Friday, July 25, 2014

Will Blog For Books

Thought for the day:  Books are uniquely portable magic.  [Stephen King]

Yes, indeedy, it's that time again. It's Cephalopod Coffeehouse time. Time for a bunch of us book-loving bloggers to sip fragrant beverages while sharing information about some of the innovative, new, and not-so-new books we've read over the past month. Wanta participate? Just pop on over to The Armchair Squid's blog.

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.  [Haruki Murakami]

If you're still here, is it safe to assume you like to read? Well then, what do you think about FREE BOOKS? Yeah, I know. Dumb question, right? I'm pleased to say I've won a lot of books through Goodreads' giveaways... as many as three in a single day. But, that's kinda hit-or-miss, and based on the luck of the draw. What if there were a program where you can simply request a book, and (ta DA!) it gets shipped to you? Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? But it is true. Allow me to present ...

Maybe you've heard of bowling for dollars, or fishing for compliments, or running for office, but have you ever heard of (Insert drum roll here.) Blogging for Books? Don't worry; I never heard of it, either, not until the lovely Connie told me about it, that is. Now I'm passing the info on to you guys. Would you be willing to write a review on your blog about the books these fine folks send you? (Which, by the way, YOU get to select.) If so, who knows? Maybe you could take part in this program, too. To find out, all you have to do is go to their website and answer some simple questions. You get to select your preferred genres from a wide range of categories, and then if you're accepted, you have immediate access to a list of books from which to choose. Less than a week after I put in my request, I had my first selection in my hot little hands. Am I psyched? You betcha. I mean, come on! Free books? What's not to love? Check it out.

Okay, time to consider some of my reading indulgences from this past month. I read a couple Nicholas Sparks books, which were as enjoyable as a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows... and just about as predictable. Another Iris Johansen book, which was good, but not one of her best. I finally got around to reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett, too, and was delighted to find it's every bit as good as everyone says it is. I thoroughly enjoyed Florence Gordon, by Brian Morton, which is about a feisty and unforgettable seventy-five year old feminist. But the book I'm gonna highlight this month is the one I got from Blogging for Books. Not just because I agreed to blog about it, but because I genuinely loved it.

                           The book?

"My Paris Kitchen." Appropriately enough, it arrived on my doorstep on Bastille Day. Kinda cool, huh? Piggy that I am, I devoured the entire thing in one gluttonous sitting.

Is it a cookbook? Yes, but it isn't just a cookbook. It's an intimate cookbook with a myriad of personal touches, and it's written by an accomplished chef who's every bit as talented at spinning a delicious story about what it's like to live in Paris as he is at whipping up a mouth-watering meal.

Lebovitz relocated from California to Paris ten years ago, and with this book, it's almost as though he's taken us with him, because this book immerses readers in the realities of Parisian living.

Does it contain some wonderful classic French recipes? Yep, but that isn't all it contains. Like many other places in the world, the infusion of other cultures and nationalities has greatly influenced French eating and cooking habits. So this book also contains delightful recipes from other regions, too... with a bit of a French twist, of course.

In addition, this book includes clever tricks of the trade that any cook would appreciate, and some spiffy updates on some of the classic recipes found in my old (ie. antique) Julia Child cookbook. The recipes themselves? Extremely well-written, often illustrated, and simple enough for most cooks to tackle with confidence. (However, I don't think I'm gonna tackle the duck fat cookies... You're welcome, Smarticus.)

Oh, yeah. I know I already told you once, but according to the instructions, I'm supposed to add a disclaimer to the bottom of my review. So here 'tis...

DISCLAIMER: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

For those of you who aren't into cooking, another book I read this month may be more to your liking: The Ghosts of Nagasaki, by Daniel Clausen. Talk about a unique book. I'm telling you, it's a literary Mobius strip. Past and present, real and imaginary, dead and alive... they all seem to coexist on the same plane, so it's a real mind-bending thought provoker. Plus, that dude really knows how to write.

                                              Okay, y'all, have a super weekend.

                                     Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Day Tripping

Thought for the day:  You got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.  [Yogi Berra]

When Smarticus and I hit the road, we pretty much know where we're going, and thank goodness, he knows how he's gonna get us there. If it were up to me to do the navigating, it'd be like Yogi said: we might not ever get there... even with a GPS. For someone as directionally challenged as I am, a GPS would simply allow me to get lost with a greater degree of precision.

But no fear. He was behind the wheel when we headed out for a day trip recently, so we actually made it to all the places we were hoping to visit.

This was our first stop... the Georgia Guidestones, which rise twenty feet into the air in the middle of a farmer's field in little ol' Elberton, Georgia. Also known as the American Stonehenge, I'd read quite a bit about this mysterious monument, and even wrote about it in a couple previous posts, but this was the first time we actually visited. Totally cool! Look at that dramatic sky, too. I'm not gonna go into a lot of detail here, but if you're interested in learning more of the background behind the mystery, you can read about it in this earlier post: Stonehenge Whodunits

Why in the world... and who in the world... would pay big money to have something like this built in the middle-of-nowhere, Georgia? Literally in the middle of a farmer's field. (Cattle are grazing on the other side of that wooden fence...) All we know for sure is these Guidestones to an age of reason were built in 1980 to the detailed astronomical specifications provided by an unidentified mystery man who commissioned the work on behalf of an equally mysterious and anonymous group of his friends.

Here's a shot looking up toward the capstone. See the writing? The same message for mankind (Perhaps for a post-apocalyptic world?) is engraved on the stones in twelve different languages: English, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, Hindi, Chinese, Spanish, Swahili, as well as in ancient Sanskrit, Babylonian, Cuneiform, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, and Classical Greek. Talk about covering all the bases, huh?

I can't verify what the writing says in all of the languages, but I can tell you what it says in English:

  • Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  • Guide reproduction wisely - improving fitness and diversity.
  • Unite humanity with a living new language.
  • Rule Passion - Faith - Tradition - and all things with tempered reason.
  • Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  • Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  • Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  • Balance personal rights with social duties.
  • Prize truth - beauty - love - seeking harmony with the infinite.
  • Be not a cancer on the earth - Leave room for nature - Leave room for nature. 

Do I know any more about the mystery than I did before? Nope, but now we know firsthand how bizarre it is to see, and how eerie it feels to look up at this mammoth creation, especially in such an unlikely location.

Our next stop was the Elberton Granite Museum. This portion of Georgia is largely agrarian, but there are also forty-five granite quarries and more than 150 manufacturing plants to turn that granite into monuments, memorials, and building stones. (Which I'm sure must have played a large role in the selection of this area for the Guidestones.) There were lots of displays about the industry, how it's grown, the tools that are used, blah, blah, blah, but there were three things in that museum that captured my interest.

This antique camera...

this antique chest...

and... Dutchy.

Elberton's first granite finishing plant was built solely to create this statue after the Civil War, (Or the war of Yankee aggression, as it's known in those parts.) and was intended to be a grand monument proudly honoring the Confederate soldiers. With much pomp, the monument was unveiled to an excited crowd of enthusiastic people in July of 1898. Let's just say their enthusiasm was short-lived, because they were totally unimpressed with the short, squat dude with a moon pie face, short fat legs, and huge feet. But to make matters worse, the uniform and cap he's wearing looks like (gasp!) Yankee garb. He was dubbed Dutchy, which was not intended as a term of endearment, and two years later, poor ol' Dutchy was... lynched. Kinda. A rope was thrown around his neck, and townspeople pulled him right off his pedestal. Broke his legs off in the process, so they dug a big hole and buried him... and his legs... face down. In 1982, the statue was dug back up again... and he now lies in the museum... with his legs and feet beside him. Looks pretty darned good for being buried all those years, too.

Our third stop (after lunch!) was the Ty Cobb Museum, which is located in his small hometown of Royston, Georgia. Some consider the Georgia Peach to be the greatest baseball player of all time. After all, he was the first player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, had a lifetime batting average of .367, won twelve batting titles, scored 2245 runs, got 4191 hits, and stole 894 bases, including 55 at home plate. Amazing numbers, most of which still stand as records today, but as proud as his hometown is of his on-the-field actions, his philanthropy, which created an amazing healthcare system in Royston, secured his position as favorite son.

All-in-all, it was a fun outing, and just goes to show ya: there's a lot to be seen in your own backyard. (So to speak.) So let's not (ahem) take those local attractions for granite...

                                Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

P.S. Smarticus and I will be hanging out with some of our grandchildren for the next few days, so it may be a while before I respond to your comments. But like good ol' Arnold said, I'll be Bach!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Life is a Beach

Thought  for the day:  Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, those days of soda and pretzels and beer... [Nat King Cole]

Know how music has the ability to transport us to another time and place? Well, that's kinda what today's bloghop is all about. Hosted by Armchair SquidCygnus, and Suze, the idea is for each participant to post five favorite summertime songs, and to share a memory connected to each one. I know the songs I'm gonna post will certainly transport me to another time and place. I hope you'll come along for the trip.

As our hosts describe today's hop:

Ah, summer. Sunny mornings full of possiblity, lazy poolside afternoons and rockin' nights lit by tiki torches. What songs bring back the sunscreen and beach-sand to you? What songs defined your one perfect summer, be it decades ago or just getting started with today's solstice? 

Sounds like fun, right? It was hard for me to narrow down my choices, but I'm gonna go in chronological order. Not that I haven't had any wonderful summers in the past four (Crap! Make that FIVE.)  decades, but the earlier years had a much louder soundtrack, if you know what I mean. Those were the days when my friends and I knew the words to all the popular songs, before stuff like wedding marches, lullabies, and kiddie songs nudged our priorities in different directions.

Okay, ready?

1. My first choice is from 1958. It's Summertime, Summertime, Sum Sum Summertime... It's a silly little song, but it's one my friends and I loved to sing. A lot. At the beach, in the alley, walking down the didn't matter where we were... and we were convinced that we sounded better than the Jamies did, too:

2. Fast forward a couple years to 1960, and to a song by Jo-Ann Campbell, called Kookie Little Paradise. Yep, it was another song for us girls to sing together... including the Tarzan call at the beginning... plus it had an added bonus. We danced to it, too. Any of you other gals remember hanging out in a friend's club cellar doing the cha-cha and dancing the bop with a doorknob?

3. Now it's forward a couple more years to 1962, and Brian Hyland's Sealed with a Kiss. My gal pals and I were a little more dramatic by then, and this song reflected our feelings about our boyfriends going away on vacation. (The cads!)

4. For some reason, this song is the most evocative of all for me. I can almost smell the coconut oil suntan lotion, and feel the sun baking my back. This song seemed to play more than any other song that summer while my friends and I were at our local beach. The year? 1965. And the song? I Got You, Babe by Sonny and Cher:

5. This last song is an odd one. Even as I selected it, I knew what a weird choice it was. Still, I had to go there. It was the summer of 1966, and the last time my cousin Phyllis and I went camping down the ocean together. Every night, we sang around the campfire, and every night, kids from miles around (That's what it seemed like, anyway.) would join us to listen, and to make requests. Believe it or not, THIS is the song those kids asked us to sing most often. We're not positive, but it's entirely possible that over that long weekend, we sang The Ballad of the Green Berets more times than SSgt Barry Sadler did.

And there ya have it. How about you? Are there any songs that carry you back to those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer every time you hear it? (Remember any of my picks?)

Thinking about those days of singing around the campfire prompted me to look for this picture. Beieve me, with all the albums and boxes of photographs we have around this house, that was no small task. Anyhow, here it is: Phyllis and me in front of our tent. She's a year younger than I, but she's always been much taller. She has that statuesque model look about her., and I... don't. I guess you could say we were the Mutt and Jeff combo of the family... or the string bean and lima bean. Geez, it seems like that picture was taken just a few years ago. I can remember those clothes so well... my jeans were pink. And I had a pair of sneakers the same color. Yep, I was a very girly tomboy.

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, July 4, 2014

May the Fourth Be With You

Thought for the day: Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.   Moshe Dayan


OK, for today, America's birthday, let's take a look at some appropriate quotations while we're waiting for the cake to come out of the oven, shall we?

 "As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protection of the civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality."  George Washington

"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom." Albert Einstein

"Life without liberty is like a body without spirit."  Kahlil Gibran

 "I have always been among those who believed that the greatest freedom of speech was the greatest safety, because if a man is a fool, the best thing to do is to encourage him to advertise that fact by speaking." Woodrow Wilson

"We must not be free because we claim freedom, but because we practice it."  William Faulkner

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."  Thomas Jefferson

"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism."  Erma Bombeck


And a quick poem by Carl Sandburg:

                                                 Fourth of July Night

                 The little boat at anchor in black water sat murmuring to the tall black sky.
                 A white sky bomb fizzed on a black line.
                 A rocket hissed its red signature into the west.
                 Now a shower of Chinese fire alphabets,
                A cry of flower pots broken in flames,
                 A long curve to a purple spray, three violet balloons ---
                Drips of seaweed tangled in gold, shimmering symbols of mixed numbers,
                Tremulous arrangements of cream gold folds of a bride's wedding gown ---
                A few sky bombs spoke their pieces, then velvet dark.
                The little boat at anchor in black water sat murmuring to the tall black sky.

I hope you all have a wonderful ... and safe ... Independence Day. Oh yeah ... know what one flag said to another? Nothing, honey... it just waved. (Sorry)

Oh yeah... for any of you folks in the UK who might be interested: from July 1 until the 8th, my book Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade is on sale through for next to nuttin', honey.

                                    Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.