Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What I read in September (2014)

Here's what I read in September--click title to read my full review at Marie's Book Garden. These are abbreviated versions.

Let the Great World SpinLet the Great World Spin,
by Colum McCann

Well written, with a wonderful sense of setting, Let the Great World Spin tells the stories of a variety of different characters, many of whom encounter each other at some point in the day or in their lives. Most of the novel takes place in New York City in 1974, the day Phillip Petit tightrope walked between the World Trade Center towers.

One of my major gripes with novels is when each chapter starts from the different perspective of a different character, so I found it a bit hard to sink into this novel, with all that moving around. On the other hand, the novel tells the story of New York City in so many different slices...of the priest Corrigan who works amongst the prostitutes and dealers in the Bronx ghetto and loves a Latina single mom...of the prostitutes themselves, whose children become prostitutes...a Park Avenue mom befriending a black mother, both grieving their sons who died in Vietnam...a drug-addicted artist who finds herself involved in a hit and run...and a prostitute's daughter who was raised in love and stability, who returns to New York full circle...beautiful individual stories woven together...

After EliAfter Eli, by Rebecca Rupp

In this thoughtful middle grade/young adult novel, young Danny struggles to cope with the death of his older brother, Eli, in Iraq. He befriends two unusual young people: the decidedly "uncool" but extremely smart Walter, and the beautiful, exotic Isabelle, who has quirky and creative younger twin siblings.

My favorite parts of the book were Danny's memories of Eli, who was sarcastic and mischievous but loving, and Danny's friendship with Eli's high school friend and purple potato farmer and his girlfriend, who come to be like a family for him. Rebecca Rupp approaches grief with a quiet, sensitive touch, and even though Danny chronicles the death of various people in his "Book of the Dead," the book was redemptive in the end.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

50 celebrations, Part 3: pampering time!

And so I've reached five decades, in the blink of an eye!

I celebrated on the actual day by having my great friend and birthday sister Nancie come visit for the weekend. She turned 60 the day I turned 50. Although we've known each other for many years, we've always celebrated our birthdays after the fact and have never been together on the actual day...so this year was special in more than one way! Nancie's husband Dave was working on a trial so he couldn't join us, unfortunately.

On Sunday afternoon we took off for McMenamin's Edgefield, where we wined, dined, and pampered ourselves. I highly recommend that every milestone birthday be celebrated with spa treatments. I'm notoriously bad about spoiling myself, so I definitely appreciated it. Thanks to my Australian brother- and sister-in-law for the gift certificate, which made it easier!

Wine tasting
The weather was completely glorious--the warmest I've experienced on October 5 and 6--and we began with some wine tasting.

Then I had a massage, and as I was lying there on the massage table, I reflected on how truly blessed my life is.

In addition to my wonderful boys and the best husband I could imagine, I am surrounded by amazing, bright, and funny friends. I also have great extended family, a job I enjoy and that challenges me, and a wide-reaching village of people who support and appreciate me. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and am filled with a deep appreciation for life and what it has to offer. Life is good. I am so lucky.

After my massage, we took a brief journey along the historic Columbia River Highway. We visited Crown Point/Vista House and Bridal Veil Falls (Mike and I had our honeymoon at the nearby Bridal Veil Falls Lodge nearly 24 years ago).
Crown Point, Columbia Gorge

GORGE-ous view!
Birthday sister mini-hike

Bridal Veil Falls
Then we returned to Edgefield to the Black Rabbit Restaurant for dinner--halibut for me and wild boar for Nancie. We capped off the day with a lovely dip in the soaking pool and some sparkly!

Nancie with her wild boar

The lovely soaking pool at Edgefield
On October 6 itself, we got to wake up and wish each other "Happy Birthday"! We had breakfast and then went off for more spa treatments. I had a wonderful facial and a manicure.

My beautiful purple nails
Reluctantly, we left Edgefield in the afternoon and Nancie had to drive all the way home to Woodinville to be with her family. (I'm glad I didn't have to drive after feeling so relaxed!) And I came home to an immaculate house--thanks, honey!

That evening, we went to an early dinner at nearby Seasons and Regions, which was fine but the service was mediocre. (In fact, service was not fantastic at the Edgefield restaurant too, but fortunately the company more than made up for it in both spots.)

I've got more turning-50 plans coming up--stay tuned! I will sign off with this great horoscope a friend shared with me on Facebook--timely indeed, and eerily relevant to my goal for this year: to try new things!
"Your birthday this year occurs shortly after a New Moon, suggesting a time of new beginnings and fresh energy. You are instinctively starting a new phase in your life. It's time to give your life a makeover and to branch out into the untried…Changes in how you relate to others on a one-to-one level are essential to your personal growth, even if it feels a bit unstable for the time being. Something you have had to give up might now be available to you again, and you need to decide whether you still want it… This year, events and circumstances are such that you learn about your own personal strength. You may have to deal with willfulness and issues of power and competition this year--in others and in yourself. There is an inner drama taking place this year, and a feeling that external circumstances are undermining your own feeling of powerfulness. In the process, you may be able to get in touch with your internal motivations. A tendency to want to control your life through some form of manipulation is strong during this influence.
Meeting with obstacles in your paths, however, can force you into the position of using all of your resources to fight back, and you can discover resources you never knew you had in the process…This is an excellent year in which to advance projects revolving around communications - writing, speaking, selling, and so forth. Your reputation may be enhanced through word of mouth. Making new contacts through learning and mental pursuits figures strongly as well. This is a year for feeling competent, effective, and secure. You have a strong sense of both tradition and innovation. You are also more able to express your unique qualities or to go your own way, without stirring up controversy, as you act in a professional, respectful manner. You are humble, and with increased realism, we can pursue our goals with more chance of success…this should be an intellectually stimulating year in which you express yourself with more imagination and color, and make important contacts. You can feel as if you are beginning a whole new chapter in your life, and big life changes are quite possible…"
Artwork by my friend Roy DeLeon, a fitting mantra for the year!