"Bettyville", a beautifully-written memoir from author George Hodgman, will gently break places in your heart, and then it will tenderly patch them ba"Bettyville", a beautifully-written memoir from author George Hodgman, will gently break places in your heart, and then it will tenderly patch them back together with warmth and humor. George Hodgman becomes the care provider for his elderly mother, Betty, leaving his life in Manhattan behind and returning to his home town of Paris, Missouri. Having reached the age of ninety-something by living in her own indomitable manner, Betty will not go quietly into old-age oblivion. As issues such as dementia, cancer, and increasing physical frailty creep into the picture, Betty remains a force to be reckoned with. At the age of ninety-one, she chooses to fight her cancer, and begins radiation therapy. Throughout all of their rumblings and grumblings while reconnecting and acclimating to once again living in the same house, it becomes clear that there is a great love between mother and son. Seeing Betty struggle, yet refuse to surrender her spirit, leads George to discover his own personal strengths and gives him the courage to move forward with choices for his future. My own mother's name was Betty, and while our life situation was quite different from George and his mother, much of our circumstances were similar. While George left home and then came back, I stayed with my mother for almost fifty years. My Betty and I were separated only when she passed away. George and his Betty remain together. "Bettyville" is keenly-observed, poignant, and written with great heart. A recommended read for caregivers, but also for those who receive the care.
"The Things That Matter" are important because they are pieces of our life, physical reminders of hopes, dreams, and memories. Author and design exper"The Things That Matter" are important because they are pieces of our life, physical reminders of hopes, dreams, and memories. Author and design expert Nate Berkus offers a baker's dozen of very different lives and lifestyles, but the most fascinating story remains his own. Influenced at a young age by his interior designer mother and image-conscious entrepreneur father, Nate marched through his childhood to the beat of his own unique drum, and he continues to follow his own inner compass to this day. The book begins with Nate's own narrative, and I was drawn into his life experiences, which includes the tragic loss of his life partner, Fernando. Vacationing together in Sri Lanka in 2004 when the devastating tsunami struck, Nate watched in terror as his loved one was swept away in the dark, swirling water. Nate survived a horrible ordeal, and no trace of Fernando has ever been found. Eventually, Nate moved forward with his life, always carrying memories of loved ones, and favorite places and moments in time with him through the living space he created in his own private world. Having risen to national prominence through his work with Oprah Winfrey, and later with his own TV show, Nate has also written other design books. What I enjoyed most about "The Things That Matter" was the sense of embracing your own life, and letting that essential energy be the guiding force of the reality of your own living space. The heart of this book is the heart of the author himself, and he most appropriately includes a photo gallery of "people who matter" in his own life. When you read this book, you will be encouraged, as I was, to look at your own "things", wonder where you got some of them, and ask yourself why you have them. Other things will need no such reminder, for they are the things that matter.
I find myself in my middle age eager to learn about other cultures--the people, the food, the everydayness and also the history. "Jasmine and Fire: AI find myself in my middle age eager to learn about other cultures--the people, the food, the everydayness and also the history. "Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut" was of particular interest to me because the author, Salma Abdelnour, is a very well-regarded food writer and editor. Her knowledge of subject and her rediscovered ties to her home city of Beirut, Lebanon, along with wonderful food passages make this book a pleasure for foodies like me. Bravely deciding to return to Beirut alone for a year and leaving behind the comfort of her daily world in New York City, the author takes us on the adventure of a lifetime. Having fled from the bombs and violence of Beirut as a child, and in spite of carving out a niche in the New York publishing industry, Salma Abdelnour still yearned to reconnect with her homeland. Her journey to find her roots is both revelatory and celebratory. As the title says, there is a touch of bitterness in the sweetly savored embrace of long-treasured memories. Reality can intrude upon dreams, mangling them beyond recognition--but only if you let it. The author inspires, delights, provokes thought, and offers insights into the ever turbulent city of Beirut and its surroundings. Those who know food and its place in family history also know that food is an integral piece of the puzzle of our lives. "Jasmine and Fire" is a worthwhile expedition into a culture and its food, all the while introducing its people. The tantalizing recipe section is a tempting bonus.
"Muffins and Mayhem: Recipes for a Happy (if disorderly) Life" is a wonderful read. It's as refreshing, endearing, honest and unexpected as its deligh"Muffins and Mayhem: Recipes for a Happy (if disorderly) Life" is a wonderful read. It's as refreshing, endearing, honest and unexpected as its delightful author, Suzanne Beecher. I don't know how she does it all, but she does it so well! Suzanne is one of your best friends that you've never met. She is like a favorite relative who adds color and light and amazing scents and flavors whenever she visits! Her book is as funny, sweet, touching and forthright as her column, "Dear Reader". The recipes are so delicious, they make one feel like Oliver Twist: "Please, Suzanne, could we have some more?" Suzanne is famous for baking and gifting her scrumptious chocolate chip cookies. She is also known for recipes such as "Skunk Beans" and "Whoops! Banana Bread". Her recipes, like her vivid personality, are colorful and interesting, and the stories that accompany the recipes are also a treat. "Company Fare Pork Chops", "Shrimp Salad", "Northern Maine Oatmeal Bread", and "Mrs. Creswick's Frosted Meatloaf" are among my favorites. Suzanne writes with real heart, and I particularly enjoy reading about her relationship with her husband. They have a true partnership. Suzanne Beecher is one-of-a-kind, and so is her fun, fabulous, fascinating book.
"Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen", by Donia Bijan, is exquisite. If I could, I would give it a "10 star" review! Both bea"Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen", by Donia Bijan, is exquisite. If I could, I would give it a "10 star" review! Both beautiful and heartbreaking, this very personal story is as emotional as it is entertaining. More than a memoir, it is a celebration of food, life, and indomitable human spirit. No one has a perfect family. The more we try to deny that we are like our mother, the more we become our mother. I don't think we really appreciate our elders until we have ourselves "gently matured". The introduction of "Maman's Homesick Pie" tells of the author's experience in packing up her mother's things after her mother's death. The memories that came rolling in like unstoppable waves as she touched all the "treasures" that her mother had saved through the years were met with both laughter and tears. The story is remarkable in the telling of what the author's family life was like before they were forced into exile from their native Iran and how they later found a new life in California. It is amazing in how the human spirit can renew itself and not only survive, but thrive. The ways in which the author's mother learned to adapt and combine two cultures in cooking and other aspects of life is inspiring, and it is also a thoughtful source of enlightenment about human dignity. The preparation and sharing of food is an innate, intuitive, and instinctive process. Food is present for all the important occasions in our lives, both joyful and sad. For me, this book was a lovely, lyrical introduction to another culture and also greater insight into the culinary world. Even though we are very different, in many ways we face the same life issues. Women need to support each other. We understand each other in ways that men cannot always comprehend. As I write this review, it is a cold, wintry day here in the mountains of Virginia. I have a pot of vegetable-beef soup simmering on the stove, and the combined smell of bay leaves and other savory ingredients is swirling around me as I put together my thoughts. As if that wasn't enough of a treat, I just took two loaves of yeasty, crusty bread from the oven. Simple food, yet soulful and satisfying. Food is a universal communicator, even when it is spoken in different languages. Donia Bijan's recipes, along with "Maman's", are tempting me to cook outside my "kitchen box"! The only thing better than reading this book would have been to taste the food as I read the story. "Maman's Homesick Pie" is a wonderful gift from author Donia Bijan. It is absolutely perfect for lovers of food and books--just like me. It is especially touching for those of us who had someone like "Maman", and it is even more poignant for those who long for the special magic of someone as unequaled and irreplaceable as "Maman".