Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Boxing Day!

May you pass boxes of goodies to those that can use them, whether you're servant or master.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ramen Girl: noodle movie and request for growing up films

Ramen Girl is a mostly unremarkable movie. It was essential watching for me in my noodle year, and it certainly isn't outright bad, but for all of the things the film is trying to do, I can name other films I think do it better.
Tampopo delves deeper into the craziness that is proper ramen preparation. Ramen Girl includes a few elements of food magic, (just the right spirit in the ramen can make people giggle or cry) but not enough to make magical food an essential, if absurd, part of the plot the way it is in Like Water for Chocolate or Simply Irresistible. US-Japanese cultural differences arise, but Lost in Translation handles them much more adeptly. The romance is largely a side note, and there are plenty of better romantic comedies. And if one wants a silly coming of age movie, where a lost young person learns to work hard from a seemingly harsh elder, there are surely many better examples. But I can't think of them at the moment-- please comment with your favorite coming of age (in a profession, through hard work) films.

I should add that despite not being great in any aspect, Ramen Girl did make me want to eat ramen. Amateur Reader has promised earlier that he could advise on Tokyo-style ramen and I am seeing him next week, so I'm hoping for good noodles and perhaps a new pre-Christmas tradition.

Anyone have winter holiday traditions that involve noodles?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pearl Harbor- 9/11- Kennedy Shot of the 50s?

On Pearl Harbor day Tuesday, the Mister and I started talking about defining moments of a generation and news that makes everyone stop. Like most other Americans my age, I know where I was when I learned that the Challenger exploded (at school in 8th grade) and when I found out about the world trade center collapsing (listening to NPR, wondering why the news was different then it had been an hour earlier as I prepared to go to biometry class and fly to Washington D.C. that day). Perhaps a bit more personal and local, I returned home from a high school graduation ceremony to learn of the tanks entering Tianamen Square (I studied Chinese and was on my way to China in the summer of 1989) and I learned of the Columbine shootings while at work in Denver. I was at a Model UN competition when Nelson Mandela was released (most of us thought it was a ploy to change the nature of the debate on South Africa) and, along with the rest of my German class, was absolutely shocked at the speed with which the Berlin wall came down once it started to crumble. Perhaps foolishly, I know exactly where I was when I learned of Princes Diana's death (at a cabin, from my brother on the phone, thinking he was telling a joke when he started "have you heard about Princess Diana").
I know where my parents were when Kennedy was shot and think they watched the moon landing. My grandfather spoke to me about Pearl Harbor and the end of the war.
I'm curious, in general, what specific historical events you remember as being a big deal when you learned of them. For those of you older than I am, I'm also wanting to know about specific events in the 1950s. The 60s are full of them (although I'm unsure how much press things like the Cuban Missile Crisis received, nor do I know if any one protest/riot/march felt momentous to a big audience). How about the 50s? Sputnik? Particular space events? MacArthur's dismissal?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tampopo: The first noodle movie

After a long week (of mostly good busyness*, but much busyness none the less), the Mister and I relaxed by watching Tampopo last night. I'm sentimentally attached to Tampopo, as the Mister and I watched it together early in our courtship (so early that his loft apartment was clean when we viewed Tampopo together there), but I think that I can safely say that it's well worth watching for noodle lovers and those willing to laugh at a few of the absurdities of Japanese obsessions**. The movie is a string of food-related vignettes interspersed with a mock Western about the revitalization of a ramen shop. At times it is as silly as that sounds, but it doesn't take itself too seriously, even though the characters clearly take noodles very seriously.
Experience viewing Tampopo prepared me for reading Momofuku, David Chan and Peter Meehan's cookbook-memoir about noodle obsessions and starting the Momofuku empire in NYC, last January. The book was a present given to my parents, and I didn't try to cook anything from it, but both the Mister and I were mesmerized by the accounts of soba training and ramen training and flaunting convention as an up and coming chef.

Out of curiosity, has anyone seen Ramen Girl?

*Including being called on Thursday to find out if I wanted my institution included on an NSF grant somebody else is writing. If funded, we would receive money to hire students to do cool research that we would like to do anyway. While participating did require me to run around and acquire signatures and apologize for getting signatures without ample notice, that's all it required of me, and the guy writing the grant was genuinely surprised that I wanted to participate.

**Warning, the subtitles do make it a less good choice for a tired Friday night as one cannot knit to it or fall briefly asleep and catch back up.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Unheard of

My hall has been decked.
My mantle is a bit minimalist and these images capture the full extent of holiday decorating. It's nothing bright and bowy, but the extraordinary thing is that the decorations exist and they are on display in November.
I'm not quite sure to what the world is coming.

Monday, November 22, 2010

In defense of fruitcake, brussels sprouts and basketweaving

My mother and several friends get together in early November each year to "fruitcake." The long process of making the toothsome concoctions begins with a raucous group effort of mixing nuts and fruits, followed by the slow baking and at least a month of ripening under wraps.
Other than that they have made a verb out of it, I see nothing more strange about fruitcaking than meeting to make holiday crafts or exchange cookies, yet when my mother excitedly tells others of her cooperative fruitcake making plans, she almost invariably receives a confused, "well, isn't that interesting" type reply, sometimes accompanied by a plea that the fruitcake not end up on his or her unsuspecting doorstep.
I love fruitcake. I don't get fruitcake jokes. Fruitcake would never stay around my place long enough to be tossed at the town park in January. Many of my friends have never tasted a fruitcake, much less received enough of them to regift them the next year (the good ones run $23-$60+ at Collin Street Bakery).
Why would one assume that one wouldn't like something made out of ingredients that one likes? And, even, if one genuinely didn't like fruitcake, why would one assume that other people can't stand something that clearly sells well at $40 a piece?
I don't get it. But then I am also a straight-A student who struggled in her basketweaving class (and yes, some of the time we were weaving underwater) and I convinced The Mister that he likes brussels sprouts well enough that he prepares them on a regular basis. I also like anchovy pizza.
Basketweaving is not easy. Brussels sprouts are not necessarily repulsive*. Some of us like fruitcake.
I wonder what I mock without knowing anything about it.
NASCAR? Corn dogs?

*I ate horrid over-boiled brussels sprouts covered with inordinate amounts of slimey fake butter at the cafeteria at my last institution. I had never had them before (I avoided school lunches growing up and my mom fixed fresh brussel sprouts) and at that point I realized why the Mister thought he hated them when we met.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

We, the narrator

During the Reign of the Queen of Persia is narrated by a young girl in a small town in Ohio in the 1950s. Or her sister. Or her cousins. Possibly the cousins collectively. Possibly all four girls independently; I never could tell. The second page of Joan Chase's novel states, directly enough, "There were four of us then, two his daughters, two his nieces, all of born within two years of each other. Uncle Dan treated the four of us the very same," and then adds, "sometimes we thought we were the same-- same blood, same rights of inheritance."
Clearly, Chase doesn't want us to consider that narrator an individual. All four of the "we" are observed by the narrator. The narrator's not Cecelia, because "we were very conscious of Cecelia." The narrator can't be Jenny, because "we" watch her getting the easy spelling words while Neil saves the hard ones for "us", his daughters. Neil's daughters are Katie and Annie, but neither can be the narrator because "we're" afraid when "Katie and Annie" fight, but we leave them to it. Both of "our" mothers are called "Aunt" throughout. Aunt Grace is married to Neil and Aunt Libby is married to Uncle Dan. "We" just keep telling the story.
This unease about who is telling the story bugs me far more than it should. Apparently, I really appreciate knowing who is relating a personal story. I like to be able to judge the narrator's credibility based on his or her age, experience and bias of relationship to other characters. The indefinite "we" doesn't allow for such judgments.
The Jane Austen Book Club (read last year) used a similar structure. By the end I had to assume that "we", the first person plural narrator, was the club, and that a club could have snarky personal asides. A club with a first person plural personality makes some (very small quantity) of sense.
I finished During the Reign of the Queen of Persia without any good idea as to why Chase used the unusual voice or why she messed with the chronology and overall structure of the book so much. Perhaps the devices, along with the sad ending made DtRotQoP feel like a much weightier book than it really is. I'm not sure. Anyone read it?
Certainly, I have friends who would enjoy reading DtRotQoP, but I also can't think of anyone who should put forth great effort to track it down.

I'd like any thoughts about other works written in first person plural. In particular, other books in which all members of the collective are separately viewed in the third person, thus ruling them out as an individual choosing to represent the collective.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Another Young Punk

The violet mohawk was the highlight of an otherwise disappointing Halloween. I wore my "witch with a day job" outfit to work on Friday and did not receive a single comment until 5 p.m. (I'm surprised that all-black garb, purple lips, black fingernails and a giant mass of hair isn't worthy of comment, but I'd rather believe that than just that nobody noticed). The grocery store was out of pumpkins so I didn't carve a jack-o-lantern, and I do so love carving jack-o-lanterns. We received a total of 11 trick-or-treaters. Dianthus puked this afternoon long before he was offered any candy. I was entirely out of good ideas for a costume for Dianthus when I remembered the purple hair spray (yes, it is an item I keep on hand). Dianthus's shirt reads, "Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Milk." Click here to be reminded how much he has grown in a year.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Proud Tradition Continues

Fall Break* means one thing: pretending that we'll catch up on grading! Actually, for the Mister and me, fall break (which is two days here, one day at our previous institution) means traveling to places that people in our demographic don't go, at least not midweek in October, and then pretending that we will somehow catch up on grading when we return. While we were in West Virginia, we spent fall breaks in a rodent-infested cabin at a state park, in Parkersburg (a small city an hour and a half from where we lived), in Pittsburgh, and at a bed and breakfast entirely full of wealthy post middle-aged women from DC and Ohio. While living in Kansas, we went to St. Louis.** Before I met the Mister I spent one fall break with my English ex-boyfriend (then already an ex for several years) among the retirees at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park in Vermont and another with my college ex (then already an ex for seven years) listening to music with busloads of blue-haired ladies at the Ozark Folk Center.

This past week Dianthus, The Mister and I went to Medicine Park, Oklahoma and stayed in a cobblestone cottage. Despite being built as a tourist town, nothing is going on in Medicine Park on a Thursday in October. The shops are closed, the winery isn't open until dinner and there is not a single place to buy breakfast.
We spent our day in the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge and intend to go back.
And yes, rodents were spotted.

*Really it means kids these days have it sooo easy. There was no fall break when I was an undergrad. No siree.

**To be complete, I should mention that we went to Paris for my fall break the first year we were dating. It doesn't fit the pattern quite as well, but people in my demographic (graduate students) certainly didn't jaunt off to Paris for a long weekend. The conversation went something like this:
Mister: We should go someplace over your fall break.
Me: Let's go camping in the Ozarks.
Mister: Okay. Or we could go to Paris.

Monday, October 25, 2010

In which I punt in the Scottish Literature Clishmaclaver and say nice things about Jekyll and Hyde and Wuthering Expectations

Amateur Reader from Wuthering Expectations is hosting a Scottish Literature Challenge this year (details here). AR is trying to stimulate discussion and conversation about Victorian Scottish Literature. As a big fan of many things in Scotland (gardens, music, oatcakes, an Englishman* I met there . . . ) and discussing books in general, I signed up right away.
I intended to read [linked list inserted here].

Thus far, I have read three Robert Louis Stevenson stories: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Markheim, and The Pavilion on the Links.

It was my first time reading Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and as "Jekyll and Hyde" has made it into common parlance, I figured I knew the plot. The story opens with characters other than Jekyll or Hyde and I realized with a start that not only did I have no idea what happened to these new characters, I had no idea what was going to happen to Jekyll/Hyde. Knowing that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person is knowing a premise, not a plot.
The story is good, very good, and I can't quite think what I have to say about it.
Most of Hyde's misdeeds happen off-stage, so one must imagine what a man without any conscience has been up to at nights. AR points out that this, "let's Hyde be as decadent as the reader's imagination allows, which is also amusing. The more innocent the reader, the more puzzling the story." I can imagine a time in my life when I would have found Jekyll and Hyde rather silly instead of frightening.
I noticed the role of wine and other transforming potions because AR and friends had mentioned them and likewise thought more about the ch0ice for the story to be mostly revealed in letters after the action has taken place because the subject had been mentioned on Wuthering Expectations.
The story ends abruptly with the end of Dr. Jekyll's letter. It is exactly where Dr. Jekyll's letter should end, but ending the story there didn't sit right with me. Still, any additional resolution outside the letter would have just been plain wrong.

Besides having nothing novel to say about The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, reading it felt like cheating in the Scottish Literature challenge. Stevenson was born in Scotland, but the story is a London story. There is nothing Scottish about it.
I therefore read two other R.L. Stevenson stories from the illustrated classics volume I had checked out of the library. At least one of them, "The Pavilion on the Links", felt remotely Scottish. It takes place in Scotland and the Scottish setting contributes to the story. It's one of those well-crafted stories with a final punch that made me wonder if anything I had just read was as it seemed, but not compelling enough to actually make me go back and re-read it with an informed perspective.

"Markheim" is another London struggle between the good and evil contained within one person. I was pleased to learn that it was written before Jekyll and Hyde. Markheim is an intriguing tale in its own right, but as it relies on a supernatural appearance, it would be a lame follow-up to Jekyll and Hyde, the brilliance of which is that an ordinary man can simultaneously harbor such good and bad intentions.
Thinking about Markheim (1885) and Jekyll and Hyde (1886) made me want to re-read The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) and wonder what was going on in the streets of London in the 1880s that so much evil can be found within "ordinary" looking people.
Altogether, I haven't much to contribute to the discussion of Scottish Victorian Literature thus far. I must read some more.

However, I do want to put in a plug for having something like Wuthering Expectations in one's life. Most of my life comprises things I do well or things I need to get done (many items I feel should be listed under the former too often fall under the latter, but this is a fact of life). I don't devote much time to things I am not particularly good at that don't need to get done. In absence of a knitting group, I don't knit. Without good instructors, I don't flail around in aerobics classes. I haven't struggled to keep up with a foreign language in years. But I do read small doses of thoughtful literature appreciationism daily.

Because Amateur Reader is an acquaintance in "real life", I started reading Wuthering Expectations the week it was launched and have been feeling well-read (by proximity) or completely unrefined (I don't read Victorian poetry and don't envision myself starting any time soon**) for three years since. It is great to have something to debate in my mind while washing the dishes ("saying that writing can't be beautiful because it doesn't look good on the page is like saying that a piece of music can't be beautiful because the score appears like almost any other") even if I am a month behind the discussion. I recently dreamed about compiling a list of narrators whose book we were reading as we read a novel. I kept reminding myself to keep track because it wasn't just Vonnegut (Yes, I forgot before I awakened).
Reading the Victorian Literature thoughts of somebody else isn't for everybody, I know, but let this serve as a public service message to do something that is well outside of what you do well or what you need to do.
And thanks for AR for keeping me thinking in a different way.

*It always did make me rather sad that my great Scottish romance was with an Englishman. Said Englishman, however, was in love with Scotland at the time, and my mother has always considered him Scottish, so it almost counts.
**With the exception of Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Inaugural Ice Cream Success

Few people believe it until they see it*, but our house has a room dedicated to the eating of ice cream.*** Today we had our first ice cream party (to which everyone brought additional sweet food, so besides five flavors of ice cream, multiple flavors of soda pop for floats, cherries, hot fudge, coconut, pieces of peanut brittle, crushed pineapple, butterscotch, bananas, and whipped cream, which we provided, homemade angel food cake, chocolate chip cookies, devil's food cake, pumpkin bread, peanut butter cookies, snickerdoodles and store bought brownies were available) in it.

The dean of my college left alerting me that I need to do this again next year and I need to invite him and he will be very disappointed if he finds out that I have such a party without him.

Independently my department chair and former department chair started commenting that weekly ice cream parties for the next four or five years wouldn't be a bad thing.**

Dianthus loved the ice cream and the attention and Mister Splashy Pants stopped by a few times until Dianthus chased her away. Altogether, a successful first party for our new place.

Revisit later in the week for my lack of good thoughts on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

*I know, I know, I should post pictures. Many of the guests today know the former occupants of our house, but none of them knew about the sundae room in back, which is weird to me. If you put in the trouble to build a hardwood bar, find three diner tables, chrome bar stools, coca-cola paraphernalia and set out fifty-some coca-cola and soda glasses, wouldn't you invite all your neighbors back?

**They were joking. Well, they were at least joking about the implied connection to tenure. Nobody thinks a weekly ice cream party would be bad.

***This line revised from the original, in case the comments make no sense.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In which lapses of logic don't bother me

The Devil in the Junior League by Linda Francis Lee intrigued me because only in a small town library of a certain type would you find such a book beside To Kill a Mockingbird.

Open House by Elizabeth Berg I picked up because the author has the same name as one of my friends, had my friend fully changed her name when she married.*

My Sister-in-Law, who works as a literature professor, once commented that her students had no idea how to pick out books; sometimes they seem to just read randomly. Once past my initial shock that her students apparently read books, I admitted that my reading is far from systematic**. She reminded me that I have, and utilize, many means of acquiring book recommendations: I read book blogs and book reviews, I talk with friends and family members who read, I've been in book clubs and follow others. All true. My "to be read" lists are long and varied (and not stored in any one place), yet as a fuddy duddy who mocks students and authors for their failings in logic, I must admit why I really read some of the books I read.

I picked up Zinnia by Jayne Castle at a library book sale years ago because it had a cover with my second favorite z-flower on it, the author has a cool last name, and it was cheap (probably 25¢). I re-read it recently because wacky as it is (interplanetary exploration, interior design, human prisms for hire for talented psychics to use to focus their talents with, government required matchmaking and deadly carnivorous plants all play a role) this futuristic romance is fun.

Our local library stocks no Jayne Castle, but has a rather extensive collection of Jayne Ann Krentz (same woman, different series). I selected Sweet Starfire because the dust jacket suggested it takes place on a different planet. Indeed, Sweet Starfire is no Zinnia, but it does has interplanetary exploration, murderous carnivorous plants, ghosts of alien races, louts, rogues, tough virgins, social commentary, man-eating insects, and mind controlling extra-alien lizard eggs with the best of them. Jayne is good enough that it makes more sense than it should, but really, my editor self would point out that it couldn't make that much sense.

Apparently, sometimes I can still quiet my inner editor.

*The Devil in the JL and Open H, are both about divorce. TDitJL makes moving on with ones life sound like quite the romp, while OH, an Oprah selection, succeeds in conveying how very pathetic one can feel (and be) when one is suddenly single. I have many friends who would enjoy TDitJL, but I can't think of anyone who needs to read it. The characters in OH felt real enough that I will consider reading more Elizabeth Berg, but if one is going to plot something that is clearly a crazy fantasy, one might as well make it a Zinnia. OH is fine but I can't think of a good reason I'd recommend this over many other fine books.

**I'm fairly sure I actually said "random" but here my editor kicks in and points out that random means far more than lack of uniformity.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dianthus loves his new present

While it might be debated whether the new dryer was a present for Dianthus turning 14 months or the Mister turning considerably more years*, there is no doubt as to who thinks it is more fun. He put himself in without any prompting, by the way.

*Or perhaps something for me as an offering to the rain gods. We haven't had a functioning dryer since we moved in and we haven't needed one. I surely don't want the rain to hold off on account me wanting sunny days to hang out clothes.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dianthus Digs

At his grandparents' house over Labor Day weekend, Dianthus learned how to dig potatoes.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The fuddy duddy and the garden books

I read today that an enzyme catalyzes the hypothesis of starch*. Not that long ago I read "week ones get ait first" as a description of evolution. It's been reported to me that members of Kingdom Animalia differ from members of Kingdom Fungi in that, "Kingdom Animalia is 97% alive."

Being inundated with errors, both of logic and editing, is an everyday part of my job, and has been for many years. Something has changed in the last several months, however, and suddenly I've become one of those cranky editor types both in and away from school. Errors now bother me in my pleasure reading. I circled and crossed-out words on the paperwork I had to complete for my new doctor. When the receptionist entering my data apologized for the "if it if" where "if it is" was intended, instead of assuring her it was no big deal, I pointed her to the line where I was to report any past "insuries"**. I refrained from asking how much longer it would make my appointment if I answered "Has anyone ever hurt you emotionally?" truthfully.
This post is emerging very slowly because I have a karmic sense of the universe. I can't imagine how a post criticizing editing won't lead to future personal humiliation. I am a bad editor of my own work. I am a worse speller. Yet somehow, reading gardening books over the summer, what I noticed was the editing, and I'm going to tell you about it.

The very beautiful coffee table book, The Garden Design Book by Cheryl Merser and the editors of Garden Design magazine, is, like the magazine that inspired it, fun to flip through. It was probably my mistake to try to read it cover to cover. While doing so I found that several sections had no point, that the "lessons" did not much match the "plans" they accompanied, and several (okay, at least two), unexplained and awkward Gertrude Jekyll references.
The table of contents lists chapter titles and a sub-head for each. The first chapter is, "who is the new gardener?" accompanied by, "Hint: It's not Gertrude Jekyll anymore"***.

So a possible convert to gardening opens up the book and sees gardening is not for Gertrude Jekyll anymore and thinks, "I don't even know who the person they're making fun of is, the book must not be for beginners like me," and closes the book. The odd person who thinks, "Gardening is not for some woman I've never heard of, I'm intrigued," will find a vague description of the new gardener (not necessarily old or English, who I assume that Gertrude Jekyll was to represent) but no further information about GJ other than she would be amazed by the people who now garden. Those of us for whom Gertrude Jekyll is a paragon of garden design get defensive about her and wonder what else the author is missing if she thinks that Gertrude Jekyll is the antithesis of modern gardeners.
Take home editing lesson: if you are going to set someone up as a foil, particularly as an attention grabber foil, they should both be immediately recognizable to your audience and actually represent some sort of opposition.
Aside: Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) was a fabulous English garden designer and planter. She used color and texture in "painterly" combinations that still feel fresh to me. Her name supposedly rhymes with treacle and her younger brother was a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson.
The revised edition of the Oklahoma Gardener's Guide by Steve Dobbs has both editing and editorial problems. One of six different Oklahoma climate maps is in the introduction. The other five are in the back matter. The index lists several plants that don't make the book. The sod chapter (smack dab on the page where Chilopsis is supposed to be) was cut and paste from a different book for a different region without local adjustments. Of real concern, Dobbs profiles several plants that are invasive thugs as being good garden plants for Oklahoma.

So that should give you an idea of the things that are bugging me recently. Suffice it to say there are similar examples from many other books.

To help my editing karma, I'll end on a high note. Cutting Edge Gardening in the Intermountain West by Marcia Tatroe is fabulous. Well, I did have an issue with Marcia's decision to use "intermountain" to define an area that's not between any mountains (See what sort of stickler I'm becoming? Put "Intermountain West" in your title and I expect you not to use the Denver metro area for most of your examples.) but other than that the book is beautiful, inspiring and had just enough practical information in the text that it is well worth reading instead of just looking at Charles Mann's gorgeous photographs. I would think it a great book, even if I didn't know Marcia Tatroe personally (meeting her was nice a perk of working at a renowned garden in the near-mountain West, even if I haven't spoken to her in ten years) but it wouldn't have occured to me to buy it.

Okay, all this crankiness in making me tired and I'm afraid of all the errors I've made myself. Oh well, time to post. And then maybe this weekend I'll actually put the gardening knowledge to use.

*I believe the students intended "hydrolysis". I would be more sympathetic except it was a take home assignment and the word hydrolysis was in the instructions.

**I actually thought insuries was some sort of insurance-claim-worthy injury at first. I do like the word.

***That the "who" is not capitalized and the "Hint: It's" is also irks me a bit, but then I've just established that I'm a fuddy duddy who like parallel construction, at least in other people's work.

Garden image of Crathes Castle in Eastern Scotland by Kathy Collins. Crathes is not actually a Jekyll design, but directly a Jekyll-inspired garden. I'm not sure how that works, but it is a stunning garden.

Monday, September 27, 2010

And the little buggers are hard to zest, too

As I've mentioned before, I'm big into birthdays. I also like to bake, although I don't do it often. I view the Mister's birthday at the end of September as an opportunity to demonstrate how very much I like him while convincing him that birthdays are worth celebrating and simultaneously doing something I enjoy.
Based on some long-ago, not-intended-to-be-remembered comment of his, I planned to bake a Lady Baltimore cake for his birthday this year, seven minute frosting and all. Figs, alas, are not available locally. I certainly wasn't going to bake a Lady Baltimore cake with just raisins, so I had to resort to the dessert he actually wanted, key lime pie.
The problem with key lime pie is that it is super-easy. Something with only three ingredients hardly demonstrates how very fond of I am of the Mister. I worried about this enough that I also baked chocolate chip cookies (something I just don't do because I bake cookies at Christmas and chocolate chip are not Christmas cookies). Maybe pie and cookies and a nice dinner with candlelight and flowers (and marrying him, having his child and putting up with him on a daily basis) might demonstrate the depth of my affection.
Our local grocery then provided me the opportunity to substantiate my adoration. The store may not stock any dried figs, but it does carry actual key limes. Itty-bitty key limes. Thirteen of them yielded a half cup of juice.
He must know I like him now. Nothing says "love" like squeezing lots of little limes.
Happy Birthday Mister! I'd have baked it for you if it took a full cup of juice.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Who is Gertrude Jekyll? Please Comment

I'm (very slowly) working on a post about my recent editing mania (and related hypocrisy. I am, after all, a poor speller and someone who recently sent out resumes saying that I taught "conversation biology"*). In that post I mock a book that reads "Who in the new blanker? Hint: It's not Gertrude Jekyll anymore."
But then it occurred to me that perhaps I am mistaken. Perhaps it is snobbery on my part that I assume most readers of that book won't know who Gertrude Jekyll is. So I'm gathering evidence. Please note in the comments if you know who Gertrude Jekyll is (or was) and, if not, what you would envision when you read, "it's not Gertrude Jekyll anymore"
Thanks for participating.

*My conversation biology class would be great. Conservation biology class was good, but biological conversations-- I'm really well trained for those.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BBAW Notes

It's Book Blogger Appreciation Week and I'm somewhat saddened that I have no great finds to add to my comments of last year. I do, however, still read three great book blogs regularly, and very much appreciate them.
Wuthering Expectations focuses on 19th century literature. Amateur Reader, the author, does such a great job discussing the writing, rather than his opinion of it, that I was pleasantly surprised when he stopped by Sparkling Squirrel just to encourage others to read what "may be the most charming science fiction novel every written," Little Fuzzy.
Raych at books i done read takes a wholly other approach, she reads "books so you don't have to" and she never shies away from an opinion.
Anthyrium's Marieke takes a middle approach. Her book posts are certainly personal reviews, rather than a discussion of the writing, but she finds contextual support for her opinions. She also happens to live in a place I love and shares my fondness for gardening, fiber arts and small town newspapers.
Book Blogging Universe, I appreciate you!
Amatuer Reader, Raych and Marieke, keep reading and writing.

Monday, September 13, 2010


"There's a reason it's taught in high schools," commented the Mister upon his recent completion of Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon.
"And there's a reason Puddn'head Wilson isn't," I added.

Mark Twain's social commentary does have a lot going for it: a fabulous opening with wonderful horticultural description*, a memorable character named Puddn'head, scathing social commentary, lots of potential Mark Twainisms, and crime scene detective work so exuberantly presented the concept seems sweet. It also has a jumble of other characters who don't fit into the story, subtle racism perpetuated in the attack on overt racism, ill-suited shifts in focus and lots of use of the n-word.

I haven't read enough Twain to know if Puddn'head is just a clumsy lesser work of a great writer, or if Twain's greatness can fully be sampled in his little bits: the fabulous description here, the satirical aside there, and the quote just waiting to be made into an epigram, rather than as a writer of whole books. I'm reading The Prince and the Pauper now to collect more evidence.

*In 1830 it was a snug collection of modest one- and two- story frame dwellings, whose whitewashed exteriors were almost concealed from sight by climbing tangles of rose vines, honeysuckles,and morning glories. Each of these pretty homes had a garden in front fenced with white palings and opulently stocked with hollyhocks, marigolds,touch-me-nots, prince's-feathers, and other old-fashioned flowers;while on the windowsills of the houses stood wooden boxes containing moss rose plants and terra-cotta pots in which grew a breed of geranium whose spread of intensely red blossoms accented the prevailing pink tint of the rose-clad house-front like an explosion of flame.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fuzzy Books

I've waited long enough to write about H. Beam Piper's* Fuzzy Trilogy (Little Fuzzy, Fuzzy Sapiens and Fuzzies and Other People) that I have much less to say than when I first finished them. This is probably not a bad thing, as I was wanting to babble about topics ranging from the role of corruption in government to the importance of cocktail hour to authors in the 1960s. Now enough time has passed that I'll just give a two line summary and make my recommendations.
The Fuzzy books are delightful short books about the discovery of a new species, Fuzzies, on a planet inhabited by (and being exploited by) Terran Humans. Each book has a plot that, more or less clumsily, pushes forth the action. However, if I were to say what the books were "about", I'd say that the first is about what it means to be sapient, the second about how all governments have problems and I'm really not sure about the third.
Despite that lackluster description I have several friends that should definitely read them: SalSis because of her interest in "classic" science fiction and because she will spend the whole time comparing the fuzzies to her pets and her friends' babies. She and TucTrek will both want to live with some fuzzies. Irene and Beth will enjoy the books for the same reasons, and also because the science/legal interface is fascinating to note.
Other friends should read them simply because they are fun and thought provoking, if awkwardly paced and plotted.

*Author of Space Viking, my thoughts linked to here. The Fuzzy books are much more fun.
Image from Amazon.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dianthus earns his name

He's been taking steps for some time, but on Saturday I felt I could confidently say that the little man is walking.
If he had my last name instead of the Mister's, he'd have to wait for chess tournaments or palatial construction to earn his name.
*Saturday was two days shy of thirteen months, making him smack dab in the middle of average. As for other milestones, he had his center four teeth as of our house hunting trip in late May. His upper left lateral incisor and his lower left lateral incisor popped through on that trip (at 10 months) and no teeth since. So, for three months he has had six teeth, four on one side and two on the other. It appears that the upper right lateral incisor is on its way in now (to which we hope to attribute much of the recent crankiness), making his teeth timing average to average, two early and two late.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Big wheels keep on turning

I live in a town surrounded by windmills (98 of them, in fact). My walk from my house to day care to campus is entirely in the older (i.e. "has trees") part of town, so I don't see the windmills constantly. I was unaware that they were part of my sense of home until last week. For at least three days, two of them pleasantly windy, all of the windmills were stopped. It disturbed me. I felt off-kilter. There's something surreal and disquieting about looking out at a horizon dominated by stationary windmills as the wind gusts around one's skirt.
The windmills are turning today. All is better.

So it goes with the rest of my life as well. I haven't figured out a time to sit down and post book reviews or how to keep the kitchen clean when opening the dishwasher is a Dianthus magnet, but things are settling down. There's a pile of quizzes to grade, a front yard to make into a flower garden, and blank taupe walls waiting for art to be hung. Nothing is caught up. It will never be. But Dianthus is walking, the Mister and I planned multiple weeknight meals when we went grocery shopping, and we're almost through the hideous chemistry part of the semester. Wheels keep turning.

Image from travelpod.
Much as I like CCR, by the way, the Tina Turner version of Proud Mary is now my favorite. "Big wheel keep on turning, Proud Mary keep on burning. Rollin'. . ."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Someday I'll Move the Mirror

The mirror on the mirror hanging in the master bathroom isn't exactly my style, and, as it happens, the frame hits my reflection right in the eye. Except for the hole for the nail that holds the gilded mirror, the mirror in back is completely sufficient on its own. So why haven't I moved the top mirror in the month that I've lived here?
Because I was waiting until I unpacked the bathroom stuff?
Because I can't move the mirror until we're ready to hang all the art?
Because I had to leave it to show our visitors (The Mister's parents, happy cricket, my parents and Sunflower Spinner four weeks in a row!)?
Because school started?
Because I have a one year old?
Because I'm plain tired?

While the former are all true, the latter is what's getting me.
This is supposed to be a relatively light load. The Mister has cooked dinner every night this week. I haven't done a thing except walk Dianthus to day care, walk to work, work and walk home. And I'm beat. Needing high doses of chocolate kind of beat. "I can't believe classes just started yesterday I'm so worn down" kind of beat.
But I don't plan to bring any work home this weekend. So maybe I'll move the mirror and hang the paintings. Or maybe I'll mow.
Or maybe I'll play with Dianthus and pretend to change my personal style so it fits the gilded mirror on mirror and all of these light fixtures.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why We Moved, Part II

So the Texas panhandle, northeastern New Mexico and southern Colorado (or western Kansas and eastern Colorado or the Oklahoma panhandle and southwestern Colorado) go on forever, but still, they take less time to cross than eastern Colorado, all of Kansas, all of Missouri and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky (or Ohio) and West Virginia.
The fourth photo was taken in Colorado about a month ago, the rest were all here in Oklahoma this past weekend.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Dianthus is a climber. If there is something he can be on, up, in or through, he will be on, up, in or through it, whether it is stairs, a box, a dishwasher, or a step ladder. Based on comments from people who are around other one year olds, Dianthus is unusually enthusiastic in his climbing.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Heavy Light Reading and Light Light Reading

While venturing across the country, I picked up and read several small books from other people's bookshelves, all of which are recommended for somebody and the last of which, The Good Women of China, you should all take note of.

The Mother of the Mister is a retired school librarian and maintains an intriguing collection of children's* and Young Adult books. I read Ann Martin's A Corner of the Universe and Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff. Both are good. Like so many YA books, both are deceptively light and are actually filled with angst. Both made me cry. A Corner of the Universe felt a bit too light-hearted for the subject matter, but that light-heartedness made it readable as a pleasure novel. Pictures of Hollis Woods made me want to go out and become a foster parent.

From my mother's bookshelf, I picked up a few genuinely light books. I read the last two of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series (first mentioned by me here) by Alexander McCall Smith: The Kalahari Typing School for Men and The Full Cupboard of Life. Correction, I read the fourth and fifth book in the series; it turns out there are now eleven and the series is still growing. The "mysteries" become even less mysterious in these books, but the charming sense of Botswanan pride is still there and the personal entanglements become all the more interesting.

I also grabbed Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters, partially because it had previously been owned by my grandfather. While the mystery itself felt more like a Scooby-Doo episode than a whodoneit (their was a mummy to unmask, after all), I enjoyed the book far more than most of the few modern murder mysteries I've read, mostly because I'm really not into crime scene investigation or murders, and I am into delightful characters. Like Mma Ramostwe of the No. 1 Ladies', Amelia Peabody is an opinionated and sometimes obnoxious joy to spend some time with (Nymeth's review discusses some of the interesting attributes of the contradictory Victorian early feminist narrator). In Crocodile on the Sandbank, Miss Peabody leaves England for Egypt, without male companionship, at the off-the-market old age of thirty-two. C on the S is a great summer read in the classic sit on the beach sense (not that I have ever sat on a beach reading, but I think I could), and while I am not in a hurry to read further installments, I think it is likely that I will.

From my Mother's bookshelf, I also borrowed The Good Women of China by Xinran and translated by Esther Tyldesley. It turns out my mother has not yet read this book; otherwise I'm sure she would have warned me. This is a devastating book. The Good Women of China is similar to YA books in that it is short and uses simple language and then takes on heavy subjects that make one bawl**. Except that this is not fiction and nothing about it feels sensationalized or manipulative. The journalistic tone makes reading the true stories of "normal" women's experiences in China all the more traumatic. I'm reasonably aware of the Cultural Revolution and its effects (I've read Life and Death in Shanghai and Wild Swans and a few other memoirs), but, wow, I wasn't prepared for The Good Women of China. The editing of the stories is excellent. I never noticed the writing, which means it completely serves it purpose for the book. Everyone should read this book. It is so much more than stories of rape, suicide, abuse, denigration and unfulfilled longing. I'm not sure if anyone will want to. It is, in fact, stories of rape, suicide, abuse, denigration and unfulfilled longing. Read it anyway, but read it on a day when you don't need to be cheerful in the evening.

*I also picked up Eats, Shoots & Leaves, the punctuation book by Lynne Truss, off of my father's nightstand. Truss has a special affection for apostrophes and her voice is making me particularly paranoid that whatever spellcheck is on blogger won't accept "children's literature".

**I'm not alone with this. Many of the Amazon reviewers mention their tears and their hopes that these stories weren't really true.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Dianthus met his cousins. Prairie Dog met a distant relative. Nobody was badly bitten. It was a good trip. We are all now glad to be home, except for prairie dog who prefers life on the road.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Bastille Day!

I'm frolicking in Colorado: eating good food, hanging out with good people and enjoying wildflowers.
Photos of the prairie dog, commentary and book reviews someday.
In the meantime, I'll be joining my extended family in the mountains and I hope that you are celebrating summer-- eating peaches, tomatoes, sweet corn, ice cream and basil, drinking vinho verdi and marveling that not so many months ago we longed to be warm.

Happy Summer!

Oh, by the way, thanks to my MiL and FiL, it seems that our stuff is in our house. Hooray!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Good Thing Ida Wasn't on the Truck

So we've moved.
Or at least we've left our little house in West Virginia (several nostalgic posts about my house, marmots and neighborhood to be linked here when I can post photos).
Given that the movers had given us a range of July 1-3 for our stuff to arrive in Oklahoma, we expected that we would be in the process of moving in by now.
Alas, we found out on June 30, when we called the moving company from our new town, that our stuff isn't expected to be in Oklahoma until July 13-15. We had chosen this moving company specifically because they gave us the best range of dates that would allow us to be in Colorado with family July 5-18. If we ask them to wait until we are going to be in Oklahoma, our stuff won't arrive until the first week of August. Needless to say, we aren't happy (and don't have the ideal apparel for wearing in the mountains in Colorado), but we are working things out and, thanks to some relatives very generous with their time, have a plan.
I'm just glad Ida isn't on the truck.
Ida is one of my houseplants, apparently a green nepthytis (Syngonium podophyllum). She didn't have a name until I reluctantly gave her away last week. Until then, she was just "the indicator plant" because she would always wilt before the others and indicate water was needed. Ida had been with me for almost twelve years. She was given to a family friend in 1998 following one of many cancer treatments. That friend, who did not go by Ida, gave the plant to me to adorn my first "real" apartment, saying, "It will look better in your apartment than in my hospital room."
And the plant looked great in my apartment. The plant was a turning point with my houseplant luck (or skill). Until then I had only managed to keep alive the most simple of plants, a pothos and a sansevieria from my brother, and starting with the indicator plant, I had quite the photosynthetic menagerie. The plant lived with me in the Denver apartment after the friend died of cancer in 1999. The plant survived almost twelve years and four moves with me, including Denver to Kansas and Kansas to West Virginia. I wanted the plant to move to Oklahoma as well, but the movers wouldn't take live plants and there wasn't room in the car with The Mister, Mr Splashy Pants and Dianthus, so I gave the plant away to a West Virginia friend.
I told the WV friend the story of how special this plant is to me: how it represents a family friend who was a great woman and a great bread baker and generous even when she dying. I surprised my West Virginia friend by not having a name for such a symbolic plant. So she asked for the name of the great woman who gave her to me. I told her. It's not a good name for a plant. "What was _____'s middle name?" "_______ was her middle name. Her first name was Ida." The West Virginia friend didn't think Ida was a great plant name either, and thought better of naming a plant after a human, but "Ida" fits the plant to me.
This is all a long reminder about symbols. It's a reminder to my friend in West Virginia that if Ida the plant dies, which she inevitably will some day, it does not bode ill for her, for me, or for our friendship. It's also a reminder to me that in leaving Ida and many other plants, including the two that my brother gave me twenty years ago for my first dorm room, I am not leaving behind the good wishes with which they were given. It's also a reminder to the family and friends of the woman-who-didn't-go-by-Ida, many of whom read this blog, that her spirit persists among us and I think of her often. I'll still think of her often without the plant to remind me.
Ida the plant is symbolic only because I make her so. Ida the plant is merely a common houseplant.
Still, I'm glad Ida wasn't sneaked onto the truck to be sweltering for weeks in some storage unit as we wait for a truck, any truck, to drive our stuff to Oklahoma.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

People of the Book and Why Dianthus Must Read

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks is yet another book my mother gave me recently (I don't, by the way, remember my mother physically giving me all of these books, but somehow at least five of them ended up on one of my many "to be read" stacks). This one traces a rare book, the Sarajevo Haggadah, back through its history. Chapters alternate between first person narration by an Australian book conservationist in 1996 and third person accounts of the story behind each "flaw" in the book. That description hardly makes it sound gripping, but it is.
The Sarajevo Haggadah, surfacing in Sarajevo in 1996, has been through it all. It has seen war, disease, slavery, wealth, and a full range of human depravity. There were times with glimmers of religious tolerance and times of overt anti-semitism. While the plot in 1996 propels People of the Book forward, the historical chapters make the book something greater than a silly intellectual mystery* and family drama. A few times I thought that Brooks was trying too hard to distribute vices and virtues: "Okay, I have a Christian with syphilis, a Jew with gambling addiction and an atheist who ignores her family. I think the rapist and the redeemer both need to be Muslim." But then she shocked me with a plot line that didn't turn out, and given how funny I found a recurring bit about Australian vs. Austrian stereotypes, I could forgive her for a lot. PotB is recommended for Irene, Janet and any of the knitters. Compared to HotCoBaS and UE, I would say that its strengths are stronger but weaknesses more obvious. I think it is less of a chick book, but I always have a hard time determining that.

As I was reading PotB, I kept asking the Mister questions about Bosnian history, the extent of the Ottoman Empire, the formation of Yugoslavia and the like. Then, as we were driving to Baltimore over the weekend, I announced that, assuming Dianthus has the capability, we are going to do everything in our power to find a way for him to enjoy reading. The Mister, being married to me, is used to non-sequiturs, so wasn't terribly surprised that this stemmed from a Habsburg Empire query. Aside from learning to write well (which the Mister swears is a direct product of reading things written well, and I'm unlikely to argue), reading teaches so much. I dare say that almost all of the history I know is a result of fiction reading.

What have you learned from books?

*I must admit here I am a sucker for silly intellectual mysteries and that I am particularly fond of heroines with advanced degrees in seemingly obscure fields.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A month ago

This was taken in Liberty, Missouri on May 18. It was Dianthus's first swing ride. He has more teeth now (four of them total) and everyone at day care keeps commenting that he's much bigger.

Have I Never Grown Up? Books about immigrants and parental conflict

Since finishing The Gold Bug Variations last week, I fell back into the reading habit and cruised through Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford and Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri.*

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a sweet, sometimes tear-jerking story of a Chinese boy "coming of age" in Seattle during World War II and the ramifications of his relationship with a Japanese American girl. It felt a
lot to me like reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: the history makes one cry and question, "How have I never thought about this before?" and the story, through lots of ups and downs, may be a bit too sweet, but I wouldn't change any of it. Reading it (in a day and a half) made me hungry for more reading and want to re-read The Chosen because of the father-son relationships and communication gaps..
If I didn't read them in a row, I wouldn't have thought Unaccustomed Earth had much to do with HotCoBaS. Unaccustomed Earth is a series of short stories with no plot pay-off. The stories concern Bengali immigrants in the United States** in all sorts of relationships: with their parents, their children, their lovers, their housemates and their siblings. Some are told through the point of view of the immigrant, some through the second generation children, some both. I was continually comparing it to The Joy Luck Club. The stories in UE are better stand-alone stories than those in Amy Tan's novel, but I found myself longing for some clever, Joy Luck style connection among the stories in UE.
However, I did read Unaccustomed Earth immediately after Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and couldn't help but notice the reoccurring theme: failing to communicate with one's parents is an essential part of, or at least a necessary consequence of, growing up. And I've pretty much always liked talking to my parents. Unlike the characters in both books, I have the advantage of speaking the same language as my parents and I am a product of the same basic culture, just 27 years and a thousand miles removed. Still, maybe we need a major disconnect in order for me to grow up. I don't think that my teenage years fully count. My parents certainly didn't understand me at thirteen, but then nobody understood me at thirteen. Somehow I knew, even then, that this tragedy of being terribly misunderstood wasn't unique to me and it certainly wasn't the fault of my parents. Later, at 22, the first time my heart was broken, nobody could understand that I knew my heart would someday mend but it hurt horridly now (and my wonderful ex wasn't even slimy about it, so I didn't have the release of being justifiably angry or feeling horribly deceived). That I didn't want to talk to my parents about it had nothing to do with them. In my thirties, I've spoken to them out genuine desire, rather than obligation, at least every week, usually far more often. Maybe I haven't grown up. But if strife is an requisite part of the maturation process, at this point I'm willing to call myself lucky and never grow up.

Anyway, as far as recommendations go, I know of many people who would enjoy both books. UA is probably better written than HotCoBaS and feels much more modern, but sweet old-fashioned HotCoBas is better plotted (even though the last page of UE was surprising enough that it knocked the wind out of me).
Both of these books are easier to recommend (and read) than The Gold Bug Variations, but they leave me much less confused about my opinion. I know many of my readers will enjoy these books (and I'm not so sure about TGBV), but I want people to read TGBV so we can discuss it.

*Thanks to my mom for giving me these books. Another potential example of not being a grown up: I very rarely actually pick out my own books. Books come to me and I read them.
**Lahiri is the author of The Namesake, a book I must read if only to see what I think it is about. My mother loved the book. I saw the movie. We didn't think they were about the same thing, which is not unusual for comparing a book with a movie, but mom didn't even know why I was asking about Nikolai Gogol (the namesake, a major part of the movie).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A book at last: The Gold Bug Variations

Along with many other accolades ("Best Book of the Year 1991" and so forth) Richard Powers' The Gold Bug Variations now can also be recognized as the book that I actively read for the longest. I started it on the second job interview in February and finished it Monday, reading at least some every week for that period. I didn't read any other adult fiction during that time or put it aside and abandon it. Beyond that, TGBV is the most clever book I have read in a very long time.
Irene gave it to me in December*, describing it as, "a book that was written recently that really feels like literature." I attempted to describe it to Sal Sis when I was visiting in March. I mentioned the connections between Poe's The Gold Bug and Bach's Goldberg Variations and DNA**. She flipped to the back where the words "science" "mystery" and "romance" are all used and asked if it is really a sci-fi mystery or just about relationships. For clarification, TGBV is fiction about science, it is not in the least sci-fi, and it is not a mystery in any book genre sense, (there are mysteries, "how did a brilliant scientist become washed up on the night shift?" and "how can the same four bases code for all of life?" but they are a far cry from whodoneit murders).

Powers captures the wonder of molecular biology: that one simple molecule can lead to life in is infinite varieties, as well as anyone I've ever read. He intentionally captures a moment in the history of biology I'd never previously considered, the time when the structure of DNA was well established but nobody had a good idea how the molecule actually coded for anything. Whether intentional or not, the 1980s are similarly well captured, a time when reference librarians were helpful because they knew in which book to find a piece of information. When I started reading it, all of this just made the book feel dated, by the end, I ignored it as I was fascinated by the human story.

I really want my friends to read this book, but I am struggling as to who, exactly, I would recommend read it. Sal Sis might enjoy it, but it's not sci-fi (and one character takes a few cheap shots at religion). I think it's too slow for most of my family members. I'd be curious about Marieke's or Amateur Reader's thoughts, although I know it doesn't fit in with either's reading plans. Jenny, maybe, would be a good candidate, as would most knitting friends. My Aunt maybe?
While I plan on discussing this with Irene soon, I'd like other people to talk both plot and theme with as well. Read The Gold Bug Variations, or have someone read it, and then let's discuss.
*Thanks Irene!
**The Gold-Bug is about logical code breaking. DNA and the Goldberg Variations are both simple segments repeating regularly that give rise to incredibly varied and complex "wholes" from the same basic parts.

Friday, June 4, 2010

That's How Lucky I Am

I'm sweating sitting in my stuffy office frantically milling through piles of paperwork trying to efficiently locate a receipt to turn in for our medical savings account and worrying about all the moving details that are not yet begun. I took a break to see if there were any new quotes from moving companies and realized that I had not posted in over a week.
It's a great time to remind myself that I lead a charmed life. A few quickly chosen examples:
  • I have friends who think of me when they read about luck [ evidence that lucky people share personality traits (thanks Irene!) (more details here)], and noodles [flying spaghetti monster iphone accessories, (thanks Supplement Scriber!)].

  • While we were in Kansas, my son pulled over one of Sal Sis's shelves, destroying several fragile items. She just wrote me a nice message telling me how much fun he is (thanks Sal Sis, he thinks you and your menagerie are lots of fun too!).

  • Marieke, my blogosphere friend who lives, reads, writes and gardens in Western Scotland, sent me a pasta card with rodent stamps. A woman I "met" the one time I tried a random search feature on blogger turns out to be a kindred spirit and happy with her inner pasta. How lucky is that?

  • My future house has a sundae parlour.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Okraland in Asparagus Season

The Mister, Dianthus and I are still on our househunting road trip. More about that after we secure a house. In the meantime, a brief update on local foods:
-radishes are quite tasty when roasted; my SiL learned this from a vendor at a farmers' market and I can confirm the results are unexpected and good.
-fresh asparagus and fresh strawberries from the in-laws garden are delicious. We hope to plant both at our new place.
-I'm moving into okra territory. The Mister and I quite like okra, and have grown it very successfully in West Virginia and Kansas, but it is unusual to do so in both places. We use it primarily in gumbos and fake gumbos and veggie combos with Indian spices and sometimes just grill it (young okra is surprisingly yummy grilled). None the less, we were somewhat taken aback to find fried okra as a side at every diner, family restaurant and barbecue place we ate at in our future state.
-I missed the peonies and it makes me sad. My Brother and MSiL gave us peonies as a housewarming present when we moved to West Virginia. I missed the bloom last year because I was in Italy. The first bud was opening the day we left this year (May 17) and they will be done by the time we return. We will hit Lawrence today and I'm glad it's past peak peony season in Kansas, otherwise the destruction of what was my gorgeous peony-based garden there would just make me too sad.
-Prairie Dog picked up a new state and we all saw the state capitol from a distance because it now has a dome.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Good times with his Grandpa. Nine seconds of sheer delight.

So I added a few of the accessories . . .

but Dianthus applied the base without help.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tres de Mayo

In May 2008, spring was advancing at a pace about a week and a half behind this year, judging by the dogwood, lilacs and early azalea in that may basket. All of those flowers were well past when I picked a different lavender azalea for this year's bouquet.

Monday of Finals 2009 (May 4) we flooded. This year it rained all night but the river creseted at a mere 16 and a half feet.

On May 3, 2003 I met the Mister for the first time.

May 3, 2010 Dianthus has an ear infection and was sent home from day care, so my to-do list is looking more like that of May 3, 2009 than I'd like to admit, except there is no going to Italy at the end of it and I'm not sleeping well because of a cranky baby on the outside, not a hiccuping fetus inside. On May 3, 2010 the forget-me nots, clematis, columbine and alliums are looking great.
May is the luckiest month.