Monday, December 19, 2011

Apologies and a Christmas Carol Booklet for you!

I can't even explain what happened, I just ran out of steam. However, as a consolation prize, my sister-in-law asked me to share her compiled booklet of favorite old Christmas carols, complete with links to some nice renditions of them to be found on the Internet. It's a PDF file so should be easily readable by anyone. Here it is:  http://www.mediafire.com/file/yx86daow8oy7o65  I hope it works! We'll be singing from this carol book at my niece's birthday caroling party tonight.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Auntie Knickers’ Advent Storytime/Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 4

Today is St. Barbara’s Day, which is celebrated (according to Mimi Sheraton’s wonderful Christmas cookbook, Visions of Sugarplums) in the Levant by Christian Syrians, Lebanese, etc. and also in German-speaking countries. Look back to my post of December 4, 2008 for more information about St. Barbara and tonight’s story and song. I’m really glad I have a backlog of recorded stories to use because I have a dreadful cold and can’t go two minutes without coughing!
Tonight’s story, Schnitzle, Schnotzle, and Schnootzle, is from The Long Christmas, a book of tales collected and told by Ruth Sawyer, the master storyteller and writer.
ruth sawyer
Her book, The Way of the Storyteller, way of the storyteller
is still a great manual of instruction and inspiration for anyone who wants to be a storyteller. She was also the mother-in-law of Robert McCloskey,
mccloskey
of Blueberries for Sal fame. vlueverriees (I’m supposed to be writing about Holiday Foods today but I used up all my thoughts on the subject last year. We had blueberry pie at Thanksgiving, so does this count?)
The song for tonight, to go with the story from the Austrian Tyrol, is “Aba Heidschi Bumbeidschi,” a rather eerie lullaby sung in the Austrian dialect by the Konrad Plaickner Chorus and Orchestra. The words of this lovely song are so disturbing that many modern singers (Nina Simone, for one) have recorded it with changed words.
Since I did get a request from a Mac user, I’ll post links to individual files as well as the zipped files which I’ve compressed using the WinZip program. Be aware that the Mac-compatible (I hope) files will take longer to download since they are not compressed.
DOWNLOAD TONIGHT’S ZIP FILE HERE
DOWNLOAD INTRO FOR MAC HERE
DOWNLOAD STORY FOR MAC HERE
DOWNLOAD SONG FOR MAC HERE

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories/Auntie Knickers’ Advent Storytime: December 3

One of our Christmas trees this year will be decorated with handmade ornaments. Some have been made by us, some by friends and family members, and some were bought at church Christmas fairs or brought as gifts from foreign lands. I don’t remember having homemade ornaments on my childhood trees, although my siblings and I may well have made some in school or Sunday school. Onkel Hankie Pants’ family at least had the Danish paper hearts,Danish paper heart basket
and in later years we learned to make these and various other ornaments at West Denmark Family Camp.
Tonight’s story is more about the absence of ornaments: The Tree That Didn’t Get Trimmed by Christopher Morley. It seems to have been published first in a book of essays, later as a stand-alone book, and on GoogleBooks I found it in an issue of Boys’ Life from the mid-50s. Morley was “a man of letters” who did not confine himself to one format. His first novels, Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop,became cult classics among a certain bookish crew; a later novel, Kitty Foyle, was made into a movie. Morley also was one of the first judges for the Book-of-The-Month Club and edited two editions of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations; he was a regular contributor to the Saturday Review of Literature, a magazine with which I whiled away many hours while I should have been studying. In Nassau County, New York, there is a park named for him where his “writing cabin,” The Knothole, is preserved.
knothole
The songs are a Norwegian song to the Christmas tree, Sang til Juletraeet, by Mike & Else Sevig, and a humorous song, Revenge of the Christmas Tree, by Erik Darling.
DOWNLOAD TONIGHT’S STORY HERE

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories/Auntie Knickers’ Advent Storytime: December 2

Once again, I find I have nothing further to report on the writing prompt for today in the Geneabloggers’ Advent Calendar: Holiday Foods. Since I went on and on about them last December, you should look there if you want to know about some of our food traditions. Or, you could listen to tonight’s story, Robert P. T. Coffin’s Christmas in Maine.  Robert Peter Tristram Coffin is one of four literary figures memorialized in the sidewalks of our town, and the only one who is a native of this area (the others, who all sojourned here for just a few years, being Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.)
Artwalk Coffin300
Coffin not only grew up on a farm in Harpswell, he stayed around as a professor at Bowdoin College, while also writing Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry as well as memoirs and other works. I wrote more about Coffin in the blog for December 21, 2008. 
I chose the song “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” as sung by the BBC Welsh Chorus to accompany this night’s reading because it sounded to me like something the Coffins might have sung on their sleighride. According to both William Studwell in his useful The Christmas Carol Reader and Walter Ehret and George K. Evans in The International Book of Christmas Carols, the melody dates from at least the 18th century and probably earlier; the words are probably 18th century and may have originated with the London Waits, carolsingers of the time.  This carol is even mentioned in DIckens’ A Christmas Carol when Scrooge nearly assaults a carolsinger who dares to serenade him.
The recorded introduction was for 2006 when Sisterfilms was still living in City of Lakes and was flying out to be with us for Christmas.
DOWNLOAD TONIGHT’S STORY HERE

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories/Auntie Knickers’ Advent Storytime: December 1

Today’s writing prompt for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories is the Christmas Tree. Now, I think I said just about everything I can recall about our Christmas trees last year, on December 2. So rather than repost, I’ll just send you there.
We have two Christmas trees at our house this year. One is the traditional balsam fir balsam and the other, as best we can determine, is a hemlock (more on this anon.) hemlock
Sisterfilms has just unformed us that what she’d really like is a Scotch or
scotch pine
Norway pine with long needles. norway pine
Perhaps next year our woods can at least provide a white pine.
white pine
For tonight’s story, I had several Christmas tree stories to choose from; I picked one of the oldest, The Peterkins’ Christmas Tree by Lucretia P. Hale. Here’s the book it comes from – one of the Junior Deluxe Editions I used to get in the mail. I’ve had this book for about 55 years!
peterkin papers
Lucretia Peabody Hale came from old Boston stock, and literary stock at that. Her father, Nathan Hale (named for his famous Revolutionary uncle) was an editor, and her mother an author. One of her many siblings was Edward Everett Hale, author of The Man without a Country, which I remember being assigned to read in junior high. And on her mother’s side, Lucretia could count as a relative the orator Edward Everett, now famous chiefly for being the “main” and lengthy speaker on the occasion when Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address.
Lucretia, who was born in 1820 and died in 1900, saw the introduction of the Christmas tree into New England. In Germany, Austria, and Scandinavia, Christmas trees were a long tradition by the 19th century, when Ernst Anschutz wrote some new words to an old tune, O Tannenbaum. I’ve selected a version by the Wiener S√§ngerknaben (The Vienna Boys’ Choir). Although Tannenbaum means “Fir Tree,” this is where we get back to our hemlock, for Maine’s own Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, apparently in the throes of unrequited love, wrote a non-Christmas poem, The Hemlock Tree, which is obviously meant to be sung to the Tannenbaum melody.
DOWNLOAD TONIGHT’S STORYTIME HERE

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

December Blogging Plans

Strictly speaking, I should have begun my Advent blogging last Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent. But since Advent calendars usually start on the first of December, I'll begin tomorrow.

Those of you who are my friends on Facebook may have noticed that I promised myself to check Facebook only once a week starting December 1 (and for as long thereafter as I can hold out). Instead, I'll be spending time blogging, reviewing, and reading blogs. I have two specific projects for December, both of which I also attempted last year. One is the Geneablogger Advent Calendar of Family History; the other is Auntie Knickers' Advent Storytime.

Geneabloggers is an aggregation of people who blog about genealogy and family history. Each day from December 1 through 24 has a writing prompt. The prompts are the same as last year's, so if I can't think of anything different to write about I'll skip a day here and there. I thought it might be fun, when possible, to coordinate my read-aloud stories with the family history tales, so I'll be doing that when it's appropriate.

As I did last year, I'll be posting my readings of Christmas stories to a filesharing site where readers who wish can download them. I'm using MediaFire this year. The Sendspace links from last year are no longer active; if anyone requests it, I can repost them on MediaFire. Since Sisterfilms, for whose benefit I did this last year, is now in residence here, I'm not going to post individual files for Mac users unless someone else asks me to. The files I'll post are Self-Extracting Zip Files and seemed to work fine last year. After I've posted the first one I'll possibly have a few more instructions for you.

I've written at length about some of the stories and songs before, and I'll point you to those posts in the blog archive, but I'll also try to find some more information about the authors or anything else that seems interesting.

I hope a few people will enjoy these stories. One last note: there are a few tales that are a little more adult in nature; on those days I'll include two stories so there'll be one for kids too.

See you tomorrow!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Five: The Season You’re In

kathrynzj at RevGalBlogPals writes:

“Headquarters for me is the northeast of the United States. Here school is getting back in session, the tease of autumn is in the air (or the hope for the tease of autumn is in the air) and church life is gearing up to full throttle.

One thing I've learned with blogging and social media is that the where I live is not necessarily where you live. And so I want to know what September means to you, in your place of the world and time in your life.

This week's Friday Five is:

What are 5 things that the beginning of September mean to you?

katenet-sep2011a_sm2

1. Putting up a new desktop wallpaper! I got this pretty one from www.kate.net. It’s a misty moisty morning today, just as in this photo, although I’d have to go inland a bit to see mountains like this.

2. Back to school: this is the first September in many, many years that none of my kids are in any kind of schooling, but Onkel Hankie Pants and I will be starting weekly tax classes next week so in a way we’re the ones going back to school. No new clothes are required, however. Back to school also means the return of the college students to our town, just about the time most of the summer people leave. We grumble, but we’re grateful to have them.

3. I love the cooler weather – the shortening of the days, not so much. Soon we will be seeing the autumn leaves, and the air is already crisper.

4. September means it’s time for the autumn playlist. One of my favorite fall songs is “Fall Is Here” by Charlie Maguire, the Singing Ranger of Minnesota. You can hear a sample and buy his recordings by going to www.charliemaguire.com. And then there are the classics like this one:

Les Feuilles Mortes by Yves Montand, 1951.



maine apples
5. Apples! And the return of Maine apple cider – the last few weeks the market seems to have run out and Onkel Hankie Pants has had to buy New York State cider.

Bonus: Something I don’t like so much: the consciousness of time passing and time getting away from me. It seems only yesterday I was enjoying the first forsythias and daffodils, now we are seeing some leaves beginning to change, soon it will be winter. I’m hoping the autumn of my life can last a while longer.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Rainy Day Friday Five

Sally at RevGalBlogPals, who lives in the UK, has a day off, but it’s raining.Instead of an outdoor activity she will be heading to an art gallery. So she asks:

What do you do on a rainy summer’s day?


1. At home?

We had a rainy day yesterday, and are in for some more this weekend as Hurricane Irene is expected to pay us a visit. I think we are all more likely to take naps on rainy days, and to put off outdoor projects and even indoor projects in favor of reading or watching a movie … or napping. But the dog still must be walked, rain or not – and he doesn’t seem to mind it, or any weather, much.


2. In your local area?

Here’s what I wouldn’t do: go shopping, at least not at Outlet Shopping Mecca in the next town. Because that’s what the summer people do when they encounter a rainy day during their Maine vacation. If we needed entertainment, we’d probably go to a community theater production or a public supper.


3. If you are away on holiday?

Mosrt of the things I would enjoy doing on a holiday are not weather-dependent; I’d put off the outdoor sight-seeing and enjoy being with people, reading, cooking if facilities were available, or visiting some kind of museum.


4. Name a rainy day read.

Well, yesterday I finished reading Gardens of Delight by Erica James. It’s a “women’s fiction” novel set partly in Cheshire and partly at Lake Como in Italy, and most of the characters are keen gardeners. So there are descriptions of both rain and sunshine, and lots of flowers, trees, and fruit, as well as the multiple human interactions. I rather like rain so reading about rain when it’s raining doesn’t depress me. Then in the evening Sisterfilms and I watched It Happened One Night, which has some great scenes with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert getting thoroughly rain-drenched.


5. Is there a piece of music/ a poem/ story that cheers you up?

I have a long playlist of Rainy Day Songs. I’m thinking now of all our friends in Texas and other places who would love to see a rainy day, so here’s a song for them,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFNRglWwcKg&feature=related
Bonus: post a rainy day photo!

Had I but known, I could have taken one yesterday! Instead I’ll post one of Onkel Hankie Pants’ photos from a long-ago trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Our friends are looking at a rainbow, so the caption is Genesis 1992-08 Genesis 9 13-17 BWCA

9:13-17.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Five: Road Trip

Jan at RevGalBlogPals writes:

My husband and I just returned (on Wednesday night) from a long road trip up the middle USA to Canada, going through various national parks, and on to the Puget Sound of Washington State. This brought back memories of family road trips with my children and when I was a child, so the idea of today's Friday Five arose.
Tell us about five road trips--in your childhood, in your family, in your recent past, with friends, and/or hoped-for-places-to-drive-to. Don't forget the one that stands out as the BEST or as the worst time.

road-trip

1. The first road trip I remember was in the spring of 1955 when my parents, four younger siblings, and I drove from El Paso, Texas to Bowdoinham, Maine, with a stop in Norwalk, Ohio “on the way.” My father had orders for Germany, to which we’d follow in about 6 months, so he ws taking some leave time to take us back to our little house in Maine where we’d await our port call. I don’t remember what kind of car we had other than it was a sedan of some kind. My eldest younger brother sat in front because he had a tendency to get car-sick. I was in back with the twins, who were about 2 1/2, and baby brother who was just about to turn one. The space between the front and back seats was filled with footlockers padded with blankets. I’m not sure about the diapers – I think disposables were just becoming available and we may have used those some of the time, but I also seem to recall a diaper pail and occasional stops at laundromats.

We did some sight-seeing along the way – I remember a stop at a scary snake farm – and sampled indigenous cuisine such as catfish-flavored grilled cheese sandwiches in the Ozarks. The visit to Norwalk was to see my aunt’s family, which included my one same-age cousin, and was a welcome respite from the road. When we arrived back in Maine at last, I remember my parents pointing out damage from the previous fall’s hurricane. I think it was a good trip.

2. After our return from Germany, we lived for several years in southern Connecticut, about a six-hour drive from home in Maine, so there were several trips a year. My mother would make sandwiches (to this day I dislike egg salad; I preferred when she would make “Italians” as we call them here); my parents would have a big thermos of coffee, and I suppose we kids had something to drink too. The clearest memory of these trips is the landmarks we looked for – East Rock and West Rock in New Haven, which meant we were really on our way; the various giant billboards and advertising statues just north of Boston; the fourteen (I think( underpasses of New Hampshire, and then the bridge across the Piscataqua from New Hampshire to Maine, which cost a dime. I would begin to feel at home as soon as the first toll-booth attendant said “Thank YOU sah!” but the twins did not ever believe we were in Maine until the smell of woodsmoke wafted through the car windows. When we got to our road, since nearly everyone who lived on it was a relative, my father would honk the horn at every house we passed until we arrived at my grandparents’ house, where Grampie’s dog Dinah would rush out to welcome us.

3. When we went to Germany again in the mid-60s, I hung out at the post library a lot. The librarian and I became friends and the summer before my senior year we took a little road trip in her VW Beetle. Since we were in Stuttgart, we took a wonderful trip around Bavaria to the south, visiting Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Oberammergau, and two of Mad King Ludwig’s castles, Schoss Linderhof and Schloss Neuschwanstein (the latter the model for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle). We also got as far as Lake Constance and looked across to Switzerland. At night we would stop wherever we were and find a Gasthaus mit Zimmer Frei – I just remember one town, Bad Kohlgrub, the name of which my parents found hysterically funny. Riding through the Bavarian Alps was a bit scary for me but we sang folksongs and musical theatre numbers which distracted acrophobic me at least a bit. It was a great trip.

neuschwanstein

4. Our third Christmas together, Onkel Hankie Pants and I headed for Maine from southern Minnesota, in our little Austin America. Our first child was on the way. I had checked out the Mobil Travel Guide from the library and planned a route through Toledo, Ohio (our first stop) and then a stop in Fairfield, Connecticut to see my friends whose families still lived there. In Toledo we even had a motel reservation – unfortunately in the same motel where some bowling club was having a loud Christmas party. Not much sleep there. Driving through the Poconos in a slushy snowstorm was interesting, to say the least. Also, the muffler gave up the ghost so our stop in Connecticut included a visit to the muffler shop; as I recall, the repair didn’t exactly work and the Wisconsin-Minnesota portion of our return trip was a little noisy. However, we had a fine time in Connecticut even though we all went to see a Bergman film, and a wonderful Christmas in Maine.

1971 Henrik's first car, orange Austin AmericaThis is a picture of the Austin; imagine it bright orange.

5. I’ve enjoyed many road trips since, and hope to have a few more, but the one that stands out is a “shunpike” tour we took when our son was 4 years old. With the help of Jane and Michael Stern’s book Roadfood and a few other guidebooks, we planned a fun and educational trip. (And I know my daughters are jealous now. There are advantages to being the eldest.) Some highlights of the trip included visiting the reproduction of the Ingalls family cabin in Pepin, Wisconsin (we had already read all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books to SonShineIn), followed by riding the ducks at Wisconsin Dells. We went swimming in Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes State Park, rode a barge on the Erie Canal (where SonShineIn covered himself with glory by loudly bursting into “I’ve got a mule, her name is Sal, Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal” unprompted); and on the return trip, Niagara Falls. Below, a few photos from that trip.

197907 Niels at Lake Michigan - Indiana DunesIndiana Dunes State Park

1979 06 25 Niels and Henrik at Little House in the Big Woods Onkel Hankie Pants and SonShineIn at the Ingalls cabin reproduction in Pepin, WI.

Looking back, I can’t remember a road trip that I didn’t enjoy most of the time. I’ve been fortunate in my traveling companions!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Christmas in July and a neat giveaway

It's been a long time since I've posted and I really need to get going on this again, especially since I'll be guest blogging at Kaye Barley's blog in a little over a week! It's "Christmas in July" at some of the other blogs I frequent (Ernie (Not Bert) for example) and while looking at a few of them I came upon one that's new to me, Joanna Wilson's Christmas TV History. Since our cable company just did away with our "limited cable" option and we now get a lot more channels, I expect I'll have a lot more chances to watch Christmas TV old and new when the time comes, so I'll definitely be following this blog. This month (and there are only a couple of days left), she and her publishers are having a giveaway of her books and a lot of other swag. I'm entering by posting this and, even though it would reduce my chances, you are encouraged to do so as well. Go to her July 1 post to see the procedure. Happy Christmas in July! (Sisterfilms points out, it is now less than 5 months to her birthday!)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Friday Five on Sunday: Five Verses

Songbird, over at RevGalBlogPals, writes: “Twenty years ago, I was on a Pastoral Search Committee, and one of the questions we asked the ten candidates we interviewed in the first round was to tell us their three favorite passages of scripture. I loved hearing the variety of verses quoted and even learned some that I didn't know, such as the last line of one of this week's lectionary passages:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

For today's Friday Five, list your five favorite passages/verses from the Bible and tell us something about why you love them.”

I had a very busy Friday and haven’t even been able to read others’ Friday Fives yet, but this one seemed appropriate for Sunday morning! So I’m chiming in a bit late.

I’m in the cohort that has seen lots of new Bible translations. When I was a child, the Revised Standard Version was new and controversial; the first Bible I bought for myself was the New English Bible; and I’ve collected a number of other translations and editions since then. When I participate in a Bible study I like to compare them to see what different insights may come from different wording. But when I think of Bible verses, the ones that stick in my head come from the King James version. So that’s the version I’ll quote here, realizing its many flaws but still reveling in its resonant language, in this, its 400th anniversary year. This is a picture of my favorite King James Bible, the one illustrated by Barry Moser.moser bible

On to the verses!

1. Psalm 30:5. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

I’m generally an optimistic person, and a fortunate one, and this has been my experience. I’m also a morning person, and even in dark days I cherish the hope and possibility that comes each time the sun rises, so the last part of this verse is almost like a mantra for me.

2. Matthew 10:29. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

I love this verse because of its use of what must have been a very common activity in Jesus’ time to describe God’s care for all God’s creation; and because it is the source of one of my favorite Gospel hymns, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” And, having read a lot of pre-decimal British fiction, I’m comfortable and comforted in a way by farthings, shillings, sovereigns and so on. The classic versions of “His Eye is on the Sparrow” are by Mahalia Jackson and Ethel Waters, but today I’ll give some men a chance to chime in – the Soul Stirrers (later to be joined by Sam Cooke, but not in this video) and Marvin Gaye.

3. John 14:2. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

Nowadays this is usually translated “many rooms” rather than “many mansions,” which probably makes more sense, but the idea of a house that contains mansions has always helped me imagine the unimaginable vastness of God. I have heard this verse at many funerals and memorial services and hope it will be read at mine someday. To me, it says that God has room for all God’s children, whatever their beliefs, worship styles, etc. This verse is also (I think) connected with a favorite spiritual, “Plenty Good Room.” I couldn’t find a video of my favorite Marian Anderson recording, but here’s a great rendition by an African group.

4. John 1:14. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

If I were forced to choose between Christ’s humanity and Christ’s divinity, (an impossible choice for a Trinitarian), I would have to choose the humanity. I’ve read in many places that the literal Greek translation of “dwelt among us” is “pitched his tent among us,” which is a phrase that calls up many associations and mental pictures for me. I find John’s Gospel helpful in synthesizing God as Man and God as Spirit.

5. Genesis 8:22. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

This is part of God’s covenant with humankind after the Flood in the story of Noah. I love the seasons, the “ceaseless round” of night and day, and the rolling cadences of this verse fill me with joy that these things endure. I also love the following verses, where God sets the rainbow to remind us of the covenant.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Five: Books!










Jan at RevGalBlogPals says: "I hope some of you received books for Christmas presents; I did and have been reading ever since. Then I discovered a new author from those recommendations that pop up on Amazon.com. Instead of buying those books, I've been checking them out at the library, which will not help Amazon's future recommendations for me at all.

So tell us what you're reading, what you would and would not recommend--five books or authors! "

I'm currently reading mostly mysteries, and as a relaxation method after a day doing taxes, I recommend the "cozy" kind. I read Roberta Isleib's first in a series, Preaching to the Corpse, as the Connecticut entry in my "A Mystery for Every State" project, and just finished her second in that series, Asking for Murder. The protagonist is a psychologist/advice counselor, Rebecca Butterman, who lives in Guilford, CT and works in New Haven. I thought I'd guessed "whodunnit" and was completely wrong!

I also enjoyed Mary Stanton's Angel's Advocate, which is set in Savannah and has a bit of "woo-woo" (supernatural) about it as well as Southern charm.

A very different type of book was S.J. Bolton's third thriller, Blood Harvest. Like her previous ones, it's set in an isolated rural area of the British isles and there is local folklore and some heavy-duty
dysfunction and just plain scary stuff. I also enjoy police procedurals and in this country Michael Connelly is one of the best writers of those -- I recently read his third Harry Bosch novel, The Concrete Blonde. I do read non-fiction, and am currently making my way through John Keegan's The First World War. As Keegan is a military historian, there's a lot about troop movements which my poor grasp of spatial relations makes problematical for me, but it's still good. I received James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom, about the Civil War, for Christmas, so that will be my next Big History book.

I did not read every word, but skimmed through Molly O'Neill's One Big Table, a huge American regional cookbook and food history. I was ambivalent. It's got lots of great stuff in it, but it's just too darn big to read comfortably (weighs 5 1/2 lbs!!) and the recipes were a little quirky for my taste -- aebleskiver with blue cheese??? -- and often called for ingredients that are hard to find if one doesn't live in NYC or whatever particular ethnic enclave might have, say, pomegranate molasses on every store shelf. I wouldn't spend the $50 for it but might check it out of the library again -- it's a good book for libraries to have, I'd say.
I do post reviews of my reading on Goodreads.