June 27, 2009

In Defense of Food

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan
Nonfiction - Cultural Studies
2008 Penguin Books
Winner of the James Beard Award
Finished on 6/11/09
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

Eating with the fullest pleasure—pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance—is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.
~ Wendell Berry

Publisher's Blurb:

Food. There's plenty of it around, and we all love to eat it. So why should anyone need to defend it?

Because in the so-called Western diet, food has been replaced by nutrients, and common sense by confusion—most of what we're consuming today is no longer the product of nature but of food science. The result is what Michael Pollan calls the American Paradox: The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become. With In Defense of Food, Pollan proposes a new (and very old) answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Pollan's bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating.

While I'm not a vegan or even a vegetarian, I have always been a bit of a health food nut. I eat lots of vegetables and fruit. Not too much red meat. Fish at least once or twice a week. I gave up margarine and squishy white bread years ago. I prefer dark chocolate and red wine over milk chocolate and sodas. Unless we've decided to watch a DVD while eating, my husband and I eat all our meals (including breakfast and lunch on the weekends) together at the dining room table. I can't remember the last time I ate in a car.

But don't get me wrong. I love Lays potato chips, Dove Bars, peanut M&Ms, and an ice cold beer as much as the next person. I love New York strip steaks medium rare and baked potatoes loaded with butter, sour cream, bacon and cheese. I love hash browns and cheeseburgers and nachos (with real cheese, not that fake orange stuff they glop all over the tortilla chips at a baseball game). I love donuts and Bunny Tracks ice cream and Hershey Bars with Almonds.

To me, it's all about moderation. I don't deny myself those insanely fattening items, but I also know that I have absolutely no will power, so I don't stock them in my house. I treat myself when I know I've been eating well for an extended period of time. This works for me and I don't feel deprived. Of course, now I'm craving everything, and tonight's meal is more along the lines of healthy rather than decadent. Sigh. So, back to the book...

I thoroughly enjoyed Pollan's journalistic style (informative without getting too bogged down in the science) and plan to read The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education, A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder, and The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World. I'm also quite interested in Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, as well as Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating by Jane Goodall. Oh, and, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink.

And then, of course, there are the movies, Food, Inc. and King Corn.

So, just how much did I like this book? Well, there are 201 pages of text. I highlighted 73 pages (36% of the book). I think that's a record! And just what did I come away with after reading this book? Well, I'm so glad you asked. :)

  • Eating a little meat isn’t going to kill you, though it might be better approached as a side dish than as a main. And you’re better off eating whole fresh foods rather than processed food products.
  • If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a strong indication it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.
  • Part of what drove my grandparents’ food culture from the American table was official scientific opinion, which, beginning in the 1960s, decided that animal fat was a deadly substance.
  • Sooner or later, everything solid we’ve been told about the links between our diet and our health seems to get blown away in the gust of the most recent study.
  • Food is also about pleasure, about community, about family and spirituality, about our relationship to the natural world, and about expressing our identity.
  • No people on earth worry more about the health consequences of their food choices than we Americans do—and no people suffer from as many diet-related health problems.
  • All of our uncertainties about nutrition should not obscure the plain fact that the chronic diseases that now kill most of us can be traced directly to the industrialization of our food: the rise of highly processed foods and refined grains; the use of chemicals to raise plants and animals in huge monocultures; the superabundance of cheap calories of sugar and fat produced by modern agriculture; and the narrowing of the biological diversity of the human diet to a tiny handful of staple crops, notably wheat, corn, and soy.
  • ...many date the current epidemic of obesity and diabetes to the late 1970s, when Americans began bingeing on carbohydrates, ostensibly as a way to avoid the evils of fat.
  • ...the sheer abundance of food in America has bred “a vague indifference to food, manifested in a tendency to eat and run, rather than to dine and savor.”
  • In order to eat well we need to invest more time, effort, and resources in providing for our sustenance, to dust off a word, than most of us do today. A hallmark of the Western diet is food that is fast, cheap, and easy. Americans spend less than 10 percent of their income on food; they also spend less than a half hour a day preparing meals and little more than an hour enjoying them.
  • HOW a culture eats may have just as much of a bearing on health as WHAT a culture eats.
  • ...the French eat very differently than we do. They seldom snack, and they eat most of their food at meals shared with other people. They eat small portions and don’t come back for seconds. And they spend considerably more time eating than we do. Taken together, these habits contribute to a food culture in which the French consume fewer calories than we do, yet manage to enjoy them far more.
  1. Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
  2. Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting.
  3. Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup
  4. Avoid food products that make health claims. For a food to make a health claim on it’s package it must first HAVE a package, so right off the bat it’s more likely to be a processed than a whole food.
  5. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.
  6. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. When you eat from the farmers’ market, you automatically eat food that is in season, which is usually when it is most nutritious.
  7. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
  8. You are what what you eat eats too.
  9. If you have the space, buy a freezer. Freezing (unlike canning) does not significantly diminish the nutritional value of produce.
  10. Eat like an omnivore.
  11. Eat well-grown food from healthy soils.
  12. Eat wild foods when you can.
  13. Be the kind of person who takes supplements. We know that people who take supplements are generally healthier than the rest of us, and we also know that, in controlled studies, most of the supplements they take don’t appear to work. Probably the supplement takers are healthier for reasons having nothing to do with the pills: They’re typically more health conscious, better educated, and more affluent. So to the extent you can, be the KIND of person who would take supplements, and then save your money.
  14. Eat more like the French or the Italians or the Japanese or the Indians or the Greeks.
  15. Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism. Innovation is interesting, but when it comes to something like food, it pays to approach novelties with caution.
  16. Don’t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet.
  17. Have a glass of wine with dinner.
  18. Pay more, eat less.
  19. Eat meals.
  20. Do all your eating at a table.
  21. Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
  22. Try not to eat alone.
  23. Consult your gut.
  24. Eat slowly.
  25. Cook and, if you can, plant a garden.

I love to cook. And my husband isn't a picky eater. Making a slow change to eat more mindfully is going to be fairly easy for us. We're not planning any major changes, but over time, I think we'd both like to move away from the processed "foods" (i.e. non-dairy creamer, Splenda, whole wheat bread with high-fructose corn syrup, etc.) We had fun at the farmer's market this past weekend and plan to return every week. We're toying with the idea of building raised beds so we can grow our own vegetables next summer, but we may decide to admit early defeat to the huge rabbit population in our backyard and rely on the local farmers to supply us with their bounty.

In Defense of Food was my book club's selection for June. We had a record turnout for the discussion (not sure if that had more to do with the book or the fact that we knew we would wind up sitting around a swimming pool on a 90+ degree evening!). In any event, almost everyone read the book and thought it was quite good. Some members felt they already knew most of what Pollan presented, yet I thought it was more a case of a light-bulb moment rather than just affirming what I already knew. A few others mentioned that they thought the book was a bit repetitive. I have to agree, although it wasn't something that bothered me as I was reading.

It's been almost three years since I read French Women Don't Get Fat. (Click on title to read my review.) I remember feeling the same enthusiasm after finishing that book as I do now. There are definite similarities between Pollan's doctrine and that espoused in Guiliano's book
. I suppose a lot of it boils down to common sense.

Final thoughts?

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.


Moderation in all things, including moderation.

Listen to this wonderful CBC Radio interview with Pollan here. (Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page.)

For a list of more interviews, go here.

June 25, 2009

Maus I

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman
Nonfiction - Graphic Memoir
1986 Pantheon
Winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize
Finished on 6/13/09
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Maus is the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe, and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father, his father's terrifying story, and History itself. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), succeeds perfectly in shocking us out of any lingering sense of familiarity with the events described, approaching, as it does, the unspeakable through the diminutive. It is, as the New York Times Book Review has commented, "a remarkable feat of documentary detail and novelistic vividness...an unfolding literary event."

Moving back and forth from Poland to Rego Park, New York, Maus tells two powerful stories: The first is Spiegelman's father's account of how he and his wife survived Hitler's Europe, a harrowing tale filled with countless brushes with death, improbable escapes, and the terror of confinement and betrayal. The second is the author's tortured relationship with his aging father as they try to lead a normal life of minor arguments and passing visits against a backdrop of history too large to pacify. At all levels, this is the ultimate survivor's tale--and that, too, of the children who somehow survive even the survivors.

Part I of Maus takes Spiegelman's parents to the gates of Auschwitz and him to the edge of despair. Put aside all your preconceptions. These cats and mice are not Tom and Jerry, but something quite different. This is a new kind of literature.

It's been years since I first heard about this book and I'm glad I finally got around to getting a copy to read. I've never read a graphic novel (although that's a misnomer for this work, as it's not fiction but rather a memoir), so I wasn't sure what to expect. Would the cartoons distract me? Would they minimize the horrors of the Holocaust? Surprisingly, I found I didn't spend too much time looking at the drawings and wondered if this was common or if a true graphic novel demands more attention to the artwork. And I certainly didn't think this form of narrative did anything to minimize the severity of the story. If anything, its impact might actually have been enhanced, rather than minimized, by the fact that it's such a horrible story told in a medium normally reserved for more innocent, child-like pursuits.

is a deeply moving story, especially knowing it's Spiegelman's father's true history. In spite of the subject matter, I enjoyed this compelling book (as well as one can enjoy such a tragic tale) and I look forward to reading Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began.
Go here to listen to an excellent NPR interview with Art Spiegelman.

June 22, 2009

One Square Inch of Silence

One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World by Gordon Hempton and John Grossman
Nonfiction - Environment
2009 Free Press
Quit on 4/30/09
Rating: DNF

See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun—how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.
~ Mother Teresa

Publisher's Blurb:

Having completed a coast-to-coast mission to preserve and protect natural soundscapes, Gordon Hempton proclaims that "the extinction rate for quiet places vastly exceeds the rate of species extinction." Part road trip, part cultural chronicle, One Square Inch of Silence is an eloquent celebration of nature and an ear-opening journey into Earth's vanishing sanctuaries.

Like a sound safari, One Square Inch of Silence recounts Hempton's trek across the country to capture the sounds of American landscapes and the reflections of the American people on the importance of quiet in their lives. Birdsong, melting ice, the bugling elk all achieve immortality as the author addresses questions of surprising importance, including: Why isn't natural quiet part of the ecological agenda? Culminating in the author's arrival in Washington, D.C., where he pleads his case for the preservation of natural quiet, One Square Inch of Silence is one of the most impassioned, original environmental works ever written.

I can't tell you how many times I've toyed with the idea of going back and finishing this book. I have a dozen passages marked with sticky notes and there's just something that appeals to me about Hempton's idea to research (and fight for) silence in this crazy, chaotic world of ours. Not to mention reading about someone else's road trip!

But for now, I'm going to call it quits. However, I will leave you with several of my favorite passages and blurbs. Maybe, in doing so, I might just convince myself to keep the book for a future read.

One Square Inch of Silence is more than a book; it is a place in the Hoh Rain Forest, part of Olympic National Park—arguably the quietest place in the United States. But it, too, is endangered, protected only by a policy that is neither practiced by the National Park Service itself nor supported by adequate laws. My hope is that this book will trigger a quiet awakening in all those willing to become true listeners.


Silence is a sound, many, many sounds. I've heard more than I can count. Silence is the moonlit song of the coyote signing the air, and the answer of its mate. It is the falling whisper of snow that will later melt with an astonishing reggae rhythm so crisp that you will want to dance to it. It is the sound of pollinating winged insects vibrating soft tunes as they defensively dart in and out of the pine boughs to temporarily escape the breeze, a mix of insect hum and pine sigh that will stick with you all day. Silence is the passing flock of chestnut-backed chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches, chirping and fluttering, reminding you of your own curiosity.

Have you heard the rain lately? America's great northwest rain forest, no surprise, is an excellent place to listen. Here's what I've heard at One Square Inch of Silence. The first of the rainy season is not wet at all. Initially, countless seeds fall from the towering trees. This is soon followed by the soft applause of fluttering maple leaves, which settle oh so quietly as a winter blanket for the seeds. But this quiet concert is merely a prelude. When the first of many great rainstorms arrives, unleashing its mighty anthem, each species of tree makes its own sound in the wind and rain. Even the largest of the raindrops may never strike the ground. Nearly 300 feet overhead, high in the forest canopy, the leaves and bark absorb much of the moisture... until this aerial sponge becomes saturated and drops re-form and descend farther... striking lower branches and cascading onto sound-absorbing moss drapes... tapping on epiphytic ferns... faintly plopping on huckleberry bushes... and whacking the hard, firm salal leaves... before finally, the drops inaudibly bend the delicate clover-like leaves of the wood sorrel and drip to leak into the ground. Heard day or night, this liquid ballet will continue for more than an hour after the actual rain ceases.

Hempton's passion:

I listen to the world—this is my job and my passion as an acoustic ecologist. I've recorded on every continent except Antarctica. My recordings are used in everything from video games and museum exhibits to nature albums, movie soundtracks, and educational products. More than 25 years of recordings in all manner of natural setting have swelled my library to 3,000 gigabytes. I've captured the flutter of butterfly wings, the thunderous booming of waterfalls, the jet-like swoosh of a bullet train, the wisp of a floating leaf, the passionate trill of a birdsong, the soft coo of a coyote pup. I'd rather listen than speak. Listening is a wordless process of receiving honest impressions.

What is One Square Inch?

One Square Inch of Silence was designated on Earth Day 2005 (April 22), when, with an audience of none, I placed a small red stone, a gift from an elder of the Quileute tribe, on a log in the Hoh Rain Forest at Olympic National Park, approximately three miles from the visitors center. With this marker in place, I hoped to protect and manage the natural soundscape in Olympic Park's backcountry wilderness. My logic is simple and not simply symbolic: If a loud noise, such as the passing of an aircraft, can affect many square miles, then a natural place, if maintained in a 1000 percent noise-free condition, will likewise affect many square miles around it. Protect that single square inch of land from noise pollution, and quiet will prevail over a much larger area of the park.

On Peace & Quiet:

Good things come from a quiet place: study, prayer, music, transformation, worship, communion. The words peace and quiet are all but synonymous, and are often spoken in the same breath. A quiet place is the think tank of the soul, the spawning ground of truth and beauty.

On the Lack of Sound of Silence:

Sadly, though, as big as it is, our planet offers fewer and fewer quiet havens. This is especially true in developed nations, where the high consumption of fossil fuels translates into noise pollution. It's come to this: there is likely no place on earth untouched by modern noise. Even far from paved roads in the Amazon rain forest you can still hear the drone of distant outboard motors on dugout canoes and from the wrist of a native guide the hourly beep of a digital watch. The question is no longer whether noise will be present, but how often it will intrude and for how long. The interval between noise encroachments (measured in minutes) is the measure of quiet these days. In my experience, a silence longer than 15 minutes is now extremely rare in the United States and long gone in Europe. Most places do not have quiet at all; instead, one or more noise sources prevail around the clock. Even in wilderness areas and our national parks, the average noise-free interval has shrunk to less than five minutes during daylight hours. By my reckoning, the rate of quiet places extinction vastly exceeds the rate of species extinction. Today there are fewer than a dozen quiet places and by that I mean places where natural silence reigns over many square miles.

Be sure to take a look at the author's website, as well as this video clip about One Square Inch of Silence.

And then maybe consider replacing your leaf blower with a rake or broom.


June 20, 2009

Summer Solstice

It's the first day of Summer!!

Summer afternoon,
Summer afternoon...
the two most beautiful words
in the English language.

~ Henry James

June 15, 2009

Barnes & Noble (Store #2939) Bestseller!

Click on photos to enlarge

May I just say that my husband rocks?! For those of you who didn't receive the email blast (or see this post about his new release), Rod participated in our local Barnes & Noble author event with seven other authors this past Saturday. It was exciting and stressful and great fun! And, we both want to send out a huge THANK YOU to everyone who came out to support Rod on this very special day. What a thrill to see so many friends and family (some of whom we haven't seen in years!). To think we were worried nobody would show up -- halfway into the signing, I was worried we'd run out of books! And we nearly did!

But the biggest thrill of all was when I walked into work this morning and was informed that Rod's book was our store's #1 seller for the week. Yep, he beat out Jodi Picoult (My Sister's Keeper), Stephenie Meyer (Eclipse), Mark Levin (Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto), William Young (The Shack), and Dean Koontz (Relentless)!
Whoohoo! :)

We also want to thank Hilary Sire (B&N Community Resource Manager extraordinaire) for putting on such a fantastic event. Rod says it was truly an honor to be part of such a memorable day.

Rod & Pat

Pat & Kim

Rod & Katie
(Rod's editor while freelancing for Smart Computing)

Rod, Jen, Maddie & Emily
(adoring nieces & sister-in-law)

Rod & Shirley-Mom

Sarah, Brent & Rod

Mary Kate, Josh & Rod

Rod & Dave

Daniel & Rod

Rod & Alison

Rod with Bob & Miss Linda

Rod with Barry & Lynn

Apparently, not everyone was impressed with Rod's book. We'll give her time. I'm sure she'll come around in a few years.

June 13, 2009

The Wildwater Walking Club

The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook
2009 Voice (Hyperion)
Finished on 6/1/09
Rating: 2.5/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb

When Noreen takes a buyout and gets dumped by a boyfriend in one fell swoop, she finds herself with nothing but time to notice everything that's missing in her life. Tess is the teacher next door, who thought she'd be spending the summer with her college-bound daughter, but now that daughter isn't speaking to her. The Wildwater Walking Club is complete when they meet Rosie, the dutiful daughter who moved onto her parents' lavender farm after her mother died—and dragged her family with her.

As the Wildwater women walk and talk, and talk and walk, they tally their steps, share their secrets, and let life take them in some new and surprising directions. Throw in a road trip to Seattle for a lavender festival, a career coaching group filled with unemployed Boomers, a clothesline controversy that could only happen in the 'burbs, plenty of romantic twists and turns, and a quirky multigenerational cast of supporting characters, and the result is pure Claire Cook- fun, fast, and totally fabulous.

I started running for exercise when I was eleven years old. We had recently moved to Del Mar, California and I would run from our house down to the beach and back. Looking at Google Maps, I now know it was a little over three miles, round-trip. I also peeked at the Google street view of our house. Wow! It hasn't changed a bit in 36 years!

My passion for running continued for many more years. I didn't join the high school cross country team, but I did take a Beach Jogging class during my sophomore year. My husband loves to tease me about this every chance he gets! "Only in Del Mar, California can you take a Beach Jogging class or Surf P.E., yet never be required to read Shakespeare!"

After my daughter was born, I decided to get back into shape by running in 10K races and eventually worked up to longer distances, running in two half-marathons. But over the years, all those miles caused quite a lot of wear and tear on my knees and I finally had to give it up. When we moved to our current house, I started walking on the bike trail, which is located just a few blocks down the street. It's quite a popular trail, especially after work and on the weekends, but it's not too crowded mid-day. Until we got our dog, I used to walk for an hour (approx. 4 miles) five days a week. Unfortunately, Annie-dog tends to stroll at a more leisurely pace than I prefer, at least for a good workout, so my walking routine has fallen by the wayside. That is until I read Claire Cook's recent release, The Wildwater Walking Club. As I got into the story, I was inspired to turn off the computer, put on my tennis shoes, grab my iPod and hit the trail—without the dog! It felt great to get back out on the trail, walking briskly to my music, swinging my arms, smiling at all the others who were out walking, running, riding their bikes and, yes, walking their dogs. It felt so good to get my heart rate up and feel that stretch in the back of my legs. Walking Annie just doesn't cut it, I'm afraid.

I love my new workout routine, but can't say the same for Cook's latest novel. I didn't enjoy it nearly as well as Summer Blowout, never coming to care about any of the one-dimensional characters or their plights. The dialogue and certain situations didn't always ring true and the simplistic plot left me hoping for more. I really would've liked deeper conversations among the three women as they got to know each other on their walks and during their trip to the Pacific Northwest. The thoughts and feelings (and occasional bickering) they shared felt trite and superficial.

If you're looking for a light summer read, similar to Kris Radish's The Elegant Gathering of White Snows or Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral, this is just the book for you! If you're looking for a book that will motivate you to get up off the couch and start walking, grab a copy of this book. Don't forget to pick-up a pedometer so you can measure your steps. 10,000 steps per day is the goal. Happy reading & walking!

For more information about the 10,000 step walking program, visit this site.

Be sure to click on Cook's website to read her walking group guide, as well as an excerpt from the book.

June 9, 2009

A Month in Summary - May '09

Click on photos to enlarge to full size

Well, here we are. I have just recorded my worst month of reading ever. Perhaps a more appropriate title for this post should be "A Month in Summery!" If you read this post, you'll understand why I haven't done much in the way of getting through the towering stacks of books in my house. However, my house & garden look lovely!

So without further chatter, here are the stats.

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn (4/5)

The French Gardener by Santa Montefiore (DNF)

Click on the titles to read my reviews.

Favorite of the month: The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn

Books Read 1
Male Authors 0
Female Authors 1
New-To-Me Authors 1
Epistolary 0
Audio 0
Fiction 0
Nonfiction 1
Historical Fiction 0
Coming-of-Age 0
Classic 0
Poetry 0
Teen 0
Children's 0
Sci-Fi 0
Fantasy 0
Horror 0
Romance 0
Humor 0
Travel 0
Memoir 1
Short Stories 0
Essays 0
Culinary 1
Mystery/Thriller 0
Re-read 0
Mine 1
Borrowed 0

Note: Only books completed are counted in the above totals with, of course, the exception of the DNF category.

June 7, 2009

The French Gardener

The French Gardener: A Novel by Santa Montefiore
2009 Touchstone
Quit on 5/25/09
Rating: DNF

Publisher's Blurb:

A neglected garden. A cottage that holds a secret. A mysterious Frenchman (handsome, naturally). A family in need of some love. These elements are entwined in this heartwarming novel by the author reviewers consistently compare to Maeve Binchy and Rosamunde Pilcher.

It begins as Miranda and David Claybourne move into a country house with a once-beautiful garden. But reality turns out to be very different from their dream. Soon the latent unhappiness in the family begins to come to the surface, isolating each family member in a bubble of resentment and loneliness.

Then an enigmatic Frenchman arrives on their doorstep. With the wisdom of nature, he slowly begins to heal the past and the present. But who is he? When Miranda reads about his past in a diary she finds in the cottage by the garden, the whole family learns that a garden, like love itself, can restore the human spirit, not just season after season but generation after generation.

Wise and winsome, poignant and powerfully moving, The French Gardener is a contemporary story told with an old-fashioned sensibility steeped in the importance of family and the magical power of love.

Another gardening novel bites the dust! I love Rosamunde Pilcher, but the blurb has got it all wrong; this novel hardly comes close to her lovely writing and endearing characters. After close to a hundred pages, I decided I'd given it my best effort. Perhaps given more time, I would've come to care for the characters, but after just 40 pages, I was annoyed with Miranda (the self-absorbed mother), Gus (the bratty, cruel son), and David (the pompous cheating ass of a husband). I kept going, but finally had to call it quits. Life's too short! Time to move on.

Unintentional Bloggy Break

Yes, I'm still here! It's been over two weeks since my last post. Yikes! This is definitely the longest bloggy break I've taken without some sort of an announcement. I hope you haven't all given up on me.

I've been busy with work (back to my regular 7-2 schedule, although next week I'll be working 7-3), gardening, entertaining, and another road trip. We were in St. Louis for several days in April and hit the road again over Memorial Day weekend, taking the motorcycle and MiniCooper out to Broken Bow (located in the Nebraska Sandhills). I've been busy with all the photos I shot on both trips, posting a daily shot on my photoblog.

But what have I been reading, you ask? Nothing!! I finished one book in May. Yep, you read that right. Just one! However, remember that long to-do list I posted earlier? Well, I've accomplished quite a bit, which of course makes me very happy.

Wash the front porch and deck (which are both covered in a lovely layer of fine, yellow pollen) Did it!

Wash the cars My sweet husband took care of this for me.

Wash the windows (I'm willing to skip the ones that nobody but us looks out) Still needs to be done.

Paint the guest room and my office (This has been on my list for a few years now and every spring I say, this is the year!) Calling about this tomorrow.

Buy annuals and replacement perennials for flower beds and pots on deck. Plant them! Almost finished!

Tackle the weeding before it gets out of hand. (Too late!) Now I just need to stay on top of them.

Get the carpets cleaned. Done!

Schedule A/C tune-up before the heat & humidity arrive. Done!

Continue sorting and posting photos recently shot on a couple of trips to Missouri. On-going processing, especially now that I've added another set of photos to the mix!

Store all the winter clothing and gear that was tossed into a big pile in the basement over a month ago. Oops. Forgot all about this.

Start brushing Annie on a regular basis. She's beginning to blow her winter coat and we're back to dealing with all that beautiful dog hair. On-going chore.

Start using the Swiss exercise ball I bought over a month ago (and have only used once!). Thank goodness I decided to get that rather than a Wii Fit. I'm only out $25 if it doesn't get used as often as it should. Hmmmm. Maybe tomorrow...

Post new recipes on my food blog. It's been neglected for far too long and I really want to try this recipe. Hmmm. Maybe today?

Read more! I'm still reading the same book I started two weeks ago. It's not long or involved. I'm just too busy (or tired) to read more than a few pages every night. I'm trying! I've got a couple of books going right now, but gave up on a couple that weren't holding my interest.

Post my monthly summary for April! We're almost halfway through May, for heaven's sakes. And now it's time for May's!

So, I'm almost ready to settle down and enjoy the summer with lots of good books. And get out on the lake in my kayak. And spend some time floating in a pool. And ride my bike. Guess I really do need more hours in my day.

Oh, and did I happen to mention a particular book signing I plan to attend next weekend? My favorite biker/car-washer/editorial dude is participating in a local author event at my Barnes & Noble from 2-4 on Saturday.
Should be great fun! Stay tuned for photos of that exciting event!