Tuesday, March 31, 2009
This one had such promise. I was looking for a light, fun, read. This one seemed like it fit the bill perfectly. The description from Publishers Weekly describes the book as follows:
Ripe with Southern charm and sultry atmosphere, West's diverting and funny latest unravels the tangled gossamer web of an eccentric extended Southern family. At the heart of the novel is Renata DeChavannes, who has a pretty full plate: a tabloid ran a story about her longtime film director boyfriend's possible on-set fling with an actress; her mother and step-father died in a plane crash five months ago; her father is about to marry his fourth wife (a squeaky-voiced young thang named Joie); and she's just found a letter written by her mother instructing her to ferret out her mother's dirty secrets. So Renata heads to her Gulf Coast Alabama hometown, where her indomitable grandmother Honora DeChavannes; steadfast former nanny Gladys Boudreax; and Honora's longtime friend and former actress, Isabella D'Agostina McGeehee, live. The story flies by, loaded with grand parties, sumptuous Southern meals, multiple affairs and harrowing calamities.
The book, however left me flat. I didn't really care much about the characters and nothing in the story really moved me. There were some amusing moments and the story held my attention, but the book had several major flaws.
First, there are a lot of characters, which in and of itself is not terrible, but we just don't get into their heads like we need to in order to care about them. Louie and Shelby, the protagonist's parents are spoken about in great detail throughout the book and yet remain an enigma to the reader somehow. I am not sure why, though I think perhaps that there are so many subplots that it takes away from character development.
Next, the protagonist, Renata is only mildly likable. I really wanted to like her, too, but she seems to put very little thought into her actions, which is frustrating at best. She is definitely not a strong character and for someone who is part of the entertainment business, she seems excessively naive. This is not a deal killer, but it does take away from the book, if not when reading, then in retrospect.
Further, the "dirty secrets" Renata has been told to uncover aren't all that dirty. Obviously when you get deep into the details of the sexual exploits of one's unfaithful parents, it's not all rainbows and sunshine, but to the outsider, it's not that shocking. And it could work, but the tension buildup to the not-so-dirty secrets is a big one. Perhaps less suspense and the acknowledgment that these thins are shocking to the adult child of the adulterers alone would have made the revelations work better to someone observing from outside the family.
Lastly, the chapters are told from not only Renata's point of view but several other characters' and this is a little confusing, but not overly so. However, they are told from a flashback perspective rather than someone looking back and recalling the past and the way that is done is a bit odd. It doesn't not work at all, but it was distracting.
Early in the book in a 1966 newspaper clipping, Houston's Rice Medical Center is mentioned. Now, Houston has a large world-class medical center, but it is not known as the Rice Medical Center. We do have Rice University here and the Rice name is a prominent one in the city. Either the author made a mistake, made it up for the book, or the medical center was indeed known as the Rice medical Center in the 1960's. If anyone knows the answer to this, please link me up.
However, the book is overall fairly entertaining and especially for the true Southerner, will probably bring back some childhood memories. It's worth a library check-out, particularly if you are already a fan of this author, but I definitely wouldn't recommend buying it.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Last year we missed all the hunts. I was some 15 months pregnant with Babybeast (or looked it, anyway) and wasn't really into it. That and from my fuzzy recollection, I seem to think we had an overnight emergency of sorts the night before - barfing, perhaps? Regardless, we didn't go and I still feel bad about it, so this year we are going to find one, rain or shine.
Most of the egg hunts here are conducted by big churches. I'm in Texas and like they say, people seem to do everything big here: hair, lawsuits, belt buckles, crazy, trucks, appetites, scandal, attitudes, and so on. Churches are no exception. Our family doesn't attend church, so I'm not real keen on edging into someone's religious holiday with our nonreligious empty Easter baskets held out like beggars. Doesn't seem right.
On the other hand, many of the big churches send out postcards advertising their egg hunts as "Open to the Community." I'm not entirely sure if this is meant as purely community outreach or community recruitment, but "open to the community" would seem to me to mean open to even empty Easter baskets owned by those who have no intention of ever returning, except possibly next year around the same time, with the same empty basket.
I found a Methodist church that's just down the road (I have several Big Churches within a five minute drive) that says it's Saturday Easter activities are open to the community and will feature an egg hunt, crafts, Easter bunny, and so on. Obviously "open to the community" means, "we hope to get you to join our church" but I also hope it means, "but we're cool if you aren't interested" and if so, that's mighty nice of them.
I admit I'm a bit sensitive about these things since I attended a Very Big Baptist Church once during junior high school with a girlfriend I had stayed overnight with and the next week three church representatives showed up at my house to try to convert my Episcopalian family and weren't keen on taking no for an answer. The lesson learned from that was to never, NEVER, under any circumstance, sign your name on the guest list.
Another option, of course, is to locate some sort of secular egg hunt, probably sponsored by local businesses and I'd go to one of those, providing I can locate one, which I have not yet. So technically, it's not really an option until I can actually find one, is it? I'll keep looking.
And I'm actually thinking of having my own egg hunt - inviting a few neighborhood kids to come over and look for eggs. The thing is, my back yard is really dull - mostly grass and not much of a challenge to egg finders, so I'm at a loss as to where to hold it. I suppose I could do it in the front yard....this is going to require some thought....hmm.
I'll report back when I figure it all out. If you are in the area, feel free to send me your egg hunt recommendations.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
....everyone was fed, watered, bathed, scrubbed, dressed, teeth brushed, books read, and in bed.
The boys have 30 minutes to read in their own beds. The girl has been out cold since 6:45.
The toys are put away, the carpet is vacuumed, the tile floors are steamed, the dishes are done and put away, the recycling is organized and put out for pick-up, and all fifty million loads of laundry is clean and put away.
This is the difference between Mama on her own and Mama when Grandma and Grandpa visit for the afternoon and play with the kids to I can actually get things done. Three cheers for grandparents!!!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I think the Bunny needs to hold off on bringing sugary treats this year. I've been sugar free for two weeks now and I'm not sure I could stand the temptation. The Beastlings have never gotten a lot of candy at holidays anyway, but I'm not willing to push my luck right now.
I do think everyone should have a chocolate rabbit in their basket, but it doesn't have to be a big one. I'll get a good quality chocolate one rather than the cheaper massive ones they sell. That cheap "chocolate" is full of partially hydrogenated nastiness anyway.
And then they will get some trinkets, a book or two, maybe some non-candy snacks, some play-doh toys and matchbox cars, and that will be it. I won't be tempted to eat the play-doh, at least.
And they will get plenty candy from their school egg hunts. I suggested that the classes fill the eggs with stickers and things other than sweets but that went over like a lead balloon. I should have expected that, but it was worth a try.
I could really go for a Cadbury Creme Egg right now. Or three.
Here's a maze to keep the little'uns busy. Click and enlarge.
P.S. Here's a very interesting (and somewhat disturbing) article on High Fructose Corn Syrup everyone should read.
Monday, March 23, 2009
I walked out with a very full cart, a very empty wallet, and little recollection of what happened in between.
You know those samples they are always handing out? I think there might be some mind-altering substance in them. That would explain a lot, actually. Hmmm.
And on top of that, it seems I forgot to buy the fish oil so I have to go back tomorrow! Doh!
My theory may need some fine tuning, but there's definitely a conspiracy at work.
It was good. Good and spooky. Not gory or overly violent or anything too distressing, just good and spooky. A little predictable in parts, perhaps, but definitely a nice weekend read. In fact, she has another in the series coming out in the fall and I intend to pick it up once it is out.
I'd write more, but I'm beat, so it's off to bed for me. Maybe tomorrow.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I got these two books from a friend. Thank god, too, because I'd be pretty miffed if I spent my own cash on them and I'll tell you why.
Eat This, Not That! Thousands of Simple Food Swaps that Can Save You 10, 20, 30 Pounds--or More! by David Zinczenko and its companion book Eat This Not That! Supermarket Survival Guide: The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution are both superstars in the diet book world right now - hugely popular, as the ratings on Amazon and other book sites can attest. Why, precisely, I'm not sure, but I think it has a lot to do with the snappy title, because there is little to no actual substance inside the books.
The author is preoccupied with calories. And of course calories count. But so does nutrition and Mr. Zinczenko and crew seemingly forgot about that part of the health equation. In a stroke of irony, the author is editor in chief of Men's Health magazine.
The first one concerns itself with eating out for the most part. That was actually strike one since I do not eat out all that often, but I can hardly hold that against him. More importantly, in both books, the author makes mention of fiber and sodium and fat content, but other than that, the focus is almost solely on calories.
Here's an example. Fresh asparagus grilled in olive oil with a salmon steak is relatively high in fat, albeit good fats. It's also high in lots of other good stuff. The lint out of my clothes dryer contains very few calories, but is nutritionally devoid. According to the book, based on calories (and possibly fiber, fat, and sodium content) the dryer lint would make an ideal meal. That's the kind of logic that seemed to be prevalent in the books.
A lot of the books concern picking one type of junk food over another. What is the healthiest fast food burger out there? Not exactly the way to Save 10, 20, 30 Pounds--or More! is it? Americans are overfed, yet undernourished. This book isn't helping the status quo.
Browsing Amazon, I was horrified to find a children's version:
If the focus in on choosing the best of prepackaged meals and fast food, which I suspect it is (note the cover), then I'll pass. And parents should too.
From an Amazon reviewer of the original book, who got it spot on:
"I think this book is a reflection of how bad the American diet is. I heard it discussed and thought it sounded like a good book. All it does if give you a choice between the lesser of two evils. Why not recommend whole grains, vegetables and low sugar foods. That would be a sound choice. But when you recommend eat a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut over another kind of doughnut, who are we kidding here??? This just allows people to be completely off the hook for being responsible for eating a nutritious diet, or feeding a nutritious diet to their kids. No wonder there is an obesity epidemic in this country."
Another Amazon reviewer suggested Food Politics by Marion Nestle and I am intrigued. I'm going to request it at the library in just a moment, in fact.
And let me just point you toward this site - it's worth a look see if you have a few minutes.
And if you are still looking for what to eat, by some fortune, the same author has published What to Eat, which was recommended to me, though I will confess I have not yet read it (stay tuned!).
So the bottom line is this - using the Eat This Not That books will give you false confidence in your (poor) choices and nothing more. Don't buy them, even if you are tempted by the snappy titles and cute catchy covers. And if you really must have them, you can have mine - I certainly have no use for them. There are better books out there if you must have a book. I also suggest using your common sense, since this author seems to have forgotten how to use his.
And then we went to the grocery store, but once there I discovered that I had left my credit cards and ID at home. I had the checkbook, but fat lot of good that does without a driver's license. So we carefully spent the seven dollars I had with me and came home.
So they are coloring now. I found a stash of coloring pages at Activity Village you might want to check out. If you scroll to the bottom you can get to this page which links bazillions of coloring pages and appears to be regularly maintained.
Even if you don't have children of crayoning age, you might print a few for yourself. If you are anything like me, you secretly like to have a go at coloring now and then.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
A lot of the book makes a lot of sense, no doubt. Soda, is, in fact Satan. High Fructose Corn Syrup needs to be eliminated. "Low Fat" does not equal "healthy." And a lot of this we already know, but don't really want to think about.
Why? I think humans are omnivores to begin with and that animal products are beneficial to the diet, but while they may be tasty, I recognize that they aren't essential to the human diet. Eliminating animal products because of the contamination and cruelty concerns outweighs the tasty factor for many. It should definitely be a bigger concern for the rest of us, even those that do indulge in a yummy carcass now and then.
And dairy. I'm not a big cheese eater, but I do like skim milk. Pizza. Yogurt. The book wants you to drop it all like a hot potato. And reading through it, they have some very valid points. Why do we stop nursing our children, only to put them on the milk of another species? Why do we not question the chemical contamination in milk and even organic milk? Why does the dairy industry have such a foothold in US nutrition policy? The answers may disturb you. Not enough to put down your slice of cheesecake, perhaps, but it is good to be mindful of the politics in play when dealing with food policy and cultural norms.
Their first hurdle they'd like you to jump over is sugar. Sugar in any form, but primarily in standard table sugar that has been stripped of any nutrients and HFCS which is chemically altered to your detriment. And I agree. Sugar is like crack - we've all said it, but it turns out it's true.
The researchers conducted the studies by restricting rats of their food while the rats slept and for four hours after waking. "It's a little bit like missing breakfast," Hoebel said. "As a result, they quickly eat some chow and drink a lot of sugar water." And, he added, "That's what is called binge eating -- when you eat a lot all at once -- in this case they are binging on a 10 percent sucrose solution, which is like a soft drink."
Hungry rats that binge on sugar provoke a surge of dopamine in their brains. After a month, the structure of the brains of these rats adapts to increased dopamine levels, showing fewer of a certain type of dopamine receptor than they used to have and more opioid receptors. These dopamine and opioid systems are involved in motivation and reward, systems that control wanting and liking something. Similar changes also are seen in the brains of rats on cocaine and heroin.
In experiments, the researchers have been able to induce signs of withdrawal in the lab animals by taking away their sugar supply. The rats' brain levels of dopamine dropped and, as a result, they exhibited anxiety as a sign of withdrawal. The rats' teeth chattered, and the creatures were unwilling to venture forth into the open arm of their maze, preferring to stay in a tunnel area. Normally rats like to explore their environment, but the rats in sugar withdrawal were too anxious to explore.
The premise of the book is simple, eat organic, fresh, plant-based foods and you will be thinner, healthier, and happier. Some of their claims and expectations may be a little over the top, but it's fair to say that it's extremely difficult to become obese on a plant only, sugar-free, diet. I don't know - maybe we should all try it. If I were single with no children I probably would, but it's unlikely at this point in the game.
However I can do the following
~ Eliminate refined sugars.
So as far as the book goes, I've been reading about a plan I will never fully implement, but which has inspired me to make a few smaller changes and to be more thoughtful about food sources and ingredients. And it was funny. And short and easy to read. If curse words offend you, though, then it's probably not the book for you.
Also on my list to read are Real Food by Nina Planck and The Omnivore's Dilemma which come highly recommended to me by my friend Jenny at The Nourished Kitchen and Jon Stewart respectively. Look for reviews to come.
5 Year Old: Oh, they are green. Green is my favorite color. Are they bigger than me, mommy?
Me: No, I think they are small, like elves. Smaller than you.
5 Year Old: Are those the same kind of shoes like elves wear?
Me: I'm not sure - maybe. Probably.
5 Year Old: Are leprechauns real, mommy?
Me: No, leprechauns are just made up in stories from a long time ago and they are fun to talk about.
5 Year Old: We read about the shoemaker elves at school. Are elves real, mommy?
Me: No, elves are just in stories too.
5 Year Old: BUT WHO HELPS SANTA MAKE TOYS, MOMMY???????
Me: [insert panicked look here] Oh, those elves, no, those elves are real, baby. Just the ones from fairy tales are imaginary.
5 Year Old: OK, mommy.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
In honor of St. Patrick's Day, or as my oldest calls it, Sam's Patrick's Day, I thought I'd make them green.
After I added the coloring, Mister Lawyer saw the dough and commented that it looked like broccoli dough. Sadly, he was right. The coloring and the whole wheat dough combined to look like I was making broccoli cookies.
The kids gave me The Eyebrow and I had to assure them repeatedly that these were Delightfully Festive St. Paddy's Day confections and not Sugared Broccoli Bombs.
Taken outside because the light was better....
But they tasted good. And that's what counts, right?
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
It will take a few weeks for him to regain movement in it - right now he can't move it at all. I guess I wasn't expecting that...not to that degree anyway.
Oh, and I asked to bring the pins home to keep. I'll maybe take a snap of them tomorrow if I think about it. My mother was horrified. Ha.
His bestest little buddy in the whole wide world is having a birthday party on Saturday and he's really excited about it. Sadly, it's at a gymnastics place and he won't be able to participate. We've been told no leaping about for a few weeks. But of course he can eat cake and he's ok with that.
He did well, my brave little guy.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Back to reading! Between the broken arm and myriad sicknesses, I forgot I was supposed to be reading this year. So here's another one. I read The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond yesterday and well into early this morning (note to self, do NOT start a book the day after Daylight Savings begins).
On the front of the book it says that it was recommended for fans of Jodi Picoult. I've never read a thing by Ms. Picoult. I have a sneaking suspicion that someone who has written so many books may be bordering on formulaic and trite, but I won't rule her out if I get a good recommendation for a specific book, I suppose.
So I started this one with some doubt and I'm excited to report that it was really quite good. What's a notch up from your typical chick lit and yet nowhere near a "classic?" That. That's what we are working with here.
Here's the synopsis from Booklist via Amazon:
[The Year of Fog] traces a traumatic year in the life of photographer Abby Mason after she loses her fiance's six-year-old daughter. The moment Abby stopped to photograph a dead baby seal while walking on a fog-bound beach in San Francisco is one she will replay in her head a thousand times. That's the last time she saw Emma, who was racing ahead, eager to collect sand dollars. Panic and fear soon give way to sheer exhaustion and emotional shutdown as Abby and Emma's dad, Jake, immerse themselves in the desperate search for the missing first-grader. As the months tick by, Jake becomes convinced that Emma drowned, while Abby is sure that Emma was kidnapped. The trauma and the guilt wreak havoc with their relationship and with their struggle to regain a sense of normalcy. Richmond gracefully explores the nature of memory and perception in key passages that never slow the suspense of the search....this is a page-turner with a philosophical bent.
I'll go out on a limb and say that if you don't have children and have never been a caregiver, you will still enjoy the book, but the idea of the loss of a child won't cut you quite as deeply. I thought several times about my own babies and what I would do in the main characters shoes, which was very distressing.
I was expecting a very predictable ending and was happy to see that it was somewhat less predictable than I had predicted.
I don't put much stock in Amazon ratings. Out of 86 reviewers, 8 gave it one star and 33 gave it 5 stars. The rest were somewhere in between. I think those 8 were probably looking for a different kind of book altogether, as it's certainly not meritorious of only one star. And I think those that gave it 5 stars overlooked its flaws, though admittedly they were fairly few in number and none were overwhelming. My vote is somewhere in between with everyone else, but that's not a bad vote by any means, just as high as this genre is likely to get from me.
If you are interested in reading the book, let me know - it's in excellent condition and I'll mail it out for free. Consider it a gift for putting up with my rambling. If more than one person is interested, I'll pick names out of a hat.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
I had 6 ExtraBucks from CVS to use up by today, March 5th. They were from the copious cold meds Mr. Lawyer had purchased a few weeks ago for the afore-complained-about ailments. If you are not acquainted, they are like cash at CVS drugstores, so essentially six free dollars. Anyway, you use them or lose them on the expiration date. Two or three Bucks I might have let slide, but six? No way.
We have a CVS behind the house. And when I say "behind" the house, I mean, the sign illuminates the backyard at night. No, it was not there when we moved in. In fact, we were told there would be houses built. That's an entirely seperate post, though. A longer, angrier post.
So it's closeby. However, between the three children needing feeding, washing, napping, feeding again (so demanding!), and whatnot, I didn't get out of the house before bedtime. My mom was here, but I still didn't make it out for the fifteen minute run, which just tells you what sort of a day it was.
No problem, I thought - I'll just go once Mr. Lawyer comes home. He's usually home by about 9:15-9:30 which leaves at least 30 minutes to run out.
9:32 Mr Lawyer strolls in and I put on my shoes to go.
9:35 the baby starts wailing. She was very sad. Sad and farty.
9:47 I came downstairs ready to bolt...grabbed my bag, but I couldn't find the stupid #$%&ing ExtraBucks!
9:48 I located the coupons on the floor next to the bed and ran around looking for the card with the numbers that match these bucks (we have two cards and of course I had my paws around the wrong one).
9:50 I ran out of the house with bag, Bucks, cards.
9:52 I arrived at CVS, bucks in hand.
9:56 I picked out two packs of this stuff by Crayola. It was on sale 50% off for $3.50. My grand total was $1.08 cash. Pretty nice, huh?
Crayola Color Explosion™ Rainbow Mini lets you create wild multicolored effects with a single color-reveal marker! The unique clear-ink marker works only with black Color Explosion paper, revealing a rainbow of colors for amazing designs. Smaller size is great for travel! Includes a 12-page mini-black tablet with Rainbow Color Reveal and 2 Color Reveal markers
So, I opened up my terribly unstylish diaper bag to pull out my CVS gift card that has about $5 left on it to pay for the $1.08 balance and realized that I had left my wallet at home.
9:58 My stomach dropped. It's 9:58 and I have no wallet!?!
I dug through the bag in a frenzied manner to scrape for loose change.
3 crusty M&Ms?
Handful of plain Cheerios?
Receipts indicating that I used to have money?
Fossilized Laffy Taffy?
Stack of expired diaper coupons?
The CVS clerk stubbornly refused all of my alternative forms of currency. Damn him.
At last, I remembered I had dropped some change after a purchase into the insulated section meant for bottles. Oh glory be!
10:00 I walked to my car with my loot and a little bit of dignity.
Hopefully the kids will be entertained long enough tomorrow with my purchase that it will make my efforts worthwhile. I'll let you know.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Actually, she's on a pillow on my lap - she outgrew the lap for tummy-down sleeping purposes maybe a month ago, which is too bad because it was a surefire way to get her to sleep. With one knee bump bump bumping her up and down. Head hanging off one side, feet hanging off the other. Mister Lawyer did not think it looked comfy, but it got her to sleep and who can complain about that?