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Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

by Lisa See

 

With much consideration, I give this book 4 stars.

From the very beginning, I became enthralled with foot binding. Call it a morbid fascination if you will, but I longed to understand the culture better to know why this torture was done in the name of fashion.

The story flowed well and held my unwavering interest until the Rice and Salt years. I am sure I could have written this section much better. At times I found it choppy. This section alone, because of the dragging seemed to emphasize the “Oh, somebody died! Oh, something horrible happened!” undercurrent that plagued this book. Luckily, I was able to rise above that and see through to the story of life-long friendship.

Truthfully, if you can get past the doom and gloom that I’m sure accompanied this time period in China’s history, it’s a beautiful story about innocent childhood love, about finding your same-sex soulmate and how even though humans try to be completely open and honest with each other, it is in our nature to hide the painful and humiliating parts of our lives. And that as humans, we really don’t want to hear other people’s tales of woe, that even in deep, abiding friendships, we are perhaps not as compassionate as we could be, even to those we love.

Ask yourself this: When is the last time someone asked you how your day was and you gave a completely honest and open answer? Do you usually give the ritualized, expected pat answer of, “Fine”, because we all know that people really DON’T want to hear how you are? Or were you completely open and honest? And if you were, did people’s eyes glaze over or did they find an excuse to scurry away? Because, that is something that seems to happen often in our culture. We just expect everyone to say, “Oh, fine!” so we can carry on about our business, wrapped in our selfish, self-insulated cocoon we build ourselves and only concern ourselves with our own worries.

Apparently in China, way back when, it was different. Everyone acknowledged suffering. But EVERYONE experienced the same sort of suffering, which apparently made the suffering ok in that culture. Instead of the pat answer of “Oh, fine!”, women would complain to other women with standard answers about being unworthy, worthless and a disappointment. I’m not sure this is better than American culture today, but perhaps it was more honest. Perhaps if you were suffering and you knew that others were suffering as well, it made your burden more bearable. Where in comparison, “Oh, fine!” makes it sound like life is good for other people, and deep down we may feel our lives suck, leaving us to feel worse about our own life, because everyone else’s is apparently peachy keen!  (Hmm…  I wonder if there is a higher rate of teen suicide because of this practice per capita.  I suppose we can’t exactly go back and do a study now…)

Anyways, I liked the overall theme of the story, and I enjoyed the setting, even if the book itself was grim in many places.  It’s definitely worth a read to get a glimpse into another culture and learn about some not too long ago practices of their bygone eras.  I do not think I particularly want to see the film though.  Might be a bit too depressing.

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When you have a yeasty, smelly dog with health issues, you go through a lot of dog shampoo.  When you have to have a medicated shampoo to control the yeast, you go through EXPENSIVE dog shampoo.  In the 3 years since Copper started having a yeast issue, I think we’ve tried nearly every product under the sun.  We’ve tried prescription shampoos that required us to bathe Copper daily, but never solved the problem.  We’ve tried OTC shampoos only available through your vet that required us to bathe him 2x a week and gave Copper relief, as long as you stayed on the bathing schedule.  We tried medicated shampoos from pet stores of varying costs and quality.  Some worked better than others, but I was usually unhappy for one reason or another.  We tried medicated shampoos from near and far!

Here’s my generalized breakdown of what I’ve tried on Copper:

Prescription shampoos- PITA to wash him daily.  Worked and worked well, if I kept up with it daily.  But the constant smell of wet dog permeated my house.  Also very expensive at nearly $30 per bottle.

OTC from the vet clinic shampoos- Worked great!  Only, it took half a bottle per bath, so it became cost prohibitive when the price was the same as the prescription shampoo.  And, well, Copper wasn’t too happy waiting in the tub for it to sit 15 minutes before rinsing.  I wasn’t too happy trying to convince my teenage puppy to sit in the tub that long either.

Medicated Shampoos from the Pet Store- They all worked to differing degrees.  It seemed like as soon as I found one that was tolerable and reasonably priced, it was no longer on the market the next time I went to get some.  Or, we used a ton of shampoo for my 40 lbs dog, meaning we’d only get 2 baths per bottle.  Some, such as the tar products, I didn’t like the smell of.   And some just didn’t seem to do much for him.  It was really a shoot in the dark.

Then…

I tried something new to me!

I bathed Copper in this Tropiclean Oatmeal and Tea Tree Shampoo.  It didn’t smell awful.  In fact, it was kind of nice.  Or as nice as my stuffed up nose could detect.  It lathered awesomely!  I mean, I was truly impressed!  Most medicated dog shampoos don’t lather worth beans, and as Copper tends to be pretty greasy at times with his yeast issue, that means we have to use even more product to get a lather.  Plus, with his thick Aussie hair, rinsing can be a real pain.

Well, guess what?  None of those things were a problem!  He lathered well, using a reasonable amount of product.  I let it sit for the requisite 5-10 minutes (probably closer to 10, as I was also bathing Bear simultaneously).  And best of all, it rinsed out easily!

I love that Tropiclean contains no harsh ingredients.  I could use this product on the cats if I needed to.  There aren’t any soaps in it and even the bottle is environmentally friendly by being made out of biodegradable corn products or from recycled plastics.

Since I also bathed Bear in this, I already know I’ll be getting more than 2 washes out of it.  And at $13 for a bottle, it looks like it will save me some money as well!  Now, I just hope that Tropiclean doesn’t discontinue this shampoo, leaving me on the hunt again for something new.  Best of all, I can find it locally AND I can order it online!  How great is that?

*Review completely unsolicited.  Tropiclean doesn’t know me, has never heard of me and I was not reimbursed for my review of this product in any way.

**This shampoo is marked to control itchy skin in dogs, NOT yeast.  I used this product to help treat yeast of my own volition, knowing that tea tree oil has anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties.

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Review: Movie Musicals, Act 1

Modern Movie Musicals (by my definition as out on dvd since 2000)

Down With Love– Until I saw this, I didn’t know Renee Zellweger could sing.  I was very pleasantly surprised!  I love the sweetness and silliness of this 60s era romantic comedy- type musical.  This was a very cute musical and one that now inhabits the top of my “favorite musicals” list.  4.5 stars.  If you haven’t already seen it, you should!

Phantom of the Opera– Not my favorite.  I read the book last year and I expected the Musical to be much darker and more gothic.  The bright sound of the brass instruments and rock opera-esque feel of this did nothing for me.  Or, perhaps I’m not an Andrew Lloyd Webber fan.  The scenery and costuming were wonderful.  As a period piece for those things alone, I give this 3 stars out of 5.  It would have gotten a lower rating except for that little bit.

Chicago– Apparently, I’m the last person on earth who hadn’t seen Chicago until a couple weeks ago.  I really enjoyed it, though some character portrayal didn’t work for me.  In the 1920s, “Mama” would not have been a black woman.  History shows us that.  Otherwise, this was a fantastic movie!  I loved the costuming!  I loved the slight bawdiness of the show.  I thought the actors did a bang up job!

Nine- 2.5 stars, Beautiful set bits and costuming, but the story was disjointed and didn’t necessarily make a lot of sense until the last 20 minutes of the movie.  If it wasn’t for the set pieces, I’d have turned this movie off.

Mama Mia- 3.5 out of 5 stars.  I think this was a little over-hyped for me, but it was cute and silly.  It did leave me wanting to move to a Greek island and buy a run-down B&B.

Sweeney Todd- 3 out of 5 stars. I loved Pirelli’s hair that reminded me of Princess Leia buns!  I don’t have a weak stomach, but the spraying gore was a bit much for me.  There wasn’t enough story here.  More dialog would have helped to get to know the characters better.  After watching this, I read a review that filled in the blanks and stated that the movie version of this musical left out a lot of the dark humor, funny lines and character interplay, which for me caused a lower star score.  Had that been there, as intended, I’m sure I’d have felt this was a 4 star worthy musical.  So, to summarize, the musical lacked story, which they attempted to hide with gore.  Not Burton’s best move, in my opinion.

 

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I’ve spent the last 3 1/2 weeks wrapped, bandaged or band-aided.  And if you have to be injured that long, you should get to have your bandages be fun and colorful.

Bandages have come such a long, long way in the last 29 years (when I was 6).  No longer do you have a choice just between new, groovy fabric band aids and the original plastic ones, you get to pick from a myriad of colors, characters and styles!

First, I went through 4 rolls of vet wrap.  Black, blue, pink and purple.  I tried name brand Vet Wrap and Co-Flex both.  I prefer Co-Flex because it tears nicer and you don’t have to cut it from the roll when you’re done wrapping.  Although, Vet Wrap feels softer on your skin and is more flexible.  (From here on out, I will be stocking my barn with Co-Flex- who has time to go look for scissors?)

I spent the holidays all fun and colorful.  I also learned that non-stick gauze pads CAN and DO stick!  I’ve used enough peroxide to soak off gauze pads to have turned any one of my readers blonde.

From there, I graduated to giant band aids designed for knees.  The suck about this is that they’re less absorbent than the gauze/vet wrap combo and I had to change it 2-3 times a day.  But, I had more use of my elbow since it wasn’t stuck out straight from vet wrap.  Unfortunately, giant band aids only come in band aid flesh tone.

Once that graduation occurred, I became quite bored with the same ol’, same ol’ on my elbow.  I began to dream of the day I could move down to regular band aids!  What would I choose?  Hello Kitty?  Scooby Doo?  Power Rangers?  Crayons?  Just plain band aids in bright colors?

I decided I wanted pony band aids.  Of course I wanted pony band aids!  I always want the thing that’s hard to find!  Guess what?  Pony band aids don’t exist.  Not even My Little Pony band aids.  But, I wasn’t out of luck!  I found these:

(Pardon the bad shot.  Bad Pants just taught me how to turn the macro setting on.  I didn’t know about it until AFTER I took the pics.)

Pretty cool, huh?  But wait!  It gets better!  Did you see the words “Free Prize inside”?  They’re kinda like a box of Cracker Jacks!  Only, with a much, much less awesome prize.  See for yourself:

Neither of my girls would have found that puffy lips sticker cool when they were 6.  I dunno but I might have!  Sticker collecting was all the rage then in the ’80s.

But wait!  Did you see this?

Now I know why the Red Bull gathered all the Unicorns up and herded them to the end of the Earth!  It’s become clear that King Haggard sold them to the Chinese so they could hold the Unicorns in captivity, collecting their tears for their awesome healing powers!  And to think that when I was 6, I wanted to travel the world in search of  Unicorns!  They’ve been enslaved in China all this time!

Free the Unicorns!  Free the Unicorns!  Free the Unicorns!  Free the Unicorns!

Ahem!  Pardon my zealousness, but I don’t think King Haggard did the world any favors, nor his kingdom, by selling the Unicorns to Communist China.   After all, it didn’t keep his kingdom nor his castle from falling into poverty.

Ok, where were we again?  Oh yes, the healing powers of Unicorn tears and their uses in band aids.

See the new skin underneath the band aid? The owie was much, much larger! Now only the hole remains, which fits under the pad on the band aid.

I’m waiting for skin growth at this point as everything below that point to the bone has filled in, finally.  I’ll let you know if the Unicorn Tears speed up my healing.  In the mean time, please pray for the release of the Unicorns!

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I recently finished Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs: Family, Friendships, and Faith in Small-town Alaska by Heather Lende.

Here’s my quick little blurb I left as a review on Goodreads:

Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs is the last message anyone received from the author’s mother before she passed away. After her own near fatal accident, author Heather Lende writes about her thoughts on life and death in small town Alaska.

I loved that this book brought a piece of my home state back to me, Alaska, even though I’ve never been to the southeastern part of the state. Additionally, this book cleared up a mystery for me as to why a large percentage of Alaskan Natives don’t know a lot about their culture. It was interesting to learn that missionaries, most notably the future governor, John Green Brady, worked hard to eliminate the “heathen” cultures. I was happy to hear that some native culture, most notably Tlingit culture survives today.

My favorite lines in the book are where the author is talking about a woman, a resident of Haines, AK named Mimi, who had recently passed away in her tenth decade of life.  Mimi’s story is interesting as her husband invested in a closed military base as their new home and Mimi moved to Alaska aboard a steamship with her two children and retired opera singer mother-in-law in 1947.  (What a story already before life in Alaska, I bet!)

“Mimi’s story is both whacky and typical of twentieth-century Alaskan pioneers.  They were not what you’d expect.  It is no doubt as to why Alaskans, especially women, remain so hard to pin to a stereotype.”

Thank you, Heather Lende.  God did break the mold when he created Alaskan women and future Alaskan women.

For me, this book was a little trip back home for this transplanted Alaskan girl.

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The Varsity is an iconic fast food eatery in midtown Atlanta.  It has been featured on Food Network a few times and is most notorious for their sing-song greeting at the counter of “What’ll ya have?  What’ll ya have?”

The Varsity has been around since 1928, serving the students of Georgia Tech and the surrounding community.  The Varsity is also touted as the largest drive-in world wide.  You can learn more about the Varsity’s history here.

We decided to check out The Varsity after spending the day at the Georgia Aquarium.  After all, we were just a few blocks away.  Why not check out this world famous joint?

The food, mainly burgers and dogs, were surprisingly really good!  The fries were fresh potatoes, not something cut, dipped in sugar and frozen for months on end- like other fast food restaurants.  There was some debate between Bad Pants and I if they were as good or better than my memory of the fresh, Yukon Gold fries of In-N-Out in California.  Bad Pants has been to In-N-Out in the last couple months.  He says The Varsity’s fries, which come from your basic Russet Potato were better.

The car hops are known for dancing while singing the menu aloud to customers.  We, however, did not get that experience as we ate inside this time.  Perhaps next time and hopefully we’ll get video!

All told, The Varsity was an awesome experience.  We tried fries, onion rings (which BP says are the best he’s ever had), burgers and hot dogs.  The simple, All-American fare was most excellent.  We highly recommend it to anyone traveling to the Atlanta area.

After all, it’s kid tested and 100% approved!

They can’t wait to go back!

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I have to admit, I thought this clip was put together rather well.

When I saw the commercial stating that Eclipse was one of the best movies of the summer, I began to worry that didn’t bode well for other movies coming out.  Not if Eclipse was the standard being used.  To me, the cgi even seemed hokey.

I still don’t get the whole Twilight lust going on with women.  Tweens, yes.  Adult women, no.  Women fought so hard for equality, yet many adult women are willing to throw it all away for a pompous, over-bearing jerk like Edward?  Really??

I am still seriously considering burning my copies of the series.  Considering, as actually burning a book may cause me great anguish.  (After all, my elementary school librarian always said that books are our friends, a lesson I took to heart).

However, the Twilight saga is still the biggest piece of drivel I’ve ever read.  Poor writing, lack of research and then tampering with accepted lore in such an outrageous way!  I’m pretty sure my 9 yr olds could write a more entertaining and better written tale.

Really, my friends, I know several of you just love Twilight.  I don’t get it.  Why?  Why is it so appealing?

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Bereavement.  What does it look like?  What does it feel like?  How do you go forward and continue on with life?  Simply put, it will be different for each person.  In Losing Charlotte, Heather Clay makes an admirable attempt to portray the answers to these questions with her main characters, Bruce and Knox.

When new mother Charlotte passes away suddenly right after the birth of her twins, her husband, Bruce, and sister, Knox, are left behind, trying to pick up the pieces and move forward for the sake of the newborn babies.  The grief and the coping mechanisms each use look different, feel different.   Knox looks back and idealizes growing up with Charlotte.  Bruce, goes numb, barely functioning with the schedule he set for the twins and cloistering himself away from life.  But yet, life goes forward and each of the characters grows from the tragedy, learning something about themselves, Charlotte and each other along the way.

This book looks at how adults cope with the sudden, tragic loss of a loved one and the stages gone through until each can come out the other side better, stronger and capable of carrying on.   Heather Clay does a great job showcasing the numbness that seems to be required to carry on with life after a great loss, although at times the book seems to be a bit weighed down by it and is slow to move forward.

Any book about bereavement is a tough sell, let alone tough to write.  Portraying maternal death is even tougher.  Due to the subject matter, I sometimes found this book tough to connect with.   I give props to Ms. Clay for her willingness to tackle such a tough situation.

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As most of you know, the clock is winding down on our move.  And moving has got me thinking and realizing I’ll have to find a new place to get the occasional latte and will probably have to find a new coffee blend as I am not sure where I’ll be able to find my current fav locally at the new place, even though it’s just 30 miles away.

First, let me define what I consider good coffee for you according to me, OS.

Good Coffee- smooth, rich and medium bodied.  A truly good coffee comes from a bean you can eat whole that doesn’t taste bitter, burnt or green.  Should be pleasant tasting.

In order to have a good coffee, you have to know what you’re looking at and how to properly store it.  Good, fresh coffee should look oily.  I usually buy whole bean and grind my own.  Really, really fresh coffee you grind yourself will likely clump in your grinder as the oils will bind it together some.

See that beautiful oily sheen?  That's what you should look for in whole bean coffee.

See that beautiful oily sheen? That's what you should look for in whole bean coffee.

It’s not often you can find good, fresh coffee from the bulk dispensers at the grocery store.  For the most part, these are constantly exposed to light and air, which is detrimental to the oils of coffee, which is where most of the flavor resides.

So, the proper way to store coffee is in a dark or opaque container that has a good seal to it to keep air out and then in a dark, cool place such as a cupboard.  You don’t want to keep it in the fridge or freezer as these are damp places and the cold can cause those beautiful oils to congeal and alter the flavor.

Ok, now that we’ve established that, let’s talk about my favorite blends!  (All photos linked to each roaster’s website if possible)

Wicked Wolf

My favorite!  Smooth, rich, deep, yet medium bodied.  I discovered my love of this coffee in Alaska and mourned it’s loss when I moved to the Lower 48, until I discovered that Raven’s Brew had opened a roasting plant in Tumwater, WA just 5 short miles from where I was living!  It was heaven.  I was in love.  Then I fell in love and moved away.

Two years later I found my second favorite coffee:

Sisters Coffee Company

Now I prefer to drink Sisters Coffee Company’s Sisters Blend if I can’t get my Wicked Wolf.  Which, of course is often.  This coffee compares to Wicked Wolf, yet seems to be missing something.  Is it lacking that bit of home for me?

I currently pick up Sisters Blend at a local grocery store chain here in the Salem area.  However, I will not have access to this local chain soon.

In between Wicked Wolf and Sisters Blend I found a passable coffee I was satisfied with.  I even blogged about it here.  I drink this when I can’t get the Sisters Blend.  Well, whenever I get myself to my local Fred Meyers to purchase it.

newmans-own-coffee

I prefer the Columbian coffee myself, personally.  And this is what I’ll probably be drinking at first when I move as we will have a local Fred Meyers in the new town.  Newman’s Own Organics partnered with Green Mountain Roasters to bring this tasty little treat to us.  And Green Mountain Roasters has some acceptable coffees too!  However, the coffees you get in the bulk dispensers are not always that fresh, so I rarely buy any of the Green Mountain coffees.

Millstone

Lastly, I drink Millstone when I’m too lazy to go get the good coffee or too tired to head to a different grocery store.  Columbian Supremo is what we usually get.  Honestly, it’s like feeding your pet Iams or some other decent but not wonderful brand of pet food when you’ve forgotten to stop at the specialty place to get the really great, really healthy stuff.  Millstone is ok in a pinch as a method of caffeine consumption, but it lacks when you’re looking for something wonderful to slowly sip and savor.

Now that you’ve had a crash course in my favorite coffees, what are yours?

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I’ve decided to start another series to be published at my whim.  I’m going to call it, “Spoil Your Pet”, in which I’ll review cool new toys, dishes, gadgets, etc to make life great for you and your pet.

Since it’s summer, water is of mega importance for your pet.  Here are some cool new items for your viewing pleasure:

water holeFirst up is the Water Hole.  This funny looking bowl keeps your pet from spilling water.  A nifty idea if you have a messy drinker and are tired of cleaning up slopped water.

Le Bistro

Next is your average Le Bistro waterer which allows a larger quantity of water to be available to your pet at all times.  It lessens the need to constantly fill and refill your pet’s water bowl.  Personally, I am not a fan of these.  Water can get stale and warm in them.  Who wants to drink stale, warm water?  And every book you read always says to provide clean, fresh water for your pets at all times, not stale, warm water.  However, I suppose it works if you’re in a hot clime and need to be away from your pet all day.  Better than a traditional bowl that won’t leave your pet enough water.

Next up we have the pump and filter style water dishes.  These plug in to the outlet and use a small aquarium style pump to circulate the water and usually contain a carbon based filter.  Consider it like a mini-aquarium for your pet!  These keep water fresh and oxegenated and much more palatable for your pet.  Plus, they filter out chlorine and other nasty things in your tap water.  Hey, if it’s good for us, isn’t it good for our pets too?  Of this style, I personally use this one:

Drinkwell

I love that it holds a gallon of water.  I only need to fill the reservoir once, maybe twice a day with all my cats and dogs.  Plus, as cats tend to be on the dehydrated side, it’s a great way to get your finicky cat to drink water.  There are a few different brands and styles of waterers on the market like this.  Smaller, larger, more fountain like, etc.   However, since this plugs in to an outlet, it’s not an outdoor water dish at all.

Maybe a better idea for fresh water outside is this:

Lixit

This little gem connects right to your outdoor spigot and allows your pet to have fresh water from the tap on demand.  It works like a water bottle for small pets, complete with the ball bearing in the bottom of the tube to keep the water in and not just constantly pouring out.

And for you hikers and people on the go, here’s an ingenious item:

Portable

No more need to carry water and bowl separately!  How great is that??

Well, thanks for checking out some water bowl ideas with me today.  Until next time, keep on loving your pets!

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