Tag Archives: books

For the Love of Libraries

I fell in love with reading when my mother handed me one of her favorite books, “Henry Huggins” by Beverly Cleary. My first chapter book, it was a red hardback and I was in second grade. I quickly got acquainted with Ramona, Beezus and Ribsy, then on to other series. Sometimes I would sit at my desk during indoor recess and while children around me played, I’d be deep into “The Boxcar Children”. I devoured so many books each week that I remember being slightly embarrassed at borrowing six chapter books at a time (the limit) at the public library, especially when the librarian raised an eyebrow.

If I were to close my eyes and imagine a happy place during my childhood, one place would be the public library’s Children’s Room, smelling sweetly of books, softly carpeted, quiet except for the bang-click of books being checked out.

Fast forward 25+ years when I was a new mom with a tiny baby in a Baby Bjorn, lonely because I didn’t know other young mothers in town. During the week when my husband and neighbors and friends were at work, I filled the time with walking the baby into our small center of town, eager for any adult conversation and human contact.

One day I walked into the branch library, only open a few days a week during random hours, not a great selection of books, but a cute little haven. Babies are great conversation starters and slowly but surely, I became friendly with the librarians. Then I discovered I could “order” books through the library network, much like Amazon, but free. Each week, I find a reason to get to the branch library, even if there is nothing waiting for me at the desk. It’s a ritual to see my friends and the volunteers and just browse around. This winter, while prepping for another Nor’easter, I ran to the grocery store, drug store and to the library. Who wants to be stuck in a storm without something good to read?

Now my baby that was in a Baby Bjorn is in second grade and Harry Potter has ignited her love of reading. My just-turned-five-years-old son is proud to now have a library card of his own, even though he has a tendency to (*cringing*) borrow DVDs and no books.

While we are on vacation at the beach this summer, I am sure to find a reason to pop into the local library and find a story hour for a rainy day. Just another home away from home.

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Cleaving- Julie Powell: Julia Child was Right

I loved Julie Powell’s first book “Julie and Julia” (which we all know by now thanks to the Meryl Streep and Amy Adams film) is about a woman who spends a year cooking from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child and blogging about it.   What made Julie so irresistible to me was that she tried so hard.   I loved her imperfections: her not so impressive job, her crappy apartment, her salty language, her penchant for TV and strong drinks.   And I loved her husband, Eric and how much he cheered her on and believed in her and picked her up when she was falling apart.

Her follow up book: “Cleaving” centers around Julie’s apprenticeship in butchery.  Much like Julie and Julia, we get the detailed and not so pleasant facts about carving up an animal: lots of organ meat talk, way too much information for me on the parts of a side of beef and the slaughter of animals.  So I sort of skimmed through these parts.  (Some of it was fascinating, and I admired her dedication to the craft).  And I did find myself craving a steak so I can’t say it turned me Vegan.

In between the play by play of carving up a pig, the reader learns about Julie’s obsession with D. (D. should be for Dirtbag), who she cheats on Eric with for 2+ years and then mourns for him like a lovesick teenager.  Eric knows about it and doesn’t leave her.  Julie doesn’t leave Eric.

Instead, she leaves for the Argentina, the Ukraine and Tanzania, (a little “Eat Pray Love”-ish but not nearly as deep).   Just when I was about to give up on finishing the book, it was kind of fun to learn about the Ukraine and the people of Tanzania.

I know Julia Child thought Julie’s language was a little too salty and she declined to meet her in person.  I remember thinking that Julia was a little old fashioned.  Now I think I am with Julia.


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Mourning Author of Sally the Dog Books: Stephen Huneck

Have you ever read the Sally books by the artist Stephen Huneck?  We received “Sally Goes to the Beach” when E. was born.   In the book, Sally the Black Labrador goes to an island for the weekend with her owner.  The woodblock prints are simple (yet detailed) and colorful, the books are oversized  and just so pretty to look at.  Sally’s point of view (taking a cab with a ferry full of Yellow Labs, taking a cab, the beach smelling like catfood) is funny to the kids and kind of an inside joke to parents.   (Ward/Mike/Cliff and I always giggled that Sally and her friends sounded like a crew heading to Fire Island for some serious club hopping.)

I was so saddened to hear of Huneck’s suicide in the Boston Globe today.  Apparently Huneck had to let some of his staff go, and he felt he really let them and his family down.   He shot himself outside his therapist’s office.  It pains me to think of an amazing artist who made so many dog lovers and book lovers and art lovers happy, to have been in so much pain.  I’m sure it is something he carried through his life, as many artists do.
I’m not much of a dog lover, but I really loved his artwork and his stories.  Huneck touched me and my family.  Think about reading one of his books or buying one of his books to honor his memory.   I will read “Sally Goes to the Beach” to E. and J. tonight. 

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Park Avenue Potluck: How the Upper East Side Ladies Entertain

Park Avenue Potluck by Florence Fabricant

Am perusing my library copy of “Park Avenue Potluck: Recipes from New York’s Savviest Hostesses”, which I first learned about from Jesse Kornbluth’s Head Butler newsletter (he was reviewing the Hostesses’ new book:  “Park Avenue Potluck Celebrations”).

I thought I knew my New York socialites (and may be a bit rusty), but there are few recognizable boldfaced names in the book (disappointing) but the recipes and the stories behind the recipes are not disappointing at all.

I may have to buy this book for my collection, just to refer to some of the dinner party hosting tips and some of the recipes I that intrigued me like Avocadoes Argentina, Blueberry Cake (which doesn’t have eggs; my son has an egg allergy) and Baked Spinach Risotto.

It’s kind of hard to imagine Mrs. Chanel (Coco Kopelman) stuffing sole or Muffie Potter Aston slaving over pounds of chicken breast to make her famous Chicken with Mustard and Lemon for a party.

It’s easier to imagine Karen May’s Society Salmon Mold: “I hold many, many luncheons for members of The Society* and I always serve a mold or terrine of some kind.”  (Yeah, me too, Karen.   A party wouldn’t be a party without a terrine!)  I also like a quote from a Dayssi Olarte De Kanavos who likes the Ritz-Carlton South Beach take on the Cobb Salad and enjoys it “when I am at the pool at the hotel and having lunch with my children”.  (This lunch date with the kids thing sounds kind of few and far between).

These Park Avenue hostesses are sharing their recipes for a good cause:  *portions of the proceeds from the sale of the book will provide funding for The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s patient care.

I’ll toast some Paris Iced Tea to that.

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I’m So Happy For You (But Why Can’t It Be Me?)

Photo Credit:  Amazon

Photo Credit: Amazon

I just finished Lucinda Rosenfeld’s new book “I’m So Happy For You” which is a dark, funny, fictional account of two female friends, Wendy and Daphne. Wendy is jealous of a lot of the things Daphne has always had: beauty, her pick of men and never really having to worry about money. It’s sort of annoying how jealous Wendy is and I wished that she could make her own way and not be so fixated on what everyone else is doing. One overarching envy in the book was something that I could relate to, though: other women’s luck with fertility.

I reflect daily, sometimes several times a day on how grateful and lucky I am to have 2 beautiful, healthy, sweet children, a boy and a girl. When people see our “perfect” family of four, they don’t see what my husband and I have endured for the past 7 years: six miscarriages. One before E. (11 weeks), 2 very early losses before J., then 3 more (10 weeks, 10 weeks and 7 weeks). I have been pregnant 8 times since 2002.

After my first miscarriage, I had to listen to my still pregnant office-mate gush about her baby-to-be, which was torture at the time, a time I was trying to hold myself together and could be easily set off. I went to a bris and was struck by all of the babies and burst into tears without warning.

Thankfully, I gave birth to my healthy, full-term babies, which made these occasions much easier. But I have always tried to be sensitive to women around me who are obviously or not so obviously dealing with infertility.

The baby shower scene in “I’m So Happy For You” was poignant to me as I remembered what it felt like to be at a baby shower when I had just miscarried or was longing for a second (and now, a third child). When Wendy leaves the room to collect herself, I feel for her. When her moment alone leads to a brash gesture, I am embarrassed for her, but I also wish the smug mommies could be a little more empathetic.

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