dandy reads | 2014.1

Love & War | Mary Matalin + James Carville

Maybe you have to be either from Louisiana or really into politics to know about James Carville? In case you're not familiar, Carville was one of Clinton's campaign strategists... and a diehard Democrat. His wife, Mary Matalin, worked in the White House under George H.W Bush, and then again with Dick Cheney... and she's a diehard Republican. After years living in DC, they moved to New Orleans after Katrina and then co-wrote this book. It felt more like listening to your two crazy relatives argue on two rocking chairs on the front porch than reading the memoir of two very smart politcal strategists. Something about that bothered me. My favorite part was at the beginning, when they talked passionately about New Orleans, and it went downhill from there. Oh, I also enjoyed Facebook stalking their daughters afterward. It was a great reminder to update my privacy settings...

"After we moved here, my children said to me one day, 'Dad, would you give us a ride to Pinkberry?'
I said, 'Pinkberry, what the hell is that?'
They said, 'it's a yogurt place.'
So I told them, 'We do not eat frozen yogurt in this family. We have snowballs, goddamn it.'"

Attachments | Rainbow Rowell

I love light books like this, because I never expect too much out of them and therefore am never disappointed. I expected Attachments to be fun, quick and light, with maybe a dash of that giddy feeling you get at the end of a great romantic comedy -- and that's exactly what I got.  Two co-workers talk about anything and everything over e-mail, not knowing that the cute guy in IT is also reading their e-mails... and falling in love with one of them. You don't need to know anything more than that.

“October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!” 

The Goldfinch | Donna Tartt

And on the opposite end of the spectrum, this was NOT quick, NOT light, and NOT fun, but pretty freaking great. I have a love/hate relationship with books like this one, where I sympathize with the main character and then watch in horror as they make mistake after mistake after mistake until I no longer like them... but am attached nonetheless. Everyone and their pet goldfinch has raved about this book, and it won the Pulitzer, so there's really not too much I need to add to that conversation.

“—if a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don’t think, ‘oh, I love this picture because it’s universal.’ ‘I love this painting because it speaks to all mankind.’ That’s not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It’s a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes you.” 

The Best American Travel Writing 2011 | Edited by Sloane Crosley

I know, I know, 2011 called and it wants its book back. But when I felt inspired to read some travel essays before we left for Israel, I specifically chose this volume because it was edited by one of my favorite authors, Sloane Crosley. I expected some witty essays about travel; instead I got some horribly depressing articles about life in other countries. Oh, and every other one of them was about a terrorist attack (at least it felt that way) -- not the best pick before flying to Israel. Eye-opening, interesting, and well-written for sure, but not what I was expecting. 

"In the morning, merchants came down from the hills past our front gate with baskets of fruit balanced on their heads, and at night in bed under the mosquito net, when the moon was silver and big, we heard voodoo drums and strange, spooky singing. I don't know if I've ever liked a place more in my life." --Mischa Berlinski, "Vernance La France is Not Dead"

"But that's the point of flying halfway round the world -- to see what you didn't expect to see." -- Verlyn Klinkenborg, "The Vanishing Point"

If you love food, you'll love Yes, Chef

So, who wants to go to Harlem with me and eat Swedish meatballs?

Y'all, this book. Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson was my latest audiobook memoir of an inspiring person, and I think I liked it better than any of the others I've listened to (except maybe Open). That probably has a lot to do with the descriptions of food.

Here are the basics: an Ethiopian orphan adopted by Swedish parents follows his dream of "chasing flavors" to become a James Beard award-winning celebrity chef. I had heard of Marcus Samuelsson's Harlem restaurant, Red Rooster, but that was all I knew about him before picking up this book (the lack of food shows is the worst part about not having cable). You may have seen Samuelsson on Top Chef Masters or Iron Chef, and if you're like Y and constantly have NPR on in your car, you may have heard his Fresh Air interview. 

5 things:

1. I'm kind of dying to go to Addis Ababa now. Samuelsson visits Ethiopia many times throughout his adult life -- one of those times with a team from Travel and Leisure -- and his descriptions of the smells, the sounds, and the Starbucks spelled with 2 "K"s won me over. 

2. This book was as satisfying as if I was eating it. Seriously. I was walking Ike while listening and just as Samuelsson bit into an empanada, I accidentally knocked my headphones out of my ear. I almost fell over trying to grab the headphones. It was torture. I needed to know what that empanada tasted like. 

3. In all the memoirs/biographies I've read, these incredibly successful people knew their calling from childhood. Which basically means it's too late for me. Can anyone recommend a book about a lazy 30 year old that suddenly becomes really amazing at something and leaves a huge mark on the world?

4. This audiobook was read by the author, which can be hit or miss. In this case, it was a hit. 

5. Samuelsson's first restaurant, Aquavit, had a location in Minneapolis in the late 90s that closed after 9/11. I Googled the restaurant to see where in Minneapolis it was located, and came across a 1998 article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune with the headline New fancy Swedish restaurant comes to downtown Minneapolis, which made me laugh. Oh, how far the Minneapolis food scene has come. Today, in this city that's super proud of its food scene, no one would ever dare describe a restaurant as "fancy". 

Up next: I'm ready to devour any and all food memoirs. On my "shelf":

Clockwise from top left: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 //

the books of summer

It feels like each time I sit down to review a stack of books, I'm watching an awards show. In this case, it was the Emmys. I'll try not to let them influence me and severely depress you. 

Best audiobook

Where'd You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple

This book had my heart the moment it started. The narrator had the perfect quirky voice -- think Paula Poundstone or Joan Cusack -- to lead me on this weird, wonderful journey. I always find it refreshing when a book takes place in our actual, current universe, and this one references so many things that actually exist: Ted Talks,  Microsoft, etc.

"I'm going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it's boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it's on you to make life interesting, the better off you'll be."

Best memoir in essay form

Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls, David Sedaris

Sorry, Aisha Tyler. You just can't compete with David Sedaris. (Also, Aisha, real talk: I just couldn't finish your book.)

“Their house had real hard-cover books in it, and you often saw them lying open on the sofa, the words still warm from being read.” 

Best sequel

Revenge Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger

I thought Revenge Wears Prada would be a quick palate cleanser and I would roll my eyes through most of it. Well... yeah, it was silly. And yeah, it was probably only written to  revive a cash cow. And yeah, there's a character named Clem. But, it made me smile. DEAL WITH IT. (Also, Meryl Streep was acting out the story in my head. Never a bad thing.)

Strangest biography

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953

I found out later that this glimpse into Sylvia Plath's year as a guest editor at Mademoiselle Magazine was written by a poet. THIS MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. Because, nothing in this book made sense. It was basically a biography written in poetry. It was mildly interesting. And made me want to work at a magazine and re-read The Bell Jar. So there's that.

Best love story

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell.

A chubby redhead and a Korean kid who loves The Smiths fall in love. Hearts melt. 

“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” 

Worth the slow beginning

The Engagements, J. Courtney Sullivan

For some reason, it took me a week and a half to get past page 7 of The Engagements. But I didn't give up, and by the end I was delighted and satisfied and slapping myself on the forehead for not figuring out how all the stories tied together (this book tells the story of several relationships and their corresponding diamond rings in, for lack of a better term, Love Actually style). The desire to slap yourself on the forehead is the sign of a fun read. 

Also, I appreciated the based-in-fact story arc about the "A Diamond is Forever" campaign. J. Courtney Sullivan (Dear J. Courtney, can I just call you Courtney?) is good at weaving in a bonus historical trivia lesson; in her last book, Maine, it was the Cocoanut Grove fire.  

Best overall

Open, Andre Agassi

YOU GUYS. I have never been quite so persistent about a book before, but ask my co-workers -- I could not stop talking about Open, Andre Agassi's autobiography. I'm not sure why it captivated me so much, but I have three theories. 

One: Hearing the behind the scenes of inspiring people -- even when you already know the ending -- is equal parts inspiring and infuriating (infuriating because I'm already past my prime to be a professional tennis player) 

Two: the constant, repetitive narrations of tennis matches was as soothing and pleasant as actually watching a tennis match. If you passed me in traffic while I was listening to this book, you may have seen me idly moving my head from side to side. 

Three: I hit the climax of the book the week I saw Hanson, so that may have activated the weird teenage obsessive part of my brain. There were about two days where I was completely swooning over vintage Andre. 

“Big dreams are so damn tiring.” 

Other notable positives:

Sisterland, Curtis Sittenfeld

You Are One of Them, Elliot Holt

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson

Girl With a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier

Notable negatives: 

Freud's Mistress, Karen Mack/Jennifer Kaufman

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, Elizabeth Silver

The Next Best Thing, Jennifer Weiner 

Another Piece of My Heart, Jane Green 

Notable mehs: 

The Smart One, Jennifer Close

books: my two cents

I'm watching the Golden Globes right now, so my Books of 2012 recap is bound to get a little awards-showy. Sadly, the internet hasn't created a Mel Gibson's Face During Jodie Foster's Speech gif, otherwise I would have pasted that here. Can someone get on that?

I don't know that you could really compare the two books that I read about presidents and their assassinations. 11/22/63 is a Stephen King epic time travel novel; The Destiny of the Republicis a non-fiction account of President Garfield's life and the life of his assassin. Oh, and Alexander Graham Bell.  I was a fan of both!

Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

 I have a notebook where I write quotes that I love from books that I'm reading. I never really understood why I did this, and then I read an interview with David Sedaris in the New York Times, where he put it into words better than I ever could:

"whenever I read a passage that moves me, I transcribe it in my diary, hoping my fingers might learn what excellence feels like."

4 entire pages of my little notebook are filled with gems from Rules of Civility, a Gatsby-esque 1920s New York City story. I heard the author speak recently - he's a principal at an investment firm who has always wanted to write a book... so he did. And I loved it.

Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

I read this book in January and haven't stopped thinking about it or recommending it to anyone who asks. Do yourself a favor and don't read anything about Louis Zamperini -- Olympic hopeful, WWII hero and the subject of Unbroken -- before you read this. It will just add to the suspense.

MWF Seeking BFFby Rachel Bertsche

As someone living in a new city, this book (which we read for book club back in Shreveport) is always in the back of my head. Rachel Bertsche, living across the country from all of her best friends, takes on the challenge of finding a new best friend by going on one "friend-date" per week. What she learns and encounters along the way, while not life-altering or anything, has definitely made me braver when it comes to making friends. 

The Tiger's Wifehad a chance to save the day. I was on my way to Boston, my Nook loaded up with books. Once we reached our cruising altitude, I turned on my Nook... and it was "locked". I still don't know what that means, but I couldn't access any of my books. I was beyond angry. 

With nothing to distract me from my hatred of flying except for my irrational anger, I whined to Y until we landed at our layover and I headed straight for the bookstore. Buying a new book is a treat for me, as I usually either borrow from the library or download e-books from the library. So I chose carefully, and came out with The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obrecht, which I had seen nothing but high praise for. 

But I just didn't get it. It didn't do anything for me. And basically my trip to Boston was ruined. 

Ready Player Oneby Ernest Kline

I was prepared to not be into this book, since it was about virtual reality and video games, which aren't exactly my thing. HOWEVER, I was wrong. 

Other notable positives:

The Innocents, Francesca Segal

This is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper

Maine, Courtney Sullivan

Divergent, Veronica Roth

Spoiled, THE FUG GIRLS, if only for the Chanandler Bong reference.

Other notable negatives:

Night Road, Kristin Hannah (I cried though an entire plane ride to Amsterdam and hated every minute of it)

If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You, Kelly Cutrone (sorry Natalie!)

Big fat mehs:

State of Wonder, Anne Patchett

The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin

Turn of Mind, Alice LaPlante

Wild, Cheryl Strayed

The Fault in Our Stars: a sort of review

Here's a tip for my readers: read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

Here's another tip for my readers: Don't read The Fault in Our Stars on an airplane, when the person sitting one inch away from you is privy to every emotion you might experience while reading a book. This book is about kids with cancer. Cool, ironic kids, who talk about the C-word in a refreshing way. But no matter how cool, ironic, or refreshing one tries to make cancer, there will be tears. That's a fact. I know a doctor. I know what I'm talking about. 

Here's a tip for anyone who happens to sit next to me on an airplane while I'm reading such a book: When I --- clutching my armrest for dear life every time the plane makes a sudden movement --- mention that I am reading a book about kids with cancer, don't say, in your broken English "I do not like death from cancer. I rather die in plane crash."

And as the plane descends quickly (but not quickly enough... never quickly enough), and I bury my nose back into my book, trying to make the terror of air travel just end already, don't say, loudly "I have not felt plane like this before. Something is wrong with this aircraft!"

But back to you, readers. If you're in the mood to feel, and you like teenagers who speak above their grade level (a la the kids from Dawson's Creek, but less angsty, which is amazing because they have cancer and bigger things to worry about than not getting in to film school), and you enjoy reading about Amsterdam... you will like this book. Just not on a plane next to a Pakistani college kid who doesn't understand plane etiquette.

Book club: MWF Seeking BFF

I think I've seen She's All That too many times.

And for that matter, 10 Things I Hate About You.

Not because I often break out into choreographed dances to Fatboy Slim songs (I do), or pine for a place where Y and I can throw giant paint balls at each other (I definitely do).  I actually came to this conclusion because I'm convinced that when anyone seems to like me, they're only doing it as part of a bet. 

Since I've been married for almost three years and am pretty sure Y isn't betting he can turn me into prom queen, I've displaced this fear onto friendships. People are only hanging out with me because there's some kind of bet on the line.

 Okay, maybe I'm not that down on myself, but when I hang out with a new friend, there is a tiny part of my brain that thinks that after we hang out, she's going to go make fun of me with Sean William Scott I mean Paul Walker (are they the same person??), Andrew Keegan, and everyone else who is in on the bet. 

All that to say that making new friends is awkward. I'm really glad my book club decided to read MWF Seeking BFF, a memoir that goes into detail about the complete awkwardness of making new friends as an adult. Rachel Bertsche, the author, reminded me of myself in so many ways, including having incredibly creepy hyper-recall (I remember every conversation I've ever had with you, friends...and possibly what I was wearing for each one) and never knowing whether to hug or shake hands. I was kind of sad when the book ended, in the way that you get sad when you hang up the phone with an old friend. 

Katie decorated her house with polka dots to match the front cover of the book. It was pretty freaking cute. 

Oh and did I mention we Skyped with Rachel Bertsche? That's her on the laptop above. My favorite thing she told us is that for her birthday this year, she's having a 90's throwback slumber party... with 26 people! Pretty fun, since at the beginning of her book she barely had a handful of acquaintances, much less anyone you could invite to a slumber party without seeming like a total weirdo.

Pink was the unofficial color of the night; pizza was the official meal (including dessert pizza, above). 

And there were favors! Friendship bracelets, of course. I loved mine, wore it the next day, and assumed everyone was talking about me behind my back.

Oh, and FYI I'm not ashamed to admit that yes, I learned the She's All That prom dance to Rockafeller Skank when I was in high school and yes, I have googled "paint balls that you throw" many, many times in my life. Want to be my friend?

I'll miss you... book club

I'll miss you, book club. 

Whether we're discussing the book,



reading our favorite passages aloud ("dickey-bird", Gabriel Garcia Marquez? GROSS.),

trying on each other's glasses and laughing hysterically,

eating New York themed food (like frozen hot chocolate and black and white cookies the size of my face),

or wearing flowers in our hair like true senoritas.

photos from To Kill a Mockingbird, If You Have To Cry Go Outside, and Love in the Time of Cholera.

Laura and I weren't sure we would get any responses when we suggested a book club, let alone 8! I'm definitely going to miss our get togethers, and no one will ever truly replace these girls, but at least now I know more people like to read than I thought.

 We're discussing MWF Seeking BFF next week (with the author Rachel Bertsche joining us via Skype) and I can't wait to share!

Other posts about book club: The Help, The Great Gatsby & Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, Pride and Prejudice.

I'll miss you... archive:

too excited to sleep

Remember that Disney World commercial where the most adorable children you've ever seen squirmed in their bed the night before their vacation and squealed about how they were too excited to sleep? 

I feel you, kids. During the weeks leading up to Match Day, I've had the night before Disney World jitters. 

When I was in college, my best friend went to Disney World with my family over Christmas break. We had the jitters. We dealt with them by prank calling all of our high school friends.

Unfortunately, that wasn't an appropriate solution to dealing with week-before-Match-Day jitters. I had to find some way to keep busy or I knew I would go insane. 

Y's solution was to watch every single episode of Downton Abbey, re-watch all 4 seasons of Mad Men, and start Breaking Bad from the beginning. Boys have it so easy. I got tired of sitting still after 2 episodes of Downton Abbey, so it was time for a new strategy. 

So I overhauled my blog. Click here to see if you're viewing from a reader. I also updated my "about" page and Y's "about" page (formerly the "the white coat" button). 

Then I decided to change my twitter background, and in the process invented houndstooth.

But this only ate up a few hours. When the chance came up at the perfect time, I volunteered to plan a 1950s housewife themed bachelorette party, which I think will be the standing theme for any event I plan from now on. Show up to my house in an apron, and you'll be good. Just look how adorable the bride, T, was in her costume and you'll be on board. 

I've been trudging through this month's book club book, Love in the Time of Cholera, and helping to plan our next book club meeting. Have you heard of this book, MWF Seeking BFF?

 I -- in my manic, productive state-- contacted Rachel Bertsche, the author, and arranged for her to join our April book club meeting via Skype. I can't wait to share that book club experience with you guys!

A project for work/school that I've been slowly planning since August is picking up momentum, and suddenly I'm finding myself at Starbucks working diligently before and after work. LSU ruined me, people. After cramming for nearly every test in college in a coffeeshop, I can't concentrate anywhere else. 

What I've learned from the last two weeks is that if something exciting were happening at the end of every week, I think I could change the world

Are you looking forward to anything this weekend? Perhaps me not talking about Match Day anymore?

why books might be better than e-readers, in pictures

I used to be anti e-reader. Nothing, I swore, could make me give up the smell of a new book or the mysterious scribblings in the margin of a used book. Nothing. 

And then my dad gave me a Nook. A free e-reader, it turns out, was the thing that could make me give up that new book smell. 

When next month's book club pick was announced  (Love in the Time of Cholera) I was actually kind of cranky when I realized I already own it in actual book form. Gosh, I'm going to have to turn a lamp on to read? What if I don't know a word? Am I going to have to use an actual dictionary? The horror!

However, as much as I've become dependent on my e-reader, there are still things that make me think that it's quite possible that books are better:

There's the obvious argument that a real book will never run out of batteries. 

Never, when reading an actual book, have I opened a title only to find the contents were that of another book. When reading an e-book? It's happened.

I've never turned the page in an actual book, mid-sentence, only to find that the next page is blank. You can bet it's happened in an e-book.

Sometimes my e-reader will want to take me from page 108 straight to page 111. I've actually had this happen in a real book, but it was a textbook, and let's be honest - I wasn't really reading it.

And, most importantly, my actual books have never been locked. After loading up my e-reader with a carefully curated plane friendly reading list (no plane crash plots; mindless, happy love stories that make me forget I'm suspended mid-air for hours at a time), I reached my cruising altitude and turned on my e-reader only to discover that MY BOOKS WERE LOCKED. I was livid. 

The happy ending was that I got to buy a book from the airport at my layover. A real, live book, that came complete with new-book smell and the rustling sound of pages turning and, thankfully, was unlocked.

As Y said when I showed him this post, "mo e-readers mo problems."

What do you think? Pro- or anti- e-reader? 

my favorite books of 2011

favorite book

The History of Love -- Nicole Krauss. I finished this book on January 1, 2011, and no other book came close.

favorite fiction

{other than The History of Love} Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay

favorite non-fiction

Devil in the White City - Erik Larson. It took me what felt like forever to read this book, but it was so worth it. I now have a strange fascination with World's Fairs and, if I had a time machine, I might choose to go to a World's Fair rather than save Kennedy or Lincoln or stop Hitler. Does that make me a bad person? Don't answer that.

favorite book about food

If I got hate mail, I would get hate mail for this choice: I read a Ruth Reichl book this year and, well, it wasn't my favorite book about food. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake had enough gorgeous descriptions of food for me to consider it a food book. Although the ending weirded me out, I loved the road that led up to it.

favorite "beach read"

The usual suspects, Emily Giffin and Lauren Weisberger, didn't hold a candle to Jennifer Close's Girls in White Dresses. Yes, the plot was non-existent and the characters kind of confusing, but I loved it because reading about these girls felt like a 300 page conversation with your best friends, complete with sarcastic one-liners and complete ridiculousness.

favorite audiobook

It's a toss up - The Help had a different actor reading each character.  Bossypants and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) equated to 12 hours of basically hanging out with Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling. I guess The Help was harder to turn off since it had a plot with twists and turns and all that, but really - apples and oranges.

edited to add - My least favorite books of 2011? Probably Heart of the Matter, Palace of Illusions, and let us not forget my hatred of Black Heels to Tractor Wheels.

(Are you a total bookworm, too? Let's be friends on Goodreads!)

Pride & Prejudice

In November, my book club read Pride and Prejudice. Having never read the book or seen the movie , Mr. Darcy had a LOT of hype to live up to.

(Especially Movie Mr. Darcy. I started watching the movie before I had finished reading the book, and I did NOT like movie Mr. Darcy. I had to stop. He was ruining Mental Image Mr. Darcy and that was not okay.)

Once I finished reading the book the morning of our book club meeting, I chose what I thought was my Pride and Prejudice-iest shirt and baked some scones. 

My shirt was deemed P&P worthy because it had some ruffles. Good enough. 

Book club that month was in Lauren's beautiful house.

I almost felt like we were in a British mansion in the 1800s listening to Elizabeth Bennet (aka Lauren) describe how Mr. Darcy (aka Justin) proposed. Congratulations, Lauren!

We started by attempting to read the front cover. It was difficult, as you can see.

Then someone asked, "Wait, which one was Elizabeth Bennett in the movie? Winona Ryder?" and we decided to talk about something else. 

As for my opinion, I expected the old-fashioned language to bore me, as it used to when I read books for English class. I was pleasantly surprised, but I definitely don't think Mr. Darcy filled the ENORMOUS shoes that the world built for him. I was more impressed by Elizabeth Bennett, who was way ahead of her time. As far as the romance, the last half of the book, where Elizabeth kept hearing from others that Mr. Darcy loved her, made me smile - it reminded me of the fun feeling you get in high school when you hear a boy might like you. Or, in my case, when you're in college and your friend tells you a boy you like likes you and it turns out she was lying. (but by that point it doesn't matter because you're engaged to him.)

PS: This is how Y believes Pride and Prejudice must be read (and this is what Ike thinks of the book):

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJZRxAiPdd8?fs=1]

book club: black heels to tractor wheels

Here's what I knew about the blogger Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) before I read her book:

  • Girl makes a mean cinnamon toast.
  • Apparently Reese Witherspoon will play her in the NY Times best-selling story of her life.
  • I have entered no less than 5 giveaways on her cooking blog to win candy-colored Kitchenaid mixers
  • I am the proud owner of all of her {free} photoshop actions, such as Old West:

As you can probably tell, I had no expectations going into reading her book Black Heels to Tractor Wheels.

Here's what I know about blogger Pioneer Woman after reading her book:

  • She annoys the sh*t out of me.
  • I can think of three people off the top of my head who could write a better book than she did.
Obviously, I was not a fan of this book. And when our book club met at Laurasia (my phone's autocorrect pet name for "Laura's"),  we were pretty divided on it. Here's the breakdown:

The "loved it" girls felt like Ree did a great job expressing the "fizziness" of a new relationship. The "hated it" girls thought Ree was a bad person and her relationship was based on a lot of making out and some big arm muscles. My personal opinion was that the story wasn't even that interesting, although a better writer could have made me care. Case in point:  in the book, Ree runs over her childhood pet, and in describing it, didn't even make me feel bad for her. I felt like I was reading a far-off narrator explain to aliens how a girl might act if her dog died.

When my car suddenly shook from a series of unsettling bumps, i knew something dire had happened. To my horror, when I looked in my rearview mirror, I saw that I’d run over Puggy Sue. Puggy Sue, my fat, prognathic canine who’d settled into my arms the day I’d returned from California and had become, in effect, my child during my time at home, was now lying on my parents’ street, squealing, writhing, and unable to move her hind legs. 

Hearing Puggy’s yelps from inside the house, my mom darted outside, scooped her up, and immediately rushed her to the vet’s office. Within thirty minutes, she called to tell me the news to which I’d already started resigning myself: Puggy Sue, my little package of fawn-colored love, was dead. 

I spent the next several hours in a fetal position, reeling over the sudden death of Puggy. 

I'm glad we read this though, if only because the conversation was hilarious and the food - recipes from the Pioneer Woman blog including fig and prosciutto pizza, bruschetta, chicken spaghetti, and pear clafouti- averaged about 4 sticks of butter per dish.  And there was sangria. Butter and sangria, who could ask for anything more?

& a few pictures from our Gatsby book club night, which somehow slipped through the blog cracks:

book club

Did you guys read The Help? It turns out about 100% of the people I know have read it, so it seemed like the perfect book to kick off a book club.


We met at the theater to see the movie on opening night, then went back to my house for some southern comfort food (including, what else, chocolate pie).



Yeah, it was fun, but I think the real story here is the common misconception that people who like to read must be smart:

I listened to the audiobook version of The Help, which was kind of amazing. Three actors read the book - one of whom is in the movie adaptation (and, fun fact, was actually the inspiration for her character, Minny) - and kept me entertained to the point that my 12 hour round trip drive felt like it was too short.

The book starts out in the voice of one of the maids, Abileen. As soon as I started listening, I knew I was in trouble. The actor spoke so quickly I almost couldn't keep up. At first I was angry at my library, from which I had downloaded the book. It was clear they had given me a bootleg copy. How dare they?

Then I came to the conclusion that my local library wasn't that sleazy and, still angry, decided the mistake was the producer's fault. Shouldn't audio books have a test audience? Who can understand this?

Then I thought maybe I was being racially insensitive and should be more open-minded to the way African American women in the 60's spoke.

Finally, I moved on to acceptance. That must be part of her character, I reasoned, she talks quickly because she's....nervous? Or something?

After 30 or so minutes, just as I was getting used to Abileen and the Chipmunks, I happened to glance down at my ipod. In the top right corner was a little icon - "2X".

Somehow, my ipod was playing at twice the normal speed. I didn't even know it could do that. And I still don't know why that would ever be necessary. Thoughts?

(And, what did you think of the book/movie? I was kind of neutral on the movie. As far as movie adaptations go I didn't hate it (like some movies that rhyme with Shmime Shmavelers Shmife), but I wasn't completely blown away by it-- possibly because I was too busy comparing it to the book. But, I actually liked the major character change they made.)

recent things that make me happy

The farmer's market, where so far I've picked up peaches, blackberries, strawberries, corn and other various vegetables, goat's milk soap, a lavender plant, and a lemon verbena plant. The peaches and blackberries turned into Olivia at Everyday Musing's peach and blackberry crisp.

I read about this book, Palace of Illusions, in a magazine awhile ago and added it to my to-read-someday list. I found it at an outlet mall outside of Austin and bought it immediately, partly because I want to read it and partly because it's sparkly.

I think I still have a headache from the lunch break I spent picking out a new perfume a few days ago. I ended up with Wish by Lollia. The pretty bottles may have been part of what sold me.

Blueberry picking, which actually happened about 3 weeks ago. It was scorching, but the lemon blueberry cheesecake bars, blueberry muffins, and bowls of Greek yogurt, honey, and blueberries were kind of worth it.

I loved this movie, even though it added about 10 books to my must-read-now list (not to be confused with my to-read-someday list) including A Moveable Feast, The Paris Wife, The Great Gatsby, and Save Me the Waltz. There was also a hilarious moment with Salvador Dali in the movie, where he describes his latest idea for a painting, which sounds like a complete mess -- something about a rhinoceros and Jesus. I fully appreciated that having just been to the Dali museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, and seeing paintings that looked an awful lot like what he described and somehow managed not to be complete messes.

Dali mustaches. What else do you do when posing outside of his museum?

Happy weekend! What's been making you happy lately? Has anyone else read that sparkly book or seen Midnight in Paris?

long distance romance

It seems like when everyone I know wants to feel better about their lives,they watch Teen Mom. I apparently read WWII novels. Seriously, I've read 4 in the past month or so, all randomly recommended to me by different people.

One of the best things about these books is reading the correspondence between the people at war and their lovahs. Of course, since these are novels, all the letters are well-written and inspiring and tear-jerking and all kinds of other nauseating things. But I imagine the real letters from the past -- and not just between wartime spouses, but between anyone separated by distance -- were just as beautiful.

I began to wonder* how future generations would describe such correspondence between couples in 2010. At the time I was reading these books, Y was preparing to leave for part of his OB-GYN rotation, which was across the state (dramatic, much? It was two hours away). I, being stuck in WWII-Novel-Land, expected romantic and pining messages -- even if they were via text.

So, future generations, when a 2010 medical student leaves his wife and pitbull mix behind for 2 weeks to train, THESE are the pining gestures (I want you to read that as if Ryan Seacrest is saying "THIS is American Idol"):

"If you were here, you should have said hi!"

Okay Y, maybe our bathroom does occasionally look like this when I change the toilet paper roll:

But can't a girl get a little absence makes the heart grow fonder every once in awhile?

*Two Carrie Bradshaw references in one post? I am awesome.


Y and I recently discovered another shared interest, besides mushroom and bell pepper pizza, long road trips, and minimal effort games of tennis: young adult novels.

We listened to a book called The Maze Runner while driving to Birmingham for Thanksgiving, which we realized was just the warm up to the book we started listening to on our next driving adventure: The Hunger Games.

We listened to the first eight hour book in the car and started the second at the end of our trip. Then we decided to take a hiatus from speaking and turned it on while we cleaned, ate dinner, sat on the couch. It was kind of quaint; our little family crowded around the ipod. I liked to imagine we were listening to FDR on the radio.

Anyway, we are almost finished with the third book, which means we've listened to about 20 hours worth of Hunger Games Trilogy, which has resulted in two major things:

1. Hunger Games nightmares.

The scene: Y is struggling the entire night because I've decided, for some reason, to sleep diagonally on the bed leaving him without any room. Meanwhile, I'm having nightmares about being chosen for the hunger games.

Me: (at 2 am, half asleep) I don't WANT to go to the hunger games!!!
Y: (half asleep) they only send diagonal sleepers to the hunger games, so straighten out, asshole

2. Hunger Games inspired means of survival, including setting traps

The scene: Y is a douche.

Day 4: Why David Sedaris and I are not friends anymore

Today's WBthirty topic was originally "Your favorite book", which I broadened to "A post about books". I thought about being lazy and linking you to two other funny posts I've made about books, but I decided to be productive and tell you a story.

Y's mom just gave me David Sedaris's latest book, and I'm excited to read it... after I finish the teeny tiny list of other books I have on my to-read list:

Of course, the latest Sedaris book got me thinking about the time I met him. In 2008, Y and I decided we didn't want to spend the summer before his first year of med school relaxing at the beach like normal people -- we decided that we wanted to drive to Canada.

The view of Toronto from Niagara-on-the-Lake

In Toronto, we randomly discovered that David Sedaris was having a book signing at a bookstore near our hotel, and since his new book had been our reading material for the entire trip, and because we could find surprisingly little to do in Toronto, we decided to go.

After standing in line for an hour, we chit-chatted with Mr. Sedaris for a few minutes and then he signed a book for Y's mom. Apparently charmed by Y (Y has that effect on people), he wrote something like "To Mrs. P: You have a delightful son."

How sweet! I couldn't wait to see what he wrote about me in my book. I can be equally as charming as Y when I have to.

Mr. Sedaris (I don't know what to call him. David? Dave? ) asked me my name. Since I have a, um, unique name, he asked me how it came to be . Before I even started my story, Ole Dave started writing a message in my book. He finished the message before I even got to the good part. I was confident. He must have seen something he liked in me.

When I got outside, I checked my message:

Really, dude? Really? My story touched your heart? You wrote that before you even heard my story! Am I not delightful? Can't you just see the sarcasm dripping from that page? I must be a terrible story teller.

And then I found twenty dollars.

Camera happy

Ever since I started listening to The Girl Who Played with Fire while walking Ike, I feel like my walks have gotten a little... darker.

Ike just feels like they've gotten longer.

By the way, for those of you have read the book, can we discuss how Lisbeth Salander went on an Ikea shopping spree and then had her furniture delivered and assembled by Ikea? According to the signs at Ikea Frisco, that's driving up their prices and I will not stand for it.

Why didn't I think of that?

Y comes home almost every day complaining about how so and so in his class has never heard of [insert historical political figure here]. I usually nod, agree with him, head straight for Wikipedia, and spend the rest of the night feeling stupid at my lack of knowledge, so humor me for a minute while I pretend like I'm smart:

Anyone who knows me can vouch for my tendency to get bossy when it comes to grammar. It's a random habit -- I'm not really a perfectionist in any other aspects, but stick an apostrophe where it doesn't belong or misuse a homophone and you will most definitely hear about it from me.

And him.

That sounded menacing, right? Right? Well... it's not exactly true. Unless I'm close to you, I won't point out your mistake. I'll probably just post about it on my blog. To be honest, there isn't enough time in the day to rectify all of the spelling and grammar errors on signs and buildings around here. While in DC, staying on Georgetown's campus, I climbed onto a campus bus and saw a sign that said something like this:

To ensure your safety, please watch your step as you climb aboard the bus.

My heart almost stopped -- not only was the sign written in a complete sentence, the ensure/insure homophone had been used correctly! A sign at home (on our not-quite-as-prestigious-as-Georgetown campus) trying to convey the same message might have looked like this:

watch "STEP" on bus

Don't even get me started on the random quotation marks. Y snapped this picture the other day, just because he knew it would make me mad. So romantic:

The reason I bring this up: I just found an article about a guy who traveled around the United States correcting errors on signs, (apparently, he didn't find an excess of mistakes in any one part of the country, which I find hard to believe) and wrote a book about his adventure. I have three thoughts on this:

A) That is awesome.
B) Why didn't I think of that?
C) They'll give anyone a book deal these days, won't they?

Anyone else out there have a pet peeve that they get overly sensitive about? My other pet peeve is the sound of someone eating a banana. GROSS.

weekly wrap up (or, things that don't belong anywhere else)

These are the books I've read since May -- they all match. Completely unintentional. My mom, whose motto might as well have been "If you are wearing denim pants, you wear denim shoes and a blue shirt", would be so proud of me.

In New York, I bought this painting from an artist outside of the Met. On a scale of 1 to fanny pack, how touristy is that?

I don't think Ike likes our early morning photoshoots.

My Fourth of July was annoyingly festive. Even the laundry.