Sunday Salon

This is the last Sunday of summer vacation. My brats kids go back to school on Tuesday, and we are all excited (mostly me!) This summer felt about two weeks too long- you know it’s time to get back to the routine when everyone is fighting and whining and just generally not getting along. Sadly we have reached that point. My kids and I have been riding an emotional rollercoaster with huge peaks and terrifying valleys and all I can do is hang on and hope I don’t puke. I’ll be doing the happy dance in the school parking lot after dropping them off in 48 hours.

We crammed as much fun into this last week of vacation as we could stand. We visited Universal Studios Hollywood for the first time (The Simpsons virtual reality ride alone is worth the price of admission!). We made one last run to the water park before our passes expire. We had 10 giggly Girl Scouts camp out in a tent in the backyard. We went swimming at Grandma’s and cooked marshmallows over a fire. It’s been a fun overload. Too much fun. A fun frenzy. I feel a little dizzy and sick. You know how you can feel sick from eating too much candy? It’s like that.

School shopping took up a lot of our time this week, too. After checking out the class lists yesterday (which brought tears to my 9 year olds eyes because she and her best friend were separated) we went shopping for school supplies. School clothes and shoes and haircuts and backpacks and lunchboxes have wreaked havoc on an already tight budget, and the supplies busted it entirely. It made me crazy to pay full price for school supplies knowing full well it would all be 60% off in a week or two. But what are you gonna do? Schools have no money and kids need all this stuff.

I did do a little reading this week, but not much. I’m still reading Sweetsmoke (click HERE to enter my giveaway)- the book is great and it’s not the book’s fault that it’s taking me so long to read it. It’s just my vida loca and my forgetfulness- I would have had a couple extra hours with it if I hadn’t forgotten to grab it on our way out the door to Universal. Luckily for me I had my new book club selection in the trunk, so I started reading that. 3 Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson isn’t exactly a page-turner, but it’s good in it’s way. You should read it- it’s important, this book, but not enthralling. Like healthy food vs. junk food. Or like One a Day multiple vitamins. It’s good for you.

After 115 pages, I can also report that 3 Cups of Tea has one of the ickiest scenes I’ve come across in recent memory. After Greg witnesses a yak take a “huge, steaming” dump in the snow, a 10 year old girl races over and starts making yak dung patties- yes, that’s right, while it’s still oozing and steaming, she’s got her little hands in there, and pat, pat, pat, she’s making patties. Why? Because when it dries, it becomes precious fuel for their homes. Say it with me- Ewwwwwww. I kept thinking, how will she wash her hands? They have no running water, no hand sanitizers or anti bacterial soap. They’d have to melt snow over a (yak dung) fire, I suppose, so that she could wash up. And what do you want to bet she’s not sick a day in her life? Do you know how many times a day I say “Wash your hands”? My kids still get sick 3 or 4 times a year! Maybe I should send them to the back yard to make Golden Retriever dung patties.

We will be attending a wedding this afternoon. Our neighbor’s lovely 23 year old daughter is marrying her high school sweetheart. We’ve been neighbors since she was 5 years old so we’ve watched her grow up. It’s almost like one of my own kids getting married. She babysat our children from the time she was 14 until she went away to college and they adore her too. I’ve already stuffed my purse with tissues because there will be tears.

Labor Day Monday will be a day of relaxing and resting and getting ready for school. And then on Tuesday, yippee! The 1st day of school! Woo Hoo! Partaaaaaay!

Tuesday is also the beginning of our first TLC Book Tours!! We will have Kathyrn Maughan and Did I Expect Angels on tour (click here to see where she will be) along with Kathleen McCleary and House and Home (click here). We’ve also signed several new tours for October and November. Check it out!

What are you up to this weekend? And what are you reading?

Review: House and Home by Kathleen McCleary

What makes a house a home?  Is it the picket fence and the flowering trees?  The gleaming floors?  The paint, the curtains, the book shelves?  The pencil marks in the doorway where you measured your children year after year?

In House and Home by Kathleen McCleary, Ellen Flannagan loves her house.  She and her husband, the sexy, irresponsible Sam, have been married 17 years and settled in Portland after a few years of moving around.  They are raising their daughters in a beautiful yellow Cape Cod that Ellen has lovingly decorated and furnished.  Her best friend lives next door and their daughters are best friends too.  

Sam is an inventor and Ellen owns a shop in Portland where she sells coffee and antique furniture.  The couple take out a 2nd mortgage on the house to fund Sam’s latest invention in a string of unsuccessful ventures, requiring them to dip into their savings and even the girls’ college fund to pay the bills, but soon they get behind and Ellen determines that the only practical solution is for them to sell the house.  She and Sam separate, not because they don’t love each other, but because Ellen realizes she “can’t do this anymore”.  Her daughters are devastated about the break up, but Ellen isn’t allowing herself to think about the impending divorce very much as she is so focused on the loss of the house, projecting all her fears about her marriage onto that.  

The sale to the somewhat obnoxious Jordan Boyce and her husband Jeffrey is finalized, and Ellen regrets it almost immediately.  Ellen rents her house back from the new owners for a month while waiting to move into her new place, so she is living in her house but it is no longer hers.  Her love of the house crosses over to obsession and desperation when she decides that if she can’t live in the house, no one should. 

As I mentioned in this post, there are a lot of parallels between this book and my life.  I identified with the main character Ellen on a number of levels.  Like Ellen, I’m in my 40s and from Southern Michigan originally, and moved around a bit before landing on the west coast.  I’ve been married many years and have two young girls.  Also like Ellen, I’m married to a charming and irresponsible entreprenuer who has put our financial security at risk on more than one occasion with one of his big ideas.  I too love my house.  This is the house I brought my babies home to.  This is the house we are raising them in.  This is also the place that nurtured me as I licked my wounds after losing a much-wanted baby boy in my 5th month of pregnancy, another parallel to Ellen. 

It’s hard to imagine another family here, in my house, hanging their Christmas stockings over OUR fireplace, carving their Thanksgiving turkeys in OUR kitchen, or parking their cars in OUR garage.  I know which stair creaks and how to avoid it if I want to quietly sneak up the stairs.  I know which closet door sticks, and which one routinely falls off the track if you open it too quickly. I love the kitchen, I love the windows, oh!  And I also love my wonderful neighbors.  If my husband and I divorced and we were forced to sell I would be upset, but this book made me think about what makes a house a home.   This is my home, but what would it be without the chaos, warmth and love of my family?  Empty.  Just a house.  This book is about Ellen finally figuring that out.

I would highly recommend House and Home, which is due out July 1st.  Book clubs will find much to discuss.  I received this ARC through the publisher, Hyperion.  

Kathleen McCleary is a reporter and writer for HGTV.  This is her debut novel.  You can visit her website HERE.

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?