Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas

"Australian Aborigines slept with their dogs for warmth on cold nights, the coldest being a 'three dog night.' - Wikipedia"

So begins A Three Dog Life, but it has as much to do with dogs as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It's a memoir written by a woman whose husband gets hit by a car and becomes a new man because of traumatic brain injury, and how she copes.

One of my favorite chapters taught me about Outsider Art, which is basically art made by people with no formal training, but was originally a term reserved for the art made by insane-asylum inmates. Abigail begins collecting Outsider Art made by the residents of the rehabilitation center her husband is at who have also suffered brain trauma, almost obsessively. She then seeks out Outsider Art made by people with brain injuries in galleries. She discovers there is an Outsider Art Fair and goes. She also shares descriptions of her own husband's art.

I was fascinated by the fractured conversations she shared with her husband, especially the ones that made sense even when they weren't supposed to. She talked about how one time her friend got a new dog and brought it over for a play date. The dogs were all running around the house, barking like crazy and being silly, making the author and her friend laugh and laugh. Suddenly the phone rang. It was her husband calling from the rehabilitation center (a few miles away) asking if she could keep the dogs quiet!

The book is generally anecdotal. I wouldn't recommend this book to most people because many of the chapters were sad and some were just uninteresting (there's a chapter where she tells us what's in her refrigerator). However, I think people who have loved others who have dealt with brain trauma will find this book comforting. My friend's dad suffered from a stroke and hasn't been the same since. Some of the things she's told me about him reminded me of the man in this book. I suggested she read A Three Dog Life and she told me she had already read it and liked it very much.

This is my first book finished for my 2011 To Be Read Challenge. I borrowed it from my mother-in-law on June 18, 2009 and thought it was time to get it back to her!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

silver and gold

I was too tired to do my silver and gold day on Friday, so I will wrap up my Winter Colors Week today.

And how appropriate.

In the midst of throwing myself a pity party about the new student I got today (who punched a girl in the stomach, threw blocks in someone's face, and was generally disrespectful) I decided to get the mail for the first time all week. Among the junk I found 3 packages: one from my fabulous sister-in-law, one from our friends in Oregon, and one from a woman in Australia who sent me a RAK prize for a scrapbook page I made. As I opened each one my spirits were lifted higher and higher, and I felt once again I could return to my classroom to deal with my incredibly fragile, incredibly loving, and incredibly needy group of students.

Thank you to my silver and gold friends for lifting me up after (another) trying day!

P.S. Lasso Me the Moon is by mkendall.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lady Gaga

One of my students told me this joke this morning...

Him: How do you wake up Lady Gaga?

Me (in my head): Please don't let it be dirty!

Me (out loud): How?

Him: Poke 'er Face!

Me: hahahahahahahaha!

P.S. Sorry, I can't remember where I found Math of Lady Gaga.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Since I work at a Title 1 school and live in an affordable part of the city my drive to work every day is not so pretty. One of my favorite parts though is when I drive over the bridge that goes over the train tracks. There is a billboard next to it and there is always a cute row of birds sitting up there. Sometimes they are sitting close together, and sometimes they are evenly spaced apart. The weird thing is that it doesn't seem to have anything to do with how cold it is.

Sometimes I fantasize that I do a study and figure it out. I could keep track of the time I drive by, the weather, the color of the billboard, train schedules, political climate...yes, this is where my mind is for one block as I listen to NPR on my drive to work each morning.

P.S. All in a Row is by Art and Ghosts.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Today I was supposed to get a new student. Let's just say he came with a warning. I worried about it a little over the weekend, but I thought really he would just fit right in with the rest of my loony bin!

This morning as he walked into my room, the secretary came in and said, "There's been a mistake! He's supposed to be in a different class."


And today my class had a good day!


P.S. A for Awesome is by Paul Thurlby.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Anyone else get an eyeful of the full moon last night? Lovely. Just wish our new neighbors wouldn't leave their porch lights on all night so I could have REALLY appreciated it. But it was also a lovely full moon this morning.

P.S. ...and the Moon is by ~toinjoints on deviantART.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


It's Winter Colors/Colours Week at Poppytalk again (an excuse to post random findings on my blog). I missed Monday and Tuesday so I'll post those next week.
Wednesday - Blues (Navy Blue, Turquoise...)
Thursday - Greens (Mint green, spruce...)
Friday - Silver and Gold!
Monday - Reds (cerise, berry...)!
Tuesday - Whites (dove, whites, off whites, whatever shade of white you think)

This picture made me think of a book I read when I was a kid. These 2 neighbor girls, one blind, were best friends. They would make braille messages for each other, put them in a bucket, and send them via pulley system put between their bedroom windows. I always thought that would be fun, but this looks like an even better way to send a message to me. And maybe you wouldn't have to live as close.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I was gone for 1 day.

Guess what my substitute taught my first graders when I was out on Wednesday?
How to dog ear my books!

Bad substitute! Bad! Bad!

P.S. Rosa takes a break is by Stefan J. S.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

yes please

I saw this on Poppytalk and thought it was a photoshop trick. Nope, "horsey" by eungi kim is a kit you can add to your bike!

I always imagine my bike is a white horse anyway.

P.S. for those who wish to republish an excerpt of this article, please have the courtesy to mention that the project is a part of the seoul cycle design competition, organized by designboom in collaboration with seoul design foundation, and link back to the original publication on designboom. thank you.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I'm kind of a big deal.

"To my mind, a picture should be something pleasant, cheerful, and pretty, yes pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life as it is without creating still more of them." -- Pierre-Auguste Renoir

This month I was chosen to be a guest design team member at ARTastic! I was extra excited when I found out the painting we would use for inspiration this month would be Luncheon of the Boating Party by Renoir because I've seen it in real life! I remember how shocked I was when I first saw it because it was over 4 feet tall. I always imagine paintings to be as big as a frame you could go buy at Target.

The extra criteria to work into your scrapbook page is to document a celebration with 3 or more people and food, so I immediately thought of my niece's wedding reception pictures that I still hadn't scrapped from June. They are such a sweet couple! I picked out some polka dot letter stickers to use since I think of Renoir as a "dotty" kind of painter. Maybe "dashy" would be a better way to describe his style?

My bio can be found here and my page can be seen (again) here.

I think my next book to read will be Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland to keep with the theme of the month.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sweetie by Kathryn Magendie

Sweetie is my 12th Early Reviewer and it was delightful. In brief it is a coming of age/friendship story, but it has fabulous details which make it so much more.

Sweetie is a mountain girl and Melissa is a lonely, insecure, chubby girl. They become fast friends after Sweetie returns a baby bird to its nest in Melissa's presence. We get to read about their summer together as they explore an Appalachian forest while Sweetie teaches Melissa about Mountain Spirit and how to find confidence in herself.

Kathryn Magendie is a clever writer. A few parts made me laugh out loud and many parts made me cheer inside! If you are a sucker for a good friendship story and love skillful descriptions of the outdoors, you should read Sweetie.

As a side note, reading this book provided me with a funny coincidence. Particularly this part:
While I read the menu at the lunch counter, three old men were sitting on stools talking about a time when some students sat in a five and dime, and how they'd changed history just by sitting at a counter and being brave and strong. One of the men smiled and wiped his eyes with a napkin, and the other two smiled back at him and said something about an anniversary and they all smiled again, then took big happy bites of their sandwiches.

Only a few days before reading that, I saw and photographed that very counter in the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

Crazy, right?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

2011 To Be Read (TBR) Challenge

I've been casting about for a new reading challenge to do this year and I finally found one I could really get on board with at Roof Beam Reader.

The Goal:
To finally read 12 books from your "to be read" pile, within 12 months. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or "To Be Read" list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2010 or later. Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the "can't get through" pile.

My List:
1. A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas (reviewed here on January 29th)
2. Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi
3. Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland (reviewed here on February 9th)
4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (reviewed here on June 30th)
5. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
6. Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper (reviewed here on November 22nd)
7. My √Āntonia by Willa Cather (reviewed here on April 23rd)
8. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (reviewed here on October 23rd)
9. Homer and Langley by E. L. Doctorow (reviewed here on November 18th)
10. The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg (reviewed here on May 6th)
11. Local Girls by Alice Hoffman (reviewed here on November 11th)
12. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

13. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
14. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Who else wants to play?

P.S. The Bookshelf is by Colin Thompson.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010 Reading Survey

I found this book survey on The Avid Reader's Musings. I combined a lot of the questions with My Favorite Books of 2010 post, so I'm answering the rest here.

1. Best book of 2010? I can't pick just one! Here's my list.

2. Worst book of 2010? Autobiography of a Fat Bride: True Tales of a Pretend Adulthood by Laurie Notaro - It was supposed to be funny but it just put me off. The mom constantly slapped her daughter in the face (as a punchline?) but I didn't find it amusing.

3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010? Rose in a Storm: A Novel by Jon Katz (reviewed here on October 22nd)

6. Best series you discovered in 2010? An Inconvenient Elephant: A Novel by Judy Reene Singer (reviewed here on July 10th) This year I hope to read the first book from the series, Still Life with Elephant.

7. Favorite new (to me) authors you discovered in 2010? Sarah Addison Allen, Fannie Flagg, Susan Isaacs, and Carol Goodman

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010?
The Gates: A Novel by John Connolly

12. Most memorable character in 2010? Olivia in Ruby by Ann Hood (reviewed here on May 7th)

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010? Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman (reviewed here on May 17th)

How about you guys? New favorite authors, best book you read, how was your 2010 in reading?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Favorite Books of 2010

I read 42 books last year, and these 11 are the ones I think you should read too. They are listed in the order I read them.

Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami - phantasmagorical. This was my "Book you most anticipated in 2010" because I loved "Kafka on the Shore" so much in 2009.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen - great sister story with magical realism. This was my "Book you recommended to people most in 2010."

Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman
reviewed here on April 9th

Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand - the fascinating world of horse racing during the Great Depression

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya - southwestern coming of age story with a twist of magical realism. This was my "Most beautifully written book in 2010."

Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver - a young woman tries to save her family, herself, and the environment

The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King - not your typical Stephen King story - kings, dragons, and an evil sorcerer. This was my "Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010."

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
reviewed here on September 19th
This was my "Most hilarious read of 2010."

The Girl with No Shadow by Joanne Harris - sequel to Chocolat

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - non-fiction that reads like a novel. Tackles body waste rights, science, and racism all centered around HELA cells. This was my "Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010."

Lily White by Susan Isaacs
reviewed here on December 22nd
This was my "Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read."