Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why am I reading this?

I would have read Anna Karenina a long time ago when I was going through a 19th century Russian Literature phase, but I held back because it is supposed to be a sad story, and I prefer to read books with happy endings (hmmm, why was I interested in Russian literature again?).  I decided to tackle it this winter because it is supposed to be one of the best novels of all time.  In the name of "expanding my mind", I decided to try and get over the sad parts of the story and enjoy the book for the sake of good literature.

I am about a third of the way into the book, and there is just one problem: The plot centers around an adulterous affair and I hate stories about adultery.  I have always felt this way, long before I was ever in a relationship myself.  I can't stand movies or books when the main plot is a love story between two people when one or both of them is in another relationship.  I don't sympathize with the main characters, and therefore I don't like the story, because who likes to read a book or watch a movie when you don't respect the people in it?

Anna Karenina has a wide cast of characters, and so I was hoping that the story of Levin and Kitty would keep me interested even though I was disgusted with Anna and Vronsky.  But in the last chapter I read, Levin found out that Kitty was sick and his response was something to the effect of, "Oh man, that sucks.  Oh well, what can you do?"  Really?  This is the love story that supposed to redeem the book?  So now Kitty is the only character I really care about.  Can she pull me through the rest of the novel? 

I'm not going to give up.  I'm going to try to slog through.  Maybe my interest will reignite.  But it's going to be slow going.  Pretty soon I'm going to have to start reading my book club book for March.  Hopefully I'll finish Anna Karenina by the end of the spring.

Anyway, have you read it?  Did you like it?  Is it worth the effort?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Compulsive Viewing

On Monday evening my husband fell asleep on the couch a little after nine.  I decided to take the opportunity to watch a "chick flick", which I take to mean any kind of movie that I can't get my husband to watch with me. Surfing through Netflix on-demand, I found Downtown Abbey, a BBC series that aired on PBS in January.  I had heard that it was good, so I played it.

It's the story of a rich, noble, English family and their servants just before WWI.  The main story is that the heir to the family's wealth and title dies, and the next in line to inherit is a third cousin who makes his living as a lawyer.  The children in the family are all female and can't inherit...but maybe one of them could marry the new heir? 

I watched two episodes that night, and I was totally hooked.  I thought about it all day the next day, and I was thrilled when my husband went to bed early that night so that I could stay up and watch it.  I'm usually in bed no later that 10:30, but I stayed up until nearly 1:00 so that I could watch one episode after another.  And then I couldn't sleep at all that night because I was thinking it.  It was like being engrossed in a really good book, except it's a lot harder to watch a show on the sly than to sneak a few pages of a book here and there. 

There are only seven episodes in the series, so I decided to try and finish it on Wednesday.  I watched an episode and a half during my kids' naptime, snuck the last half-episode in before dinner while my kids watched a show on the computer, and finally was able to finish the series after they went to bed that night.

Deep breath.  It's over.  And now what?  I get to contemplate the production for at least another year before the next season makes it to Netflix. 

Spoiler Alert
And here's what I think:  It was a very compelling story.  I really enjoyed the servants' characters and the subplots involving the staff.  I felt that most of the characters in the story were very believable and even likeable--which is not often the case in shows and literature that portray this period in England.  But I was disappointed that the female lead was not a very nice person.  As the series progressed, she seemed to grow and develop some compassion, but her progress is ruined by her rivalry with her sister and her ability to be influenced by a money-grubbing aunt.  I hope she continues to grow in the next season, because I can't stand to watch a show or read a book whose main character I disrespect (more on this tomorrow).

Anyway, it's definately worth watching, if you have netflix.  I'd just give yourself some time so you can get through the series in weekend.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Please Note: Homemade cookies are not good for diets.

I recently decided that I have been consuming too much refined sugar. I believe it has exacerbated some of my health issues, so purely for health reasons, I decided to go on a diet (e.g. I'm not really looking to lose weight, just to be healthier). I decided to limit my refined sugar intake by limiting myself to one dessert per day.

This is quite a challenge for me. I had gotten in the habit of eating a sweet roll in the morning, having some hot chocolate in the afternoon, maybe a cookie or three before dinner, and an ice cream sundae before bed. Not to mention that I really like pancakes and golden grahams.

It was really over the top, so cutting back is a good thing. I've been pretty successful so far, and I've had some rewards for my success. I notice that I am sleeping better at night and I've even lost a few pounds, as a bonus. However, I hadn't had a chance to make cookies since I went on my diet...until Friday.

I have discovered it is nearly impossible to eat only one serving of homemade chocolate chip cookies in a day. There they delicious and tempting. And you don't want them to get stale and go to waste, right?

I think I'll keep the rest of them in the freezer and only unfreeze one serving at a time, keeping the cookie jar empty. Hopefully this will help me get back on track.

But don't they look delicious?

Friday, February 18, 2011

The King's Speech

The King's Speech is a fantastic movie, and if you haven't seen it, you should go.  Personally, I love Geoffory Rush and Colin Firth.  I started smiling during Rush's first scene, and I kept that grin on my face almost the whole movie--not that it was always funny, but that I just love watching him act, he's so fantastic.  The rest of the cast was also wonderful, full of all my favorite British actors. 

I thought it was funny that everybody in the movie was typecast.  Colin Firth played the tempermental nobleman, Geoffory Rush played the quirky doctor, Derek Jacobi was a clergyman, Timothy Spall plays a character role: Winston Churchill.

The only one who didn't fit was Helena Bonham Carter, playing the Duchess who becomes Queen Mary.  Carter has played queens before, most recently as the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland and before that as Queen Jane.  But we don't really think of her as queenly.  She is known for her strange performances and even stranger public image.  I think of Fight Club as her defining role.  But I loved seeing her play as sweet character again.  It reminded me more of her role in A Room with a View, one of my favorite movies of all timeIn The King's Speech, she played a devoted wife.  In every scene, she portrayed a women who loved her husband and wanted to help him overcome his challenges.  You could see her eyes filled with love when she watched him struggle with his speach impediment.  You knew that she would do anything for him if she could only help him. 

I watched her and thought, that is the kind of wife I want to be.  Hollywood brainwashing?  Perhaps.  But I don't mind being brainwashed into doing something good and beautiful.  Would you?

A Night Out

Last night I went out to a movie with one of my girlfriends.  We met first at Cafe Latte in St. Paul for a piece of chocolate cake, and then we went to The King's Speech at the Highland Theater.  I don't go out in the evenings very often.  For some reason I am very reluctant to get a babysitter for my kids so that my husband and I can go out, and I feel guilty leaving him alone with the kids so I can go out by myself. 

My friend Claire and I always see eachother with the kids.  We have known eachother since our oldest children were infants, and we've tried to make a regular playdate every month.  This month we had a disasterous trip to the Minnesota Zoo.  We didn't know that it was "French Day" and there were about 1500 teenagers at the zoo.  The paths were totally congested and it was near impossible to get around with the strollers, much less keep track of three toddlers in the crowds.  We finally plopped ourselves down at a table in the cafeteria, looked at eachother and decided it was time for us to meet without the kids.

We had a lovely evening.  We realized that there was so much that we didn't know about eachother because there are so many things that you can't say in front of the kids.  And when they are around they tend to dominate the conversation.  So we had a nice time catching eachother up on the other aspects of our lives, and then we went to the movie.

I'm so glad that I was able to go out.  And the best part is that we get to go back for free because there was a mistake when they changed reels.  We watched commercials for ten minutes in the middle of the film, so we got free passes to visit again.  I wonder what will be playing next month.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I wish I could be beautiful and stay young forever.  As that is not an option, I have decided that I need to reconsider my approach to my appearance.  I have never been a makeup person.  When I was a teenager I scoffed at my classmates who spent hours in front of the mirror to fix their face.  "Youth is Beauty," I used to say.  "Older women wear makeup so their skin can look like yours does naturally".  I always thought that the natural look was the most beautiful. 

Enter womanhood.  I turned thirty this winter, and I definitely am beginning to show it.  I have very light, thin skin that shows the finest lines around the forehead, eyes, and lips.  I decided I need to start treating my skin with retinol to keep these lines from getting deeper.  My dear friend Bonnie gave me a $50 gift certificate to Target, and she was kind enough to come over and watch my Little Ones while I browsed at the store.  I bought Neutrogena Deep Wrinkle treating daily moisturizer, some Loreal mineral powder foundation, concealer, and eye shadow.  I really need to get some lipstick too, but I'd rather go to Macy's and get some Clinique lipstick.

Now the challenge will be to find time in the day to apply these products to my face.  Generally I have to try and do these sorts of things when my Little Ones are looking the other direction or busy elsewhere.  Maybe I need to try a new approach in order to make a skin care regimen for myself.

Monday, February 14, 2011

St. Valentine's Day

I never had a good Valentine's Day until I met my husband.  And now I can look forward to a pleasant evening and warm loving feelings every year.  We never go out on Valentine's Day.  We tend to avoid going out on holidays--the restaurants are crowded, the food is more expensive, and you have to worry about drunk drivers on the way home.  But we have developed a tradition of buying some of our favorite food that is a little more pricey than our average fair and cooking a fancy dinner at home.  Well, really David usually cooks dinner.  I'm a better baker than a cook, and David is so good at cooking meat.  Tonight we will be eating steak...mmmm, forbidden steak.

This afternoon I was surprised with a doorbell ring and flowers from Bachman's delivered to my door.  Is there anything better than delivered flowers?  This bouquet of roses is truly amazing.  I think it's the most beautiful bouquet I've every seen.

The card below the flowers is my gift to David.  I love to make handmade cards, especially for people whom I know will appreciate it.   Here's a closer look:

Simple and sweet.  I hope you all have a lovely Valentine's Day, with whomever you may be celebrating.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Greusome Feast

Yesterday afternoon I watched from my kitchen window while this bird tore at the flesh of an unidentified rodent that probably made its home in my back yard.

In the past we have seen Coopers Hawks in our backyard and assumed that they nested near our house.  Something makes me think this isn't a Coopers Hawk, though.  It seemed smaller and the feathers on its back were positively blueish.  Possibly a Peregrine Falcon?  Maybe that's just wishful thinking.  It could have been a smaller Cooper because I think the males are supposed to be smaller than the females, but that still doesn't explain the feathers.  If you have a suggestion, I would be honored if you would enlighten me.  I am only a very ammature birdwatcher.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Quick Dinner

We didn't get to attend the annual Superbowl party our friends always host because my daughter has been unwell all day, so we stayed home.  I made a quick dinner for my two kids, Adele and Henry, and myself.  My husband fended for himself with a chicken sandwhich.  I wanted something that would be really easy on her stomach, because she keeps puking up everything I feed her.  I sauteed some garlic in olive oil and butter and tossed it with cooked spaghetti.  I served this simple pasta to my kids with some peas.  Then it was my turn.  My husband came home from work on Friday with a can of sardines in a mustard dill sauce.  I ate one sardines, then smashed two more into my noodles.  I had to add a little bit more butter for consistency.  I SHOULD have sauteed the whole thing in some white wine, but by the time I thought of it it was too late.  Finally I threw a handful of pitted calamata olives in there and served it to myself with a glass of water.  It was delicious.  I gave my husband a taste and he called it "very fancy"...which I took as a compliment. 

I'm sorry, I didn't think to take a picture.  I guess I'm not fully in the blogger frame of mind yet.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Club

My display of book club party food.

My book club met at my house last night to discuss Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson.  I really enjoyed reading the book, and I was looking forward to discussing it.  This is the first book club I've every joined, and I've only been a member for a few months, but so far the experience has been rewarding.  I generally read two kinds of books:  pulp sci-fi/fantasy and "good literature" (generally books that are either classics or modern fiction that my mother the English teacher has recommended to me).  The problem with reading literature without the benefit of a college class or discussion group is that it can be hard to fully appreciate the book.  I often feel like I'm just going through a book just to find out what happens in the story, but then I miss the underlying themes and the nuances of the language.  And if I do find something insightful, I have no one to share it with. 

I've now read two books with my book club, Out Stealing Horses and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Both times read the book at a slower pace than is my usual habit.  I underlined passages, took notes, and thought of things that I wanted to discuss with the group.  It has been an exciting experience.  I feel like I'm in college again.  And the discussion with my friends has been rewarding.  They notice things that I have missed and respond differently than I do to elements of the story.  I was sad that the group did not unanimously like Out Stealing Horses, especially since I am the one who chose it.  The found the story and language too fragmented, and the themes of the book depressed them.  But I still think it is an excellent book.  I thought it was pleasurable and thought provoking.  The fragmentation seemed to me to be a tool used by the author to depict the state of mind of the narrator.

I think it would be fun to write an essay on Out Stealing Horses.  I've started thinking about it, but if I'm going to do it I want to do it right, which will take me a while.  Meanwhile I'm going to continue reading Anna Karenina until it's time to start working on The Inheritance of Loss, the next book club assignment.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gâteau Breton

I'm hosting book club tonight for the first time.  I am going to be serving gâteau breton, which is basically a French pound cake.  I've had the recipe since I was a teenager.  I bought The Global Gourmet cookbook after attending Lac du Bois, the Concordia French Language Camp in Northern Minnesota.  The Global Gourmet is a compilation of recipes from all the Concordia language camps.  I've treasured the book since then as a goldmine of ethnic cuisine from around the world.  Here is the recipe:

"Gâteau Breton
From the French Village and the province for which it is named, comes a simple, buttery cake...

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 egg yolks
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 375.  Grease 8-inch round cake pan.  Cream butter and sugar; beat until fluffy.  Beat in egg yolks until mixture is very pale and fluffy.  Stir in flour.  Pour into greased pan.  Smooth top carefully; then run a large tined fork around the cake in a series of concentric circles.  Bake about 40 minutes.
8 servings."

As you see, it's a ridiculously simple recipe.  You just have to pretend not to notice how much cholesterol must be in the recipe with all those eggs.

My finished Gateau Breton

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mission Statement

This is not my first blog.  I've tried before to write, but my posts were too few and far between, and the blog languished.  Why would anyone read a blog that only posts every few months, if then?  And what's the point in blogging if no one wants to read it?  So I believe I need to really commit to posting regularly on this blog if it is going to succeed.  In order to do that, I am going to generalize the blogging topics a little bit.  In the past, my blogs were too specific.  If I have a crafting blog, then I only post when I actually complete a craft.  But what if I go several months without crafting at all?  So this time I'm going to present this blog as an extension of myself.  It will be a vehical to share my crafting, baking, music, painting, and reading projects, in addition to talking about my feelings and experiences as a young wife and mother.

Another failure of my previous blogs:  I did not participate in the blogging community.  If I really want readers, I need to actually read and participate in other people's blogs.  So I am going to search out like minded people in the blogosphere so we can share and support eachother's endevors.  Do you think that I would enjoy reading your blog?  Post your link or send me an e-mail.  I will try to respond without delay.

Thanks for reading!