Sunday, May 24, 2015

Weekly Update 5/24/15: Summer Begins


Here we are, summer at last! Unofficially, anyway. Memorial Day thru Labor Day. Longer days, dinner on the patio, a glass of wine by the lake, cruising on the boat, lounging by the pool, maybe a road trip or two... and so many events!

The season kicked off yesterday with my daughter's boyfriend's college graduation. A three hour drive on either end, plus the ceremony, moving out day, and a celebration barbecue made for a very long, but very happy day. Onward we go.. to Father's Day, high school graduation season, and the 4th of July!

Finished reading//
Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
I loved this read/listen combination and will try to post a review this week.


Current reading//

Another read/listen combination


The Seven Sisters by Margaret Drabble
very quiet and introspective


On the blog//
Tuesday Intro: Shotgun Lovesongs 
Review: A Taste of Upstate New York by Chuck D'Imperio (Weekend Cooking)

Around the blogosphere//
Here's a post of note that's just too good not to share. In fact, I kind of wish I'd written it myself!
Bibliophiliac's Top Ten Reasons to Read Anthony Trollope


I'll leave you with this photo from one of my walks this week... a beautiful purple mailbox garden. Enjoy the rest of the long weekend. What will you be reading?

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Taste of Upstate New York by Chuck D'Imperio


A Taste of Upstate New York: 
The People and the Stories Behind 40 Food Favorites
by Chuck D'Imperio
Syracuse University Press, 2015
288 pages
source: from publisher via Netgalley

Publisher's summary:
Upstate New York is the birthplace of many of America's favorite food treats. The chicken wing was born in a bar in Buffalo, the potato chip was born in the kitchen of a ritzy hotel in Saratoga Springs, the salt potato got its start along the marshy shores of a Syracuse Lake and Thousand Island Dressing was born in a hotel along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Add to these items black dirt onions, chicken riggies, pink striped cookies, sponge candy, spiedies and the ice cream sundae and many more. This book also introduces the reader to the human faces behind these edible legends. Their stories are inspiring and fun! Each of the 40 plus chapters includes restaurant directions, photographs and other pertinent information to make your self-guided "all you can eat" tour around Upstate New York a sumptuous journey for sure.

My thoughts:

Chuck D'Imperio is no stranger to Upstate New York. He has written several previous books including Unknown Museums of Upstate New York: A Guide to 50 Treasures  and Monumental New York!: A Guide to 30 Iconic Memorials in Upstate New York  and now turns his attention to the "wonders and quirky food facts" of Upstate New York.

In  A Taste of Upstate New York, D'Imperio divides the area into eight regions - from Chautauqua/Allegany in the southwest corner to the Thousand Islands/Seaway in the north, and south to Catskills/Hudson Valley - and regales us with each area's delicacies, lore, and sometimes even a recipe or two.

I was delighted with the inclusion of Turkey Joints (a beloved holiday season confection of chocolate and Brazil nuts coated with spun sugar and shaped to look like - you guessed it - a turkey joint), salt potatoes, Chicken Riggies, and famous Utica Greens. My husband's hometown is mentioned as the the birthplace of pie-a-la-mode... a fact which has always made him inordinately proud.

Cornell Chicken (another personal favorite) is a New York State Fair tradition served at Baker's Chicken Coop since 1949. Dr. Bob Baker was a former chair of Cornell's Department of Poultry and Avian Sciences. D'Imperio shares the famous recipe:
Dr. Baker's Cornell Chicken Marinade 
1 egg
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups cider vinegar
3T coarse salt
1T poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
Beat the egg, add oil, beat again. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Use the sauce for basting. While barbecuing, brush sauce on chicken each time you turn it. Makes enough sauce for 10 halves.
In addition to foods from my childhood, I found a few new favorites, like Bread Alone in Rhinebeck, NY. 

D'Imperio also highlights local cookbooks and foodie celebrities, including Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge ( The Fabulous Beekman Boys) and The Moosewood Collective. Iconic restaurants and "fun food festivals" are listed, too, and have provided ideas for countless day trips or weekend getaways.

Bottom line:
This book is chock-full of local food lore, fun food festivals, and legendary restaurants. There are even a few (locally) famous recipes! It's entertaining, nostalgic, and a must read for anyone who has spent time in Upstate New York.




Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday Intro: Shotgun Lovesongs

We invited him to all of our weddings; he was famous. We addressed the invitations to his record company's skyscraper in New York City so that the gaudy, gilded envelopes could be forwarded to him on tour - In Beirut, Helsinki, Tokyo. Places beyond our ken or our limited means. He sent back presents in battered cardboard boxes festooned with foreign stamps - birthday gifts of fine scarves or perfume for our wives, small delicate toys or trinkets upon the births of our children: rattles from Johannesburg, wooden nesting dolls from Moscow, little silk booties from Taipei. He would call us sometimes, the connection scratchy and echoing, a chorus of young women giggling in the background, his voice never sounding as happy as we expected it to.
Shotgun Lovesongs
by Nickolas Butler

I borrowed this book from the library and started reading on Friday. Soon afterwards, I realized there were multiple narrators in the audio version and downloaded that, too. (I'm a big fan of multi-narrator productions.)

"Friendship" novels almost always appeal to me and, so far, this one appears to be a gem. It's also a little out of the ordinary because the primary friendships are between men - childhood friends now in their thirties and reunited in a small Wisconsin town.

Want to know more? Here's the goodreads summary:
Hank, Leland, Kip and Ronny were all born and raised in the same Wisconsin town — Little Wing — and are now coming into their own (or not) as husbands and fathers. One of them never left, still farming the family's land that's been tilled for generations. Others did leave, went farther afield to make good, with varying degrees of success; as a rock star, commodities trader, rodeo stud. And seamlessly woven into their patchwork is Beth, whose presence among them—both then and now—fuels the kind of passion one comes to expect of love songs and rivalries. 
Now all four are home, in hopes of finding what could be real purchase in the world. The result is a shared memory only half-recreated, riddled with culture clashes between people who desperately wish to see themselves as the unified tribe they remember, but are confronted with how things have, in fact, changed. 
There is conflict here between longtime buddies, between husbands and wives — told with writing that is, frankly, gut-wrenching, and even heartbreaking. But there is also hope, healing, and at times, even heroism. It is strong, American stuff, not at all afraid of showing that we can be good, too — not just fallible and compromising. Shotgun Lovesongs is a remarkable and uncompromising saga that explores the age-old question of whether or not you can ever truly come home again — and the kind of steely faith and love returning requires. 
What do you think of the opening? Would you continue reading?


Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

5/17/15 Update: A Week in Barsetshire


 Sunday already? Spring is in full bloom in central New York. My daily walks have become more colorful, people seem more cheerful, and the Saturday Farmers' Market has opened for another season. Local offerings are still scarce, but will grow more plentiful as the season progresses.

Book Sale season is just around the corner, too. Since I'm back on the board of the local Friends of the Library, I have to carve out time for a couple of book sorting sessions each week. I've often thought that with more and more people using e-readers our book donations would be down, but that is definitely not the case. Lots of work to be done there!


This week I was consumed by life in Barsetshire. Every free moment was devoted to Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope, which I finished on Thursday. It was another 5-star read, and I am prepared to declare Mr. Trollope my new favorite author. Now I must decide what to read until July when our #6Barsets Project continues with Framley Parsonage. Do I possess enough willpower to wait six weeks? That remains to be seen.

Current reading//


Shotgun Lovesongs  by Nickolas Butler
I borrowed this book from the library, but also downloaded the audio version when I discovered it was a multi-narrator production... can't seem to resist those!


Up Next//
The movie still hasn't opened here. I think I have at least another week.

On the blog//


With all the time spent in Barsetshire this week, there was not much left for blogging. But I did introduce a new series, Pages from the Past. I've kept a reading journal for years and each month I will highlight one year... stand-outs, stinkers, book club favorites, and anything else significant.

This week's post: Pages from the Past: My 1998 Reading Journal

Book Shopping//

I haven't been accepting review copies and am trying to read more from my own stacks and kindle, so there haven't been many new books to speak of lately. But I was browsing in one of my favorite indie book stores on Mother's Day and also succumbed to a couple of kindle deals.

The Secret Life of Violet Grant  by Beatriz Williams

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Pevear & Volokhonsky translation

The White Queen: A Novel (Cousins War Series Book 1) by Philippa Gregory

The week ahead//
...  will hopefully be a little more productive as far as blogging goes. I'm looking forward to my SIL's midweek visit. The other big event is Twin A's boyfriend's college graduation and party coming up on Saturday. They've been together for a few years now... seems like he's part of the family.

Today we have a few outdoor chores - gutters to clean, round-up to spray, herb garden to plant... and then maybe some reading time?

How was your week? What are you reading?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pages from the Past: My 1998 Reading Journal


I've been a record keeper, note taker, and list maker for as long as I can remember. Is there such a thing as being too organized? Not in my world.

Kay, who has kept a reading journal for that last 22 years, recently started a Bookish Nostalgia series. She consults her log near the beginning of each month and shares what she was reading 20, 15, 10, and 5 years ago. I love those posts!

My own reading journal dates back to 1998, the year my twins started kindergarten. Prior to that, I was too busy to keep a journal or read much. {Here, I must insert my awe of bloggers with young children who manage to both read and  blog!} Inspired by Kay, my monthly offering will be called Pages From the Past and will focus on a specific reading year... stand-outs, stinkers, book club darlings, and other highlights.

Pages From the Past:
My 1998 Reading Journal

Stand-outs//

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil  by John Berendt

She's Come Undone  by Wally Lamb

Pride and Prejudice  by Jane Austen

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (a one hit wonder?)


I Know This Much is True  by Wally Lamb

The Robber Bride  by Margaret Atwood



Stinkers//

Journal of a Solitude  by May Sarton
I distinctly remembering sneering at what I perceived to be Sarton's excessive self-indulgence. At that time, my days were consumed by the demands of three little girls and I could not even imagine having the ability to consciously decide if my body was "ready" to be awakened by bright morning sunlight. Needless to say, solitude had no place is my life at that time. Over the past five or six years, I've thought about revisiting this book. I suspect my reaction might be quite different. 

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
A little too fluffy for my taste


Book Club Darling//

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood  by Rebecca Wells
Didn't every book club read this in 1998?


1998 Notable// 
I discovered Wally Lamb in 1998. He's still a favorite today.


Have you read any of these books? What were you doing in 1998?
Look for Pages From the Past: My 1999 Reading Journal  coming up in June.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Weekly Update 5/10/15: Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day. Today's post will be short and sweet as we're off to Albany to meet Daughter #1. She's taking the train up from NYC to spend the afternoon with us - a little shopping, lunch, and definitely some book browsing. We'll visit my mother on the way home. I'm a lucky Mom!

Reading, Listening, and Loving//


Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope
I've had a wonderful week in Barchester!


Set Aside//

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Every time I picked this book up, I really wanted to be reading Doctor Thorne instead... definitely a question of timing. I may try again later.

On the blog//


Upcoming event//



Allie at A Literary Odyssey is hosting A Victorian Celebration 2015 in June and July. That fits in perfectly with my trip to Barsetshire. See her post for all the details.


In the kitchen//



I tried a new recipe for Healthy Shrimp Scampi from Smoked 'n Grilled blog... and didn't even miss the butter. (photo from the blog)

The week ahead//
Nothing too exciting... a dental appointment, getting my car serviced, lots of outdoor chores. That should mean plenty of time in Barsetshire!

What are you up to this weekend? Have you read any good books?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End


Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
by Atul Gawande
Metropolitan Books, 2014
297 pages
source: library

"This is a book about the modern experience of mortality - about what it's like to be creatures who age and die, how medicine has changed the experience and how it hasn't, where our ideas about how to deal with our finitude have got the reality wrong." 

Summary (from goodreads):

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person's last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.

Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal  asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.

My thoughts:

Let me be very clear about this - Being Mortal  was not an easy book to read. It challenged me to think about things I'd rather not think about. But I'm certain it will be the most important book I read this year.

It raises important issues about aging, death, and the role of modern medicine. Consider this:
"Medical professionals concentrate on repair of health, not sustenance of the soul. Yet - and this is the painful paradox - we have decided that they should be the ones who largely define how we live in our waning days. For more than half a century now, we have treated the trials of sickness, aging, and mortality as medical concerns. It's been an experiment in social engineering, putting out fates in the hands of people valued more for their technical prowess than for their understanding of human needs." 
It is important, for both physicians and family members, to remember that:
"People with serious illness have priorities besides simply prolonging their lives. Surveys find that their top concerns include avoiding suffering, strengthening relationships with family and friends, being mentally aware, not being a burden on others, and achieving a sense that their life is complete. Our system of technological medical care has utterly failed to meet these needs..." 
That certain measures to prolong life may, in fact, be shortening or worsening whatever time remains often goes unnoticed.

Gawande suggests the posing the question, "If time is short, what is most important to you?"   This could be the perfect starting point for a hard conversation with loved ones or a discussion with health care providers. It's a worthy springboard for deep soul-searching as well.

According to Gawande, as a society
"We've begun rejecting the institutionalized version of aging and death, but we've not yet established our new norm. We're caught in a transitional phase." 
And finally,
"We've been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being."
Amen.

And I've only scratched the surface. There is so much worthy of discussion - with your spouse, your parents, your adult children, and even your book club.

Please... make time to read Being Mortal. You won't be sorry.

My rating:

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