Books: The Art of Mending

After enjoying the 2017 One Book South Dakota, which I wrote about here, I decided to read another OBSD selection. I read the 2004 selection, Elizabeth Berg’s The Art of Mending.

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Berg’s powerful use of imagery when it comes to recalling those memories brought the story to life. She writes beautifully about everything from the sound of scissors cutting fabric at the fabric store to holidays and family vacations.

The narrator is torn between her sister and her mother when terrible allegations surface. Her struggle of wondering what to believe is detailed throughout the novel. I loved the writing and how the story is told from an unexpected point-of-view. It causes us to ask ourselves if our childhood memories are accurate, or just our own perception of what took place.

Soaking It All In

Like a lot of parents, my husband and I spend a good share of the work week away from our children. This definitely leads to some feelings of guilt, but the silver lining is it also gives us the excuse to spend an entire Saturday at least once a month doing fun activities with the girls. The laundry can wait. The yard can wait. It’s all about family on those glorious days.

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Last Saturday this involved breakfast at a nearby restaurant, a trip to a pumpkin patch, and various other activities.

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On these amazing, care-free Saturdays, I focus on soaking in every moment with these three.

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It’s so cliché, but the little ones truly do grow so fast. I love being a mom, but I also find value in my work outside the home. One major perk is learning to make true quality time on the days the four of us can be together. I love those days. P.S. Isn’t fall the best?

A Few Fall Favorites

The leaves are changing and the air is crisp. Here are a few of my favorite things right now.

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1. I have been living in these mustard-colored pants for the past month. They also come in a gorgeous shade of plum. (Gap) 2. Pumpkin mugs are just so festive. (Pottery Barn) 3. My youngest daughter will be sporting this adorable onesie and hat set because I have to relish the time before she insists on having a say in her costume selection. (Carter’s) 4. Burning pumpkin candles this time of year is a must. This one has been my favorite since college. (Yankee Candle) 5. This fox pumpkin kit is a great way for my three-year-old to decorate her own pumpkin. (Target.com) 6. My mom made us a gorgeous wreath from some of our wedding centerpiece flowers for our front door. This wreath is a similar look that I love. (Crate & Barrel)

 

One Book South Dakota: Kitchens of the Great Midwest

I didn’t know what to expect with Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal. I decided to read it simply because it was designated as the 2017 One Book South Dakota. I loved it. The author beautifully combined food, gender roles in the Midwest, and interesting characters in a quick, yet moving novel.

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Food is such an important part of our culture. This book looks at how the food we eat defines us geographically, and socio-economically. It also looks at the relationships we build and what really defines a family.

One of the most moving pieces in the book features Pat Prager, a sweet church lady and unappreciated housewife who enters her bars in a fancy Minneapolis baking contest. She is shamed by the younger, more sophisticated foodies.

This is where the main character, Eva Thorvald, shines as an interesting, yet dimensional protagonist. Eva gives Pat, and Midwestern home-cooking the respect they deserve. Stradal packs a lot in this short novel, and I was hanging on every word. At the end I was torn between wanting him to pen a sequel and wanting to just leave it at what the story was for fear of ruining a good thing.

The Motherhood Milestone I Hoped to Skip

The seasoned moms told me it would happen and I cautiously waited. I waited, watched, and wondered when it would happen to me. But it didn’t. Months went by. Then my daughter turned one. Then two. Then three. Still nothing.

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But then the unthinkable happened last night when I turned my head for just a second to check on her baby sister. My completely potty trained (or so I thought) three-year-old pooped in the bathtub. Not only did she poop, but then she attempted to clean it up which made things far, far worse.

I scratched my head, baffled. Where to begin the epic cleansing of the tub, toys, bathroom floor, and child. Meanwhile, the aforementioned baby sister began to wail. I pulled my older daughter from the tub and attempted to dry her off without smearing feces everywhere. Two really nice wash cloths we got as wedding gifts were lost to this cause, and many, many Clorox wipes were used.

My husband had picked the perfect night to work late and arrived home after the girls were both clean, happy, and full of smiles for Daddy. It was one of those mothering moments that seem like a complete and utter circus. And one I’ll be delighted to share with any and all of her future boyfriends.

 

 

From Fires to Hurricanes: How to Give

It seems there has been no shortage of devastating disasters hitting our nation recently.

Yesterday the house of some good friends of ours living in the U.S. Virgin Islands was destroyed by Hurricane Irma. They are doing OK, but it really got me looking at options for doing what little I can to help.

If you’re like me, you want to know the money you give is being used responsibly and to go to the cause for which you designated it. I don’t want to donate to fire victims so the CEO of a non-profit can install a new pool at his home. Still, I realize there are some major costs associated with operating a non-profit. Advertising alone can cost a pretty penny and is critical to effective non-profit campaigns.

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(Image from newyorktimes.com)

When doing your research, look at a non-profit’s Cost of Impact, essentially their ROI. There are some unbiased websites out there that rank the effectiveness of non-profits. GuideStar is one of the most robust and is easy to use.

The American Red Cross receives a platinum GuideStar rating and makes it simple to give anything from $10 to $1,000 online.

The United Way is a good option because  you can designate a specific community to which you want to donate. Having spent a brief period of time in the non-profit fundraising sector, I can tell you The United Way does not spend dollars willy nilly. There is careful consideration taken in regards to financial stewardship.

As annoying as it is to be asked in the store checkout lane if you “want to donate a dollar to (insert charity name here),” what’s the harm in adding an extra dollar to your bill when you’re swiping your card? Some chains like Target and Walgreens give 100% of those donations to the cause for which they’re collecting at that time.

So I understand there is some skepticism surrounding charitable giving, but I hope that won’t stop you completely from helping when and where you can. There are still a lot of good people and organizations out there doing great things. Do something.

If you can’t give financially, considering donating blood or giving your time. The American Red Cross also offers tools to search for blood drives and volunteer opportunities.

If you have other ideas for the most effective ways to help out our fellow man (and woman and child) please comment here.

Boca, Cincinnati

I love trying new restaurants so you know Boca in Cincinnati is pretty outstanding if I ended up eating there two of the three nights we stayed in the Queen City. The food, service, and ambience were out of this world.

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Boca does a great Midwestern take on Italian cuisine.

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David, our server, was the best. This guy could serve me stale bread and I would still think he was great.

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But no stale bread here. Far from it. Instead I ordered the corn cappallacci, which were little homemade pasta pockets with sweet corn and black truffle. I can still smell it now. It was one of the very best things I have ever eaten.

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The restaurant’s signature dish are these delectable pommes soufflées. These puffed potatoes are a nod to the old building the restaurant occupies. They are so complicated that the chef that one out of every three batches gets thrown out. And they’re divine.

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Boca was a delicious find I will not be forgetting.

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I think it would be worth a trip to Cincinnati just for the corn cappallaci and pommes soufflées.

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