Monday, June 30, 2008

Love the One You're With

do it do it do it do IT!

Emily Giffin's latest novel is called "Love the One You're With". Besides getting the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song stuck in my head, this was a fun read.

It's the story of Ellen and Andy married and leading a seemingly perfect life together. Until Ellen runs into the man who broke her heart years before....and she feels that urgency and longing that aren't a part of her peaceful marriage.

Giffin’s fluid storytelling and appealing characters give her novels a warm, inviting air, and her fourth is no exception . . . Giffin’s snappy prose makes (her heroine) Ellen’s dilemma compelling, once again proving she’s at the top of the chick-lit pack." —Booklist
Tune in for my conversation with Emily Giffin, this week on Realgoodwords.

Comfort Food - What's Yours?

I'm reading/getting ready for interviews on a number of books this week for upcoming editions of Realgoodwords. Most this week are fufilling my need for lighter, take-me-away kind of reads.

Kate Jacobs new book is called "Comfort Food" fits right in with my recent devouring of food-related novels. As I said before, I'm slow in coming to the hot new craze (which is probably OUT by now) of foodie-ism. Food Channel, celebrity chefs and our household favorite "Top Chef". Here's the story on "Comfort Food":

Comfort Food is about the power of food to bring people together and the joys of savoring every bite of life. Gus Simpson is a host and chef for the Cooking Channel who has been subject to rating wars and trends in television. As she turns fifty she is pushed to start a new live, reality tv show with a young Spanish cook she can't quite get used to. Also on the show are her daughters, a younger chef and her best friend. Her "martha stewart" veneer is shattered and she learns to be more real and connect with people in a not so perfect menu, comfort food kind of way.

What exactly is Comfort Food?
It's different for everybody I guess - whether it's a dish your grandma made - or a meal with friends or family that makes you feel better....For me, baking - whether cookies or cakes - is a comfort. The eating is too of course, but mostly, the preparation is what comforts me. I can't figure out what it is...
I like to bake for other people and I like to be in our kitchen, immersed in a project. Yesterday my mom and brother and nephew visited and we had a great time - having a couple of meals together and hanging out by the lake. Here's what I made for them:

1/2 lb of butter (I used the wonderful Dahl's Dairy Butter)
1 1/2 c of sugar
3 eggs (local from our very own Jane Grimsbo Jewett)
2 cups flour
1/2 c. milk (Dahl's again)
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
generous shakes of cinnamon and ground cloves (optional - I like a little spiciness to the cake)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (otherwise known as 375 in my oven). Butter and flour a Bundt pan and set aside. Spill flour for good luck.

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Add 1 cup of flour and beat well, beat very well. Mix in the milk and vanilla and spices. Combine the baking powder and last cup of flour then add to the batter. Beat well, beat very well.(caution: this cake dough provides excellent licking of the beaters).
Pour the batter into the pan. Bake about 45 minutes - I set the timer for 30 and checked it and then for another 15 minutes or so. You'll know when it is done when it doesn't shake like jello anymore and when the stick you poke in it comes out clean and batter free.

When the cake is done, turn it upside down on a plate to cool, leaving the bundt pan on top of the cake for about 20 minutes so it will hold its shape. (This is the part where I didn't do as great and was grateful I'd be serving family who will love me despite my imperfect cake. I can usually guarantee a great tasting cake, not a great looking cake.)

For frosting I beat fresh whipped cream with a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a little more cinnamon. Best served with a strong cup of coffee.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Strength that Goes Beyond Reason

William Durbin transports us to Finland and the land of Sisu in his new novel for young adults "The Winter War".

In 1939 Stalin decided to invade Finland - he thought that Red Army would march into Finland, take over the country in 5 days or - at the most a week - but the Finnish people put on white camouflage uniforms and ended up fighting through one of the coldest winters in Finnish history for 105 days and actually held the Red Army at bay for that long.

If you missed the interview, tune in Sunday at 9am, CST or check the archive. You'll also hear a conversation with Will Weaver of Bemidji about his latest project "Saturday Night Dirt" the book and Team Weaver, the stock car racing team.

Sisu is
a Finnish term that could be roughly translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.

I asked author William Durbin to describe the character of the Finns both on the Iron Range of Minnesota and the Finns in 1939 as the Soviet Union invaded. He said "sisu".

"Sisu defines not only the Finns of the Winter War but the Finnish character that first settled in the stump and rock farms up here in Northern Minnesota - with that ability to just work really hard and to do the best they can to survive. That's what the Finns had to do during the Winter War - they were outnumbered 4 to 1 - 100 to 1 in tanks - without aid from NO other countries in the world, and STILL they were able to resist this huge Russian military machine."

I have some Finnish in my heritage, and I'd like to think that some of that Sisu has rubbed off - I see it in my grandma, in my mom - a strength that goes beyond reason.

Then again, my dad, a proud Norwegian-American, had that same strength and spirit. We lost my dad last week and these days have been some of the stump-iest and rock-iest my family has ever seen...

I'm hoping this Sisu will pull us through. That even though we really don't want to go on without my dad, we'll keep on farming - we'll keep on working hard and figure out how to survive, just like our ancestors did.

Monday, June 16, 2008

from the StarTribune: Reeve Lindbergh

I don't know about you, but I've always had a curiosity with the Lindbergh family. Years ago, while I was working as a camp counselor, we took a bus of kids to Little Falls to see his house.

I interviewed his daughter, Reeve Lindbergh, probably five years ago. We talked then about the book she had written about the last years of her mom's life - Anne Morrow Lindbergh - called "No More Words: A Journal of My Mother". At that time we didn't talk much about the notoriety of her family - but she did say how her family was associated with some of the most honorable media stories as well as the most difficult/negative stories.

I heard she had written a new book, I'm hoping to interview Reeve again on an upcoming episode of Realgoodwords. Until then, here's a review from the StarTribune of the new book.

The aviator's daughter - flying solo
At the center of Reeve Lindbergh's collection of essays is the head-shaking, irresolvable nature of her famous father's international philandering and the three other families he started in Europe.
By SCOTT EYMAN, Cox News Service
Last update: June 6, 2008 - 4:25 PM

Every once in a while, someone you thought you knew does something that makes you realize you didn't know them at all.
Case in point: The centerpiece of Reeve Lindbergh's collection of essays, "Forward From Here: Leaving Middle Age and Other Unexpected Adventures," centers on the discovery that her father, aviator Charles Lindbergh, had three -- three! -- alternate families spread through Europe that he managed to keep secret from his official wife and children in the United States.

This discovery landed like an anvil 30 years after her father died of cancer, and two years after her mother died of Alzheimer's. It turned out that Lindbergh had fathered two girls and five sons out of wedlock when he was 55 to 65 years old.

This from a stern, moralistic disciplinarian who once wrote a letter to Reeve's sister when she was at college, castigating her for potential promiscuity. The European families didn't know that their father was Charles Lindbergh -- with them, he used pseudonyms. And here we all thought his terrible judgment was limited to an unfortunate enthusiasm for National Socialism.

Life continually seems to offer opportunities to be disappointed in one's parents, but Lindbergh apparently wanted to be sure to leave enough disappointment behind for several generations, in a half-dozen countries. "Of all the people I have known and loved, my father is the one I found most impenetrable," Reeve Lindbergh writes, and that certainly seems a fair comment.

What makes the situation completely impassable from her point of view is that there is no way to resolve it. Lindbergh himself is gone and unable to offer any enlightenment as to what he thought he was doing, other than satisfying his latent urge to be fruitful and multiply. Likewise, her mother, who, a friend tells Reeve, "knew but didn't know," isn't around to help.

So Reeve circles, learns to live with the ridiculousness and forms some rough but not untender bonds with her newly discovered family members.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Congrats Guido!

Steve Downing is a contributor to KAXE - providing us with arts information on Thursday mornings with Scott Hall and recording essays for Between You and Me on Saturday mornings.

And, it turns out, also a poet of acclaim. Steve's poem from was picked up by the popular blog MinnPost. MinnPost is:

A nonprofit journalism enterprise that publishes and MinnPost in Print. Our mission is to provide high-quality journalism for news-intense people who care about Minnesota. We intend to focus sharply on that mission, and not get distracted by trying to be all things or serve all people.

Check out Steve's poem, "The Case for Intelligent Design"

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Happy Birthday Keith and Judy Garland!

My brother Keith in Alaska celebrated his birthday yesterday doing what he loves. Check out his blog post here.

what does it mean to be a good person?

This question floats beneath the surface of Lisa Tucker's newest novel "The Cure for Modern Life". Matthew is an executive for a pharmaceutical company in Philadelphia - a man who has come from a lot of struggle - who is now in a position of power and wealth and doesn't really take the time to think of anyone besides himself. Until he has no choice. One night he meets a 10 year old homeless boy and his 3 year old sister and they need his help.

What would you do? It's not an easy question - we all are busy, we all have our own issues to face, and then there's that thing called FEAR.

I talk with Lisa on this week's Realgoodwords, we talked about how change is at the core of all of her novels.

"In fiction we get to see - that's what I love about it - because usually we can't have access to other people's minds. In fiction we get to see exactly how they view themselves and how difficult it is actually to see what's right in front of you. This book is about doing the right thing. How do you do that? How do you know what the right thing is? Do you have to change? How do you change? I think these are very fascinating questions."

So do I Lisa! Tune in this week.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

You are what you read

Books are constantly being dropped off at KAXE for me - from publishers, authors, PR people...sometimes there are so many I miss what they are about. And then sometimes, I pick one up, I set up an interview, and it is EXACTLY the book I should be reading. It's about something I've been thinking about or reading about in other places.

Literary serendipity.

A couple of weeks ago now, I got a call to interview an author that was in town for the day. Mostly, the interviews I do for Realgoodwords are by phone - not many authors make Grand Rapids a stop in their publicity tours.

Bestselling self-help author Melody Beattie was in Grand Rapids... I recognized her name from her first book "Codependent No More". Melody's latest book is called "The Grief Club: The Secret to Getting Through All Kinds of Change". Melody and I had a really intense, interesting conversation - a lot of it was really relevant for my life, right now. This idea of a Grief Club. Lately, as my dad has been hospitalized, I've been amazed at how many people have been in contact with me - showing concern, telling me they had been through something similar. Though it doesn't really make things any better, it helps to hear other people's stories of losing someone you love. It helps a whole lot.

That's exactly what Melody's "The Grief Club" is about - joining a club we don't have any choice in - finding people who understand - get through the changes of life. Melody herself has battled many hardships in her life - the loss of a child, parent, her own health issues. I think the reason Melody's work has been so successful is that she is honest about her own life.

Melody said to me, "This is the most joyful book I've written. People wanted to talk about their losses.... I'm known for disguising people's identity. People wanted me - they begged me - to use their real names and I began to see that people wanted to be heard - they wanted to tell their story... They wanted to know that somehow someway the loss that they went through was making a difference in the world - that it counted for something."

Tune in to this week's Realgoodwords for our conversation. What book has been given to you - or you picked up - that was EXACTLY what you needed at that time in your life? Post them here!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

All in the Family

My brother Keith and his wife Jane own and operate Beaver Creek Cabins in Kenai, Alaska. Keith's fishing season has just begun and this is the first King caught in his boat. They've also been spotting wildlife... a baby moose on their dock! Check out his blog for more on the beginning of his fishing season.

We miss you in Minnesota Keiffer and Janey-Belle!

So what does all this have to do with reading and Realgoodwords? Nothing, except I used to always sneak a book on the boat when fishing with my dad and brother...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Vocabulary and Free Rice!

Last Saturday on Between You and Me we talked about WORDS. A subject near and dear to my heart of course.....

Barbara from Aitkin called in to talk words and told us about a really interesting website called FREE RICE. Essentially you are quizzed on vocabulary and for each word you get right the U.N. donates 20 grains of rice to the U.N. World Food Program to end hunger. It's harder than you'd think - the last one I did and got right was "sagacious" - I picked "wise". So let's all improve our vocabulary and donate some rice to hunger relief! And post your favorite/least favorite words here.

Here are some of the words people called in that they love:
initiate, ingenuity, improvise
and words/phrases that drive them nuts:

same difference
pretty much
gone missing