RSS Feed

Category Archives: For the Love of Reading

Hibernation is Underrated

I know I said that things were going to be happening around here, but probably not before my long winter’s nap.

004

Oh, we’ve been to the library, and I’m ready to settle in for a nice long while. The Long Winter was yesterday’s treat; I finished it this morning. The rest are books that I’m “screening” for potential 2013 gifts. How can I make good recommendations if I haven’t read them? It’s my duty!

Actually, though, I sewed something yesterday (but there aren’t any pictures. It’s no big loss, trust me.) In the process of re-organizing the sewing area, I peeked into the bin that holds all of the clothes we’ve weeded out that may be good candidates for re-fashioning. In there was a skirt that I’d intended to cut down for Bridget last year, but never got around to it. Why must I make such a gigantic project out of every single thing? If it requires any sort of figuring, it just doesn’t get done quickly. Well, I yanked it out, measured the girl, and had a “new” skirt for her in less than an hour. There! A small but significant step in the right direction.

Summer Belongs to Us!

Posted on

Whew! That was a crazy week. I don’t exactly know why it was so crazy, but it felt like it was blowing past me.

Well, I guess I do know why: It was the last week of school. There were just so many loose ends that needed to be wrapped up, like — yes, once again — teacher gifts and such. Primary grades are co-taught at our school, so Joey had two main teachers all year, and they were fabulous. We both loved them! During the spring, they instituted something called “Cookie Bookie” day. The kids would bring a beach towel, a bottle of water, a book, and a cookie, and they would spend a half-hour in the afternoon relaxing with their reads. Joey loved this idea (or he might just have loved saying “cookie bookie”; it is fun to say) so much that we did it at home when he was out sick, and now he wants to institute this fine tradition during the summer. Oh, twist my arm! Anyway, in honor of that, we made up Cookie Bookie buckets for his teachers as a little thank you.

I hope they enjoy a nice, relaxing read sometime this summer — they’ve certainly earned it! And, let me tell you, I’ve enjoyed having a little bit of a breather this week, too. Today was the first day that I felt myself starting to think clearly. Ahhhh…so much better.

I’m sure the feeling will be short-lived — June is jam-packed with goodness — but here’s to enjoying it while it lasts!

Flavor of the Month

I noticed yesterday that This Vintage Chica has declared it Back-to-School Book Week. Today is cookbook day, and it just so happens that I have a brand new favorite to bring to the party.

I am always on the lookout for new inspiration when it comes to everyday cooking, and  Time for Dinner does not disappoint. It has everything I love in a cookbook: great writing, lovely pictures, and — most importantly — recipes that I can actually imagine undertaking on a weeknight. On top of that, the recipe categories are great; it’s like they were written just for me.

Oh, if only (although in my case, it’s because I do the shopping on Thursday). And I love “I Want to Use What I Already Have”, because I often find myself with, say, meat, and have no idea what to serve with it. “Hey”, says Time for Dinner, “I have an idea!”

Well, thank you. Thank you very much.

Yes, one meal only; that is definitely the goal. My kids aren’t what I’d call picky, but their meals often require the personal touch (which is to say: no visible garnishes for one, no choking hazards for the other). As far as I can tell, that’s just life with kids in general. Fine. I’m willing to make a few minor concessions in the name of peace. Besides, heaven forbid if an onion should touch my plate, so I’m not completely unsympathetic.

Of course, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that the reason I absolutely had to get my grubby little paws on the book was two-fold. First, there is a feature in the current issue of Real Simple: Family, which referred to the author of Dinner: A Love Story (who is also the co-author of Time For Dinner) as “the dinner doula”. This recipe was a hit with my crew, so I had to check out the blog. If you haven’t already done so, go now and see it for yourself. I’m telling you, you won’t be sorry you did; it’s such a fun read! And the food is good, too!

May I recommend the Spicy Shrimp with Yogurt?  It holds a special place in my heart now, because my girl gobbled it up. She’s never been a fan of shrimp, choosing instead  to spit out every morsel that somehow made its way into her mouth, and then cleared her tray by sweeping it to the floor…while looking me dead in the eye. Good times. You can imagine my surprise when I saw that both her plate and the area surrounding her chair were clean. We have a winner!

I ordered the book the next day. This week, I plan to go through it a second time and flag a few recipes for next week. I can’t wait!

Now – if I can just make it [through] Wednesday….

Love Song for the Library

I know I’ve shared this before, but I’ll say it again: I love to read. I also love our local library, because they never disappoint me. Many times, I look up a new title, thinking “Yeah, they’re not going to have it”, but they do! Or the have it on order, which means that they will!

My latest pick was Cherries in Winter by Suzan Colón. What a good (and quick), uplifting read for these trying economic times. I loved it. It reminded me, yet again, that we have not even begun to tighten our belts in the way that our parents and grandparents did. That is a reminder which I find oddly comforting, especially since the ads on television that urge you to do-it-yourself  (which of course means a trip to their store to stock up on supplies) usually showcase all the stuff we’re already doing ourselves.

Mom/wife as barber? Check. Watch movies at home? Check check. C’mon—give me something new, here!

[Thankfully, we’re not in drastically tightening mode here, but when a third of my husband’s facility was laid off last fall…well, let’s just say it’s made me more aware.]

Ah, but back to the library—talk about a money saver! A quick glance at last year’s reading list reveals that a hefty part of the books I read in ’09 were borrowed (either from the library, or my equally well-stocked and generous family and friends) and not purchased. I still buy my fair share of books – and happily, I might add – but nowhere near the what came home with me in years past. Thank you, sweet library, for saving me from myself!

As an aside, a quick scan of last year’s book list also showed me that I’d read less than I had the previous year. For a minute, I was a little disappointed in myself. I mean, I hadn’t even finished one book per week. On top of that, it was less than I’d read in 2008, and I had another baby in ’08, for Pete’s sake! Oh, wait. That’s right—I had another baby in ’08. Specifically: November of ’08,  so instead of laying on the couch reading all afternoon (because what else was I supposed to do? I was pregnant!), I was tending to the child who would not be put down. Who would not stop screaming until I put aside whatever was in my free hand [a book, perhaps?]. Yes, that baby. Along those same lines, I figured out why I had so much more trouble getting my Christmas gifts finished in a timely manner. Well, last year, I had a deadline, and one child. This year, I set the same deadline, but there was less cooperation on the part of the young elves. Aren’t those little voices tricky? Don’t believe it! You were never that great!

You know what I mean… .

Freshening Up

There are things that just shouldn’t be shared, and this is probably one of them, but here we go anyway.

When I was in the midst of my frenzied clean sweeping a couple of weeks ago, I took a good look at my washcloths and thought, “These have got to go.”

IMG_2682

Oh, and yes: it’s clean. The rusty spots are, by my best guess, bits of pumpkin facial mask that decided to become one with the cloth. But, before I tossed them, I also thought, “Wait – go where?” Where do old washcloths go? I mean, aside from straight into the trash. You can’t give them away, and I’m certainly not going to work them into a scratchy, dirty looking quilt.

Hello again, Sewing Green. Since you are the one that planted the “where do all the cloths go” question in my head, it’s only right that you provide some inspiration for delaying the process. Having already whipped up a few of the baby washies (using new fabric, mind you, not my old ratty towels!), I knew that I liked the feel of a nice flannel backing. A lot. Plus, as a side note, they have a great heft and don’t turn into a crumpled up kleenex when you’re bathing the baby, unlike the ones you often find in the store. So, I dove into ye olde scrap bin, and found some flannel to revive my tired-looking rags:

IMG_2687

(See? The old ones are still hiding back there.)

IMG_2684

Much easier on the eyes, no? As an added bonus, washing my face with the flannel side leaves my face feeling polished instead of sanded, which is something my rosacea-afflicted cheeks especially appreciate.

Another bonus? I feel like I’ve gotten my full money’s worth out of the aforementioned book. Not only have I actually completed (successfully, no less) more than one project, it’s a really good read. Since my attitude when buying sewing books lately has been, “Well, it’s been a while since I wasted money on books. Why not?”, it seems worth mentioning.

It Pays to Re-Organize

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to (once again) tackle the bookshelves in the living room to improve the general orderliness and also to thin the herd.

I managed to weed out two more boxes to be shipped off to market, and another big carton on which they opted to pass. Can’t imagine why they wouldn’t have a need for ten year old “new” fiction and such, but whatever.

Even better, I discovered in the end that I had an entire shelf worth of books that I’d not yet read.

img_2196

It’s an embarrassment of riches: a whole shelf of unread books! Doesn’t get much more frugal and fabulous than that. I guess I got overly excited when we started going to the library again, and abandoned my own collection altogether. And then there were some new editions come Christmas (thank you!!), and there you have it. It’s like an extra special blessing, considering library trips have slowed to a trickle, and I’m trying very hard to be cheap when it comes to book-shopping.

Now if I could only squeeze in a little more reading-time, but what am I saying? Is there such a thing as “enough” time when it comes to reading?!

Rules Are There for a Reason

Posted on

When I run out of books, and have no idea what to look for at the library, I go browse at Mom’s. (Her personal library is, shall we say, extensive. At least it was until she started culling her collection. See? She’s such a good example.) The last time I “shopped” at her house, I found myself breaking one of my cardinal reading rules by picking up East of Eden.

The rule, you ask? Do not read Steinbeck. Don’t.  No good can come of it.

I’m sorry if I made any of my more literary-minded friends gasp and drop their drinks with that confession, but there you have it. I am not a fan. I don’t know if every school in Northern California was as enthusiastic about Mr. Steinbeck as they were in the district where we lived, but we were introduced to his work at a young age. And let me just say that maybe I wouldn’t have started forming such a negative view if we hadn’t read The Red Pony in the seventh grade. Not to spoil it for any of you, but it doesn’t end well for the pony. Buzzards are involved. I’ve said enough.

In high school, it was on to Cannery Row and Of Mice and Men. I do remember reading the latter, and thinking it was good but depressing; I have no memory of the former, most likely because I never really read it per se, but skimmed it enough to pass the quizzes. Once those two were out of the way, I made my rule and managed to stick with it for twenty years. Still, East of Eden sounded pretty good, and maybe I would appreciate Steinbeck’s writing more as an adult. Worth a shot, right?

Would that I had heeded Reading Rule #2: No more Oprah Book Club picks. Remember A Fine Balance? Remember? [A beautifully written book, by the way, just wonderful. Oh, but more of a downer it could not have been.] Nothing good ever happens to those people! Don’t be fooled again by the “triumph of the human spirit” claims! “Triumph of the human spirit” = “One or more characters will suffer misery after misery”!

So true. So.true.

[Now you know what is at the heart of my rigorous book selection process, if you hadn’t already guessed from my love of YA fiction and books about pastry.  Some tragedy is acceptable, but not too much. Hundreds of pages of bad things happening to good people? Even if they manage to cobble some small bit of happiness together by the end? Not my favorite stories.]

In all seriousness, though, I will have to admit that E of E was a very well-written novel. Heck, I’ll even go so far as to call it a page-turner. Maybe I’m even glad that I read it, if for no other reason than to make sure that I wasn’t stubbornly clinging to the opinions of the 15-year-old me. (Surely no good could come of that either, am I right?) Nonetheless, that girl had a point in this case; the rules are back in effect starting…now! My apologies, ghost of John Steinbeck. And Oprah. Well, no, not O, because would it kill you to pick a thought-provoking novel that didn’t emotionally drain the reader? For once, I mean. I’m just saying.

Plodding Along

Yet again, I marvel at how it tends to be the smallest things that take so much longer than they should. My turtley friend here is the latest example. He should be done, but no; he’s still two steps away from completion. Two steps and probably two days, and we’re talking I only need to stitch on some eyes and sew up his underbelly. [The turtle pattern is another from Bend-the-Rules Sewing, by the way. It really is easy–there’s no reason it’s taken more than a day to complete–but I will caution you to read through all the instructions before diving in. I screwed up the head the first time around, and would’ve caught my error had I done more than just skim before I started sewing. Argh!]

Aside from slow-moving sewing projects, I’ll tell you what else I’ve been enjoying again: reading through my old childhood favorites. [Plug #54 for the wonders of the library.] In the last couple of batches, I re-visited the last two of the Little House series and A Wrinkle in Time. It’s amazing how much more appreciation I have for all three as an adult. I remember loving Madeleine L’Engle’s books the first time around (at about eleven, I think), but I’m pretty sure that the whole spiritual theme was completely lost on me. And I’ll tell you what, if you want to really appreciate the luxuries to which we’ve become accustomed in this day and age, read the Little House books. The woman had a total of four dresses, and she busted out the fancy brown poplin each and every Sunday. Not only that, but as much satisfaction as I get from making something I can actually wear, I cannot imagine having to make my own clothes. From the sounds of it, they just drafted up a pattern for a fairly complicated dress (by my standards, at least), bought an armload of poplin and went to work. And preparing the food! Seriously, reading Laura’s accounts was a humbling experience for this modern, shortcut-seeking housewife.

L-A-Z-Y

As in: too lazy to bother with a picture today.

As in: too lazy to create anything worthy of said picture.

Actually, I’m not sure that “lazy” is the word I’m looking for, but none other comes to mind so it will have to do. Uninspired, perhaps? Yeah…that might be closer to the mark. Yesterday was the real lazy day (but guess what? I couldn’t manage to chronicle it so here we are a day later. Case in point!). I did manage to read most of a book, and since the boy was cooperating, that was pretty much the meat of the day.

Oh, and we did go to the post office to mail the bills and movie.

For some reason, when my brain goes into hibernation like this, I tend to want to do two things (in theory): bake, and sew things that I’ve already made before. I had the sudden urge to crank out some potholders, mostly because I was inspired by something I saw on some kitchen linens in Target last week. But wait: do I need any potholders? Is anyone getting married in the next six months? No? Then it might not be the best time to stock up on them. What I need to do is work on the baby gift that I need for a shower next week, but that’s next week, so…. Yeah—best not to rush right in. And as for the baking, well, that’s not in anyone’s best interest either. I parse out portions for anyone within reach right away, and still I end up eating most of the goods myself. Slowly, mind you, over the course of several days, yet cake twice a day (for several days) is still a heck of a lot of cake. Besides, I couldn’t bake from the couch, so that was out, too.

I’ve started a list, though, so my hopes are high for next week. Yes, I’m already looking to next week; it’s going to be that kind of week, I can tell.

Hey, this brings me to sort of an off-topic question, though. What kind of things do you like to prepare when you’re bringing a meal to another family/household/what have you? For that matter, what types of meals are you happy to receive? I ask this because I have a little bit of a panic attack when I think of preparing meals for other people. I mean, I like to cook, other people have liked things I’ve made, but if I don’t know the family all that well…it makes me really nervous. In fact, I shy away from doing it at all except when it comes to family, even though I’d like to. So come on—dish about your favorite dish!

Junkie Tendencies

Christmas (which seems very long ago as I type this) was a festival of sweets. We finally ran out of delicious cake and cookies about a week into the new year, and declared that it was time for a purification. “Ugh, no more sugar for a while!”, we cried. “Enough already!” And we meant it, for a change.

After a week of that, though, I started missing having a little something good around the house. Hey, there’s nothing to go with my coffee! Nothing for dessert? What is this? And that’s when I realized that I needed to bake again. Sure, a better person would have resisted, but a better person probably wouldn’t have immediately gone poking around in the pantry, frantically looking for supplies, either. So another pumpkin crunch cake was baked, and peace was restored to the land. I’m not sure what I’ll be baking this week, but I already know that something fresh is in order. Fortunately for my waistline, the mere fact that there is a tasty treat in the house makes takes away the obsessive “I have to find something now” aspect out of snacktime, and I found sweets a little less appetizing again. Go figure.

Speaking of obsessive, remember the whole thrilling library card procurement story? Yeah, I’ve been back twice within the week. Books, glorious books! Thanks for the online ordering that now exists, I have three more waiting for me when we return in a couple of days. It’s been very hard for me to do anything but huddle on the couch with my nose stuck in the pages. Now there are deadlines attached to my reading, don’t you know! Of course, thanks to online renewals [I love libraries of the 21st Century!], I can always extend that deadline, but then how could I move on to the next book? No, gotta keep a steady clip here. The first one I breezed through was “Betsy’s Wedding”, the last of the Betsy-Tacy book series. I checked that series out over and over and over when I was a kid. Yes, they’re for kids, but they’re so sweet (almost sickeningly so, but I have to admit I love that in this case) that I had to go back for one more read. It was a good way to start out the year. And it didn’t cost me one slim dime. Huzzah!