Friday, September 30, 2011

Books: American Wife

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Sometimes I just want to read a book that is fun, interesting, and easy to read. I've found fun books and easy to read books, and even books that are fun and easy to read. Or maybe even just interesting. I was expecting perhaps fun and easy to read when I picked up American Wife. Sittenfeld's last book, Prep, was basically just about the social lives of students at a boarding school. Reading it, I felt like I was reading a gossip magazine. American Wife, though, surprised me. It's quite obvious that Sittenfeld expanded her storytelling abilities. Not only was it a good read, it was thought-provoking and entertaining.
American Wife is a novel based on the life events of Laura Bush. Well, I think Sittenfeld would say that no, it's based on a compilation of many different first ladies, however the really large events mirror Laura Bush's life. What really propels this book is the lead character's compelling introspectives and personal anecdotes on life in the limelight. It feels weird to say this, but I now see politicians differently. As a country we've put our politicians on a pedastal - perhaps not a glowing pedastal, but a pedastal nonetheless, where we expect them to be the perfect image of Americans. The private thoughts, worries, and ideas that we never see would indeed surprise us.

All in all, American Wife is a great story. It is told by a great storyteller, and I look forward to Sittenfeld's next book with anticipation.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


There is a tasty by-product of dating a foodie. While we dated long distance for 7 months and we went to plenty of good restaurants on our short trips, I don't think I correctly imagined living in the same city. I have been back in Portland not quite 3 weeks, and I already have a bevy of new restaurants that I like (or even love).

I'll forget a bunch of them, but here's a great rundown:
**We ate at Firehouse last night as a celebratory dinner (because I got a job offer for a nanny position!). Everything was delicious - baked corn, salad, margherita pizza, and gnocchi with spring vegetables.
**We went out to dinner with some of Manfriend's family at the Sunshine Tavern. It was a relaxed atmosphere (and not at all like a Tavern), with pretty good food. The best part was the honey soft serve ice cream. Great location on Division.
**When other members of Manfriend's family were visiting we went to two great places, one of which I had been to before. Little Big Burger serves proportionally wonderful hamburgers (with great cheeses), and just-crispy-enough fries. Simple menu, great prices. They are opening quite a few new locations. We have been to the one down in the Pearl by Powell's books, but there are other locations opening, including one on SE Division.

**We also found a great Mexican place in the outer reaches of Northeast Portland. At 162nd and Glisan there is Tortilleria de Leon, a grocery store/bakery/restaurant. In the back of the store you'll find a glass case filled with cooked meats. The best deal (and what most of our group got) was the "combination" plate, which was actually beans, rice, and the meat of your choice, served with a mountainload of handmade tortillas (your choice: corn or flour).

~~My manfriend wrote an article that just went up today about great doughnuts in Portland. Voodoo is notably not on the list. You can read it here. It's pretty great.

**We recently went to see "The Interruptors", a movie about... well, I'll let you watch the trailer. It was a really great film.

** We rented "Never Let Me Go", an imaginative story, chronicling the lives of three schoolmates who are part of a project where people are bred and raised as organ donors. Not in anyway sci-fi, it did a good job at predicting what the emotional implications would be. Visually, it was a beautiful film. The dreariness of English (and coats, sweaters, boots, scarves) always does something to me. It must be in my blood.

**We also started watching the TV show "Breaking Bad", but I haven't made up my mind about it yet. It has made me want to gag, and has made me hide my face behind Manfriend's shoulder. The jury's still out.

**A friend posted this video on facebook. It made me cry. This principal is doing everything in her power to change her students' lives. What an inspiration.
video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Mates of State's new album, Mountaintops, is out today. They're one of the few bands I still actively follow - they always make me happy.
And there you have it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Books: Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

I will just admit this right off the bat: I never read this as a child. Oh, I had the copies. Someone in my extended family gave me both Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea in beautiful hardcover editions, yet I doubt I barely cracked a page. I decided it was time to read it.

As a child I much preferred contemporary realistic fiction. I was into the Baby-Sitters Club, Mary Downing Hahn books, and Lois Lowry's Anastasia series. I didn't have time for flowery, overly descriptive, antiquated books. I liked lots of dialogue and something I felt I could relate to. Now that I've read through Anne of Green Gables I can see why I would have never liked it as a child. Anne is such a dreamer that her page-long diatribes would have driven me wild.
As an adult, I loved it. Anne is hilarious, Marilla's attitude is biting, and Matthew is a sweet man. Anne is the kind of girl you'd hope to have: all heart and warmth and genuine imagination. Her mistakes only make her more endearing and her affection toward others is rare.

The pacing of the story bothered me quite a bit The first year of Anne's life in Green Gables was slow and more detail driven, while the next few years of her life flew by with only a few incidents. Other than that, it was a great book. And I cried at the end. I cried! Montgomery does a fine job building characters you fall in love with and care about, which makes the events in their life so much more moving.

Friday, September 9, 2011


With the hot weather still persisting in Portland (90+), my mom and I planned to go up to Long Beach, Washington, to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins. We looked up the weather forecast - 81! That sounds perfect!

It was not 81 degrees. It was not even close. I was so thankful I had decided to grab a heavy sweatshirt on the way out our door Wednesday morning. I was so cold that I had to change into jeans.

Knowing it would be cooler in Long Beach, I took along my running clothes. Long Beach is a nice place to run because the roads aren't busy, the weather is cool, and it's hard to get lost. When I arrived in Long Beach I realized I had forgotten my running shoes. In my lamenting, my 14 year old cousin stated that she had some shoes I could probably use. And use I did.

I went running yesterday morning for the first time in four weeks. I had resigned myself to the thought that I would have to take walk breaks, but I ran the entire 30 minutes. It seems like such a silly goal and success after what I've accomplished in the past, but it felt so incredibly good. I got up with the same intention this morning, yet my (very) sore muscles and a bad sore on the back of my ankle (from the shoes) kept me well under 30 minutes.

At the very least, it has encouraged me to continue, and I believe I'll head out to the trail on Sunday morning.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Books: Prisoner in Tehran, A Memoir

Prisoner in Tehran: A Memoir by Marina Nemat

I read Reading Lolita in Tehran a few years ago, so this topic intrigued me. While Reading Lolita is told from a professor's point of view during the enforcement of a fundamental Islamic government, Prisoner in Tehran is told by a student. Marina Nemat was a Catholic high school girl who was mildly interested in politcal change. She was motivated by watching her close friends, yet held back by the belief that the protestors' chosen governmental systems would not work either.
The book is the story of her arrest, torture, imprisonment, and oddly appointed freedom, yet the book bounces back and forth between her personal story, her family's history, and the political mess of the country. There is a great balance memoir and history.

Another great perspective is that of her religion. As a Catholic (with non-practicing parents), Marina is forced to confront her own religious beliefs against the backdrop of her Muslim tormentors as well as co-prisoners. Nemat does a great job at describing the personal agony of disovering gray areas in her faith along with contemplating the matter of saying something versus really meaning it. There are a lot of great lessons in the book, and Nemat tells it well.

Friday, September 2, 2011



On August 22nd my mom, Lucy, and I woke up early and hit the road for Oregon. We stayed in the home of some friends in L.A. (with their Weimereiner), stayed in southern Oregon with my brother's family, and arrived in Portland that Thursday. It's been a weird week, moving into a new place, and also trying to find a new home for Lucy. We quickly realized that although Lucy is the sweetest, calmest dog we know when she is comfortable, she really needed someone to be with her in the condo at all times. That was not going to work for us. My mom and I agreed that we really hadn't thought through the Lucy situation as well as we should have, and we immediately got to work trying to find her a new home.

Luckily, today, I got a phone call from a wonderful lady with two sons who was so extremely excited to have Lucy. I could tell from the very beginning that this was it. She talked about how she had a golden retriever in the past who also had hip pain, and was so reassuring that she knew that it would take a little while for Lucy to adjust. It just felt right. Although I was sad to pass her off this morning, I know that Lucy will enjoy her daily walks and living in a home where she is loved on. And I know this family will love on her!

So I'm looking for a job - I had a nanny job interview that went well, and I go back for a second interview next week. The parents seemed extremely down to earth and very realistic about the nanny's position and responsibilities (plus the girls were really cute and they live in a great part of town). I really, really like them and want that job, but also have an interview on Monday for another job. We'll see what happens.

I don't have that much more to report except that we've been enjoying the weather here in Portland - it was really warm (80-90) when we got here, was cool this week, and will warm up to 90 for the Labor Day weekend. In true Portland fashion it will be sweltering the first couple weeks of school!!

Not much else to say, so I'll leave you with a picture from my last Saturday in Mexico. I went with my wonderful friends Melissa and Christina to the beach. We chatted for a long time about this and that, and then Christina and I donned wetsuits (my first) and went to conquer the waves on a surfboard (her) and a boogie board (me). So much fun! It was a great day. Thanks friends!