Friday, May 29, 2009

my reading list 2009

Every year, I write out which books I have read, am reading, and which ones I want to read. Here's this year's list so far:
Finished reading:
The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore I started off the New Year with a post-Winter Solstice celebration of the Christmas holiday with this energized horror-spoof satire. With familiar characters from his other novels, this is a fast, hilarious, sometimes vulgar, read that will make you question who the hero of the novel really is.
Skinny Dip by Carl Hiassen
Gripping from page one, Skinny Dip is a funny, fast-paced, exciting environmental message on wheels, full of colorful characters who you completely love or just plain love-to-hate. Perfect summer reading, complete with a reminder of the importance of Everglade conservation.
Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy Factual, well researched, and, yes, extremely surprising, Birth takes us on an engaging tour of the graphic, and often horrific, history of the birth industry, primarily in America, with a few brief multi-cultural exceptions. As I am partial to the natural birth experience, I appreciate the slant Cassidy has toward normal, physiological birth and its place (and re-emergence!) in our society.
A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore A madly imaginative, often hilarious world of Death that somehow proves to be poignant at the same time. Another fun, fast read by Christopher Moore, that touches the human spirit. I could not stop listening to this book! I love the Hellhounds!
Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan My first experience with Amy Tan's writing, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not nearly as dark as I was expecting. I enjoyed the characterization, their innocence--or perhaps naiveté is a better suited description--their stereotypes as "ugly" Americans, the dark humor. A very engaging read, and I look forward to The Joy Luck Club and The Bonesetters Daughter.
Nature Girl by Carl Hiassen
A fast, enjoyable suspense with a perfectly neurotic heroine--with another welcome side order of Everglades preservation.
From the Hips: A Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, and Becoming a Parent by Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris
A lovely, comprehensive, unbiased look at pregnancy and birth in a trendy package. I love the light tone of this legitimately honest guide, which provides the basis for INFORMED CONSENT (which is often missing in pregnancy guides), especially by discussing the facts without a preachy tone. Includes a wonderful focus on birth options--hospital, birth center, homebirth; midwife vs. OB. I highly recommend this book for mothers-to-be!
Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama I listened to the Grammy Award Winning recording of Dreams from My Father, read by Barack Obama himself, and I was absolutely blown away by the insightful, often painfully honest appraisal of the beginning of his life. A memoir, written shortly after graduating law school, Obama's perspective is unique as a bi-racial man growing up in both white and black America.
It is astounding that, unlike most memoirs which are written after great accomplishments, the voice of this story is at the beginning of what may be greatness, not the end, and is yet so compelling and intuitive.
Don't Look Down by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer In my younger days, Crusie was one of my favorite Chick-Lit authors, but I fell away, until I saw this collaboration of Crusie and Mayer. I enjoyed this well-written, non-formulaic, funny blend of genres and voices, as well as the unpredictable ending and the Wonder Woman nuances.
The Frugal Gardener: How to Have More Garden for Less Money by Catriona Tudor Erler Not only is The Frugal Gardener a practical resource for gardening on a budget, it is a great introduction to gardening for the novice, and a fantastic resource for the basics of organic gardening. I really enjoyed the chapter organization and layout of the book--it made for a good read (rather than being a heavy reference book). Even if you are not simply looking for ways to garden on a budget, The Frugal Gardener offers many great gardening tips.
Airman by Eoin Colfer I LOVE the originality and complexity of Eoin Colfer's novels, and Airman does not disappoint. The coming of age story of Conor Broekhart, a young scientist who has a passion to be the first man to fly, is full of adventure, romance, and suspense. I was hooked with the first chapter and could not stop listening! In contrast with Colfer's Artemis Fowl series, Airman delves into more complex themes with violent overtones that make it better suited for a more mature young adult reader--though no doubt adults will fall into this adventure novel just as easily! No kidding, it reminds me quite a bit of William Goldman's The Princess Bride. Ricochet by Sandra Brown My first Sandra Brown, I enjoyed this romantic suspense while I was listening to it, though I was thoroughly disappointed when I realized I had picked up the abridged version... Interesting, fast-paced, what I call "Travel Reading" for it's light nature. Not at all memorable; as I write this, I find myself rereading the synopsis to remember the characters and what the story was about! It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff by Peter Walsch A clean, honest, blunt, step-by-step guide to de-cluttering that focuses on how Americans are bombarded by advertising and marketing, and how we, as a society, have lost focus on what it means to live a happy life--how we do not need "stuff" to live full, genuine lives. The Art of Mindful Living by Tich Nhat Hanh I enjoy Tich Nhat Hanh's works, especially this one, as he explains the basics of Zen Buddhism and how to really apply it to a Western lifestyle. While this is not a guided meditation, the audio does however explain the basis of meditation and provides the reader with the tools to apply it to one's own life. I love how, throughout the audio, there is a simple reminder of the present moment with the single toll of a bell, a constant reminder of the importance of being fully aware of the present moment. The approach is extremely powerful and affective. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer After months of being the #1 bestselling series at work, and after seeing the movie, I decided it was time to pick up this young adult series. I enjoyed the first book, though it seemed to drag on-- like if you put all four novels together (and I have yet to read any of the sequals), they may equal one complete plot, but, for instance, that one plot and all of it's development was too lengthy for one book, so the publisher had Meyer lengthen it out to better fit multiple books. Perhaps they will pick up. Twilight is a classic Shakespearen love story transformed for the modern young paranormal romance reader, though it may be appealing to a male audience, as well. There is an important focus on familial connections in the first book. I will wait to add more after I finish subsequent books. Now reading: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer The line-up: Eclipse and Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer--maybe The Host by Stephanie Meyer (David got it from the library for me) Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America by Thomas Friedman A Member of the Family: Cesar Millan's Guide to a Lifetime of Fulfillment with Your Dog by Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond Something written by Bill Bryson Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama Fool by Christopher Moore Hoot by Carl Hiassen

Friday, May 8, 2009

this moment

{this moment} - from SouleMama - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Monday, May 4, 2009

breastfeeding gift basket

My cousin's wife is pregnant and due in the fall, which means the time has come to start collecting things for yet another breastfeeding basket!
Here is some background on my famous breastfeeding gift baskets: if I know that a pregnant friend is going to breastfeed (or at least considering it), I always gift a couple of her registry items with items that she will find useful in the first few weeks of breastfeeding her new arrival. I arrange everything up in a receiving blanket and compile it all into a beautiful, reusable basket.

In the basket (which can be placed in her "Nursing Nest" for an easy to reach stash of items) is:
  • A copy of "The Baby Book," "The Breastfeeding Book" or "The Attachment Parenting Book," all of which are written by William & Martha Sears
  • A copy of Janet Tamaro's lighthearted "So That's What They're For!: Breastfeeding Basics"
  • Two pair of washable cotton nursing pads (if we're lucky, they are made by my talented DH)
  • One tube of Lanolin, used to relieve nipple pain, which is common in the first couple weeks of breastfeeding.
  • Samples bags of Yogi Tea's Nursing Mom and Traditional Medicinal Mother's Milk Tea
  • One oatmeal raisin Luna Bar (oatmeal is known to increase milk supply in breastfeeding mothers)
  • One reusable water bottle (made of safe plastic) for mama's beverage of choice, to always be within easy reach during nursing sessions
  • A nursing necklace for baby to tug on rather than mama's hair, made by yours truly
  • A hat, pair of booties, or blanket for the babe, knit by yours truly
I also include a lovely bookmark (made by me) with LLL leaders local numbers, the number of a lactation consultant, and my number, as well as a few good online resources, including kellymom and mothering. I also put in my postpartum doula business card (vs. my drum-maker business card).
Sometimes I also include a copy of the current issue of Mothering Magazine, which makes nice light nursing reading--and is my favorite.

And, depending how close I am to the mama, I might include a ring sling, wrap, pouch, or other babywearing device that either David or another friend made, or one that I find at a reasonable price on eBay, craigslist or Etsy.

I also sometimes include a herbal sitz bath mixture for mama's healing, or goldenseal for the umbilical cord--depending how receptive/dedicated to alternative parenting the mama is.
I suppose I am lucky that I work in a bookstore--I always buy up any nifty intro-to-breastfeeding/instinctual parenting books as soon as they come in. I let a few slide through, though, to share the love with whoever is lucky enough to find them on the shelf after my "purge." I also keep a back stock of other nifty handmade items that David or I make, or lucky finds (in excellent condition, of course) that I come across at thrift shops or garage sales, including baby blankets, sweaters, etc, giving whatever I have on hand at the time.
I totally welcome any other suggestions for what to include in my standard baby shower/breastfeeding gift basket. What did you all find helpful in the first few weeks of breastfeeding? If you received a basket, what do you want in it??

The picture of the basket at the top of this post is crochet out of an old t-shirt, believe it or not, and used for the breastfeeding basket I made for a coworker about six months ago. Below are a few other previous gifts:

My first booties-knitting project, hat and matching booties.

Homemade nursing pads...or "Hooter Pads!"

A knit baby blanket that I made for my dear nephew, Max, who will be three on Mother's Day!

My very favorite nursing necklace ever! I absolutely love the colors!

The cutest knit teddy bear ever, I must say!

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