Monday, March 29, 2010

Easter Bunny Roundup: Gifts and Purchases, Old and New

I especially like the bunny who is rolling on the grass laughing!

These are from Valerie Parr Hill on QVC

I found these at the Dollar Store -- $7.00 total.

These were gifts from my sweet daughters, when they were very young.

My daughter gave me this rabbit.  A cupcake holder just fits for him to be filled with jellybeans. My husband keeps eating them as fast as I fill the rabbit, as you can see.

I bought this milk glass rabbit and the little tray for my mother when I was about eleven years old.  That would have been about 1957.  Mother died in 1981, so this is precious to me.

I saw this rabbit in a jewelry store window about 15 years ago and went in and asked if I could buy it. Of course, they said yes!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Recent Books I've Enjoyed: The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt and Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos

I am an avid reader and enjoy recommending books to my friends and family, but have reservations about writing "critical" book reviews which suggest a more scholarly approach to reading and judging books.  I'm now reading primarily for pleasure, and I can tell within ten or fifteen pages whether or not a book will fulfill that requirement.  If it doesn't, I'll move on to the next book in my reading pile or my reserve list.  (Nancy Pearl, author of Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason, recommends the "rule of fifty", whereby you give a book about fifty pages to decide whether or not to continue if your age is fifty or under; if you're over fifty, you should subtract your age from 100 for the number of pages you should read.  That means that I'm short-changing my books; I should be reading about 37 pages.  Pearl is a former librarian and can probably understand my reasoning; if I have ten or more books waiting for me, ten pages to "audition" a book is plenty!)

I do understand that pleasure reading for me may be entirely different from that of my family or my friends (even good friends, whose reading tastes may entirely escape me).  With that in mind, I'll share some things that lead me to the books I read.  Again, I am doing this so that anyone who reads my book recommendations will remember that they are based on my own personal preferences.
  • I enjoy books that are "character driven" as opposed to "plot driven".  This is not to say that I don't think a good plot is important, but I can read about an interesting character for quite a while, but the best plot with cardboard characters won't keep my interest.  Also, really interesting characters seem to draw action to them, and their reactions to whatever life throws at them are the basis for great reading.
  • I enjoy books about relationships (again, it's that "character" preference), especially between friends and family members.
  • I love books that cover several generations of a family or long friendships, especially between women.  
  • I enjoy "multilayered" books, where different subplots are germinating beneath the surface.
  • I love long books that I can enjoy over several days or weeks.  They keep me going on other, less enjoyable tasks; I can always look forward to going back to my book.
  • I enjoy books that teach me about history or geography or culture through their characters and settings.
  • I love southern literature and authors, but not to the exclusion of other great books and authors.
  • I love to read books by Oklahoma authors.  It's my homestate and boasts of dozens of wonderful writers, many of whom I have had the pleasure of meeting. 
  • I love young authors, because they will probably be around to write more.
  • I love old (and deceased) authors, because their work is limited and all the more valuable.
Today, I am recommending two books about two different families; one is set in England from the Victorian era through World War I and the other is set in Nebraska from 1978 to the present.  I am writing about these two books together not because they are similar, but because I read them one after the other. They do, however, illustrate the range of titles you can find about family relationships, or friendship, or personal tragedy, etc.

The family in The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt lives in a rambling country home during a time of great cultural change; the children are exposed to new artistic expressions, socialism, women's suffrage, and sexuality through the lives of their father, a political crusader and their mother, an author of children's books.  Through the writing of a book for each of her seven children, Olive Wellwood tries to shore up their personalities against the inevitable; the revelation of the secrets that children must learn to see their parents and each other as they really are.  The Children's Book is lengthy and multi-layered and took me through a fascinating cultural and political era with a story about family -- meeting several of my personal criteria for a "best" book.

The family in Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos would seem to have no secrets.  They live in a small Nebraska town and the children are locally well-known through their physician/mayor father, and through their mother, who "went up", never to come down, in a 1978 tornado.  The three children, now adults, are still defining themselves by what happened to their mother and how the townspeople see them as her offspring. The death of their father by a lightning strike opens the book and finally leads to their own self-knowledge and rebuilding of their lives.  This book will also be on my list of personal favorites for its wonderfully quirky characters and the fascinating setting of a tiny town with Welsh traditions (from which the title comes: the town closes down for a week when someone dies and there is a three-day period of nonstop singing in Welsh for the laid-out deceased, culminating with "There is No Place like Nebraska").

You may find these titles at your local library or through the links to


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Year's Goals Revisited: My Symphony

This year, I decided to set New Year's goals instead of New Year's Resolutions.  I have had practice in goal setting at work and thought that goals and objectives that I would track for the whole year, following the "SMART" format (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) would serve me better.  They are an improvement over the resolutions I've set in the past (such as lose 40 pounds or improve fitness, without any concrete plan about how to achieve the resolution.)

I still felt something was missing and this month's Oprah magazine provided what is, for me, the "mission statement" that I needed -- what is behind all the resolutions, goals, objectives -- the "big picture" of what I want to be.  Oprah's magazine published a part of "My Symphony" by William Henry Channing.  Actually, I have the poem in its entirety.  It's a book illustrated by Mary Engelbreit.  The information will follow at the bottom of this posting.  Here is the poem -- what you might call "my mission statement".

To live content with small means:
To seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion;
To be worthy, not respectable;
and wealthy, not rich;
To study hard,
think quietly,
talk gently,
act frankly;
To listen to stars and birds,
To babes and sages, with open heart,
to bear all cheerfully,
do all bravely,
await occasions,
hurry never.
..To let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious,
grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Perfectly Peeled Hardboiled Eggs: Secret or Skill?

It was one of those rare opportunities to enjoy a meal with family; two of my brothers, my sister and spouses were at our table.  Someone came back from refilling their plate and commented that all the devilled eggs were gone.  I said that somehow, I had never learned the secret of peeling a hardboiled egg without ruining a few.  My brother told us that you need to bring them to a boil, put a lid on and let them sit for about 20 minutes.  Then you roll the egg back and forth between your hands, hold it under cold water and that makes it easy to peel.

I guess I missed that cooking tip.  I never knew about rolling the egg in your hands.  I had the impression that it was news to others at the table as well.  To be honest, my solution to the eggs I mess up while peeling is to toss the white; that leaves more cooked yolk to mix in for the stuffing.

Another thing, I was surprised and impressed that Steve knew this secret.  I don't remember him cooking when we were growing up -- that was the girls' job (as was doing the dishes) -- but that's another post subject.  Maybe he ventured into egg peeling after he married Reba.

Yesterday I made tuna salad and decided to try Steve's recommendation.  I cooked the eggs as directed (the same method as I always use) and rolled the first egg between my hands.  I must have rolled it too hard, because the shell cracked all over and some of the white was dented and shredded when I pulled it off.  I was more gentle with the second two, which led to my usual problem.  (I guess I didn't roll hard enough to separate the membrane, which is what Steve said made the egg easy to peel.)  With the fourth egg, I reached that point and the egg came out smoothly and easily.

Lesson learned:  With peeled eggs as with a lot of things in life, the combination of a "secret" or talent and the willingness to practice the skill brings the best results.

Second lesson learned:  You may not know your siblings as well as you think, especially after 40 or 50 years.


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  • A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
  • Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
  • Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson
  • Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
  • Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
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  • Faithful Place by Tana French
  • Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner
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  • Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg
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  • Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  • Private Life by Jane Smiley
  • Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
  • Roses by Leila Meacham
  • Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos
  • So Much For That by Lionel Shriver
  • South of Broad by Pat Conroy
  • That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
  • The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson
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  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
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Favorite Nonfiction and Memoir

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  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
  • Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Reason by Nancy Pearl
  • Getting Over Getting Older by Lettie Cottin Pogrebin
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Sharing the Journey: Women Reflecting on Life's Passages by Katherine Ball Ross
  • Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
  • The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin
  • The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dustbowl by Timothy Egan