30 December 2003

Reads & Listens, December 2003


Leyla: The Black Tulip (Girls of Many Lands Series) by Alev Lytle Croutier
Again, I am impressed by this series. Leyla is well written with interesting characters and a steadily developing plot which should engage most readers.

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka
That such a small book should tell such a terrible story so well. Timely. Profound. Stark.

The Sweet Potato Queens' Big Ass Cookbook (and Financial Planner) by Jill Conner Browne
The financial advice probably will not make you rich and the recipes (Death Corn Five is even better the second day) will give you a cholesterol problem, but who cares? This is one hilarious book (even The Husband thought so).

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede
Includes Dealing with Dragons, Searching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons, and Talking to Dragons in one real purty book club omnibus edition. Hilarious, fun, sarcastic, and clever -- a good "make me happy" read.

Jewish Cooking in America by Joan Nathan
My favorite kind of cookbook -- both a recipe book and a culinary history. Fun to read as well as to cook from. An excellent companion to Nathan's The Foods of Israel Today.

East by Edith Pattou
Wow, what a good YA fantasy! Combining elements of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, the legend of Cupid and Psyche, and aspects of Norse mythology, this is an utterly captivating story. Beautiful cover art, too.

Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry intro. by Billy Collins
Wonderful little book full of approachable poems for people who avoid or disparage poetry. While this collection is a print version of the LOC's Poetry 180 project the poems currently on the site are different from those in the book. Ideally, you should read both.

In the Forests of Serre by Patricia A. McKillip
Beautifully crafted, but very dense and full of twisty passages. Best read slowly and carefully over a period of evenings. If you like creative usage of language or interpretations of old fairy stories, this is a good pick. I mean, it has Baba Yaga -- what's not to like?

06 December 2003

Cheese Smugglers Are We

We smuggled cheese into the European Union for my mother-in-law...

I'd been worrying about the giant wheel of cheese since we bought it in Zürich. Some faint remembrance of a Chef! episode niggled at the back of my brain. Something about black market fromage. And then we were wheeling the suitcase full of cheese through the "nothing to declare" portion of Customs and there where all these posters of meat and cheese (cheese which looked exactly like our cheese) with red slash marks through them. We just kept on wheeling. Don't know nothin' bout no stinkin' cheese, man.

I do not understand the passport stamping system -- I only spent three hours in Düsseldorf (all in the airport), but I have entry and exit stamps for Germany. I was in Zürich for a week, but don't have any stamps to prove I was ever even in Switzerland. I have an exit stamp for England, but no arrival. It seems very dodgy to me.

The Husband, of course, got pulled aside when we re-entered the US at Newark. They took him into a room and I stood as close to that room as I could get, staring at its door, and wondering how exactly one goes about getting one's spouse out of detention. The security guard standing next to me was all very sympathetic and told me I had nothing to worry about. Everything would be just fine. And it was.

Sometimes, a bad dream is just a bad dream.

And now we are home with lots of chocolate and, of course, books. Ohhh, and assortments of yummy, minty Kendall Mint Cake. And, because I went a little crazy spending my birthday money in the duty-free, lots of girlie-girl skincare stuff. And a sex toy, because what's going to Europe for if not to buy a sex toy?

For seeing art, maybe? Well, I did see oodles of art in Zürich. Beside some very nice museums (overdosed on religious icons at the Swiss National Museum) and galleries, the city is also sprinkled with statues and fountains and those weird CowParade. Sadly, the Kunsthaus's O'Keefe exhibition wasn't as grand as I hoped. Really expensive admission, a twisty collection of white rooms with rows of paintings, clunky audio tours, too many people (our own fault as we went on a Saturday afternoon), and not enough places to sit and meditate.

Wouldn't mind going back to Zürich, someday. So much lovely green space, many beautiful buildings, and lots of delicious food.