Bathtub Reading

Reading Santa

I read a lot. I mean A LOT. I may review one or two books a week, but I read a bunch more than that. The bulk of what I read is catalogued over at my book blog. Anyway, Rob did a “ten books that have stayed with you” thing over on Facebook, and since I’m tired and crabby and really wanna finish decorating my tree, I’m going to participate.

Again, these are in the order they occur to me. And I’m posting them without comment. Some are good literature, some are media tie-ins. All had something in them that has stuck in my brain.

  • The Eight, by Katherine Neville
  • Certain Women, by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne
  • A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
  • Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
  • Paris to the Moon, by Adam Gopnik
  • Mothers, by Jax Peter Lowell
  • Maiden Voyage, by Tania Aebi
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  • Outside Lies Magic, by John Stilgoe

It should be noted that these are not a TOP ten, or BEST ten, they’re just ten books that I go back to from time to time.

Honorable mentions go to Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg, and anything Keith R. A. DeCandido has ever written, especially his stuff within the Star Trek universe, but his original work as well, because he’s just so damned readable, and because he always has these details that seem insignificant until you realize that they make his characters sing. Seriously, go read Dragon Precinct (and its sequels) because they’re just AWESOME.

So, why is this called “Bathtub Reading”? Because my measure of how much I adore a book is how long I’m willing to stay in the bath with it. Really good, gripping, compelling writing leaves me cold and pruney. Books that are just okay don’t cause me to linger that long.

Today’s Santa: A Santa ornament with a book (perhaps the book of Naughty and Nice Names?) seemed an obvious choice for this post. He’s very heavy. Ceramic. Hand painted.

What I Didn’t Do Today

Most years, I spend Candlemas in a personal bubble. I light candles, even if it’s bright out, just because I like the scent of melted wax and faint smoke. I write notes to friends. I sing along with my favorite music. I soak in a bubble bath while listening to NPR.

Today, I didn’t do any of that.

Not that it was an unproductive day.

We slept late, partly because I took a muscle relaxant before bed (my back is still hurting), and partly because the dogs actually let us.

We brought Ace the Foster-Chihuahua to PetCo, where he met his new owner, and was taken to his new home.

We went to the comic book store, where we spent a ridiculous amount of money ($91) because we hadn’t picked up subscriptions in two months.

We went to brunch at Cracker Barrel, because I really wanted French toast.

We did the second half of our grocery shopping (the first half was done on Thursday night, when we went to CostCo).

We then came home, where I had planned to sip a latte and then either watch a skating show I’d DVR’d or take a nap, but since my last 1099 had arrived, I did the taxes instead. (I don’t typically have them done this early, and it seems odd to not have them hanging over my head for another ten weeks.) We don’t owe anything, and we’re getting money back.

I baked a batch of chocolate chip bar cookies, because I felt the need to mark the fact that the taxes were done.

At that point I was about to settle down with a book, when I remembered that the first Sunday Brunch posting of 2013 is supposed to go live in the morning, which meant I had to write it RIGHT NOW. It’s now finished.

And it’s almost midnight.
And my back is stiff and sore.
And I feel like whining a little.

Done now.

Seven things

It’s a bit after eleven, and I’m tired, so a list post is all I have time for. Seven things I did today:

  1. Breakfast. Usually I just have a protein shake. Today I had fluffy, fluffy scrambled eggs.
  2. Media. I’ve become addicted to TWiT.tv recently. I especially like streaming it over my Google tv, because I’m old-school and don’t like watching things on my computer screen.
  3. Dogs: Our foster-dog, Minnie the Pocket Pointer, is learning how to be an inside dog. She spent most of the day running around the house, and didn’t have any indoor accidents.
  4. Exercise: I had a really long (but at a low weight) workout on the weight machine, because I’ve mostly been swimming all summer, and now the water’s too cold.
  5. Water: For the first time in days, or weeks, I’ve had enough water. I don’t like drinking water, so for me, this is a major achievement.
  6. Reading: I’m in the middle of a supernatural mystery/thriller about an interdimensional jewel thief. It’s really good, and I can’t wait to finish. For those keeping score, it’s an actual paper book, not a Kindle file.
  7. Writing: Spent the last two hours editing an interview for All Things Girl. It goes live at 7:00 tomorrow morning.

Time to watch Bones and then head to bed.

Thursday 13: Things my Mother Taught Me

I have to confess: I was working on a completely different Thursday 13 list for today, but it’s still in draft form, and not quite ready, and this morning at the dentist, while reading political posts on Facebook and HuffPo and Jezebel, I was thinking about my mother.

momx400

Last month, she wrote a birthday letter to me in her blog, and it made me cry, but over the years she’s also been a source of sage advice, and I thought I’d share some.

  1. Stand up for yourself, and for the things you believe in. If you don’t, who will?
  2. It’s okay – and even healthy – to think of yourself first from time to time.
  3. Never underestimate the simple pleasure of a bubble bath.
  4. Thank-you notes and good hygiene never go out of style.
  5. Happy feet = a happy heart.
  6. Trust your body, and trust your instincts about your body.
  7. Every woman – indeed, every person – should live on their own for at least a year before getting married.
  8. They should also travel.
  9. And have at least one truly-tragic love affair.
  10. You do not have to marry the first person you sleep with.
  11. Pretty underwear can lift your mood. If it matches your outfit, even better.
  12. When moving house, unpack the kitchen first, and get it set up completely.
  13. Coffee, chocolate, and a good book can save your sanity.

Thursday 13: Cocktail Hour

This weekend the US celebrates Labor Day, and Fuzzy and I are hosting a joint birthday bash/pool party (I turned 42 on 8/17 and he turns 40 on 9/7) so I thought I’d celebrate with a cocktail-inspired Thursday 13. The fact that this is one more way for me to be not-writing my novel or not-writing my collection of short stories is mere coincidence. Cheers!

  1. Cosmopolitan: My version is classic: cranberry juice, vodka, Cointreau, and lime. Yes, I got hooked on them because of Sex and the City, but they’re perfect in summer even years after the series has ended.
  2. Mojito: Rum, Mint, Lime and a simple sugar syrup. Light and sort of tropical. Goes well with Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights on DVD.
  3. Cuba Libre: It’s really just rum and Coke with a hint of lime, but calling it Cuba Libre makes it sound so much more exotic, don’t you think?
  4. Mint Julep: I was actually disappointed when I learned that this was basically just bourbon, mint, and sugar. I always envisioned something more like a parfait…or something frighteningly green.
  5. Cape Codder: I’m a big fan of cranberry juice, but I’m also a fan of simple recipes. Cranberry juice. Vodka. Twist of lime. Ice. This was my first cocktail, and it’s still a favorite.
  6. Jameson & Ginger: Four years ago I was at a writing workshop/conference/thing in San Francisco, and the host of the workshop asked a couple of us to join him at dinner. There, he introduced us to his favorite drink: Jameson & Ginger. Technically, I suppose you could make this with any Irish whiskey since all it is is whiskey and ginger ale, but J&G is such a pretty phrase. Mad Men fans might have heard of it.
  7. Tequlia Sunrise: The trick with these is to use really good Tequila, not cheap Cuervo. The recipe is simple: tequila, orange juice, a splash of cranberry juice. They’re great by the pool, but not out of place at brunch.
  8. Bloody Mary: If the Cape Codder is my cocktail, this one is the one I associate with my mother, although I’ve been drinking them on and off this summer as well. Ingredients are vodka, tomato juice, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, lemon, and celery, but you can simplify that by using V8 and peppered vodka. (To make these really lethal, let the celery stand in a glass of peppered vodka for several hours before serving.
  9. Margarita: A classic margarita is actually pretty simple: Tequila, cointreau, lime, and simple syrup. I like mine on the rocks, but feel free to blend yours. The salt on the rim of the glass is optional, but the contrast of sweet, tart, and salty is really pretty nifty.
  10. Martini: The classic version is my fave: Gin. Vermouth. An olive. And unlike James Bond (who apparently liked his drinks weak), I prefer my martinis to be stirred. You’re actually supposed to do the stirring in a mixing glass, then strain the drink into a chilled cocktail class and add the olive. (Why is a shaken martini weak? Because when you shake it, the ice chips and water melts into the drink. Proper stirring, on the other hand, requires a special spoon designed so the ice does NOT chip.)
  11. Death in the Afternoon: Like the book that goes with it, this is a creation of Ernest Hemingway. It’s a mixture of absinthe and chilled champagne, and if you drink enough of them, using REAL absinthe, they could make you wish for death. In the USA, however, real absinthe (which contains wormwood) is illegal.
  12. Champagne Cocktail: Sugar, Angostura bitters, and champagne, garnished with a maraschino cherry. Elegant. Delicate. Addictive.
  13. Sex on the Beach: This one has cranberry juice (which I love) but also has one of the best names, ever. In addition to the cranberry juice, it has orange juice, peach schnapps, and vodka.

“Writing a novel is not method acting and I find it easy to step out of it at cocktail hour.”
~Bret Easton Ellis

Thursday 13: Summer Dreams

Miss Rio

As much as I complain about the summer weather in Texas, there are certain parts of summer I love. As a kid, my summers were spent at the Jersey Shore; now I pretty much live in my pool from mid-May through mid-September. In any case, I haven’t done a Thursday-13 in ages, and since I’ve refreshed the blog, it seems appropriate to visit favorite memes.

Here, then, are 13 Things I Love About Summer (Then and Now):

  1. Sand: In my hair, between my toes, and stuck in the folds of damp bathing suits. I was with my Mother in Mexico in June, and my beach bag still has traces of sand in it.
  2. Sea & Ski: I’m pretty sure they don’t make it any more, but those funky green and brown bottles were ubiquitous when I was little. Not only did that sunscreen stay on in water, but it had this indefinable “beachy” smell that I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully) to recapture with aquatic perfumes for decades.
  3. Noxema: Yes, in previous incarnations of this blog I’ve written whole posts about Noxema, but I love it. I still use it.
  4. Tan Lines: Okay, look, I know you’re not supposed to sun-bathe, and I don’t, I swear. I even remember to use sunscreen (most of the time) but the tan lines I get are from swimming for a couple of hours every day, not from lying around imitating broiling meat.
  5. White Cotton T-shirts: While these are hardly restricted to summer, there’s something about a simple white t-shirt that is instantly soothing. They’re soft enough for sun-burned skin, make tan skin look tanner, and go with shorts, skirts, jeans, or just over a bathing suit. As a kid, my favorite summer “pajamas” were my grandfather’s cast-off t-shirts.
  6. Natural Highlights: Okay, we all know this mermaid hasn’t seen her natural hair color for more than 1/4 of an inch at a time since she was fifteen, but the blonde color being sported this summer is naturally enhanced by the sun. (And I had strawberry blonde/golden brown hair when I was young, I swear!)
  7. Swimming: I am my most creative self when I get to splash around in water every day. I love having my own pool, and in summer, I’m in it for hours every day. On heavy writing days, I do my own version of “interval training” where I write for thirty minutes and swim for thirty minutes all day.
  8. Going Bare: Bare feet and bare faced, that is. I love shoes, but I love being barefoot even more, and this summer, I’m so sun-kissed that I haven’t worn make-up since mid-June, except for a little gloss and mascara. (I do, however, moisturize. Religiously.)
  9. Beach Reading: I don’t generally read at beaches, but I love reading beachy books. Anne Rivers Siddons, Dorothy Benton Frank, Wendy Wax, Nancy Thayer, Elin Hilderbrand – these authors (and others) keep me entertained all summer, in between the books I read for review.
  10. Shark Week: This year is the 25th edition of The Discovery Channel’s salute to all things sharky, and while I have never, ever missed a year, I’m giddy with delight that Shark Week spans my birthday this year.
  11. Summer Produce: Last month, I wrote about watermelon over at All Things Girl but I also love peaches and plums and avocados and fresh tomatoes and berries of every ilk.
  12. Late Sunsets: While I believe Daylight Saving Time has outlived it’s usefulness now that we live in a 24/7 society, I still enjoy long summer evenings. There’s nothing like floating on your back in the pool and watching the first stars come out. (I could do without the mosquitoes, though.)
  13. My Birthday: As a kid, I hated that my birthday was in August – August 17th, to be specific – because my friends were all off on last vacations with their families before school started. Now, though, I revel in my August birthday, because there’s NO COMPETITION. No holidays (well, sometimes Ramadan, but that doesn’t affect very many of my friends), not many other birthdays (September, however, is glutted with them) – it’s MY MONTH. (I share with others, but…only a select few). You’d think that since I’m turning 42 next week, I’d be upset about my birthday, but that’s not true at all. I love celebrations. I love having a cake with my name on it. I take the day off work and celebrate myself. Birthdays are AWESOME!

So that’s my list…what are your favorite things about summer? I really want to know!