Gratitude vs. Expectation

Thursday, May 31, 2012
"The days I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations . . .Well, I have really good days." - Ray Wylie Hubbard

Lately, I've been realizing that so many of the stress-ers I experience every day aren't external. Instead, they spring from within, from the expectations and sometimes impossible standards I set for myself.

Oh, there are certain things that must be done. A grant application must be filed by the end of the week and the school field trip group will arrive tomorrow morning - ready or not.

But will we die if I don't have time to bake bread or make marinara sauce and instead have to pick up the store-bought versions? I think not. Nor will it bust the budget if I have to do so.

If I don't get around to canning asparagus pickles or rhubarb sauce like I wanted? We'll probably survive that just fine too.

And just because the seedlings always get planted over Memorial Day weekend, doesn't mean they can't wait a day or two more in their little trays until the deluge of an entire week of rain has subsided.

So tonight, instead of worrying about the commentary that didn't get written, the work supplies that didn't get ordered, or pesto that didn't get made, I'm choosing to be grateful. Grateful that rather than do any of things I thought I should be doing and took a paddle down the lake with Andy to experience spring in full bloom. Grateful to have beauty surrounding me every day, if I only remember to see it.









Are you keeping your gratitude higher than your expectations these days?
 
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I am the Rain King

Monday, May 28, 2012
They always say, be careful what you wish for . . .

Here on the Trail, after a good long week of near hysterics about how dry it was and how high the fire danger was, we've now apparently entered monsoon season. Since Thursday, we've gotten close to 4 inches of rain, plenty of moisture to keep the fire danger down for a good long while. While some are currently bemoaning the all too successful rain dancers, I rather like the rain.
That's not to say I don't feel the inconvenience of near constant rainfall. I'd hoped to have all of the seedlings in the ground by this date, but since there's currently standing water in the raised bed, it's not exactly prime planting weather. The little seedlings especially seem to be struggling with all the moisture. They could really use a nice sunny day so they could dry out a bit instead of tipping over the side of their peat pots with the look of death in their little leaves.
 
In the last couple day, I've managed to get all of the flowers and tomatoes in their permanent homes for the summer. As I bide my time, waiting to get the rest of the vegetables and herbs planted in the raised bed, what better activity to keep myself busy than a batch of Magnolia Bakery brownies? (Granted, I didn't have the cake flour or unsweetened chocolate the recipe called for, so these are made with a slightly lower amount of all-purpose flour, less sugar, and bittersweet chocolate.) Last night I made a batch of rhubarb sauce and am now scheming up a batch homemade vanilla rhubarb swirl ice cream.
Made in two 9x9" pans, because my 9x13"s are all occupied with seedlings
Of course, it hasn't all been fun, games and rhubarb ice cream. I wrote out my time card yesterday and realized that I haven't had a full day off since the 13th. Suddenly my burnout felt a little less wimpy and a little more acceptable. (To be clear, I only worked 80 hours this past pay period, the hours were just spread out in funny, funky ways.)  Opening day (Saturday) has come and gone and after the 175 visitors we had through the museum yesterday, I'm very much looking forward to the day off that tomorrow brings.   
This is the start of my third season at this place and much of the initial glamor and allure has worn away and it's likely time for me to start plotting what comes next. But I have to admit that a gift shop all stocked and ready for opening day is truly a thing of beauty.

Happy Memorial Day all. Enjoy your day off (if you have one) and celebrate the rain (if you have some). 
 
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No Regrets, Except . . .

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
I like to think I have a fairly regret free life.  Sure, it would have been fun to have channeled my inner Rory Gilmore and gone to an Ivy League College. And perhaps an English major was just a touch too romantic. A high paying (permanent) job with a magazine or newspaper would have been nice and I would have loved to have lived on the East Coast for at least a little while.

But for the most part, I'm where I am today as a result of the decisions I've made; some which simply seemed like the best choice at the time and others that I'm pretty darn proud. I don't have much time for the "shoulda, woulda, coulda" nature of regrets. As much as I'm sure we'd all like to fiddle a little with our past, in the end, all any of us can do is deal what we have at our disposal at this very moment.  

You know, carpe dium and all of that crap.

But during the summer months, when I head back to work full time, I become plagued with regrets. Regrets of a very specific nature:


Source: etsy.com via Rachel on Pinterest

I am always so sad to miss it. Always.

When you only work full-time 24 months out of the year, additional days off have less than great fiscal results. (Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, eh?) And when you work weekends and just happen to be the only employee at your work place, you end up with one inflexible work schedule. (Swap shifts, what?) It doesn't matter how far in advance you send your "Save the Date" card; if your special event happens on a weekend during the months of May - October, chances are, I won't be able to celebrate with you. (Btw: whatever happened to December weddings? I hear they're lovely *hint, hint, nudge, nudge*)

I was listening to NPR's Talk of the Nation earlier this month, when Jennifer Ludden talked with Charles Wheelan about his 10 Things You Won't Hear At Commencement. (If you haven't bumped into this list somewhere on the internets already, it's worth checking out.) In the essay, Wheelan points out that the most valuable time we spend at college probably isn't doing homework or attending classes, but instead is time we spend connecting with our peers over extracurriculars and building friendships that will extend well beyond our college days. At the end of the day, our social connections will add much more value to our lives than the number on the right side of our pay checks.

But we Americans have sneaky habit of valuing work out over friendship. As Wheelan (or some caller) pointed out in the interview, we wouldn't think twice about canceling a coffee date if we needed to work overtime at work. But cancel work for a coffee date? Ha!  

Even though my hands feel tied when it comes stealing away from work during the summer months, it gnaws at me that work always get the upper hand. When I send my regrets, it feels unavoidable and inevitable and yes, regrettable. . . to me. But how does it feel to the recipient of my regrets? 

I worry that when I send my regrets, I'm sending more than just a response to an invitation. I worry that I'm also sending a message to the sender that their friendship doesn't mean enough to me for me to clear time in my schedule to attend. Busy schedules excuse absences for a bit, but when you consistently miss friends' big days? It's enough to make us all wonder where my priorities truly lie.

So no, I don't have any regrets, except the ones I'll be sending to your baby shower, bridal shower, anniversary party, birthday party, wedding ceremony, bar mitzah, (etc. etc.) over the next five months.

And in so many ways, those are the very worst kind of regrets a person can have. 
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Tastes of Spring

Friday, May 18, 2012
Cinnamon Rhubarb Muffins
Andy's mom gifted us with some rhubarb from her patch on Tuesday and it ended up being the exact right amount for a batch of muffins. (Yes, I'm kitchen nerd who whipped out her food scale and weighed it.) I whipped up the muffins on Wednesday and oh yum, did they ever taste of springtime. It just isn't springtime until you've gotten a mouthful of tangy, sweet/tart rhubarb.

I used the cinnamon-rhubarb muffin recipe from Fine Cooking. I didn't have any sour cream on hand, so I substituted yogurt. The substitution didn't make the muffins any less luscious, but then I'm not really sure a muffin recipe that makes 12 muffins and calls for an entire stick of butter can be anything but luscious. If you're interested, you can find the recipe here.

I'm hoping to scare up some more rhubarb before the season's done. I'd like to make a batch or two of rhubarb sauce, which is the best served warm over vanilla ice cream, but is also not half bad over yogurt or oatmeal if you're feeling particularly wholesome. I wouldn't turn down a rhubarb custard pie either. . .

Our rhubarb plants have been experiencing growth spurts this week, so there may be hope yet that we'll be producing some of our rhubarb supply this year.

While I got my taste of spring, someone else was in the backyard, scrounging up their own taste of spring. There's been a bear about for the last couple weeks, but while he/she (okay, I've decided it's a "him") has made visits at most of the neighbors' places and have left numerous piles of scat in the road, our place has been ignored. That is, until last night when Mr. Bear decided to have a tumble with our compost pile.
Andy surveys the damage
Andy spent a good portion of the weekend raking up leaves from the perennial beds, so the bin was pretty filled with brown material, while green material, like kitchen scraps, was buried. Mr. Bear must not have liked what he found because he appears to have simply tipped over the bin and gone on his merry way. After righting the bin, Andy got the spilled compost back in the bin in just three handfuls.

I don't want to gloat, but I have a feeling my taste of spring was much tastier than Mr. Bear's.

 
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Where She Went: a book review

Thursday, May 17, 2012
I love me some young adult literature. Many of my most favorite books - Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Anne of Green Gables - are technically young adult books. Maybe I should feel embarrassed to identify most with books that are supposedly beneath my maturity level, but in my opinion, a good book transcends the section it's relegated to in a bookstore or library.

But Gayle Forman's Where She Went won't be doing any "section transcending" any time soon. Even though the book's main characters are in their early 20s, this is one young adult novel that screams "tween!" As I read the first few pages, I felt as though I'd entered a time warp. Surely, I must be reading this during the commercial break of MTV's TRL with Carson Daly. (Ooo, did I just date myself?)

The book's timeline covers only a single day in the life of characters Adam (front man for an extremely successful rock band) and Mia (a Julliard-trained cellist), but a number of flashbacks are used to expand the reader's understanding of the situation. Years ago, Mia and Adam were high school sweethearts in Portland, OR, but after a traumatic car crash killed Mia's entire immediate family and left her with severe injuries, Mia headed off to Julliard, then unceremoniously dumping Adam. Now, Adam is spending a final day in New York City before starting a world tour with his somewhat estranged band mates and Mia just happens to be playing a show at Carnegie Hall. (Cue the "dun, dun, dun" music.)

Where She Went is a sequel to If I Stay and perhaps I felt Adam and Mia characters were rather two-dimension because I never read the original "Adam and Mia" book and didn't know the full back story. Both characters are so talented and successful that I couldn't help but feel that their story wasn't relevant to me. Beside, the whole book is just so damn "angst-y." Okay, I'll admit it: this young adult book made me feel old.

But don't think I didn't enjoy my trip down to teenage memory lane. I mean, who doesn't enjoy a melodramatic teen romance every now and then? Where She Went is also one fast read: perfect to throw in your bag to read during everyday lulls like bus rides, waiting rooms, and airport terminals.

You can find more information and discussions about Where She Went over at the BlogHer book club. 
 
Disclosure: I participated in this review for the BlogHer Book Club. I was compensated for my time and received a complimentary copy of the book. However, all opinions expressed in the review are my own.
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Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
If you're a longtime reader of this blog, it's no secret that since the demise of Corolla II early last spring (March '11), I've spent a fair amount of time feeling like I was on house arrest. When you live in the woods, about the only place you can get by locomotion of your own two feet is . . . well, into more woods. We decided to replace the Corolla last May with a Subaru Baja. Despite the fact that the car has a manual transmission which at the time I didn't know how to drive, we bought it for myriad of factors: good car, convenient, good price, convenient . . . .

And as we all know, when it came to learn how to drive a stick, I took a cue from the Tortoise of "Tortoise and the Hare" fame and opted for the "slow, but steady" approach.

But . . . BUT!

 This weekend, I drove down to the Cities to visit my friend Sarah. Before I left on Friday morning, I discovered that Andy had left Post-It notes around the house that said "I love you!" While sweet, the gesture smacked of his wanting to make sure I went out with a message of love on the off chance that the trip ended with my untimely demise.

Luckily, the Post-Its can now simply be viewed as a sweet gesture, because I totally made it!

That's right. This gal made the five and a half hour trip (one way) all by her lonesome in a manual transmission. I learned cruise control, I gassed the car up two times en route, I did interstates. A Mother's Day miracle.

Well, maybe not a miracle, per se.

I opted to take the Baja on its first junket over the county line in a year to Sarah's because I've driven to Sarah's many, many times and am very confident of the route. (Other Cities dwelling friends, I will catch you next time!)

Sarah and  I spent a pretty low key weekend doing some shopping, eating, and catching up. As two non-mothers, unaware of the flowery focus of Mother's Day, we accidentally braved Bachman's greenhouse on the busiest day of the year other than Valentine's Day. When we weren't playing bumper cars with our fellow customers, we did get soak up a lot of flower therapy. Because I'm cheap started so many plants at home, I only picked up a couple plants: 2 pepper plants because mine are so teeny yet, some chives because I'm anxious to try some chive blossom vinegar, and a curry plant. Turns out the curry spice comes from a curry tree, not a curry plant, but the plant smells delicious and will be happy little addition to the flower garden.


After the successful trip to the Cities, on Monday, Andy decided it was time for me to learn how to drive the motor boat. Despite initially flooding the engine, it went quite well. That is, until we got to the dock and I realized I didn't know how to turn the motor off.

Don't worry, boat, dock and passengers are all fine; we just had to row our way out of the shoreline weeds to actually moor the boat to the dock.



Being able to drive myself wherever I please is huge boost to my sense of independence, which in turn positively impacts my happiness and well-being.  But while I may no longer feel like I'm on house arrest, it'll be a while before I can jet off at the drop of a hat. Summer craziness (and scheduling inflexibility) is upon us. I started back at work full time this week, so postings may be sporadic until I get my sea legs back under me.
 
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How Does Your Garden Grow? Early May 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012
We're having a bluebird blue, beautiful sunny day today. Andy and I took a paddle down the lake this afternoon and as we pulling into the cabin bay, I felt the wind on my back and the sun in my hair. This past week was especially dark and drizzly, but the happy result of all of that chilly dampness is that the leaves on all of the shrubs and trees have popped open in the last couple days. With temps in the lower 70s, I felt like I should be going home to pick some tomatoes off the plants for a batch of homemade salsa.

Of course, it is only the second week of May, so we've got a long wait yet before there are fresh, homegrown tomatoes to be had. But here's what I wake up to each morning:
The tomatoes are currently in the stage where they double in size every week, but I'm hoping I can keep them in their yogurt containers until they get put out in their permanent homes on the deck.

I've mentioned the new raised beds we built earlier this spring a couple times, but I never posted a picture. Here they are:
The sun was so bright today that it's kind of hard to see what growing in the one raised. It's garlic that I transplanted about a week ago from the large raised bed. To be honest, the garlic's not looking so good right now. The tips of the outer leaves have all gone yellow. I'm hoping it's just adjusting to its new home!

Last night, Andy and I planted a big pile of hay and compost:
Actually, there are seed potatoes underneath that mess. We're attempting the Stout potato growing method where you just set the seed potatoes on the ground and then they grow up through the straw. *fingers crossed* (Please don't let this turn into one big slug haven!)

Our stealth rhubarb (in the far left hand corner) is bigger than it ever was last year, but I have a feeling we're not going to be having too many rhubarb pies compliments of this patch. It's still so teeny compared to every other patch of rhubarb I've seen so far this year. Who wants to barter their rhubarb for some of my homemade jam?!

But just look at these beautiful salad greens!
The greens were planted back when we had that warm snap in March and they've been chugging away in the cold frame ever since. I predict homegrown salad before Memorial Day! 

How does your garden grow?
 
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On Dishing Out Advice

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Remember when I reviewed Anne Lamott's Some Assembly Required? I just might have forgotten to mention how much I  identified with Lamott's struggle not to give her 20-year-old son and his girlfriend (who also happened to be new parents) unsolicited advice.  You see, I suffer from something we'll refer to as "older sibling syndrome."

I have wonderful, lovely, smart, funny (etc, etc.) brother who is sixteen months younger than I. But pretty much as soon as he was born, I took on the unofficial role of being his second mother. Seriously, when I was little, the thing I got in trouble for most consistently was bossing him around. Oops . . .

As we've grown older, I've transitioned from being Miss Bossypants to the unsolicited adviser. I'd say I try to keep my opinions to myself, but we all know opinions spew out of me like a waterfall. And ever since our visit to MI last month to catch up with brother and girlfriend, I've been damn near brimming with great advice for him.

Oh, that need to advise . . . All of those great ideas that literally churn through my mind about how other people could live their lives more happily and efficiently and be more fiscally secure. Oh, all those decisions I wouldn't have made "if I was them." 

I was talking to my friend Sarah yesterday, who also has a younger brother.

"I don't know why they don't take our awesome advice," I complained. "I mean, look how together our lives are."

[insert snorts and ROFLing here]

Why do older sisters feel so drawn to dispensing largely unwanted advice? Because we really want to help? Or because we want to be right?

I suspect a mixture of both of the reasons stated above lead us to dispense vats of unsolicited advice. Certainly we older sisters are motivated by a rather smug feeling that we know best. (After all, I've been on Earth a whole 16 months longer than my sibling.) But we also feel like when we dispense our advice we're strapping the equivalent of a bike helmet on our siblings.Yet I suspect if you asked your siblings they'd say we're overbearing and trying to swaddle them in a big ol' bubble.

 No one likes unsolicited advice. I've certainly received enough of it to know how unpleasant being on the receiving end of it can be. But despite that little voice that tells me to let others figure it out on their own, I'm still learning to bite my tongue.

Do you suffer from older sibling syndrome? Have you been on the butt end of older sibling syndrome?

 
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What about Breakfast at Tiffany's?

Monday, May 7, 2012
And I said, "What about breakfast at Tiffany's?"
She said, "I think I remember the film?
And as I recall, I think, we both kinda liked it"
And I said, "Well, that's the one thing we've got"
 - Deep Blue Something

Source
I like to think I discovered Tiffany's on my own. Despite that Deep Blue Something song that came out when I was 10 or the multiple references to the famous jewelry store in popular media (I'm looking at you Sex and the City and Glee), I didn't really get what Tiffany's was all about until one moment in the Vegas Tiffany's outlet in the Bellagio when I stared long and hard at the Tiffany's classic ring setting and thought, "Well, aren't you stunning." When I visited Tiffany's in New York City, I found the store stately, beautiful, and just the right level unattainable.

If I lived in New York City, I probably wouldn't window shop at Tiffany's while enjoying my morning coffee and croissant. Still, when I watched Breakfast at Tiffany's for the first time last week, I understood the comfort the Holly Golightly character found in gazing at orderly, pretty, sparkly things. And that's about where any common ground between me and Holly ends.  

 You see, I can't remember a time when I didn't recognize this picture:
Source
Yet, somehow, I'd never actually seen the film. I had no idea of the plot line (during my childhood, I assumed Tiffany's was a diner or some kind of breakfast joint) and I'd forgotten that the film is based on a Truman Capote novella. So last week, I sat down to actually watch the film and correct all of my misconceptions about Breakfast at Tiffany's.

And my goodness, I was expecting adorable, sweet Audrey Hepburn ala Roman Holiday (one of my favorites!) or My Fair Lady (which is too long and has a shite ending, but which I feel a certain affinity to since it's based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion.)  But Audrey's Holly Golightly character is just a pill. A P-I-L-L. As Berman, the Hollywood agent says in the film, "She's a phony, but she's a real phony."

In my mind, Breakfast at Tiffany's had always been linked with the posh and glamorous. But as the storyline unfolded, as much as I loved Hepburn's timeless outfits, I realized the glamor I'd always linked with the film was as phony as Holly Golightly herself.  At its heart, the film's about a sad little girl who constantly insists that external factors hold the key to her happiness. Still, I loved the calm confidence the entire film exudes that firmly dates it as being pre-JFK assassination.   

The film is much less about glamor, and much more about excess and overcompensation. At one point, as we watched the drunken apartment party unfold, Andy wondered out loud, "Is this supposed to be a social commentary on drinking?" 

As the film wrapped up with the rainy scene in the alley, I couldn't help but feel surprised. I hadn't really liked it.

Not that I hated Breakfast in Tiffany's in those "I'm so disinterested in this I think I'll go clean the bathroom" or "I want my two hours back" ways. But after running into references to the film all the time, I'd always assumed it was just another charming Audrey Hepburn film.

Consider my curiosity sated.

Now, if I could just get that Deep Blue Something song out of my head. . . Ah well, better than having "Moon River" running through my head on repeat, eh?

Have you ever been surprised by a classic movie?
 
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Duck Eggs and other little wonders

Friday, May 4, 2012
Around suppertime last night, I became fascinated by a pair of common mergansers who were hanging out by the shore near the cabin. These two ducks have been spending a lot of time on these rocks this spring. Sometimes they go fishing in the clear, shallow waters. Other times, they simply sit on the rocks, preening or sunning themselves. I'm harboring a not so secret hope that they're spending so much time here because they're going to nest around these parts. 

This evening, Mrs. Merganser was taking a nap on the rock, while Mr. kept watch. 

Eventually they both fell asleep.
After about 20 minutes, I'd eaten supper and the two ducks were up and about again. 

Mrs. Merganser has taken to, how shall I say, relieving herself on the rocks, so when she crouched down, her derriere pointed right at me, I was expecting another lovely splattering of guano. So imagine my surprise when something round, beige and hard looking popped out. It took me a second to realize what I'd just seen. Could it really be an . . . egg?

Binoculars confirmed my suspicions. It totally was an egg!

I was a little surprised she'd just laid an egg for a couple reasons. For one, she was standing on a not so flat rock that the egg could easily roll off of. The rock, which is out in the wide open, and could also soon be submerged if we have some more rainfall. Wouldn't she want to lay her egg in a slightly more secure spot, you know, like on shore . . .  in a nest?

Still, I couldn't help but feel a little excited. Was I really going to get to watch the pair incubating their eggs (mergansers lay up to 13 eggs!) for the next month or so? Mrs. Merganser kind of perched over the egg for a while, but she didn't seem too into it. She nudged it about with her beak a little, but when she shifted on the rock, she bumped the egg with her foot and just as I'd feared, the egg slowly rolled down the slopped rock and plopped gently into the lake. Mrs. or Mr. appears completely and utterly nonplussed by the fact. They continued to go about their business as though nothing had happened.

I however was slightly horrified. That's no way to treat your baby!!

When the pair flew off down the lake, I had to go look at the egg, which was resting in about a foot of water.

I was surprised by both how large and how heavy it was. It was probably a third again as big as the "large eggs" we're used to baking and cooking with. I'm guessing it's unfertilized and that's why Mama Duck was so uninterested in it, but then again, are ducks really smart enough to know if the egg is fertilized or not?

Chickens certainly sit on their eggs regardless of whether or not the eggs will ever hatch and I remember when my grandmother had a small pet bird that she had to remove the egg the bird laid every single day or else the bird would get broody. Granted, that's the extent of my bird breeding knowledge, but based on that, I see no reason why Mrs. Merganser would be so uninterested in her egg. Who knows, eh?
Although I'm curious to know if I *could* eat the egg, I did return the egg to the bottom of the lake after I'd looked at it. Mother Nature knows best, I suppose and if nothing else, perhaps the egg will be tasty treat for some other (wild) mammal.

I discovered another little wonder on Wednesday, when I was walking to the mailbox and snapping pictures of early season wildflowers. I was looking for a violet to photograph when a little bit of blue caught my eye on the far side of the road. I know my wildflowers pretty well, but I had never seen it before and couldn't find it any of the many wildflower guidebooks in the cabin.
It took two parents (Andy's mom and my dad) to figure out what it is. It's a scilla and could have come in with the road gravel. Oh heck, it's probably invasive, but it sure is a pretty little thing. It's only about 4 inches tall!

Have you seen any little wonders lately?
 
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You Have No Idea: a book review

Thursday, May 3, 2012
I consider myself a fairly prolific reader. As an English major, I've read a considerable amount of the "classics" and I'll read just about any genre (fiction or non) as long as the story has a strong human interest angle. But when You Have No Idea, a biography of Vanessa Williams, with contributions from mom Helen and ghostwritten by Irene Zutell, arrived on my doorstep (literally - the UPS man dropped it off), I realized I've never read a celebrity biography or a ghostwritten book.

And of all the celebrity biographies to land in my lap, one on Vanessa Williams?

While I certainly recognized the name, I truly had no idea about her life. (Q: Didn't she sing that Pocahontas song? A: Yes, yes she did.) I never watched Ugly Betty and her real success on the Billboard chart came in the early 90s, when I was too young to be paying much attention to the top 40.

Don't expect lush, detailed descriptions in You Have No Idea. The book's writing is bare bones. Thoughts aren't always completely finished because, I'm assuming, Zutell just didn't have enough information from her interviews with Vanessa to write more than a sentence on certain topics.

Clunky narration aside, I found myself fascinated by Vanessa's life. (It's always interesting to find out what makes successful people tick, no?) The eldest child of a hard working, double income family, Vanessa grew up as a member of one of just two black families in her New York hometown. Her entire family was gifted musically and Vanessa's childhood goal was to mimic Meryl Streep's career path and become a Broadway star. But Vanessa's success took on a life of its own. A Miss America crown, a nude photos scandal, and babies were just a few of the curveballs thrown at her.

I found I could admire many things about Vanessa's life. I admired her down-to-earth upbringing.(Although, obviously Helen didn't do a great job with the birds and bee talk, since both of Vanessa's now-defunct marriages involved an unexpected bun in the oven.) I admired her ability to stick with her dreams, even as she juggled motherhood. (She's the mother of four.) But Vanessa isn't completely immune from acting like a slightly out of touch celebrity. When you read about her "necessary" home renovations, you'll have a good chuckle and eye roll.

The book is narrated almost completely from Vanessa's point of view, with brief interjections from Helen here and there. Helen's contributions lend a certain gossipy touch to the entire book that at times feel distracting and extraneous, but are often humorous and down to earth. Helen's own story of rising above an unhappy childhood is compelling enough that I almost wished the narrative had been split into two books: one for Helen and one for Vanessa.

Will I be picking up another celebrity biography any time soon? Probably not. But this was a fun, fluffy read that I really rather enjoyed.

Have you ever read a celebrity biography? You can learn more about You Have No Idea over at the BlogHer book club.

 
Disclosure: I participated in this review for the BlogHer Book Club. I was compensated for my time and received a complimentary copy of the book. However, all opinions expressed in the review are my own.
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Out of Season Cookies

Wednesday, May 2, 2012
If the vast amount of asparagus we've been consuming lately is any testament, we eat pretty seasonable around here.

But when Andy wanted chocolate chip cookies the other day . . . just when I'd pull the last container of what was once these guys (below) out of the freezer . . . 
 
Well, suddenly, these guys seemed like a really good idea:
I haven't made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies in ages (if ever), but the recipe I tried out from King Arthur Flour produced lovely soft, yet chewy cookies. While spring days seem more inclined towards delicate shortbreads, slender fingers of lemon bar, mini fruit tarts, and other pretty, petite sweets you might serve at a tea party, the combination of spiced pumpkin and semisweet chocolate has been just the right cozy treat for some rather cool, rainy days.


Seasons, schmeasons.

What have you been baking lately? 
 
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May Day! Mayday?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012
May Day has to be one of the few holidays I've never celebrated.Of course, this is one of my best friends' favorite holidays, so I can't say I've never never celebrated May Day, but it is a holiday that I don't know much about and that generally slips by without my noticing.

Perhaps my neglect of May Day stems from the fact that the holiday is linked with the Celtic holiday of Beltane which means the day's all about celebrating fertility. Around these parts, things don't look too fertile come May 1. It won't be until sometime in June that we'll be able to fill "May baskets" to overflowing with flowers and actually feel like dancing about a May pole in celebration of the world's abundance and beauty.

After the early spring thaw this year, we've been treated to an especially long period of muck and brown before the spring green up. But this past week, I noticed the earliest early season wildflowers starting to poke up their pretty little heads. Wood anemones, violets, bearberry flowers, even the appearance of the common place dandelion is enough to make my heart glow with the promise of springtime.  

Full disclosure: photo taken in 2010
Yesterday, I ran to town to get the first load of soil for the new raised beds and pots. I returned with a Subaru Baja absolutely brimming with compost, humus, manure, top soil, and peat moss. After filling up one raised bed, I came inside to find not one, but two little wood ticks scampering across me.  So the wonderful joys of spring are upon us, as are the little annoyances.

On Saturday, Andy and I thought we might watching an entirely different sort of "Mayday." A rather large personal airplane (a Cessna Caravan to be specific - if you're interested in such things) landed just outside of the bay and headed over to the dock where the neighbors keep their own (albeit, much smaller) float plane during the summer months. It's pretty unusual to see a plane of this size in the area unless a portion of the woods are on fire, but it turned out that the pilot and passengers were just looking for a dock protected from the wind where they could moor the plane during an overnight visit to a friend's cabin. Not exactly a dramatic story, but the plane caused plenty of buzz during its short stay in the bay.


Happy May Day everyone! What are you celebrating today?

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