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April 2012 (116 posts)
Every Monday, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This week, we're floored by the engrossing new examination of our nation:
by Eric Rutkow
It's always interesting to examine the large and familiar through the lens of the small and unexpected. This is what made Mark Kurlansky's Cod so exciting: It revisited the history of the world through the harvesting of these large, white-fleshed fish. In American Canopy, first-time author Eric Rutkow views the discovery, survival and rise of the United States as a function of its trees—trees used to build royal masts for royal English ships, trees used to build turn-of-the-last-century rails across America, trees that did not catch fire during World War II, despite Japanese air balloons sent to do just that. In each case, trees are the resource that defines the economy, politics, culture and even national identity.
His argument is interesting, of course (who doesn't love trees?). But it's Rutkow's eye for storytelling that keeps even those who don't normally read histories zipping through the pages. The book begins with a heartbreaking account of one of the world's oldest trees, a bristlecone pine that lived almost 5,000 years, "an organism already wizen when Columbus reached Hispaniola, middle-aged when Caesar ruled Rome, and starting life when the Sumerians created mankind's first written language," which was chopped down in 1964 because a grad student couldn't figure out how to examine its rings. Plenty of other tree lore is debunked and detailed: Washington's love, not of cherry trees, but of dogwoods and sassafras on his Mount Vernon estate; Johnny Appleseed's (nay, John Chapman's) cultivation of orchards for alcoholic ciders, not apples; Benjamin Franklin's efforts to save trees with the invention a super-efficient woodstove that no one used, preferring the huge (read: 4 by 8 feet) stone hearths of the day which "lost about 90 percent of the heat out the chimney"; FDR's failed attempt to transform the Great Plains into a forest. But equally fascinating and certainly more moving are the words of lesser-known folk like the 16th-century Englishman Richard Hakluyt, who saw the potential of such a resource, even if he was never able to make it across the ocean to see "the sweet woodes ... and divers other kindes of goodly trees" of the soon-to-be colonized New World.
One very funny writer faces down her anxiety—in a cemetery
Novels that take you far, far, far away
Disposable may be a dirty word when you’re trying to ease your burden on the planet, but when’s the last time you carried two dozen cups to the park for a BBQ or had 30 glasses on hand for hosting book club? The next time you're entertaining a giant group, go green and stay sane: Swap traditional plastic cups for Repurpose’s compostable version.
Traditional throw-away plastic cups are manufactured from petroleum—meaning they won’t biodegrade and will hang around landfills hundreds of years after you’ve polished off that glass of sangria. Repurpose’s eco cups are made from plants, are biodegradable, and compost completely in 90 days. “We’ve found they’re really popular on college campuses,” says Lauren Gropper, who co-founded the company. Beer-pong with an eco-conscious? That’s a game we can get behind.
Traveling to India was a real Next Chapter dream for me. I've had a picture cut out from magazine of a woman on a camel with the words "Come to India" on my vision board for years now. Finally, I took her advice and fulfilled a bucket list aspiration.
India was everything+++!
I loved it so much already trying to figure out when I can return. You'll get a glimpse of why this Sunday at 9/8c on OWN, but here's a sneak peek at some of my photos from that trip:
Leaving the home of Abishek and Ashwirya... Having just seen their gorgeous baby
My first taste of Indian food with her highness Maharani Padmini Devi. Loved the spices
Amazed that this family of five, eats, sleeps , LIVES in this small space in slums of Mumbai.
Happy Friday, everyone! Here are a few things that made our week cheerier:
Quiz time! Can you guess the classic book based on its cover? (Don't scroll too far or you'll see the answers!)
Grown-ups need secret tree houses too, you know.
Remember that time Andy Warhol got a rejection letter from MOMA?
This week in gratuitous cuteness: Toddlers singing Adele.
Which is why this profile on Twisted Sifter of 35 modern secret passageways that you can build in our own home so perplexed me. Who doesn't love the idea of nook and niches, of creeping through a cobwebbed tunnel into the hidden wing of the English manor house?
The problem is most of the passages here look built for the incomprehensibly rich, complete with built-in vaults and wine cellars. (What in the heck people feel the need to hide so extravagantly: pit bulls, grenades, a doomsday supply of antibiotics?) It's enough to make anybody say,"Hey! Secret passages are not going to happen at my house! No way! Not even if we had the space and the faux-rock wall!"
But now you're a person who doesn't like secret passages, a sad state of affairs, because that probably lumps you with people who don't like antique globes or fairy tales or invisible pirate friends for lonely children.
At least, this is where I found myself. Until I realized that all the magic had vanished—poof—not because of seeing these high-falutin' passages, but what because of what my imagination stored inside them, what I think of as my "read all about it" imagination that feeds off news headlines and creepy true crime novels.
But I have another imagination, we all do, one that could fill that mahogany-lined secret passage with hundreds of live orange trees or bags of feathers or cans of cheese spray....or nothing at all, leaving a place to sit and daydream. The imagination itself is secret passage, if you think about it, either to the best or worst parts of ourselves. And that's where we have to focus our attention, on that gateway between ourselves and the world that has no steel reinforcements or unbreakable codes—or limits.
Think yourself free
Pelvic floor training, or doing regular exercises designed to strengthen the pelvic muscles, can be effective in curing urinary incontinence--and has far less side effects than the other popular treatment of estrogen therapy, concludes a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Best of all, you don't need a gym membership or a set of weights to do these exercises, although you might benefit from a session with a women's health physical therapist who can help you develop a regimen. With approximately a quarter of young women and up to 57 percent of middle-aged and postmenopausal women having these kinds of problems, it's never too early add pelvic workouts into your fitness routine. To start, make sure you're practicing Kegels correctly, and then challenge yourself with these more advanced pelvic clocks.
Physical therapy for your lady parts
The two exercises every woman should be doing
1. Bake the bacon. Durand pops it in a 375-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until it's crispy. "You can fiddle with the temperature a little bit so that your casseroles are baking at the same temperature as the bacon--just slide the bacon in on the top rack during the last 15 minutes the casserole is baking."
2. Use that oven for toast, too. After the casseroles and bacon are finished, take them out and turn on the broiler. Slide in a tray of sliced, lightly buttered bread, and keep an eagle eye on it (it'll only take 2 to 4 minutes to toast). Flip the slices once so they brown on both sides. "This is so much quicker and more efficient than making rounds and rounds of toast in the toaster--and your oven is already heated up. Might as well use it!" Durand says.
Poet Maya Stein has got this birthday on lockdown. Look at her plan: she's going to spend 40 days biking to 40 destinations, with her turquoise typewriter in tow. At every location she will stop and set up a typewriting station and invite people to contribute to a collaborative work of writing. Her goal, as she explains on her Kickstarter site, is "to bring people together through the written word, and to do so in a way that's collaborative yet personal, free-form yet structured." She goes on to explain that "by taking the time to do this all by bicycle, I want to encourage people to nurture the art -- and vital importance! -- of slowing down to engage more deeply with our physical environments, to connect to the movement and power of our bodies, and to connect with others through our words."
Now if that doesn't beat the pants off of drinking too much and getting teary over the List Of Things I Was Supposed To Do By Age 40, I don't know what does. What noble goals for all of us -- to make a milestone goal a crazy and dreamy one, to connect with others, to connect with our physical and creative selves. Preferably with a really cute bicycle and typewriter.
Check out Maya Stein's Kickstarter site to watch a video explaining the project and, if you want, to donate some money (and, awesomely, get the bike named after you).
How Cristina Ferrare Celebrated Turning 60
Edie Falco's 40th Birthday Aha! Moment