Saturday, January 31, 2009

In Which I Prove Just How Much of a Ditz I Am

Last week I put "apricot preserves" on my shopping list. I needed it to make some new recipe that I planned on trying soon.

So I bought the apricot preserves and it's sitting in the pantry. I went downstairs to get it, because I am trying a new chicken recipe for dinner tonight. I was convinced that I needed it for this dinner.

Turns out that I don't. But I can't find the recipe that DOES call for apricot preserves. I didn't bookmark it, print it out, or cut it out of a magazine.

I hope the jar doesn't expire while I'm waiting to figure out what I wanted to cook with it!

Careful What You Ask

Yesterday at my younger kids' school, everyone gathered together to celebrate Mass for Catholic Schools Week. This Mass was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but the snow day caused a postponement. However, Father wanted to talk with the kids about St. Thomas Aquinas, whose feast was Wednesday, because he is such a good model for students.

Father is very good at explaining things in a way that helps little children understand, but isn't insulting to the middle-schoolers. He also likes to tell stories and get the kids involved by asking questions. That last bit got him into a little trouble, because we all know that kids will say just about anything but what you expect!

Father started by talking about how St. Thomas Aquinas was a big guy, so big that people would tease him and call him names like "the dumb ox." He told the story about how a hole had to be cut into the table to accommodate St. Thomas's stomach. He mentioned that St. Thomas Aquinas wasn't dumb at all, but actually really smart. And then he asked the children, "And do you know what St. Thomas Aquinas liked to do?"

The first child who raised his hand answered: "EAT!"

You can't say they weren't listening...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Little Boys Want to Know

"Mommy, can you change your favorite color?"

Snow Day, without much snow

My kids have eagerly been anticipating a Snow Day, and they got one today. Guess all the spoons under the pillow and the backward pajamas did the trick (though I think Little Brother's pajamas were not backward on purpose...)

I got the call from Big Brother's school at 5:15, and then starting at 6 I was watching the news to find out about the other kids' school--I still haven't gotten that phone call. Finally at 6:30 I got up and turned on the computer and found out that they are indeed closed. I got an email from the instant alert, but no call. Maybe I'd better check my settings.

Little Brother has been awake since before 6 and is bouncing off the walls already. And there won't be any snow for him to play in, unless he gets out there NOW while it's still dark! It's changed to freezing rain here already and is going to be raining within the next few hours. So it will be a long day off with no snow, and chances are I'll have a houseful of kids once Adventure Boy figures out that Little Brother is home today.

Big Brother's school was supposed to have free ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery for all the students today. Wonder if they'll reschedule? The school Mass at the other kids' school has been moved to Friday.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Little Good News

I am happy to see that the birth-control provisions have been taken out of the economic stimulus package.

There is still the concern that this money might go toward ACORN, but I'll take this bit for now.

I believe very strongly that it is up to all of us to let our elected officials know where we stand on any issue we feel strongly about! I did use the White House email form to express my opinion on the birth-control additions in the simulus package. So please DO respectfully but strongly write, email or call your representatives in government.

Stand up for what you believe in!

Here's how to contact your Senators and Representatives. You can use those sites to get snail-mail addresses and telephone numbers as well. Please use them!

Spoken Like a True Girl

I came home this morning after Mass and grocery shopping to find a message on our voice mail. Apparently it was left yesterday afternoon, and I didn't realize it. The little girl who lives behind us wanted to play with Little Brother. She's almost five, but quite the pro at leaving messages!

"Hello, my name is Cutie Pie, and I'm calling to ask Little Brother to come over and play with me, because I want to play. Give me a call back. My number is ###-####. Bye!"

I feel bad that we didn't realize she'd called, and at the same time I'm really impressed at her ability to leave a message. It must be a girl thing, because Little Brother will call and say things like, "Hello, can Cutie Pie play? (wait for someone to respond, which won't happen because this is voice mail)...Bye."

Monday, January 26, 2009

More on Anti-Life Developments in Our Nation

Read what Genevieve Kinecke has to say about Nancy Pelosi's assertion that children are too expensive.

Denise, the Catholic Mom in the Domestic Church, also weighs in. Great title: Economics (Eugenics) Nancy Pelosi-Style

Father Jay Toborowski on our "Catholic" Speaker of the House.

Jean at Catholic Fire has the video of Pelosi on Stephanopoulos' program.

An excellent prolife article, with a quote from Mother Teresa, at Hat tip to Michelle for posting this link at her blog.

Our Tax Dollars at Work at the Rambling Catholic Soccer Mom.

This will be updated as I find more commentary. I cannot tell you how much this whole thing toasts my marshmallows.

A Good Reminder: Soutenus posts some "House Rules" as we go through these next four years. Amen to THAT--let's keep it charitable, always. As the cheesy old song goes, they'll know we are Christians by our love.

In the coming year

My Secular Franciscan Fraternity held its annual "Extraction of Saints" on Friday evening. This is a beautiful custom and we just love participating in it. In fact, we have members who have moved out of state, as well as the Sisters who no longer minister in our parish, asking to remain included in it. Naturally, we would never turn them away!

This year I was given the virtue of FAITH as the virtue I am to strive to develop. The Scripture that is to inspire me this year goes along with that virtue: "Come to my help, Lord God of my salvation." And my patron saint for the year will be St. Michael the Archangel.

I've heard people say, "Watch what you ask God for--you just might get it!" And every time someone says they need to pray for patience, they are warned that what they might get is plenty of times in which they need to USE patience. So when we host our Extraction of Saints, and the virtue is chosen for each person, that's the time when we all hold our breath. (Nobody likes to hear "Poverty" or "Fortitude!")

I know that my husband is very worried about what will happen for people of faith due to the inauguaration of the most anti-life president ever. I know that this is a time in which we cannot hide our faith--we must be sure to let it show, and to work hard to defend it. With that in mind, and calling upon the help of St. Michael the Archangel, I will try to keep the faith and not be shy about standing up for what I believe in.

This will not be an easy year. Obama made that clear by rescinding the Mexico City policy, and there is the threat of FOCA (though cousin Thomas doesn't think that threat is as imminent as some might believe--read more here.) And we've got the Speaker of the House, third in line for the presidency, telling our nation on national TV that federal funding for contraception will be helpful for the economy. That's right--she has suggested that it will help our nation's economy if people stop having babies; she contends that educating children is too expensive, as is their health care. Children are the future of our nation, but the Speaker of the House, a mother and grandmother herself, considers them more of a drain on national resources than a gift from God.

I was heartened this morning to hear a teacher at my younger children's school explaining the dangers of FOCA to our library aide. I am disappointed that my parish has done nothing, however, to join the postcard campaign or even include a bulletin announcement about the issue. So my first step this year will be to contact my pastor and encourage him to do this.

If we take even the smallest action in faith, those actions will add up. They will make a difference.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

36 Years

Father wore purple at Mass today, and made sure to remind us of the grim anniversary we mark. (An estimated 50,000,000 unborn children have been murdered through abortion since the Roe V. Wade decision 36 years ago.)

The Life Principles at the March for Life website follow the idea of life as a "seamless garment" which was mentioned in today's homily.

Those of us who are unable to be at the March for Life today are all able to pray and to sacrifice in some way.

Gus Lloyd of Sirius XM's Catholic Channel has called for all Catholics to join him each day in one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be, for the intention of the conversion of President Obama, that he will see life as precious, and defend human beings from the moment of conception to natural death.

Are you in?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Be Polite, Kids

It's time for an Etiquette Lesson.

All my kids do this, so I shouldn't single anyone out here. But Middle Sister was the guilty party today.

I was on the phone with my friend SFO Girl while preparing dinner. Middle Sister wandered into the kitchen and interrupted my conversation to find out what we were having.

And dummy me answered her! (Clearly, I am enabling my children to be rude. The first step is recognizing that you have a problem...)

"It's Sloppy Joes," I answered as I chopped peppers.


Almost worse, in my book, than rudely interrupting people is saying "EWWWWWWWWWWW" to a food before you eat it. Children who do this to me do not obtain my sympathy and an offer to cook them a whole separate dinner. I don't play that game.

I informed Middle Sister that Sloppy Joes are practically just like tacos and that she can have hers in a tortilla.

And after we sit down at the table, we're going to have to have a talk about manners.

Never Forget

Denise has an excellent essay about how "prolife" extends WAY beyond "against abortion."

We have an obligation not to forget about the handicapped, the sick, the aged--and those who make decisions regarding their care.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Feels Like Monday

I always get messed up on these long weekends. I am convinced that it is Monday today.

Little Brother made a bet with his uncle on the Eagles game this weekend. If the Eagles lost, Little Brother would have to wear a NY Giants t-shirt for a whole week. Well, you know that the Eagles lost. Little Brother does not own a Giants shirt but his uncle was happy to provide him with one! Other than school, he is wearing that shirt and even hiding it so I can't wash it. (I found the hiding place, though...don't worry! No stinky Little Brothers allowed around here!) I'm glad that he is being a little man and living up to his end of the agreement. Maybe he will think twice before gambling again.

There are a lot of errands to run today and it is NOT warm out. I could put some off until later in the week and hope for a warmer day, but I have to do some today, so while I'm out I may as well just get it all done. One of those errands is re-registering Big Brother for school. He will be a senior next year. I have to go to the school with the forms and the very last school-bus application I will ever write for him, and of course a large check.

And it promises to be a busy week in basketball for Middle Sister. Practice tomorrow, game Thursday, game Saturday, game Sunday. Fortunately her jammed finger from last week is all better. She's already talking about softball for the spring.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Respect Life Sunday

In my house, every day is Respect Life Day.

But anyway.

In this country, after Tuesday, no day is Respect Life Day. Our President-elect has promised to sign into law the most anti-life legislation this country has ever known.

Barbara at Praying for Grace has shared a beautiful prayer asking St. Francis' intercession for the cause of life. Please join me in praying this prayer, today and every day until it becomes unnecessary--until abortion in our nation is once again considered an unthinkable and unattainable thing; until it is considered a crime; until it is called what it really is--murder.

Respect for Life Prayer
Gentle St. Francis
you were so devoted to the humanity of Christ.
Your heart burst with appreciation toward God
for taking on human life.
You saw beauty and goodness in all living things -
in birds that sing,
the fish that fill our waters,
and all that lives in nature.

Help us to imitate your reverence for life
wherever it may be.
Especially, humble Francis of Assisi,
help us to help others
to see the worth of each living,
unborn baby sheltered in its mother's womb.

May all mankind have the grace
to understand that these tiny,
budding lives have the right to life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dragon Breath

Little Brother wanted toast (with butter, cut in half "diner style") for breakfast this morning. So that is what I gave him.

After he ate, he came over to give me a hug--and almost knocked me over with his breath. I couldn't imagine what was up with that.

Then I followed him into the kitchen, where I watched him put his hand back into the "Cheese and Garlic" crouton bag.

"You're going to have to brush your teeth after having croutons for breakfast," I advised him.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Think Fast(er)

The Tiger Cub Scouts (Little Brother and Adventure Boy) are working on their Chess belt-loop tonight. Adventure Boy thinks he's going to win the game, and he wants to hurry things along.

TheDad reminds him, "In chess, it's OK to take some time to think."

"THINK!" he shouts at Little Brother.

This, That, and a Bird Party

I'm calling the doctor for Middle Sister today. She jammed her finger at basketball practice last night and today her whole hand is swollen. She IS at school; I figured she didn't have to miss the whole day if the doctor appointment turned out to be a later one.

It doesn't always pay to veer off the menu plan. Last night I made some chicken creole, which was just not that great. It sure was spicy, though. Cleared out my sinuses.

Little Brother wanted popcorn last night but didn't finish the bowl. This morning I tossed the rest out, under the bird feeder which I also refilled. The birds were at the popcorn almost before I got back in the door.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Thinking Of My Chili Buddy

I'm making a batch of "game day" chili for dinner today. And I'm missing a young friend of our family. She hasn't been around lately to help me make the chili--a task she always enjoyed and volunteered to do.

She's been held in my Pocket Rosary for months now--the "young family friend who could use as many prayers as possible." I'm not in touch with her and have not been since I saw her last in October, so I have no reason to believe that she doesn't still need those prayers.

So as I chopped the celery and onions, rinsed the beans, browned the meat, and added the spices, I prayed for my chili buddy. I'll do so again every time I stir the chili.

May she find her way. And may God keep her safe.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Customer Service At Its Finest

I am sitting here "on hold" with my husband's doctor. He asked me to call and reschedule an appointment he has for early next week.

So I am listening "to the entire menu as our options have changed..." (the menus always say that. But the options always sound the same to me! And by the time I get to the last option I forget which number I should have pressed.)

If I want to reschedule an existing appointment, I am to press 2. (did that)

"You have reached the rescheduling department of (name of doctor). If you wish to reschedule immediately, please press 0. Otherwise, after the beep, leave the patient's name, telephone number, date of birth and date of appointment, and call back in a few hours to reschedule your appointment."

You have got to be kidding me! I have to leave you all that data in your message and you can't be bothered calling me back?

I pressed 0 and got a very miffed-sounding secretary who grudgingly rescheduled the appointment.

This had better be one fantastic doctor, because the office procedures and staff leave much to be desired.

Friday's Finest

Gems from the Desk Drawer!

I have a habit of scribbling down (on whatever paper is handy) a line from the homily at Mass that particularly strikes me, so I can reflect upon it later.

Sometimes I wind up reflecting upon it much later, when that scrap of paper surfaces after who knows how long.

I found a few of those papers scattered among my desk drawers when I was cleaning the desk yesterday. So here they are, for your consideration:

Prophets remind us of the promises we have made.

Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. Your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace.

There is nothing Franciscan about depression, because depression involves a focus on the self.

Christians must not be sharp-tongued, cutting people to pieces, because that is of the Devil. He wants us to hurt each other.

And this last one came from reading the Summa Mamas blog a very long time ago (before I learned about using Bloglines and the handy "keep new" feature!) It's Pope Benedict XVI:

The ways of the Lord are not comfortable, but we were not created for comfort, but for greatness, for good.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

In Which I Prove Just How Pathetic I Am

I got this fabulous recipe for a beef dish, and my whole family loves it. So I froze the leftover Christmas roast beef and saved it for tonight.

The only problem was the 1/2 cup red wine.

We don't drink alcohol; we keep Jack Daniels in the house to make the Christmas cookies, and until recently I had been using that swill supermarket cooking wine for recipes.

Then at Wegmans I found Inglenook Alcohol-Removed Wine. It's about $6 a bottle but I figure it has to be better than the Holland House stuff. So I keep a bottle of Cabernet and one of Chardonnay around to use in recipes. If only they made sherry and marsala, I'd be all set.

But unlike the Holland House "wine," this stuff comes with a big stumbling block: a cork.

The only corkscrew I have is on my Swiss Army Knife. It's fairly useless as a corkscrew. It took me ten minutes to remove the cork from this bottle of Cabernet, and I wound up with three pieces (not including the little divot that got stuck in the Swiss Army Knife and wouldn't let the corkscrew close until I pulled out the little white toothpick and pried it out.

Help! I'm corkscrew-impaired!

I do, however, have this nifty little thing that plugs up the top of the wine bottle and allows me to pour or close the bottle. But I think I might need to invest in a Real Corkscrew.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Fly, Eagles, Fly

Little Brother started the morning off right by engaging in a little Monday-morning post-victory trash talk.
"Next week the Eagles are gonna beat the Giants! They beat them already....the Eagles can beat everybody...the Titans, the Bangles..."

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Books Read in 2009

As I did in 2008, I will be listing title, author, a short review, and the date. I read 97 books last year--hope to top that in '09!

1. Nickel and Dimed: on (not) Getting By In America by Barbara Ehrenreich. Interesting premise: a middle-class author leaves her usual life and visits several cities, working in a few different minimum-wage jobs and trying to see if she can live on what she earns. It was a good book until the final chapter when Ehrenreich comes to some typically liberal conclusions about wages and what the government should do to support the working poor. B. 01/04/09

2. The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd. I enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees so much that I couldn't wait to start Kidd's second book. However, this one was not nearly as good as the first. She tells a good tale, but I didn't find the characters as engaging in this novel. I didn't like the main character or the choices she made--especially as she made them knowing full well how many people would get hurt. B. 01/05/09

3. My Sister Dilly by Maureen Lang. This is the third book I've read by Maureen Lang, and all of them have dealt with special-needs children. This book falls into the category of "Christian romance" but it is kept very tame on the romance level and not so sweet on the Christian level that you need an insulin shot after reading it. It's a novel about a young woman who returns to her hometown after 15 years to help her sister, who is just getting out of prison for attempting to kill her special-needs child (and herself). A great story. B+. 01/07/09

4. Finding Alice by Melody Carlson. This novel is the story of a college student with schizophrenia. The author did an amazing job of presenting the way a person with this disorder thinks, acts, and looks at the world. Amazingly, this was not a depressing book. Excellent! A+. 01/09/09

5. Testimony by Anita Shreve. This was an absolutely disturbing book--because it could happen. It's the story of how a videotaped orgy/sexual assault at a privileged boarding school affects--and ruins--many lives. The one thing I disliked about this novel is the constant change of narrator. Every chapter, a new narrator. Sometimes the book was told in first person, other times second person, and often third person but from the point of view of a particular character. A-. 01/12/09

6. Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber. This book is the sweet story of a woman whose life is not turning out quite the way she wants it to. Pushed into volunteering at a local school by a friend of hers, she winds up more involved in a little girl's life than she expects to be. When you need something light with a happy ending, pick this! B+. 01/14/2009

7. Escape by Carolyn Jessop. If you ever think you're having a bad day, read this book. A young mother with 8 children works to find a way to escape an oppressive polygamous Mormon sect. Nonfiction. B. 01/18/09

8. Multiple Bles8ings by Kate Gosselin. This is the "back story" for the Jon & Kate Plus Ei8ht show. Published by Zondervan, the book has a distinctly Christian focus, but sometimes that felt a little forced. It also has an excellent prolife focus, and gives a glimpse of the frustrations and difficulties--and physical trauma--that Kate went through during her pregnancy and the sextuplets' infant year. I say that the Christian focus felt forced--you hardly ever see any reference to faith on the TV show. Maybe this is her way of being able to say what TLC will not show on the air. Nonfiction. B. 01/22/09

9. Just Breathe by Susan Wiggs. This was apparently a popular book, because I had a long wait for it at the library! It was a very good story about a woman who discovers her husband's betrayal right after she has undergone a fertility procedure. She moves back to her hometown, makes new friends, and then finds out she is indeed expecting her husband's children. The characters were interesting and the story was enjoyable. B. 01/27/09

10. A Dangerous Age by Ellen Gilchrist. This is a novel about three cousins whose relationships are affected--and in some cases shattered--because of the 9/11 attacks and subsequent war. I found it to be a thinly-veiled anti-war screed, and it wasn't even that enjoyable a book. The narrative was hard to follow. If the book had been any longer, I probably wouldn't have bothered finishing it. C-. 02/01/09

11. On This Day by Melody Carlson. While this novel was not as good as some of her others I read last year, it was still a very good story. It followed several women through the course of a weekend that all of them are spending together at a wedding. Each of them winds up with decisions to make regarding her own future. It's not all sunshine and roses for everyone at the end, but it is ultimately a hopeful book. B+. 02/05/09

12. John 3:16 by Nancy Moser. This book is "in your face" Christian and not ashamed of it. It's an interesting novel about a number of people whose lives are drastically changed. The big change doesn't take place until very late in the book--there is a whole lot of "lead-up" before that moment. It was a very moving story, but not a "downer." B+. 02/07/09

13. Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos. From the title of this book, you'd think it was a downer. But instead, this novel shows that from brokenness can come healing in unimaginable ways. Some things--but not everything--wrap up just a little too neatly at the end, but it really was a page-turner, with characters you can't help but find yourself pulling for. The story begins with an older, reclusive woman learning she has a brain tumor--and deciding to make big changes in her life. These changes involve several other people she meets in the coming months, and the story leaves you smiling. A. 02/08/09

14. Rosewater and Soda Bread by Marsha Mehran. This fascinating novel tells the story of a young woman who is found on the beach in Ireland--injured, and with hands webbed so that the locals think she is a mermaid. A group of sisters from the community as well as another local woman take care of her. When word gets out about what really happened, most of the town turns against them. B. 02/11/09

15. Inside Out Girl by Tish Cohen. A little girl, age 10, has what's called a Nonverbal Learning Disability which is similar to Asperger's. She is not good at reading nonverbal cues (facial expressions, tone of voice) and she is bullied at school. Her widowed dad meets a single mom of 2 slightly older kids and they hit it off. The older kids are mortified that they have to associate with this child who does not fit in. At the same time, the older daughter is going through some "love life" issues. And their mom is reminded of a handicapped child she gave up for adoption 16 years before. B+. Could have done without the harsh language! 02/14/09

16. Much Ado About Jessie Kaplan by Paula Marantz Cohen. I admit that what drew me to this book is its setting: Cherry Hill, NJ. I really enjoy reading books set in locations I'm familiar with. But the story was pretty interesting. A Jewish grandmother is oblivious to her family's frantic preparations for her granddaughter's bat mitvah, because she is convinced that 400 years ago she had an affair with William Shakespeare. It really was an enjoyable read, and the grandmother's character was wonderful. B+. 02/17/09

17. Once Upon a Day by Lisa Tucker. This novel wove two heartbreaking family stories: a doctor whose family was killed in a car accident, and two young adults whose mother was brutally murdered during their early childhood. When the doctor and the young woman meet, they each begin the process of healing their hurts. B. 02/20/2009

18. Stormy Weather by Paulette Jiles. I usually like historical fiction set in the Depression period but this one was rather too depressing. It did give a good sense of the desperation people felt, but I had a hard time feeling sympathy for the main character. C. 02/28/09

19. The Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik. This was a cute novel. Predictable, yes. But it was an easy read and an enjoyable story. The "smart one" is a frumpy lawyer and the "pretty one" is a stylish spendthrift. Brought together by their mother's illness, the "pretty one" tries to get back at her sister by dredging up an old marriage arrangement (made in jest by a pair of drunken parents of young children). B. 03/02/09

20. A Mile in My Flip-Flops by Melody Carlson. I really enjoyed this book. Nothing embarrassing in there--I'd let my daughter read it, or give it to my mom, no problem there. It's the story of a single teacher who decides to spend her summer vacation "flipping" a house. Predictably, she meets a contractor and...(well, I said it was predictable.) It's a Christian novel that is not over-the-top, in-your-face, pushy Christian--it's natural to the characters. And the characters were very likable and real. A great light read. 03/04/09

21. Queen of the Road by Doreen Orion. This very funny memoir tells of a year in the life of a woman my age and her husband, who take a year off work to travel the country in a tour bus. The book's subtitle tells it all: "The true tale of 47 states, 22,000 miles, 200 shoes, 2 cats, 1 poodle, a husband and a bus with a will of its own." Definitely enjoyable! 03/10/09

22. Little Face by Sophie Hannah. I'm not usually a suspense-novel reader but this one was really good. The story centers on a new mom who comes home shortly after the baby's birth and insists that the baby in the crib is not her child--that the baby must have been switched. Meanwhile her husband and mother-in-law are trying to "gaslight" her (actually they have been for some time) and she has trouble convincing the police that she is in danger. Then she and the baby disappear. Good stuff. Not for the kids. B+. 03/16/09

23. Lost Highways by Curtiss Ann Matlock. This was a sweet love story about a young woman who inherits her mom's rodeo horse and picks up a stranded traveler on the highway. Both of them are emotionally wounded but manage to find a way to healing. B. 03/17/09

24. There's No Place Like Here by Cecilia Ahern. Some people like to read about time travel. In this novel, the main character travels into another dimension, but it's not about time--it's about lost things. She somehow finds her way into another world that is populated by the people and things that mysteriously go missing. It's not the best-written story, but the story is interesting and I was kept in suspense about how it would all turn out. B.

25. These Boots Weren't Made for Walking by Melody Carlson. I enjoy Carlson's Christian chick lit. This story is about a young woman who's overextended financially and fired at work. She moves home to live with her mom, but discovers that Mom has begun dating younger men and dressing younger, too. Cassidy is a likable character and it was easy to find myself in her corner. B.

26. The Returning by Ann Tatlock. This author writes fabulous and heartbreaking stories and this is no exception. It tells of a family's first summer together after five years of separation--the father has just been released from prison. During the summer, everyone in the family must adjust to their new situation. A+.

27. Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult. As usual, Picoult deals with very difficult subjects. This book addresses the question of a wrongful-birth lawsuit and how it tears a family apart. The author keeps the reader in suspense until the very end--and the end is a complete surprise. (However, I didn't find the ending very satisfying...I closed the book and thought, "WHY????") B+.

28. I Heart Bloomberg: 86 Bloomberg Place by Melody Carlson. See below. B.

29. Let Them Eat Fruitcake by Melody Carlson. This novel and the one before it are part of a series about four young women who share a home. Each has her own quirks, hangups and problems. They begin as housemates but end up as friends. I'm looking forward to the third book, Spring Broke. B.

30. The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck. A sad but sweet story. It's labeled fiction but the book jacket says it's "based on a true story." A young boy deals with loss and wishes at Christmas time. A-.

31. Half-Assed by Jennette Fulda. This memoir chronicles a young woman's weight loss--without miracle pills or bariatric surgery. She lost more than half of her body weight. It was an interesting book. B-.

32. The Year the Music Changed by Diane Thomas. Here's a rare chance for me to use the term I learned in grad school: this Epistolary Novel (a novel written entirely in letter form) was really excellent. It tells the story of a young girl who writes to Elvis Presley very early in his career, and takes them through the next year or so as he gets his "big breaks" and makes some mistakes too. Highly recommended. A+.

33. The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson. This memoir was a sweet tribute to a place, but not the best story. I had a hard time engaging with the characters. B-.

34. Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs. This was a fun book. It's the story of a TV chef who is living at the mercy of changing ratings and stations wanting to glam up the food. Interesting mix of characters who are put together because of their situation, not because they want to be together. It was a "mind candy" kind of book but I thought the characters were well-drawn. B.

35. Crystal Lies by Melody Carlson. Her books are always so excellent. The reader is drawn into the codependent existence of a young man's mother. She doesn't want to believe he's using drugs, and wants to believe that she can cure him. She's ready to give up everything else--and finds out that some things, she never really had in the first place. The story was heartbreaking and well-told. A+.

36. The Future Homemakers of America by Laurie Graham. This book was just OK. Some of the characters were sweet but after a while it got less believable. I think that stretching the book over a 20+ year time period didn't help. Sometimes it's better to stop sooner. B.

37. The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken by Laura Schenone. Her "dedicated mother who keeps her last name and takes off to Italy alone for weeks at a time on a fruitless quest to find a family recipe" wore thin pretty fast. The author of this memoir pretty much let everything else go so she could find her grandmother's ravioli recipe--one of those old family recipes that doesn't involve measuring and that is tweaked by each successive cook, so that you never will get to exactly that recipe your grandmother made. I'm guessing she had the book deal in the works pretty early on in the process, because this sure did take a toll on her marriage and family. C+. May '09

38. Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani. It was tricky reading two books about Italians in quick succession; the words in Italian would stick in my head afterwards! But this fiction book was a good foil to the book above. A young woman wants to carry on the family business. She's the only one in her generation interested in the business, and is working hard to keep it afloat. She gains insight into herself and her amazing grandmother in the process. This is one of Trigiani's best books. A. May '09

39. Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch. I read about this one in a magazine and decided to take a chance. I'm glad I did. The premise of this novel is that a suburban mom of a toddler is growing dissatisfied with her life and marriage. She is granted a "do-over" by being shipped 7 years into her past--before she even knew her current husband! She vows to make the most of this opportunity and learns that each action and word have their own ripple effects far beyond her own life. It was a fascinating story. A-. May '09.

40. The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan. This memoir tells the story of a young wife and mother who is very close to her father, even though she lives across the country from him. It details her diagnosis with breast cancer and his subsequent diagnosis with bladder cancer. I honestly thought this book was going to end differently--I was "set up" to think that a whole different scenario would play out. Corrigan is a good writer but not an extremely likable character. Then again, this book was not fiction. B+. May '09.

41. 8 Sandpiper Way by Debbie Macomber. It wasn't too far into this book when I realized that I was reading a part of a series--and I hadn't started at the beginning! That drives me crazy, but Macomber does (very helpfully) provide good "catch up" information. This is the eighth book in a series set in the Pacific Northwest. It's a light read, but you can't help being caught up in the characters, some of whom even show up in other series (the Dakota books). In this installment, a pastor's wife fears that her husband is having an affair. B. May 22.

42. 50 Harbor Street by Debbie Macomber. This is also part of the Cedar Creek series. This story centers on a mystery involving the town's private investigator--he's getting strange messages and gifts. And there are a few romances going on among other people in town. This book (5th in the series) was not as good as the later one I just finished, and was a little more explicit in content. Not needed. B-. May 23.

43. Welcome to the Departure Lounge by Meg Federico. This was an absolutely funny, yet heartbreaking story. One of those "laugh-so-you-don't-cry" memoirs, it tells the tale of the adult daughter of a woman who can no longer care for herself or her husband. The challenges of the Sandwich Generation are explored, and the author finds a way to laugh through her pain, to find the funny in the daily mess and frustration in dealing with her physically ailing mother and her stepfather who has Alzheimer's, and their various caregivers. Highly recommended. A. May 24.

44. Not Becoming My Mother by Ruth Reichl. This memoir was a big disappointment to me; I've read and thoroughly enjoyed Reichl's other books. This one was written after her mother's death, when Reichl's conscience pricked at her for telling "tales out of school" about her mom's inability to cook and keep a house. She thinks she'll make up for it in this book, but I don't think she achieves her purpose. It's a little over 100 pages--small pages--and I read it in an hour. That's an hour I'll never get back. C-. May 25.

45. Don't You Forget About Me by Jancee Dunn. A novel about a woman returning to her hometown after a broken marriage, and attending her 20th high school reunion. She learns that some things never change--especially in the way she relates to her former classmates (including a former boyfriend.) I found myself really annoyed at some of the main character's choices, hoping that she would behave differently toward her friends who had managed to grow up and move on. Part of the attraction of this book was that it took place in North Jersey, but it drove me a little nuts that the author (a native of the area) had some geographical details inaccurate. (Her fictional hometown was next door to two other real towns that are actually 20 miles apart, for instance.) Just "OK." C+. May 29.

46. Mama's Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes. This is a reread--I read this one as a kid, and then on Mother's Day we saw the movie on TV, so I had to get the book at the library and read it again. What a sweet story! Recommended for anyone over 10. B+. May 31.

47. 16 Lighthouse Road by Debbie Macomber. First in the Cedar Creek series. June 1.

48. 204 Rosewood Lane by Debbie Macomber. Second in the Cedar Creek series. June 2.

49. 311 Pelican Court by Debbie Macomber. Third in the Cedar Creek series. June 3.

50. 44 Cranberry Point by Debbie Macomber. Fourth in the Cedar Creek series. June 4.

51. 6 Rainier Drive by Debbie Macomber. Sixth in the Cedar Creek series. June 5.

52. 74 Seaside Avenue by Debbie Macomber. Seventh in the Cedar Creek series. June 6.

53. Knit Two by Kate Jacobs. Sequel to The Friday Night Knitting Club, this novel revisits the characters five years later. It's an excellent story, but I recommend that you reread the first book before plunging into this one, otherwise it's difficult to remember all the details you're expected to know. B. June 7.

54. My Life in Pink and Green by Lisa Greenwald. This is a teen novel, so I can't figure out how it found its way into my to-read pile, but it was a good story and I'm happy to recommend it to Middle Sister. A seventh-grade girl searches for a way to save her family's independent pharmacy. This is a breath of fresh air in the teen-novel section--no "occult," no "cliques," no sex and no horror. A very enjoyable read. B+. June 8.

55. Confessions of a Slacker Mom by Muffy Mead-Ferro. By the time I got to the end of this book, I felt a little misled, because it really did seem for most of the book that Mead-Ferro is a stay-at-home mom, with the kids day in and day out. Then you read about her staff of nannies to care for the children while she works. Other than that, I did enjoy this book. Guess I am a slacker mom too, because I just don't get a lot of the gimmicks and fads that seem to be involved in raising children. It's more about merchandising than it is about growing kids! An enjoyable book that encourages parents to listen to their instincts, not to the magazines, websites, and merchandisers. B. June 9.

56. The Local News by Miriam Gerson. Full of suspense and sadness, this novel chronicles a teenage girl whose brother suddenly disappears. The house is empty without him, because he had that bigger-than-life, obnoxious but charming personality that ran the show. As her family falls apart, the protagonist struggles with her feelings of grief and relief regarding her brother's disappearance. B. June 13.

57. Summer on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber. The Blossom Street series is, in my opinion, Macomber's best. I really enjoyed this book, which reunites a young girl with her father as well as bringing the reader up-to-date on the other characters from this series. B+. 6/15.

58. Love in the Present Tense by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Many narrators make this book confusing--even more so when you see that the narration jumps around in time. This novel is the story of a young boy who is abandoned by his mother at the age of 5. He's taken in by a single man who lives and works next door, but later adopted by another family. But he never loses touch with his foster father, and never stops trying to find a connection with his missing mother. A. 6/18.

59. A Cedar Cove Christmas by Debbie Macomber.

60. Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy. I like how Binchy brings characters from previous novels into her current one--I only wish I were reading them one after the other instead of years apart. This novel takes place in a cardiology clinic and follows the various staff through a year in their lives. Very enjoyable; this is one of Binchy's best. B+. 6/29.

61. Nanny State by David Harsanyi. This columnist's book takes on the trend of government treating people like children who need to be protected from themselves: the "food police," cigarette police and seat-belt police. Whatever happened to common sense? Interesting and informative. B+. 6/29

62. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Sweet--an epistolary novel! This was a wonderful book. The characters in the letters became so real to me, I was ready to go and visit the place. This book chronicles a young author who learns about a book club that had met on the Island of Guernsey during World War II (which has just ended as this book begins). The young woman travels to the island to learn about the people and becomes captivated by their lives and their story. There was so much want and loss for them as a result of the war. This would be a wonderful summer-reading book for teens. Highly recommended! A+. 6/30

63. Still Alice by Lisa Genova. I could not put this one down. It is an absolutely tragic and compelling novel about a woman struggling with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Tissue alert--but don't miss it. A+. 6/30

64. One Heart by Jane McCafferty. This was a strange book and I wasn't sure if I'd stick with it till the end. It's about two sisters who live and work together, and how they are both dealing with their grief after the tragic death of one of their daughters. Another young girl comes into their lives and becomes part of the whole thing. B.

65. Saving Alice by David Lewis. This was another one of those "do-over" books--the main character has "settled" for a wife after the "love of his life" was killed in a car accident. They named their daughter for that lost love (a friend of his eventual wife.) The book is all about how they have to live with the "what-ifs" and both know that if that accident had never happened, they wouldn't have been married. They both know they were second best. There is always that struggle with "what if this had been different?" I found the ending unsatisfying. B.

66. The Kindness of Strangers by Katrina Kittle. It is absolutely tragic that something like this could happen--and you know that it can. This book is about the sexual abuse of a child by his parents, and his exploitation through pornography and sex parties. He pushes away his only friend because he fears that the friend will similarly become a victim. Through that friend's family, he finally finds a haven. An excellent, realistic book about something you wish never happens. A+.

67. The Soloist by Steve Lopez. If this book is made of reworked newspaper columns, you'd never know it (I was looking to see if this was the case, as Lopez is a columnist at the L.A. Times and his other books are fiction.) This book chronicles the story of his meeting a homeless musician, how he tries to save the mentally ill musical genius, and what they both learn. A. 7/20/09

68. All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown. This was one of those train-wreck novels that you can't look away from. It comes with divorce, money woes, and high-school angst all in one place. The author keeps you reading with her engaging characters and easy writing style. B+. 7/21/09

69. Spring Broke by Melody Carlson. Third in a series, this is a fun novel. It's light Christian fiction, not heavy-handed with the "Christian" part but very well-done. You can see how faith plays a role in the characters' lives, without the book being preachy. Characters are enjoyable and you want to see how things will go for them. B+.

70. Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. This book is really not much about cooking, and the language is beyond foul. That really put me off. I had hoped to read more about the recipes, and less about the author's politics or her feeling of superiority about living in New York (versus New Jersey). I had hoped, also, to read more about Julia Child. I was disappointed in this book after all the hype. C-.

71. The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale. Wonderful, funny, touching novel--but I didn't like how it ended! That wasn't how I wanted it to turn out! A married mom of 4 meets her "celebrity crush" and winds up becoming his best friend. B+.

72. When Mike Kissed Emma by Christine Marciniak. An enjoyable read for teens, this novel follows a group of friends as they settle into their roles for the high-school play. Author Christine Marciniak captures the humor and drama of everyday life in high school. The characters and dialogue were very well done. Cleverly, the author uses lyrics from the school musical as chapter headings. This novel is a welcome break from the "clique" and "occult" novels that dominate teen lit. Appropriate for middle-school students and older. B+.

73. While I'm Falling by Laura Moriarty. Anyone who thinks that waiting until your children are in college before calling it quits on your marriage will make it easier on the children should read this book. It's all about a young woman who falls apart at school, as her family life falls apart at home. B+.

74. Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos. I wasn't sure I was going to stick with this one; it was really unusual at the beginning. The novel wove a diary, a ghost story, a parent's death, another parent's serious illness, and spectacular weather events into a compelling tale. Kallos writes absolutely poetic prose. B+.

75. Cottage For Sale, Must be Moved by Kate Whouley. A captivating memoir of one year in a woman's life, as she finds a tiny Cape Cod cottage, buys it, and has it moved to her own property so it can be office space for her home business. B.

76. Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow. A fascinating look at two brothers who hoarded everything. Fictionalized story of real people. B.

77. That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo. C+.

78. American Thighs by Jill Conner Browne. Another installment in the "Sweet Potato Queen" series. FUNNY, as always. Not for children's eyes (as always). B+.

79. The Last Summer of Her Other Life by Jean Reynolds Page. A woman in her early 40s returns home to care for her dying mother--and is falsely accused of an unspeakable crime. This novel is a surprising look at human nature and at the ability of people to look beyond a lie and try to offer help. A page-turner! A. 10/21/09

80. If You Could See Me Now by Cecilia Ahern. This is a lovely story about what happens when an adult sees an "imaginary friend." It didn't turn out as I wanted (or as the main character wanted) but at the same time, the ending was not unsatisfactory. B+. 10/23/09

81. The Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone. Long but worth it. A novel about a young Navy pilot who winds up trying to help her con-artist father. B.

82. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen. Funny as could be, but politically offensive to me. I did stick it out to the end, though. The memoir of a young woman who abandons her religious & cultural traditions, for the most part, but finds that you can take the girl out of a Mennonite neighborhood but you can't take the Mennonite out of the girl. B.

83. Starbucked by Taylor Clark. Subtitled: A Double Tall Take of Caffeine, Commerce and Culture. Clark is like a Starbucks "Mythbuster." He goes into the caffeine content, the charge that Starbucks will put mom-and-pop coffee shops out of business, and the corporate policies that shape the "coffee experience." It was interesting! B. 11/6/09

84. The Origins of Infamy by Christian E. Barth. Gruesome, graphic fictionalized memoir of serial killer Ted Bundy, connecting him to a pair of unsolved murders at the NJ Shore (crimes with which he was never charged). A very disturbing look inside the mind of a murderer. B+. 11/11/09

85. The Penny Pinchers Club by Sarah Strohmeyer. This beats the Shopaholic series, but it was still "mind candy." An enjoyable story about a spendaholic mom and how she changes her ways. B. 11/15/09

86. Thanks for the Memories by Cecilia Ahern. Really good! A woman receives a blood transfusion and, it seems, a transfusion of the donor's memories as well. A.

87. 92 Pacific Boulevard by Debbie Macomber. This is part of the Cedar Cove series, and while these are not all that great, I am intrigued enough to read each installment. C.

88. The Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone. A little suspense, a little willing suspension of disbelief. This novel is about a young Navy pilot who's consumed with ending her marriage and finding her father, who abandoned her at the age of 5 by leaving her with an aunt. This is a long book with lots of strange twists and turns and interesting characters. B+.

89. The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death by Laurie Notaro. A funny memoir--irreverent, gross, and not appropriate for children at times, but always laugh-out-loud funny. B+. 12/5

90. The House on Beartown Road by Elizabeth Cohen. Memoir by a single mom of an infant who also cares for her father as he declines due to Alzheimer's. It does a good job of showing the heartbreak of the disease--but the ending is unresolved. You're just left hanging. C+. 12/7

91. Shelter Me by Juliette Fay. A young dad is killed in an accident, but he has left behind a surprise for his widow and children. A contractor is going to build a porch onto their house. This book begins 3 months after the man's death and goes through about the next year. It was a great story. B+.

92. Autobiography of a Fat Bride by Laurie Notaro. Notaro is funny, but this one really missed the mark. It was not as good as some of her other work. C+. 12/15/09.

93. Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella. Way better than the Shopaholic series, this is the story of a girl and a ghost. They're trying to help each other out; the ghost can't rest until she has a special necklace back, and the girl is trying to straighten out boyfriend and work troubles in her own life. It's neatly wrapped at the end, but a very sweet story. B+. 12/20/09

94. The Space Between Before and After by Jean Reynolds Page. This family has a bizarre connection of losses with astronaut-related historical events. Three generations of a family go through crises together; a grandmother seems to be losing her grip on reality, a mom tries to keep everyone together, a son quits school, dates a chronically-ill young woman, and discovers she's pregnant. B.

95. So Happy Together by Maryann McFadden. This was a sweet story about a woman who thinks that she finally has her life on the right track. Her wayward daughter hasn't been heard from in months; her parents seem to be settling in to their old age; she's engaged; she has an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream and study photography on Cape Cod. Then her daughter returns and has a baby in her living room, and her father's health declines. You couldn't help but get interested in the characters, and I was happy at the way it turned out. B+.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

It's the Economy, Stupid

Tonight we went out to dinner.

Intending to use a gift card TheDad received for Christmas, we headed for Outback Steakhouse (his favorite) only to discover that there was a 50- to 60-minute wait. Little Brother is too impatient for that, so we decided to try The Cheesecake Factory. They said the wait was only 25 to 30 minutes.

Fifty-five minutes later we were seated at our table. The place was full to bursting. It's in the middle of a new shopping center, which was bustling with shoppers in its many upscale stores (shoppes?) When I wasn't trying to amuse Little Brother, I kept myself busy, as I stood next to the constantly-opening door, checking out the Handbag Fashion Show. Coach and Gucci were well-represented tonight at The Cheesecake Factory.

It didn't look like evidence of an economic downturn to me. People were shopping, and eating out--spending. So much for consumer confidence. I thought they looked pretty confident, and there was no lack of consumers.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Sticking With It

Denise at Catholic Matriarch in My Domestic Church shares a bit from Phil Lawler's reflection on living out Catholic culture:

But what if some of us were conspicuously unified in our beliefs and in our behavior? What if there were enough of us striving to live an authentically Catholic life so that our neighbors couldn't help but notice? Inevitably they would notice, too, if there was something a bit different about the way we lived: something distinctive, something attractive, something clearly in keeping with the teachings of the Church. We need to bear witness to the power of Christian principles, to act as the yeast within our society.

The quote is excellent--and is the inspiration by which I want to live out 2009--but don't miss the rest that Denise has to say! While you're at it, read the rest of Phil Lawler's piece as well.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Blessed New Year!

At Mass this morning our deacon shared the origins of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and encouraged us to deepen our devotion to the Blessed Mother.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and blessed New Year!