Thursday, December 24, 2009

Naughty, nice, or just terrified

So you better watch out,
you better not cry,
Better not pout,
I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is comin' to town.
He's making a list and checking it twice,
Gonna find out who's naughty and nice. . .

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I began watching the Poldark miniseries on Masterpiece Theatre with my mother, who had read the books, then I quickly got the first in the series from the library. It was originally called The Renegade, but the title was changed to Ross Poldark after the series became an event, first in the UK and then in the US. Like many others, we were glued to our television on Sundays at 9 for weeks. Robin Ellis, who played Ross Poldark, became a sensation and was even called the sexiest man on British Television. Hailed as a British Gone with the Wind, it is one of the best adaptations I ever saw because of the dramatic story line, the fact that it did not deviate too much from the books, and the actors were incredibly well chosen for their parts.
In brief, it is the story of Ross Poldark, coming home to Cornwall from fighting in the War of American Independence, tired and injured. When he returns, he learns that his father is dead, his estates are virtually bankrupt, his fiancee believed him dead and is now engaged to another. Born into a family of good lineage, if not riches, Ross is part of the landed gentry of Cornwall but has a compassion for those less fortunate that constantly gets him in trouble with his peers. It is one such impulse that causes him to rescue an urchin from a group of bullies; when he realizes it is a girl, he agrees to hire her as a servant.

I remember at this moment saying to my mother, "Julian and Tibby!" a reference to Dawn's Early Light, book one in perhaps my all time favorite series, Elswyth Thane's Williamsburg Novels, and she protested, "No!" in horror because she loves those books so much but there are some similarities. Both Julian and Ross fight in the Revolutionary War, and are very much influenced by the ideals of liberty and equality for men: Julian in the years after his arrival in Williamsburg from England in 1774 and Ross upon returning to Cornwall from the Colonies, both men in love with beautiful women from the upper levels of society, both men poor but determined to survive (Ross is much less law abiding than Julian), and both take an initially paternal interest in a teenage girl from impoverished family.

Indeed, I hope I have persuaded you to try the Poldark novels or the DVDs, and I have now convinced myself I need to own and reread the entire series! Other Winston Graham novels were made into movies and are also worth hunting down - notably Marnie (Hitchcock) and The Walking Stick (a compelling but sad book).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Several years ago my friend Eileen Kendall, esteemed founder and patroness of the Georgette Heyer Discussion Group, recommended a new miniseries of North and South, based on Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel, which she said was nearly as good as the Firth/Ehle Pride and Prejudice. Although I am fairly well read in 19th century literature, I had somehow never read Gaskell and knew little about her. Handicapped by being in the middle of law school and prescribed by an upbringing that prohibits multimedia prior to one’s having read the book, I mentally put Gaskell aside for several years. Last winter my book group read North and South, which I greatly enjoyed, so when I learned about the Classics Circuit of Gaskell, I was excited to participate and chose Cranford so that I would finally be able to watch the PBS episodes languishing for many months on my DVR.# I read the Oxford University Press edition, because I had liked the introduction in North and South.Cranford is the story of a quiet English town around 1850, which consists primarily of worthy older ladies living in genteel poverty. As in many comedies of manners, their primary occupation is discussing each other. Cranford itself is viewed through the eyes of Mary Smith, a modest young lady who pays frequent visits to the Misses Jenkyns and who is not even identified by name until late in the book (leading me initially to wonder if Daphne du Maurier’s heroine in Rebecca was not the first nameless protagonist).

At first, I did not see the charm in Cranford, just the bleak existence of its primarily female inhabitants, and I wondered why Mary kept coming to visit the elderly Jenkyns sisters, stern Miss Deborah Jenkyns and her younger and more frivolous sister, Miss Matty.* However, as I continued to read and grow familiar with the cast of characters, I began to appreciate the idiosyncrasies of the Cranford ladies as they balance the demands of their society and its gentle entertainments with their limited financial resources - and ultimately reveal true friendship and loyalty beneath the tittle-tattle. As Mary’s father points out, “See, Mary, how a good innocent life makes friends all round.” While it does not possess the vivid characters and memorable romance of North and South, Cranford also provides unexpected humor to offset the pathos: my favorite is when Miss Matty’s maid, Martha, proposes to her gentleman follower, Jem, who is stunned and says, “[M]arriage nails a man, as one may say. I dare say I shan’t mind it after it’s over.”

Of particular interest to me was that, as with many books of this era, including many I have enjoyed in their Masterpiece Theatre incarnations, Cranford was written as a serialization. Gaskell’s first novel, Mary Barton, had brought her to the attention of Charles Dickens, who encouraged her to become a contributor to his periodical, Household Words. I enjoy imagining subscribers eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Thank you for visiting my blog!

# In fact, this is very timely as PBS will air more Cranford episodes later this month.

* Contemplating the economies of the Jenkyns household, which included a pretense that candles were not necessary, I began to worry again about the demise of my 401K although reading literature is supposed to provide an escape from such concerns!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Coach Cal

It irritates me that the college basketball media has jumped on the Kentucky bandwagon because John Wall is fun to watch and the team is 10-0, and has completely forgotten that Coach Calipari, charming though he may be, has a habit of leaving universities/teams with recruiting violations while he moves on to the next opportunity. I know he is not alone in this behavior but Kentucky, as one of the elite programs, should not have hired someone with this history. I don't recall anyone criticizing Tubby Smith's ethics before (or after) he was run out of Lexington, Kentucky. . .

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Home for the Holidays

Kenmore, the Boston subway cat, finds a home. . . Of course, if I had seen this cat roaming in the station, I would have thought it was a large rat like the ones I used to see at the Downtown Crossing Red Line station (the rats are doubtless still there but I now get on at South Station instead).

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bacon Mania

I have heard that my great-grandmother Lizzy from Danville, Virginia invented the peanut butter and bacon sandwich but I have also read that it was included in early editions of the Joy of Cooking. Regardless, it is a favorite in my family and I wish I had one right now (hint: the bacon must be very well done and crispy but that is true of bacon in general).

Interestingly, there is a resurgence of interest in bacon although some argue it is not healthy! Wiley did a Bacon Cookbook after I left (poor planning, my father would say). NPR has a really delicious looking picture of bacon cookies (I will omit the pecans) on its site today and a story about bacon mania. Yes, I realize those who know my 16th century roots (so to speak) would be more likely to expect I'd be blogging about Francis Bacon! Instead, I just made you hungry.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

TimTam Sighting!

In my first week of law school, I learned who would be walking to the Path with me after class: it was Brian Burlew, Renee Reedy, David Mello, Randall Berman, Eduardo Jimenez, Anthony Brown, and Gary Polanco. Renee called her boyfriend in Australia every night as we walked to Penn Station which was anti-social behavior I gladly forgave when she introduced me to TimTams, Australia's favorite cookie. Two layers of biscuit surround chocolate cream and the whole thing is covered with chocolate. Renee brought me back a package after one trip and I was hooked. It added to my desire to visit Australia one day! (Of course, now that she has married dear Craig there is even more reason to travel there.) Then, a week or so ago, I learned via Twitter that Pepperidge Farm had introduced TimTams to America (at least in NYC). I did take a quick look at my grocery store last week but saw nothing appealing (well, that is untrue as one cannot walk the cookie aisle without wanting to buy something). Tonight, however, I found TimTams on sale at Target for $2.50 per box! Apparently there are three different flavors: I am quite happy with Classic Dark... At least until I am finished with this package!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What would you like for Christmas from a four year old?

Yesterday I was babysitting my nephews while their parents attended the funeral of our dear friend Doug's mother, Joan. At one point, contemplating the holidays, I looked around the living room area of my parents' home and, thinking aloud but vaguely wanting to include the children, said, "I wonder what Gram and Papa would like?"

Four year old Nicholas looked up and offered, without missing a beat, "Better listening?"

Does that sound like a direct quote or what? I can just hear my father beseeching the boys to listen more attentively.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Big Sports Weekend

This is one of those weekends where there simply isn't enough time to do everything:
tonight, the Harvard men's basketball team hosted Bryant, for the first time ever. Bryant is only in its second year in Division I, so I didn't think they would be able to put up much of a fight (but my niece and I admited two players in particular, Papa Lo from Sengal (a transfer from UMass) and Claybrin McMath from Australia)). Bryant hung with the Crimson early but then Harvard pulled away and eventually won 77-51. It was nice to see our new freshmen getting off the bench and into the game at the end. However, I was sorry to read earlier in the

When the basketball game ended, we dashed over to Bright Rink to catch the last ten minutes of the Harvard-St. Lawrence hockey game. St. Lawrence has a lot of Boston alumni and always has a sizable crowd of fans. Tonight they really had something to cheer about as their goalie apparently was amazing, and they won 3-2, although godlike freshman Louis LeBlanc had a great shot near the end we hoped would go in to tie it up. Saturday night, the Harvard hockey team is at home against Clarkson, and urgently needs to turn around its early season woes.

Tomorrow, of course, is the Harvard-Yale game. The Game is simply not as much fun in New Haven (except for the time I met Paul Wylie - I remain convinced that my good wishes resulted in Olympic Silver for him a few months later) plus my niece is performing in a local production of The Wizard of Oz, my younger nephews are in town, and I have several motions to draft for work. However, when you read stories like this one about senior Derrick Barker (written by the talented daughter of Cynthia and Mike McClintock) it makes you wish the Ivy League were eligible for post season play so that more people would know about our talented players.

Finally, on Sunday, the men's soccer team has a first round NCAA matchup against Monmouth (known primarily for its pretty location in NJ - no, that is not an oxymoron - and because my former department head George's children went there) at 1:00 in Allston. Monmouth has a great team this year - who knew?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Libraries of the Future

As Kindles and Nooks and electronic books grow in popularity, I remain convinced I would rather have a physical book to cherish and return to for rereads. I hate reading about institutions such as Cushing Academy, which recently got rid of all its books (I wonder whether the alumni really knew what was going on and how they reacted to all the publicity). Am I the only one who rereads her favorites on a regular basis?

Author James Patterson, recently criticized Cushing Academy's decision to discard their books, and apparently he paid for his niece to attend the school (well, he can afford to - if I had his money, I would buy my nieces a school).

The magnificent Harvard University Library system (70 plus libraries, 16 million volumes) is struggling with budget constraints like everyone else, and the provost says that one of the university's "main goals . . . is to ensure that students and faculty have access to much of the world’s scholarly works “in perpetuity” by taking advantage of digital resources, but such access does not necessarily mean “ownership and preservation of everything.” This makes me sad because I thought Harvard was practically the Library of Congress in terms of acquisition. Where will scholars go if they cannot rely on Harvard to have the resources they need?

I don't want my libraries to change, although I will admit I love one new feature - being able to place reserve and purchase requests online, then pick up the books magically a few days or weeks later.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Collecting Noel Streatfeild

It can be stressful to love one's books as much as I do, especially when it involves painful decisions! For example, I live in an apartment with limited space for my books. I take pride in my nearly complete collection of Noel Streatfeild but here is my dilemma: I own three copies of Theater Shoes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Roosevelts at Harvard

The weather forecast for Saturday is great, and I am looking forward to a walking tour in Cambridge:

Presidential Pathways: Tracing Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt at Harvard

Follow the student footsteps of Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt on this walking tour with Michael Weishan, author, PBS host, and president of the FDR Suite Foundation. With architecture as a guide, visit buildings important to these two men, learn what Harvard and Cambridge were like between 1870 and 1904, and explore 19th-century student life on Harvard's "Gold Coast."

Having visited Theodore Roosevelt's Long Island home, Sagamore Hill, it will be interesting to see Harvard locations not officially connected to the Roosevelts.

Of course, all roads lead to Betsy-Tacy. I was always loyal to Teddy Roosevelt because I knew the Ray family were supporters. Mr. Ray's study "held a roll-top desk, a picture of the shoe store in Deep Valley and an even bigger picture of ex-President Theodore Roosevelt." Betsy's Wedding, page 48.

Joe and Mr. Ray are ensconced for some time (you know he is asking for Betsy's hand in marriage), then the family hears, "Leave it to Teddy!" coming from Mr. Ray. The group downstairs looked at each other in complete mystification. What, their raised eyebrows seemed to ask, did Theodore Roosevelt have to do with Betsy's Wedding?

"Politics!" Mrs. Ray said scornfully.

Anna brought Betsy a cup of coffee. She brought her a muffin. Mrs. Ray and Julia wanted coffee, too, and Paige started pacing the floor. At long last the door of the study opened.
"TR is as right as rain," Betsy heard her father declare as he and Joe came down the stairs.
Betsy's Wedding, page 49.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Heaven to Betsy discussion

Boston area Betsy-Tacy fans gathered in Waltham tonight to discuss Heaven to Betsy.
More than Words had created a great display of the new Betsy-Tacy reissues!
Below, Stephanie, Lisa and Kathleen discuss cover treatment.

***************************** Above, Constance, Julie, Lisa and Kate display their Betsy-Tacy tee shirts.
Next, Lucy and Kate learn how to play Consequences.
Here are our three favorites:
1. Fuzzy Tom met sweet Tib at the Big Hill on Saturday at noon. He said, "My time is my own!" She said, "Betsy-Tacy rules!" He sang at the top of his lungs. She ordered lots of pizza. And the world said, "She's a flibbertigibbit." And the consequence was: she ran for president.
2. Outgoing Tony met famous Julia at Yellowstone on Saturday morning. He said, "Can you spare a dime?" She said: "I want the brass bowl for Christmas!" He lent her a book. She dropped the brass bowl on the floor. And the world said, "See! This is what happens when you don't listen to me!" And the consequence was: Nobody got any fudge!
3. Chagrined Robert met smart Anastasia at Fenway Park on Tuesday. He said: "I don't like baseball." She said, "What time does the party start?" He flapped his arms. She put on a purple feather boa. And the world said: they are role models for our children. And the consequence was: Betsy moved away from Mankato.
Several attendees were reading Betsy-Tacy for the first time, one was sure she had read the books growing up in California, others were rediscovering a childhood favorite, and some (like me and my mother) had never stopped reading the beloved tomes. Thanks to all who attended and to More than Words for hosting!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Noel Coward's novel

I am still surprised that Jonathan Yardley did not respond to a letter I sent him last year about a book he'd been seeking, Gramercy Park, but I still enjoy his columns, particularly the "series in which the Post's book critic reconsiders notable and/or neglected books from the past." In November 2007, he devoted a full column to Laura Ingalls Wilder - if only he would devote that kind of space to Betsy-Tacy.

This week's article focuses Noel Coward, and in particular, his one novel, which is called Pomp and Circumstance. Yardley says "it is Coward to the core: a deliciously witty and ingenious entertainment that puts on full display his 'talent to amuse' (his own phrase, from the song 'If Love Were All') and his deep affection for distant, exotic and preferably sun-drenched parts of the world. It was received with considerable enthusiasm when it appeared, and -- this will come as no surprise to anyone who knows Coward's work -- holds up very well indeed after half a century."

I wish someone would bring it back into print so I could choose it for my book group!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October is "Convert a Betsy-Tacy fan" month!

Here are some success stories:

At the top is Becky, who has enthusiastically read the whole series since meeting me in February! Becky is one of my most successful converts. I started her with Heaven to Betsy but after a few chapters she revealed herself as a series purist and demanded Betsy-Tacy. Although we grew up in the same town, accessing the same library, Becky had never come across Maud Hart Lovelace prior to meeting me (such deprivation!), but is a fan of other classic series, such as the All of a Kind Family. I bet Becky is wondering what she will do once she has read Emily of Deep Valley. . .

Next is my friend and former colleague Tawen, a brilliant lawyer who is studying in Hong Kong this year. Although I know fantasy is her preferred genre (and suspect that like me, she does not normally read series out of order), I sent her Betsy and the Great World because I thought it suitable given that she is embarked on an adventurous year herself. Having moved to the US as a teen, she missed out on a lot of children's classics, so I am sure she will love Betsy-Tacy. And I like the idea that someone is reading Betsy-Tacy in Asia! Remember, it just took one person to make Anne of Green Gables a phenomenon in Japan (and WWII)!Below, on the left is Nicole, who signed up to participate with her teenage daughter. She reports that both loved Heaven to Betsy. Of course, the real test is whether they hunt down the rest of the series. Below, on the right is Carrie, who I chose carefully, not only because she was once the only other person in a group of friends who had heard of and read Summer of My German Soldier but also because she has a daughter about 8 - prime age to read Betsy-Tacy. No word yet from Carrie: she can run but she can't hide.

Betsy-Tacy fans come in all sizes - and genders!

This Betsy-Tacy fan was up past his bedtime, which is why he wasn't smiling with joy over his new tee shirt from Willard's Emporium! Or could it be because his aunt bought it one size too large? Or possibly he was hoping for some Everything Pudding?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

News for Knitters or Crocheters

The Pine Street Inn, a very worth Boston organization that assists the homeless, is planning its third Knit-A-Thon, and is requesting 9 x 9 squares which will be assembled on November 8, 2009 to provide blankets for its Supportive Housing Program. This program provides permanent housing to women and men whose lives have been derailed by homelessness, giving them a new lease on life. Second, the participants knit 9” squares that are sewn together to create afghans for the Supportive Housing Program. Upon moving into their new home, each tenant receives a beautiful, unique, handmade blanket. Last year, they received thousands of squares, made 40 blankets in one day and raised nearly $20,000 to support the program.

Register for the Knit-a-Thon by contacting Marissa Pinksten at or at 617.892.9185. Knit or crochet 9”x 9” squares. They accept any yarn, any color, any weight, and any pattern. Each afghan requires 35 squares, but you don’t need to make an entire blanket’s worth. Please label the squares as “hand wash” or “machine wash" and please weave in your tails! Send or deliver the squares to:

Robyn Belsky, GE Healthcare, 116 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116 - to arrive before November 8th.

This seems like a great opportunity for those who cannot finish enough squares for an afghan (moi) or have odd lengths of yarn around (also moi).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mother's Banana Bread

This is in response a question from my friend Lisa (known for her fondness of the Maize and Blue) today whether anyone really likes banana bread, and would choose it over a brownie or a lemon bar. Well, the brownie would have to be pretty stale or full of nuts for me to pass it up. But I am fairly sure I would pick banana bread over a lemon bar, and I suspect Lisa just hasn't had the right banana bread. This is the recipe I grew up with and even a non-cook like me can whip it up relatively quickly.

In fact, although my mother copied this recipe down for me from memory when I left home, I believe it originally came from the American Women's Cook Book that once belonged to my grandmother. Most annoyingly, it was recently featured on AbeBooks as being one of the bestselling out of print cookbooks. Annoying, I say, because my mother donated it to the Roxbury Latin Yard Sale several years ago.


1/2 cup (one stick) margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed banana* (about 3; it helps if they are mushy)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder


Cream shortening and sugar together in medium size bowl. Add eggs, mix well. Add lemon juice to bananas and stir gently into batter. Add baking powder to flour and sift into bowl. Mix thoroughly until flour is completely absorbed.


Bake in loaf pan (I think mine is 8.5 x 4.5) at 350 for just under an hour until top is firm and slightly brown. Stick knife in - if still gooey in center, cook for 5 more minutes.

Serve warm and with butter! Or cold - it cuts better once it's cooled.


* My brother always had a Johnny Malone-like ability to eat all the bananas just as my mother was about to make banana bread.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Shipping up to Boston

I am pleased to hear that ALA Midwinter is going to be in Boston this year, just a few blocks from my office. I have attended ALA conventions twice, once tagging along with my mother, then a librarian at Northeastern, and as an exhibitor in 1999 in DC, but those were in the summer and it is in the winter that the Newbery Medal is awarded. For those who are interested, there is a blog at School Library Journal that actively discusses the potential contenders.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Constance and Tiny

My name is Constance. I am locked up in an evil mansion.

Say hello to Constance, a sweet, grateful, good little girl—NOT!
In fact, she’s a mischief-making, rule-breaking imp with a wicked gleam in her eye. Wherever she goes, trouble (and her enormous cat, Tiny) surely follow. That’s why children will go absolutely mad for her: Constance does exactly what they dream of doing in their naughtiest moments…and she’s never repentant.

Making the delicious Constance stories even more fun: the comic contrast between the deadpan text and the outrageous illustrations. Like the cheeky character herself, the pictures always say the opposite of the words.
However, the New Yorker does not care for this character, calling her a manipulator of demonic proportions! Isn't this writer taking the book(s) just a bit too seriously?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Literature of Childhood

How fun - Harvard is offering its alumni the opportunity to take a course with a noted Folklore and Mythology Professor, something I haven't done since the days of Hugh Flick* and Albert Lord!

Through the Looking Glass: The History, Philosophy and Literature of Childhood

“Childhood is unknown to us,” yet there are many different routes we can take to understand its deep complexities and compelling appeal. Join Professor Maria Tatar and alumni worldwide online as you look at the wonders and curiosities of childhood reading and study the revelatory power of classic tales. Register to take part in this exclusive program that will take you down the rabbit hole, into the wardrobe, and through the looking glass."

It consists of twelve online lectures, available through a special website or through podcasts, plus additional commentary from the professor, student discussions sessions and bonus guest lectures with authors Lois Lowry, Michael Buckley, and Gregory Maguire.

Sounds like more fun than my last two degrees, don't you think?!

* Since I last saw Hugh Flick (which I guess was at my sister's Yale graduation), he has been busy, having acquired a JD and MBA. I suppose he could say the same about me but he also has a PhD in Sanskrit and two Master's Degrees and his undergraduate Harvard degree! He was my roommate's thesis advisor; her topic was Sea Serpents.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Join us to discuss Heaven to Betsy!

The Greater Boston Betsy-Tacy Society invites you to
discuss the beloved, timeless books of Maud Hart Lovelace,
back in print by popular demand!

What: Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace, ISBN 9780061794698
In a new edition with Betsy In Spite of Herself, illustrated by Vera Neville, with an introduction by bestselling author Laura Lippman

Where: More than Words, 376 Moody Street, Waltham, Mass.
When: Thursday, October 29, 2009, 7:00–8:30 p.m.
In Heaven to Betsy, Betsy is a freshman at Deep Valley High School.
There are new friends to make and old friends to catch up with,
studies aplenty—including Latin and the dreaded algebra—hikes, picnics,
singing around the piano, choir practice, parties, making fudge—and boys!

More Than Words: Empowering Youth to Take Charge of Their Lives by Taking Charge of a Business. For more information, contact them at 781/788-0035 or visit

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Betsy-Tacy Back in Print

Today is the day the Betsy-Tacy high school books are being relaunched by HarperCollins! I have introduced so many people to these beloved books and I am always delighted when there is an opportunity to share them. These lovely new editions should attract a whole new audience -scroll down to see the new cover of Heaven to Betsy.

Stuck in an arbitration all day, I finally got a break and dashed down the long mall corridor to the Barnes & Noble Prudential where I was thrilled to find several copies of each of the new editions! As is my wont, I rearranged them to their best advantage:
I loved the Betsy-Tacy books when I was growing up in Newton, MA but I thought I was the only one! (Heard that before?) Set in turn of the (20th) century Minnesota, the books follow two best friends from age 5 until the outbreak of World War I. The books are about friendship and fun, school and family, but what makes them so special that there are fans all over the world is that Betsy is a heroine we relate to. She is ambitious and wants to be a writer but she is human and makes the same mistakes we all made growing up. She procrastinates when she should be studying. She flirts when she knows she should just be herself. She goes to Europe to find herself but recognizes that when America goes to war that she wants to be home in Deep Valley.
I often think that all roads lead to Betsy-Tacy. When my friend Margery decided to attend Vassar, I insisted she borrow Carney's House Party in preparation, about Betsy's smartest friend, who heads East to college in 1909. When the library complained that the book was overdue, I gave up, retrieved it and paid a hefty fine.* Later, when Margery got married in the Vassar Chapel and I was a bridesmaid, I was so disenchanted by the groom I could barely enjoy the fact that I was on the very campus Carney had attended (my instincts were right: the marriage didn't last). Well, not that I hold a grudge or anything, but it's about time Margery redeemed herself by reading Betsy-Tacy! Maybe she will get one of the two new precious sets of Betsy-Tacy which arrived at my door yesterday.
Happily, I made it back to Vassar years later, leading the Greater NY Betsy-Tacy Society on an excursion from Grand Central. On this visit, we didn't have to worry about ill-fated marriages, just about Carney, Matthew Vassar, Maria Mitchell, etc.

* As my mother likes to say, Newton funded its fancy new library on my overdue fines.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fall Television

Should I be watching Glee? Is it too late? Grey's Anatomy was so tedious in its season opener that I switched to the Mentalist halfway through. I like Teresa Lisbon as a character because she comes across as normal but at some point will reveal a complex history.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Remembering 9/11

I remember the morning of September 11, 2001. It was a busy day for most New Yorkers as it was Primary Day as well as the first day of school. I voted for Mark Green on my way to work. I was hard at work in my windowless office at IDG (but it was a sight better than many places I have worked in since) on Third Avenue and 54th Street when Ginger, a department assistant who was more interested in her auditions than in uploading covers to B&, came in to ask if I had a radio. I am ashamed to say I gave her an impatient glance, thinking, as usual, she would use any excuse not to do some work. Then she said that she'd heard a plane had flown into the World Trade Center and she was worried about her sister who worked there. I told her it was ridiculous, nothing like that could have happened, and she shrugged and walked away. Then I heard the echo of my own voice, and got up to follow her. I said I knew someone who was on vacation who had a radio. We borrowed it and turned it on. I don't recall the moment at which we found out that it was true, but I do remember running down to the 20th floor where there was a TV in the conference room. We watched for a while but it seemed inhuman to watch the news while Ginger sobbed for her sister (who did indeed die that day). While Kathy Neb (naturally - the kindest person around) consoled her, I left the crowded room to return to my office so was not watching when the second tower collapsed, which I regret now.

There were many strange things about that day: the way one felt suspended in time, wondering if the world was about to end; the way the sun kept shining, and one wondered how midtown could be bright and sunny, while people died a few miles away; how suddenly the streets were deserted except for people standing in line at certain sites to donate blood; how the Internet went on functioning although phones were down; how my mother was at my grandmother's in Connecticut and said she was worried about my brother, whose first day of work at the State Department in DC it had been; how my friend Shelia, with whom I'd planned to get together after work, saw people jumping out windows and had to walk to Grand Central but still remembered she'd brought me See's Candy from a recent trip to the West Coast; how I finally gave up working and walked north, passing many other people with strange blank expressions, straight to my middle sister's apartment (the other sister was at ABC, by then hard at work for several hours) but because she didn't want the TV on to scare her toddler, I finally went back to my own apartment. Like so many others, I was glued to my TV for days, trying to understand what had happened and why. We all wondered what would happen next.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

TV Series about Publishing

From Shelf Awareness: Open Books, a sitcom written by Gail Lerner (Will & Grace) that is focused on a book editor and her friends, "has received a pilot commitment" from CBS, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The show "is inspired by the time Lerner spent as a temp in the publishing world at the beginning of her career and by the experiences of her sister Betsy, who worked as a book editor for 15 years before becoming a literary agent."

"It's an ensemble comedy with a female lead set in the publishing world, but it's really about the characters and their relationships," Lerner said. "I like the frustrations, the collaborative process. Publishing is a lot like sitcoms. Although both are supposedly dying, that only makes people more passionate about creating the next great novel or show."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wouldn't you be tempted by a first edition hardcover?

Yesterday I had to appear in court in an iffy neighborhood and while I was not afraid my car would be stolen, I decided I'd better bring my GPS with me to the courthouse (my brother had his stolen from his locked car a couple months ago). Busy planning what I was going to say to the judge, I gathered my things, put on my suit jacket (pale turquoise with elbow sleeves worn with black skirt), and when I saw it was close to 9, I began to dash. THEN I realized there was a hardcover copy of Betsy and Joe by Maud Hart Lovelace, with dust jacket, clearly visible in the car to any passer-by! Of course, a hardcover Betsy-Tacy is much more valuable than a Tom-Tom! Torn, I hesitated but forced myself to hurry on to the courthouse, and luckily no one tried to break into my car while I was engaged in my legal career. Thank you, Maud, for keeping an eye on my car from the Great Library in the Sky. . .

I saw some very odd outfits on the women lawyer in this particular courthouse. One was wearing an innocuous pants suit but with thick fluffy socks (in August!) and patent leather loafers. One was wearing a sleeveless dress, no jacket - she would have been scolded at my summer law firm in NJ which did not permit bare arms. Another, similarly without a suit jacket, wore a blue and white striped button down shirt, hanging down towards her knees, not tucked in, and reminded me of the shirts I borrowed from my father for smocks in elementary school art class. I was somewhat abashed because the skirt I was wearing was shorter than I had realized - I was signing emails to the partner in charge of the case as "Perry" but I felt more like Ally McBeal. However, I was a radiant vision and veritable legal role model compared to these others!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Books and Libraries

A story in the Boston Globe about a 77 year old chess maven described how he taught himself to play from books at the library during the Depression. One day he found a note from another player: “'Neither duffer, nor master,' the note read, and included a telephone number. It was an invitation to play, in an era when games were hard to find," and they subsequently played many times.

Of course, it reminded me of the famous scene in More All of a Kind Family, in which Jules leaves a note in Ella's library book so he can meet her! The kind librarian sees the book is on the wrong shelf (I think the girls hid it because they'd already checked out their weekly quota) but decides not to interfere with young love. How I loved these books! I checked them out repeatedly from my elementary school library, and now own a complete set (although not all are in the oversize format I grew up with).

Libraries play an important role in the lives of this poor but dignified family. In the very first book, Sarah, the middle sister (and eventual author of the series) has lost a book and the librarian realizes that paying to replace it would cause the family great hardship but they are proud and won't accept charity, so she provides a very modest replacement amount. Just as those on the Lower East Side used the library to escape from their troubles our current economic times have resulted in increased usage in libraries all over the country, despite the drastic cuts in services and hours.

I've attached a link to the All of a Kind Family Companion.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nancy Pembroke's Vacation in Canada

"Let's go shopping this morning," proposed Nancy at the breakfast table. "Shopping?" said Jeanette in surprise. "I didn't know you meant to buy anything. What do you need?" "Oh, I need heaps of things, but I'm not going to get them. Shopping doesn't necessarily mean buying; I mean just go through the shops and be 'interested' in things." from Nancy Pembroke's Vacation in Canada, Margaret Van Epps, 1930

Pan-Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad

I wish one of my sisters would cook this for me! Or Mark Bittman himself, of course. I have eaten with him but never eaten anything he prepared.

From the NYT:

1/4 pound bacon, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
4 to 6 ears corn, stripped of their kernels (2 to 3 cups)
Juice of 1 lime, or more to taste
2 cups cored and chopped tomatoes
1 medium ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and chopped
2 fresh small chilies, like Thai, seeded and minced
Salt and black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, more or less.
1. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to render fat; add onion and cook until just softened, about 5 minutes, then add corn. Continue cooking, stirring or shaking pan occasionally, until corn begins to brown a bit, about 5 more minutes; remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Drain fat if you wish.
2. Put lime juice in a large bowl and add bacon-corn mixture; then toss with remaining ingredients. Taste, adjust the seasoning and serve warm or at room temperature.
Yield: 4 servings.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Perfect Burger

My sisters and I are in search of the perfect burger. This article from the NYT and this from the Washington Post don't really provide enough recipes to help us. I wonder if I should pack my Worcestershire Sauce and bring it with me? What is the real secret? What do you suggest?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Where to Go Online

When I visited my sister in Cape Cod two years ago, we went into Internet withdrawal. You say to yourself that it is really getting away from everything without email, but then you remember a couple things you want to check or a message you are waiting for. And you check the hours of the Osterville Library where there are computers. Then we realized that library provides wireless access so we occasionally drove over at night and checked our email on my laptop from the car. Other cars were doing the same thing: the faint glow of laptops slightly illuminated all the cars in the parking lot. The way the cars came, lurked, and departed made it seem as if drug deals were going on - but the drug of choice was online access.

I am not the only person who has noticed these furtive tourists!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Random Medical Advice

Instead of recommending hot compresses, my new ophthamologist (who looks barely old enough to be in college, let alone out of med school) told me seriously to fill a sock with uncooked rice, warm it in the microwave, and then apply it to my eyes ! Of course, no rice in the house, although I do have many socks that have lost their mates, so cannot try it out right away. . .

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Mummy Market

For years when I tried to remember man (Neil Armstrong) walking on the moon, all I could recall was being squeezed into the John Ward School library around a black and white television. Bored while waiting for the coverage to begin, I picked up The Mummy Market by Nancy Breslin, and became completely captivated. It's about the three Martin children who go in search of a new mother but have a hard time finding one that is perfect (at that time there were just three of us, so that may have struck a chord).

Moon exploration in my mind became synonomous with this book, and I never really regretted having been so absorbed (that elementary school library could tell some tales about my antics over the years). Years later my sister suggested I get a copy for her to read to the nieces (I would say in the hope that they appreciated her more except that they already do!) and it was difficult. Thanks to fellow BTer Hilary who gave me her copy.

However, around July 20 with all the anniversary coverage of man's first walk on the moon, I realized for the first time that I would not have been in school in the summer. It must have been Apollo 8 that we saw in school, which would not have been nearly as exciting.

A few years ago I found out there was a movie made of The Mummy Market. I will have to keep my eyes open for it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Eat Pray Revenge

It is too funny that the husband Elizabeth Gilbert disdains (for what appears to be no good reason) in Eat Pray Love now has a book contract of his own in which he be revenged on his ex!

The New York Times says Gilbert’s ex-husband, Michael Cooper, has just signed a deal to write a book chronicling his side of the story of their divorce and his own “search for purpose” on a trip through the Middle East and other parts of the developing world.

It must have been very annoying to see her become a millionaire in the process of finding herself!

To Be Read

I need to post about the Betsy-Tacy convention but in the meantime, here is a great review for the new Rennie Airth! I can't wait!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mike Mulligan

The Cape Ann Historical Association is hosting a celebration for the 100th birthday of the author of Mike Mulligan!

Virginia Lee Burton Birthday Party!Saturday, August 29 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Join us in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Virginia Lee Burton, children's author/illustrator and Folly Cove Designer.
10:00 a.m. to 12 noon - Storytelling and art activities
Noon to 1:00 p.m. Birthday Cake 1:00 p.m.
Film Screening: Virginia Lee Burton, A Sense of Place A film by Christine Lundberg & Rawn Fulton
Reservations required. This program is free and open to the public.

When I think of Cape Ann, I remember the historical novels of Ruth Langland Holberg, which I used to read but only one of which I think I still own, At the Sign of the Golden Anchor (I remember the heroine had snapping dark eyes). The Historical Society is, in fact, in Gloucester. I have not been to Gloucester for many years but maybe the NewBetsys would like to join me!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Miss Manners

I find myself in similar situation all the time and one yearns to correct these people:

Dear Miss Manners:
As the communications director for a government agency, I respond to written constituent inquiries. In an effort to personalize my responses, I often excerpt from the original missive. For example, "You're agency stnks!"
Should I correct spelling and grammatical errors from the original correspondence or leave them as is? I hate to fudge a quote, but if I don't correct errors, I am concerned the constituent will think the mistakes are mine, putting my agency in a bad light.
Also, it seems rude to point out someone's errors when they have taken the time to share their concerns. My agency does not yet have a policy regarding this point of professional etiquette.

But if you correct the quotation, won't the letter writer think, "Stupid bureaucrats -- can't even quote accurately"?
Besides, surely it is a comfort to note that your critics are not, shall we say, discerning.
Miss Manners would consider it polite enough if you preceded the letter writer's words with "as you so colorfully put it . . ."

Monday, June 15, 2009


Not long ago, in the back of my closet, I found a favorite pair of black pants. If I remember correctly, they were originally a gift from my former roommate Jeanmarie LeMense's older sister Kathleen, who at the time worked for Anne Klein in merchandising. Delighted, I spared hardly a thought as to why they had been pushed to the back of the closet, instead admiring how becoming they were - if not as appealing as the The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, then close to it.

However, I should have known (and you have already guessed) that there was a reason they were banished to the back of the closet. As attractive as these trousers are, they could be also be known as the Traveling Pants in that they unzip themselves constantly all day long (but not immediately, which would give one time to change before leaving for work - no, they wait for about two hours), threatening to drive me insane. Not that anyone noticed: I would have to do something very disruptive for anyone to give my pants a second look (although now that I think about it, my co-worker Colleen also has a troublesome pair of pants, a fairly new pair she is sure are about to come apart at the back center seam, and keeps asking us what we think). This time, I think I will really need to donate them to someone who finds that behavior amusing rather than annoying . . .

Friday, June 12, 2009

Why won't Sarah Palin go away?

I do think it was disgusting of David Letterman to make a joke about A-Rod and one of the Palin girls but as this NPR commentator says, "Don't pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel!"

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Random Amazon Recommendation

You know the "if you liked x, you'll enjoy y" recommendations that Amazon likes to make. Occasionally, it is spot on but tonight I received a suggestion of

Recommended because you purchased Boston Red Sox 101 (101 My First Team-Board-Books) for nephew Xavy!

Is that a not truly random combination? While it is true that I like the Red Sox and I like crocheting, it is probably 20 years since I picked up a crochet hook - before Amazon even existed! Does this mean they have a webcam trained on my sewing basket (which does indeed contain a crochet hook or two)? Do they know me better than I know myself? Should I be crocheting while I watch the Sox beat up on the Yankees? (I hesitate to type that sentence lest I jinx the rest of the series!)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Harriet Klausner

Years ago, probably 1993, I attended a romance conference in Atlanta called Moonlight and Magnolias with the fabulous Jennifer Enderlin. I don't think I have ever met a nicer group of authors. Becky Lee Weyrich was there, Sandra Chastain, Cordia Byers, I think Linda Anderson was there, Deborah Martin and others I can't remember.

Even then, writers were excited to be around Jennifer. I remember Haywood Smith, then unpublished but aspiring, was one of the organizers of the conference and had planned a dinner at an incredibly nice restaurant in a historic home, way off the beaten trail, and we got lost trying to find it. Haywood was very concerned, not simply because we were all late, but because she like everyone wanted to impress Jen! I seem to recall our either calling Haywood's very charming husband for directions or perhaps he was driving us. When Haywood's first book got published, I was so pleased for her and meant to write to her, but alas never got around to it.

It was at that conference I first met Harriet Klausner, certainly eccentric (as she would probably say herself) but extremely friendly and interesting to talk to. While Harriet definitely is unwilling to hurt acquaintances by critiquing some of the books that deserve it, her love of books is genuine. Back then, before Amazon, she reviewed for many little-known newsletters and had no recognition at all. The advent of the Internet for someone who really preferred to stay home but wanted to be involved in the industry was a godsend for her. So too was her rise to fame (and well, probably no fortune has resulted). She was very kind to me during my time as an editor at Penguin although I more or less lost touch with her subsequently. While I have no doubt she would read nearly as many books even if there were no outlet available, there is no doubt she enjoys being a player in the industry. As to whether anyone is positively influenced by her reviews, it is hard to say. Certainly, I enjoy seeing what Harriet has to say on a book and whether it replicates my own thoughts. But then everyone knows I am not a typical reader!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

No Green Thumb

I am one of those people who cannot keep a plant alive so was interested to read there are plants you can't kill. . . However, my balcony is surprisingly windy: even when I put a planter out there the wind blows the flowers practically to bits. Working on my green thumb may have to wait until I have a real yard.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A.S. Byatt's new fantasy

Here, in its entirety, is a review of a new book by A.S. Byatt called The Children’s Book
Review by Sophie Gee

In 2003, AS Byatt wrote a notorious New York Times editorial saying that JK Rowling’s world is “for people whose imaginative lives are confined to TV cartoons, and the exaggerated (more exciting, not threatening) mirror-worlds of soaps, reality TV and celebrity gossip ... Nobody is trying to save or destroy anything beyond Harry Potter and his friends and family.” Byatt found Rowling imaginatively parochial. She also thought Harry Potter wasn’t properly magical but made up of “derivative narrative clich├ęs” that appeal to crudely literal imaginations. Real fantasy, Byatt argued, has a “sense of mystery, powerful forces, dangerous creatures in dark forests”.

Potter fans went feral. Those over 30 compared it to Byatt’s excoriation of Martin Amis in 1995: “I don’t see why I should subsidise his greed, simply because he has a divorce to pay for and has just had all his teeth redone.” In 2009, Byatt’s criticism of Rowling seems a bit off-target – Rowling was doing interesting things in the Potter books, if not the things AS Byatt wanted.
Her new novel, The Children’s Book, is the book Byatt wanted Harry Potter to be. The characters are immersed in the world of English faerie – mysterious, dangerous and inhuman.

It’s typical of AS Byatt’s intellectual rigour that she would set her answer to Rowling et al in late-Victorian England, where young adult fantasy started with Peter Pan, Puck of Pook’s Hill, The Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland (all of which appear in the novel). One of the things books should do, in Byatt’s view, is engage with literary history, knowingly.

The Children’s Book begins in the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1895 and ends on the battlefields of the first world war, carrying us from the nursery-like security of Victorian England through the “golden summer” of the Edwardian idyll to the annihilating chaos of the Great War. It’s about a circle of English families committed to the progressive ideals of the Fabian Society and the Arts and Crafts movement in late Victorian England.

The female protagonist is Olive Wellwood, “a successful authoress of magical tales”, who lives a delightful life in the south of England with her husband Humphrey and their ever-expanding brood: “The children mingled with the adults, and spoke and were spoken to ... And yet, at the same time, the children in this world had their own separate, largely independent lives, as children. They roamed the woods and fields, built hiding-places and climbed trees, hunted, fished, rode ponies and bicycles, with no other company than that of other children.” Inevitably, the Wellwoods’ ideals don’t stand them in especially good stead for the complexities of their own and their children’s lives – lives often resulting from another tenet of progressive idealism: sexual freedom in a world before birth control.

Byatt’s characters are bonded by their shared social passions, commitment to artistic freedom, and the fact that they all sleep together. The novel’s first set-piece involves a tableau from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Titania and Oberon’s constant skirmishes over infidelity, the confused identities and alien desires of the youthful lovers, the cruel caprice of the faerie world and the troubling status of ordinary artisans tell us what Byatt’s novel is about. As in Shakespeare’s play, magic and creativity both animate and distort what’s real.

It’s the sort of high-concept rarefied intellectual fiction we’d expect from, well, AS Byatt. Possession: the next generation. This time around, though, Byatt’s writing is propelled by a new vexation – the current fad for young adult fantasy. Byatt is grappling with a lot of the same problems as Rowling. How to think about childhood cruelty and abuse. How to manage the problem of death, both as a child and as an adult. Most profoundly, how to deal with the grief of being a parent, bringing beings into the world who will die. There is enormous personal sadness in Byatt’s novel, which becomes a collective, historical sadness as the novel moves ineluctably towards 1914.

The deepest sense in which Byatt answers her attack on Rowling is by writing The Children’s Book for adults only. Childhood for Byatt is not an untroubled place but it’s in adult life that the traumas occur to make possible the mature imaginative visions of great art. Trauma is relocated from its position in childhood to the world of adulthood, where a set of seemingly stable and reliable ideas about the world can be shattered by an unimaginable, unspeakable incident.
So where does dark magic come from – the dangerous fantastical that Byatt wanted? From underground. Byatt’s characters live in basements, work in mines, dig in the earth for clay, and long for the spoils of hidden worlds: precious metals, buried treasures.

What at first looks like a coincidental collection of subterranean settings turns into a vision of underground as a place of magic and terror. A boy travels to an enchanted world below the earth to find his lost shadow. In a coal-mine, before death, a man finds a dragonfly miraculously preserved. At the end of the novel comes the motif’s real payoff: the trenches of the first world war, a chaos of carnage, of terror. Underground, humans become inhuman. The real becomes the fantastic, where evil lives.

Reviewer Sophie Gee is is an assistant professor of English at Princeton and author of ‘The Scandal of the Season.’

Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mr. Mallard, Slacker Dad?

Is Mr. Mallard a slacker dad? Surely not! But on the subject of Amelia Bedelia, I am not so sure. The children I have read her antics to never quite get it, and I sometimes think I spoil it for them by explaining it. I found her funny as a child but maybe now she *is* annoying...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Obama at Notre Dame

E.J. Dionne has a good column on the controversy at Notre Dame - not about poor Charlie Weis but about the speaking invitation to Obama.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

To Do

I always have a long "to do" list, and credit Jay Hyde and Mike Ferrari, then Waldenbooks buyers, who impressed me years ago with their Franklin Planners and effective use thereof (see, I talk like a lawyer now). I got one myself and found it very helpful, although my mother said it was like a Barbie doll in the way it demanded accessories such as cute little hole punch, cute little pouch for stamps or pens, cute color paper for lists, etc.

Once I was at IDG, surrounded by people with PalmPilots, I was mesmerized by them, and still love my Palm (I think I am on my third since 1999 when Katie McGowan and I bought them online simultaneously while we talked on the phone) despite the fact that there are much fancier gadgets around. In its prime, my Palm's best feature was that I could access a spreadsheet listing all the books I own so that I wouldn't purchase duplicates. Now the annoying thing crashes whenever I try to open a spreadsheet. Palm - or at least its agent, Circuit City - blamed this on Documents-to-Go (software) so refused to honor the warranty (hardware). By then I had a BlackBerry, so I decided it was silly to waste my energy fighting (and Circuit City has gone bankrupt when clearly I would have been spending millions in their store if not miffed).

Still, the "to do" list on the Palm is MUCH better than on the BlackBerry. The only challenge is when one scribbles an item quickly and later on cannot figure out what it was meant to be! For example, on May 17th, I have a note for myself: "Check Maria Holt."

The logical meaning would be that Holt is publishing a book in May called Maria which I should either order or read or both. Yet a quick search on Amazon yielded no such book. There is a Macmillan author named Maria Holt who writes on the Middle East but that is not my thing. There are a few random people on Facebook by that name but no one I know. I suppose the meaning may come back to me in the middle of the night but in the meantime I will move it to the bottom of the list, along with:

* San Diego, Fall 2011 (so I won't forget to go!)
* Quilt Museum, Lowell (before 2011, I hope)
* Frame diplomas (for a long time I had misplaced my college diploma, now I can't find my law school diploma)
and so on . . .

Friday, March 27, 2009

Woe is Me

It's always so sad when the basketball season ends but to watch my cherished Blue Devils get blown out by Villanova was agony. Jon Scheyer kept doggedly trying to get the offense going but the magic he had during the ACC Tournament was mysteriously gone. It also seemed all wrong to be up in section 303 when I am so used to sitting in great seats at the Garden for the Beanpot. Really, I would have seen better on TV. It felt very odd for the Blue Devils to be at the Garden at all!
Can it be true that my players are too nice to be sufficiently aggressive? Where is Christian Laettner when you need him? Making a very cute commercial with Rick Pitino . . .

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Quote of the Day

The Detroit Tigers are opening their season on Good Friday at 1:05 pm. Many Catholics are concerned about having to choose between church and baseball, and clearly some of the churches are afraid their parishioners may go for the baseball. However, I am not sure why the game couldn't be at 4 pm, thus avoiding the sacred hours of noon to three. Not to mention, many people attend evening services.

"Nobody is saying baseball isn't big, but Good Friday is really big," [Father] Vilkauskas told The Detroit News. "It's 2,000 years old."

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Something had to go when I began law school, as 24 hours was insufficient to work full time, get a JD, occasionally eat, sleep, exercise, and read my email.* I kept the Betsy-Tacy list, and rarely skipped a message, even if it was midnight before I had a change to read them all. I kept the Georgette Heyer list, although often I had to delete those without reading them (even in digest form, they accumulated). I did, however, cancel my subscription to Girlsown, the boarding school story listserv. It had often been enjoyable - and my love of school stories continues unabated - but some of the discussions focused on series I didn't follow, such as the Chalet School** or the Abbey series.

And without fail, this group always returned to the most bizarre topic - hair washing. There was always a faction (the Americans and the younger Brits) who insisted daily hair washing is essential. Yet there was an odd faction that tried to assert that once a month was just fine, and that once your hair/scalp adjust, your hair doesn't "need" daily washing. Okay, I don't care if you have dirty hair or not, so long as I don't have to touch it, but the arguments became tedious. This sort of discussion group only works if people discuss the books. I said goodbye to Girlsown, but stayed in touch with the members I like. And my friend Sam forwards me any particularly juicy messages.

Still, I was amused to see this article on NPR on that very hair washing topic today! One caption in the article is: "Skipping Shampoos Is, Well, Un-American." I am amused to know I could start WWIII by forwarding it to the Girlsown list . . .

* Although often short of time, I consider hair washing an essential activity.
* This is not to say I haven't read the Chalet School books. I first came across them in a Bermuda bookshop when I was 11, and was allowed to buy three. Naturally, I chose The School at the Chalet as that begins the series. However, for some unknown reason it never captured me the way other books and series have. Which may be just as well - I have enough obsessions already.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A call from the FBI

My law firm presented me with a very cumbersome old style BlackBerry last week, complete with local phone number and unlimited calling in the U.S. (although no text messages). I wish they had been willing to hook up my BlackBerry Curve instead; not only because I don't want to give up the cell phone number I've had for ten years but also it is lighter and more attractive!

I've been working so hard on a project the last week or so that I hadn't had time to focus on the weird wrong numbers I've been getting on this new phone. Today, however, I had to retrieve my first voicemail (which took a few minutes, since I had not had time to set up a mailbox) and got a message from an FBI agent asking me to call him! I assumed it was a prank but then I hesitated, and finally I pressed redial. When a man answered, simply saying, "Hello?" I was even more convinced it was a prank. He sounded very sincere, however, swore he really worked for the FBI and said he was trying to reach a woman named (I think) Jenkins. I explained that he had the wrong number but then he read back my phone number (I had to check it - I haven't even memorized my work phone let alone this new cell number) and it was the same. We both hesitated, wondering, but then I told him that I was a lawyer and had just got this phone a week or so ago, along with its phone number." "So the number was probably available and just assigned to you randomly," he commented. He sounded so disbelieving that I said sarcastically, "Maybe she knew you were after her, disconnected her phone and left town." I laughed but he didn't.

I couldn't help thinking that it would make a great first page or chapter of a book!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Duke wins ACC Tournament!

Sign seen in the crowd at the ACC tournament . . .

Duke fans celebrate a 79-69 win over Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference men's tournament championship in Atlanta, Sunday, March 15, 2009. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Quote of the Day

"The mere fact that parties disagree on the proper construction of contractual language does not necessarily establish ambiguity."
First Mass. Bank, N.A. v. Florian, 16 Mass. L. Rep. 213, 2003 Mass. Super. LEXIS 139, *22 (April 28, 2003).

Believe me, if there weren't some disagreement, I would be home in bed!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Go Pap!

One has to admire Jonathan Papelbon for saying what everyone else was thinking . . .

On the other hand, I am sick of Manny and would prefer the local media ignore him altogether, rather than put the story on the front page of the Globe.

Let's concentrate on March Madness until Opening Day, please.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Isn't the glass half empty?

Women who look on the bright side of life have longer and healthier lives than their pessimistic peers, while women who tend not to trust other people die sooner than their less cynical counterparts, a large study of attitudes and health found. . . Optimists expected good things to happen and cynically hostile women were extremely mistrustful of other people, according to survey definitions.

This is bad news for my siblings and me! Not that we are cynically hostile. Just sometimes cynical and sometimes hostile.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What a terrible sports weekend!


Harvard men lose to Brown in hockey AND basketball!


Harvard hockey loses second game to Brown and is eliminated from ECACs! Is this *because* my parents went to Aruba on Tuesday or were they simply spared the misery of watching?

Harvard basketball beats Yale (good) but I wasn't there (bad) and because of losing on Friday, we finish below .500 which is very annoying.

Women's hockey upset by RPI! That is more surprising to me than the men's hockey team losing.

Newton North boys basketball loses to archrival Brockton (after beating Durfee last week!).


Celtics lose (and Rondo is injured so Marbury started (boo) - no, it wasn't Marbury v. Madison, I like that Marbury).

Bruins lose to Rangers (Not very vested in the NHL this year but it's part of a big slump, a pity when they were doing so well).

Duke plays one good half, then runs out of steam in the second half, losing to the Tarheels. Now we have to play BC again (if they beat UVA in the first round of the ACC tournament).

(It wasn't a good weekend for Granny either. She fell last week, went to the emergency room, although didn't spend the night, and has been in great pain ever since.)

Red Sox:

Opening day is less than a month away!

Tax problems

I have to admit I am disgusted by Obama's [would-be] appointees who have tax or other illicit issues, and really wish that Geithner, in particular, had stepped aside. Surely he must have been mortified to be pilloried on SNL? In addition, hearing that the White House vetting process has practically come to standstill just makes me wonder why they didn't accept my offer to come help with the Transition? I have no doubt that the piles of resumes (including mine) vetted to do the vetting are in a pile somewhere while everyone else is pushing the Obamas as a brand (but not as dolls, that got canceled) . . .

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Diary of a Wimpy Writer

I really hadn't been following this series (it makes me sad to think about reluctant readers who prefer cartoons to books) but I was interested in a Washington Post article about the cartoonist behind Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009


I only saw a bit of the Oscars because the Blue Devils were on at the same time, but I enjoyed Hugh Jackman's opening very much. I remember he stole the show from Ashley Judd in Someone Like You, which was the first time I saw him. That was the movie version of Animal Husbandry.

I was glad Kate Winslet won an Oscar but I don't want to see the Reader, only Revolutionary Road.

Goodbye, Mike!

I am very sad to see Mike Vrabel traded. I wish his career could have ended with the Patriots.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cute baby Rachel!

My friend Liz made the front page of the Boston Globe today - complete with video - talking about enjoying enforced time away from the workplace. Her daughter Rachel is too cute (and already owns a copy of Betsy-Tacy) although is a bit too young at the moment . . .

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Best Books of 2008

I shared my favorite books of 2008 with the Betsy-Tacy list on New Year's Eve but forgot to post it here so apologies to those who were looking for it:

I believe I read 143 books in 2008, down from 160 in 2007 (reflecting far too much time spent at my former law firm - boo) but I don't always remember to record the rereads (or partial reads, when one picks up a book to check a quote, then forget and read the entire thing!).
I always appreciate recommendations from friends and family, sometimes on books I would never have chosen otherwise or on others already on my mental list but not yet in my possession. I always think fondly of the librarians at the Boys and Girls Library in Newton, MA, when I was growing up, a little yellow house full of women who loved books as much as I did, and who always pointed out the new book from the Margaret McElderry imprint and other books they thought I would like.

Adult Fiction

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society /Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows


I Shall Not Want / Julia Spencer-Fleming

An Expert in Murder / Nicola Upson

Historical Fiction

City of Shadows / Diana Norman writing as Ariana Franklin

The Fortune Hunter / Ira Morris

North and South / Elizabeth Gaskell


American Bloomsbury / Susan Cheever (despite flaws)

YA Fiction

Dairy Queen / Catherine Gilbert
Life as We Knew It / Susan Beth Pfeffer

How Not to be Popular / Jennifer Ziegler

YA Historical

Small Gains / K.M. Peyton (she is the only author on this list I have been reading since grade school!)

Another Shore / Nancy Bond

YA Fantasy

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons / Barbara Cohen

Crown Duel / Sherwood Smith

A Curse as Dark as Gold / Elizabeth Bunce

Children's Books

The Green Glass Sea / Ellen Klages

Best Reread

The Witch of Blackbird Pond / Elizabeth George Speare

Picture Books

The Happy Lion / Louise Fatio
Boys and Girls Library, Newton
The Betsy-Tacy books were shelved to the left of that door