Posts filed under ‘Book Club’
Alex just sent me this link and now I can’t wait for the movie to be released!
My grandmother, Betty has been known for a lot of things…but mostly, for her cooking. She’s scrappy with a sharp, sometimes crass tongue and a love for NBA basketball. She’ll keep you on your toes for sure and will always surprise you with what’s going to come out of her mouth next.
I have sooo mannny fond memories of my grandmother, who we fondly call Nannie. I know it’s spelt “Nanny” but I have spelt it with the “ie” ever since I can remember. Most of my memories revolve around her kitchen, she’s had quite a few kitchens in her lifetime but the smells, tastes, and sounds coming out of them are always the same. I know her well for her eggs and bacon that she’d make us in the morning while she would just make herself an English muffin with heaps of butter and a cup of English tea. Other family favorites are her spaghetti sauce, eggplant parmesan (you’d swear she was Italian), potato salad, chicken noodle soup, and her holiday cherry bars.
She’d been talking about putting together a cookbook of her most well known recipes for quite some time. Finally, while out visiting her this past July I decided to help her out and created “Betty’s Best” using blurb.com. I started by copying all of her recipes that she wanted in the book by hand…we couldn’t find most of them and she had to tell them to me. There were many rounds of spelling and grammar checks, then I designed a custom cover and started using the blurb.com interface to build it. Sprinkled throughout are old black and white family photos.
The best part was all family members who were interested in a copy were able to go onto blurb.com after I uploaded the cook book to order as many copies for themselves as they wanted. She called me after she received hers in the mail and while she’s a woman that becomes bashful sometimes when it comes time to say “thank you,” I could tell that she was really touched and thought it came out great.
I’ve used the book quite a few times already. There were always a handful of recipes that I’d always be calling her for so she could rattle off the ingredients and steps to me, those include: her famous banana bread (secret ingredient: sour cream and banana extract) and her Continental Cake Frosting!
My mom is currently out in Scottsdale, Arizona taking care of her while she recovers from hip replacement surgery. As she’s old and has quite a few preexisting conditions her recovery will more than likely be on the slow side. She’s a tough woman and her scrappy side is bound to shine through soon.
And it was fabulous.
I decided to take a half day off work because my favorite blogger, who also happens to write books, was doing a book reading at BookPeople in downtown Austin. I had been way too excited about this event since February and even pre-ordered the book (It Sucked and Then I Cried) from Amazon. More on this later…
After I left work I did some shopping. I had the urge to buy myself some things. I just needed some new stuff. That new stuff came in the form of a green tunic from Target and a pretty laundry basket. Yes, even buying a laundry basket makes me excited. I thought to myself, “Now doing laundry will be just so much easier!” I’ve been doing laundry for the past 3 years without one, and whenever I transport handfuls of laundry from the laundry room to the bedroom socks and underwear go rogue.
Later on in my afternoon of “me time” I strolled into Anthropologie with every intention of buying myself something so adorable I couldn’t stand it. I found that adorable something on the sale dress rack for $29. And as I walked hopefully with it to the dressing room I had doubtful thoughts of how it would fit. When it fit perfectly I wanted to jump and down like a cheerleader on Red Bull. I fought the urge and strolled out with a triumphant smile on my face. I even half expected the check out girl to be jealous of my find…she wasn’t.
I also treated myself to a pedicure. Something I usually only do about once a year…I feel that that’s the amount of time my feet take to become gross and in need of some stranger to score the dead skin off my heels. (P.S. I am a fiend about pumicing my feet and really do feel that the salon folk breathe a sigh of relief when they see my well maintained heels). I tried a nail place I had never tried before…I saw it out the window and decided that I needed to stop there. My hour long foot experience rocked and only had a few downsides:
plus: the lady didn’t speak to me, which I prefer because I want to concentrate on how good everything feels.
plus: she massaged my feet and legs on two separate occasions.
minus: while massaging my feet and legs she stared into my eyes without blinking, the whole time! I had to think serious thoughts in order to not smile nervously. Also while this was going she would hold my foot in a way that I could feel her under wire with my toes. AWKWARD.
plus: she used a damp, steaming hot towel to wrap around my feet. it felt sublime.
minus: she made the side of my big toe on my right foot bleed. ouchie.
But my toesies look great and I wore heeled sandals today just to show them off!
So the book reading, it was so great. I showed up extra early because my OCD totally kicked in and I had to sit in the front row so I could look into Heather Armstrong’s eyes while she told me funny stories. The place really filled up and most people ended up having to stand. Heather read a passage from her book, one of my favorite passages that came from the chapter entitled, “If your wife is pregnant, maybe you should skip this one.” Basically going into grave detail about how her and her husband weren’t able to reconvene the “procedure” after natural child birth for a whole seven months after the baby was born. It was funny seeing bystanders’ reactions, the ones who had no idea who this woman was, especially if they had young children in tow. She also read her favorite blog post from this year from her iPhone. I’m desperately trying to find that post on her site, because I had tears running down my face from laughing so hard.
Afterwards she opened the floor for questions and then signed books. I was so beyond thrilled to talk to her about how happy her writing makes me and how we have twin dogs.
It was a good day, I drove home that evening with a smile on my face and freshly painted toes.
You know your husband is the cutest nerd EVER when he goes on a man date with another coworker to the Austin Symphony to listen to them play video game soundtracks. I’m not making any of that sentence up! Alex and his friend Bob met up this evening with video game t-shirts and headed downtown for a night out. First they’ll “man it up” at Hut’s, an Austin institution for the best burger you’ll ever eat and then off to the Long Center for some gamer music at its finest!
So I have the house to myself this evening! What to do, what to do?
I started by cleaning out the pantry. Wooo out of control! “Hey, it needed to be done!”
Then bought a tub of Peanut Butter Cup cookie dough from some neighbor kids I’d never met before. I couldn’t say no. “Hey I’m your new neighbor who’s too cheap to buy a tub of $14 cookie dough!” Those kids’ll get ya every time. I’ll always have popcorn, wrapping paper, and cookie dough on hand thanks to them.
Next I made myself some marvelous Chicken Coconut Curry and Roasted Asparagus. I feel the need to capitalize the food items because food is really important to me. And may I add that I left the Roasted Asparagus in the oven just long enough (with salt, cracked pepper, and olive oil) that the ends were crispy and amazing times ten, NO times a MILLION! I literally closed my eyes while chewing.
While I was still eating I popped in Mama Mia, my mom had lent us the DVD weeks ago and we never got around to watching. Ask me why we didn’t watch it two weeks ago when I suggested it to Alex! No need, it was because it wasn’t widescreen and he literally said, “I refuse.” SNOB!
So I watched it with Saci and we had a great time! It was corny and cute like all musicals. And I have to throw this out there because I’ve seen two movies in the past week where a wedding scene was dramatically interrupted and I HATE THAT! I can’t get over feeling anxious and stressed out for the person in the movie that would be thinking, “THEY’RE RUINING THE WEDDING!” ugh. so yeah, if you haven’t seen it…there’s a wedding interruption. Beware.
Finally I took a bubble bath with what was left of the luxurious bath bubbles and put on about ten different types of lotions and oils. Saci the dog sat on the bathroom mat looking even more concerned than usual. There could have been a number of things that had set her off. (1) I had Little Wayne playing kind of loud from the bedroom whilst in the tub (2) She was probably worried that she was about to get her first bath in the new house or (3) It’s usually her father that takes the baths and uses all of the luxurious bath bubbles.
So now I’m sitting here…contemplating my next move. I’m pretty sure I’m going to pick up It Sucked and Then I Cried from the night stand again. It’s a book I’ve been waiting for for at least three months written by Heather Armstrong, creator of one of my favorite blogs. I got it in the mail 3 days ago and really love it so far. I love her cynical/honest/hilarious/dramatic stories and think how lucky I am that I’ve never had to clean dog vomit off me, the dog, and the car while being 4 months pregnant and experiencing the worst nausea ever created by man. She’s currently on the book tour and I’m greatly anticipating her stop in Austin on April 8th. I even took a half day off at work for the occasion…so maybe I’m a huge dork just like Alex.
I bet he’s swaying to the gamer music as I type. Sweet sweet nerd.
Today’s topic – Books (Alec, my personal encyclopedia, picked it)
Alright books. I like books. I like to read them, set beverages on them, use them as doorstops (kidding), and collect them in unattractive stacks in the corner of my office. We’re in serious need of two new desks, a filing cabinet, and a bookshelf for the office. IKEA will do us good once we get around to that nook of the house. One thing at a time….we need to lend our attention and funds to the lack of landscaping first!
Back to books! About three months ago I was on a roll with books. Picking one up and being able to finish it within the week before moving onto the next. Since then I’ve fell into a book reading lull. Perhaps because the one I’m currently reading is reading a bit slow for me. But because I can’t quit things I refuse to cast it aside just yet. I’ll force feed myself the dialogue if I have to. To be fair though…it’s getting better.
I have a pile of books I need to read sitting on my unorganized desk at home…mocking me. Titles include: How to be Lost, The Daily Coyote, It Sucked and Then I Cried, and about five others whose titles are escaping me. I’m also not one of those people that can read more than one book at a time. I start confusing characters and story lines and it’s just better for everyone if I just stick to one until I finish it.
So now that you’re aware of my book reading/organizing neuroses I can move on to the architectural structures that house them…known to most as libraries. Oh man I love these places. They’re houses of knowledge where nerds flock and ideas flourish.
As a kid my mom would take us to the Austin Public Library weekly, we’d pick out books that she would read to us at bedtime and wander aimlessly by ourselves through the non-children sections. I remember telling the librarian my name was “Katie Lewey” because I SO wished my name was Katie when I was 5. I guess I was a very convincing tot because that’s the name that was put on my library card. My mom loved it.
I also have vivid memories of looking in wonder at a breastfeeding book when I was about 5 or 6…I couldn’t put the thing down. And on each subsequent trip back to BookStop I would covertly bee line it to that particular book shelf and that particular book to sneak a peek. I was a sick kid I guess…whatever haters…it’s completely normal, I was curious! pssh.
In any case, I think I turned out pretty normal despite my “menacing” behavior in libraries and book stores. I blame the books, they sparked my creativity and curiosity. And dangit, I NEEDED TO KNOW HOW I WAS NOURISHED AS AN INFANT!
These days I enjoy old historic libraries the most. On our family’s last trip to NYC, years and years ago, we visited the New York Public Library. It was awe inspiring and quiet and creepy (good creepy). I could spend weeks there…with small fresh air breaks to get the “old book” smell out of my nostrils. It’s one of those smells that smells good at first but the “after smell” gets ya.
In need of a great read going into the New Year? I recommend that all readers out there pick up “Who By Fire” by Diana Spechler. I finished this novel a few days ago and immediately started reading the “Insights, Interviews, & More…” in the back of the book. I usually leave those sections for a few days later…I was really sad the story was over!
“Who By Fire” tells a story of a Jewish family from New Jersey that deals with unimaginable heartbreak, loss, and forgiveness. Each member of the family dealing with these separate emotions in their own way, Spechler takes us on a journey of a mother’s desperation, a sister’s plea, and a brother’s repentance.
Upon finishing the book, I contacted Diana to tell her how much I enjoyed her first book and to ask her a few questions!
An Interview with Diana Spechler:
While growing up what did you want to be? Did you have plans of becoming an astronaut or were you always set on writing?
I did NOT want to be an astronaut. Especially after what happened to the Challenger. I always loved to write better than I loved to do anything else. I declared my college major as creative writing when I was still a senior in high school.
Did you name any of your characters after friends/family members?
No. I’m a big fan of names that aren’t really names. I love the name Bits, but I’ve never known a Bits.
Are any of your characters’ personalities based on the personalities of your friends/family members?
My characters are often composites. I will take pieces of lots of people’s personalities and appearances and combine them into a single character. Often, I begin by basing a character on someone I know, but by the time I’ve finished writing the story, the character (at least in my opinion) is unrecognizable. He’s just him; my initial inspiration is forgotten.
What’s your favorite go-to movie…the one you’ve seen at least 20 times?
As an adult, I don’t really re-watch movies. Years ago, when Wayne’s World came out, I must have gone to see it in the theater nine weekends in a row, but (oh my god, wait, did I really just admit that?) now I have so little time to see movies, I don’t like to waste a movie night on a repeat. Okay, wait…except Waiting for Guffman. I can always make time for Waiting for Guffman.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?
I want to go everywhere. I guess Thailand is on the top of my list right now because everyone says it’s so cheap, and…well, I’m an artist. And we’re in a recession. So.
What’s your best weapon to battle writer’s block?
I keep great fiction near my computer. When I’m blocked, I read it. Currently, that book is a collection of short stories by Rebecca Curtis called Twenty Grand. It’s a masterpiece. I can open it up to any page and feel inspired to write.
What’s one of your long-term goals?
I want to write lots of books and support myself on my writing.
Thanks so much Diana and “happy writing” while you work on your second novel, which is based on Diana’s experiences of working at a weight loss camp!
A few weeks ago I finished a travel memoir by Rita Golden Gelman called Tales of a Female Nomad. The book covers nearly two decades or her travels across the globe beginning in the early 80s and ending after the millennium.
After realizing she was part of a marriage that just wasn’t working she sells most her possessions and moves to Mexico to find herself and live with native peoples. After her lengthy trip to Mexico she becomes addicted to the idea of hopping on a plane with a far away destination in mind and exploring humanity.
I always knew that Americans were a less trusting group of people…but it became very evident while reading this book. I found it amazing and bizarre how she would land in an exotic land, make a friend, and would have a place to stay by the end of the conversation.
Her writing style worked extremely well for me in that she knew she had a lot to write about and didn’t focus too much on any one subject. I would have to describe the book as fleeting, always interesting, and leaving the reader wanting more!
I found it endearing at the end of the book where she gave readers the opportunity to email her at her PERSONAL email address. Just goes to show how very trusting and genuine she is!
For all the travelers and wannabe travelers out there….it’s a good, QUICK read.
Two more of my book club books arrived in the mail a few days ago. Those being the aforementioned Kitchen Confidentiall and A Bone in the Throat by Bourdain.
I’ve since delved into Kitchen Confidential and am loving it. It’s such a quick read filled with Bourdain’s childhood memories in his father’s homeland (France) discovering the importance of food for the first time and his first stints as a line chef in his adulthood. His writing style is hilarious, vulgar, and demands the reader’s respect.
Needless to say I couldn’t be enjoying it more. I’ve been unwinding with this book for the past few nights sipping tea that tastes like this shampoo smells. I know, strange, that I’m bringing up the shampoo but I bought a bottle of it in college and could never get over how good the stuff smelt.
…now I can’t get over how good this tea tastes, how annoying of me to not even know the brand or name of the tea. Perhaps I’ll mention it in another post when I’m more knowledgeable about the product. But of course, I digress…if you’re a fellow foodie, have ever worked in the food industry, or just want to laugh while reading…read this book. It’s great!
A few weeks ago I made a pact with myself to read more. More books, more magazine articles, more cnn.com……Just Read More! I’d have to admit that I’ve acquired most of my worldly knowledge through the Food Network, the Travel Channel, TLC, and the Discovery Channel. All are great resources, but there’s just something about the written word that transcends all other aspects of media.
In the beginning of April Alex took me to a Thai cooking class at a woman’s house in NE Austin. I even wrote a post about it :-) There we met three other Thai cooking novices, one of whom was married to a novelist by the name of Amanda Eyre Ward. The lady teaching the class, Jam, had even read her latest novel and raved about how great it was! I took his wife’s name and finally four days ago…
…I bought the book and just finished it this morning. Forgive Me is an extremely quick and enjoyable read. I’m one of the unlucky ones burdened with “slow reading syndrome” but find that only effects me with material I’m not interested in reading…makes senes! Ward’s way of storytelling is effortlessly descriptive and subtle at the same time.
With her dazzling prose and resonant themes, Amanda Eyre Ward has joined the ranks of such beloved American novelists as Anne Tyler and Ann Patchett. Gripping, darkly humorous, and luminous, Forgive Me is an unforgettable story of dreams and longing, betrayal and redemption.
So yes, I’m reading more. And even though my favorite Rhode Islander is a well-read lass already we’ve decided to enroll ourselves in our very own book club. Basically each of us will read three books and upon completion will send them to one another. Thus expanding our minds with six books for the price of three + shipping!
I already purchased my next two books on Amazon and am expecting Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidentially and A Bone in the Throat. I’m extremely excited to read both. Bourdain would definitely be one of the 3 guests I’d invite to my imaginary celebrity dinner party, Ellen Degenerous being the second, and the third is TBD! Anthony’s “No Reservations” gets DVRed every week. I’m addicted to his sarcastic cynicism and knowledgeable outlook concerning the nasty bits.
What are you reading? Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” is also on my book queue…any other suggestions would be much appreciated!