A Few (New) Favorite Quotes

I just fell down a rabbit hole on the internet.  I was looking up a book for my son on Goodreads.  An article in The Boston Globe had recommended it for teenage boys and since it was written in the 1940s and I like older books I meandered on over to Goodreads to check it out.  The book is The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson. I quickly decided my son might like it (Vikings!  Wars at sea!  Treasure!) and was ready to move on when I got sucked in by the quote section.  Now, I don't have a Goodreads account and I only use it to read reviews every now and then so I have never really paid any attention to this but I randomly punched in Robert Frost and well, that was an hour ago and I now have a selection of quotes I love.  And, since I seem completely incapable of discovering words I like without sharing them on here, today's post is a random selection of quotes mostly from books I haven't even read yet.  Yes, I will do something about that.

First up is Robert Frost.  I only thought of him as a poet but apparently, he wrote about writing as well.  I liked this.

The ear is the only true writer and the only true reader.  I know people who read without hearing the sentence sounds and they were the fastest readers.  Eye readers we call them.  They get the meaning by glances.  But they are bad readers because they miss the best part of what a good writer puts into his work.

I am guilty of occasionally being an eye reader.  Some books just lend themselves to that; the cozy mystery, the light romance.  Not that there is anything wrong with these types of books, they just don't invite you to lay down the book and contemplate the wonders of the language.  The problem is when we apply the same reading methods to books that do have more to say.  I sometimes need to make myself slow down and appreciate the way a book is written as well as the story it is telling.

Next is a quote from E. B. White.

A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort.  A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book you may have your question answered.  Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people-people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.

I think that possibly E. B. White and I could have been friends.  He also said this.

Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time.  You have to write up, not down.  Children are demanding.  They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth...Children are game for anything.  I throw them hard words and they backhand them across the net.  

Do you see what I mean?  We absolutely would have been friends.  I get so irritated by the idea that children have to be coddled in their book choices.  Let them read.  Let them try hard books.  Let them be overwhelmed.  Let them not understand.  Let them rise to the book.  They will.   

And finally, a quote from William Zinsser.  I read a collection of his essays a few months ago and greatly enjoyed his style.  

Readers must be given room to bring their own emotions to a piece so crammed with emotional content; the writer must tenaciously resist explaining why the material is so moving.

Yes.  Yes!  This exactly.  This is why I had issues with East of Eden.  I felt like I was constantly being told how I should react and how I should feel about the story.  No.  Let me feel things on my own.  William Zinsser wrote a famous writing manual called On Writing Well.  I will definitely by buying a copy if this is the type of thing he has to say.

I used to own a giant compilation of famous quotations. Actually, I could still own it.  It is probably just lost in the depths of my attic.  I enjoy flipping through and reading bits and pieces.  It gives you a taste of different authors and the thought provoking things they said.  And sometimes that leads you down a rabbit hole that ends in a whole new reading list.  

I Bake Because Punching People Is Frowned Upon

Baking is my therapy.

If I am stressed, I bake.  If I am angry, I bake.  If I am confused, I bake.  If I am anxious, I bake.  If I am happy, I bake.  That last one doesn't call for therapy, but still, I bake.

Usually, I bake a lot of cookies.  There is something so soothing about creaming butter and sugar and putting tray after tray in the oven.  It requires almost no thought but the repetition is calming.  However, if I am having a very bad day I bake bread.  Because ultimately there is no better way to get your frustrations out than to violently knead bread dough.  You can punch it and mash it and you can even name it if you are upset with a specific person. Then once you have gotten all your aggressive tendencies out you return to the calm and relaxing proving and shaping and baking.  Plus, your house is filled with the best smell on earth.  Is there anything like the smell of baking bread?  That alone is guaranteed to make you happy.

This week I baked cinnamon rolls.  I wasn't in any particular need of baking therapy but I do have a new cookbook full of delicious sounding recipes and I finally had time to try it out.  The cookbook is The Bread Baker's Apprentice* by Peter Reinhart. Based on the one recipe I have tried, I absolutely love it.

The first 100 or so pages are information about bread.  The book covers such things as types of yeast and how fermentation works, bakers formulas (which I haven't quite gotten to grips with) and shaping loaves.  It is more technical than many cookbooks I have used but still manages to be accessible and easy to understand.  The recipes themselves are also clearly written.  Each step is easy to follow.

However, the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the proof is in the cinnamon rolls.  How did they turn out?  Well, my family managed to eat half the pan within half an hour of them coming out of the oven and my son told me that they are the best thing I have ever baked.  And as I think I have made clear, I bake a lot.  I call that a success.

Now to decide what I will try next.  Maybe homemade English Muffins or the Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread.  So many choices.  So much therapy ahead of me.  So much delicious bread.

*I received this book from Blogging For Books for this review.

Golden Moments #2

A month or so ago I wrote a post where I listed the golden moments of my week, the moments that made me stop and appreciate life.  I enjoyed writing it and enjoyed how it made me concentrate on the good instead of the bad.  Goodness knows there can be enough bad to concentrate on.  So here we go again.  The golden moments from my recent days.

The walk we took as a family in the woods pictured above.  It was a beautiful day, everyone was cooperative, and they all patiently waited while I took photos.  A good time was had by all.  I love all the old stone walls throughout the woods.  It fascinates me to think about what the area looked like a few hundred years ago when this was all cleared land instead of wooded.

The gluten-free pizza I made last week.  Gluten-free pizza is generally disgusting.  Actually, I find many gluten-free baked goods unpleasant.  Pizza is one of the things I have been having the hardest time with.  All the crust mixes have a strange texture and while bearable when first made are absolutely disgusting reheated.  When I was placing an Amazon Pantry order I added a King Arthur gluten-free pizza mix on a whim.  Then it sat in my cabinet for a few months because I was so fed up with trying gluten-free things only to dislike them.  Finally, my pizza cravings got too strong and I gave it a try.  Amazingly enough, it was pretty decent which in the world of gluten-free pizza means it was amazing.  I was very, very happy.

My daughter telling me that she loves the smell of old books.  As I said on Twitter, my work here is done.

The copy of Wind Off the Small Isles by Mary Stewart that Lory from The Emerald City Book Review sent me.  She knew I wanted to read it and very kindly contacted me and offered to send on her copy.  It was such a thoughtful thing to do and it brightened my whole day when it showed up in the mail.  I am saving it to read this weekend when I have some time off.

The unexpected day off my husband and I had together in the middle of last week.  I had been having a bad day and he knew it (he couldn't help but know it, I had spent the previous evening alternately crying and getting mad at the world.  So much fun for my family.)  so he convinced me I needed a day off.  We stayed home and watched movies, drank countless cups of tea and coffee, and ignored reality for a while.  It was blissful and left me much more able to deal with everyday life.  Maybe I should get irrationally upset a little more often.

The new winter coat I ordered yesterday.  I always feel a bit guilty spending money on myself because the kids are continually outgrowing their clothes and I have an endless list of things they need.  However, my work requires me to be outside quite a bit and my winter coat is old and not that warm.  I found a fantastic deal online and now I can't wait for my coat to come.  It has a hood!  Lined with fake fur!  I don't know why that makes me happy but it does.

So, tell me, what were the golden moments in your week?

Book Review--East of Eden by John Steinbeck

books--john steinbeck

Sometimes we read books because we feel like we should.  That is the situation with John Steinbeck and me.  He appears on lists of books you must read if you are a well-read person.  I like to consider myself a well-read person.  The obvious conclusion is that I must read Steinbeck.  He doesn't fit into my usual reading habits.  My classics of choice are usually by such authors as Jane Austen or Anthony Trollope.  Steinbeck is bigger and grittier and...more American.  How did I get on with him?  I am not really sure. I am not going to summarize the book, you can find a summary online if you want one, this is simply my impressions of it.  I read the first few pages and I fell in love with some of Steinbeck's descriptions.

Every petal of blue lupin is edged with white, so that of field of lupins is more blue than you can imagine.  And mixed with these were splashes of California poppies.  These too are of a burning color--not orange, not gold, but if pure gold were liquid and could raise cream, that golden cream might be like the color of the poppies.  When their season was over the yellow mustard came up and grew to a great height.  When my grandfather came  into the valley the mustard was so tall that a man on horseback showed only his head above the yellow flowers.  On the uplands the grass would be strewn with buttercups, with hen-and-chickens, with black-centered yellow violets.  And a little later in the season there would be red and yellow stands of Indian paintbrush.  These were the flowers of the open places exposed to the sun.  Under the live oaks, shaded and dusky, the maidenhair flourished and gave a good smell, and under the mossy banks of the water courses whole clumps of five-fingered ferns and goldy-backs hung down.  Then there were harebells, tiny lanterns, cream white and almost sinful looking, and these were so rare and magical that a child, finding one, felt singled out and special all day long.  

Steinbeck's descriptions of people could be just as enthralling.  In this excerpt, he is describing Liza Hamilton and really, this tells you all you need to know about her.

And she looked forward to Heaven as a place where clothes did not get dirty and where food did not have to be cooked and dishes washed.  Privately there were some things in Heaven of which she did not quite approve.  There was too much singing, and she didn't see how even the Elect could survive for very long the celestial laziness which was promised.  She would find something to do in Heaven.  There must be something to take up one's time--some clouds to darn, some weary wings to rub with liniment.  Maybe the collars of the robes needed turning now and then, and when you come right down to it, she couldn't believe that even in Heaven there would not be cobwebs in some corner to be knocked down with a cloth-covered broom.  

 If Steinbeck had used his beautiful descriptions and way with words simply to tell the story of the Hamiltons and the Trasks I think I would have loved this book.  My issues with it are the same things that many feel are the things that make it great.  The novel has huge messages of depravity, redemption, free will, and evil versus good.  There is a biblical parallel throughout the book with the story of Cain and Abel.  It is not the biblical parallel I had a problem with, I am a religious person myself, it is that these parallels and lessons were driven home with such a heavy hand.  I like my points made quietly, lightly, not with a sledgehammer.  Leave the reader to come to conclusions on his own, let him spend time musing and thinking about the book and what the author is trying to say.  Don't beat the message into him.

There was one character who was so unpleasant that she didn't seem to fit into the book.  Steinbeck himself described her as a monster.  Again, I understand the whole good versus evil, but this character was so evil that whenever she came into the book she completely pulled me out of the story.  She wasn't real to me and I didn't want her to be.

So we come back to the question:  how did I get on with John Steinbeck?  The answer is I just don't know.  The book is very readable and there were parts when I didn't want to put it down.  But then there were parts when I hated it.  I loved some of his writing but I hated some of his characters.  In a way, I felt as if it was two books.  One was the story of two families and their intertwined lives and one was an allegory that was so involved in itself that it sometimes lost the story.  I loved one but not the other.

Would I read Steinbeck again?  Yes, I think I would. For those moments when he says the things I wish I could say, those moments when I find myself rereading a description because it is just so right.

This was reviewed as part of my Classics Club list.

A Bit of a Ramble

We did go on a bit of a ramble when this photo was taken.  Autumn is winding down now; the leaves are falling and the colors are fading. It is still beautiful.  The brightest colors have fallen and we are left with the gorgeous ambers and burnt oranges of the oaks contrasting with the green of the pines and the brown branches of the bare trees outlined against the sky. It might be my favorite part of fall, but really, I say that about every part of fall.  This is my season.  Soon we will have to bundle up and walk briskly in order to stay warm on our walks.

There are advantages to winter.  My daughter insists that snow days are one.  Is there anything better as a child than waking up on a dark winter morning to the news that school has been canceled?  Stretching before you is an endless vista of snowmen and hot chocolate and movies and the smell of baking wafting through the house.

 If you are going to have snow days then you must have good books. I am actually making a few reading goals.  That is not something I usually do.  I am a spontaneous reader, I just read whatever appeals at the moment and, for the most part, I am happy with that.  However, I have been neglecting my Classics Club list.  I was so enthusiastic when I first started and then life got in the way.  I felt that I had to pay close attention when I was reading the books on the list because I knew I had to review them.  Most of the time I just read a book and then review it if I have something to say or if some particular point or idea hits me.  Somehow, the idea of having to review meant I kept putting them off.  I was too tired or too busy to give them my complete attention so I didn't read them at all.  I have decided I am just going to barrel on through my list and if my reviews are not earth-shaking (they won't be, just warning you) so be it.  So this winter I want to cross at least six books off my list.  Minimum.  I would like it to be more but let's be reasonable here.  I am going to get distracted so we will stick with six.

Speaking of being distracted from my list, I would like a few book recommendations from any of you who are willing.  I think I need to broaden my reading horizons a bit.  I realized this when my kids started joking about how every book I read is set in England during WWII.  This is not true.  Well, not really true.  Some of them are set in England before the war.  And some are after the war.  And some are in the late 1800s.  A few are not even set in England.  I do have a bit of an obsession with England which I have mentioned before.  However, there are a lot of other countries in the world and a lot of other time periods.  Do you have a book you think I should read?  A book that has been translated from another language or is set in a wildly different time period?  I would love to hear about it.  And of course, if you have a great recommendation for a book set in England during WWII, don't hold back. I am not giving up that country or that time period.

I did read a book I thoroughly enjoyed the other day.  It was one of my daughter's books.  She loved it and insisted I read it too.  I am glad I listened to her because it was so much fun.  We read First Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton.  What is it about boarding school stories that is so appealing?  I loved them as a child and apparently, I still love them.  Enid Blyton is not an author I ever read as a child but I discovered her on some blog I read years ago and started buying her books for my daughter.  We are hooked.  Now we need to get the rest in the series.  It looks like she wrote another series about St Clare's.  That must be a boarding school too.  Now if only the girls have a midnight feast in one of the books my life will be complete.  I used to desperately want to have my own midnight feast.

My schedule changed quite a bit in September and I have had a hard time keeping up with blogging.  I feel like this spot has gotten a bit neglected lately.  I used to have a more flexible schedule but now if I don't plan ahead it doesn't happen.  I am hoping to do a better job at planning ahead because I enjoy this too much to give it up. I still get a feeling of intense satisfaction whenever I hit "publish" on a post and whenever someone comments on something I have written.

How do you find time for blogging?  Do you have any books I absolutely must read?

Twenty-Six Years

We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.  

Supposedly that is a Dr. Seuss quote.  Did he really write that or does Pinterest just say so?  I don't know but I like the quote.  I think there is a lot of truth in it.

My husband and I celebrated our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary this week.

We didn't do anything big or amazing.  Life is busy and crazy as usual.  We left the kids at home and went out for Chinese food.  We sat in the almost deserted restaurant and ate exactly the food we wanted and discussed how nice it is to have kids that are old enough to be left at home.  We went straight home after, regretting the fact that there isn't a bookstore close enough to be practical.  We walked in the door and picked up life where we left off; homework, and time for bed, and did you do your chores?

I have friends that I know think we should have dressed up and gone to a fancy restaurant or had a party that went late into the night, that he should have bought me jewelry and flowers and wine.  That isn't us.

We are a Chinese food on a week night kind of couple.

Marriage is a strange thing.  You commit to spending your life with another person who has his own idiosyncrasies, interests, annoying habits, and ways of doing things.  Somehow those differences have to mesh with yours.  It can be hard and it can be a lot of work.  But it can also be joy-filled when you realize you have found the person who gets you, the person you can depend on.  The person who is willing to take you out for Chinese on your anniversary because that is what you really want.

My husband and I are both a little weird.  I am glad we found each other