Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer Reading List.  Five Books you should think about reading. 

I'll start with this book, because you should have read it as a kid. But it's not too late. And if you did read it as a kid, it's time to re-read it with grown-up eyes and understand how scary some of the stuff in it is. You might have watched Little House on the Prarie as a kid, but that show had very little to do with these books other than share the name. These books are rougher and not always pleasant looks at pioneer life. If you feel like doing a set read start with By the Shores of Silver Lake & read The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prarie and this one. At its heart this is the story of a girl who worked her butt off to help her family & to support her blind sister and how she finally decided to have a little fun by taking up with a hot dude who had some really fast & pretty horses.

In addition to being a wonderful British mystery, this book is a fascinating look at women's roles in the 1920s. Since it was written in the 1920s by a woman author who had lead something of an unconvential life, it's the real deal, not just someone looking back and guessing what people must have been experiencing. If you think the struggle of balancing work & a personal life is something new, this book will set you straight. It is also a fascinating look inside Oxford Academia which will make all the Anglophiles out there purr with delight as we sip our tea. The dialogue is sharp and funny. Again I would suggest a series of books starting with Strong Poison followed by Have his Carcase, then Gaudy Night & finally Busman's Honeymoon. The essense of this book is the author actually examing her own life and her own choices and slipping it all into a great read of a mystery.

Every wonder where weird trends come from? Why suddenly everyone gets the same haircut and starts drinking Chai? Connie Willis has the answers in this fabulous book which is catergorized as fantasy, though there really aren't that many fantastical elements in it. Life is just weird and she gets it.

Straight up supernatural fantasy that is almost entirely vampire & werewolf free. Did you realize that London had a secret supernatural underground that you can't see? Truthfully, I bought this book for the title and fell in love with hard-boiled private eye John Taylor & the Nightside series.

Now for some non-fiction. With climate change much in the news these days, this book seems especially relevant. As it shows, the climate can change suddenly and drastically even if people have nothing to do with the cause.  David Keys documents how a violent volcanic eruption around 535 AD helped give rise to the plague, the collapse of the Roman Empire & the rise of Islam among other things. A fascinating and eye opening read.


This is my herb garden. I love growing herbs because they are very tasty and requite almost not attention. Mostly they are weeds, incredibly tasty weeds. My oregano patch is ready to take over the world

My giant sage bush has been growing for years. Every Thanksgiving Day, I grab a handful of fresh delicous sage to use in the stuffing and to decorate the turkey plate. I've also dug through the snow to pull out fresh Thyme, Rosemary and Majoram. Considering that fresh herbs go for 3 to 4 bucks a pop in the store and that the herb plants only cost about 2 and keep giving and giving. It's quite a deal.

My tarragon made it through the winter this year and has now taken off. I need to get cracking on some bernaise sauce.

Lavender & Lemon Balm make the back garden smell like potpourri back there amongst the roses. And they murderize other less desirable weeds.

Cilantro, Parsley, Dill & Basil.  Hey wait, where's the Basil? It's all gone. Has Mario Batali been in my garden? Who took the basil. Time for a closer look.

Great Ghost of Julia Child! Who the heck are you and what are you doing on my dill? This is war, I tell you.

A little something for you my bird friends. Declious basil & dill stuffed caterpiller on a bed of dill. Eat 'em up yum! Don't mess with me bugs. I'll take you out. My sympathies to your family. Now off to buy another basil plant.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Old Friends: the pre 1973 edition.

Cousin Pam (on the right)
First met: Infancy
Earliest Memory: My 3rd birthday. There was a little train on my cake and I wanted to pull it. Boy cousins kept stepping on it. Pam said. "Boys are mean."
Outstanding attributes: had cool Barbies. Gave me a fold-up Barbie house when she grew tired of it.
What we should get together and do now: Shop or relax in beach chairs.

Denise (Dee Dee)
First met: standing at my Mamma's back fence in 1969
Outstanding attributes: Had cowgirl hat & gun just like Audra Barkley on Big Valley. Highschool fashionista & fast typist.
Random Memory: Girls bathroom in high school. Dee lighting her eyeliner with a lighter to make it blacker to better outline her eyes. She was THAT rockstar fabulous. Still is.
What we should do now: Watch her daughter (a taller even more rockstar fabulous clone of her mother) play basketball.

First meeting: 1970 at a tree near her back door.  I told Mommy I saw a girl out in the yard. Mom said to go say hi. I said. "Hi."  She said. "Hi." One of us said. "Let's be friends."

Outstanding attributes: Cool Barbies including fully poseable Barbie and Ken.
Random memories:  Eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Powder out of a packet. Going to her Grandma Louise's for my first sleepover. (They had 2 pigs Orville & Luke) I got upset and cried from homesickness. Annette made me an Alkaseltzer.
What we should do now: Hot Dog & Root Beer. You can never go wrong with that.

First Met: 1970. Kicked in head while swinging. (She should have got out of my way)
Outstanding attributes: Twin brother Ben. Ability to subdue maximum security psych patients with one stab of a needle.
Random Memories: Throwing rocks at hippies. Summers at Dreamland Pool. Rolling olives down the streamers at prom. College. Maid of Honor at my wedding. 4th of July cookouts.
What we should do: Go to Sephora and try on glitter. Have a steak. Watch reality TV. Go for a hike. And we should do it soon and we will.
Things I lived without until I was 35, but get a little crazy if I'm denied any of these things now:

First & foremost: central air. Made it through childhood without so much as a fan. Got all the way to 25 without even a room air conditioner. Now, if it's 75: put on the air! I blame my husband Tim, he turned me to the Chilled Side. I also blame my wonderful brother-in-law Mike for quickly and efficiently installing the unit at a reasonable price and also for being a reliable service dude. And by blame, I mean LOVE.

Coffee. My mom drank instant. I never cared for the taste of the stuff, though I did like the smell of the beans at the store. Then I discovered latte & cappucino & all sorts of caffeine generated magic. Now I have a coffe grinder & and espresson machine. And I pick my bookstore by its coffee vendor. Shameful.

Cell Phone. What can I say about the precious? Me wants the precious with me at all times. No good deed must go untexted. Cause seriously, if a tree falls in the woods and I don't take a picture on my phone and send it to my friends and post it on Facebook, did it make a sound? I don't think so. This makes me feel like I'm on Star Trek with my Communicator & Tri-Corder in one.

Booze. Cocktails, wine with dinner, apertifs, punch, sangria, winter hot toddy & Long Island Iced Tea.  I wisely gifted Tim with all manner of mixology books & a Boston Shaker. But it is with great pride that I point out that why I have been tipsy a time or 2 (most notably the 5 cups of coffee, 2 glasses of wine incident), I have never been sick drunk or hung over and that's not because of high tolerance. I can get buzzed on fumes.

Vosages Barcelona Bars. Chocolate & salt.  The only known cure for PMS.

Sushi.  I first found you at the Los Angeles Airport & I have never let you go.

HDTV. Mandated by the government & loved by me. I never had a color TV until I was 25. It's like going from sepia-toned to Technicolor at the beginning of the Wizard of Oz.

Precious Pt. 2. My laptop. My portable world at my fingertips. I use you to write & surf & collect recipes and catch up with pals.  You hold my music, videos & pics. I heart you. I paid cash for you.

From my laptop, I put my music on my MP3 player.  My first portable music was an old transistor radio that I held to my ear. Then in college I got a Sony Walkman. It weighed 5 lbs and played cassettes. Now I've got all of my music, plus video & pictures on something that weighs about as much as a cracker.

My Kindle.  All the books you want jammed into one convenient device. You can order them with a touch of a button and 2 miutes later start reading. Again, very Star Trek.

The reason I can afford all this junk has to do with this goofy looking dude. His name is Dave Ramsey and he helped me learn that cash is king & debt is dumb. Cut up the credit cards 5 years ago and could not be happier. Don't owe money on anything but my mortgage. If I'd come across Dave 15 years ago, my dang house would be paid off.

Check out his website. Nothing to buy. He has books, but all the info is on-line or on the TV & radio shows.

Lately this is what I can't live without:

Must share links, photos, videos, opinions & Vampire Wars loot all the time. I also require this:

So I can talk to Tim across the room on our laptops. Watch American Idol with my friend Maria in South Carolina or talk to a friend in the Netherlands. I NEED it.

Well, actually I only NEED one thing.  This guy:

I only had to live without him until I was 22. But that was a darn long time.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The meanest thing I ever did:

7 years ago for my beloved pseudo-nephew's 11th birthday I pulled the cruelest prank of all. Because I like to play with cake, I often make birthday cakes for the Lightfoot boys. That year, he wanted Spiderman. So I played a little joke. I made a Barbie cake. A blonde plastic princess with a huge skirt made of cake. Frosted in light pink and adorned with pink and yellow frosting flowers. Then I piped on a lovely pink frosting top for Babs. The cake was pink, too. Beautiful. Then I allowed a helpless 11 year old boy to sit at a table surrounded by his friends and I trotted this baby out.

Doesn't he look amused? His friends were hooting and hollering and teasing him.  Funny right?  See how amused he is?

Funny right?  I wish I had some better pictures, but I was too busy pranking the kid to bother photographing it.  In my defense, there was a Spiderman cake waiting in the kitchen.  I don't have any pictures of that.  Or of Cameron's father licking the frosting off Barbie. Perhaps it's for the best.  Still, the boy forgave me.  MISTAKE KID!

Five years later, I was supposed to bring the cake to his 16th birthday. I made cupcakes that looked like spaghetti and pretended that I was confused and thought I was supposed to bring spaghetti to his party; not the cake. He was very polite about the whole thing.  "Uh, I thought you were, uhm, ah, bringing cake?"  When he figured out I had indeed brought cake, he was relieved.

So today, the boy graduated with honors from The Toledo School For the Arts. Lots of honors. And he trusted me to bring his graduation cake to the party. I thought about a giant Barbie cake.  I really did. But what did I do?

I'd like to point out his buddy was also at the the 11th Birthday party. It's nice to keep your friends. Anyway, this is what I did cake wise.  By what I did, this is what I had Thrush's Bakery make. His mother did the photo montage of his theatrical career and they put it on the cake.

Happy Graduation Cameron Lightfoot!  Forgive me. For your 21st, I'm considering a giant Barbie cake with an actual girl inside. Cause I love you that much. 
You make me proud,
Love "Aunt" Cyn