Friday, February 25, 2011

Turkish Beef Stew

Am I allowed to say that this week has been the week from hell? Good news is I'm almost done with my first round of CE courses (wait, I didn't mention that I'll have to do Round 2 in March??), but the bad news is that we had a sudden deadline at work requiring overtime that has left me exhausted.

Amazingly, I did have the energy to try two new recipes this week. The first, Turkish Beef Stew from October 2007 edition of Every Day with Rachael Ray, was delish. The second I'm not sure about yet--it was a cheesy spinach artichoke pasta that was too cheesy.  Might have to think about it more before posting.


Turkish Beef Stew

I adapted this recipe a bit while cooking, so the original recipe can be found on Rachael Ray's website.

3 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 pounds beef chuck cubes
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with their juice (I used tomatoes w/ basil, garlic, & oregano)

1 cup beef broth
1/2 tablespoon white cooking wine
1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 pound wide egg noodles
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons flour


1. In a 4-5 quart pot, melt a tablespoon of the butter and brown half of the beef. Remove with a slotted spoon and repeat with second tablespoon of butter and other half of beef. Remove and set aside (maybe not necessary to cook in batches and remove if cooking with large pot...).
2. Stir the tomatoes and beef broth into the pot, reduce the heat to low and stir, scraping up any browned bits. Add the beef, the wine and vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, and pepper; bring to a simmer over low heat. Cover and cook until the meat is fork-tender, about 1 hour.

3. In a small measuring cup mix flour and water. Add some of the stew liquid to the flour and water mixture and mix well. Add all to the pot to help thicken the stew. [not in original recipe but we found the stew to be too watery--perhaps because we used entire can of tomatoes].

4.About 10 minutes before the stew is ready, cook the egg noodles according to the package directions. Toss with the remaining 1 tablespoons butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the stew over noodles.

Makes 4 servings

Scott said, "What are those spices?" The clove and cinnamon smelled delicious but were an unexpected taste. Scott wasn't sure about the clove taste at first, but we both ended up really enjoying this recipe and will definitely cook it again. The leftovers were even better! Next time I might add some carrots for some extra veggies, but overall very good and incredibly easy. Can't ask for more!


I tried this recipe as part of the Whip Up Something New Challenge, a challenge that encourages you to dig through your untried recipes and get cooking.  The challenge is hosted here on Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity this month, so be sure to check out the February links and don't forget to submit your own "Whip Up Something New" recipe. I hope you'll join us from month to month!

Every weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  "Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs."  Hope you'll join the fun!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Jousted by Joyce - Shelfing Ulysses

It pains me to write this post, but last night as I was working on CE hours thinking about those 150 pages of Ulysses I needed to get read by this morning and the time that will be spent this week and maybe next on more CE hours (continuing education--online courses for my insurance license renewal next month), I have decided to throw in the towel.

I've been Jousted by Joyce. I'm not going to write off Ulysses as a DNF (did not finish), but instead I'm just going to shelf that puppy for another day. Another day when I'm not trying to prep my house for baby, not trying to cram a sickening amount of CE hours into a short amount of time, not reading just 10 pages here and there.

So what will I read instead? In the past three weeks I've read about 30 pages of Looking for Alaska by John Green, so hopefully I can pick up the pace and really get into the story.

Happy Monday!! I'm unplugging until Friday when [fingers crossed] I'll have a recipe to post.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Salon 38: First Time Discoveries

Good morning Saloners! I hope you're all having a lovely weekend. I spent most of the day yesterday working on a continuing education course for my insurance license and baking sugar cookies with my sister. Today will be a chore day and more continuing ed (unfortunately this will last throughout the end of the month), and hopefully some Ulysses and maybe even a walk outside? Time flies too quickly, that I do know for sure!

First Time Discoveries

I was racking my brain trying to think of a topic for today's Sunday Salon when I remembered a brief twittersation I had with Ana from Things Mean A Lot and Andi from Estella's Revenge. Andi was Atonement by Ian McEwan and I commented that it's one of those books that I wish I could read again for the first time. I can't explain why without giving spoilers to the book, but there are several books that while I would love to re-read them one day, I wish even more that I could have the pleasure of reading the book for the first time.

There are some books that are so magical or so surprising or twisted or unexpected know...that there's really no experience like reading them through for the first time. Sure, the second reading might give you more insight and you might pick up on some of the foreshadowing, but you'll never have that moment back again when things click into place and you say aloud "Ha!" because you've finally got it. Honestly I don't think this has to be a book with a twist--but more a book that contains a moment of discovery.

Some books I wish I could read again for the first time (unfortunately I can't tell you why, but of course if I wish I could read these again I recommend them!):

Atonement - Ian McEwan

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

Cold Mountain - Charles Frazier

Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier

The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood

I also want to use The Book Thief but didn't because I counted it as a Freezer Book last week. I'd love to read it for the first time not knowing anything about it. Actually, having just said that I realize that maybe this is why I like going into a book without knowing anything about it! The moment of discovery is just too delicious.

Sunday's Questions:
Are there books that you wish you could read and experience again for the first time? Which ones? Do you enjoy a book that surprises you or do you prefer comfort in your books? (again, by surprise I don't necessarily mean "twist" just unexpected in some way).

Looking Back to Last Week
-Last Sunday I asked about everyone's Freezer Books
-I shared a very special Valentine's Memory/Disaster
-Little Miss Baby Billy Sue is Growing and other random Wednesday Thoughts
-I wasn't crazy about The Knife of Never Letting Go

Looking Forward to Next Week
Well, tomorrow is supposed to be Jousting with Joyce but since I've only read 20 pages in the past two weeks (yes folks, you read that correctly), I'm not sure I'll make it. Might just have to do a brief post. I'm hoping to get in a recipe or two for Whip Up Something New challenge (Make sure you check out this month's challenge if you haven't yet!!). Really looking forward to this month being behind me--note to self: don't procrastinate on continuing education again!

Happy Sunday to you all!!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go
Author: Patrick Ness
Published: 2008 Pages: 479
Genre: Fiction (Young Adult); Sci-Fi?
Rating: 2.5/5

The Knife of Never Letting Go follows twelve year old Todd Hewitt who is about to become a man within his society. Once a boy turns thirteen in Prentisstown--a town absent of women due to a germ that killed them all--something happens to push them over the brink of boyhood into manhood. Right before his birthday, Todd witnesses something just outside his village that changes the plans for him and he is forced to flee Prentisstown. One thing about Prentisstown? Everyone can hear the thoughts of everyone else in a jumble of words called Noise.

I hate this—writing this post—because everyone seems to have really loved The Chaos Walking series, including The Knife of Never Letting Go, which is the first in the series. I have seen a few other lukewarm reviews, but the overwhelming consensus seems to be that this book and series is awesome. If you’re interested, please check out Google Book Blogs Search for more thoughts.

Why I read this book: I picked this one up after seeing several rave reviews in a row. I had heard about its emotional pull—and I’m a sucker for books that can make me cry.

Thoughts in general: I started off really liking this book. I was intrigued by the premise and really wanted to figure out what was going on in the novel. Part of me thinks my "eh" feeling for the book is just me. Perhaps it’s because I read this book over a course of a month and couldn’t really get sucked into the story properly? Or maybe it’s because the mystery seemed to be too dragged out for way too long? Or maybe just a bad month for reading (also read and was “eh” about True Grit). Bloggers love this book, so if nothing else *I* feel like the failure!

Where things went wrong for me: Instead of going on and on about the book, I’ll try to keep this brief and short (I’ve noticed my reviews are getting pretty lengthy and rambly lately!).
*characters that just wouldn’t die
*phonetic spellings of words Todd didn't know how to spell (see last quote below)
*a mystery that was too mysterious for too long
*lack of emotion within the characters (not always, but sometimes)
*one chase scene after another after another
*too much repetition (length of the novel could have been cut significantly)

I’m sure there are other things as well, but it’s been a few weeks since I finished. In short, I closed the book having no desire to continue with the series. I hate that! This book does ask some great questions and bring up some important themes, but unfortunately the way the novel was executed just didn’t work for me. Oh, and for the record--I didn't cry. I found some parts really sad, but no tears for this gal.

Some parts I liked and dogeared:
"Men's minds are messy places and Noise is like the active, breathing face of that mess. It's what's true and what's believed and what's imagined and what's fantastized and it says one thing and even tho the truth is definitely in there, how can you tell what's true and what's not when yer getting everything" (42).

"As long as I hold it, as long as I use it, the knife lives, lives in order to take life, but it has to be commanded, it has to have me tell it to kill, and it wants to, it wants to plunge and thrust and cut and stab and gouge, but I have to want it to as well, my will has to join with its will" (341).

"'Everything on this planet talks to each other,' he says. 'Everything. That's what New World is. Informayshun, all the time, never stopping, whether you want it to or not. The Spackle [aliens] knew it, evolved to live with it, but we weren't equipped for it. Not even close. And too much informayshun can drive a man mad. Too much informayshun becomes just Noise. And it never never stops" (391).

Have you read this book? Why did you like it or not like it?

Do you ever feel like a failure because everyone loved a book but you? Which book?

Happy Friday!! Hope you all have a fabulous weekend.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Random Wednesday Morning Miscellany

Time is flying too quickly these days! It's been four weeks since my last rambling post (how is that really possible?), so I thought it may as well be time for another.
I'm growing exponentialy and at 30.5 weeks there is NO mistaking that I'm pregnant. I laugh now at the 19.5 weeks picture and how little I was! If you missed the others: 22.5 weeks and 26.5 weeks. I still think I look smaller in the picture than I actually feel--I'm starting to get a little uncomfortable, but I know that in the next 10 weeks I'll continue to expand!

30.5 Weeks

I won't freak you out with too many pictures (because I know they are kind of freaky), but last weekend we had a 3D sonogram of Little Miss Baby Billy Sue. After twitching and fidgeting throughout my entire massage just prior, LMBBS decided to nap during the sono instead of giving us a show. It was still neat to see a glimpse and to confirm that she is in fact a she. Whew! We think she has Scott's nose and even though the picture has a lot of shadowing I picture that she has lots of hair. After the heartburn I've been experiencing, I'll be shocked if she doesn't arrive with a full head. Old wives' tale you say? Any of you have heartburn during your pregnancy and end up with bald babies???  ;)

After several days over the past few weeks with temperatures in the teens, I fell in love with the 60 and 70 degree weather this past weekend. I went on walks both days, and on Sunday Scott accompanied me. I asked him if he wanted to hold hands. He did not.

The walk gave me hope that spring is right around the corner. The Bradford Pears are starting to bud a little bit and I am so ready for some green around town. Are you starting to see any winter relief around you?

Am I the only person in the world who detests chocolate cake? Chocolate icing? Love. Brownies? Double Love. But chocolate cake? No way Jose. Part of me thinks this might be because of the bits of chocolate cake that break off into vanilla ice cream, but that would be silly, right?

Of course, I don’t like Cheetos because of eating them with pruney fingers after swimming all day long as a child. Wet pruney fingers with Cheetos powder all over the tips. Yuck.

I officially waddle. That is all.

When people see me waddling down the hall at work they ask me if I’m OK. Yes, I just walk at snail’s pace these days. Probably because I’m trying to balance on pretty high heels which strangely help my sciatica. Probably because I’m forced to take baby steps—hence the waddling. I kind of like the change of pace.

I’ve been listening to a lot of musicals lately. Even though I’m wearing headphones, I like to think baby girl is channeling the singing and dancing through my aura. I’ve learned through Twitter that people are quite passionate about Les Miserables (as am I). Tell me—do you prefer Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera?

When Scott asked if I wanted flowers or a plant for Valentine’s Day I told him I wanted to pick out a new orchid. I now have three orchids in various stages of growth—one from last v-day in leaf stage, one in spike stage (from our anniversary last May), and one in bloom stage (down below). Those are not technical orchid terms. I’m thinking about writing a post just about orchids soliciting your advice. Do you have orchids? And have you been successful at getting them to rebloom?

I could ramble your heads off--but I'll refrain.

What random and miscellaneous thoughts are on your mind this morning?

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Memory - When Things Don't Go As Planned

There are times in life when things don’t go as planned. And it’s easy to throw up your hands and get upset, to write off the event as a failure or begrudge that your plans were derailed. On the other hand, sometimes those moments somehow end up being the most cherished moments in life.

My first Valentine’s day with Scott was an absolute disaster. For Valentine’s Day 2004 we planned to spend the weekend at his parent’s cabin in Taos, New Mexico. I had just graduated from college and Scott was still living in College Station. He picked me up in Dallas and we made our way on the 10 hour trek west to New Mexico. Seven years later the exact details are foggy—such as the time we left and when the weather conditions really started to turn south, but I remember the point at 3:00 in the morning when the temperatures outside were registering in the negative teens and it was so cold Scott’s radio in his Explorer stopped working.

By the time we finally got to the cabin it was frigid and the snow was knee deep. Scott went around to the back of the house to get the house key only to find…nothing. He broke into the house and I bundled up to get warm while he worked on turning on the hot water and heater. Nada. The family friends who used the cabin last failed to prep the water pipes, so everything was completely frozen and the heater wasn’t working. Needless to say we only spent one freezing cold night in the cabin before we were able to find the last condo available in Taos the next day.

After spending most of the day trying to find the last minute accomodations (remember, Valentine’s weekend!), fixing the broken glass window, and wrapping up the water pipes, we were glad to spend a little bit of down time together at a cozy Mexican restaurant in downtown Taos. The hostess found us a table right in front of the live entertainment for the evening – Juan Extraordinare. Awesome! It was not. I can’t even say Juan was Ordinare. My favorite part of the “performance” was when Juan Extraordinare received a phone call and half talked on the phone and half serenaded the crowd at the restaurant. Since we had front row seats, we were privvy to it all—I think poor Scott was going to die with embarrassment and frustration. Top it off with terrible food and even worse service, to date it is still down in our book as the worst dining experience we’ve ever had.

The next day, however, we were able to finally ski! I had never skiied Taos before, nor skiied with Scott who has been skiing since he was a baby, so I was excited and nervous at the same time. Until we were struck down with food poisoning from our dining experience the night before. I’ll spare you the details other than we didn’t get much skiing in that day and Scott and I got to know each other on a whole new level.

There was nothing that could have made the trip a bigger disaster than it already was (nothing we want to think about anyway). That night we ran to the grocery store to pick up some more Pepto and on the radio playing over the intercom played Elton John’s "Your Song." I will never forget being in the produce section of Smith’s grocery in Taos and Scott taking my hand and dancing me with around the greens to Your Song. In that moment, all the frustrations of the trip melted away as Elton John sang to us and gave us reason to dance. A disaster that is one of my favorite memories.

To borrow from Elton John:

How wonderful life is with you in my world...

Happy Valentine's Day. I hope your plans go a bit smoother than ours did, but I also hope that when things don't go as planned you're able to find a beautiful memory in the mess.

Much love,

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Salon 37: Freezer Books

Good morning! We've had a beautiful weekend here in Dallas and thank goodness after the bitter cold we had earlier in the week. Hope you're all keeping warm wherever you are. On a walk yesterday I noticed the Bradford Pears are starting to bud--I can't wait for those blossoms to pop!

Freezer Books

Last week my sister was reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and she mentioned how the book was starting to give her really heavy boots (a term from the book). I asked her if she wanted to put the book in the freezer, but she didn't understand why I would ask her that.

I reminded her of the Friends episode (link to episode script) where Joey and Rachel put Little Women in the freezer during a particularly sad part of the book. It's been years since I've seen this particular episode but when I very first met Lisa from Books.Lists.Life she was reading A Thousand Splendid Suns and mentioned she needed to put the book in the freezer. Since then I've thought about this several times as I've wanted to put this book or that in the freezer, hoping to avoid the inevitable but knowing it can't really happen.

Truth is I'm a sucker for freezer books. Although I hate when something might not go the way I'd like for it to in a book, the emotional attachment I have to certain books or characters is what keeps me reading. I love a book that will make me pause for a second, hug the book, and maybe even shed some tears. One where I can't bear to turn the pages but knowing I must come to the end. It might be exhausting to read only freezer books, but I wish I encountered them more often.

Some of my favorite freezer books--where I have reviews I've linked to them.  Obviously I cannot tell you why they are freezer books for fear of spoiling, but it isn't always the obvious reason.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathon Safran Foer

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy

The Bone People - Keri Hulme

Remains of the Day - Kazou Ishiguro

The Book Thief - Mark Zusak

Sunday's Questions:
Have you ever wanted to put a book in the proverbial freezer because of your emotional attachment? Which books have struck a particularly emotional chord with you? What books might you consider "freezer books"?

Looking Back to Last Week
-Last Sunday I asked you how public you make your blogging habits or if you keep it more private amongst those you know in your personal lives. I was hoping to catch the opinion of some non-book bloggers, but there was some great comments!
-Tuesday was Jousting with Joyce and my thoughts on Part I of Ulysses.
-I shared my blah thoughts on True Grit the book and movie remake
-For Weekend Cooking I shared these delicious Buckeye Delights. They're too good!

Looking Forward to Next Week
I'm hoping for a special Valentine's Day post for tomorrow--one where I share the memory of my first Valentine's Day with Scott. My sister chastised me last week for not having a Wordless Wednesday post, so I'll either do a WW or a random post as I had another sonogram yesterday. This was just for fun, but we did confirm that Little Miss is in fact a baby girl. Whew! Other than that, I'm not sure. I'm avoiding having to take a blogging break but I have a feeling it's inevitable with the amount of Continuing Education hours I need to get by the end of the month for my insurance license renewal coming up. I'll be glad when all of that is behind me for a while!

Happy Sunday!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Betty Crocker's Buckeye Delights

Every year for my family's Annual Bake Day we like to try out new recipes. Sometimes they're keepers and sometimes they're not. We first tried Buckeye Delights two years ago and think it's one we'll add to our annual "must make" list.

The recipe is from Betty Crocker and they are delicious! A little on the time consuming side, but delicious.

Betty Crocker's Buckeye Delights

Cookie Base
1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® sugar cookie mix
1/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon peanut butter

Directions [my notes in brackets]

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 36 mini muffin cups with mini foil candy cups (about 1 1/4 inch). In large bowl, stir cookie base ingredients until dough forms. Press about 1 tablespoon dough into each foil cup. Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until puffy and set. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Remove from pan. [watch your portion sizes as you'll be tempted to make these big--recipe barely yeilds 36, so keep those balls small! We also pressed the cookie a little bit in the cup to help the top flatten more, though this could be done after it comes out of the oven?]

2. In small bowl, mix filling ingredients until well blended. Press about 1 teaspoon mixture on top of each cooled cookie. [same advice--barely yields enough for all 36 cups; you can always add more to each cup if you have extra!]

3. In 1-quart saucepan, heat whipping cream just to boiling over low heat, stirring occasionally; remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup of the chocolate chips. Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until cooled. Spread about 2 teaspoons chocolate mixture over each cookie cup.

4. [We're lazy and skip this step, but it does make them pretty!]  Place remaining 2 tablespoons chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon peanut butter in resealable food-storage plastic bag; seal bag. Microwave on High 30 to 60 seconds or until softened; knead to mix. Cut off small tip from one corner of bag. Squeeze bag to drizzle chocolate mixture over each cookie cup.

Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until set. Store covered in refrigerator.

Makes 36 cups.

Love Peanut Butter? You've HAVE to try these!! ZOMG is it Christmas time yet?

Every weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  "Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs."  Hope you'll join the fun!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

True Grit - Charles Portis (book and new movie)

Title: True Grit
Author: Charles Portis
Published: 1968; Pages: 224
Genre: Fiction, Western?
Rating: 2.5/5

True Grit is Mattie Ross's tale about how she left home at the age of fourteen to seek revenge upon her father's murderer, Tom Chaney. She enlists the help of U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn and  together with Texas Ranger LaBoeuf they travel from Fort Smith, Arkansas into the wilds of the Oklahoma Indian Territory. Set in the late 1800s.

Why I read it: Work book club, though no one finished the book in time so we didn’t meet. Again. #fail.

Thoughts in general: At the back of my copy, there is an afterward by Donna Tartt who is obviously very enamored by the book. As is all her family and everyone she lends the book to. I, on the other hand, didn’t get it. I ended the last paragraph thinking, “Huh” [with a period, question mark, and exclamation point] and so was very curious as to why this Tartt lady loved the book so much. I’m trying to put my finger on just what it is about the book that I didn’t get—the premise is incredibly simple and seems as though it would make a classic story, the characters all have lots of potential, and there’s even a great deal of action sequences.

So, what gives? The narrator, Mattie, retells her story years after the events have occurred which creates a great amount of distance in her narrative. There were times when I laughed out loud at her thoughts and overall I could tell that there was a fair amount of dry wit in the writing, but the distance and resulting lack of emotion was too much for me to overcome. The characters had great potential--especially Rooster Cogburn and LaBoeuf (pronounced LaBeef), but they fell flat with Mattie's dry storytelling.

Bottom Line: Because this one has been made into two movies and Bookfool loved it, I feel like I should keep it around to try out in a few years. Afterall, it is short enough to re-read fairly quickly. Maybe I need to read it with a different tone in mind, or maybe...I don't know. This reading, though? Just didn't do it for me and I closed the book hardly caring about what had happened. Don't you hate that?

The only passage I took the time to mark:
"The marshals were unloading the prisoners and poking them sharply along with their Winchester repeating rifles. The men were all chained together like fish on a string. They were mostly white men but there were also some Indians and half-breeds and Negroes. It was awful to see but you must remember that these chained beasts were murderers and robbers and train wreckers and bigamists and counterfeiters, some of the most wicked men in the world. They had ridden the 'hoot-owl trail' and tasted the fruits of evil and now justice had caught up with them to demand payment. You must pay for everything in this world one way or another. There is nothing free except the Grace of God. You cannot earn that or deserve it" (40).

Thoughts on the movie remake directed by Joel and Ethan Coen: first, I love those Coen brothers. Love them. When Scott and I watched the preview for this movie months ago, I had two remarks: 1. Bad Ass! 2. Oscar Movie. After seeing the movie I can say that at least one of those remarks came true. I enjoyed the movie much more than the book, which is highly unusual for me, but mostly it was just OK. The tone that should have come across stronger in the book--the dry wit and frankness of Mattie Ross--was much more evident in the movie. Mostly I was entertained but there were parts that dragged a bit and there may have even been a few parts where I struggled to keep my eyes open (shhhh!). Scott, though, hated the movie. We have very different tastes in movies, it's true, but for him to openly express his disdain with such force is uncommon. When it comes to shoot em up Coen Brothers movie, I'd go for No Country for Old Men.

The preview does make the movie look fantastic, though!

Have you read the book or watched the movie (original or remake)? Can you tell me what I'm missing??

Moooooving On!

I am an Amazon Associate and if you purchase True Grit or any other Amazon product through this review I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no additional cost to you. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Jousting with Joyce: Ulysses Part I

I'm late, I'm late, I can't believe I'm late. Actually, I have a feeling this month will kind of go that way. With the two snow days last week I'm trying to make up some time at work so that I'm not having to draw from my maternity vacation days (am hoping to take a full 12 weeks off work). Add in some lunch meetings, bad traffic in the morning, and third trimester exhaustion and it's a recipe for no time. Oh, and I have more Continuing Education courses I need to finish this month. If I disappear, that's why, but I'll try to forewarn if it comes down to me taking another break.

Anywho. I DID manage to finish Part I of Ulysses on time for the ever fizzy Softdrink's Jousting with Joyce readalong. PS--if you haven't seen her intial post with pointers, she's got some great links with helpful websites. I really wish I had an annotated copy of the book, but I'll just have to wait for next time.

So, what happened in Episodes 1-3 of Ulysses?
I have no idea. Ok, here's what I do know: Stephen Dedalus from one of my most loathed books (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) is back. Imagine my excitement when the opening character Buck Mulligan "Then, catching sight of Stephen Dedalus, he bent towards him and made rapid crosses in the air, gurgling in his throat and shaking his head" (3). I might have done the same.

Buck Mulligan and Stephen Dedalus have a round of conversation in the tower where they live about annoying people, Stephen's deceased mother, and this and that (episode 1). They part ways and Stephen heads to school where he is a teacher of young chickadees. Mr. Deasy asks for Stephen's help publishing a tract he's written--Mr. Deasy is a very vocal anti-semite (episode 2). Stephen leaves the school and Mr. Deasy to wander among the beach thinking about this and that (episode 3).  PS: The entire book takes place within a day.

So, what the heck did I think of Episodes 1-3 of Ulysses?
I have done a considerable amount of re-reading and I still don't get it. I actually started by listening to Episode I for free via librivox, but the production was terrible. I can't remember if I've said it here before or not, but it was more like a group of drunken graduate students who got together (with musical instruments!) to read the book aloud.  Yup, if I were in grad school, that would be my idea of fun! (not really, we preferred to watch Bride and Prejudice over and over whilst eating Cherry Dumpcake, but that's another story). Since then I've ditched the recording and just gone with the trusty paper book, pencil, and dictionary.

In short, I'm highly highly intrigued by this book. I know I can't understand it during this reading and that frustrates me to no end. My process for this one, at least so far, is to read it in very small chunks and re-read and re-read. Look up words, dissect words, mince words, mesh words, ohmygoshjustgraspontojustonethinginthisentirebookplease. Apparently Episode 3, with Stephen mumbling on the beach, is the "kiss of death," and since I've made it this far I feel quite successful. I can see why so many give up on this book--it is so filled with allusions and obscurities that it's impossible to make sense of from your own store of knowledge. 

Jason wrote a great post about learning to love the Proteus Chapter (Episode 3), which I urge you to check out. He mentions over and over how pretentious this episode (and I would argue this entire three chapter section) reads--and it is. And it's a huge part of what makes this book [so far] sp difficult to understand. Jason also mentions that because the book  [so far] is so heavy in the stream of consciousness, it's impossible to fully grasp what is before us because one cannot fully know another person's mind, which is exactly how reading Ulysses [so far] is.  I keep saying [so far] in hopes that maybe this changes a bit? But from skimming ahead, I don't think so.

I'd like to take this idea of inner stream of consciousness one step further--Stephen Dedalus is educated and bright and he has ambition to do well and to achieve many things, but he lacks the maturity to fully formulate his thoughts into coherent strands. When one becomes armed with knowledge, sometimes it becomes too easy to string all those pieces of knowledge together into something so big but unfortunately so nebulous. Stephen has grand ideals, but he hasn't the ability yet to filter through those ideals to present something intelligible. And so what we end up with is a jumble of thoughts that all sound good when separated and dissected from one another, but when put together is complete nonsense. It reminds me of when I was a college student and thought I was so smart and thought that if I used the right words or meshed together enough blah blah blah that I'd have a really smart and intelligent paper or presentation. Unfortunately, though, those who are wiser, more mature, and more experienced with knowledge are able to see right through the muck.  Anyway, large ramble over.

Um, in the end I don't really know what's going on, but honestly I don't really care. I'm mostly just letting the language of Joyce roll over me--sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Some really poetic parts that also don't necessarily make a lot of sense to me. ;)
(copied from Ulysses, but with my book's page numbers)

"Woodshadows floated silently by through the morning peace from the stairhead seaward where he gazed. Inshore and farther out the mirror of water whitened, spurned by lightshod hurrying feet. White breast of the dim sea. The twining stresses, two by two. A hand plucking the harpstrings merging their twining chords. Wavewhite wedded words shimmering on the dim tide" (9).

"Fed and feeding brains about me: under glowlamps, impaled, with faintly beating feelers: and in my mind's darkness a sloth of the underworld, reluctant, shy of brightness, shifting her dragon scaly folds. Thought is the thought of thought. Tranquil brightness. The soul is in a manner all that is: the soul is the form of forms. Tranquillity sudden, vast, candescent: form of forms" (25).

"Would you do what he did? A boat would be near, a lifebuoy. Natürlich, put there for you. Would you or would you not? The man that was drowned nine days ago off Maiden's rock. They are waiting for him now. The truth, spit it out. I would want to. I would try. I am not a strong swimmer. Water cold soft. When I put my face into it in the basin at Clongowes" (45).

"Darkness is in our souls, do you not think? Flutier. Our souls, shame-wounded by our sins, cling to us yet more, a woman to her lover clinging, the more the more" (48).

Yup, see?  Just gotta go with it...

Catch up with Jill (aka Fizzy Thoughts, aka Softdrink) and the rest of the crew for Part I of Ulysses.
Happy...Tuesday? Yikes!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Ponderings 36 - Publicizing or Privatizing Your Blog

funny pictures of cats with captions

Good morning everyone! I hope you're all having a lovely day with lots of reading and/or football in store. I feel bad ditching the regular Sunday Salon this morning, but since my topic isn't specifically bookish, I didn't feel right giving it the tag. Same basic premise applies, though. And let me say right off the bat that this post has nothing to do with publicizing your blog as in gaining readers, marketing yourself, blah blah blah. It's more of a personal pondering. Also, please note the ponderings in this post are my from my personal experiences and I certainly hope that the things I express do not create any offense for anyone else.

Publicizing or Privatizing Your Blog

I have so much I want to say about this topic as it's been one I've been thinking about for years (in some shape or fashion). I've already scrapped three whole paragraphs of ramblings about audience awareness, so I think I'm just going to cut to the chase on this one. How public is your blog? Obviously there's a difference between having a public blog and a private one, but how much do you publicize your blog in real life? And let me just define real life as consisting of people who are probably not bloggers themselves. I don't like the term "in real life" but will use it in this post. My apologies as I'm sure you don't like it either, but we'll go with it.

Because I started out as a book blogger, blogging exclusively about books with a fair amount of anonymity, I didn't talk about my blogging habits at all in real life. I honestly don't remember when I told my family, but I remember being a little embarrassed. Blogging just about books? What authority did I have to talk about books? And what does it even mean to be a blogger? Bloggers aren't always portrayed kindly in media so it was just easier to keep my blogging activities private, though I was never ostracized for being a blogger.

There did come a time when I started being more public with my blogging, but my friends and family didn't get it. "How's your online book club?" they'd ask. Um...? Ok, scratch that. Not sure where book blog evolved into online reading club. On the other hand, though, I started being more public on my blog about my private life. Some of you I've known for three and a half years worth of blogging, and while I know not everyone shares the same sentiment about sharing private life stuff on the blog (another topic for another day?), it just felt natural to me.

It eventually felt natural to combine my personal blog with my book blog into this current blog--I mean, I've posted some pretty ridiculous videos of me doing really embarrassing things. And other than my deep dark secrets (ha!), there isn't a whole lot I haven't talked about. Of course some topics are better left unwritten as I realize that even though to most of you I'm just a random gal who blogs and I still have a fair amount of anonymity, this is still a very public forum and anyone can read what I write.

In the past year, though, I've been more personal than bookish on the blog. And while it would require another post to thank you for all putting up with my shenanigans (as I know book bloggers generally like to read blogs that are exclusively book blogs), I also find myself wishing in a way that I could share my blogging with personal friends and family without getting the blank "you have a blog?" stares or the comments about enjoying my posts when they're not so bookish (um, lately that's most of them). Slowly I've been adding links on Facebook, and typically only when I post something personal (which is ironic since it's possible most of my FB friends are book bloggers), but I'm still hesitant about uttering those words, "I am a blogger."

Sunday's Questions:
Do you make your blogging public in real life? Why or why not? How do you bring up the subject of your blog--work it's way into conversation or just blurt it out? How do people react to your blogging? Do they take an interest or just kind of brush it off?

Looking Back to Last Week
-February's Whip Up Something New linky is up! Hope you join us.
-I showed you the quilting progress on Baby Billy Sue's quilt
-Finally I reviewed The Book Thief (re-read in 2010) and gushed a little a lot

Looking Forward to Next Week
I have no idea. Fingers crossed a review on either True Grit or Friday Night Knitting Club (both half written posts). Oh, my thoughts on the first section of Ulysses for Jousting with Joyce tomorrow! Huh, and I guess probably just a Wordless Wednesday or a Random Wednesday post. Maybe a recipe on Friday, but we'll see how the week progresses. I know I'm weird, but I just don't like posting every day!

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend! And I hope you're staying warm whereever you are--we're barely thawed out in Dallas but have more projected snow storms for next week. Unfortunately our city just doens't know how to handle it like you Northerners! It's pathetic really, but I'm glad to stay put...until the ice cream runs out...

Happy Sunday!

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