favorites? I really love the effect I got from twisting the wool in coils resulting in a really neat variegation of color. The difference between the two indigo dye baths was fascinating - the older resulting in the expected blue, and the subtle green of the fresh batch had been planted, grown, and mixed by Phyllis. I was also thrilled by the change in the red cotton I had brought along. Less than five minutes in the indigo changed it from Santa Red to a lovely, rich burgundy with hints of blue.
This is one workshop well worth repeating:)
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Friday, August 07, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
James Baldwin tells the story of a white, middle class, American ex-pat living in Paris. He (David) falls in lust/love/confusion/denial with Giovanni, an Italian bartender. They live in a world the majority of the population will never know. A world of young boys and wealthy used up queens. And it is a sad world.
David's sexuality is really not the issue. It is his inability to give love and to be loved. He is so concerned with his warped sense of morality, that he cannot see the beauty of any given moment - and his affected personality that borders on amoral.
Giovanni in many ways is his victim. And so is David's fiancee, Hella. They both love this man who is not an active participant in his own life. He watches himself from above with self loathing and repugnance. But his for his part in the lives of others, he does not give one damn.
This is a tragic novel on so many levels. And I am still trying to decide if it was truly well written. Having just returned from Paris, I was truly enjoying the amount of French sprinkled throughout the text, the descriptions of scenes in Paris... This my dears is not for the faint hearted.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Love it, I did not; however, I found that Merchant and Ivory made a film based on the novel and I quickly added it to my NetFlix queue.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
I found myself cheering Mattie on, remembering through her 16 year old eyes my fondness for books, my dreams, and my fears. The novel has tons of memorable characters, numerous references to literary characters and trends of the time, and the strict cultural constraints felt by the women of that era.
So grab a copy of A Northern Light and enjoy your holiday in the North Country.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Juliet, a well known London author, begins a correspondence with the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. Through their letters, the reader learns about the lives of the island's residents during and after the German Occupation.
So pull up a seat in Isola's house, take a swig of tonic and a huge slice of Potato Peel Pie. This is a read that even the most reticent of the membership would be sure to enjoy.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
This book would make a great movie. But please do not let that dissuade you from reading it; it is really quite good. Many of you will be familiar with Mark Haddon's other novel: the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. This is just as 'spot on'.
George is convinced his eczema is cancer; he is experiencing severe depression, he catches his wife in the sack with a former co-worker. Add to that a daughter who is marrying a man they feel is not well matched, who ironically, is better than them in so many ways. Throw in one gay son and the wedding day and you will be thoroughly entertained. This book has a bit of everything: pathetic human souls, a rather grisly scene when George decides to take a few matters in his own hands, and an absolutely hysterical wedding day.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Monday, June 01, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
I just finished my book club's June pick: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. No one will accuse this little book of being fine literature, but if you do need something to give you the teen tingle of unconsummated lust you'll have a fine time. The book centers on the issues of the two Waverly sisters, a crazy apple tree, and a crazier relative. It was a bit like eating a bag of chips one at a time.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
There is no reason to "not tell" so I shall. Little Bee is a 16 year old Nigerian orphan. Because of or in spite of the interference of a wealthy, clueless, professional couple on the beach, she and her sister experience untold sufferings at the hands of the soldiers. If Sarah and Andrew had stayed behind the compound walls as they had been told, or better yet in London where they really belonged, this story would not be told. Really, there would be no story at all. It is worth the time, but I promise - it will not leave you feeling better.
Yesterday I re-read Patty Jane's House of Curl. The problem was that I was not certain I had previously read this until I was about tow hours in; as I had less than that to go, I plugged on. Need a totally mindless read full of Steel Magnolia overtones? Help yourself. I am bringing it to knitting tomorrow night.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
I believe I have said that we read for 20 minutes in study hall each morning. Now, I have an very 'interactive' reading style. Just as some of you talk to the television, I talk to the book and apparently my laughter was beginning to annoy the little critters. "What the heck is so funny?" "Good book?" "Why do you keep laughing?" How do you explain the humor of Scout explaining the social hierarchy of the town on her first day of school through one boy's lunch issues? Or the fact that the teacher scolds the poor thing for knowing how to read before she has been 'properly taught'?
So go back and re-read this one. For a change, the required reading list was right!
Monday, May 11, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Today I got to pick the family fun - the joy of being the mommy on this day. My choice was the zoo. Now that may seem an odd choice on an overcast blustery day of 43, but I think I was waxing nostalgic. When the kids were little, Craig and I would take them at least once a month. And lately, I have been missing little people holding my hand.
The zoo is a little gem. The trees were in full bloom.
And I love the buildings! The elephant house dated at 1912, begins the tour with a great sense of history.
This pelican carving is above the door to the current reptile house. I still remember my first trip to this building. We went to the zoo for my first grade field trip and the reticulated python left me terrorized; I had nightmares for over one week!
This shot was taken inside the new M&T Rain Forest exhibit. This was the first time the family had seen this. It really is impressive. I love the monkeys and they were having a grand time playing to the crowd up close and personal. The exhibit also contained some beautiful plantings that provided the perfect backdrop for the colorful birds.