Tuesday, April 14, 2015

march books

Apparently March was the month of memoirs for me - truth is definitely stranger, and often more entertaining, than fiction. And, I was on the waiting list at the library for several of these and as we all know, when it's your turn, you read the book, even if you aren't quite in the mood for it. I prefaced all of the audiobooks with an (A) since I think that medium really affects my reaction to a book. Since sitting in the car is a passive activity, I feel like I stick with them a bit longer than print books.

(A) Monday's Lie - The unfortunate thing about this book is that its biggest plot twist is revealed in the book's summary. I had forgotten the details of the summary, got a little bored with the book itself, read the summary again, and felt like it was spoiled for me the rest of the way through. The premise is interesting enough - a woman whose mother was some kind of spy relies on all the tricks her mother taught her to figure out what her husband is hiding - but when you know what the husband is hiding, the book seems unreasonably long. I also found the end pretty anticlimactic. This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

Beautiful Boy - This is a father's memoir about his son's meth addiction. It's an interesting perspective combined with the science behind what addiction, and specifically the chemicals in meth, do to the brain. It got a little bogged down in technical info for me at times, but I found the author's explanation of his denial of the severity of his son's addiction and the way he treated his son throughout the ordeal to be something I learned a lot from. The son wrote a book of his own, which I plan to read soon.

(A) My Story (by Elizabeth Smart) - I'm really torn on this one. While Smart undoubtedly went through a horrific ordeal, and no one could blame her for not wanting to dredge up the past, let alone publish a book about it and narrate the audiobook, one would hope that if she made those choices, the book would be riveting, deep, and interesting. Sadly, it was not. I'm not sure if it was Smart's understandable desire for privacy, her modesty, or a psychological disconnect from the events that made the book feel a little flat. I mean, I'm not sure what I wanted - I'm definitely happy that there were no detailed accounts of the abuse she endured - but several times throughout the book, she said "words couldn't describe" or "I can't begin to tell you" and while I'm sure those feelings were true, they weren't very satisfying for me as a reader. She's undoubtedly a strong woman, though, and the book makes you wonder how your 14-year-old self would have acted in the same situation.

(A) Stories I Only Tell My Friends (by Rob Lowe) - This too was an audiobook read by the author, which I think made it more enjoyable. I know Rob Lowe as Number Two, Chris Traeger, and the senator on Brothers and Sisters, so I forget that he had a long Hollywood history before that and arguably the first celebrity sex tape. He grew up with the Sheen and Penn (as in Sean) families and dated Cary Grant's daughter while still in high school, so he had lots of great stories to tell. Some of his anecdotes seem unbelievable, or at least embellished, but I choose to believe them all. It was light and entertaining and now I want to marathon all his 80s movies.

Not That Kind of Girl (by Lena Dunham) - I want to "you go, girl" Lena Dunham for being body confident and a female in charge, but can I do that while I admit that I didn't care for her memoir at all? I'm definitely on the modest end of the spectrum, but the section on sex was way TMI.

(A) Room - A story about a woman kidnapped and held hostage for seven years, as told from the POV of her five year old son, who was born in captivity and knows nothing of life outside the Room that makes up their world. It was read by someone who sounded like a five year old boy. That was a little annoying at times, but I think that reading the book and dealing with the capitalization of the things they personified would have been even more annoying. I found the story really interesting and I listened to it every chance I got, but I can definitely see how it might not be for everyone.

The Rosie Project - How can you not like this narrator? I especially liked the mention of As Good As It Gets because my husband and his family quotes that movie so much I didn't realize the things they were repeating were quotes. It was an easy read, very predictable, but also cute. A good beach/plane/before bed novel but not life changing. That said, you better believe I immediately put myself on the waiting list for the sequel.

Nothing is grabbing my attention right now, so I've been anxiously awaiting this link-up. I finally started Jim Gaffigan's Food: A Love Story which I got for Christmas and has just been sitting there. Part of it comes across as a stand-up punchline and at least one story so far was in his most recent comedy special, but other parts are funny and relatable as someone who loves food arguably a little too much. I tried to read my first Neil Gaiman book but I found it so boring (The Ocean at the End of the Lane) that I quit about 1/3 of the way through. It's finally my turn at the library for The Happiness Project, but now that I open it, I'm feeling blah. I need something to get excited about again!

Linking up with Steph and Jana...

Life According to Steph

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

if we had a lady date: april 2015

I like these kinds of posts. So sue me.

If we had a lady date, I would tell you that it's been too damn long since I had time away with any friends I don't work with. Everyone just seems busy. I think it's our stage in life. I'm doing that thing, where I retreat into myself, and I stop calling and emailing and just assume you have better things to do. So I would be happy that you initiated, or accepted my invitation. (Oh wait. Sarah, stop reading this, since we now have dinner plans on Friday. I don't want to be out of things to say.)

I would have to talk to you about TV. All of my shows are ending and I need a new addiction. I loved Kimmy Schmidt and I think Younger is the most precious thing I've seen in a while. Since I'm going to the ATX TV Festival this summer, I want to give The Fosters a try. Yes, it is on ABC Family, but I'm not above their brand of drama. I also need to finish season three of House of Cards. Does it get better? I hope it gets better.

And since we're on the subject of media, I would tell you about how I basically quit the radio in 2015. I used to flip between several morning shows each morning and NPR and music in the afternoons. Now that I've discovered ebooks, the morning shows' empty topics and the songs I don't really like anyway downright annoy me. I mostly listen to audiobooks, but I'm having a hard time finding one at the library I like that's available. I'm trying to find another good podcast - I really like Criminal and still like Call Your Girlfriend, though much of the sheen of the latter has worn off - so I'm always on the lookout for something great. I would want your opinion on what you read and listen to. My book likes are falling toward memoirs and books that have some kind of unique spin. I don't like fantasy, chick-lit, or anything following a typical mystery story. I would hope you would have some suggestions for me since suggestions from friends are always the best.

Work would have to come up. I've been at my job five years this fall (!!!) and this is the busiest I've ever been. I have to plan a gala. I'm not a gala person. The idea of people spending a few hundred dollars for a night of dinner, dancing, and dressing in their best clothes is downright crazy to me, so the fact that I'm now responsible for their fun is stressing me out. Event fundraising is no joke and you have to think about every penny - basically show people a great time while spending as little as possible. I would want to know more about your work and your day to day and what you've got going on. Work is such a huge part of our lives, yet something we rarely go into detail about with others. I wonder why that is.

I've read a few things lately, whether in blog posts or books, about people who don't like small talk and would rather jump to the intimate details of a new friend's life immediately. I think blogging makes that easier, but it's still hard. I would want to jump in, overshare, and be able to be myself. And I think, if we had a lady date, I might be able to make that happen.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

bbq and bluebonnets 2015

Two years ago we went to a town outside of Houston, ate barbecue, and took pictures in a field of bluebonnets. Last year, we did something similar. In order to maximize his barbecue eating experiences, my husband has declared that every spring, when bluebonnets are in bloom, we'll take a short trip to the Texas Hill Country for barbecue (for him) and mandatory pictures (for me). This Saturday was our third annual trip.

We had plans to stand in the infamously long Franklin Barbecue line on Good Friday, but those fell through. Instead, some of Andrew's friends (that he's met through twitter/blogging... the internet is magic) had plans to visit a few BBQ places with their families so we met up with them instead. We left the house at 6:15 a.m. to get to a tiny place called Snow's BBQ in Lexington, Texas. It's only open on Saturdays starting at 8:00 a.m. until they run out of food and the pitmaster is a woman who's nearly 80. It's an interesting place. At 8:30 a.m., the line was out the door. Not only were people getting food to go, but they were having large barbecue breakfasts. We got in line when one of Andrew's friends came a few minutes after 9:00 and probably ate around 9:45. When in Lexington, you eat like the locals do, I guess.

I knew we had plans for a lot of food, so I just tried the turkey, which was too dry, and the brisket, which was good. One of Andrew's friends offered a bite of his pork steak, which was pretty good too. It was unseasonably cold for spring in Houston so I froze all morning. Going in the area near the smokers helped, though.

After Snow's, we went on a 25 minute drive to Taylor, Texas for Louie Mueller BBQ. This place has been around forever. In 2013, its pit that was built in 1959 caught fire and they had to build a new one. Instead of throwing away the bricks from the old pit, they realized that suckers like my husband would pay $25 for a piece of trash Texas BBQ history. We now own a signed, numbered brick. Andrew, who hates "stuff" as a rule, absolutely loves it; I think it's ridiculous and am looking for something just as frivolous to buy for myself.

Anyway, back to Louie Mueller. If you follow me on instagram, you'll see that we bought a beef rib, which was larger than my hand. It was delicious. I was advised that the turkey was great, but I was disappointed in it, though it was better than Snow's. I like the feel of the place, though, and the old-timey, formerly bustling town of Taylor, so it's a stop I didn't mind making.

The line at Snow's was like this the whole time we were there | We did stand in the line, but it isn't my favorite in Texas | Outside Louie Mueller | Beef rib vs my hand. And I actually have a manicure for once, thanks to an instagram giveaway.

Since we got an early start and decided to skip stop #3, we had the whole day ahead of us. The Round Top Antiques Fair was happening along our drive home. Basically, antiques dealers from all over the country come to a tiny Texas town (population 90) and set up tents in halls, on farms, and along roadsides. I didn't get it until I went. A friend advised that I go to Warrenton, a neighboring town, so we did. Traffic was bumper to bumper. Ladies were working together to carry park benches and there were rolling carts full of stuff. There were tons of U-Haul box trucks and trailers attached to SUVs - people were not messing around. Since this was a somewhat impromptu trip for us, we weren't armed with much cash (which seemed like a must) and surprisingly, there was nothing I knew I needed. I wanted to love this place - after all, it's where Joanna Gaines gets tons of her ideas and inspiration - but it was mostly overwhelming and expensive. I'd rather treasure hunt in suburban shops, I think.

On the way back to Houston, bluebonnets were farther between than we expected. We were lucky enough to find a semi-decent patch, but nowhere teeming with people like we've found in years past. So, no posed and far away picture, but a selfie is better than nothing.

Another regram, but it had to be documented.

We didn't feel like going home, so we went to a beer bar, The Hay Merchant, for snacks and drinks. I finally got to try Austin Eastciders Cider and got an awesome baked pretzel (because after a day of meat, all I wanted were carbs). We watched some basketball, then went to Siphon Coffee for coffee (and a cookie for me - more carbs). It was a good, busy day and I'm already thinking about barbecue and bluebonnets 2016.