Monday, January 31, 2011

Taking the changes in stride

Dianthus has not had an easy time of it recently. He's unknowingly expecting a sibling for his second birthday and complications of his mother's pregnancy have reduced her ability to play with him, he has the flu, he had a febrile seizure last night and spent the evening in the emergency room*, the wind is whistling with the Arctic Blast moving into town, and school has already been canceled for tomorrow. Mister Splashy Pants fights back. His mean parents will not let him stand on the kitchen table, change the time on the answering machine, throw food on the floor more than once per meal or climb into the refrigerator. And his eyes are no longer blue.
Yet, somehow Dianthus seems to be doing really well and finds ways to make clicking his tongue the epitome of giggle-fit-inducing hilarity.

*Inclusion in the middle of a humorous list does not, in any way, make this funny. It is another of these extremely worrying things that one wouldn't even think to know can happen, and even if you thought to remember that fevers can cause "benign seizures" it would never occur to you when your child or grandchild suddenly goes limp and seems to stop breathing that it might "just be a febrile convulsion" and won't hurt the child at all.
Images of late December snow in Colorado (it hasn't snowed here yet this season), eating his black-eyed peas (lucky legumes!) on New Year's Day, and eyes of indeterminate color.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: Noodle Movie the Third

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is my kind of children's movie. It's clever, funny, and the scientist gets the girl, who is an even nerdier scientist and happens to be attractive. It's cheesy, silly, and about raining food, but it's also thought provoking (technology is both a cause of big problems and a potential solution) and possibly even heartwarming.
I haven't recently read Judi Barrett's much-beloved 1978 book, but from what I can tell, the movie plot is completely different. Book fans will be advised not to re-read it before watching the movie, which the Mister and I both feel stands well on its own merits.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, with only one spaghetti storm, hardly qualifies as a real noodle media, but our options remain limited. The Mister and I watched Tampopo, Ramen Girl and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in the same week in December. Of the three, CwaCoM will most appeal to most of my readers (Tampopo is wonderful and completely about noodles, but weird Japanese food movies with subtitles attract a more limited audience than smart funny animation in English does.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

A STIRring schedule of reading

Thanks for the tremendous enthusiasm for reading something new with me. We have a nearly full schedule and the first two books already selected.
Febraury: SalSis Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat (Amazon link)
March: Marieke Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson (Amazon link)
April: Jenny
May: Molly
June: Jennifer
July: Janet
August: open, but must be book that's easy to read while breastfeeding
September: Tracy
October: Lindsey
November: Beth
December: open, or A Christmas Carol

If you haven't signed up, but want to be a book selector, you can still get in on August or December.
However, you needn't be a book selector in order to join me in reading interesting books. I'll post the selections far enough in advance that anyone can join in. The actual format of the discussion will vary with the book and friend (and possibly our technical abilities), but every month there will be room for asking questions and posting comments from anyone in my reading public.
If you have signed up and picked a book, I would like you to share a few lines to describe (very generally, I know you haven't read it yet) and promote the book, (i.e. why did you select it?).
I'm looking forward to a great variety of good books.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Stirring up the books- a chance to join in!

I hadn't realized that I've been dissatisfied with recent reading until I realized I kept putting off posting about my reading and I read Amateur Reader's last of 2010 post about reading plans. As someone who takes pride in the eclectic (and sometimes random) nature of her reading, I initially took umbrage with the comment, "Too many readers are not following from one book to another but instead flailing about, reading randomly." But then A.R.'s next line, "A little organization - not too much! - would do a world of good," resonated with me. I need a little more organization- not too much- in my reading.
I also have realized that I want to discuss more of the books that I do read and that I want to spend more time connecting with my friends.
This leads us to Project STIR: Squirrel Team Is Reading*
Project STIR requires participation.
Friends will sign up now for a month. I'm aiming for 6-10 friends to sign-up.
If you sign up for a month, you are obliged to pick one book for both of us to read**, read the book, and discuss it with me during your month***. You are under no obligation to read any of the other STIR books.
I will be publishing the schedule as it is formalized, so you can read along with whatever books suit your fancy, whether or not it is your month.
Reserve your month now in the comments!
Let's stir up our reading a bit.

*I wanted an actually clever name. Failing that, I tried to make an acronym with STAR (to fit in with the yet-to-be-revealed theme of 2011), but I realized that not only is "Squirrel Team Are Reading" grammatically incorrect and not clever, it would also cause confusion with posts about stars.
** I will be soon posting a list of books I think I'd like to read, but I welcome suggestions off the list. You do not need to have a book in mind when you sign up for a month, but you do need to choose it early enough that I can get a hold of it and can advertise it for others who want to read along. I'm fairly open as to genre, but official STIR books must be 1) previously unread by my fellow reader and me (or not read recently enough to be remembered) 2) a novel or a short story collection 3) under 500 pages 4) stand alone (can be part of a series, but not incomplete on its own) and 5) not too scary, gory or depressing (I don't generally enjoy being scared and in my current [pregnant] state may veto more depressing things than I otherwise would).
***I'm happy to discuss in writing, in person, or over the phone. You must allow me to post parts of our discussion.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Behind in books

I've been generally dissatisfied with my reading of the last several months (and very helpful that you will return soon to read how you can help me change this), but I've still been reading. Here are some thoughts from books that haven't compelled me to write a full blog post.
Terry Prachet Equal Rites Are puns ever funny? I think very fondly of The Phantom Tollbooth, one of my all-time favorite books, and answer that of course puns can be funny and clever. So it must not be just the puns that make this discworld novel not sit well with me. In any case, clever and fun, but directing me more away from reading more Terry Prachet than toward.
Elizabeth Forsythe A Woman of Independent Means This is one of the few novels I've read in which I thought plot didn't matter. The book was apparently made into a mini-series and I have no idea how that could have worked well, because, while the book is the saga of one woman's life; the interesting part of the book is not what happens to her, but rather how the character describes the events differently to different people and at different points in her life through her letters that make up the book. Incredible how much suspense can be built up just by wondering if and when the woman is going to realize things can't be as she says they are.

Babies born out of wedlock, revengeful old women, poisonings, hot men, small town gossip, woman pregnant by her best friend who impregnates someone else, secret hideouts, blizzards, accidents at the granite quarry, death, disease, dysfunction: Barbara Delinsky's The Passions of Chelsea Kane has them all. And it's not as bad as it could be, given all that. In fact, I found it to be great page-turning fun, but that still doesn't make it a very good novel.
The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop was given to Dianthus for his first birthday (the main character shares his name and it was a gift from one of his Castle relatives). It's about seven years beyond Dianthus's reading ability, but I very much enjoyed it.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pad thai at home

Due to unpleasant circumstances, my mother is paying us an unexpected and very pleasant visit (thanks Mom and Dad!). Once is became clear that M did not need to be a full-time nurse for the time she is here, nay, well before that became clear, our conversation turned to eating. Eating turned to noodles and noodles to unfinished resolutions and on to pad thai and spaetzle and other delicious treats.
Mother was dubious that people (people being Caucasian American cooks living in the middle of the country) make pad thai at home.
What's a noodle resolution good for if it doesn't make one up for the challenge of cooking pad thai at home on short notice, just to demonstrate to one's mother that it can be done, even if one is not well, has never used one's Thai cookbooks, and lives in the a small town in the middle of the country?
We cooked noodles last night and our pad thai ("Phat Thai" in the cookbooks we used) was very good. I'm pleased to report that it is do-able as a weeknight meal and the leftovers are tasty as well.
I followed (mostly) the recipe in Therese Volpe Laursen and Byron Lauresen's From Bali to Bangkok in 30 Minutes. We happen to have rice noodles, tamarind paste, fish sauce, chili powder, chili paste, garlic, brown sugar, green onions, eggs, oil and frozen shrimp on hand, so we only needed to purchase peanuts, chicken, and lime. I forgot the bean sprouts and added radishes and cilantro. I'm fully aware that this doesn't reflect the cupboard status of most Americans in small towns in the middle of the country, but both tamarind paste and fish sauce seem to keep for a long time, so if you'd like to cook SE Asian-inspired food at all, there's no reason not to have them.
The one drawback of our dish was that the noodles I used were a little too wide (wide egg noodle width rather than linguine width) and some of the ends stuck together and never softened properly. The thinly sliced radishes, tossed in at the end with the green onions and cilantro, cooked slightly, so would have been better left at the side or tossed in a minute or two later. The smell of fish sauce also permeates the kitchen, so beware.
What southeast Asian noodle dishes have you tried at home (successfully or not)?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Noodle on into the New Year

For those of you wondering about the new resolution, note that I work on something closer to a lunar year for my interesting resolutions, so it is still the year of the noodle until the year of the tiger ends.
I have more to write about noodles and far more to make and eat.
In the meantime, suggestions for the 2011 resolution are welcome.
A quick recap:
2010 noodles
2009 legumes
2008 luck
2007 rodents
2004 pink
2003 sparkling wine
(2005 and 2006 were fruit and spices but were very poorly adhered to).