American Housewife and America


I thought I was going to stay in one place for awhile but it turns out I am flying to the state of Michigan on Friday. My mother is 91 years of age and quite frail and I decided we needed to visit again before it is too late. I will be in northern Michigan for one week. My old school friends from the Class of 68 are going to organise a lunch while I am there too in central Michigan (Grand Ledge) where I grew up. My father is buried there and I will take some flowers to the cemetery for Memorial Day. I have not seen the classmates outside of the Class of 68 Facebook page for 49 years. It should be a lot of fun.

After a week in Michigan I will be flying back to San Francisco to visit my sister for two weeks. She lives just north of there. I am also going to have a coffee with blogger, ‘James Reads Books’ as he lives in the area so that will be fun. We have followed each other for a few years and he is now collecting vintage Penguin science fiction books.

I am taking Penguin with me as Mr. Penguin will be taking care of our five pets at home for the three weeks I am gone.

I need to be back in Tasmania by the 11th June as I am going to a theatre presentation of Dracula on the 15th. I should be over my jet lag by then.


I am currently reading the book American Housewife by Helen Ellis. There has been a lot going on and it is a book I can actually concentrate on. It is a series of short stories and very light hearted.

Good Reads states:  

A sharp, funny, delightfully unhinged collection of stories set in the dark world of domesticity, American Housewife features murderous ladies who lunch, celebrity treasure hunters, and the best bra fitter south of the Mason Dixon line.

Meet the women of American Housewife: they wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. They pump the salad spinner like it’s a CPR dummy. And then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies out of the oven. These twelve irresistible stories take us from a haunted prewar Manhattan apartment building to the set of a rigged reality television show, from the unique initiation ritual of a book club to the getaway car of a pageant princess on the lam, from the gallery opening of a tinfoil artist to the fitting room of a legendary lingerie shop. Vicious, fresh, and nutty as a poisoned Goo Goo Cluster, American Housewife is an uproarious, pointed commentary on womanhood. 

The writing moves along quite quickly, there are some funny lines and it is good to pick up during the day while you are trying to do other things and needn’t worry about losing your place. I am enjoying it. If you want to read something more serious where you think about issues,  then this is not the book for you. However if you are a bit headachey or have something stressful going on, are tired or just tired of deep and meaningful books then this one is a good one.  I wouldn’t say it is uproariously funny. I think Bill Bryson is uproariously funny. Though I laugh in places. It isn’t always too far from the truth of the life of the housewives of the 50’s and into the 60’s. I really don’t think I could have endured that lifestyle and we are so lucky we have so many more choices now.

Tomorrow I will be sorting out the few clothes I need to take and of course my camera gear which takes up more room than clothes, my tablet, laptop etc. Penguin doesn’t travel with much and I am pleased to say this is the 4th continent he is goinSnip20161117_4g to visit in his life. Pictures will go up on Instagram (follow Travellin Penguin) and I will keep up reading notes, photography, funny travel tales (if there are any) and any surprises that occur. My sister and I hope to visit a few places around California or might go on a road trip for a few days. I think America is the best place in the world for a road trip.

Hope you’re all doing well and the people in the northern hemisphere are enjoying nicer weather and the southern hemisphere people are staying warm and getting used to shorter days.

Grief is the Thing With Feathers

Snip20170511_1Okay, here we go again. I don’t know if it’s just me that I am not in keeping with the rest of the world but that seems to be the way it is with these modern books. I think I am getting old.

This book by Max Porter has caught my eye for months. I have seen it in every book store I go into. I like the idea of the crow. He caught my attention immediately and has stayed with me for months. I did not even open this book to see the style of the writing. I put it on hold at the library and after a couple of months it finally came in.

I couldn’t wait to read it. The other day I had several appointments so I popped it in my bag to travel with me for the day.

I had a doctor’s appointment (just routine) and as she was running late I read most of it in her waiting room.

The story (as probably most of you know as everyone reads these books long before I get around to them) is about the death of a mother. She has left her grieving husband and two sons behind. The crow appears almost as a counsellor for the family.

The book is written similarly to free verse poetry without the rhythm or rhyme. Each page or two is written from the point of view of ‘dad’, ‘sons’ or ‘crow’.

I got irritated with it.  I thought, after all these months, it would be more of a narrative about these people and their relationship with the crow.  Although I found it went along quite well in a logical sequence I thought it was being just that bit too clever. I never held that connection between all the characters in the story. They seemed completely separate to me. Authors trying to be too clever seems to be a criticism I have with many modern books.

I felt manipulated or I didn’t  feel anything at all. This story didn’t make me feel sad. It should have. Usually if I read or hear about a family of young children who have lost their mother I am sad. Fiction or not. It is one of the more miserable things on earth. Truth being in this book I didn’t care for anyone except maybe the crow.

I really liked the premise of this book. To think a crow (or any animal for instance) could infiltrate a family and be a part of its grief is quite interesting.

Maybe I just missed the whole point. It wouldn’t be the first time. Maybe my expectations of what I thought this book was about was too much. Either way, I have finisSnip20170511_4hed it, the crow is no longer and the book goes back to the library Tuesday.

At least it is out of my system and I can now move onto the next ‘modern’ book that grabs me by its cover or premise and again talks me into reading it.

Next week there is something fairly big happening. I am starting to prepare. It involves the Penguin, travel and reading. Stay tuned.

If you have read this book what did you think about it? Feel free to completely disagree with me as I notice Good Reads reviews has quite a few four and five star reviews. Maybe a C+? I did like the premise of it.

Tuesday Trivia and a Catch up

I have been remiss in continuing to post lately. I took a long time to get over the very bad throat and ear infection I picked up in Japan. I am still coughing but getting back to normal.Snip20170509_2

I finished the short novella The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers. It is described as an American Gothic tale.

It is the story of Miss Amelia who was married to Marvin Macy but she threw him out ten days after the wedding. He was very mean but also the most handsome man in town.

Amelia reminded me a more complex Olive Kitteridge especially in appearance.. She is a big woman, almost 6’3″ and seems to live inside her head quite a bit. She lives alone, runs a cafe and doesn’t really interact a great deal with the locals except to administer some of their medical needs from a naturopathic point of view.

One day a man arrives at her cafe. He is a hunch backed dwarf. It turns out he is called Cousin Lymon. He introduces himself to Amelia as a distant relative and without further ado he is invited to live in the cafe. He is very attention seeking and needs to be involved in everything that is happening. I think Carson McCullers was brilliant in character development in everything she wrote and Cousin Lymon and Amelia are as real as can be.

With the arrival of Cousin Lymon the cafe begins to pick up.  It becomes quite the social hub and there is a love between Amelia and Cousin Lymon.  Although this love is not disclosed much, the reader feels the fondness they feel for each other. They seem to feel the loneliness each of them has suffered.

Then one day her ex-husband arrives out of the blue. Marvin Macy is a cruel man and has been incarcerated and out of the picture for quite sometime. He eventually moves into the cafe. Cousin Lymon appears to facilitate this arrangement.

This is where I will stop telling you what happens. The story is about loneliness, betrayal and community ties (or not). I found it to be a sad tale but that wasn’t unexpected. The title informs us of that. Snip20170509_3

I found the first half of the story went along quite nicely and then towards the end it slows down. By the end of this tale I was just happy to be away from all of these people. It was a story worth reading but one I probably won’t be revisiting. I cannot forget these characters.

The beautiful writing and descriptions are there but I felt the story weakened as it continued until there was nothing left. In a way I think that is how it was meant to be.

Something interesting I read in this book was the information about Carson McCuller’s herself. I will share this information with you.

“Carson McCullers was born in Columbus, Georgia in 1917. She was always a delicate person and as a young adult began to suffer from strokes, and by the age of thirty-one was paralysed down her left side. For awhile she could only use one finger to type, and for years before her death could not sit at a desk to work. In 1938 she married James Reeves McCullers, a corporal in the US army.  The marriage was not a success and they divorced. They did, however, keep in touch and subsequently remarried, separating finally in 1953. He later committed suicide.”

She was established as a writer by her early twenties but it was not until she published, The Heart is A Lonely Hunter at the age of twenty-three that she won widespread recognition.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter has long been one  of my favourite tales. If you haven’t read it I would recommend it. A beautiful book. There is a line of sadness throughout her writing but not so much it puts me off. I think knowing what I do of Ms Carson’s life there is no wonder her stories can be pretty downtrodden.

Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 20.15.31I would read more of her stories.  I still have a few short stories of hers on my shelf to be read.

I am happy to be picking up again in energy and health and look forward to more happening in the next month but I will explain that in my next post.

Do You Believe It’s Almost May?

Snip20170425_10There has been a great deal going on during the past couple of weeks. We have returned from Japan and must say as much as I wanted to post everything we did it was so impossibly busy we collapsed into bed quite early each night. We were exhausted.

I will still pop in the odd photo maybe. The cherry blossoms were a spectacle and were bursting everywhere. Very pretty. We ended up having made sushi, learning how to make Saki, everything you need to know about preparing a kimono for wear and got to wear them a couple of hours one afternoon shopping. We went through museums, shrines, temples. Rode fast trains, slow trains and trains that went backwards. We wrestled Sumo wresters and learned there is a great deal more to their sport than it seems.  We even made paper and brought three of our home made post cards home.

We participated in meals that made some of us feel like the Sumo wrestlers. One meal after another and sometimes several in the same day. We walked for miles, shopped in the souvenir stores and department stores. We learned more history than I will ever remember. It was fun. Great friendships were made, hotel life was great and when it was time to come home I got sick.

Snip20170425_11I must have caught it from two others on the tour that also fell foul.  Not just sick as in mild cold. My journey home on the plane was wracked with deep chesty coughs, a high temperature and enough germs to spread across everyone who was on the plane that day. I lost my hearing almost completely between two of the flights. I especially hope I contaminated that wayward mother with the four squealing girls who never slept and bothered everyone in the extreme. Of course the food on the plane wasn’t good enough for them. Of course they had to butt in front of everyone at the toilet. If the windows had opened they would have all been gone. There is rude and then there is ‘rude on a plane.’  I’m sure my surrounding seat mates couldn’t wait to get me off the plane. We were exhausted.

I came home and went to bed. The next day Mr. Penguin made an appointment with the GP and I am now, one week later still filled with antibiotics. Today was the first day out of the house. I took the dogs for a 30 minute walk and I was stoked to get out and breathe real air. So good to be home.

Snip20170425_8Reading? Bits and pieces here and there. Now what does one download and attempt to read on a Japanese trip? Shogun by James Clavell.  I have read about 9 percent of this very violent, interesting, heavy (both literally and physically) novel. I want to read it. I really do. But I don’t have the stamina to keep going with this book. I think it may be the book that stays on my phone for waiting rooms. I always have a book, that generally moves slowly to read while I wait for people, sit in cafes or ignore the old magazines in the doctor’s office.

Carson McCuller’s book The Ballad of the Sad Cafe is ridiculously short. I should have finished it by now.  I did soak in a hot bath with it one day since I returned but woke up just before I drowned. I only have a tiny bit left.

I think my goal for the next month will be mopping up all the half read books and magazines around the house. You really do get sick of them if you don’t finish them and file them away.  I think it will be released to the wild by the Book Phantom once I finish. (more on that later).Snip20170425_9

So nothing planned right now except a possible photo shoot with some camera club members on Saturday of an old insane asylum north of here, about to be bulldozed and the land developed. That’s another story too. But for now I need to just get better, enjoy some walks with the dogs and enjoy the wonderful Tassie air and sun. (I didn’t say heat… I said ‘sun’).

So until the next time…happy travelling and happy reading.

Japanese Travels Continue

The Penguin met some turtles in a temple lake.

Since I last visited this page we have done quite a bit more of travelling. We visited Hiroshima Peace Park (beautiful) and also the WWII museum (disturbing).

We relaxed at several temples, heard a great deal of history from our guide dating back to the 8th century. We have heard of Shoguns and Warlords and it is enough to make me want to read the James Clavell book Shogun written in 1975 (yes, all 1000 pages of it).

We laugh at the number of dogs being wheeled around in prams or dressed in trendy little outfits. Very funny. Very spoiled.

We have eaten great deals of food, slept in hard beds that were like slate that made our backs feel great and walked our shoes off. Garmin even sent me an email to tell me I was ahead of several strangers with my fitness bracelet and number of steps taken. Something over 60,000 steps!

The colours of the temples are stunning. I particularly liked this one.

We have laughed with the wonderful group we are travelling with and maybe made a couple of life time friends. It has all bee wonderful.

The enormous Buddha of Kyoto, 8th century.

We got an email from our dogs in Hobart telling us they love and miss us (I had not idea they were computer literate). We have ridden busses, trains and subways. The subways are not as hard to figure out as I thought they would be.

Flowers seen along the street.

The train station in Kyoto is fabulously modern and it has to be seen to be believed. Perhaps google images of it. The modern architecture is stunning.

Bookmarks in a shop.

We have spent two nights in Hiroshima and three nights in Kyoto. Today we go to a textile factory and a Japanese tea ceremony and performance. We have this morning free, the first free half day we have had and we relished at sleeping in until 8 am and then the alarm woke us. Enjoying the down time but it all starts again at lunchtime.

Lots of gold in this temple near Hiroshima.

We have 4 sleeps left until we get home and no doubt that will be jam packed with our guide’s activities. She has been wonderful.

Cherry blossoms in full bloom everywhere we go. Beautiful.

I will leave you with an assortment of photos in no particular order. By the way has anyone read Shogun or his other books about Asian?

A budding photographer who was not going with his mother until he got this shot perfectly right.
These wonderful bridges are present at several temples and parks.
Taxi rank below our Hiroshima Hotel at train station. The first row is numbered 1 to 8 from the right hand side. Once Row 1 has cleared all of the taxis move forward one row. Once they are cleared completely they then all move forward again. The new taxis coming into the rank take their place in the back row and cannot move until all the rows in front of them are clear. Mesmerising to watch.

Japanese Travels Continue…

Snip20170411_2This week’s travelling in Japan has been great fun. It has also been exhausting, rainy, sunny, funny and more than a couple of coincidences have happenedYesterday we were in Takayama, a beautiful little city that did not get damaged during WWII so there is still history there to be seen.

One of the highlights was going through the market that runs everyday beside the river.
I must share a funny story with you. Julie is a friend of mine in the photo club back in Hobart.
She and her partner are travelling on their own in Japan now.  At the last photo club ƒmeeting before we both left on our separate trips I laughingly said to her, “I will see you in Japan.” With millions and millions of people here in this country both of us knew that would never happen.Snip20170411_5

As I walked along the market strip I looked up and saw Julie and her partner walking towards me. What a laugh. We threw our arms in the air and gave each other a big hug. Our tour was only in the market area for 45 minutes and 20 minutes of that walking to and from the bus. What were the chances!?

Today we are on two trains going to Hiroshima. One is a regular train with a few stops and the second train will be a bullet train that moves amazingly fast. When it passes through a train station one can’t help but take a step back. However once on the train it doesn’t feel that fast at all.

Snip20170411_1I will put some photos up later when I get to the hotel. The only time I have to write any kind of narrative is on the train or bus. We have been going from the time we arise at 6:45 am until after dinner around 9:00 pm. We barely have time to put a couple of notes and pictures up on Facebook for friends and family to see.

As I said, we are travelling to Hiroshima. I don’t think I will take many photos except perhaps of the surrounding area. It somehow doesn’t feel right to me to photograph a place that is known for the many deaths of others. I remember how wrong it felt when we visited Auschwitz in Poland. People of all types taking photos of themselves standing in the gas chambers or the rooms where there were piles of hair or children’s toys or prosthetics stored. I think this is a very inappropriate place to take selfies. I also think this about Hiroshima. Whether one rememberSnip20170411_6s the days the USA bombed Hiroshima; whether one feels it was right or wrong it still remains the place of much sadness reflecting on the deaths of many families. I cannot imagine my family and friends having experienced such horror. So you won’t see close up photos of anything except maybe the beauty of gardens.
Yesterday we went to a Washi paper making attraction and had the chance to make three postcards. We saw the process for making such wonderful paper and explored the gift shop that had wonderful things in it. As my experience tells me most book bloggers are all stationery freaks, loving fine peSnip20170411_3ns, papers and cards, etc. I will share that experience in a separate post.

Enjoy the photos.

The Penguin is in Tokyo

Three Days of Tokyo

Enjoying the cherry blossoms.

As I write we are on the bus leaving Tokyo on the way to a shrine (can’t pronounce the name) that has a very large Buddha in it. It is south of Tokyo according to the guide, Sue.

For you Australians we are on a Bunnick’s tour out of Adelaide. No more than 20 people. We have all been having an excellent time and everyone is friends. The Penguin has been welcomed to the group with one member patting him on the head every time she sees him. Others ask if he had a good sleep and someone else told me I should confine him as we tour the fish market so he doesn’t act up.

So far he has learned to make Sushi, enjoyed several lunches, listened to and watched enormous Sumo wrestlers doing demonstrations and answering our questions. We have had so many laughs.

I went up against the wrestler in the white loin cloth.

We saw a Sumo wrestler’s demonstration yesterday as we ate lunch in the upstairs of a restaurant. Those guys are big! After their demonstration they asked for volunteers. Three men volunteered. They had to wear the funny Sumo wrestler costume.  It was very funny. However the women needed representation and I climbed into the suit. The big wrestler had me imitate the Sumo moves. We then faced off. We went straight for each other.  The goal is to push them out of the circle. I pushed hard into his chest. He had so much fat and muscle and sweat it was like pushing into a hard, wet sponge. He backed up. I had him going. I then poked one finger into his chest and out of the circle he went. He admitted defeat.

The suit the volunteers wore. This is another traveller in our group. It was extremely funny.

There was another Sumo in the room too. The next thing I knew each one had taken my arm and lifted me right up into the air as though I was a feather. There is a photo but I do not have it yet as another traveller in our group took it.

There is hardly time to breathe before we are whisked away to another destination. The cherry trees are in blossom and once I get those photos sorted we will share them with you.

This is one of those experiences that you want to sleep because of exhaustion but don’t want to miss anything. We hit the ground running. The day before yesterday we walked 12,000 steps, ate three enormous meals of Japanese food and hit the bed so hard at night we have slept on an ice flow with no sleeping bag.

Penguin LOVES sushi.

We are currently on our way on the expressway to another interesting night in a Japanese hotel. We will sleep on the floor for two nights, (I assume on futon type beds) and dress in kimonos when we meet for dinner. We have been ordered to relax near the hot springs.

I doubt the penguin will enjoy the hot springs but you just never know.

The Penguin at a Buddhist Shrine

Absolutely no time for reading. Last night we went to the night district of Tokyo to see the lights and it was pretty amazing.

I will leave you with a few photos.