- Fizzy Thoughts: February 2008

This is the end...

Friday, February 29, 2008

Here we are at the end of February (the very, very end, since it's Leap Day...much to the dismay of United) and the end of our pledge to blog daily for an entire month. I'm kinda sad it's all over, but the thought doing this every day makes my brain convulse. Jerry, I don't know how you do it, and still find time to make us all a drink.

So even though I won't continue to do this on a daily basis, I do hope it has given me a kick in the ass to blog a little more regularly and about things other than books. Not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, my next post will likely be about the last two books I read. You'll just have to come back to find out what they were.

By the way, thanks to everyone for all the comments this month...I love, love, love and appreciate every single comment, even if I don't always reply.

And finally, a very special thank you to Angie, who challenged us all to do this. (This is starting to feel like an Oscar speech.) It was a terrific idea, and I've really enjoyed discovering my fellow Slow Traveler's blogs.



Thursday, February 28, 2008

Who is your favorite female lead character? And why? (And yes, of course, you can name more than one . . . I always have trouble narrowing down these things to one name, why should I force you to?)

First, I'll go with (almost) everyone's favorite PEI gal, Anne of Green Gables. Because she's spunky and smart and I loved all the books. And she's a redhead and I always wanted red hair.
After that, it gets a little harder. No one is jumping into my head, screaming pick me, pick me. They must all still be asleep, like I wish I was. So I'm going to cheat a little and pick Frances Mayes and Elizabeth Gilbert. Yes, they are authors. But they both have written about their travels and gotten paid for it. And they can be considered the lead characters in their own books (A Year in the World and eat pray love). So, yeah, I'll go with those two. It's not so much that they are favorites, it's more like I want to be them. Either get paid to travel and write a wildly successful book (Gilbert), or write wildly successful books that let you travel more and then write a book about that, too (Mayes). Yup, I could live like that. Well, I could if I had any writing talent.


my imaginary boyfriend

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

This is Hamburger, my imaginary boyfriend. Okay, he's not really imaginary. It's just that not many people have met him. I believe Mackenzie gave him the name imaginary boyfriend. Then she finally met him. Now she just calls him Mitch.

This picture is a few years old, but he still looks like that. Red goatee, not much hair under the ball cap, hence the hat that is almost always on his head when he is in the sun. We were at the yearly family reunion, floating down the Deschutes River...in fact, in a few months, we will most likely be right there in that river. The fish may or may not be there. And if you were wondering, Hamburger practices catch and release.


Cube land

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I work in a cubicle. Before I started working in a cubicle, I failed to see the humor in Dilbert. Now, I think Scott Adams is a genius. Anyways...I thought I would take you on a tour of my cubicle. This is where I keep all my clutter, and a lot of travel mementos, because I would hate my house if it looked like this, but I need all the distraction I can get at work.

Here is my little cubie. Isn't it both convenient and pathetic that it fits in one picture?

I keep a picture close by of one of my favorite guys. Don't worry, I have a few pictures of Hamburger, too.

I have a corner with pictures of places I've been.

This is my window view.

And these are my favorite Tube posters. The one with the floating people tends to freak people out.
So that's where I spend most of my 40 hours of work each week. There is work related stuff hidden in there somewhere. But who wants to look at that?


Earthly Pleasures

Monday, February 25, 2008

Earthly Pleasures
Karen Neches
311 pages

Skye Sebring is a greeter in Heaven. She's a new soul, meaning she's only been around for about a year. So she's surprised when she finds out she's been selected to go to Earth. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Ryan Blaine is missing his wife. Oh, she's there in person. But she doesn't seem like the same Susan she was before a car accident resulted in a head injury. And finally, there's Emily. Emily has been in a coma for the last year, but her roommate at the care center suspects she's starting to come around. There are a few other supporting characters, but those are the main three.

The first couple of chapters entertained me. However, the Heaven scenes are funny, but they soon wear thin. When the book moves to Earth, you can easily see how the story is going to play out. I found the characters to be shallow (shallow as in not well-developed), and by the end, it all felt a bit preachy. And I'm not in to preach.

In short, this was a quick read with a few laughs, but overall, a book I could have skipped.


James Lipton meme

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I get by with a little help from my friends... Seriously, thanks for all the memes this month. It's made blogging daily much easier.

So yes, I've been tagged again. Thanks Trish! This is the James Lipton meme, and I actually had to think about this one. By the way, I had to look James Lipton up. The name meant nothing to me. Although now that I've read about him, I have vague memories of an interview with Johnny Depp.

1. What is your favorite word? I wouldn't call them favorite words, but I know I use definitely and really quite a bit, especially on this blog. As far as words I like the sound of...lollygag is pretty cool. So is hippity-hop. I think it's a fun sounding word. And I like onomatopoeias... buzz, shush, ribbit.

2. What is your least favorite word? Separate. We read A Separate Peace in high school. When we wrote the essay, I spelled separate incorrectly (seperate). The teacher wrote some witty/snide comment about it...and I've been traumatized ever since.

3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? I'm not very creative. I'm definitely not spiritual. And come to think of it, I'm not all that emotional, although I cry pretty easy at books and movies. So... creatively, I'd have to say thinking outside the box. Spiritually, I'll go with travel. And emotionally, a creative book. And humor. I love people that make me laugh (and I'm not talking stand-up comedy).

4. What turns you off? Ethnocentrism.

5. What is your favorite curse word? Fuck. Didn't I just say I'm not creative? And did you know there's a list of films that most frequently use the word fuck? How do I know this? 8 Mile was on tv last night and I googled it...and wikipedia links to that list.

6. What sound or noise do you love? Rain, especially when I'm inside with a good book, or when I wake up in the middle of the night. Also, lawn mowers on a summer day.

7. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Book store owner.

8. What profession would you not like to do? Mike Rowe, and any of the dirty jobs he investigates.

9. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? "What the hell are you doing here? Oh well, the library is that way."


Books (how original)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Looking for a suggestion on a good travel book? Check out National Geographic's Ultimate Travel Library. I love the picture with the globe and the books. I've even read the book closest to the globe, Tahir Shah's The Caliph's House. He has a new book out, too...In Arabian Nights. I'm waiting for the paperback version.


Really bad movie. Really.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Hamburger has the remarkable ability to fall asleep with the tv tuned into arguably the worst movies ever. Now playing: Blade: Trinity. Wesley Snipes as some sort of vampire or vampire slayer. I can't really figure it out, not that I'm trying that hard. But it's one of those bad movies that I just can't help but watch. Apologies to any fans, but good grief, Snipes just can't act. Neither can Jessica Biel. Or Ryan Reynolds. Whoever they are.

Further proof that reading is much better than tv.

Wait...Dracula just arrived in the movie. This just keeps getting worser and worser (kinda like my grammar). Look, here he is...

Excuse me, I have to go snicker now. Or maybe find the remote.


Non-fiction meme

I've been tagged again, this time for a non-fiction meme, started by Gautami:

a) What issues/topic interests you most–non-fiction, i.e, cooking, knitting, stitching, there are infinite topics that has nothing to do with novels? Travel/living in other countries memoirs. And guide books if I'm planning a trip. Otherwise, I usually avoid non-fiction.

b) Would you like to review books concerning those? I post about them here on my blog, but I wouldn't really call it a review. It's more like I jot down a few thoughts so I can remember what I've read.

c) Would you like to be paid or do it as interest or hobby? Tell reasons for what ever you choose. Yeah sure, if I could actually write a coherent, well thought out review. Which I can't, so I'll just dream. And stick to my all over the place style (and I use that term loosely).

d) Would you recommend those to your friends and how? Yup. Via this here blog, or by passing the book along to the few people I know who also appreciate the genre, like my friend Judith or my uncle Bill. Sometimes Kate.

e) If you have already done something like this, link it to your post. You can go here to see all the books (not just the travel ones) I read in 2007. Or here for 2008.

f) Please don’t forget to link back here or whoever tags you. Hi Melissa!

I'm supposed to tag 10 people, but I'm not the greatest at tagging. So once again, all you Slow Travelers who want to play, go right ahead. Oh yeah, and Lisa...I'm tagging you!



Thursday, February 21, 2008

All other things (like price and storage space) being equal, given a choice in a perfect world, would you rather have paperbacks in your library? Or hardcovers? And why?

I generally don't keep my books, so first of all I have to pretend I have a library. I do have shelves of books, but that's just because I have a book buying problem...someday I'll manage to read them all. At least I keep telling myself that.

But, to answer the question, I'm an equal opportunity book lover. I'd buy whatever caught my eye. Sometimes I see a hardcover and can't wait to read it, so I'll buy it. Other times, I'll wait for the paperback. I have no problem mixing up formats in my giant to-be-read pile/pretend library.


I give up

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I tried. Really, I gave it a valiant effort. But I just can't finish.

Sorry Ines, you're outta here. I made it to page 106. But there are 313 pages in this book, and the thought of having to read those remaining pages just makes me cringe.

Ines of My Soul, by Isabel Allende, is based on Ines Suarez, a real-life female conquistador, who took part in the conquering of Chile. It's told in the first person, and it is almost entirely pure narrative of Ines' memories. There is very little dialogue, which is what makes this book so difficult for me to read. You know that feeling when you're reading a text book, and you really, really hope the next page will have a very large picture or chart on it, so there are less words to read, only to be faced with all text when you turn the page? That's how I was beginning to feel while reading this book. And since I'm not in school anymore, I don't have to put myself through that torture.

Adios Ines.


The Whole World Over

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Whole World Over
Julia Glass
556 pages

Three Junes made me do it. After reading that book, I wanted to read another Julia Glass book. And when I read that Fenno (the son and main character in Part Two of Three Junes) makes an appearance in this book, I was sold.

Reading the back of the book led me to think this story would be mainly about Greenie Duquette, a New York pastry chef who takes a job as chef to the governor of New Mexico. Greenie moves herself and her young son George west, leaving behind her troubled marriage and her husband Alan. However, Greenie and Alan are just two of many characters. In the first part of the book, a lot of time is spent with each character. As the book moves forward, it moves more frequently between characters. So, even though I knew all the characters, I would still have to stop and change gears quite often. Sometimes it got a little jarring.

In the end, I really liked this book, but I didn't like the characters. Here is a brief who's who, along with why I didn't like them:

Greenie - the chef who leaves her husband behind. Once she gets to New Mexico, she isn't so likable. By the end of the book, I'd had it with her. And her and Alan have some fidelity issues. This is goin to sound awful, but I wish they'd divorced. I didn't like them together.
Alan - her judgemental husband with a big secret. And, if he only had a few clients left in his therapy business, how was he affording rent and food in New York? Just a minor little detail.
George - their son. He's kinda cute, kinda not.
Walter - Greenie's best friend in New York. Not a bad guy, but he's a little priggish. That's not quite the right word, because I wouldn't condone a lot of what he put up with either, but his manner of speech is priggish and just a little off.
Gordie - let's just say he's a slut and leave it at that. Although come to think of it, that could describe Walter, at times.
Saga/Emily - recovering from a head trauma and trying to find her way. I actually liked her.
Fenno - I still like Fenno. Even more after this book, although his role is pretty small.

There are lots of other minor characters, too. And I didn't care for most of them. Everyone was just whiny enough (gee, like me in this post) to bug me. And most of them make bad decisions in the course of the book. I wanted to slap them all upside the head and yell, "What are you thinking?!?"

But still, I liked the book. Go figure. I like the author's writing style. And how she makes you think about the characters. Two days later and I'm still trying to figure out why they bother me so much.

So I have both Three Junes and The Whole World Over. If you've been dying to read these books, and you live in the US (sorry, I'm feeling cheap...can you say media mail?), let me know and I'll send them to you.


Six word memoir meme

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lisa, over at Books on the Brain, has tagged me for another meme (thank goodness...she seems to know just when I'm in need of a topic!). The six word memoir meme, started by bookbabie, is based on a book, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure, by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser. I first read about this book over at bleedingespresso, where I composed my own six word memoir (thereby making this meme really easy). By the way, you can also submit your memoir to Smith Magazine, if you are so inclined.

So, here's the meme...

1. Write your own six word memoir
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you like
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere
4. Tag five more blogs with links
5. And don't forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play

I have two:

Travel often, with book in hand.

Hamburger and softdrink, hold the fries.

I can't decide. Which do you like better? (I have a sneaking suspicion the Slow Travelers are going to go for the first one.)

I'm going to tag any of the SlowTrav bloggers who want to play.


Alexandra Fuller and the SlowTrav Book Club

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The only book club I belong to is online, and part of the SlowTrav website. This month our book to discuss was Alexandra Fuller's Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. I read this book last year and posted about it here.

As part of our book chat, Brenda, our wonderful leader, contacted the author to ask if she would answer some of our questions. She couldn't join our chat, but Ms. Fuller did answer questions via email. Here are my questions (thanks to Lisa for the inspiration) and Alexandra Fuller's answers:

1. What are your favorite books?

They change. I mean a book will grab me and have me by the throat and then in a year I can't imagine what I saw in it. Or, conversely, I'll hate a book when I first try to read it & then find it wonderful when I pick it up in a different context.

Standing all-time faves (that inspired DOGS):
THE MEADOW - James Galvin
RUNNING IN THE FAMILY - Michael Ondaatje
TO THE WEDDING - John Berger

And then the works of Chenjerai Hove, Marechera (what a wildly complicated, distressing man - read THE HOUSE OF HUNGER and its hard to keep turning the pages)
Alexander Kanengoni's brave and tiny book ECHOING SILENCES
I quite recently read and loved THE SECOND COMING OF MAVULA SEKONGO - Peter Orner
And very recently, THE HOUSE AT SUGAR BEACH - Helene Cooper (not due out until May)

I subscribe to Kwani and Chimurenga, which are Kenyan and South African publications (respectively), which publish great up and coming African writers
also the Sun, which I think can have some lovely writing
The New Yorker
the New York Review of Books (which I love - I find the New York Times Book Review less educated and much more limiting).

I'm also inspired by films:

2. Who are your favorite authors?

Michael Ondaatje
VS Naipual (who is either so on, or so off)
Paul Theroux (ditto)
Graeme Greene
Chinua Achebe
the Desais (mother and daughter)
Ruth Prawer Jabvala...
Others, I know, but that's who springs to mind. I often admire one or two books from an author Rumer Godden (for example) but not all their work.

3. Who inspires you?

Nelson Mandela
Wangari Maathai
Mother Theresa
my mother (she has passion in buckets and sometimes that passion feels misplaced, but at least she has passion!)
my father (all that stoic energy)....those are the biggies.
On a day to day basis, I am inspired by ordinary people.
I volunteer at a local institution for delinquent and disabled children and there are kids there who make my heart break they inspire me so much.
I was inspired to tears when I watched Paul Potts on Britain's Got Talent on Youtube of all things (I don't have television, so my eldest daughter had to send me the link). Watch it if you can...Paul Potts singing - I was so undone I bought his cd for everyone for Christmas and he's really only good if you can see him, but who cares. Talk about finding his voice and singing with all his heart, it makes me cry every time I watch it.

4. And also, I'd be curious to know if you've read The Glass Castle and if so, what you thought of that book.

Yes, I read it after my last baby was born and I remember feeling sick with the horror of what I was reading. I thought she did a wonderful job of writing without judgment or bitterness, don't you?


Pomegranate Soup

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Yesterday, I admitted that I don't like to cook. Today, I just finished a book that centers around food and cooking. Go figure.

Pomegranate Soup
Marsha Mehran
222 pages

The Aminpour sisters, Marjan, Bahar and Layla, fled Iran on the eve of the revolution. After a few years in London, they have finally come to Ballinacrough, Ireland, to open a cafe and settle into a stable life. Marjan is a talented cook, and her exotic recipes are a hit with many of the locals. However, their appearance in this small town also causes quite a stir. The local big man in town, Thomas McGuire, isn't too happy that the cafe is a success. He feels threatened by the lure the cafe and the sisters seem to have for many of the townspeople.

Despite McGuire and his sphere of influence, Ballinacroagh is also filled with people who welcome the Aminpours. Estelle Delmonico rents them her empty restaurant and becomes a surrogate mother. Young Malachy McGuire is instantly smitten with Layla. Fiona Athey, owner of the hair salon, ignores local gossip and befriends Marjan. Soon, the sisters are a part of the community.

This is not a complicated book. The appeal is in the recipes that begin each chapter, and how it illustrates the importance of traditional Iranian dishes. Mehran also gives a brief glimpse into how the Iranian revolution affected the lives of the sisters, and how they struggle to fit into such an insular Irish community. The brief drama that slooooowly unfolds through the book is almost incidental. Despite this, I enjoyed the book. And for some reason, I want to make baklava (the recipe is on page 38).

The sequel, Rosewater and Soda Bread, is due out this May. I didn't feel that the book was in need of a sequel though, leading me to wonder if the author is going to repeat the formula of her first book to capitalize on its success.


Where I divulge all my cooking secrets

Friday, February 15, 2008

I don't like to cook. There, I said it. Unfortunately, I do like to eat homemade food, and I'm actually a decent cook. Not a great cook, and definitely not a fancy cook, but stuff usually turns out (except when I start reading and forget about something and it burns). HB has pretty basic tastes, too, which mean meals around here are fairly boring. However, a few years ago I found a recipe (I think it was in Real Simple) that he really likes, and it's different enough that I feel like I'm eating a good meal. Since I didn't have to work today, and I went to the grocery store, and I took a nap (that's really not related, but it felt good), I decided to make a real dinner. I have no idea what the name of this is, but it only has three major ingredients, so Chicken stuffed with Olive Tapenade and Feta Cheese is a good name. Totally easy, except for the time it takes to bake. Not that baking is hard, it just takes time we don't have during the week.

Chicken stuffed with Olive Tapenade and Feta Cheese

Olive tapenade (I use Trader Joes)
Feta cheese (2 of those little plastic containers of the crumbled stuff)
4 chicken breasts
salt and pepper

Mix the olive tapenade together with the feta cheese. Slice the chicken breasts so they look like a piece of pita bread (you know, so there's a pocket). Stuff them full of the olive/feta mixture. You'll probably have extra olive/feta mixture. Cook (sear? I don't know, I don't do technical terms) the chicken breasts in a pan with some oil (oh yeah, and salt and pepper 'em) for a few minutes on each side, then transfer to a baking dish (also with some oil in the bottom). If you have extra olive/feta mixture, feel free to put it on top of the chicken breasts before you stick 'em in the oven, because really, that's the good stuff. Bake at 350 until done. It's pretty tasty served with couscous.

This recipe is a good example to my approach to cooking. Lazy measuring, few ingredients, fairly easy prep, and I don't have to drag out a cookbook or recipe file.

I also made cookies. I know, I can't believe it either. But my mom made these a few months ago and gave me the recipe. Once again, super easy, and bonus...it doesn't make tons of cookies, so you won't be forced to eat 10 dozen.

Flourless Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 C. Super Chunky peanut butter
1 C. (packed) brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 C. miniature chocolate chips (although trust me, regular size chips taste just as good)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix first 5 ingredients in bowl. Mix in chocolate chips. Using moist hands form a generous 1 Tbsp. dough for each cookie into a ball & arrange 2" apart on ungreased sheet (my mom and I are lazy bakers and after extensive testing we can both say the scoop and drop method works just fine). Bake until puffed & golden on bottom & still soft to touch in center, about 12 min. Cool on sheet about 5 minutes before placing on rack to completely cool.

Consumer alert: These cookies are really good, but they are also very crumbly.

Sorry, no pictures of either recipe. I'm done in the kitchen for the day, and I'm not going back in, not even for the sake of the blog.


a lame post

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What a day to get blogger's block.

Did anyone see Google's Valentine's Day logo? And did you know that they have an online museum that shows all of their holiday logos over the years. It's kinda fun.

Besides being Valentine's Day, this is also the day Hamburger and I celebrate our anniversary (16 years, if you're wondering). Since we're not married and neither one of us remember the day we started dating (we met sometime during Fall quarter at Cal Poly and started dating sometime during Spring quarter), we finally chose Valentine's Day as our pseudo-anniversary. We never do much, though, and this year was even more low-key than usual. HB got me a rose and Hershey's kisses. I bought him dinner, but we didn't go out. Instead, I picked up Lolo's (our favorite Mexican food) on my way home from work. He's pooped from a week of setting up for a concrete pour, and I'm tired from being out of town. And, there's really not much food in the house. So buying dinner was more of a necessity than a Valentine's Day/anniversary thing. Going to the grocery store is definitely on tomorrow's list of chores.

I was looking forward to blogging today, because it's Booking through Thursday, and I usually get a good prompt, which means I don't have to think of a topic to blog about, and if I ramble on, at least it's related to books. This week's question, though...it stumped me...

Have you ever fallen out of love with a favorite author? Was the last book you read by the author so bad, you broke up with them and haven’t read their work since? Could they ever lure you back?

I'm drawing a total blank, so no contribution from me this week.

I do have a four day weekend, though. Since I attended the conference in Sacramento on Tuesday, which was a county holiday, I get tomorrow off. And Monday's a holiday, too. So no work until Tuesday. Wa-hooooooo! However, I don't have any exciting plans. Tomorrow I must go to the grocery store (if I say this enough times, maybe I'll actually go), and the house needs a cleaning. Exciting times, eh?



Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Monday night, after we arrived in Sacramento, we walked under the freeway to Old Sacramento. Old Sacramento is really just a tourist trap. Sure, it has the old buildings and wooden sidewalks, but I somehow doubt the tattoo parlor is original.

But on a Monday night, it was very quiet, so we walked over to the river, and then went to dinner at California Fats. Here are some pictures of the river and of a beautiful fountain at the restaurant. The fountain is three stories, and my pictures suck, but you can get an idea. It's flat etched rock that spans the three levels of the restaurant, with a piece at the bottom with the word Peace. There are palm trees on both sides. It really is gorgeous, and we got to sit right beside it.


for Stan's fans

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Since some of my readers seem to have a crush on Flat Stanley (and I'll admit, he is a cute little dude), I thought I'd post the rest of the pictures I have of Stan's visit to the Central Coast.

Here he is at the beach. He even tried surfing, but that picture went home with him. The waves were small that day, but perfect for Stan.

I also took him to Montana de Oro, a state park in Los Osos, where we walked along the cliffs and looked out at the Pacific Ocean.
Here Stan's checking out the small town of Harmony, population 14. Or something ridiculous like that...that really is the entire town behind him. Harmony is north of Morro Bay, on the way to Cambria, just before the turn off to Highway 46.

When we were in Cambria, Stan wanted to check out Nitwit's Ridge, a house built of junk collected by a guy called Nitwit. Mr. Nitwit is no longer alive, but his house is a California Historical Landmark. Really...go ahead and Google it, since I'm too lazy to provide you with links tonight.
Finally, I took Stan to see Bubblegum Alley, which both impresses and horrifies the tourists (not to mention the locals). This is an alleyway in San Luis Obispo where people stick their gum.

Here it is up close and more personal than you probably wanted. Yes, I've contributed a few pieces, too. My WOW group (Cal Poly Week of Welcome...orientation groups for college freshmen) stuck our group # up there 20 years ago. I seriously doubt it's visible anymore.

Please note the stick of gum in Stan's left hand. He wanted to leave his mark. I'm such an accomodating hostess, huh?


4 Things About Me

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tonight I am 5 hours from home, in Sacramento, CA. I'm here to attend the Child Abuse Prevention Summit, which is tomorrow. Since I'm tired and ready to curl up with my book, and because my friend Mackenzie sent me this via email today, I'm going to do the four things thing. You may have seen this before...it makes the email rounds periodically, and the meme rounds. So for all you Slow Trav bloggers, here's another subject for you to blog about!

Four jobs I have had in my life:

1. babysitter
2. waitress
3. substitute teacher
4. employment resource/specialist

Four places I have lived:
1. Maywood, CA
2. Dufur, OR
3. San Luis Obispo, CA
4. London, UK

Four places I have been:
1. Victoria, British Columbia
2. Oban, Scotland
3. Carcasonne, France
4. Athens, Greece

Four Favorite Foods:
1. mac 'n cheese
2. almost any cheesecake from Taco Temple
3. warm peach cobbler with ice cream
4. pasta, with a vegetable marinara sauce, and lots of parmesan cheese

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. home
2. Seattle, WA
3. London, UK
4. Belize


Introducing my home town

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I consider Morro Bay, California to be my home town. My family moved here when I was 8. We moved across the bay to Los Osos 3 years later, but since Los Osos and Morro Bay are both fairly small, they share a junior high and high school. Which means I graduated from Morro Bay High School (go Pirates). MBHS is one of the few high schools in the US that has beach access. How cool is that?

When Hamburger and I moved in together, we chose Morro Bay as our town. Since HB is a surfer, close proximity to the ocean was important. I didn't want to stay in Los Osos, and Cayucus and Cambria, being further north, were more expensive and a bit too far away from San Luis Obispo, respectively.

Morro Bay has had a population of 10,000 for what seems like forever. The sign said 10,000 when I was 8, and a few weeks ago I noticed it had been bumped up to about 10, 450. There's really not any room for growth. The ocean is to the west and there are hills to the east. North is hilly, then the even smaller town of Cayucus. And south is still farmland. We are exactly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, in San Luis Obispo County. Morro Bay is 12 miles from our county seat, San Luis Obispo, home of Cal Poly State University. The major employers in this neck of the woods are Cal Poly, Cuesta College (a community college), Atascadero State (Mental) Hospital, CMC (a major prison) and the county. Really, though, it's a lovely place to live. SLO is our biggest town, and it's not even 50,000 people.

Morro Bay is not so affectionately called the home of the newlywed and the nearly dead. Not very nice, but true. Especially that last part. There are a lot of retired folk in these parts. In fact, we're almost surrounded on our street. It also has out of control housing prices. When I was a kid, there were two elementary schools in town. Today, only one is open.

Morro Bay is old fishing village. At least that's what it tells the tourists. We get lots from the valley during the summer, when they come over here to the fog to escape the heat. It really is kind of cute, especially down on the Embarcadero, if you ignore all the touristy shops and restaurants. We have a big rock (Morro Rock). We also have a power plant with some big stacks. At 450 feet, they're kind of hard to miss.

Umm, yeah. A few years ago I hosted Flat Stanley. He was a great house guest (quiet, didn't eat much), and the pictures are from his tour of the town.

This is the view from our deck. Like I said, the stacks are hard to miss. But you get used to them. The plant is supposed to close. Or be downscaled with smaller stacks. There's a big debate about what to do. A few months ago there was an absolutely ridiculous opinion piece in the paper about how the stacks are historical and part of Morro Bay history and should be saved. Puh-lease. They're an eyesore, and they've only been around since the 1950s. They used to pump out some corrosive shit, and PG&E would have to pay for paint jobs for resident's cars.

Here Stan is in Los Osos, looking out over the bay and the Pacific Ocean. If you could see it, Morro Bay would be at the end of that sand spit.

Here's another view from our deck, this time looking southwest and ignoring the stacks and that big rock.

And this is the entrance to the bay. The rock is behind me. Once upon a time, there was no road to the rock. Once upon a time, you could also climb the rock. Not a good idea today. It's illegal, because there are peregrine falcons who call the top of the rock home. And they're a protected species.

So that's just an overview of my little town. Not a whole lot going on around here, but that's okay. Heck, I once lived in Dufur, OR. That makes Morro Bay look like the big city.


There Will Be Blood

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Today my mom and I went to see There Will Be Blood at the only place it's playing here on the Central Coast, the Palm Theater. My mom really wanted to see this movie, and I had agreed to go with her, despite the fact that she wasn't doing a very good job of selling it. She called me yesterday to warn me that she heard it was very long (2 1/2 hours) and more about the characters than the story.

The movie is based loosely on Oil!, a novel by Upton Sinclair. It's set in California (in fact, SLO County gets a brief mention) in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Daniel Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, an oilman who practices some shady dealings. At first, I didn't think his character was so bad. Yes, he wasn't entirely truthful, but he wasn't that bad, either. However, as the movie goes on, he makes more and more questionable decisions, and drinks more and more booze. By the end of the movie, he's pretty much constantly drunk, meaner than a snake, and not entirely ummm, grounded in reality. He has a fantastic ending line, "I'm finished." It's oh so true, in so many ways.

The other main character in the movie is Eli Sunday, played by Paul Dano, the kid who took a vow of silence in Little Miss Sunshine (which, by the way, is a movie I loved). He's the young preacher of a revival church in Little Boston, the town that Daniel buys and turns into his oil empire. At times, he gave me the creeps more than Daniel did.

This is one of those movies that is good, but that you hesistate to recommend to others. It's not for everyone. I would imagine it bored the socks of off some people (I swear there was not a single word of dialogue for the first 5 minutes of the movie...at one point, I remember thinking that it couldn't have been that hard to memorize lines for this movie...it's more about the look and attitudes of the characters). Have you seen it? If so, tell me what you think.

In a total 180, School of Rock is currently on tv as I'm typing this up. This would be the movie where Jack Black poses as a substitute teacher in a prep school and class pretty much turns into band camp. As a former substitute teacher, this movie both appalls me and cracks me up.


Three Junes

Friday, February 08, 2008

Three Junes
Julia Glass
353 pages

I had avoided this book for a long time. I didn't not want to read it, but I didn't much want to read it either, if that makes any sense. I had seen it in the bookstore plenty of times, but other than that, I hadn't paid much attention to it. The author's other book, The Whole World Over, is another story...I've come close to buying that one a few times.

So anyways...Lisa offered to send me this book, and I took her up on her generous offer, not really knowing what to expect. Which is probably a good thing...had I known how much sadness is in the book, I wouldn't have read it. Which isn't to say I didn't like it, because I did. It just made me cry in parts (which really, isn't all that hard for a book to do...some people cry over animals, I cry over books).

Three Junes is told in three parts (the title refers to the month, not three women named June). The first section, Collies, is about Paul. Paul's wife Maureen has just died, and he has decided to take a trip to Greece. While on vacation he reflects on his marriage and his three sons, Fenno, David and Dennis. This was my least favorite part of the book, as it flips back and forth between the present and the past. And the past jumps all over the place. I was starting to wonder about whether I could stick with it.

But after 57 pages, the book moves on to the second part, Upright. Upright is told from the viewpoint of Fenno, as he returns home to Scotland after the death of his father. Fenno lives in New York, is gay, and is somewhat of an introvert, prefering to remain a bit removed from life. He is totally different from his two brothers, and he is feeling very much not part of the family, especially as his brothers allude to family secrets he had no clue about. Fenno's section also looks back in time, as he recounts his life in America and his relationships with Mal and Tony. This section seemed more fluid...it was certainly easier for me to follow Fenno as he moved back and forth in time. It is also the longest section, and the heart of the book. And yes, the part that made me cry.

Part three, Boys, brings together Fenno, Tony and Fern, who was a young woman Paul met in Greece in section one. Like the first part of the book, this is a shorter section. It focuses on Fern, as she thinks back on all the men (boys, really) she has loved and tries to make a decision about her future. While Fern does make a decision, and you can see certain changes in Fenno, there is also a degree of openness in the ending, and some unanswered questions. At least for me.

Despite the slow start, I really enjoyed this book, especially the story of Fenno and Mal. I think I might have to read the author's other book, the one I've previously been able to resist.


But, enough about books

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Okay, even I can’t read ALL the time, so I’m guessing that you folks might voluntarily shut the covers from time to time as well… What else do you do with your leisure to pass the time? Walk the dog? Knit? Run marathons? Construct grandfather clocks? Collect eggshells?

Run marathons???? Hahahahahahahahahahahaha. Ha. I go through phases where I go for long walks on the weekends, but right now I'm not in one of those phases.
I spend way too much time on the computer. In the evening, if I'm not reading, I'm on the laptop. Sometimes, I'll watch an old episode of Law and Order: SVU, but that's pretty much the only tv show that catches my interest. Although, when it's football season, I will watch some of the games with HB.
I love to travel, but that takes time and money. But when I do travel, I like to take off for 2-4 weeks at a time. Last year it was Italy. The year before Seattle, Washington and Oahu. In 2005, I went to England and Oahu. This year it'll be Savannah, Georgia, and probably Oregon. Hamburger's family has a week-long reunion every year in Oregon that we usually try to attend. And occasionally we'll go out of town for the weekend, especially to Santa Barbara or Santa Cruz. If I have a trip coming up, I'll spend a lot of my time researching places to go and things to see.
I also love to shop...for clothes, books and shoes, not necessarily in that order. Although I can spend hours in a bookstore.
Hamburger and I usually go out to dinner once a week. But only to the local Mexican food restaurant. Sometimes we'll mix it up and go to the other local Mexican food restaurant. It's pretty much a joke how predictable we are. I also like to go out to lunch, and this is when I go to places that HB won't. This weekend I'm going out to Novo with a friend.
And occasionally, I'll go to the movies with my mom. Saturday, we're going to see There Will Be Blood.
If you want to join in the Booking Through Thursday fun, just hop on over to the blog and follow the instructions.


a bookish meme

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Thank god for memes. When you're trying to blog everyday, and it's the work week, these little things come in handy.

This one has been around for quite awhile, but it's currently making the rounds again. I saw it over at Care's blog. Thank you Care!

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

From Three Junes, by Julia Glass:

It took a few evenings for me to learn how to ride these conversations, how not to be left in the starting gate, my horse bolted out from under me.

Mal never mentioned his health, yet the reason for our artificial friendship was rarely far from my mind. One evening the following spring, I noticed a mark on his forearm, a purple amoeba, when he rolled up his sleeves to begin a risotto.

Darn...it starts to get good after that.

I'm not tagging anyone in particular, but for all you Slow Travelers who like to read and need a blogging subject...have at it! And tomorrow is Booking Through Thursday, so there's another topic for you, too.


Use this word in a sentence

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I'm currently reading Three Junes and I came across a new word, one I couldn't even figure out in context.

"Sailors in Greece," she says, probably go by different rules."
Jack nods. "All the rules are different. It's a turned-around place."
"Widdershins," says Fern. "Like in the fairy tales."

So off I went to dictionary.com, which had this to offer:

wid·der·shins (wĭd'ər-shĭnz')
adv. In a contrary or counterclockwise direction: "The coracle whirled round, clockwise, then widdershins" (Anthony Bailey).

And wikipedia, which has this to say:

Widdershins (sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) is a word which (usually) means counterclockwise. However, in certain circumstances it can be used to refer to a direction which is against the light, i.e. where you are unable to see your shadow. It is cognate with the German language widersinnig, i.e., "against" + "sense". The term "widdershins" was especially common in Lowland Scots, and was known in Scottish Gaelic as tuathal, which uses the same root as tuath meaning "north", the opposite of widdershins is deiseil or sunwise. In the southern hemisphere, the sun goes anti-clockwise, but in the northern hemisphere, it goes clockwise, which is where the term "sunwise" originates from. Because the sun played a highly important role in primitive religion, to go against it was considered very bad luck for sun-venerating traditions.

Huh. It's a very cool word, but not one I think I'll casually be dropping into conversation anytime soon.


Between, Georgia (and a few other things)

Monday, February 04, 2008

I'm on hiatus from Ines of My Soul. I will finish it, but for now I've moved on to other books...

Between, Georgia
Joshilyn Jackson
294 pages

I really enjoyed this book. It has quirky characters. I bought it because I enjoyed the author's previous book, gods in Alabama, which I could've sworn I read last year, even though I can't find any mention of it in my list of books read in 2007. This is why I'm trying so much harder to post about this year's reads...I'm trying to compensate for my crappy memory.

Between, Georgia is a tiny Southern town dominated by the Fretts and the Crabtrees, two very opposite families who share a child. Nonny was born to a Crabtree, but adopted and raised by Fretts. The Crabtrees are a stereotypical poor white trash clan. The Fretts present themselves as upstanding, Baptist citizens. Actually, it's Nonny's Aunt Bernese who does all the presenting for the Fretts. On the Crabtree side, Nonny is faced with her confrontational grandmother, Ona. When war breaks out between the two families, Nonny is called home to make peace. In order to do this, she is going to have to make sense of both sides of her heritage.

This makes the book sound so serious, but it isn't. Jackson has an engaging style, and draws clear pictures of all her characters. And there's lots more going on with Nonny and the other characters that I didn't mention. But that would ruin the book. And require me to think a bit more while I type this up, which I'm really not into at the moment (both the ruining and the thinking). So basically, good book. If you want to give a bit of thought to the whole nature/nurture debate, and get a few laughs thrown in at the same time, then this is your book.

In other news...

My Blogger spell check has stopped working. I don't know why it won't respond, but I'm a little perturbed. I really depend on it to help me fix definitely, which I always want to spell definately, and separately, because I have agonized over that word since I spelled it wrong in an essay title in high school and the teacher made some comment on my paper...and to this day I don't know if it is separate or seperate. I'm pretty sure it's the first, but without the spell check button I have to live in an agony of doubt. Damn Blogger.

I know I said I was going to post about Slow Bowl. I had a fantabulous time, but I forgot the camera. Basically, I got together with a bunch of fellow travellers. We ate, went wine tasting, and ate some more. It's known as Slow Bowl because it's a get together of Slow Travelers, and it happens during Super Bowl weekend. The food was incredible...there are some very talented cooks in this bunch! Others are posting wonderful things about the weekend, including pictures, so I'm going to let them do all the hard work and then I might just point you their way. Actually, I already have pointed you their way. Just go back to this post and click on some of the blogs (Kim and Jerry and Krista and Deborah and Palma were there, although not all of them have posted about it yet). Palma has, though. And Wendy took oodles and oodles of pictures, which she is posting here. And if you're wondering what Slow Travel is all about, go check out the website! There are lots of wonderful people there.

And a final woo-hoo goes out to Eli Manning and the NY Giants. I am so, so happy that they beat the no longer perfect Patriots.


memories of Paris

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Angie asked me if I had ever been to Paris, so I thought I would use her question as today's prompt.

I have been to Paris twice, but very briefly both times. The first time was in the summer of 1990, when I was a college student doing the typical "how many European cities can I see in seven weeks with a Eurail pass" trip. The second time was three years ago, when we did an overnight trip from London.

I remember very little from the first trip. I still have the pictures, but in a moment of sheer stupidity, I threw away the travel journal I kept. I was with my college roommate, Deanne, and another friend, Carol. Deanne and I traveled the whole summer together. Carol was with us for just the first week of trip, before she went on her own way. We climbed the stairs up the Eiffel Tower, we got caught in the rain outside Notre Dame, we saw the Mona Lisa and Rodin's Thinker, we visited Pere Lachaise and ate lunch on someone's grave and gaped at all the graffitti on and around Jim Morrison's grave, and we saw the colorful duct systems at the Pompidou Centre (it's funny the things a brain remembers). And we rode the Metro. I'm pretty sure I got lost in the Egyptian Antiquities section of the Louvre, but we were in an awful lot of museums that trip, so I could be confusing that with another place.

The second time I went to Paris was in 2005. My mom and I, along with my aunt and uncle, went to London for 3 weeks. I have part of this trip written up in a SlowTrav Trip Report...it's been sitting unfinished for a year. However, I did write a page about Paris, so I'm just going to copy and paste what I wrote:

I have a confession to make...the thought of Paris just doesn't knock my socks off. But, the rest of the gang really wanted to see Paris on this trip. So I made arrangements for an overnight trip. Definitely not slow travel, but I was calling the shots and I didn't want to spend anymore time than that away from London. The goal was to see the major sites and give everyone a feel for the city. When planning our trip, I went ahead and booked our Eurostar tickets, and I found a hotel recommended by Rick Steves on the Rue Cler, a pedestrain only street close to the Eiffel Tower.

We got up at 4:15am to catch the 6:30 Eurostar train to Paris. Luckily, the Eursotar terminal was at Waterloo, the station nearest to our flat. (Note: the Eurostar terminal will move to St. Pancras in 2007.) With the time difference, we arrived at Paris at 10:30. I slept for most of the trip through the Chunnel, so I didn't have to think about the fact that I was underneath the Channel. That thought kind of gives me the willies.

After our arrival at Gard du Nord, we spent way too much time looking for an ATM. I was starting to have visions of us camping in Gard du Nord for the next day and a half, until we finally discovered one lonely ATM hiding in a corner. Armed with euros, we were able to hop a cab for the Rue Cler, where I had booked two rooms at the Grand Hotel Leveque. We got lucky too, with the cab driver...he spoke English and pointed out a few sights along the way, such as the Paris Opera and Place de la Concorde. After we checked into the hotel, we headed out for lunch at Tribeca. I had wine and quatre fromage pizza. Italian food in Paris. But the food was good and we sat outside at a little table watching people stroll by.

After lunch we headed off to the Eiffel Tower, a 10 minute walk from the Rue Cler. After staring up at the tower and getting dizzy, we got on a Batobus to float up the Seine. This is one thing I had not done on my prior visit to Paris, and I gotta say, it's the way to go. We got off at Notre Dame and walked through the Cathedral, then wandered through the streets of Ile de la Cite. After an important stop for ice cream (apricot), we headed back to the boat, stopping to check out the risque postcards the booksellers along the Seine had for sale. I actually fell asleep on the boat on our way back. It was warm, I was sleepy... and I still can't believe I fell asleep.

For dinner, our hotel recommended Chez Pierrot, a local bar/restaurant. They even called over to the restaurant, I'm sure to warn them that the Americans were coming. ;-) We had an amazing dinner, one of the best meals yet. I had salad with goat cheese crostine, beef bourginonne and a praline gateau for dessert. And wine. The place was tiny, with one waitress/bartender, who was very friendly and helpful. The customers were a mix of tourists and locals. After dinner, we walked back to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up at night. Then it was back to the hotel, where I conked out until my uncle called our room at 9am to wake us up. We overslept in Paris!

For day two in Paris, I had planned to do one of those hop on hop off bus tours. After a quick coffee and bread breakfast, we walked back to the Eiffel Tower to catch Les Cars Rouges, an open air bus with taped commentary. With limited time, this is a great option for seeing the sights, and to orient yourself. I finally figured out which bank is the Left Bank! Taking pictures was a bit of a challenge, and I have lots of pictures of places I can't identify. We got off the bus at the Champs Elysees to walk around and have lunch. We went into Cartier...how could I resist, they open they door for you! After exchanging many "Bonjour Madames" we left for something we could afford...lunch at another sidewalk cafe. After buying a few trinkets and a baby gift at Petit Bateau, we hopped back on the bus to complete the loop. Back at the Rue Cler, we did some shopping for the picnic dinner we had planned for our train trip back to London. We bought cheese from the cheese shop, bread and an almond cake from the boulangerie and fruit from des Halles. Oh, and chocolate orange sticks and lavendar nougat from the chocolate dude (yes, yes, I know that's not the proper French term, but I don't remember the proper French term). It was so much fun walking from shop to shop to buy dinner.

We made it back to London by 9pm that night, without any hassle. Paris still doesn't do it for me, but I had a good time, and got a few good naps out of the trip, too. Of course, the others consider it one of the highlights of the trip...so it was worth it.

So there you have it...my two quick trips to Paris. At this time, it's not a city that I hear calling my name. Although, I'm sure if I ever spent a decent amount of time in Paris I might come to appreciate it more. And Angie pointed out there are lots of bookstores...


The gang's all here

Saturday, February 02, 2008

While I'm out wine tasting and eating and listening to travel plans and stories, I thought I would introduce you to my fellow bloggers in this Slow Trav February blogging adventure. It's only day 2, and I'm already succumbing to the temptation to just refer my reader (on a good day, I can add the s) to other people's blogs. But hey, I'm off wine tasting, so what do I care?

First, there's Angie, the Vagabond Artist. She's first, because this was her idea. Yay Angie!

Next up, I'd like to introduce Kim. She's one of the moderators on the Slow Travel forums, and a much healthier person than I am.

Jerry already blogs daily (but I won't hold that against him). I'll still give you a link to his blog in the hope that someday he'll invite me to dinner.

For a gorgeous picture and an introduction to Brocolli Romanesco, go check out Krista's blog.

Anne lives in Nova Scotia. Have I ever mentioned that I love Canadian authors? Oh wait, this entry isn't about books!

Girasoli talks about shave ice and gelato in her blog. And a beautiful blog it is, too. I love the flowers. And the colors.

Marta is another Slow Trav moderator. I'm jealous, because Marta lives near Seattle. Where there are some very cool bookstores. And lots of coffee shops, too. Oh, and the ferries... I think I miss Seattle.

Annie also signed up. She has some gorgeous pictures of Churches in Venice on her blog.

Palma of Palmabella's Passions is also on board. Palma loves Italy...I got to check out her fantastic scrapbooks at last year's Slow Bowl. And this year's Slow Bowl.

And it looks like Deborah has joined in, too. Maybe. Remember, no finger pointing if no blogging. Looks like Deborah is busy planning a trip to some very cool places.

And two final additions... Chiocciola and Leslie.

So there you have...the Slow Trav February bloggers. I think I got everyone. My apologies if I left anyone out.

Even if we don't blog everyday, we've at least discovered some fun new blogs to read (not to mention some travel inspiration!).


And they're off...

Friday, February 01, 2008

A few bloggers from the SlowTrav gang have pledged to blog every day for a month, and I decided to join the fun (ha!). Since all I seem to blog about lately is books, I figure this is the incentive I need to expand my bloggy horizons. However, life has been pretty low-key lately, so this could just end up being nothing more than me boring your pants off on a daily basis.

Some people are going for the 30 (or so) consecutive days option. Others (me included) are opting to blog for the whole month of February. As Krista pointed out, it's the shortest month (despite the fact that it's a leap year), somehow making the whole project sound just a wee bit less intimidating.

Adding to our challenge is the fact that this weekend is the second annual Slow Travel Slow Bowl get together. I'd tell you what that is, but then I'd have to kill you. Okay, not really, but I'm too lazy to write about it in great detail. In case you were wondering though, it doesn't involve the wearing of bowling shoes. I just checked back in the archives to see if I posted about this last year, but evidently I took the whole month of February off from Blogger (although I was still blogging over LiveJournal, something I no longer do). Anyhoosie...Slow Bowl 2008 could put a crimp in the posting for Saturday, since many of us will be out wine tasting in Paso Robles, followed by an evening of really tasty food. And fun conversation. Really, there's more to this than the wine and food. Really.

On the upside, I'll have something to post about on Sunday. Stay tuned.

Also, today is National Wear Red Day here in the US. Wear red to show your support for women's heart disease awareness. I have my red shoes on. Even though they don't really go with my green Packers sweatshirt that I'm wearing for the tailgate potluck we're having at work today in honor of Sunday's big game...lot's of football fans here at Social Services.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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