Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
He'd probably object to the term "foodie" as it implies some sort of snobbery (as do "gourmet" and "gourmand"), but the Mister now cares about food. He talks about it, he plans around it, he'll analyze it in his spare time. Since I have always been like this***, I'm not sure I noticed at first. Sure, we agreed that nice meals were a good use of money. Yes, the Mister started reading cookbooks and buying ducks to roast. And, yes, he purchased Where to Eat in Canada before the Canadian Maritimes trip so that we could plan what amounted to a culinary tourism vacation properly, but somehow I didn't really realize until this summer.
Travelling from Como to Rome in May we bought separate train tickets Como to Bologna and Bologna to Rome so that we could eat lunch in Bologna at a restaurant we chose after consulting three books and two websites. The Mister purchased Anthony Bourdain's Nasty Bits at full price for light summer reading and started a new list of places for us to eat in New York City when someday we go. For our anniversary in July, we spent the weekend in Pittsburgh. The Mister not only made reservations for a fabulous six course tasting menu at a nice restaurant, but also consulted several websites to find out where we could stop for Thai food on the drive there and back. While we ended up eating at Olive Garden going and Long John Silver's coming back, it was not for lack of trying on his part, which is when I decided that I needed to write an anniversary post about how very well suited the Mister is for me.Of course, Dianthus arrived soon thereafter, so this post has been lurking in my brain unwritten. It is now a birthday post for the Mister. And Dianthus is demanding attention at the moment, so the parts about the Mister being a great gardener and bean cook will still go unwritten (but notice the great bean structure he made in the vegetable garden he created and cultivated).
In any case, please wish the Mister a happy birthday**** and know that I know I'm lucky.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Two wash clothes
All are made of organic cotton. More on the usefulness of all this later, for now, a big thank you to those great friends.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
All of this information is critically useful in helping me to raise a son. The text on girls, meanwhile, is relatively scanty, but if I had a daughter I'm sure the photos captioned, "I wish I had a birthday once a week," and, "See Kitty, now I look just as pretty as Mommy," (pg. 173) would be equally useful.
Note: more generally interesting post about books I've read while nursing below.
One must assume that one can pick out useless (or worse) advice from modern parenting books just as easily as one can pick it out from older ones. That's part of the reason that I'm sure good mothers Irene and Ad Astra are correct that parenting is about what feels right and works with one's child rather than what's stated in a book. However, there are a heck-of-a-lot of details about which one has no intuition (if breastfeeding is not instinctual, the appropriateness of changes in poop frequency would hardly be) and it is really nice to have an authoritative book to consult. And another when one doesn't like the advice given in the first. And perhaps another in case the first two are wrong.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder was given to me by my mother. She had been told to read it by my brother and sister-in-law, as had I, but given my family's history of not reading what family members recommend, neither she nor I had read it. Mountains Beyond Mountains is a non-fiction account of a crazy American doctor (Paul Farmer) starting and running a health clinic in the poorest part of Haiti (and TB programs in Peru and Russia) while working in infectious disease at Harvard. In many respects Mountains is comparable to Three Cups of Tea (my review here) as a book length account of an American giving it all to a somewhat unlikely cause. Mountains does not have the exotic setting of the Himalayas that Three did; Haiti is portrayed vividly, but as desolate and very very poor; nor the timely factor; while there should perhaps be some political involvement in Haiti, Haiti is not newsworthy the way that Pakistan and Afghanistan are, but altogether I found the book more enjoyable (I admit that my affection for Three diminished somewhat following raych's scathing review. I hate to be that feeble in my opinion, for I stand by my assessment that it is an extraordinary book, but some of the faults that raych points out are real). I think, in the end, that Mountains is more enjoyable because Farmer is a nicer guy than Mortenson and, more importantly, because Kidder is a more sympathetic character than Oliver Relin. I have spent the summer pondering* why I like books with sympathetic characters so I can explain it to Amateur Reader, but I have failed. None the less, Kidder is sympathetic; he lets himself become a character in Mountains and raises questions that readers have. Farmer is fascinating, but almost non-human in both sustained zeal and physical stamina. While following Farmer around, Kidder is frequently in awe, but is also both gleeful and guilty when he finds flaws. Kidder's hang-overs and exhaustion help transform a listing of noble deeds into an enjoyable read. Highly recommended for my mother and most of my friends, and imperative for SalSis if she has not already read it.
Simon Van Booy's collection of five stories, Love Begins in Winter, was also given to me by my mother. I reluctantly came to really like it. The stories have issues. I felt the whole time that Van Booy was trying too hard. Too many attempts at “deep”, too many childhood tragedies haunting adults, too self-consciously obtuse. Yet, overall, I found I really enjoyed the collection of five love stories, particularly the last three and give the collection a mild recommendation.
I purchased Katherine by Anya Seton because I was looking for something along the lines of Phillipa Gregory (since I have never read any Gregory, it is a reasonable question why I didn't just buy it). I did not realize that Seton wrote “the classic love story of medieval England” in 1954, making it much less steamy (smutty?) than the modern Gregory novels and, at 500 densely packed pages, a hefty bit of history to read. I first attempted Katherine while in the hospital waiting for Dianthus to emerge and found it to heavy to deal with IV lines. The book was almost too heavy to read while nursing (physically), but I prevailed and am very glad I did. Like other good historical fiction, Katherine made me feel ignorant (“Why don't I know who the Plantagenets are?) and question little historical asides (“Was Chaucer really the brother-in-law of John of Gaunt?” “Was Richard II really such a twit?”). Seton does a commendable job of taking a long historical saga, the affair of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, and crafting it into a credible personal story. The genre is not for everybody, but if you enjoy this sort of thing (I imagine Beth, Jenny and Sunflower Spinner would), Katherine is a good example.
Stranger in the Mist by Lee Karr is a Silhouette Shadows book. The last of my trashy romance collection from my library book sale days, Stranger is the type of book I wouldn't have bought if series romances weren't selling for $1 a bag (a price that always led to indiscriminate gathering), because the Shadows line is supposed to “send shivers up your spine and chill you even while it thrills you”. I don't enjoy being scared and, over time, have become the most malleable of audience members. Play sappy music and I cry, introduce nightmares and murderous pasts and I'm scared no matter how stupid and far-fetched the premise. Despite not being my type of book, Stranger is fine, and, if, for some reason, you want to read a typical Silhouette romance with sections that seem inspired by The Shining and Dead Again, by all means, read Stranger in the Mist.
Maria Dermoût's lovely 1958 novel The Ten Thousand Things (translated from the Dutch by Hans Koning) was given to me at Christmas by my SIL among the fun, thoughtful books. The Ten Thousand Things is a connected series of stories concerning a garden on a small spice island in the Moluccas. At first I was somewhat dismissive of the book. The pacing is unusual, the transitions are odd, and a ghosts of young girls, or maybe not ghosts, appear in the first chapter. I'm drawn to magical realism in concept but not in actuality (I'm glad I read A Hundred Years of Solitude, but, like Marieke and unlike The Mister or MBIL, I'm not espousing its greatness to all), and I assume my initial reluctance was because soon I was going to be told that it was all carried away in a cloud of butterflies and I just wasn't ready to suspend disbelief that way. Fortunately for me, magic abounds in the book, but the only definitive magic is the magic of the island; while there may be ghosts and curses and love potions, only some of the characters believe in them, and the reader, like the main character, may choose alternative explanations. Plot-driven readers may feel that not much is happening, that most of the book is vivid description and an exotic atmosphere, and find themselves surprised, at the end, to have read of multiple murders and many passions. I'd recommend The Ten Thousand Things to Happy Cricket, both mothers, Amateur Reader for the “Indonesian Reading List” he'll surely make someday, and anyone traveling to Southeast Asia or the South Pacific.
Links and images to arrive when Dianthus does not need full attention, as he apparently does now. It's Book Blogger Appreciation Week, so I have linked to the three book blogs I read regularly: Wuthering Expectations (Mostly appreciation of 19th Century literature), books i done read (hilarious reviews of an eclectic mix of books), and Anthyrium filix-femina (an American gardener and writer now living in Scotland).
*when I haven't been doing other things like giving birth, feeding a baby, gardening, reading, trying to catch up with thank you notes and loads and loads of laundry.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
**This makes me laugh, because the idea of strapping a baby to your waist with a cloth over a shoulder is probably as old as cloth. True, they weren't always available at Target, and if one used one in 1970 it would appear very ethnic or hippie, but the idea is not new.