Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Day the Falls Stood Still - Not a book review!

Hostess: Kelly
Book:The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan
Food: Little cheese tarts that were amazing, cake, Vegetarian Lasagna, Cannoli Cake
Wine of the Night: The Big Red Monster
Month: December

I am going to start this by being honest. I didn't read this book, this time for book club. December was a crazy month for me- and will probably be the subject of another blog. This is the first time in the existence of our book club I haven't finished the book. I am disappointed in myself for that, but I will read it! Maybe I will read it today - everyone who did read it, loved it.

This book club was a special holiday book club. This year we decided to exchange handmade gifts for each other, and I loved it! It was so exciting to see how creative my friends are, and I loved everything I received.

From Kelly and Chrissy: Kelly knitted us all warm, thick scarves, and Chrissy made everyone arm warmers from wool sweaters, felting the wool herself. (Miso and Marlow both tried to get into this picture as well, as you can see.)

From Karin and Jennifer: Karin made us each bookmarks with our names, and candles - mine smells cozy and spicy, like pumpkin pie. Jennifer made us all bracelets, with individually chosen center buttons- I love my thistle! (Another difficult photo to take - see Maggie's whiskers in the side of the shot? She kept trying to steal my bracelet!)

From Mary, Jill, Alyssa and I: Mary made cute Christmas recipe boxes and recipe cards, with a few wintry recipes- I am looking forward to trying Snow Cream! Jill made us all homemade Baileys, which I am actually sipping in my coffee right now. Yum. I made everyone Pomegranate Jam. I unfortunately can't show you a photo of Alyssa's - I ate it already! Alyssa made us each two croissants- one spinach and cheese, the other chocolate. They were devoured before I could take a photo, with a little help from Billy.

It was a perfect, simple Christmas exchange. It was about friendship and thoughtfulness, creativity and Christmas spirit. I had a great night with friends, sipping wine, noshing on foodstuffs, and just making memories.

Next book club pick is Alyssa's - The Knockout Artist by Harry Crews.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Back

Yesterday was about thankfulness- today is about giving back. My life is not perfect, but I have a home, food, warmth, people who love me and care for me. So many people don't have these things here in this country or around the world. I try to give all year round, but most especially at the holidays.

P.A.W.S. of Michigan - ok, I know I am biased here. ;) But P.A.W.S. does so many great things, and I am most excited about our low-cost, high quality, spay-neuter clinic that we will be opening.

The American Red Cross - My father volunteers with them, and I hear from him all the good they do in our community, across the country and across the world.

Forgotten Harvest - I learned about this organization through a friend, and they do great work for people. So many people in our own community are going hungry.

Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Michigan - I have seen firsthand what a great program this is for children.

World Vision- Sponsor a child in an impoverished country.

You can also choose to donate your time instead of money - volunteers are so valuable to non-profit organizations, and they never, ever have enough. I tend to focus on people and animals, but there are so many other causes I haven't mentioned. Find an organization that you feel strongly about at Volunteer Match.

What about you- what charities or oganizations do you support?


It is easy to forget how truly blessed we are - life is so busy all the time, and life events occur that temporarily obscure our vision. I want to take this moment and space to reflect on what I am thankful for.

Billy- My love, my heart, my balance. :) The fact that we are about to have our home study, which puts us one step closer to our adoption. Our lives together, our crazy pets, our times with money and even our times without money, for we always manage and get by.

My mom, dad, Devin, Chrissy, Jerry, Shellie and my steps.
Brayden's smiling face, Brayden walking and running- something that they said would never happen, but with lots of hard work and love, that kid is doing it.

Sunday nights with Devin and Chrissy, cooking dinner together, laughing and talking.

Having great parents who still support and encourage me, even when other people think I am crazy.

My little second cousins- Melissa's children Madison, Nicholas, and Brian's daughter Chloe.

My friends old and new- from high school, from college, from the shelter and PAWS, from work, from Billy's work, who make me laugh and listen to me cry and support me as much as I support them.

I am thankful that Janel had a healthy, happy, baby girl named Lila. For book club. Lunches with my grandma every Wednesday. For coffee. For nights like the night of the Owl Prowl, where Billy and I were able to stand under the moon in the woods on a beautiful night waiting for owls, with no one around for acres and acres except for the two rangers. For teachers that go above and beyond. For the forgiveness of others for my faults. And for many more things, large and small, that are too numerous to list.

What are you thankful for?

I hope that everyone has a wonderful day today, spent with those they love. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

By Nightfall

Hostess: Karin
Book: By Nightfall, by Michael Cunningham
Food: Cheese and crackers,vegetarian chili, eclairs, pomegrante seeds, chips and salsa, cookies
Wine of the Night: Red Bicyclette, Pinot Noir
Month: November

For me, this book needed to settle and sink in before I could make up my mind about how I felt about it. Kind of like how meat has to rest to seal in the juices before being served, I needed to let this book rest.

This book is in short about an art dealer, his wife, her much younger brother, and their satisfying yet boring lives, and how they really feel inside about all these things. That is my one sentence summary lol.

Peter is an art dealer somewhere in his forties- it seems like somehow the excitement of his life has gotten away from him, the euphoria of being alive and in love, and just plain feeling in charge of his own life, free. Everything about his life seems it is going well on the surface, but it also feels rather mundane to the reader, who is privy to Peter's thoughts through the third person point of view the book is written in.

His life is just going on, he is part of the ride, all is at status quo, until Mizzy arrives. Mizzy is Peter's brother in law Ethan, known as Mizzy, which is short for "The Mistake". Mizzy is about 20 years younger than his sister Rebecca and Peter, and was always treated like a brilliant little genius who was spoiled rotten by his family. He sounds like he was a precocious brat growing up, and to be honest, he still kind of was at twenty. Rebecca and her other sisters always catered to Mizzy, and wanted to fix him and his issues all the time. Mizzy is very intelligent, yet a troubled free spirit who attended Yale but never graduated and has had multiple drug problems. As he is the baby of the family, Rebecca just wants to make things better for him, and help him find the right path. Very shortly after Mizzy arrives, Peter discovers that Mizzy is using drugs still.

Mizzy's presence reawakens feelings in Peter that he had for his wife when she was younger, when they first met. Peter begins to feel an attraction to Mizzy that rocks his whole world - is he in love with Mizzy? Would he leave his family for Mizzy? We all decided at book club that he was just attracted to the wild beauty of Mizzy, and also to the similarities he shares of a young Rebecca. Peter and Mizzy share a kiss on a beach and Mizzy tells Peter that he always had a crush on him, further confusing poor Peter. Later, in a conversation over coffee post-kiss, Peter confesses that he has serious feelings for Mizzy and is not sure if he can go back to his normal life. The way the conversation unfolds, you feel as if Mizzy had set out to deliberately seduce Peter so that Peter would not tell Rebecca Mizzy was using drugs again. It made me feel bad for Peter, even though he was going to cheat on his wife with his brother in law. Peter goes home, and finds out Rebecca wants to leave him. It is probably the worst night ever for Peter. They talk about their life together, and at the books end, you feel they are going to work on things, and you know that Peter is going to confess what happened with Mizzy.

The book kind of reminded me of JD Salinger's style of writing a little. While I very much enjoyed the writing style, the pacing of the plot was a little slow for my taste. I also did not like at all how Cunningham constantly seemed to name drop. That was annoying.

Overall this book was not too bad- I will probably remember it and think about it for a while to come, and for me, this means a book has done its job.

Next month we meet at Kelly's for our Christmas book club! I am excited for it- we decided to exchange handmade gifts this year, and I am so looking forward to what my friends have created, and to give them mine. The book for next month is The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan, Kelly's pick.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Good In Bed

Hostess: Mary
Book: Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
Food: Cheese and crackers, pasta, Halloween cupcakes, grilled peaches with bleu cheese, veggie tray
Wine of the Night: Little Black Dress
Month: October

This was a nice uplift from the seriousness of The Help ~ a perfect little book break. While this book was not mind blowing or life changing, the main character Cannie has an interesting voice throughout the book, which is very readable. She is a little snarky, a little sarcastic, a little whiny all at once. I found myself rooting for her, and wanting to slap her all at the same time.

I didn't like her chasing her ex. I wanted her to have more self esteem than that, but at the same time, that is precisely what the book is about, how she needs to get over the jerk that her dad was and have some feelings of self worth. Speaking of her dad, I would have loved for the story to explore the effects of their father's desertion a little more- in fact, it could have gone in place of the part where Cannie is living in Hollywood, with her new best friend, a movie star. This is a personal pet peeve of mine in books- where a regular, everyday person all of a sudden meets someone famous and the book whisks you away to Hollywood. I really hate this for some reason. I think it is asking to much of me, to suspend belief that much. I feel that Weiner tried to tie that in with Cannie meeting her father again and confronting him, but still, frustratingly, there wasn't any closure.

I also for some reason thought she was being a big baby about her mother's new relationship. I didn't think her response was appropriate for an adult. I can understand that she might be a little shocked, and that the situation might take some getting used to, but I thought Cannie was a little juvenile in her behavior.

I did like when Cannie sunk into a funk and just walked and walked and walked everywhere. Apparently I like my characters to suffer a bit. For Cannie, I think it gave her a depth of character I hadn't seen before in the book. I also liked her hooking up with that super awesome doctor. So I like happy endings for my suffering characters too :)

Next month's book is Karin's choice, By Nightfall, by Michael Cunningham.

The Help

Hostess: Jennifer
Book: The Help
Food: Cucumber Salad, Pesto Tortellini, Cheese Dip, cupcakes and cookies, cheese and crackers, garlic and herb dip
Wine of the Night: Malbec
Month: September

I am so behind on my book club blogs. We are about to have our November book club, and here I am talking about September's!

The Help is one of my favorite books of 2010. I devoured this book from start to finish, I was totally involved with the characters lives and the journey they were all on. More than the central plotline of racism and feminism that ran through the book, I was drawn to the smaller story within the story of Aibleen, Elizabeth and Mae Mobley. Mae Mobley broke my heart- I hated Elizabeth for being a cold, intolerant mother.

I think I cried my way through the last part of this book - for the women, for the children, for the injustice. I waited for Elizabeth to wake up and start taking care of Mae Mobley, to wake up and stop listening to Hilly- but it never happened. I cheered for Minny, loving her attitude and her relationship with Celia, although I was terrified for her as well. I cried when Skeeter's mom gave her good advice about Stuart- and cried when I learned what she did to Constantine. I think this book was terrifically written, and while it is written about prejudice and intolerance in the 1960s, it could apply just as well to life today.

At book club, those of us who read it, read it in a flash. This was definitely a great book- I loaned it to my mother, knowing she would love it just as much. She read it, and immediately started reading it again a second time.

It is just that good.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cornucopia of thoughts

October is always my favorite month, I love the weather, the traditions, the reintroduction of soup as an everyday staple into my life.

The events of the past month remind me like leaves on the tree in the fall- they flare brightly for a short colorful time, then gently fall to the earth and become memories.

~ the epic journey this year to Erie Orchards with Devin and Chrissy~ Devin and I have been going there since we were little tiny kids, so about 30 years for me ~ unfortunately it has grown too commercial, so this year was more than likely our last.

~Theatre Bizarre ~ always a fun time, no matter the venue, since it is about the show, and the show must go on.

~ eating crepes in the cold with Billy at Eastern Market, buying cheese and wine and pumpkins to carve.

~Sunday Soup Night with Devin and Chrissy ~ I have resolved to make soup every Sunday until Spring ~ so far we have had Bean Soup and Vegetable Soup. The soup for tonight is Three Sisters Soup from the Moosewood collection.

~A weekend at the Lake House with friends ~ walks through the woods, evenings around the bonfire, friends, dogs, shared meals and wine.

~ Halloween - parties, carving pumpkins, handing out candy, scary movies.

I view Halloween as my last hurrah before winter and November arrive, and I am less inclined to be social, and more inclined to cuddle under blankets watching movies with Billy or reading surrounded by animals. Chrissy and I hope to work on some sewing projects this winter, and I am really excited about this - it seems a perfect winter thing to do, very Little House on the Prairie.

So while I hate to say good bye to October, I am looking forward to November.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

First Photo Shoot

I am so happy for my friend J. right now - she has wanted a baby for so long, and now she is in her last trimester. Congrats J.!

She also asked me to do her maternity photos, which I was honored to do. It was my first maternity photo shoot, and I am quite pleased with the results, and I hope that she is as well. And, J. and her husband do have heads, I just didn't include any of those for the sake of their privacy.

These are just a few of my favorites.

** Please remember these photos are property of Cinnamon Owl Studios, and ask for permission before using. Thanks!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

After the Party..

I can't believe I am still recuperating from my busy but fun weekend! It was actually a fantastic weekend, apart from missing Billy, who was backpacking in Manistee.

First, I won a ticket from Exploits of a Vegan Wannabe to the No Beast Feast, a fundraiser for the Friends of the Dearborn Animal Shelter. Chrissy went with me, and we had a fabulous time. We ate hearty, comforting vegan food (bet you never thought that could happen!) such as Mushroom Barley Soup, meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and an apple chocolate spice cake that I could have eaten two pieces of! We learned about the vegan way of eating, saw the cutest Maine Coon cat named Smitty, who is available for adoption by the way, and even won again. I won a door prize of three cookbooks, that I can't wait to dive into. Thanks S. for giving me the opportunity to check out this great fundraiser, I can't wait for next year.

Saturday brought PAWS in the Park, the fundraiser for my own animal rescue group, PAWS of Michigan. PAWS in the Park is a party for dog lovers, with a dog walk, raffle, adoption area, pet psychic, dog games, among other things. I attended this event as a volunteer, and still had a great time. I went to the pet psychic, who gave me insight into the craziness of Penny, and I won again!! This time I won a loaf of bread a month for a year from Panera, and a $50 gift certificate to Blackfinn. I hope they have something I can eat! Sunday I went to my adorable cousin's first birthday party, what a day! She could have a future as a rocker, she really demolished her Mickey ears and was smearing cake on her parents lol! Wild child!

I also attended book club number 2 this week- we talked about One Thousand Splendid Suns. And I have to say, I have to talk about something that has just been stuck in my mind since then. We were talking about Mariam, and her love for Aziza, Laila's daughter. I mentioned that although she lost many babies herself, she was fulfilled later by caring for and loving Aziza. Another person at book club, who is my friend, said that this is not the same as having her own child, since Aziza wasn't actually hers. As someone who is adopting, I took this comment somewhat offensively. This is probably the hardest part of adopting, the thoughtless insensitivity of other people, because I am sure if J. would have thought about what he was saying, he wouldn't have said it in that manner. I also had someone ask me this weekend that if I adopted a child who was Muslim, if I would have to raise the baby Muslim. For one thing, that is none of their concern, and so what anyway? I just told her that once we adopt, the baby is ours, like our real own child, that we can raise however we want. We are not borrowing the baby, it is not temporary nor do we have to share- the child will be ours alone. And we are going to love our child and care for our future adopted child just as anyone else does their birth children.
***I would like to add that I have since spoken with J. and he deeply regrets saying anything that would hurt my feelings. It is not how he meant his comment, and he does believe that a family that became a family through adoption is able to have the same love as a family with birth children.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

All things cozy and warm

I think I must like rainy days. I feel happy and content when it rains. Cuddly. I want to eat soup and drink hot drinks and read and sit with Billy and the animals.

I also want to go to the laundromat when it rains - Billy thinks this is nuts. But there is something about a laundromat. It is like sitting in the middle of a giant pile of clean laundry- they are always warm from the heat of the dryers, and smell like the scent of a dozen or more different detergents. The only thing that could make it better would be if they supplied patrons with fresh baked from the oven chocolate chip cookies to enjoy while waiting for their laundry to finish spinning or rinsing or whatever stage it is in. And a library of books to choose from. And comfy chairs.

And all this talk about laundry reminds me I need to do some of my own right now, and then just relax and enjoy this rainy day.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Eating in the Light of the Moon

Hostess: Chrissy
Book: Eating in the Light of the Moon
Food: Hummus, cheese and crackers, guacamole and tortilla chips, Pretzel M&Ms, Chocolate-Raspberry trifle
Wine of the Night: Detroit Wine! Montepeluciano, from the California Wine Grape Company in Detroit.

This book was a bold choice; we have never read anything like this book, and I know that Chrissy was a little concerned that people may take her choice as a silent finger pointing at their lives. I know that this is not the case, Chrissy chose this book based on the recommendation of her aunt, who is a counselor for women with eating disorders. While none of us struggle with disordered eating as far as I know, we all still found many passages that spoke to us.

This book is kind of like earth mother meets folk tales meets disordered eating. Dr. Johnston writes about finding balance in our lives, that if we need to have balance between our spirit and our mind, and know the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger. We all agreed that our favorite parts were the myths, legends and folk tales. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed reading them until I read this book!

I think this was a difficult book for us to discuss- I think what we all took away from the book was personal, maybe too personal to share at book club. For me, one thing that made me think was the need for balance in our lives, and Johnston's comments about women losing touch with their feminine intuition and trying to be wonder woman and doing too many things all the time. This is something I have been working on all year - making more time for my family and friends, enjoying all the moments of my days, and trying not to schedule my entire life away. I don't want to look back and see a lifetime of meetings and work ; I want to see a healthy balance of family, friends, work, and my volunteer work. This book reminded me that what I am doing is good and right and healthy.

Next month's Bottle of Wine Book Club choice is The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ramblin Rainy Day

A perfect, perfect rainy day. Billy and I originally were going to head to Saugatuck and hang out, but quickly realized that was just a direction, and not really our destination. We wanted to take the day slowly, and if we saw a sign for something off the expressway that sounded interesting, we were going to check it out. So basically, we hit the road and headed west. (by the way, that is not our car, I just loved all their bumper stickers)

We didn't make it too far before we found our first stop off, Hudson Mills Metropark. This is a great metro park! We didn't spend too much time here, just walked along the river a bit, and then looked for a mill that didn't exist. I did spot a multitude of Cedar Waxwings along the river, diving and swooping above the rapids. The park itself was pretty empty, and we blamed it on the gray clouds above, threatening to pour rain at any minute. We made a mental note to come back and kayak here one day.

Further down the road, we saw a billboard for free wine tastings at a local winery, the Sandhill Crane Vineyards. We decided, what better thing was there to do around 2:00 on a rainy Saturday but sample a few wines? And it was a neat little winery! The rain was just gently drizzling when we went in, and the building itself was all warm wood with a wide low slung covered porch that just invited you to sit on it and enjoy a few tastes. So inviting that there weren't any tables left. Nor were there any spots at the bar inside, where you can actually just go and hang out and order regular glasses of wine. But there was a room in the back with tables, and that is where we wound up.

We had a tiny older woman named Alice as our pourer, and she was really kept busy- not just by us, but by everyone in back. By this point, it was pouring rain outside, and it was such a cozy feeling to be inside watching it come down. Sandhill Cranes has an extensive selection, and no limit to how many you can taste. We didn't go crazy, since we still needed to drive home, but we did taste about 6 each. They had some interesting ones with Michigan blueberry flavors and honey, including the Blue Skies Wine, which I loved; Billy really liked the dessert wine Sugar Snow, which had some maple sap flavors in it from actual Michigan Maple syrup, which I hated. But then, I hate maple syrup and maple stuff, so that wasn't a surprise. My absolute favorite was the Abraza, and it had nothing to do with the fact that for every bottle bought, $2 of the proceeds are donated to the Cascades Humane Society. Billy and I would wander into the winery that supports animal rescue, fate kismet and all that. They have three animals, two dogs and a cat, and all are pictured on different bottles of wine. Rusty the Lab is on the Abraza, Rosie the Terrier is on the Sassy Rose, and Miel the calico is on the Miel Amour. The best part is that they are wandering about the property and the building, so we got to meet them.

We had a great time, and actually didn't spend much money. We split a grilled cheese at the Metro Park, and then ordered the Salmon Spread plate at the vineyard, and the total for both came to $10.00. We did buy a bottle or two of wine, but that was not a necessary expense- the whole day could have cost us the ten bucks and the half tank of gas. We found a few new places to visit, and just enjoyed a slow rainy day together. I can't wait for our next rainy road trip!

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Hostess: Jill
Book: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Food: Greek Pasta Salad, Bruschetta, Grilled peaches with Gorgonzola cheese, pita and dip, guacamole and chips.
Best Wine of the Night: The Sangria!

It was a gorgeous night for book club to meet, one of the first nights we have had this summer without oppressing, swamp-like humidity or a tornado caliber storm. Jill set up outside, which was fabulous. I think most of us were taken in by the sweetness of the night and wine - we sure didn't get in much talking about the book. We were just too relaxed it seemed.

But we did talk about the book a little, mainly on the biggest question surrounding the novel- the misogynistic themes that stream through out, raising their ugly heads. All that violence towards women- virtually every woman in the novel was assaulted by a man in some way, shape or form. Even Lisbeth seemed to dislike herself, and for all her sharp edges and bravado, was still body conscious, not liking her own shape. Was this to make her more relate-able to women readers, who may have body image issues of their own? Maybe it is just my American perspective, our hard core heroines do not have insecurities, at least none that they talk about. I thought it was interesting that Larsson chose to show her vulnerabilities.

We also talked about Blomkvist's relationship with his partner, Erica. We were more confused about Erica's relationship with her husband actually. Did he just love her that much that he allowed her her freedoms? Did he not love her enough? Was their marriage open for both of them? This was perplexing to us.

We all agreed that this was a fantastic book, and we all want to read the rest of the series. I am looking forward to next month's selection, Eating in the Light of the Moon, as well.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Anyway you slice it..Pt. 1

A few weeks ago I asked my Facebook friends to recommend their favorite pizza places- local, independent, not chain, mass produced pizzas. I now have a list of at least 15 places to try pizza from; well, really 14, since one of them I have had pizza from, many years ago, and there was a huge, I mean huge and nasty, swirl of hair on the bottom of the crust of the pizza slice I was eating! It horrified me, scared me, caused me to not eat pizza for at least a few months. The hair plug, as I refer to it, made me think they dropped the dough into the drain of a shower at a no-tell motel and then just proceeded to make our pizza from that. Thinking about it still gives me the shivers! Gah! Needless to say, I can't try that place again. They may have improved but I just can't do it.

Sunday night we needed pizza, in a big way. It was just one of those days. We decided on Del's Pizza in Trenton. I had heard mixed things about the restaurant itself, but that the pizza was pretty good. Ok, I am up for that. I thought maybe the restaurant might look a bit dodgy, a little divey, but I can deal with that too. Billy and I met Devin, Chrissy and Todd outside the restaurant two hours before they were due to close. Chrissy told me she wasn't sure about the place, since they had gone in to wait for us and were ignored. I suggested we try one more time, just in case they just didn't see by some chance a group of three people at the door. In we walked, intrepid pizza eaters, trying out a new place, hopeful yet skeptical. As soon as we stepped in the door, the waitress threw up her hands in anger, and sneered "Oh great" at us. I had a hard time believing this was directed at us, because really, what restaurant does not want customers? So I blundered on, asking if we just sit anywhere. The waitress flung her hands about in the air, and sputtered "Anywhere, anywhere" like we were the worst people on earth and now she had to talk to us. It was so odd! We turned around and walked out. So our first place is off the list, and gets a very bad review from me. I plan on emailing the manager as well.

Still hungry, we drove back home and ate at Solero instead. Our waitress turned over backwards practically for us, setting our pizzas up on another table so that we could have more space on our table to eat and see each other, and was very attentive at refilling our drinks. A plus in my book. The pizzas themselves were delicious! We ordered the New York White Garlic, the Pesto pizza, and Billy, the token carnivore, ordered the Solero special meat thing. All the pizzas at Solero are prepared in a brick oven, and they were fabulous. We were so full of pizza goodness when we left, we had to pass up ice cream at Stroh's, which is unbelievably good as well. The only thing I would have negative to say is that my wine glass was maybe a bit dirty. But the pizza, the pizza was fantastic! It was not a place on my list, but is a place I will continue to eat.

** I just want to add that I mean no offense to the people who may have suggested Del's. I am sure your experience was a great one, with great pizza. Unfortunately, my experience was not good at all, and that is not your fault.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Meeting Time

Last night, Billy and I were scheduled to attend an informational meeting with the agency we were considering for our home study. The meeting was in Royal Oak, so true to our style, we took that opportunity to hang out in Royal Oak for a bit before hand, and have a nice dinner. We usually like to go to Bastone, but Jennifer has been talking about the Royal Oak Brewery so went there. It was a nice, calm meal before the meeting, which I was nervous about.

I really should not have been- out of the 30 some different agencies we have contacted and spoken with, we hands down loved these people. In fact, we liked them so much, that we completely changed our initial plan, and our now going to use this agency for everything- the home study, the adoption, all of it. We have even decided to do a domestic adoption, instead of the international adoption we had been pretty set on.

This whole process is something I could probably write a book on already, just the research alone. Billy and I feel we have traveled the world in search of the perfect program, and every time we decide on something, the country closes, or something just doesn't feel right. Our number one choice for International was Kazakhstan, even with its drawbacks, such as costing as much as our home and having to stay in country 6 weeks. To us, this was worth it. I don't think people who have had children naturally can understand this maybe; you reach a point where these options seem doable, if the end result is a happy adoption. But Kazakhstan closed, and the other countries we looked at were just not right for us, in one way or another. We had finally decided on Honduras - but although we were excited, something about this program didn't ever really click with us, but we were so anxious to begin and get started, we made the decision to go with Honduras. Maybe one day we will revisit this idea, if we ever decide to adopt a second time- I haven't closed the book on Honduras completely yet, I consider it an option for a future adoption.

The meeting last night answered and addressed every worry we had about domestic, in an honest, genuine, personable manner. We really felt like these people cared about us, knew us from our emails, and knew what they were doing. There was also a family there who had finished an adoption with the agency about 8 months ago; they did a fantastic job of answering questions, as people who have been there before. We didn't feel like we were getting a business spiel, rushed into anything, or that we were bothering anyone. We were one couple among about 8 others, which when you are on a waiting list, you like to see small numbers. It was a two hour meeting, but it seemed to fly by, at least for me- my ADD husband had a bit harder time sitting still, but one thing about Billy; he may seem like he is not listening because he is doodling, but he is hearing every word, and remembering it all. He just needs to keep busy in these situations, and his drawings help him to not fidget to much.

We left, not really saying anything too much until we got in the car. Then we looked at each other, and practically said at the same time, "I love this agency". For the first time, everything felt right, every bit.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Moving forward, slowly and deliberately

It seems my life is suddenly in fast forward; how is it already the middle of July? I feel like I have let so many days this year blur by, with my constantly busy schedule. The funny thing is, I had tried to scale back, to make more time in my life for other things. Plans are sometimes like a hydra- you finish one duty, and two more spring to life. Starting today, starting maybe right this very second, I resolve to stick to my and spend more time on the things I told myself I was going to- my writing, my photography, my home.

This is especially important to me now, as Billy and I have made the life changing, monumental, rewarding decision to adopt a child. This is the time we need to make small in our lives, to get ready to accommodate another member into our family. We are so excited and hopeful for our future, and I will definitely be writing about our journey toward our child. Tonight we are going to a meeting with the agency we selected for our home study, to learn more about the process. I feel I have learned so much already about international adoption, in some instances it even feels I have learned a new language! For all the research and conversations we have had, with countless agencies, today feels like the first step in the journey.

Spending yesterday with my friend Jennifer and her three year old son was fabulous. We went blueberry and peach picking together, and then had a quick lunch in a nearby farm town. I had such a great time, and it was nice to be out in the blueberry bushes, on a beautiful day with a cool breeze and birds singing in the trees around us. I had a "Steinbeck moment" - not sure why I refer to these moments as such, but I do- I picked a peach, warmed from the sun, straight from the tree and enjoyed the juicy taste as I sat among the rows, becoming warm from the sun myself. Small moments like this make long time memories, and I can't wait to go again next year.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

Hostess: Kelly at Alyssa's house
Book: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Food: Fancy time cupcakes from a bakery, hummus, veggies with dip
Best Wine of the Night: Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's
Month: April

In March Kelly told us she was trying to decide between two books for her choice, this one and another one I can't remember anymore. I lobbied hard for this one- I love to read books about the Salem witch trials, I always have. I am also a huge history buff, I even have a degree in it, so this book appealed to me on this level as well. So when Kelly said this was the book she had chosen, I was pretty excited.

I loved this book, I pretty much devoured it in two days. At first Chrissy didn't care for the book, and felt the protagonist Connie was pretentious. I have to agree, she wasn't an instantly likeable character. I also could not believe she actually spent the night in that house the first night. That was pretty unbelievable, at least for me. Yuck. Connie did grow on me though-she was a thorough researcher who took her fact finding seriously. My historical research professor would have been pleased with her efforts and her use of materials.

I enjoyed the approach this book took to the idea of the Witchcraft trials- certainly it was one I have never heard broached before, that perhaps they really were witches after all, and it was not the hysterics of young selfish girls that started it all. It puts a very different spin on things, to think maybe there was a real witch in the bunch. Something to think about...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Alchemist

Hostess: Karin
Book Selection: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Food: Berries with cream served in teacups, cheese tortellini with red sauce, hummus and pita, goat cheese and water crackers, breadsticks, veggies and dip
Best Wine of the Night: Espiral Vinoh Verde, a white blend from Portugal. Around $4.00 at Trader Joes.
Month: March

The first time I read this book, I tried to like it but didn't really. It went over my head, I had no idea what was happening, and I didn't quite care either. This time reading it for book club, I paid attention to the book and what the author was saying, and I enjoyed it so much better this time. I also think that my frame of mind during this reading made a difference as well; it was a good time in my life to read a positive, uplifting book. Not that my life is in shambles, quite the opposite really, but I think with the coming of spring out of a cold long winter this was a perfect book.

The book, very simply put, is all about discovering your personal legend,and the journey toward achieving that legend. That is the essence and very bare bones of this novel. My favorite line in the book, and the one that is at the heart of the book, is " When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it." I am trying to make that my personal mantra, it is such a powerfully positive way to look at the world. And if along the way things happen that seem to prevent from ever reaching your goal, Coelho encourages you to stop and think about what is happening. There is a reason behind the roadblock.

Karin mentioned the crystal merchant - he preferred dreaming the dream to realizing the dream. Dreaming gave him happiness, and he was content to continue dreaming, rather than risk disappointment, to him his dreams were as fragile, beautiful, and breakable as the crystal that he sold. Karin and I could see his point, to some extent. Sometimes it is nice just to dream, without feeling you have to pursue it. But I would believe those must be daydreams, not part of your personal quest. On another note, I loved the descriptions of the mint tea being served in a crystal glass - it sounds so refreshing, I am going to have to try it this summer.

At the end of the book, Santiago is beaten by refugees looking for treasure. Through bloody and swollen lips, Santiago tells his tormentors of his dream of treasure. As his assailants are leaving, the leader of the band of refugees pauses to tell the boy to give up dreaming, because he had a recurrent dream of his own, about treasure - and inadvertently reveals to Santiago the location of where his, the boy's, treasure, is. The leader goes on to say he would never be such a fool to cross a desert because of a dream. His dream was basically the same dream as Santiago's. Chrissy raised the question that perhaps since the refugee leader passed up the dream, the dream was transferred to Santiago, that the dream would live on in someone until it was fulfilled.

We all loved this book, and interestingly, we all want to read other books written by Coelho, but we all named different ones. I wonder if that means something? Our online member wants to read The Pilgrimage, Alyssa wants to read Veronika Decides to Die, I want to read Brida. But if you are looking for an optimistic, positive book, try this one. It is a fable for adults who need to be reminded to follow their hearts.

For those of you who want to read along with us and drink a glass of wine, next month's book is The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. Please feel free to read and comment on all our book selections!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Reading The Lovely Bones

Hostess: Mary 2
Book Selection: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Food: Hummus, pita, veggie tray, cheese, shrimp
Best Wine of the Night: Zinopolis, California Zinfandel, 2007 $17.99
Month: February

I am not sure what I expected from this book - I know that when it was first published and flying off the shelves, I was reluctant to read it, although everyone I knew was raving about it. It seemed like it was going to be depressing, and I wasn't in the market for sad at that time.

So when I read it for book club, I was surprised it was not as depressing and bleak as I had thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, it is still a disturbing topic, the rape and murder of a young girl. But I think Sebold wrote this novel in such a way that the reader is able to distance themselves from the horror of the act, by writing the book from the viewpoint of Susie Salmon as a heavenly narrator.

I loved the heaven aspect, the fact that Susie could watch people, and design her own heaven. And I loved that Holiday was there with her eventually. I know as a pet owner, that I hope my animals will be with me in eternity one day. So I liked that part.

The novel raised many questions in me, and in my book club companions - it was an interesting discussion. All of us felt that the book started out strong, it fizzled out near the end, and seemed to just run out of steam. But perhaps this was Sebold's intention as well, people move on, large life changing events remain large and life changing, but in time they become the past, literally and emotionally, as newer large and life changing events take place. For Susie, that was it for her; she never grew up, moved on, had other experiences, while her friends and family did move on, grow up, lead lives, never forgetting Susie, but dealing with it the best they could. Except for the mom, in my opinion. I was so angry at her! I could not believe a mother could leave her other children like that- it is so completely wrong to me. I felt she was a weak woman, who had to run away from her emotions rather than face them and raise her remaining children. I realize I have no idea of how it would feel to be in her position, and I hope if I have children, I never do. I hope though that if I would eventually be strong for my other kids, even if inside I were struggling and wanting to run away and disappear. Buckley and Lindsey lost not just a sister, but a mother too.

And Mr. Harvey! What a villain to create. I was waiting on the edge of my seat for hard core justice, which never came. I sympathized with the father, who was obsessed with finding evidence that Mr. Harvey was the evil monster that he believed he was, and his desire for Mr. Harvey to get what he deserved. All those girls, all those women, all the families in their lives lost as well. I didn't think what happened to him was enough, but Alyssa pointed out that he didn't matter anymore; the damage had already been done. And maybe that is the case, I can see that. I don't necessarily agree, but I can see the point. I compare this to Joyce Carol Oates' novel Rape: A Love Story, and what happened to the rapists in that story, and I feel that although I thought their punishment was too strong, at least there was a consequence.

Parts of the novel were a little weird, parts were a little obscure; but no matter what this novel made you feel, anger, disgust, wonder, sympathy, sadness - it definitely made you feel something. I don't think it is possible to read The Lovely Bones without leaving with some sort of feeling about it one way or another; it is impossible to be ambivalent.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Stealing Buddha's Dinner

Hostess: Jennifer
Book: Stealing Buddha's Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen
Food: Hummous, Rice Almond Salad, fantastic fancy pastries
Best Wine of Night: Pepperwood Grove Cabernet $5.99

Jennifer picked the book, Stealing Buddha's Dinner, by Bich Minh Nguyen, which on the surface is a memoir of Nguyen's childhood as a Vietnamese immigrant growing up in Grand Rapids in the 1980s, and how she fixated on American junk foods as the gateway to becoming a true American.

Maybe it was because I grew up in a small town in Michigan during the 1980s, and I remembered all the food that Nguyen coveted, but I the parts of the memoir which focused on Nguyen's grandmother, and the traditional Vietnamese food she prepared much more interesting. I found myself wishing that the author would talk more about these classic foods of her homeland, rather than red Pringles in a can, or Twinkies. I understand that was not the focus of the book though, and that Nguyen latched onto American junk food as her entree to becoming her ideal of a true American citizen, that if she ate like everyone around her, she would be one of them.

I loved the idea that school lunches were a source of status to students- maybe it is because I remember being envious of my classmates who had hostess cupcakes in their lunches too, since my mom didn't buy those for me either. I also remember the kids who brought soup in with their lunches in tupperware containers- I always wanted to do that too.

I could also relate to the authors memories of being in libraries, of the library as a sanctuary; when I was younger, I felt the library was a place of calm, somewhere quiet and cool in the summer, warm in the winter. I still am in love with libraries, maybe that is why I work in one now. But I read and loved all the books that Nguyen discusses - Little House on the Prairie was my favorite and I still reread them every year, but I also wanted to be Harriet the Spy and carry around a notebook filled with my observations about the people around me.

I felt like the memoir had good intentions, but often stalled out on the mega long descriptions of food packaging and the food itself. These were the hardest, slowest bits for me- to be honest, I often skipped over them. I did not want to read three pages dedicated to a pringles can or Kraft macaroni and cheese boxes. I wanted to know more about Nguyen's grandmother and stepmom and mother (who seemed thrust into the book like an afterthough). I hungered for a little more than I received. This aside, I really did enjoy the book. It was an interesting glimpse into a life unlike mine, a life on the other side of the lunchbox.

Check out the Penguin reading guides write up about Stealing Buddha's dinner, followed by an interview with author Bich Minh Nguyen.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Going South

Hi all! I am back in the bitterly cold mitten state after spending a few days in the comfortably mild weather of St. Augustine, Florida. I never realized what a fantastic city St. Augustine is. You never really hear much about it, so I didn't know quite what to expect. But I fell in love with this town!

For one thing, it seemed like everyone had a dog; everywhere I looked, I saw people of all ages walking dogs of all sizes. The restaurants and bars all seemed to have vegetarian options, and not just the standard veggie burger and fries, or some sort of pasta dish- nope, these dining establishments offered a multitude of vegetarian dishes, from the avocado-provolone cheese sandwich I had for lunch at a bar (they also had three tofu meals on the menu!), to the Mozzacado Sandwich at Cafe Eleven I wished I could have tried (I ran out of days!) We also ate at the amazing restaurant, The Columbia, and they had three different vegetarian dishes. So, just these two things alone are enough to make me want to pick up house and move on down. But besides this, the people are so laid back, mellow, and friendly- it seemed like just the type of community I want to be part of.

The above picture was taken at the Mi Casa Cafe on St. George Street, where dad and I had lunch. I enjoyed a glass of Pinot Grigio while singing along to the folk tunes sung by Mike Sweet, who had great shoes! I love his peace sign Converse!!

The real purpose this trip, or adventure weekend as dad and I referred to it, was to attend a writing workshop led by our favorite author Connie May Fowler! The workshop focused on writing a novel- how to begin, different trouble spots to watch out for, and what to do when you finish your novel. Dad and I spent Saturday in the Treehouse on the beach, in a living room with 18 other people, and Connie May! We were excited to just be in the same room as Connie May, much less to be learning from her.

The day was informative, inspiring, motivating, everything I hoped it would be! Connie May Fowler is the sweetest woman, just as you would imagine from reading her novels. And if you haven't read them, I insist that you do. My personal favorite is Remembering Blue. (If you do read her, I would love to hear what you think!)

Our fellow writers all lived in Florida, most of them from the very area the workshop was being held. Dad and I definitely came the furthest. It was interesting to just hear the stories of the people in the room with us, not the ones that they are writing, but to hear about their own experience, or lack of (such as with dad and I). Everyone was so gracious, and I enjoyed meeting everyone in the room. The group was so diverse, I couldn't help but think that the day could be a setting for a novel itself. There was a journalist, a writer in residence, the woman almost finished with her novel who had an upcoming deadline, the nature/hiker non-fiction writer there was the retired couple who live on the beach who had an interest in Florida history and children's books, the editor/publisher, the mother/gardener, the poet, the doctorate-therapist, the physical therapist, the memoir lady with the sweet voice,the romance writer, and us- dad and I, myself being the photographer/writer, and my father the principal with ADD. A great cast of characters to spend a rainy day on the beach with. It was a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A new year and new resolutions

I am a person who always makes new years resolutions, and not just one, but at least three or four. I feel like this way even if I only do one or two, I have accomplished something. And for the most part, I usually do follow through on at least two of them, and my life has become more enriched for doing so.

About four years ago, my resolution was to become involved in animal rescue. So I did. I attended a meeting of a local animal rescue group, all by myself, shocking my husband and family, since I don't usually do things like that. Or I didn't at that time- another byproduct of this resolution is that I have become more confident. I started out helping at the adoption hours at PetSmart, walking dogs, cleaning cages, and then gradually become more and more involved. I helped to begin the current rescue group I am in, P.A.W.S. of Michigan, two years ago, and in that two years we have as a group accomplished great things- a SNAP program, a pet food bank, a fantastic city shelter that is cared for by our volunteers, enriching and bettering the lives of the animals who are forced to live in cages before finding a home. This year we hope to get our low cost spay/neuter clinic open, which will drastically change things for the animals in our area.

Since then, my resolutions have included desires such as learning photography, organizing my closets (which I did, only to mess them up again months later), to sew, to create a backyard wildlife habitat, and to run a 5K. I haven't done too badly, I guess. I learned to sew; I can make curtains and coffee cup holder things, but not much else lol. As for the backyard and 5k, they are still on my list. With Penny, though, I may have to forgo the wildlife habitat- it would just be cruel to the animals to create a killing ground for my dog, not really much of a sanctuary at that point, more like Penny's very own hunting preserve instead.

This year I resurrected two of my older resolutions- I want to become a better photographer, and I want to run a 5k. I also want to work on my writing, and I want to try to write everyday, either here, my other blog, or on the story I am in the process of starting. My dad and I are going to Florida at the end of this month for a writing workshop, taught by one of our favorite authors, Connie May Fowler. I absolutely can't wait to go!! I am nervous to go, I am sure the other participants have novels in progress or have been published before, but at the same time, I know I have to start somewhere, and they were once like me.

I also have a goal for the 5k - one of my coworkers is organizing a team for a 5k run/walk for breast cancer, and I have signed up. I have until May to train. I am not a runner, but I hope to be by then. :)

What about you guys? Any resolutions, past or present that are on your mind?
I will leave you with this picture of Penny. Can you guess her New Years resolution?