Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Night Circus

Once again I close a new cherished story with a sigh and wish it wasn't over.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern has enthusiastically made its way onto the "favorites" shelf in my library and when I come across a copy in my shopping excursions, I will buy it to keep.

It's a story about love and magic.  About a fantastical circus that roams the world without a planned agenda and once you have seen it, you are hooked.  The circus opens at night and closes at dawn; there is no color, only black and white (although after a few years, the patrons who are truly obsessed, wear a splash of red along with their b/w outfits to show their love and devotion.)

Two magicians have competed against each other for countless years, raising protoge's who "battle" their magical abilities in a contained venue.  The latest competition is held at the Night Circus, Le Cirque des Reves.
Celia is raised by her father after being orphaned at the age of 5 by a mother who died of a broken heart.  Marco is plucked from an orphanage as a yongster as well.  Both children are raised in a solitary environment, learning how to perfect their magical abilities.  They are told that one day they will compete against another, thought they have to discover their opponant on their own. 

Almost every chapter contains a date.  I didn't follow this as closely as I should have, so I found myself trying to play a bit of catch-up at times, as the story goes back and forth in time a bit.  When I read it again, I may create a little timeline so I can understand this wonderful tale even more. 

Stories can capture our hearts and change who we are as people.  Towards the end of the book, one of the master magician's says this to one of the minor chracters:

 You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose.  That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what the might do because of it, because of your words.  . . . There are many kinds of magic, after all.

Indeed.  This is the driving force behind my decision to become a Librarian.  I love books and stories and how they can affect a person's life. 

If you want a book that may make you sigh wistfully when it's over, holding it close to your chest for just a moment before reluctantly letting it go, (and you are a romantic at heart), I heartily recommend that you read The Night Circus.  It's beautiful.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cutting Those Emotional Ties . . .

After many years of putting it off, I went through my cookbooks and ruthlessly pulled about 30 aside to donate to the BookSwap being held at my school this week.  I was amazed, kinda, at the emotional ties I have to so many of them, even ones I never made recipes from or found anything good to cook out of them.

It all started when E planted the seed of clearing out cookbooks from the baker's rack in our kitchen, mentioning that I could put kitchen appliances in their stead.  Now for those of you who don't know my secrets, most of my kitchen appliances are kept in a small closet in our bedroom, along with the luggage and dirty clothes basket.  Not so cool, I know, but when you're a kitchen goddess who can't bear to get rid of her veggie juicer, even when you haven't made juice in years, storage can be an issue.  Need the crockpot?  Top shelf.  Need the stand mixer?  Bottom shelf.  Got the picture?  So when E basically dared me to part with some of my precious collection, at first I balked, then took a closer look.

I pulled the three that belonged to him first.  "Do you still want these?"  I had no emotional tie to them, even the 49ers one I gave to him years ago.  He's never made anything out of it.  His two salsa/hot stuff books?  They can go.  Nope.  He wanted to keep them.  Then I pulled a few of my own down.  I perused through a few I had inherited from my paternal grandmother.  Hadn't made anything out of them since bringing them home (and according to my Aunt, all those sticky-noted pages represented pipe dreams as well.)  Ok, flip through the pages.  Would I cook this?  Nope.  Would I cook that?  Maybe, but not likely.  It's outta here.  It got easier as I went along.

Then there's the books that have a gem or two inside.  Do I really need to hold onto the whole book or can I print out the recipes and put them in my master folder, making space for my rice cooker on the shelves . . .?  I started typing and printing.

I worked through my nostalgic feelings that arose when I discarded the first cookbook I ever owned.  I was in high school, it was a Hershey's baking cookbook that my grandpa had gotten free as a giveaway at his bank.  I thumbed through it.  None of the recipes had stars or anything more positive than "ok" written on the sides.  It could go.  (Sigh.)

How about the Indian cookbook?  (I adore Indian fare, but am far more likely to go out to get it.)  The Elena's Secrets of Mexican Cookery?  Maybe my mom wants it.  The Ice Cream book?  My sister-in-law is really into making ice cream . . .and I'm seeing them both this weekend . . .

And on it went.  I didn't clear out any Cooks Illustrated cookbooks or magazines, nor any of my gorgeous baking books.  My reference books are to keep (even though I lost almost all respect for A Joy of Cooking after seeing "Julie and Julia").

And then there's The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas, the definitive hippy cookbook, which my mom gave me at the start of my vegetarian phase (which is a whole other posting in and of itself).  The only recipe I can't live without from this book is the pancakes.  Oh, the pancakes.  The ultimate pancakes, in my mind.  (And just to confess, every time I grab the instant pancake mix, I wish for these beauties instead.)  So.  I typed it up and printed it out.  I resisted the urge to print it out twice.  The page is spattered with melted butter marks and my mouth waters just thinking about them.  Before adding the book to the pile by the door, I double-checked to make sure I hadn't forgotten any other gems.  I found a note written in October of 1997 next to a recipe for "simple vinaigrette sauce", a quote from my dear sister-friend Lisa B.  She said, "A nasal cleanser--I need a beer now."  I chuckled and decided I didn't need to copy this recipe down.

I'll haul the books to school in the morning, cross my name out front covers and hope the kids have as much fun in the kitchen as I have.  Thanks for listening and wish me luck going through my tins of cookie cutters . . . I have a feeling my crockpot will be living in my kitchen real soon.