|Nomadic SA Chick||
It's been awhile since I've done anything but talk about books, movies, cooking, and now shrews. So, I thought I would take this moment to throw out a few life updates from the balmy Anchorage area. As some of you may know from my holiday letter I had three major things I wanted to do this winter, after the new year came around. 1, Learn to ski (both downhill and cross country), 2, start archery lessons, and 3, see the Iditarod. well, only one of those things will be happening this year, if I'm lucky two, but it's not looking so good.
Alaska is having a snow drought. We may have 2-3" on the ground right now, and with weather warming up it's not staying around too much longer. We don't have a foreseeable forecast for more snow any time soon. This impacts both the first and third goal I had. There is not enough snow to properly learn how to ski, and most slopes are closed which means that the instructors are not working. The lack of snow also means that there is not enough snow for the Iditarod to happen. Each year there there is a ceremonial start in Anchorage and then a restart the next day in Willow, AK. For the second time ever, they are having to move the restart from Willow to Fairbanks, and it's looking like the ceremonial start will not happen either. If both things are a bust this year, there will always be next year, so it's not the end of the world, just disappointing. Oh well.
At least there is still Archery! I've booked my first two lessons, the 22nd and the 25th of this month. I will book two more after I finish these. I'm really excited about it. it's been so long since I've had a bow in my hand, and I'm ready to be back at a range. 11 days and counting!
I also wanted to follow-up with a post from a few days ago (Thai Chicken Soup), where I mentioned how my tastes have been off recently. I've realized that there is something wrong with me. I had a doctor's appointment a couple of weeks ago (no worries, it was just a routine thing and everything is Manda-normal). But at this appointment the doctor gave me a new medicine and I started tracking some issues I've been having and they all seemed to have started a few days after this new med. My appetite is down (which is a VERY good thing), but it's weird because I will be hungry, make a meal, or select something at the school cafeteria, and then once the smell hits me, I loose my appetite. Hella weird. This new med has also left me with a dysfunctional sleep schedule, and a few other issues. I can't complain too much though because overall I am well.
Everything else is going well up here. Work is good, and my personal personal life is okay. A few more awkward dates that thankfully didn't work out too well. Thankfully! We've had more moose on campus, just another day in Alaska, and the cats are still assholes. I've got really exciting news that I am hoping that in the next month or two I'll be able to publicly share it, though at the moment, someone might seriously maim me if I let the cat out of the bag too soon.
Until then, *insert cheesy catchphrase here*
To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.
Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.
This book is told through the warped perspective of a 5-year old, Jack, whose mother tucks him into a wardrobe every night to sleep. "Ma" does this so that "Old Nick" won't disturb the boy when he comes to visit in the middle of the night. Jack has never left the confines of Room and knows nothing of the world but what is contained within those walls. Room is loosely based on a true-story.
I cannot begin to describe just how terrifying and disturbing this book was. it was something that was ripped right from Lifetime. They call it T.V. that resembles life, but whose life are they resembling? I am very happy that I read this, but do not think I could ever read it again. At least not for many years. If they ever make this into a movie, it will be one hell of a creep fest.
All that being said, Room is incredibly heart-breaking and redeeming at the same time. It will make you question the humanity of some people. Very few books make me cry, but this one did in several places.
I give this a 5 out of five.
I had such high hopes for this. It is one of my favorite dishes when I go out for Thai food, but this recipe feel far from delicious. Where I found this to fall short was in the flavor. it was very bland and I could not figure out how to make it better. I sprinkled some Tru Lime in my bowl and it helped a bit, but not enough to make this decent.
Good Reads Synopsis:
Claudine has long buried her own needs and dreams to care for her alcoholic mother. But after Mom suddenly disappears, a much darker truth that lies buried under years of angry denial and enabling behavior is waiting to be uncovered. When Claudine eventually hits rock bottom, she must literally dig to find the secret that waits in a shallow grave behind the family's trailer. Buried is a suspenseful and mind-twisting psychological thriller that will keep readers turning the pages and help them grasp the drama and destruction of codependency.
Claudine is a 17 year old young woman who is left with the aftermath of her mother (a single parent) falling off the wagon, again. Claudine is not only left with having to clean up after the apparent party her mother had the night before, but it becomes obvious that her mother has taken off with no clues of when or if she will return. Claudine is hopeful that her mother has finally checked herself into rehab and is set on drying out for good this time. Through the book we follow Claudine in her daily life as she attends classes, group support meetings, and going home to an empty trailer. Little does Claudine notice the subtle and strange changes that are happening around her.
Overall I liked this book. Admittedly it has a very slow start, but after about 50 pages in it really starts to pick up. Though this is a young adult novel, it was an interesting look at mental health issues and what it is like to live with it , or with someone who is mentally ill. I was not entirely prepared for that aspect of the book, but it was a very good read. This was another quick read; I finished it in less than day. This book left me feeling a bit creeped out. It was a very eerie story, but if you have time this is one book that worth checking out.
I give this a 4 out of 5.
You is kind. You is smart. You is important.
It's 1962, and Jackson, Mississippi is a hot spot for poor race relations and equality. Skeeter is a 22 year old, privileged young woman recently returned home after graduating from college. Aibileen Clark is middle-aged nanny and house keeper, and Minny Jackson is a smart mouthed younger woman who has troubles keeping housekeeping and cooking jobs because she can't keep her mouth shut. Together these three woman will accomplish something that will turn the whole society of Jackson, MS on its head.
I had put off reading this book for a long time, it's jsut what I do with overly hyped things. I honestly thing that if it weren't for the reading challenge I wouldn't have picked this one up yet. I am glad I finally did. It was a good book, though I do believe that it does not live up to the hyped it had. I blame Oprah's Book Club fans for that, because I don't think it would have had the following had it not been for Oprah's endorsement. That being said, I think she made a smart choice with this book. But, I digress. The book was a great read filled with emotion and history of the beginning of America's Civil Rights Movement. Stockett built a lot of great characters and back stories for each. She was seamlessly able to alternate the telling of the book between Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny, each with their own distinct language and speech patterns.
I give this a 4 out of 5
The movie is a bit more flat than the book was. But how do you fit 450 pages into a 2 1/2 hour movie? A lot of things had to be cut, altered, and rearranged. I think the movie did well in conveying the main points of the book, but got lost in conveying the personal struggles Skeeter faced between her friends, boyfriend, and her parents as she worked on the book. They also did not delve into to much back history with either Aibileen or Minny, unless they absolutely needed to. The relationship between Minny and her husband was never mentioned, which then made the ending a little off. Overall it was a good movie and worth seeing at least once, but wait until you've read the book.
I give this a 3 out of 5
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead! --- You've been warned!
Now, for more details about everything, and a book vs. movie comparison.
When Skeeter decides that she wants to start writing the maid's stories she starts to make unintentional waves with her friends. Hilly Holbrook has too much ego, too much pride, and too much power in the town. Afterall, Hilly is President of the league and her husband is wanting to kickstart his political career. All the woman see to respect (or is that fear) Hilly, so they follow her orders, sometimes with great reservations. Hilly is not above lying about the maids to fire them or worse, have them fired, and she quickly becomes Skeeters biggest enemy, despite the fact that they've been friends since primary school. Hilly will stop it nothing to make sure everyone in Jackson has shunned Skeeter.
While all this is happening Skeeter does a great job of hiding this from her ailing mother; Charlotte Phelan is none the wiser about her daughters alienation in the community. Though Charlotte is fighting her own health battles (cancerous ulcers, and it looks pretty grim), she is more concerned with her daughter finally meeting a nice young man and getting married. Enter, Stuart Whitworth, the senator's son whom Hilly has set up with Skeeter, long before everything got out of hand. The relationship between Skeeter and Stuart is rough. On their first date he was a complete asshole to Skeeter. A few months after that date Staurt shows up at the Phelan farm to apologize and explain why he acted the way he did, all while acknowledging that it was wrong of him. Charlotte is delighted that Skeeter is "normal", and encourages and in some ways tortures Skeeter to make sure she is always acting like a "proper lady"; wearing the right clothes, that her hair is just right, and that she doesn't start talking about her dreams of being a writer. Charlotte does not want Skeeter to do anything that might scare Stuart away.
Stuart and Skeeter eventually start dating seriously. Then one night The Phelan family is invited to the Whitworth's to have dinner and so the families could finally meet. it was during this dinner that Skeeter realizes that things are wrong between the two of them and Stuart breaks up with her. After much time and much heart break, Stuart shows back up at the Phelan farm begging for forgiveness from Skeeter. He's sorted out his mess and realized Skeeter is the woman he loves. It took some time for Skeeter to let Stuart back in, but she eventually does, after her mother warns her not to take Stuart shit anymore. Charlotte has grown as and found more appreciation for her daughter's personal happiness. The time comes when everything seems to be going right in Skeeters life. The stories she has been writing with the maids is going to be published, she loves Stuart, and Stuart proposes. Skeeter is shocked by the proposal, but before she can say yes she decides she must tell Stuart about the book. That did not go well at all. He is livid about it, and does not agree nor believe in what she did. Stuart takes back his proposal, leaves, and we never hear from him again. Skeeter is devastated but she doesn't tell her mother that the engagement is off before it every really began. In fact, Skeeter tells her mother that she is engaged. Charlotte is on her death bed and Skeeter only wants happy news for her mother.
Now you're probably wondering why I just devoted two paragraphs to the dead end relationship between Skeeter and Stuart. Well, it's because when I first started reading the book I saw a review from another reader that said they didn't understand why Stuart was even included because it was a pointless story. I could not disagree more. After reading the book it became apparent just how much Skeeter gave up to pursue what she believed in and dreamed of. With stern encouragement from Elaine Stein, a female publisher in New York, Skeeter finds her courage to tell the stories of the help. Skeeter lost her position of editor of the League journal, all of her friends, all socializing with white people who are not her family, and probably what hurt the most for her, Stuart. That relationship wasn't for nothing. It was a sign of how much this book and these maids, who are usually treated so poorly by her white friends, truly meant to her. She sacrificed everything for the cause.
When the book is finally released people quickly find out it's about Jackson, even though Skeeter changed to the town name to "Niceville", changed the names of all the maids and employers, and even published it under "anonymous". She did everything she could to spare any backlash for the maids. Thankfully Minny demanded that Skeeter put in a very specific story that would be their insurance policy in case it was ever learned where the real location was and who these maids really were. Hilly is a very smart woman who quickly starts to connect the dots.
As Hilly reads through the book she preaches about this book being about Jackson and that she will figure out who that maids are and they will all be fired for speaking poorly of their employers (though not all the stories are bad, some are actually really nice and gives you a little hope for humanity). Hilly is in hot pursuit of the "blasphemous" maids, that is until she gets to the very last chapter. She has stumbled up Minny's insurance policy, what she calls "the bad thing". Hilly quickly reads the story about a maid in the act of revenge who makes a chocolate pie for her former employer. This pie is supposed to be an apology to the employer after the maid was fired. This chocolate pie is filled with the maid's own shit. A hot, fresh, and steaming chocolate pie. The employer eats two big slices and is getting ready to enjoy a third when the employer's mother comes in and wants a slice. The maid who cares about the mother tells her no that it is only for the employer, but the employer insists that the mother have a small slice if she wants it, but the maid maintains that the mother should not. Finally the maid tells the employer and the mother that the employer is in fact eating shit pie. The mother start laughing while the employer screams. Hilly screams! She realizes that this is her story of the time her asked that Minny come to work for her because she was putting her mother in a nursing home. Now Hilly must decide to either keep on with her witch hunt and let her story come to light, or she defends the book and claims that it's not about Jackson.
In the end, Charlotte gets better and lives. She even knows that Skeeter and Stuart broke up again and there is no going back for a third time. Aibileen is fired from working for Skeeter's former friend Elizabeth after Hilly accused Aibileen of stealing some silver. Aibileen is also going to start taking over for the housekeeping article in the white paper, so long as nobody knows that it's her. Minny is still working for the Foote's (Johnny and Celia; Hilly's ex-boyfriend and his new wife), and she has been promised a job for life, as long as she wants it. She has left her abusive husband and taken all her children with her. Skeeter is offered a job in New York working for the publishing company that published her book. She split all the proceeds from the book 13 ways, so that all the maids get a cut of the profits also. Skeeter also learns the truth about what happened to the maid that raised her (Constantine Bates); a secret everyone had been keeping from her since she returned to college.
Book vs. Movie
The book wins; it will almost always win. However, I like the movie a lot. A lot had to be changed to make the adaption, and I think a lot of the back stories and relationships suffered because of this, but they also altered the some personalities a bit. The things I was disappointed to see changed or glossed over were Celia's miscarriages and the emotional impact it had on her and Minny. This was such an important detail in the development of Minny and Celia's relationship from professional to friend. They also altered Celia's revenge check against Hilly after Minny explained to her why Hilly and the League ladies do not like her, and about the "bad thing". The importance of the relationship between Skeeter and Constantine was also altered. It played a much larger role in the book than in the movie. They even short changed Constantine firing and how that involved her grown white-looking daughter, or the history and trauma of Constantine having to give up her daughter because she looked too white. I wish they would have left this in the movie. However, I don't think they could have played it well with the positive changes they made in Charlotte for the movie. That is the one thing I was most delighted with about the film. Charlotte became a stronger woman in the film, even though in the movie she is sick with cancer from the very beginning, rather than it being a slow development through the book. I was impressed to see Charlotte stand up for her daughter when Hilly came over to accuse Skeeter of the "travesties" of the book. Charlotte stands firm and calls out Hilly for leaving her house looking like a mess, not fixing her hair, and for not covering up the obvious cold sore she's sporting. In the movie Charlotte realizes that Skeeter wrote the book, and she's actually proud of her daughter for it. Overall, both the book and the movie were good, each for their own reasons. I recommend reading the book and seeing the movie.
Everyday, remember the life lessons Aibileen tried to instill in the 4 year old Mae Mobley she was caring for. "You is kind. You is smart. You is important".
This is a brilliant recipe. It creates a very moist cake (though somewhat heavy), but it's like a loaf of banana bread cooked in a bunt cake and top with cream cheese icing. What more could anyone ask for? The frosting recipe seems to be doubled and was perfect for covering the cake and leaving about a cup extra, which I froze). 5 out of 5
This was not a good week for recipes. The original version of this that I tried truly was a disaster to my kitchen. Whoever put this one together did not give much thought to logic. When I tried this in my own way it turned out pretty great, and that is the recipe you will be getting. The only thing I did not have that I needed was a tomato. The one I bought went bad before I was able to use it. Fresh produce in Alaska is like playing Russian roulette. You buy it and it looks great, but can go bad very quickly up here. This recipe makes at least 3 pizzas. With the altered recipe: 4 out of 5