Monday, May 29, 2017

Why I can't take the spouse to the supermarket (humor)

The following conversation occurred shortly after leaving a Publix Supermarket the other day, where the spouse and I had gone together to pick up a few things for Memorial Day Weekend. 

As per usual when we go grocery shopping together, I was in charging of bagging while the spouse waited by the register -- and the tabloid magazines -- to pay.

SCENE: The car, pulling away from the Publix

THE SPOUSE: So how long do you think this union between J. Lo and A-Rod will last?

ME: Union? Did they get married?

THE SPOUSE: Well, she's having his baby.

ME: WHAT?! Jennifer Lopez is NOT pregnant. She's like, 50, and has a new show. Where did you hear that?

THE SPOUSE: It's in all the tabloids. And she's 47.

ME: I don't believe it.

THE SPOUSE: Look it up. 

ME (looking it up on my phone): I don't see anything about J. Lo being pregnant. Though she is 47.

THE SPOUSE: See, I told you.

ME: Fine, but she'll be 48 in July. 

THE SPOUSE: Nothing about her being pregnant?

ME: I just see a story about her "romance" with A-Rod. I'll look it up later*. Can we please change the subject?

Of course, I then dreamed -- though it was more of a nightmare -- that I was pregnant with twins. No word regarding who the father was.

*Jennifer Lopez is NOT pregnant -- and neither am I.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Look! New book recommendations!

Yes, folks, it's time, once again, for another J-TWO-O Book Nook post. (Click the link to see previous book recommendations.)

As per usual, I have listed books alphabetically by author. And I've included a few books I didn't love, because I realize not everyone is as picky as I am (and other people I know really liked these books).

Oh, and if you'd like to tell the class about some great books you've read this year, please share the title and author in a Comment. Thanks!

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. Fiction. I love a good fairy tale. And this is a good fairy tale. Set in long-ago Russia, in a small village at the edge of a wood, The Bear and the Nightingale is a bewitching coming-of-age story (with some Beauty and the Beast undertones). The story centers on Vasillisa, or Vasya, the youngest child of a Russian nobleman, whose beloved wife dies while giving birth to the girl. Like her mother's mother, who some say was a witch, Vasya seems otherworldly, and, indeed, can see and speak with the spirits that protect their house, animals, and crops. But when her father remarries a religious (and superstitious) woman, and an ambitious young priest comes to preach in the village, the old ways are threatened and crops begin failing and animals begin disappearing, leaving the villagers angry and terrified. And it is up to Vasya to try to save them all.

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen. Historical fiction. I'm a big fan of Rhys Bowen's Royal Spyness mystery series, set in England in the 1930s. So I expected to equally enjoy her latest novel, In Farleigh Field, a mystery set (mainly) in 1940s England and Paris, during World War II. And I did. If you are a fan of British mysteries set in the first half of the twentieth century on English estates, filled with charming characters and plot twists, you will enjoy In Farleigh Field.

The Mistress of Paris: The 19th-Century Courtesan Who Built an Empire on a Secret by Catherine Hewitt. Nonfiction. Maybe it's because growing up Gigi was one of my favorite movies, but I loved this book -- which, like Gigi, is about French courtesans (and the men who adored them). Mainly, it is about one particular French courtesan, the "Comtesse Valtesse de la Bigne," nee Emilie-Louise Delabigne, who was the toast of late nineteenth-century Paris. A fascinating biography of a fascinating woman, as well as a history lesson, The Mistress of Paris reads like a work of fiction, but it's not.

Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman. Nonfiction/Memoir. Loved the idea behind Eight Flavors -- exploring eight different seasonings, or flavors, such as pepper, vanilla, soy sauce, and MSG, that greatly shaped American cuisine (though she purposely leaves out chocolate and coffee); the writing, not so much. (God save me from Millennial food bloggers.) But, if you are not irked by young women (and men) who love to talk about themselves or interject their own personal experience with something, and consider yourself a "foodie," and like books about food, this book is for you. (My college-age daughter loved it. So maybe it's a generational thing. Though I found many parts of the book interesting.)

The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett. Fiction. As stated above, I love a good mystery, especially an English mystery -- as well as books about King Arthur and his knights and quests for mystical objects. So The Lost Book of the Grail was kind of the Holy Trinity of books for me. The story centers on introverted book lover and English professor Arthur Prescott, who harbors a secret obsession with the Holy Grail. Arthur, despite being an atheist, is enamored with the ancient cathedral in his (fictional) small English village, and spends most of his free time in the cathedral's library. However, when a pretty American shows up to digitize all the ancient books (to Arthur's horror), his world and life are turned upside down. A charming, fun book.

Duck Season: Eating, Drinking, and Other Misadventures in Gascony – France’s Last Best Place by David McAninch. Memoir. The subtitle pretty much says it all. The gustatory adventures of David McAninch, a former editor at Saveur, in Southwestern France, where he and his wife and young child spent eight seemingly very happy, very delicious months a few years back. If you like tales of good food (especially French food), good drink, and consider yourself a Francophile, I recommend Duck Season. (Just make sure to have a good French restaurant nearby when you do.)

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller. Nonfiction. A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the manufacture and history of olive oil. However, be warned: After reading Extra Virginity, you will probably never look at olive oil, or extra virgin olive oil, the same way again -- and will probably wonder what it is you've actually been consuming. (I know I did. Indeed, after reading this book, I thought that instead of calling certain olive oil "extra virgin," they should call it "extra slutty," because it seemed like olives really get around.)

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore. Historical fiction. The history of electricity. (I just liked typing that.) A great read that examines the question, Who really invented the light bulb? and chronicles the fight over who had the right -- George Westinghouse or Thomas Edison -- to supply electricity to millions of homes and businesses across America. Told from the point of view of a young lawyer named Paul Cravath (the Cravath in what is now Cravath, Swain & Moore), who was hired by Westinghouse to defeat Edison's claims. Highly recommend.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. Memoir. I really did not like this book. Or, rather, I really did not like the people in this book. Noah, whom I'd grown to really like on The Daily Show, came off as a punk. And I found myself constantly yelling (in my head) at his mother, a headstrong, self-centered, wrong-headed woman who repeatedly -- and needlessly -- endangered herself and Noah, starting with her decision to needle a white man to impregnate her (the crime of the title). That all said, Noah's recollections of growing up poor and biracial, or "colored," in South Africa, make for a fascinating read. And my niece and many other people I know loved this book.

Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America by Michael Ruhlman. Nonfiction/Memoir. I'm still reading this book, but I wanted to include it as I think it's a must read. In short, Grocery is the story of how grocery stores, or really supermarkets, evolved and came to dominate the American food landscape, shaped how and what we eat, and are now fighting for survival in today's on-demand world. It's also a loving memoir about Ruhlman's father -- and an in-depth look at a local, family-run grocery chain in Ohio called Heinen's, where the Ruhlman family often shopped. If you ever wondered why there are grocery stores and how and what food comes to be on their shelves, definitely check out Grocery.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. Nonfiction. Definitely one of my new favorite books. Even better than the movie, which I also loved (but was pretty much a work of fiction). The amazing story of a group of smart and talented African American women who worked as "computers" at what would become NASA in the 1940s through 1960s. Shetterly does a great job of fleshing out her subjects and making you feel like a fly on the wall. You don't have to be interested in the space race, or math or engineering, or a woman, to enjoy and appreciate this book, but if you are, you will appreciate Hidden Figures even more.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Chihuly at the New York Botanical Garden

If you happen to be in New York City between now and October 29th, I highly recommend you go to the New York Botanical Garden (in the Bronx) to see the CHIHULY exhibit (as well as the beautiful flowers and plants).

The exhibit includes over 20 stunning glass sculptures, installed throughout the Garden, by renowned glass sculptor/artist Dale Chihuly, whose blown glass creations have been exhibited at museums around the world.

Here are some of the amazing glass works of art featured in the New York Botanical Garden exhibit. (Click on the photo to see a larger view. Then hit the "back" button/arrow to return to the post.)

NB: It is really hard to photograph glass when the sun is shining directly overheard -- and a dozen or so people keep walking into the frame.