Friday, April 23, 2010

Middletown America by Gail Sheehy

All Americans were hit with some degree of trauma on September 11, 2001, but no place was hit harder than Middletown, New Jersey. Gail Sheehy spent the better part of two years walking the journey from grief toward renewal with fifty members of the community that lost more people in the World Trade Center than any other outside New York City. Her subjects are the women, men, and children who remained after the devastation and who are putting their lives back to-gether.

Another piece of the blurb on the back cover said, "this is a story of hope" and boy, was that true. Sheehy documents such an outpouring of love and support from this community to those who had a loss. It was also a story of human foibles as some of the potential do-gooders weren't able to manage their resources and fulfill what they hoped to do. There was one aspect of the story that didn't sit right. That was the small minority of survivors who felt that the government had betrayed them by not protecting their loved ones and that they deserved substantial compensation. It's hard to articulate exactly what bothered me but I will try. There is a mechanism already in place for compensating people who have a loss - social security and private insurance. It's the mechanism used by people who suffer losses every day from individuals dying a natural death to workers in high-risk occupations like fire fighters and police officers. But some of the survivors thought their loss was the result of governemnt ineptitude and so they deserved more. I assume Sheehy must agree or else she wouldn't have given them such a voice. Maybe an investigation will show a mistake but I haven't heard that yet and it's almost ten years later. I think the government agencies who didn't act on the possibilty of an event like this, probably don't act on hundreds of possible events that we citizens know nothing about. They use the information they can gather to protect us the best they can but we have a very open country and there is no way to detect and deflect everything. Well - that's probably about as much of politics that you'll ever hear out of me! Overall, the book held my interest on audio, I'm quite sure it would have been too dry to read in print. Sheehy gives the large cast of characters qualities that enable the reader/listener to keep track of who's who. The narration was a little flat but it seemed respectful since the subject matter was so somber. Definitely a Kleenex sponsored read - the love and loss shared between the couples, the families, and the community gets very emotional.

This book counts toward the 2010 Audiobook Challenge hosted by the bloggers over at Royal Reviews. Click on the button to see my progress.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Psst...universe, I'm still here!

I haven't posted in forever as things have been hectic in real life! Hectic in a fairly good way though. Made the trip home this past weekend to visit my mom and dad. It was nice to see with my own eyes that Dad looks good - he is tolerating the chemo well and we are hoping for good results when he has his new scan done soon.

The kids all had Spring Break so that kept me busy trying to give them a little fun at the beach and such without totally abandoning work. Because I am the only person that does my job, if I take off, the children I see just don't get seen. So I am hesitant to take time off knowing I want to be free to go to my parents if things there take a turn for the worse. (Just explaining - not complaining - I love my job and it gives me a trememdous amount of freedom when I need it!) The blessing of living by the beach - you can go out for an afternoon and feel like you got plenty of surf and sun. It was actually much too chilly still for my taste but the boys are like the Canadien tourists - It's Spring and they're going swimming by God no matter how blue they turn!

The other time zapper has been the start of Spring soccer season. Yougest is playing for the rec league. Tween is playing for both the school and the rec league. So six practices a week and only one momma to drive = harried mother. The school and rec league only overlap for a few weeks so things will only be busy, busy for a short while. Then they'll be back to just plain busy.

I've been reading - actually more listening than reading with all the hours in the car...I'll try to get posts up at some point but have finished - Are You There Vodka? It's Me Chelsea. by Chelsea Handler, Call of the Wild by Jack London, Life of Pi by Yann Martel, The Elephant in the Playroom by Denise Brodey, Middletown, America by Gail Sheehy, and Brick Lane by Monica Ali. I saw that Brick Lane has been made into a movie so may have to rent that one!

So that's life at the moment. I am reading your blogs but just not writing on mine!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea. by Chelsea Handler

From the Amazon product description: When Chelsea Handler needs to get a few things off her chest, she appeals to a higher power -- vodka. You would too if you found out that your boyfriend was having an affair with a Peekapoo or if you had to pretend to be honeymooning with your father in order to upgrade to first class. Welcome to Chelsea's world -- a place where absurdity reigns supreme and a quick wit is the best line of defense.

I listened to this one right after finishing Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. for the Shelf Discovery Challenge I picked it up with a little chuckle that the title was a take off on a book I had just read. Not too far in the chuckle seemed like a sacrilege. Chelsea Handler has her niche but it's sometimes a pretty base, ugly place and very far removed from the sweet searching story that Judy Blume wrote. I didn't know anything about Chelsea Handler when I picked out this book but I had heard her referred to as the female version of David Sedaris and, you know I love David! I caught glimpses of that side of Chelsea when she was talking about her family, "Obviously, if I was serious about having a relationship with someone long-term, the last people I would introduce him to would be my family." But the good humor was almost outweighed by the raunchier stuff with promiscuity being lauded. So, I am still looking for the female version of David Sedaris!

This book counts toward the 2010 Audiobook Challenge hosted by the bloggers over at Royal Reviews. Click on the button to see my progress.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter dinner 2010

Went shopping yesterday with the intention of buying a leg of lamb but the least expensive one was $49.00 so came home with a turkey instead! My hope this year is to involve everyone in the food prep so I am "assigning" each family member a recipe. I know I will have to help them through it but it's a step and maybe will give them an understanding of the effort that goes into our big holiday meals.

The menu will be..
No special recipe for turkey, just follow the directions on the wrapper! I have some grapes to sugar to place around it for decoration along with some fresh herbs that will be left over from the other recipes. Although now that I am thinking about it, maybe I will look for the Southern Living recipe where you cook the turkey upside down and then flip it halfway through - that one did turn out very moist. Also, the picture shows stuffing but I am not stuffing. I'll probably make stuffing another night when I serve the leftovers. This is Ex-Marine's assignment.

The vegetable is gratineed baked squash. It involves fresh sage, heavy cream, and cheese and it is delicious! I'm not a huge squash fan and I ate a ton of this at Christmas. This one is just for me.

Make ahead mashed potatoes. Potatoes made the night before with a brick of cream cheese, a stick of butter, and a cup of sour cream added. Then you just heat them up the day of the meal. This is my job for Youngest. Some folks decorate the to with chives or paprika - my family likes them without the added color. They are suspicious of added color to familiar foods!

This is one of Bookworm's recipes that she can do all on her own. I'm going to have her get started as soon as she wakes up today because her brothers are already raiding the fruit I bought yesterday so there will be none left if she doesn't get cooking! The crust of this is sugar cookie dough, the glaze is white grape juice mixed with stuff (maybe corn starch to thicken it and some sugar?).

Dessert is a new recipe. I saw it on a blog about a week ago but when I tried to find it again couldn't so had to go Google it and hope I have the recipe right! (The blogger called it funeral cake - ring a bell anyone?) It's yellow cake mix with mandarin oranges added and the frosting is crushed pineapple mixed with vanilla pudding mix and folded into Cool Whip. This one is for Tween to make.

Update: Everything turned out great. Nobody liked the cake but me so after one more thick slice, I'll have to toss it so I don't eat the whole cake myself! Everyone completed their assignments except that Tween did balk at the pineapple and refused to go any further with the cake recipe from that point.

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking over at Beth Fish Reads. Click on the logo to see the other posts this week.