Wednesday, November 27, 2013

We Give Thanks

The Thanksgiving holiday is finally here! Our daughters will be home soon, my brother and his family have arrived, and we even have a couple of boyfriends joining us this year. Meal preparation is well underway… we anticipate eighteen for our traditional turkey dinner. Other weekend activities include cutting down our Christmas tree, attending my cousin's annual Christmas party (complete with Yankee Swap), catching a movie, the usual leftovers feast and, of course, football. No wonder it's my favorite holiday.

I have so much to be thankful for this season, and so does my 7-year-old niece. Her "I am thankful for..." turkey  brought a smile to my face and I thought you might enjoy it, too.  In case you can't read the feathers:
- My dog
- My family
- A good teacher
- Art
- book fairs
I'd say my brother and sister-in-law are raising her right!

I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving. See you next week...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday Intro: Cheerful Weather for the Wedding

On March 5th Mrs. Thatcham, a middle-class widow, married her eldest daughter, Dolly, who was twenty-three years old, to the Hon. Owen Bigham. He was eight years older than she was, and in the Diplomatic Service. 
It had been a short engagement, as engagements are supposed to go - only a month, but Owen was due in South America at the end of March, to take up a post there for several years, and Dolly had agreed to marry and go out with him. 
Owen and Dolly were married from the Thatchams' house in the country. (Owen's parents had a house in that part of the world also, - the other side of the sea bay of Malton.) 
At the beginning of the wedding morning it was grey and cold.
Cheerful Weather for the Wedding
by Julia Strachey

This short novel, originally published in 1932, is my Classics Spin book. Reviews seem to be mixed overall, but I'm enjoying the writing and the time period so far. With a little luck, I may even be able to finish over the long holiday weekend and watch the 2012 film, too.

What do you think of the intro? Does it make you want to read more?

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.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
by Michael Moss
narrated by Scott Brick
Random House Audio, 2013
14 hours and 34 minutes
source: borrowed from library

Brief summary (from publisher):
From a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at The New York Times comes the explosive story of the rise of the processed food industry and its link to the emerging obesity epidemic. Michael Moss reveals how companies use salt, sugar, and fat to addict us and, more important, how we can fight back.

My thoughts:
Listening to Cooked by Michael Pollan last spring (my review) triggered my latest foodie audiobook binge. Salt, Sugar, Fat was the perfect follow-up. It is an interesting contrast to Cooked  in that it tackles the opposite end of the eating spectrum - heavily processed foods and the food processing industry in general.

As the title suggests, the book is divided into three sections - salt, sugar, and fat - and offers an in-depth study of food science, market research, sales tactics, and daily operations of the industry giants.

Initially, I enjoyed the foodie nostalgia. Do you remember all the great breakfast cereals of the 60's and 70's? How about the "cola wars", or the novelty of a TV dinner? Nobody paid attention to salt, sugar, or fat back then. Who knew they would become such threats to public health?

The research and development aspect of the book was riveting. Scientists have actually studied and identified specific "bliss points" for salt, sugar, or fat. They have calculated the exact amount needed to keep you from eating just one potato chip.

Gradually my reaction turned to anger. Marketing tactics targeting "heavy users", deceptive labeling, manipulative advertising, and a blatant disregard for public health infuriated me! It's no wonder the highest level executives avoid their own products.

I could rant at great length, but will instead leave you with my main take-away: Knowledge is the best defense. Know what is in your food. Become aware of the sly marketing tactics employed by the food processing industry. This book has made me even more committed to home cooking. Michael Pollan would be proud.

A note on the audio production:
Scott Brick, as always, is a compelling voice for nonfiction. I think he is one of the best narrators in the business today.

Bottom line: 
If you eat, you must read this book.

My rating:

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, November 21, 2013

Book Club Meeting: Runaway

In theory, I suppose it was a good idea -  expand our literary horizons by reading a short story collection from recent Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro. In reality, it was a poorly attended meeting where nobody finished the book.

Five of us gathered (eight is considered a good turnout, though we occasionally get twelve or more for summer pot luck events) Monday morning to discuss Runaway by Alice Munro over coffee and pumpkin bread, but it turned out that none of us had actually finished the book. Two of us had read four of the eight stories, and the others read only one or two. We were unanimously underwhelmed and struggled to maintain a discussion.

So what was the problem? We all liked the writing, but had trouble working up much enthusiasm for the stories themselves. I liked the linked aspect of the stories featuring Juliet at different points in her life. My favorite was "Silence", the third Juliet story, where she loses contact with her now-adult daughter, Penelope. It mostly made me sad, but I really wished for another story told from Penelope's point of view. Other member used words like "weird", "unsatisfying", and "meh" to describe the first two stories. After 15 -20 minutes, the conversation shifted to holiday plans, wedding preparations, and winter travel.

You might remember that this was all my idea. Runaway was chosen because it had the most library copies available. Perhaps her other collections were checked out because they are better? In the end, we were all glad to have tried something new and I'm happy no one is holding this against me. However, I have a feeling it will be a long time before we select another story collection.

by Alice Munro
Vintage, 2005
352 pages
source: purchased

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

And the Number is...

Ten! That means I'll be reading Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey for the latest Classics Club Spin. The book was in my "Quickie" category and, at only 128 pages, might qualify as a novella.  I purchased the beautiful Persephone Classic edition (shown below) at a used book sale last spring and can't wait to get started. I'll probably watch the 2012 film, too.

 Have you read this book or seen the movie? What was number ten on your list?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Weekend Cooking: Pumpkin Oatmeal in the Crockpot

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.

I'd never heard of steel-cut oats before Lisa, Trish, and a couple of other blogging friends began cooking them overnight in their slow cookers and waking up to hearty, healthy hot breakfasts. A quick check of Wikipedia told me:
Steel-cut oats are whole grain groats (the inner portion of the oat kernel) which have been cut into pieces. They are commonly used in Scotland and Ireland to make porridge. 
Steel-cut oats are golden in color. They come in different grades depending on the size of the pieces: pinhead (the largest), coarse, medium and fine. Steel-cut oats take longer to cook than instant or rolled oats due to their minimal processing, typically 15–30 minutes (less, if pre-soaked). The flavor of the cooked oats is described as being nuttier than other types of oats, and they are also chewier.

Several recipes were pinned and I really meant to try them last winter, but you know how that goes. When Molly wrote a Weekend Cooking post featuring Pumpkin Oatmeal last month, I added steel-cut oats to my grocery list.  With Twin A (the other big pumpkin lover in the family) home last weekend, the time for steel-cut oats in the crockpot had come at last.

The recipe, originally posted at Peanut Butter & Peppers, couldn't be simpler.

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, place the bowl in your slow cooker, pour water into the slow cooker to at least half way up the bowl (like a water bath), and cook on low for about 8 hours.

The hardest part for us was finding a bowl large enough to hold oatmeal mixture, yet small enough to fit inside the slow cooker.

I omitted stevia from the recipe and drizzled a little maple syrup into my bowl instead. Sprinkling chopped walnuts or pecans and a few raisins on top would be perfection. And did I mention that the house smelled like pumpkin pie?

If you (or someone you love) are a fellow pumpkin fanatic, you've GOT to try this!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Classics Spin #4

The recent Classics Club spin games have been huge successes. I sat out round 3, but now it's time for round 4. The rules are the same, only the dates have been changed.

Here's how it works:
- Go to your blog.
- Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club list.
- Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog by next Monday. (11/18)
- Monday morning, we’ll announce a number from 1-20. Go to the list of twenty books you posted, and select the book that corresponds to the number we announce.
- The challenge is to read that book by January 1.

I'm still sticking with a slightly modified version of my original list, but have taken away the especially long, dense choices that I know I will not finish during the holiday season.

Pick Me, Pick Me (books I want to read now)
1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
2. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
3. Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty
4. Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell
5. The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

6. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
7. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
8. A Lost Lady by Willa Cather
9. Gigi by Colette
10. Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey

Favorite Authors
11. The Bunner Sisters by Edith Wharton
12. Cranford by Eizabeth Gaskell
13. They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple
14. The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck (reread)
15. The Pearl by John Steinbeck (reread)

Some Random Choices 
16. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
17. A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor
18. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
19. Sula by Toni Morrison
20. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

Here is a link to The Classics Club's announcement post. Let's Spin!

Added 11/19/13: 
The spin number is 10. I'll be reading Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuesday Intro: Runaway

Carla heard the car coming before it topped the little rise in the road that around here they call a hill. It's her, she thought. Mrs. Jamieson - Sylvia - home from her holiday in Greece. From the barn door - but far enough inside that she could not readily be seen - she watched the road Mrs. Jamieson would have to drive by on, her place being half a mile farther along the road than Clark and Carla's. 
If it was somebody getting ready to turn in at their gate it would be slowing down by now. But still Carla hoped. Let it not be her.
by Alice Munro

Runaway is a collection of eight short stories from recent Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro. This intro comes from the first (and title) story. Raising all sorts of questions, it seems to pull the reader in immediately. I suggested the book to my book club and we will discuss it next week. We've never read a short story collection before, so I'm not sure what to expect. Discussion tips and suggestions are welcome!

What do you think of the intro? Does it make you want to read more?

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.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Sunday Salon: 11/10/13

Time // 8:30 Sunday morning

Place // my favorite chair

Drinking // black coffee

Reading // Last night I made the decision that reading will be my main activity today... possibly with a football game on in the background. First up will be the local paper and New York Times, followed by If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino.  Our midpoint posting date for #ReadCalvino is coming up on Friday. I'll be out of town, but hope to get my act together and preschedule a post. If not, it will have to wait until Monday.

Our next book club selection is Runaway by Alice Munro and I need to make some progress there, too. The first two stories were very good, so I have high hopes for the next six.

Listening// I finished The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy by David Nasaw ... the entire 31 hours and, wow, what an outstanding biography! This will be tough to follow this act, so I'll turn to something entirely different. I'm considering Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. This seems to be universally loved and I've had an audio review copy for quite some time. Since it's on CD, I'll only be listening in the car. Maybe I should add another book to my phone, too...

Watching// Masterpiece Classic's The Paradise, loosely based on Emile Zola's novel The Ladies' Paradise. It fills the Sunday evening void left by Downton Abbey... just under two months until the new season begins!

Making// Pumpkin Oatmeal in the slow cooker! It was good enough to merit its own Weekend Cooking post... stay tuned.

Anticipating// A full house for Thanksgiving, a quick trip to Florida, and the just-announced return of The TBR Triple Dog Dare. Life is good.

What are you up to this Sunday?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

This Week on Instagram

#Estellagram Day 1: Orange.
Let's get started! #ReadCalvino #FridayReads

Day 2: Scalloped #estellagram

Day 3 - Dreary. Guess what I'm doing today. #estellagram

Day 4 - Upbeat. Today's mail makes me happy #estellagram

#Estellagram Day 5: Freedom. A great book!

#Estellagram Day 6: toes. Zelda needs her nails trimmed.

And so it begins... #fallisover #winterishere #snow

Friday, November 8, 2013

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
by Katherine Boo
Random House, 2012
256 pages
source: library copy

narrated by Sunil Malhotra
Random House Audio, 2012
8 hours and 15 minutes
source: purchased with Audible credit

Motivation: book club selection

One sentence summary (from goodreads):
From Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo, a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century’s great, unequal cities.

My thoughts:
Life in the Mumbai slums, or "undercity", is marked by unspeakable poverty, corruption, filth, hopelessness, and often despair. Katherine Boo spent years documenting the lives of several families in the Annawadi slum and, as you would expect,  Behind the Beautiful Forevers is heartbreaking, sobering, and just plain sad.

Raising awareness and increasing understanding are necessary first steps toward solving a problem, and Boo's book deftly accomplishes that. Reading about these "invisible" people provides an important alternate perspective, and I see why the book is appearing on reading lists for AP English classes and incoming first year college students.

Did I enjoy it? Really good narrative nonfiction is always a treat and Behind the Beautiful Forevers is certainly that, but enjoyment doesn't figure into this experience. It's an important, but ultimately depressing book.

Should you read it? Probably, but be prepared.

A couple of quotes:

"As India began to prosper, old ideas about accepting the life assigned by one's caste or one's divinities were yielding to a belief in earthly reinvention. Annawadians now spoke of better lives casually, as if fortune were a cousin arriving on Sunday, as if the future would look nothing like the past."

"Sunil thought that he, too, had a life. A bad life, certainly - the kind that could be ended as Kalu's had been and then forgotten, because it made no difference to the people who lived in the overcity. But something he'd come to realize on the roof, leaning out, thinking about what would happen if he leaned too far, was that a boy's life could still matter to himself."

A note on the audio production:
In an attempt to finish in time for book club, I downloaded the audio and listened on my walks. This was the first time I've encountered Sunil Malhotra and, while he did a perfectly adequate job narrating, it did not add anything to my overall experience. So, read or listen according to your own preferences.

My rating: 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tuesday Intro: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, "No, I don't want to watch TV!" Raise your voice - they won't hear you otherwise - "I'm reading! I don't want to be disturbed!" Maybe they haven't heard you, with all the racket; speak louder, yell: "I'm beginning to read Italo Calvino's new novel!" Or if you prefer, don't say anything; just hope they'll leave you alone. 
Find the most comfortable position: seated, stretched out, curled up, or lying flat. Flat on your back, on your side, on your stomach. In an easy chair, on the sofa, in the rocker, the deck chair, on the hassock. In the hammock, if you have a hammock. On top of your bed, of course, or in the bed. You can even stand on your hands, head down, in the yoga position. With the book upside down, naturally.
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
by Italo Calvino

That has to be one of the most unusual openings I've ever come across. After a few chapters, I'd say this is going to be a strange and wonderful reading experience. If you'd like to join us, the #ReadCalvino adventure is just beginning.

What do you think of the opening? 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.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Five Years of Lakeside Musing

Good morning, friends. It's been a quiet week at Lakeside Musing thanks, in part, to the demise of my trusty laptop. After months of trying to ignore warning signs, the end arrived Monday. Several more days were spent futilely trying to fix it, then shopping for a new laptop (hello, MacBookAir!), and finally, transferring data. Now I am back in business.

While I was away, Lakeside Musing celebrated a milestone anniversary  - five years! It's hard to believe. Things were much different in 2008, both in the book blogging community and in my own life. My oldest daughter was just starting college and, although the twins were still in high school, I had a little extra time on my hands. Drawing inspiration from the book blog pioneers I'd been reading for a year or so, Lakeside Musing was born. The community was small and welcoming, and I soon found my place.

Now, my oldest daughter is living and working in Manhattan (a great place to visit!), the twins are in college (one lives at home), we adopted a greyhound, 'inherited' a condo in Florida, and are trying to figure out how we can actually use it for more than one week in January. Book blogging is different, too. Several friends have closed up shop and, moving forward, the challenge for me is to make blogging continue to fit my lifestyle.

Since I was without a computer much of the week, I had the opportunity to think about time spent online and to plan for the future. It all boils down to this...

Lessons learned from five years of blogging:

1.  I am a reader (albeit a slow one), not a writer.
2.  A hobby should have minimal obligations and deadlines.
3.  No matter how much I think I'm blogging for myself, community really is key.
4.  There's more to life than books.

Moving Forward:

1.  I don't really like writing book reviews, but love talking about books. My review style has changed slightly over the past few months. Abbreviated reviews include basic book facts, my thoughts in one or two short paragraphs, and a rating. This seems less daunting, yet still provides a springboard for conversation as well as a personal reading record.

2.  This is a stress-free blog. I will read what I want, when I want and post accordingly. I will not request books for review, participate in tours, etc. Additionally, I will feel no obligation to review unsolicited review copies.

3.  It's all about community. I love reading your blogs (and commenting as time allows), chatting on twitter, instagram, participating in read-alongs and other events, and responding to your comments here. I will continue to be as engaged as possible.

4.  I'm very glad I chose the name Lakeside Musing five years ago because I can talk about more than books and not feel like I'm veering off topic. Weekend Cooking is the perfect outlet for chronicling my culinary adventures. Estellagram feeds my budding interest in photography, bookish or otherwise. I'm also free to talk about travel, greyhounds, movies, theater, sports, fitness/health... the possibilities are endless. Books, however, will continue to be the main focus.

Finally, I'd like to thank each one of you for your visits, comments, friendship, and support. You have made this all worthwhile.

Here's to the next five years!


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