Books read in June

Ah, school (my class) has ended and school (the school year part of my job) has ended. Plus, I went on vacation. This bodes well for the book reading this month.

How to change your life by doing absolutely nothing
Karen Salmansohn
A good book for people who need to boost their quota of “books read” as it takes about 20 minutes to read it from cover to cover. A good book also for people looking to add meditation into their life without a lot of effort. The 10 do-nothing relaxation exercises are: 1)Wake up and smell the coffee; 2) Shower power; 3) Mellow Yellow; 4) Like attracts like, glee attracts glee; 5) Hear the beat to beat the blues; 6) Listen to sounds for a sounder mind; 7)Smells like relaxation 8)Thought for food; 9) Strong mind; strong body; 10) Wake up your senses before bedtime. What does all that mean? Spend the 20 minutes and read it for yourself to find out.

Committed to memory: 100 best poems to memorize
John Hollander, Ed.
My poetry project has me reading more poems; I need to read poetry to know what I want to memorize. This has some great suggestions, including “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus. Most people only know the final few lines of this sonnet: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddle masses yearning to breathe free.” It also includes “Casey at the Bat” and other gems, as well as some more obscure ones.

A walk in the woods
Bill Bryson
Having read Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and several times laughed until I cried. And having read that this book was incredibly funny, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. It was amusing and I enjoyed reading it, to be sure, but it wasn’t quite as funny as I expected. Funny, yes, which means I smiled to myself while reading. Hilarious, no. That would require me to laugh out loud, or stifle my laughter while on the train. So, ultimately: good book, failed due to too high expectations. Ratchet yours down and you will probably enjoy it.

Little House in the Big Woods
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Growing up, I was first read this series by my mother, and then read it myself as my reading skills grew. Every summer I would read the series, forward or backwards. Backwards was fun because Mary would suddenly regain her sight. Now that I’m trying to cook more with traditional foods/methods, I reread this for some tips. This book in particular is a very good do-it-yourself guide. Do you want to make hominy? The recipe is there. How about braiding hats from straw? Some basic instructions are included. Smoking meat? Yep. How to use the different parts of a slaughtered pig? You got it. Churning butter. Right there. Now I see this not only as a classic, but a reference for country living.

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
Gregory Maguire
I have a sneaking suspicion I either read this before, or at least started it back in the late 90s. I finished it, but I wasn’t in love with this book. I never really fell for the characters and Maguire himself seemed to hold them at arms length. The setting was interesting, but I think that I kept comparing this to Wicked, which I loved. I think the difference was that Wicked’s Oz setting was quite magical, but this book’s setting was historically interesting, but not enchanting.

City of Ember
Jeanne DuPrau
I really loved this book, much more than the movie, which was surprising because I really loved the movie. The book has less drama than the movie, but in the book Doon and Lina work together to find their way to the city of light. Adults aren’t really present. This is, of course, how teenagers see the world. It makes sense that in the movie there would be more adult involvement, to draw more audiences, interest adults more etc., but I preferred this story.

Also, the book gives an explanation of how the City of Ember came to be. I found it incredibly sad, but it answered a lot of questions I had, both while reading the book and watching the movie.

College Girl
Patricia Weitz
The end of the school year is nearing (finally) and to reward myself, I stopped by the library after work, grabbed this book and read it in one sitting. I even stayed up late on a school night to finish it! Delightful! Like the main character, I transferred to a large state university that was big on basketball and like this main character, I had trouble making friends and made a few bad choices. Finding a novel which parallels your life is fun, and I enjoyed reading this.

The Devil Wears Prada
Lauren Weisberger
My book theme for my trip was “Books that I first encountered as movies” which turned out to be an enjoyable way to spend spare moments in my vacation. This was the first read and I really enjoyed it. Reading it, I could envision the Hollywood people saying, “This part totally needs to go… and can we add some illicit sex?” Much like Gone With the Wind, I liked the story for the better plot line and the movie so I could see the clothing.

In Her Shoes
Jennifer Weiner
This was also a book that was adapted well into movie form. Reading the book, you get pretty much the movie, but with extra scenes, including Maggie’s time living secretly at college. This book also has a warm spot in my heart because it includes the power that books have to change people’s lives. I’d not read anything by Jennifer Weiner before, but I will read more of her.

Started but did not finish
Goodnight, Nebraska
Tom McNeal
I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I had this book on my to-read list. The cover looked familiar, but I couldn’t place it. I read to about page 100, and then one line caught my attention. I had read this before! After that one line, the plot came tumbling back and I decided not to keep reading. It’s a good book and well written, but sadder than I wanted to experience. It turned out that I had requested this book from the library because the author wrote the short story that the movie Tully was based on.

The Poem I Turn to
Jason Shinder, ed.
Famous people pick out their favorite poem and some of them read them for you on an enclosed CD. I got this for ideas for my poetry project and found some good candidates. Also, someone chose the poem I am memorizing this month as their favorite poem. So that was fun.

Speaking to the Heart: Favorite Poems
Wendy Beckett
I was interested to see what kind of poems an Art Historian nun enjoys. Now I know.

10 Weeds You Can Eat!
Urban Edibles
Part of my plan to learn about food I can forage for, this tiny zine is Portland specific, clearly illustrated and shows you, as you may have guessed, 10 weeds you can eat. I haven’t gone out foraging yet, but I’m moving in that direction.

Did not even start

I’ve not been bringing home extraneous books lately. Good job me.

29 June. Five pictures from my Washington DC trip.

My day started with an aborted attempt to visit my Aunt Merle via car (Jenna’s.) The combination of “not my car,” “not my city,” “rush hour traffic” overwhelmed me and I returned home about 30 minutes after I set out. I’d gone maybe a quarter of a mile. After recovering from that event, I shifted to a “From the White House to Foggy Bottom” walk.

My first stop was the DAR Museum. They have these awesome period rooms which were incredibly fun and which I have no picture of because I’m on a picture budget, here. I had a great docent, and I loved the whole concept of each state decorating a room–it reminded me of the suites at Cottey.

I was starving after the tour, and I asked the volunteer in the gift shop if there was anywhere to eat, as sometimes in tourist areas the choices are really expensive pretzels, pizza and ice cream bars, or a hideously overpriced restaurant with bland food. The volunteer directed me across the street to the Red Cross headquarters where I ate in their employee cafeteria. The food was cheap and delicious and I was thrilled I asked.
I then went looking for the Zero Milestone. I was almost as excited to see it as I was to see the period rooms. But it seems that people think that the zero milestone is there to place things as they take pictures of the White House. This amused and annoyed me, simultaneously.
I wandered through the Renwick Gallery, and the other side of the White House, where I loved Larry’s Fuente’s Game Fish, mostly because the fins were made out of the exact same comb I’ve been using since childhood. There was a fabulous piece that was a carved cabinet, which they don’t mention on their website, but I loved.

After the Renwick, I wandered past the other side of the White House and into the visitor’s center, before walking down to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. I broke my rule of only going to places I hadn’t been before, but I justified this visit because they have just done a huge renovation, and so it was new to me.

I saw some good exhibits, “Within These Walls” was very interesting, and I loved visiting Julia Child’s kitchen. In a past boring job, with ample time on my hands, I read the entire Julie/Julia project blog and I love Julia Child’s enthusiasm. My favorite part of this exhibit was the TV they had playing with snippets of Julia Child’s cooking shows. People would just sit and watch her for the longest time. Young people, old people. It was a testament to her charisma.
On my way home, I ducked into this place for dinner. I had the best Greek salad I’ve ever eaten and the owner was nice to chat with too. Also, a blue Lamborghini parked on the street near where I was sitting and it caused a bit of commotion: Random guy walking down the street talking on his cell phone, “and so I…Hey! It’s a Lamborghini! A blue one!” He took pictures, other passersby took pictures. It was an event. But the DC cafe? The best Greek Salad I’ve ever had. Remember that.

The trains were not running up to speed for most of my visit. They were still dealing with the aftermath from the big crash in June and so trains were late, or absent. Here is my photo montage of my choice to wait for the next train.

29 June 2008. A picture from the Hungary/Romania trip.

On this day we attended church, where Dana gave a short sermon/talk, and we sat through all the Hungarian, (which was interesting, don’t get me wrong) then had a very delicious lunch at the church which included handmade donuts! Afterward, the group split up, some going to the Terrorhaza (museum of the secret police) with their hosts, while I went with the Beres family to an OMSI-like museum.

The two groups met at the church, and all of us from Oregon went on one of those sightseeing tour buses. This was great fun, as we had headphones and could scroll through the various languages, however, my camera died right after I took this picture from the castle grounds.

After our tour, we rejoined our host families and for dinner we had Italian food in the garden. It was lovely.

28 June. Five pictures from my Washington DC trip.

Also known as the “wander” day.

I started with church at All Soul’s Church, Unitarian, in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. I walked there from Jenna’s place and enjoyed seeing the urban setting. Adams Morgan reminded me of Boston, a bit.

Church was great. Their choir was small (perhaps a summer choir) and had the most amazing cantor. I connected with the sermon, At Theodore Parker’s Grave, in which the minister “outed” himself as a Unitarian nerd. You can listen to it by going here and scrolling down to June 28.
After church I wandered down to the start of my walking tour through DuPont Circle and Kalorama. On the way I discovered this Adams Morgan Heritage Trail, which I followed for a bit. I wish I would have known about these Heritage Trails in the planning stage. I would have made a point to follow them. There are nine of them! For those who are planning trip to DC, you can find the information here.
On that trail, I saw this spot. You may not recognize it right off, but what if I said “March 30, 1981?” How about “Washington Hilton?” What if I said “John Hinckley?”
Did you get it? It is the site of the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan!

I had some time to kill, before I went on the Textile Museum’s tour, so I spent it in this park, reading. That was a nice respite.
There are tons of huge houses in this area. Most are embassies, but you could purchase this one for me, if you would like.

Also on this day, I visited the Phillips Collection and Jenna and I went out to dinner at the Brickskeller Inn, where they have a multi-paged beer menu.

28 June 2008. A picture from the Hungary/Romania trip.

We did a lot this day: trip to Tata, delicious lunch, nap for the jet lagged traveler, tour of the city, tour of the Palace grounds by night. I put up a lot of pictures from the day last year, so it wasn’t so terribly hard to choose this one.

I. Love. Hungarian. Food. I could happily eat it for the rest of my life. I like cabbage, I like sausage, I love goulash, I love saucy things with various forms of meat on noodles. I like pork. Their food is delicious and was a highlight of my trip.

27 June. Five pictures from my Washington DC trip.

Eastern Market, Congressional Cemetery & Smithsonian Folk life Festival

Jenna (my roommate from the Electric Ave. house in Somerville) picked me up at the airport, drove me to her place in DC, set up a very comfortable inflatable mattress and went out to purchase my breakfast items the next morning. What a host.

After breakfast was taken care of, we set out for Eastern Market. The market had just reopened after a renovation due to fire, and was very crowded. We wandered through the flea market where I bought an awesome photo. I would like to buy more photos from this vendor, but there is no information along with the photo about how to do so. Also, the photographer’s signature is not legible. I just searched through all of the Eastern Market vendors listed on the website, and can’t find this one. The first name looks like it starts with an “M” and the last name an “R”. Maybe someday I will figure it out, but until then, I will have to remain content with the photo I have.

Jenna and I ran into her sweetheart Gus (proving that the biggest city is a small town,) and the three of us went to lunch. Afterward, we walked to Congressional Cemetery.

There seem to be a lot of cemetery references on the blog, lately, but what can I say? They are just such cool places. Some highlights:

Cenotaphs. When members of congress died in Washington DC they were buried here, or transported elsewhere and memorialized here. Back in high school, my friend Heather and I were big fans of Henry Clay. We thought he should have been president. So it was pretty exciting to see his cenotaph. This design was used until 1870, when the practice was discontinued.

I love the sculpture of this marker.

Tom “Gator” Swann isn’t dead yet, but he wants you to know he is a proud gay veteran.

This was my favorite grave. You can’t see it very well in this picture, but this says:
Look it up!

Just for fun, I just googled her name and came up with the woman herself. How exciting.

After the cemetery, Jenna and I bid adieu to Gus and wandered through Wales at the Smithsonian Folklife festival. We saw this famous Welsh cook show us how to make vegetarian sausage. She was quite funny and the food looked delicious. She was not allowed to let the audience taste the food, a fact which she lamented several times.
Having our fill of Wales, we went back to Jenna’s where we cooked an amazing dinner and hung out in the rooftop garden.

It was a lovely day.

27 June 2008 A picture from the Hungary/Romania trip.

June 27 was that weird, arriving super jet-lagged day. There aren’t really pictures from that day. So this is today’s picture.
I’m not a world traveler. Before I went on the Hungary/Romania trip in 2005 the only foreign country I had visited was Canada. (Lovely place, by the way.) So for me, one of the most interesting things about traveling is to see what is different from my own home, especially familiar things. When I lived in South Boston, two friends from Idaho visited me and one of them was delighted to come with me to the grocery store because she was interested in the different brands/prices/displays. We had a grand time comparing and contrasting. Similarly, when my Aunts and I visited Lanai, Hawaii, one of my favorite things was visiting the cemetery. The grave decorations were very different from any cemetery I’ve ever visited.

So toilets. I hadn’t ever thought that they might not be the exact same as the porcelain thrones we use here in the USA. Of course, I had heard tales of holes that you squatted above, and not-good plumbing and such, but I figured any culture that had a plumbing setup similar to the US would have the exact same toilets.

But they are different in Hungary and, I have to say, I like the design better. As the picture above shows, the hole in which everything exits the bowl is in the front of the bowl, not in the rear like our setup. Also, note that there is only a tiny bit of water in the toilet bowl itself. This eliminates the whole splash back thing that I think everyone probably experiences and no one talks about. Then, when you flush the toilet, man what a reaction! All the water in the tank comes rushing down with a very loud noise, and whoosh! everything is gone.

So toilets. Different. Better. I could write a whole different section about light switches (square, large toggle) but I’m staying true to my one picture per day.

26 June. Five Pictures from my Washington DC trip.

The plus of digital cameras is that you can take as many pictures as you would like. The minus is that you come home from a vacation with 700+ pictures that you then have to decide what to do with. In these blog posts of my trip to Washington DC, I am hearkening back to an era when six rolls of film seemed a bit excessive for a seven day trip. I am limiting my pictures to five per day. So we begin.

The first day of the trip. The day of travel. Not much to look at here, in fact, the act of getting to my destination was so boring I only have four pictures.

I spent a lot of time in the Detroit airport. My layover was so long that my flight wasn’t even posted on the board when I wandered up to my gate. So I walked the entire length of the terminal. Ostensibly, I was looking for the best place to buy food, seeing as how the airlines can’t be bothered to feed you anymore, but really I was killing time. The time-killing allowed time for pictures, so all of today’s selections are of the Detroit airport.

One of my favorite games to play in airports, is “beat the person walking on the people movers.” Basically you go somewhere with a people mover, you let an unsuspecting person in front of you get onto the people mover and then you walk alongside the people mover, attempting to reach the end of your non-moving sidewalk before the other person reaches the end of their moving sidewalk. Let me tell you, it isn’t very hard to beat people. People spending time in airports are generally very. slow. walkers. Because I had ample time to play this game, I let some of them get a very big start. But I almost always beat them. People who don’t walk, but stand on people movers? I could probably do cartwheels down the terminal and still beat them.

The Detroit airport isn’t super memorable, but this fountain was nice. Also note that if you don’t want to walk the whole length of the terminal, you can take the shiny red train from one end to another. As someone whose gate is always at the exact end of the terminal from which I am currently standing, I can say this train is a very good idea.
A fun surprise as I sat next to the fountain were these rocks. They were in a planter, and I first thought they were intentionally written on, but I realized later that the whole thing most likely happened organically. Someone with a Sharpie wrote something on a rock and someone else followed suit. Most of the things seemed to be of the advice type and it was fun to see the different languages represented.

If you are a pressed penny collector, the Detroit airport is for you! Washington DC? Not so much, as it turns out. Detroit had three different pressed penny machines–the good kind, where you get to turn the crank yourself. I didn’t have enough change to get one at every machine, but I’m happy with my “Model T” and “Motor City” designs.

Thus concludes the first day of vacation.

26 June 2008 A picture from the Hungary/Romania trip.

I never got the blog posts done last year for the trip to Hungary and Romania I took with the YRUU youth last year. So this year, I am posting one picture from each day of the trip. It isn’t the full travelogue, but it is better than nothing. Pictures might be a spectacular photo, or a not-so-spectacular one that encapsulates one aspect of the trip for me.

Today’s selection:

We flew out on June 26 and arrived in Budapest sometime on June 27? I don’t know, the length of travel time, plus the time zone change has me confused. So this picture isn’t really from June 26, but it was kind of like June 26 because we had magically crossed many time zones over many hours. At any rate, upon arrival, we were tired. We were so tired that Eric and Christine fell asleep on the bus from the airport to the church. I was so tired that when I met my host family, and they asked me what I wanted to do, my answer was, “Eat and then sleep.” Because they were such a gracious host family, we did exactly that.