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Getting Gorgeous

IMG_4207It’s an ungodly hour – 5 am – made more so by the fact it is Saturday. I hate waking up on Saturdays. And Sundays, actually. So this must mean I have to do something – and something good that is making me get up. Do I have to drive to away soccer game? No, it’s home this week. It’s better. I’m going to NYC to get gorgeous – well, no promises, but an attempt anyway. I’m going to Getting Gorgeous, an event sponsored by several companies* and run by fashion and beauty bloggers Audrey McClelland and Vera Sweeney.

Last year Getting Gorgeous was the same weekend as Blogher and I was in Manhattan anyway, this time needs a bit more effort, and i am thrilled for a day in the city. The train is comfortable, fast and easy. Conductors and cafe car staff are lovely but would like a better food selection. So far I’ve only had a cup of tea and a banana. I forgot to pack snacks for the first time in seventeen years.

I’ll update this post as I can, or you might have to wait until I’m back and maybe more gorgeous, well, at least more polished.

* CVS Beauty Club
New Balance
Dial
Tide
Bacardi
Downy
Coolibar
Harlequin Books
Love Jac Cards
Thyme Maternity
Stokke Baby
Haute Tags
Foster Grant
GM
Thread and Butter
Jade and Jasper

New Book to Read: Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

You have probably heard the buzz about Sandcastle Girls already. It was picked as an Oprah Book of the Week in July and I do really like her book picks. When I first picked up Midwives, (perhaps Bohjalian’s best known book, an Oprah Book Club pick, back in the day) my timing couldn’t have been worse. It was winter and I was pregnant and while I didn’t live in a rustic Vermont town, I had to skip a huge part of the book. I basically took a peek ahead (something I do now) and pinched about an inch of pages and then read on from there. Try doing that with an ereader.

So on to Sandcastle Girls. As in all of Bohjalian’s books, the characters are fully drawn and engaging, the writing is beautiful, and the story is compelling – what a pure delight to read! And while I did know about the Armenian Genocide, I had not read about it in any detail and some of the details are horrific. That said, this is a story about love, character and hope for the future.

In short: The lives of Elizabeth Endicott (a Mount Holyoke graduate from a wealthy New England family who travels to Aleppo on behalf of the Friends of Armenia) and Armen Petrosian (an Armenian engineer, a husband and father who had been searching for his family) who meet and fall in love in Syria during the Armenian genocide (1914) is one part of the story. The other part of the story is set in the present day with Elizabeth and Armen’s adult granddaughter, Laura Petrosian, a writer, who finds herself on a search about her grandparents’ rarely discussed early lives. Laura discovers a long buried secret and her family’s story is forever changed.

Good reviews about this book abound and all of them are more well-written than what I can manage. But my two cents? Read this book. Why? It is an eye-opening look into a difficult part of history that should be better known. It is also a love story and it is so beautifully written that even the difficult passages (there are a few that made me put the book down for a few minutes) are so artfully drawn that you want to continue reading. I wandered around with this book, taking it from car to house (sometimes I wait places for people).


Thanks to Jess of Don’t Mind the Mess for providing me with a copy of The Sandcastle Girls. I look forward to more great books – Check out Red Letter Reads (Jessica’s new site) for the best new reads. She is currently looking for readers and the hottest new book releases. Send her and email at redletterreads@gmail.com

The Best Part of BlogHer 12

So you know I won prizes if you read my last post, in my head I call it Break Even Blogher, that makes it look like all I did was collect stuff. Not true. I had lovely conversations with many people, attended sessions, chatted in hallways, elevators and in line (lots of lines), and learned about small start ups, new products as well as talking to established companies. I basically went through the expo hall once and stopped wherever I was warmly greeted, curious about the brand or already knew and liked the brand. What did I like? Quite a lot.

Britely, a site to make picture flipbooks and share them easily – great for bloggers. I recognized the rep from the Newbie Breakfast line. She is a blogger and we had a lovely chat.They are even running a contest – Brite of the Week through September, Get on board, you could win $1000! I just made one for Blogher 12…

Muller Yogurt (recently bought by Quaker Oats and really delicious). I thought I would only want a small taste, I ended up eating a whole container.

The National Honey Board gave out great recipes and as a bonus, honey sticks. I had one after my run on Saturday with a banana and a Kombucha. Breakfast on the fly.

Moo.com, my favorite business card source was there and their reps are just as nice as their cards.

Zeo,  A headband like device that helps you track your sleep (I could sure use that) – a cool product and app.

Love with Food – Get 8+ new gourmet foods delivered to your door for $10/month and they’ll donate a meal to a hungry child. What a good idea! The foods were all great and you are doing good at the same time.

The Expo floor was completely overwhelming, I saw pushing when the Pioneer Woman took to the butter booth…Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond at Blogher 12 Capability Mom Blog

The only swag I sought out was the big Blogher Bag that was really hard to find, tucked into a side room – you had to ask where people got it.  I was told it was there to drive traffic to the room, but there needed to be signage…maybe Blogher footprints on the floor?

The best part of Blogher was not the coupons, free stuff or even the sessions, it was hearing the people nominated for Voices of the Year read from their work.  I cried every day at Blogher. Yes, every day. Maybe it was all that estrogen in one place. I cried at the McDonald’s breakfast when the young mom blogger got up to thank McDonald’s for the support she received at the Ronald McDonald house while her son went through 17 heart operations. I cried at Voices of the Year, more than once (I laughed a lot, too).

Voices of the Year wasn’t overly promoted – it actually was not promoted enough at all and I am so glad that I went.  I was solo and nipped in the back of that really cavernous banquet room, plugged in my phone (8% power left) and recharged both physically and tech-wise. Other women around me were similarly solo or in groups of two or three at almost empty tables, plugged in, some on laptops or hunched over phones like me, shoes off, some grabbing wine or a snack from the dinner setup. From the back of the room it was a drop-in session, I never made it to the front of that room so I have no idea if it felt more formal and pulled together up there, I hope so.  The large screen television screens were how I watched and listened and learned.

The readings were varied – some poignant, lovely, funny and heartfelt and some were all of the above.  It reminded me that what I want to do is to write. Sometimes playing with plugins, tweeting, and playing with social media gets in the way of why I started this blog.  Go here for a really well-written post about it from Jess of Don’t Mind the Mess.

Because Pragmatic Mom is all chatty and friendly, we met and shared a cab to Penn Station with Nancy Baggett of Kitchenlane.com  (her new book is about cookies…sign me up). Nancy taught a writing lab Waging War on Wordiness: Tips for Writing More Powerful Prose at Blogher. Now I am re-reading my posts for possible wordiness….

 

 

A Million Miles from Boston – Book Giveaway

I have always been a big reader (stop snort laughing, family) – so much so that I called it modeling behavior by way of rationalization for the times I had my nose in a book I mean, read while my young children crawled over me on the floor in the family room. Now they are both avid readers, so I guess it worked out. I have car books (sometimes downgraded to magazines or if I am really desperate catalogs) an upstairs and downstairs book, books on an e-reader and my iPad, and while I am not really into books on tape, I did see a really cute gadget at the Newton Free Library that is loaded with picture books for young readers and I recently also found a great list of recommendations from our middle school’s librarians – here.


Anyway, having professed my love of Young Adult fiction, and finding so many like minded souls here, means I no longer have to be pretending to just be pre-reading the titles for my children (which I am so totally doing anyway). I get to read YA with abandon. I even got to meet one of my favorite YA authors at Pragmatic Mom’s house when she visited for her daughter’s book group, Karen Day. My mother-daughter book group read No Cream Puffs last year and loved it.

Karen Day is one of those super creative, thoughtful people who really remembers what it is like to be 12 years old and is able to capture those feelings and share them with the insight I wish I possessed at that age – who am I kidding? I wish for it now. I have also had the pleasure of getting to know Karen at the Newton Free Library and she is the kindest person you would ever want to meet.

I loved her new book, A Million Miles from Boston and I really like how she writes so clearly about how she brought the story to life.

From Karen Day’s blog post about the story behind the story:

In my new middle grade novel, A MILLION MILES FROM BOSTON, 12-year-old Lucy can’t wait to leave her home in Boston and travel to Pierson Point, Maine, where she spends summers at her family cottage. This is the place where memories of her mom, who died when Lucy was six, are strong and sacred.

From the beginning this was a very difficult book to write. I wanted to write about Lucy’s distorted memories of what happened to her mom without being too heavy. I also wanted the reader to read Lucy’s actions, feelings and thoughts through the lens of her unconscious grief, yet this had to be done so subtly.

And I also thought, does the world really need another dead mother book? In the end I decided yes.

But unlike other dead mom books, where the event as more of a plot device, in my book Lucy’s memories (both conscious and unconscious) of the death and how her family dealt with it, form the main plot. I want the reader to see how a traumatic event that happens in a child’s life will forever color the way she sees the world. AND also to see what happens when memories of that event are distorted, when the truth is hidden somewhere deep inside.

I also knew that I had to tie Lucy’s experience to my other characters’ experiences as well as the reader’s experience. And so by introducing other plots lines – the annoying, mean boy from school who shows up at their summer community, the humorous, flawed neighbors, Dad’s new girlfriend, the camp Lucy runs, the older girls she looks up to, her incredible bond with her wonderful dog Superior — I was able to create a story where Lucy, and the reader, realize that we all tell stories, in some way, to ourselves to protect ourselves from things that hurt and are painful.

This is a story about transition, of a girl not only moving to a different stage of “knowing,” but also moving from elementary up to middle school. It’s about realizing that kids who bully are often bullied themselves. It’s about special summer places and the joy of exploring a beach on a lazy afternoon, finding pleasure in sighting an eagle, digging for clams, counting stars in a cloudless night sky and smelling the fire during a clambake.

It’s funny, sometimes sad, but a mostly a hopeful book about friendship, facing our fears and learning to let go yet still hang onto the things we love.

To me, this story is also about being who you are and discovering who you will become is a place that is home but not home. Our family spent a lot of summers on the Cape and you made friends because you are neighbors or in the same tennis or sailing class or maybe even that your moms sit near each other on the beach.

Pragmatic Mom also posted on A Million Miles from Boston here.

I am giving away 3 copies of A Million Miles to Boston. Please Tweet and comment below to win.

Leave comment letting me know you did this. Thanks! Visit Pragmatic Mom for another chance to win!

The winners are Ann, Ashleen and Vanita!! Congrats to all! You will get an email with a confirmation and you will be asked for your mailing address. Thanks for commenting!

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