Sunday, May 18, 2014

Delicious Ruth

I wrote about a book signing I attended today, for the novel Delicious, by Ruth Reichl.
Read about it on my Woofnanny blog, here.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A cool dress in my book

Wow, a dress made from the pages of a thesaurus. 
Read about it here

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Recycle books into art

Wall art from old encyclopedias.
Source: Dishfunctional Designs

And make coasters too

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Curbly has a video tutorial to make a purse from a book

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Foodie essays

My latest passion is reading culinary fiction, cookbooks, and real-life culinary memoirs.
I long to be a foodie, but circumstances prevent my full assimilation (lack of funds, lack of company, and an unwillingness to experiment with new foods).
I am, basically, also a vegetarian, so this limits my adventures.
But I still value the idea of foodies, and love being one vicariously via written words.

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, is a collection of essays edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler.
The concept of this book was to ask food and fiction writers to write about what they cook for themselves when they are alone.
The introduction says,
"We read to feel close to people we don't know, to get into other people's heads. I get the same sensation of intimacy from following a recipe...
Because cooks love the social aspect of food, cooking for one is intrinsically interesting. A good meal is like a present, and it can feel goofy, at best, to give yourself a present. On the other hand, there is something life affirming in taking the trouble to feed yourself well, or even decently."

The essays are sometimes introspective, sometimes funny, but always interesting.
I adore this book.

Ann Patchett writes, "The fact is, I love to feed other people. I love their pleasure, their comfort, their delight in being cared for. Cooking gives me the means to make other people feel better, which in a very simple equation makes me feel better. I believe food can be a profound means of communication, allowing me to express myself in a way that seems at times much deeper and more sincere than words. My Gruyere cheese puffs straight from the oven say I'm glad you're here. Sit down, relax. I'll look after everything...
So what does it say about my self-esteem that I know perfectly well how to make a veloute and yet would choose to crack open a can of SpaghettiOs when dining alone?
" (page 17)

Patchett continues, "It is a pleasure to not have to take anyone else's tastes into account or explain why I like to drink my grapefruit juice out of the carton. Eating, after all, is a matter of taste, and taste cannot always be good taste. The very thought of maintaining high standards meal after meal is exhausting. It discounts all the peanut butter that is available in the world." (page 18)

Ben Karlin made a comment about the flavorless stuff Americans have been eating the last few decades.
"In the fall of my junior year of college, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy...there I ate my first real tomato...cut with a Swiss Army knife; juice ran down my arm. I asked (my mom) what the hell those red things were we'd been eating all those years." (page 91, including footnote)

Beverly Lowry talks about the joy in cooking, even for oneself: "Over the years I've settled on a few basic beliefs, one of which is that whatever we do for pleasure, we should try to do, or learn to do, and practice on occasion, in solitude. A kind of test to gauge our skills and see how deep the passion lies and to find out what it is we truly like, to discover--minus other tastes and preferences--what specifically gives us pleasure. We all have our eccentricities. Alone, we indulge." (page 111).

Haruki Murakami made spaghetti as if guests were joining him, but they never came. They were imagined. I love his description. "Every time I sat down to a plate of spaghetti--especially on a rainy afternoon--I had the distinct feeling that somebody was about to knock on the door. The person I imagined was about to visit me was different each time. Sometimes it was a stranger, sometimes someone I knew...
Not one of these people, though, actually ventured into my apartment. They hovered just outside the door, without knocking, like fragments of memory, and then slipped away."
(page 130)

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Book Wreath

Living with Lindsay has a tutorial on making a wreath from book pages.
Before you can say, "sacrilege!", this is actually a great way to recycle damaged books, and it's perfect decor for someone who loves books.

Here's another one (using the same tutorial), made by
Get Your Martha On.

It seems to me it might be cute to turn this into a "wish" wreath, or an advent wreath, and slip tiny notes and/or toys inside some of the cones.
Maybe add a touch of glitter...
Lots of possibilities, especially if you take into account the theme of the book used.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Yes, I'm a Scanner

Refuse to Choose, by Barbara Sher, is a career guide for people with so many interests it's overwhelming.
"Use ALL your interests, passions, and hobbies to create the life and career of your dreams".

Sher calls these people with too many interests "Scanners".
Too often, people who fall into the scanner category are looking for that "it" job that hasn't materialized, or (like myself) they are frozen at a crossroads, not knowing which direction to turn or which path to take.

The book has given me the freedom to relax in my "good enough" job, because it enables me the freedom to do all the variety of things I love.
Maybe that's okay.
Sure, I'd love to find a career that made my passions come to life, and now that I better understand the idea of Scanners, maybe I'll finally be able to figure out my next step.
Regardless, it's interesting reading, and it's nice to know I'm not alone.
"Compared with the dread of not using her potential, a Scanner's other fears fade in significance. A Scanner senses her own talents but is pulled in so many directions she often accomplishes very little. As she watches the years pass, the picture of her still sitting on the sidelines when the game is over creates a growing sense of panic" (page 37)

Sher also has given me the freedom to write out my ideas, yet with the permission to not need to follow-through on everything.
Rather than feeling badly for not finishing everything, now I know that part of what I really need to do is just get my ideas out, play with them, and then put them on the shelf.
Not every single idea needs implementation (i.e. I am not a failure).
"Remember, it doesn't matter if you never do what you're describing on these pages (a Scanner Daybook), because finishing a project is not the issue here. This is about your vision and the free play of ideas for pure enjoyment" (page 16)

This could have been written just for me:
"It's time to claim the feeling that draws you like a powerful magnet to what is new and unknown, because it's the most joyous part of you, and it's the other source of your identity as a Scanner. You see, not everyone feels as bad as you do when you're stuck with a project that doesn't interest you. And not everyone becomes as fascinated and delighted by something new and interesting. That's what makes you different. Your mind loves new ideas for its own reasons. Maybe coming up with ideas is just the way your brain dances" (page 109)

"If you're a Scanner, you're designed to do many things well. Don't try to change yourself into something else. Just observe what you do without judgment and try to understand yourself. The more you know, the better your chances will be of creating the life that fits you perfectly" (page 119)

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dating Optimism

I've read a few dating books, and even more self-help optimistic books (about the power of attraction, etc).
This book, however, has been my favorite so far: Meeting your Half-Orange: an utterly upbeat guide to using Dating Optimism to find your perfect match,
by Amy Spencer.

The great thing about this book is she encourages you to seek out your dreams--but not in a mate so much as in a RELATIONSHIP.
In other words, don't concentrate on how someone looks or what they do, or even traits your appreciate.
Instead, focus on finding the kind of relationship that will make you feel at ease.
The kind of relationship in which you're doing things together that feel perfect for you (is it reading in bed? Laughing in the line at the DMV? Cooking together? You choose).

Find someone who really appreciates all your individual quirks.
You shouldn't have to quash your laugh, or stop eating popcorn, or whatever it is someone once might have ridiculed you about.
That just means that person wasn't the right match for you.
Find someone who loves you as you are
"I learned that it's not only okay to be imperfect, it's FUN to be imperfect. Accept it and celebrate it!"
(page 185)

This is eye-opening:
"Sometimes it takes looking at things from a new angle, which is what Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D, taught as a Harvard professor in his Positive Psychology lectures. In one lecture, he showed students a picture of geometric shapes and asked them to count how many shapes there were.
Then, after joking that he doesn't actually know the answer, he asks them what time it was on the clock in the picture.
Gee, well they weren't looking for the time. 'I focused you on something entirely different', Ben-Shahar said to his students, 'another part of reality.'
The fact is, there are different ways to look at your life.
Lately, you may be focusing on the hole of what you don't have in your life: a romantic partner.
But that's all you've seen: the LACK of it--the glass half empty.
But there is another part of reality in your very same story, and that's what is IN that half-glass.
Happiness is relative.
There must be some things in your life you're grateful for, thankful for, and thrilled about, whether it be in work, in friendships, in your free time, your hobbies, or your health.
Focusing on those things will help you feel positive about your life again, which will create positive energy in your body, which will, once again, attract positive things."

(page 109)

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Saturday, September 26, 2009


I reviewed Molly Wizenberg's book, A Homemade Life: stories and recipes from my kitchen table.
Because I posted one of her recipes, I put the review on my
Woof Nanny blog.
Go check it out.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

What a great idea!

Bookswim, is a Netflix-style online book rental library club.
I am told that they offer a lot of books that aren't available at local libraries.
Definitely worth checking out (pun intended).

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What do you notice?

I wrote again about the book Blindness, only this time on my Woof Nanny blog.
Read the post here.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I read Blindness, by Jose Saramago, at the suggestion of a friend.
Subsequent reviews I've read find it either powerful or irritating, the latter mostly due to the way the book is written (in run-on sentences).
I actually didn't mind the wording--it is written as people speak, without concern for grammatical perfection, with rambling and words spoken out of order.
It was, in this way, real. Even refreshing.

The tone of the book itself, however, is somewhat of a combination of Twilight Zone meets Lord of the Flies.
It is the capacity for human selfishness and cruelty, and a supposedly eye-opening revelation of it all.

This is a book that is probably best read as part of a class, where the instructor can point out profound sections that the general reader may gloss over.
This book deserves discussion, because I'm pretty sure it's a statement about internment camps and other atrocities of the modern world.
Too, it is obviously a comment of the theoretical--of seeing but not seeing.
Of being blind to our actions, to things around us, etc.
Too, one must consider the layers and layers of subliminal meaning to the point of overwhelming.
Or am I 'seeing' too much here?

While I appreciate that the book won the Nobel Prize for Literature, I was not as taken with it as I had hoped.
Parts of it seemed unnecessarily lengthy, and I just wanted to scream, "enough already, get on with the conclusion!"

That being said, I still did dog-ear many pages, so here are some excerpts: (note spoiler alert)
It was my fault, she sobbed, and it was true, no one could deny it, but it is also true, if this brings her any consolation, that if, before every action, we were to begin by weighing up the consequences, thinking about them in earnest, first the immediate consequences, then the probable, then the possible, then the imaginable ones, we should never move beyond the point where our first thought brought us to a halt. The good and the evil resulting from our words and deeds go on apportioning themselves, one assumes in a reasonably uniform and balanced way, throughout all the days to follow, including those endless days, when we shall not be here to find out, to congratulate ourselves or ask for pardon, indeed there are those who claim that this is the much-talked-of immortality.
(page 78)

He tried to imagine what the place must look like, for him it was all white, luminous, resplendent, he had no way of knowing whether the walls and ground were white and he came to the absurd conclusion that the light and whiteness there were giving off the awful stench. We shall go mad with horror, he thought.
(page 92)

If things continue like this, we'll end up once more reaching the conclusion that even in the worst misfortunes it is possible to find enough good to be able to bear the aforesaid misfortunes with patience...
(page 151)

Deaf, blind, silent, tottering on their feet, with barely enough will-power not to let go of the hand of the woman in front, the hand, not the shoulder, as when they had come, certainly not one of them would have known what to reply if they had been asked, Why are you holding hands as you go, it simply came about, there are gestures for which we cannot always find an easy explanation, sometimes not even a difficult one can be found.
(page 181)

In a few minutes, the rescuers reached their destination, they knew it before even coming into contact with the bodies, the blood over which they were crawling was like a messenger come to tell them, I was life, behind me there is nothing.
(page 207)

Say to a blind man, you're free, open the door that was separating him from the world, Go, you are free, we tell him once more, and he does not go, he has remained motionless there in the middle of the road, he and the others, they are terrified, they do not know where to go, the fact is that there is no comparison between living in a rational labyrinth, which is, by definition, a mental asylum and venturing forth, without a guiding hand or a dog-leash, into the demented labyrinth of the city, where memory will serve no purpose, for it will merely be able to recall the images of places but not the paths whereby we might get there.
(page 217)

Don't cry, what else could she say, what meaning do tears have when the world has lost all meaning, In the girl's room on the chest of drawers stood the glass vase with the withered flowers, the water had evaporated, it was there that her blind hands directed themselves, her fingers brushed against the dead petals, how fragile life is when it is abandoned.
(page 248)

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Saturday, August 23, 2008


"Q: What do you get when you cross an insomniac, an agnostic, and a dyslexic?

A: Someone who stays up all night wondering if there is a Dog.”

--Groucho Marx


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Ah, for the love of food

I suppose my posting excerpts versus my own opinions/reviews could be called a spoiler.
I suppose I post excerpts because I must.
Just like I have to make notes all the time, write diary pages, and remember quotations...because it's all about loving words.

Comfort me with Apples, by Ruth Reichl, just makes me smile.

The scrambled eggs with truffles were even better than the foie gras. Minutes earlier I would not have thought it possible. Each forkful was like biting off a piece of the sun. It was like musk and light, all at once, and suddenly I burst out, "This is what I always imagined sex would taste like." (page 42)

There was a kind of magic to champagne that old, a wine bottled before automobiles or airplanes or either of the major wars. A wine bottled before women had the vote. Watching the liquid come sparkling into my glass, I thought of all the years it had been waiting in that dark bottle, what a different world it was emerging into. I was drinking history; I liked the taste.
(page 43)

"I love this," I said before I had time to think. "It tastes like grapefruit." Why couldn't I keep my opinions to myself? But Darrell only nodded solemnly and said, "That's exactly what I've always thought!" Looking at Colman he added, "This one you should keep. Such enthusiasm!"
Colman looked at me speculatively; I couldn't imagine what he was thinking. After a minute he said, "You don't think enthusiasm clouds the critical faculties?"
"Not at all," Darrell replied. "What's the point of knowing a lot about food if all you get is disappointment?"
(page 60)

The path turned away from the golden hills and into woods, and suddenly it was almost dark and very cool. The trees above us grew close together, forming a leafy tunnel, and the scent changed to a darker one, of earth, leaves, and mushrooms. Twigs crackled beneath our feet. Bits of sunlight filtered through the leaves, making the path sparkle.
"It's like being in a cathedral," Michael said, his voice improbably reverent. "Like walking beneath stained glass." He was almost whispering as he went on: "I love churches. Sometimes when I'm really sad I go in and light candles. I love the dark, and the waxy smell, and the feeling of hope in the air. If God were anywhere, he'd be in a place like this, don't you think?"
But all I said was, "Look!" Because we'd found the place. The trees ended just ahead, and we started running, laughing, delighted. It was a deep pool at the end of the forest and straight ahead was a waterfall. Just as we arrived a bird started to sing, loudly, on a branch above our heads.
And finally I replied, "Yes, if God were anywhere, he'd be here."
(page 156)

My head flew off. I felt my cheeks getting hot and my eyes getting moist. My palms prickled. Shivers swooped down my spine. Suddenly I was so attuned to sensation that I could feel my watch ticking against my wrist. No food had ever done this to me before.
The hot-pink soup was dotted with lacy green leaves of cilantro, like little bursts of breeze behind the heat. Small puffs of fried tofu, as insubstantial as clouds, floated in the liquid. I took another spoonful of soup and tasted citrus, as if lemons had once gone gliding through and left their ghosts behind
. (page 177)

Danny's soup was extraordinary, with that resonance that goes on and on, like a bell still humming, long after the last note has been struck.
Danny did not sit down. As we ate he stood at the stove like a mad scientist, enveloped in the steam that billowed about him from a huge cauldron. I heard the sizzle of butter hitting a hot surface and sensed the high, clean note of lemon juice being added to the pan. Now there was a richer scent--cream, I guessed--and the aromas began to mingle, so that lemon and cream and butter were dancing through the air.
Water drained; wet pasta hit a skillet with a hiss, and a cover went crashing down. Then Danny was rushing to the table with a plate in his hand and setting it in front of me. "Eat it now," he insisted, "don't wait for the others. This is a dish that can only be served to people eating in the kitchen. In a few minutes it won't be any good. I made the noodles myself.
I twirled the pasta around my fork and took a bite. And then, in spite of myself, I gasped. The pasta was so think that it seemed to have vanished, leaving only a memory behind. What was left was simply the subtlety of the sauce, pure and light, as if the liquid had somehow taken solid form. It wasn't food; it was magic on a plate, and for a moment I disappeared into the flavor. When I returned Danny was standing over me, watching me so intently and with such pleasure that I knew I didn't have to say a single word.
(page 245)


Monday, August 04, 2008

Garden Spells

I saw the cover of Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen, in a store and was intrigued.
You might be surprised how many great reads I've found because I was attracted to the cover.
Something about the color or the image made me pick up the book and leaf through the pages.

I went back to buy a copy, and it was sold out.
Then I saw a display of new books at my local library, and had to read it.
This is one of the best books I've read in awhile.

It is filled with all the elements I love--food, symbolism, writing that makes me want to dogear the page.
It is the story of a family with some quirks--an aunt has a compulsion to give people things they are going to need, they just don't know it yet.
A sister has both a passion and a gift with cutting hair and making people look amazing.
Another sister caters using things that grow in her garden.
It's special garden.
The apple tree boasts fruit like crystal balls. Um, not the size, the effect.
It is a garden filled with herbs and flowers that, when cooked into breads and cakes and other goodies...evoke things you want to see or feel.

This book is magical in every sense of the word.
I loved it.
Sense is the perfect word actually--the book is about taste and smell and touch, and the way simple pleasures transform our lives.

Here are some excerpts to give you a hint:
For the past two years, ever sine he'd dragged her back from Boise, Sydney would walk into a room and smell roses, or she would wake up and taste honeysuckle in the air. The scents always seemed to be coming from a window or a doorway, a way out.
It was only one night while watching Bay sleep, crying quietly and wondering how she was going to keep her child safe when they were in danger if they stayed and in danger if they left, that it suddenly made sense.
She'd been smelling home.
(page 32)

The garden was gated with heavy metal fencing, like a gothic cemetary, and the honeysuckle clinging to it was almost two feet thick in some places, completely closing in the place. Even the gate door was covered with honeysuckle vines, and the keyhole was a secret pocket only a few could find.
When she entered, she noticed it right away.
There, in the cluster of Queen Anne's lace, tiny leaves of ivy were sprouting.
Ivy in the garden.
The garden was saying that something was trying to get in, something that was pretty and looked harmless but would take over everything if given the chance.
(page 35)

Sometimes people who had been together for a long time got to imagining that things used to be better, even when they weren't. Memories, even hard memories, grew soft like peaches as they got older. (page 50)

There was a type of craziness caused by long-term complacency. All the Burgess women in town, who never had less than six children each, walked around in a fog until their children left home. When their youngest finally left the nest, they always did something crazy, like burn all their respectable high-neck dresses and wear too much perfume. And anyone who had been married for more than a year could testify to the surprise of coming home one day and finding that your husband had torn down a wall to make a room bigger or your wife had dyed her hair just to make you look at her differently. There were midlife crises and hot flashes. There were bad decisions. There were affairs. There was a certain point when sometimes someone said, I've had enough. (page 161)

When you know something's wrong, but you don't know exactly what it is, the air around you changes. Claire felt it. The plastic of the phone was too warm. The walls were sweating slightly. If she went out to the garden, she knew she'd find morning glory blooming in the middle of the day. (page 79)

It was hot and things were out of whack. Doorknobs that everyone swore were on the right side of the doors were actually on the left. Butter melted in the refrigerator. Things weren't being said and were left to stew in the air. (page 129)

She crossed her arms over her chest and watched a maid put candles in tall glass hurricane lamps on each of the tables. Sydney listened distantly as Claire told Joanne where the roses and the fuchsia and the gladioli should be placed on the tables. "Gladioli here," she said, "where the nutmeg stuffing in the squash blossoms and the fennel chicken will be. Roses here, where the rose petal scones will go." It was all so intricate, a manipulative plan to make the guests feel something they might not feel otherwise...
"If it's love you want to portray, then roses." And, "Cinnamon and nutmeg mean prosperity."
(page 90)

"You've learned the secret to my success," Claire said. "When people believe you have something to give, something no one else has, they'll go to great lengths and pay a lot of money for it." (page 143)

this is such a fun idea!
Claire was at the kitchen island making chocolate cupcakes for the Havershams, who lived four doors down. They were hosting their grandson's pirate-themed tenth birthday. Instead of cake, they wanted six dozen cupcakes with something baked inside, a child-size ring or a coin or a charm. Claire had made candy strips from thin shoots of angelica from the garden and was going to make a tiny X on the frosting of each cupcake, like the sign on a treasure map; then she was going to put tiny cards on toothpicks with riddles as to what was buried within. (page 174)

And as a boy it was a fact that if you caught exactly 20 fireflies in a jar, then let them all out before you went to bed, you'd sleep through the night without bad dreams. (188)

He stared up at the moon, which looked like a giant hole in the sky, letting light through from the other side. He took deep breaths of the wet grass and warm roses and the black pavement from the highway that was still so hot from the summer sun that it melted at the edges and smelled like fire. (page 238) was like the way you wanted sunshine on Saturdays, or pancakes for breakfast. They just made you feel good.
(page 282)


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Foodie memoirs

Last Christmas, I picked up a copy of Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires, and didn't put it down until it was finished.
I gave it as a gift, and she loved it too. Now my friend's husband is reading it.
It's that kind of goodness.

Ruth Reichl used to be a food critic for both the Los Angeles Times newspaper and the New York Times.
Now she is the editor of Gourmet Magazine.
And boy can she tell a story.

Garlic and Sapphires is actually the third part edition of stories of her life.
I went back to part one and her childhood, in Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table.
She grew up with an eccentric mother and several encounters with exotic foods and locations, all of which prepared her and influenced her for writing about the journey.

Alice would have snickered derisively at the notion, but she was the first person I ever met who understood the power of cooking. She was a great cook, but she cooked more for herself than for other people, not because she was hungry, but because she was comforted by the rituals of the kitchen. It never occurred to her that others might feel differently, and I was grown before I realized that not every six-year-old would consider it a treat to spend entire afternoons in the kitchen. (page 26)

I dipped my own (spoon) into the thick liquid and brought it to my mouth. With the first sip I knew that I had never really eaten before. The initial taste was pure carrot, followed by cream, butter, a bit of nutmeg. Then I swallowed and my whole mouth and throat filled with the echo of a rich chicken stock. I took another bite and it began all over again. I ate as if in a dream.
The butler set a roast before Beatrice's father, while the maid removed our empty bowls. Slowly the roast was carved and then the butler moved majestically around the table serving the meat.
It was just a filet of beef. But I had never tasted anything like this sauce, a mixture of red wine, marrow, butter, herbs, and mushrooms. It was like autumn distilled in a spoon. A shiver went down my back. "This sauce!" I exclaimed involuntarily. The sound echoed through the polite conversation at the table and I put my hand to my mouth. Monsieur du Croix laughed.
(page 65, 66)

Slowly, proudly, Marielle began teaching me everything she had learned in hotel school. She taught me to bone fish, make omelets, and serve with a spoon and fork and one hand behind my back. She made me taste salad dressings over and over until I could pour out the precise ratio of olive oil to vinegar without looking at what I was doing. "It's like typing," she said, "you have to know it in the fingers so that you do not think about it with the head. You will need this later." (page 144)

Unknowingly, I had started sorting people by their tastes. Like a hearing child born to deaf parents, I was shaped by my mother's handicap, discovering that food could be a way of making sense of the world.
At first I paid attention only to taste, storing away the knowledge that my father preferred salt to sugar and my mother had a sweet tooth. Later I also began to note how people ate, and where. My brother liked fancy food in fine surroundings, my father only cared about the company, and Mom would eat anything so long as the location was exotic. I was slowly discovering that if you watched people as they ate, you could find out who they were.
Then I began listening to the way people talked about food, looking for clues to their personalities
. (page 6)

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mistress of Spices

Sometimes I buy vintage books, or used books, and within the cover are written inscriptions...the book had been a gift to someone special.
"From Mommy..." or comments hoping the receiver will be as delighted by the story as was the giver.
I wonder why I now hold the book in my hands--why it was not kept and treasured and held close.

So too old library books. Who checked this out? Who read these pages? What stories could the book tell beyond its own?

Today, in a lazy afternoon, I finished reading Mistress of Spices, a novel by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.
As a passage would move me, I would dog-ear the page, intending to come back to the words and save excerpts.
Over and over again, I would find the pages already creased, previously dog-eared, sometimes little stars in red pencil marking paragraphs.
Who was similarly moved?
Who is this person with the red pencil?
I'm intrigued.

The book is fantasy, folklore and fable.
It is old wives tails and spells and the symbolism that I love.
The story unfolds around an Indian woman, cloaked in a body of one who is old, but actually a young sage, sent to help Indian patrons with their problems.
She lives in Oakland, in a spice shop.
The spices are living--they whisper to her, they grow angry at times.
The spices have power.
It is the spices, too, that offer healing to those with needs for safety, or love, or finding a way.
The woman pounds them into powders, or cuts them into pieces--they become potions for some, and for others they are simple ingredients in food, though the magic is the same.
Amazon describes the story: Tilo, proprietress of the Spice Bazaar in Oakland, California, is not the elderly Indian woman she appears to be. Trained as a mistress of spices, she evokes the magical powers of the spices of her homeland to help her customers. These customers, mostly first- or second-generation immigrants, are struggling to adapt their Old World ideals to the unfamiliar and often unkind New World. Though trapped in an old woman's body and forbidden to leave the store, Tilo is unable to keep the required distance from her patrons' lives. Her yearning to join the world of mortals angers the spices, and Tilo must face the dire consequences of her disobedience.

Here are some excerpts to give you, the, ahem, flavor.
Fennel,which is the spice of Wednesdays, the day of averages, of middle-aged people. Waists that have given up, mouths drooping with the weight of their average lives that once dreamed would be so different. Fennel, brown as mud and bark and leaf dancing in a fall breeze, smelling of changes to come. (page 108)

I try to think but inside my skull is a jumble of broken parts, thought shards whose ends do not fit each other.
"Ultimately,the Mistresses are without power, hollow reeds only for the wind's singing. It is the spice that decides, and the person to whom it is given. You must accept what they together choose and even with failure be at peace...
But when you lean out past what is allowed and touch what is not, when you step beyond the old rules, you increase the chance of failing a hundredfold. The old rules which keep the world in its frail balance, which have been there forever, before me, before the other Old Ones, before even the Grandmother.
" (page 148)

The death of my father cut me free of all ties, all caring. I was like a boat that had come unmoored, bobbing in an ocean filled with treasure troves and storms and sea monsters, and who knew where I would end up. (page 258)

"Say goodbye to her for us. Say thanks for all her help. Say we will always remember her."
I am moved by the warmth in their voices. Even though I know that what they say, what they believe, is an illusion. Because in time all things are forgotten. Still, I imagine them walking this street next month, next year, pointing. 'There once was a woman here. Her eyes like a magnet-rock drew out your deepest secret,' they say to their children. "Ah, what-all she could do with spices. Listen carefully."
And they tell my story.
(page 281)

But I know that rules broken must be paid for. Balance upset must be restored. For one to be happy, another must take upon herself the suffering.
A tale comes to me from my forgotten childhood: In the start of the world, searching for the nectar of immortality, the gods and demons churned up halahal, bitterest poison from the primal ocean. Its fumes covered the earth, and all creatures, dying, cried out their terror. Then the great Shiva took in his cupped hands the halahal and drank it. The dreadful poison burned in his throat, turning it a bruised blue that remains to this day. Ah, even for a god it must have been painful. But the world was saved.
I Tilo am no goddess but an ordinary woman only. Yes, I admit it, this truth I have tried to escape all my life. And though once I thought I could save the world, I see now that I have only brought happiness into a few lives.
And yet, is that not enough.
(page 318)


Monday, July 07, 2008

The Friday Night Knitting Club

I had high hopes for The Friday Night Knitting Club, by Kate Jacobs, but it was just a'ight for me.
It seemed looooong and, in the end, insignificant.
Like I could have spent time better elsewhere.
Not that it was a bad read, just a so-so one.

The chapters are separated by knitting tips that are metaphors for life.
"Every knitter has a sweater left unfinished; the bags of bits and pieces stashed away an never picked up again. And why? A change in fashion? A change in season? If that was so, you'd just pull out the stitches and use the yarn for something new. No, there's a secret hope that makes you hold on, to dream that you'll get it right someday, that you'll go back and take it up again and it will finally come out right. That this time all the pieces will fit. The mistake is waiting until you feel renewed enough to give it another try. You simply have to pick up the needles and keep at it anyway." (page 261)
"You can't keep your garment on the needles forever; eventually it's going to have to exist on its own, supporting itself. The trick is looping the stitches across each other so they can be pulled away from the needle without coming all apart." (page 295)

The story is about relationships--lovers, daughters, friends. It's about believing in yourself.
I had some excerpts saved, but I think I'll pass after all.
I'm just not that enthusiastic.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Make Scrappy Bookmarks

The Accidental Domestic Goddess has posted a tutorial to make these cute scrappy fabric bookmarks.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Genuine simplicity is the key to happiness

Often people attempt to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.

~Margaret Young

(Thanks to Bella Dia for posting this)