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Books: The Glass Castle

February 15, 2008 | Books


I just finished The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Anyone?

I’ll write about these books at some point. I’m just busy reading now and curious what others think. I thought this one was incredible. It took my breath away more than once. It was published in 2005 and is being made into a movie.

Most interesting is how these books compare and contrast with each other. It’s always random — the order and and sequence of books I read — but I’m often struck by how some of them fit together. Does that make sense? This sequence of books (Life of Pi, The Girls, Three Cups of Tea, The Glass Castle) was compiled by suggestions and votes from a reading group, not by any one person deciding that these books would go well together. I sometimes feel there’s a lit prof somewhere putting reading lists together for me so we can discuss them in class.

Anyway. Now I’m reading A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown, and I have a feeling it will fit well with the others.

In the meantime, here are some questions.

  • What are you reading?
  • What do you plan to read next?
  • What’s your favorite book of all time?
  • Was it made into a movie? If not, do you wish it were?
  • What did you learn from it?
  • What other book(s) would you recommend reading with it?
Posted by Becky @ 2:10 pm | 8 Comments  

The Great Interview Experiment: Alisa of A Juicy Life

February 14, 2008 | A Juicy Life,Blogging,Blogland games,Citizen of the Month,France,Great Interview Experiment,Valentine's Day


Neil at Citizen of the Month started The Great Interview Experiment on Jan. 18, 2008, after deciding, “We all should be interviewed, at least once.” So I signed up and interviewed the next person to comment after I did: Alisa of A Juicy Life. She runs The Juicy Pear, a pottery studio in Los Angeles, and Art-Works Studio, where she and her husband, Bruce, teach art classes for children.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here is a story of amour and bonheur. A story of the loves of Alisa’s life: her husband, her dogs, her art, pears, wonderful food and République française. Reading through her blog, I was struck by how happy she is. Turns out one meaning of her name is “great happiness.” It fits.

Joyeuse Saint-Valentin, Alisa and Bruce!


I’m so sorry for the loss of your dog Daisy in July. How old were you when you got your first dog? What kind was it? What was his/her name?
We got our first dog “Dixie” when I was about 6. She was a white Shepherd mix. Sweet as can be. My sister and I would dress her up in skirts and shirts. She was so great. She was a mom and had seven puppies after a romp with Reddie the Irish Setter that lived down the street. The pups were like golden retrievers, we kept one “Buffy” … she would steal bread and sleep with it. They both lived a long life, Dixie passed away when she was 18 and Buffy lived until 17. I will always have a dog (or two or three). We currently have three.

Augie, one of Alisa’s three dogs


Congratulations on your recent marriage! What was the first thing you noticed about your husband?
The first thing I noticed about Bruce was his blue eyes … they are beautiful.

Getting married after 11 years together on 11/11 is pretty cool. What made you think of that?
Our first date was on Nov. 11, 1996. We were married 11 years later, on our 11th anniversary of our first date.

Alisa and Bruce on their wedding day


Your photographs of food make me hungry. What would you prepare if I brought a bunch of blogfriends over for dinner?
Duck. For sure. Most people here in the States don’t eat duck, and it’s so so so good. I would also make either my goat cheese-and-leek tart or the new tart I just tried, roquefort and onion. I have a great recipe for orzo and arugula salad, which is fresh and light. I’d also have a couple good baguettes and a plate with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping … AND a couple bottles of a good Côtes du Rhône or Bordeaux wine. For dessert … either crème brûlée or a good flourless chocolate cake.

[Becky: Délicieux! Magnifique! Who’s coming with me to L.A.?]

Where did you grow up and what brought you to California? (That’s assuming you grew up somewhere other than California … )
I grew up in Lansing, Mich. Born and raised there. Youngest of four. My father was a golf professional and my mom a stay-at-home-mom. I left Michigan when I was 23 and went to New York City. Didn’t know anyone. I tell people I grew up in New York because I sure did. I left New York three years later and moved to Los Angeles, again not knowing anyone. The sun brought me here. I’ve been in Los Angeles for 18 years, although Bruce and I moved to Las Vegas for one year to rock climb. It’s time to leave L.A., though. I’m tired of the traffic, the smog and so many people. I will miss the ocean (I live 1-1/2 miles from it and bike along it three to four times a week) and the weather. That’s about it.

What made you fall in love with France?
Everything. My first trip there was 15 years ago, went to Paris and Nice. I have never been to a place where I felt so comfortable. When I arrived in Paris, I actually felt like I had been there before. I love — the language, the people (they are not rude … at least not to me; I have met some very lovely people there), the food, the wine, the lifestyle, the countryside, the architecture, the history and the Tour de France. My favorite village is Saint-Antonin Noble Val, located one hour northeast of Toulouse in the Tarn-et-Garonne. I also love Lourmarin which is in Provence, and Najac in the Aveyron and I love the Dordogne. I love it all.

Alisa in France


Are you or is your family French? (Gigi and Mathieu [Alisa’s niece and nephew] sound sort of … French.)
No. I sure wish … it would make it easier for us to move there. I do speak French, though. Bruce and I have been taking private lessons for three years. My sister is married to a man whose mother is from Nice. That’s where Mathieu (spelling) comes from. Gigi — Georgia — was named after the Republic of Georgia (once part of Russia). My sister adopted this lovely little girl when she was 3 months old. Went to Georgia and picked her up. She’s a pistol.

What will you miss the most when you move to France?
Peanut butter. A good clothes dryer. The ocean. Southern California weather and a few very close friends.

Why “juicy pear”?
I love pears. Not eating them but the way they look. So not perfect! They are all different and unique. I want my pottery to be not perfect … nothing is from molds, no two pieces are the same. “Juicy” because a hard pear is horrible! Some people say that Bruce and I are the “Juicy Pair” …

What inspires you?
People who are risk-takers, free-thinkers and go-getters. Life is too short to moan and groan about things. Take a risk, take a chance, do something different, try something new. When I hear about people who have followed their dream or taken a chance, it makes me smile and realize that our goal to sell the house and sell the business and live in France isn’t crazy.

Were you always an artist? Or was there one thing (person, class, event) that made you want to be an artist?
No. I never thought of myself as an artist. Bruce is a painter, started drawing and painting as a young child. He can draw anything. I was a gymnast growing up. Very athletic, not artsy. I took a pottery class when I was 38, and it was so easy for me. I loved it. Bruce is the one who got me to take the class. He said that all of us are artistic; you just have to find out what it is. I found it in clay.

If you could talk to your 20-year-old self, what would you say?
Don’t get married before you are 35. Stop and smell the roses. THINGS don’t make you happy.

What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?
That I’m pretty anti-social and a homebody. I’d be happy living in the country with just Bruce and the dogs.

Posted by Becky @ 10:02 am | 6 Comments  

Put a little love in your heart

February 13, 2008 | Family,Friends,Heart

According to Adventures of an Awesome (Sometimes) Mother, it’s CHD (Congenital Heart Defect) Awareness Week, Feb. 7-14, 2008.

The CHD Awareness Blog has a “7 for 7 Challenge” that asks for “7 things listed for 7 days” to increase awareness of CHD. I’m late to the party, so this is a belated announcement and an early Valentine’s Day wish. Karen, who started Broken Hearts of the Big Bend Inc., a “circle of support for families affected by congenital heart disease,” sent me these links. (I’m having trouble embedding the video, so here’s the link.)

Her son William’s story
Broken Hearts on MySpace
University of Florida Pediatrics Congenital Heart Center
American Heart Heroes
Children’s Heart Foundation
Children’s Heart Foundation It’s My Heart resource book

A good exercise for the heart is to bend down and help another up. — Broken Hearts of the Big Bend Inc.

Posted by Becky @ 8:58 am | Comments  

Call Guinness*! I think we’re about to set a record

February 12, 2008 | Family,Getting sick,Health,Norway,Traveling,Vacation


See that? That’s how much the Kristiansund Hospital in Norway wants for one overnight stay for my daughter in December. That’s NOK 9750,00 (Norwegian kroner) or about $1,780. That brings our running tab for this vacation to almost $14,000. For three weeks — and one day (thanks, Haris) — in Norway. Next time a Norwegian says they have “free” health care? Don’t believe it. I never have. Paying a 50-percent income tax rate when we lived in Norway was enough to make me believe that nothing is free.

So, dear Norwegian Consulate in Houston, can you help a mother out? (Or anyone? Please?) It apparently doesn’t matter that our daughter has dual citizenship, a Norwegian passport and a Norwegian identification number. I know she doesn’t live in Norway, but this was an emergency.

I suppose it wasn’t great timing for the hospital stay, considering all the news about Gro Harlem Brundtland at the time. Norwegians were all up in arms about her use of the Norwegian health-care system. She’s a former Norwegian prime minister. She’s also a physician and former head of the World Health Organization. (Sorta ironic, no?) She’s retired now and lives in France, and Norwegians weren’t about to let her get “free” health care that included a hip operation. Never mind that she probably paid up to half of her lifetime salary in taxes to pay for Norway’s “free” health care. And never mind that she’s one of those people Norway’s system is supposed to care for in its cradle-to-grave “safety net.”

*I meant this Guinness.

But a few of these wouldn’t hurt. (Although, who has money for beer? Sigh.)


P.S. The bill arrived today. I’m afraid to check my mail anymore.

Posted by Becky @ 7:20 pm | 7 Comments  

Books: Three Cups of Tea

February 11, 2008 | Books


I just finished reading Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Well … you know the drill.

Posted by Becky @ 6:45 pm | 5 Comments  

Because this will help make an informed decision

2008 campaign,Hillary Clinton,Journalism,Katie Couric,Media,Politics,Television


CBS anchor Katie Couric interviewed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., on Feb. 10, 2008, for 60 Minutes.

“What were you like in high school? Were you the girl in the front row taking meticulous notes and always raising your hand?” Couric asked.

“Not always raising my hand,” the senator replied, laughing.

“Someone told me your nickname in school was Miss Frigidaire. Is that true?” Couric asked.

“Only with some boys,” Clinton said, laughing.

“I don’t know if I want to hear the back story on that!” Couric said.[*]

“Well, you wouldn’t want to know the boys either,” Clinton said, laughing.[**]

Hat tip: NewsBusters

*Oh, Katie. You know you do.


Posted by Becky @ 10:20 am | 3 Comments  

The checks (or some such) are in the mail

February 8, 2008 | Blogging,Guest blogger

Here’s what I hope is a proper thank you to all my fantabulous guest bloggers. I delivered little Scandihoovia-land treats to the post office this week, and some of them have already arrived. (Go, USPS!) I swear they have nothing to do with St. Pukealot. Nothing doing with lutefisk either. I promise. Maybe a wee bit about jul, but that’s no big surprise coming from the Land of Christmas. (I’ll write more about that later … with pictures!)

To my guest-blogging pals … thank you!


AdventureDad lives in Sweden with his Mexican wife and two children. He also blogs for The Blogfathers (Dads You Can’t Refuse). He wrote about Paternity Leave Heaven.


Bad American worked in newspapers and radio and now owns a bookstore in Ohio called Granfalloon Books. He has strong political opinions, and he’s not afraid to express them. He wrote Iowa: Smelling the Fear and the Hope.


The Bullshit Observer is married with two sons. He knows bullshit when he smells it, and I like that in a person. Besides, he makes me laugh. He wrote Gentlemanly Conduct and The Presidency … Let’s Outsource.


Matthew at Childs Play x2 is married with twins and lives in California. He makes me cry. Oh, he makes me laugh too, but the way he writes about being a father gets me right there, dammit. He wrote Today I declare my candidacy. While I warned my guests that I had not endorsed — nor did I plan to endorse — any political candidates, Matthew made me take it all back. He gets my vote.


Wendy Hoke of Creative Ink is a writer and editor in Ohio. She makes me think. She wrote Accepting the Quiet. The book she mentioned, The Gay Talese Reader: Portraits & Encounters, is now in my to-read pile. Thanks, Wendy.


Lance at Dad2twins has been a guest here before, reviewing a Los Lonely Boys CD. He married a German, and they have twins. His family comes from the Land of Lutefisk and Reindeer. He calls his daughters the Farty Pants Twins, and what’s not funny about that? He wrote Where should I begin …


Elana at Funny Business writes about business trends. She wrote I may not be Norwegian, but I’ve tasted lutefisk. She lives in Minnesota, so she knows from Norway. I recently read an article about Norwegian-Americans all up in arms about Norway closing its consulate in Minneapolis. “What’s more Norwegian than Minnesota, anyway?” one of them asked. Indeed.


Kemp at Kemp’s Blog is married with twins. He also blogs at The Blogfathers, The “Bush”-Whacked Administration, Draft Day Suit and the Supercoolest Book Club Ever. He wrote Hmmm? What to write?


Thea at The Little Bird is a musician and an artist. She’s expecting a baby in May. Oh, and she reviews books. She wrote Attack of the long-winded book review!


Mamma Loves is smart, witty and hilarious. I got to meet her IRL on a recent visit to her neck of the woods. She also blogs at DC Metro Moms. She wrote Believe it or not, I wasn’t late to my own wedding.

I told Margaret she needs to start a blog. She’s smart, savvy and has lots of interesting things to say. (C’mon. How about a little Blogland pressure? Go, Margaret!) She wrote Are your friends Republicans?


Mom’s Minivan writes about everything you ever wanted to know about traveling with children. She survived Hurricane Katrina with her sense of humor intact. She wrote Get Your Costumes Ready, which has generated a ton of search hits for crawfish costumes and other Mardi Gras-related, umm, things.


Adam at One Man and his Blog is a business journalist across the ocean. He’s got lots of great information about journalism and blogging, and he’s all over the Internet. He makes me laugh, and not just because he talks about quid, hacks and Hogmanay. He wrote Have A Very Bloggy 2008.


Aviva and Devra at Parentopia are the authors of Mommy Guilt: Learn to Worry Less, Focus on What Matters Most, and Raise Happier Kids. I met Devra IRL after convincing her to book my town on her speaking tour. If you don’t know Devra yet, trust me … you will. Devra also blogs at DC Metro Moms. They wrote Oy To The World, the Chinese Is Come, Let Jews Receive Their Food!


Sarah at Sarah and the Goon Squad never fails to crack me up. She has twins two weeks younger than mine. We met when neither one of us could sit properly at a table because of our huge twin bellies. She also writes for DC Metro Moms, BlogHer, Draft Day Suit and the Supercoolest Book Club Ever, among others. She wrote I’m #1 (or first if you prefer that).


Toddled Dredge has a husband, three children and kickass sense of humor. She wrote Green for Danger.


Bill at The View from Here just got a new place in Blogland. Same Bill. He’s just spiffin’ up the place. I came this close to meeting him IRL during a recent visit to his neck of the woods, but he had Brownies that night. I think it had something to do with firearms. Oh, wait. That’s his regular job. He wrote A Little Talk About Guns.


Rebecca Laffar-Smith is a writer, editor, poet and novelist. She has two children and lives in Australia. She also runs the Writer’s Round-About. She wrote Writing From The Heart.

Posted by Becky @ 10:06 pm | 6 Comments  

Oh, hell, my TravHELL was not HELL enough

February 7, 2008 | Blogland games,Traveling


I didn’t win the TravHELL contest. But … go see who DID win. Yeah, there were times during the whole Nightmare in Norway when we said, “It could have been worse … she could have puked at the CHURCH during the FUNERAL … or on the PLANE … or they ALL could have been puking on the PLANE …” So, yeah, while it was our own personal TravHELL, it could have been worse.

Now I’ve got to get back to begging digging for my missing $6,000 … mine is the HELL that keeps on giving.

Posted by Becky @ 6:35 pm | 1 Comment  

Fat, Super … Valentine’s Day?

February 5, 2008 | 2008 campaign,Holidays,Weird things

When I picked up my son from school today (with his two sick sisters along for the ride), he showed me this mask he made.


Wait. Is it Super Tuesday or Fat Tuesday?

He said he made it for Valentine’s Day.

Ow. My head hurts.

Posted by Becky @ 4:18 pm | 2 Comments  

Blogland quotable quotes

February 4, 2008 | Blogging,Quotes


“You know what, Devon? You know that band you were listening to earlier? Sublime?”


“Uh-huh. He overdosed on heroin in some motel in 1996. They wheeled Tom Petty and his oxygen tank onto the stage at the Superbowl and he rocked the fucking house. Who’s the loser, now?”


I win.

Read the whole post here.

Posted by Becky @ 11:38 pm | 2 Comments  


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