Category Archives: books

Sadness in Berenstain Bear land

I read today (with much sadness) that Jan Berenstain, co-creator of The Berenstain Bears, died late last week at the age of 88.

Oh, the memories I have of reading through the books she created alongside her husband Stan.

The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Habit. The Berenstain Bears and the Big Road Race. The Berenstain Bears Go to School. The Berenstain Bears and the Truth. Forget Their Manners. Learn about Strangers. Get the Gimmies. No Girls Allowed. And the Messy Room. And on and on and on. We had one bazillion copies of the books lying around our house. My brothers and I spent hours reading and re-reading them. What fun adventures those bears went on!

While my LO isn’t old enough to read, yet, she’s old enough to listen, and I look forward to sharing The Berenstain Bears collection with her.

Thanks for the memories, Jan!

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Addiction

Image courtesy of Gawker

It occurs to me that I might have an addiction. To purchasing magazines. Seriously. I cannot get enough of them. I “only” subscribe to four, but I sure do a great job of pretending I subscribe to others.

Every month, I look forward to opening my mailbox and seeing Style at Home, Oxygen, Clean Eating and Canadian Living.

Every time I’m in the store, I look for new issues of Today’s Parent, Parenting, House and Home, Kitchens, Better Homes and Gardens, Fitness, Fitness RX, Shape, Health, Best Health, so on and so forth. Our coffee table is piled high with back issues. As is my nightstand.

I heart magazines. I heart thumbing through their pages. I heart looking at their designs. I heart reading through their stories and perusing their images. They keep me company on the treadmill and stationary bike, at the doctor’s office, when I’m nursing my small child and when I’m kicking back on the couch.

Perhaps I should look into an e-Reader and score some electronic subscriptions. But then I’d be giving up the actual art of thumbing through a magazine.

I’m not sure I’m ready for that.

Yet.

Anyone have e-Reader suggestions? Do you subscribe to magazines? Love it? Hate it?

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These quesadillas are HOW bad for me?

Curious about the food you're putting in your mouth? What you read in this book will shock you! Hopefully into action.

Yesterday, I picked up a book at our local library, and I’ve been having some trouble putting it down. Not a surprise for me, seeing as how I read a lot of books. What might surprise you is the read:

Eat This Not That!: The Best [& Worst!] Foods in America! by David Zinczenko with Matt Goulding.

OK, so maybe it’s not a surprise, as I like to read about health, nutrition and fitness. But, I am a little behind in reading this book, as it came out a while ago (last year). And, yes, there really are three exclamation points in that title. Please, try to look past that.

This book is jam-packed with the best and worst foods in America—salads, burgers, pizzas, frozen foods, drinks, desserts, etc. In sit-down restaurants, in fast-food chains, in supermarkets, for breakfast, as snacks, you name it, they’re in here. And, not only are they listed, their nutritional content is described (in scary detail), as are recommendations for better selections.

Think you know what’s in that burger you’re eating at lunch? Or that milkshake? Or that salad? How about that veggie sub? Healthy right? You might want to think again.

Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself here.

Also included in this book are the best and worst foods for blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar—a definite bonus if you’re looking to specifically control those factors of your health. There is also great information about marketing ploys, deciphering nutrition labels, definitions of “healthy foods” and the like.

With all the self-help reads about diets and weight-loss plans, it’s refreshing to read about how simply swamping out high-calorie/high-fat meals for lower-calorie/lower-fat meals can make an immediate impact on your body’s appearance and how you feel.

After all, if it really is true that 80 percent of your body’s composition is dictated by the food you put in your mouth, shouldn’t you consider putting the best sort of food in there?

Oh, and those quesadillas? Chili’s Fajita Quesadillas Beef with Rice and Beans? 2,240 calories, 92 g. of fat, 43.5 g. of saturated fat, 6,390 mg. of sodium and 253 g. of carbohydrates.

Ugh.

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Those iconic gold spines

HOORAY FOR LITTLE GOLDEN BOOKS! Andrea yelled. Too bad she couldn't read just yet.

Would my childhood have been complete without at least one Little Golden Books with the iconic gold spines? Maybe, but I don’t like to consider that possibility.

Who hasn’t read through The Poky Little Puppy without asking their parents for a puppy of their own? Remember Scuffy the Tugboat and The Saggy Baggy Elephant and Richard Scarry’s Best Little Word Book Ever? My brothers and I read through those books until there were more pages missing than not. And then, we read them some more.

These excellent books are still capturing the hearts and minds of children 68 years after the first 12 titles were released. Need a gift idea for a small child? You can’t go wrong with these. Although, you may want to wait until he/she is past the “Let’s Rip All the Pages Out of Every Book” stage. Too bad the titles are no longer $0.25 a piece.

Now, while my childhood would certainly have been less colourful without my Little Golden Books with the iconic gold spines, I’m quite certain my Cousin Andrea’s childhood would have been absolutely incomplete without at least one Little Golden Books with the iconic gold spines.

Just look at that face!

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Oh, that scandalous Shakespeare!

If only all of Shakespeare's works came with cartoon drawings.

Yesterday, I was leafing through some books at the local library when three giggly teenagers walked in.

First, they conducted a computer search, while nervously looking around. Then, they tittered their way to the fiction section. Then, they came back to the computer. Then, they snickered their way back to the fiction section. Then, they returned to the computer. Finally, they gave up and reluctantly went to the reference desk.

Librarian: Can I help you?
Teen 1: I’m looking for Shakespeare.
Librarian: You’re looking for a book about Shakespeare or books by Shakespeare?
Teen 1 (stammers): Um, I’m looking for Shakespeare.
Librarian: Yes, but are you looking for books written about Shakespeare or books that Shakespeare wrote?
Teen 2 and Teen 3 giggle.
Teen 1: Well, not really a book by him or about him. Maybe a book about his writing?
Teen 2 (whispers): Ask her about the shortened ones.
Librarian (overhears the whisper): Oh, you’re looking for Coles Notes for one of Shakespeare’s books? Follow me.
Teen 1, Teen 2 and Teen 3 let out sighs of relief and then burst into laughter.

Gotchya! Not one of you has read your Shakespeare book and therefore needs a copy of Coles Notes (Cliff Notes in the U.S.) in order to zip through the story and complete your assignment. All of the silent judgers standing around you simply thought you were looking for some risqué title or subject matter. Who would’ve guessed you were looking for a study guide?

Trust me, kiddos. You go to university, and you’ll be seeing copies of Coles Notes lying around everywhere.

Not that I would know anything about that.

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Bookstores are where the excitement is

Really. Thank you!

I know what you’re thinking: That’s preposterous!

Au contraire, mon amis. Au contraire.

Two days ago, I was wandering around Chapters, looking through the magazines for all of my favorite titles and scouring the marked-down tables for good reads. There really is nothing quite like finding books marked down 80 percent. Except finding jeans marked down 80 percent. Or handbags. Ooh! Shoes!

Anyway, I love books (even if it’s antiquated to do so), and I especially love bookstores and just being among a ridiculous amount of words.

What I do not love is being in a bookstore with a lady on her cell phone having a conversation in Italian. I wasn’t actually with this woman, but no matter where I stood in the bookstore, she was with me.

Thumbing through a magazine at the front of the store? I can hear you! Bent over to explore the books under a table of priced-down fiction near the middle of the store? I can hear you! Waiting in line to get a coffee off to the far side of the store? I can STILL hear you!

I can’t decide if she was an angry Italian, an overjoyed Italian or simply an easily excitable Italian. Either way, the entire shrill conversation made me want to take my own cell phone out of my bag and jump up and down on it.

And, to think I’m not even to the part where the excitement happens. That’s coming. Now.

While waiting in line to purchase my items, I overhear the store manager, who is also on the phone, speaking in a low tone. She is cordially pleading with someone, whom I imagine is an emergency responder, to please send a fire truck over straightaway because someone has flicked a lit cigarette into the bushes in front of the store, and the mulch is on fire, and the bushes are catching fire, and the whole place is going to burn down.

To the ground.

Now THAT is an acceptable I’m-On-The-Phone-In-A-Bookstore conversation. Brief, to the point, and made in the one area where customers are least expecting peace and quiet while they leaf through reading material: behind the sales counter.

The good news is that (a) a fire truck quickly arrived and five, fully dressed firemen set about smothering small burning patches of mulch, essentially saving the day, and (b) the long-winded Italian woman did not follow me home.

Whew!

Land ho! Land, I tell you!

One time, when I was in elementary school, I had a class assignment that involved tape recording myself reading something. Wait. Maybe it wasn’t an assignment. Maybe I just wanted to record myself reading something. I can’t remember. I do remember, however, and quite vividly so, the giant tape recorder and the book: John Billington: Friend of Squanto by Clyde Robert Bulla.

This book could be yours for $0.01 on Amazon.com.

For the life of me, I have no idea why I selected that book. Perhaps it was my fascination with the Mayflower and the Pilgrims or the incredulousness of someone believing so strongly in something that he would pack up his entire family and belongings, shove them into a sardine-can-of-a-ship, and set sail for months on end for a location that was thousands of miles away and would maybe or maybe not provide him with a better life upon arrival.

The book tells the tale of John Billington, a young boy whose family, along with many others, set out on the Mayflower for the New Land, a place where they would be able to freely practice their beliefs. It follows John’s adventures onboard and, upon arrival at Plymouth Rock, his befriending of Squanto, a super-friendly Native American boy. It’s a children’s book, so, of course, John and Squanto became BFFs and share their Thanksgiving dinner together.

Talk about rose-colored glasses.

For the voice recording, I enlisted the help of two of my brothers to provide sound effects. I would read, and they would illuminate the story with sounds that would more effectively drive the point home. Or, so I thought.

I’d read, “And John’s father walked out of the room, closing the door behind him,” and Joshua would yell, “WHACK!” to simulate the closing door. I’d read about John being disciplined by his father and hear “WHACK!” followed by “WHACKITY WHACKITY WHACKITY WHACK WHACK WHACK!” If John and his family or any other characters were eating, I’d hear “Mmmmmmm, tastes gooooood. Tastes great! Less filling! Tastes great! Less filling!” from Jason. If someone was seasick and throwing up, I’d hear all kinds of vomiting sounds from the peanut gallery.

Which means we had a lot of takes. Because the sound effects would be so outlandish that I would dissolve into laughter and have to start over. And over and over and over. And then, of course, we’d have to play back the portions I’d read previously so that we could listen to whatever had just been said or done. And laugh some more.

Now you know why I’ll never be a news anchor.

Here comes the point of this entirely way-too-long-of-a-post: In the story, one of the sailors spots land. As I read that portion of the text, Joshua yelled, “Land ho! Land, I tell you! I see land!” Intermittently, Jason would say, “It looks small. I thought it would be bigger. It’s really small. Maybe we should go back. I want to go hoooooome.”

Oh yes, there was a re-take after that scene, too. Several actually.

Oh, Canada! I wonder if I should learn the words to the national anthem now.

This morning, after Husband and I drove to Buffalo, N.Y., to cross the border and re-cross over the border to “land” in Canada to activate my permanent resident status, I thought of John Billington and my brother’s sound effects: “Land ho! Land, I tell you!”

I thought about how eternally grateful I am that I didn’t have to take a sea vessel from one side of the world to the other to arrive here. I thought about how I’ve always lived in a land where I can freely practice my beliefs, and that I’ll continue to freely practice my beliefs in this “new” land. And, I thought, PRAISE GOD, I’M FINALLY LANDED!

That’s right, folks. I’m now a permanent resident of Canada. And what a journey it’s been! I bet John and Squanto and all of their friends would celebrate with me tonight.

If you’ve never read John Billington: Friend of Squanto, I highly recommend it. Especially if you have young children. In fact, you can purchase it used on Amazon.com for $0.01, which is a steal. Or you can ask my mom to borrow the Book-On-Tape we made all those years ago.

No doubt you’ll find it far more entertaining.

Land ho!

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Will read for food

library

Libraries are cool.

I am the proud owner of a brand-spanking-new library card. That’s right. A library card. For use at the local public library. The place where you can check out books. For free. You know, those objects with numerous pages of paper filled with words and binded together. That you can flip through. Manually.

Surely you remember books.

Anyway, I picked up a card because, while I love adding books to my collection (yes, I still purchase books from time to time), sometimes I just want to read a book without spending money. And, because, long ago I lived in libraries. Almost quite literally.

I grew up sans television. My brothers and I were encouraged to find other ways to entertain ourselves and grow our brains. To our parents’ relief, we gravitated toward books. Big ones. Skinny ones. Long ones. Short ones. Funny ones. Serious ones. Dull ones. Books. Books. Books.

We could not get enough of books. Every week, we made a trip to the library. Sometimes to two or three different libraries. Our local library was small, and it did not take us long to canvass its entire children’s and teen literature sections. Oftentimes, we’d check out the same books over and over again. Just for fun. Because we liked them so much the first time. And second time. Seriously, I cannot even tell you the number of times I rented Clara Barton: Civil War Nurse or Maniac Magee.

Our a-bit-less-local local library was huge by comparison with aisle upon aisle of books. On Thursday mornings in the summer, we spent hours poring through our respective sections, always walking away with a mountain of books. All bagged. Of course, this was back during the days of “everyone gets free plastic bags.” Oh, the good ol’ days.

We’d read after school (if our homework was done) during the school year and on the weekends and all summer long. I can remember many a time being asked repeatedly to complete a chore and responding with one of the following exclamations:

“I’m almost done with this chapter!”
“One minute, I’m almost done!”
“I’m coming in a minute!”
“I’m REALLY coming in a minute!”
“I promise I’m REALLY coming in a minute!”

OK, in truth, those statements were made by me when asked why I had not yet finished dusting the ENTIRE house from top to bottom. Somehow answering with, “BECAUSE I HATE DUSTING!” just didn’t seem right.

When our grade school introduced the Book It! program, my brothers and I increased our frenzied reading pace to earn countless free Personal Pan Pizza from Pizza Hut. And Right to Read Week was also a hit because, well, who didn’t like a free period devoted to reading a book of our choice?

We read our way through middle school and high school, too. At least, I read. My brothers? Maybe not quite as much. College, however, was different. I did still frequent libraries, but only to study or find references for research papers. It was much harder to read for pleasure when my days and evenings were spent reading pre-selected material. Let me rephrase that with “sometimes nonenjoyable pre-selected material.” And lots and lots of it. Graduate school was even worse. Reading began to equal a giant pain.

So, my reading shifted gears. I turned to magazines and newspapers and online news sites for pleasure-reading. I read them religiously. And that’s the only material I continued to read for several years after college.

I can’t even remember when exactly it happened, but I did eventually pick up a book again. Just to read it. For fun. And, I remembered why I came to love books in the first place. Who doesn’t enjoy a good story? Sure, I’ll always adore magazines (I collected National Geographic forever), but books are where the developed stories are. Where the full-blown plots are. Where the characters are.

Which is why I found myself at the local library today. Applying for a library card. So that I can, again, get all that enjoyment for free.

And, while I am no longer rewarded with Personal Pan Pizzas for my reading conquests, I do sometimes find myself delaying a task so that I can get to the end of a chapter. Or a book. Because, after all, I should probably return it to the library as soon as possible so that someone else can borrow it.

For free. Because that’s what libraries are for.

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A must-read; a probably should-see

TTWIf you haven’t already, pick up a copy of The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and read it. Before you go see the movie. It’s brilliant.

Could you even imagine what it would be like to travel back and forth in time? To see yourself younger and older. To meet your spouse and children well before they are your spouse and children. To know what’s coming. To know what’s coming and not be able to stop it.

It’s a catch-22. Both horrible and wonderful at the same time.

If you can’t read the novel, maybe go see the movie. Like all books-turned-movies, the cinematic effort doesn’t quite match the power of the pen, as it’s tough to bring well-developed, written characters to the big screen. Particularly in 107 minutes.

But, you should probably go see it anyway. Two thumbs up to Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams.

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