Friday, December 31, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
This post comes courtesy of Sue at Book by Book who posted about Book Pages Top 40 Books of 2010 and Amazon's Best Books of 2010. Of course, I had to check out those lists and was pleased to see that while I have read only a handful of the books on the two lists, I was familiar with the vast majority of them - some of which sit on my tbr list and some of which I had decided not to read. Reading Sue's post and looking over those lists made me realize that I have strong feelings about some of those books, which I have yet to share here. So thanks to Sue for inspiring me to write this post of mini book reviews.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Way back in August I mentioned that I had attended an author talk and book signing by Ann Hood, author of The Red Thread. At that time, Ann mentioned in passing that she has been to a member of the audience's home to attend her book club meeting. After the meeting, my friend Colleen and I approached Ann and (nervously) asked her if she would be willing to come to our book club to discuss her book. And she said yes! Well, that meeting finally happened last Thursday and I am happy to report that it surpassed our wildest expectations.
In all my gushing, let's not forget the book itself. The Red Thread is a terrific book about 6 couples who decide, for a variety of reasons, to adopt little girls from China. It is also the story of Maya, who owns the The Red Thread Adoption Agency, and has her own very personal reasons for being in this business. The story follows each couple from their orientation at the adoption agency to the day they pick up their long awaited daughters in China. Each of the characters is very well developed and each one is flawed in their own ways. What I was most impressed with was that I could see myself in or identify with each and every one of them. That really impressed me. But, I think the thing I liked most about The Red Thread is that Ann Hood not only tells the stories of the adoptive families, she also presents us with the stories of the families that give up their daughters for adoption. And, like the American couples, each one does so for a variety of reasons. It was a delightful surprise when I came to the story of the first Chinese mother. I was not expecting that and I appeciated seeing their stories as well as the stories of the adoptive mothers. Doing this added a richness and fullness to the story which made the "adoption story" fresh and new. I would give The Red Thread 4 stars - I really liked it!
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Oh my! If you've been following my blog for a while, you can imagine the terror this inspired in me. Me, the woman who hates to cook. The woman who pondered Me? A French Chef, after seeing Julie and Julia with her husband and deciding (quite illogically) to go out and immediately buy Julia Child's cookbook thinking she and her hubby would bond over cooking Julia's recipes. And who upon opening said cookbook and actually reading one of those recipes, promptly closed it and ordered take out! Yeah, that woman's daughter just volunteered to bake a complicated French pastry during an 8 MINUTE segment on
Thank goodness Madeleine is incredibly independent and never requires any help from us when it comes to her school projects. She worked incredibly hard on this project. She spent the better part of a week gathering all the "props" she would need, making dough and croissants and preparing her segment. She presented it much like you would see a cooking segment on The Today Show. She had all the ingredients pre-measured and mixed them together on air. Then she whipped out a bowl of dough,which had already risen the requisite 4 hours, she then rolled it out, showed some pre-cut and the finished project. It was all very well done. We even got her a chef's coat and hat to wear (at the last minute she was too embarrassed to wear the hat). We were so impressed with how seriously she took this assignment and what a good job she did. The experience even gave her the idea that maybe she will do her senior project around some aspect of baking! In typical Madeleine fashion, she is always thinking ahead!
She that she does get from me! As a matter of fact, I just had a great idea about what I can do with that Julia Child Cookbook. I can wrap it up and give it to my little French Chef for Christmas. See what I meant about thinking ahead?
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Margaret is a dear, dear friend of mine who I have known since Katie and her twin boys were in kindergarten. She also has a daughter who is the same age at Madeleine. Our kids have grown up together and our families are close. But it's not just our kids who have grown up together. Margaret and I have grown as parents, wives and women together. We joke about spending our advanced old age in the same nursing home. Anyway, I decided to invite Margaret to join me on my "retreat" since she is experiencing many of the same adjustments as she navigates her way through having her oldest children leave for college. Margaret and I have done a little traveling in the past and we like the same things - books, art, museums, history (wild and crazy, I know). It seemed like the perfect fit. I would get my time away from life to regroup AND I would be able to do it with a friend who "gets" it.
Sandy helped me find and book a room at Vacation Villages in Hancock, MA in the Berkshire Mountains.
Freedom from Want
Image from Google
We also got to tour his studio, which was moved onto the site of the museum after his death.
After touring the museum we explored the tiny town of Stockbridge and had lunch at the famous Red Lion Inn.
Overall the town itself was disappointing - not much there beside the Inn. But it was cool to see the site immortalized in Rockwell's famous painting - Main St, Stockbridge.
I'm embarrassed to admit that I knew little or nothing about Wharton and what I learned on the tour intrigued me enough that I borrowed a Young Adult biography of her from the library and read it when I got home. Edith was a fascinating woman who led a rich and interesting life. If you are at all interested, the book is The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton by Wooldridge. The visit has also inspired me to add at least one of her books to my tbr list. I think I'll start with The Age of Innocence, for which she won the Pulitzer (the first woman to be awarded that prize).
Unlike the Stockbridge Library, the Lenox library was open and Margaret and I decided to look around. It was unbelievably beautiful inside and I could just picture myself spending hours and hours sitting in this room reading. *sigh*
When we went into the main building to explore, we were both surprised to find that the atmosphere inside was not particularly silent, hushed or reverent. There were lots of women milling around in yoga gear talking and laughing. There was also a large white board posted on the wall that showed each day's yoga offerings in addition to classes specific to the various workshops being offered that week. Margaret knows two women who have spent time at Kripalu. One comes every year for a weekend retreat, all by herself. The other has come once for a week long retreat. I must admit it was intriguing to me. I have taken a handful of yoga classes in the past, but have never become an aficionado. I am, however, interested in exploring this as a potential source of exercise. Who knows, maybe a Kripalu retreat is in my future.
I spent the rest of that day in the room reading, relaxing and thinking. And the next day, I knew I was ready to go home and step back into my life. I guess sometimes we just need the world to stop so that we can catch our breaths and evaluate our emotional responses. At times, that is easier done when we can remove ourselves from the demands of everyday life. I know that I benefited greatly from Pam and Margaret's Rejuvenation Retreat. I feel so fortunate to have had that opportunity. And I am grateful to Sandy and Dad for affording me it to me and to Geoff and Madeleine for encouraging me to take it and to stay until I felt completely ready to come home. I am so lucky.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
For the last several days I've had several ideas for blog posts swirling around in my head. Unfortunately, I don't seem to be able to get any of them to crystallize into a full blog post. So today I'm writing the Cliffs Notes version of several blog posts:
Books: I have read a couple of really good books recently, but since I didn't get a review written in a timely fashion, I can no longer remember enough details about them to write a full a review. So here's what I remember:
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls - excellent book by the author of The Glass Castle. This time she tells the story of her maternal grandmother (Lily?) who was without a doubt a woman ahead of her time. Lily admired Scarlett O'Hara because "[s]he was tough, she was sassy, she knew what she wanted, and she never let anything or anyone get in her way." The same could be said of Lily herself. 'Nough said! 4 stars.
Room by Emma Donaghue - this is the first book in recent memory that I couldn't wait to get back to every time I had to put it down. Room tells the story of a 29 year old unnamed woman who is kidnapped at age 22 and kept hostage in a hidden room. In time she gives birth to a little boy, Jack, who has only a rudimentary knowledge of the world "Outside". The story is told from 5 year old Jack's perspective and it is absolutely fascinating. 4 stars.
Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda - Secret Daughter tells the story of Kavita a poor Indian woman who secretly gives up her baby daughter for adoption to avoid its death. At the same time Somer, an American woman and her Indian husband decide to adopt a child from India after learning the devastating news that Somer is infertile. Gowda deftly intertwines the stories of Kavita, Somer and the child that binds them together while presenting the story from the perspective of all three women. 4 stars.
Theater - I have seen two very good plays in the month of November:
Oklahoma! - I had never seen this play or movie before, so while I was expecting it to be old-fashioned and corny, I was not expecting it to be somewhat racy and to deal with some very serious issues. What a suprise!
Absurd Person Singular - This play really demonstrated to me in a very overt way that different people can have very different reactions to the same play - especially if the play is a "dark comedy". Geoff and I attended this play with friends and while I focused more on the comedy and found the play to be hilarious, my friend couldn't look past the very serious and dark events happening on stage and didn't see the humor in the story. When we shared our views with each other on the ride home, we both wondered why we didn't see the other side. It occurred to me that this is the beauty and power of live theater. It can evoke such emotional and divergent responses in the audience. Fascinating!
Politics: The more you know, the more frustrated you become. I have never been an overly political person, but this mid-term election cycle I decided to pay more attention and educate myself on the races - local, state and federal. I even attended a deadly boring Town Council meeting earlier this week. And now I'm frustrated, annoyed and riled up. I have the absolute wrong personality for this. I get way too emotional and have far too little patience for the nonsense. Not to mention that the president and one member of our Town Council were at times extremely rude to residents who got up to speak at the meeting. It made me furious. I liked it better when I was uninformed and blissfully ignornant! I'm not sure I can go back to putting my head in the sand, but I wish I had never taken in out.
Aging: You know you are old when sleeping in on a weekday holiday means you don't get up until 7:19 am. Ugh! Even worse is when you decide that you really should start exercising so you decide that since you are getting older and haven't really worked out in any serious way in years, that you should start with something gentle and easy - like yoga. Let me tell you, nothing brings home how old you are like realizing you have absolutely no flexibility left. And when you wake up the next day (after sleeping in until 7:19 am), your muscles feel like you ran the NYC marathon. Yup. I'm old!
Friday, November 5, 2010
So why has it been so emotionally draining? Because I can't stop worrying and obsessing about all those little "problems" that creep up. When she calls to talk to me about them (for which I am eternally grateful. And Katie, if you are reading this, please do not think I don't want you to continue to share your ups and downs with me), I then worry about whatever it is that is going on. It is so hard not to see her every day so that I can gauge by her demeanor, attitude, or by simply asking her how it's going. And, of course, the next time we talk/text everything has worked out and the problem is long over. But, I've still been thinking about it. To be fair, I figured this out fairly quickly and it's not so much of a problem now but it has contributed to this feeling of being completely drained and overwhelmed.
It didn't help that during one of the most trying times, Geoff was away on business for TWO WEEKS - in Europe. So while we did talk on the phone a few times, I couldn't really get into the whole emotional mess during a transatlantic phone call. Those were a difficult two weeks.
Thankfully, I am beginning to feel a whole lot better. I think I have a handle on all of this and as Katie moves forward in her first semester at college, there are fewer and fewer adjustments to be made. And she truly is handling everything so well, that I really don't have anything to worry about. It just took a little while to get to this point. What I've learned from all of this is that it's not only the students who have to adjust to college life. Parents do, too. And in ways I wasn't expecting.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Geoff and I stumbled upon a very cool diner Friday night on our way to Katie's school. And we ended up back there for lunch on Saturday with Katie. Geoff was beside himself with joy! He has yet to meet a diner he doesn't like!
We also took Katie shopping at a nearby outlet mall. Unlike the diner, this was not all that joyful for Geoff. But he was a good sport and indulged us.
Saturday night we met up with some friends of ours who coincidentally also have a freshman at Katie's school. It was great catching up with them and being able to introduce Katie to their son. He is a very friendly guy and it's nice for each of them to have another friendly face on campus.
On Sunday, Geoff's parents drove up and we spent the morning showing them around campus and the town and getting brunch in the student union. By early afternoon, we all said goodbye amidst a few moist eyes and lots of long hugs. As great as it is to see each other, saying goodbye each time makes it a little bittersweet. As of right now Katie is talking about coming home in a couple of weekends. We'll see if that all pans out. In the meantime, I have my fingers crossed.
Sorry I have no pictures to share. The weekend was just so relaxed and casual, I didn't want to upset the "normal family time" by constantly taking and posing for pictures.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
It's a very low key weekend. We play games, read, eat, watch a little TV, sit by the lake, walk the dogs around the block and we usually make one excursion to explore the area.
This year we visited a gorgeous little waterfall on a stream that ran through the woods. It was nature at its best. The kids had a great time climbing up the side of the waterfall and rockhopping back and forth across the stream. The adults enjoyed it too. And so did Rosey. Everyone was in their glory.