Friday, July 24, 2015

Pages From the Past: My 2000 Reading Journal

As we get ready to head out of town on vacation, I'll leave you with another installment of my Pages From the Past Series. We're moving into the 21st century now...


Memorable Fiction:

Fortune's Rocks by Anita Shreve 
My favorite of her novels

Even better than Stones From the River

A Widow For One Year by John Irving
Irving was my most read author of 2000

Our "fun" summer book club selection

Tara Road by Maeve Binchy
Binchy was a favorite back then

The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney 
Beachy covers have always appealed to me

Read with an on-line book club... vivid Newfoundland setting

Memorable Nonfiction:

Home Town by Tracy Kidder 
a book club selection

Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol 1, 1884-1933 by Blanche Weisen Cook
It took some time, but I also made it through volume 2

Should Have Skipped:

A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks 
Sappy is the adjective which comes to mind

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene 
Who knew it would be a favorite on audio just over a decade later?

Incubus by Ann Arensberg
Don't even remember reading this, but my journal notations not favorable

Have you read any of these books? What were you reading in 2000?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
by Marie Kondo
Random House, 2014
226 pages
source: borrowed from the library

When your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state. You can see any issues you have been avoiding and are forced to deal with them. From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life. As a result, your life will start to change.

A tidy home will revolutionize your life, at least according to Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo. Her book offers a step-by-step approach (called KonMari) to declutter, pare down, and organize possessions until you are left only with items which "spark joy".  She claims this is the basis for a simpler, happier existence.

My friends and family will tell you that I'm already a very organized person and my house is generally tidy. So why would I read this book? Because if you open my closets, cupboards, or drawers, a beast is lurking. I wanted to see if the KonMari method could help me tame that beast... beginning with my own closet.

According to Kondo, effective tidying involves two essential actions: discarding and deciding where to store things. In addition, to tidy efficiently you must do it all at once, as quickly as possible, and nothing should be put away until the discarding is done.

Her basic ideas seem fundamentally sound and, to me, intuitive. She even offers subcategories, to be approached in a specific order, for those unable to tidy their closet in one fell swoop. There are also tips on how to fold and arrange items in a drawer. And all that is fine...

Until it gets to be a bit much. Talk to each of your possessions? Thank them for serving your needs? Be considerate of their feelings? Seriously?? That sounds a little crazy to me.

But I finished reading the book.

And then it was time to tackle my closet... in sections, not exactly in the prescribed order. I did consider the joy-inducing capabilities of each item individually. However, I did not  speak directly to any article of clothing.

Three days (and six bags) later, my closet was a joy to behold.

On the fourth day, I went shopping!

The kitchen cabinets and my husband's closet (with his assistance, of course) are next on the agenda. We'll see about purging books after that.

Much of this book seems like common sense, some of it is certainly over-the-top, and I remain skeptical of any "life-changing" claims. Its primary value seems to be as inspiration and motivation... which was exactly what I needed.

My rating:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Judging from the response on Instagram yesterday, I had to share this photo here:

My caption:
Look what I saw at B&N today! This could be the only way I'll ever read Proust. #instabooks #bookstagram

Click here for links to all of this week's Paris in July posts.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tuesday Intro: Old Filth

The Donheads
He was spectacularly clean. You might say ostentatiously clean. His ancient fingernails were rimmed with purest white. The few still-gold hairs below his knuckles looked always freshly shampooed, as did his curly still-bronze hair. His shoes shone like conkers. His clothes were always freshly pressed. He had the elegance of the 1920s, for his garments, whatever they looked like off, always became him. Always a Victorian silk handkerchief in the breast pocket. Always yellow cotton or silk socks from Harrod's; and some still perfect from his old days in the East. His skin was clear and, in poor light, young.
Old Filth
by Jane Gardam

A couple of days ago I began reading Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen  by Mary Norris. It's a new hardcover from the library. As I've also developed a fondness for reading in the pool (on one of those comfy floating chairs), library books are an obvious contraindication.

I bought a paperback copy of Old Filth  at a library sale a year or two ago. In addition, I have an audio version, which I scored during a Buy One, Get One sale at audible.  I love that description of Old Filth {though I had to google conker - it's the seed of a horse chestnut} and look forward to getting to know him better. Think I'll get started later today.

Here is the goodreads summary:
Sir Edward Feathers has had a brilliant career, from his early days as a lawyer in Southeast Asia, where he earned the nickname Old Filth (FILTH being an acronym for Failed In London Try Hong Kong) to his final working days as a respected judge at the English bar. Yet through it all he has carried with him the wounds of a difficult and emotionally hollow childhood. Now an eighty-year-old widower living in comfortable seclusion in Dorset, Feathers is finally free from the regimen of work and the sentimental scaffolding that has sustained him throughout his life. He slips back into the past with ever mounting frequency and intensity, and on the tide of these vivid, lyrical musings, Feathers approaches a reckoning with his own history. Not all the old filth, it seems, can be cleaned away.
What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

Monday, July 20, 2015

7/20/15: It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Good morning and happy Monday! After another busy week, the final push is on for our library book sale which begins Friday... and my back is already complaining. Saturday afternoon, in an effort to relax those aching muscles, I floated around on a pool lounge and read for a couple of hours - a paperback, of course. The above photo was my view from the float.

My other project last week, influenced by The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  by Marie Kondo, was cleaning out my closet. Many bags of clothing were discarded and I actually like my closet again. On the top shelf, way in the back, I found a box which was never unpacked when we moved in 25 years ago. It contained my journals from senior year of high school, college, my first job, and ended when I got engaged. That made for quite a trip down memory lane! I'll have a review of the book this week.

The journals made up the bulk of my reading last week, but I also finished//

The Lost Daughter  by Elena Ferrante

Current listening//

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope, narrated by Simon Vance
This started as a read/listen combination, but was mostly listening this week. 

Current reading//

Hardcover from the library... I'll also need to choose a paperback for pool reading.

On the blog//

Weekend Cooking: A Skinnytaste Kind of Week
Review: Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan
Tuesday Intro: The Lost Daughter  by Elena Ferrante

The week ahead//

Will be crazy... Our library book sale begins Friday, my birthday is Wednesday, and Sunday we're off on our Great Western Adventure. I plan to have a few posts ready this week, then a short break until early August.

How was your week? What are you reading today?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. While she is taking a break, check the hashtag #IMWAYR on twitter.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Skinnytaste Kind of Week

Do you know Skinnytaste? It's a blog, it's a cookbook, it's everywhere on social media ... it's Gina Homolka. She is known for slimmed down recipes which are generally easy to prepare and always made from natural, readily available ingredients. I've tried quite a few and they always  turn out well.

When she released a cookbook last year, I bought my daughter a copy for Christmas. And last spring I finally got a copy for myself, too. I've cooked from it sporadically since then, but this week turned out to be all Skinnytaste, all the time.

It began with Thai Coconut Mussels. Mussels are a relatively recent addition to my culinary repertoire, probably because I only began eating them a few years ago.  My husband and I got into the habit of splitting the mussels appetizer at our favorite (though, sadly, now closed) farm-to-table restaurant. I wanted to duplicate those dishes at home, so began experimenting with several recipes.

Mussels are generally steamed, and the cooking liquid seems to be the most important factor in flavoring the dish. I've tried various stocks/broths, beers, and wines. This recipe is unusual in that the liquid is light coconut milk. Adding diced tomatoes, scallions, red bell pepper, ginger, chiles, and cilantro imparted the Thai flavor.

We both thought it was a nice change of pace, but Ina Garten's (The Barefoot Contessa) Mussels in White Wine recipe remains my favorite.

Next up were the Make Ahead Western Omelet Muffins. That's right, omelet muffins. I've been skeptical of that whole concept for a long time, but finally got around to actually trying it and was pretty impressed. I used shredded taco cheese instead of swiss because that's what I had on hand and omitted the scallions.

These were amazing! The best part was having a delicious breakfast already made for the rest of the week. I learned from my friends on Instagram that they also freeze well. There will now be a batch of these "muffins" in my freezer at all times!

And finally,  Baked Chicken Parmesan... I can't even tell you how many recipes and methods I've tried over the years, but this is the best! Gina's lightened up version starts with baking breaded chicken cutlets at a very high temperature, then placing them in a pan with warmed marinara sauce, topping with mozzarella, and letting it melt. (Note: the linked recipe says to put it back in the oven, but that was changed for the cookbook) This is the only way I will prepare chicken parmesan from now on!

What is your favorite Skinnytaste recipe?

Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, 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.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

A strange melancholy pervades me to which I hesitate to give the grave and beautiful name of sorrow. The idea of sorrow has always appealed to me, but now I am almost ashamed of its complete egoism. I have known boredom, regret, and occasionally remorse, but never sorrow. Today it envelopes me like a silken web, enervating and soft, and sets me apart from everybody else.

From the opening paragraph I knew I was in for a treat, and that's exactly what this little gem delivered. The depth of our young narrator's self-understanding (and selfishness), an introspective tone, and engaging writing style drew me in right away and held me rapt through the final page.

A teenage girl, her philandering widowed father, his current girlfriend,  a strict but well-meaning friend of her late mother, and a summer rental on the French Riviera... just imagine the possibilities! And there's a cute guy with a sailboat just a few villas down, too.

Goodreads says: "Deceptively simple in structure, Bonjour Tristesse is a complex and beautifully composed portrait of casual amorality and a young woman's desperate attempt to understand and control the world around her."

I think it's also a cautionary tale of youthful schemes and their unintended consequences.

A near perfect summer read, it's hard to believe the author was only eighteen years old when she wrote this novella in 1954.

My rating:

Click here for links to all of this week's Paris in July posts.


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