Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reading List

Parker and I read every night before she goes to bed.  It started with her trying to win the reading contest at school - while she didn't win, it was a great motivator to actually read books.  I love to read and I love our time spent together every evening.  Here's a list of a few of my favorites from the last few months:

The first book I read by Dave Eggers started my collection of his writing.  I can't get enough of him!  After I finish a Dave Eggers book, and before I go on to another, I make myself read two other authors so I don't blow through all of his books in a week…For me, reading Dave Eggers has been the language I've been searching for but could never articulate myself.  You Shall Know Our Velocity has become my favorite book.  It trumped The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.  I read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (my second favorite book) two books after I finished You Shall Know Our Velocity and then I broke my rule and read Zeitoun right after that.  I'm currently reading The Wild Things.

My in between Dave Eggers books have mostly been good as well.  I read Winged Obsession - a book about the world's most notorious butterfly smuggler (for real, there's a notorious butterfly smuggler!).  While I felt the writing was a little elementary, the story was good…worth reading. 

Revolution, by Deb Olin Unferth is great.  Funny and right on.  I felt like it captured the spirit of my own young, naively informed but very important to who I am now revolutionary aspirations of my early 20's (though, without the whole part about living in Nicaragua).   

Enough About Love, by Herve Le Teller is good.  It's a beach read (though I read it in Pittsburgh).  Your life will not be changed, but you may enjoy the stories.  Love stories.  Not grocery store romance stuff…nicely developed characters, interacting, along with (or without) love.

White Tiger has been my in between to all my other in between books for the last 2 years.  It's been beside my bed for that long!  I always have a book or two that I am in the process of reading for when I'm in between other books…I finished it 2 weeks ago.  It's a great book.  I picked it up because it won The Booker Prize - and the last book I had read that won the Booker Prize, I read several years ago while I was in Italy and loved…The Life of Pi.  White Tiger is gruesome in parts….I don't have a steel stomach when it comes to gruesomeness…so it took me a little longer to read.  Gruesome is the wrong word…it was vivid in parts.  Eloquent, political, social, funny, scary and important.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is a beautiful book.  It has taken me 100 years to read.  It is always by my bed.  I read a few pages a week.  I am not finished with it yet. 

I'm currently also reading The House on Mango Street.  I started it yesterday afternoon and have almost finished it.  The introduction to this edition, written by Cisneros and dedicated to her mother, reminded me of my very dear friend who recently lost his mum.  It set a very special tone of reading for me.  The book is perfect.  I picked it up thinking I would have Parker read it…but, I think I may wait a few years.  I don't want her to be ready for it yet. 

Oh! And, As Always Julia!  I've just read a few pages of's been my sitting on the front porch with a cocktail reading.  Perhaps one day I will correspond with friends in the eloquent manner in which Avis and Julia did.  I just received a lovely handwritten letter from a friend in the mail (a sweet thank you for a cocktail party we had a few months ago) and it reminded me of how nice it is to get real an envelope...with a stamp on it...delivered by the mail carrier.

What have you been reading?  Do you often have several books going at once?  I'm always looking for my next good read.

Friday, June 17, 2011


School is out and summer has begun.  This is the first year in several years that Parker will not be going to summer camp…she's super bummed, but I'm trying to make her summer the best summer ever (as though I can top wilderness camp in Vermont on an idyllic lake with a bunch of giggling girls).  I've changed my schedule to be working from 6am-1pm daily, opening up the rest of the day for making and doing and swimming and playing.  We're also planning to do a bit of traveling, visiting of friends and seeing the ocean!  This was our first week of the new schedule and we've done quite a lot already!  Swimming, relaxing by the lake, renting those dorky water bicycles (they were super fun!), cooking, planting a garden, biking (on land with real bikes…not dorky), more swimming..more cooking.  

Parker has planted a pretty impressive container garden and her basil plants have been growing like crazy, giving us an abundance of flavor to add to every meal.  A few days ago we made pesto.  We followed Alice's recipe and method of using a mortar and pestle rather than a food processor (my mom gave me this one a few years ago)…it was a satisfying way to make pesto.  Parker loved it and has made us a few fantastic dinners with it (fresh locally made pasta from our farm share, with her pesto and grilled chicken and shiitake mushrooms..yum…and grilled goat cheese and pesto sandwiches for lunch the next day..double yum).  If you have hearty basil plants, you should make some pesto, too.  We did not have any pine nuts (read: i didn't want to shell out six bucks for a tablespoon of those little things) so we just left them out and added a bit more garlic.  It's really quite simple: 

Mash a garlic clove or three with your mortar&pestle
add parmasean to make a paste 
mash a cup of basil leaves until they form a paste 
add the garlic mixture back in 
mash some more 
add your favorite olive oil a little at a time, mixing well and viola! Handmade pesto!

Friday, June 10, 2011


I can't believe another Friday is here.  The last few months have been a whirlwind of work, family, projects, spring sports and the wrapping up of another school year.  Parker finished 6th grade yesterday.  She was awarded the Citizenship Award for her school, honoring her willingness to help anyone at all times and her ability to make everyone feel welcome.  This makes me so proud!  She has had a difficult time socially since moving to Pittsburgh.  In part due to the age, kid politics and being the new kid - but sadly, she has not been welcomed into the school community in the way in which we had hoped.  It's been a rough year.  Lots of tears and frustrations and really mean kids and attempts at friendship that inevitably fell apart.  95% of the kids at her current school have completed their entire education there.  And many had parents who have lived in this same community since they were born.  This can be a hard thing to break into for transients like ourselves.  So to find out that through all of the socially difficult situations, she has still been able to be nice to everyone and help out where needed made me feel very proud…and reminded me that this kid can weather just about anything.  She's fantastic. 

Jeremy installing.

Ok…so now that I've gushed on about my daughter, let me gush a bit about my husband.  Jeremy has been working like a dog the last few months on several large projects.  Most recently, an installation for the Wood Street Gallery at Katz Plaza in downtown Pittsburgh.  The Post-Gazette just did a nice article about him and the piece, which you can read here.  It came together beautifully and is installed next to one of my favorite public art installations, Tony Tasset's Magnolias for Pittsburgh.    If you are in downtown Pittsburgh over the next few weeks (i'm not exactly sure how long it will be up) stop by and listen.

And, now that I've gushed all about my family, let me gush about Jaime Beck!  We have been working with her for the last few months to photograph a number of bags from our collection and I could not be happier with the results.  Here are a few of the images she created for us.  Aren't they beautiful??!!

The Paperback

The Waxed Canvas Small Messenger

The Waxed Canvas Letter Bag

Have a nice weekend!!