Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Today is Wednesday and you know what that means, right? No, not hump day. It's half-price day at Salvation Army!

I had only minutes to spare before having to pick my daughter up from school today. It was an early release day and I didn't have much time at all to myself, especially since I had two sick kids at home for the past two days. But, I digress. Into the thrift store I went.

And what did I walk out with?

Two pairs of jeans. One that will most likely fit now and one pair that is going to fit after another month of taking boot camp.

A silver serving tray, a silver tea server and another little sterling silver dish. I think I made out pretty good on those items. I will have my husband inspect them when he gets home to tell me if it's the real stuff or the hotel silver.

A cool necklace.

And a bunch of books that were half price!! They are:

Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik
Brida by Paulo Coelho (hardback)
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander
The Last Boleyn by Karen Harper
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

A good day at the thrift store!

After the Holidays

Is it just me or are the holidays in general a bit busy and out of control for everyone? Stupid question, I know. Year after year, the holidays seem to get busier and busier.

I don't think I read much over the past couple of months. I was busy. It was the holidays and there was way too much crap to do. But now, all I want to do is read. I want to lay in bed ALL day long and read. Do you ever have those phases in life where you want to shut out the world and escape into books? So if you wonder where I am lately, for those of you who know me, it's under the covers with (hopefully) a good book!

On the subject of good books, I managed to squeeze in two over the past month. Before those two, I'm sure that I read some, I just can't remember what they were.

First good read: A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman by Joan Anderson. We started a new book club and this book was recommended by a member.

Turns out to have been a great read for a bunch of women. We are keeping this book club small-- there were only five of us sitting around the table, as compared to fifteen of us in my other book club. All of us ladies could very easily relate to A Year By the Sea. Some more than others, but we all found some common thread to hold onto. In fact, it spurred on one woman to write a letter to her husband telling him all of the things that she misses in her marriage. We opened up about how we feel about our marriages, what changes we would like and how nice it would be to have the freedom to explore more of ourselves, outside of our married lives... just us, as women. It was really cool considering some of the ladies were meeting for the first time. To read a book that enabled us to be so open was an excellent first choice for this book club!

On another side note, I am in a boot club- for fitness. It kicks my ass. But I think, almost every time I'm working my ass off, about this book and how she put her body to use and challenged herself by running and exercising. It sticks in my head and makes me proud that I am also starting to pay a little more attention to this vessel that carries me through life on a daily basis.

Moving on....

A couple of nights ago, I finished reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

I recommended it as our next book for the small book club and it was picked. Yay! Why yay, you're wondering? It's a great book and I think we could have some really interesting discussions. For example, what would you do if your child was born a hermaphrodite? See... lots to ponder, eh?

Seriously, Jeffrey Eugenides wrote a fantastic novel. There were a couple of nights that I just couldn't pick up the book because of the sadness I felt from it. But that didn't mean that I wasn't thinking about it, just needed some processing time.

The book primarily takes place in Detroit, which just so happens to be where I'm from! I loved reading about Vernors and was hoping for some reference to Guernsey's, but had to be satisfied with what he threw in there to remind me of home. I recently found out that my maternal Grandfather was a bootlegger during prohibition and would make liquor runs from Canada to Detroit. Must have been a common career choice back then. And the history of Detroit that Eugenides includes in the book was cool, too. Eugenides won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for Middlesex. I can certainly see why after reading this book.

As with every good book that I read, I do a little research on the author. Come to find out, Eugenides is very private. He doesn't even maintain a Facebook Fan Page. I know, gasp! So I got to thinking about that, all about the different authors and the types of authors that are out there: the ones who whore it up by sharing in every possible way that they can, and the ones who remain private, only allowing pieces of information about themselves to seep out into their fictional novels or by granting those "rare" interviews.

And I questioned myself: If I were a famous, or even not-so-famous but damn good writer, would I whore it up or choose to remain somewhat of a mystery to my fans?

I would definitely remain a mystery. There's so much more fun in that. It's like revealing a small amount of cleavage or showing the whole boob. I'm definitely not the show-your-whole-boob type of gal.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lots of Food in the Books

Wow, has it been so long since I've written on this blog? Time sure does fly when you are living life, eh?

Strangely enough, as I'm looking through all of these books that I'm about to list, I'm noticing that I've been buying a lot of books that center around food. Am I lacking something in my life? Some type of nourishment that's missing? Hmmmm, food for thought.

anyway, let's get right to it, shall we? A couple of weeks ago, I felt like I hit the thrift store book find jackpot! The Salvation Army was fully stocked and I walked away with a stack of books. Then, I went to Beth's Book Box, a new used book store close to my 'hood and bought a few more books there. At the Book Box, I found:

The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal
Spotted in France by Gregory Edmont
Finding My Way by Evelyn Stefanson Nef
Cranberry Queen by Kathleen DeMarco

At Salvation Army:

Stones From the River by Ursula Hegi
Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Luscious Lemon by Heather Swain

In an attempt to find The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan for my required book club reading, I stopped in at Half Price Books and bought:

Ines of my Soul by Isabel Allende (loved all of her other books!)
The Wise Virgins by Leonard Woolf (yes, I do believe I already have this one, but, I couldn't pass up buying a LW book in a book store since I rarely see them).

I ordered The Middle Place online and am half way through. Sad, has had me on the verge of tears in a couple of spots, but a nice read. I'm pulling for her, hoping that all ends well, but I think her dad is going to die. Don't tell me!

We are going to be doing some kitchen remodeling so I popped into Borders to look through their remodeling books. While my husband was entertaining my two year old by allowing her to go up and down the escalator about two thousand times, I walked over to the biography section to browse. I happened to pick up A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi. I know, I never (or rarely) buy new books. I'm the one you see in a new book store either writing down the titles of books that I want to look for used or even going so far as taking pictures with my phone (when I'm either too lazy to look for a pen or paper). But, I was in the mood to spend some money and said, "What the hell, life is short." I bought it, read it in a couple of days and then looked her up on Google.

She is an American chef and food writer who, while traveling in Italy, meets an Italian man, falls in love, moves to Venice and marries the stranger, as she lovingly refers to him. She writes a lot about food and the Italian people. I loved reading it and reflecting back on my journies to Italy. Yes, the food was delicious and the people fascinating in their "old world" culture and traditions. I found that she has several other books that have come out after the one about her life in Venice. She travels to Umbria (which is the region in Italy where my husband and I were married), Tuscany and somewhere else.... can't remember. But, the point is that I now am going to order all of those other books, make my friends who enjoy cooking read them too and then have a dinner party with the recipes that come at the end of the books. Fascinating idea, isn't it? I bet you want to come to one of those dinners.

Then, I was book shopping at BookPeople for K.A. Holt's new book Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel for my soon-to-be eleven year old son's birthday. Just so happens that K.A. Holt is a local author and they had signed copies in stock. Score! While there, I also picked up It Sucked and then I Cried by THE Heather Armstrong. Normally, I would have also looked for that used cause I'm cheap, but it was signed as well and I love Dooce! So, I am in the middle of reading that simultaneously, as I read The Middle Place-- book club is less than a week away and I didn't want to be "one of those" who don't actually read the book for book club.

I started to read The Ballad of the Low Lifes by Enrico Remmert and put it down without even making it out of the second chapter. My husband read it and really enjoyed it, but the way it was written just made it feel wrong. It's written as if someone is talking to me. I just didn't get into it and with so much to read, it wasn't worth my time to pull through. I'll save it and attempt it again when I run out of good books. Sorry Enrico.

And that's about it. I'm taking a book buying hiatus to try to catch up. I'll be back soon!

Monday, August 3, 2009

I Bought More

It's been a long time since I've bought any thrift store books. If I have to buy a book, it's only because I am reading it with my book club. IWhy is that? Why is the thrift store book bloggin' lady not buying anymore books? I have so many books that are unread from the past several months of thrift-store-book-buying sprees that I've had to really hold myself back each time I go into a thrift store. And, the last few times I've gone, they have been pretty low on quality-looking books. That was, until a few days ago.....

I couldn't resist the urge to buy. The Salvation Army was fully stocked again. Maybe they heard my grumblings about the lack of selection during my past visits and decided that they really didn't want to lose one of their best customers. Or, maybe all of the people who buy up thrift store books to sell on Ebay were on vacation. Whatever the case, they had some books in stock.

I only bought two because I was there with not only my two kids (one being a toddler who HAD to look at the toys), but a friend and her little toddler as well. So, between watching all three of them and trying to dig through the books, I could only grab two. And they are: Ready, Set, Green: Eight Weeks to Modern Eco-Living and Motherhood Made a Man Out of Me.

Now, the Motherhood one I kind of picked up for a friend of mine who reads all things having to do with being a mom. I try to stay away from reading mom books since I write about being a mom on another site and am a mom every day. I kind of want to read something other than what I do everyday, but that's just me. I keep forgetting to give it to her though, so maybe it's a sign that I should read it first, to just give this motherhood book reading thing a try. I'll mull it over and let you know what I decide.

The Eco-Living book looked interesting. I try to be friendly to Mother Earth and so reading a book with more tips to help save the planet makes me feel good. And that's what reading should be about, right? Yes, it's printed on 100% post-consumer recycled stock paper. So all of that paper I drop off at the recycling center may have gone into the printing of this book. Cool, eh? I am going to learn so much about being Green and then will share everything I'm trying with you, HERE on this very blog.

I know, you love me for all of this sharing that I'm doing.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I'm Impressed

In the dead of summer, when I conjure up an image of reading in a comfortable spot, I go to winter. Let me explain. Reading can be about killing time; just doing something to wile away the day. Or, reading can be about digging your butt into a comfy couch, wearing your most comfortable pajamas with a roaring fire burning in the fireplace, as a blanket of snow covers the ground outside. It becomes your safe, comfy place. It's warm, it's cozy; it's where you go in your head when you need to escape. For me, that place is winter, especially since I live in Austin- a place that offers months of relentless 100 plus degree weather in the summer time.

When I first opened up Einstein's Daughter: The Search for Lieserl, I immediately went to that comfort reading spot in my head. I imagined myself- no matter where I really was at the time- tucked into that cozy spot in the dead of winter. I sighed with contentment after reading the first chapter and settled in for the journey that I was about to embark on. It must be Michel Zackheim's writing skills, her way of telling a story, that makes me love her second book as much as I loved Violet's Embrace. Well, not quite as much, but close to it!

Once again, Zackheim goes in search of something; this time, it's finding the lost daughter of Albert Einstein. His first child, Lieserl, was born out of wedlock to his first wife, Mileva. Lieserl was born before they were married and before they added two more children to the family. Isn't that sad when you have to give up one child because you are not married or ready for children, only to get married and have more children with the same man? Talk about guilt.

Nowadays, having a child without being married is not necessarily a bad thing. But way back in 1902, in Serbia, where Mileva was from, this love child was not an acceptable thing. It was frowned upon to have a child without being married and so Mileva and Albert never spoke of their first child together. Mileva went to her family home, had the baby and acted like it didn't happen. There is no record of an adoption or of a death and so the mystery of what became of their daughter is born.

The search for Lieserl takes Michele, the author, traveling across several countries, including Serbia, where she met with Mileva's distant friends and relations. There, she had to overcome the Serbian way of keeping everything guarded closely, especially secrets of the family. Zackheim was quick to learn to respect the cultural difference that she was faced with and, many times, overcame this block to gain access to secrets that were supposed to be kept until you went to the grave. She was faced with lost documents, dates that didn't make sense, and people who didn't want to share their knowledge of a lost little girl. It read like a detective story at times, with me agonizing over what she would uncover in her quest for information. Many times, I felt frustrated for her and it made me like Zackheim that much more for her diligence in her art. It took five years for Zackheim to write this story. I bow to her for what she accomplished.

I also had to have diligence while reading this book. Do you know how hard it was to not Google anything about this story? No searches for Lieserl or Mileva. No searches for Albert Einstein (and boy, he sure was quite the jerk). I just allowed the story to unfold in front of me without sneaking a peek at what the outcome was. Tough, I tell you. But I made it through and waited until the end to Google until my heart was content.

I took Einstein's Daughter with me while on vacation with my family; we took a road trip from Texas to Virginia. I'm a bit of a control freak, even when it comes to driving. I don't like anyone else behind the wheel. So I had long thirteen hour days of driving. When we'd at last reach one of our destinations, all I wanted to do was sleep, but I couldn't resist the pull to read this book and to find out what happened to Lieserl. I stayed up when I should have been asleep to prepare again for another long day on the road just to get to the end of this book. It was so worth it.

You'll have to read it to find out who the real Lieserl Einstein is; I'm not going to tell. Stay away from Google while reading it. And give Michele Zackheim a round of applause for yet another well-written, page turner!

And, by the way, I like the name Lieserl. I think I will throw that into the name box if I ever have another daughter.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Again and Again

The last book that I finished was a really good book to bring along on vacation. It was intriguing enough to make me want to read it and it was light enough reading to carry around while traveling. The book was Replay by Ken Grimwood. It was recommended by a member in my book club and was chosen to be our May book selection.

Replay is about a man who dies from a heart attack and relives his live several times over, making many different mistakes with each fresh life. The first time that he dies and comes back, he wakes up confused in his college boy body. He quickly figures out what happened (I think I would have been confused for much longer) and goes on to make millions by making bets on things that he already knows the outcome of or by playing the stock market. He marries, has a daughter and then dies again.

And again.

And again.

Each life is lived a little differently with the middle ones being lived in a pissed off way. And no kidding... I'd be pissed too if I had to do it all over again. Sure, maybe reliving one life- having a chance to do it all over again- would be kind of cool, especially if you were rich. And then, what the heck, have a try at it once more. But after that, I'd get a little pissy, too. Poor guy. I felt his pain of coming back again and again.

The middle of the book takes a turn and has a bit of a surprise that I won't share with you so I don't ruin the entire story. But trust me, it's a good read. Very good timing for an interesting beach book, if you happen to be looking for one.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Santa Clara, California, The room is nicely done; it's completely renovated with all of the conveniences a modern hotel should have. And it's not only a hotel room, but a one bedroom hotel room, complete with a door on the bedroom!

I find myself sitting in this nice room, waiting quietly for my daughter to wake from her nap in the bedroom that has an actual door (if you are a parent and do any type of traveling with kids, you'll understand the importance of this door). I'm wondering what to do; I'm not at home so I can't clean or fix something. There's no laundry to do. No dinner to prepare. I can't leave the hotel room to do anything because my child can't be left alone. I stand to look out the window- cause I actually have some spare time to gaze longingly out of a window- and realize that it's awfully bright in here. I like it dark and cozy. What the hell am I doing with the curtains open so that the sun has full access to my room? That's not like me. So I pull the blinders across the window most of the way, allowing a tiny amount of sunlight in, and the room transforms into my den; a dark, cozy room that's now the perfect setting to read or write. I pull up the chair, brew some hotel packet coffee, logon to my laptop and find myself here, ready to tell you about my latest read.

One morning, many months ago, I met a friend for coffee. We both realized around the same time that we were avid readers and decided to use this opportunity of meeting for a book exchange. What a great way- and a free way- to get more books to read. At the end of our session of chatting it up with some brew from the heavens above, we went to our cars and did the exchange. In the stack that I got was a book called Loving Frank by Nancy Horan.

It had been months since our book exchange and I felt kind of guilty for not reading any of the books that she gave me. And what if, at our next meeting, she asks me if I liked the books. I needed a response. A real response, just in case she decided to quiz me.

I didn't know much about Frank Lloyd Wright, and if you're the same, I won't ruin the story for you (like one of my good friends did while I was reading the book- flaunting her knowledge about his life and all!). Loving Frank is about Frank's affair with a married woman named Mamah Borthwick Cheney and the trials and tribulations that they go through to be together. It takes place in a different time- a time when cheating on a husband was regarded as a very, very bad thing to do. Cheating on a wife, that was a little more acceptable- still bad, but not as bad as what a woman might have to endure. Frank was also married to a woman named Catherine, but he seemed to struggle much less with the decision to move on without his kids.

Mamah ends up leaving, not only her husband, but her two kids as well. That really broke my heart to read about. It made me angry to think that a woman can give up her kids to be with another. I understand marriages not working out.... I'm divorced and have a child with my ex-husband. I also have that wanderlust spirit in me and if I didn't have my son, I would have up and moved at least a couple of times now. But, I stay. I stay so that my kid has both parents. I stay because I don't want to have to make him chose which one to live with. And I stay so that I don't ever have to give him up. It's somewhat simple in my mind. Do what you need to do and then be there for your kids. If that doing what you need to do involves leaving your kids behind, figure out something else because you're going to hurt those babies of yours and yourself in the long run.

The author did a great job of making you feel Mamah's sadness because she left her kids behind, but it was a sadness that I didn't really want to feel, especially because I do most of my reading at night, right before I drift off into dreamland. Yes, I had a couple of dreams about this and woke up in a bad mood because of those miserable dreams.

During Mamah's travels with Frank (they spend time in Germany and Italy), she meets Ellen Key, a well-known feminist who wrote several books on the feminist movement. So, that got me to thinking: does being a feminist make it ok to have kids and then run off and leave them because you realize there are other things to do? Does being a feminist mean that you shouldn't always have to be with your kids to raise them and then send them off when they are old enough to cope in the world without mama? What exactly does being a feminist mean? Especially these days? Has the woman's movement pushed us all a little too far and away from our kids by making it ok to not be so into being a mom?

What do you think?

I finished the book depressed by the entire story. Not to say that it wasn't a good book. It was just sad. Definitely not a story to lift your spirits. I did like it nonetheless. In fact, I plan on passing the book down to a friend of mine whose mother just graduated from the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, Taliesin. I thought she might like to read it since she has a closer connection through her mother to Frank.

Now I'm off to do some reading while the little one still sleeps. A two hour time change has made my little girl sleepy and given me some unexpected spare time!