Sunday, November 30, 2008

Buy Books

Yesterday, I spent $130 at the online book retailer who-shall-not-be-named. Only $30 of that was non-book-related. I plan to go out and spend more today on big box bookstore gift cards. That way, some of the more finicky folks will have a chance to choose for themselves.

This holiday season, the publishing industry needs your support. And your family DEFINITELY needs new books. And so do you. Buy books! They make great gifts. Or doorstops, if your family doesn't read.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Review: Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells (and Thanksgiving)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a character-driven novel about the Walker family of Thornton, Louisiana. Big Shep and Viviane (Vivi) Walker have four children: Siddalee (the "main character"), Little Shep, Lulu, and Baylor. The family is rounded out by Chaney, the African-American farmhand who helps Big Shep run the farm, and his wife, Willetta, who is also Vivi's maid. Vivi also has a group of crazy girlfriends that some may recognize from another book: the Ya-yas. The story alternates between the 1960's and 1991, as well as between all the characters' points of view. Some might find the alternating viewpoints or time periods confusing, but I thought Ms. Wells did a good job giving each character an individual voice. By far, my favorite character was Sidda, who was very intelligent and a complete bookworm. (Wonder why I liked her!) I love the part of the book where she runs away and is found hiding in the town's bookmobile!

At first glance (especially if you're looking at the pink cover, featuring a little girl jumping rope), the book seems to be a light Southern read: cute vignettes about an Old South family growing up in the 1960's. But the Walker family hides several dark secrets. Vivi and Big Shep both drink far too much, and that leads them down other unsavory paths. There's really not much of a plot to the book; it's mostly just the story of a family told from multiple viewpoints. I'm interested in reading the other two books in the series to see if anything else about the Walkers is revealed.

I really did enjoy the book. Even though it's not plot-driven, I liked most of the Walkers. And I HATED Vivi, which I think I was supposed to. I'd give the book four out of five whatevers. It's a good read for people who like Southern novels and/or character-driven works.


We went to the fiance's aunt and uncle's house for Thanksgiving. I wasn't really looking forward to it, but I ended up enjoying myself. Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday, but since law school, I haven't been able to go home and share it with MY family. Thus, I inevitably end up depressed on Thanksgiving, remembering the years when we would all gather at my Grandma's house and eat till we burst. I know it's not the same anymore: Grandma is in a nursing home now, so dinner is at my parents' house; one of my sisters is now married, so she doesn't come anymore; not all of the cousins show up, depending on what their significant others are doing; there's no more touch football in the yard; etc. But I miss it anyway.

Ricky's family did it up right, though. This is the first year we've celebrated with his extended family. The last couple of years, it was just me and him and his parents. So it was nice to get back to a big family Thanksgiving. We had spicy turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, con gris (black beans and rice), grilled asparagus, frijoles refritos con tocino (refried beans with bacon), homemade cranberry sauce, corn, MOJITOS!...and I made a Cheesy Broccoli Bake to share. Everything was delicious. And his cousin Miguel and his wife Elizabeth had an announcement to make: they're pregnant again! So it was a nice night all around, even if I was missing my family. I'll get to see them soon enough...Christmas is coming!

We've got the tree up, now we just need to get the lights on. But we're both suffering from a terrible chest cold, so that might have to wait for Sunday.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Why I [Heart] John Green, a Post in One Paragraph

From the text of a speech he is giving at the ALAN Conference:

"But let me say this: I think this is why we read. I mean, finally, what does reading do that movies and video games and television do not? I would argue that books, more than other media, allow us to live inside the lives of others because we have to translate scratches on a page into ideas and make the story ours. We become co-creators of the story, and they allow us to inhabit someone else's body for a while. Books give us the faith that others are real, that their joy and pain should matter to us, and that ours can matter to them. In some ways, this confirms our own existence, because most of our mattering is in the context of one another."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Long Week, No Reading

I think I've read a total of five pages in my book, Little Altars Everywhere, this week. I've been mighty busy, since I'm in trial, so mostly I've been reading depositions, police reports, and case law. Not really that fun, although I do love my job. The exhaustion of a trial is hard to explain to a non-attorney, but that is probably also a factor in my inability to read. If I'm not working on my case, I'm vegged out on the couch, too wiped out to dip into a book. It should all be over tomorrow, though, regardless. Then I can get back to what I REALLY want to be doing...READING!!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Culinary Bungling

I love to cook, but that doesn't mean that I'm good at it. My fiance' works about a billion hours a week, and the only night we have for dinner together at the house is Sunday. Tonight, after several weeks of having other dinner obligations on Sunday nights, I finally had an opportunity to cook dinner for my beloved. I decided that I was going to make Paula Deen's fried chicken recipe. I was all ready...I had all the ingredients, I'd gone to Publix early today to get the chicken, and I even had the courage to ask the butcher to cut it up for me (MUCH more affordable than buying individual pieces, but I have a strange fear of asking the butcher to do things, after the meat fiasco of a couple months ago).

So, I'm getting ready to fry up some chicken. The Dutch oven is on the stove, heating, and I add the vegetable oil. And it CATCHES ON FIRE. Do you throw water on a grease fire, or NOT throw water on a grease fire? I can't remember! After screaming for the fiance', I remember that the vegetable oil package said to smother the fire, so I grab the lid for the Dutch oven and throw it on top. After the smoke cleared (literally), I tried to decide what I was going to do.

Okay, I decide, I'll just fry it in olive oil. So I heat my olive oil and start my first batch of chicken. Seems to be going well at first. Then, I realize that the outside is getting MIIIIGHTY crispy. And by crispy, I mean burnt. So I take the chicken out and cut into it. Raw at the bone. Totally raw. I try to continue the cooking, but the outside is just charred. The second batch, not much better.

This is why God made KFC. We chucked all the half-raw chicken and brought home some greasy popcorn chicken instead. Oh hell yeah.

I believe my downfall was twofold: my chicken was too big (over three pounds, when the recipe called for a one and a half to two pound chicken...but it was all that Publix had!) and/or my oil was too hot. I watch enough Food Network to know that if your oil is too hot, it will burn the outside of whatever you're cooking, while undercooking the interior. And if it's not hot enough, you'll get grease-logged food.

So, as I told the fiance', there's ONE thing in this world that I can't do: fry chicken. I guess we'll continue to order ours in the drive through.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's Tuesday, Where Are YOU?!

Well, since the Read-a-Thon, I've returned to my slow-reading ways. I'm currently in the midst of 1960's Louisiana with the Walker family (Little Altars Everywhere). I'm really enjoying this book, and have gotten back into it a bit this week, after leaving it lie for a while. It's not that I don't like the book, it's just that life is so doggone BUSY! I'm now making good headway, and will probably finish it this weekend, fingers crossed.

I've then got a couple of magazines I want to run through: December's Glamour and the November/December issue of Bookmarks. Next book on the list? The Eight by Katharine Neville, as a prelude to the review copy of The Fire that the publishers sent to me. I'll get to it someday, I swear!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mailbox Monday!

Only one lovely book to report this week (we're trying to save money). Through the lovely folks at McBooks Press and LibraryThing, I received a copy of The Jewish Princess Cookbook. Now, I am neither Jewish nor a princess (although the Fiance' might disagree on that second point), but I do LOOOOOVE to cook. Trying new recipes is one of my favorite things. This cookbook looks so cute that I can't wait to try something out of it...something that my Kosher friends can eat too!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

End of a Rough Week

This week has been a tough one, work-wise. "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold." You know? It marks only the second time in my life when I've been steamrolled by someone absolutely losing their shit when I undeniably thought they had it all together. It freaks me out. I am about the farthest thing from having everything together. Some days I feel like I'm hanging on by my fingernails, above a bottomless ravine. My house is a wreck, I don't spend enough time with my fiance', I can't get anything accomplished at work, my leisure reading is behind schedule...the list goes on and on. So when someone who is supposedly unshakeable gets shaken, well, what is to become of me?

Went to see The Changeling last night with some friends from work, in order to kind of decompress. Unfortunately, that movie is DEPRESSING and was probably not the best choice for someone who wanted to blow off a little steam. We probably should have gone to see Role Models. The movie was just okay. I don't know what it was about it that I didn't like. The storyline was fine, the acting was fine (for the most part...Jeffrey Donovan's Irish accent made my skin crawl, but the Malkovich more than made up for it). It wasn't as suspenseful as I hoped, I guess, maybe because I'd seen too many commercials which gave away at least PART of the storyline which might better have been kept under wraps. And the ending wasn't very satisfying. I needed a happy ending last night, and it just...wasn't. So we had to go have a couple of beers afterwards, in order to get our happy ending.

The air show is this weekend, which means planes buzzing the house for the foreseeable future. The Dawgs play Kentucky at 12:30. Hopefully, they can shake off the pathetic game against Florida last week, and kick some serious Wildcat ass this week.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Thank God. Thank God. I'm definitely crying tears of joy right now. President Obama. Damn right.

Doing My Civic Duty

I voted this morning. It felt good to flex my democratic muscles. I am a Democrat, and I vote the party line most of the time. Being in Florida, there isn't much other choice. The Republicans are all such...REPUBLICANS. I did vote Obama, simply because I think he will be better for the country's bottom line, and because I think he has some good ideas on how to turn things around. I'd like for him to have a chance to implement those ideas. The only Republican I voted for, in fact, was my boss, who is running opposed for her position for the first time, um, ever, I think.

I'm now waiting for the results to start coming in. Can't wait to see what happens. Because, no matter WHAT happens, we can be sure of one thing: there will no longer be a Bush in the White House, come January. And that's something we can all be happy about.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday at the Bookstore

The Fiance' and I went to Barnes & Noble today. I had to pick up the latest Bookmarks magazine, I just HAD to. God knows when I'll get to it, but it's nice to have something to browse through in my "spare time." Amazingly enough, I didn't pick up anything else. I wanted to find Mary Cheney's Now It's My Turn. I'm actually a political lefty, but this book was recommended, someone (I should really start keeping track of where I hear about books), and I figure it never hurts to read the other side's perspective. I may not AGREE with it at all, but I feel that keeping an open mind is a good thing. HOWEVER, Barney's (as my friend Zach and I used to call it, when we worked together at an Office Depot across from one) did not have a copy of the book, at least not that I could find. So I left empty-handed, except for my copy of Bookmarks. Well, I WANTED to buy Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories, and Best American Non-Required Reading for 2008, but I decided that the budget just doesn't allow for those right now. And I'm asking for them for Christmas, so...we'll see. I collect those series, practically the only series I DO collect, and have them going back to 1999, I believe. Almost ten years' worth!

Okay, enough rambling. Time to go finish watching the Dolphins game. Don't even talk to me about the Georgia/Florida game. No, don't.