Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chit-Chat and Catch Up

Or, I'm about to write about a bunch of things that have nothing to do with one another.

It was good to come home this past Monday and sleep in my own bed. Ahhh. I was happy to see that bloglines was fixed but not so happy that I had over 500 posts to catch up on. I'm still working on that.

Here's what I learned in Florida:

* It is a profound experience to take your child to the ocean for the first time. I will never forget the utter joy on her face as she played on the beach for hours with no toys except what washed up. I said "She's never been so content in her life as she is right now." My husband agreed.

* It really makes you feel as though you are on vacation when you eat lunch at a restaurant on the beach where you don't need shoes and your child can wear a bathing suit.

* The Magic Kingdom was fun but we never need to be there for a week. The best ride is Buzz Lightyear. Those Disney princesses work a lot harder than you might think. Seriously.

* I'm not as bad at canoeing as I was when I went to Girl Scout camp. Thank goodness.


Speaking of traveling, I love travel guides. I couldn't agree more with European travel guru Rick Steves (who I ran into in Amsterdam on my honeymoon) who said that when you're spending so much money on a trip, it's worth it to spend and extra 15 or 20 dollars to figure out what to do when you get there. Online publicist Lisa Roe offered some travel guides on her site and I requested one about the Wisconsin Dells by Dirk Vanderwilt for two reasons: 1. I have been to the Dells four times in the past 5 years so I figured I knew the subject and 2. I'll probably go back and I thought this guide might come in handy. It turns out I was right on both counts. This guide is part of the Tourist Town Guides series which seems to focus on destinations that might not necessarily have already had an entire book written about them. This guide offers a great history of the Wisconsin Dells area, extensive reviews of everything from accommodations to attractions and even a few photos. Overall, I agreed with the authors assessments though I wished the restaurant reviews were more detailed. I learned about some things to do that I hadn't known about and I look forward to trying when I go back. I would definitely recommend this guide to those visiting the Dells, and I would consider using the other Tourist Town Guides myself in the future.

I finally got around to reading something by Shirley Jackson besides The Lottery. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously creepy tale of the two Blackwood sisters and their Uncle who live in the big family home alone because the rest of the family are dead. Their rather bizzare life is quite insular as they have little contact with the outside world. Jackson slowly reveals why the Blackwoods live as they do and why they are ostracized by the people who live in the village. Cousin Charles arrives and things turn even more upside down. I find these sorts of books difficult to review because I don't want to give anything away! This book made me uncomfortable in a good way as I learned the horror of the Blackwood's life. Something that I noticed was a scene at the end of the book that reminded me of The Lottery. It made me think that Jackson must have a sort of fascination with the idea of an entire community turning against one person or family. Did anyone else notice this? In any case, I'll definitely be reading more of Jackson's work.


Lisa said...

I hadn't really thought about that being like The Lottery, but you're right. I just loved this book!

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear your trip was such a success. I would love to have seen your daughter's first glimpse at the ocean. What a treat for you.

Nan said...

I could feel your peace, Tara. I'm so glad you went.

As for Shirley J. (and please excuse me if I've already told you) there is an excellent, excellent biography of her, in fact, the only biog. I've ever read twice in my whole life. It is by Judy Oppenheimer and called Private Demons.

Andi said...

Oh gosh, I'm thinking about that first trip to the beach when I was a kid. What a memorable experience.

Ti said...

You must like Dells if you have been there so many times! I ordered a visitor's guide which is quite nicely done but I can't get over the idea that it is a bit "touristy". Are there nice places too or just touristy hotels?

Carrie K said...

Any place you stay that you don't live there has to be somewhat touristy or you're sleeping on the beach or a couch.

Sounds like a great trip! Aw, the ocean first. That must be something to see.

I really have to read We Have Always Lived in the Castle although The Lottery gave me nightmares for just YEARS. I've never read anything by her since and that was when I was 12.

Bookfool said...

Welcome back, Tara! Sounds like you had a fabulous time.

I enjoyed some of the stories in The Lottery, but I was a little iffy about We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I can't remember why; it was definitely creepy.

Melissa said...

Sounds like a good book, Tara! Thanks for the review!

Tara said...

Lisa, have you read other Shirley Jackson books?

bermudaonion, thanks! It was such a treat, a day I'll never forget.

Nan, me too. I will definitely check out this biography, though I think I should read more of her work first. She seemed like a troubled woman. Have you read much of her output?

Andi, I don't remember mine, but I hope she remembers that day.

Ti, I'm not sure if I like the Dells so much! It's more that the Dells have happened to me! Here's the thing - when you live in Minnesota, seriously, it's winter weather here for a minimum of 6 months, the idea of taking your kid to an indoor waterpark for a couple of days in February for a cheap price is pretty appealing - we've done that twice. And it's totally touristy! There are nice places, a few resorts, the biggest of which is The Wilderness and that is where we always stay.

Carrie K, isn't that the truth! I imagine The Lottery would have a big effect on a 12 year old- sheesh!

Bookfool, thanks! You are right about the creepiness - it's just infused with it!

Ali said...

Welcome back!

We've stayed at the Wilderness in the Dells a couple of times in February, too! We met up with my sister's family there when they were visiting her in-laws in Northern Wisconsin.

Ti, there are some cool natural places you can go, my family used to go canoing in the Dells because it's so cool when you're on the river. They might be pretty crowded now, though--I haven't been there in summer in over 20 years.

nutmeg said...

How very strange - I only just heard about Shirley Jackson just the other day and had just added We Have Always Lived in the Castle to my wishlist! It does sound very intriguing.

Glad to hear your holiday went well - I am reminded how lucky we are living near the coast and being able to visit the beach - though we don't go as much as we should - kids just love it so.

Bybee said...

What Nan said about the Shirley Jackson biography goes double with me. Hunt it down. You won't be sorry!

Bree said...

Sounds like you had a great trip. Watching children in their own content world is fascinating! It makes you wonder what's going on in their little heads. What side of Florida did you go to after Disney? Eating in a restaurant with no shoes and bathingsuits is true vacation!!!

Tara said...

Ali, thanks! The Dells are a good place to go with friends if you're in the midwest. You are so right about the natural beauty there, too!

Nutmeg, thanks, and yes, you are so lucky! But I suppose, like anyplace that you are used to being, things that seem extraordinary to others seem everyday to you.

Bybee, that's good to know! I'm on the lookout now.

Bree, that's so true! We visited New Smyrma beach with my Dad - he lives outside Orlando, and went to Wekiva State Park.

Tara said...

Betty and boo's mommy, thank you! It was.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see that you had a great time!! I can't wait to see what my son does next month!! Great picture!

Tara said...

Kristina, thank you! I hope he loves it.

Rachel said...

Ditto on the Shirley Jackson biography. It's a great read and it's fascinating to see how Jackson shoehorned in her writing time in after doing her housewifely and motherly duties while "serious writer hubby, Stanley Edgar Hyman, author of literary criticism, got the writer's den and uninterrupted hours of work time. I think I'd rather read something by Jackson.

StuckInABook said...

Isn't Jackson good? Will have to seek out that biog Nan mentioned. WHALITC is the best thing I've read by her, but then I've not read much, so will also keep an eye out for more... other short stories, perhaps.

Tara said...

Rachel, I think I'd rather read Jackson, too! I'm really going to have to get this biography - so many love it!

Simon, I also have Haunting of Hill House and some short stories. She's a really intriguing author and woman!