The Sunday Salon: January 17, 2010

Good morning!  I hope it’s bright and sunny where you are!

In  Southern California we are bracing ourselves for a MAJOR WINTER STORM!  Take cover!  There may be some rain!  I might not be laughing about this a week from now, but when the weather forecasters cry wolf a few times, and the major storm ends up being a few sprinkles.. well, let’s say I’m a bit unimpressed with the warnings.  We’ll see.  Right now it’s sunny, the sky is a brilliant blue, and the only clouds I see are high and fluffy.  But they are moving pretty fast, so.. hmmm.

Today was supposed to be our parent/child book club meeting day, hosted by me, but my oldest has strep throat.  I almost made her go to school on Friday (another one who’s always crying wolf) but she seemed a little warm and listless and had a miserable attitude so I let her stay home.  Later I saw that her throat was inflamed so we went to the doctor.. he said it was viral and to go home and give her Motrin.  But then last night she spiked a high fever and her throat was bright red, so we ended up in the ER for several hours, and she got a shot of penicillin.  Now my husband has a sore throat.  Good times!

I’ve spent some time this morning going through our pictures for Sheri from A Novel Menagerie’s Beautiful Baby pet photo contest.  We have so many that it’s hard to decide what to submit.  She’s having consolation prizes for most humorous and best personality so I’m thinking of entering one of these, rather than the standard “beauty” shot.. tell me what you think:

Where is everybody? Who wants to play with me?

What's THIS? A new pet in the house?

Well, she smells pretty good. Maybe we can be friends.

As for reading, I’m about 2/3rds of the way through both U is for Undertow and American Rust.  I’m usually a one book at a time woman, but I’d left “U” in my car one night and didn’t feel like going out to get it, so I started American Rust and haven’t put it down since. Wish I had a team of people to raise my children, make my meals, do my laundry, clean my house, and shop for me so I could just read read read in my free time.  Wait..I need another me!  I need a wife!! Ha Ha.

What are you reading this weekend?  I hope you all have a wonderful day and a great week!  Thanks for stopping by Books On The Brain.

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Happy Birthday, Jazzy!

Our golden retriever Jasmine is 5 years old today, but here she is at 5 weeks old, on the day we met her. Happy birthday to our sweet puppy!

Queen of the Road Giveaway!

 “Trailer for sale or rent, rooms to let fifty cents..”  Why is this song stuck in my head, you ask?? Well, because I’m reading “Queen of the Road” by Doreen Orion, a romantic travel memoir of when the author and her outdoorsy husband decided to chuck it all and spend a year traveling the country in a converted bus.  Yes, a YEAR in a bus, with 2 cats, a poodle, and lots of shoes! I’ve barely started the book, but so far it’s fun and funny- I love her sense of humor. Here’s more about it from Broadway Books:

Summary: A pampered Long Island princess hits the road in a converted bus with her wilderness-loving husband, travels the country for one year, and brings it all hilariously to life in this offbeat and romantic memoir.

Doreen and Tim are married psychiatrists with a twist: She’s a self-proclaimed Long Island princess, grouchy couch potato, and shoe addict. He’s an affable, though driven, outdoorsman. When Tim suggests “chucking it all” to travel cross-country in a converted bus, Doreen asks, “Why can’t you be like a normal husband in a midlife crisis and have an affair or buy a Corvette?” But she soon shocks them both, agreeing to set forth with their sixty-pound dog, two querulous cats—and no agenda—in a 340-square-foot bus.

Queen of the Road is Doreen’s offbeat and romantic tale about refusing to settle; about choosing the unconventional road with all the misadventures it brings (fire, flood, armed robbery, and finding themselves in a nudist RV park, to name just a few). The marvelous places they visit and delightful people they encounter have a life-changing effect on all the travelers, as Doreen grows to appreciate the simple life, Tim mellows, and even the pets pull together. Best of all, readers get to go along for the ride through forty-seven states in this often hilarious and always entertaining memoir, in which a boisterous marriage of polar opposites becomes stronger than ever. — Broadway Books

Want to win your own copy of Queen of the Road?  Just visit the Queen of the Road website and click on the “share a thought” link on the roadsign on the left.  Once you are there, leave a comment by Monday, July 28th, about anything!  You can talk about your own travel experiences, your love of shoes, a trip you took with your spouse, your pets, how much you enjoy my blog (hee hee), the author’s website, or ANYTHING AT ALL!  It’s entirely up to you. Just leave a comment along with your email address, and mention that you got there via Books on the Brain.  Ms. Orion will be selecting a winner and will forward the info. to me so that I can send out the book.  This contest is open to US and Canadian residents only (sorry!)

This book is everywhere right now.  It was the featured book club selection in June at Borders and is the Adventure at Every Turn book club July selection at Celestial Seasonings!  In fact, Celestial Seasonings is running an awesome Iced Tea Drink recipe contest inspired by this book, which starts each chapter with a cocktail recipe.  The prizes are pretty spectacular, so I suggest you check it out.

Doreen Orion’s website can be found HERE.  She is more than happy to visit with book clubs via speaker phone.  Here’s a reading guide to help with discussions.

And you can check out reviews of Queen of the Road HERE and HERE.  Good luck!

We’ll Return to Book Discussion After This Message..

This is so stinkin’ cute!  ALMOST as cute as THIS!

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!   

Teddy’s Big Adventure

On Saturday there was a frantic search going on for Teddy, L.’s hamster. He got out of his cage overnight, and no one is sure how that happened. I was kind of numb knowing there was a rodent loose in my house. The girls consulted their Hamster Care book (their bible) and it said, do not panic, remain calm. Ha! It said put out food and it will probably come back. I was quite sure he was hiding in all the junk in her room. She had piles of stuff all over and all she could do was sit on the floor “remaining calm”. I told her to go through all her junk and stuffed animals, etc. under her chair and under her bed, but she prefered to not panic and remain calm, waiting with food in the middle of the floor. Grrrrrrrr.

K. searched everywhere, L. was paralyzed, and I was just pissed off. Dad got involved at that point and started pulling things out, vacuuming up hamster bedding and dust, moving things around, looking in the closet, etc. while L. just curled up in a ball and cried. On the plus side, her room has never been so clean.

We finally gave up and went about our day (it was Bob’s birthday and he didn’t want to spend all day searching for Teddy). We figured he was sleeping in some little nook somewhere, burrowed into L.’s stuff, and would reappear at night, nocturnal creature that he is. At least that’s what I told her. I really thought we’d smell something in a few days and would follow our noses to a dead hamster.

Later on, after we got home from the birthday dinner, L. went up to go to bed, when she heard a scampering sound. She used superhuman strength to move her bed away from the wall by herself (the kid only weighs 58 lbs,). It reminded me of stories you hear about people who get a rush of adrenaline and are able to lift a car to save a life. Anyway, there was Teddy. He ran right to her. She is one happy girl, but judging from the way Teddy was furiously biting at the bars of his cage last night, I suspect he’d rather be loose in the house, having a big adventure.

Bear Goes to the Vet

My girls each got pet hamsters for their birthdays this year.  K. named hers Bear Grylls after her favorite tv personality on the Discovery Channel.  Our Bear is a cute little female hamster with short hair and brown/black coloring resembling a chipmunk (not to be confused with the other Bear Grylls, who is a cute, decidedly male, human survival expert) .  She’s sweet and likes to be held and played with, and she’s never bitten any of us (yet).   I’m not into rodents myself, but my kids sure love their hamsters, and this one is pretty cute, as hamsters go.

This past weekend, we had a houseful of kids here on Saturday for an end of the season soccer party.  Bear was held and passed around among a dozen giggly and not-too-gentle 8-10 year old girls.  On Saturday night, we noticed Bear had a little blood on her paw.  I don’t know if she was handled too much or what, but her paw looked pretty banged up.  “Take her to the vet, Mom!” K. cried, consulting her Hamster Care handbook.  “She’s bleeding!”  We got her tiny paw washed off, and Bear appeared to have a small cut. We went online and googled “hamster bloody paw” to see what we could find out.  One suggestion was to check the animal’s cage for sharp edges.  We did that, and the cage does have a couple sharp places.  Another site suggested taking the hamster to the vet immediately or risk amputation or death.  That scared the crap out of my little girl, not to mention my wallet!

We decided to keep an eye on it for a few days before doing anything, but each day it looked worse- more red and swollen.  Bear started to favor her other front paw and wouldn’t run in her wheel, so today I called the vet, hoping to hear something like, “Don’t worry about it.  Just put a little Neosporin on it and it will be ok.”  Instead they said to bring Bear in immediately.

The paw was infected, requiring antibiotics.  $105. later ($45 for the office visit, $30 for an injection, and $30 for meds), we were sent on our way.   Seems like a lot for an $8. hamster, doesn’t it?  Not to be coldhearted, but at what point do you draw the line at how much you will spend on the care and keeping of a pet, especially one whose life expectancy is only about 2 years?  If the heart of my 9 year old daughter wasn’t involved, I’m not sure I would have spent the money.

This is not Bear, but it sort of looks like her:opal-2_2.jpg