Sunday, April 30, 2023

Life: It Goes On - April 30

Happy Sunday! It's sunny here but windy and not all that warm; not nearly as nice as it was yesterday. The flowering plants are largely all flowering here and it's beautiful to drive down the streets and see all of the color. I'm planning to go plant shopping in a bit but I'm certainly not going to be planting them today. On the plus side, it's not snowing here, as it is at my sister's house!

Last Week I: 

Listened To: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Next up is Gabriela Garcia's Of Women and Salt, which is my book club's May selection. 

Watched: More Ted Lasso, more Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and some NFL draft. 

Read: Now Is Not The Time To Panic by Kevin Wilson. I really enjoyed his previous novel, Nothing To See Here

Made: Cinnamon rolls this morning and a quick bolognese, inspired by the delicious bolognese sauce my friend made last weekend. My quicky version certainly didn't live up to her all-day version but it wasn't bad for something that could be made in a half hour. 

The Boiler Room - Omaha

 My dad insisted on treating The Big Guy and me to a really nice dinner as a thank you. BG and I enjoyed a charcuterie board that had some really unique meats on it, including a pork and parsley terrine that I might not have been brave enough to try if the server had explained it to us (because we are definitely not that fancy as a general rule!). Everything was delicious, the atmosphere of the place is so cool, and our service was amazing. And now I owe a huge thank you to my daddy!

This Week I’m:  

Planning: I ended up spending quite a bit of time reorganizing (and decluttering) my office this week and I think I'll continue with that this week. I'm really feeling the need to shed "stuff" right now so I've been pretty ruthless and it feels so good!

Thinking About: What still needs to be done before we head to Alaska - what needs to be purchased, what I'm going to take, what needs to get done at work before I'm gone for six days. That last piece might be the piece that's giving me the most stress! 

Feeling: Relaxed (well, as relaxed as I ever get when I'm at home and thinking of all of the things that need to be done). A week with nothing on the calendar was just what I needed and I'm looking forward to another week just like that. 

Looking forward to: Think I just answered that. 

Question of the week: When you go out to eat, are you more likely to order something you're familiar with or do you take chances? 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music 
by Dave Grohl
Read by Dave Grohl
10 Hours, 35 Minutes
Published October 2021 by HarperCollins Publishers

Publisher's Summary: 
So, I've written a book. 

Having entertained the idea for years, and even offered a few questionable opportunities ("It's a piece of cake! Just do four hours of interviews, find someone else to write it, put your face on the cover, and voila!") I have decided to tell these stories just as I have always done, in my own voice. The joy that I have felt from chronicling these tales is not unlike listening back to a song that I've recorded and can't wait to share with the world, or reading a primitive journal entry from a stained notebook, or even hearing my voice bounce between the Kiss posters on my wall as a child. 

This certainly doesn't mean that I'm quitting my day job, but it does give me a place to shed a little light on what it's like to be a kid from Springfield, Virginia, walking through life while living out the crazy dreams I had as young musician. From hitting the road with Scream at 18 years old, to my time in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, jamming with Iggy Pop or playing at the Academy Awards or dancing with AC/DC and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, drumming for Tom Petty or meeting Sir Paul McCartney at Royal Albert Hall, bedtime stories with Joan Jett or a chance meeting with Little Richard, to flying halfway around the world for one epic night with my daughters...the list goes on. I look forward to focusing the lens through which I see these memories a little sharper for you with much excitement.

My Thoughts: 
I love music, almost all kinds of music, from all eras. I've known who Dave Grohl was Nirvana hit big. I'm a huge Foo Fighters fan. So imagine my surprise, when I said to my assistant that I was listening to a book by Dave Grohl and she said, "Who's that?" Who'd have thought that reading a book would afford me the opportunity to introduce someone to music they didn't know? Yet more proof of the power of reading! 

Anyhoos, about the book. Dave Grohl grew up in suburban Virginia and refers to it as a Wonderbread existence that he knew at a very young age that he was not cut out for. A punk rock fan at a young age, Grohl taught himself to play the drums. When he was still in high school, he convinced his mother to allow him to drop out of school (even though she was a teacher) and he was soon touring with the band Scream. Life was tough and Grohl grew up fast. When he was just 21, he was introduced to Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselić, who were looking for a new drummer for their band. Their rise was meteoric but more than Cobain could handle and four years after Grohl met him, Cobain committed suicide. 

Grohl drifted for a while after that, recording on his own and even doing a drumming stint with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers (they offered him a permanent gig, but he declined). Convinced to sign again with a record label, Grohl decided he didn't want to be a solo act and started bringing in other musicians. Soon Foo Fighters was born and the rest, as they say, is stadium superstar history. 

If you've ever been to a Foo Fighters concert, seen Grohl on television, or watched him on social media, you're going to find that Dave Grohl the author is exactly the same guy you've seen. He's funny, down-to-earth, incredibly appreciative of the life he's got, and, probably, as obsessed about music as he was the day he decided to teach himself to drum on pillows in his bedroom. He fangirls and name drops and it never seems overly gushy. He is, perhaps, more in awe of his mom than of anyone else he knows. He comes off as a loving father (he once flew from Australia to California and back again in a little over 24 hours just to make a father-daughter dance). 

The chapters were clearly written as individual stories (some repetition appears because of this) to create a through story. It feels just as if you sat down with Grohl and asked him about himself. He is enthusiastic, vulnerable, and funny. I can't recommend the audiobook enough; it amplifies that experience tenfold. One warning: this is a book written by a rock and roll guy and it has the language to prove that. If you know me in real life, you know that doesn't bother me and you're probably already expecting it. If I gave stars to books, this one would be a five-star read for me!

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace by Jennifer Chiaverini

Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace by Jennifer Chiaverini
Published December 2017 by Penguin Group Dutton 
Read by Virginia Leishmaniasis
20 hours, 2 minutes
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley

Publisher's Summary: 
The only legitimate child of Lord Byron, the most brilliant, revered, and scandalous of the Romantic poets, Ada was destined for fame long before her birth. But her mathematician mother, estranged from Ada's infamous and destructively passionate father, is determined to save her only child from her perilous Byron heritage. Banishing fairy tales and make-believe from the nursery, Ada’s mother provides her daughter with a rigorous education grounded in mathematics and science. Any troubling spark of imagination—or worse yet, passion or poetry—is promptly extinguished. Or so her mother believes. 

When Ada is introduced into London society as a highly eligible young heiress, she at last discovers the intellectual and social circles she has craved all her life. Little does she realize how her exciting new friendship with Charles Babbage—the brilliant, charming, and occasionally curmudgeonly inventor of an extraordinary machine, the Difference Engine—will define her destiny.

My Thoughts: 
It's always more than a little embarrassing when a publisher has kindly granted your request to read one of their books and then you don't get to it right away. Or maybe not even for 5 1/2 years. Until you finally decide you'll check it out from the library because even a very late review is better than none. I hope. 

Told through Ada's own voice, as a kind of memoir, Enchantress of Numbers chronicles a life spent trying to please a mother who fought to be number one in Ada's heart (to the point where she was constantly firing nurses, governesses, and teachers who Ada grew fond of) despite not seeming to be overly concerned about the amount of time she spent with her daughter. Ada's mother was hyper vigilant to ensure that she turn out nothing like her romantic father. This from a woman who, after only a few months of marriage, kept the title Lady Byron for the remainder of her days. Yeah, it was a complicated upbringing. 

When Ada met Charles Babbage and mathematician Mary Somerville, her life began to change. Finally she found her people. Then she married a man who encouraged her intellectual long as she still maintained their homes and raised their children. Even Babbage, ultimately expected her to stand behind him, despite the fact that she essentially conceived of computer programming. After all of that, poor Ada died at the young age of 36, unacknowledged for all she had done. 

Chiaverini is an author who digs deep and her extensive research is evident. At 20 hours, it might be argued that she may have included too much of it here. All of the changing of caregivers can get a bit repetitive and moving about the country, for example. Although, it could be argued, all of that made it obvious why Ada was so quick to marry when a man came along who appeared to be supportive. 

Ada's personal life comes off as more compelling than her scientific efforts. Perhaps a bit too much explanation in that area; perhaps it was simply overwhelmed by Ada's personal life. Still, I always appreciate learning the history of a woman who has largely gone ignored by history (because, you know, mostly written by men) and who contributed so greatly to computers as we now know them. I can't help but wonder what Ada Lovelace might have accomplished in her life if she had had the means to focus only on her scientific endeavors and if she had lived longer. 

Monday, April 24, 2023

Life: It Goes On - April 24

Happy Monday! Today was warm and sunny and I worked from home. Made a Monday after a wonderful weekend a little bit easier. This was my Tier One trip; it was such good therapy and my Omaha friend and I can't wait to go back again. 

Last Week I: 

Listened To: I finished Kelly Rimmer's The German Wife today and will start Taylor Jenkins Reid's The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo tomorrow.  

Watched: The Home Edit, which is a very dangerous show for me to watch. I know want to take a couple of weeks off of work, spend all of my money on containers and hangers and completely reorganize every room in my house.

Read: Catherine Schine's Kunstlers In Paradise, which is way overdue at the library but isn't going back until I finish it tomorrow. 

Made: Nothing? I'm pretty sure The Big Guy cooked all of the meals I was home to eat. 

 We arrived in CoMo in time for drinks and dinner Friday evening and didn't leave until after lunch yesterday. We ate, we drank, we shopped, we laughed and we talked and talked and talked. We went to places I'd never been in all of the years I've been going to CoMo and I was able to introduce my friend to a place she hadn't discovered yet. My friend's husband spent so much time with us, too - we've missed him almost as much as her. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: When I left work on Friday, I forgot my bullet journal on my desk and I am lost without it. I have no idea what's on the calendar for this week. 

Thinking About: May. Surely the weather will be nicer in another week, right? I am so ready to get planting and bring out all of my outdoor goodies. 

Feeling: Tired, relaxed, sad that the weekend is past me. 

Looking forward to: Not only am I not able to plan for the week without my journal, I don't even know what to look forward to this week! 

Question of the week: I have not spent a weekend with just the girls in forty years. Why not? Do you ever do girls' weekends? If so, what do you and your friends like to do on your weekends? 

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris by Paul Gallico

Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris by Paul Gallico
First published January 1958
157 pages

Publisher's Summary: 
Mrs Harris is a salt-of-the-earth London charlady who cheerfully cleans the houses of the rich. One day, when tidying Lady Dant's wardrobe, she comes across the most beautiful thing she has ever seen in her life - a Dior dress. In all the years of her drab and humble existence, she's never seen anything as magical as the dress before her and she's never wanted anything as much before. Determined to make her dream come true, Mrs Harris scrimps, saves and slaves away until one day, after three long, uncomplaining years, she finally has enough money to go to Paris. When she arrives at the House of Dior, Mrs Harris has little idea of how her life is about to be turned upside down and how many other lives she will transform forever. Always kind, always cheery and always winsome, the indomitable Mrs Harris takes Paris by storm and learns one of life's greatest lessons along the way. This treasure from the 1950s introduces the irrepressible Mrs Harris, part charlady, part fairy-godmother, whose adventures take her from her humble London roots to the heights of glamour.

My Thoughts:
A couple of weeks ago I watched a movie adaptation of this book, starring Leslie Manville, and so thoroughly enjoyed it that when I found out it was based on a book, I decided to read it. 

You and I both well know that's not always the best idea - movie adaptations, no matter how good, are often so different that it's like you're reading a book that has no relationship to the movie. And I'll be honest, there are some big differences between the book and the movie. Mrs. Harris in book form is somewhat older than Manville, less warm, hasn't just recently discovered she's a war widow, has no potential romantic interests, and is certainly more London "salt-of-the-earth." A character that served as the antagonist in the movie almost immediately becomes an ally in the book, how Mrs. Harris raised the money for her Dior gown is different, and the ending is different. 

And yet the heart of the book remains. Here we have a woman who has lived a quiet life, content with her life, who one day has a dream and does everything in her power to make that dream come true. Along the way, through her own personality, she helps people and makes new friends. She doesn't help to save the House of Dior, as she does in the movie; but she saves herself. She will never again be the same person; she is now a woman who has had the courage to fulfill a dream and have a great adventure. 

The book I checked out actually has another Mrs. Harris story in it but I had to return it before I got a chance to read the second story. But I'm happy to know that there are other Mrs. Harris books waiting for me out there, for when I need a story about the kind of woman who changes people's lives just by being herself. 

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Life: It Goes On - April 16

Happy Sunday! It's grey, windy, and cold here today. Yes, cold. Two days ago it was 90 degrees. The only thing that's good about this cold front is that when it arrived it brought an inch of much needed rain. I suppose I should be taking advantage of a couple of weeks of cool temperatures to get done all of the things I meant to get done when it wasn't nice enough to be outside but haven't yet. But, oh my, am I longing to get outside and into the dirt!

Raise your hand if you're still working on taxes. I'm hoping it's not just me. If that weren't enough stress in one week, I got a new computer. You all know how that goes - it's great except that you keep coming to things that you want to do but first you have to add something to the computer, or learn how the new computer does it.  

Last Week I: 

Listened To: I finished Edna O'Brien's The Little Red Chairs and started Kelly Rimmer's The German Wife

Watched: Nothing memorable. 

Read: I finished Paul Gallico's Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris and will finish Victor LaValle's Lone Women today. 

Made: I haven't cooked or baked a single thing this week - The Big Guy has really stepped up and made dinner every night that we've been home to eat. 

Enjoyed: This week is the very reason I included this piece in my Sunday posts. It's been a crazy week. In weeks like this one, the enjoyable moments are not as easy to find as they are in other weeks. I put this here to make myself really think about what I enjoyed during the week, no matter how small a thing it was. This week, that was a few hours just chatting with BG's brother and his wife, a little dinner and dessert with friends later last night, and a couple of hours organizing in my office. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: It's another busy week. Book club Tuesday, a trip this coming weekend (I can count on one hand the number of times I've traveled without BG!), finishing taxes, and, likely, some long days at work. Don't see myself getting much else done. 

Thinking About: Taxes. Why do they have to be so complicated for the average Joe???

Feeling: A little blue, to be honest. My parents' house went on the market on Friday. As much as I know it's time for that to happen, every step is hard. 

Looking forward to: Friday, when I get in a car with one of my Tier Ones and we head south to see another of my Tier Ones! 

Question of the week: This month my book club is reading The Many Daughters of Afong Moy, which addresses the topic of epigenetic. Have you heard about epigenetic? If so, what do you think about it?

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Life: It Goes On - April 11

Happy Tuesday! Goodness, Sunday got away from me...and then Monday did, too! We had a lovely Easter, filled with a smaller amount of family than we're used to having but with friends, a fancy table setting, and lots of traditional holiday fare. It was so nice that we had our dessert on the patio, where we spent a couple of hours in the sun. 

We don't have the flowers on this tree yet; but I noticed today, as I sat working from home, looking out into the tree, that it has budded out and will soon have leaves. Spring is finally here! I'm ready to decorate the patio/yard; but we are going to have to make some decisions about what we want to keep, having scavenged now more than will realistically fit. I need Mini-him to get a house soon so I can pass things along to him!

Last Week I: 

Listened To: Edna O'Brien's The Little Red Chairs. Yikes! There's some incredibly brutal things in this one! 

Watched: The Home Edit, Grace and Frankie, and we (finally!) got back to Ted Lasso

Read: Paul Gallico's Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris and Victor LaValle's Lone Women (which has me on the edge of my seat and I'm only a quarter of the way through it!). 

Made: Cheesy hashbrowns, deviled eggs (can we just talk about how easy these are when you hardboil your eggs in the Instant Pot - they turn out perfectly every time!), layered salad, and mimosas for Easter. But we took not one single picture of the food, the table or the people. We were just too busy enjoying each other's company!

Enjoyed: Good news today from my dad's oncologist. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: Finishing taxes for three households. Then I'll be splitting my time between working outside and in the basement. We've taken one vehicle load out of the basement to the Goodwill and my goal is to have another full load in the next couple of weeks. 

Thinking About: Alaska. We have our TSA prechecks approved and things we'll need for the trip are starting to arrive. 

Feeling: Busy. Even when there's no scheduled events on the calendar, it still fills like there's not much spare time. 

Looking forward to: A trip (finally!) south with one of my Tier Ones to visit another Tier One. 

Question of the week: If you celebrated a holiday this past weekend, which did you celebrate and what are some of your favorite traditions related to it? 

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Mini-Reviews: Earth's The Right Place For Love by Elizabeth Berg and The Best Strangers In The World: Stories From A Life Spent Listening by Ari Shapiro

Earth's The Right Place For Love
by Elizabeth Berg
288 pages
Published March 2023 by Random House
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley

Publisher's Summary: 
Nola McCollum is the most desirable girl in Arthur's class, and he is thrilled when they become friends. But Arthur wants far more than friendship. Unfortunately, Nola has a crush on the wrong Moses--Arthur's older brother, Frank, who is busy pursuing his own love interest and avoiding the boys' father, a war veteran with a drinking problem and a penchant for starting fights. When a sudden tragedy rocks the family's world, Arthur struggles to come to terms with his grief. In the end, it is nature that helps him to understand how to go on, beyond loss, and create a life of forgiveness and empathy. But what can he do about Nola, who seems confused about what she wants in life, and only half aware of the one who loves her most? 

Full of unforgettable characters and written with Elizabeth Berg's characteristic warmth, humor, and insight into people, Earth's the Right Place for Love is about the power of kindness, character, and family, and how love can grow when you least expect it.

My Thoughts: 
When I went to pull the details about this book, I noticed that it is actually a prequel to one of Berg's previous books, The Story of Arthur Truluv. I wish I had seen that sooner. One of two things might have happened: a) I might have passed on this one entirely, not having read the other book; or, b) the ending wouldn't have been so disappointing for me. 

Arthur is an interesting young man - bright, devoted to his mother and adoring of his brother, enamored of nature almost as much as he is of Nola, and just beginning to understand the world around him.

The book deals with some difficult subject matters - depression, abuse, death and grief - and Berg addresses them with a gentle hand, in line with the pace of life in a small town. But I felt that I knew how the book was going to end from the start; with just a few dozen pages left in the book, I couldn't figure out how Berg was going to get there. And then, suddenly, within a few pages, everything works out. Had I read the first book, I would have understood that this book was about the journey because the destination was a foregone conclusion. Still, I would have liked the ending to be a bit more drawn out. 

The Best Strangers In The World: Stories From A Life Spent Listening 
by Ari Shapiro
256 pages
Published March 2023 by HarperOne
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley

Publisher's Summary: 
Praise for The Best Strangers in the World “ The Best Strangers in the World is a witty, poignant book that captures Ari Shapiro’s love for the unusual, his pursuit of the unexpected, and his delight at connection against the odds.”—Ronan Farrow, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and New York Times -bestselling author of Catch and Kill and War on Peace From the beloved host of NPR's All Things Considered, a stirring memoir-in-essays that is also a lover letter to journalism. In his first book, broadcaster Ari Shapiro takes us around the globe to reveal the stories behind narratives that are sometimes heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking, but always poignant. He details his time traveling on Air Force One with President Obama, or following the path of Syrian refugees fleeing war, or learning from those fighting for social justice both at home and abroad. As the self-reinforcing bubbles we live in become more impenetrable, Ari Shapiro keeps seeking ways to help people listen to one another; to find connection and commonality with those who may seem different; to remind us that, before religion, or nationality, or politics, we are all human. The Best Strangers in the World is a testament to one journalist’s passion for Considering All Things—and sharing what he finds with the rest of us.

My Thoughts: 
I have "known" Ari Shapiro since before he started hosting All Things Considered for NPR in 2015. Which goes to show you what a consummate professional he is. That's the only part of Ari Shapiro I knew. And while that part of Shapiro is on full display in this collection of stories, what's also on display is the personal life of Shapiro, a man who's been different since he was born, one of the few Jews in Fargo, ND. He and his brother would go from classroom to classroom teaching the other students about Hannukah. He was the first person to come out in his high school. I'm certain that part of his desire to tell stories from a human point of view stems from his inherent personality, I'm equally certain that having been a young man who was constantly trying to help other people understand him, he knew that he wasn't alone in wanting that. 

This collection has it all, from the kinds of stories you'd expect an NPR report to have at hand to truly funny stories to very personal stories. His life didn't lead him where he thought it would (theater), until he did, when he began performing with the group Pink Martini during vacations from NPR and doing a cabaret show with actor Alan Cumings. He's met world leaders, leaders in the arts, and journalistic titans but the best stories are the ones where Shapiro introduces us the the individuals at the heart of the stories. Bravo, Ari Shapiro; this is a terrific collection! 

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Life: It Goes On - April 2

Happy Sunday! It's an absolutely beautiful day here - the sun is shining, the wind has finally (after three days) died down, and it was up into the 70's earlier. The Big Guy and I uncovered the patio furniture so that we could soak up some sun and warmth. Certainly made me want to start getting everything set up, but I'm afraid we're a couple of weeks from doing that just yet. 

Last Week I: 

Listened To: I'm finishing Jennifer Chiaverini's Enchantress of Numbers today. 

Watched: Not much, other than college basketball this weekend. 

Read: Even less, I'm sorry to say. 

Made: Pioneer Woman's garlic Parmesan french fries with garlic aioli. So yummy but thought maybe a bit too garlicky. 

 A visit from my brother and sister-in-law. They were in Nebraska to help clear out her mother's house and had just enough room left in their vehicle to take home a couple of pieces from my parents' house that I was storing in case someone decided they wanted them. We took my dad to one of his long-ago favorite places, El' Bee's, to eat on Wednesday and he declared it the best meal he's ever eaten. I don't know that my meal lived up to that but it was delicious - exactly what I wanted. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: On continuing the work in the basement for 40 Bags in 40 Days. I've been hard at is this weekend; starting with the kids' keepsakes. After clearing things with them, I've taken a lot of pictures and bagged a lot of things up. I've been ruthless with the things that I've been saving for "some day." I'd love to spend more time down there; but, I'm stirring up a lot of dust and my allergies aren't happy about it. So I'll just plug away at it a bit each day. 

Thinking About: The upcoming Easter dinner. There will only be four of us so I don't know that we need to have the full array of usual dishes. But what on earth would we give up? Certainly not the cheesy hashbrowns or the pies! 

Feeling: Bleh. I've been battling a headache for three days (I went to bed at eight on Friday and got up at seven the next morning!). It seems to be sinus related but I'm also taking myself off 24/7 pain meds that I've been taking since my back started hurting so it may have something to do with that. 

Looking forward to: Does it sound weird to say that I'm looking forward to my TSA precheck appointment on Friday? I am - it's another step toward our trip to Alaska! 

Question of the week: Will you be watching the college men's championship basketball game tomorrow night?