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When your hairdresser recommends a book that made her laugh so hard on vacation that people wondered about her sanity – and then goes the extra mile and brings the book to the salon to loan – you have to read it.  I was unfamiliar with Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess: Like Mother Theresa Only Better).  The comparisons to Tina Fey and David Sedaris are correct – she is a hoot.  The book is purportedly a memoir of her twisted upbringing with parents who make Jeanette Walls’ (The Glass Castle) parents look like the safe bet.  A tiny bit of the humor of her stories about her red neck father’s hunting may have seemed a bit more believable because I read most of the book as I spend a luxurious night alone while my husband was overseeing the antics of his nephew’s bachelor party taking place in an unfinished hunting cabin in Southern Ohio.  I have seen guys like her father, but never had them brought to life in such hilarious detail.  Every chapter – and they have titles like:“Stanley the Magical, Talking Squirrel”; “A Series of Angry Post-It Notes to My Husband”; and “My Vagina Is Fine. Thanks for Asking” – is a crazed rant about a single episode of her life and most of them are illustrated with vintage black and white photographs captioned to document the events.  If you want a better introduction, check out the book trailer 

Cyber Monday Sale Starts Now!

November 25th, 2012 | Posted by Lackey in My Latest Project - (0 Comments)

I am giving 10% off through midnight on Monday night at my Etsy shop

http://www.etsy.com/shop/LindasOtherLife

Sales are going really well!

Feastful Weekend

November 25th, 2012 | Posted by Lackey in Dining In - (0 Comments)

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays! All the feasting and none of the other stresses of the Christmas holidays. We had two awesome Thanksgiving dinners – if I do say so myself. On Thanksgiving day we had a pretty traditional dinner – made easy with the make-ahead gravy recipe that I love from allrecipes. This time I used turkey thighs instead of wings and it made enough for two separate dinners plus leftovers.

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Our second dinner was made more special from a surprise visit from my son, who drove all the way home from North Carolina to make our family gathering complete. I put together particularly good blend of flavors! We served smoked turkey breast from our favorite Strongsville restaurant, The Brew Kettle (is it true I have not yet written a dining out review of it?). The meat tasted awesome and was perfectly complimented by the dressing recipe I got from the New York Times Sunday magazine a few weeks back – Three Pepper Sausauge and Cornbread
Dressing
. The recipe included chorizo and both red and yellow bell peppers, plus poblano and Portugese hot peppers so it was colorful and tasty.

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The wine to compliment the meal was from our east coast vacation. We had gone to Truro Vineyard on Cape Cod (see post). They have a cranberry wine in a lighthouse shaped bottle that is pretty special.

The evening was topped off with a family game of Michigan rummy – an old family tradition from my father’s family.

No Black Friday Stress
To all of my Facebook friends – if you make a purchase from my Etsy shop tomorrow and if you live close by, I will refund you 10% and shipping costs when we make special arrangements for order delivery. If you have a special order request for fabric – just ask. I have a few things already sewn that I haven’t even photographed yet. My business email is lindasotherlife@gmail.com

This post is a bit overdue and may border on shame-less self promotion, but if you are following this book blog, then you are probably familiar with my other life as well (www.lindasotherlife.com).  As a retirement gift, I was given this how-to book by a dear friend who knew of my intention to open an Etsy shop.  I have spent a good bit of time this fall sewing and sewing and designing in preparation for the grand opening which took place on October 26th.

If you can’t wait until the end of this post – you can hurry on over to http://www.etsy.com/shop/LindasOtherLife.

I have been doing a lot of sewing with oilcloth and chalk cloth.  I’m particularly proud of the reversible chalk cloth table runners I’ve been making.

Label dishes, dips, drinks – let guests be creative!
I also had a brain storm and came up with these Dear Santa placemats with a chalk cloth slate for Christmas Eve milk-and-cookies notes to Santa or those ever-changing wish lists.
So – shameless self-promotion aside – this book is the best resource for anyone interested in opening an Etsy shop.  There are so many details I would not have thought of – having a separate email address for your shop, creating an appealing shop banner, wrapping and packaging hints.  I keep referencing it and so far, the ideas have been very beneficial.

The title of this literary memoir almost scared me away as it seems the ending is clear from the beginning. Schwalbe has recorded with detailed poignancy the conversations he and his mother, Mary Anne, had about books as they sat in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in 2007 when she was being treated for advanced pancreatic cancer. His mother was a remarkable woman, having taken trips to war torn areas, and was dedicated, at the very end of her life, to building a library in Afghanistan. The beauty of this book for me is in the book discussions. I wish I were teaching The Kite Runner right now (as I would be right now had I not retired) so I could share the comments about characters and their choices in both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. So many of the texts in this book are texts I am deeply familiar with from teaching AP English, and they are very dear to me as well. Later in the book, they discuss The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a post-9/11monologue of a young Princeton educated Wall Street employee who returns to Pakistan. The ambiguity at the end of that novel is richly debated by Schwalbe and his mother. Of course, this book reinforces my fundamental belief that we read, as human beings, to learn about the otherness that we may never experience first-hand – particularly the otherness of gender, race, birthright and suffering. My favorite reflection in the book appears early: “Still, one of the things I learned from Mom is this: Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying.” Wow!

Dear Santa Placemat

November 6th, 2012 | Posted by Lackey in My Creating Life | My Latest Project - (0 Comments)

Dear Santa,

All I ever want for Christmas is a great crafting idea – something I can make for all of my friends and family that will bring squeals of joy upon opening. This might be it! Except that my children are grown, and most of my friends no longer have small children (although a few have grandchildren), so it is up to them to help me spread the word.

You may remember, Santa, that I was raised by a woman who would take me shopping – a lot, actually – and usually say, when I found something nifty and cute, “I could make that for so much less”. She steered me away from many purchases, and only a few times did she try to fulfill the promise of making one for less.

You also know, Santa, that I have been watching Shark Tank lately. People and their creative ideas fascinate me. I have always been one to see some clever Christmas decoration and wonder why I hadn’t thought of that idea first and made obscene amounts of money on it. I obsess over DIY blogs and crafting websites looking for inspiration.

So last week, in my sewing room while Sandy howled outside, I tried to think of what chalk cloth shape I could put on a placemat similar to the chalk cloth pumpkin placemat I made for a friend’s grandchild. When he first got to make faces on it he said, “This makes my life better!”. Making a kid’s life better is a goal. So I tried a snowman shape – it has possibilities. And then I got nostalgic.

I loved Christmas time when my kids were little. My mother was the unchallenged queen of Christmas cookies throughout my childhood and I tried to pass on the Christmas cookie traditions to my children.

My mom and her loaded plate of cookie creations

Part of the thrill of baking cookies with the kids, was anticipating which cookies would be perfect enough to leave out with the note for Santa on Christmas Eve. Usually the cookies they chose were the hand-rolled cut out sugar cookies – most likely overly decorated with colored sugar and Christmas Jimmies!

My kids – about 1997

Clearly, I had made them crafty Christmas cookie baking aprons back in the days of puffy paint and iron on fabric transfers. These aprons still come out of the Christmas boxes from the basement each year. They bring back memories of a deliciously scented kitchen and “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” blaring on the radio.

So, Santa, these placemats I’ve created will give a new generation of kids a Christmas tradition. When it comes time to start making “Wish Lists” – they can be “Wish List” placemats – a handy place to jot down the ever changing list of presents a child desires.

And on Christmas Eve, year after precious year, it can be the “Dear Santa Placemat” left out with the milk and cookies (and Cheese!?).

If I were a young mom today, I would take lots of photographs and create a digital library of Notes to Santa over the years. Mostly, if I were a young mom today, I would cherish the joy of Christmas that beams on the faces of children.