Sunday, December 28, 2008

On the road again...

We're off to Maine! My husband and I are taking the twins and driving to Maine tomorrow to celebrate the New Year. We'll be staying at the lovely Harraseeket Inn in Freeport...virtually across the street from L.L. Bean. While we do hope to do a little bit of shopping, the real reason for the trip is to support our oldest daughter's basketball team as they compete in a tournament at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. We'll ring in the New Year with a Maine lobster dinner and champagne, then head for home on New Years Day. I'll have some reading resolutions for 2009 when I return. Happy New Year to all!

The beautiful winter lighthouse photo is from

2008 Wrap-Up

For my wrap-up of 2008 reading, I'll borrow this meme from Simon at Stuck In A Book . It covers just about everything! Overall, 2008 was not a very productive reading year.

-How many books read in 2008?

I only read 30 books this year - less than any year since I started keeping track (1998)! There are several factors I'll attribute this to. Primarily, this year has required every ounce of my energy for parenting. The physical demands are low for teenagers, but the emotional needs seem to skyrocket. My oldest daughter graduated from high school this year - meaning we spend lots of time on college visits/applications, senior year activities, graduation parties galore, getting ready for college, being supportive as she adjusted to college and, finally, adjusting to life without daughter#1's daily presence. One of the twins has transferred from the public high school to a private prep school, also requiring lots of extra time and effort in the parental support/understanding department, while the other twin learned how to navigate the high school without her sisters. As a result of all this, my reading choices tended to be somewhat lighter than usual this year.

-Fiction/Non-Fiction ratio?

There were 23 fiction and 7 non-fiction books. This works out to be 23% non-fiction... a bit higher than usual for me.

-Male/Female authors?

I read 10 male and 20 female authors this year. However, judging from my list of favorites, I should read more male authors.

-Favourite book(s) read?

Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
The Sea by John Banville
The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by MaryAnn Schaffer and Annie Barrows
Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson
The Day The World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim Defede

-Least favourite?

There were several books that I simply tossed aside this year, but my least favorite book that I finished was La Cucina by Lily Prior. It was a light, fluffy book read for a book club when I really wasn't in the mood for a beach read. I probably would have enjoyed this much more had I actually been on a beach!

addendum 1/4/09: My least favorite book of the year was actually The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs...a beach book that I did read on the beach.

-Oldest book read?

The Painted Veil, published in 1925, is the newest 'oldest book' I've ever read! I've always had several titles from the 18th or 19th centuries.


No ARC's this year, but plenty of books published in 2008.

-Longest book title?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society ...I suspect this will be listed by many book bloggers in this spot!

-Shortest title?

The Sea

-How many re-reads?

Surprisingly, none.

-Most books read by one author this year?

The answer here is two, provided I can count John Banville (The Sea) and his alter-ego Benjamin Black (The Silver Swan) as the same person. I also read two books by Muriel Spark - The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie and Memento Mori.

-Any in translation?

Just one this year, Deafening by Frances Itani. This number is also way down from last year when I read 7 books in translation.

-And how many of this year's books were from the library?

Nine books came from the library, but then I ended up buying my own copy of two.

Thanks for this meme, Simon. It's given me a chance to reflect on what I've read in 2008 and helped me formulate some plans and goals for 2009.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Books

My family rarely buys me books. Gift cards, yes...but not books. However, since Christmas morning doesn't seem complete without new books to peruse, I did offer a suggestion or two. On Christmas morning, I found Wally Lamb's new book, The Hour I First Believed and The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher under the tree. There was also a journal and a small book of wildflowers bookmarks.
Wally Lamb is a master storyteller. Both She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True kept me reading into the early morning hours and, judging from the first chapter, his latest book will do the same. The Home-Maker looked interesting when I read about it in the Persephone catalog and it's also gotten positive reviews from some book bloggers. The journal will be used for reading notes. I've decided to be more organized when it comes to jotting down thoughts and quotes as I am reading. The bookmarks are lovely and I can never have too many of them. After buying so many books as holiday gifts, I was very happy to receive some myself!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Buying Books for the Holidays

Have you noticed all the blogs sporting this "I'm Buying Books for the Holidays" button? There's been a book bloggers movement afoot to promote giving books this holiday season and I, for one, have done my part.

My husband is easy to buy for...history and finance. This year's choices were Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity by Michael Lewis and Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals: The political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.

My oldest daughter, like her Mom, loves Jane Austen! She will receive The Annotated Pride and Prejudice and, on the recommendation of Ex Libris, Lydia Bennet's Story: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice by Jane Odiwe. Since she is interested in majoring in writing/rhetoric, I couldn't pass up Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. After I'd purchased these, she decided to ask for Clinton Kelly's Freakin' Fabulous. more book bought for the holidays.

One of the twins, 15, is a big fan of the Twilight series. She has hardcover editions of all the books except the first, so Santa will complete her set. Both twins, and out-of-state nieces and nephew, will receive Barnes & Noble gift cards.

Finally, everybody will receive a page-a-day calendar: Dilbert for my husband, sports inspiration/motivation quote of the day for daughter #1, SAT prep question a day for twin A (she actually requested this!), and French phrase of the day for twin B. I also purchased a couple of gift mugs, a calligraphy set, a lapdesk, and various stocking stuffers.

The economy, or at least Barnes & Noble, should be safe for another year!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Catch-up notes from a busy week...

Where has the week gone? Is is really Saturday? Ideas for various post topics or photos have been swirling around in my head, but nothing has made it to the page. I'll chalk it up to the busy holiday season and resolve to do better in the new year.

This is what I was going to post about this week:

  • A daily Christmas-y photo: wrapping gifts, baking, decorations, etc. This plan was thwarted by the sudden demise of my camera. Santa will hopefully rectify the situation and, in the meantime, I hope to use my daughter's camera today when we hunt for our 'perfect tree'.

  • My book group met this week. There was near-record attendance for our Christmas Tea. We discussed Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier and planned our January and February meetings.

  • You may have noticed that Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now has become a permanent fixture in my currently reading box. Initially this was to be read with an on-line group, but I failed to keep up with their schedule as several other shorter books captured my attention. I've had only limited success with reading multiple books simultaneously (although I continue to try), so I really want to focus on Trollope for the next week or so.

  • My oldest daughter completed her first semester of college. I picked her up Thursday evening, so we were home before yesterday's storm hit. Her teammates were not as fortunate. Most had finals scheduled for Friday morning and since all travel ceased yesterday, they are heading home today instead.

  • Twin A and I attended An Evening With David Sedaris last week. I figured I'd better just mention it here because, at this rate, it may not get a proper post at all. She enjoyed Me Talk Pretty One Day when she read it this fall for a creative writing class and I thought I'd surprise her with tickets. I listened to Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim, so I'd be prepared for the evening, too. We had an excellent time, but the surprise turned out to be that the evening coincided with the beginning of the monster ice storm that unloaded on the northeast.

There will be at least one more proper post as I wrap up the year's reading...and hopefully some shorter holiday posts, too.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

1. Do you get to read as much as you WANT to read?
(I’m guessing #1 is an easy question for
I'll bet very few readers can say yes to this. If I could add an extra hour to the day, it would be at bedtime. Then I could read more and still get enough sleep!

2. If you had (magically) more time to read–what would you read? Something educational? Classic? Comfort Reading? Escapism? Magazines?

I would read a mix of contemporary fiction, nonfiction, and classics. It would be nice to get to the current 'buzz' books while everyone is still talking about them. Classics rarely disappoint and, this year, I've also enjoyed adding more nonfiction to the mix. Finally, I would tackle my pile New Yorker magazines.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson is an absolutely delightful book! An adult fairy tale written in 1938, it was reissued by Persephone earlier this year. Guinevere Pettigrew is a plain, middle-aged governess who doesn't like children very much and is a bit down on her luck. She is mistakenly sent on a job interview to the apartment of glamorous nightclub singer Miss Delysia LaFosse. Miss Pettigrew is immediately taken up in the drama that is Miss LaFosse's love live and, in the course of one day, manages to find some happiness of her own. This was a quick, easy, feel-good book that is perfect for a brief escape from the stress and pressure that often increase during the holiday season.

Miss Pettigrew was also my introduction to Persephone Books , a company that reprints "forgotten classics by twentieth-century (mostly women) writers". Their beautiful editions have dove-grey covers with endpaper and bookmarks in the pattern of historical fabrics. The catalog I requested arrived a few days ago and provided an enjoyable evening of reading in itself. Several more Persephone titles have been added to my tbr list!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

An Early Icing

Sunday's arctic wind blowing off Lake Ontario and Monday's single digit temperatures with subzero wind chill left our small lake covered with ice. The sun was so brilliant yesterday afternoon that I just had to take a picture. The ice will be gone later today as the temperature climbs to near forty.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Fill-Ins

1. Snow in bare tree branches is beautiful!
2. I'm looking forward to a New Years trip to Maine for daughter #1's basketball tournament .
3. Christmas is the best holiday ever!
4. One of my favorite old tv shows is The Brady Bunch...funny how all those family crisis could get resolved in a half hour.
5. I'm done with minivans...with just two kids left at home, my next vehicle can be something that's more fun.
6. The most enjoyable thing around the holidays is catching up with old friends. I actually love reading all those holiday letters.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to the Christmas Walk in our village, tomorrow my plans include taking the girls for manicures (it's the winter semi-formal) and decorating the house for the holidays and Sunday, I want to read and bake!

A Meme

This meme has been around for some time. Thanks to Les, I've decided to play.

Open the closest book to you, not your favorite or most intellectual book, but the book closest to you at the moment, to page 56. Write out the fifth sentence, as well as two to five sentences following there. Pass this on to five blogging friends.

Even though YA novels are far from my usual reading fare, Bellezza's post convinced me to pick up Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. This came as quite a shock to my three teenage daughters. News travels fast at the high school, and it's apparently become a hot topic of conversation that "even moms" are reading the series. My college freshman just rolls her eyes and says I shouldn't be wasting my time, but I'm enjoying this change of pace.
So...from page 56:

Just before I heard the shattering crunch of the van folding around the
truck bed, something hit me, hard, but not from the direction I was
expecting. My head cracked against the icy blacktop, and I felt something
solid and cold pinning me to the ground. I was lying on the pavement
behind the tan car I'd parked next to. But I didn't have a chance to
notice anything else, because the van was still coming. It had curled
gratingly around the end of the truck and, still spinning and sliding, was about
to collide with me again.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

1. Do you have a favorite author?

For years, Jane Austen has been my automatic response to this question. Jane is still number one, especially after visiting Jane Austen sights in and around Bath last summer. John Steinbeck is also high on my list, and there are so many other contemporary authors that I hesitate to mention just one or two more.

2. Have you read everything he or she has written?

I've read all of Jane Austen's novels except Emma, but that will change in 2009. I'm slowly working my way through a collection of her letters that I purchased at the Jane Austen Centre. Claire Tomalin's Jane Austen: A Life is also on the bedside table.

3. Did you LIKE everything?

What's not to like? Pride and Prejudice is my all-time favorite novel.

4. How about a least favorite author?

I can't think of one right now.

5. An author you wanted to like, but didn’t?

I really want to like Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I've read Love in the Time of Cholera and have started One Hundred Years of Solitude several times, but I just don't 'get' magic realsim.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Fill-Ins

1. The last band I saw live was our high school band at the fall concert.

2. What I look forward to most on Thanksgiving is having the whole family together.

3. My Christmas shopping is stressing me out.

4. Thoughts of the Thanksgiving dinner menu fill my head.

5. I wish I could wear high heels and still walk normally.

6. Bagpipes usually annoy me.

7. As for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to watching the SU basketball game, tomorrow my plans include taking twin #1 to her cello lesson (weather permitting), putting up the outside Christmas lights, and planning Thanksgiving dinner and Sunday, I want to go to church and then just read all day!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Two Books Finished

Last week I finished two books....a rare occurrence! I usually prefer to read one book at at time, but lately have had several in progress simultaneously. There is almost always an audio book for the car, too.

China Road, by Rob Gifford, is an account of his 6 week, 3000 mile journey along China's Mother Road, Route 312. Gifford, NPR's China correspondent from 1999 to 2005, traveled from Shanghai across the Gobi desert to Kazakhstan for a final farewell tour of the country. He experienced a true cross-section of present day China - from prosperity and growth in the cities, to peasant farmers hoping to feed their families for another day. Gifford, who is fluent in Mandarin, spoke with anyone he could along the way...businessmen, farmers, students, monks, a prostitute, a radio host, even an Amway salesman!

The world sees China as an emerging superpower, but Gifford contends that up close it is 'more fragile and brittle than it appears'. The book actually raises more questions than it answers. My knowledge of modern China was limited before reading this book, now I am still slightly confused. Perhaps that is the author's intention, as he also voices doubts about China's future.

One of my daughters will be traveling to China with a school group in February. She will tour Beijing and the Olympic venues, the Great Wall, Summer Palace, and even spend a day at a high school with a Chinese pen-pal. I'm sure she will bring home an interesting perspective...she is extremely insightful for a teenager.

The second book is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This is an absolutely delightful epistolary novel about the German occupation of the Channel Islands during WWII. It has been so thoroughly and widely reviewed that I hesitate to add more. I will note that I foresee Guernsey becoming a hot literary travel destination in the near future. Remember what Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil did for Savannah?

The book got me thinking about epistolary novels in general. This is a form I've enjoyed over the years. Helene Hanff's 84, Charring Cross Road became an instant favorite when I first read it several years ago. Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright, set in the 1930's, is a series of two women's letters and journal entries. Using two narrators, this was extremely effective as an audiobook...and remains one of my all-time favorite audiobooks. Although not really an epistolary novel, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh also came to mind. Harriet wrote everything in those spy journals. She was a childhood favorite and, at one point, I was rereading it monthly! Finally, there is the 'big one' - Clarissa by Samuel Richardson. It's 1500 pages of letters, first published in 1747, that are dated over the course of one year. I've thought of doing a 'real time' read as a year long project. Reading the letters the date they are supposed to have been written may not work for me though. I'd either get too involved and read ahead, or get caught up in other books and fall behind. I'm just not disciplined enough to stick to a reading schedule!

Which epistolary novels have you enjoyed?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New England Sweet Potato Soup

As the days get colder and shorter, homemade soup can almost always be found in my refrigerator. It's a cold, damp day....perfect for a bowl of soup.

New England Sweet Potato Soup

2 1/2 to 3 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried sage, crushed
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
32 oz. carton chicken broth
1 cup water
1/2 cup half and half
5 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled


1. In a 3 1/2 - 4 qt. crock pot combine sweet potatoes, onion, maple syrup, garlic, sage, salt and pepper. Pour broth and water over the top.

2. cover and cook on low heat setting for 6 to 8 hours ( or 3 to 4 hours on high)

3. Using a potato masher or handheld blender, mash the soup to desired consistency. Whish in half and half. Top individual servings with crumbled bacon.

**recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Maggie's Peanut Butter Bars

Maggie (twin A) has been in the kitchen this afternoon cooking up a batch of her favorite peanut butter bars. She got the recipe last year in her Food and Nutrition class. They are delicious, but very rich. A big glass of milk is the perfect accompaniment!


18 oz. jar crunchy peanut butter
2 sticks of butter, melted
2 packages graham crackers (about 18 large rectangles)
3 1/4 cups confectioners sugar

1 bag (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 stick butter


Mix peanut butter and 2 sticks melted butter in mixer. Crush graham crackers with a rolling pin and add to mixer. Gradually add in the confectioners sugar. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.

Melt the semi- sweet chocolate chips and one stick of butter in a saucepan on the stove. Spread
evenly over top of bars.

Chill for 1 hour and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day - at long last

The polls are finally open. There was no line at all when I voted around ten this morning, and there didn't seem to be much of one just after four either. We don't have early voting in New York , so where is everybody? Did they all vote absentee? This is a predominantly Republican area of central New York, so did they stay home thinking their votes wouldn't matter? Lines will surely develop as we head into the evening hours, right?
Last year there was a referendum on turf and lights for the high school football field. The issue was particularly divisive, and voter turnout was unprecedented. Lines stretched out the door and curled through the parking lot. Polls were kept open late to allow voters in line at closing to cast their ballot. The referendum failed, but with turnout close to 90% nearly every voice was heard. I was expecting the same today. The results of this election may not be a surprise, but I will be very interested in local voter turnout.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham is the November selection for my face-to-face book group. Finishing the book while sipping my morning coffee is a typical meeting day scenario, but this time I have a week to spare. Yes, it’s a short book (just under 250 pages), but it was also a surprisingly quick read.

First published in 1925, it’s the story of Kitty Fane, a superficial woman who marries a man she does not love, moves with him to Hong Kong, and quickly becomes involved in an affair with a British government official. Her husband, a bacteriologist, takes his revenge by forcing her to accompany him to the northern territories of China where a cholera epidemic is raging. Facing what she fears to be certain death, the moving story of Kitty’s spiritual awakening follows.

I once read that characterization is where Maugham really shines and his portrayal of Kitty is superb. Kitty's inner conflicts and struggles came alive for me. Even after several days, I still find myself thinking about her.
My plan is to watch the movie before our meeting on the 5th. Other members may do the same, so it will add another dimension to the discussion. The 2006 version starring Naomi Watts and Edward Norton is now at the top of my Netflix queue. This novel should lend itself to some excellent cinematography! Maybe I can even persuade my husband and daughters to watch with me.

I was curious about where the title came from. Here's a poem by Shelley:

Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread,–behind, lurk
FearAnd Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave
Their shadows, o’er the chasm, sightless and drear.
I knew one who had lifted it–he sought,
For his lost heart was tender, things to love,
But found them not, alas! nor was there aught
The world contains, the which he could approve.
Through the unheeding many he did move,
A splendour among shadows, a bright blot
Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove
For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.

Other than a short story or two read for high school English, this was my first exposure to Maugham. It certainly won’t be the last! My rating for The Painted Veil: 9 out of 10

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

But it's still October

Fall is my favorite season - the beautiful colors, cool temperatures, crisp breezes off the lake and slipping into my favorite sweaters. Unfortunately, here in central New York it never lasts long enough. Yesterday's fall snowstorm provided a stark reminder that winter is fast approaching.

Monday, October 27, 2008

And we're off....

Lakeside Musings is my place to share what's happening here by the lake. books, recipes, photos, or thoughts about life. The fine art of blogging is all new to me, but I'm ready to try and figure it out.


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