Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Book Review (Audio): Lift, by Kelly Corrigan

Lift, by Kelly Corrigan
published 2010
Random House, Inc.  
read by Kelly Corrigan
1 hr., 30 mins (2 discs)

This is it, people.  This is the audiobook for People Who Don't Like (or Don't Think They Like) Audiobooks.  And for the People Who Never Tried Audiobooks But Want To.  And for those of us, like me, who love audiobooks.

For starters, it's short.  Like, only two discs short.  I scrutinized this at the library to make sure it a) wasn't abridged (it isn't) or missing a CD or two.  It's neither.  (The hardback version of the book is 89 pages.)

What Lift is, then, is a letter written by Kelly Corrigan to her two young daughters on the eve of a first day of school about what it means to be their mother.

"I don't know when you'll read this. Maybe when you're a teenager? No, probably later, when you're on the verge of parenthood and it occurs to you for the first time that someone has been loving you for that long. Maybe (let's hope not) you'll read it because something's happened to one of us-my cancer came back or Dad was reading a text going across the Bay Bridge and cars collided-and you want to piece together what it was like before. No matter when and why this comes to your hands, I want to put down on paper how things started with us."

While listening to this, I thought this would be a great audiobook to listen to with a mother and daughter in the car - like if you were en route to a vacation or on a trip to visit a college. (With it only being 1 and a half hours long, the eye-rolling will barely have stopped by the time the CD does.) 

Corrigan writes that she "heard once that the average person barely knows ten stories from childhood and those are based more on photographs and retellings than memory. So even with all the videos we take, the two boxes of snapshots under my desk, and the 1,276 photos in folders on the computer, you'll be lucky to end up with a dozen stories. You won't remember how it started with us, the things that I know about you that you don't even know about yourselves. We won't come back here. ....

You'll remember middle school and high school, but you'll have changed by then. You changing will make me change. That means you won't ever know me as I am right now-the mother I am tonight and tomorrow, the mother I've been for the last eight years, every bath and book and birthday party, gone. It won't hit you that you're missing this chapter of our story until you see me push your child on a swing or untangle his jump rope or wave a bee away from his head and think. Is this what she was like with me?"

In Lift, Corrigan writes of the heart-stopping experience of her daughter Claire contracting viral meningitis.  You can hear her voice crack slightly when recalling a young teenage relative, Aaron, killed in a car accident and the emotion that such an event conjures up when relating to her own children. She starts at the beginning, with her gratitude of not having to go through infertility issues like many of her friends. "Dad and I were lucky, if lucky is a big enough word for it. Another way of putting it is that we were spared years of torment. Here's a third way of saying it: I've had cancer twice and if I had to pick one fate for you, cancer or fertility problems, I'd pick cancer."

(Gah! I nearly slammed on my brakes when I heard that. I mean, I've had infertility. Oh, yes indeedy, I have. Never knock wood had cancer. Not quite sure which of those two evils I'd pick there, much less as fates for my kids. Whuh.)

I also need to add that there are five songs by musician Mike Errico included throughout the narration of the book. Now, some people are turned off by music in audiobooks and I am usually one of them, but I really enjoyed these songs. I wasn't familiar with Mr. Errico's music before listening to this but I can see myself listening to more. I especially liked "Someday," "When She Walks By," and "Count to Ten," and the lyrics complement the book nicely, which makes sense because Kelly Corrigan personally selected them for the audiobook. Don't let the inclusion of music be a deterrent to your decision whether to give this a try.

I've read a lot of parenting memoirs and articles, and a lot of them are a bit treacly for my taste.  I've said before on this blog that I don't think I am a typical mom. While I love my children and always have and will, I am not one who dives headfirst into this mothering gig, volunteering for every classroom activity, arranging one playdate after another, gleefully creating glitter-laden crafts. Nuh-uh, not me.  Like Kelly Corrigan, I am that mom whose automatic response to everything is "no" and who oftentimes wants to say "yes."

Lift isn't a saccharine parenting/mommy memoir, but it is definitely a feel-good book. It's ... well, uplifting. For me, there's something about this memoir that has the ability to give one a lift, to see someone else who is admittedly not perfect and who has gone through difficult struggles and who is undoubtedly, wholeheatedly appreciative of her children.  I know there are other similar "letters-to-my-children" types of books that attempt to do this, but for me, this one particularly resonated for some reason.

Maybe it has to do with what I'd imagine inspired the title.

Corrigan writes that she was talking with a close friend, an avid hang-gliding enthusiast.  He explains that in hang-gliding, you have to go through turbulance in order to gain the lift you need to soar higher.

I just love that image, that metaphor. It captures so much of our experience as parents to Betty and Boo. If you too have been struck by or reflected on "the pace and vulnerability in raising children," perhaps this book or audio might be for you too.

Here's a great video of Kelly Corrigan reading Lift to her daughters, Georgia and Claire, and talking a bit about the book.

Mike Errico's website is here and YouTube links to the music that is included on Lift are here:

Count to Ten:
Ever Since:
When She Walks By:

And here's What Other Bloggers Thought:

Book Club Girl
Booking Mama
Chick with Books
Lesa's Book Critiques

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What The Orthodontist, The Waitress, and The Exterminator Have in Common

No, the answer is not the punchline to an off-color joke.

Rather, each of these three people have done something in the past week that has rewarded them and their businesses with my business - and with the kind of advertising that those of us in the public relations industry kill for: word of mouth from a happy customer.

Let's start with the orthodontist, simply because he was first.

The Orthodontist
Boo has a cross-bite (as does Betty), so we're in the process of dealing with spacers and palate expanders and all kinds of other partially-covered by insurance crap that I thought was several years in our future.  We've had several visits to the orthodontist in the past month, which have gone very well, considering that Boo has Asperger's, and a heightened degree of anxiety about such situations like ... well, having silver rings placed around one's teeth during regularly-scheduled summer camp hours.  The meltdowns that have accompanied these appointments when he's told he might miss a whole half hour of camp have been off the Richter scale of intensity. 

But, he's been a trooper during these appointments and much more calm then I ever expected.  Part of this is because of the staff, who suggested that, given his autism, he might be less anxious if he had the same hygienist each time.  The very fact that they thought of this earned them mega-points right off the bat.

Then, the day after Boo's latest appointment, a postcard arrived in the mail.  Addressed to Boo.  Handwritten. Congratulating him on a great appointment and thanking him for being such a great patient. He was, needless to say, thrilled. 

That's an example of a nice PR touch from a business.  What kid gets mail these days?  Mine certainly don't. For whatever a postcard stamp costs and the few minutes it took someone to write out the card, the orthodontist's office will be rewarded with me remembering that story (and others) the next time someone asks me who my kids' orthodontist is. (As a matter of fact, it was a personal referral at a birthday party that sold me on this doctor.)

The Waitress
We don't go out to eat often as a family (or otherwise).  When we do, it is usually a Big Deal. Such was the case on Sunday.  Needing an escape from the heat and an activity, we headed for the mall.  Around 3:00, we were hungry and I checked in with The Cheesecake Factory to see about their wait time. (We never go to The Cheesecake Factory.  This would be A Very Big Deal.)

"Thirty minutes," the hostess replied.  Excellent.  The four of us then enjoyed a very nice dinner, until a snafu at the end.

I'd ordered the kid-size hot fudge sundae for the kids, but did so in what I admit was a confusing way.  "And for them, the kid-size hot fudge sundae," I said, pointing my index finger back and forth between my two cherubs. 

One sundae arrived and was placed in front of Betty.   "Where's mine?" Boo said, starting to lose it.

"It's coming," I replied. 

But, no ... it wasn't, because the waitress thought I'd meant for the two kids to share one sundae.  Within a few minutes, another sundae was brought out.  By this point, however, I'd already paid the bill ... without the Snafu Sundae included.

Now, this could have gone a different way.  I fully expected the waitress to take our bill back, explain that she needed to charge us for the sundae, we'd have to dig our credit card out again, re-sign the slip, etc.  But all those machinations were avoided when she placed the sundae down and chirped, "On us!"

Her tip reflected that.  The Cheesecake Factory could easily have eaten the cost of my son's sundae, which they did. We would have left disgruntled, and they would have survived the potential loss of our business. But for the cost of a kid-size sundae, we were made to feel like we'd won the lottery.  You can be sure if we're at the mall again and need someplace to eat, we'll consider heading for The Cheesecake Factory over less expensive options. 

And finally, The Exterminator.
There's a wasp nest imbedded in the side of our house, stuck up in a piece of siding. This is not, in my world, a DIY job.  Some things are best left to a professional, and in our world, the removal of things like wasps are high on that list. My friend Niksmom suggested her exterminator, who arrived this morning, fully-suited up to do battle with the wasps. 

Once the nest was gone, we settled the bill.  "I need to charge you for a full visit," he explained, somewhat apologetically, even though I was fully expecting the cost he mentioned. 

"That's fine," I replied.

"I feel bad about that," he continued.  "Since I'm here already, I'm happy to add an exterior house spraying for no additional cost.  It's what would be included in a visit." 

Sure, sounds great.  He then explained their monthly service and what's all included.  We had a pest control service in our previous home but just never got around to signing up with one here.  We also weren't pleased with the previous big establishment pest control service, which seemed to nickel and dime us for every ant that crossed our path.

"You can think about it," our new exterminator said. 

"I'll be giving you a call soon to set something up," I answered.

So, what do The Orthodontist, the Waitress, and the Exterminator all have in common?  They all know one essential element of doing business in this new post-recessionary economy.  It isn't that the customer is right. 

It's that the customer wants to be surprised - in a good way. 

The customer wants you to look beyond the couple bucks and see the 8 year old kid who feels like he isn't going to get a sundae.

The customer wants to feel special, as if you have some semblance of a relationship and that you know her kid's name - the one who you're forking over hundreds of dollars in orthodontia bills for.  

The customer wants to feel like she got something a little extra, something unexpected, a deal that only took a few minutes.

I think that successful businesses, like these, know this - and I think that they know this intrinsically.  In the case of the Waitress and the Exterminator, there was no consulting with upper-management before giving us the sundae or the exterior spraying gratis.  There was no hemming or hawing.  They just did it, knowing that it made good business sense to do so, and probably knowing that this good experience would be repeated and rewarded.

These are lessons that more businesses can - and should - learn.  Because the way we play in this new economy is different.  We're all trying to make do with less, we're all trying to get ahead.  The way we're treated is more important than ever. 

Maybe the key to good PR - and ultimate survival - is simply a unexpected surprise.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Stuffed Pattypan Squash

I was shopping at a local farm the other day and saw a basket of these adorable pattypan squash. These, right here.

So of course I bought them because they were too cute not to.  Without having a clue what I would possibly make that my family of very picky eaters would even attempt to eat.

(Admit it, you do this kind of culinary nonsense too.)

The answer?  Stuffed Pattypan Squash, which I am serving up at the food blog I contribute to every other week, (Never) Too Many Cooks.

(While my kids didn't devour this - I know, that's a shocker - they did try a bite.  Which makes this a success in my book.)

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Book Review: While I'm Falling, by Laura Moriarty

While I'm Falling
by Laura Moriarty
Hyperion, 2009
305 pages

How do you cope when everything that should be falling into place ... starts falling apart?

If you're Veronica Von Holten, a pre-med college student whose parents are divorcing and whose life is spinning out of control, you hold on as best as you can.

Veronica is the type of young woman who tries to do the right thing, is reliable and level-headed, and doesn't cause any problems.  For the most part, that's worked out pretty well for her.  But when Veronica's father discovers one of the roofers working on their house has had a one-afternoon "indiscretion" with Veronica's mother, that sets in motion the divorce and a quick succession of events that throws Veronica's life into a tailspin.

That's especially so when it comes to her relationship with her boyfriend Tim, who wants Veronica to move in with him. Suddenly, every decision Veronica needs to make is filled with uncertainty - and in her mind, leading her toward a path with a similar fate as her mother.

This was the second of Laura Moriarty's novels I've read, the first being her debut novel, The Center of Everything, which I absolutely loved.  (See my review here.) While I'm Falling is also set amid the same Kansas prairie landscape (where I've actually had occasion to spend a little time) and is also a young adult novel with mother-daughter relationships as a primary theme. Unlike her first novel, however, for me this one started off a little slow and it took a little time to connect with the characters.  I did begin to feel sympathetic toward Veronica and to some degree, her mother (not quite so much her father).

The majority of While I'm Falling is written in the first person, from Veronica's point of view, but there are two times (I think it was two) when this switches to third person and we get a glimpse into her mother's perceptions.  This was a little jolting and made the story seem a little "off."

While I'm Falling is a quick, light and easy coming-of-age novel.  (I read this within two days, which is very fast for me.) This would make a good choice for a high school or college student to read on the beach, perhaps as a lighter read in between other required novels.

What Other Bloggers Thought:

Jennifer from 5 Minutes for Books
Reviews by Lola

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ain't Too Proud to Beg

"99, I can't take it no more ..."
"Ninety-Nine" ~ Toto

Apparently, there are 99 of you kind souls who admit to following this here blog.

Anyone else?  Like maybe just one more person?  :)

UPDATE:  Thank you! Three digit numbers are so nice.  Now, I'll be done with the groveling and return you to your regularly scheduled blog programming.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

The Sunday Salon

Did you know today is Do Nothing But Read Day?  Sounds pretty good to me, and I'd imagine to most of you too. I celebrated early, as the most productive thing I did yesterday (besides making dinner) was finish Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger and write my review. (I really liked it, although there were a few aspects that were slightly bothersome, but not enough to ruin the book for me.)

Whether it is because of the oppressive heat we're enduring here or the seemingly non-stop bickering among Betty and Boo, I don't know ... but I've just turned into a slug this weekend. Today I have to get my act together a bit more (the grocery store is calling) but hopefully I'll have a chance to do some reading. I started The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker last night, and am undecided about this.  From the first several pages, it seemed a little too disjointed, but I might give it another try because I was pretty tired when I picked it up. It's very stream-of-consciousness, and I don't think that's what I'm in the mood for at the moment. 

There's also True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff calling my name.  It's the sequel to Make Lemonade, which I enjoyed (and reviewed here).  That review, incidentally, continues to be among the posts that seem to get the most hits from this blog.  Go figure.

June has been an extraordinary reading month for me, with what is probably a record number of books read.  (Six! The Killing of Mindi Quintana by Jeffrey A. Cohen (review here); Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism, by Alison Piepmeier (review here); While I'm Falling, by Laura Moriarty; Made for Goodness and Why This Makes All the Difference by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu; Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris; and Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger. Oh, and there was the graphic novel, The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy's Great Idea, so that's seven.)

I'm not sure how to explain the increase in reading, except for the fact that there were several short books in there and some quick reads. Also, because of our vacation coming up, I'm trying to get through as many of my library books as possible (I'm highly particular about which books accompany me on vacation).  I also have a little bit more time; because I work from home now, I eat lunch by myself and usually spend that time reading.  I must say, it's pretty enjoyable. 

As I write this, a suggestion from The Husband just made my sluggishness evaporate: a potential trip to the bookstore is a definite possibility for this afternoon. Squeeeee!


copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Weekend Cooking: Homemade Ice Cream from the Farm

There's nothing better than homemade ice cream in the summertime ... except, perhaps, homemade ice cream that someone else makes in the summertime (or anytime, really).

Ever since we moved to this area, I'd heard about the incredible ice cream at Woodside Farm Creamery and needless to say, it was always one of those places we would have to go "someday."

Three years later, we finally made our first visit. 

My in-laws were visiting last weekend for Father's Day and as part of our activities on Saturday, we drove out to Woodside Farm. 

They don't make places like this anymore.

For starters, Woodside has been a working farm since 1796. Let that sink in for a minute.

Seventeen ninety six!  Our country was only 20 years old, for goodness sakes. It's pretty incredible when you think about it.

But as if that's not amazing enough, Woodside Farm has been owned by the same family all that time!  They're in their seventh generation of farming that land, which is amazing and a true testament to the Mitchell family.

We walked up the path to the ice cream stand. In addition to the standard vanilla and chocolate varieties, there were nearly two dozen creatively-named others like Dirt (chocolate ice cream, Gummi worms, crushed oreos), Cotton Candy ("the taste of cotton candy in an ice cream"), and Peanut Butter and Jelly (peanut butter ice cream with raspberry jelly).

Woodside also makes signature flavors for local restaurants and special events, and occasionally there are samples of concoctions like the Flying Elvis (banana ice cream chocked with chunks of rich chocolate and creamy peanut butter) and Blueberry Cheesecake and Fluffer Nutter.

They seem to introduce new flavors (they call them "Flip Flops") on a very regular basis.  For instance, this weekend their Facebook page is currently promoting Yellow Brick Road - cookies and cream dyed yellow - Chocolate Coconut Almond, Lemon Coconut, Lemon Sorbet, and Green Fairie.

On our visit last weekend with my in-laws, The Husband and his mother enjoyed milkshakes.  I had a dish of Cookies and Cream, Betty had Cotton Candy, and I'm drawing a blank on what Boo and my father-in-law had.  It was all very decadent.

Woodside also hosts special events like Telescope Nights, where they set up telescopes in their fields for a little star-gazing. On the day we were there, it was a Saturday Bluegrass Jam. Boo is especially fond of live music ensembles like this and it was very relaxing listening to this group.  Kind of a throwback to the past.

You could tell they were really in the moment and just enjoying playing music. It was pretty neat.

As I mentioned, last Saturday was our first visit to Woodside ... but it definitely won't be the last. 

Because summertime - like good ice cream - has a way of disappearing way too fast.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see Beth's welcome post.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Friday, June 25, 2010

It's Your Birthday, Carly ... You've Never Looked So Good

photo from Carly's official website,

"It’s all of our birthdays this summer
One number older, another year younger ... "
"Happy Birthday" ~ Carly Simon

Because it's her 65th birthday today, I'm using this blog post to celebrate my favorite singer/songwriter, Carly Simon. I have no hesitation when asked the proverbial question about which CD I'd take to an island - preferably Martha's Vineyard, Carly's home and one of my all time favorite places (we honeymooned there). The real decision would be, which one of Carly's CDs would make the cut. I'd have to stash some away.

I've loved her music since I was a little girl. I can't remember if I bought "You're So Vain" on a 45 record (show of hands ... who remembers 45s?) or if it was my mom's. What I do remember is playing it constantly, blissfully unaware of the provocative questions it provoked that still linger today. I didn't even understand the lyrics but I knew enough to know that I loved the poetry of I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee years before I had my first cup.

I don't have a favorite Carly song.  It's impossible to choose just one.  I do tend to graviate to the lesser known ones, I've noticed. Many have become mantras for me at different times of my life, and never more so than when my kids were born.

As newborns, Betty and Boo spent a few weeks in the NICU.  During that time, we were told to talk to them, sing to them, anything to get them acquainted with our voices and so they could sense we were there.  So The Husband sang George Harrison songs (because he had just died), and told them about the electoral college and obscure Presidents (did you know we had a U.S. President named Chester Arthur?), and I sang "Julie Through the Glass" ("Julie through the glass, just born a day ago/ and who knows where you've been/ and where you're gonna go") and "Libby" ("If all our flights are grounded/ Libby, we'll go to Paris/ dance along the boulevards and have no one to embarrass ....")

Finally, we were on the verge of being discharged and all that stood in the way of us and a ticket home was a few ounces of formula that Betty needed to drink - but stubbornly refused.  So, I sang the only song that was in my head at the time, over and over and over.

Silver cities rise,
the morning lights
the streets that meet them,
and sirens call them on
with a song.

It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.
We're coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

We the great and small
stand on a star
and blaze a trail of desire
through the dark'ning dawn.
("Let the River Run" ~ Carly Simon)

(Recently, while Betty and I were grocery shopping, this came on over the speakers and I practically started bawling in the middle of Frozen Foods. "Mooo-ommm," she said, in her still always dramatic style, "you're not going to cry and tell me the story about this song and me being in the hospital again, are you?")

Back to being NICU parents. This all happened in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, making it especially hard to be so isolated and scared, so when Carly's Christmas album came out a year later, in 2002,  it seemed like "Christmas Is Almost Here" was written for us, with that whole experience in mind.  It has become one of my very favorite Christmas songs because it is so intertwined with those fragile NICU days.

"There's a hand that's old and rough
And it's holding on
To one that's new and small
Whose life has just begun
Hand in hand
Young and old
We calm each other's fears
Christmas is almost here

There's a rocky road ahead
Two people walk alone
Wondering in the fading light
If they can find their home
When hope is almost gone
A distant light appears
Christmas is almost here ..."
("Christmas Is Almost Here" ~ Carly Simon)

In 2005, I noticed an ad in the paper announcing that Carly was going to be in concert at The Borgata in Atlantic City.  We were the parents of nearly 4 year old twins, I had just started working full time again a few months earlier, and concert tickets long ago ceased to be among our discretionary expeditures. We crunched the numbers; nope, no can do. Maybe she would be comin' around again, but most likely, this was a once in a lifetime thing that we had to be responsible about and let go.

A few days later at work, I opened an email from The Husband.  "From Santa!" it said, and it was a printout of the confirmation from Ticketmaster that we had tickets in the front section for Carly's 2005 Serenade Tour. It was, without a doubt, one of the best concerts I've ever attended (and I've been lucky to see some great ones).  Her kids, Sally and Ben Taylor, were with her on that tour and they sang a rendition of "You Can Close Your Eyes" that was exquisite.  (I sing part of that song to Boo every night ... or, I should say, on the nights when he allows me to tuck him in.)

The Husband says that I am responsible for introducing him to the music of Carly Simon.  He knew the most popular songs, but not the older stuff.  (He did the same for me with the Beatles and their solo stuff, too, so we're even.)  One of the first gifts The Husband ever bought me was Carly's picture book, The Fisherman's Song, which is the words to her song of the same name. 
There are so many moments in my life that either have Carly Simon's music as a soundtrack as well as moments that a Carly Simon song captures for me in my heart. I've been listening to her all of my life and I can't imagine my life without her music.

"So just blow out the candles ... Happy Birthday."

Happy Birthday, Carly.

And thank you.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Audiobook Week: Some of My Favorites

Today concludes the first Audiobook Week, hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books. I think we can all agree it has been a fun and informative week, no? I know I've definitely gotten some more ideas for potential audios and great ideas and suggestions for my audio reviews.

For this final day, Jen's discussion prompt asks us to include some of our favorite audios.

Happy to oblige, Jen!  Here are a few audiobooks I've enjoyed.  (Links take you to my reviews.)

South of Broad, by Pat Conroy (narrated by Mark Deakins)
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini (narrated by Khaled Hosseini)
A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini (narrated by by Atossi Leoni)
Little Earthquakes, by Jennifer Weiner (narrated by Johanna Parker)
Loving Frank, by Nancy Hoban (narrated by Joyce Bean)
She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb (narrated by Kathy Najimy)
The Center of Everything, by Laura Moriarty
Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri (narrated by Sarita Choudhury and Ajay Naidu)
The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen (narrated by Karen White)
The 19th Wife, by David Ebershoff (narrated by Arthur Morey,  Daniel Passer, Kimberly Farr, and  Rebecca Lowman)
If You Could See Me Now, by Cecilia Ahern (narrated by Susan Lynch and Rupert Degas)
On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan (narrated by Ian McEwan)
All He Ever Wanted, by Anita Shreve (narrated by Dennis Boutsitkaris)
The Buffalo Soldier, by Chris Bohjalian (narrated by Alison Fraser)
The Almost Moon, by Alice Sebold (narrated by Joan Allen)
Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons (narrated by Kaye Gibbons)

(I also should put in a plug for my current read, Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.  I'm primarily reading the print edition of this, but I have listened to a little bit of the audio, which is beautifully narrated by Bianca Amato.)

It has been a pleasure participating in Audiobook Week.  A special thank you to Jen for hosting such a fun event!

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Let's Go to the (Book Blogger) Hop! - June 25-28

It's Friday, and you know what that means!

Or, if you don't, check out Jennifer's post over at Crazy-for-Books which tells you all you need to know about the weekly Book Blogger Hop.

I participated for the first time last week and found some new (to me) fun blogs to read. Why not stop by the hop and join in the fun this week?

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sunny Side Up

Most mornings (as in, like 99.9% of most mornings), The Husband handles all aspects of waking the kids, making sure they're clothed, cooking their breakfast, and coordinating the logistics of all the required accoutrements (lunches, backpacks, etc.) making it out the door.  He does this while getting himself ready for the day. This all happens before 7 a.m. It's down to a science, and I am fully aware that I am one helluva lucky lady.

I'm even more aware of how lucky I am on those .1% of days when circumstances require that this circus act falls to me.

I can handle the clothes, the lunches and all that.  What I cannot handle is cooking breakfast - specifically, making Boo's order, sunny side up eggs. (Scrambled, omelets, hard-boiled ... those eggs I can do. Sunny side up, not so much.  They've always skeeved me out and they turn my stomach.  I think they look gross, and they never look cooked.)

On one recent morning, Boo was disappointed in my attempt.  Frankly, so was I.

"They're not like Daddy's eggs, are they?" I said.
"Not really," Boo said.
"Want to try them anyway?"
"OK, I'll try them."

He took a bite.  Grimaced.  "They're not right," he admitted.   And just like that, no meltdown, no nothing, he asked if I could maybe make him scrambled eggs. 

Something different than his everyday breakfast.  Something - among many things - different in his daily routine.  This is HUGE for us, people.  HUGE. To have that kind of go-with-the-flow approach to something that could have easily (and I am truly surprised that it did not) prompt a meltdown of epic proportions.  I was bracing for it, expecting it, given all the other different things about this morning.

As I made the eggs, Boo peppered me with questions about whether he (Boo) was a  Democrat or a Republican and what the difference was. Typical morning conversation around here.

He took a bite.

"Well?" I said.

He made the thumbs up sign.  "These eggs are delicious," he said.  "Just right."    

And for just a moment, it was.

(I thought we need a blog post today that is a little different than all books, all the time, so I pulled this one out of Drafts.  It was originally written in March, when the husband was on a business trip and I needed to be a single parent for two days.  Honestly, I have no idea how those of you who are or were single parents do it. The photo was taken of some eggs this Easter when the kids were dying them at my mother-in-law's house.)

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Audiobook Week Meme

For today's Audiobook Week discussion, Jen from Devourer of Books gives us this little meme.

Audiobook are you currently reading/you read most recently: My most recent audiobook was South of Broad by Pat Conroy.

Impressions?: Loved it (see my review here). Mark Deakins was great as the narrator and the story was so well-done that it kept my attention.  Highly recommended.

How long you’ve been listening to audiobooks:  3 years.

First audiobook you ever listened to: I honestly can't remember. Just went back to my pre-blog book journal and the first audiobook that I listed in there was Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott. That was sometime in 2007.  Back then, I also didn't have a CD player in my car (and I was commuting for a total of 4 hours each day) so I was limited to whatever the library had on cassette.

Favorite audiobook title: That's hard to pick just one!  One that always comes to mind when I think of a good audiobook is The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty (review here). The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff (review here) is a very close second.  Both made me wish my 4 hour commute was longer.

Favorite narrator: As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I'm embarrassed that I haven't been keeping track of the audiobook narrators that I've listened to ... so, I'm not really too sure.

How do you choose what to listen to versus read? Generally, it's one of two strategies:

1. Our library branch has a great selection of audios, and lately, there's been a lot of brand new books available in audio. If I see an audiobook version of a library book that I currently have checked out, I'll check out both so I can get it finished faster.  For example, I'm currently reading Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (and loving it ... can't put it down!) and I have the audio in the car.

2. I've also been trying to select audios of books that are on my TBR pile. That way, I get a double sense of accomplishment.

For more Audiobook Week fun, check out the other participants at Devourer of Books.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Audiobook Week: Writing Audiobook Reviews

Well, in reading several other posts about how one goes about writing audiobook reviews (our Audiobook Week discussion topic of the day, as per Jen from Devourer of Books), I realized I've been committing a major faux pas.

I haven't been mentioning the narrator by name.

And shame on me for neglecting to do so, because when it comes to audiobooks, the narrator is just as critical to the whole experience as the author. In many cases, a good narrator can really make or break the book.

I feel like I owe every audiobook narrator an apology.

Otherwise, I don't think I approach writing reviews of audiobooks any differently than I do writing reviews of the print editions. I try to give a bit of what the story is about and my impressions of it.  Because it's an audio, I will mention that, usually in the subject line ("Book Review (Audio)") and perhaps mention something about the narration itself.  I will use a quote from the book in my review, simply because I've been trying to select audios that correspond with a) books that I have out from the library (so I can get to them more quickly) or b) books I have on my TBR shelves (so I can get to them more quickly).

So, I'm going to go back and fix my audiobook reviews to include the name of the narrator. (You can find them under the label Audio Book in my sidebar.)

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bringing Back the Books to Nashville

Imagine a community without books.

In the recent flood that devastated Nashville, the Pencil Foundation lost over 2,000 books. This is a significant loss for this organization that provides a multitude of services to Nashville schools, including a project that provides new and gently used supplies for teachers to use in their classrooms. Prior to the flood, teachers would go to the Pencil Foundation's "store" twice a year and select school supplies and books for their classrooms.

All that is gone.  But as blogger (and Pencil Foundation volunteer) Rebecca Brothers writes, she's created a project to help bring back the books to Nashville.

The Pencil Foundation is planning a book fair for this October. They did this last year and said it was an incredible success. They gave away more than 6,000 books in one day. Each teacher was allowed to take 30 books (a very generous number), so that means more than 200 teachers showed up on their day off to carefully choose books their very needy students would love. So here’s the next step. They need the following items for the book fair:

1) Books: children’s books: board books, pre-school books, flap books, activity (coloring, sticker) books, picture books, young readers, beginning readers, children’s and young adult chapter books, and high school materials. Their most pressing needs are for books struggling readers at the elementary and middle school level can enjoy. High interest non-fiction books are as welcome as fiction. Many students are reading below grade level or are English Language Learners. Books in Spanish would also be greatly welcome. New or used books are great. As one of the foundation representatives said to Rebecca, “A book can have many lives and last many years.” So true!

For those local to Nashville who might be able to provide plastic storage bins and shelving, as well as volunteer time to help before and during the book fair, you can find information about supporting the Pencil Foundation in this way on their website.

As it turns out, I've been trying to figure out what to do with quite a few of Betty and Boo's children's books that they've outgrown.  Hence, a box of books will be going in the mail to the folks at the Pencil Foundation tomorrow.

If you'd like to help, your donation is the media mail rate of the postage to send in your books. Please send them to:

1300 56th Ave North
Nashville, TN 37209

Thanks for helping to bring the books back to Nashville!

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Audiobook Week: Learning to Listen

Over at Devourer of Books, Jen is hosting Audiobook Week and she invites us all to join in this celebration.

As regular blog readers know, I had a horrendous daily commute to my job.  For just shy of  three VERY long years, my drive to work took 2 hours.  Each freakin' way.  Yeah, do the math: 

4 hours spent in the car x 5 days a week (20 hours/week)  + 150 miles a day + an average of $125 spent on gas every week = the definition of insanity.

Thankfully, this craziness ended last month when I got a new job that is much closer to home - as in, I work primarily out of my home office dining room.  It's a beautiful thing. 

During my road warrior days, I started listening to audiobooks.  My routine would be talk radio and news in the mornings, and a mixture of audiobook and satellite radio in the afternoons.  And when you're looking at a 2 hour drive home in rush hour traffic, a good audiobook can be your best friend.

Along with maximizing my reading time (and I do believe that listening to an audio counts as reading - so sue me), what audiobooks also do for me is sharpen my listening skills. I'm in a profession that involves talking with people often and listening for cues about their interests, their stories, their connections to others, their questions about the organization I work for. Sometimes this is hard; I have a very hard time hearing someone when there is a lot of background noise, or when there are competing sounds. Listening to audios has helped with this.

Listening to audiobooks has also helped me focus my attention so much better on what is actually being said and, perhaps most importantly, how it is being said.

I think that, as a society, we often don't listen well. We have so many distractions, so many thoughts running through our minds, that it takes considerable effort to really concentrate on what a person is saying and to hear what he or she is really telling is.  I think we all could learn to listen better, and I think audiobooks are a great way to do that. 

Now that I don't have my horrendous commute anymore, part of me misses the audiobook experience. (I am a dinosaur; I'm the last person on Earth without an iPod or some such thing.)  What I do now is pair up an audiobook with a printed book.  Because I drive so much less, my time in the car without the kids listening to Radio Disney is so infrequent that I can't keep track of where I am in an audiobook.  By pairing up the audio with the print version of the book, I can "read" a few pages or even a chapter of my current book while I'm running errands or driving to a meeting at one of our offices.  It's a great feeling of accomplishment and makes me get through my stash of library books faster.  (We're very lucky that the library branch we frequent has a nice collection of audios, with many brand new books also in audio format.  Right now, I have Stones Into Schools, Her Fearful Symmetry, and When Everything Changed out in print and audio versions.)

I simply can't imagine not listening to audiobooks. They really have maximized my reading and enhanced my ability to listen.

They're not just for me, either. Our library has a nice selection of children's audiobooks, too. Don't tell my kids, but I'm planning to check out a few audiobooks from the library for them this summer.

Because if anyone needs to improve their listening skills ....

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Father's Day Edition

My husband is an incredible father.  There's so much I could say about all that he does for us, but suffice it to say that I married an amazing guy who does five loads of laundry every single weekend (washing, folding, putting away), makes the kids breakfast every morning (on the weekends too) and deals with the entire morning routine of getting them out of the house, and handles the dropping off and picking up of the kids on most days. This isn't new; he's done the laundry for all of the 20 years we've been together and the stuff with the kids since Day One of their lives. Moreover, he does this through incredible pain - he's had three herniated discs in his neck for nearly six years.

(I know.  I'm practically a kept woman. People wonder how I'm able to blog so much?  That's how. I'm damn lucky, and I know it.)

Anyway, for this Father's Day edition of The Sunday Salon, I give you this little funny reading-related story from this week. 

While we were at the library this week, Betty discovered the graphic novel collection and was delighted to find two of the The Baby-Sitters Club books on that shelf.  When we got home, the GRAPHIC NOVEL label on The Baby-Sitters Club book made The Husband momentarily apoplectic. 

"What the hell is she doing with something about babysitters that's labeled a graphic novel?!" he said. When I showed him what they were, he asked when comic books became graphic novels.  Can't say that I had much of an answer for him.  Still, it was pretty funny.  (Or maybe you just had to be there.)

Having never read any of The Baby-Sitters Club books myself (as Laura from I'm Booking It and I discussed over lunch at the Book Blogger Convention), I was curious to see if they were appropriate for an 8.5 year old so I read this version. Happily, they seem to be OK.  According to Barnes and Noble they have an age range of 9-12, and that's generally what Betty reads.

Speaking of which, Betty's doing really well with her summer reading.  Her goal is to read 200 books this summer.  She's completed 10 this week.  She's also nearly completed the measly summer reading project that is assigned for incoming 3rd graders, which is to read a whopping total of 10 hours for the entire summer. (Yeah, an hour a week ... and they're allowed to take a week off from reading, for VACATION, if you can imagine such a thing.)

In addition to reading The Baby-Sitters Club,  I also finished two other books. While I'm Falling by Laura Moriarty was good enough, but I didn't like it as much as her debut novel, The Center of Everything.  

My other finished book this week was Made for Goodness and Why This Makes All the Difference by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu.  I had the great opportunity to hear Archbishop Tutu as the keynote speaker during a conference I attended this past April and this book reminded me of how inspiring he was. It weaves together Archbishop Tutu's experiences of living through apartheid and the Bible stories of Adam and Eve as well as the prodigal son in order to provide comfort in the face of life's toughest questions. I'm not a highly religious person, but I liked this book. 

(Completing two books in one week is highly unusual for me unless we're on vacation, which we're not.)

Finally, there is my current read, Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris.  I don't know why it took me this long to read this, but it is absolutely hilarious.  (Ferris is now my new literary crush.) Basically, this is "The Office" in novel form. It's brilliantly written. There are a million characters, it seems, who work at this Chicago ad agency that is the epitome of office dysfunction but the genius of Ferris is that he makes each one of them so memorable - maybe because you know this person, or someone pretty close to that person. And the dialogue! He just nails it, and the result is a spectacular piece of writing that I am enjoying way too much.

Whether you're celebrating Father's Day today with a special father or remembering a special father who may not be here to celebrate (I'm doing both), I hope you're reading something just as great this Sunday.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Blogger Hop - June 18

It's Friday ... time for the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Jennifer at  This is the first time I've participated in the Hop, but I've been hearing so much about it that I thought I would check it out. 

(Plus, I had the chance to have lunch with Jennifer at the recent Book Blogger Convention and she was delightful, as was everyone at our table.)

Off to find some new (to me) blogs!

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Weekend Cooking: Mama's Yankee White Bean Pies and Palm Beach Pasta Salad

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

A few weeks ago in this space, I reviewed The Deen Bros. Take It Easy: Quick and Affordable Meals the Whole Family Will Love by Paula Deen's sons, Jamie and Bobby. Along with the review (and a recipe from the book, Quick Braised Chicken and Rosemary New Potatoes), I mentioned a few other dishes I was looking forward to trying.

One of those dishes was Mama's Yankee White Bean Pies, and since then I had the chance to make it for dinner. This one was just as good!  According to the book, the recipe's name comes from Paula Deen's friends who live in Indiana.  "They taught her how to turn a handful of affordable, simple ingredients into these fried-patty sandwiches that will rock your world," writes the Deen Brothers.

Mama's Yankee White Bean Pies
serves 6

Two 15 oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 3/4 cups crushed Ritz crackers (about 35 crackers)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, for frying
1 Vidalia onion, thinly sliced for serving
mayonnaise, for serving
12 slices white bread

1. Place the beans in a large bowl.  Mash with a fork or potato masher until the beans are almost smooth, but still a little chunky. Add 3/4 cup of the cracker crumbs, the egg, thyme, salt, and pepper and mix well.  Use your hands to form the mixture into 6 equal-size patties.

2. Place the remaining 1 cup cracker crumbs in a wide shallow bowl. Dip each patty in the cracker crumbs, turning to coat evenly.

3. Heat 1/8 inch olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Fry the patties, tunring once, until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Drain the patties on a paper-towel lined plate.

4. Sandwich each patty, along with sliced onion and a dollop of mayonnaise, between 2 slices of bread and serve.

My notes: I didn't have Ritz crackers, so I substituted some bread crumbs, which held the patties intact well enough. I also didn't have an onion, but I think a carmelized onion would be nice as a topping.  Instead of the mayo, I offered a gourmet champagne mustard that I'd purchased from our recent Flower Market, and we had our sandwiches on Thomas' Bagel Thins instead of white bread.

I would have been fine with just a sandwich, but The Husband wouldn't have preferred just a sandwich for dinner.  Similarly with the kids; knowing that they would probably not be thrilled with this as a dinner, I wanted to have an appealing side dish.  I remembered the leftover spaghetti I had in the fridge ... as well as a recipe for a spaghetti pasta salad from a cookbook I'd purchased during a Florida vacation in 1997.  (Whenever I visit someplace, I usually buy a local cookbook as my souvenir ... that'll be another Weekend Cooking post.)

Palm Beach Pasta Salad is a recipe from A Slice of Paradise: Fresh and Inviting Flavors from the Junior League of the Palm Beaches, first published in October 1996.

1 lb. thin spaghetti or vermicelli, broken into 1 inch pieces, cooked, according to package directions
3 large tomatoes, diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 large cucumber, diced
1 medium green pepper, diced
1 sweet red pepper, diced
1 large red onion, diced
two 2 1/3 oz. cans sliced ripe olives, drained
one 16 oz. bottle Italian salad dressing
1/4 cup grated fresh parmesan or Romano cheese
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
2 tsps. poppy seeds
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/4 tsp garlic powder.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to blend flavors. 

My recipe strayed so far from this one that I'm not sure a comparison is even justified.  I didn't have any zucchini, the peppers, or olives - and I knew that the presence of seeds would have horrified The Husband and kids.  So, for us, this was pretty much a pasta salad with spaghetti, but I think this salad as indicated would have been really tasty with the bean pies. 

Both the Yankee White Bean Pies and the Palm Beach Pasta Salad were really tasty as leftovers the next day for lunch, too.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Book Blogger Convention: Stay, Just a Little Bit Longer

(If you missed my other Book Blogger Convention posts, read them here:
Book Blogger Convention Recap, Chapter 1: Early Morning
Book Blogger Convention Recap, Chapter 2: How Maureen Johnson Got 250 New Best Friends
Book Blogger Convention Recap, Chapter 3: Speaking Words of Wisdom)

And then it was over.

After the day of laughing and learning, it was time to say goodbye to those we'd just greeted.

I wasn't quite ready to leave.

I deliberately scheduled a 7:05 p.m. train home so that there would be time to do exactly what I did, which was have a little extra time to chat a bit with those who - like me, as it turned out - didn't quite seem to want to leave either.

Lenore from Presenting Lenore (who presented us with delicious German chocolate!) and Beth Kephart.

Amy and Beth

Two of the amazing Book Blogger Convention organizers, Natasha from Maw Books Blog and Michelle from Galleysmith.

I was thrilled to have the chance to walk and talk back to Penn Station with Avis from she reads and reads

We saw this protective bird literally taking this little one under its wing. New York's rude reputation be damned.  (I love this photo.)

And then, the Empire State Building in the distance. (And, yes, a poignant reminder of another brilliant blue-sky New York day ... at least to me).
It took me a minute to realize that we were on W. 34th Street and here was Macy's! (Yes, Melissa, there is such a thing as a book blogging convention.) I mentally paid homage to my shopaholic grandmother (who lived for all things Macy's) as I played annoying tourist photographer.
And then it was really time to say goodbye as I navigated my way back to Amtrak.  No small feat, mind you.  Quite the experience being in Penn Station on a Friday afternoon, at the height of rush hour, at the beginning of a holiday weekend, and with a sea of Yankees pinstripes as far as the eye could see (there was a Yankees game that evening; it was being watched on the television I arrived home to).

My ticket snafu was resolved (all the kiosks were down in the morning) and I boarded my southbound train with Pat Conroy's South of Broad, reading the Twitter stream from the convention. 

It's very possible I will wake up tomorrow and think that #bookbloggercon was just a dream, I tweeted. 

It wasn't, of course. 

I have the cards to prove it (and the exploding Google Reader).

Business cards, arranged oh-so-artistically on my laptop keyboard the next day.

I absolutely loved the Book Blogger Convention, and am so glad I had the chance to go.  I'll echo what some others have said, and that is that I do wish there had been time for more socializing. I would have loved to have met every single person in the room.  An impossible dream, I know. Still, the whole event exceeded my every expectation.

Thank you again, so very much, to all the organizers for what was truly an incredible day!