The South Trip #2: Alabama

14 Aug

After some fun in Nashville, we began on road trip through the very tip of the Southern US by driving into (and then out of) Alabama. If we hadn’t been in a rush to get to our next stop, I think we would have visited this interesting place: the UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE CENTER (link) – I had heard about it from travel blogs and Yelp, but unfortunately it was a little out of the way for us.

It was something like a 2.5 hour drive from where we were in Nashville to Birmingham, which I had visited briefly the year before and knew already where I wanted to eat: Urban Standard.

URBAN STANDARD (link) – I remember really liking the salad I had here on my previous visit, so we stopped by again. The vibe is super cool with a lot of interesting tables/chairs/light fixtures, plus a really vegetarian/vegan friendly menu. Somehow our orders got lost and while it wasn’t that big of a deal, the manager(?) was *super* apologetic and came by numerous times to apologize, update us, bring us free pastries while we waited, and then offered us free drinks too. A nice customer service gesture, definitely. I had a SERIOUSLY AWESOME vegetable gumbo (and a kind of too-spicy mexican hot chocolate cookie), B liked his cubano and strawberry cupcake, and we were on our way.

CHURCH STREET COFFEE & BOOKS (link) – I had visited a different bookstore when I had last come, so this time, drove out a little further (through a really nice residential area) to this cute little neighborhood of Mountain Brook. This cafe/bookstore is pretty small, but they had a really good selection of new/used books (paperback and hardcover) plus an anniversary sale going on (buy any hardcover, get another free or half off – I think?). Ended up buying GIRL ON THE TRAIN since they had it, and I was running low on vacation reading materials. BUT! To be completely honest, I had bookmarked this spot because of their so-called “breakup cookie” – which was huge, rich, chocolatey, and perfect for the drive down to Montgomery. Two thumbs up.

It was another hour and a half or so down to Montgomery, where we took a quick spin around the ALABAMA STATE CAPITOL (link) and the DEXTER AVE KING MEMORIAL BAPTIST CHURCH (link). Would have liked to take a tour at the church, but wasn’t an option the day we were there, plus it started humid drizzling/raining and you know that means we’re sticking near the A/C as much as possible… we also drove by the FIRST WHITE HOUSE OF THE CONFEDERACY (link) which was timely in a strange way, given all the protests around the flag.

And that was it! Not too much more planned in Alabama, and we had wanted to maximize our time in Nashville with friends, and then at our next stop – the seriously to-die-for beautiful Destin, Florida. Even thinking about it makes me want to fly out there right now and soak up the beach…

The South Trip #2: Nashville, Tennessee

14 Aug

On our quest to visit all 50 states, earlier this summer we took five days to visit some friends who had recently moved to Nashville and road trip through a few other nearby Southern states (Alabama, the tip of Florida, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana).

My interest in Nashville was piqued by ABC’s show starring the amazing Tami Taylor (I mean, Connie Britton) (#texasforever), plus, lots of history (particularly around the music industry). We spent about a day and a half exploring the city so here are some of the highlights… and the things we *didn’t* do but had looked into!

EAT/DRINK
*THE PHARMACY (link) – First meal in Nashville and it was pretty solid. Burgers, fries, lots of beers (and shakes/malts/sodas) on tap, really fun atmosphere with a huge patio – reminds me a lot of Austin. I think it gets crowded — we came at a weird hour (like 3 or 4pm on a Saturday) and no wait to sit at the bar.
*PRINCE’S HOT CHICKEN SHACK (link) – Late night “snack” after watching a show at the Grand Ole Opry. The chicken itself I did not try (vegetarian!) but when they say spicy, they REALLY MEAN IT – so be careful how hot you go! The coleslaw/fries/sides were all great. Note that the neighborhood feels a little sketchy at night, and you have to wait quite a while for your food, so just keep that in mind and don’t be dumb!
*LAS PALETAS GOURMET POPSICLES (link) – Was so looking forward to this, especially given how hot and humid it was while we were there. They have a lot of different kinds, some of which change seasonally. I really liked my plum popsicle, but I heard the +cream ones were better.
*CRACKER BARREL (link) – Our friends really like Cracker Barrel and we had never been, so we went and had a really good meal. The store itself is a lot of fun – SO many distracting toys and contraptions and things to buy (I can probably find something to buy almost anyone as a gift there) and while the wait was pretty long, the food came out pretty quickly and it was yummy – particularly the biscuits.
*SUSHI O SUSHI (link) – For our last meal, wanted to stay close to home so Went to a nearby Japanese (owned by Korean) restaurant (funny how these exist everywhere!). The service was friendly, the food was pretty good (not any better or worse than other Korean-owned-Japanese restaurants we’ve been to). I had a teriyaki veggie plate which was huge but yummy, and I also really liked their miso soup, which is a pretty good barometer of quality.

Places we didn’t get to try…
*HATTIE B’S CHICKEN (link)
*BISCUIT LOVE BRUNCH (link)
*TOOTSIE’S ORCHID LOUNGE (link)
*LOVELESS CAFE (link)

SEE/DO
*GRAND OLE OPRY HOUSE (link) – Even though we’re not really country music fans, I felt like we had to do *something* authentic while in Nashville, and watching a show at the Grand Ole Opry was it. There was a show the night we got in, and once they announced the performers (usually a week before or so), I was happy to see I recognized two names: Clare Bowen who plays Scarlett on the Nashville TV show, and Vince Gill, who married Amy Grant (of CCM fame). The format is really interesting and they covered a large variety of types of country music, and I ended up having a lot of fun. It definitely got more fun as the night went on, and we did some country music Spotifying the rest of the weekend based on the songs/artists we had liked. Would recommend it! (Note: parking is pretty difficult so plan for that)
*THE PARTHENON (link) – Had to see this lifesize replica of the Parthenon… funny because a friend was actually at the real Parthenon at the same time so her pictures showed up on Facebook and … well, this does look similar, if not much newer and cleaner! Mostly took pictures, didn’t bother with the inside/downstairs museum.
*HATCH SHOW PRINT (link) – I thought this was pretty cool, and if we had timed it better, could have done a tour of the actual press/printing operations. We bought a couple of prints for the gallery wall i one day will put up…
*PARNASSUS BOOKS (link) – And can’t skip at least one independent bookstore while in Nashville! There weren’t any author events while we were in town, but really liked the selection (so much good YA!) and actually had a lot of fun reading the press pieces they had put up on the walls about the origin of the bookstore and how significant it was for the city (Ann Pratchett co-founded it when she realized the entire city was going to be without an independent bookstore)
*BLUEBIRD CAFE (link) – Didn’t have time to wait in line for a show (they do first come first serve seating for some of them) so just took a picture – but the Nashville fan inside of me was happy we could stop by! It definitely looks different – more like part of a strip mall — than what I had expected though.

Places we didn’t get to try…
*COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME (link) – Right next to Hatch Show Print, but didn’t make the time… I did hear they had a Taylor Swift exhibit I would have loved to see!
*RYMAN AUDITORIUM (link)
*TENNESSEE STATE CAPITOL (link)
*OLIVE & SINCLAIR CHOCOLATE (link) – Chocolate factory tours!! The timing didn’t work out (they have limited slots) but hear it’s interesting and delicious.
LOGISTICS
*NASHVILLE AIRPORT (BNA) (link) – Love any city that Southwest flies into, and I greatly appreciate when you don’t have to take a shuttle or tram or vehicle of any kind to get to the rental cars – it’s just a covered walkway away.
*HERTZ (link) – Good enough. Not every company will let you do one-way rentals, so I usually book through Costco, then will track via Autoslash to see if I can get a better deal. Ended up with Hertz, and while we didn’t have any problems, they didn’t really have a selection of cars, which is always a nice option

From Nashville, we drove in and through Alabama, so more next!

Kissing in America

3 Jul

KISSING IN AMERICA by Margo Rabb (Amazon) (Goodreads) was so, so, SO much more than I had hoped or expected. It’s probably not even fair to say I had hopes — I don’t remember which list I saw it on or why I decided to request it from the library and even once I had it at home, I put it off because cover didn’t especially draw me in. Thinking back, the “I loved it” blurb from Elizabeth Gilbert was a bit of a “huh” and should have been a tip off that this was something really, really special. So if you didn’t already get the TLDR, the point is: it is EXCELLENT. Highly recommend.

As I’ve done with previous “reviews” (these are definitely not reviews, they’re more like stream-of-consciousness commentaries) of books, below are some of my favorite quotes from the book mashed up with my musings on why I liked this or that so much and how it made me feel.

  • I don’t generally like poetry but the lines and excerpts made me *feel* things, and tempt me to actually go read some. Each section includes a bit of poetry, and each chapter title *feels* like poetry, though most are phrases or prose from that actual chapter. I just can’t emphasize enough how much I am NOT a poetry person, but how by the middle of reading this novel, the poetry really started to affect me… particularly the snippets that Will and Eva started including in their letters to each other.
  • “[My mother] would’ve preferred odd piercings, full-body tattoos, or even shoplifting to what I did. I feel in love with romance novels” (4). HA. Skipping ahead a little bit, I love this explanation for why Eva likes romance novels (and I think it gets at part of why I love reading fiction/YA/contemporary so much too): “I loved romances because when you opened the first page, you knew the story would end well. Your heart wouldn’t be broken. I loved that security, that guaranteed love. Sure, a minor, usually unlikable character might drop dead from typhus or consumption or starve to death in the brig, but bad things were only temporary in these books. By the end, the hero and heroine would be ecstatically in love, enormously happy. / In real life, you never knew the ending. I hated that” (51-52). Me too Eva, me too. And then at the very end of the book (SPOILERS!) — this broke my heart: “It didn’t make sense. I thought: we’re not in a romance novel. The words fell into my head. In a romance novel, if a person said, Sometimes people meet at the wrong time on page 50, then they’d still get married by page 250. They’d still have their happy ending” (335). – Heartbreak.
  • “…sometimes I glance in the window and see them. Girls and their dads doing the tiniest most boring things like sharing chicken wings (and I don’t even like chicken wings), and I watch them through the window, wanting to soak up all this fatherness, this luxurious fatherness they don’t even appreciate. Usually they’re not even talking to their dads, they’re texting or playing a video game in their laps. Don’t they know? I want to shake them. Don’t they know how lucky they are to sit in the KFC with their fathers?” (20) That one shot straight to the heart… a reminder to be thankful, and one of many passages that really raised volumes of empathy and pain on behalf of Eva. And spoiler, but the ugly cries really started flowing during that last conversation between Eva and her mom: Eva: “‘We never talk about him.’ ‘Who?’ ‘Daddy.'” (373) – UGLY CRIES EVERYWHERE. And here’s another one: “My mom said ‘I love you’ every night… like an item on a to-do list. My dad used to say it with a soft voice and a kiss to the head, and I told my mom that once: ‘Daddy said I love you differently.’ She looked stricken. She told me she had a headache and she went to bed.” (25) While I felt for Eva, I actually also empathized a lot with her mom… who really sucked at dealing with her grief from her daughter’s perspective, but clearly also had a lot of issues and Margo (can I just call her Margo? the author) built her character with her a lot of layers and complexity, like a real person, to the point where I sympathized with her. Who am I to judge this woman for how the loss of the love of her life breaks and shatters her? Who’s to say I’d do any better?
  • On a lighter note: the nicknames that Annie and Eva and Will come up with for the stuff and adults in their life are hilarious — Jerkface for Will’s dad, Benign Fungus for Larry, even Crapphone for her not-smartphone cellphone… maybe to some it’s cheesy, but to me, it seems authenticly teenager.
  • I love Annie! I love that she’s quirky and a genius and most of all that she’s a REAL, steadfast friend… who is in some ways an Asian stereotype genius daughter, but also one who has to deal with the embarrassment of her family’s humble beginnings and her sisters NOT being the typical Asian AP kids. She’s also a SUPER straight talker–when Eva drafts a text message and hems and haws about the wording, Annie says: “Send it or I’m going to kill you” (69) – what a friend! And then even in the more serious times, the best friends are the ones that even when you mess up, they’ll be there. “I lay next to her on the bed. We were quiet for a long time as we stared at the ceiling, just as we had all over the country. There’s a thing in poetry called the caesura–a pause between words, a silence. I thought: That’s what real friendship is, too. Someone you can be quiet with. Someone who understands your mistakes and forgives you” (365).
  • I had no idea this would be a road trip story and I LOVEEEEE road trip stories! (Shout out to Morgan Matson, who writes the best road trip stories). While not necessarily the point or focus, you can see how each stop (and getting out of their hometown) opens their eyes and brings on new revelations.
  • Larry, while the Benign Fungus (snicker), was surprisingly insightful about all of their worries about leaving New York: “Some people would think it’s odd that New Yorkers are this worried about leaving the city. Most people are afraid when they come to New York City” (135). And you know what, as a potential stepfather character, he seemed pretty harmless and, well, yes, benign.
  • Aunt Jackie, oh what a fun character too! How she handled her fiance cheating on her at age 28: “Janet got a partial refund on the reception hall and the caterer, and she returned all the gifts. The dress was not returnable. It had been shredded and sent to Sam in a cardboard box.” (155) and how she started showing the girls gonorrhea pictures, I seriously spit out laughing. Annie’s response: “I’m staying a virgin until I die. Did you see that eyeball?” (160). But, I also love that even as a teen, Eva can read her aunt: “…it occurred to me that Janet was afraid. She was afraid of germs and diseases and sex and heartbreak, of her broken engagement, her old messy love.” (162) and even this: “I often thought Janet would be happy if she could round up all boys and men and corral them into a man zoo, where they’d be caged, allowed a few visitors, and have scraps of meat flung at them every few hours” (228) HA.
  • First of all, cowboy romances sound hilariously awesome. Second of all, real life cowboys and ranch living sounds even more awesome — like when Janet asks about an alarm system on the ranch, “Irma pointed across the hallway railing toward the open living room, at the shotgun hanging above the fireplace” (223) – heehee, wild wild west.
    *The depiction of adult romance thru Eva’s mom and Larry, and Larry’s mom and her series of husbands, and even Will’s parents struggles… they were so refreshingly REAL and sometimes uncomfortably so, but in a way that felt authentic.
  • Amen to Lulu’s response to Annie’s question: “‘Is there any problem that can’t be solved with a book?’ ‘Nope,’ Lulu said, and smiled.” (279)
  • And last but not least, Will. Spoilers! I didn’t love him (you could tell he was kind of flighty, despite mostly being a good guy) but I mostly love him as a device for Eva to grow and feel and realize the differences between real life and her beloved romance novels. He was ultimately a catalyst, setting in motion so, so much more for her.

Portland

16 Jun

Portland is one of my absolute favorite cities, and while I think it’s partially because I spend more time there for business than any other city, I think it’s not unfounded.

One of my (and the world’s) favorite bloggers Joanna Goddard is planning a trip there soon and I figured, might as well put my list of things to do online so instead of forwarding an email around (as I’ve been doing for the past couple years), I can share it more easily.

So a few caveats: I don’t have kids, I rarely leave Portland proper, I’m a vegetarian so most of these restaurants have a veggie option, and I’m not a huge nature fan (hiking, etc). That being said, there are still SO many cool things to do, eat, and drink in Portland.

Restaurants

  • Nong’s Khao Man Gai (food cart or full location- note hours/menus vary)
  • Food Carts (PDX is known for their food carts – which are kind of like LA’s food trucks but permanent, and often clustered together to take up entire blocks. Some favorites: Dump Truck, Brunch Box, Small Pharaoh)
  • Screen Door (sit-down, SO GOOD, Cajun/Southern, no reservations)
  • Pine State Biscuits (breakfast/brunch)
  • Andina (tapas, downtown, great sangria)
  • Veritable Quandry (my favorite “nice” restaurants in Downtown –
  • Pok Pok (thai) – not life changing (like Lotus of Siam in Vegas), but really really good
  • Mother’s – homey food, great service, nice location in downtown
  • Luc Luc (vietnamese, downtown)
  • Blossoming Lotus (tons of clean, veggie options)
  • Haven’t been, but heard good things: Tasty n Sons/Tasty n Alder for brunch or any time, and Ken’s Artisan Bakery, a little further outside of the city (good if you’re driving from the Bay)

Snacks/Etc

  • Voodoo donuts is a tourist institution, and a great example of “Keep Portland Weird” – open 24 hours, more touristy, but note that I think the donuts are just okay…
  • Blue Star Donuts more fancy, more pricey, BUT SO GOOD! (Note they sell out most days, so go early!)
  • Salt & Straw ice cream, 3 locations – the best. Flavors I LOVE: Olive Oil, Honey Lavender, Pear Blue Cheese
  • Everywhere good should have Stumptown Coffee
  • Lots of breweries if you like beer – like Deschutes (and there are others outside of downtown if you have a car)
  • Happy Hour is big in PDX like Seattle – both at normal HH times and late night — Portland City Grill has a BEAUTIFUL view at night (Saucebox is popular too)
To Do/See
  • Powells (must do, biggest new/used bookstore in the world) – if you love books/reading/browsing, it’s a great way to kill a few hours between meals
  • Multnomah Falls (~30 minutes east) – you can hike or opt to just take in the view
  • International Rose Garden
  • Japanese Garden
  • Portland movie theaters are really interesting — many have bars/restaurants and are adults-only, plus are cheap (like Bagdad, or Living Room Theaters)
  • Portland Aerial Tram
  • Go shopping! No sales tax in Portland (learning to calculate gratuity without tax as a reference is pretty jarring)

And I know I’m missing things too — so let me know! I already bookmarked these fountains that Joanna posted about this morning… good thing I’m heading back up there next month. Woo!

Isla and the Happily Ever After

5 Oct

I really don’t consider myself a book blogger, but when I find myself overflowing with fuzzy feelings after a great book (and have the necessary time), I suppose I will occasionally blog about books.

ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER was a no-brainer 5-star/2014-favorites type of book. I didn’t expect it to be quite this good, though I knew I’d like it based on the first two in the series, but MAN. SO good! Thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it — and seriously hit the spot.

Like I’ve done with the few other book review type posts, I wanted to jot down thoughts and especially the quotes that I loved. But for some reason, I found myself adding more commentary to the quotes than usual. So, if you’ve read it, you’ll hopefully remember and join me in my enthusiasm… and if you haven’t read it yet–I’d hold off. The quotes aren’t organized in a way that’s conducive to introducing someone to the story or characters or anything — they’re more me remembering moments I felt things, and the lines that stuck out.

  • “Ohmygod what the hell did I do last night?????????” (12) — Chapter One felt a little interesting, and Chapter Two simultaneously cracked me up and gave more clarity on how to understand what I’d just read (Stephanie Perkins, I see what you did there…).
  • Note that I was having too much fun to stop and think about grabbing post-its to flag all the wonderful words and phrases I loved for the first hundred pages… which clearly means I’m going to need to read it again.
  • And I also clearly need to re-read ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS because I had NO idea that St. Clair was taller than her! Did we know this from ANNA??? From ISLA – Josh talking to Isla: “’You know my friend St. Clair?’ he says after a few minutes. ‘He’s only a few inches taller than you, and his girlfriend, Anna? She’s taller than he is.’” (101) As a taller girl (I’m 5’10” and sometimes 5’11”…), I do lament that there are very few stories of taller girl + shorter guy. I think this happens less frequently than almost any other type of couple… like, with age discrepancies, or ethnic/racial differences, or whatever. HEIGHT!
  • Kurt and Josh’s first happy interaction: “Josh clutches his chest in agony as Kurt explodes into loud belly laughter. My heart might burst from happiness.” (107) I love that her two favorite-est people getting along is what brings her true happiness, especially in light of understanding how two of her previous friendships/relationships ultimately ended because of her friendship with Kurt.
  • Isla and Josh, on their first “date” in Paris:
    “’You know what I like about you?’ I ask, after a few minutes.
    ‘My dynamite moves on the dance floor.’” (131)

    SO unexpected, I think I snorted out loud. I love my heroes witty. And I didn’t even know Josh was witty! And maybe he wasn’t — maybe him being around Isla both makes him wordvomit or them being together brings out new parts of his personality we otherwise wouldn’t have been introduced to.

    Josh reminded me a bit of Levi, from FANGIRL, with his sense of humor and sarcasm, though definitely not as bubbly and positive. If anything, they’re opposites in the way they interact with the world—but I see similarities in how they interact with their significant girl-others. How I remember Levi is this interesting blend of St. Clair’s charisma and Josh’s thoughtfulness.

    Like later, later on in the book, when St. Clair and the gang join the party (which, to be honest, did not feel like a party at the time I read it because I was so deep in Isla’s heartbroken state – but let’s be real, it was a party!) the way he carries himself is so fun, and hilarious. “St. Clair clears his throat. ‘My fiancé and I are headed out for a celebratory dessert. I’d ask you all to join us, but I don’t want you there.’” (315) Charming! Effortlessly oozing charisma, and charming. Lucky Anna.

  • I would pay good money to see the mural Josh painted – and I love, love, love his reaction to her reaction: “’Thank you,’ he says. ‘That was the best reaction that anyone has ever given me. For anything.’” (139)
  • Can someone please create and coordinate a trip to Paris, and then Barcelona? One where we visit the same sites, and maybe mix in a little JUST ONE DAY/JUST ONE YEAR? I’d pay to see that too. Why not combine it with a recreation of Josh’s mural? At THE Treehouse? PLEASE. and Thank You.
  • In Barcelona: “I can’t believe that adults get to do this every day. And I don’t even mean sex, though it’s wonderful, but things like this. Brushing our teeth at the same sink. Do adults realize how lucky they are? Or do they forget that these small moments are actually small miracles? I don’t want to ever forget.” (178)
  • Josh: “’St. Clair can persuade anyone to do anything. He’s like, drowning in charisma. It’s so unfair to the rest of us.’
    ‘Eh,’ I say. ‘He’s okay.’
    Josh pauses. And then I hear a smile in his voice. ‘This must be how you felt when I told you that you’re hotter than your sisters.’” (178)
    WHAT A LOVELY MOMENT. Stephanie Perkins! How do you come up with these things?! (Duh, you’re a writer, and an awesome one at that. These things obviously come to you in your sleep.)
  • And I’m pretty sure editors do not choose font sizes, margin width, and paper in order to make sure certain words or phrases appear at the top (or bottom) of any given page, but CAN WE TALK ABOUT HOW the “Uh, no. Not at the moment.” (206) Is at the very. Bottom. Of. The. Page?! Convenient, right?! It could only have been made more convenient if it was on the bottom of the right page, and you had to turn the page to read whatever came next.

    My jaw literally dropped, and stayed dropped for quite a bit of time. I knew there had to be a logical explanation, but I was infuriated on Isla’s behalf, and am glad she was equally infuriated with Josh.

    For context – Josh is being interviewed and is asked, “Do you have a girlfriend?” and then responds like so:
    “He pauses before giving another modest laugh. ‘Uh, no. Not at the moment.’ (206)

  • Reading about Isla reading and experiencing Josh’s graphic novel… I feel like I experienced it with her. “It took guts to draw these things. It’s a different kind of excruciating to read about them.” (218) and then, of course, Rashmi. “She’s pretty and smart and sarcastic. And I hate her.” (218).
  • I kind of love the portrayals of the adults in this story. While of course Josh’s parents have their faults (they are human, after all, who are dealing with very high-pressured lives), the adults are quite reasonable, and I love that. Take, for instance, the interaction between the head of school and Josh:

    “’For a certain kind of person, high school will always be brutal,’ the head says. ‘The best advice that I can give you is to figure out what comes next, and work toward that.’” (221) WHAT GREAT ADVICE!

    The banter between Isla and her parents is also sweet – like when Isla’s mom is comforting her before the big gala: “’His father will love you. His mother will learn to love you. You’re intelligent, charming, and kind.’ ‘Of course you think that.’ ‘I would never describe your younger sister as charming.’ That gets me to crack a smile.” (240)

    And even the very brief encounter we have with Kurt’s parents, I love. “Kurt’s parents refuse to let me call them Mr. and Mrs. Bacon, because they refuse to believe that they’re old.” (267) I kind of want to borrow this philosophy when we have children. Please. It’s a genius idea.

    And then Scott (Kurt’s dad): “’Did he hurt you?’ Scott undergoes a Hulk-like transformation, which looks peculiar on his strung-out ex-rocker body. ‘Yes!’ Scott’s body completes the Hulk transformation. ‘No.’ I sob hysterically. ‘Emotionally.’” (268)

  • During their separation: “How did my parents live before texting? Before the internet? I’m used to knowing things and all of this unknowing is driving me mad.” (235) — Taking away their face-to-face and even digital interaction is such a powerful device because the readers of this book (a large chunk of them, any way—myself included!) have never had to carry on a relationship without at least one or the other. The angst of writing letters or waiting weeks and weeks to catch a glimpse or exchange a few lines—that’s the stuff of the classic romance novels we’ve read and swoon over—and now, Stephanie Perkins makes it relevant to us, with Isla.
  • And lastly, can I just say, THANK GOODNESS someone decided to give these books new and improved covers. The title treatment, the colors, the fonts, and that beautiful rose emblem/logo/motif — perfection. Even before I understood the significance of the roses, I thought they were gorgeous — and obviously appreciate them even more now. Great book marketing makes me so happy — and now I want to buy all three books to have them make my bookshelves that much more beautiful.

Harriet the Spy

4 Oct

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One of the few book blogs I follow, The Midnight Garden, chooses one classic Middle Grade/Young Adult book a month to read and then discuss. I’ve read a few lovely books with them so far this year: THE LUCKIEST GIRL (by Beverly Cleary) and A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (by Betty Smith), but September’s book (HARRIET THE SPY) seriously takes the cake.

HARRIET THE SPY is a book I could have sworn I’d read when I was younger, but upon re-reading, realized I didn’t remember *anything* in it–so maybe I never actually read it. Regardless, I was totally charmed by the second page, and proceeded to sticky-note every other page for about 100 pages or so because it was just that good.

The quote on page 2 that I loved:

Harriet is a CHARACTER. She’s precocious, clearly intelligent, a little socially awkward, and brutally honest, both with herself (in her spy notebook — in all caps) and others. There’s a lot of discussion about how she’s not a “nice” girl but let’s be real–girls aren’t nice! Or at least, most kids aren’t when they’re not pretending to say or do the right thing.

This isn’t a recap by any means, but a place for me to drop all my favorite quotes… and to ruminate on the parts that stood out to me. Like, how Harriet was so, so attached to Ole Golly, her nurse (aka nanny), and how Ole Golly knew her better than her parents did, always saying (or not saying) the right thing to make Harriet feel heard, loved, or comforted. I love the relationship as a reader, but as a (Lord willing) one-day parent, it makes me all the more uneasy with the idea of having full-time childcare… I want to be the one who knows my kid best, who knows what to say to get them to take dancing lessons, who can read their moods, and who can take away their flashlight when they try to read under the covers. I get that in some families it’s not an option (because both parents need to work) but in the case of Harriet’s family (and many others)–it’s not necessary! <end soapbox>

Without further adieu–some of my favorite quotes. Which, ironically enough, have very little overlap with the most popular quotes on Goodreads.

  • “Then Harriet did what she always did when she was supposed to be asleep. She got out her flashlight, put the book she was currently reading under the covers, and read happily until Ole Golly came in and took the flashlight away as she did every night.” (25) – I wonder if I had read this as a kid… and then proceeded to do it every night!
  • Harriet to the cook: “Ole Golly says find out everything you can cause life is hard enough even if you know a lot” (37)
  • Harriet to the cook: “I do not go out to PLAY, I go out to WORK!” (39) – I love how seriously she takes herself!
  • Sport to Harriet, about his dad: “Writers don’t care what they eat. They just care what you think of them” (49)
  • “’I hate money,’ Harriet said.
    ‘Well, you’d jolly well like it if you didn’t have any,’ Sport said arrogantly. Harriet considered this. It was true. She’d never had to think about it.” (51)
  • “I GUESS IT’S NOT MONEY THAT MAKES PEOPLE DULL. THERE IS A LOT I DON’T KNOW ABOUT THIS THING OF BEING DULL. I BETTER FIND OUT BECAUSE I MIGHT BE IT.” (57) – this made me chuckle
  • Harriet and Ole Golly: “’What’s a high-pressure job?’ ‘It means he’s not allowed to do exactly what he wants with the job, and what he is allowed to do he isn’t given enough time to do it in.’” (62) – SUCH a good, timeless, simple explanation of this. Crazy how the idea of a high-pressure job applied then, and applies now.
  • “I’M GLAD I’M NOT PERFECT–I’D BE BORED TO DEATH.” (68)
  • Harriet’s parents: “’Boy, that Miss Golly is magic, sheer magic. I wonder where we’d be without her?’” (88)
  • “LIFE IS A GREAT MYSTERY. IS EVERYBODY A DIFFERENT PERSON WHEN THEY ARE WITH SOMEBODY ELSE? OLE GOLLY HAS NEVER BEEN THIS WAY. I WONDER IF PEOPLE ACT LIKE THIS WHEN THEY GET MARRIED? HOW COULD SHE GET MARRIED? WOULD MR. WALDENSTEIN COME TO LIVE WITH US THEN? THEY COULD PUT THEIR CHILD IN MY ROOM IF THEY WANTED TO. I WOULDN’T MIND. I DON’T THINK. UNLESS IT WAS A VERY NOSY CHILD WHO TRIED TO READ MY NOTEBOOKS. THEN I WOULD SMASH IT.” (97) – another laugh out loud moment. Oh Harriet. I love the strange progression of her thoughts.
  • Ole Golly to Harriet: “Tears won’t bring me back. Remember that. Tears never bring anything back. Life is a struggle and a good spy gets in there and fights. Remember that. No nonsense.” (132)
  • “The customers stood around like frozen food.” (160) – For some reason, I liked this metaphor/use of imagery a lot.
  • “SHE ALWAYS SAID THAT PEOPLE WHO TRY TO CONTROL PEOPLE AND CHANGE PEOPLES’ HABITS ARE THE ONES THAT MAKE ALL THE TROUBLE. IF YOU DON’T LIKE SOMEBODY, WALK AWAY, SHE SAID, BUT DON’T TRY AND MAKE THEM LIKE YOU.” (226) – Ole Golly is the smartest woman I’ve ever known. And I’m guilty of this so often.
  • Harriet and her mother: “’What do you do?’ ‘A lot of unseen, unappreciated things’” (233)  – The plight of the SAHM

If you read it, let me know! Would love to chat about it more.

Unintentional Blog Break & Visiting the 50 States

10 Sep

While it wasn’t intentional, I ended up taking a bit of a blogging break, or a hiatus, if you prefer fancier diction. 

(Caveat: Funny timing given powerhouse home/lifestyle bloggers Young House Love just announced they’re taking a much-needed break from blogging too)

Blogging started to become more of a chore and responsibility (to myself, not to all 3 of my readers) and I kept adding to the “to blog” list without actually blogging… and we all know what happens when a To Do list gets longer and longer… it becomes even less motivating to get anything done.

So that being said, a random blog comment (thanks Lily!) on an old post brought back fond memories of blogging (distance makes the heart grow fonder and all that) so here I am.

That being said, I’m not really sure what I’m going to post about.

  • I don’t know if I’ll ever restart my “What I’m Reading” posts because a) I don’t always want to say something about the books I’ve read b) I really don’t think I’m a good writer, much less book reviewer and c) I meticulously log and rate the books I read on Goodreads. That being said, I haven’t stopped taking pictures of the books I’ve read, so there’s that.
  • I also don’t know if I’ll want to pick up my Voice recaps, especially since I haven’t been able to really enjoy the show in a season or two.
  • And… I really did like doing my monthly personal updates, but those were some of the posts that took the most energy (makes sense, right? More in = more out) so we’ll see.

We just got back from a vacation, so I figured I could write a tiny bit about our travels. We’re trying to visit all 50 states together (so states we visited separately before we got married don’t count) and it’s been super fun seeing new things, driving through totally different parts of the country, and visiting friends who’ve moved all over the place. If you ever need recommendations for mini-trips to states/cities we’ve been to, feel free to shoot me a note!

  • Labor Day trip: Charleston (SC) -> Charlotte (NC) -> Atlanta (GA)
  • And just to fun, other states we’ve visited/trips we’ve done:
    • One state visits: Portland (OR), Seattle (WA), Salt Lake City (UT), Denver (CO)
    • Las Vegas (NV) -> Sedona -> Phoenix (AZ)
    • Ann Arbor (MI) -> Indiana -> Chicago (IL) -> Madison (WI) -> Rochester (MN)
    • Louisville (KY) -> St Louis (MO) -> Kansas City (KS) -> Tulsa (OK) -> Little Rock (AR)
    • New Orleans (LA) -> Houston -> Austin -> Dallas (TX)
  • So including our home state of California, we’ve visited 22 states so far.
  • States left: New Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, the “North” (Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa), and all of the Northeast. Quite a bit!

We have a couple other small trips planned for the rest of 2014, but all to states we’ve been to before, so 22/50 might be where we end 2014 on. Not bad…and there’s always next year!

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