Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Not Just Hiking - March 2012

Want to see what I am reading and have read before I post my complete list at the end of the month? Want to know when I read a book or what I am going to read? Check out my Goodreads page. Want to see a list of every physical book in this house? Want to know what my husband read? Want to know what my kids own? Visit LibraryThing.


The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
This book just made me angry. Early on, I found it familiar ... almost too much so. It seemed like all of the themes that she covered had already been done so in other books. However, I began to find myself attached to the characters and I began to think they were worth investing my time in. They were intriguing and unique. By the end, I was frustrated and angry. I don't always need closure in a book. I am fine with stories that leave you hanging. What I don't like are stories that leave you hanging with no apparent reason other than it means more and more people will talk about the book. I think she probably wrote this in this manner so that people would talk about it. If anyone asks me, I'll talk about it just enough to say, "Don't waste your time." This is the 8th of the Tournament of Books choices that I have read. So far I have liked two, tolerated three, and actively dis-liked three. Trying to decide if I should read the one I just picked up from the library.

The Last Station by Jay Parini
I did not enjoy this novel about Leo Tolstoy's final year at all. Not a single likable character in the bunch. I would have quit in the middle if this hadn't been a book club choice.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
I think this, quite simply, is a true measure of what we would do for our children. I am not really a fan of Cormac McCarthy's, but I think he is quite talented. I've also read No Country For Old Men and, while both his books were good, I would not want to see either of the movies. The violence and despair in my head is gruesome enough.

The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah
I finished this just before it was up against 1Q84 in the Tournament of Books and it makes the 9th of 16 that I have completed. I had determined that I wasn't going to read another of the ToB choices but Amy's review made it a necessity. To quote her, "It's a gut-wrenching story, packing an immense wallop in a short space." I still think The Sisters Brothers is the best of the 16, but I would put this in second.

Open City by Teju Cole
I finished it for two reasons: (1) it won its round of the TOB and (2) the consensus was that I had to for it to count in my yearly totals. This is, however, one of the only books I read that gives you the exact same feeling in the middle and at the end. Yeah, yeah, something finally "happens" at the end, but it makes absolutely no difference to me. I guess I like books where "things" happen. It is the 10th of the TOB books I have finished. And I am not reading any more of them.

Twelfth Night by Shakespeare
Three months in and three Shakespeare plays. We were supposed to watch a performance by a traveling theatre troupe but the theatre lost all power and water the day of the show. Still, this play was good fun.

Quiet by Susan Cain
I found this book by Susan Cain to be informative and thought-provoking. However, in all the discussion of introverts and extroverts, I couldn't find myself. Where are those who fall squarely in the middle? I like a good party as much as my extrovert friends and I am happy to stay home on the odd weekend and recharge and read a book when my kids are out camping. I found myself somewhere in the middle of her two worlds. It seemed to me that she classifies people as one thing or the other with no thought of scale. I wonder where that research is on people who can quite easily fit into and straddle both worlds.


This award winning Scorsese flick was a reward to the boys. It deserved the awards and I loved it. This is what a movie for kids should look like.

King Lear
This is the first time I have liked reading a Shakespeare play better than watching it. Even with the great Ian McKellen, it seemed to drag.

The Hunger Games
Loved it. As good as the book, if not better. Two words. Woody Harrelson.

Books in March: 7
Books in 2012: 26

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sharing is Good 2

The writing in this article about an intersection between science and art is beautiful.

I didn't know I liked Rahm Emanual so much. Maybe I just like Chicago so much?

The Sisters Brothers wins round two. Maybe, just maybe it can go All. The. Way.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I'm currently reading Open City by Teju Cole. And I like it. It isn't the best book I have ever read, but it is not bad. Not bad at all. I am about 3/4 of the way through and nothing is compelling me to finish. I don't need to find out "what happens." I don't need to know where everyone goes. I am happy with the book as is.

Should I finish it?

I never would have asked this question before I read the article I link to above.

I think it is perfectly acceptable to toss away books that you don't like. The Help being one of the best examples in recent memory. I don't care how many people liked it. I refused ... flat out refused to read past page 30. I could not stand it. Close it. Set it aside. Pick up something worthwhile.

Open City has been worthwhile. But I kind of feel I have had enough. Not in a bad way. Just content with what I know about it today.

And if you don't finish it by choice, do you get to put it on your books of the month/year lists?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


There are many reasons why I love Wil Wheaton.

This, for one. Who would really do this?

An even better reason is because he picked my favorite book of the tournament to advance today. I knew he had good taste.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Inspired Cake

I was inspired by Girl Detective's beautiful cake to make this ...

Except I used a mix and pre-made frosting. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Happy Birthday M. You bring joy into my life every single day!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bleak House

As mentioned earlier, I am participating in my very first read-a-long beginning this month. I will be reading Bleak House by Dickens along with about 40 other bloggers and posting my thoughts on a weekly basis. In the interest of ease, I will keep all of my thoughts on this book in ONE blog post and just update it each week (probably).

Chapters 1-5
I was not looking forward to this, really. I joined because this is one of those books I think I should read. I don't have very many of those should reads any more for two reasons (1) in recent years I have read most of the ones I really thought I should read (2) I don't really care about the should read books any more. I am reading much more because I want to and not because I should. Should is for students and college. Want is for 40+ year old housewives on expat assignments.

With the should running through my head, I picked up my copy of Bleak House. I did it, by the way. I had to go and buy a physical book. I always knew I would have to. Easy throw away books are for the Kindle. Tomes require paper (and a pen and highlighter). Bleak House is definitely a tome.

Now, I am not a huge Dickens fan and have not read as many of his works as I would have liked to. I have only skimmed some of them until I finished Great Expectations last year, and I really enjoyed that one. But to be honest, I wasn't expecting that much from this. I didn't think I would hate it, but I was pretty glad I would only be subjected to about 63 pages a week.

But see, in the last year I had completely forgotten about Dickens' ability to describe something so vividly that you know exactly what he wants you to see. His description of Lord Dedlock for instance:
His family is as old as the hills, and infinitely more respectable. He has a general opinion that the world might get on without hills, but would be done up without Dedlocks....He will never see sixty-five again, nor perhaps sixty-six, not yet sixty-seven. He has a twist of the gout, now and then, and walks a little stiffly. He is of a worthy presence, with his light gray hair and whiskers, his fine shirt-frill, his pure white waistcoat, and his blue coat with bright buttons always buttoned.
I can't fit all of the descriptions into this post of course, it would take up too much room. But who of us that is reading this book can't see the Jellyby's children or picture exactly what Esther looks like (although I can already tell she might get to be a bit annoying). My favorite had to be the description of Krook's shop. I can only hope we are allowed to revisit Krook and his shop again before too long.

Chapters 6-9
Not a lot to say about this weeks reading. More character introductions from Dickens, and I seem to be able to keep them all straight thanks to the slower than normal reading pace. Once I realized that Esther is an "unreliable narrator" I am looking at her character in a different way. I am surprised how much I am enjoying this rather leisurely read-along. Lots of question to be answered ... and lots of despicable women who treat their children poorly. At least Mrs. Pardiggle seems to realize her children are there. Whether that is a good thing or not remains to be seen.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Questioning What is To Come

We have had a great weekend - day 8 of skiing in 6 inches of powder. My kids discovered the terrain park and survived without a trip to the emergency room. J is conquering his fear of the more difficult hills. Either that or he has decided it isn't that un-cool to ski with your parents.

Spring is here with temperatures in Calgary forecast to be in the 40s or 50s for the next few weeks.

We love it here and are making big plans for the summer.

Yet there is a huge question mark looming on our horizon.

After nine months of daily struggle, it has become clear that my husband can no longer work for his current boss. Not just can't, but won't. Not even a question in his mind. Not even a question in my mind.

We have options in the company. You don't work somewhere for 15 years and not have friends and connections. We are also considering choices outside the company. Nothing will happen tomorrow. I doubt anything will happen this week. But who knows where we will be in a month.

Here is the thing. There is some anxiety. Of course I am worried about the boys, especially J who did not do very well with the last move and is finally comfortable. But there is more excitement. If you were in your mid-40s and could start fresh what would you do? Where would you move? What would you become?

Needless to say, these are interesting times.

Friday, March 9, 2012


I picked the winner of the Tournament of Books round today. Lightening Rods beat Salvage the Bones. I am doing way better than I did picking the winner of the Big Ten basketball tournament. I picked Northwestern to go all the way. GO CATS! (Yeah, they chocked again last night.)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Canadians Please Read This

You DID NOT WIN the War of 1812.

And I am really tired of seeing these magazine covers when I go to the grocery store.

There was another one in October of 2011. The title of that piece was "Damn Yankees Are Trying to Steal Our Victory."

And this is why I don't really care that my older son in getting a "B" in his History Class. I would actually prefer he NOT learn what his Canadian teachers are trying to teach him.

Here is the really funny thing. We DID NOT fight you in the War of 1812. I looked back over some history books because I am not an historian and I don't really remember the War of 1812. Not a really big deal for us. We tend to focus on the Revolution and then jump straight to the Civil War.

Here it is:

(1) We (the Americans) were mad at the British for two reasons. British soldiers were helping the Indians ATTACK our (American) settlements. That is just rude. AND the British were conscripting American soldiers to serve on British ships in the war against Napoleon. That is just wrong.

(2) On June 18, 1812 America declared war on BRITAIN. Not on Canada. There was this big land mass on our Northern border called Canada, but there were no Canadians. Only British subjects. And some "Aboriginal Peoples".

(3) Despite being involved in a war with the French, the British sailed into the Great Lakes and attacked Ohio. I think we should have given them Ohio and been done with it, but we didn't. The Indian Chief Tecumsah helped the British, but we killed him and defeated the British. Round One goes to the Americans.

(4) British ships landed in Washington D.C. and burned The White House, The Capitol and (egads) The Library of Congress. Aside, does this make them book burners? Round Two goes to the British.

(5) Everyone was tired of fighting. The British were busy with the French. The TWO nations, the US and Britain, signed a treaty agreeing to behave as if the war had never happened. Stalemate.

Two things ... you can't lose a war to someone you aren't fighting. And, I would argue that we did not LOSE the War of 1812 in the first place. From a Canadian magazine and I quote, "Military historians generally describe the War of 1812 as a stalemate."

Hey, so just stop it with the magazine covers. And the articles with statements like this, "We won the War of 1812--because we fought to be ourselves." Canada became The Dominion of Canada in 1867. I would suggest that next time you "fight to be yourselves" you might not want to wait 50+ years to actually become a nation.

Get over it.

P.S. Want something we claim. I will gladly give up all rights to Basketball.

P.P.S While we are at it. Why are so many Canadians named Gord?

P.P.P.S There is also no Mexican food here. Y0u may call it that, but it isn't.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sharing is Good

I haven't done this in a while, mostly because I don't really believe anyone cares what I read on the internet. Not a huge fan of Pinterest for the same reason. Do you really want to know what I am thinking would be nice to make for dinner sometime or how I would cut my hair if my lovely husband didn't want me to keep in long-ish? Any way ...

The Tournament of Books starts tomorrow at The Morning Review. I've read 8 of the books and I really liked two of them, three were passable and three I would wish only on my enemies. My choice to win the whole thing ... The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt.

Many thanks to Flavorwire for pointing out a new book of redesigned Lolita covers. I'll explain my obsession with Lolita someday. Just know if given only one choice, it is the book I would take if I knew I would be stranded on a desert island.

Many, many thanks to Laura from Apt. 11D for treating me to the Cartier ad.

If You Aren't a Member Then I Don't Think I Can Be Your Friend

Unicorn Success Club

Because she wrote the funniest post I have ever read. In. My. Life.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's a Small World

I wasn't going to post today and after this I will be soaking my right hand in warm Epson salts (golf lessons and shoveling out from a snowstorm are not good for my pre-arthritic hand). But I saw this today and thought I should mark the passing of Robert Sherman. He wrote It's A Small World. Which plays over and over throughout my favorite ride in the Magic Kingdom. Of course now I will have the song in my head all day long.

Friday, March 2, 2012

It's Independence Day!

Well, it is in Texas at least. We will be celebrating by eating (bad, so bad) bar-b-que and taking M to baseball tryouts. Why does a state celebrate its own independence day?

It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.
Emiliano Zapata

Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may.
Sam Houston

You may all go to hell, and I'll go to Texas.
Davey Crockett

To The People of Texas and
All Americans In The World --
February 24, 1836

Fellow citizens & compatriots --
I am beseiged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna -- I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man -- The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken -- I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls -- I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism, & every thing dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch -- The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country --
William Barrett Travis (at the Alamo)

We celebrate because of people like that.

Happy 108th Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

My favorite article on my favorite writer is in an old issue of Mental Floss Magazine.

On this day in 1904, Theodor Geisel, better known to the world as Dr. Seuss, the author and illustrator of such beloved children's books as "The Cat in the Hat" and "Green Eggs and Ham," is born in Springfield, Massachusetts. Geisel, who used his middle name (which was also his mother's maiden name) as his pen name, wrote 48 books--including some for adults--that have sold well over 200 million copies and been translated into multiple languages. Dr. Seuss books are known for their whimsical rhymes and quirky characters, which have names like the Lorax and the Sneetches and live in places like Hooterville.