Saturday, April 28, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Asparagus Days

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, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.
I've been reading a lot of gardening blogs lately to help hasten my horticulturally-challenged learning curve. Even though some of them are a bit advanced for my skill level, I'm learning a lot - and even as a brand new gardener I can often find something I can relate to. So when Margaret of A Way to Garden (one of my new favorite blogs) wrote the other day that she is "on the asparagus diet," I had to laugh because that is so very true here in our house, too.

Just a few weeks ago when we moved into this house I was lamenting the fact that I couldn't FIND the asparagus patch that the previous owners told us existed. Now we can't keep up with its bounty. What we've discovered since I last posted about the asparagus patch is that it runs the entire length of our vegetable garden (on the right side of this photo) and appears to be about 6 feet in width.

That's a LOT of asparagus for a family of four, one of whom (that would be The Husband) hates to look at the stuff and refuses to eat it. (He is also hoping that our sellers planted this patch 35 years ago, because the thought of this asparagus being with us until we die is causing him agita.) I've been trying to tell him how much this stuff would cost in the grocery store, but that hasn't swayed him. "If you know I wouldn't be eating it, you wouldn't be buying it in the grocery store, so how is this saving us money?" Um ... because me and the kids are devouring the stuff. (Yes, happily, Boo is a new convert to asparagus. Parmesan cheese does the trick every time.)

I've also been trying to see if there is a local food bank that might accept some fresh produce, but I'm not sure if that's going to work out. In the meantime, here are just a few pictures of the amounts we've been harvesting.

April 22, 2012

April 27, 2012  (this is just after a few minutes of picking and only represents about half of what we picked that evening)

Another bunch of asparagus from April 27, 2012 

As for what I've been making with all of this asparagus? Plain old pasta with asparagus and drizzled with olive oil is in high rotation on our dinner table.  I'll roast the asparagus in olive oil at 400 degrees, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. The kids will then douse their dishes with more Parmesan.  The Husband foregoes the asparagus altogether in favor of tomato sauce. Tonight was a slight variation: pasta, asparagus, chopped tomatoes, feta cheese ... all drizzled with olive oil. 

Over on one of my favorite recipe sites, Simply Recipes, Elise has an amazing recipe for Cream of Asparagus Soup, which I made on Thursday night.  It was divine.  (I didn't take any photos, but that's OK ... Elise's photos are much better.) Boo had TWO BOWLS of the Cream of Asparagus Soup and I had two bowls for lunch the next day. It was even better the next day.  This now rates as one of my favorite soups and I want to make this again before asparagus season ends. (If our wacky spring weather continues like this (we had a freeze warning last night and snow flurries this morning!) I'm pretty sure there are a few more bowls of Cream of Asparagus soup in our future.)

I'm planning to make that Easy Asparagus Parmesan Bake on A Way to Garden, the Spinach Pasta with Asparagus Pesto from the April 2012 issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray, (although I'll probably use cavatappi pasta instead) and an Asparagus Risotto. 

Do you have a favorite asparagus recipe I should try? (And if you have an asparagus patch, how long has it been producing?)

Updated 4/30/2012: I made the Easy Asparagus Parmesan Bake tonight. More than half of this was eaten by yours truly. The rest was eaten by Boo, along with chicken and macaroni and cheese.  Betty decided to take a break from asparagus this evening. (Can't really say that I blame her.)

But this was delicious and has earned a spot in our asparagus rotation of recipes.

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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, April 24, 2012

Book Review (Audio): American Salvage, Stories by Bonnie Jo Campbell

American Salvage
Stories by Bonnie Jo Campbell
W.W. Norton and Company
167 pages

Narrated by Jeffrey Brick, Stevie Ray Dallimore, Andrea Gallo, and Ken Marks
6 CDs, 6.5 hours

American Salvage is a collection of 14 short stories that was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award. All of the stories are set in Michigan, near Kalamazoo or towns close by. (In her acknowledgements, Bonnie Jo Campbell writes "the events and characters depicted in these pages are fictional, but my hometown of Comstock, Michigan, where many of these stories could have taken place, is very real.")

These are people more than down-on-their-luck; they have, in many cases, been victims of abuse or other crimes. They are meth addicts and alcoholics. In many cases, they are (or were) hard-working and unable to rise above their circumstances, either because of personal fallibles or those of the people in their lives. They're not all that easy to like, and their stories aren't easy ones to listen to. 

I think they are important stories, difficult as they are, because these are the stories of so many people on the edges and fringes of society.  These are the stories of the people whom we interact with and encounter in our daily life.  While they might not be identical to those of the people and stories in American Salvage, and their circumstances might be different, there are more people in these types of situations than I think many of us realize (or want to realize). And  with the way the economy is going, there will be more people in these circumstances.

Because of the importance of these stories, I really wished that I liked this collection much more than I did. Still, the characters seemed to blend into each other from one story to another, and at times I honestly had to check and see if I wasn't repeating myself listening to a story I'd already heard.  Several also ended abruptly; I was listening to this on audio and at times thought something went amiss with the CD.

That's not to say that there aren't a few gems in this collection.  I loved "World of Gas" and "Fuel for the Millennium," which both have the doomsday Y2K preparations as their theme. (They also seem connected.) In "World of Gas," I really enjoyed the character of Susan and could visualize her so easily because Campbell did a wonderful job of making her character so authentic and vivid. 

Another story worth mentioning is "The Solutions to Brian's Problem," which is the matter of Brian's wife being a meth addict and the ravages of her addiction on himself and their child. The entire story is not even four pages long, but it is one of the most poignantly written ones included in American Salvage and an example of tight, precise, high-impact writing. 

I listened to the audio version of American Salvage and appreciated that there were four different narrators, which alternated from each story.  That made it easy for me to readily identify where I was when I hadn't been listening for awhile.  At times, there did seem to be slightly longer than usual pauses between sentences, but that only occurred on a few stories and was a characteristic of one narrator as opposed to a consistent issue throughout the production.

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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, April 22, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Another Read-a-Thon in The Books

Along with hundreds of other bloggers, I participated in yesterday's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon event, which was (as always) incredibly well organized and great fun. I want to give a shout-out to all the coordinators for making this such a wonderful event.  It takes a lot of work to pull this off, and I think sometimes it is easy to overlook that from behind our computer screens, believing that everything just magically happens.  So, thank you for a job (once again) well done! 
This was my best Read-a-Thon yet, with 3 books read. That's a record for me. I need to give major props to The Husband for that. I mentioned in one of my Read-a-Thon updates that he truly understood how much I needed this day, that it was a major stress reliever for me. We recently moved into our new house, so there is much to be done, including clearing out a lot of items from the apartment. We need to be out of there by April 30, so yesterday - as I was happily Read-a-Thoning - he went over to the apartment in the rain and made 16 TRIPS up and down a flight of stairs to lug the remaining crap out of there. (I did get up off the couch to him him unload the car and put some things away.) 

Anyway, the Read-a-Thon helped jump-start my reading mojo, which was kind of floundering this week. I'd finished the wonderful The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merrill Block earlier this week, and absolutely loved it. (Look for this on my Best Books Read in 2012 List.) I then picked up Alyson Hagy's Snow, Ashes but the opening scene ... well, I just wasn't in the right frame for descriptions of slaughtering lambs. Same with Jennifer Handsford's novel Daughters for a Time, which will be published this week. No lambs in this one, but I had a hard time continuing on with this one too.  I don't know what it was - the subject matter (infertility), the writing, but something was off about this one for me. 
And then, after this lackluster reading week, the Read-a-Thon, which started with a major slam dunk. This!

Amazing book.  Loved it.  Perfect Read-a-Thon selection, as this is meant to be read in one sitting, absolutely. Definitely well-deserved for the 2011 Man Booker Prize. Even more prestigious, it's going to wind up on my Best Books Read in 2012 List. 

Then, it was onto my second Read-a-Thon book, which was a fast read and a perfect Read-a-Thon choice.  A fable (I think that's how Beth Kephart describes this) about corporate life and working together and getting ahead.  

Zenobia: The Curious Book of Business, by Matthew Emmens and Beth Kephart

And finally, I ended the Read-a-Thon at 1:30 a.m. (Hour 18 or something like that) by finishing:

Blue Nights, by Joan Didion 

I am very much in the minority in that I was NOT a fan of The Year of Magical Thinking. I honestly didn't like it at all, and I almost didn't pick this up. But, others who have had similar reactions to The Year of Magical Thinking have liked Blue Nights better ... and I agree. Blue Nights felt more real, more authentic, more poignant.

Number of Pages Read: 451
Number of Hours Read: 9

Several of you asked how Betty did during the Read-a-Thon.  (My 10 year old daughter often participates with me.) She was full steam ahead for the first hour or so, reading 26 pages in her cat-care and training manual Cat Be Good, but then got distracted by playing on the computer and ... amazingly enough, with a two-week old balloon that her brother recently discovered. (And which kept both kids sufficiently occupied for me to read 3 books. Winning!)

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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, April 21, 2012

Read-a-Thon Update Hour 14, MidEvent Survey and Book #2 Completed!

This is turning into my best Read-a-Thon ever, y'all. Just finished my second book! That's cause for celebration, which just came in the form of a WeightWatchers Giant Latte ice cream bar. (Have you tried those things yet? They are divine and only 90 calories or something ridiculous like that. I'm not being paid to endorse these things, BTW. We just happen to love them.)

Anyhoo, onto the MidEvent Survey.

1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?
I'm getting a wee bit sleepy, I admit. (Hopefully the latte bar will help with that.) It's 9:17 p.m. here, which is way too early to call it quits yet. My goal is to make it till midnight or later, maybe 1 or 2 a.m.

2) What have you finished reading?
Two books! The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes and Zenobia: The Curious Book of Business by Matthew Emmens and Beth Kephart

3) What is your favorite read so far?
Zenobia was cute and very different, but of the two, I gotta go with The Sense of An Ending. You're going to hear me talk about this one for awhile.

4) What about your favorite snacks?
See above about the Giant Latte ice cream bar.

5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!
I'm probably in danger of getting kicked off the cheerleading squad. I've only done 2 hours of cheerleading during this Read-a-Thon. But, I have indeed found some new blogs and I'm hoping to make up for that by checking out their blogs and adding them to my overstuffed Google Reader.

Some additional stats since last time:
Number of pages read so far: 263
Number of hours read: 5 hours

Next book: Blue Nights, by Joan Didion.

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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.

Read-a-Thon Update Hour 11: Book #1 FINISHED!

We're approaching the halfway mark of the Read-a-Thon and I've finished my first book! And, oh my God, what an amazing book it was. I'm talking about this, which deservedly won the 2011 Man Booker Prize. (What, no Pulitzer?)

This was astounding. This is a book that is made to be read in one sitting, which makes it the perfect Read-a-Thon book.  Such a great choice. Definitely one that is going to make my Best Books of 2012 List. Loved, loved, loved it.

Since The Sense of an Ending was a library book, I'm going with a book from my shelves as my next pick. Next up is Zenobia: The Curious Book of Business by Matthew Emmens and Beth Kephart.

Read-a-Thon Stats:

Number of Books Read So Far:  1
Number of Pages Read So Far: 163 
Amount of Time Spent Reading So Far: 4 hours
Time Spent Cheerleading for Other Participants: 1.5 hours (crap, I think I signed up for something ridiculous like 5 hours. Or was it 3?)
Time Spent Blogging: 45 minutes (including this post)
What Else is Going On in This House: The Yankees-Red Sox game is on TV.  We're quite pleased with  the turnaround of this game. (Red Sox had been winning 9-0, however it is now 14-9 Yankees in the top of the 8th!)

The other time was spent making dinner (I should have planned better and had something in the crockpot).  I also need to give a major shout-out to The Husband.  We still have a number of miscellaneous items over at our apartment, of which we have to vacate by April 30. He went over there and boxed almost everything up, making 16 TRIPS UP AND DOWN A FLIGHT OF STAIRS in and out of the apartment IN THE RAIN while I was comfortably at home Read-a-Thoning.  That, my friends, is true love. (I did, however, take a break from my book to help decide what items could stay in the garage and which ones needed to come into the house and to put said things away.)

OK, I'm headed to Zenobia! Hope you're having a great Read-a-Thon!

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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.

Read-a-Thon Update: Hours 1-5

Apparently, Blogger decided this would be a fine weekend to roll out its new and improved (jury's still out on that) features for yours truly to learn, so my apologies in advance for any wackiness you see here in my posts henceforth. Bear with me as I figure this all out.

Speaking of wackiness, though, this is THE DAY OF THE 24 HOUR READ-A-THON. I woke up right on the dot of 8 a.m., our starting time here, with Betty (my 10 year old daughter) telling me that the Read-a-Thon was beginning immediately (she is doing this with me). Alas, I had to go out for a doctor's appointment first thing this morning (nothing major; routine bloodwork, thank you, pesky thyroid). In the car, I listened to my audiobook (Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo) and started my current read in the waiting room.

Let's begin by doing the Introductory Meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
My newly adopted wonderful city of Pittsburgh, PA ... which is the 6th most literate city in the country. (Well, technically I'm reading from my couch, which is slightly north of the 'Burgh. Close enough.) And it is a PERFECT Read-a-Thon day ... rainy, gray, cloudy and damp. No guilt for staying inside and reading and shirking the gardening that's begging to be done. Just sheer reading pleasure. Lazy bliss. A nap may be in my future.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Am I allowed to say all of them? From my post last night, here are my piles:

I'm really enjoying my current read, The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes. This was a great choice for the Read-a-Thon and especially for the first selection.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

As I type, The Husband is making us lunch (leftover pizza from last night). Later, I'm planning to make this Cool as a Cucumber Guacamole recipe from Choosing Raw. (I made it for Super Bowl Sunday. It was AWESOME.) Although I just realized I forgot the tomatoes. I'm hoping this will be the night we go out to eat for dinner to celebrate the kids' good report cards.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I'm a vegetarian, a happily married mother of twins, a somewhat-clueless gardener and new homeowner (although not our first home) and a Philly girl now living in Pittsburgh.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I've participated in several Read-a-Thons, to some degree or another. (A major work event for a previous job has usually fallen on the spring Read-a-Thon date.) This was the first time that I had my act together and went grocery shopping the day before. One of these years I will have snacks and perhaps even a meal pre-made.

One of my favorite things about the Read-a-Thon is that my daughter Betty usually does this with me. My 10 year old veterinarian-in-training, her book of choice today is Cat Be Good: A Foolproof Guide for the Complete Care and Training of Your Cat, by Annie Bruce.
And now for my stats:

Title of book(s) read since last update: I'm currently reading The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes.

Number of books read since you started: none

Pages read since last update:

the equivalent of 7 pages of audio (Bridge of Sighs, by Richard Russo)
pages 1-43 of The Sense of an Ending

Running total of pages read since you started: 50

Amount of time spent reading since last update: 1.5 hrs.

Running total of time spent reading since you started: 1.5 hrs.

Mini-challenges completed: Introduction meme (this one!)

Other participants you’ve visited: several; 30 minutes spent cheerleading (I don't track the individual participants I've visited)

What I've eaten/drunk:

1 cup of coffee
2 slices of wheat toast with butter (my bad)
1 Entenmann's mini crumb cake (also my bad)

Time for lunch and then, back to the books!
copyright 2012, Melissa, 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, April 20, 2012

The Readathon Awaits!

This happens to be one of my favorite weekends of the year ... that of the biannual Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon.  Named for a beloved book blogger who initiated it several years back and who has since passed away, this event brings bloggers together one weekend in April and another weekend in October for exactly what it sounds like - a fun-filled 24 hours of reading. The idea is to dedicate an entire day to reading to our heart's content.

Of course, you don't have to be a book blogger to participate and you certainly don't have to read for the entire 24 hours. I never do (I think my record is something like 8 or 10 hours, and that's not consecutive). I'm usually doing the Read-a-Thon around errands and other domestic drudgery.

Part of the Read-a-Thon fun is making piles of books to choose from. I like to focus my Read-a-Thon time on books that I own because it gives me an extra sense of accomplishment if the book/s I've completed come from my own shelves.  Here's what's in my pile for tomorrow (in no specific order):

1. The Glen Rock Book of the Dead, by Marion Winik
2. When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead
3. Zenobia, The Curious Book of Business: A Tale of Triumph Over Yes-Men, Cynics, Hedgers, and Other Corporate Killjoys, by Matthew Emmens and Beth Kephart
4. Mother Love, poems by Elizabeth Cohen
5. Echolalia, poems by Dan Waber
6. H, by Elizabeth Shepard 
7. Boy Meets Boy, by David Levithan
8. The Comfort of Strangers, by Ian McEwan
9. Something Inside of Me, by Chitoka Webb
10. The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, by Caroline Preston 

That's just one of my piles, however. I have several library books that I wouldn't mind getting to, including some gardening books.  They include (again, in no particular order):

11. Blue Nights, by Joan Didion
12. The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes 
13. Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward
14. Walking to Martha's Vineyard, poems by Franz Wright
15. A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness 
16. Steampunk Poe (this one "imagines a marriage between Edgar Allan Poe and Steampunk")

And then the gardening books, for my crash course in all things horticulture:

17. Grow Organic: Over 250 Tips and Ideas for Growing Flowers, Veggies, Lawns and More for First Timers and Old-Timers Alike, by Doug Oster and Jessica Walliser 
18. The Beginner's Guide to Edible Herbs: 26 Herbs Everyone Should Grow and Enjoy, by Charles W.G. Smith
19. The Weekend Gardener: Simple Weekend Projects for a Great Garden, by Susanna Longley
20. The No-Work Garden, by Bob Flowerdew (what a perfect name for an author of a gardening book!)
21. The New Gardener, by The National Home Gardening Club

21 books ... that's almost one for each hour of the Read-a-Thon. Well, a girl can dream, right?

If this kind of craziness sounds like your kind of fun, it's not too late to sign up for Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon.  You also might like Sassymonkey Reads' post "Have a Happy Read-a-Thon" for some tips on enjoying the day.

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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, April 17, 2012

Asparagus! In the Garden and On the Plate!

I had a landscaper come out to the house this afternoon to give me a quote on cleaning up the garden, mowing the lawn once a week, and generally helping us to keep things in decent enough shape as to not piss off the nice neighbors we've already met.  

While we were walking around the yard, I mentioned that the sellers told us we could expect some asparagus soon, but that I hadn't found it yet. 

I guess my new landscapers (they admitted to liking the Flyers - here in Penguins country! - so they were hired on the spot) figured I was pretty stupid, because one of them pointed THIS out to me amid the weeds and the brambles of the garden.  

And these cuties:

And this: 

And these:

Coincidentally, Betty came home from school today all excited because her class saw a video on farming and sustainable agriculture and how eating locally means that your food is healthier because it retains more nutrients because of less travel times. She's been very, very excited about our new garden and very involved and chatty about what we're planning to grow. When I told her that I'd not only found the asparagus patch AND that a few stalks looked ready to eat ... well, bring on the teachable moments, baby! 

(And the fact that she agreed to TRY the asparagus with dinner? Winning!) 

A small harvest, but just right for adding to Pasta Primavera. 

Look at how big this stalk is! 

It was just me and the kids for dinner tonight, which made this a perfect, easy meal. I boiled some farfalle pasta, then cooked the asparagus in a skillet with some olive oil.  That's it.  As for the carrots and peas, I just boiled them together in one pot.  Tossed everything with olive oil, added salt and pepper and parmesan cheese at the table, and there you go.

Betty and I loved it and thought the asparagus was wonderful. Boo refused to try it (the asparagus, that is. The other stuff was fine). The Husband doesn't like asparagus, which is unfortunate because it appears that we have quite the crop. (The sellers of our house are still in the area, plan to remain so, and I often run into the wife. Since asparagus takes two years to grow, I'm thinking of taking her a bunch.)

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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, April 15, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Oh, Look, I Finished a Book

I hope this morning finds everyone in the path of the Midwest tornadoes and storms safe and out of harm's way. So incredibly scary. I'm finding it a little ironic that the book I was planning to tell you about is called The Storm at the Door. 

But oh my, what a book it is.

It took me nearly 3 weeks to finish it, which makes this a huge accomplishment 'round here these days. Within the last month, reading has dropped down considerably on the priority list amidst this nonsense of finalizing the mortgage for this house and its approval process (one of the most stressful experiences of my life, I swear to God) and packing up the apartment and moving into said house. Add in a not insignificant amount of work stress and the day-to-day raising of kids (who have been GREAT through all of this, considering) and it's easy to see why I've been reading the same book since March 22.

I told you a little bit about Stefan Merrill Block's The Storm at the Door in last week's Salon post, and now that I was able to spend some time last night finishing it (my reward after finally unpacking the last of the kitchen boxes!), I can tell you that this has absolutely earned a place on my Best Books Read of 2012 list. (If pressed, I would say this was the best book I've read so far this year.) The Storm at the Door marks the second book that I have given 5 stars (out of 5) to this year.  (The first one being The Snow Child, the debut novel by Eowyn Ivey.)

If you look at the Goodreads reviews, it's clear that readers either love or hate this one. Obviously, I'm very much entrenched in the former camp. It's not a light read, either by way of the prose nor of the subject matter. This has been described as a courageous and extraordinary book, and it is. In The Storm at the Door, Stefan Merrill Block takes on the story of his grandparents, Katharine and Frederick Merrill, and tries to fill in the gaps of what happened to his grandfather and his family when Katharine had her husband committed to a mental hospital in 1962.

The way this one is written is such that it's Katharine's story, it's Frederick's story, it's the story of the administrators and those (including famed poet Robert Lowell) who are also patients at the Mayflower Home (a stand-in for the real-life McLean Hospital). It's partly fiction and partly memoir (I'm counting it as part of my Memorable Memoir Reading Challenge, since my loose definition for this challenge is that if you think it is stuff of memoir, it counts.)

I also started a new audiobook this week, given that I had to be in the car for a drive for a meeting two hours away (each way) this week. Richard Russo's That Old Cape Magic was a DNF for me, so I thought I would give him a second chance with Bridge of Sighs. This mammoth tome (it's 544 pages and 21 CDs as an audiobook!) has been taking up space on my bookshelves for awhile, so I figured this drive would also give me a chance to decide if I wanted to keep it or otherwise allocate the space.

After starting off a bit slow, I'm going to stick with Bridge of Sighs. (I will eventually be donating the print copy to the library, however; I don't see this as one that I must keep.) I don't think Russo will ever become one of my favorite authors (and that's OK) but I do think this is working well as an audiobook.  It's keeping my interest moreso than That Old Cape Magic did. We'll see if that continues.

Hope you are having a good Sunday - and again, hope you are safe from any storms at your door, whatever form they might be in.

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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, April 13, 2012

Weekend Cooking: My New Vegetable Garden ... or, Where the Hell Do I Start With This?!

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, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.
So, now that it is officially ours, I feel that I can post photos of the vegetable garden plot that I've acquired with the purchase of our new house. 

We're not talking a small patch of ground, people. This is ... well, here's how it appeared in the real estate listing. 

Clearly, my sellers knew a  thing or two about what they were doing. This being the early spring months and me not having a green thumb NOR a clue, the garden currently looks like this: 

Actually, those two photos above were taken on March 31, so the area is now much more overgrown than that now.  To say I don't know where to start is kind of an understatement. (I'm serious. I couldn't even figure out how to get INTO the garden until this evening. What I thought was the gate wasn't.)

The sellers have told us that "asparagus should be coming up soon" but other than that, I don't know if anything else is planted. There isn't any sign of any asparagus so far. I found a Burpee tag with "GREEN PEPPERS" written on it near where the bushes to the left are, and another one with "CELEBRITY" written on it a little further down.

As much as The Husband has tried to convince me that we would be better off filling in this space by creating a synthetic hockey rink (as if we Flyers fans are raising Stanley Cup champions here in land of the Penguins), I've decided that I want to try my hand at this vegetable gardening thing, even though I don't know what I'm doing (that's what blogs and Pinterest are for).  At least for this first year, our garden will be on a smaller scale than that of the previous owners of this house.  And that's OK.

Right now, there are a lot of sticks and twigs and stuff in the garden. It looks like it could use some spring cleaning. I'm thinking of starting with that this weekend, as well as trying to make a raised bed. Last weekend I bought some vegetable seeds, including these Organic Laxtons Progress #9 Shell Peas, and I really want to get those planted this weekend.  From what I've read, this is probably the last chance for the peas, and we're expected to have a good weekend weather-wise for it.

So. What would you do if you just acquired this as your new vegetable garden?

(A hockey rink is not an option. Not even if my Flyers win the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins.)

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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, April 8, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Easter Edition

Happy Easter to all those Sunday Saloners who are celebrating today!  (Or, Happy Passover or Happy Spring or just Happy Sunday.)  For us, today was a different kind of Easter. We moved into our new house on Monday (more on that in a separate post or two; got lots to tell you, but the bottom line is that we love it and it already feels like home) and my in-laws arrived on Thursday afternoon to celebrate the holiday weekend with us. Their visit was planned before our move, but it has actually worked out pretty well because they've kept the kids occupied while we've unpacked and even slept in a couple of days. They've also been treating us to dinners out every night, so no cooking for me, which is a major bonus when settling into a new house!

Because we didn't have any relatives' homes to travel to nor any cooking to do, the day was pretty open. I took my mother-in-law and Betty to the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens here in Pittsburgh, where we took in their Spring Flower Show and several other exhibits.  It was actually a perfect way to spend Easter. The flowers were gorgeous, as always, and definitely put me in the mood for spring. I bought some seeds (cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes - cherry and Brandywine, peas, and pumpkins) for our new vegetable garden in the gift shop.  (I couldn't resist).

On the reading front, not too much has been happening in that area. Most of my time that I would otherwise be spending reading has been unpacking all my books that have been in storage and setting up the room that is now the new office/library area. (One of my friends asked if I had gotten any new books for my birthday, which was Tuesday. I replied that it felt like I had gotten 30 new boxes of books, as all of mine came out of storage and we were reunited again for the first time in nearly a year. Only a book blogger could understand how that could be just as good as a new book.)

But what I HAVE been reading, slowly but surely (and that is OK, since this is a book to be savored) is The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merrill Block.  I haven't seen this one getting much attention on many of the blogs (although, admittedly, I've been more out of the loop lately than usual, so maybe it has) but this one is so intriguing. It's based on the true story of Stefan Merrill Block's grandparents, Katharine and Frederick Merrill. While he admits to taking some fictional liberties with their story, he keeps their names (and those of his aunts and his mother) the same. (It's kind of like The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien; it's hard to tell what is true and what is fiction in the story.)

And what a story this one is! Frederick's behavior has become a bit erratic, a situation that tends to intensify when he drinks a bit too much. Katharine hardly recognizes the man she fell in love with and she's tired of covering for him in front of their friends and their children. So, when his shenanigans get a bit out of control one evening (inebriated, Frederick wanders out to the highway and begins flashing people), Katharine has him committed to a local, well-known "mental hospital" for "a little rest" instead of dealing with fines or jail time.

Oh, and did I mention this is set in 1962?  And that Stefan Merrill Block writes the poet Robert Lowell into the story as one of Frederick's peers who is also at the mental facility at the same time?

Yeah.  Definitely one that I need to spend more time with this week, now that things are (hopefully) settling down a bit.

Hope you are (or have been) spending some time with the people and things you love this Sunday!

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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, April 5, 2012

Marimow, Redux

One of the best things about Facebook is being able to seeing the daily breaking news from one's journalism professor from 20 years ago. Today, my teacher (for he will always be my teacher, for I learn something new from him each day) posted a quote from Bill Marimow, the once and twice upon a time editor extraordinaire of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

After 18 months, and after the local papers were sold once again, Bill Marimow will be returning to the helm as the editor of my beloved Philadelphia Inquirer.

Here's why I smiled when I read the news today (oh, boy):

"Marimow" (my blog post which I originally posted here October 14, 2010):
This is the sort of post one usually writes when someone dies, but in this case my subject is very much alive.
He is, however, a casuality of an industry under siege, undergoing great change. Which makes him in the eyes of some akin to a dinosaur.
I speak of one Bill Marimow, who recently made news himself when it was announced on October 7 that he was demoted as editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer.  A story that is newsworthy because the newspapers' new publishers apparently felt that Marimow didn't have enough of a digital background to continue at the helm of the publication.
I've been wanting to write about this from a journalistic perspective (even though my journalism days are two decades ago) and from a personal one, but I haven't quite been able to find the right words.  I've read a lot about this and the best piece thus far is one that, ironically, was just shared by my own former journalism professor via Facebook.  (I know. The irony isn't escaping me.)

Rob Curley echoes so much of my own feelings about Bill Marimow and what happened last week, and he does so incredibly well in his post: "Thoughts on Marimow: What being 'not digital enough' means."
Like Mr. Curley, I also had the privilege and the honor of being in Bill Marimow's company.  Well, not exactly in person (although there might have been one occasion, now that I think about it) but rather via another relic from a bygone era: a push-button, non-cordless, nowhere near smart phone.
As an English/communications major, that same former journalism professor required all such majors take a course called Career Development.  Among our assignments was to find someone in our chosen profession who would be kind enough to talk with a graduating-in-a-recession college senior and give us an information interview.

During high school, I worked at our town's library and became close with the staff, including a woman named Pam. She lived close to my college and every so often she would call to see if I needed a breather from collegiate life.  She'd treat me to Pie in the Sky pizza, I'd treat her to the latest saga in my love life, and we would spend an afternoon talking about books and our classes (she was going back to school) and pondering life in general. She was a wonderful, positive influence on me during those days, a reminder of home.

So it was that I happened to mention this assignment to her, this requirement of needing to find someone in the communications field to talk to.  Turns out, Pam's then-significant other C. played racquetball with someone who might fit the bill.

"He's a reporter at the Inquirer, pretty accomplished," she offered.  "A great guy. His name's Bill Marimow."
Sure, I said. And shortly thereafter, the phone rang.
I wish I could find the required paper I had to write because 20 years later, I don't remember a word of advice that Mr. Marimow gave me.  But I do remember the length of time he spent on the phone with me (probably at least a half hour, probably longer).
I remember feeling like I was the most important person he would talk to all week.
I remember him answering all my questions - whatever they were.
The only regret I have about that conversation is that I wish I knew how lucky I was to be speaking to one of journalism's giants. (And that I didn't keep in better touch.  Marimow, who is the winner of two Pulitzers, would go on to be editor of the Baltimore Sun before coming full circle back to his hometown of Philadelphia as editor of the Inquirer.)
The phrase "class act" has been used in several articles (including Rob Curley's) about Bill Marimow, and even though I know him from just that phone call, I believe it to be true.  Indeed, that describes how he is handling what has to be an incredibly awkward personal and professional situation. (He is still staying on at the Inquirer in the capacity as an investigative reporter.)
The new owners of The Inquirer are within their rights to surround themselves with the people they feel will best move the paper forward. But there is something inherently sad about this. It feels like we're putting profits before people, sacrificing the story for something shiny. I wonder what the cost will be, how many more Bill Marimows we will lose by following this this new playbook.

I don't wonder about Bill Marimow himself, though. He'll be just fine. He'll somehow find a new path in these uncertain and unprecedented times.
Just as he had a role in helping me find mine.
Congratulations, Bill.  And welcome back home.

copyright 2012, Melissa, 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.