Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Jungle and Cleopatra

Recently, I've read some very serious, very dense, very...ummm, some might call booooooring books.  I'll give you a quick wrap up of the two in this post.  First up, my least favorite of the two...

Are you looking for a classic and historical fiction book that will make you walk away feeling miserable?  Well, here ya go...The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.  I went into this book knowing of it as "the meat-packing industry" book.  However, this book is much, much, much more.  Rather than being an exhibition you might read in a newspaper or magazine, this book follows one man's life journey that happens to include the meat-packing district in Chicago during the early 20th century.

Jurgis Rudkus, a young Lithuanian immigrant, is the main character that you follow from Lithuania, to his marriage with Ona, his job(s) in the meat-packing district, his injury/injuries, falling into debt, illness within the family, Jurgis' jail time, multiple deaths within the family, Jurgis' alcoholic stupors and finally his turn to socialism. 

I knew this was a piece of socialist propaganda and Sinclair makes it seem that socialism is the only solution to a situation like the pure torture and tragedy of Jurgis' tale of woe.  However, it's because of this book and other outcries that our society does not operate in this low-down process any longer.  I know that our society is not perfect, but phew, after reading this you can see how far we've come since the beginning of the last century!

I'm glad that I was able to push myself to finish this book, simply because it's a classic and I can now say that I've read it...but, I will not be reading it again.  At least any time soon.  Very depressing, if eye-opening.

Next up, Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff.  I learned quite a bit from this book.  First up, lets discuss the cover.  Did you know that the white ribbon Cleopatra wore was called a diadem and was considered the same as a crown?  And did you know that pearls within her day were as prized as diamonds of today? 

Here's another interesting tidbit, we don't officially know what Cleopatra looked like (much like we have no idea what Helen of Troy looked like).  There are certain facial features that we know were prominent, her nose and chin, but other than that...who knows?  There were coins minted during her time, but Cleopatra herself had to approve those renderings.  Who's going to approve a realistic photo that makes you look bad?  Most all other sculptures and wall art were constructed at least 50 years after her death.

What I really enjoyed about this book was how Schiff came to the table attempting to be as objective as possible.  She has taken very subjective writings (like Shakespeare and Shaw) and attempted to see the truth behind the judgements.  Within this book, there is a lot of person A said this, person B said this and person C said this, but the most realistic thing about this is...fill in the blank.  What you come away with is that Cleopatra may have been a seductress and manipulative, but she was also very shrewd, an amazing negotiator and was a phenomenal queen of Egypt.  At the time of her death, the Egyptian empire was the largest it ever was under the Ptolemaic family.

Many of the stories about Cleopatra are true...she did have a child with Julius Caesar, then three with Mark Antony.  She also killed all of her siblings, however you learn that it was more of a "kill them before they kill me" type situation.  And this type of sibling murder was everyday rivalry back during this period of time (sad, I know). 

Lastly, I will share that Schiff debunks one of the age-old Cleopatra myths.  The asp.  At the time of her death, Cleopatra was on suicide watch under Octavian.  She'd already attempted to kill herself so she could be with her beloved Antony, but Octavian wanted to parade her through Rome to display his dominance.  Knowing this, what is the likelihood of someone being able to smuggle in a six-foot long, hissing and puffing cobra within a fig basket?  I mean, really?  Let's not forget this was also the royal emblem of Egypt.  Convenient much?  Schiff also discusses how Cleopatra had an obsession with poisons her entire life and that such a woman who was known for her meticulous planning would not entrust her death with a notoriously sluggish snake whose bite would have been slow and painful.  Poison was a much more likely alternative.

I loved learning all of this information about Cleopatra, but I'll be honest and say that this book is not for everyone.  It does tend to read like a history book and if that's not your bag...well, I wouldn't recommend it for you.  If I were to compare it to a semi-recent read of mine, I would choose The Duchess.  Both of these are highly fascinating books involving highly fascinating women, but the books are DENSE.  There is no dialogue and it's virtually fact after fact after fact with some objective hypotheses.  If you're like me and enjoy this kind of read from time to time, go for it.  If not...don't, you'll be bored to tears.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Of all the books that I snagged at my Aunt Naomia's house last year, the most abundant bunch were her Agatha Christie collection.  I had never read an Agatha Christie book before, but I knew that she was a prolific writer and had a very good reputation.  Plus, a few of them were really nice leather-bound mini collections. 

So, the first one of the lot that I decided to read was The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.  This book is actually number four in a series surrounding the main detective-type character of Hercule Poirot.  Each story stands on it's own, so you don't need to read them in order (thankfully).  After reading up on Christie, it appears she wrote a good deal of Hercule Poirot, then after tiring of writing about his character she started with Miss Jane Marple.  I'll be interested to see which of her two main characters I prefer.

As for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, it would appear that I picked a doozy to begin with.  After finishing it, I read up a little on this book and learned that this is one of her most famous and most controversial within her entire writing collection.  And this simply because of a plot twist at the bitter end.  Apparently, this type of plot twist had never been done before and a lot of people felt a little "betrayed" when they learned who the murder ending up being.

The main premise surrounds a Dr. James Sheppard (the narrator) who examines a recently deceased Mrs. Ferrars at the opening of the story.  After ruling her death an accident, shortly thereafter Dr. Sheppard learns from Roger Ackroyd that Mrs. Ferrars had murdered her husband the previous year (his death never appeared in society as suspicious) and then committed suicide in her guilt.  Ackroyd knew this only because he was attempting to coax the widow to marry him prior to her death.  But, in her last moments Mrs. Ferrars apparently wrote to Ackroyd and informed him that she was being blackmailed (and whom by) for this knowledge about her husband's death...less than 12 hours after Ackroyd reads this letter he is murdered.

This is a short and sweet novel, including some interesting characters that I found charming.  I'll admit that about 30 pages from the end I began to suspect the plot twist (and I didn't even know there was going to be one!).  It is quite clever and I really enjoyed it.  I'll be more than happy to pick up another Christie mystery not too long from now.

Monday, February 25, 2013

C-squared: a Concert and Some Crochet Projects

I hope everyone has re-acclimated themselves to weekday schedules by now...considering it's after 2pm on Monday.  Why do Mondays always seem to throw a person off kilter?  Regardless...this weekend was super fun.  I took a mini-road trip with my friend, Kelly, to Dallas where we met more friends and attended the P!nk concert.  It was super fun, even if Kelly and I did both have to hightail it back home on Saturday.  Here's a mini photo summary of some super fun times!  By the way, P!nk puts on an awesome show if you're curious...

While I was down there, I delivered a super cute hat to my friend, Denise.  After I made one for Amanda earlier this year (top picture below), Denise requested a "Crystal boggin" and I obliged, thought Denise's was more of a beret-style hat.

The central pic is Denise's hat about halfway through...thought I'd give you a better idea of the colors than the picture to the right of it gives you in the hat's completed form.  Denise was so excited about it that she wore the hat home after the concert.  I love that feeling when I give someone an item and they get so excited because they truly love it.

The left central picture is a cowl/infinity scarf I made for my mom prior to making Denise's hat.  She hasn't gotten it yet, but she's seen it in progress and I have no doubt she'll love it too.

Finally, the bottom central picture is a little bit...OK, a lot of a funny/gag gift.  I'll have to share the full story sister-in-law recently posted a picture of a baby beanie like this on my cousin, Myah's, Facebook page telling Myah that if she were still breastfeeding that she'd totally have one of these.  I commented on the post and told Myah that I could make her one if she was so inclined.  Her response was along the lines of a "heck ya!"  So, I whipped up this hilariously cute little beanie and mailed it.  The pic that she posted on Facebook is the bottom/last picture in the set above. 

So, what crochet project do I have going now?  I started a new baby blanket for my friend, Laura, yesterday afternoon.  She and her husband are staying blissfully ignorant of their baby's sex, so the blanket is a combo of white, yellow and green.  I'll post more pictures when I'm done!  In the meantime, I hope everyone has a fantastic week!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Funday

I've been reading non-stop this, in a sort of celebration of that, happy Friday!

You can ask David, this is so true.  He'll ask me, "Do you just want to read?" after I give him an exasperated look and sigh/groan while I'm putting the book down to listen to him talk.

Source: via Crystal on Pinterest

Review coming up next week, but to give you a little "in" as to my feelings about what I've been reading lately...

Source: via Crystal on Pinterest

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Solomon's Oak

Happy white Wednesday!  It's a beautiful snowy, slushy day here in Tulsa.  And it's about freakin' time!  It seems like every time there's been snow anywhere within our region recently, it misses us.  And we are in such a drought...not to mention the fact that this Kansas City-raised girl loves snow.  I loved growing up with inches and inches of snow during's one thing I really miss about living up there. 

Our Japanese maple tree earlier this morning...

I thought I'd share this tree considering the fact that I'm going to give you a review of Solomon's Oak.  First off, I'll say that this is one of my mother-in-law's recommendations.  Shortly after she read it, she said it was so wonderful and was trying to get everyone around her to read it.  It seemed like every time I saw her she'd ask, "Have you read Solomon's Oak?"  Knowing that my reading queue can be up to a year long...well, you know the answer. 

The novel follows three individuals that all happen to congregate around Solomon's Oak...a 200-year-old white oak tree.  Glory Solomon owns a central California farm where Solomon's Oak is located, which also happens to include a chapel where the young widow has begun to host weddings.  Glory and her deceased husband always fostered young boys, but a local friend (and caseworker) encourages Glory to take on Juniper McGuire (a pierced, tattooed and angry teenage girl).  Joseph Vigil also enters the picture wanting to take pictures of Solomon's Oak (a regular request on the farm by out-of-towners) while he's there temporarily. 

I'll be honest and say that this was a good book, but definitely not my favorite.  It was very maudlin and the ending was pretty predictable.  As you can probably guess, the three make up a happy family in the end despite each characters' struggles and flaws. 

I think that my MIL related a little more than the average reader because at one point in David's later teenage years, the family took in a young girl who was an extended member of the family.  A few of the problems that Glory experiences with Juniper were mirrored in real life with my mother-in-law and this young, female relative.  Because of that, I think this book affected her on a deeper level.  Simply because I don't have that same inner connection, I probably wouldn't necessarily recommend this one.  Don't get me wrong, it's a good book...but, not one I'd run around telling everyone to pick up immediately or even soon.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Swan Thieves

Ready to start off the week?  Yea, me neither.  Though, I did wake up extra early this I must be doing something right.  Let's start off the week with a book review.

Have you ever read The Historian?  If you look on almost any "best of" list within the past ten years, you'll find it listed.  It's a bit of a haul, clocking in at 700+ pages and I've heard mixed reviews from people I actually know that have read it.  Swan Thieves is the same author's more recent release and the two girls in my book club who have read both said I should start with it.  So I did.

Swan Thieves comes in as a little lighter reading with only 500+ pages.  The story is mostly told by a psychiatrist, Andrew Marlowe, who has been "given" the new patient of Robert Oliver.  No one knows what to do with Robert and Andrew has a gift of making anyone open up to him.  So why not let this magician of a psychiatrist "fix" Robert?

So, what has Robert done to cause his institutionalization?  He's attempted to stab a painting.  In a museum.  In broad daylight.  That's right...he attempted to stab a painting.  And once he was taken into custody he did not speak a single word...except a few short ones with Andrew, initially. 

This book is a mysterious, slightly gothic novel involving love, theft, broken hearts and (of course) the love of art.  It was pretty long-winded and there were definitely some slow parts, but overall I thought it was pretty good.  There is a twist involving a long ago mystery that Robert has attempted to uncover, causing his fit in the museum.  Andrew solves this mystery in the end and it's pretty fantastic.

I'm not 100% sure I'll be picking up The Historian is, after all, a read that involves an investment of time.  And quite a bit of it.  I am hoping that when I do pick it up though, that it's better than "good," which is what I classify Swan Thieves as...good, not great, but good.  And if I'm going to invest that much time and effort...I want great.

P.S. There was an error with the link for my MIL's German chocolate cake frosting recipe last week, it has since been fixed.  Sorry for the mishap!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Funday

Happy Friday everyone!  I hope you have a fantastic weekend in store and hopefully my favorite pins over the past couple weeks will help jump start your Friday!

Quotes: Some just great and others funny...

“Every girl is expected to have caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama and doll tits. This is why everyone is struggling.” -Tina Fey.

Source: via Crystal on Pinterest

My favorite of the bunch:

Source: via Crystal on Pinterest

I think I'm ready for spring, considering my recent clothes pins...I'd even be OK if it just rained the whole time.

I'm not normally a one-piece girl, but...LOVE...want one.

Source: via Crystal on Pinterest

And finally...I cannot wait to make this hat...

Source: via Crystal on Pinterest

and perhaps a scarf with this stitch...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day all!

David got a jump on the rush and had these beauties delivered yesterday afternoon.  Already a couple of the irises are blooming and the tulips are just ever so slightly cracking open.  I love this type of bouquet and so does David.  In fact, we talked about it yesterday evening and he's bought me this exact bouquet three times now.  Because it's just so gorgeous.  Maybe in a day or two I'll share how it's progressed.

How we celebrate Valentine's Day has developed of it's own accord, but we seem to be running a pattern.  And actually, I believe his sister and her husband tend to do the same thing as us.  Rather than fuss with reservations and battle a crowd on the actual day, I prepare one of our favorite dishes at home on Valentine's Day.  Then, either the next day or the weekend after, we'll make reservations somewhere nice (usually a steakhouse) and go all out there.  It makes for a much less stressful (completely made-up and commercial) holiday.

So, what's on the menu for VD this year?  My spicy shrimp recipe with some mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.  Yum!  For a refresher on my shrimp recipe, just click here!

Here's something new for us this year...David and I have decided to observe Lent.  First time I've ever done it...and we've given up desserts.  We were going to give up sweets in general, but David was concerned about how his syrup for his waffles would be judged.  So, we decided to qualify it as "desserts."  When Valentine's Day is only one day after Ash Wednesday, that makes it a little bit of a challenge.  But, I think we'll be better off because of it...though missing out on some delicious chocolates will be a struggle for us sweet toothes.  Or is it sweet teeth?  Haha!  Anyway!  I have Easter to look forward to, where I'll be able to scarf down a Cadbury of my all-time favorites!

Do you have traditions for Valentine's Day, planned or that just naturally happen (like ours)?  Or do you let this commercial holiday just pass you on by without a second glance?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Inés of My Soul

I love historical fiction.  It's probably in the top three of my favorite genres.  Inés of My Soul is an excellent example of historical fiction and it's written the way I wish most...OK, all...historical fiction was written.  I like for a book to start with a truly historical person or event and for the author to meld a storyline around the facts.  Basically, filling in the blank places that historical inaccuracies leave and therefore, making the book flow without random starts and stops or gaps within the story.

Inés is based upon the real life of Inés de Suárez, one of the few strong characters who helped settle Chile back in the 1500s.  Inés grew up in a relatively small town in Spain and married her first true love...who promptly left to explore the New World.  After waiting a short time, Inés decided to follow her husband, whom she hadn't heard word from in some time.  When her long journey across the ocean and across new terrain comes to a logical stop, Inés learns that she is now a widow.  Not long after this, Inés begins a romantic relationship with Pedro de Valdivia, commonly known as the conqueror of Chile.

This book is written from Inés' first person account as if she is writing a long, long letter to her daughter, near the end of Inés' life.  The story is a dramatic, detailed and beautifully written epic. 

While this story was quite fantastic and Inés was an amazing woman, I never felt compelled to keep on and on with this book.  I borrowed it in audiobook form from a member of my book club and while I enjoyed it, I never felt the need to drive around the block or extend my trip while these CDs were in my car.  I always enjoyed listening to it, but I never wanted to just sit in my car for hours on end listening to what happened next.  Sometimes that happens with really well-written books...kind of how you never wanted to read the fantastic books that were always assigned in school.  They just seemed sooooo boring at the time.  I give this book a solid three out of five stars because I can appreciate what a fantastic work it is, but it just wasn't a real page-turner (or CD-track-turner, in this case) for me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Raven Boys

I totally said I would wait.  And I had every intention of actually waiting.  Maggie Stiefvater disappointed me with her Shiver, Linger and Forever trilogy.  Shiver was pretty darn good, Linger still good and Forever...bleh.  All sorts of loose ends and no proper ending.  But, my friend (Becky) got all excited when she read the blurb about Stiefvater's newest book (the first in yet another trilogy).  She really loved it and while I said I'd probably end up reading it, I planned to wait until at least one or both of the successive books were out to see if she disappoints yet again. 

And then, you'll never guess what was available in audiobook form on my local library's app.


So, I got on the waiting list and waited and waited and waited...and waited some more.  Finally, it was my turn to check it out.  Here's the gist:

Blue Sargent is the protagonist of this story and to give you a little background, she's the daughter of the town psychic, but is not herself a psychic though her presence does enhance other psychic's abilities.  Almost from birth, Blue has been told that if she were to kiss her true love that he would be destined to die.  To quell this fear, Blue and her mother have decided that she will simply not kiss any boy.  Though, now that Blue is coming to "that" age, this might be more difficult than previously assumed.

On the night of St. Mark's Eve, Blue and her aunt head out to a local churchyard where Blue's aunt will watch for dead spirits.  On this night, everyone who will (more than likely) die within the next year will pass them...providing the psychics with the ability to tell customers whether a friend or family member will likely die in the next year.  Blue experiences her first psychic-type instance when she can see a young man, Gansey, wearing the uniform of the local private school, Aglionby Academy.  When Blue tells her aunt that she can see him, Blue is told there is only one of two reasons why...either he is Blue's true love or she kills him.

Well, hmmm...

The rest of this book entails Blue meeting Gansey and his friends (the Raven boys) and the lot embarking on a mission involving a "line of energy" and a legendary Welsh king.  Of course, there's a little drama along the way...and the ending is left open for the second book.

I thought this book was pretty good.  It wasn't my absolute favorite YA novel, but it definitely might be worth investing your time into.  I'll be really interested to see where Stiefvater leads this ghostly, supernatural, paranormal, mystical and imaginative series...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Back To Reality

I love it when David's parents come visit and this weekend was no exception.  We visited, we feasted and we had an all-around great time.  While Donna, my MIL, and I visited on Saturday this is what the boys did...David's been dying to have a workbench out in the garage.  After gathering some wood and then a couple trips to Lowe's, alas the wish was granted.

Then, on Saturday night we went out to a local restaurant, Michael V's, for some delicious food.  David's work had hosted their holiday party there back in December and we had loved it then, so why not indulge a little again for David's birthday?

Once we were stuffed to the gills, we headed back home and each had a slice of David's birthday cake.  Donna created her famous rendition of German chocolate cake.  She used a cake box mix, why not?  Her real secret is her icing, which you can find that recipe here.  Seriously.  To.  Die.  For. 

And, as you can see from the bottom left picture, Molly was very interested in all of this kitchen hullabaloo.  Unfortunately, she wasn't allowed any because you know dogs can't have chocolate.  Oh well.

And my sweet MIL being ever thoughtful, only put pecans on half the cake because she knows I don't like them.  Isn't that nice?  Too bad that gives me a license to eat half of this cake...I can feel my butt expanding as I type, lol!

Extra bonus: you might have noticed the fancy shmancy cake stand in the pictures above.  This stand is part of the Fostoria collection I got from my great-great aunt's house this past summer.  It's the first time the cake stand got to be utilized in our household.  Fun!  AND I made sure we ate off the matching dessert dishes.  Extra fun!

Welp, that was our exciting weekend.  I hope yours was at least a fraction as fun as ours.  It's back to reality today, isn't every Monday that way?  And I'll be heading for the trails this afternoon to walk off some of this chocolate, coconut and creamy frosting goodness from my booty.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday Funday-Crochet Edition

Happy Friday everyone!  Rather than have a regularly scheduled Pinterest edition post today, I thought I'd share with you my latest crochet project.  I mean, a ton of Pinterest pins are craft-inspired items and I do believe that crochet falls under that umbrella.

Let me start with saying that I've been making crocheted items for friends and family non-stop, and I've even given away a few of my first experimental projects to people that really wanted something I've made.  There's only one scarf in my closet right now that I've made.  That's it.  So, when I finished Lindsay's baby blanket I decided I was going to make something for me-myself-and-I. 

If you do anything crafty you know that it can become an obsession...and I'm beginning to hoard yarn.  Seriously.  It could be a problem.  A few weeks ago I went to Tuesday Morning and this happened...

Yes, that's nine skeins of three different types of yarn in my basket...just because I thought the colors were pretty.  Hopefully, I won't be needing an intervention soon.  Cross your fingers for that.

In addition to my Hobby Lobby standby, I love buying yarn at Tuesday Morning...because it's like a high-end Big Lots.  You get high quality items for a deeply discounted price.  Each of the yarn skeins I bought were well below 50% of their original retail price.  Score.

Previously, I had purchased some really nice Swiss mohair yarn (from TM) and wanted to make something cute with it.  I'd been browsing Ravelry (like Pinterest for crocheters and knitters) and saw a lot of cute shawls that were being worn and modeled as scarves.  And they were seriously cute.  And I thought, "Hey, I could do that."  So, I found a pattern that required one skein of yarn and went with it.  It took me quite a while because I used a rather small hook size (E), the size the yarn called's how it turned out.

This is a half-double crochet stitch pattern, for those of you fellow crocheters out there.

Molly seriously wants to know what I'm doing and how she can be in on it.

Here's how I intend to wear it, laid out.

I love the dainty scalloped edging.

And I took a quick picture of me wearing it yesterday.  Love it!

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!  We'll be continuing to celebrate David's entrance into this world throughout the weekend.  My in-laws will be descending onto our property in a matter of hours, looking forward to a fantastic visit!  See you Monday!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Happy Birthday David!

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, yesterday was David's birthday.  His parents are coming this weekend and we'll celebrate all over again, but last night my dad came over and the three of us feasted.  Feasted on what you might ask?  Why, how does t-bone steaks, homemade cream corn, salad and fresh coconut cream pie sound?

Here is a play by play of my making the pie yesterday afternoon...

And because I love you guys, I'll re-share my coconut cream pie recipe.

Coconut Cream Pie
from Southern Living

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
4 eggs (I only used 3 eggs this time around, it's rich enough!)
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flaked coconut
1 (9-inch) pie shell, baked (for my crust recipe click here)

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, flour and salt over a medium heat; gradually stir in milk.  Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture is thick and bubbly.  Reduce heat to low and cook 2 minutes more.  Remove the pan from heat.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites and beat the yolks slightly.  Gradually stir 1 cup of the hot mixture into eggs (**important step: this is to prevent eggs from scrambling).  Return the egg mixture to the saucepan and bring the entire mixture to a gentle boil.  Cook and stir 2 minutes before removing the pan from heat.

Stir butter, vanilla and coconut into the hot mixture.  Pour the hot filling into the baked pie crust.  Cool.  Cover and chill to store the pie if not serving immediately.


Of course, after our delicious dinner we each had a slice of this pie...and why not make it that much more decadent by whipping up some fresh cream and toasting some coconut for topping?  This was so delicious and so rich and I was so full from the meal and this dense pie that I couldn't finish this piece.  I got about an inch and a half from the edge of the crust and David, willing to take one for the team, had to finish my slice for me.

And speaking of dessert...Molly got to gnaw on the bone leftover from the t-bone that David and I shared.  She was in heaven and even had to take a short break about halfway which time I confiscated the remains.  I didn't want her to get sick because she doesn't get a good bone but maybe once a year or so, so she's not used to that richness.  Don't worry, she'll get to finish it later it on tonight.  But, afterwards Molly was super happy and sleepy...I guess you could call her blissfully lethargic!

I wish I could say the decadence was over...but, David will get further spoiled later on this weekend when his parents arrive.  Plus, he'll get a German chocolate husband might have an obsession with coconut... 

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The House of Mirth

Today's a super special day for me, it's David's birthday!  My husband is a whole year older and we're going to celebrate with my dad (who just happens to be working in Tulsa this week) tonight.  Steaks and coconut cream pie are on the docket, so I'll be in the kitchen most of the rest of today.  Perhaps I'll share a few pics tomorrow...we'll see!  But, in the meantime I'll catch you up on a bit more of my recent reads...

OK, so you know that I'm reading up Edith Wharton novels in preparation for reading The Age of Desire.  Well, last on my short list was The House of Mirth.  I'll give you a quick lowdown...

The main premise of this novel is that it's a critique of manners within the 1890s New York aristocracy.  It's a tragedy surrounding the personal and social life of Lily Bart.  Lily grows up within this very snobbish and luxurious society where everyone is supposed to act their part...and if they don't, WELL.  For shame! 

Lily's parents tend to live a little above their means, but her mother is sure that Lily will marry well.  However, Lily believes in marrying for love and turns down many financially advantageous proposals.  She ends up whiling away until her parents die, then she goes to live with an aunt. 

I don't really want to go into a lot of detail, unless you perhaps do want to read this at some point.  But, Lily's life is on a downhill slide.  Lily's early adolescence turns out to be the climax of her existence and because she's picky romantically and likes to occasionally exert her opinion vocally, her downfall is soon reached. 

I really thought this book was rather depressing.  Who wants to know that your life can end up in tatters because you want to be happy and are, therefore, picky and articulate?  I think that was the point Wharton was trying to make, but still.  Needless to say, I will not be re-reading this any time soon.  The Age of Innocence is definitely my favorite of the Edith Wharton trio that I've read.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Hey, I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend.  That Superbowl was something, huh?  I'm one of those non-football people (unless it's OU, of course) who doesn't really watch the Superbowl.  But, David wanted to watch it and I'm all about watching the commercials and half-time show.  In case you're wondering, my favorites were the Amy Poehler Best Buy ad (hilarious) and Paul Harvey/Dodge's farmer ad (I'm married to a farm boy, remember?).  Besides the ads, I think Beyonce's performance was amazing even though she kind of annoys me and I also think the power outage was a little hilarious.  Goes to show you that no one can throw a "perfect" show, except for God of course. Aside from all that, let's get back to our regularly scheduled programming...a book review!

Have I mentioned that I love reading about real-life stuff, especially involving movie stars, that happened earlier last century?  Oh, I haven't?  Because I do.  Hence, the Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly biographies I've reviewed previously (you can click here and here to read those reviews, respectively).  There's just something about old movie stars that's intriguing.  Maybe I'm starting to get an obsession with biographies too...

Natalie is one of the many books I picked up at my great-great aunt's house when we were cleaning out and purging her of the superfluous items she wouldn't need when she moved.  I have to say that my knowledge of Natalie Wood was very minute when I picked this book up.  I can tell you that my mom does not care for Robert Wagner or Christopher Walken because of Natalie Wood.  In her heart of hearts, she feels that one or both of them had a hand in her "accidental drowning" that has, since earlier in 2012, no longer been ruled as such.  So...with that knowledge and the fact that I knew she was a big movie star...that's about all I knew.

I have to say, after reading this book, her life was fascinating.  I mean, really and truly.  Natalie (born Natalia [or Natasha] Nikolaevna Zacharenkowas) was the daughter of two Russian immigrants and her mother whiled her way onto a set, attempting to get Natalie her first job, by pretending her English wasn't quite as good as it was.  I think some people still use this old trick even today.  Ahem.  Speaking of her first big might recognize her here, in this age-old classic, Miracle on 34th Street.

Later on in her acting career, you might also recognize her as one of the leads in West Side Story...

Natalie was written by her sister, Lana Wood, shortly after Natalie passed.  And I felt that certain parts were brushed over a bit, simply because Lana so loved her sister and perhaps viewed Natalie with rose-colored glasses.  There was another biography, Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood, more recently published...and which I purchased just last week!  I might be a little obsessed...  Here are a few interesting tidbits that I learned while reading this book:

  • Both Natalie and Elizabeth Taylor were the first two child stars to ever make it all the way to adulthood and continue on as popular movie stars.
  • Natalie was horrified of water and drowning...and she died from a drowning.
  • Natalie was married to Robert Wagner twice, he was her first and last husband.
  • Natalie was good friends with Robert Redford and Steve McQueen...and was even more with Warren Beatty.
  • Natalie had a short-lived romantic relationship with Elvis Presley.
  • Natalie was a major animal lover, but felt she trained hers a bit better than her friend, Marilyn Monroe, who supposedly let her animals "potty" on the floor.
  • Natalie was one of very few actors who had "quote approval," which is when they see and edit every word supposedly uttered by them before it sees print.  Some, like Natalie, also have photo approval.  Other stars with this power are/were: Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford and Goldie Hawn.
  • Natalie was always very petite and used to say that alcohol affected her somewhere around the second sip of her second glass of wine.

I think it's pretty obvious that I enjoyed this book and can't wait to read the more recent biography of Natalie Wood.  So, in case you're still wondering, yes I recommend this book!  I'll leave you with my favorite picture from the excerpts within the book.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday Funday

Happy Friday everyone!  I'm very excited for the weekend because I'll get to see two of my favorite ladies this afternoon/evening.  Yippee! 

I'm also happy because as of yesterday (the last day of January), I'm on track to actually fulfill my 3rd NYE resolution.  I'm a little shocked if you can't tell.  To stay on track, I need to read 4.42 of my books and I read 5 (1 that hasn't been reviewed on here yet) in January.  So, I'm right on track!  A second yippee is in order, I think!

Now, without further ado...
my favorite pins of the week!

This is sooooo Facebook

Required book quote for the week...


I wanna look like this...soon!
Source: via Crystal on Pinterest

I don't really feel this way, but I thought it was hillllllllarious!

Have a great weekend!


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