A girlie evening with a girlie book

23 09 2007

It was a totally girlie evening on 9/17 when we met at Karen’s for our third book club meeting. The book – I Feel Bad About My Neck – calls for girlieness and who better to host it than the one and only Karen? Even the drive to Karen’s was girlie. Debby, Eddie and I set out to Karen’s with two contradicting driving directions. One was provided by Karen with instructions to exit a major highway at an exit number that didn’t exit and she totally forgot to tell us to turn left on a road called Crepe something before turning left into her street. Fortunately, Debby remembered the Crepe something road because she “remembered the name ‘Crappy’ something road” when she came to visit Karen previously. Eddie brought map quest driving directions which sent us round and round little streets in the sticks. Still, we were only 7 minutes late with two women navigating and I the designate driver totally ignoring directions and trying to apply the Ethiopian sensibility of finding directions – use instinct and landmarks.

Karen surprised us with things straight out of the book. There were hand-made purses for all of us because there is a whole chapter in the book discussing the “stuff” we women carry around in our purses. We compared the “stuff” in our purses and we found Kiss chocolate from Dec. ’06, European minute tampon, a cigar cutter which was miraculously lost from one of our houses (and a reason why one of us were lecturing the husband about “misplacing things and asking me to find it…” OOPS!). After that, we appreciated even more the chapter in the book – I hate My Purse.

The menu – well, the menu that Karen prepared captured the following out of the book:

The most important thing I learned from Lee was something I call the Rule of Four. Most people serve three things for dinner – some sort of meat, some sort of starch, and some sort of vegetable – but Lee always served four. And the fourth thing was always unexpected… (page 27)

We had the Chinese food theme going on (because Nora had dinner party which was everything Chinese) – spring rolls, ground chicken stuffed cucumber soup, lemon chicken with a zesty, pineapple-y thick sauce right out of page 23 and the fourth odd item was Cabbage Strudel – one of the recipe’s that Nora Ephron feels nostalgic about (recipe here). It was delicious, greasy, crispy and it was worth getting a little gasy.

In honor of the section where Nora comes out and tells her story about what didn’t happen and why nothing happened between her and JFK when she was an intern at the White House, Karen down loaded this cool Clinton picture for our entertainment.

Now that I have read the articles about Mimi Fahnestock, it has become horriblyclear to me that I am probably the only young woman who ever worked in the Kennedy White House that the president did not make a pass at. Perhapts it was my permanent wave, which was a truly unfortunate mistake. Perhaps it was my wardrobe. …Perhaps it’s because I’m Jewish…. On the other hand, perhaps nothing happened because JFK somehow sensed that discretion was not my middle name. (page 89)

We had fun reading some symptoms from the book Heal Your Body by Louise T. Hay. Let me share some intriguing definitions of common ailments:

Cholestrol – clogging the channels of joy. Fear of accepting joy. Cure – say “I choose to love life. My channels of joy are wide open. It’s safe to receive”.

Coughs – A desire to bark at the world “See me! Listen to me!” Cure – say “I am noticed and appreciated in the most positive ways. I am loved!”

At 10:30pm, we wrapped up the fun and headed home singing Country Road Take Me Home and Debbie and Eddy still navigating and shouting instructions at me on how to pay toll – duh!


We honestly did more than just laughing, eating, comparing secrets of purses and getting lost. We had some serious items on our agenda.

1. Our commitment to help Afghan kids – we agreed (on behalf of absentees as well) that we will fund raise on behalf of Afghan Reading Project – a UK registered charity organization working in Afghanistan. We are hopeful that we can organize something around Christmas and raise $4.500 to build a library and resource center in Kabul. Imagine what a meaningful Christmas it will be if we can pull this off.

We agreed to brainstorm about fund raising ideas and division of labour by October 15 (the next book club meeting).

2. Next meeting – We are reading The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengistu and we’re meeting at my house on October 15 at 7pm.

3. Contribution to meeting dinner – we decided to contribute $10 which will go towards the dinner during our meetings.
We’ll leave it up to the hostess to either stay within budget or splash out.

4. The review

This is a light book which starts off very witty, bold, daring and detailed. As the chapters progress, paragraphs that make you laugh out loud are replaced by those which make you just smile. Towards the end the book even becomes a bit dreary and it feels like reading a manual.

Still, it is nice to read about things like what we women carry in our purses, the facts about aging neck – that there is absolutely nothing in the world that a woman can do about her sagging neck. How sad! In the era of nip-n-tuck nobody can come up with a fix to hide aging neck?

The central theme of the book – keeping up appearances, becoming a “woman of a certain age”, forced maintenance of the body to fit in – seem pointless in the context of the feminism movement. Isn’t the whole purpose of the movement to free women of gender imposed tasks and expectations by men. If it is, then who are we going through the painful trouble of staying young and being a super woman? Our consensus is that we women brought it on ourselves. We compete with each – who is vainer, basically. We also agreed that compared to American women, European women are less prone to driving themselves crazy with painful and waste-of-time maintenance regimes.

Beyond neck, Ephron discusses parenthood in this book. Actually, she has some interesting observations of the transition from being a father and a mother to becoming parents. She also goes in some detail about the difference and the impact that transition is having on children today.

We give this book 2 out of 5.



The Alchemist and us

3 09 2007

You either love it or hate it – there seems to be no middle ground with this book. Our group was not too impressed with the book. Perhaps, it was too hyped up when it came out or may be reading it right after a book like A Thousand Splendid Suns spoiled it for us. In any case, as Debbie put it, our collective reaction about this book was “Huh?” What a shame that Lisa, our new member, could not come to the meeting. She was the only one who absolutely loved the book.

I don’t think the rest of us are already burnt out with our second review book and that is the reason why the club meeting on The Alchemist didn’t wow us. We were just not that impressed with the soft, neither here nor there wisdom about following ones heart. Therefore, we spent most of the discussion time philosophizing, with the help of wine, about our personal alchemists (some grannies and hubbies were honored) and unfulfilled dreams. Read the rest of this entry »

A Thousand Splendid Suns – our take

3 09 2007

Yet another brilliant book by Khaled Hosseini!!! Like his debut (another brilliant) novel – The Kite Runner – Hosseini beautifully and effertlessly guides his readers through the complex relationship of his characters, sail through an intricate plot and multifaceted themes. The father-son and general male relationship that gripped us in Kite Runner is back, but this time with mother-daughter and relationship between women in A Thousand Splendid Suns. Read the rest of this entry »

The first meeting – hooray for us!

10 07 2007

July 9th marked the official opening of our book club and we did our first book review of A Thousand Splendid Suns. Almost everything went according to plan. The only things that didn’t go as planned were having Afghan appetizers and the house free of children. Like all exotic and authentic things in Orlando, the Afghan restaurant was gone in less than a year replaced by some cheesy restaurant offering spare ribs, hot dogs and fries. C’mon now!

So we had to improvise with food. Debbie brilliantly suggested to download some easy Afghan recipes and prepare it ourselves – meaning she and I with 5 children around. We pulled it off although I did all the cooking and she just did the shopping – so much for let’s cook together! We also had to improvise with Turkish delight for dessert – courtesy of Eddie. The second non-planned challenge was that I couldn’t send off my kids and husband out of the house because, TYPICAL!!!, my little one came down with high fever. It wasn’t too bad because my kids came only twice to whisper to me some burning issue like “what did I do wrong in my knitting? I have wholes everywhere.” “Ask daddy!” I ordered and got on with the meeting. I don’t know how daddy delt with it, but kids were out of my hair. May I remind them our club is called “Diversion of Life” for a reason? Thank you.

The IRIN movie Losing Hope was a good opening although a bit graphic at times, especially while having dinner. It was good in immediately getting us in the mood to talk about the book.

From Afghanistan to Brazil
The beauty of books! We lined up two books for August and September and we are inviting two other women to join the club. In August we are reviewing The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. The menu is guarantied to be Brazillian thanks to Leigh, our most hooked up member with a colleague who owns a Brazilian restaurant. Cool!

September has I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron in store for us. We’re ready to have a blast with that one. For maximum effect our newest member, Karen is hosting it at her no-kids home!!! And for a sustained excitement we’re car-pooling. Lord be with the other drivers out there that day!

“With her disarming, intimate, completely accessible voice, and dry sense of humor, Nora Ephron shares with us her ups and downs in I Feel Bad About My Neck, a candid, hilarious look at women who are getting older and dealing with the tribulations of maintenance, menopause, empty nests, and life itself.”

Need I say more?

The book review (A Thousand Splendid Suns) was exciting and we found out how some of our cultures, particularly Eddie’s (Bosnian) and mine (Ethiopian) have so much in common. I’ll post the entire review soon-ish, sick child permitting. We’re a bit concerned to carry on with the excitement after reading Hosseini’s two books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns which are two deep, deep books. As Debbie put it, “we might feel blaaah after reading this guy.” We’ll try to remain upbeat and not fizzle out soon.

Sketching the war in Afghanistan

7 07 2007

An Afghan kid with a candyRichard Johnson’s blogs from Kanadahr, Afghanistan. His posts stories and sketches of everyday life of Canadian soldiers in Kandahar. Very unique. This is my favourite sketch showing an Afghan child admiringly examining a piece of candy he got from a soldier. I think it says a lot.

A test of Afghanistan

7 07 2007


(No) thanks to mainstream media, we often forget that countries such as Afghanistan – which has become a symbol of a broken and unfixable mess – still have beautiful things. Here is a great blog showing the beauty of Afghanistan. The scenery in Band-e-Amir is breathtaking.

Luke Powell’s opinion is that…

It is important for those living in the industrial world to develop an appreciation for cultures that are sustainable, to learn to see beauty and survival in a world where people walk, live in daily contact with animals, raise their own food, pray, and live in families. Such people have as much to teach us as we have to teach them.

His spectacular pictures reflect his conviction about the importance of showing what is often ignored.

In the beginning…

4 07 2007

Here we are with a new book club which started with an informal book discussion(and got stopped because the kids were interrupting the discussion because it was dinner time. Then we attempted a knitting club, but decided to postpone that until we’re 65 (and some of us are doing it secretly in the privacy of our homes – I won’t name names and I take the fifth myself.)Thanks for Debbie for the idea, Leigh for calling up more people, Fikirte for over-zealously googled stuff on how to create a book club and created this blogsite, and Eddy & Denise for being committed to join.

We’re attacking A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, who is also the author of The Kite Runner.

We’re meeting on Monday July 9th at 7pm. To make the experience richer and funner, we’re having Afghan appetizers and a short movie on the plight of Afghan women under the Talibans’ called Losing Hope – Women of Afghanistan