Posts Tagged ‘books’

critical reading

Mary is turning into such a good reader. I mean, such a thoughtful reader.

Tonight, we were reading “Horton Hatches the Egg.” For those of you not familiar with this pachyderm classic, Horton the elephant agrees to sit on a bird’s egg to give her a break. She flies off and doesn’t come back, and he sits on the egg for almost a year. He’s eventually captured by hunters and sold to a circus–but he won’t stop sitting on the egg, because he promised to care for it. People come in and pay $.10 to see the elephant sitting in a tree.

One night at the circus, the mother bird flies in, just as the egg begins to hatch. She tries to reclaim the egg, but then it hatches, and it turns out to be an elephant bird, so clearly it belongs to Horton.

On the last page, Horton and the elephant-bird baby “go home happy, one hundred percent.”

Mary liked this story, but she asked, “Why did the circus people send them home?”

I had to admit that I didn’t know. She said, “Because I bet people would ALSO pay ten cents to see an elephant bird, and if they were really nice people at the circus, they wouldn’t have captured Horton in the first place.” I agreed. She said, “I wish Dr. Seuss had told us WHY they sent Horton home. And how they know where he lives [since in the story he is captured by hunters and sold to the circus]. Dr. Seuss must know why, since he’s telling the story, but he didn’t put it in!”

I agree–this story is a little short on the character motivation front–and I’m so proud of how curious she is.


first book report

Mary’s assignment for tomorrow: write a three-sentence book report on a Dr. Seuss book (in honor of his birthday last week) and draw the cover. I didn’t post the picture she drew, because I am ignorant and didn’t know how to cover up her last name in the photo, but this is her summary, which I think is awesome:

favorite cookbooks

Apropos of nothing, I thought you might enjoy a list of my favorite cookbooks. An online friend asked for suggestions and I started thinking about it–I realized that some of these cookbooks are incredibly useful texts that I reach for every week. I figured it would make a good post for my PCOS blog, but then I thought, well, who isn’t interested in cookbooks? So here you are. Any one of these would make a great bridal shower gift or gift for a person getting their first home of their own.

My absolute favorites:

Julia Child, The Way to Cook. This is an incredible cookbook, with reliable, understandable recipes for all kinds of things. Even though Mastering the Art of French Cooking is more famous–and perhaps for good reason; I love it too–this is the one I use more often. It is also the one that Child herself considered her magnum opus. If you do not know how to cook, and you read this book from cover to cover, you will know how.

The Moosewood Collective, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. I like many of the Moosewood cookbooks, but this one I have used most. The salads are great, and the Risotto with Green Beans and Pesto is amazing. It was the first risotto I ever made and the techniques are described clearly and simply.

Mark Bittman, Food Matters. I could really list his collected works, because I also really like How to Cook Everything, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and The Best Recipes in the World, but this is the one I use weekly. It has fewer recipes; the bulk of the book is about how to eat in a way that is ecologically sound and good for you. But it’s worth the price just to get the instructions for cooking whole grains and the frittata recipe (which uses only two eggs and a slew of vegetables, and which has become my breakfast staple.)

Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. This was a gift from my sister (thanks, Lissa!) and has gotten constant use since I got it. This is partly because Wesley absorbs bread effortlessly, which makes it all the more important that we eat healthful bread. This is whole-grain and, since I’ve made it myself, I know it’s not loaded with any sugar or anything weird. It’s also incredibly cheap to make and takes little time. I can’t even tell you how easy this is. And you will love the results–really, some of the things I’ve made from this book are so good, I can hardly believe they came out of my kitchen, with my crummy oven with no temperature control.

Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, and Bronwen Godfrey, The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book: A Guide to Whole-Grain Breadmaking. This is a more traditional bread book, which means that the recipes require more work (kneading, whatnot), but it has a wide array of things, including a yummy muffin recipe, good banana bread (or so I’m told–I personally do not eat bananas), very good hamburger buns, etc. If you have a mixer that will knead for you, it’s not too onerous to make the regular yeast breads here, and there are excellent instructions for how to read the dough so that you get good results.

Decadent Treats and Outrageously Unhealthy Party Foods:
Alice Medrich, Bittersweet. This is an entire book about chocolate. It contains stories, personal reflections, and information about chocolate, as well as recipes. I recommend the truffles. But I recommend them for GIVING AWAY, because they are incredible and addictive.

Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl. I’ll be honest: if I hadn’t been reading her blog all along, I would never have read this cookbook, because it’s so popular that I wouldn’t have thought I could like it. But I do. And it has all kinds of indulgent, wonderful recipes for special occasions. The cinnamon rolls, by the way, are fabulous gifts for Christmas.

Finally, it would be remiss to suggest that most of my cooking comes from these books, since I get so many of my recipes from the internet. So, my favorite cooking sites:

Smitten Kitchen. The 44-Clove Garlic Soup alone is reason enough for this blog’s existence–but I have never had a failure with her recipes, and I’ve made a bunch.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks, by Ree Drummond. Many of the recipes here are a little….excessive, shall we say?, but I love to read it and I have gotten some wonderful recipes. My very favorite actually is pretty healthful, which is unusual for Ree’s food: the Asian Noodle Salad, which I’ve made for a number of parties. It’s “licious,” as Wesley would say. Some of the recipes from the site appear in the cookbook, but of course the site has more. (There are also a few in the book that aren’t on the web site–savvy marketing and all that.)

Steamy Kitchen, by Jaden Hair. I like her Chinese recipes best and plan to cook a lot more of them someday when I replace my stove and can actually heat up a wok.

the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

…and all that.

Last night Mary was having a hard time sleeping, because she has a cough.

Twice–when Conor went in to say good night and when I got her up this morning (although not when I took her medicine in the middle of the night), she was asleep on the floor under the nightlight, book open in front of her.

I asked her just now, “Were you reading your book under the nightlight?”

She grinned and said, “Yes!”

I said, “You know, I used to do that when I was little and Grandma Cal used to tell me to stop.”

She said (scandalized)–“Why?!”

I said, “Because I needed to get my sleep, that’s why! But sometimes you need the book to get sleepy, huh?”

She said, “Reading is GOOD for your brain!”

I agreed. Then I said, “You do need to get to sleep at bedtime, though, too.”

She said, “That’s why I do it, to help my BRAIN! That’s why I’m so smart.” And then she settled in with her copy of “The One and Only Shrek” for naptime. Clearly, she has won this argument. (Also, clearly, I am not going to be able to make this argument, since I cannot go to sleep without a book to save my life.)

p.s. Can I just tell you how cool it is that she is learning to read? Just a little bit, so far, but she’s so close to the breakthrough. I can feel it.

next semester

So, for those of you interested, here’s what I’m teaching for my “Introduction to Literature by Women” course:

Week 1:
• Sharon Olds: “I Go Back to May 1937,” “35/10,” “The Connoisseuse of Slugs,” and Elizabeth Bishop, “The Fish,” “The Waiting Room,” “Crusoe in England,” and “One Art.”
• Gayle Rubin, “The Traffic in Women,” and Cosmopolitan magazine

Week 2:
The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

Week 3:
The Narrative of Sojourner Truth
• Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha (maybe; it’s out of print and we’ll see if the publisher comes through for me)
• Selections from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, The Joy of Cooking, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management

Week 4:
• Isak Dinesen, “Babette’s Feast.”
• Jeanette Winterson, “The Poetics of Sex”
• Yasmina Reza, Art

Week 5:

Week 6:
• Vera Caspary, Laura
• Laura (film)

Week 7:
• Laura (film)—Monday and Wednesday; Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”
• Paula Vogel, How I Learned to Drive

Week 8:
• Pat Barker, Regeneration

Week 9:
• Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier

Week 10:
• Robyn Davidson, Tracks
• Virginia Woolf, “The Mark on the Wall”

Week 11:
• Margaret Edson, Wit
• Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Week 12:
• intro to Jane Austen (literary significance, historical context)
Persuasion (Wednesday and Friday)

Week 13:
• Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis

exciting teaching

I finally got my teaching assignment for next semester, which is excellent because:
a) I will get paid;
b) I will have health insurance (as will the rest of my family);
c) I love teaching;
d) I’m going to be teaching a women’s literature course, which is a first for me, and which I think will be fun!

So, now to choose my texts. Definite inclusions: Yasmena Reza’s “Art”; Elizabeth Bishop; Pat Barker’s “Regeneration”; a Jeanette Winterson story (not sure which one yet); Rebecca West’s “Return of the Soldier”; and a Jane Austen (possibly “Persuasion”?). Possibles: Timberlake Wertenbaker’s “Our Country’s Good”; Virginia Woolf’s “Between the Acts” or “Mrs Dalloway.”

so, everyone loved this book…

I’m reading “The Life of Pi,” and I don’t understand its popularity at all. It’s pretentious, boring, and badly plotted–what’s to like?

Maybe it will all come together in the later chapters. I have my doubts, though.