Emily Abedon

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Honore de Balzac said that marriage is a science. But anyone who has ever planned one knows that weddings are an art. Fortunately, there are numerous new books to help you create your own matrimonial masterpiece.

Real Weddings: A Celebration of Personal Style is a tribute to that diversity. With description that leaves you feeling like you were the guest of honor, Bride's magazine's managing editor Sally Kilbridge tells the personal stories of 16 couples on their special day. Mallory Samson's colorful photographs capture each intimate detail, while painting the big picture of these perfect parties. It's a treat to read about the love stories and behind-the-scenes planning that led to weddings inspired by home, heritage, summer, and fantasy.

How do you keep the terrifying ring of the cash register from deafening the lovely ring of wedding bells? That's what Deborah McCoy answers in her book, The Elegant Wedding and the Budget Savvy Bride. This step-by-step guide shares secrets and strategies to saving money without sacrificing bridal bliss. McCoy, a wedding consultant who owns a bridal salon, starts with ten commandments of wedding planning that underscore the need for forethought, education, and common sense. Along with advice on everything from engagement rings to honeymoons, The Elegant Wedding and the Budget-Savvy Bride provides checklists for vendor contracts, questions to ask yourself and the professionals you hire, and handy budgeting sheets. By showing you how to prioritize and organize, McCoy backs up her simple but comforting theme: Being tasteful will save you money.

Of course, footing the bill is just one of the challenges of planning your big day. In The Couple's Wedding Survival Manual, Michael R. Perry details many more and offers some funny, yet helpful, suggestions for managing the madness. Operating under the assumption that, the human capacity for bickering knows no limits, Perry offers up his final word on topics like in-law management, guest list etiquette, and hassle-free honeymoons. Best of all are his frequent reminders to keep things in perspective. "You can have an all-kazoo orchestra, a minister with halitosis . . . and a limo that smells like formaldehyde," writes Perry. And at the end of the wedding day, you'll still be married which is, after all, the goal.

It is not just the happy couple that needs a sense of humor as they walk down the aisle. Bridesmaids, who traditionally have little say in the dresses they wear, must keep their chins up as they drown in those expensive taffeta terrors that sometimes make Cinderella seem underdressed. Despite the bride's good intentions, don't you just know you'll never wear that frightful gown again? Cindy Walker comes to the rescue with 101 Uses for a Bridesmaid Dress. Among the places where these frilly frocks are always in vogue, says Walker, are a Tara Revisited party or during your stint as guest host of Wheel of Fortune. Donna Mehalko's wicked illustrations do justice to the book's sublimely silly tone. With tongue-in-cheek recycling suggestions, including everything from a vicious scarecrow to a deluxe sleeping divan for your cat, 101 Uses for a Bridesmaid Dress is a great present for a bride to give her tolerant attendants.

Besides making the bride look good, what are a bridesmaid's duties? Emily Post will answer that and many other etiquette questions in the latest edition of Emily Post's Wedding Planner, Third Edition. The latest version serves as a companion to the bridal classic, Emily Post's Weddings. This interactive wedding planner guides you through the ins and outs of creating the big day with to-do lists, cost breakdown sheets, pockets to store contracts and a calendar, and an address book to store all vendor information. Who should attend the rehearsal? What are the hidden costs to look out for in contracts? Do you need to invite unmarried significant others? Author Peggy Post also guides you through the legalities and proprieties of each step along the bridal path.

Emily Post is among the experts quoted in Vera Lee's Something Old, Something New. An unmarried girl should not go alone on overnight trips with any young man, even with her fiance, says Post in Lee's lighthearted look at matrimony. Famous folks as diverse as William Longfellow and Dorothy Parker weigh in with their entertaining opinions and advice on the institution of marriage. Experienced bride Zsa Zsa Gabor says, I personally adore marriage . . . I even cry at weddings. Especially my own. But Something Old, Something New is primarily a fascinating glimpse into marital history and customs from all over the world. If you are going to be showered with rice, it's nice to know why traditionally the grain has been a symbolic wish for a large harvest of babies.

With the stress and confusion that planning a wedding can bring, Lee's book is a wonderful reminder that getting married should be fun. But staying married is hard work. Marg Stark's What No One Tells the Bride presents an honest look at the difficulties that naturally ensue after a couple takes the big plunge. Stark shares her own experiences, and those of 50 brides she interviewed, to offer real-life scenarios of for-better-or-worse. Sidebars provide the ultimate girl-talk confessions and advice, revealing the ambivalence, misconceptions, and disappointment that can sometimes follow you down the aisle. What No One Tells the Bride is not whiny or male-bashing. Stark herself is happily married with no regrets. Her book is frank, yet optimistic and helpful, advising newlyweds to, talk about the exquisite joy there is awakening every day with the same person . . . and enjoy the way marriage surprises the soul.

Emily Abedon is a writer in Charleston, South Carolina.

Honore de Balzac said that marriage is a science. But anyone who has ever planned one knows that weddings are an art. Fortunately, there are numerous new books to help you create your own matrimonial masterpiece. Real Weddings: A Celebration of Personal Style is a tribute to that diversity. With description that leaves you feeling […]
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There are some who lock their doors on Halloween, shut off the porch light, and scoff at the events that take place on the high holy day for witches. Who wants to party with ghosts and goblins? It seems most Americans do. Only for Christmas do consumers spend more. And it's not just for kids. All ages are getting in on dressing up their yards, homes, and selves to make light of a holiday that can be as much about harvest happiness as house hauntings. Several new books help hard-core Halloweeners indulge with frightening abandon.

It's as if Martha Stewart meets Elvira in Donata Magginpinto's Halloween Treats: Recipes and Crafts for the Whole Family. Magginpinto, food and entertaining director at Williams-Sonoma, presents party fare that's tasty and fun when the theme is a scream. Her food from the cauldron, features cold-season favorites, like curried soup and custard, that take advantage of October's trove of squash, pumpkin, and sweet potato. There are also old-fashioned delights caramel apples and popcorn balls that don't require toil and trouble. Halloween Treats is full of clever and creepy concoctions. Cookie-cut marshmallows become ghosts in the cocoa; peeled grapes and shredded carrots are easily mistaken for witch's hair and goblin's eyeballs; thin black licorice strings double as spider legs when placed between chocolate cream sandwich cookies. You'll also find ideas for decorations that little hands can help make. Children can collect colorful autumn leaves for leaf lanterns, decorate mittens for Halloween hand warmers, and go wild with a glitter pen for personalized trick-or-treat bags.

The Big Book of Halloween: Creative and Creepy Projects for Revellers of All Ages is the ultimate reference if you want to turn your house into trick-or-treaters' most popular haunt. Pieces of polystyrene board turned into gravestones in your yard, white sheeted ghosts on your front stoop, ghoulish gourds in your window and a papier-mache tarantula over your shoulder may hinder the kids from ever making it to your candy bowl. Author Laura Dover Doran suggests far more festive treats than bite-sized chocolate bars. She provides a how-to for the ickiest edibles: spaghetti squash brains, pumpkin pulp slime, peanut butter and flour shaped into your favorite internal organs. If you ever thought a Christmas gingerbread house looked dreamy, wait till you see Doran's nightmarish haunted house cake. Sitting in a Vienna wafer cemetery, this sweetly spooked spot has windows boarded up with sugar wafers and a cookie crumb landscape that's a dead-ringer for dirt.

The Big Book of Halloween features fabulous costumes for children and adults, luminaries, topiaries, and table decorations that take the spirit of the eerie eve and fly with it. Many of the projects require a trip to the craft shop and tools like hot-glue guns or craft knives. But Doran's precise and comprehensive directions should take the fear out of the do-it-yourself Halloween. The Big Book of Halloween is chock full of facts, historic tidbits, and safety tips. Herein you can learn of the holiday's roots in Celtic tradition, read about the increasing popularity of vintage Halloween collections, and acquire ten top excuses to tell the kids what happened to their candy when your adult hands started wandering.

But if you're going to blame a ghost, better first get your facts straight. Hanz Holzer's Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond will furnish you with more information that you probably knew existed about the high-spirited apparitions. Holzer is a parapsychologist whose interest in ghosts has taken him around the world to compile this fascinating assortment of haunting tales. Holzer distinguishes between several types of ghosts and tries to clear up common misconceptions. Ghosts do not travel, he explains. They haunt in one place, usually where their death tragically occurred. This is good news, no doubt, for those of us who would choose to run away if confronted by one. Holzer personally documents his own visits to haunted spots as diverse as castles and trailer parks, and details his interviews with the hundreds of people who claim to have experienced a presence that they cannot explain in terms of material reality.

From the start, he acknowledges cynics and non-believers. But those who best understand that ghosts exist, according to Holzer, are psychics, those who have used their extra sensory perception to experience an apparition first-hand. You needn't be psychic to enjoy Ghosts. The number of ghostly testaments is intriguing. The stories themselves are downright scary. But beware: reading this alone at night, especially in a creaky house, could be a health hazard.

Llewellyn's 1999 Magical Almanac allows you to take the spirits into your own hands. Pagans, witches, shaman, astrologers, and herbalists contribute to this collection of pieces that show you how to bring a little magic into your life. You'll find advice for dealing with depression, connecting with your spiritual self, and increasing your energy. But there are even more down-to-earth, practical tips about banishing mildew with herbs, healing with honey, and relaxing with aromatherapy, plus lunar, sunrise, and sunset charts. Llewellyn's Magical Almanac features a love spell and an incantation for acing a job interview. Witchcraft never seemed so benign. Banish all images of pallid, wart-nosed hags, this book advocates the power of looking good, even providing a spell for glamour.

The true charm of this multi-cultural exploration of all things magical, mystical, and divine lies in its gentle reminders to embrace each day, celebrate the natural world, and take your fate into your own hands in October and all year long. If the too-much-candy stomach ache is in full effect, plastic spiders have lost their appeal, and you've conjured up a good year's worth of scariness, Pumpkins may be just the thing to ease you gently out of Halloween. True to it's name, this coffee table book delivers photograph after photograph of the fleshy orange fellows.

Pumpkins displays all shapes, sizes, and types, au naturel in fields, for sale at country farm stands, or piled high alongside their gourd brethren in romantic country settings. The pictures highlight all the subtle differences that make October's favorite fruit entertaining characters even before their faces are carved. Rynn Williams's introduction to Pumpkins reflects on the fruits' tendency to summon childhood memories. In that way, they are akin to Halloween itself, with all of the holiday's food, fun, and frights.

Emily Abedon is a writer in Charleston, South Carolina.

There are some who lock their doors on Halloween, shut off the porch light, and scoff at the events that take place on the high holy day for witches. Who wants to party with ghosts and goblins? It seems most Americans do. Only for Christmas do consumers spend more. And it's not just for kids. […]
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She doesn't preach. She says the two best prayers she knows are "Help me, help me, help me," and "Thank you, thank you, thank you." And the amount of swearing she does would make a trooper blush. But in her latest work, Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott shares such poignant tales of her journey toward a relationship with God that even non-believers could find their emotions stirred.

Don't fear that she drained some of the poison from her pen to enter God's good graces. Lamott's trademark honesty, sass, and mettle are in full command in this collection of autobiographical anecdotes. She may be among the most sharp-tongued Christians you ever come across. For instance, she describes a right-wing Christian novel as, "paranoid, anti-Semitic, homophobic, misogynistic propaganda—not to put too fine a point on it." But she is also unapologetically religious, describing herself as, "about three months away from slapping an aluminum Jesus fish on the back of my car."

The Lord leads her, not just through bulimia, drug-abuse, and the death of beloved friends, but through stage fright, traffic jams, and toddler tantrums. She often calls on a higher power via quickly scribbled notes placed in a cardboard box or ashtray to be read at God's convenience.

You better believe Lamott's wicked sense of humor is a godsend. She is the queen of the quirky metaphor. Only she could compare yelling at her doe-eyed young son to "bitch-slapping E.T." In Lamott's hands, God becomes Sam-I-Am, from Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham; her little boy in a pink wet suit becomes a cross between Jacques Cousteau and Pee-Wee Herman; and her pale, flabby thighs become beloved aunts.

Fans of Operating Instructions, her journal of her son's first year, will recognize many of the people who helped Lamott steer through the "swamp of fear and doubt" that characterized her life for many years. Also familiar is the writer's biting self-deprecation on topics as diverse as her child- rearing ability to the size of her aging rear end.

Her story is riveting because it runs the gamut through the depths of sadness, fear, and anger, and the heights of joy, peace, and awareness. Yet Lamott refrains from glamorizing her conversion. There is no evangelical underscore. Though it is subtitled "Some Thoughts on Faith," Traveling Mercies is really some thoughts on life. Lamott doesn't tell you how to live yours. And she doesn't claim to have taken the wisest paths getting through her own. She merely speaks of where she has been, and shares what she calls the profoundest spiritual truth she knows, "that even when we're most sure that love can't conquer all, it seems to anyway."

She doesn't preach. She says the two best prayers she knows are "Help me, help me, help me," and "Thank you, thank you, thank you." And the amount of swearing she does would make a trooper blush. But in her latest work, Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott shares such poignant tales of her journey toward a […]
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Terry Kay is a lot more comfortable in the rural south than in any urban environment. He grew up in Royston, Georgia, plowing mules on a farm that didn't even have electricity.

Yet, there are the characters of his latest novel, The Kidnapping of Aaron Greene, traipsing all over downtown Atlanta, with enough craziness and congestion that, Kay admits, the setting could be New York or any metropolis. So what gives? "It's different than anything I've ever written by far," says Kay, speaking from the Athens, Georgia, home he and his wife built a year and a half ago. "I just decided I wanted to do sort of a thriller, action book whatever you call it." Fans of his best-selling To Dance with the White Dog may be surprised by just how different the two books are. Kay has not only traded pecan trees and pickup trucks for city soirees and commuter trains; he has set aside the heart-wrenching sentimentality of White Dog to make room for intrigue and excitement in a detective story with several twists.

Aaron Greene is a nobody. A shy teenaged mail boy at a bank, his unremarkable family could never afford the $10 million reward demanded by his captors. But the cult-like kidnappers have profound philosophical motives for the unlikely abduction, a crime that sparks a nationwide frenzy. They believe Aaron's disappearance can teach a lesson to all of society. At the center of this madness are wiseacre gumshoe Victor Menotti, a seasoned newspaper reporter, Cody Yates, and an elderly eccentric, mega-rich Ewell Pender. The novel may be his newest, but the story is one of his oldest. Kay conceived of the basic plot more than 25 years ago, when he was an entertainment reporter at the Atlanta Journal. He had never even considered fiction before, but he was broke and thought maybe he could write a movie to bring in some cash. Since he watched about 300 films a year as a reviewer, he figured he knew the Hollywood formula well enough to turn a profit on his script.

"I had four children and was making $250 a week, and I was working probably 70, 80 hours a week and not getting paid but for 40 of them," he says. "I just needed more money". But Aaron Greene's story got shelved. It would have to wait many years, until Kay's kids were grown and he could take the leap into full-time fiction. Meanwhile, a TV and film development company offered Kay a position as creative director, writing and directing industrial films. That job paid him an extra $100 a week more than his journalist's salary, so he took the offer.

It only lasted a year.

"Then we found out the guys were not paying the government any money," he recalls. "So I got into public relations, then into the corporate world." His varied experiences, going right back to his days as a journalist, all play into the characters in The Kidnapping of Aaron Greene.

"I look back and I think, 'My God, there's so much to be gleaned from all of that.' But I suppose it would have been the same if I'd left the newspaper and become a car salesman. I think you always pluck from what your experiences are." Though he doesn't know any detectives personally, Kay spent plenty of time riding around with Menotti-type police officers in his earliest job, covering crime stories. And the newspaper scenes, he admits, are close to his heart.

"I loved journalism, he says. You can sit in the middle of the newsroom, and the entire world is within 30 feet of you. Everything going on is coming through one of those departments politics, society, sports, you name it." Kay says Cody is not his alter-ego, but a conglomeration of maverick reporters he knows very well. But it can be no coincidence that the old-timer character mourns the loss of the pre-computer days, "when journalists had been able to look over their typewriters, across the newsroom, and see and hear one another, and because they could see and hear, they better understand the world they wrote about in spurts of minutes with the dogbite of a deadline snapping at their heels." Kay left the Journal one week after computers arrived on the scene. And he still loves a deadline. But now, as an award-winning novelist, he can afford the luxury of removing himself from the keyboard from time to time. Which is not to say he stops working.

"You write all the time, whether you're at the machine or not," he explains. "It's in your head, whether you're reading or watching TV. I'm not the type of person who gets up at 5, gets a cup of coffee and by 5:15 I'm writing. I may go for weeks without touching the thing. But all that time it's in my head. Then when I sit down to write, I'll write 12, 14 hours a day." He also never ends one book without immediately starting another. The Kidnapping of Aaron Greene was born minutes after Kay put the final period on To Dance with the White Dog. It's no coincidence. White Dog, which Kay calls, "more of translation of what had happened in my family than the creation of a book," was so emotionally and personally draining for the writer, that the dramatic switch in style was a breath of fresh air.

"I like working on different things at different times," he explains, "because I'm not a genre writer by any stretch of the imagination. But my background was theater in college. One semester you'd do Ionesco, and the next Neil Simon, Shakespeare, or Arthur Miller. And you learned to appreciate different voices." Among the voices that contributed to the Aaron Greene story is that of Heather Kay, the youngest of his children. Kay still has a letter his daughter wrote to her parents years ago, when she was just nine years old. Heather had been scolded for being naughty. The letter to her parents detailed how worthless she felt and how truly sorry. It was signed," Just plain old Heather Kay."

"It was so lovely and cute and all that," he says. "But it is also an absolute emotion. People feel that way, 'I'm worthless and I'm plain.' My thought in this book was that everybody I've ever met has experienced at sometime in their life, 'I'm simply a nobody. Nobody cares.' I think that's a common theme. People say, 'Wait a minute, if it was me, they wouldn't pay the ransom.' "

Kay says he set out to write a page-turner. He has. But The Kidnapping of Aaron Greene is also a page-stopper, because, as different as it may be in plot and style from his earlier work, it is full of the kind of word-play, metaphor, and wonderful description that the writer's fans will instantly recognize. "I'm not sure I'll ever write another book even vaguely close to this," says Kay, who has set the next book he's working on safely back in the country. "But I have to tell you, I had a ball with this. It really was fun. And I hope people find it a fun read."

Emily Abedon is a writer in Charleston, South Carolina.

Terry Kay is a lot more comfortable in the rural south than in any urban environment. He grew up in Royston, Georgia, plowing mules on a farm that didn't even have electricity. Yet, there are the characters of his latest novel, The Kidnapping of Aaron Greene, traipsing all over downtown Atlanta, with enough craziness and […]

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