Sunday, April 30, 2006

On My Nightstand and Desk...

...there are books. Quite a few books, actually, since I was at book sales at two different libraries yesterday. Here's what I'm currently reading, just finished, or about to read, though, again stealing the idea for this post from Mental multivitamin: I'm going to take each book, go to page thirty, and write down the forth sentence, and then write something about why I have this book.

And what are you reading?

Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood, by Steven Mintz

Nevertheless, the Great Awakening did reinforce a trend toward greater youthful autonomy.

Yes, I know that this book was on the list last time I did this about six weeks ago. I've checked it out of two different libraries, then finally bought my own copy. It's a wonderful book, though, one I'm happy to own, and I'm finally at the last chapter. I'm going to write a review of it here as soon as I have the time.

An Irreverent and Almost Complete Social History of the Bathroom, by Frank Muir

It is no wonder that, apart from health cranks, hardly anybody at that time 'frequented the gelid cistern'.

I got this for a quarter at one of the book sales yesterday. Interestingly enough, I was googling to try and discover when "shower-baths" become common in American bathrooms just the other day. I didn't find anything online, though there were a bunch of book and journal references that I could search out if I need it. 1920's, I'm guessing? The index in Muir's book points to the origins of cold showers, which was earlier than I thought. I'll bet showers weren't very popular until hot water heaters were common.

Nightbirds on Nantucket, by Joan Aiken

"Thee may have the use of my stateroom."

I loved Joan Aiken's books as a child, starting with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. I think my son is almost old enough for them, and this was also a bargain for a quarter. I'm looking forward to re-reading the whole series.

The Motherhood Manifesto: What America's Moms Want - and What to Do About It, by Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner

"She's kind of moody, but she's really good with kids and I might have to use her."

I've been looking forward to reading this ever since I read about it on MomsRising.Org. It doesn't have an index, though, which is a pet peeve of mine.

W.E.B. Du Bois - Biography of a Race, 1868-1919, by David Levering Lewis

"We were companions," said he, pure and simple.

This book is for an article for my part-time writing gig. It's fascinating, though, and outrageous that I knew so little about Du Bois and his influence on American politics & civil rights. It doesn't say much for my high school history teachers or textbooks, that I knew so little about Booker T. Washington, W.E.B Du Bois, William White, and Monroe Trotter.

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

Hassan, of course, was oblivious to this.

My book club is reading this, and half the people I know (including my mother) have already read it and loved it. I'm liking it a lot so far, though I'm worried something tragic is going to happen soon.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Some Recommended Reading for Mothers

...also highly recommended for Dads, especially if they do much care-giving:

Mothers & More 2006 "Mothers at Work" Reading List

Sadly, I have not read any of these books, although I have read quite a few on their general recommended reading list on Motherhood and Society. Also, I just bought a copy of The Motherhood Manifesto: What America's Moms Want and What to Do about It, by Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, and The F Word: Feminism in Jeopardy, by Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. And as soon as I finish Huck's Raft (I'm up to the 60's finally), I'll get right on them.

Meanwhile, check out MUBAR's The Feminine Mistake, a very perceptive review of Darla Shine's Happy Housewives (which I ranted about here).

Monday, April 24, 2006

Since I can't figure out how to make this banner a clickable link, here's the link:

And if you've ever used a breast pump, be sure and check out the "Office Lunch" story by Mary Ann Romans on this page of the 'hood (of motherhood).

Friday, April 21, 2006

Go Read at "I See Invisible People"...

...because the 13th Carnival of the Feminists is fascinating. My favorite link is Peyton Place in the Pleistocene (and why didn't I ever think of doing that kind of post?), but there's so much more. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Answering Some Google Searches

Tomato watches? Who are you people, searching for tomato watches so often? I can't figure it out.

To whomever was looking for the "oldest domesticate": it's the dog. Unless you're talking about plants. Then it's the bottle gourd in the New World (brought over the Bering Straits, along with dogs), then squash, and I think it is lentils or some other legume in the Old World. Or maybe wheat. I suggest you google "paleoethnobotany" and "oldest plant domestication".

The appropiate age to read "Of Mice and Men" is around 16.

There, is that what you wanted?

You Say For-SY-thia, I Say For-SITH-ia

We're having a week or two of real spring, like one of those southern states where spring is a distinct season, and there's daffodils and early tulips and hyacinths and forsythia. Our forsythia (shown above) is one tough shrub. It was grown from a cutting from my in-law's old house, survived six years and a fire and subsequent construction at our Ann Arbor townhouse. When we moved to Saline four years ago, my husband dug it up (severing many of the roots), pulled it out of the half-frozen ground with our car, and then we left it sitting frozen by our front porch for several months. We had to unpack some of the stuff we needed and then get used to having a new baby. Still, William Forsyth's Chinese shrub flourished when we got around to sticking it in the ground the following spring.

One more tidbit that I remember from Warren Wagner's wonderful "systematics of botany" at class at the University of Michigan: forsythia is in the Oleaceae family, and thus closely related to olives. It doesn't seem particularly oleaginous as far as shrubs go.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Mothers at Work: Mothers & More 2006

I started blogging last year for Mothers & More's annual media campaign - so I'm excited to see the new bloggers online for this year's campaign.

They've also chosen some of the organization's themes as general blogging topics, which should prove interesting:

* All the work mothers do - whether paid or unpaid - has social and economic value.
* Mothers have the right to fulfill their caregiving responsibilities without incurring social and economic penalties.
* All women deserve recognition and support for their right to choose if and how to combine parenting and paid employment.

You wouldn't think that these simple ideas could be controversial. But both sides of the political spectrum (in the US, and to some extent, worldwide) have issues with mothers and their roles in different cultures or parts of our society. Just ask Linda Hirshman or Caitlin Flanagan.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Lists of 100 Books

I've been bookmarking those "100 Greatest Books" or "100 Best Reads of the Century" lists for a while now, as I mentioned at my book club last night. Wow, that makes me sound really middle-aged and boring, doesn't it? My book club. But really, what could be better than a night out discussing books with some friends? OK, I can think of a few better things to do, but they all involve babysitters and elaborate plans and some money (at least for the babysitter). Participation in my book club just takes a library card and some reading (which I already do), and the ability to talk about a different book each month. Not a problem here. Especially when wine and chocolate and strawberries and blueberries are provided (thanks, Kim).

The New York Times prints a 100 Notable Books of the Year every December. Last year's picks weren't so exciting for me, although I did like some of the non-fiction a lot and a few of the fiction selections are still on my "to read" list.

The BBC did a general "best-loved novel" list in 2003. Five of their top ten are five of my favorites, and since I've read so many of the UK's "best loved" (48) I felt all smug...until I realized that most of these were children's books.

Book of the Day is working her way through an interesting bunch of lists: Great Books Lists. I love her blog selection of trashy books interspersed with literary stuff. It mirrors my own reading, though I don't blog about most of the trash. I'm pretty sure this is also where I found CounterPunch's Top 100 (and a few more) Non-Fiction Works of the 20th Century.

Time magazine did a story on the 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923-2005. It's a weird that I guess reflects the idiosyncracies of the two editors that got to pick the books. Some of the books I agree are absolute classics, others...not so much. Then there's Random House's 100 Best Novels, both the board's list and their reader's list. Battlefield Earth? Give me a break.

If you're a snob about your reading, you can always check out The 100 Most Meaningful Books of All Time, selected by a hundred authors from 54 different countries.

Finally - I haven't forgotten about kids' books. Here the NEA's two lists: Teachers' Top 100 Books and Kids' Top 100 Books. And finally, the New York Public has the wonderful 100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know - which is especially nice because it includes pictures of the covers.

I'm sure I could go on and on...I could probably google up 100 Lists of Lists, but I think I'll stop here.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Perfection Salad: Book Review

Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century, by Laura Shapiro

This was a very entertaining book, although you would never guess it, given such a domestic subject and a really ho-hum subtitle. I read a recommendation on, though, so I requested it from our library. Since it was published twenty years ago, there wasn't a request list.*

Perfection Salad is well-written, funny, and very well-researched. Although the "current trends" summarized in the last chapter are now sadly out of date (but maybe they've been updated in the new edition, which I haven't seen), the rest of the book is still very relevant and occasionally very funny. It's a history of women's roles, feminity, the science of cooking, attitudes about food, the evolution of the food industry and American cuisine, and home economics.

A few images that stuck in my head: early in the 20th century, it was thought that women and children needed lighter (less masculine) food than men. One popular magazine recommended that children be given a delicious frosting sandwich for lunch.

On the other hand, it was a cause for great concern if boys only wanted more feminine desserts: from "How to Eat, Drink, and Sleep as a Christian Should":

Both parents know that Tom should be helped up to a sturdy boyhood; not having all his girlish fancies indulged. How can they make him love the rare, juicy tender roast beef, and the hot baked potato that he now turns from, holding in his hunger until the pudding gets on the table?�

It was commonly assumed that most of the men in prisons, workhouses, and mental hospitals in the early 1900's were there because they didn't have good women providing them with wholesome food at home. If they had the right foods, they wouldn't turn to drink! Pies, old-fashioned pies, they were a gateway drug. I had no idea. And apparently this whole "women cooking good food keeps a family wholesome" idea is coming back into serious vogue, according to Caitlin Flanagan, anyway. No, I'm not going to link to Flanagan's book, but here's that now famous interview in Elle.

And those immigrants with their foreign foods! What was wrong them, eating pasta and garlic and whatnot, when they could be eating molded jello salads, baked beans garnished with toasted marshmallows stuffed with raisins, and meats cleanly covered in a smooth white sauce?

* has a new edition, with an introduction by Michael Stern, published in 2001. And my apologies to any Sybermoms who have already read this review a while back. I thought the book deserved a wider audience, and I didn't feel particularly creative tonight.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Finally, Some Reasonable Discussion... an addition to Miriam Peskowitz's book on "the mommy wars".

Parent Bloggers Face Off, with Leslie Morgan Steiner and Brian Reid was much better than I anticipated. There was no finger-wagging judgmentalism, but thought-provoking, reasonable discussion. And Parent Blogger sounds so much more balanced than either Mom Blogger or Mommy Blogger. Enough of that argument.

And NOW is really getting on board with their Mothers Matter and Caregivers Count page and petition. Finally!

Sybermoms' Auction is Tonight!

Now is a good chance to get something cool -- a basket of cheese curds, an autographed book, some knitted goodies -- and all profits go directly to The Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Austism.

You just have to register at, then bid on the auction item you want. The auction forums are open for browsing now (the 24-hr auction starts tonight at 7pm EST, live auction tomorrow).

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Alien Superheroines, Strawfeminists and More... the 12th Carnival of Feminists at Written World. The planet Zamaron provides an exciting launching point.

Weird Google Searching Again

I've named some of my posts weird things. A couple of titles were based on my daughter's mispronouncing or malappropriating words.

So I find it more than a little strange that someone out there is searching for "tomato watches" and "peanut butter and jelly fish". Do they want a watch shaped like a tomato? Do people really eat pb&j-fish somewhere?

And you don't have to stop. You can think about SCHLOPP. Schlopp. Schlopp. Beautiful schlopp with a cherry on top.*

*Courtesy Dr. Suess's Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!, which was just read here. Let's see what kind of people search for schlopp. Beeyoootiful schlopp.

The latest best post on Google perverts is at Suburban Turmoil, though. Love the advice.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Driveway Diaries: Book Review

The Driveway Diaries: A Dirt Road Almanac, by Tim Brooke is a good spring read. If you like Michael Pollan's work (especially my favorite, his book on gardening - Second Nature) or Bill Bryson's books, there's a good chance you'll like this little volume of essays on how a professor from England buys a house out in the country in Vermont.

The book itself is interestingly shaped - more nearly square than most paperbacks (and not like the illustration here). It's the width of a trade paperback, but only as tall as a mass market paperback. This gives it a slight "picture book" or artsy feel - though there aren't any pictures, except for the graphic woodcut-like design on the cover.

Not every essay thrilled me, but most had me nodding my head, saying uh huh, that's so right, and comparing the differences in roads and driveways between Illinois (where I grew up) and Michigan and Vermont. I spent a bit of time thinking about the physical & environmental differences between rural, suburban, urban, and small town areas I've lived in, and thinking of "My Life in Driveways" (which would make an interesting blog meme: describe each driveway or lack thereof in your life), which was one of the essays that I most enjoyed.

His descriptions of different kinds of ice, shovelling, and problems with winter driveways made me appreciate the crocuses, daffodils and robins now (finally) here. And Brooke has a wonderfully anthropomorphic essay on the differences between tulips, daffodils, and irises that was one of the best parts of the book.

Now that I come to think of it, a driveway is the opposite of a porch. The porch was designed as a halfway habitation: on the porch, the homeowner was sheltered and at home, but was also visible and available to passers-by, able to wave, call out, chat. The drieway assumes that you don't want to talk to passers-by, and that there aren't any anyway, as they're all in their cars. It means that instead of the intervening distance between private and public being small and joined by words, it is large, and one passes through it enclosed in a car. -- Tim Brooke, in The Driveway Diaries: A Dirt Road Almanac, p. 79.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Children's Literature Carnival!

I don't have much time to blog, having just started a part-time job doing research and writing. It's fulfilling some of my creative needs, and it pays! Woo hoo! Now I have an excuse for ignoring housework.

I did want to link to a blog carnival I just discovered, though: The Third Carnival of Children's Literature. Let the wild rumpus start!