Spring Bucket List 2019

Spring is in the air and I am thrilled!  This spring holds some challenges though, since my daughter will be getting more college notifications soon. If she is fortunate enough to get into another of her top choices, I know we will be traveling to the campuses so she can make a final decision. Therefore, I am a little afraid to be too ambitious with my list. But, it’s still spring….

  1. Two trips to Botanic Gardens (including the Brooklyn Cherry Blossom festival)
  2. One trip to zoo or aquarium
  3. Drinks in a garden
  4. Three live performances of music or theater
  5. Two museum trips including Frida Kahlo at Brooklyn Museum
  6. One visit to outdoor market
  7. Help my daughter make a college choice
  8. Long walk with my dog
  9. Explore a neighborhood I’ve never seen before
  10. Pedicure with bright pink polish
  11. Creamsicle float (vanilla ice cream in orange soda)
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Checking In- Winter Bucket List

It is March 18th, NYC had a 70 degree day last week, so I am calling winter a done deal. Onward and upwards into spring. So let’s see how my winter bucket list panned out:

  1. Hot Chocolate Month in February: My daughter and I made it to this event five times. It is as bittersweet as some of the cocoa though, because I know my kid will not be around in February for the foreseeable future. But it’s a bid check!
  2. My goal was to have drinks near a fireplace- technically, we had drinks and dinner at an old school place in the Village and sat next to the fireplace, so I’m giving this a resounding yes.
  3. I did  not get to go to a spa with pools and saunas. Just didn’t work out.  But there’s always spring!!
  4. See as many Oscar nominated movies as possible- I think I saw about 85% of the movies nominated- I think I didn’t see 10. Too lazy to actually calculate the number, but I’m calling it a win
  5. 2 Live performances- I believe I saw 5 so a big yes.
  6. I wanted to see 2 museum shows and I think I saw 4. Big win.
  7. I watched the new season of Grace and Frankie (good and bad parts)
  8. Archery Lessons!  Yes!  And I absolutely loved it.  Looking forward to going back for practice
  9. Knitting lesson. So, I found a place that is supposed to be good, and it’s about a 20 minute walk from my house. They were revamping in January, so I didn’t take a lesson then. When they started up lessons in February I found that they only gave lessons at night and on Sunday mornings at the exact same time as my body conditioning class. Honestly, I just didn’t want to make the 20 minute walk home at night in the winter- too cold, and it’s an inconvenient spot for mass transit. At some point I will try but not now. BUT…I did take an embroidery lesson which I liked very much and have continued practicing.  My goal is to buy a white tote for summer and embroider my initials on it.
  10. Paint something. Yes! I bought a few small canvases and a brushes and paint and so far I have “Painted” two things. These are very rudimentary, and more like crafting, but it is relaxing and enjoying.

So there you go!  I’m very proud of what I did accomplish in the winter, because it did make the time go by pleasantly. Honestly, just making the list helps….

Highlights

You get an extra day because last Saturday I got home late and then daylight savings…

Saturday

  1. Afternoon tea at Kings Carriage House in NYC.  Pretty old school brownstone.  Three course tea (sandwiches, scones!, pastries) with wonderful tea.  yum.
  2. Knife and axe throwing lessons. This was so much fun. Throwing knives totally got all my aggression out!!! The hatchet throwing was really hard though- I had a lot of trouble with that.

Sunday

  1. Orchid show at NY Botanic Garden. Love this place. Love the flowers! Always my favorite part of March
  2. Great body conditioning class- though my thighs will hurt throughout the week
  3. Finished “The Study of Animal Languages” by Lindsay Stern – very average, but another book towards my reading goal

Monday

  1. 50 degrees.  Yay.
  2. started purging spring stuff…what was I thinking when I bought those black, pointy toe flats?
  3. onion tart- yum
  4. making the word coxa in words with friends against my husband, on a triple with zeal being the other word, propelling me to victory in the next to last turn…

Tuesday

  1. getting my roots touched up! literally a highlight…
  2. rewriting the beginning of chapter 8
  3. getting through three chapters of the book that never ends

Wednesday

  1. coffee with friends
  2. made fish with roasted tomatoes- the sauce was delicious (white wine, butter, lemon juice, Dijon , salt and pepper) and yummy roasted cherry tomatoes (tarragon, parsley, dill, thyme and garlic) so good!!

Thursday

  1. Found out there’s a street on Staten Island (NYC borough) that’s called Lois Lane…
  2. Caught up on two issues of Entertainment Weekly

Friday

  1. My Daughter got into one of her top choice colleges. There were screams and tears and excitement. This was a very good day.
  2. My friends daughter got the residency she wanted. Cheers to the future Doctor!!!
  3. Having my closest friends share in my joy of my daughter getting into this particular college.  To hear my friend S literally scream into the phone was priceless
  4. Seeing my Daughters friends cry with happiness over her acceptance
  5. Watching my Daughters friends get accepted into college

Saturday

  1. Prom dress shopping with my daughter! This was a forever memory!!
  2. “The Eyes of Orson Welles” – interesting documentary

 

Gratitude and Calm

This week left me a lot to be disillusioned with. I had days when I just couldn’t take the news anymore. And then….sometimes you find out that hard work, good values do pay off. Yes Claudette- tell your teen that hard work does still count. And always remember to be grateful for the small things- because those are the things that get us through the bad days, and bring us to the good days.

Gratitude

  1. Mass transit
  2. weather pleasant enough that I was able to go out in just a fleece
  3. My friends daughter got matched for her residency!  So thrilled for her!!
  4. clear plastic storage boxes. Happy day
  5. leftovers that reheat well
  6. Friends to discuss the whole college cheating scandal
  7. Facebook and Instagram are back up….whew…that was a close one
  8. No line at Trader Joe’s on a Thursday afternoon
  9. The College Counselor at my Daughters school
  10. 15% off and free shipping, which turns out to be next day because it’s being shipped from 10 miles away
  11. My amazing friends and support network who cheered and cried with me this week because it ended up being a good week
  12. My Midwest friend survived the horrible storm the other day- though the snow was pretty high thanks to the wind
  13. My doorman who was able to peacefully subdue a knifed person trying to enter our apartment building
  14. Blue Jays

 

Calm

  1. Counting- I have a lot of fears and hang ups, one of which is heights. When my daughter and I went to Paris, my kid wanted to go to the top of Notre Dame. Steps, tight spaces…yeah…good times. To calm myself going up and down, I count the steps. It gives me something logical to focus on.  I realized at the gum today that I count in my head when I’m trying to get through a tough exercise.  Counting calms me and gets me to the next part
  2. Went to Botanic Garden in the rain, and it was wonderful because the thing we were seeing (which was indoors) was not crowded.  So pleasant!
  3. brewing a cup of loose leaf tea
  4. when the dog poops early in the day
  5. A heart warming chick lit novel
  6. Any Hallmark mystery movie except for Garage Sale
  7. My Daughter got into a college that she would love to attend.  For the first time in six months I can sleep a little easier

Finishing the Chapter on Book Week

You know what I learned this week? That we all love to read.  Shocking.

I found it interesting that many of us share the same favorite books (and in some cases, least favorites) because it’s another link to how much alike we all are, no matter what are backgrounds may be. We all relate to certain character and situations, and that’s the magical thing about literature- it gives us commonality.

What I began to realize though, is that I’ve become cynical about the business of literature.  Let’s think about the genre thing: Ever since “Gone Girl” there has been a push to publish books that have “shocking” twists and turns. It seems that much of the audience is craving erratic storylines. Here’s my problem with this thought pattern. First off, it seems like writers pull a twist out of a hat and use it in the next chapter. There is no rhyme or reason as to how something happens, or why. Of course you didn’t see it coming: there were literally no clues to show this in previous chapters. What happened to foreshadowing?  Are they not teaching that in schools anymore? I think the best literature  leaves little tiny hints at what is to come, but does it so subtly it’s like great art: layer upon layer,  a hint, a drop… You can’t just totally change the course of a plot line. Inconsistency is not the hallmark of good literature, or even an interesting read.

When I took a writing class last year, I presented part of my story. One of the criticism’s was that what happened next was predictable. When did predictable become bad? Sometimes things are just as they seem: doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting story. There seems to be a huge divide of taste: in one corner you have the people screaming “There’s no way that would happen in real life” vs the people who literally want the plot going left, right and sideways. Can you please both audiences? No. I don’t think so- but that ends up making publishing a nightmare. Publishers need to pick a lane: who is buying more books- realists or twisters?

Twisters are apparently winning this decade.

We are starting to see it with authors we like. They start out unique and original- that’s what draws up to them in the beginning. Then, their agent or publishers says “Ok- the hot market now is crazy people who are psychologically conning people. Give me fifty thousand words about some crazy guy next door who is a soccer coach by day, but also runs a ponzi scheme, then goes to his job as a chef, where he chooses a person to add a little bit of poison to their food every time they come into the restaurant, and oh, his kid has some incurable disease….because we need to make this character human…(if anyone writes this story I want credit when it’s published…)

But in the end, it doesn’t matter, because I am going to continue to read my book a week. I’m going to try out new authors and rediscover old favorites. I am going to work on my book in the style that I want to write it, and hope for the best. Books are still my best friend and lover, and I don’t see breaking up with them anytime in the future. There may even be a book podcast in the works….

You knew I would be working on a sequel…

 

 

To Be Continued….

Have you ever read a book and wondered what came next? Did you ever know you were reading the last words, but still turn the page anyway?

Sequels….What do we think of sequels?

I remember reading “Gone with the Wind” and wondering if Rhett and Scarlet made it back together. And then, about thirty years ago, the Mitchell estate found an author to make the official sequel. I was so excited. Then I read it and wished they’d never had the stupid idea to write a sequel because it was horrible.  Hours of my life that I still miss, wishing I had spent the time washing my hair or something equally as important.

And what about all the “sequels” to “Pride and Prejudice”? After reading a lot of horrific ones, I was so excited when I saw that PD James was going to write one “Death comes to Pemberly”. Oh the anticipation quickly turned into oh the dread…

So, for the most part, I don’t see the value of writing a sequel to a well loved classic. You might get the general tone and feeling of an author, but you can’t duplicate someone’s writing style. A classic is a classic because it has the “it” factor: there is something that makes it special, makes it stand out from the crowd. Even the most talented of authors can not follow through.

But what about modern day, authors who write sequels to their books? I always wonder if this was the plan all along, to write a book so loved and interesting that it will require another book. Do you think authors plan out a series of books when they write?

I don’t know much about JK Rowling, but I think she had to have had a plan how she wanted the whole Harry Potter series to play out. I’ve never researched it, but it just seems that is was not a happy accident to have all those books (though I do know that the publishing of the first was indeed a happy accident) And in her case, I think the books got stronger as time went on.

I had loved the book “I Don’t How She Does It” by Allison Pearson. It came out in 2003 and it looked like there would be no sequel.  We would not see how Kate and family got on with life, and I was a little sad. And then, lo and behold, 2018 brought about the sequel “How Hard Can it Be”.  I actually got to see how Kate got on with life. This was a successful sequel to me, because I saw real character development- I think the progression of her life from book to book was genuine. I think the 15 year gap in writing the novels allowed the author to mature, enabling her to write a more mature and thoughtful character. But I can’t help but wonder, if she had written a sequel in 2005 would I have loved it as much? Or would it have seemed forced and trivial?

I’m a huge fan of Graeme Simsion and his Rosie Books- “The Rosie Project” becoming an instant favorite with me. Due to the success of the first novel, he wrote a sequel, “The Rosie Effect.” I was underwhelmed by this novel- it went too much quirky, and not enough heart and soul. But……he redeemed himself recently by finishing up the trilogy with “The Rosie Result” which had all the wit and charm of the first novel, but the character development we so needed and lacked in the second book. But I couldn’t help but wonder, after the success of the first book, did he immediately think trilogy and used the second book as filler? Was it the publishers hope that people would be so locked into the Don Tilman story that they would just follow him wherever it went?

Oddly, sometimes the second book is the charm: “The DaVinci Code” was actually the second book by Dan Brown to use Robert Langdon. But let’s throw a wrench in this: are books that revolve around the same character sequels? Or does the story need to continue in a manner of speaking- does the sequel need to start where the other book ended?

So….sequels….what do you think?

The Go to’s

There are a handful of authors who I just read.  If I see that they have a new book out, I put it on my TBR. I have read the majority of the work that these authors have produced. If I discovered them after they had written some stuff, I immediately go to their archives. These are my go to authors:

  1. Jane Green
  2. Jennifer Weiner
  3. Jane Austen (eagerly awaiting her next book- hopefully a sequel…)
  4. Susan Isaacs
  5. Liane Moriarty
  6. The Bronte Sisters
  7. Agatha Christie (Sophie Hannah has taken to writing Poirot novels)
  8. Mary Kay Andrews
  9. Dan Brown
  10. Claire Cook
  11. Emily Griffin
  12. Elly Griffiths (Ruth Galloway)
  13. Allison Pearson
  14. Graeme Simsion

So happily ever after, right?

Well- not so much. Because all is not exactly as it seems.

Take Emily Griffin. I have loved her books for years. I would see an author alert and I would immediately get excited about reading her next. Until this year.  This year I read the blurb about her new book and I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. The subject matter was about a high school girl who sends compromising photos of herself and it becomes a scandal.  As the parent of a teenage girl this is my worst nightmare. I spend every day hoping that my daughter is strong enough to not engage in this activity. The problem I’m seeing is that there are a lot of parents who think that nudish selfies are just something to be expected- that it’s no big deal.  Yeah- I think you know what my thoughts are on that… So I chose not to read this book, because I would rather spend my time talking to my daughter about the pitfalls of this situation rather than reading about it.

Jane Green. I have been reading her for years. Faithfully, often getting her new books on release date. But her past few novels…. She used to be funny and wise and real. Now I feel like she’s throwing a dart board at an issue and then writing a book around it. Her plots have become convoluted. I have always loved her characters because they are real, but the last few books have doted excessively on clothing. There was one book that painfully described every outfit the character wore…and every character in every book seems to have the same style.  If you are going to talk about clothes- change it up. Not every heroine wears skirts and silk blouses.

Jennifer Weiner. Same basic issues. I fell in love with her early characters. They were quirky and charming. Now, they’re becoming caricatures. It’s like she reads a headline and says “There’s the next heroine of my books”.

And now I’m seeing it with Liane Moriarty. Say it isn’t so Liane. Write like you first wrote.

I think part of the problem is the stigma of “Chick Lit”. Now personally, and unapologetically, I love chick lit. Half of my reading is made up of chick lit. I like it because the characters are real and funny and charming and quirky. The situations they get into might be unbelievable, but I’m ok with the ride. I know exactly what I’m getting in chick lit and I’m more than OK with that.

But…

I think every author wants to shed the banner of chick lit. I think they want to be thought of as serious- so they begin writing about more weighty topics. I get this- I really do. Chick lit has a bad banner over it- people think of it as trite. But, well done chick lit is perfection. Telling the story of a woman who isn’t sure how to get what she wants, and them watching her figure it out is wonderful. The dialogue in chick lit is great because it’s how actual people talk. There are people who think writing how people actually talk is easy: for those who say that, try it. Write a conversation using dialogue and nothing else and see how easy it is to make it sound read and alive. And then say I’m sorry to all the authors that you have dismissed.

Here’s my thoughts: right the best book that you can. Write the book that’s inside you. Don’t worry about critics. Don’t worry that you should be writing “stronger”. Just write your book.

So….

Which authors do you love, and have you been disappointed in them as years have gone by?

One and Done

I always have a book on hand: I’m either reading, about to read, or just finished. This has been my life for the past 50 years. And there are books I have reread, there are books I have never finished, and then there are books I have read once, will never read again, yet have impacted me greatly. I present those to you today.

  1. “Animal Farm” George Orwell. This book blew me away when I read it in 9th grade. “All animals are equal, some are just more equal than others” stands out in my mind as the single greatest quote in literature.
  2. “The Sun Also Rises” Ernest Hemingway. The gorgeous prose, the exquisite portrayal of characters. I considered naming my daughter Brett Ashley….then I chose a plucky Disney heroine name.  Lady Brett was a great character but not sure if it was the right mentor name.
  3. “The Great Gatsby” F. Scott Fitzgerald Another brilliant character reveal. “Her voice is full of money.” How I wish I could write words and ideas like that.
  4. “The Scarlet Letter” Nathanial Hawthorne. Is there a better treatise on hypocrisy other than this book?
  5. “The Bonfire of the Vanities” Tom Wolfe Best book depicting the 80s ever. But I mean the book- not the movie. For the love of God do not ever watch this movie. The worst casting of a movie ever.
  6. “Invisible Man” Ralph Ellison. Nameless, but clearly not forgotten. This book haunted me. Powerful.
  7. “Heart of Darkness” Joseph Conrad “Your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others”. Tell me you haven’t thought that at least once in your life?
  8. “Madame Bovary” Gustave Flaubert No book so clearly defined the ennui which comes from seemingly having it all, yet having nothing.
  9. “Gulliver’s Travels” Jonathan Swift. This book introduced me to the glory of satire in books. Wonderful”.
  10. “mrs. Dalloway” Virginia Woolf  “What does the brain matter compared with the heart.” I wish I had written that line…
  11. “A Home at the End of the World” Michael Cunningham. Friendship, love, and the backdrop of what would become the AIDS crisis. After reading this I knew Cunningham would win a Pulitzer- it, and he, are that good.
  12. “The Shining” Stephen King So terrifying I could not read this book at night. Freaked me out completely. No novel has ever scared me as much as this. Never read King again.
  13. “Life after Life” and “A God in Ruins” Kate Atkinson. I still do not completely get these books. I get the broad strokes, I even get the smaller strokes, but no two books have ever left me completely with my mouth open. These books made me think way more than most.

Now your turn: which books just wowed you when you read them, but never needed to read again? Which books answered your questions, or got you thinking, or whatever?

 

Re: Read

Do you ever reread books? Nowadays, I only reread books for two reasons: 1) my book club has picked a book that I’ve previously read, or 2) my daughter is reading it for school and I thought it would be fun to discuss it with her. Before I had an e reader though, it was quite common practice for me to pick a book off my shelf and look at it with fresh eyes.

Today, I am going to give you a snap shot into some of the books I’ve read over again. Some of them you may know, others you will probably be a little surprised.

  1. “Rich Man, Poor Man” by Irwin Shaw. Odd choice- I know. You’ve heard about my Mother, right? When I was younger I was above my grade in reading. When I was in sixth grade my Mother repeatedly reminded me that the elementary school had been bringing in High School books for me since 3rd grade. When you gave me money for the 6th grade book fair, the stipulation was that I buy a book from the “adult” shelf. My delusional Mother must have assumed that this section would be filled with classics. Alas, it was filled with best seller types.  When I was in 6th grade, that sort of became the year of the mini series: Rich, Man Poor, Man was the show to watch. Needless to say, the book it was based on was immensely popular. This was the first, let’s say tawdry novel that I had ever read. And re read. And read again.
  2. “The Outsiders” SE Hinton. This book stole my young heart. When my daughter had to read it in sixth grade I was thrilled to go along for the ride with her. Stay Gold Pony Boy.
  3. “Are You There God, It’s me Margeret” by Judy Blume. Puberty. Angst. So beautifully portrayed for me…..loved this book.
  4. “Lace” by Shirley Conran. I got an advance readers copy of this book when I was around a senior in high school, maybe college Freshman. This was the first book I read that had somewhat explicit sexuality…..good times…
  5. “Gone with the Wind” Margaret Mitchell. Scarlet O’Hara was the toughest woman I had ever encountered in fiction. She might still be. Long live tough women.
  6. “Pride and Prejudice” Jane Austen.  Come on. I want to be Elizabeth Bennett
  7. “Yurtle the Turtle” by Dr. Suess. This was the first book that I truly loved. I still have my copy from the 1960’s, the only book I have kept from my youth. That’s how much it means to me. Love of the written word starts here.
  8. “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” Betty Smith. Just a special coming of age story. Love love love.
  9. “And then There Were None” Agatha Christie. I thought this was so clever- my favorite Christie.
  10. “Catcher in the Rye” JD Salinger. Ohhhh this book kind of crushes me when I read it. Sad and funny and everything.

So here’s the question: Do you reread books? If so, which are the standouts?

Highlights

When I went over my schedule Sunday night, I seemed to have a fairly quiet week. By Tuesday the quiet week had exploded into an action packed ride…

Sunday

  1. Going to the New York Children’s International Film Festival with my daughter (we think our 10th year) to see the short film series
  2. You know I went to container store, bought a lazy susan and organized the bottles in my fridge
  3. Went to get tea at a little shop.  I asked for milk in my English Breakfast and they steamed the milk.  It was SOOOOO good. I mean really.

Monday

  1. Season finale of Victoria-
  2. Working on my arts and crafts project
  3. organized my pocketbooks

Tuesday

  1. “Fighting for my Family” in theaters.  Surprisingly touching
  2. broccoli and smashed potato dinner thing- it was pretty tasty
  3. My daughter asked me to help her straighten her hair, and I got to brush her hair. I remember when she was little and I got to do this every day. It was a treat to be able to brush her hair

Wednesday

  1. I love catching something being filmed, and I got to see “Bull” being filmed.  Hi Michael Weatherly and Freddy Rodriguez
  2. My Daughter loves law team.  For the first time ever I got to see her participate in Mock Trial. There is nothing better than seeing your child doing something they love. I was so proud of her!!
  3. I am not great at cooking mussels, but I’m getting better

Thursday

  1. reasonable happy with rewrite I sent my writing friends
  2. Saw a play “The Cake”. Written by one of the creative minds behind “This is Us”. Not an outstanding play, but also not a bad one. thought provoking, which is what a play should be.
  3. My Mother is stingy with compliments.  I mean, really stingy. So when she told me that she thought I did a wonderful job raising my daughter I was sort of floored. Without a doubt, Motherhood has been the hardest challenge I have ever faced, so a little validation from my Mother meant everything

Friday

  1. “birds of Passage” Interesting movie about Columbia during 60’s to 80’s, and the clash of old world traditions and new ways of making money
  2. “Captain Marvel”- well..it was day of women…