The Sunday Salon: The Weekend in Books

We’re having another scorching hot weekend here in Southern California, but the heat (hovering around 90) wasn’t enough to keep me away from the 13th Annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA.  The festival is a huge special event that brings writers, publishers, book sellers and readers together.  We visited dozens of booths and it was all very exciting for me.  Authors are like Rock Stars in my world.  Not so much for my kids, though, who did a lot of complaining about the heat while spooning frozen lemonade into their mouths and soaking their feet in the big fountain on the quad.  I should have left the whiners at home!

We talked to Lori Nelson, author of a delightful book for girls called Hillary’s Big Business Adventure , about a 5th grader from Baltimore who has all kinds of entrepreneurial ideas.  This was right up my kids’ alley as they are Lemonade Stand Queens and are always dreaming up new ways to make cash.  My 5th grader actually has brochures and business cards made up for a business idea she has.  The book was written for kids a bit younger than mine, though, so I didn’t buy it, but 4-8 year olds would love it.  The illustrations are outstanding.

We also had a celebrity sighting.  Marilu Henner was at the Borders booth signing her new book Total Health Makeover.  She looked cute in a spring dress and sun hat and laughed when my husband called out, “We loved you on The Apprentice!”

Of the many panels and workshops at the festival there were three I’d hoped to attend, but we got there just in time for the first only to discover it was way on the other side of the sprawling campus.  The other 2 were happening at 2:30 and 4, but by 1pm we were melting in the heat and couldn’t take any more.  We all agreed it was time to leave.

I was excited to find a signed first edition of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin in my mailbox when I got home, sent to me by the author himself!  I look forward to starting it today.  Josh is going to do a guest post for me in the next few days about book clubs, and I’ll be giving away a copy of his book, so keep an eye out for that.  Matrimony is also the May selection for the online book club at Every Day I Write The Book Blog.  You might be able to score a copy of it over there if you hurry!  They are (were?) giving them away to those who want to participate in the discussion.

Last night we had a neighborhood BBQ to attend.  Our friends across the street recently hired an au pair from Brazil to care for their 3 year old twins for the next year. A new Brazilian au pair is a great excuse to party, I always say! 

By the time we came home at 8:30 I was so pooped from being out in the heat all day that I didn’t feel like reading (or maybe it was the massive amounts of bbq’d meat and the 3 beers I consumed that made me feel couch potato-ish).  Luckily Juno arrived in my mailbox from Netflix this weekend, so I popped it into the dvd player, not expecting too much, but I loved it! I laughed, I cried, I marveled at Ellen Page’s talent, her range of emotions, her character’s extensive and colorful vocabulary.  It is smart, funny, touching.  If you haven’t seen it, I insist you go check it out right now!  Or later.  Whatever works.  But do it!  You won’t regret it.

Ok, back to books.  I just gobbled up The Next Thing On My List by Jill Smolinski for my book club.  It’s a breezy whirlwind of a book, quick and light and fun, but also thought provoking.  June Parker gives an acquaintance, Marissa, a ride home one night after a Weight Watchers meeting.  They get in a crash on the freeway and Marissa dies.  Later June comes across a list in Marissa’s purse of 20 things she wanted to do before she turned 25.  There are large and small items on the list, ranging from “kiss a stranger” to “change someone’s life”.  The book is about June’s mission to finish the list for Marissa.  My book club is meeting on May 4th to discuss TNTOML, and the author has graciously agreed to join us by speaker phone.  I’ve asked everyone to bring their own list of 5 things they’d like to do before their next big birthday, but now I’m having trouble coming up with 5 things for my own list!   I keep reminding myself that they don’t need to be profound, just something new, but it’s not easy.  What would be on your list?    

Have a beautiful Sunday!


Booking Through Thursday: Springing

Springing April 24, 2008

Filed under: WordPress — –Deb @ 1:37 am 

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 What I want to know, is:

Do your reading habits change in the Spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don’t have a garden? More light fiction than during the Winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack?

Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the Spring as you do the rest of the year?


The change of seasons in Southern California is pretty subtle.  Winter brings some cold rainy days, but it’s not weeks of cold weather the way it is in other parts of the world.  It is a few random wet days interspersed with our normal mild and sunny “postcard” weather.  Spring is more of the same.  We have flowers blooming all year round.  I know… you’re jealous!  Talk to me during fire season in late summer/early fall, when you’re enjoying a lovely Indian Summer, picking out your pumpkins and wearing a light sweater, and we’re dealing with triple digit temps, devil winds and smoke and ash.  I’ll be jealous then!

Back to the question.  My reading habits don’t vary much with the season, except maybe in summer. Usually I’ll throw a magazine or something very light into the beach bag when I take the kids to the water park or the pool, since I know I’ll be distracted every few minutes by requests for drinks, ice cream, money, sunscreen, hot dogs, towels, etc.  Last year I was reading The Kite Runner in July at the water park and my 9 year old dumped her Icee all over it.  Luckily I’d just finished it, but I had to take it to book club that weekend all swollen and blue!  The next time we went I brought People magazine with me just in case there was another Icee mishap.

Do you vary your reading habits depending on the season?

Sunday Salon

Ahhhhh it’s Sunday, and today in Southern California we are expecting record breaking high temperatures for the 2nd day in a row (93 degrees).  It feels like summer.  The kids are in their bathing suits and I’m trying to talk them into washing my car after breakfast.  Later they have a cosmic bowling party with their school, and after that I’m off to my book club meeting to discuss Eat, Pray, Love.  I’ll be leading the discussion tonight, and I know we’ve got people on both sides of the love/hate fence, so I’m a little anxious about it.  It’s funny.. I’ve done a couple blog posts about E,P,L but I have no desire to review it, I guess because I have such mixed emotions about it.  

Last night my neighbor Kierstin set up an outdoor movie theater in her backyard and invited us for a viewing of Star Wars with her kids.  My kids had never seen it so they were really excited.  My husband took them in their pjs, loaded down with chairs, popcorn, blankets, and drinks.  This gave me 2 solid hours by myself to read!! What a gift! (Thanks, Kierstin!)  Having just finished Loose Girl, I was between books, so I spent about half an hour paging through last month’s Oprah magazine, because I just had to know if “my medicine was making me fat” (it’s not-whew!) and what “Oprah’s New Passion” was (a new tv show-whoopee).  I used to subscribe to several mags, but found I wasn’t reading them anymore, so I let the subscriptions lapse.  I must have a lifetime subscription to “O” because it just keeps coming.  

Finally I hesitantly picked up a book I started a couple weeks ago, The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood.  I’d put it aside the first time because it made me cry really early on (page 19!)  It’s about how a woman manages her grief the year after her only daughter dies from meningitis at age 5.  I’d been thinking about the story ever since I put it down, and felt compelled to go back to it.  I’m really glad I did.  It’s not the kind of book that’s sappy and manipulative, trying to get the big emotional reaction.  It’s quiet and gentle and moving.  The mom is going through the motions, just existing, putting one foot in front of the other (barely).  Her mother encourages her to knit as a way to take her mind off her grief.  She meets some people through a knitting store who have their own troubles they are working through.  She joins a knitting circle and starts to care about these people.  I don’t want to give too much away, but it seems to be a tale of how friendship helps her get her life back after her devastating loss.  I flew through the first 100 pages last night and am looking forward to sitting down with this book again later today.

What are you reading this weekend?  Is it something you’d recommend to others? Please leave a note and let me know!


Brand New Year, Same Old Me

I love empty calendars, blank journals, lined paper waiting to be filled with scribbles, notes, appointments, and lists. All the possibilities of a fresh start give me hope for change.

I Like this quote “When you start using senses you’ve neglected, your reward is to see the world with completely fresh eyes”

Barbara Sher (American business owner, career counselor, author)

Fresh eyes, that’s what I want. I want to use those neglected senses. Go more places, have more experiences. I have allowed my life to become too routine, too scheduled. I need to allow for more spontaneity, more fun (even if I have to schedule it!), less “I have to..” and more “I want to..”

So, one resolution that I’m writing down in my new blank journal for the new year is to be more fun. Not just have more fun, but to BE more fun. I want to step out of myself and be silly and free spirited, unpredictable and a whole lot less boring.

As I sit here in my bathrobe, writing on my blog and watching the Rose Parade on tv, I idly say to my husband, “I’ve never seen the floats up close, in all the years I’ve lived in Southern California.” and, in typical Aquarius fashion, he says, “Let’s go! We can be up and back before the game starts.”  My first thought is, “Wait!  That’s not part of the plan.  I was going to take down the tree today and get the house cleaned up.”  Hmmm. I’ve just written about how I want to have more fun.. BE more fun.. and yet I don’t feel like jumping in the shower and getting ready to go to have a fun experience, because it’s not part of “the plan”. Apparently this spontaneous, BE FUN stuff is going to require an effort on my part, and may even require me to throw “the plan” out the window.

Ok, so much for the plan.  Here we go.  I’m going to start being more fun RIGHT NOW. I’ll write again later about our experiences and about my other resolutions (being fun isn’t the only one). So goodbye, from the FUN GIRL (or, more accurately, the girl who is trying to be FUN) and Happy New Year! I’m off to smell the roses!

Weekend Update: Spreading Some Cheer


Living in California, it isn’t always easy to get into the holiday spirit. Some days we really have to work at it. Today I put on a cheery red tshirt and flip flops to finish up the last of my shopping. I know what you’re thinking.. flip flops in December? Well, it was 78 degrees outside. “Oh the weather outside is frightful..” somewhere else!

My kids asked if they could do a little caroling Friday night with a few of their friends. My mental knee-jerk reaction was, “No! I don’t have time! I have too much to do! I have to wrap, bake, clean, etc. etc.” But, instead, I surprised myself (and them) and said, “What a great idea! And then we’ll have hot chocolate when we come home!” The excited chatter and smiles I got back were well worth the inconvenience, and my neighbors were very pleasantly surprised to have carollers come to their doors. Even though the kids flubbed the words to Rudolph and Jingle Bells more than once, they were awfully cute (awful and cute?) and got several little treats, including gingerbread men and Hershey’s kisses. One neighbor offered singing lessons, which we politely declined 🙂

(The picture above is courtesy of the hysterical blog Loldogs ‘n’ Cute Puppy Pictures – I Has A Hotdog)

Beastmomma did a fun Pay it Forward post this past week that inspired me to do something nice for some underappreciated people at my daughters’ school (the janitor, the speech teacher, etc.). It was fun sharing with them and spreading a little cheer, but it occurred to me that I really didn’t do the Pay it Forward thing correctly. I never saw that movie, but I guess when you do something nice for someone else, you’re supposed to instruct them to “pay it forward” and continue the chain of kindness by doing something nice for another person. I just passed out homemade peppermint bark, with no instructions but to enjoy it and have a Happy Holiday. So I did it wrong.

To remedy that mistake, I’d like to Pay it Forward by sending the first 3 commenters to this post a little surprise in the mail, just like Beastmomma did (I was the lucky 3rd commenter on her post), and I ask those 3 to please pay it forward to someone else. Let’s keep spreading that holiday cheer.

I borrowed an idea from a fellow blogger, who I would happily credit if only I could remember who it was.. anyway, I thought it was such a nice idea. I filled a big red basket with all the Christmas books we’ve accumulated over the years and set it by the tree. Each night this week, my girls and I have read a couple of books from the basket and enjoyed a snack while admiring the tree. It’s such a simple way to slow down and enjoy the season with my kids. One of our favorite holiday books is How Murray Saved Christmas by Mike Reiss. It’s very witty, it rhymes, and the illustrations are great. We get some major laughs from this book year after year. 51xe4snfv6l_bo2204203200_pisitb-dp-500-arrowtopright45-64_ou01_aa240_sh20_.jpg

It’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos and craziness of the holidays. My kids have long wishlists but I know what they really want most is more time with me. I also know that will not always be the case. My baby turned 9 this week, and my other baby is 10. I’m making an effort this year to really appreciate my children and their sweetness, because before long they will be (gasp) teenagers.

So tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and I get to play Santa. Sadly, it might be the last time, since my kids are questioning and wondering and probably not really believing. They’re growing up fast. I’ll miss their innocence.

Merry Christmas, fellow Santas. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Booking Through Thursday-Volume

Volume November 8, 2007

Filed under: WordPress — –Deb @ 12:19 pm
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Would you say that you read about the same amount now as when you were younger? More? Less?

That’s a great question from Deb at Booking Through Thursday.

When I was a kid (or, as my children like to say, in the “olden days”), I prefered reading to almost any other activity. I grew up in Michigan, where the winters were long and cold, and where it rained every few days in spring and summer. We didn’t have all the options kids have today when forced to stay inside.

Cartoons were for Saturday mornings only, not every day of the week. There was no cable, Dish Network or satellite, no Disney Channel, Nick Jr. or Cartoon Network, no internet, DS games, Wii Systems, DVDs or DVRs, no cell phones, or iPods. My kids would say, “How boring!” But I don’t remember being bored. If we wanted to amuse ourselves, we played board games, or made cookies, or built forts out of blankets and couch cushions, or put clothes on the dog. We made up games and played creatively. And we read books. Lots of books. We made weekly trips to the library and brought home armloads of books.

I read constantly until high school. With homework and a social life, I had less time to read. I stayed out late and got up early. I was on the phone for hours. I went away to college and didn’t have time to read for pleasure. Years went by. I started working, dating, going out with friends, and reading less and less.

As a young adult, I was on a cross country flight to visit my in-laws in Pennsylvania for the first time. I picked up a paperback copy of “The Firm” by John Grisham to read on the plane. That 5 hour flight went by soooo fast, and just like that, I was a reader again.

My daughters are a year apart. When they were babies, I barely had time to brush my teeth, let alone read. So for a few years when they were really small, the only reading I did was month-old magazines in the pediatrician’s waiting room.

It helps that my girls are a little older now and more self-sufficient. I read during my daughters’ soccer practices, band practice, tennis lessons. I read in the car while I wait for them to get out of school. I rarely watch tv in the evening, so instead I read at night after the kids are in bed.

Last year, I started a book club in an effort to combine my love of reading with my desire for a social life. Since the club began, I’ve been reading like a fiend, plus as a bonus I get out of the house once a month without my kids (or husband) and drink wine and talk books with friends. What could be better?

Weekend Update-From Sleepovers to Contortionists

My 3rd grader K. is sitting here writing a “Weekend Update” as part of her homework, so I thought I’d write my own update to share with you.

On Friday, K. had a friend sleepover. My older daughter, L., was kinda pouty and jealous about it, but got over it quickly when K. and her friend asked her to join them with her sleeping bag in the family room. There was lots of giggling going on until about 11pm, when I insisted they quiet down. Mean old mom.

On Saturday, we had cinnamon rolls for breakfast (tradition whenever a friend sleeps over). Soccer was cancelled for our entire region due to poor air quality from the fires. That gave us a “nothing day”, which was so nice.. no running around, no place to be. I was able to read my book for a couple of hours uninterrupted while the kids played with their friends down the street. I had to force myself to put it down to make dinner (“Mom, we’re starving, STOP READING!”) We grilled chicken, and then later we made popcorn and watched America’s Funniest Home Videos.

On Sunday, we put on our lederhosen and dirndls (not really!) and visited Old World in Huntington Beach for Oktoberfest. What a blast! K. wanted to know why all the ladies boobs were popping out of their dresses. I told her that was the German style (“Gross!” was her comment). The girls each brought a friend along, so they ran off playing games, checking in every 20 minutes or so for more money. I was feeling a bit like an ATM machine. But I was glad they were occupied because hubby and I were able to have a beer and talk and laugh. The kids enjoyed watching dachshund races (dang those little suckers can run!) and got all sweaty doing the chicken dance to the German Oompah Band. There was an amazing (and disturbing) show put on by twin contortionists who are over 70 years old and are said to have once performed for Hitler when they were children. It was something to see.


How was your weekend?

Nature is a Mother

Southern California is on fire. The numbers are staggering. 17 major fires, more than a thousand homes and businesses destroyed, thousands of acres burned, a quarter of a million people evacuated. Property loss will surely be in the billions. It is so massive that the smoke can even be seen on satellite images from space.

The firefighters are superhuman superheroes. They are risking their lives wearing 35 lb. suits and carrying up to 100 lbs. of gear in extreme heat, doing very physical work under the worst possible conditions on no sleep. Their resources are spread so thin because there are so many areas burning. There’s always an idiot who refuses to evacuate and puts the firefighters in an even more precarious situation trying to save his stupid ass.

Arson is suspected in some of the fires. One firefighter has lost his life, so the arsonist is now a murderer. It’s a very fluid situation and I can’t keep my eyes of off CNN.

98 degrees today, 0% humidity. Devil winds. A recipe for disaster. Hopefully cooler temperatures and higher humidity tomorrow will cut the firefighters some slack. Mother Nature needs to be a little more motherly.

Our part of Orange County is not ablaze, but it smells like a campfire. Our eyes sting. Our lungs burn. Our homes, cars, and driveways are covered in dust, dirt, ash and soot. The air quality is so poor that soccer practice has been cancelled all week. My kids suffer from allergies, so the wind and filthy air are making them miserable. I’m hoping the school will keep them inside at recess.

But our minor discomforts and complaints are nothing compared to those who are fighting these fires, and those who have been displaced and have lost their homes. My heart goes out to them.

A few things to think about at times like these: Are you adequately insured? Does your family have a disaster plan? Do you know what you would grab if you had just minutes to evacuate? Would you be able to tell the insurance company all the contents of your house? Are your important papers, insurance info., etc., easily accessible? It’s good to be prepared for anything that Mother Nature dishes out.

Now I feel bad about hanging up on Tina the other day.  But that was before the fires.