Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday Salon: February 23, 2014

The Sunday

The scene: 10 AM Sunday morning after a nice walk in the warm sunshine - so nice to say that after weeks of frigid temps!

 Reading: The Wife, The Maid and The Mistress by Ariel Lawhon. I finally finished reading Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah - the story was so heartbreaking in places that I found myself in tears in a coffee shop while reading. Definitely a satisfying read and reminded me how much I like this author. My next audio pick was going to be Five Days at Memorial but I decided I needed something lighter so I listened to The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster. Her books always make me laugh and sure enough I was laughing in the street as I walked the dog!

Blogging: This week I posted my review of Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan - this is definitely a best read of 2014 for me and I will be gifting it to many friends. The memoir is really a tribute to Corrigan's mother (the glue in their family) and it is all the more powerful because it comes from a daughter who didn't always appreciate what her Mom had to offer and thought they had nothing in common.

Watching: I started watching House of Cards Season 2 but have dialed it back to stretch the season out a bit.  I found out from the surgeon this Friday that I will be home for two more weeks.  My recovery is going well but he wants to wait another week to progress me from liquids and I need to be off while I incorporate solid food. I may try to see a show or two while I am off - with Broadway in my backyard, I am embarrassed to say how rarely I see a show.

Looking Forward To: Solid food! Fortunately, I haven't been very hungry since surgery but need to get a minimum amount of protein in and I am getting tired of my limited food options at this point. I knew I was in trouble last week when I was looking forward to the crunch of my chewable vitamin! I find myself perusing Pinterest for delicious dishes or checking out the restaurants online that my friends check into on Facebook!  My progression back to all solid food will be slow but I will be prepared with my recipes and restaurant choices!

Grateful: For beautiful weather over the past few days. We got into the 50's yesterday and the sun shined and it looks to be more of the same today. I was so happy to shed my puffy winter coat and slip into something lighter weight. Prince is also relieved to shed his coat and boots. I understand cold weather (and maybe SNOW!) will return this week but right now and I thankful for this weather and living in the (sunny) moment!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Review: Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan: Kelly Corrigan, recently graduated from college, wants nothing more than to get out and explore the world. In her mind, everything good happens outside the home - you are not really living unless you are out there doing things - or anything, really. Her practical, cautious mother advises her to work hard and save but Kelly has other plans - she wants to travel. So against her mother's advice (any maybe just a little because of it) she heads off with her friend Tracey to travel the world. When funds run low, however, she ends up as a nanny in Australia for a family with two young children whose mother has recently passed away from cancer. Before she knows it, she is living a life oddly parallel to her mother's and gaining new insight into her Mom and what makes her tick.

Practical, efficient Mary Corrigan would tell Kelly and her two brothers growing up, "Your Father is the glitter and I am the glue". Mary kept the family home running and doled out the discipline while her husband breezed in with jokes and a lighthearted sensibility. Kelly had a special relationship with her Dad but always felt that her mother didn't necessarily understand her and she bristled against the no nonsense approach her Mom took to parenting. The difference between her Mom and Dad can be seen right in the beginning of the book as they accompanied Kelly and Tracey to the airport - her father was enthusiastic about the adventures which awaited the girls while her mother barely concealed her misgivings about this trip and coolly warned her daughter to be safe.

When Kelly meets the Tanners and contemplates all these young children have lost with the recent death of their mother, she begins to value her own mother and counts herself lucky to have benefited from her guidance and discipline - even if it was practical and much more like glue than glitter.  Playing mother on a daily basis to the Tanner children, Kelly began to see the sense in how her mother approached the daily tasks of motherhood. Many women begin to understand their own mothers better as they become mothers themselves - Kelly got a head start on that as a nanny.

My Thoughts
I LOVED this book  - so much of it resonated for me and I saw my own mother in Mary Corrigan. My Mom is practical and unsentimental and that has been a point of contention between us at times. Like Kelly, however, I have learned to value and understand my Mom's practicality and realize that it kept things running smoothly in our home - there wasn't much time or room for frivolity. I attended an event in NYC where Kelly did a reading (you can see a YouTube video of the reading here) and took questions. At one point, she said her Mom didn't show love so much with words or hugs but by serving - taking care of her children and doing for them. My Mom is much the same - she shows her care and concern by doing.

My Mom and Me - Alaska, 2013

Kelly articulates her perspective on her Mom with wit and grace so that this book is a real tribute to Mary Corrigan but still immensely readable and relevant. I have already purchased copies of the book for my Mom and many friends!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Salon: February 16, 2014

The Sunday

The scene: 10 AM Sunday morning, inside looking out (and considering my hydrangea which has yet to fall victim to my black thumb!)

Reading: Still reading Winter Garden  - I have barely read in print this week at all - not sure what happened because I certainly have time on my hands but somehow kept getting distracted (probably by what you will see in the "watching" prompt!) I did finish Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe in audio  - this book pleasantly surprised me.  I realized I had some preconceived notions about the actor which are likely wrong. I think my next audio pick will be Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink - I have seen great reviews.

Blogging: This week I posted my review of While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax (audio) - this was light, enjoyable listen with beloved Downton as a backdrop. I am still moving through reviews from last year but starting to get caught up. I also posted "Books with HEART" for Valentine's Day which included a sampling of books with "heart" in the title.

Watching: Probably too much TV! I gave House of Cards another try this week and now am completely sucked in!  With the arrival of Season 2 on Friday, I have had more than enough episodes to keep me going. I also went to see Gravity this weekend and was surprised by how much I liked it - it kept me on the edge of my seat for 90 minutes. Thus far, it is the only Oscar nominated film for 2014 I have seen - I am going to try to see some more before the awards. Which do you recommend?

Looking Forward To: The end of winter - desperately. Like many across the US, I am over this snow - well and truly over it. Fortunately, we are getting warmer temps this week and I can't wait to get out and take advantage of them.  A trip to the dog park is definitely in order - even Prince has a case of cabin fever! He can't wait to ditch these boots and the coat!

Planning : This may be my last week off work - I see the surgeon later this week and we will discuss whether or not I can return to work. I want to enjoy the week and take some time to set myself up for success when I do return to work. I will still have some diet restrictions and need to take better care of myself so achieving balance when I return to work is important.

Grateful: For the company of good friends. My friends have been great as I recovered - checking in, stopping by and sending good wishes. My online community has also been great -thanks for all your kind words and thoughts!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Books with HEART

Books make great gifts for Valentine's Day whether for someone special or for yourself! Here are some books with "heart" to commemorate the special day.  Is your favorite on here or do you have other suggestions?

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart  by Peter Swanson
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Heart Trouble Mary Kay Andrews

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
The Sanctuary of Illness - A Memoir of Heart Disease by Thomas Larson

A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker
Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes
Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Audiobook Review: While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax (10 hours, 24 minutes) narrated by Orlagh Cassidy: Samantha, Clarie and Brooke all live in the prestigious Atlanta condominium, The Alexander. Behind the Beaux Arts facade of this building, personal dramas unfold for each of the women. The women's lives and stories were each moving in their own orbit until Edward, the building concierge, decided to schedule viewings of Downton Abbey for building residents; as a Brit, he has a special affinity for the show and is excited to introduce it to the residents. By bringing them all together to watch Downton Abbey, Edward unwittingly also creates a vehicle for these relatively solitary women to find friendship and support right in their own "backyard".

 Claire has moved to the Alexander following the dissolution of her marriage and at the same time as her only daughter heads for college. She is newly alone and struggling with all of these changes at once. Claire is also a writer and is on a deadline for her next novel - she spends a lot of time alone in the Alexander holed up in her apartment battling writers block. Brooke is also newly single although her arrival at singlehood was a little more dramatic - her husband left her for a much younger woman and then moved post-divorce with the younger woman into another apartment at the Alexander. Although her husband supposedly did this to be near their two young children, Brooke is at her limit with the proximity to her ex-husband and his new (and pregnant) wife. In addition to facing her ex-husband's infidelity on a daily basis, she also watches his new wife be lavished with luxuries while she slaved to put her now wildy successful husband through medical school. Finally, Samantha has the apartment and lifestyle that everyone envies - tastefully luxurious and "correct" in every way. Of course, beneath that exterior lies some cracks. Orphaned at a relatively young age with her two younger siblings to care for, Samantha chose her husband for the stability and resources he offered with his privileged background. Now, years later, Samantha questions her decision while also trying to make sure her brother doesn't bring scandal to them all.

My Thoughts
This book was thoroughly enjoyable with the added bonus of Downton as a backdrop. The book really doesn't cover much about Downton - just the basic sketches of a few episodes and the topic of superficial conversation among the ladies while they gather for the screenings. It works well as a backdrop - it doesn't exclude those who do not follow Downton or interfere with where you might be in the series when you read the book.

Each of the ladies' storylines is interesting and I liked hopping between them and seeing how they worked through their respective problems. They were good company on my walks!  I wished  my building had events like this - we all live such solitary lives in apartment life, it would be nice to connect with each other a bit more!  Orlagh Cassidy is a favorite narrator of mine and does not disappoint in this audiobook - she switches among the different characters easily and is plesant to listen to.  Whether or not you are a Downton fan, this book has something to offer and entertain.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday Salon: February 9, 2014

The Sunday

It is nice to see the sun shining this morning - we are preparing for another snowstorm (although I think it will be relatively light) but you would hardly know it looking outside right now. We got a major storm at the beginning of the week with record snow fall in Central Park.  I was able to get out for a walk two days later and caught a few pics of the Park encased in snow and ice - it was beautiful!

 Reading: This week I fininshed Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan - what a great book! I found myself turning down page after page with passages that spoke to me. Kelly's mother (the "glue" to her father's "glitter" in their family) reminded me so much of my own mother and the author seemed to admire (and at times be frustrated by) many of the same things I admire and can be frustrated by in my own mother. My Mom and I had a chance this week to attend a reading by the author - Corrigan was interveiwed, took questions from the audience and then did a reading. You can see the reading in this you tube video - it gives you a great sample of her humor and her views on motherhood - keep the tissues handy!

Right now, I am back to Winter Garden (how apropos!) which I have nearly finished and then I will be on to  The Wife, The Maid and The Mistress by Ariel Lawhon. The book is set in the Jazz Age and, although that theme has been very popular of late, I have not read a book set in that era in a long time and am looking forward to it.

 Listening: Still on Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe. I haven't had much walking time (alone) to listen to my audiobook but since my parents left this morning and I will be back on dog walking duty, I expect to get some more in and finish this one off. Walking is the only exercise I am allowed until I see my surgeon so I want to walk on that more this week which will also allow for some listening time.

 Blogging: I am working through my review backlog - my goal is to have posts waiting for when I return to work so that I don't need to worry about that as I am getting back into full-time work. This week I posted my review of Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge and a Weekend Coooking post on the peach pie making scene from the movie Labor Day.

Watching: Olympics- I missed the Opening Ceremonies but saw some downhill moguls last night - my knees were screaming just watching them! And, of course, if it is Sunday, it has to be Downton! I am not as thrilled with this season as some of the earlier ones but I heard from friends in the UK that it is worth holding out until later in the season. With two more weeks of recovery on deck, I am looking for recommendations on shows to stream via Netflix, Hulu and Amazon so please leave any recommendations in the comments. I might try Mr. Selfridge with Jeremy Piven - have you watched it?

Planning: On getting out more this week.  It's time for me to move beyond "home only" recovery and get out a bit. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate.

Grateful: For all the uneventful to date recovery - the human body is an amazing thing!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Weekend Cooking: Peach Pie ala Joyce Maynard and Labor Day

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

A few weeks ago I had the chance to see the movie Labor Day which is based on Joyce Maynard's book of the same title. The movie, starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet, features a scene where their characters make a peach pie - the peaches look luscious and juicy on a hot summer day and there is a sensuality between the two characters as they make the pie from scratch. While sitting in the theatre, I was transfixed by the scene and was hungry for pie when I left!

 After doing a little research, I learned I was was not the only one affected by the scene - people are comparing it to the pottery wheel scene from the movie Ghost.. In this article, the author Joyce Maynard talks about the importance of the scene and how she even went on set and taught Josh Brolin to make the peach pie. The hard work paid off - the scene was definitely memorable!

From Epicurious, here is Joyce's peach pie recipe (they also have an article on the "sexy" peach pie scene with photos from the shoot).  I can't wait until the summer when Farmer's Markets have fresh peaches so I can whip this up!


3 pounds peaches
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Crisco vegetable shortening
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon chilled butter, cut into pieces
1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water
2 tablespoons Minute tapioca (plus 2 additional tablespoons to stir into peaches)
1 beaten egg
1 tablespoon sugar
1. In a large bowl, combine the peaches, sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Stir in 2 tbsp Minute Tapioca to help absorb juices. Let stand, stirring occasionally.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, work in the shortening and 1 stick of butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the ice water over the flour mixture, stirring gently with a fork. Continue adding the water just until the dough holds together. Shape the dough into a ball and divide it into two discs, one slightly larger than the other.
3. Place the smaller disc on a sheet of waxed paper, and use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin, dust it lightly with more flour. Lay a 9- to 10-inch pie pan face down on top of the circle; flip the pan over and remove the paper. For the crust, on a sheet of waxed paper, roll out the other disc to form a 14-inch circle. Do not roll the dough more than necessary.
4. Sprinkle the tapioca on the bottom crust. Add the filling, mounding it in the center, and dot with 1 tablespoon butter. Lift the waxed paper with the remaining crust and flip it over the filling. Peel back waxed paper. Trim the edges of the crusts and pinch together the top and bottom crusts. Optional: Roll out the trimmings and cut into decorative shapes. Brush the pie with the egg, and arrange the shapes on the crust. Sprinkle with sugar. Poke fork holes or cut vents in the top crust. Put pie plate on cookie sheet to catch drips. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Review: Love, Water, Memory by Jennie Shortridge

In Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge, we meet Lucie Walker as she is coming to awareness that she is in a body of water and has no idea how she arrived there. It quickly becomes clear that Lucie has had a break with reality and now has no memory - she doesn't know her identity nor how she arrived in the San Francisco Bay. When she is finally reunited with her fiance, Grady and returns with him to Seattle, Lucie's immediate history begins to reveal itself but there are obviously secrets and pain in her childhood unknown to both her and her fiance. With her old self now a stranger to her, can Lucie, or more importantly, Grady make peace with the person that has emerged?

 Prior to her break, Lucie Walker is an extremely well put together but guarded person. She can be curt and intense and is rare to show emotion. With an extensive collection of makeup and expensive clothes and accessories, Lucie wears it all as armor behind which she hides. As her wedding plans with Grady intensify and they begin to argue, Lucie suddenly flees after a particularly bad fight. She is missing for days and then comes to in the San Francisco Bay without any memory whatsoever. When Grady is finally reunited with her, he learns her memory loss has been diagnosed as a dissociative fugue and that it is generally associated with severe emotional trauma. This prompts Grady to reflect on how little he knows of Lucie's history and childhood. Meanwhile, the new Lucie is a stripped down version of her old self - the armor is gone and Lucie is much more real than she was before losing her memory. Interestingly, she now yearns for connections to others - especially family - wheareas the old Lucie thrived on independence and shunned Grady's family. Lucie begins to not like what she learns about who she used to be and knows she must seek to understand what caused her to be that person.

 My Thoughts
Before I started blogging, I read Eating Heaven by Jennie Shortridge and remember being very affected by the book and struck by how well the author hit on emotions subtly with words. Fortunately, I found more of the same in Love, Water, Memory. Lucie is a tightly wound clock and after the incident she is unwound bit by bit. The author expertly reveals the emotional damage suffered by Lucie.

As much as this book is about Lucie and her history, it is also about Grady and his history. Although not as traumatic as Lucie's, it has certainly shaped him in interesting ways and adds a dynamic to his relationship with both old and new Lucie.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it gave me a lot to think about - especially about the armors we wear and what they are (or are attempting to) shield from the world. They do an inadequate job of dealing with past hurts - the only way to be free of those is to deal with them.  Highly recommend this book!

This book is the She Reads selection for January - you can find other reviews here 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sunday Salon: Feburary 2, 2014

The Sunday

Well, it's been two weeks since my last Sunday Salon post.  In the interim, I had surgery and between the hospital and then early recovery I wasn't much up to blogging.  Or reading or much of anything it seems.  I have been surprised at just how fatigued I have been but I guess as the body heals, it zaps energy.  I am starting to feel a bit better now and glad to be getting back to some sense of normalcy.

The scene:  9 AM Sunday morning, a cup of chai tea and my trusty shot glass of meds dissolved in water at the ready. Not  what I orginially intended for the shot glass but it works!

Reading:  I am currently reading Glitter and Glue  by Kelly Corrigan - I picked this up at BEA and started reading on the bus home and was pulled in - very happy to be getting back to it.  I haven't read her first memoir (The Middle Place) but read and heard great things from others about it.  I just finished  Love, Water, Memory by Jennie Shortridge on my e-reader.  This book is affecting and reaffirmed my like of this author's writing

Listening: Still on Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe.  I started this before the hospital and was moving right along then I listened a bit in the hospital during some pain med induced fugue and have lost all track of the story - I need to get back and figure out where I was when I was lucid!

Blogging: See above - non-existent! Hoping to get some posts done this week now that I am feeling a bit better.  I have been dropping in on a few of your blogs here and there but also hope to do more of that this week.

Watching: Looking forward to Downton tonight, despite its conflict with THE BIG GAME.  We will see-  I may DVR it if my Dad and I are really into the game and don't want to switch over.  It won't be much of a party around here - I am still on a liquid/puree diet (and somehow pureed nachos doesn't do it for me!) but if you are looking for some Super Bowl snacks, Diane has a great sample on her blog.  And, OMG, this Snickers Chex Mix from Iowa Girl Eats looks divine 

Looking Forward To: Feeling more and more like my old self. Perhaps enough to enjoy some of this forced downtime.

Planning: On more organizing.  My parents hate to be idle so while they are here taking care of me, they have also been doing odd jobs around the apartment and now have set about helping me clean out closets, etc.  It's not fun but needs to be done so I am glad of the help.  And I can do pretty little so I am just in the director's role.  Yesterday, however, we tackled the books. My Dad couldn't get over how many books I had and really pushed me to evaluate which I want to keep.  I am not going to lie -there was some aruging in the guest room as he told me I wasn't cutting enough and I was protesting that I really needed these books!  It was quite a scene. But the net result is that at 1/2 way through the project, I have about 100 books to donate and I expect there will be more as we continue today. As much as I hate this, the extra space does feel freeing.

Grateful: For all the help (book arguments in the guest room notwithstanding) my parents have given me since surgery. I am an adult but it is nice to be babied a bit!

Happy Sunday!