Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Immediately after finishing Gone Girl, I added my name to the library hold list for both of Gillian Flynn's other novels, Sharp Objects and Dark Places. They both came in this Friday, and I sprinted through Sharp Objects in two days.

I'm an anti-spoiler kind of girl, so I'll keep my review brief. Camille is a 30-something journalist writing in a mid-tier paper in Chicago. Her editor sends her home to Wind Gap, the small city in Missouri she grew up in and has avoided for many years, to write on a developing story about two young girls, one who was found strangled with most of her teeth pulled out, and another who just went missing. Despite recently coming out of major personal conflict herself, Camille takes the story and finds herself back at her mother's home in Wind Gap.

I'll say this: Flynn has a way of writing despicable characters. Similarly to Gone Girl, it's hard to find a likeable primary or secondary character in Sharp Objects. That said, Flynn is such an engaging writer. I found it very difficult to put this book down, despite the troubled antagonist and her series of cringe-worthy past and her seeming inability to make good decisions. The darkness is addictive.

If you enjoyed Gone Girl, definitely give Sharp Objects a read. It's not quite the stunner that Gone Girl is (it's a little more on the pedestrian side of the thriller genre), but the book is an engaging and a great addition to the mystery/thriller genre.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 29, 2013


Two weeks ago as Ian and I were in the bathroom getting ready for bed, he told me how proud he was of me in the last month. I asked him why. After all, if I'm getting a compliment, I like to know (and milk it for all it's worth!). He very sweetly told me how great it was to see me so happy, determined, and focused, that it felt like I had a direction and was working towards my goals. And it was all true!

The next day, as I was out walking with a good friend, and she was complimenting me on my organization (!)* and drive, I mentioned how great I'd been feeling. Hardly a bad mood, feeling over-all more energized, and just... happy. I mentioned how I finally felt like I was 'me', again, how I hadn't felt this good since before I got pregnant, two years ago. As I was saying goodbye to her, it hit me - at I'd been done breastfeeding for a month.

This is in contrast to where I was March 2012 - which I can say with complete confidence (now) was the land of postpartum depression. I was a Gloomy Gus. I was sad and angry, generally felt too tired to do much, and was constantly overwhelmed.

I'm glad that I breastfed Felicity for fifteen months, don't get me wrong. But that isn't to say that we didn't have many difficulties along the way, or that I loved it all (or most) of the time. We were both ready to be done.

* While we have a good calendar system and Ian and I are able to keep to our rigorous budget and keep up most of the time with our to-do list, I don't know if I have been used in the same sentence with 'organized' ever, unless it was to say, "Gee, I wish Rachel was more organized," or, "Rachel is so disorganized." This was, like, a major compliment. I'm pretty sure I blushed.

Friday? Friday.

Sometimes there are too many projects, ideas, and things to do. So instead of making progress on any of them, I get overwhelmed, duck, and make progress on none of them. Why yes, I need to write for an hour, make headway on my memoirs, update the baby book, put two recipes up on Plant Matters, get dinner ready, get my pinterest and facebook links working on both of my blogs, work through two weeks of email, call the pediatrician, read the novel for April's Book Club, and do the laundry. Seems like a perfect time to waste an hour online, no?

My time management was crazy great before my family came last week and I essentially took a week off. Now I can't seem to get out of vacation (lazy) mode.

Consolation? At least we got to the park today, and I saw this smiling, happy face.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Updated Recommended Cookbooks Page on Plant Matters

 I've taken the time to update our recommended cookbooks page on Plant Matters. Looking for a little kitchen inspiration? Check out the cookbooks we love, or browse through our kitchen-tested, lip-smacking recipes


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Top 75 Read Along Books for Mighty Girls

I really cannot say enough wonderful things about A Mighty Girl. This website isn't about girl power (which is problematic in and of itself). A Mighty Girl is about giving girls good role models that fit outside of the typical feminine stereotype.

I was so pleased when I saw this in my Facebook feed today: Top 75 Read Along Books for Mighty Girls.

Of course my own daughter is too young for these books, but yours may not be!

You can support the site (owned and operated by Carolyn Danckaert and Aaron Smith) by clicking by purchasing books through the website. Keep up the good work, A Mighty Girl!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How Did You Find the Blog?

Some things just crack me up. Seriously.

Unless you have an account with blogger, you probably don't know that it (GOOGLE) shares certain information with me, like how many people click on a post a day, where traffic is routed from, blah blah blah. And no, it doesn't give me specifics about WHO is reading, and how often they come back, although I'm sure I could pay for this if I was very rich. And cared.

In wandering through my "Traffic Sources" I found the following this evening:
  • Most of the people brought in by search keywords are trying to find recipes for spinach rice casserole or blackberry ginger ale. Interesting. Maybe I should do more food blogging? Oh wait... I have another blog for that...
  • SEVEN hits were from people googleing "ladies breast." BWAHAHAH. Disappointment, much? Especially for those would-be readers only looking for ONE breast?
  • Five people found the blog by googleing my name. Good search skills. And I'm not being sarcastic, I literally had to do the same a few years ago when I'd gotten myself locked out and forgot the name of the blog. But 'like' the facebook page and make your life a little easier, I have a really long name. 
  • As of right now, I have 6659 page views (not including my own). Neat! 
Image rom Jezebel - The closest thing to 'ladies breast" you'll find on this blog

So, dedicated reader(s)? How did you find the blog?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Finally Someone Asks Why Women Usually Change Their Names in Marriage

Jill Filipovic takes on name changes with marriage in a recent Guardian article - and it's about freaking time.

This is one of those issues I find extremely irritating, and I'm frequently reminded of it while reading Facebook updates like Filipovic writes. I've even had the thought, "But I thought you were a feminist!" when I see a name change following a marriage.

I know, I know. I bought into the whole White Dress (although, *cough," mine was ivory, take that as you will). We did the Wedding with the Flowers and the Music and the First Dance (for which we took dancing lessons, yes dancing lessons) and the Cake.

But we also did things our own way. We wrote our own vows (and there was no "promise to obey"). Ian's Buddhist sister got licensed at our behest and married us. We chose to both hyphenate our names, deciding that the order of McCready-Flora sounded better than Flora-McCready. So we became Rachel and Ian McCready-Flora, and just in time for Ian to finish his dissertation and receive his PhD under his new name.

Changing our names together meant that we both went the DMV to get new licenses. We both went through the hassle of dealing with our bank and credit card companies to change out names. We both had fill out mounds of paperwork and wait in long lines to get updated social security cards.

We chose to both hyphenate because neither of us thought it was fair to give up our own last name, and we wanted to have one family name, especially if we decided to have children (we did). We wanted to symbolize our partnership to each other and the equality of our union.

I know I'm going to offend almost everyone on my reading list with this post, but ladies, stand up for your names! Why should a woman be the one to change her identity when she gets married? Actually change her identity if her spouse is not willing to do the same thing? Why, because a man taking his partner's name isn't "manly?"

And if you want to have one family name, find a compromise. Hyphenate. Flip for what name sounds best. Create a new one.

Filipovic draws the connection between a wife taking her husbands name in marriage and the long tradition of women becoming the property of their husbands in marriage:
"Marriage has long meant a woman giving up her identity, and along with it, her basic rights. Under coverture laws, a woman's legal existence was merged with her husband's: "husband and wife are one," and the one was the husband. Married women had no right to own property or enter into legal contracts. It's only very recently that married women could get their own credit cards. Marital rape remained legal in many states through the 1980s. The idea that a woman retains her own separate identity from her husband, and that a husband doesn't have virtually unlimited power over a woman he marries, is a very new one.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Wasting Time

I put Felicity down for her morning nap and was going to update my reading list quickly, then spend the rest of Felicity's napping time reading my current memoir A Double Life: Discovering Motherhood by Lisa Catherine Harper.

And now it's TWO HOURS later. Zero reading of said book as occurred. And the goodreads website isn't even working today, for whatever reason.

Here's what I've done:
 - Completed the first meditation for the 21-day meditation challenge from Oprah & Deepak.
 - Researched getting my own domain name. It's completely flummoxing how much it costs.
 - Considered and reconsidered moving this blog to, and then realizing it doesn't make any difference if I'm not going to splurge for my own domain right now.
 - Updated This, That, and the Other's facebook page (we're up to 41 likes!).
 - Perused the links from Nursing Clio's Sunday Morning Medicine.
 - Emailed my thesis adviser.
 - Watched Justin Timberlake's veg video from his latest SNL appearance on March 9th, 2013. I had no idea he was a vegetarian (or maybe vegan? I could only confirm vegetarian online):

Justin Timberlake - Bring It On Down 2... by IdolxMuzic

I know, I know - I'm usually don't mix my veganism with this blog - but it's just too funny.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review: Bring Down the Little Birds: On Mothering, Art, Work, and Everything Else

Bring Down the Little Birds: On Mothering, Art, Work, and Everything Else
Bring Down the Little Birds: On Mothering, Art, Work, and Everything Else by Carmen Gimenez Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I actually read this little gem of a book twice(!). Carmen Gimenez Smith is a poet, mother of two, and an assistant professor at New Mexico State University in the English Department. Bring Down the Little Birds is her memoir that simultaneously works through trying to balance a family through her second pregnancy, her teaching, and her writing, while coming to terms with the fact of her own mother's cancer and failing memory.

She is really a beautiful and profound writer, and quite funny at times. She is honest with the sacrifices she makes for her family and children. Gimenez Smith writes poignantly about the internal conflicts that come with motherhood, like the dualism of selflessness and selfishness mothers are forced into. She also writes about the physical and emotional work that comes with having children, how easy it is to be unable to find yourself in mundane tasks like changing diapers and washing what seem to be eternally-full laundry baskets.

I really can't do this book justice in a few sentences. Gimenez Smith is a thoughtful and moving writer. She is able to capture the very essence of the largest conflicts within modern motherhood. Read it, love it, pass it on.

View all my reviews

Review: Black Milk: On Writing, Motherhood, and the Harem Within

Black Milk: On Writing, Motherhood, and the Harem Within
Black Milk: On Writing, Motherhood, and the Harem Within by Elif Shafak

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Black Milk by Elif Shafak differs from most mothering memoirs. This prolific Turkish author relates her experiences and thoughts through two main mediums in this book: through discussion and analysis of female authors who tackled the "motherhood question," and through internal conversations with her "harem within," the 4-6 internal identities that Shafak calls her "Thumbelinas" that represent different parts of her being.

Most mothering memoirs are fairly linear: pregnancy, birth, baby, toddler... maybe some discussion of struggles and thoughts, or on raising a child. Changes. Realizations. Shafak takes a different approach. The first 2/3rds of the book are pre-baby (most pre-husband), when she lives in different parts of the world, is writing, and thinking about the possibility of motherhood for herself. She tackles the question I feel most mothers have (at one point or another): "Can I be a mother and be [ ]?" Shafak's Thumbelinas argue amongst themselves as she travels, writes, falls in love - can Shafak be Shafak (writer, thinker, reader) and be a (good) mother?

Shafak discusses many of the great female authors from all over the world, looking at both their writing and their lives to analyze how they dealt with the possibility of motherhood and all of the roles that accompany it. Shafak looks at dozens, from Sylvia Plath, the Bronte sisters, George Eliot, Jane Austin, Zelda Fitzgerald, to Toshika Tamura and Sevgi Soyask. (I've earmarked about forty more books I want to read just from reading through Black Milk!).

Very little of the book is actually about her own experiences of motherhood, more about her thought process getting there. It isn't even clear if her pregnancy was intentional (although you get the feeling it might not have been), just that it happens (at page 177, so about 2/3rds of the way through the book). She doesn't write much on the actual experience of pregnancy, and nothing on birth, but plunges into the first six months after her the birth of daughter, when she experienced postpartum depression.

As mentioned earlier, Black Milk is very different from most mothering memoirs. It's very intellectual (in all of the right ways) and is a very thorough discussion on some of the questions I've been asking as a new mom. It seems impossible at times to balance the demands of a child, a household, and the individual. We make sacrifices, no matter what we choose. Shafak's discussion on identity and decision highlight the many and varied tensions that women and mothers (especially those women and mothers that write) must face.

Four stars for this book as, although it was beautifully and thoughtfully written, I feel the final third felt forced or rushed? Her discussion on postpartum depression didn't seem as well penned as the rest of the memoir.

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Question for my Readers

Hello Friendly Readers!

For my thesis project, I'm analyzing mothering memoirs, looking for a themes in empowerment, guilt, identity, and desire. I'm sure more things will crop up, you never know.

My question for you: Are there any memoirs on mothering that you think I should be including, or that you found particularly helpful or moving? I'm trying to find a full spectrum, so memoirs by both feminist (or feminist-aligned) and non-feminist mothers.

I think I have a pretty good list, but I'm always looking for input. Let me know if you have any thoughts!

Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is hard to right an adequate review of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn without saying too much. I promise up front, no spoilers!

I waited an obscenely long time on the NYPL's hold list for this book after hearing rave reviews from my book club members. I knew three things:

1). The book is about a married couple.
2). Gone Girl isn't your typical whodunit.
3). Every person I know who has read Gone Girl has loved it. Stayed up all night to read loved it.

Seriously, that was it.

Gillian Flynn is a master - she writes great plot, interesting (albeit a bit unlikeable) characters, and does it all with quite a clever hand. The book was incredibly detailed in all the right ways. I had some serious trouble putting it down, and can't wait to get my hands on Flynn's other books. I absolutely have to add her to my favorite mystery author list with Tana French and Agatha Christie. And Janet Evanovich (not!).

My only gripe: I'm not totally in love with the ending. The book still gets five stars though for being immensely engaging and a whole lot of fun.

View all my reviews