Mermaids in the Basement


This one had such promise. I was looking for a light, fun, read. This one seemed like it fit the bill perfectly. The description from Publishers Weekly describes the book as follows:

Ripe with Southern charm and sultry atmosphere, West’s diverting and funny latest unravels the tangled gossamer web of an eccentric extended Southern family. At the heart of the novel is Renata DeChavannes, who has a pretty full plate: a tabloid ran a story about her longtime film director boyfriend’s possible on-set fling with an actress; her mother and step-father died in a plane crash five months ago; her father is about to marry his fourth wife (a squeaky-voiced young thang named Joie); and she’s just found a letter written by her mother instructing her to ferret out her mother’s dirty secrets. So Renata heads to her Gulf Coast Alabama hometown, where her indomitable grandmother Honora DeChavannes; steadfast former nanny Gladys Boudreax; and Honora’s longtime friend and former actress, Isabella D’Agostina McGeehee, live. The story flies by, loaded with grand parties, sumptuous Southern meals, multiple affairs and harrowing calamities.

The book, however left me flat. I didn’t really care much about the characters and nothing in the story really moved me. There were some amusing moments and the story held my attention, but the book had several major flaws.

First, there are a lot of characters, which in and of itself is not terrible, but we just don’t get into their heads like we need to in order to care about them. Louie and Shelby, the protagonist’s parents are spoken about in great detail throughout the book and yet remain an enigma to the reader somehow. I am not sure why, though I think perhaps that there are so many subplots that it takes away from character development.

Next, the protagonist, Renata is only mildly likable. I really wanted to like her, too, but she seems to put very little thought into her actions, which is frustrating at best. She is definitely not a strong character and for someone who is part of the entertainment business, she seems excessively naive. This is not a deal killer, but it does take away from the book, if not when reading, then in retrospect.

Further, the “dirty secrets” Renata has been told to uncover aren’t all that dirty. Obviously when you get deep into the details of the sexual exploits of one’s unfaithful parents, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, but to the outsider, it’s not that shocking. And it could work, but the tension buildup to the not-so-dirty secrets is a big one. Perhaps less suspense and the acknowledgment that these thins are shocking to the adult child of the adulterers alone would have made the revelations work better to someone observing from outside the family.

Lastly, the chapters are told from not only Renata’s point of view but several other characters’ and this is a little confusing, but not overly so. However, they are told from a flashback perspective rather than someone looking back and recalling the past and the way that is done is a bit odd. It doesn’t not work at all, but it was distracting.

Early in the book in a 1966 newspaper clipping, Houston’s Rice Medical Center is mentioned. Now, Houston has a large world-class medical center, but it is not known as the Rice Medical Center. We do have Rice University here and the Rice name is a prominent one in the city. Either the author made a mistake, made it up for the book, or the medical center was indeed known as the Rice medical Center in the 1960’s. If anyone knows the answer to this, please link me up.

However, the book is overall fairly entertaining and especially for the true Southerner, will probably bring back some childhood memories. It’s worth a library check-out, particularly if you are already a fan of this author, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend buying it.

Hunt for Hunts

My quest this year is to find a big Easter egg hunt for the boys – they are at that perfect age where finding each egg is a magical experience for them.

Last year we missed all the hunts. I was some 15 months pregnant with Babybeast (or looked it, anyway) and wasn’t really into it. That and from my fuzzy recollection, I seem to think we had an overnight emergency of sorts the night before – barfing, perhaps? Regardless, we didn’t go and I still feel bad about it, so this year we are going to find one, rain or shine.

Most of the egg hunts here are conducted by big churches. I’m in Texas and like they say, people seem to do everything big here: hair, lawsuits, belt buckles, crazy, trucks, appetites, scandal, attitudes, and so on. Churches are no exception. Our family doesn’t attend church, so I’m not real keen on edging into someone’s religious holiday with our nonreligious empty Easter baskets held out like beggars. Doesn’t seem right.

On the other hand, many of the big churches send out postcards advertising their egg hunts as “Open to the Community.” I’m not entirely sure if this is meant as purely community outreach or community recruitment, but “open to the community” would seem to me to mean open to even empty Easter baskets owned by those who have no intention of ever returning, except possibly next year around the same time, with the same empty basket.

I found a Methodist church that’s just down the road (I have several Big Churches within a five minute drive) that says it’s Saturday Easter activities are open to the community and will feature an egg hunt, crafts, Easter bunny, and so on. Obviously “open to the community” means, “we hope to get you to join our church” but I also hope it means, “but we’re cool if you aren’t interested” and if so, that’s mighty nice of them.

I admit I’m a bit sensitive about these things since I attended a Very Big Baptist Church once during junior high school with a girlfriend I had stayed overnight with and the next week three church representatives showed up at my house to try to convert my Episcopalian family and weren’t keen on taking no for an answer. The lesson learned from that was to never, NEVER, under any circumstance, sign your name on the guest list.

Another option, of course, is to locate some sort of secular egg hunt, probably sponsored by local businesses and I’d go to one of those, providing I can locate one, which I have not yet. So technically, it’s not really an option until I can actually find one, is it? I’ll keep looking.

And I’m actually thinking of having my own egg hunt – inviting a few neighborhood kids to come over and look for eggs. The thing is, my back yard is really dull – mostly grass and not much of a challenge to egg finders, so I’m at a loss as to where to hold it. I suppose I could do it in the front yard….this is going to require some thought….hmm.

I’ll report back when I figure it all out. If you are in the area, feel free to send me your egg hunt recommendations.

By 7:05 PM


….everyone was fed, watered, bathed, scrubbed, dressed, teeth brushed, books read, and in bed.

The boys have 30 minutes to read in their own beds. The girl has been out cold since 6:45.

The toys are put away, the carpet is vacuumed, the tile floors are steamed, the dishes are done and put away, the recycling is organized and put out for pick-up, and all fifty million loads of laundry is clean and put away.

This is the difference between Mama on her own and Mama when Grandma and Grandpa visit for the afternoon and play with the kids to I can actually get things done. Three cheers for grandparents!!!

MelissaC

Costco is The Devil

I went to Costco to buy one item. One small (well, small for Costco) bottle of fish oil tablets. Nothing more.

I walked out with a very full cart, a very empty wallet, and little recollection of what happened in between.

You know those samples they are always handing out? I think there might be some mind-altering substance in them. That would explain a lot, actually. Hmmm.

And on top of that, it seems I forgot to buy the fish oil so I have to go back tomorrow! Doh!

My theory may need some fine tuning, but there’s definitely a conspiracy at work.

The House on Tradd Street

The House on Tradd Street, by Karen White.

It was good. Good and spooky. Not gory or overly violent or anything too distressing, just good and spooky. A little predictable in parts, perhaps, but definitely a nice weekend read. In fact, she has another in the series coming out in the fall and I intend to pick it up once it is out.

I’d write more, but I’m beat, so it’s off to bed for me. Maybe tomorrow.

Buy This Not That


I got these two books from a friend. Thank god, too, because I’d be pretty miffed if I spent my own cash on them and I’ll tell you why.

Eat This, Not That! Thousands of Simple Food Swaps that Can Save You 10, 20, 30 Pounds–or More! by David Zinczenko and its companion book Eat This Not That! Supermarket Survival Guide: The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution are both superstars in the diet book world right now – hugely popular, as the ratings on Amazon and other book sites can attest. Why, precisely, I’m not sure, but I think it has a lot to do with the snappy title, because there is little to no actual substance inside the books.

The author is preoccupied with calories. And of course calories count. But so does nutrition and Mr. Zinczenko and crew seemingly forgot about that part of the health equation. In a stroke of irony, the author is editor in chief of Men’s Health magazine.

The first one concerns itself with eating out for the most part. That was actually strike one since I do not eat out all that often, but I can hardly hold that against him. More importantly, in both books, the author makes mention of fiber and sodium and fat content, but other than that, the focus is almost solely on calories.

Here’s an example. Fresh asparagus grilled in olive oil with a salmon steak is relatively high in fat, albeit good fats. It’s also high in lots of other good stuff. The lint out of my clothes dryer contains very few calories, but is nutritionally devoid. According to the book, based on calories (and possibly fiber, fat, and sodium content) the dryer lint would make an ideal meal. That’s the kind of logic that seemed to be prevalent in the books.

A lot of the books concern picking one type of junk food over another. What is the healthiest fast food burger out there? Not exactly the way to Save 10, 20, 30 Pounds–or More! is it? Americans are overfed, yet undernourished. This book isn’t helping the status quo.

Browsing Amazon, I was horrified to find a children’s version:

If the focus in on choosing the best of prepackaged meals and fast food, which I suspect it is (note the cover), then I’ll pass. And parents should too.

From an Amazon reviewer of the original book, who got it spot on:

“I think this book is a reflection of how bad the American diet is. I heard it discussed and thought it sounded like a good book. All it does if give you a choice between the lesser of two evils. Why not recommend whole grains, vegetables and low sugar foods. That would be a sound choice. But when you recommend eat a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut over another kind of doughnut, who are we kidding here??? This just allows people to be completely off the hook for being responsible for eating a nutritious diet, or feeding a nutritious diet to their kids. No wonder there is an obesity epidemic in this country.”

Another Amazon reviewer suggested Food Politics by Marion Nestle and I am intrigued. I’m going to request it at the library in just a moment, in fact.

And let me just point you toward this site – it’s worth a look see if you have a few minutes.

And if you are still looking for what to eat, by some fortune, the same author has published What to Eat, which was recommended to me, though I will confess I have not yet read it (stay tuned!).


So the bottom line is this – using the Eat This Not That books will give you false confidence in your (poor) choices and nothing more. Don’t buy them, even if you are tempted by the snappy titles and cute catchy covers. And if you really must have them, you can have mine – I certainly have no use for them. There are better books out there if you must have a book. I also suggest using your common sense, since this author seems to have forgotten how to use his.

Easter Coloring Pages

We went to the new playground to explore this morning and were promptly run off by a worker – it seems that it’s not quite done so no one is allowed on it yet. Something about safety and liability, blah blah blah. Funsuckers.
And then we went to the grocery store, but once there I discovered that I had left my credit cards and ID at home. I had the checkbook, but fat lot of good that does without a driver’s license. So we carefully spent the seven dollars I had with me and came home.
So they are coloring now. I found a stash of coloring pages at Activity Village you might want to check out. If you scroll to the bottom you can get to this page which links bazillions of coloring pages and appears to be regularly maintained.

Even if you don’t have children of crayoning age, you might print a few for yourself. If you are anything like me, you secretly like to have a go at coloring now and then.

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