Eight Out Of Nine Ain’t Bad

This is the year of the book in my world. At least, reading was a priority in January and I’m hoping to keep the momentum going.

January allowed me time to read a few books, some of them short and all in different topics. I found them all enjoyable save for one so that seems like a good record.

First, let’s get the unpleasantness out of the way. The one I hated:

Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

The story is told around one day in the life of a Maryland couple. We travel with them, meet friends and family, and learn their back history as they reminisce.

It’s tedious and feels too long. The characters all are annoying and not at all sympathetic. The main character views the world through her own special lens and her expectations are both unrealistic and cringe inducing.

The chapters are too long as well. I kept reading, thinking conditions would improve, only to find myself in so far I hated to cut bait at the three quarter mark. Learn from me. Save your time.

The Winter People by Jenifer McMahon

This work of fiction is intriguing. There’s history, relationships, a present day story, mystery and even a supernatural presence.

I like the way the story jumps around from long ago to the present day. There’s nothing predictable about this story and I enjoyed every minute of it. It takes place in January so winter is a great time to read it!

The Race For Paris by Meg Waite Clayton

You can’t go wrong with a book by this author. To be clear, this isn’t my favorite of hers but it was a great read and inspiring to boot. Strong female characters are a trademark of hers and this title was no exception.

A major theme here is how women journalists were slighted during World War II and how much harder they had to work than the men, only to still not earn respect from anyone in charge.

Sad but thought provoking and it makes you feel some gratitude for how far we’ve progressed.

Queen Bess: Daredevil Aviator by Doris L. Rich

There have been just a handful of books written about Bessie Coleman, most with dubious reviews. However, this one sounded good and it’s published by Smithsonian Books, a trustworthy source.

I already wrote about Bessie so I don’t want to dwell here but would highly recommend the book. It’s hard to piece together a true biography about someone like Bessie Coleman. She lived in a spotlight but there are some inconsistencies in what was published about her during her lifetime. She left behind few letters, journals, etc. that might help to build a clear picture of this woman’s life. So this book is slender and much of it is about context – what was happening around her in terms of society and race.

I loved this book, am intrigued by the woman and would recommend it to anyone.

The Blood Of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson

This is another one that gives a lot of societal context. This is a huge help for those of us who didn’t live in this time period. This book is graphic, poignant and carefully crafted to tell a story that’s been told many times. This is done in a way that is fresh and relevant.

It’s tough to read and hard to put down – a sure sign that the author has done a good job telling a story that no one wants to think about but that desperately needs to be known. We aren’t that far removed from what happened to Emmett Till and there are lessons here for us all.

Big Cherry Holler by Adriana Trigiani

This is the second book in her Big Stone Gap series. The series takes place in a very rural Virginia coal mining community called Big Stone Gap. The heroine was the self proclaimed town spinster until an exciting series of events occurred in the first book.

Bottom line- I adore these books but you have to start with Big Stone Gap. And really, you can’t go wrong with any book by this author. I have yet to find one I didn’t like.

Cat Stories by James Herriot

James Herriot had a successful veterinary career before putting pen to paper to write some classics about the animals and their owners he encountered in his small town practice in England. James Herriot died 25 years ago this month but his wisdom, humor and charm love in his short stories and books. Being partial to cats and beautifully illustrated books, this was a nice break from the racist south after reading about Emmett Till.

The Blue Day Book by Bradley Trevor Greive

This is a glorified picture book for adults to lift your spirits when you are down. All of the pictures are of animals! I pull it off the shelf occasionally and am pretty sure that many of us need something like it to brighten our day occasionally.

A Nation of Immigrants by John F. Kennedy

Another slender volume, it gives a short history of immigration to this country beginning with Colonial times through the early twentieth century.

It provides a good snapshot of where we all come from and a timely reminder that most of us aren’t really from here. Our people all came from someplace else and many of them were treated badly when they arrived. In other words, it’s still timely today even though it was published in 1964.

I don’t normally share about the books I read but there were so many good ones last month I thought you might enjoy a rundown.

Which leads to my next question. What are YOU reading? I’m always looking for recommendations!

Around here

It’s a three day weekend for me so today marks the halfway point rather than the end of the weekend.

I’ve accomplished some things this weekend and failed miserably at others.

Yesterday featured some cleaning projects. This was a requirement because the house was littered with cat toys and things that little Scout had knocked on the floor. Johnny Cash sang about killing a man in Reno just to watch him die. Scout knocks things over just to watch them fall.

But my work ethic didn’t last long. It was raining and cold so I ended up in a comfy chair, determined to finish this book so I could move on to some less traumatic material.

This book is graphic, emotional and compelling. The author expertly weaves the story of Emmett Till into the context of the Jim Crow south to create a narrative that’s impossible to put down and hard to stomach all at the same time.

How anyone could be so hateful, so intolerant or so so certain of their superiority over another group of humans is beyond me. And yet, it relates closely to a lot of the sentiments we hear today in this country about immigrants and still about African Americans.

Around here, I’m also doing some cooking this weekend. Today I’ll make a bean and veggie soup, pancakes for the freezer and some granola for the pantry. Yesterday I adapted an internet veggie burger recipe to meet my needs and to use up some odds and ends of leftovers in the fridge.

It was far better than store bought veggie burgers and I know exactly what went into the mix. Interested? Here’s the recipe:

Brandi’s Quick Break From Reading To Make Dinner Veggie Burger

1 can pinto or black beans (drained and well rinsed)

3 Tablespoons tomato paste or ketchup

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 Tablespoons flour (I used whole wheat but use what you have)

1/2 cup cooked vegetables – I didn’t cook mine but ran them through the food processor so they were finely chopped. Mine were onions, carrots, corn, spinach and mushrooms

Run the beans through the food processor and mix well with the other ingredients. Shape into patties and place on parchment paper. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for nine minutes on each side or until a bit crisp.

This is an extremely forgiving recipe because it’s designed to use up what you have. Don’t have tomato paste? Use ketchup or maybe some salsa! Whatever veggies you have will do. Want to add a favorite seasoning? Go for it. Can’t eat them all right now? Freeze them.

It really is easy. My apologies for having no photo to share.

Instead, I will leave you with this image. I dared to move Scout’s tent from the kitchen to make mopping the floor a little easier. Here’s the aftermath. It seems there was some kind of riot.

Here’s hoping today is a good day for us all and that I make it back to the list of things I failed miserably at today!

Happiness Is….

Happiness is a stack of books that you’re excited to read and a weekend plan to make reading a priority. My reading list is a mile long but I’m determined to make a dent in it this winter.

What’s on your reading list?

I Miss Those Days

college days

I commuted to Ohio University and often found myself with time to kill between classes. If the weather was good, this is where you could find me. Countless hours were spent sitting on this sunny hillside plowing through centuries of good books as I pursued my degree in English.

I miss those days. 

It was wonderful having nowhere to be but right here, sitting in the grass with a book in my hands. It was here that I read my first Ian Fleming book as part of a film noir class. It was here that I developed an appreciation for Indian literature and it was here that Jane Austin came to life.

I suppose I could go sit there with a book someday but I’m guessing you really can’t go home again. I don’t belong there anymore. But the memory – ah, the memory of the smell of fresh cut grass, the sun beating down, the feel of a book in my hands –  it’s the best memory of my college career.

 

It’s Beginning To Look Like Christmas

Ready or not, Christmas is almost here. For the record, I am not ready but will pull it together before the big day. Meanwhile here’s what’s happening around my house: classic music on the record player, books, candles and decorations…….

No Spend Challenge complete

My No Spend Challenge ended Friday. I wouldn’t call the process a complete disaster but it certainly didn’t go as planned.Things were proceeding swimmingly until my fridge died and I lost a lot of food. Going in debt for an appliance, replacing rotten food and eating some lunches out for a few days distracted me from my goals.

It also added to my debt.

But it’s ok. It will be ok. Better luck next time, right? I mean, this was hardly my fault…. the Universe simply decided that it was time to euthanize my appliance.

Anywhooo,  in addition to buying the fridge, I spent about $16 on fast food dollar menu items due to travel and a general unpreparedness to live without most cold food.

I came off the challenge Friday and spent Saturday in Cincinnati with my fella. He had football tickets for his Law School alma mater so we made a day of the trip, visiting a few stores along the way.

The great thing about a No Spend Challenge is that even if I don’t consider the challenge successful I love the after effects of questioning every little purchase and not wanting to part with my money or bring home more unnecessary goods.

On Saturday I purchased a handful of items for about $15 at Half Price Books (I consider books as necessary as food and clothing) and spent another $13 on some clearance items at Meijer. They had cloth napkins bundled in packages of four for $2. They also had a really great Katie Brown glass dome on clearance for $5. I never would pay  the original $20 asking price but it will be great with a winter scene inside for Christmas and a plant for the rest of the year. Some $2 silicone ice cube trays rounded out my purchase.

These were all things that I either need or love and I think $28 for a day out isn’t too expensive.

I unconsciously decided to continue the No Spend Challenge for as long as I can. No money spent today so far and no plans to spend any tomorrow either. I would love to hold on to this momentum for as long as possible.