Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"Fiction's about what it is to be a human being."*

I've been reading me some books:

I Am Legend – Richard Matheson. I imagine this would make a terrific movie but not having seen any of the versions, I don’t know. The book was OK. The ending shocked me. I did not feel compelled to read any of the short stories included in the volume the library chose to send to me.

Certain Girls - Jennifer Weiner. A decent read, an easy read (I whipped through it in two days). The alternating chapters, between Cannie and her daughter Joy, grew increasingly distracting. I did not LOVE it but I certainly liked it well enough and am happy to give Jennifer Weiner, who seems like a very nice woman, my money.

Mermaids in the Basement - Michael Lee West. I can’t recall if I already talked about this book but I liked it well enough that on a sojourn to Half Price Books last week I scooped up three more by West. Her characters are weird and quirky and funny, her families are all nuts, and the food is reliably delectable. (Note that the book that turned me on to West is her cookbook, Consuming Passions, both a fabulous read and a fabulous cookbook.)

Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family - Patricia Volk. Eh. I expected more food, less exposition. Her family is weird, too, but not nearly as lovably weird as West’s.

Monsters of Templeton - Lauren Groff. Groff is going to be a formidable force in the fiction world in the coming decades. As with David Mitchell, Allegra Goodman, and Kate Atkinson, I think Groff is going to develop into a stellar novelist and look forward to the journey with her. She’s already nothing to sneeze at; her debut is intelligent and fun (I don't know, think Possession (but not quite so academic or focused)...maybe crossed with Goodman’s family characterizations and a smidgen of weird creature-feature stuff. There's a whiff - like you'd wave the vermouth bottle over your martini? - of Richard Russo, and some Gothicky, Rebecca-like stuff, too.)

An Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett. What a totally charming little book.

And here’s something exciting: David Sedaris has a new book coming out.

In other news, I seem totally unable to finish Tenderness of Wolves, we are having waffles and sausage for dinner which is a sure thing, and I just mixed up a batch of brownies from a mix that was languishing in my pantry because the Nigella recipe I planned to use called for A CUP AND TWO-THIRDS of butter - and I didn't have enough.

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*David Foster Wallace (aka Gina's Boyfriend)

Monday, April 28, 2008

“There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves.”*

For dinner tonight I made this chicken, and these yam cakes, and oven fries, and steamed whole green beans, and chopped organic Braeburn apple.

Primo ate: an apple, a glass of milk, a piece of potato and a bite or two of chicken (both dredged through ketchup) before declaring it "OK."

Seg ate: half an apple, a bite or two of chicken, and a glass of milk.

Terzo ate: four pieces of potato and a glass of ice water.

H ate a helping of green beans, some yam cakes, and a couple pieces of potato.
He was "not in the mood for chicken," which I, having been married to the man for thirteen years (but perhaps being a tad oversensitive?), translated as "I don't like drumsticks." (From the man who won't eat scallops (yucky texture), crab, lobster, or shrimp ("bottom-feeders"), pork, most red meat except for the occasional hamburger or $25 piece of steak), or flounder ("trash fish").)

I ate it all; in fact, I ate too much, and it was DELICIOUS.


Maybe my looks are the problem...

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* Thomas Wolfe

Saturday, April 26, 2008

"Shine your shoes, we're going dancing with Lord Stanley!"

Playoff tickets: $200
Pretzel and Coke: $12
Watching your team come back from a 3-0 deficit, scoring two goals 15 seconds apart TWICE, and beating the horrible hated Rangers in one of the most exciting playoff games EVER: Priceless

There are some things money can't buy. Like Pens hockey.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"Well, we kinda face to the north and real subtle-like turn left."*

The Grand Sophy – Georgette Heyer
Cocktails for Three – Madeline Wickham
Geyser Life – Edward Hardy

And now you know.
And so do I.
(And thanks to Jess for the inside scoop on canceled hold records.)

Now go read Lauren Groff’s Monsters of Templeton.
It’s (so far) the best modern novel I have read in a very long time.

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*Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye in "Last of the Mohicans"

Monday, April 21, 2008

“To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first, and call whatever you hit the target” *

It was bound to happen eventually – I didn’t get to the library this weekend to pick up my holds and they were sent back – and I cannot remember what I requested. Oh well, it’s not as if I don’t have plenty to read – but more on that later.

I managed to get all the trim but the window painted in the bedroom that is going to be H’s. This morning Terzo, Quarto (affectionately known as Darth at the moment), and I went to the NEW Target (oooohhh…) to buy:

1) unbreakable cereal bowls. One of the handcrafted pottery bowls that H and I collect was accidentally chipped at my impromptu birthday festivities Friday evening – our own fault for using them, but we had ice cream to feed people, so there you have it...it’s time for some Melamine for this household. I spotted some lovely ombre blue and white bowls at the old Target on Thursday but there were only two then, so today at the NEW Target when there were eight upon the shelf, I scooped them up, and eight matching salad plates and the six remaining dinner plates. I am becoming the queen of mismatched dinnerware –but it’s all in lovely shades of blue and white and turquoise so it’s all good and pretty and interesting.

2) window blinds for my boys’ room and H’s new bedroom. Because our house is so old, our windows are ginormous. But I found two of those new honeycomb cordless blinds in “Cottage White” for the boys, and a looooong off-white jute Roman shade for H, which will be covered with some plain unbleached muslin curtains. As soon as I finish painting the window frames, I will install these, and shift H’s closet contents, and set up his futon. And maybe my two older boys will stop waking up all night long, because the street lights outside the window will be blocked…

3) Snoopy socks for Terzo (gotta love those $1 bins), and
4) some coconut SoftSoap body scrub for me (in place of my lovely but now unfindable milk and honey bodywash), and
5) some nice hooks for the back of my bedroom door, for my bathrobe (not that I ever wore a bathrobe in my life before, but now I wear a light-blue cotton robe from Saks that I found at a thrift shop and LOVE it. It gives the Neutrogena body oil time to dry.)

And then, as I was handing the cashier my $5 off coupon that my neighbor had given me, I smelled the lovely toasty scent of coffee. There is a Starbucks RIGHT IN THE NEW TARGET.
Heaven.
Absolute heaven.
Could a shopping trip get any better?
Retail therapy is SO effective sometimes.

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*Ashleigh Brilliant

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I don't have the energy to go find any kind of quote.

Dudes, things have been all kinds of insane around here.

The baby will not let me put him down, and he sounds like Darth Vader after he’s worked in the coal mines for fifty years. In addition, I will nurse him for an hour and then he’ll still be wailing so I give up and give him a 4 oz. bottle, which he sucks down like a starving Armenian. I am getting a little fed up.

In addition, he seems to be MY problem. I started painting yesterday in H’s room, while the baby napped, and when he woke up did H stop what he was doing (cutting the grass) to pick him up? Noooooooo. For that matter, did he even bother worrying about hearing him if he woke up? Noooooooo. I have fucking HAD IT.

And he made all the arrangements to take the boys to Thomas this spring – the exact week I had already signed Seg up for art camp. Which wouldn’t have been a big deal except I ASKED him to put Thomas on the calendar and he never did and he looked at the art camp schedule and never said a damn thing until AFTER I had signed Seg up. Why is my time allowed to be wasted so egregiously?

And I am already good and sick of goddamn t-ball.

I (stupidly) volunteered for Primo’s school’s Career Day Wednesday, but had forgotten all about it. When I called my mother-in-law to see if she could watch the two younger boys for a couple hours, she said she’d take Terzo but not Quarto. Well, fuck me. You know what? I took the damn baby with me, so those kids can see precisely what they have to look forward to as a woman in the workforce. And it was fine. He was, in fact, the star of the show. But I was livid.

The older boys are driving me twenty-eight different kinds of crazy, let’s not even go down that path, ok?

I can feel myself sliding slowly to the end of my tether.
Hence, the light posting. I’ll be fine. I just really really need a weekend to myself - which isn’t going to happen. I need Seg to stop whining and Terzo to stop shouting all the time, and Primo to stop acting like a two-year-old instead of the seven-year-old he is. I need H to stop acting like the baby is some sort of cute pet he can play with only when he wants. I need my mother-in-law to be semi-helpful.

I have a ton of posts to write about books and cool, fun stuff that's been happening but apparently I am capable only of complaining and kvetching and bitching.

I think I need to up my Zoloft.

And don't feel obliged to comment. I know you all care about me, and I know this will pass, and I know H is actually very helpful, just maybe not the way I need him to be. I know all this. But I have a headache and I'd like to devote two straight hours to any one thing, whatever, anything, just to complete a task. I'd like to even just finish a goddamn novel. ANYthing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Don't talk to me about naval tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy, prayers, and the lash." *



I wonder how early is too early to start fantas -- er, thinking about one of these?

(And if I am taking photos of it, do I have a problem?)

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*Winston Churchill

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"Oh boy, here we go. The pain of childbirth. Isn't there a statute of limitations on this?"*

I returned Devil in the White City (Erik Larsen) to the library – occurred to me that for the two bucks worth of fines I will pay, I could probably pick up a used copy somewhere, perhaps with the generous gift card to Half Price Books my wonderful (ex) compatriots from the library gave me as a baby gift. I was really enjoying it, however, and the best synopsis I can give (so far) is Katya’s: “I came for the serial killer and stayed for the architecture.”

Dreamers of the Day - Mary Doria Russell. It arrived a few days ago, and I was exhibiting a weird reluctance to start it, until last night. But then I got sucked into Scramble, and decided I need to finish The Tenderness of Wolves first.

Labyrinth – Kate Mosse. Someone tell me this ISN’T Da Vinci Code for chicks…I picked it up cheap at the library sale, and would maybe like to read it someday….but…same goes for the copy of The Reluctant Fundamentalist I got for a buck yesterday. I’ll get to them all eventually, I suppose. It is to be hoped.

Accidental Tourist - Anne Tyler. I always like Tyler novels but I always forget that until I pick one up. This one is slightly dated, and the tragic catalyst that begins the novel made me go check on my sleeping children, but it’s an enjoyable, quirky little read.

Deer Hunting with Jesus - Joe Bageant. Um, I SO don’t get it. Sorry. I didn’t much care for his writing, but I might give it another shot when I get my brain back.

Tenderness of Wolves - Stef Penney. So far this reminds me of Margaret Lawrence’s historical mysteries, in which the mystery is pretty much incidental to the history. I always dig the cranky yet efficient and competent women characters, too.

Wednesday Letters – Jason Wright. Argh! Make it STOP! My eyes are bleeding! (This is precisely what you would expect from a book written by a man named Jason.)

Remembering the Bones - Frances Itani. This book was interesting, and I mean that in a good way. Why it reminded me of Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes (with a soupcon of Robertson Davies’ Deptford trilogy), but narrated by an old lady lying half dead in a ravine, I do not know…

Keeper and Kid - Edward Hardy. I really, REALLY liked this book. It reminded me, especially in skill and verisimilitude of characterization, of a Richard Russo book, only the protagonist wasn’t nearly enough of a loser to be in a Russo novel. While the entire novel is based on a somewhat ridiculous assumption, the characters are realistic and still extremely likeable. And contrary to one Facebook reviewer’s assertions, I thought the three-year-old’s dialogue was perfect.

Away - Amy Bloom. Oh my fucking God, I read three pages and wanted to slit my wrists so I sent it back to the library. That said, the writing was terrific – unsurprising considering how adept and lovely the stories were in Bloom’s A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You.

Remember Me? Sophie Kinsella’s latest offering. She trots out the unbelievable normal-slob/girl-next-door-makes-good storyline (which Gina pointed out, actually sort of made sense in the end of this book although I was skeptical even halfway through); however, Lexi is not NEARLY as neck-wringingly annoying as Becky Bloomwood.

The Ten Year Nap – Meg Wolitzer. I may go buy this one, even though I find Wolitzer’s books largely forgettable, although enjoyable and well-written enough while reading them.

The Monsters of Templeton - Lauren Groff. I’ll read this next, as there are a thousand and three holds on it (ok, a hundred-odd). And Jess just read it. I’ll keep you posted.

Naptime is the New Happy Hour. This book totally reminded me of the Suburban Bliss/Melissa Summers playdates-and-drinks debacle. And it is funny. And just when you think she’s being totally tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic, she comes out with some fundamental truth of parenting that causes you to heave an enormous sigh of relief and/or want to call her up for a playdate. All the bad-mommy clich├ęs are present, but they’re still amusing, so…much is forgiven, if you manage to amuse me.

Other library books awaiting my eyeballs:
A Good School - Richard Yates.
Still Life Louise Penny. The first in a mystery series that looks interesting.
Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family - Patricia Volk.
Life Class - Pat Barker. Should I admit that I always mistake Pat Barker for the horror writer, Clive Barker? But apparently Pat is quite the writer.
The Master Bedroom - Tessa Hadley. Who the heck knows why I pick up half the books I do?
Mermaids in the Basement - Michael Lee West. West wrote one of my favorite “cookbooks” ever, Consuming Passions. In fact, I just had a piece of the most delicious chocolate cake ever, from a recipe in that book, that I made for H’s birthday.

Now that dissertation defense season is wrapping up, maybe I will have time to READ some of these.

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*Tim Taylor

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Dissertation Editing by BabelBabe
Rates available upon request.

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I am thinking of having business cards made.
And a website.
And this is my tagline.

Whaddya think?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"I would like to hold my little hand."*

It's been a very stressful - on many levels - week.

Today I recalled, inadvertently, one of the best stress reducers I have ever used: this album, CRANKED, while I lie on the floor with my eyes closed and lose myself in the music, especially tracks 2 ("Send Me on My Way"), 9 ("Martyr"), and most especially 10 ("Back to the Earth").

I was a Rusted Root fan when they were playing teeny little clubs like the Artery in Pittsburgh. I saw them at Graffiti more times than I can recall (dancing myself into a sweaty mess every single time), and spent four New Year's Eves in a row at one of their shows. I once drove to West Virginia to catch them at the Nyabinghi. And no one was happier for them than I, when they got a record contract and started touring with the likes of Blues Traveler and the Dave Matthew's Band.

It turns out that the boys dig them too - no surprise, with their strong rhythms and complex tunes. They are a drummer's dream.

A few tunes, and a nice stiff drink, and I am MUCH more relaxed.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

“Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.”*

Dissertation defense season is upon us...as is the tag end of flu season.

More later....

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*Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

“It's the inflation story, it's there and it's got implications going forward.”*

Dudes, my brain is mush. I have a gigantor book post to write, about good stuff I have been reading and what I have lined up, but I. CAN'T. THINK. And, well, I have to go play Scramble on Facebook. And, what, I can't hear you, I have a baby attached to my boob. So, here, have some photos:

This is the boys' second day of getting their own breakfast. I like that someone even went out on the porch and retrieved the newspaper.

I know it LOOKS like he is worshiping the cake, but really, he didn't even like it all that much. A chocolate Guinness cake is probably best reserved for the adults from now on. (What? He liked it at the St Pat's party! And the alcohol bakes out!)

One of the most successful presents (I had to peel it off him today and insist on washing it). Although Seg is my boy whom, if I wrapped up an old rag and a bar of used soap, he'd hug me, tell me he loved me, and say thanks. (And then he'd ask his dad what the hell...)

These are all the boys from Seg's preschool class walking home from school today, to our house for Seg's cupcake party. At the top of the steps, Seg turned to his followers and said, "Now, everybody, we'll see my brother Terzo. Be nice to him. And remember, he's littler than you, so if you hit him, let him hit you back."

I am not permitted to vacuum the house ever again. Just in case. Damn Germans.

Note to anyone who has ever, or will ever attend a five-year-old's birthday party: This? Should have been left on the shelf. Thanks, M! WHAT were you thinking, woman?! Am I not ENOUGH of a nervous wreck?

I leave you with cute baby socks! Well, I would have but he twisted and turned and stuck out his tongue and stretched, just before he let out an enormous fart, and moved, and the camera clicked. So here's my living room rug.


Here, here are the cute socks:

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*Drew Matus, Lehman Brothers