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Monday Book Round-Up

August 17th, 2009

Can’t call these reviews, yet, except for Beverly Cleary’s classic “Ramona and Her Father.” Such a good book, and really fitting for a lot of us right now, sad to say. This is the one where Ramona’s dad loses his job and the whole family struggles. It’s especially poignant when you realize that the book grew out of Cleary’s own experiences during the Depression, and when you realize that things just go how they go sometimes, don’t they? You just have got to hang on for the ride.

I’m ready to start “I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith Through An Atheist’s Eyes,” by Hemant Mehta. And I’m loving the hell out of Kim John Payne, M.Ed., and Lisa M. Ross’s text, “Simplicity Parenting.”

That one is subtitled “Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids” (Ballantine Books, $25, 235 pages). I know, you’re probably thinking what I’m thinking, especially when next you hear “Waldorf,” “fewer toys,” “what is wrong with this madcap world we live in?” etc. You’re thinking it’s one of those ploys to purchase a bunch more plastic containers, and organize your life via small, tasteful throw rugs and be-tasseled pillows and a lot of shiny new stuff in shiny new spaces?

You were, weren’t you?

It is not that kind of book.

You will figure that out for yourself when the author talks about his experiences working with refugee children at camps in Jakarta and Cambodia. He then moved to England, completed training as a Waldorf teacher, and worked in school settings and in private practice as a counselor. He started noticing some similarities between the groups he had worked with. He was seeing anger, often explosive; nervousness; a need to be in control, especially around bedtime and food; they were mistrustful of people; they were uncertain in new situations.

Sounds like Post-Traumatic Stress, no? He started treating it as that, with good effect.

I can’t do Payne justice here — he really delves into it with this book. He has some good, workable solutions to the problems a lot of us are facing, as parents and as a global community.

Next up (and most of these are the recommendations of my girlfriend L, who talked books with me at bunco. Books, bunco, food, four kinds of dessert. What more could you want?)… the list: “Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion” and “Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief,” by Dale McGowan, et al; Sapphire’s “Push: A Novel” and much, much more. If I can stay awake for all of this, that is. I went back to work today!!! Big clap hands.

Reading this week:

here’s a good one for you bloggers out there…

August 15th, 2009

Who was your first commenter on your very first post? Leave me a note in comments if you’d like. I love games, you know this.

I win on the Other Laura’s blog (One of Three). Isn’t she so cute? She and her boys are redheads. So good-looking. I love Texas girls, they are my favorite next to Oregon girls. I wish they could all be Oregon or Texas girls.

Here’s my first post, EVER. (“Put your toothbrush/on your mouth…”) Roxie wins — she was my very first commenter. Yes, I had another blog for 10 minutes before I started this one, but I can’t even remember the name of it. Bad girl. Ah, well. Archives are only supposed to be perfect.

Kinda funny, that post, cuz I never ever go to PTA meetings anymore. Not unless I’ve had a big Xanax first.

(ps — LELO AND FRIENDS ARE HAVING THE BIG PIE-OFF TOMORROW AT PENINSULA PARK. YOU’D BETTER GO EAT SOME PIE. “I like pie.” Where did that come from? N & I would like to know.)

(pps — Alabama girls are pretty righteous too, aren’t they?)

i love my bunco ladies

August 14th, 2009

Do you know how to play bunco? Here, let Tricia teach you. I love games. I love my girlfriends. I love food. I love winning money, aka “gambling.” Bunco gives me all of this and more. (I just got home from playing. So fun. Yes, I won in the “roll-off” for the kitty.)

This love of all things cards and dice started when I was a wee little sprout, watching my ma, pa and their friends fiendishly play cards. They liked playing Pit, poker (I coveted the chips. The different colors, the stacks, what did it all mean?), canasta, whatever they all agreed on. My dad’s parents loved playing kings’ corners, caroms, solitaire, Yahtzee, Pounce…

My cousins and I loved Pounce (aka “Nerts.” Why is it named this? I have no idea. All I know is we called it Pounce when I was a kid and Nerts once I grew up). Grade school, high school, college, we went from pitching pennies to obsessively playing (and cheating at) Monopoly to playing 600 and quarters and any other drinking games we could think of.

My friends and I, all through college, were especially crazy for Pounce. We would literally stay up til 4 in the morning playing. We’d take decks of cards to the bars with us, ignore the bands that were playing, and play hand after hand of cards. It was good clean fun. We tried to kick it, oh we did. Because the man I was dating and also one of my best girlfriends, H, hated Pounce. Hated, hated. They were slow is why. If you are slow at cards and dice you just die, okay?


They made us promise we wouldn’t bring the cards out with us in public. We agreed, reluctantly.

Then, there we were at the bar again, and my roommate C asks, all casual, Did you, er, bring any cards? and I’m all, YESSSSSSSSS! and I whip not one but five decks of cards out of my purse and the game was ON and H just crashed her head right down on the table and whimpered quietly.

I did feel bad. Leeeeeeee. I felt badly! But we had to play!

I found this bunco group through church, when I was teaching Sunday school. See how it goes, once you become a Unitarian? Next thing, you find gamblers. It happens every time. Her sweet little adorable daughter was in my class and yelled at me, MY MOM PLAYED BUNCO ON FRIDAY! and I was all, I WANT TO PLAY BUNCO, TOO, TELL HER TO INVITE ME!

I’m low-key and casual like that. So she did, and now I’ve been subbing with their group for… I have no idea how long now. A while. It is so fun. We meet at a different house every month, always on the… what is this, second Friday? There is some pattern to it, I dunno. All I know is that they send me an e-mail and I try to go. Tonight one of the women asked me, Where have you been the last two months? And I thought, Hmm. “Was I not here? Was I at the beach?”

“Yes,” she said agreeably, “you must have been at the beach.” My bunco ladies are sooooooooo much easier than the PTA ladies. We put out a spread of food (another reason bunco kicks ass). Tonight it was…

* turkey, cream cheese and cranberry sauce roll-ups, with toothpicks
* veggie lasagna that was sooooo yummy
* popcorn chicken and those little cheesey bites, whatever they are
* dinner rolls with real butter
* sweet and sour chicken, lo mein and kung pao chicken
* all kinds of drinks (“There are some of those lizard ones. You know! The fancy ones — Sobe or whatever…” oh, yum.)
* bowls of candy all over the tables (our trademark)
* for dessert, my contribution was those pink and white frosted animal cookies that are like crack cocaine they’re so good
* a delicious lemon cake with lots of gooey frosting
* and… someone else brought cream puffs. Yes, they did.

We all save up our Weight Watchers points for like, the whole week, even those of us who aren’t technically on Weight Watchers. We’re sociable like that. We all pony up a little money, play like maniacs, talk and laugh and miss everyone who’s not there that month. They all work together for Large Government Agency. They’ve taken me under their wing, anyway, even though I don’t. I work for Large School District, which is similar, I suppose, in many ways. Then, goodnight. Home by 10 p.m.

Oh, I love bunco and my girls.

Thursday Recipe Club: Apple-Carrot Breakfast Muffins

August 13th, 2009



* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/4 cups white sugar
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 cups shredded carrots
* 1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
* 1 apple – peeled, cored and shredded
* 3 eggs
* 1 cup vegetable oil
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease 12 muffin cups, or line with paper muffin liners.
2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the carrot, raisins, nuts, coconut, and apple.
3. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir egg mixture into the carrot/flour mixture, just until moistened. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

Wednesday Recipe Club: Bishop’s Bread (and Portland Punch!)

August 12th, 2009

Steve ran some great recipes on his blog the other day, for the incredible gourmet dinner he made us. The man is a gourmet! I’m just sayin’. Also he blogs. And fixes my blog whenever it breaks. Gets the leaves out of the gutters every fall when the basement floods. Nice! Agrees to play kickball with me and the kids in the summer rain, so I’m just extremely happy, daily, to be married to the man.

Happy early anniversary, Hockey God. I’ll always be impressed by you and head over heels.

Here’s the coffeecake I made for dessert. It’s good by itself, or topped with whipped cream, vanilla yogurt or ice cream. You can double the recipe for a 9 x 13 pan, or use a Bundt pan. Don’t go all crazy though.

Bon appetit!


Bishop’s Bread

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk, milk, or soymilk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 or 2 teaspoons lemon juice and/or zest

Measure flour, sugars and oil together. Blend and reserve one cup for topping. Add the rest of the ingredients; stir well. Pour batter into greased 8 x 8 pan. Sprinkle evenly with topping. Bake 35-45 minutes.

(ps — I just found this recipe for the best punch ever — Portland Punch. How I love thee, Portland Punch. You have shown up at many an office potluck and farewell luncheon. Better tuck this one away for future reference…)

This will make two large punch bowls worth of punch – so halve the recipe if you need only one bowl:


– Two bottles of 2-liter sized Squirt
– Two bottles of 2-liter sized Sprite
– Two bottles of 1-quart sized “Portland Punch – Loganberry Raspberry flavor” (Found at Fred Meyer’s)
– One bottle of 12-ounce sized “Rose’s Grenadine Syrup”
– One bottle of 15-ounce sized Lime Juice

Ad lots of ice (7 lb. bag per bowl) and lime slices. Serve.

Joshua Bell, incognito

August 12th, 2009

(The Washington Post story is here. The performance was a year and a half ago, but I missed hearing about it. And almost everyone else just plain missed it.)

QOTD: Thoreau

August 11th, 2009

“I have learned this at least by my experiment: if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.“ — Thoreau

(BOLDLY STOLEN from Mrs. Flinger. Thanks, Leslie. I’m keeping that one in mind as I head back to school.)

notes to self

August 10th, 2009

* You made a really nice new friend today, and her kid is nice, too. Chances are her husband is cool as well and dang, that’s the whole family, not one psycho killer in sight. Plus you have the whole Melrose Place connection and that is pretty alright. Now remember to call them.

* Try not to forget to go back to work next week.

* The kids don’t go back to school as early as you do, though, so don’t forget to put them somewhere.

* Somewhere safe.

* Not the tavern.

* Feed the cats.

* And the fish.

* Not to each other, fun as that might be.

* Cook dinner.

* Pick beans.

* Hang out the laundry.

* And maybe iron a blouse? For work? Which starts next week?

* Yeah.

My Life According to Kelly Willis

August 7th, 2009

OK, I’ll give it a go… Steve did his according to Thelonious Monk.

Pick an artist, try not to repeat any titles, go! Do one, if you’d like, and leave me the link in comments.

Pick your Artist:
Kelly Willis

Are you a male or female:
That’ll Be Me

Describe yourself:
Get Real

How do you feel:
Bang, Bang

Describe where you currently live:
Cradle of Love

If you could go anywhere, where would you go?
That’s How I Got To Memphis

Your favorite form of transportation:
River of Love

Your best friend is:
Little Honey

You and your best friends are:
Up All Night

What’s the weather like:
Whatever Way The Wind Blows

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called:
Heaven’s Just A Sin Away

What is life to you:
Sincerely (Too Late To Turn Back Now)

Your relationship:
Reason To Believe

Your fear:
Fading Fast

What is the best advice you have to give:
Wait Until Dark

Thought for the Day:

How I would like to die:
One More Night

My soul’s present condition:
Happy With That

My motto:
You Can’t Take It With You

Thursday Book Review: “Sex Wars, A Novel of Gilded Age New York,” by Marge Piercy; “Dewey, the Small-Town Cat Who Touched the World,” by Vicki Myron; and “The Double-Daring Book for Girls,” by Andrea J. Buchanan & Miriam Peskowitz

August 6th, 2009

Reviewed today:

It’s happened. I’ve finally found a book by Marge Piercy that I like even more than “Woman on the Edge of Time” and “Gone to Soldiers.” And I loved those books — they’re both on my top 15 list of my favorite books of all time. In “Sex Wars, A Novel of Gilded Age New York” (Harper Perennial, $14.95, 411 pages), Piercy gives us a novel set, roughly, from 1862-1916. I’ve always been fascinated by the period around and between the Civil War and the First World War. Must be all those readings of “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” or my mom’s family’s obsession (and my unwillingness to get on board) with the Civil War. Piercy did a slam-bang job with historical accuracy, and has gifted us with a novel that features Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Victoria Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee “Tennie” Claflin and their clan, Susan B. Anthony, Anthony Comstock, and my new favorite fictional heroine, Freydeh Levin, who refuses to let life’s circumstances kick her ass.

Such a good book, I loved it. It’s sexy, it’s funny, it makes you understand the era in a whole new way. It’s as if Piercy time-traveled back to those days and let you sneak along, too. (Those of you who are fans of “Woman on the Edge of Time” know how well she handles a time-travel.) Great book, read it.

Dewey, Dewey, Dewey Readmore Books — awesome cat, awesome name. Who hasn’t heard the story of the fluffy orange kitty who was discovered in the library bookdrop one cold freezy morning in Spencer, Iowa, and went on to get local, national and international attention? Dewey’s story has now been committed to print in “Dewey, the Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World” (Grand Central Publishing, $19.99, 277 pages.) He lived in the library his whole life, bringing joy to the patrons and staff, but especially to the library director, Vicki Myron. Hers is an amazing success story, and this librarian was inspired by her no-nonsense approach, her chutzpah and her wisdom. (You will find the library’s website here.)

Ms. Myron’s motto:

“Find your place. Be happy with what you have. Treat everyone well. Live a good life. It isn’t about material things; it’s about love. And you can never anticipate love.”

Perfect. I love a good animal story, I must be honest here. This one was extra-satisfying.

I was hoping they’d do this, and they did! A young readers’ version of Dewey’s story will be released soon. (That’s what you get when you have a librarian in charge of things. Smiles.)

You’ve got yer “Daring Book for Girls,” yer “Wisdom and Wonder Pocket Daring Book for Girls,” yer “Pocket Daring Book for Girls, Things to Do,” and now comes the “Double-Daring Book for Girls” (Andrea J. Buchanan & Miriam Peskowitz, Collins Books, $18, 277 pages). Wacky Girl sez: “I like these ‘Daring’ books, they’re very good. Especially for when you’re bored.” And that, my friends, is high praise for a 10-year-old. Her favorite sections were the ones on jokes, art, and “making stuff,” like Japanese lanterns, sand castles, scarecrows and all kinds of cool projects. Here is their homepage.

“There’s fun stuff, uh-huh. It’s just fun.”

We took the book out in the yard with us when we were star-gazing last week — pretty cool.

Happy Thursday, and adieu.

— WM

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