Monday, September 04, 2006

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop. ~Ovid

Hmmm. Where to start, where to start...

With the most interesting stuff, of course:
I finished The Brief History of the Dead. In the car, waiting for the baby to wake up from his nap.

I certainly hope Kevin Brockmeier won some sort of award - many awards, actually - for this book. Strange, unnerving, quiet yet powerful, elegantly written, and a unique take on the afterlife and what it comprises - this book should have won a prize. (If I were any sort of responsible blogger, I'd go look this up...)
If it didn't, I herewith bestow upon it a prize from Behind the Stove - of some sort. What? Maybe most unnerving book of the year? Perhaps the most thought-provoking? Perhaps, Book-Best-Recommended-to-Smart-People-I-Know? I am going to request Brockmeier's other books from the library pronto, to see if I can justify bestowing upon him the AS Byatt/David Mitchell/Behind the Stove Award for One-of-the-Smartest-Books-of-at-least-the-Year award. Of course right after I ok the use of their names with AS and David (we're like THIS).

I started Anna Quindlen's new book Rise and Shine the other night, and decided, eh, who cares? As usual, the "shocking and surprising" event advertised as the book's "explosive secret" was underwhelming and prosaic - I put it down thinking I'd just return it to the library. Then last night, it was the only book within easy reach of my bed - and I didn't want to get out of bed - so I picked it back up.I guess I'll keep reading it, even if only for the secondary characters - the husbands, the boyfriends, the sisters are all interesting people about whom I want to know more. Unlike Meghan, the sort-of-heroine who annoys the shit out of me.

I admire Quindlen, but find her fiction writing clunky at the worst of times, and workaday at the best. I do enjoy her essays very much, and get great reading suggestions from her; she is solely responsible for my reading Lonesome Dove, Gone with the Wind, and Anthony Trollope's Palliser novels.

I keep picking up Water for Elephants; and putting it down. And picking it up. And putting it down. All without actually starting it. Anyone out there read it? Can someone convince me this deserves all its hype?


We are having Terzo's first birthday party on October 1. It may not be the closest Sunday to his birthday, but it IS a Steelers bye week, so my baby won't have to share his spotlight with Big Ben and the television. Thank God we don't get the Golf Channel...

The usual list of suspects will be there - most of H's family. Some of my friends will be added to balance the tide, and keep me sane. My brothers won't be able to make it. So it will kind of be just like yesterday's yawningly boring Labor Day picnic but with edible food. I suppose I can live with that.

Wonder if I can sit out in the car with the sleeping baby and read for the first hour of that gathering as well?


Ata recnt PTA meeting, one of the other parents got all riled up about recess/lunchtime. She is a very -- French-looking -- French woman (read: homely but stylish) with the most fabulous accent. So now H and I find ourselves saying, "Zey err not cleverrr dawgs; zey err CHEEL-dren" pretty much whether or not any given situation actually calls for such commentary.


When I was in high school, I somehow wound up at this conference in Philly for, oh God, it was so long ago I could not even tell you what. I remember nothing about this conference except for a round-table discussion about drug use with a police officer from the Miami police department named Julio, and my friend Chip.

Chip was this skinny, dorky, redheaded boy from Virginia, and we hit if off. We sat up all night in one of the stairwells jabbering at each other, and we wandered the tourist spots of Philly together - I do remember Chip could not get enough pineapple-orange juice, so I just kept handing my carton, packed in with the conference-provided lunch, over to him. There was never really any romantic aspect to our friendship, although I did go to his senior year homecoming with him. But since I was in love with his best friend Neil, who was little and dark and insanely smart, and about to go off to join the Navy and be something requiring immense amounts of brain and cunning, the halfhearted attempts Chip and I made at making out really never got much past a kiss and a "Hmm, do you suppose there's anything on TV?"

I loved Chip's parents. And their old, sprawly house in the country. And everything about them and and how they lived. As has happened several times in my romantic history, I briefly considered making myself fall in love with Chip so as to marry into his family and live that sort of life in that sort of environment. The house was homey but clean; I was always made to feel welcome and comfortable. There were always clean sheets and clean towels. There was always REAL food to eat, and regular mealtimes, and not much at all in the way of screaming and yelling. Alas, Chip and I did not fall in love and marry - I married H and Chip married a lovely woman out in Colorado, and they have two beautiful daughters and appear to be very happy. They came to visit us here about a year ago, and it was wonderful to see him. His lovely parents are retired, and reveling in their grandchildren (Chip has two brothers who also have kids), and healthy and doing just fine. They sent me a gorgeous little silver bread tray for a wedding gift, that I love and use as often as possible.

The weekend of the homecoming Chip's mom had a brunch for Chip and all his friends; she served a delicious egg-and-sausage casserole I still make; some sort of orange juice/punch; and the apple-carrot muffins I made for the picnic last week.
I ate so many of these at the brunch that I probably disgraced myself, but they were so good.

You want that apple-carrot muffin recipe, don't you? I knew you did.

Chip's Mom's Apple Carrot Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2 cups grated carrots
1 large green apple, peeled and grated
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup flaked coconut
3 eggs, slightly beaten
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla

Combine first five ingredients, then stir in carrots, apple, raisins, almonds, and coconut.
Make a well in the center.
Combine eggs, oil, and vanilla, put into well.
Stir till just moistened and mixed through.
Spoon into greased muffin tins (or papers), 2/3 full.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Remove from tins immediately and cool on racks.

Makes 2 dozen.


Suse said...

I love that you post muffin recipes.

I love that you read in the car at family gatherings while waiting for the baby to wake up.

I love that you quote Ovid.

I love that you give good book recommendations (I am ADORING Possession so must now go out and borrow Brief History of the Dead).

I love that you tried to make yourself fall in love with someone just to get into his family.

I love the fact that it didn't happen but you're still friends.

(I love that you're like THIS with famous authors too).

yt said...

A sister-in-law once confessed that she married my brother so she could come to our family gatherings. Sadly, we were not compelling enough after all because that marriage didn't even make it 10 years. So I think you and Chip worked out very ended up with another friend, a good recipe, some neat anecdotes and a cool wedding gift. Score!

Caro said...

Maybe I'll try to convert that recipe to gluten-free. It looks delicious. Then my 16-year old can whine about choking down gluten-free food.


Gina said...

I picked up Water for Elephants twice at Borders the other day, and put it back down both times. Maybe I have issues that preclude me from enjoying books about the circus, but . . . I won't read it unless someone convinces me that I *must*.

Jess said...

I processed Water for Elephants when it came into my library...and the plot description totally put me off. I don't do the circus. But now I'm curious to know what's supposed to be so great about it - what Gina said.

MsCellania said...

Well, I'll just say I LOVE THIS POST and leave it at that. Since Suse went and jumped all over the good bits...
I DID the marry-a-man-for-his-family thing. My first time around. It wasn't enough. You were smart not to try it. Whereabouts in Colorado is Chip?
I read Possession a while back. I remember liking it.
Bring a book for Terzo's bday. You never know...

Rogue Librarian said...

That’s an awesome post. Actually I’m kind of interested in that egg-and-sausage casserole you mentioned. If you get a chance… That sounds like a decent brunch food.
I’ve never really had a girl friend or a woman who was my friend who’s happy and functional family seemed tempting to me. I think it’s mostly because happy and functional families tend to freak me out. One of my best friends has a very supportive and functional family and I do feel part of that one a lot of the time so I got the best scenario. I functional family practically adopts me and I didn’t have to marry anyone.

Oh and The Brief History of the Dead has been on my radar for a while. I think this is the tipping point to reading it.

Paula said...

Okay, just so you know... we had to have breakfast for dinner tonight;).

Anonymous said...

Love the French woman quote.

blackbird said...

I think Suse is falling for you...

we've just spent a day with our Belgian friends - who do not speak english too well, and now find ourselves repeating many of their phrases...although our Belgian friends tend to say things like:
their money is very green in their pocket and very green in their eyes -

which I told them must be damn funny IN FRENCH.

Sarah Louise said...

Yeah, Suse took all the good comments...

Water for Elephants--I'm returning it today, after not having any success picking it up and the guilt that it has many patron holds that are a-waiting to grab it.

Ditto on Quindlen. Some authors should stick to one genre, and for Q, I think it would be non-fiction.

It is so "H's family" that Terzo's bday party would be on a bye week. Good luck with that, and I totally condone staying in the car with the baby who may or may not be napping.

Love the french woman's quote.

As for the Chip vignette, I think collecting your memories plus recipes would make one good book. (I have another idea for a good book, but I'm not telling...)

...I have to keep some semblance of mystery...

lisa said...

Water for Elephants was my favorite read this summer-- (Along with The Cottagers.) Stick with it-- it's amazing.

Anonymous said...

Gotta say I agree with you on the Quindlen. I only got through her first novel, totally ordinary stuff.

Glad you liked the Brockmeier. He is amazing. I heard him read from Things that Fall from the Sky when he was here.

kilowatthour said...

hi. that's all. i don't have anything interesting to say.

so... hi.

kilowatthour said...

no, i changed my mind. what i want to say is: where's the recipe for the egg & sausage casserole??

Bec said...

Have been pondering Water For Elephants too, but admit I didn't know there was any hype around it. It hit my radar because our Board President read it and loved it. He's a neuropsychologist so that may colour his view, but his wife writes beautiful kids books so I think it balances out in the end! I'm going to give it the first chapter test...

lazy cow said...

Wot Suse said.
And I'm going to try the muffin recipe. I'm a sucker for anything with coconut in it.
And totally agree re: Anna Q. I do adore her book on reading (name escapes me at the moment).