Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bucket List: War and Peace

War and Peace

by Leo Tolstoy

This post is a 'twofer', as I get to strike an entire item off of my Bucket List as well as add one more book to my count [however, if I get close to June 2 and my book goal doesn't seem possible, I will be counting this book as '3', since it was 1,256 pages. My list, My rules. Ha!].

I started this book in June, read about 200 pages and stopped. When December rolled around, Hubs asked me about it and then told me to just give up because I was never going to finish the book. Yes, psychological motivation totally works on me…I picked it up mid-December and finished it last night.

The book was amazing and I can see why people would devote their time to reading it more than once. Almost everyone has an opinion of this book, mostly the same: boring and I have since come to the conclusion that those peeps have either not read the book [most likely] or got a crappy translation of the book [possible].

There are so many characters in the book, so many Russian names, but the story was tightly wound around three main families: Rostov, Bolkonsky and Bezukov. Each family is of high society and is connected together through some sort of relations. At first, the characters were so hard to remember and they were constantly called by different names [i.e. Marya, Masha, Marie would be one person], but once the story got flowing, I was hooked.

I would love to know if Natasha Rostov was based on someone that Tolstoy knew. She is described as beautiful, talented and adored, yet her plight and sorrow hit the most in the book leading to a relatively happy ending. Pierre was another favorite character of mine--an bastard child trying to find meaning in life and the true base for happiness. He finds it in the most unlikely place: a prisoner of war camp.

The battle scenes didn't hold my attention as much as the stories surrounding them. The history that Tolstoy threw in there was rather dull, but those bits were few and far between. As a reader 200 years later, it was interesting to see Tolstoy refer to the views of 'historians' about Napoleon, the war, etc. and the numerous books written about the whole debacle.

With over 1,200 pages of material, I could go on and on about how intrigued I was with this book--go over each of my favorite characters, as the list goes on. Had I read War and Peace in highschool or college, I don't think I would have truly appreciated it as much as I did [and I am most certain that going back to read it again wouldn't have been an option and I would have missed out on this magnificent book.]


Book Review: Reflections in a Golden Eye

Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers was a really dark novel. There were six characters in the novel: The Langdons, The Pendertons, a Filipino servant and a young soldier. Each character was greatly disturbed in his/her own way. Mrs. Penderton was having an affair with Mr. Langdon and even though their spouses knew about it, they ignored it outwardly, but suffered their own demons. Mrs. Langdon was suicidal, caused so much stress to her body that she ended up dying of a heart attack at a young age. Mr. Penderton was extremely angry and took it out on the poor soldier--who was was just a weird character himself. Mr. Penderton actually ended up murdering the young soldier. The little Filipino servant was extremely flamboyant and I could just imagine him dancing around like a fairy. He faithfully served Mrs. Langdon until her death.

And that, there, is pretty much the entire novel in a nutshell. It was short (127 pages!) and the content pretty much surrounded the characters, their interactions and struggles.

Although I didn't love this book, I wouldn't recommend it above two of other McCullers works, which I thoroughly enjoyed: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and The Member of the Wedding.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Book Club: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe is a novel about a young girl who has just taken her stressful qualifying exams and is spending the summer doing research for her dissertation. In addition to her Harvard graduate work, she has also been asked by her mother to go to her grandmother's house--that has been abandoned for over 20 years--and clean it up to put on the market to pay back taxes. While there, the young girl finds a mysterious key that leads her into the past--and she stumbles upon a family history that she knew nothing about. A family history that goes back to 1692, during the Witch Trials in Salem, Massachusetts. Her modern life and her roots combine together to form a very well written story.

This book has piqued my interest in witches and I plan to do more reading (non-fiction) on the subject. It has also brought back my longing for a visit up east to where North America (as we know it) began. I suggested a field trip to Book Club, but they didn't bite. Go figure!

Also in book club this week, we had another special event--a shower for Baby Ventura. We each brought our favorite baby story book so mommy has lots of literature to read to baby. Due early next month, although I hardly think she'll make it to the end of this one, I am so excited to meet Baby Ventura!


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sweetheart 5K - February 13, 2010

Saturday morning, Tulsa hosted a Sweetheart 5K that I eagerly entered. It had been 3 months since my last run with virtually no activity in between and only two proper jogs to train for it--so, needless to say, I was a bit nervous.
This run turned out to be huge for me, as it was the first one that I have done all the way through without stopping to walk. My time wasn't even in the top three of my best times, but my feat has pleased me beyond any other.  I am so excited to have finished my sixth 5K for the Bucket List...and anticipate our next event in two weeks!

Going through my posts, I realized that I had not posted my November 7, 2009 run. It marked the halfway point through my list.  5/10

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kelly's Kitchen - Pot Roast and BBQ Sammiches

Almost a year after my last Eating on a Budget entry, I am back with two delicious and money saving recipes from my dear friend, Kelly. Both recipes are made in our slow cooker--which gives us a reason to actually use this wedding gift!

The first meal was a Pot Roast:

Potatoes - $0.75
Celery - $0.94
2 Cans Chicken Broth - $2.00
2 Chicken Breasts - $2.66
Cream of Corn - $0.50
Grand Total: $6.85

We made 7 meals from this (2 dinners and 1 lunch) which brings it to around $0.98/meal. We also threw about 2 servings away because we can only eat so much pot roast before becoming completely sick of it. Also, the prices above are based on the quantity used and we were able to use some of the ingredients (celery/potatoes) to make other dishes. And… coupons are amazing. The chicken broth and cream of corn were each purchased with coupons.

The second meal was Barbeque Beef Sandwiches:

1 Rump Roast - $5.95
BBQ Sauce - $1.00
Bread - $0.75
Grand Total: $7.45

We made 6 meals from this (2 dinners) which brings it to about $1.24/meal. This meal was, by far, the easiest to prepare…just stick the roast in a crock pot with 1/2 cup of water, slather BBQ sauce on top of it and let it cook while you are at work! The meat was so yummy and fell apart easily, making delicious sandwiches!

Thank you so much for these amazing recipes, Kel! You are one of my oldest friends and I heart you so much!!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Bowl Sunday: Colts vs. Saints

I loathe football. I would rather spend the few leisure hours I have off of work doing anything I wanted rather than spending 4+ hours on a Saturday watching football. I've tried to enjoy it, but I don't have it in me--even if I am surrounded by people that I love. Last night was no exception. While *the fam* watched the game, I spent some QT with my daughter and a few minutes on the treadmill. That's just how I roll…and I can see the best commercials today, so I missed nothing.

but I digress…

Although I had no intentions of watching the game, Hubs did ask me who I was rooting for, The Colts or The Saints. I quickly replied with the latter, to which Hubs asked why. It's simple. Reggie Bush plays for The Saints and Kim Kardashian dates him, so I know who he is and therefore feel more familiar with that team. After a quick eye roll, Hubs tells me that I know Peyton Manning as well. My reply was this: No, I do not know who Peyton Manning is. What I do know is that his brother is Eli Manning who played in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago against The Patriots, whose quarterback is Tom Brady, who is married to Gisele Bundchen.

So, the moral of this story: If a player graces the pages of Us Weekly or is a regular on, I know who he is and will root for his team.

Below I have listed a few other ways for an NFL team to be noticed by yours truly:

  • A player falls out of the back of a moving truck during a domestic dispute (Chris Henry, Bengals)

  • A player is murdered by his mistress (Steve McNair, Titans)

  • A player is shot in the leg during a home invasion (Sean Taylor, Redskins) -- in this case, the fact that his love was Andy Garcia's niece didn't factor in at all

  • A player makes a big show of retiring from the NFL and then immediately returns (Brett Favre, Packers/Vikings)

  • A player graduates from my high school (Wes Welker, Patriots)

  • A player has the name Adrian Peterson, aka Hubs 'man crush'

  • I am done impressing you with my vast knowledge of football now.

    The End.

    Friday, February 5, 2010

    Book Reviews: Chasing Harry Winston & What the Dog Saw

    I must admit that I picked up this fluff novel to pad my bucket list numbers, as I'm pretty concerned that I haven't made it halfway through to my goal yet; however, I think my literary tastes have morphed into adulthood, as this book took me almost a month to read for the sole purpose that I wasn't that into it.

    Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger [yes the same lady that wrote The Devil Wears Prada] is a chick-lit book about three 29-year old women who have neither married nor have kids although the clock is ticking. They have made a bet with each other to accomplish something out of their comfort zone by the time they are thirty. Adriana will stop sleeping with every man she meets and get a ring. Emmy will stop her monogamous relationships and start sleeping with a guy from each continent, except the obvious Antarctica. Leigh's life is perfect, so she doesn't participate in the bet; however, towards the end, her life has gone from stuffily straight-laced to unpredictable and happy.

    I may not have been into this book…but I did start feeling super old. I am at the same point in my life as the three main characters. I am about to turn 30--although my life is pretty put together: marriage, kid, job, house…Adriana constantly points out how "old" she is and the young 20's girls are getting all of the hot guys. Emmy points out that men their age are either ugly, married or gay. It really makes a girl feel old, ya know?

    In the end, none of the girls fulfill their end of the bet and each decides that life is good without a man--and maybe 30 is just the beginning. Well, that's the stance I'm going to take. I really don't have a choice, do I?

    I don't really recommend this book…I do feel like the author is writing in hopes of making the book into a movie. I've read all three of her books and I do think this will be the last.


    If you have been following closely, then you know that my mind has been having a secret love affair with Malcolm Gladwell. (Praise be to Susan who introduced me to him!) What the Dog Saw is compilation of the best articles that Gladwell published in The New Yorker--articles that I may never have read had they not been bound together in this book. Each article is filled with answers to questions that I never thought to ask--reasonings for certain things I certainly found interesting.

    Por ejemplo, my sister in law recently introduced the Lopez clan to a series on television called Mad Men, which is based in the 1960's and focuses around an Advertising firm on Madison Avenue. As I watch the series (which I love!), I am reminded of Gladwell's article entitled True Colors: Hair Dye and the Hidden Histories of Postwar America which focuses around women in that era and the beginning of breaking from the mold, which leads to the modern day woman.

    Each article has a unique spin and Gladwell's extensive research makes for an interesting read. Malcolm Gladwell really knows how to make a reader think. Even a person who is not much of a reader can pick this book up and read each article, put it down and come back to it later. (I mean, Hubs finished this book for crying out loud!)


    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Bucket List: Extreme Ironing

    Last week, ice and snow conditions in Oklahoma shut down schools and gifted me two glorious days off work for a full four day weekend. It also allowed me the opportunity to cross another item of the 'ol Bucket List: Extreme Ironing.

    I must say that any ironing for me is extreme, so going out in the snow in shorts and a tank top was just the icing on the cake. [I was going to go out in flip flops, but I just couldn't do that to my toes…so yes, I am wearing giant, cozy UGG's.]

    Now sing the Queen song with me: dunuh nuh nuh nuh…another one bites the dust...