Sunday, April 29, 2007
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Note to self: don't go moving to Morocco. They have big-ass rats that eat books.
The Caliph's House, by Tahir Shah
Like many authors, Shah decided to buy a heap somewhere, move, renovate said heap, and then write all about it. Fortunately, he chose Morocco, so it makes for an interesting story.
Shah bought the Caliph's House, a very neglected but beautiful house in Casablanca. With the house come three guardians (aka caretakers) who believe the house is inhabited by jinns. In fact, everyone believes the house is inhabited by jinns, since jinns evidently like empty houses. Shah struggles with this mindset, as well renovation work in a country that moves at it's own pace. After a year, he manages to get the house inhabitable and he caves to the idea that he needs to have an exorcism to rid the house of its evil spirits.
I really liked this story. Shah does a good job of explaining the local culture (and craftsmanship), as well as his struggles with understanding and finding a place in it. He also weaves in some of his own family history, telling about his grandfather who had moved to Morocco late in life. The only part that doesn't ring true is the poor author bit, as he seems to have plenty of money to hire maids and cooks and nannies. But other than that, it was fun to read about his introduction to Morocco.
Friday, April 20, 2007
I was driving down our neighborhood hill this morning when I passed a man walking up the hill. Nothing unusual there, it's a popular hill for walkers. It was raining, but there was also a jogger on the hill. Then I noticed he had a pack on his back, complete with bedroll. Okaaaaaaay, that threw me a bit, because our hill leads nowhere...it is simply the way into and out of our little neighborhood. But wait, there's more. The guy also had ski poles. That's what got me. Ski poles? In Morro Bay?? I must have spent the first 5 minutes of my drive to work wondering about the pack and ski poles.
Then I forgot all about it.
Fast forward to this evening, when I was reading a magazine. And came across the term Nordic Walking. That has to be what this guy was doing.
Huh. So I learned something new today.
And since I got curious and googled jack and jill for images, I'll leave you with this disturbing picture, which has me wondering... What does gelatin have to do with Jack, Jill, the hill and their bucket of water? Why is the gelatin mold so damn huge, compared to poor Jack and Jill? And why is Jill's skirt doing a good imitation of Marilyn Monroe?
Monday, April 16, 2007
Dork Whore, by Iris Bahr
Where to start...I was at Barnes and Noble, as usual, and I wandered over to the travel writing section. And there it was. I mean really, with a title like that, how could I not pick it up? I sat down to read a few pages and got hooked.
Okay, so there's not much travel writing involved. Sure, you learn she went to Thailand and Vietnam and Nepal and India. But it's more about Iris' quest to umm, get a little action. And her many, many failures. And the scuzzy guys she lusts after.
The thing is, she really is funny. To an extent. Sometimes it's a little much, but she's got a good sense of humor and is anyone and everything is fair game. Although, I wouldn't be surprised if she James Freyed most of the book.
So bottom line...a ridiculous, over-the-top, crude read. One I wouldn't recommend to a whole lot of people, but still entertaining if you are in the right frame of mind.
**Evidently, the author is also an actress, currently seen on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Since I am not a TV whore, I wouldn't know.
I ran across a recipe on the internet yesterday that seemed interesting. It's called Bachelor Chicken, because it supposedly can be made with ingredients every bachelor kitchen has. I doubt that (plain yogurt?!?!), so I'm calling it PB&C (Peanut Butter and Chicken). And since I never pay much attention to original recipes, here is my loose interpretation...
2 cartons (those little ones you eat for breakfast, not the jumbo-size ones) of plain lowfat yogurt
3 giant spoonfuls (maybe a cup) of peanut butter (I used Skippy super-chunk, in case you were wondering)
some garlic salt
some more salt, because I figured the yogurt would be bland
some chili powder
boneless, skinless chicken tenders
Mix together everything but the chicken. Put the chicken in a baking dish, dump the sauce on top and bake at 350 for awhile. Probably about an hour, if you're like us and like your chicken well done. After about half an hour, the yogurt starts to curdle and it looks kinda icky. The longer it cooks, the more appetizing the sauce looks. Which I realize doesn't make the recipe sound that good, but I believe in full recipe disclosure.
I made couscous to go with it, but rice would be good too. There's lots of sauce, so it needs something like that as a side dish. It was good (HB liked it, so it couldn't have been that weird), but I think it needs more chili powder. Or something.
Dammit. Today I'm having a love-hate relationship with my laptop. I really do like the little bastard, but once again, the keyboard tripped me up. Grrrrrrrrr. I had just typed out a book review and was all set to post it, when I hit some odd combination of keystrokes and POOF, it was gone.
So, let's try this again. The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid. Take 2.
This is a fascinating book. It has a unique voice, as the story is told in an unbroken monologue. Changez (pronounced chun-gays) is a Pakistani who went to the US to attend Princeton and then work at a New York valuation firm. After 9-11 his relationship with America begins to change. Changez tells the story of his transformation to an American stranger as they share a meal in a cafe in Lahore, Pakistan. What makes the story so intriguing is the manner in which it is told. It is a continuous narrative, interspersed with occasional observations about the stranger. Even these become part of the monologue though, as there is not a speck of dialogue in the book. It is a one-sided conversation through which the character of Changez is revealed.
Another aspect of the book that is so appealing is the ending. I won't say anything more, in case anyone decides to read it, but if you have read the book there is an interview with Mohsim Hamid here, where he talks briefly about the book. His comment about the ending (see the last paragraph) is fascinating.
At 184 pages, this is a short book and a quick, but thought-provoking, read. It touches on ethnic profiling and nationalism, as well as love and loss. I would highly encourage everyone to read it.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Need a chuckle? Go to Google maps and click on get directions. Get directions for somewhere in the US to somewhere in Europe...for example, Morro Bay to Rome. Read your directions carefully. (Thanks to ant over at LJ for bringing this fun fact to my attention.)
Cops is on in the background. HB fell asleep and that's the channel that happens to be on. It reminds me of the last time we saw HB's cousin on the show. Eric works for a Sheriff's department in Washington that is frequently featured on the show. We've probably seen him on the show 5 separate times in the last 10 years or so. The most recent time he was chasing after a guy who hopped a fence. Poor Eric couldn't make it over the fence...he had to go around. They still caught the guy, but watching Eric shake the fence in frustration was a highlight. I shouldn't laugh, but it was kinda funny.
Now I must go get some sleep. Nighty-night.
Monday, April 09, 2007
It's a breezy day here in Morro Bay. I went out to dump some papers in the recycling bin and the wind caught one of them. I was expecting it to land in the neighbor's yard, but no. It kept flying up and up and up, just like an escaped balloon. Last I saw it, the little piece of paper was bravely winging its way down the street, dodging power lines on its mission to spread the word of Gottschalks.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Shafak
Asya Kazanci (that i shouldn't be dotted, but I have no idea how to type, let alone pronounce, an undotted Turkish i) is a confused young woman who lives with her family in Istanbul. Her mom, Zeliha, is the family rebel... she has never disclosed the identity of Asya's father and she owns a tattoo parlor. Her Auntie Banu is a devout clairvoyant, Auntie Feride a hypochondriac currently in her paranoid phase, Auntie Cevriye a prim teacher of national history, Grandma Gulsum a somewhat grim woman, and Petite-Ma her beloved great-grandmother. The lone male of the family, Mustafa, lives in Arizona.
Armanoush is Mustafa's step-daughter, an Armenian-American who alernately grew up within the close-knit Armaenian culture of her father's family, and listening to her mother's bitterness for all things Armenian (which partially explains her remarriage to a Turkish man).
In an attempt to connect with her Armenian heritage, Armanoush travels to Turkey to stay with the Kazanci family. What results is cultural awareness, personal awareness and the undigging of some family secrets. The author, Elif Shafak, was charged with "insulting Turkishness" in this book due to the discussions about Armenian genocide. The charges were later thrown out in court. I am always suprised that a country that is so modern in some ways is so paranoid about upholding "Turkishness."
I liked the book, more for the crazy characters and the Armenian history than anything else. However, Armanoush pretty much got left out at the end. She seems to have been forgotten in the grand finale, making me wonder what she does with her newfound knowledge of the family's past, and her increased awareness of how everyday Turks and Armenians can live together in harmony.
So it was a good, enjoyable read, but not necessarily a great one.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
I finished this book last night, and I must say, it was wonderful. One of my top books for the year, so far.
After a brutal divorce, Elizabeth Gilbert decides to go on a journey to rejuvenate both mind and body. Her goal is to spend time in three places, Italy, India and Indonesia (Bali, really). In Italy her goal is pleasure. She takes Italian classes and spends her spare time eating. In India, the focus is spiritual, and she spends all of her time at her guru's ashram studying yoga and seeking peace. In Bali, she seeks to find balance, to learn how to live both a pleasure-filled life and a spiritual life.
For me, the draw wasn't so much Gilbert's journey but her writing style. She writes in such a down-to-earth style, yet so desriptivley, I could easily picture her in all three places. And she's funny. And she's not trying to push any message down your throat or convert you to her thinking or way of life. Her goal was to tell of her journey, and she did an excellent job.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Back in the dark ages, I signed up to take an Italian class. Then I had a blonde moment and missed the first class (I thought it was on Thursday night, come to find out it was Wednesday. Geez, dontcha just hate it when that happens?). So I had them switch my registration to the next class being offered, which was to start next week. Yes, was. That's right, it was cancelled. Now I'm enrolled in the summer session, which ends the day we leave for Italy. Hopefully, I won't forget or be cancelled on again. Otherwise, I'll be walking around Italy saying attraversiamo.
Friday we're going to Mama's Meatballs for lunch, so at least I'll be able to practice my menu Italian. They've got outrageous tiramisu, so at least I've got that one down. Although now that I think about, the young man who took our order last time had an Italian accent...maybe I should trade HB in for a different model so I can have my personal Italian tutor?
On a different but sorta related topic, I'm still reading and still loving Eat Pray Love. She's in India now, and I'm learning all sorts of stuff about Yoga that I didn't know. The best quote so far from this section comes from Richard from Texas:
"Man, they got mosquitoes 'round this place big enough to rape a chicken."
Now there's a mental image.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
I am currently reading Eat Pray Love, since Kate was raving about it last week. And since I was at the bookstore on Saturday, and it was 30% off, how could I not buy it?
Kate has a favorite Italian phrase from the book...il bel far niente, or the art of doing nothing. Cool, huh? I could get into that.
The author's favorite Italian word is attraversiamo, let's cross over, as in let's cross the street. I'll have to remember to use that one with my mom, just to further confuse her when we're in Rome.
Although not mentioned in the book, I'm liking sfasato. Confused. That will be me next week when I start my Italian class.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Behold, my new phone...
Pretty spiffy, eh? It has a camera and all sorts of other things I still have to figure out. Yes, yes, I know what you're thinking, and you're right...I hardly ever use my cell phone. But this one was a free upgrade and it's a quad-band, so I'm all set to make phone calls in Italy.