Monday, August 29, 2016

Book Giveaway

I've never done this before, but since all the cool kids have drawings on their blogs, I figured I should give it a try!

These are three books I have reviewed through Blogging for Books, that I enjoyed well enough (solid 3 stars) but feel no need to keep in my collection. (The Sunlight Pilgrims, The Mapmaker's Children, Avenue of Spies).

To enter the drawing, comment below and tell me:

1)  What you are reading right now, and
2)  Which of these three books you would like (check out previous blog entries or my Goodreads page for reviews).

I'll draw the winners on Thursday night, and you can pick up if you come to the pool party!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Winter is Coming

I'm a sucker for apocalyptic novels. Can't get enough of them. And living on Minnesota, winter is always heavy on my mind, so The Sunlight Pilgrims seemed right up my alley.

Enough so that I did not honestly pay a lot of attention to the details before I picked it up.

First of all, this is not set in the far-future. It's set in the winter of 2020 — which is, for all intents and purposes, is right around the corner. To be honest, I'm not sure that I want to contemplate an apocalypse that is quite that close. Especially a wintry one.

I also missed that it was a YA novel — though truth be told, the jury is out as to whether is actually a YA novel, or just written by a young author. That was actually a nice surprise, since the coming-of-age story of Stella (formerly Cael) was the strongest part of the book to me.

It's a beautiful book and a poetic book; but it's also a book that moves as slowly as the glacier that plays a featured part on the storyline. As such, it's not a book for fast-moving narrative, but rather a contemplative, character-driven piece, with a slight tendency towards navel-gazing.

It's not the kind of book I usually read, but I was glad to pick it up.

(as usual, book provided free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Two Meals, Two Shows

Those of you who have stuck with this blog for awhile will remember that I used to do a lot more theatre reviews and restaurant reviews. I've lost steam on them lately for  number of reasons (like lack of babysitters). But I am happy to say that I caught up with both a little, thanks to buy birthday and the Fringe.

On Friday, for my birthday lunch, we headed to Red River Kitchen. Saint Paul has not known what to do with that site for a long time; I have seen a lot of proposals come and go. But apparently what needed to be done with it was simply to spend a few thousand cleaning it up, then let a permanent food truck do the foo service. The atmosphere is fresh and lovely, and the food great!

There is a wide variety of kinds of food. That said, it adds up fast, which I find happens at most similar places (think Sea Salt and Dockside). Lunch for 3 of us, including beers for Patrick and myself, was $51.20. That said, Patrick had a more expensive item (the crab noodle bowl), and Beatrix had a hot dog, fruit salad, and a bottle of water, which added up to $15 just for her. I had fish tacos, which were great, and a delicious blueberry beer. We ran into a friend, contemplated a game of corn hold, enjoyed looking out over the river at the Irish Fair, and generally had a great time. Highly recommended.

Last night, my cousin's daughter was free to babysit, so we ran off for a quick dinner at Mucci's. They don't take reservations, and I have been scared by the lines there before it opens, but we timed it perfectly and the friendly hostess got us a table right away. We proceeded to try the Mucci's Juice (fanta and red wine, yum!), a chop salad, and two deliciously simple (and large) fried pizzas. Great food, a lovely atmosphere, and some of the best staff I have seen in a long time — friendly, but not obsequious. I would like to go every week, if I could.


Last year, we hosted The Fourth Wall when they were in town for Fringe. For various reasons, we could not billet this year, but they were kind enough to give us some comps, so we hit some Fringe shows on closing night tonight. (For far better Fringe coverage than I will skim over here, check out One Girl, Two Cities.)

It felt like a waste to see only one show on a wristband, so we headed first to Circus McGirkus. I honestly had expected something a little more circus-y (though there was some good hand-balancing), and perhaps a bit riskier with the dance elements. There were some very charming moments, however, so it fit well my Fringe theory of "see what you can and you might be surprised how much you like it."

Fourth Wall's show (Fruit Flies Like a Banana: Alphabetical Disorder), though, hit it out of the park. We had loved the show last year (as did the rest of the Fringe), and I was afraid I might not be as impressed this year. Their shows that we have seen to date are all based on short vignettes — the audience picks a card, or a letter, or whatever, and then they perform the piece that goes with that. And by "perform" I mean percussion, bass, and flute (and toy piano, and ukulele, and...) along with wildly imaginative movement (HOW does Hillary play the flute, upside down, while being carried by Neil?) So in any case, the show did exactly what it did for me last year — reassured me that the power of inventive, cross-platform performance is still very much alive. I don't know what these guys are up to next, but whatever it is, you should see it.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Spy Stories

My fascination with  WWII history began at an early age. My mother was very interested in it, and I remember reading (and watching) The Holocaust in fourth grade and being told by a teacher's aide to put it aside for later. Since then, I've devoured as much about it as I could.

I was initially disappointed in Avenue of Spies. A quick skim through the book showed a rather dry past tense writing that is just not my preferred style. I came close to just putting it aside. It clearly had a lot of research and information in it, but I was just not sure it would captivate me.

But I had it with me for a weekend away, so I sat down by the lake to read it and was soon taken in. The true story, of an American doctor married to a French woman and practicing in Occupied Paris, was really captivating, as was their involvement in the Resistance. The French WWII story is so often overlooked, and is extremely complex.

The more I read, the more I got involved with the story, and the more engaged I got. In the end, I'm really glad I stuck it out.

(As usual, I received this book form Blogging for Books in exchange for my unbiased review)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Summer of S'Mores

I thought this would be a sophisticated summer. After all, we started with a week in Paris.

I thought it would be The Summer of Fizz, with gin fizz drinks a-plenty. Some theatre, concerts, maybe jazz. Music in the park. Classic films. Champagne brunches. Long novels. Croquet.

Instead, it's kind of been the opposite of that. We've gone up to the cabin twice, gone to girl scout horse camp, gone camping with Beatrix's troop. We've canoed, and gone on picnics. We've gone to farms, fed the animals, cuddled kittens, collected eggs. Instead of gin drinks, we have had A LOT of s'mores. It's been more about DQ than gourmet ice cream. We've adopted a scruffy new dog and taken him on walks. Beatrix's favorite two camps have been the Warner Nature Center and DayCroix. She is tan, and a little scabby and bug-bitten.

And that's exactly how summer should be.