The Sunday Salon

cookies_groupHappy Sunday!  I hope everyone had a great week and will have time for reading-n-relaxation today.  I’m not sure if reading is part of the plan for me today but I’m going to try.  My oldest starts confirmation classes at church this morning, which means I’ll drag my lazy butt to church as well.  Then later I have to load up my van with dozens of cases of Girl Scout cookies from a warehouse, bring them home, sort them out by ‘who sold what’, and distribute them to the girls in my troop.  OH, and I have to catch a mouse (or at least figure out how to do that).

Once, years ago, when I lived in a rural area in Michigan, we had a mouse in our house.  I remember my mother putting out traps, then being horrified to hear one go off in the middle of the night, but in the morning-no mouse.  This went on for days until finally we actually caught the helpless creature rotten rodent in the pantry.  I remember my sister and I finding the little thing stuck in the trap the next morning and feeling so sad.  It was also fascinating to look at, in a horrifying way- so much so that we talked our mother into letting us put the mouse in a Mason jar and taking it to school for Show and Tell.  I was maybe 8 years old.

cordless-mouse1But now there is definitely a mouse in my kitchen (hopefully it’s a mouse, and not mice).  I have seen the, ahem, ‘evidence’.  I have heard scampering at night.  And I’m not 8 years old anymore.  I have no loving feelings toward vermin.  If anyone else has ever dealt with this, please tell me what to do- do I buy traps?  Poison?  Get a cat (our dopey golden retriever is no mouser)?  Or call an exterminator?  I’m freaked out by it and want the dirty thing gone NOW.

Ok, on to reading.  This week I finished Sag Harbor for Barnes and Noble’s First Look online book club .  I haven’t written my review yet, but the writing was superb- although nothing much happens.  It will be a tricky review to write.  Sag Harbor’s author, Colson Whitehead, is active on the book club message boards at B&N, and I love having access to the author in that way.  I was able to ask him questions while reading the book, and he answered them immediately- so cool!  

I finished Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay this week too.  I’m still reeling from the story- it was powerful.  My book club will discuss it next Sunday night.  We had hoped to speak with the author by speaker phone, but she lives in Paris and because of the time difference, it isn’t going to work out.  She is, however, going to answer our questions via email, so I’ll post the questions and answers here with my review sometime after the 8th.  She’s also my newest Facebook friend!  

51svuaqeq5l_sl500_aa240_Today I hope to start One True Theory of Love by Laura Fitzgerald, one of my favorite authors.  It looks good and I can’t wait to start it.  My book club spoke to her when we discussed Veil of Roses a couple years back, and she was so warm and funny.  For anyone who enjoyed Veil of Roses, I have exciting news.. Laura is in the process of writing the sequel!  Yes!  We’ll find out what happens to Tami and Ike!  Laura will be guest posting here soon to share what it was like having her own neighborhood book club discuss her new book.  

Well I hope everyone has a great week!  I’m off on a mouse hunt..  all suggestions, advice, sympathy, comments, questions about the cleanliness of my house (it’s clean, I swear!), etc. are welcome and appreciated.

The Sunday Salon

img_11561Ahhh, Sunday, the one day all week we don’t have to race around to be anywhere.  Unless, of course, the church bully comes downstairs and asks, “Are we going to church?” in his accusatory “You’re all heathens!” tone, and if I say I don’t feel like it, he’ll be mad at me all morning.  

It’s weird how my husband has turned into this church guy.  He wasn’t like that the first decade we were together.  The only time I ever saw him inside a church was for a wedding or a funeral.  But now that we are PARENTS, and we have to set an EXAMPLE, he is the church bully.  If I had my way, we’d go maybe once a month.  If he had his way, we’d go twice a week.  So we end up going about 3 Sundays out of 4, and the other Sunday, he’s mad at me.  I always tell him that no one is preventing him from going by himself!

img_1101Anyway!  My daughter turned 11 this week, and we caved and got her a cell phone, so she is no longer the last girl on earth without one, and she’s pretty darn happy about it.  I’m sure the novelty will wear off eventually.  I actually like the convenience of being able to get ahold of her when she’s at a friend’s house or she’s walking home from school.  She had a laser tag party with her friends last weekend, and then we celebrated on her actual birthday by having dinner at a place of her choosing (within reason, of course!).  She picked Olive Garden, because she really loves the fact that they bring basket after basket of steaming hot breadsticks.  “They just keep on coming, Mom!”  Yes they do, dear (oink, oink).  

We watched history being made Tuesday night as Barack Obama addressed a throng of supporters with his Yes, We Can acceptance speech.  My parents were here and my mother, a staunch Republican, said to no one in particular, “Well, I hope you people are happy!”  Thanks, Mom, we are!  My husband and I are Republicans who didn’t care for McCain at all, and thought he made a ridiculous choice in Palin, and who got very fed up with Dubyah, so we jumped ship.  If the Republicans could have given us a decent candidate, things might have been different.

Yesterday my daughters’ Girl Scout troops placed flags on the graves of veterans at Forest Lawn.  Many thanks to all the Veterans out there.  We are grateful and proud of you.

image003This week I read Kandide and the Secret of the Mists aloud to my kids for my book club meeting this afternoon.  Yes, it’s a children’s book for an ADULT book club, but our hostess is friends with the author so she will be attending our meeting.  The kids are coming too- should be interesting.  They’ve been very curious about what we do at book club (drink lots of wine and laugh and talk about books- so mysterious!) so now they’ll get to see for themselves.

I also read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, my book club pick for December, and have no idea how I’m going to review it without giving it away.  Maybe I’ll just put up a Publishers Weekly blurb and then insist that everyone go read it!  It was freaky and powerful.  I’ll have to read more Ishiguro (any suggestions?  The Remains of the Day?)  I read about 80 pages of The Zookeeper’s Wife, sent by WW Norton books for review.  They sent me two copies, so I’ll be giving one away soon.  However I don’t know when I’ll finish it.  It reads like a textbook and I was having a hard time with it, so I put it aside temporarily and started The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by TIffany Baker.  This one’s an ARC sent by Hachette that will be out in January.  It’s a debut novel, which is hard to believe because it is so well written.  So far I love it and I’m flying through it.  It has really well developed, quirky characters.  Also this week I finished scheduling for this virtual book tour and began scheduling for this one.  I’m looking for tour hosts, so let me know if it sounds interesting!

How was your week?  What are you reading?

We Remember

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts around the flagpole on Patriot Day 2008.

The Last Girl on Earth Without a Cell Phone

My preteen daughter, 10 years old, going into 6th grade this September, frequently claims to be the last girl on earth without a cell phone.  This comment is generally met by a slightly sarcastic remark from me, such as  “You poor deprived child” or “That’s because it’s my goal in life to make you miserable” or “I’m sure you’re not the ONLY girl without a cell phone”.  Sometimes I even roll my eyes (and then I wonder where she gets that annoying little habit!)  She’s been bugging me for a couple of years to get her a phone, but lately this has intensified.  She claims I am overprotective.  Sometimes she declares I am the meanest mom ever.   But I do have my reasons.

She rarely uses the house phone- if she’s not calling people from home, who’s she going to call from her cell phone?  We have a rule- she can get a cell phone when she enters junior high in a year, or if we feel she needs one before then (if I’m dropping her off for long stretches at one of her activities- not the case right now) and in that case the phone would be for MY convenience and peace of mind- so that I can reach her when she’s away from me.  Which right now is hardly ever.  And texting is out.

My daughter’s two closest friends have phones, but I thought that was more the exception rather than the rule, and one of those girls has already had a “situation” with texting, where she was the victim of some bullying.  I feel my daughter is too young and immature to handle something like that.

So wasn’t I surprised, then, to find that in our Girl Scout troop, she is one of only 2 girls who do not have cell phones!  And of the 8 who do, 7 have unlimited texting (and the other one hates her phone for not having it and doesn’t understand why her mother won’t allow it!)  One girl is actually on her second phone already.  All this talk just gave my kid more fuel for the fire.

Am I really that far behind the times?  Do I cave to “peer pressure” from the girl scout group of parents and get my kid a phone?  Does a not-quite-11 year old girl really need a phone, and if so, WHY?

I’d love to hear from other moms.  Am I overprotective?  Mean?  Are you a mean mom, too?

Herding Cats and Girl Scouts

I’m taking my Girl Scout troop on an overnight adventure to the beach today.  Keeping track of them all will only be slightly easier than herding cats!

“Anyone can herd cattle.  Holding together ten thousand half-wild shorthairs, that’s another thing altogether..”

The Sunday Salon

Wow, it’s been hot here in Southern California.  Our normal June Gloom is nowhere to be found.  

My daughter is going to summer camp tomorrow for 9 days.  Her bags are packed and she’s ready to go. It’s a Girl Scout camp 100 miles away from home, and she will be in the horse unit this year; grooming, feeding, and riding horses, and mucking out stalls (blech!), but she loves it all.  She’s most excited about trail riding, which she hasn’t done too much of in the past.  The camp had an Open House yesterday, so we all went up there to see it, even though the girls went to camp last year.  They wanted to show us what cabins they were in and tell us different things they did.  Plus this is my daughter’s first year in the horse area, so we wanted to see that.  I stuck this book into her duffle bag just in case she has any time to read.  It’s about a brave 10 year old girl, and I want her to be brave at camp!  I think she’ll like it.

I had lots of reading time on the way to the Open House and back.  I just finished Karen Harrington’s Janeology Friday (the review will be written soon!), and literally minutes after turning the last page, a package from Hyperion arrived on my doorstep with two new ARCs, House and Home by Kathleen McCleary and Sweetsmoke by David Fuller.  Even though I have a huge TBR pile, on our way out the door to the camp I grabbed House and Home.  There was some grumbling from The Red Tent and A Thousand Splendid Suns, who have been in the TBR stack for months, but House and Home had an appealing cover (the ARC has a completely different cover than the one shown here-blue with a box of wooden matches- and a picture of a house on the box) and the blurb on the back sounded really interesting.  And it was!  I read it straight through in one day.  It was terrific.  The author is a reporter and writer for HGTV, Good Housekeeping, and The New York Times. This is her first novel, and I was floored not only by the excellent writing, but how many parallels there were to my own life.  House and Home is set to be released July 1st, and I’ll write that review soon, too.  This is one I’ll be telling my friends about.

I started another book today while my kids swam in my mom’s pool.  For once it’s not an ARC or a book for review, but one that I’ve had sitting around awhile (since Christmas, actually).  Has anyone read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott?  It is subtitled “Some instructions on writing and life”.  Well, who doesn’t need that??  I’ve only made it through the introduction and the first two chapters, but I’m hooked.  Funny, smart, and unpredictable is the way I’d describe it so far.  It’s one I don’t want to fly through, but rather savor and think about.  The TBR stack (“pick me!  pick me!”) will just have to hush for awhile.

With one daughter at camp and the other one a little lonely and clingy, it will be an interesting week.  My younger one will miss her sister, even though she insists that she won’t, so I plan to keep her busy.  She’ll be attending Vacation Bible School in the mornings and swim lessons at the high school with her “friend who’s a boy” in the afternoons.  The less time she has to complain about boredom, the better!

Oh, just a reminder about my June giveaway:  Leave a comment HERE by June 30th to win a copy of Mrs. Lieutenant.

What are you reading this week?

Weekend Update: From Hamster Heaven to a Book Club Meeting

Our weekend started on a sad note.  My daughter’s beloved hamster, Bear, died in her hands Friday morning.  At 7am, when K. checked on Bear, she was lethargic and struggling to breathe.  K. picked her up, and she raised her little head, put it back down, closed her eyes and she was gone.  My daughter sobbed, “Mom, do something!  Call 911!” so I called the animal hospital, but the vet said it would cost $80. just for him to leave his home and unlock the office door before regular business hours.  Treatment, of course, would cost extra.  After hanging up, I assured K. the animal hospital would do everything they could.  I was pretty sure Bear was already dead, so I asked my husband, within earshot of the kids, to rush Bear to the animal hospital, but privately I asked him to drive around the block a couple times so that I could get the kids off to school.  After school, she came flying at me, asking, “Is Bear ok?”  I broke the news that poor Bear had gone to Hamster Heaven.  K. was heartbroken but matter of fact.  After we held Bear’s funeral, K. said, “She’s in a better place, right, Mom?” quickly followed by, “When can we go to the pet store to get another one?”  We went up to Petco right after the ceremony and brought home a hamster that seems very sweet and looks like a smaller younger version of Bear.  Bear, Jr.  Hopefully this one will live longer than 3 months.

On Saturday, my daughter L. and I hit Borders (she needed the next book in the Five Ancestors series, and I needed a paperback for a book exchange for my book club’s 1st anniversary), then the hospital to see my stepdad.  He had a quadruple bypass a couple weeks ago, came home, then had to go back to the hospital last week and have a second surgery for a massive infection.  He’s facing one more surgery and weeks in the hospital, but he’s got a great attitude and we believe he’s going to be ok.

After a quick visit with Grandpa, L. and I headed to Starbucks for a double chocolate chip frappucino (her) and a mocha (me), then off to our local Farmer’s Market for strawberries, honey and apples.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the food we eat lately, and where it comes from.. trying to buy food grown locally and in season as often as possible, and trying to cook more and buy less processed food.  It’s so easy and convenient to buy pre-made products, or out of season fruit shipped in from Guatemala or Brazil, but I’m at least thinking about things and making small changes.
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On Saturday evening our book club had it’s first field trip, stepping out t see The Other Boleyn Girlin the theater.  When a book is so amazing, it’s hard to be objective about the movie, but I think they did a pretty good job with it.  It was quite different than the book, however.  Of course with a 661 page book, a movie would need to be 4 hours long or more to get it all in, so I guess they did the best they could given the time constraints.  I wasn’t sure how Natalie Portman, who in past roles has seemed so wholesome, would pull off the fiery character of Anne Boleyn, but she brought a lot of passion and excitement to the role.  Scarlett Johannsen made a great Mary Boleyn, and Eric Bana was a HOT Henry VIII.  The costumes were nicely done and not over-the-top.  We enjoyed it, but it was hard not to pick the film apart afterward (THAT didn’t happen in the book, THIS was glossed over, etc.)

Sunday was an unseasonably warm day, near 90 degrees.  My flabby, lily-white legs and I are so not ready for shorts.  Maybe I’ll look into one of those spray-on tans before my legs make their annual appearance in the neighborhood.  Wouldn’t want to blind anybody with their brilliant whiteness.

On Sunday afternoon, my Girl Scout troop had their monthly meeting. One of the parents in the troop agreed to have the meeting at her house and teach the girls about skin care.  They made masks of yogurt and oatmeal and gave each other facials.  They had a great time, and now my daughter wants to give EVERYONE a facial.. me, her dad, her sister, the dog.  She also is scrutinizing my every move in front of the bathroom mirror.  “Mom, Mrs. R. says you should NEVER put your fingers into a jar of lotion.”  “Mom, Mrs. R. says you should rub lotion onto your face in a circular motion.  That’s not a circular motion, Mom!”  UGH, quit watching me, kid!!

Sunday night was Book Club time.  I look forward to these meetings so much.  Something about no kids, no men, good food, intelligent conversation, and a glass of wine makes me incredibly happy. We started with food (potluck) and a game, because I am truly a book club geek.  I listed the first sentence of all 12 books we’ve read together as a club and asked everyone to match the sentence to the correct book.  I thought it would be easy, but only two people got them all right.  I’ve won several online book giveaways recently, which made awesome prizes for my geeky little game.  Then we proceeded to discuss The Time Traveler’s Wife in great detail.  There was so much to say (three hours worth!)  Everyone enjoyed the book and found the writing style unique and fascinating.  I would highly recommend it for a book club discussion.

In April our book club will read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and will vote on books for our summer reading.  My suggestions are:  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.  If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to know if you think they’d be good for a group discussion.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!   

Pinewood Derby Girls

On Saturday, my daughter’s troop raced their Pinewood Derby cars on the boy scout’s track, after the boys finished their races. These are the cars that came in 1st, 2nd (my daughter), and 3rd (left to right). There was some controversy, however. My daughter got a little advice from her grandpa, who was (is?) an Eagle Scout. He suggested she put graphite on the axel, but he told her to ask the boy scouts if that was allowed. She asked, and they said it was ok, so she did it. But then later it was suggested by one of the girl scout dads that maybe that wasn’t fair, so her 2nd place finish is a little tainted by that. In hindsight, maybe she should have shared her knowledge (and graphite) with the other girls. In any case, everyone had a good time. I’d never been to a Pinewood Derby and had no idea what a big deal it is to the boy scouts. After it was over, I asked the Scoutmaster if he thought the boys would want to race the girls next year. He said, “Oh, I don’t know about that.” Do you think he’s afraid of a little competition?

Weekend Update: From Girl Scout Cookies to Laser Tag

Happy MLK Day!  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend.

72 hours with nothing special planned turned out to be very nice.  On Friday we made tacos for dinner and then the girls and I curled up on my bed to watch Little Women (the version with Susan Sarandon as Marmee and Winona Ryder as Jo).  L. read the book last year, in 4th grade, and loved it.  She was so excited to learn that a movie had been made from the book.  The girls laughed at my tears when Beth died, but I saw them wiping their eyes, too.

K.’s best friend turned 9 on Saturday, and she was invited to go with her friend’s family and another friend to the American Girl Store in Los Angeles for their Broadway-style show and tea.  The kids brought their dolls and had decided in advance to all wear hats and boots.  They looked so darn cute, as you can see from this teeny tiny picture. For some reason, since I got my new iMac, I can’t get the pictures to be the right size on the blog. They are either tiny or super huge, nothing in between.

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L. and I went to the book store after dropping off her sister.  I needed to pick up The Jane Austen Book Club for my book club, and L. needed the next couple of books in the series she is reading (The Five Ancestors series by Jeff Stone). We then headed over to Starbucks where the two of us sipped chocolate yumminess and read our books.  I must say my little girl looked very grown up hanging out in Starbucks with her nose in a book. My mind fast-forwarded 10 years or so and I could see my girl as a young adult.  I wish there was a way to slow down the growing up process.  I’m not ready for the teen years.

Saturday was the official kick-off for Girl Scout cookie sales in our area.  It’s funny how Girl Scout cookies just sell themselves.  People have their favorites and know what they want.  The kids don’t have to do much work because looking cute and being polite is all it takes to make a sale.  L., 10 years old and in her second year of Junior Girl Scouts, sold 100 boxes of cookies while K. was away at her friend’s party.  Then on Sunday K., 9 years old and a third year Brownie Girl Scout, worked just as hard but only sold a mere 28 boxes.  The neighborhood had been canvassed by competitors, so we didn’t have as much luck on day 2.

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L. had homework to finish up on Sunday, which she did without a fuss or complaint, woo hoo. Homework over the weekend sucks, and I do feel bad for her, but after last weekend’s white-out incident, I was preparing myself for another scene.  I guess if you take a girl’s iPod, tv privileges, computer use, phone use, and Nintendo DS away for a week, she thinks twice about freaking out over a little homework.

On Sunday night I caught my first Jane Austen movie ever on PBS’s Masterpiece Theater, Northanger Abbey, and I LOVED IT!  I want to see them all!   The acting was superb and the story was funny and sweet.  I missed Persuasion last week, but my mom Tivo’d it, so I’m going to watch that soon in an effort to prepare for my book club meeting in February.  The Jane Austen Book Club movie comes out on dvd February 5th, and I plan to rent it before our meeting on the 10th.

Today we got a slow start, sleeping in just because we could and then hanging out in pajamas until 10am.  Dad and the girls made waffles and sausage for breakfast while I read the paper.  The weather was cold and rainy.  We brainstormed ideas on how to spend the afternoon, and I hit on one that brought screams and squeals of delight… laser tag!  L. played once before, at a friend’s birthday party, and has been wanting to go back ever since.  So it was decided.

Laser tag is part hide and seek, part tag, part “GI Joe”, and all fun!  There were 20 players, about evenly divided between adults/extra large children and little kids.  We split into two teams, big people vs. little people, donned our day-glo vests and phaser guns, and cut loose in the dark, stalking our victims, hiding from our enemies, and claiming their headquarters as our own.   It was a total blast, and something we’ll definitely do again!  When we finished, everyone was starving, so we voted on where to go for dinner (Chili’s).

How did you spend your MLK weekend?        

Weekend Update – From Chef Hats to Santa’s Lap



What a weekend! It was nonstop action around here.

On Friday, the Girl Scout troop descended on my house for a holiday party and sleepover. We turned my kitchen into an Italian Trattoria, complete with opera music (Russell Watson “The Voice” ) and red and white checked tablecloths. The girls donned homemade chef hats, then proceeded to whip up a batch of brownies, a green salad, garlic bread, and huge amounts of spaghetti. After pouring the sparkling cider, we all sat down to an awesome meal. I was amazed at how well these 10 year olds knew their way around the kitchen. They prepared everything with minimal supervision.

After cleaning up, the kids got into their pajamas and had their Secret Sister gift exchange. Later they watched Ratatouille and ate popcorn while the leaders (Sara and I) pumped up the air mattresses. The girls finally conked out around midnight. After a quick breakfast of cinnamon rolls and oj, the girl scouts were all picked up by 9am Saturday morning.

It took a while, but I am finally in a holiday mood. On Saturday, hubby, the girls and I hit the mall. I didn’t have a very detailed list, so my shopping was sort of haphazard. The big event was the visit to Santa. My kids are believers, pretty much (this may be the last year), and the Santa at the mall is very good. He picks up on the littlest things. For instance, he overhears me say their names, and then he uses them as if he knows them personally. My 8 yr old said, “Mom, I don’t think he’s a helper. I think he’s the real one. He knows my name!” Even my jaded 10 year old was impressed. After the obligatory photo, we did a little more shopping, and then left the mall in search of the perfect Christmas tree.

After a sunny afternoon, it started to rain lightly as we were leaving the mall. “Rain..just what you want as you traipse around looking for a tree,” my Grinchy mind thought. My plan of taking a picture at the tree lot to use on Christmas cards was looking like a soggy bust. I grumbled my displeasure to my husband as we drove to the lot near the mall, but then we turned a corner to see an enormous, brilliant, perfectly formed rainbow. Was this God’s way of telling me to put a sock in it??

It was cold (by California standards–56 degrees) and still raining lightly, so we quickly walked the lot. I wanted a 6-7 foot Noble, and they had scads of them, all beautiful. In past years, we’ve gone to 2, sometimes 3, lots before finding the right tree. This year, it couldn’t have been easier. We found a gorgeous tree, the rain stopped, we asked the man helping us to snap a picture, and we were in and out in 15 minutes.

Once we got home, hubby and I had a heated discussion about where to put the tree. Good sense won out (mine). We got the tree into the stand and put it in the room, but decided to leave the decorating for Sunday. That settled, we made dinner then snuggled up and watched The Grinch (not the classic cartoon, but the mildly creepy Jim Carey version. The kids liked it, but I read my book instead).

On Sunday, we played all the Christmas cds, everything from Elvis to Bing to Diana Krall, while decorating the tree. This is definitely the most beautiful tree we’ve ever had. It’s got a great shape, with lots of spaces for ornaments. The girls got bored halfway through, so they decided to play Santa and reindeer. L. dressed like Santa, K. dressed like Rudolph, and they recruited our neighbor to be an extra (lesser) reindeer. They gathered up some of their old toys that they no longer play with, put them in a sack, and off they went in the wagon taking toys to the 3 yr. old twins down the street. It was very cute.

Once the tree was done, I took the tree lot picture in to have cards made at the drugstore. 30 minutes later, cards in hand, I left to do some grocery shopping (so easy when I’m by myself). After shopping and dinner, I addressed 60 cards by hand while hubby and the kids set up the train around the tree.  It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Please consider sending a Holiday card or a Thank You card to a recovering soldier. It’s important for them to know they are remembered and appreciated. My Girl Scout troop sent a stack of them. Here is the address:

Recovering American Soldier
C/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 George Ave. NW
Washington DC 20307-5001