Friday, March 27, 2009

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel by Jamie Ford

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet just after finishing The Piano Teacher, both of which were debut novels written about the time period of WWII, but from opposite sides of the Ocean. The storyline of this novel is so compelling and it was just so refreshing to be reminded of the purity and innocence of love; even during a time of such injustice. The characters came to life for me, and the pages practically turned themselves. The speed of the read cannot be mistaken for lack of depth. Overall, a very good book.

View all my reviews.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Piano Teacher

Since re-discovering the library, I can't seem to read enough these days. I've always been a voracious reader, but lately it's even moreso. Flying through the Twilight series, engrossed in the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell about a chief Medical Examiner in Virginia to sate my morbid curiosities (though I question the sanity in doing that, as I often have to put it down and read something else late at night if I've already checked the locks on the windows and doors more than twice, looked in closets and even under my bed....), or more instructional tomes like Knitting Circles Around Socks I've reinforced that books will always be an intrinsic part of my life; continually connecting with characters on paper that you wish you knew in real life.

I had read reviews for Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford and The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee in a magazine and put them in my request queue at the library right away. The Piano Teacher came almost immediately and it was amazing! It just came out last month so run, don't walk, to your local library and check out a copy.

Not often does a book leave such a lasting impression. Set in World War II Hong Kong, and then a decade later, the stories of the women who are the lovers of Will Truesdale, a British man in Hong Kong, unfold on the pages with rich language that isn't wordy for wordy's sake and tell of two women whose lives are very different, but have Will as their center.

What struck me the most was that the in the second 'life' he is only a decade older yet the war has so changed him, making him a much older man. Throughout, I just kept thinking about our current situation and how we, as citizens of the US, are often so insulated from the everyday grisly details of war. Yes, we have the news media now but I imagine they still can't do justice to the in-person experience; the sights, smells and tastes of the depictions in the book are so vivid, that it makes you again feel at the least, fortunate, to live where we do if only geographically.

I loved this book, and would read it again if only to see what pieces I may have missed in the rich tapestry that she wove throughout to lead you to the final scenes. I won't include any more details because I wouldn't want to spoil any surprises.

*Cross-posted at Sex and the Knitty

Friday, March 20, 2009

Neo to Go!

I was asked by MomCentral and Neosporin to try out NEOSPORIN® + Pain Relief Ointment, NEOSPORIN® + Pain Relief Cream, and the newly available NEOSPORIN® NEO TO GO!® First Aid Antiseptic/Pain Relieving Spray. I received full-sized testers of all three on the very day that it was warm enough to hit the parks...perfect timing!

I popped the Neo to Go! in my diaper bag, after doing a couple test squirts on my ring finger, which has recently decided to be sensitive to my wedding year itch? It sprays on easily and isn't greasy.

That day, while reaching for the plastic wrap from the cupboard, I sliced my palm on the corner of the serrated cutting edge. Ouch! I remembered that I'd been given samples of the new formulas that contain pain relief, and dabbed on some of the cream formula before putting a band-aid over my tender little paw. It really did help, and I liked that it wasn't greasy. However, keeping a band-aid on your palm is just not meant to happen, so I ended up using the cream formula several times a day for the next couple of days like a lotion and my cut healed really hindsight, I should have taken some pictures.

Later that night (seriously, was the receipt of this gift a portend for danger?) Henry was putting on his monkey back-pack...okay, it's a harness...when he pinched his naked tummy in the plastic clasp. I thought it was just a pinch, but he'd actually torn the skin of his little fish-belly, so I tried out the ointment this time. It may have been psychological, or just the calming effects that are often imbued with a crayon-shaped band-aid, but when I asked him about ten minutes later if it felt better, he had to be reminded what he should be feeling better about.

I used the ointment in conjunction with hydrocortisone for the next couple days on my ring finger and the rash cleared up...until I slipped my ring back on. Hmmm...maybe it's just my body's way of asking for that upgrade.
Because the majority of cuts, scrapes and other child-hood wounds are treated in order to soothe and relieve pain, I'm glad that I'll be armed with the Neo to Go for the playgrounds this summer...I just hope I don't have to use them too often.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Baby Einstein World Music

If you're not familiar with Baby Einstein, it's a company with a huge line of dvd's, cd's, books and other toys that are designed to be engaging for children from the time of their birth forward.

Prior to having Charlie, I'd only seen a Baby Einstein video a couple of times, and I have to admit; I was a little bored, so that was that. Well, of course I was...they are not aimed at entertaining 26 year-old women! Poor Henry. However, when I was offered the anniversary-edition of Baby Mozart by Baby Einstein and Mom Central, I decided it was a good time to try again with an open mind.

As I had mentioned in my review of that DVD, Henry wasn't as excited about it as he would, say, The Incredibles, but I looked over and found Charlie absolutely enthralled. As he was the target audience, I felt like it was a success.

Since receiving Baby Mozart and the Baby Einstein lullaby CD in that blog tour, I've purchased several other DVDs including Baby Beethoven and Baby Wordsworth (featuring Marley Matlin). All Charlie has to see is the opening scene of the caterpillar* bopping across the screen and he's bright-eyed and smiling, no matter how upset he had been before..separation anxiety has made leaving him for the simplest of tasks (rinsing diapers?!) full of tears.

The images are engaging without being overstimulating, and I feel like I can hold him and watch it together, or there are times that I'm able to help Henry with something, or even cook dinner. While I know that the purpose is to facilitate parent-child interaction, the reality is that it's just as invaluable to have something that allows you to complete basic household tasks without a melt-down, while you still feel like you're letting them watch something that's not detrimental.

In fact, rumor has it that the Easter Bunny will be delivering a copy of the Baby's First Signs DVD to Charlie's basket in a couple weeks.

The new World Music DVD arrived in my mailbox at the perfect time. I was just heading up the stairs to make dinner for my family along with my friend and her two boys as her husband was out of town. The four kids range in age from 9 months to 5.5 years and all four of them were absolutely silent. This just does not usually happen; four boys in one room generally leads to a volume level that would rival a battle-zone.

I think that what made this one even better than the others is that it used a lot of live-action images with the music so that you could get glimpses of the culture that went along with the music you're hearing. Music has always been a big part of my life, and I whole-heartedly agree with Susan McClain's (VP and GM of The Baby Einstein Company) statement that "From Africa to Australia, music is a common thread that ties us all together. With this new line, our goal is to begin a lifelong appreciation for the world."

Today, the second part of our gift from Baby Einstein came in the mail; the World Music CD. As I put Charlie in his crib tonight, I replaced his current selection of World Traveler; Hawaiian Breeze with the World Music CD and he started smiling when he heard the opening notes...well, he could have been laughing at my over-animated dancing, but I'm pretty sure he recognized the music as he's seen the DVD a couple times now.

I am really happy with the whole line of Baby Einstein so far and will continue to build our library.
*I was searching YouTube for a clip of the caterpillar and came across a mom who'd made a Baby Einstein caterpillar cake...guess I know what Charlie's first birthday will bring!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Norton Online

While I was working for the State, we had an annual conferece on Child Abuse and one of the most fascinating sessions was on Internet Predators. There are so many tricks that are used that I came away each year with the conviction it's more important than ever to know what your kids are doing.

Norton Online Family has created a new way for parents to easily monitor what each child is doing online. MomCentral has partnered with them to afford us the chance to participate in a free sneak preview of Norton Online Family.

Not only is it user-friendly by having a one-time set-up that you customize with each family member (age, maturity level, etc), but it's simple to modify your chilren's profiles or preferences

It also helps clear up the "I didn't even go there, it just popped up" as the report only shows the sites that your kids intentionally visited, by eliminating things such as ads from websites. If you want to go even further you can select from over 40 topic categories that will be unable to be accessed from your home, monitoring of your kids on facebook and MySpace and a 'curfew' for their time on the computer.

The hard thing about the information age is that it seems like it'll be hard, as a parent, to balance giving your kids a sense of privacy and protecting them. Keeping a diary hidden under your mattress didn't present the same dangers that openly exposing your inner-self on line may. The same way that passing potentially incriminating photos back and forth for a 'party' scrap-book isn't like splashing them across the net for everyone from college recruiters to potential employers to find.

To try this invaluable tool for yourself, simply visit Norton. I hope you enjoy it and find that it makes your kids' ability to live their 'virtual' life something that you can not only endure, but encourage.