Monday, October 29, 2012

Better Days

Strathmere, NJ during Hurricane Sandy - October 29, 2012
This is the street where my aunt and uncle's beach house is,
where we vacation each year. You can see their house in the distance, I think.

"The beach is a haze and old love's a ghost
Hugo is twisting his way up the coast
If you blew out to sea I'd love you most
And we just got here, we just got here
We just arrived ...."



I can't watch the news coverage of Hurricane Sandy. I can't stand it.

I can't stay away from it either.

Here in Pittsburgh, we are not directly in the path of the hurricane. We're feeling more than the residual effects, absolutely. It's raining, and the winds are kicking up, and we just got word that the kids will have no school tomorrow.

But as regular readers know, I'm a Philly girl who vacations on the Jersey coast where Sandy reportedly just made landfall and who most recently lived in Delaware. Practically everyone in my life is there. (Except for The Husband's parents, who are with us for the next 10 days because of The Husband's surgery on Thursday.)

Still, even watching this coverage from more than 400 miles away, I am heartsick at this.

Absolutely heartsick.

How do you people in Florida and along the Gulf Coast do this, time after time?

I think I am beginning to understand the answer to that. I confess, I never quite understood that before today.

You stay because you are rooted in place, in memory and history, right?  Because that place and those memories have become part of you, embedded in your soul?

Because you know, you hope, you need to believe in better days?


Sunset over Strathmere, NJ ~ June 2011
Photo taken by me during our last vacation. 
I get that now.

Oh, I so get that.






















I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

 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, October 28, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Calm Before the Storm


(How many posts will have that subject line today? Damn, if I had a dime ....)

Sidenote for those new to the blog, thanks to my meeting/tweeting you at Podcamp Pittsburgh yesterday, and who may be unfamiliar with The Sunday Salon:
The Sunday Salon is akin to a "university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them, and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake....

That's what happens at the Sunday Salon, except it's all virtual. Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book. To join the Sunday Salon, see the Facebook group
Our calm before the storm refers to Hurricane Sandy, of course  as well as The Husband's upcoming surgery scheduled for Thursday. His parents are en route from Philly as I type to stay with us for the next 10 days. They were planning to arrive on Wednesday, but because of the storm, they're coming early.

As in, any minute now.

Thanks to the weather, I'm also fighting a sinus infection. Still, I need to get started on The Round House by Louise Erdrich today because I'm on the TLC Book Tour this week. (My review is scheduled for Tuesday.) Fortunately, others are saying great things about this one and I'm a fan of Louise Erdrich's work so I'm not daunted about needing to finish this one quickly.

Otherwise in my reading world, not much has changed from last week. I'm still reading Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans by David Niose, which I told you about in last Sunday's Salon and which I'm still finding to be interesting.

Finally, I've given up on The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan as an audiobook. I really enjoyed the first portion, but am having a hard time following along with Part II on audio. I think it's because I had longer chunks of time to listen during Part I and that's not the case for Part II, which doesn't lend itself well to quick trips to the grocery store and pick ups from school. Hence, I'm going to the print version to finish this one.

Because of The Husband's surgery on Thursday, I think I'm going to try and find some lighter reads to occupy myself while at the hospital.

How about you? Are you in the path of Hurricane Sandy? If so, what books do you have on hand to ride out the storm? (And if you are in the storm, be safe!)



I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

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, October 26, 2012

Retail Therapy



I was in need of some retail therapy today.

Bad.

Fortunately, today was the opening day of our library's annual book sale.

(Some people's retail therapy consists of buying shoes. Mine involves buying used books.)

The picture above represents just the fiction haul. (List below.)

Here's the nonfiction.


And here they are, happy together.  (Me too.)


In Zanesville, by Jo Ann Beard
The Weight of All Things, by Sandra Benitez
A Judy Blume Collection: Three Novels: Deenie, It's Not the End of the World, and Then Again, Maybe I Won't, by Judy Blume (this one is for Betty)
The Double Bind, by Chris Bohjalian
A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libby Bray
Possession, by A.S. Byatt
Breaking Silence, by Linda Castillo
Life and Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetze
Bluesman, by Andre Dubus III
The Liar's Diary, by Patry Francis
Mrs. Kimble, by Jennifer Haigh
Tabloid City, by Pete Hamill
Winter's Tale, by Mark Helprin
Eli the Good, by Silas House
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
The Heretic's Daughter, by Kathleen Kent
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
One Heart, by Jane McCafferty
Junebug, by Maureen Mccoy
Morning Sky, by Judith Miller
The Cat's Table, by Michael Ondaatje
Outside the Ordinary World, by Dori Ostermiller
The Fates Will Find Their Way, by Hannah Pittard
Bigfoot Dreams, by Francine Prose
Icy Sparks, by Gwyn Hyman Rubio
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
The Year We Left Home, by Jean Thompson
Affinity, by Sarah Waters
You Are Special: Words of Wisdom from America's Most Beloved Neighbor, by Fred Rogers
Cultivating Delight:  A Natural History of My Garden, by Diane Ackerman
The Secret to True Happiness, by Joyce Meyer
The Women's Chronology: A Year-by-Year Record, From Prehistory to the Present, by James Trager

Total cost? $19.50!


I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! 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, October 25, 2012

PodCamp Pittsburgh. This Weekend. I'm So There.


I've come to realize that living in Pittsburgh means making some tough choices - especially on the weekends.

Especially this weekend.

There are a ridiculous number of amazing-sounding things going on this Saturday and/or Sunday in Pittsburgh. (Actually, that's true of many weekends here. Honest to God, I've never seen a city with so much to offer as this place does. It's crazy.)

This Saturday, I am in serious need of a clone. On one hand, there's Women Read/Women Write, an event bringing readers and writers together to celebrate the books women love to read. It's free. Take a look at that agenda. This is exactly my thing. Perfect for the novel in progress. 

But. BUT! I also happen to need a little thing known as a JOB, and since that doesn't seem to be happening in the traditional "Email-resume,Get-interview-Get-hired" type of way (I'm good for steps #1 and #2, not so much #3), I need to do whatever I can to attract and secure more freelance writing and consulting work

I've been giving some thought to somehow trying to connect both of my blogging endeavors in some way - somehow merging the professional with the personal. Whether it can be done, I don't know - but that's where PodCamp Pittsburgh 7 comes in, making this excellent timing for me in regards to potential networking, and learning, and all that good stuff. 

This Saturday and Sunday at Point Park University, you can take part in this, too. (Registration is still open. And. It's. FREE.) 

What exactly is PodCamp Pittsburgh?

Wonderful question (as a certain political candidate would say). Anticipating such, the @pcpgh peeps put together The Beginner's Guide to PodCamp Pittsburgh, from where I cut and pasted this from:
PodCamp is the most awesome thing in Pittsburgh.
But if you really want to get specific…
PodCamp Pittsburgh is a social, new media conference. It started in 2004 and was originally built around podcasting (hence the name PodCamp), and has since grown across North America. PodCamp Pittsburgh has also evolved into a study of information sharing online and how it affects us in different ways every day.
At PodCamp Pittsburgh, you’ll learn how to get started (or how to grow) sharing what you do with everyone else in the world through voice, video, pictures, text and other forms of media. You’ll find out what (and how to use) the latest tools others are using to accomplish great things.
(In other words, don't be like me and see the word "pod" and think that this is a podcasting only type of thing. Clearly, it's not.)

Did I mention that PodCamp Pittsburgh is FREE? Yes ... free. It's supported by volunteers, of which I will gladly be one on Saturday while also attending several sessions. (You can see the full schedule of sessions, their descriptions, and speakers here.)

I'm incredibly excited about this. PodCamp Pittsburgh is the perfect opportunity to make connections among those in our city's traditional and new media scene and it is exactly what I need right now. 

Maybe it's exactly what you need, too.

Leave me a comment if you'll be there or follow me on Twitter @bettyandboo or at my professional account, @thefirmangroup. Would love to meet you and say hi!



I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

 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, October 23, 2012

Book Review: Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
Harper, a division of Harper Collins Publishers
2012
337 pages 

OK, so here are just a few of the cast of characters starring in this novel by Jess Walter, which spans from 1962 until "very recently."

Pasquale Tursi, owner of the Hotel Adequate View (how can you not love that name?) in the tiny speck of an Italian coastal fishing village of Porto Vergogna.

Dee Moray, a beautiful American actress with a promising film career ahead of her

Michael Deane, a smarmy, narcissistic, greedy, Botoxed Hollywood movie executive.

Claire Silver, burnt-out assistant to Michael.

Shane Wheeler, an aspiring screenwriter who has written a movie about William Eddy and the ill-fated Donner Party

and Alvis Bender, a World War II veteran and car dealership owner originally from Wisconsin who spends two weeks a year writing the Great American Novel at the Hotel Adequate View.

Oh ... and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Yeah, that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.  Might as well throw in the movie Cleopatra, too, because it's kind of its own character in Beautiful Ruins. 

There are more people in supporting roles, but the point is that they are all connected. Their lives, their stories ... it all works fantastically. But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself in my enthusiasm for this one.

Pasquale Tursi is a bit of a dreamer. He has ambitions. As the owner of a hotel that translates into English as Hotel Adequate View, Pasquale believes that if he could only attract the kind of American royalty like President and Mrs. Kennedy to his remote Italian villa (remember, Beautiful Ruins begins in 1962), then the world would be his.

One day, as Pasquale is building a beach out of rocks and dreaming of tennis courts on the edge of cliffs, an American does arrive in sleepy Porto Vergogna.

Enter Dee Moray, the beautiful actress fresh from the set of "Cleopatra." She's dying - stomach cancer, she's been told - and Pasquale is determined to make things right, to learn the truth, even if it means giving up the one person he loves.
"Pasquale stared at the door. He had wished for this world of the glamorous Americans, and like a dream, she had come to his hotel, but now the world was back where it belonged, and he wondered if it would have been better to never have glimpsed what lay behind the door." (pg. 188)
Such begins Beautiful Ruins's ongoing theme of "we want what we want - we love who we love" (pg. 298) that is carried flawlessly throughout the novel , along with an acquiescence to that fact that this isn't a simple sentiment.

This is one of those rare books that you love all the way through - even until the end - and you're holding your breath while frantically turning the pages of that ending hoping to God that the writer doesn't do something godawfulstupid and screw up the preceding 300-some odd pages for you. (The ending had a "Six Feet Under" feel to it for me, which was just fine with me since I loved that show.) With the exception of one thing, it all comes together in the end, even though you, as the reader are wondering "how?" and saying "there's no way he and she can ..." or "the odds of this are absolutely impossible," and it is simply captivating.

(OK, I'll admit, even though I understand it in the context and theme of the novel, I was not pleased at the resolution with the square of Claire/Daryl/Shane/Sandra) at all, particularly the first three individuals. So, there.)

There are multiple layers here, stories within stories. Not only does this span decades - 1962 to the present day - but we as the reader travel throughout Italy (Porto Vergogna, Florence, Rome) and England, and to Hollywood and to Idaho and Seattle. Add in the dynamics of a real-life couple as volatile and complicated as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and it is a rare writer indeed who can pull this off. In the hands of a much lesser talented novelist, this would be a disaster on the scale of "Cleopatra" itself. Fortunately, this is a Jess Walter Production, and he brings everything he has (and then some, and then some more) to this story, just as he did with The Financial Lives of the Poets, which I loved.

Beautiful Ruins is spectacular, a masterpiece, an Oscar contender. It will be among my top books for 2012. If you love the movies, if you love a good love story, if you don't mind a little romantic cry along with a laugh or two, if the thought of Italy makes you swoon, then Beautiful Ruins is for you too.

5 stars out of 5.




I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

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.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Menu Plan Monday


It has been forever since I've participated in Menu Plan Monday although I have been doing a better job (most weeks) of meal planning. (My friend Hillary from My Scraps inspires me.) This is hosted by one of my favorite blogs, I'm an Organizing Junkie (I hear you laughing from across the state, Mom.) You can link up there, too.

I confess, I have a little bit of a love-hate relationship with meal planning. Love how much more organized I feel during the week and how it helps me save some money at the grocery store, but I don't love how long it seems to take.

Maybe by participating more in MPM I'll conquer that for once and for all!

Monday:
Vegetarian Quesadillas from The Picky Eater
We like veggie quesadillas and this will be a new recipe for us to try. 

Tuesday:
Soup, Sandwich, and Salad Night
Not sure what kind of soup yet. Sandwiches will be wraps, as tortillas were on sale at the grocery store this weekend. (UPDATE: This wound up being Mushroom Barley Soup.)

Wednesday:
No Cream Pasta Primavera 
This depends on the amount of veggies leftover from the night before. I wanted to have something spring-like since we're having a week with temperatures hitting 75. In Pittsburgh! In October!

Thursday:
Breakfast for dinner/some kind of breakfast casserole
Eggs were on sale this week. We have 5 dozen of them! 

Friday:
Pizza Night
As per usual. 

What's on the menu at your house this week?




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, October 21, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Politics+Religion=Reading



So, with 16 days to go until we unblock our former BFFs and relatives from Facebook elect a President here in the United States, I'm betting that political books aren't too high on many people's preferred reading list right now.

Unless, of course, you happen to be a political junkie like me and a handful of my friends. (You know who you are.) If that's the case, this is our Super Bowl.

Being a political junkie in this campaign season may make you a frontrunner candidate for the book I'm currently reading, Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans by David Niose. I'm only on page 21 of this, but it is resonating with me because I can relate to the "nonbelievers" that Niose writes about.

You see, I was raised Lutheran, attended a Catholic college where I met (in a religion class) and married a guy who was raised Jewish. Many years later we had a Dedication Ceremony for our kids in a Unitarian Universalist congregation. These days? I'm not sure what I am, although I tend to default to Lutheran or UU, despite only going to church for the occasional wedding or funeral.

(Guilty much? Absolutely. Especially lately. Been doing a lot of soul-searching and self-reflection on this issue, but that's another post.)

According to Niose, there are a lot of people like me. One in five Americans are "nonbelievers," if we're counting. So, where does that leave us secular Americans in political environments like this? Who speaks for us when we're presented with a slate of candidates consisting of ultra-conservatives like Rick Santorum, when we have the first Mormon nominee for President in Mitt Romney, when people are still debating whether or not President Barack Obama is a Muslim, when Billy Graham takes out full page ads in newspapers imploring us to vote "on Biblical principles" this Election Day?

This week, I've also been listening to the audiobook of The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan. I've had the mass market paperback on my bookshelves forever and downloaded the audio a few weeks ago for my phone from the library. Believe it or not, this is the first Amy Tan book I've read - and I'm pleasantly surprised. (I don't know what I was expecting, but I like this story of complex mother-daughter relationships much more than I thought I would.)

I should also say something about another taboo subject. As you may have noticed, I decided to be a little more proactive about monetizing the blog. Almost on a whim this week, I signed up to become an Amazon.com affiliate - even though I've been thinking for quite some time about ways to try and generate some income from this little hobby of mine. I know this is a hot-button issue among bloggers and I know this won't be a lucrative venture, but hopefully it won't influence your decision whether to stick around here or not.

Speaking of which, I hope you are. It's October 21 and I'm still burning this with my Feedburner feed ... which was supposed to vanish as of yesterday. We'll see how that whole thing goes now that we're a day after The End of the World.

Or maybe that's November 7, depending on what and whom you believe.



I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thanks so much!

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, October 20, 2012

"To Immigrate is an Entrepreneurial Act": On Attending the Partnership for a New American Economy in Pittsburgh


Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl speaking at
the Partnership for a New American Economy event, 10/19/2012
photo taken by me


I'm the first to admit that mine is your fairly typical, Caucasian, suburban (this-could-be-anywhere) kind of life. Single family house on a cul-de-sac, two cars in the garage, livin' what we all thought was once the American Dream.

There is not, I'm sorry to say, much diversity in my life. (I'm working on that.)

Since moving here over a year ago, I've learned that this is a characteristic I share with my new city of Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh's working on that, too.

Yesterday I headed Downtown, where One Young World was in full gear (and you could definitely sense the Summit's energy and excitement). I was just a few hundred yards away from the OYW action at the Partnership for a New American Economy, hosted at the spectacularly gorgeous August Wilson Center by several partners including Vibrant Pittsburgh, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, and the Pittsburgh Technology Council. At the event, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl signed a pledge supporting national immigration reform.

Partnership for a New American Economy is an initiative headed by several prominent business leaders and mayors, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City. Robert Feldstein was representing Mayor Bloomberg's office at the Pittsburgh event yesterday.

Feldstein compared the immigration experience as similar to starting a business.

"To immigrate is an entrepreneurial act," he said.

That resonated with me. Deeply. At first I was confused as to why it would. After all, it has been generations since my family immigrated to this country.

But then I realized why.

I'm still trying to get better connected here in Pittsburgh. And, since being laid off in June, this is very much of a career transition time for me, of exploring new opportunities and all options. Either way, it feels extremely entrepreneurial, of forging my own way, of deciding what path is the best fit.

I was at the Partnership for a New American Economy event helping out Melanie Harrington's team from Vibrant Pittsburgh. Since August, I've been a participant in Vibrant Pittsburgh's New Arrivals Bridge Program, which aims to connect newcomers in Pittsburgh with key business, civic, and social contacts to fully embed them into the community.

The New Arrivals Bridge Program is a pilot program, now in its second year. It is probably one of the most diverse initiatives I have ever been involved with. It has led to discussions at the dinner table with my kids about the interesting people I'm meeting, the countries they hail from.

In our house, this is a good thing. Dare I go so far and say it's a needed thing.

After arriving back home from Downtown to my little suburban cul-de-sac, I was still thinking about the remarks we heard yesterday at the Partnership for a New American Economy event when Betty announced that she made a new friend at school yesterday.

"Oh, really?" I said. "What's her name?"

"Adni," she answered. "She's from India. She was sitting all by herself on the swings, so I went up to her and said hi. I told her I was the sort of person that didn't judge people."

"And what did she say to that?" I asked.

"She said, 'I can tell that about you.'"

Yeah, I think we're onto something here, Pittsburgh.


Panel discussion at The Partnership for a New American Economy event at the August Wilson Center for African-American Culture in Pittsburgh. The discussion was moderated by Robert Feldstein of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Office.

Some press coverage of the event:

Pittsburgh Mayor Ravenstahl Supports National Immigration Reform, Attraction of Foreign born Entrepreneurs to Spark Economic Growth and Job Creation - Global Pittsburgh News, 10/19/2012
http://globalpittsburgh.blogspot.com/2012/10/pittsburgh-mayor-luke-ravenstahl-today.html


Mayor calls for immigration reform, 10/19/2012
http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/2805206-74/pittsburgh-immigration-business-economy-foreign-mayor-percent-born-brightest-leaders#axzz29oDfJuXR

Ravenstahl joins national push for immigration reform - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/20/2012
http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/ravenstahl-joins-national-push-for-immigration-overhaul-658368/

Mayor Ravenstahl supports national immigration reform - 90.5 WESA Pittsburgh's NPR News Station, 10/19/2012
http://wesa.fm/2012/10/19/mayor-ravenstahl-supports-national-immigration-reform


I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

photos and text 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, October 18, 2012

extra candy for you ... and you


Extra candy at our house this Halloween for anyone and their parent/caregiver who comes to the door with one of these cards:  (click to embiggen)





I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! 

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.

Pittsburgh Welcomes One Young World


Photo taken from the One Young World Facebook page.
And yeah, even though there's supposed to be an H at the end of Pittsburgh
(sorry ... that's the editor in me), I couldn't resist using the photo. 

If you're walking around Pittsburgh today through Sunday and it feels like our city just got a little bit bigger - in the number of people, in the sense of global spirit - there's good reason for that.

It has.

Today, Pittsburgh officially welcomes more than 1,500 delegates from almost every country in the world for the One Young World summit. This is an international, four-day summit designed to bring a youthful perspective to global issues - not to mention, President Bill Clinton will be in town to give the keynote speech - and it is all being held right here in the City of Bridges!

It is a tremendous accomplishment for Pittsburgh, and as Bill Flanagan of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development writes in his article "Best of the World Welcomes One Young World," many entities made this happen.

As Bill also says, One Young World also presents an opportunity for Pittsburgh, which has struggled with issues of diversity. Partners such as the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Vibrant Pittsburgh (which I am involved in as a participant in their New Arrivals Bridge Program 2012) and Visit Pittsburgh - and more - are working diligently, creatively, and collaboratively to find solutions to these and other issues.

When I first heard that One Young World was coming to Pittsburgh, I knew I wanted to find a way to become involved. I've gained a lot from my experience so far with Vibrant Pittsburgh, so when they asked for volunteers at a related event tomorrow, I offered to help out as a small way to give back.

The good thing is that we can all be part of the spirit of global goodwill, understanding and peace during the next few days by doing the very things we as 'Burghers do best:

Smile. Be helpful if someone needs directions or assistance. Welcome a stranger. Lend a hand.

The whole world is watching.




I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

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.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Honey, I Think We're Raising a Capitalist....




Boo's class is currently reading Andrew Clements' award-winning book Frindle, and since Boo is a somewhat of a reluctant reader, I've been pleased to hear him mention it on occasion. (Truth be told, more than a few of those occasions have been when it has gone missing). Still, by all accounts, the story seems to be resonating with him.

That's no surprise, because as per the publisher's description on Amazon.com, Frindle is about a fifth grader named Nick Allen who "really just likes to liven things up at school ... and [who has] always had plenty of great ideas."

Just like a certain fifth grade boy I happen to know pretty well.
When Nick learns some interesting information about how words are created, suddenly he's got the inspiration for his best plan ever...the frindle. Who says a pen has to be called a pen? Why not call it a frindle? Things begin innocently enough as Nick gets his friends to use the new word. Then other people in town start saying frindle. Soon the school is in an uproar, and Nick has become a local hero. His teacher wants Nick to put an end to all this nonsense, but the funny thing is frindle doesn't belong to Nick anymore. The new word is spreading across the country, and there's nothing Nick can do to stop it.
Oh, yeah, I can absolutely see how this would appeal to Boo, who has made no secret that one of his life's ambitions is "to be famous."

I haven't read Frindle, but someone other than Nick Allen profits from Nick's invention of this newfangled word - and this is perfectly fine with my little Alex P. Keaton.

Hence, then, my boy's homework. (Click to embiggen.)







I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

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, October 14, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Read-a-Thon Wrap Up


I've written about them before, but we're incredibly lucky to have the group of friends that we do. The amazing thing is, I wouldn't know these people at all if I didn't know The Husband. They're originally his friends from grade school; the first day of kindergarten in 1975, in one case.

Yesterday two of The Friends drove nearly six hours from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh for one night just to hang out with us, eat some hoagies, watch the Yankees-Tigers game (oh, Derek ...), and just provide some distraction (and some laughs) from our life these days.

We are - as always - grateful beyond words.


That meant that my participation in the Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon was more limited than usual, but that's okay. While waiting for The Friends to arrive, I managed to read a total of 60 pages in my current book, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.

I also spent some time cheerleading for other Read-a-Thoners via Twitter. Although I wasn't much of a participant in this Read-a-Thon, (and I don't even think I got to everyone I was supposed to), I hung out on the Twitter more this time than ever before - and I liked it. However, I don't know how much I would have Tweeted if I had been more of a reader, though.

While we were watching the Yankees game, I did explain my frequent attachment to my phone as being part of a 24 Hour Read-a-Thon - and the good-natured consensus was that this was the epitome of geekiness.

(I can take it. I've been called much worse things than a book geek. I'll wear that moniker proudly.)



I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you!

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.

Weekend Cooking: Listening to My Mother



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, beer, wine, photographs. 

One of my favorite food blogs is Smitten Kitchen, even if I don't always read it as frequently as I'd like. Thus, one of the cookbooks I'm looking forward to this fall is the soon-to-be published The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, of Deb Perelman's blog of the same name.

As it turns out, my mother is also a fan of Smitten Kitchen.

So when Mother emails and suggests that you write a Weekend Cooking blog post with a link to The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook - so she can order it for you as a Christmas present (and one for herself) and also give you the little Amazon Affiliate commission at the same time - you do as you're told.

Thank you, Mom. Love you.





I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! 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, October 13, 2012

in which i briefly (and gladly) interrupt my political punditry for dewey's 24 hour readathon



Holy crap on toast, people, can't we all just try to get along? It has been a long week, what with surly Internet emoticons flying about Vice Presidential candidates (#TeamBiden) and sports teams (Go Yankees!). My Facebook stream has seen uteruses compared to houses and perfectly respectable people compared to H*tler (and this was all just yesterday afternoon). Methinks it is time to step back, take a breath, and CHILL OUT for a weekend.

That said, what better time for Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon, right? THE WHOLE COUNTRY could use a Read-a-thon about now, amiright? (With assigned reading material for some, I might add. Oh, sorry, I'm slipping back into political punditry mode. It happens.)

I'm going to be less of a Read-a-Thon participant this time around because we have friends from Philly arriving mid-afternoon to (as per Betty and Boo) "hang out with Daddy and help his cancer feel better."  Hence, I don't have my usual stack of books lined up (so, no photos to show you) and I probably won't be participating in too many mini-challenges. When I can, I'll be reading and trying to fulfill my cheerleading obligations. (I think I only signed up for 2-3 hours, so that should still be doable.)

As we head into Hour 4, I spent some time on Twitter this morning chatting with various Read-a-Thoners and I set up a spreadsheet to keep myself somewhat on track. I tried turning off my word verification and all that other crap that I use to try to keep the nonsense out of the blog, but I was deluged with spam immediately and I'm sorry, guys, but I don't have the time or patience for that shit, so I had to turn it back on.    If that prevents you from leaving me a comment, I understand. No biggie.

OK. Time to read. I'm kicking this Read-a-thon off with my current read, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. I'm on page 123.




Let's do this, kids. Happy Read-a-Thon Day!



I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! 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, October 12, 2012

Deliver Us From Evil


"My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I beseech thee, smite this snot-nosed intern to my left. In his name we pray, Amen!" 

(h/t to The Husband for his contribution of the photo caption to the blog fodder this morning.)





I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! 

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, October 11, 2012

Book Review: America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines, by Gail Collins

America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines
by Gail Collins
Harper Perennial
2003
556 pages

This book has been sitting on my bookshelves forever. (Well, maybe two years. I think I bought it with a very generous gift certificate given to me as a goodbye present from a job I left in 2010.) So when I found myself in a discussion with The Husband about books that would be good patriotic reads, I made myself a resolution to read this sooner rather than later.

And, dare I say, I'm quite glad I did - and since today is International Day of the Girl (and since you know that women and girls' issues are something I care deeply about), today is a perfect day to share this one with you.

As the title promises, Collins truly does pack 400 years of American women's history into what is a chunkster of a book. Make no mistake, though: this is no dry textbook. Collins presents a comprehensive and thorough view of American women's history in a way that is incredibly informative, engaging, shocking, and entertaining. At some points, I couldn't put this down.

Beginning with the very first settlers at Jamestown, Collins traces the history and the stories of strong, formidable women through an ever-changing America during the Revolutionary War, slavery, pre-and post-Civil War, the pioneer days, the Gilded Age, the Depression. There are the names from the history books: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Elizabeth Blackwell, Carrie Nation, Annie Oakley, Margaret Sanger and countless others - but whose individual stories and accomplishments we may not have ever quite completely learned or fully remember. Collins brings all of them - the dolls, drudges, helpmates, and heroines all back to life on these pages for her reader. (The title comes from a Susan B. Anthony quote: "When I was young if a girl married poor, she became a housekeeper and a drudge. If she married wealthy, she became a pet and a doll.")

What I found especially interesting were the stories of the women who went unmentioned in the history books - the women we've never heard of. (Or at least I hadn't.) As just one example, in Chapter 8 ("Women and Abolition: White and Black, North and South") we meet Angelina and Sarah Grimke, sisters and abolitionists from Charleston, South Carolina. 

I'm far from an expert in women's history, but I've never heard of these two - and I'm betting a lot of people haven't either. Yet, they were in many ways so much ahead of their time (but so necessary for theirs).

America's Women also gives the reader an inside look into women's lives throughout each of the centuries, almost as if one was there churning the butter or sitting in the sewing room. It's fascinating to see how life changed through the Revolutionary War and into the pre-Civil War years and post-slavery. Through her extensive research, Collins covers and presents all aspects of women's lives - the homefront and the daily chores, women's health (these sections are not for the faint-of-heart), popular literature, culture, fashion, and customs. Again, we "know" these things from our history books or perhaps from movies or other books. American Women does the reader a great service by encapsulating in one volume the vast history of this time period.

In many cases, I wanted to know more about these women. That's not a criticism of the book itself, because  especially with the histories of the women from the 1600s, what we know from that time is somewhat limited.  

Fortunately, what we do know is all here in America's Women. This is highly recommended for ... well, really anybody who cares about American history. I think every American should read this. Even if you have just a passing interest in women's studies, America's Women is incredibly worthwhile and a highly recommended read. 





     I am an Amazon.com affiliate. Making a purchase through any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo.


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.

Monday, October 8, 2012

tunnels and mountains


"There's a room of shadows that gets so dark, brother
It's easy for two people to lose each other in this tunnel of love
It ought to be easy, ought to be simple enough
Man meets woman and they fall in love
But the house is haunted and the ride gets rough
And you've got to learn to live with what you can't rise above 
If you want to ride on down in through this tunnel of love...."

"Home could be the Pennsylvania Turnpike...."

For Boo, one of the highlights of our Pittsburgh-Philadelphia trips is counting the tunnels on the turnpike. There are, for those who are uninitiated to driving either way on this 359 mile stretch, four tunnels that one must traverse to blast through obstacles in one's way.

Allegheny Mountain.

Tuscarora Mountain.

Kittatinny Mountain.

Blue Mountain.

Boo loves going through these tunnels. If he's awake, he makes a grand announcement each time.

He's fascinated with the idea that we're actually driving through a mountain. (Which, admittedly, is kind of cool.)

On our last trip to Philly (just a month ago) he was full of questions about the tunnels. He thought it was amazing that someone (actually, many someones) blasted their way through the mountain to make our path easier.

He was full of questions.

How long did it take to make the tunnel, Daddy?

I don't know, bud. Probably a couple of years.

Did it take a lot of people to help?

Oh, yeah, absolutely, I bet it did. A lot of strong people.

What would have happened if they didn't build the tunnel? Would we still have been able to get home?

Sure. But it would have taken much, much longer. We would have had to go all the way up and around the mountain. 

I listened to this as I drove us through the tunnels, through the mountains. Through this talk of tunnels, I was thinking of tunnels of a different kind - MRIs, CT scans.

A month ago we could see the tunnels and mountains in the distance that are in front of us now. It helps to remember that a lot of strong people ahead of us forged paths through medical research and technology and science to allow people like us coming afterwards to blast through and come out onto the other side.

We talk about The Husband's Stage I thyroid cancer as being in stages itself. The biopsy was one stage of this process. The surgery will be the next. The recovery and then the iodine radioactive therapy, the next two stages.

Tunnels and mountains.

But here's the thing about the tunnels along the Pennsylvania Turnpike that we travel so often between the home of our birth and the home we're making now:

They're not dark. There are lights inside those tunnels, guiding the way.

Just like the people who blasted their way through however many years ago.

Just like the people who are helping us to find our way through now.

photo taken by me at the Delaware State Fair, 7/31/2010. 



     I am an Amazon.com affiliate. Making a purchase through any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo.


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, October 7, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Week in Review




Outside my window: It's a cloudy day with a chill in the air. After a string of gorgeous, summer-like days this week, fall has definitely arrived here in Pittsburgh.

I am watching: The Eagles vs. Steelers game on the TV. (I'm rooting for the Steegles. This is my favorite Sunday in the NFL regular season, but my loyalties are divided. I love my new city and I love the Steelers, but I'm a Philly girl at heart - always will be - and can't give up my Iggles.)

I am reading: THIS!  And it's magnificent. All the lovely reviews about this one are exactly right. You know how much I adored Jess Walter's  The Financial Lives of the Poets, and Beautiful Ruins is living up to my expectations. If you love the movies, if you love a good love story, if you like a little escapism, this is a great story. (At least at the page 73 mark.)



This week, I finished reading: THIS. I wrote a little bit last week about my initial personal ambivalence toward Tell the Wolves I'm Home, and I'm happy to say those thoughts were dispelled by the end of the novel. I really enjoyed this, so very much. Yes, there are some similarities with my own novel. I expected that. But there are also differences and in the end, I'm really glad I read this - and that Carol Rifka Brunt wrote it. As I said to one of my writing group friends, I think it is okay that similar stories exist. What reaches and touches one person may be different for another.



On the Blog: This week I highlighted some of my past reviews of banned books. I also wrote about a memorable encounter in the doctor's waiting room.

Around the Book Blogosphere: People are gearing up for the 24-Hour Readathon this weekend.

I am thinking: That I won't be able to participate in said Readathon as much as I had anticipated. I'm okay with that, though, because we're having some surprise (and very welcome) visitors over on Saturday afternoon and evening. A few friends are making a visit to the 'Burgh! I'm so excited about this.

I am grateful for: A hell of a lot. Most especially, that The Husband's cancer has a good prognosis and that it is not further advanced.

Around the house: I'm decluttering.

In the kitchen: I have Pasta e Fagioli soup simmering in the crockpot. That's dinner, along with vegetarian meatball sandwiches.

High of the Week: A package in the mail from The Husband's sister, an interview this coming week, supportive emails from the kids' teachers, and some welcome news on the financial front from the IRS. (Yeah ... that IRS!)

Low of the Week: The anticipation of telling the kids that The Husband has thyroid cancer. (They took the  news really well. Kids are so resilient.)

Family Matters: In a lot of ways, life goes on as per usual for now - at least until The Husband's surgery on November 1 - but our world is pretty rocked by the cancer news these days. If that makes sense.

The coming week: Looking forward to writer's group on Tuesday evening and the visit from the friends next  weekend.

Words of Wisdom: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." ~ John Lennon

"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." ~ Randy Pausch


     I am an Amazon.com affiliate. Making a purchase through any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo.

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, October 5, 2012

Banned Books Week: The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini


This week is Banned Books Week, which also marks its 30th anniversary this year. Many book bloggers are using this week to feature special posts about censorship, to highlight authors whose works have been challenged, and to read books that have been banned.

I thought I would commemorate this week by providing a review or reflection each day of a book that is frequently banned or challenged. Yes, according to the list at the end of this post, I read banned books - and I'm betting you do the same. (Or, hopefully, will want to during this week.) Today I'm highlighting The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, with a review originally posted here on March 10, 2010.


The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
2003

"A man who has no conscience, no goodness, does not suffer." (pg. 301)

No matter how much we try to ignore, bury, or forget our past, it is always with us - as well as the burden of guilt that often accompanies the actions we'd prefer to forget, until we can forgive ourselves. Such is the premise of The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini's powerful bestselling first novel.

The Kite Runner is a heartwrenching story about friendship and family, about loyalty and guilt. It is the story of two boys, Amir and Hassan, growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan. Amir is the son of a wealthy man and lives a comfortable life; Hassan and his father work as servants in Amir's home. Amir's mother died during childbirth; Hassan never knew his mother, as she left him and his father when he was very young.

All they have is each other, and what seems to be - until one fateful, life-changing day - an idyllic childhood, even in Afghanistan.

Initially, I wasn't as captivated by The Kite Runner as I was with A Thousand Splendid Suns, which I also listened to via audio. Several times I found myself thinking, "this is what all the hype was about?" Make no mistake: Khaled Hosseini is a truly talented writer, and this is a powerful story - but unlike Suns, the first half of The Kite Runner didn't have me in its grip from the get-go.

That changed in the latter portion of the book. There comes a point in the story (and those who have read it know when that is) when the action steps up pace considerably, and you're on the edge of your seat wondering what happens. Hosseini gives his reader a believable story, and it is one that in lesser skilled hands could fall prone to the tendency to be tied up neatly and perfectly.

That's not this story, and it is even more stronger for it. For if the ending was different would have been a disservice to the character of Amir and minimized his struggles.

It's hard to say much more about The Kite Runner without giving any spoilers away. Despite my initial misgivings, in my opinion it has earned the many accolades it has garnered.

One amusing note: I listened to this on audio, but I also have a printed copy (yay, one book from Mt. TBR read!). In the back of my copy, there's an ad announcing that Khaled Hosseini's next book about Afghanistan "Driving in Titanic City," will be published in summer 2006. I never knew that was the original title for A Thousand Splendid Suns (a much better choice, in my opinion).




    I am an Amazon.com affiliate. Making a purchase through any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo.


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, October 4, 2012

Love, In Theory, Ten Stories by E.J. Levy

Love, In Theory: Ten Stories
by E.J. Levy
University of Georgia Press
2012
209 pages 

All I needed to hear was that E.J. Levy's debut collection of short stories won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, and I was immediately sold.

Absolutely, I said to Trish of TLC Book Tours. You may definitely send a review copy my way.

You see, I'm rather selective these days about accepting books for review. But any collection that is worthy of comparison to Flannery O'Connor (whose writing I love) is one that I am interested in reading.

Love, In Theory lived up to that promise. I would compare Ms. Levy's style in these stories more to Lorrie Moore - who is also among my favorite writers - but that's no matter. With the exception of two stories that didn't quite grab me, these were really, really good. And maybe it was just me, but it somehow seemed that the stories got better as the collection progressed.

As the title promises, the theme of these ten stories involve "a smart and modern take on love" (as the book jacket accurately states). Also from the book jacket, a description of the stories:
A disheartened English professor's life changes when she goes rock climbing and falls for an outdoorsman. A gay oncologist attending his sister's second wedding ponders dark matter in the universe and the ties that bind us. Three psychiatric patients, each convinced that he is Christ, give rise to a love affair in a small Minnesota town. A Brooklyn woman is thrown out of an ashram for choosing earthly love over enlightenment. A lesbian student of film learns theories of dramatic action the hard way - by falling for a married male professor. Incorporating theories from physics to film to philosophy, from Rational Choice Theory to Thorstein Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class, these stories movingly explore the heart and mind - shooting Cupid's arrow toward a target that may never be reached. 
Love, In Theory would be a good collection of short stories for those who are usually reluctant to read short stories. Also, I feel like I say this in every review of a short story collection that I love, but I'll say it again: I think short stories are a great introduction to a new author's work and in this case, I hope we see much more of E.J. Levy's writing. She is a talent to watch.

E.J. Levy's website is here.










See what other bloggers on the Love, In Theory tour had to say (with apologies to E.J. Levy, TLC Book Tours, and to my fellow Pittsburgh Blogger girlfriend Tiffany over at Tiffany's Bookshelf for encroaching on your review date for this. I'm not in the right frame of mind lately and completely forgot to post this yesterday.)




Thank you to TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy of Love, In Theory in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any other way except for a copy of the book.




    I am an Amazon.com affiliate. Making a purchase through any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo.


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.