Friday, July 31, 2009

Rounding Out the Menu

Living just outside of Boston, it's been difficult to avoid hearing about the supposedly big scandal taking place between the Cambridge Police Department and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a professor at Harvard University. It's now become a national story because President Obama was ambushed by a reporter during a press conference on an unrelated topic, and his reply went out all over the country. In my opinion the situation was a series of misunderstandings, but I am not a black man living in an urban setting, nor a patrol officer in a large city, so I really can't judge. Before I go any further, please understand that this is not meant to be a political or racial rant, more a glimpse into my thoughts on what our media outlets consider important news.
Any-hoo, things have all supposedly been worked out here, and Henry, James Crowley, (the officer involved) and President Obama were hanging out at the picnic table outside the Oval Office yesterday afternoon.
Even the choice of beer has been national news! Bud Light for the President, Blue Moon for Sergeant Crowley, and Beck's or Red Stripe for Mr. Gates, although some media outlets have reported that he does not drink. So they sat in the hot sun and drank beer? How about some munchies to go with it? Did Henry and James ( I love that those are their names!) bring some yummy treats? Maybe mini club sandwiches, or a seven-layer dip? It would have been challenging to transport those on a plane from Boston. I'm sure President Obama had some traditional beer nuts around the White House kitchen. Even better, how about Combos, a cheesy-pretzely munchy that I've seen some bars have out. Almost everyone likes potato chips, especially the kettle-cooked kind, like Cape Cod chips, my personal favorite.
But what about Mr. Gates? If he ate all these salty treats, he'd want something to drink, and water just doesn't cut it with these foods, at least for me. Maybe he's a traditional guy and chose some kind of cola. Or, he might be old-school or watching his calories and request a Fresca or a Tab. In the summer I always enjoy a Fresca. Since the White House likes to serve domestic drinks and other foods whenever possible, maybe Professor Gates could have insisted on Polar soda, which is a New England company that makes a variety of standard flavors and some that are more difficult to find like my two favorites, raspberry-lime and birch beer.
Whatever they at, drank, or said, I'm glad that the occasion has come and gone and the President can go back to trying to fix up the nation, Sergeant Crowley can keep the streets of Cambridge safe for drunken college revelers (Which I was once one of!), and Professor Gates can enrich the minds of future generations.
So...if you were hosting a casual beer gathering, what kind of brewskie would it be? What munchies are a must-have for you?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pewter Christening Gifts

It's time for Vintage Thingies Thursday, hosted by Suzanne @ Colorado Lady! I love sharing all of the vintage treasures from my dad's basement and beyond, as well as slightly newer vintage items from my own childhood. I can't believe I'm old enough to have vintage items from my past, and I'm sure you don't believe it either, huh?
In the mid 1960s pewter was a very popular metal in decorating, especially for those going for what was called the colonial style. My mom has all sorts of pewter items from her wedding, and continued to add to her collection throughout her marriage. When my sister and I were born, instead of giving us silver cups or spoons, we received pewter porridge bowls and cups engraved with our initials. When we were little we thought it was awesome to have our milk and cereal in these. I love the scroll work on mine, and how the font is scrolly, too.They were gifts from our two aunts, my dad's sister Kakee, and my mom's sister Marcia, who, along with their husbands are also our godmothers. We both display our sets in our dining rooms now, and my niece loves to ask about them and hear the story about pewter instead of silver, and the gifts from Aunts Kakee and Marcia. Also, to clarify, my aunt's name is not actually Kakee. When my dad, who is nine years her junior, was learning to talk, he couldn't say Cathie, and the name studck within the family. I think it's cute!
Does your family have a special or traditional gift received at births, christenings, or bris?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

BBAW: It's Baa-aack!

I am very excited to participate in the second Book Blogger Appreciated Week, created and hosted by My Friend Amy. During the week of September 14-18 there will be giveaways hosted by participants, as well as those help specifically at the BBAW blog. If you would like to donate something to be given away (it doesn't have to be a book), there is a form for donating at the BBAW site. This would be a great way to promote your etsy shop or home-based business to a potentially new audience!
In addition to great reading and non-reading prizes, there will be guest posts by authors and others in the publishing/book selling world, and awards for a variety of topics will be handed out to book bloggers from all over. If you'd like to nominate me for an award, I'm hoping to get a nomination for Best Name for a Blog and Most Eclectic Taste. (Hint! Hint!)
In most cases you do not have to be a book blogger to win prizes, so I hope you'll check it out. I'll remind everyone about it as it gets closer. If you are a book blogger, I hope you'll check out the site, register, and plan something fun for the week. Last year I was new to blogging and really wasn't sure what to do, so I wrote about my vintage books, and authors I enjoy. This year I have 2 author posts planned, as well as at least five books I'll be giving away, so I'm really excited!

Monday, July 27, 2009

More Lake Blues

Happy, Happy Blue Monday, one and all! I am apologizing in advance for what will probably be a week where I do few or no visits I am having my second cataract surgery on my left blue eye today! Yay!! Maybe I'll some more gross pictures to share with you later in the week. Meanwhile, be sure to visit Smiling Sally and the other Blue Monday participants and leave a comment when you check out their fun blues!A few weeks ago I had some cool sky photos from a weekend I spent at my sister's lake house. They showed the clouds getting darker and a storm coming in.Here are my nephews and their friend in their blue life jackets under the blue Bimini as we go back to the dock when it started getting too dark. We went back to the house, cleaned up and played cards.

When the thunderstorm stopped, look what was right out our window decorating the beautiful blue sky! It made me realize I hadn't seen a rainbow in years. When was the last time you saw a rainbow?


Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Help: everyone needs to read it!

Have you ever had "help" around your home? Someone to do the heavy cleaning, maybe lawn care, or a chef who takes care of big parties? I've been fortunate to have excellent help during the past few years, first when I wasn't allowed to clean because of germs, and then when I couldn't clean because I was too weak. I always appreciated the hard work and attention to certain details that Daniela took care of, like making my bed a certain way. Having someone come in every other week is much different than having "help" five or six days a week, as the women of The Help are fortunate to have. In Kathryn Stockett's debut novel, Elizabeth and Hilly don't appreciate their housekeepers, to whom they refer as maids. The employers actually believe they are doing these women a favor by giving them a job and then extending their hours without extra pay, and treating them either as invisible or as dirty, disease ridden non-people. Interesting that they think the person who is cleaning their home is dirty, huh?
The Help takes place in the early 1960s in Jackson, MS, which we all know was considered the worst place to be of African descent. Through the eyes of Minny and Aibileen I had my own eyes opened to even more oppressive and ridiculous laws and customs than I had heard of as a history student. We all know about separate public bathrooms, but did you know that many white families installed separate bathrooms in their garage or attached to the house as a shed, for their black help? And a separate public library and grocery store? The maids could go in the white grocery if they were in uniform only.
Minny and Abileen "know" Miss Skeeter Phelan through working for her friends and being friends with Skeeter's family housekeeper, Constantine. A recent college graduate with a degree in English and journalism from Ole Miss, Skeeter wants to write. Stories, articles, a novel, just write! Her mother and friends want her to get married and have lives similar to their own. Having never felt attractive, man-hunting is not even on Skeeter's radar.= Through a series of encounters and conversations, Skeeter decides she'd like to learn more about the real lives of the maids in Jackson and tries to enlist Aibileen's help. With conflict between the races all around, the assassinations of Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Kennedy, this is not a good time for blacks and whites to be seen together, much less "assembling" in groups. With Skeeter's eyes being opened even wider, and Aibileen and Minny growing stronger and prouder, they begin to record their stories of the families and the working conditions of their more than 25 years in service.
Kathryn Stockett, herself born and raised in Jackson by her family's maid Demetrie, shares with us a touching afterword, which ends, "I have wished, for many years, that I'd been old enough and thoughtful enough to ask Demetrie [what it felt like to be black in Mississippi]. She died when I was sixteen. I've spent years imagining what her answer would be. And that is why I wrote this book."
Although this book focuses on a serious topic, it has many funny parts and folksy stories, as well as tales of yummy southern food. Everyone should read The Help by Kathryn Stockett and remember how far we've come and how far some places in our country still need to go.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pink Topiaries

Last week I was away in Ogunquit, Maine for my family's annual group vacation. One of the things I love about Ogunquit is the variety of old homes from colonial days through the Victorian era. Most of these former homes are now shops or offices, and some are bed and breakfasts. Wherever you look in Ogunquit, the curb appeal is amazing. The care put into the gardens and planters is evident everywhere.This particular house is a shop on the first floor and 2 large rental units in the back and upstairs. They have some of the most extensive decorative florals each year.
Aren't the topiaries absolutely gorgeous?!
For more beautiful pinks, click on over to How Sweet the Sound and see what Beverly and the other Pink Saturday participants are sharing!


Friday, July 24, 2009

Blog Improvement: Mid-Year Review

I should have written this post a few weeks ago, but I've been very lazy with writing posts this summer. Going back and reviewing the goals I wrote for this blog back in January has helped me re-focus on Tboughts from an Evil Overlord.

Here are the goals that I have met:
  • Select a new blog design that shows more of my personality.
  • Include relevant links in posts.
  • Host some giveaways.
  • Participate in memes such as Blue Monday, Vintage Thingies Thursday, and Pink Saturday
  • Promote content through craft tutorials submitted to sites such as Tip Junkie
  • Investigate ways to make money through my blog, without losing its current personality/charm.
Not going as well as they could:
  • Post daily whenever possible, having posts scheduled in advance. [I was doing great with this until the summer started. I even posted 31 times in February!]
  • Promote content through Stumble Upon, Blogarama, Blog Catalog, .etc. [I really slacked off on this because I wasn't seeing results either in my ratings or my number of visitors.]
  • Work on content that will encourage comments and return visitors. [I don't know if it's working, but Followers have more than doubled since January.]
Unexpected Happenings:
  • One thing that I did not set as a goal was to be sure to visit blogs and leave comments. I was doing just fine with that, but in the last 2 months I have really slacked off. I don't want to make excuses, but I started noticing how I was racing all over the blogosphere visiting and always commenting, and the majority of the people I visited never visited me, or at least didn't leave comments. I found this blatant on Pink Saturday which usually has over 120 participants. I was visiting at least half every Saturday and commenting, yet I was only receiving 10-20 comments, many of which were from people I had not yet visited. That kind of got me down and then I started noticing similar patterns on VTT and Blue Monday, just not as great a disparity. So I was bummed and stopped visiting and commenting. But I'm back and fresh and determined not to let people get me down!
  • Another thing that was not an original goal was to start something special like a meme that would be unique to my blog. I started the New England Bloggers and we have more than 60 members now. We have done a giveaway carnival as a group and among ourselves a little "getting to know you" game where I gave out some small prizes.
  • The third thing that has changed since January are the book reviews I have been doing for Hachette publishing. Some weeks I have one, sometimes up to three. It has opened my blog to a new niche and I am enjoying being part of the book blogging world. Hopefully, with my blog being so eclectic I am passing on information about books to folks who might not necessarily read a book review or visit a book blog.
Is there anything I can do to make my blog more interesting to YOU? I've had several people say they'd like me to write more about myself, what I like, my family, newsy/folksy kind of stuff. I'm having my second cataract surgery on Monday, so I'll be sure to tell you all about that next week, maybe with some more bloody eyeball pictures!
The Blog Improvement Project is hosted by Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness. Even if you don't want to officially participate, there are lots of great ideas for improving your blog and seeing what others are finding successful. You can also jump in and participate at any time, so take a look at the topics!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Vintage Wonderland

Reading has always been my "thing" and I was fortunate as a child that people knew this and often gave me books as gifts.I received Alice in Wonderland from our neighbors the McCoys for my sixth birthday.It is now definitely vintage, and it features the original etched illustrations, which are really great. The book has aged really well, probably because it hasn't been opened since I first read it 36 years ago!Even though I am a big reader and I re-read many of the classics as a child, I just never got into Alice in Wonderland and only ready it the one time. I like British humor usually, but this just seemed whacked out to me. Which, if you know anything about Lewis Carroll, it is!
For more great vintage items, be sure to visit Suzanne @ ColoradoLady where there is a list of all the Vintage Thingies Thursday participants!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Maine Diner in Blue

I just returned home from my annual family vacation to Ogunquit, Maine. We have been going there for about 13 years, and it truly is the "Beautiful Place by the Sea" as their signs say. I was constantly on the lookout for blues (and pinks!) that I could share with the blogging world. Smiling Sally hosts Blue Monday and has a list of all the participants wh9 would love to have you stop by and see their blue treasures.
One of our favorite places to eat is the Maine Diner, just north of Ogunquit on Route 1 in Wells. It seems like it is always packed, no matter what time of day you get there. Many big-time food critics have eaten at the Maine Diner, and lots of celebrities have signed pictures that hang on the walls. The diner has a long history and the photos and articles on the walls are interesting to read while dining.
Here I am with the blue menu.Our waitress Julie was kind enough to model her shirt and get her friend Mandy to join her. They have so many fun shirts in their gift shop. I have the same one as Julie, with the picture of the state on the back.With these old buildings, even after renovations you have to be careful with the plumbing!
I hope you've enjoyed my blues from the Maine Diner. I'll have some vacation pinks on Saturday, and more blues next Monday!


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thinking of You

I recently participated in a "Thinking of You" card swap. Each person made ten cards with the theme, and got 9 different cards in return.
I made a variety of different cards because I was using up materials, but some people make all of theirs the same. Either way is fine.Two of my cards are pink, and I just really loved them and didn't want to give them away! I didn't want them to say "Thinking of You" specifically, so I used quotes that referenced thinking about a friend.
For more pink goodness, visit Beverly at How Sweet the Sound.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Naamah's Kiss: not my usual fare

When it comes to reading, I am a historical fiction, contemporary romance, and mystery gal. But every once in a while I try something else and usually enjoy it, as I did with The Host by Stephenie Myer. Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey is another outside my usual choices that I have really enjoyed. It is what I would call a fantasy-world book, where many things are familiar to the reader, yet fantastic elements such as magic, multiple gods, talking animals, etc., are key to the story. I went through a big phase in college where I read a lot of this genre, and Naamah's Kiss has re-awakened that enjoyment.

About the Book:
Once there were great magicians born to the Maghuin Dhonn; the folk of the Brown Bear, the oldest tribe in Alba. But generations ago, the greatest of them all broke a sacred oath sworn in the name of all his people. Now, only small gifts remain to them. Through her lineage, Moirin possesses such gifts - the ability to summon the twilight and conceal herself, and the skill to coax plants to grow.
After Moirin undergoes the rites of adulthood, she finds divine acceptance...on the condition that she fulfill an unknown destiny that lies somewhere beyond the ocean. Or perhaps oceans. Beyond Terre d'Ange where she finds her father, in the far reaches of distant Ch'in, Moirin's skills are a true gift when facing the vengeful plans of an ambitious mage, a noble warrior princess desperate to save her father's throne, and the spirit of a celestial dragon.
I was actually worried about Moirin when she set out on her quest to find her destiny, a testimony to the multi-dimensional writing of Ms. Carey. Although she has 2 magical gifts and is intelligent, she has led a sheltered life in the woods with only her mother for companionship. It is not until she is 8 that she meets another person and at 10 years old she finally meets another child, and then he only comes to her home, she does not venture into the more civilized world for several years. Because her gifts are of nature, and she has lived in the open all her life, the stone walls of man made shelters seem to choke her, cutting off her gifts, and making it difficult to breathe. A girl who has only ever hunted her own food, worn the same clothes until the fall apart, and never used money, enters a world of intrigue, thievery, and lust. Moirin handles most of it very elegantly for a girl of sixteen, a testament to the quiet strength given by her mother, Faiche.
Naamah's Kiss has all the elements of a great fantasy-adventure story, a tortured princess, a fight for a throne, magic, even a dragon! If you have not tried an other world fantasy before, Naamah's Kiss is easy to follow, and a wonderful tale of a young woman's strength and growth through her quest, both personal and geographical. My only caveat for some readers is that there are many graphic sexual situations, since Naamah is a goddess of pleasure. They can easily be skipped over to continue with the plot.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Beachy Brooches

For this week's installment of Vintage Thingies Thursday, I'm bringing a touch of the beach to you. I am away in Ogunquit, Maine, hopefully basking in the sun, but there are tons of folks participating in VTT with Suzanne at Colorado Lady, so click on over to see what they've got.This starfish pin is great because it is multi-dimensional. It is not quite gold or silver, and the gentle bend of it's arms makes me think of seeing starfish washing up with the tide. There is no manufacturer's name on it.This beachy and summery abalone with the "pearl" nestled in it, is also unsigned.
As always, these pins belonged to my mom, and live in a Hush Puppies shoe box in my linen closet! When I get back from my vacation I'll have actual beach pictures to share, I hope!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Castaways: definitely NOT a reject!

Castaway: cast adrift or ashore; shipwrecked; a rejected or discarded person or thing.
The Castaways are four couples who are best friends living on the island of Nantucket off Cape Cod, MA. None were raised on the island, but all have found their way to it through various life events, and now with children, careers, and established relationships, it is part of their blood. Elin Hilderbrand has once again given us a story celebrating her home and the life of the year-round inhabitants woven into complex human relationships. I first read Ms. Hilderbrand 9 years ago with the publication of her first book, The Beach Club. With each successive novel I have seen her writing grow, and her storytelling enthrall me even more. Every summer I look forward to another layered, emotional story that makes me almost want to brave the horrors of the Cape in summer to visit the island. Maybe I'll go after Labor Day this year...
The central characters of The Castaways, teachers Greg and Tess MacAvoy, appear in the novel through the thoughts of their six good friends. The story opens with the death of Greg and Tess in a boating accident, leaving 7 year old twins, a daughter and son. This sail was to be a symbolic reconciliation and renewal of Tess and Greg's 12-year marriage, which had undergone a year of strained crisis. As friends and family scramble to make arrangements for the children, the burial, and the execution of the wills, questions swirl throughout the group. Why were both Tess and Greg found under the b oat? Why hadn't they yet made it to their destination when the squall arose? The Chief of Police, their good friend Ed has a question that the others don't even know about. Why were opiates found in Tess's bloodstream in the toxicology report? More questions arise as the Chief investigates the accident. Why did Tess receive 5 phone calls from Addison, her friend's husband, on the morning of the accident? Why did Tess's cell phone disappear right after the Chief noted the calls? Was Greg truly at the beach the night before with one of his female students? The reader learns of all these things through the eyes of Andrea & the Chief, Addison & Phoebe, and Jeremy & Delilah, piecing together a complex quilt of foolish choices, friendships, tragedy, lost loves, and family.
I'm sure you can tell that I really enjoyed The Castaways, and I'd love to tell you to run out and get it...but, it's still only in hardcover, so if you've never read Elin Hilderbrand before, try one of her earlier novels in paperback. If you are familiar with Ms. Hilderbrand, go get this one right away! Her novels are great beach books, not sudsy or foolish, and really make me think about relationships and the impact of small decisions. My favorite after The Castaways is The Blue Bistro, the story of a famous chef on Nantucket, and her restaurant.
On Elin Hilderbrand's web site there is a giveaway for a tote bag full of several of her novels, so check it out if you are interested.
There are also giveaways for The Castaways at:
This Book for Free
Booking Mama
Frugal Plus (5 copies!)


Monday, July 13, 2009

Blue Checkerboard Tableloth

Welcome to another installment of Blue Monday, hosted by one of the sweetest bloggers around, Smiling Sally! There are more than 60 participants from all around the world in this great weekly meme, so take some time to check out the cool blue things they are sharing! I will not be visiting very many because I will be leaving on vacation in about an hour, but crazy blogger that I am, I got up early to link up. The rest of the week my posts are scheduled.
I have this great vintage tablecloth I got on eBay about 2 years ago. At the time I thought I wanted to be a collector of vintage linens and I bought several tablecloths.This one was actually an accidental purchase, and it turned out to be my favorite! I was bidding on something from a seller, and thought I'd just put in a quick low bid on this particular tablecloth and I got it, but not the one I actually wanted. I think I paid less than $5.00 for it, that's what I mean by a low-ball offer.It is the only one of all my tablecloths that has a manufacturer's label.I also didn't read the dimensions carefully, because it turns out to be a square, and is too small for my dining table. However, I have used it on my round outdoor table, and on my rectangular dining table I place it like a diamond so some wood is showing. Besides the great vibrant colors, and awesome blue checkered border, the fabric is not the typical smooth linen that is kind of stiff when ironed.It is more of a flow-y feedsack quality fabric, a little thicker, more work-horse material. Although I have decided that I am not a collector of vintage linens, I will definitely keep this one, even if I get rid of some others.
Have you ever had an accidental purchase that turned out great?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pink Birthday!

Wednesday was my niece's birthday! She is growing into a lovely young lady, and I am so proud of her and the wonderful job my sister and BIL are doing raising her. She is an excellent student, enjoys reading, and is a great athlete, playing soccer and softball, and just generally loving active things. She is also the girl who is nice to everyone and includes them in her activities, even if they are nerdy-birds.I just realized that my gift is almost all pink, so I thought I'd share it with you this week. I love paisley, so this box immediately caught my eye in the store.Then I realized it held another box! It's a little Vera Bradley trinket box.Inside I placed these great polymer clay flip-flop earrings I got from Split Rock Designs on Etsy.Here's the birthday gal herself in her pink shirt doing her homework. No, Bo the dog isn't dead, he's just sleeping. Tired out from assisting with the homework I imagine.
For more pink goodies, be sure to visit Beverly and the other PINK SATURDAY participants listed at How Sweet the Sound.