30 November 2011

What I am Reading: November 2011

My sleeping pattern is still off as I get over the jet-lag and try to get the house in order We came back with the usual pile of clothing swag (18 pairs of socks for $8.99! and so on) and I am working through re-packing the summer clothes, getting rid of the fall clothes (because it's definitely winter time) and the rain clothes and boots, and moving clothing downward: hand-me-down (thanks to my nieces), Big Sister to Little Sister move-downs, give to friends, give to charity, recycle. It's still pretty chaotic, but I also unpacked six bags, three carry-ons, a stroller (makes Disney so much easier! just to lug stuff around, and then if the evening goes late), two car-seats and two children's backpacks. I'm still working at it all, but it's been proceeding and I'm hoping to get back to a post or two this month.
  1. Infernal Affairs (1996) by Jane Heller: A re-read before it goes back to mom. This reminds me a bit of several books that I must have read in the 90s- divorced woman selling her soul to the devil for a spiffy new body and success. Barbara is a broker in South Florida's Banyon Beach and when this book was written, brokers (or as they are known in Germany, maklers) really did seem to have made deals with the devil (the succeeding years of crashes may have been the devil losing a few rounds). Frothy, light and fun: I enjoyed it.
  2. The Best Years of Flying: a memoir of Howard Hughes & TWA (2011)by Dee Merian: This is a review copy (ARC) that I got in 2011, although the publication date from Headline Books is 2010. This was an interesting book to me, as my aunt was an early flight attendant and I recently scanned some of her collection of photos and was amazed by Europe in the mid-60s (Trevi Fountain empty- cousin dipping her feet in it!). I am also enjoying the new series Pan Am, which although as sexist and racist as the period actually was, is interesting to me. This book is just a bit earlier (late 50's) and the writer is discussing a bit of her time as a flight attendant. It needed more editing: simple issues like noticing that Tony Bennett is not Toni, and so on. It is also a bit facile. But I enjoyed it, because I am always amused reading about that time period and about NY in that period (which she is stationed in when she flies internationally). I could have enjoyed it much more, if the author had been more reflective or more interested in bothe the time and the countries she was discussing, though.
  3. Water Song (A retelling of "The Frog Prince") (2006) by Suzanne Weyn: I brought this with me from the US, with several other modern re-tellings of fairy-tales, and I am finally getting around to reading it so that I can add it to my discard/donate/sell pile: I don't want to keep it. Yes, a "modern" re-telling of the cited tale, set during WWI. A slightly interesting look at the historical period, with heroine Emma Pennington trapped behind the lines in Belgium. An American, New Orleans native who has volunteered for the British is gassed and, with his skin peeling and his eyes bulging, looks froggish. But there is really no fantasy at all in this story. A bit of the occult, as Jack dreams of his mother, a magic woman. But although I enjoyed the bit of history, it didn't grab me enough to make me want to keep it.
  4. Murder by the Glass (2006) by Michele Scott: It's not a good sign when I prefer the recipes to the mystery. Set in the Napa Valley, with protagonist Nikki Sands working at Malveaux Estate. I love wine, I love Napa, but this just didn't interest me.
  5. The Riesling Retribution (2009) by Ellen Crosby: Whereas this was an interesting mystery. Because plot and characterization matter.
  6. A Dead Man out of Mind (1994) by Kate Charles: I didn't much like the last David Middleton-Brown book I read, but this one was better, with more interesting characterization, less emphasis on a prior problematic relationship, and the ecclesiastical detail was a bit more interesting to me. The relationship between David and Lucy Kingsley (an artist) is developing and more interesting.
  7. Stamped Out (2008) by Terri Thayer: First in the "A Stamping Sisters Mystery" series. April Butchert, rubber stamp and restoration expert, returns to her home town to work with her father and resolves open mysteries from her departure years before. Recovering from a failed marriage and sabotaged career her work is interrupted when a body is found. A good start.
  8. Moving is Murder (2006) by Sara Rosett: A first "Mom Zone" mystery. Protagonist Ellie is a military wife and mom, moving to a new posting with her airman husband. Moving and organizational tips are scattered throughout, in keeping with the theme and the reality that military families move constantly. A neighbor who was against development is found dead and all the suspects are her husband, Mitch's, co-workers. Well written and enjoyable.
  9. The Christmas Garden Affair (2002)by Ann Ripley: It's been a while since I have read a mystery featuring PBS garden host and detective Louise Eldridge, and I had forgotten how much I enjoy her and Ms. Ripley's writing. Interesting story, warm characters, and intriguing mystery with good research. Louise's show is being upstaged by a bumptious and risque British upstart, when Bunny (of "Bunny in the Garden") is poisoned at a conference featuring the First Lady. Secret Service involvement, a smattering of Stasi spy, and plenty of interesting suspects made this a great read.

29 November 2011

Seasonal Turn over

I made a start at doing the seasonal turn-over before I left, but of course I needed to leave it undone: it was still transitional weather and I needed to pack for 30c, while leaving 18C expecting to come back to 5C.
So as I was unpacking the suitcases, I was also packing away the summer clothes, the fall clothes, the rain clothes and the clothes in the closets and drawers that were Summer/Fall/Spring seasonal, as well as the new and old hand-me-downs that are for sizes the girls won't wear for at least another year (so that I can re-check the sizes at the next seasonal turn-over).
Not quite done (although these boxes are now in the cellar) and not showing the tranches of removed items. But a good start.

28 November 2011

Some swag and Black Friday

I'm still overcoming the jet-lag and won't be interpolating the missing vacation pics and posts for a while, but this is what I came back to (and I am absolutely luxuriating in not having German class and not planning on an intensive full-time course for at least a semester).
The left pictures are a portion of the swag brought back from the US: soft underwear and clothing for the children which fits, is 100% cotton, doesn't cause them issues with tactile sensation, and costs incredibly little: 9 pairs of socks cost less than two pair here.

I really appreciate the ease of shopping (I'll have posts up in "Decluttering" to show what was passed down, recycled and donated soon), but heavens, I also really appreciated Black Friday.
Although some people have mentioned that day as one where one should not consume, I think of it as the day when I can get each of my children two pairs of shoes and have it cost approximately 30% of what it would cost to buy a single pair of shoes in Germany. I finally got myself a pair of (great)Uggs knock-offs (for $32), and Sketchers for all (including the German- very nice looking walking shoes).

One of the first stores we hit after arriving in Miami was Costco- our favorite store. Among the normal purchases, such as brown sugar, craisins, dried blueberries and hot sauce, we buy clothes there. And this time we wanted a GPS (needed a US one) and some other odds-and-ends. After we completed our purchase, the greeter gave us the Black Friday flyer on our way out: for some "Missing Man" feeling we discovered that most of what we had purchased would be going on sale: we were able to go back the next week, re-buy our items and then return them and reap the 35% discount on the items in that one week period. I was even able to use Costco coupons from 2006 and exchange a camera that I had waiting (which had undergone a deeper price cut in the 60 days it waited at my brother's house) to allow an additional $50 discount. Almost made it seem as if I was saving money by purchasing items:-). The German bought a suit for 60% off, or 20% of what the same suit costs here. We also bought jeans to replace the ones with holes (I really hate shopping in Germany) for 10% of the cost of the same ones here. And so on. In all, we bought absolutely nothing that we had not planned to buy, with an average savings of 70% on what the items cost here.

I love Black Friday and if I ever move to the US again, I hope to buy all my furniture on that week, even if I have to live on crates until that point.

09 November 2011


I think T1 is absolutely amazing.

I think it's time to go and see some Magritte in situ.

04 November 2011

Seasonal Change-over

A slightly terrifying look at the corner of the office.

The empty boxes on the left are from the unpacked winter clothes (as is the large green one on the right. The other boxes are summer clothes (and a box of size 8s still too large for T1, who at 8.5 can still wear size 6): they are still up here rather than in the Kellar because I need to pack our suitcases for Florida this weekend.

Then they will go downstairs and this corner will empty out a bit (although I am afraid that pile of books in the window will take another month or two to be sorted out into read and keep, read and discard/donate/sell, and put in bookcase to read later). Life would be easier if we had an attic or a cellar connected to our dwelling.


Berlin may not be much for Weckmänner, but it's starting to get into the spirit of Halloween. (These were very yummy, made with Quark.)

02 November 2011

Halloween and Zombies

The last two years have seen the emergence of the zombie trope replacing the vampire one. I have loads of YA and paranormals on my shelves, waiting to be read, with zombie leads, zombie heroes, dystopian zombified worlds and even zombie romantic leads (I know it's hard to imagine).

Coming home from a Halloween party on Saturday, we bumped into the best zombie costumes (we assume, since they did not go for our brains) that we have seen.

Well done!

(I asked permission to take this photo, of course.)