Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Cross-posted from WoahBaby!

First the foods that are keeping me happy right now. Forgive the brand promotion but these people have my deep gratitude.

1) Kashi blueberry waffles. These little guys are like guilt-free versions of an Eggo toaster waffle. Instead of being made of deadly crap, they’re made of – and I’m not exaggerating: whole wheat flour, oat flour, brown rice, triticale, barley and buckwheat and ground flaxseed. And blueberries. For 150 calories, I can have two of these whole grain marvels, and for less than another 100 calories, a pat of butter, a drizzle of maple syrup, sliced strawberries and a dollop of plain greek style yogurt for tang. A dash of cinnamon over that and I’m in breakfast heaven. Fiber, protein, fruit – can’t go wrong.

2) Laura’s Wholesome Junkfood Extreme Chocolate Fudge Bite-lettes. I don’t have an appetite for sweet things right now, and these are a good balance of light sweetness and rich chocolate – like a good dark chocolate bar can be. But these little balls of goodness have rolled oats, rice flour, dates, coconut and soy powder, and just two of them have only 110 calories. They’ve got a little dose of potassium, calcium, iron and protein. And they’re dark chocolate. Two make a perfect midafternoon snack for me right now. Whoever you are, Laura, thank you.

3) Naked brand fruit smoothie drinks. I always avoided these because, though delicious and packed with real fruit puree and juice with no sugar added, they’re pretty calorie dense drinks. A 15 oz bottle is considered 2 servings and contains 300 calories. BUT, no fat, no added sugar and, depending on which fruit blend you’re drinking, a host of vitamins and minerals, micronutrients and antioxidants. Since I need like 300 calories more daily to feed the Red Bean and all the additional personal uh, attributes, for incubation, it’s a nutritious snack I no longer feel guilty about. Usually on my walk home from work I’m pretty hungry and feeling a little ill. A bottle of Naked makes me feel worlds better and tides me over till I can rest and then fix something for dinner.

Now for books. Pregnancy books are a touchy subject to me, because, as I have mentioned, most of them suck hard. They’re badly written, boring, and assume that a) you and your spouse don’t get along, b) you have every right to be the worst, most selfish version of yourself right now to other people  while being some kind of monumentally regal baby-making goddess, and c) your ability to make good choices depends on said books. For that reason, I’m pretty much not reading any more of them. But three have made the cut. Maybe others will but I remain skeptical.

1) The Pregnancy Countdown Book. OK, this one does all three of the things above, but still offers some fun insights into baby’s development, in page-a-day format for the 240 or so days of pregnancy. I don’t love it but we keep it by the toilet, and I dislike it less than some others.

2) Bonding Before Birth. A joyful little book that I read in full on a bus ride home from New York, Bonding Before Birth is an encouraging look at all the ways you can do good things for your weetle bean while it’s cookin’. The author is a little opinionated at times, and has a tendancy to pick and choose which research she holds sacred and which she takes with a grain of salt, but overall it’s a neat look at how mom’s life affects babe. For example, when I exercise, the endorphins that make me feel good afterward make baby feel good too. When I’m relaxed, baby and I are equally free from the damaging effects of high cortisol levels. When I’m eating good foods, (duh) baby gets good stuff to build parts with. She describes it more artfully, and I really enjoyed reading it. It’s one of the only books I’ve come across that praises sex during pregnancy – love and affection between partners makes mom happy, and all the good hormones in my system afterward also reach baby. Oxytocin, the “love and bonding” hormone, has similar wonderful affects for baby that it does for mom and dad. I appreciated that at least one pregnancy book makes the assumuption that the people who just decided to become parents actually love each other and enjoy sex, and encourage the having of it. Bravo, Dr. Stoddard.

3) Momma Zen. I cannot describe how wholly I love this book. In a series of open-hearted essays, the author describes her experience of pregnancy and motherhood as a path in her life’s journey toward balance and wholeness. I love her warm and encouraging tone, even when laying bare the loss of her desired “birth plan”, the agony of sleep deprivation,  the challenge of not giving way to the lust for stuff. She describes each of her steps in terms of how to yield gracefully to the new things happening to you, to the new forces at work and in control of your body and your time, and to the magic that awaits each moment. Her writing makes me feel peaceful, capable and assured. Also, it has Cherrios on the cover. I plan to give this book to every pregnant friend for the rest of my life.


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The story of the Oxford English Dictionary is a fascinating one – a tribute to the power and fascination of language. And now its life as a print edition is over.

In honor of the OED, I offer readers my best dictionary story, one of the many delightfully bizarre incidents that occurred during my time as a bookseller for Barnes & Noble.

I liked working customer service because the best interaction with customers happened there – cash register was never as interesting. One particular winter day, a couple walked into the store and directly to the customer service desk where I greeted them brightly. They were somewhat atypical customers. By that I mean the gentleman was wearing overalls over a well-worn undershirt, and his lady-friend was less-memorable but clothed in complimentary fashion to him. They had the home-made looking haircuts of those who might have traveled into town for a special evening of Denny’s and a quick foray into an exotic book store. I’m beating around the bush here: they looked like red necks. And they talked like red necks. (more…)

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Book memory

Sometimes I wish you could selectively erase book memory, and reread books as if it were the first time.

I recall in my teenage years loving Agatha Christie mysteries, and swapping paperback copies with my grandmother. We read so many over the course of several summers that we lost track of which story was which, and we’d forget who did the murder, so that we could reread them and while we’d recall the characters we’d get to figure out all over again who the killer was. (Except of course, the biggies like The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Ten Little Indians, and Murder on the Orient Express, which were so clever as to remain indelibly memorable). But you can take any Miss Marple or Poirot mystery, mix it up with a half dozen others and forget exactly who did what and reread those marvelous books over and over – always getting near the end and saying “OH YES! It was the Russian countess!!” then happily rereading her capture and putting the book back on the shelf for the second or third time. (more…)

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In the days following the completion of my May 2010 Blogathon, I took a break from writing and immersed myself in reading. Now that I’ve devoured the last of Steig Larrson’s Millennium Trilogy (and learned to my surprise and heartbreak – and like always, way behind the curve –  that Larsson died of a heart attack in 2004, shortly after delivering the manuscripts of all three books) I’m ready to delve back into a little food activist reading. Here’s my reading list for the next few weeks:

More than twenty years ago, when Italian Carlo Petrini learned that McDonald’s wanted to erect its golden arches next to the Spanish Steps in Rome, he developed an impassioned response: he helped found the Slow Food movement. Since then, Slow Food has become a worldwide phenomenon, inspiring the likes of Alice Waters and Michael Pollan. Now, it’s time to take the work of changing the way people grow, distribute, and consume food to a new level.On a global scale, as Petrini tells us in Terra Madre, we aren’t eating food. Food is eating us.Large-scale industrial agriculture has run rampant and penetrated every corner of the world. The price of food is fixed by the rules of the market, which have neither concern for quality nor respect for producers. People have been forced into standardized, unnatural diets, and aggressive, chemical-based agriculture is ravaging ecosystems from the Great Plains to the Kalahari. Food has been stripped of its meaning, reduced to a mere commodity, and its mass production is contributing to injustice all over the world.In Terra Madre, Petrini shows us a solution in the thousands of newly formed local alliances between food producers and food consumers. And he proposes expanding these alliances-connecting regional food communities around the world to promote good, clean, and fair food.The end goal is a world in which communities are entitled to food sovereignty-allowed to choose not only what they want to grow and eat, but also how they produce and distribute it. (more…)

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Before One/Week, I tried my hand at a few other blogs. I clearly knew I wanted to write something, and I wanted to do it in the open and creative blog community, but finding just what I wanted to write took me some time. When I finally settled on the idea of a blog chronicling a year of posts on things that matter to me, I felt I’d hit on the thing I could stick to. Then I reached out for some help. As I’ve mentioned before, I reached out to my blogging spirit guide Amanda Hirsch, and one of my questions for her was “What books do you recommend?” She didn’t have any to recommend and I recall replying that she should write one. I didn’t give up my search though, and I finally ordered – because I had to get my Amazon order total up to $25 to get the free shipping – a bubble gum pink paperback called The IT Girl’s Guide to Blogging with Moxie by Joelle Reeder and Katherine Scoleri. I was looking for something a little less than an all out WordPress masterpiece on cascading style sheets and something a little more than Blogging for Dummies. All in all, Blogging with Moxie fit the bill.

The authors, Joelle and Katherine (owners of Moxie Design Studios), lend a lot of personality to the book, so the writing is, well, estrogen friendly. It’s a little over the top, as if Carrie Bradshaw was the target audience, for example, “Chapter 1: Breaking into Blogging without Breaking a Nail”, or “Chapter 7: Dressing Up Your New Blog: I feel Pretty, Oh So Pretty” (with a section called Templates, The Slipdresses of Blogs). OK, ladies, whatever, I may be downing the occasional Sweet Chrysanthemum but I bite my nails and I wear t-shirts. Each chapter ended with a little “congratulate yourself with a [bubble bath/cosmo/frappe] that at first annoyed me but finally just amused me. (more…)

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Sometimes when you learn a new word, you suddenly see that word everywhere, as if the universe converged to congratulate you for learning it. I’ve had a similar convergence around the issues of sustainable food. It isn’t really that the word appears everywhere – it was always there, you just never noticed before.

Much like the book I stumbled across in a box of books donated to the school where I work. Until recently I’d have never noticed it. But given what I’ve been learning, I could not possibly have missed it: The Town That Food Saved: How One Rural Community Found Vitality in Local Food. Moreover, it was an advance copy – the uncorrected paperback versions publishers send out to book stores and reviewers in advance of the book’s publication. Turns out my little read only came out last month, so my review here is even timely!


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