Sunday, January 15, 2017

Commonwealth - Ann Patchett

I've been a big Ann Patchett fan ever since I read Bel Canto back in 2009 - though I was surprised to just discover that it was published so recently - Patchett seems like an author I have loved for a lifetime!  So, whenever one of her new novels comes out, I am eager to find a quiet chunk of time to really delve into it.  Commonwealth is just the type of book that asks for that kind of uninterrupted time.  The story takes place over 50 years, and focuses on two separate families whose lives are intertwined as the result of an affair.  I'm a sucker in general for stories about families, told over generations, from different people's perspectives and from the present and the future looking back at the past.  Patchett is a wonderful story-teller with a real feel for people.  I can't say that I loved all the characters in this book - and one of the main ones is a young aimless woman who maintains a long-time affair with a much older writer - and I just couldn't really grasp onto the reality of their relationship.  But, that being said, I enjoyed the journey and the different relationships among the characters.  Another great one from an apparently not-that-old favorite!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Welcome to 2017

2016 was a disappointing reading year for me.  I didn't do a very good job at all keeping track of my books on this blog - though I plan to go back and re-create my list using Goodreads.  But, even when I went back over the titles I read, I found there weren't many that jumped out at me as noteworthy or ones I'd pass along as recommendations.  I hope to cure that in 2017.  I also want to set a few goals for myself.  I'd like to read - and keep track of on this blog - at least 2 books per month.  I have many other lofty goals in terms of the kinds of books I will read or the types of authors, but mostly I'm hoping to stumble upon a few page turners...we'll see how it goes.  Happy 2017 and Happy Reading!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Asian American Writing Blog

One fun thing I had the opportunity to do this year is write a couple blog posts for  I discovered that it is quite a bit more difficult than just coming on to my own blog and writing whatever I feel like writing!  A lot more pressure, but also quite a bit of fun.  Here is the post I wrote, which focused on a couple of my favorite things - grandparents and children's books!  Enjoy!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Alice's Pick of the Week: The Garden of Happiness

In The Garden of Happiness by Erika Tamar, a neighborhood comes together to build a community garden.  Young Marisol wants to be a part of the project but is told there are no plots left.  So, she plants a seed in the sidewalk crack and waits to see what happens.  I love books about planting and growing - and keep hoping the more I read them with my children, the more we will be inspired to plant our own garden (next Spring, I promise!).  This book has the added bonus of telling the story of community and people coming together to make their neighborhood a safer more beautiful place.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fall is Here: Trees, Leaves & Pumpkins!

Fall is here!  The temperatures dropped this week and we even had a little rain this morning.  And now that October has officially arrived, I decided it was time to start in on the fall/Halloween crafting.  The end-of-year holidays are always good for some art inspiration.  Ben has been studying trees in his kindergarten science unit, so he also inspired us to read a bit more about trees.  One beautifully illustrated fun book we discovered is: Strange Trees: And the Stories Behind Them.  Other fun stories we've been reading that feature trees and leaves and fall flavor include:

Wangari's Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
The Hugging Tree: A Story about Resilience by Jill Neimark
The Season's of Arnold's Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons
Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell
Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
We followed up our reading with a very simple art project.  Yesterday, Clara and her dad took a walk in the park and collected leaves.  We then glued the leaves to paper and painted them.  The kids observed that the leaves Clara found were mostly brown and very dry.  Ben ran outside to find a red leaf from our yard - and as we looked outside this morning, we noticed that there were yellow leaves on the trees that were falling and not so dried out.  We thought maybe if we went on a nature walk in a couple weeks we would find some very different leaves to work with.  

I started out the project by putting out various colors of construction paper, the bag of found leaves, and glue.  The kids picked the color paper they wanted and got to work.  Because we got started on our project pretty late in the day, we let the glue dry overnight and headed up to bed for more tree reading.

In the morning, the kids each chose the paint colors they wanted for their palate and started painting.  I also picked up a few little pumpkins this morning at the store, so they spent a little time also decorating those.

The kids had a fun time with the actual leaves, but in the end, I think they had the most fun mixing and swirling the paints.  After talking about their leaf creations, we focused on how to make different colors and designs.  We had a fun time kicking off the fall season!


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Peeny Butter Fudge - Toni Morrison & Slade Morrison

As a child, I spent my summers with my grandparents.  Every morning, my grandmother prepared dinner for that evening (usually anticipating a few guests) and baked up a storm.  She woke up early, so by the time I got out of bed the house often smelled of fresh banana bread or chocolate cake.  While she frequently scolded me for jumping around too much and causing her sponge cakes to fall, mostly I remember sitting at the  table while she did her thing.  On many of those mornings while she cooked, she told me about her life - growing up with a dozen siblings, riding motorcycles through the cane fields when she was supposed to be at school, working as a domestic at the age of 12, meeting my grandfather, raising her family.  My grandmother had a ton of energy and was always rushing around from one thing to another, but even as a kid, I knew those moments I had her all to myself in the kitchen were really special.

My grandmother passed away over 10 years ago, but there aren't many days that I don't miss her.  I love to bake - mostly because it reminds me of being with her.  My mom is also an excellent cook/baker, and one of my favorite things to do now is to look for recipes with her, trade stories about what we're making, and on far too rare occasions bake with her - often times while laughing about my grandmother's cryptic recipes and wishing we could eat her manju or lilikoi chiffon pie just one more time.

These days, because I remember growing up with my grandparents so fondly, I love seeing my children with their grandparents - building those same kinds of memories and feeling the same kind of unconditional love.  I'm always on the look out for books about relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren - there are certainly many out there.  And at the library this past week, I stumbled upon a great one for our family called Peeny Butter Fudge - written by Toni Morrison and her late son, Slade Morrison.  It is the story of a grandmother who turns a mundane afternoon into a magical one, and bakes a favorite family recipe with her grandchildren - all told in Morrison's beautiful poetic style.  This book is a quick read - but for me the story was more in the pictures and the ideas - and in talking to my kids while we were reading it about all the things they love to do with their grandmas - and of course all the things I used to do with mine.

The book ends with the recipe for Peeny Butter Fudge - which of course, I had to try out.  I initially thought it would be a good evening project to do with my girls.  But, they were off drawing cards for their grandmas.  In the end, I just felt like making it by myself and spending some quiet time with my grandma once again.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Orphan Train - Christina Baker Kline

I have been on a non-fiction kick lately (and not updating the blog, clearly), but I took a break from that endeavor to read this book - which I've been hearing about since last year and was handed to me by my mother-in-law.  Orphan Train explores the unlikely friendship between a disgruntled teen foster youth, and an elderly wealthy woman.  As the book explores the parallels between the lives of the two women, it switches back and forth from the present to the life of the elderly woman who traveled on the orphan trains from New York across the midwest to find "suitable" homes for orphaned and abandoned immigrant children.  This was a quick read -  I read it in one sitting on a plane from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. - and I ended it in tears (not at all embarrassing on a very public plane ride!).  This reminded me of the fiction I love to read - stories about women, coming of age stories, and stories of unlikely friendships and connections.