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The Things I’ve Been Reading Lately

The Things I’ve Been Reading Lately

Because my spring and summer were hijacked by the demands of buying a house and selling a house, most of the items on my 32 before 32 list have fallen miserably by the wayside. Whatevs, it’s all for fun anyway. However, there is one item where I am all gold stars and A ++++++ and Exceeds Expectations, and that’s on my reading progress. I planned to try to read 40 books this year, and here it is, mid-September and I’ve already blown through 35. I’m going to be beating that goal by leaps and bounds. Yessssss!

WHERE am I finding the time to read all these books, when my job is mostly reading all day, and I’ve got a feisty 4 year old to chase around, and sometimes my husband likes to see me too? Answer: Audiobooks. Between my husband and Baby Beez, I get virtually no say in what’s on TV, so I listen to audiobooks instead. When I’m driving in the car (which takes a surprising amount of time, despite having a 5 minute commute)– audiobooks. When I’m doing laundry or going for a run– audiobooks. And I don’t even pay for a subscription service. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has an amazing selection of books to download. I load them on my phone, plug in my headphones, and off I go!

The last several books have been emotionally heavy and melodramatic, which isn’t quite my style. I like dark books, true crime, books about people surviving horrific situations, that kind of stuff. Except I am not interested in war books, no thank you. My favorite book of all time is the Grapes of Wrath, which doesn’t quite fit that description, but it is dreary and miserable. Prime examples of my kind of books are In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Room by Emma Donaghue. I’ve been known to enjoy a funny book from time to time as well (hello, David Sedaris), but I am picky, and many humor books fall flat for me.

These are some of my favorites from this year so far:

winters-bone-book-jacket-a48355d4dd6f49ec

This book is everything. It’s rare to find a book and movie that are both good, but both the book and the film are A.MAZ.ING. This is JLaw before she was JLaw, and that woman can ACT. And the story, so dismal, so gritty, it draws you right into the crank-cooking Ozarks, for Ree Dolly’s determined hunt for her father, who is on the lam but put the family home up as the bail bond. I can’t even. Go read it.

spellman files

Sandy picked this for our book club, and I think this book is the first one that has received unanimous approval. It’s like a grown up Harriet the Spy, set in reasonably-close-to-modern-day, and the whole family is private eyes and they are all crazy. And it is wonderful. Many of the women in my book club went straight from this book to devour the rest of the series in a matter of days, and I really need to get on that, because I feel like I’ve missed out on half the party.

sharp objects

With the much-awaited Gone Girl movie opening later this year, there’s probably going to be a run on Flynn’s earlier work. I rate this closer to 3.5 out of 5 stars (the other two above are 5 stars for sure), but it’s definitely worth picking up for something dark, entertaining and fun. I loved the whole small, demented, troubled town storyline and found it drew me in and kept me interested. I think the whole cutting storyline (for which the novel was named), actually didn’t add to the story, and seemed like the kind of dark over-the-top stuff I would have written myself during my teenage goth phase. But maybe that’s the target audience the book is going to (and admittedly, it hooked some of my shameful nostalgia for those years of my own life).

wolf of wall street

Ok, I can’t maintain any credibility as a book nerd in praising this book…but it IS a lot of fun. Totally, totally ridic. And an easy read. So if you need a book to make you feel so very normal and secure by comparison (because, yes, sometimes I need that), it’s a goodie.

PS- Are you my friend on Goodreads? If not, you should be!

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Party weekend with Family House Polo and The Steel City Big Pour @CJReuse @CJBigPour

Party weekend with Family House Polo and The Steel City Big Pour @CJReuse @CJBigPour

This weekend has been a laid back couple of days spent with good friends, good food, magazines and chores. It has been a relaxing, but welcome, contrast to last weekend’s party party weekend. I’m always up for a good party, but need to balance out party time with a good nap, cup of coffee and stack of Nat. Geo Travelers.

I have found myself in a conflicted predicament over the last several years, namely: I am firmly opposed to horse racing, but staunchly in favor of fancy hats. As a result, Kentucky Derby parties have tempted me with their promise of exotic headwear, but are ultimately not the right event for me, because of the event itself. Enter the ideal event for both gorgeous headwear and happy ponies: Family House’s annual Polo Match!

FH Polo 2014

My glamorous friends Laura and Katharine invited me to join them for the polo match, and we had FUN beyond my wildest dreams! I did have a bit of a crisis in securing proper headwear. Every fascinator I saw (and fell in love with) would set me back $100-200, and I hesitated to spend that much on a statement piece that, due to being unique and memorable, I might only get to wear once. Laura swooped in to the rescue and let me borrow one of her lovely fascinators, and all was well in the world (relatedly, my mom was also in England at the same time, and I messaged her, and she managed to pick up a lovely and reasonably-priced fascinator for me at Marks and Spencer …so I am all set for next year!)

FH Polo 2014

We had a fun morning of fancy-lady tailgating, complete with champagne and little sandwiches. (PS- my dress is from my new obsession: Rent the Runway. Please invite me to more fancy things so that I can rent fancy dresses. Also because you like me.)

FH Polo 2014

FH Polo 2014

I don’t know a thing about polo, but the announcer was very beginner-friendly and explained things as they happened. Also there was a very tempting silent auction, an opportunity to go out on the field and meet the hunting hounds, and a divot stomp! I must say that I was sad that I had to depart a little early for a second event, because this was such a unique and fun outing.

Next up for my party party Saturday was the Steel City Big Pour. Of all the charity events in Pittsburgh, this is one is always mine and Mr. Beez’ favorite. It has everything we love: Lots of good beer, lots of good food, lots of friends but is NOT overwhelmingly crowded. Tickets are very hard to get, and sell out within the first minute of so of going online. There is an option to buy early (with making an extra donation to Construction Junction), which is the route we took this year to make sure to get in.  I cannot express enough how much a over-crowded event can kill the fun for Mr. Beez and I, and the thing that makes this event the best for us is that they sell plenty of tickets, but the crowd is limited such that you only have to wait in line a moment or two at each station, and you’re not packed in like sardines.

CJ Big Pour 2014

Each year that we’ve gone, it has gotten better and better. The event has taken on a decidedly local focus, with basically every local brewery you could think of participating. We had the opportunity to try some places I’ve heard good things about, but have not yet made it to, such as Grist House Brewing, the Brew Gentlemen Beer Company and Milkman Brewing. There were also some well-established not-so-local breweries there, such as Left Hand Brewing, Southern Tier Brewing Company and Bell’s Brewery.

CJ Big Pour 2014

CJ Big Pour 2014

Of course, our local favs were out in full force, including Full Pint, Fat Heads, Church Brew Works, North Country Brewing and of course, my personal absolute fav., Voodoo Brewery:

CJ Big Pour 2014

The food featured some of our local favs, as well, such as mini tacos from Verde, pizza slices from Pizza Boat, poutine from Park Bruges, and tots from the Pub Chip Shop (which left me with an overwhelming tot craving ALL WEEK LONG. I finally appeased it today with an amazing boxty brunch from Piper’s Pub).

You're messing up my shot.

You’re messing up my shot.

In short, in addition to benefiting a really awesome reuse organization, the Big Pour stands out not because it’s an event with a lot of food and drink, but because it’s a fun event with the best beer and best pub food to be found in Pittsburgh. The best best best. Both events of my Party Party Weekend were a smashing success. Now that I’ve spent this weekend resting up, I’m ready to tear it up again next weekend!

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Talking blogging and beer with @RedPenMamaPgh

Long ago, well at the beginning of this year at least, I fully intended to do one interview a month on this blog of a blogger I read, but whom I do not know personally. Then work went nuts (as it is apt to do, in the trial lawyering world), and then we bought a house and sold a house, and basically all the time got away from me. Which happens. Life happens. It’s OK.

Many many moons ago, then, I met up with Dawn of Red Pen Mama for lunch and a brew at The Sharp Edge dahntahn. I had been reading her blog for several months, and had exchanged a few tweets with her from time to time, but that was the extent we had really talked. Once she sat down at my table, our conversation was fun and flowing, and totally reaffirmed my intentions behind the interview initiative– basically to break down that wall that communicating through a screen creates, and get to know the person behind the writing.

the Red Pen Mama herself

the Red Pen Mama herself


I felt a connection with Dawn because we both blog about our families, but we don’t fit within the usual stereotype of “mommybloggers,” also, we’re both working moms in Pittsburgh, and are both (in differing roles) professional writers. Actually, we are both writers in rather specialized fields. (After all, “Red Pen Mama” is a hat tip to her red editor’s pen, and role as a parent.) All of these similarities were good for getting the ball rolling.

We spent most of our lunch talking about the history and the future of blogging. I asked her if she thought blogging is dead, and if online communication will be relegated to tweets and status updates. She disagreed, and pointed out all the forms in which longer-form communication is alive and well. Blogging may not always be blogging in the same sense we see it now, but she doesn’t see the storytelling power that goes along with blogging disappearing anytime soon.

Our conversation also wandered to the topic of paid and sponsored content. Neither Dawn nor I do sponsored posts on our blogs, but rather our careers and income are closely related to writing. Dawn’s reason for not doing sponsored blog content– the blog is her space to tell her story, on her terms. This resonated with me, as I too use my blog as my opportunity to do the writing that I want to do.

Red Pen Mama explores parenting, responsibility, relationships and life in Pittsburgh. Her writing is approachable, and she is super friendly in real life, to boot. This week on her blog, she included a heartbreaking (but also heartwarming) anecdote that is really a must read. And of course, if you run into Dawn at the next PodCamp or TweetUp or what have you, make sure to say hello!

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On Sharing, or Things I am Incapable Of.

When people hear that Baby Beez is and will forever be a (not so) lonely only, I’m encountered by concerns that she will not learn to be good at sharing. She is three, and she has the usual three year-old misgivings about sharing. But on the whole, there is nothing significant about her only-ness in terms of her sharing capabilities.

I, however, have a lot to learn about sharing. I blame this on my three younger brothers. Primarily the oldest of the three. You see, he is about 2 years younger than me, and was often afforded the get-out-of-jail-for-eating-everything-in-the-damn-kitchen-free pass of being a “growing boy.” So whenever shopping day came around, which as everyone knows means 24 hours of blissful feasting on all the glorious fresh things straight from the grocery, he destroyed it. I mean he killed every last Oreo, every last Chips Ahoy, every last anything that was actually GOOD and I wanted to eat.

He even, on multiple occasions, committed the unspeakable crime of stealing my leftover doggy bag from a restaurant meal. YOU DO NOT TOUCH OTHER PEOPLE’S TAKE OUT. And yet he did. (I have petitioned the legislature to make “stealing someone’s doggy bag” a defense to criminal mens rea, with little result as of yet.)

This childhood trauma stayed with me. It has caused me to be an utter psychopath in our own house when it comes to any kind of desirable food that I’m afraid someone else might snap up before I get to it. I am not above leaving long notes detailing the bodily harm that will befall anyone who touches my food.

You know who does not have a similar psychosis? My husband. Who is an only child. He never knew lack. When he wanted Oreos, he went to the kitchen and got the Oreos, because there was no one else around to steal them first. Or if he ran out of something, he could tell his mom, and she’d go to the store and get more. So he never had the trauma of a junk food craving gone unfulfilled because a bratty sibling swooped in first. Which also means that he is utterly unsympathetic when I go off the deep end over food.

I brought home ice cream last week. I waved the cartons in Mr. Beez’ face and announced “IF YOU TOUCH EITHER OF THESE, I WILL STAB YOU IN THE NECK WITH A PEN.”

NOT YOURS.

Mr. Beez hates coffee, and does not much care for blackberry either, so neither of these tempted him. He said that it was not necessary to threaten him with violence. If I tell him something is mine, he will just not touch it. But I am incapable of such trust. I have a deep-seated doubt of household males’ abilities to not destroy all the things in the refrigerator that I want.

Also last week, I indulged in a major splurge… a whole CASE of PumKing beer!

STAY AWAY, FOOL.

Again, I declared that the entire case was “MINE!” And he better not touch it. He had no objections. He doesn’t like PumKing either. And he also pointed out that it is not necessary for me to be so dramatic.

After all this, I seriously doubt the characterization of only children as incapable of sharing. Even Baby Beez, when she had a sleepover with her friend Elena this weekend, shared her toys much better than I am capable of sharing my food. But for now, I’m chalking it up to a survival instinct. Clearly there is no survival without ice cream or beer.

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This apple fell far from her tree.

In fourth grade, I had a conversation on the bus on the way to school. We were talking about bad words. One kid asked me “Do you know what the VERY WORST of the bad words is?” I said I knew…but when they sought confirmation I couldn’t come up with anything shocking enough to even rattle them.

Finally, one kid announced “The WORST bad word is f**k.”

“Huh?…that’s not even a word.” I huffed. It didn’t even sound bad. It sounded like nonsense to me.

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This weekend, I was trying to back out of the tiny single lane alleyway that leads to our garage. Yet again, some jerk blocked it with his car, and left the vehicle unmanned, so there wasn’t even anyone to scream at.

I started yelling in the car about “THAT F****G VAN!” Steam, pouring from my enraged ears.

A tiny voice piped up from the backseat, “What’s the f*****g van?”

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My parents got me through to 4th grade without me even hearing the f-bomb. And here I’ve got my 3 year old dropping it.

#ParentingFail.