Finding hope at the 99-cent store

April 27, 2009 § Leave a comment

The other night, despite recent household budget cutbacks, my husband, kids and I threw a spontaneous (modest) dinner party, inviting two families we’ve recently become friendly with. Upon arrival, one of the men, who’d come straight from his Wall Street office, presented the five assembled children with small gifts: Sour Flush candies, packaged in little plastic toilets with lollipop “plungers.” As the small people gleefully jumped up and down, spreading the sugary contents of their wee loos every which way, the rest of the parents looked quizzically at the bestower of the peculiar presents. “I haggled,” he explained, with a shrug. “I wanted to see how low the guy would go.” …

How I learned to haggle (

Female bonding

April 20, 2009 § Leave a comment

What’s so special about the 11 women who grew up together in Ames, Iowa, who are the subject of Jeffrey Zaslow’s “The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship”? Well, nothing really — and yet, in another sense, everything. With this book, Zaslow, who writes the Wall Street Journal’s “Moving On” column, has set out to explore long-term female friendships — what makes them tick, how they evolve, what they mean to women — selecting this tightly bound group who grew up amid midwestern cornfields in the ’60s and ’70s and came of age in the ’80s, specifically because they are so typical …

In Brief: The Girls from Ames (The Barnes & Noble Review)

A little bit wicked, a lot of bit wholesome

April 13, 2009 § Leave a comment

You may know her from ABC’s “Pushing Daisies” or the Broadway musical “Wicked” or as “Sesame Street’s” Miss Noodle, but you may not know Kristin Chenoweth as she comes across in her new memoir, “A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages.” If Chenoweth — singer and sexpot, comedian and Christian, inspiration to hometown girls and drag queens alike — is a little bit wicked, she’s also a lot of bit wholesome: a lesson in surprising contrasts …

In Brief: “A Little Bit Wicked” (The Barnes & Noble Review)

Big-city smarts, small-town wisdom

April 13, 2009 § Leave a comment

Out of all the reasons to recommend a book to a friend, my motivation is rarely “This might help.” But twice now, since reading Amy Dickinson’s new memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville, I’ve passed it on in precisely that spirit. In one case, I thought a city-dwelling friend of mine, who’s lately missed the small midwestern town she grew up in, might find comfort in Dickinson’s loving description of her own rural hometown in upstate New York. In the other, a mother of three very young children revealed that her husband (the rat) had recently left her for another woman; I hoped she might find some salve in Dickinson’s survival under similar circumstances …

Review: “The Mighty Queens of Freeville” by Amy Dickinson (The Barnes & Noble Review)

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