Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Devil: We have work to do my loathsome toad. Smeck: Evil work? The Devil: No, knitting. Of course evil work!

Bearette24 asks, Are you answering these questions in your next post? I read your blog, but I don't have the Google follower gadget thingy.
Well, Gott in Himmel, why ever not? It will change your life. Or at least your blog-reading habits. But in short, I will answer questions in this post and then the next. I thought I’d split ‘em up by Book-related and Not, but I am not sure it will be that discrete.

Dearest Suse asked:
How is your knitting going?
I keep knitting Meathead Hats. Hat after hat after hat. I especially enjoy creating or picking out the little decoration at the end...My shawl languishes bedside. And just today I became completely obsessed with knitting rag rugs and sliced up a dozen old t-shirts. Am I insane?

Do you like green yarn? Worsted weight, approximately 200g's worth? Dark green or light green?
Green is my favorite color. Dark is nice, but so is light. And I love yarn. But of course. I just bought more today. And snuck it into the house and then logged it all on Ravelry and photographed it. In other words, I spent hours of my life playing with yarn today. See how sick I have become? I hope you’re pleased.

Have you a quilt on the go?
I do. I always seem to. This one is only in the planning and cutting stages right now. It’s for my niece who is about 2. It’s very pink and green and floral, and it may be the most “designed” quilt I have ever done. I really really like it so far, and hope she does too.

Are you around this weekend for a little Skyping?
Sunday? Saturday is impossible. (Gah! Where did my weekend go??)

My word verification is chokilat. What do you think of that?
It’s a sign from God saying, send Babelbabe more chocolate Timtams.
What? You asked.

Yes, Badger from Texas, what is your question?
I have questions! What book(s) have you just NOT been able to finish, after more than one attempt?
Please don’t hate me.
Life of Pi.
Sophie’s World.
Anna Karenina (although I have read most of this, just not in order).
And I fear The Elegance of the Hedgehog is going to join that list.

What has the weather been like up there?
The weather was crappy and cold and rainy-verging-on-snow-and-sleet until two days ago when the sun came out, the mercury rose, and it’s been a lovely week/end of Indian summer.

Are the leaves pretty yet, or are they done already?
Mostly the leaves are just changing. The maples especially are in full fall glory.

Do you like apple cider?
I love apple cider. I even have a favorite brand from a local farm. But cider mixed with things like cranberries is an abomination unto God.

What are your boys going to be for Halloween?
My boys originally wanted to be esoteric Pokemon characters but over the weekend they changed their minds and want to be a ghost (Terzo), a vampire (Seg), the Grim Reaper (Primo), and the baby is a mummy. (Haha, get it? The baby is a...oh, never mind.)

Which do you prefer: taking the kids around the 'hood to get treats, or staying home and passing out treats yourself?
I *prefer* to hole up in my bedroom in the dark and drink vodka till it’s all over.

Janet demands to know, and with good reason as I have been putting this off forever because, really, who wants to drive across Pennsylvania with four children by herself? Not I. Especially. When are you coming East to visit us and introduce us to your little hooligans?
Now that I’ve answered the above question (the Halloween one), are you sure you WANT to meet the hooligans?
I am hoping to get home in the spring, or whenever my next ancient relative dies, whichever comes first.

Blogger daysgoby said...(How much does it crack me up that each of you is labeled “Blogger.” Like I didn’t know that. )

What book do you keep beside your bed?
Hahahaaaaaa. Singular? Lemme see, there right now: The two Mason-Dixon knitting books. The newest Fables graphic novel, which H brought home for me this afternoon. The Girl Who Played with Fire. Her Fearful Symmetry which I started this morning. Two weeks’ worth of Newsweek. A couple blank books, full of things like random scribblings, Christmas planning lists, and work research notes. And any other books moving up the TBR queue.

What's your favorite thing to do in the winter?
I love ice skating. Love it. I used to skate two or three times a week pre-children. I also like to ski but it’s expensive and much harder to do, with or without children.

Are you happy living where you are, or would you rather be more citified/rural than you are now?
I adore where I live and would not trade it for anything. The only thing that would make it better would be a bigger yard – but I can live with our small one for everything else good here. (Although if we ever won the lottery, I’d buy the duplex next door, knock it down, and promptly install a fire pit and some chickens.) We are only blocks from several parks, so it’s not a huge big deal.

What type of conversationalist are you? Do you hang back, sip your coffee and nod a lot, or jump in and chat?
I never, ever, ever shut up and can’t seem to help myself. I often leave a conversation and ten minutes later become convinced that my partner in conversation is cursing me and thinking, “What an unpleasant, talkative, and rude person.”I console myself that I am fairly amusing, most times.

Do you have any pets?
I have 2 cats. They are brother and sister; the girl is Emmy and the boy is Septimus (named after Septimus Hodge in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia). Seppie is pretty sick right now, so I am hoping he is ok. And we are due for another goldfish (the last one was named Jasper; the next will be named Emmett).

What's your favorite thing to do that you don't write a lot of blog posts about?
Swimming or running. Although I do have a blog post somewhere in my Drafts folder all about swimming featured in novels.

I think I will wrap up this round with some questions from the Queen, Blackbird, whom I haven’t actually talked to in far too long.
Do you have any Winter plans for you and the boys? I'm always impressed with your trips to the zoo/parks/coffee shop.
Don’t be – if I just sat at home with them, we’d all be dead sooner rather than later.
There is a whale exhibit at the Natural History Museum Primo wants to see, and the boys are asking to go check out the Heinz History Center because of the Pittsburgh Penguins (hockey type) exhibit. There are also new penguins (the birds) at the Aviary. I owe them all a trip back to the art museum, which they loved the first time. Otherwise, we go to the library, I go to the gym where they hang out in the daycare and watch Pokemon cartoons, and we spend as much time as possible up at the park until winter closes in. We have lots of Halloween activities planned (parties, bonfire, parade, in addition to good old trick-or-treating), and hockey championships coming up...

What's going on with those boys anyhow? I feel like I'm not up to speed on them.
Primo is rocking 3rd grade. He is getting into computer game design bigtime, and I am having a tough time keeping him in books. On the other hand, his lack of bulk is not helping his hockey or soccer career, and as the games get more aggressive and competitive, and the other kids grow bigger, I am afraid he may have to look for another sport to play. I am also terrified our sick cat is going to die, which would KILL Primo. He adores that cat and is terribly worried.
Seg continues to come into his own in 1st grade, although I have had no fewer than 4 teachers pull me aside to tell me how different my two boys are. As if I was unaware. Please. If I hadn’t actually given birth to both of them, I myself would swear one of them was adopted. He is playing soccer and hockey, too, and his piano lessons are coming along beautifully. He plays with both hands now, with chords and runs and all kinds of complicated musical stuff I have never and will never understand. He is also reading much more than he used to, he is currently engrossed in the newest Wimpy Kid book.
Terzo is a love but channels my maternal grandfather, which can be disconcerting. He also has a startling and, frankly, scary propensity for fierce tantrums (or as my pediatrician terms them, “heroic.”) He is in preschool 4 mornings a week now, when I miss him very much.
And Quarto is a never-ending source of frustration and amusement. He moves at the speed of light, enjoys flinging trains at people, and refuses to actually USE his somewhat extensive vocabulary. He does, however, bark at every dog we encounter.

What's doing with the house? No reno projects to report on?
The house continues to fall down around our ears. We have installation of storm windows scheduled for the next month, and I am getting bids on a bunch of interior painting. We talk a lot about the kitchen redo, but never seem to actually ever get to it. Now that the oven upstairs works, who needs new countertops, I ask you?

Do the kids like to read as much as you do? C'mon, one of them MUST hate it.
I don’t think Seg is rabid the way Primo and I are, but that’s ok. But the baby shows signs of being as crazed as me...

Would you consider attending BlogHer 10? I can name at least four bloggers who would LOVE to meet you and, without your kidney cooler, could be easily convinced that you are a darling.
I. Am. There.
(Have you got room on your lawn for a smallish tent?)
I am sure no one would be convinced I was a darling, with or without the kidney cooler, but that’s ok. God, I could use the laugh…do you remember how much we laughed in Bethlehem? It was extraordinary, I am still surprised we didn’t do ourselves harm.

And on that pleasant note, I draw "Part I, Questions You Didn’t Even Know You Cared About," to a close. Thanks for awesome questions, and for making me feel so loved (awwww…..) I will answer the rest as soon as my hoodlums give me another straight twenty minutes of peace.


*"God, the Devil, and Bob"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"You like me! You really like me!"

Aw, you guys. I feel so loved.
(Per Debi's instructions : ))

I am splitting up the questions into two posts: one book-related, and the other not.
Will probably do the non first...

In the meantime, I have a favor to ask, as I use the power of the Internet for good.

A friend's son (hi, Janet!) is doing a project at school and it's got something to do with the fifty States. He is trying to get postcards from all fifty states (huh, I wonder if he needs Guam?). I am emailing a bunch of you (Liz, Blackbird, Velma, Joke, Badger) because I know where you live, but if any of you live in a state from which you'd be willing to send a postcard to a cute and hardworking kiddo, lemme know via email and I'll send the addy.

Because apparently some other kid's mom already has all fifty states and DC, and I hate over-achievers.

You rock.


*Sally Field

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

“We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.”

I can't help but notice I lost a "follower."
I only had 6 as it was.
Was it something I said?
Something I didn't say?
Was it my lack of stunning photography/amusing (or not) stories about my children/mundane taste in reading material?

I was GOING to maybe, kinda sorta, possibly jump on the Kim/Suse/Blackbird/Badger bandwagon and open the field for questions, but then I realized I have regressed to junior high and am, frankly, terrified that not only will no one want to ask a single question because who the hell cares, but actually, that no one is even reading.


If you wanna ask something..., even something sorta silly or whatever , you can. You know, if you want to. But you don't HAVE to.

I already have the crickets cued up.

*Lloyd Alexander

Monday, October 19, 2009

I always look for a woman who has a's a gal who's capable of making a decision she'll regret in the future.*

30 pages in, I didn't get it.
Financial mysteries bore me, and I was ready to quit.
Besides, the translation is clunky and awkward.

35 pages in, I met Lisbeth Salander.
And I am still reading.

*Richard Jeni

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

“Families are about love overcoming emotional torture.”

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Understood Betsy were both resourceful, clever, funny, smart girls with minds of their own but also with a huge capacity for love and family. I read the books over and over again, I treasure them as an adult, and I still think I would have been great friends with each girl. I wanted Aunt Miranda to come round and decide to love me, I wanted Uncle Henry to make me maple syrup candy on fresh-fallen Vermont snow, and I wanted Cousin Ann to help me discover my inner strength and courage.

Elizabeth Enright's Melendy books (The Four-Story Mistake; The Saturdays; Then There Were Five; Spiderweb for Two) entranced me. The Melendy family is delightful. They fight with each other just like a REAL family, but they also adore each other and have the most awesomely fun adventures ever. Their affection expands to include their dog, their housekeeper Cuffy, the handyman Willie, and the stately, elderly Mrs Oliphant. I figured if they could adopt Mark, they could certainly adopt me – after all, Randy and I were practically the same age! I grew up with two brothers, one younger, one older. I never actively longed for a sister - but then I met Randy and wanted HER as my sister.

Despite the fact that, unlike the above books, Hilary McKay’s novels (Saffy’s Angel; Caddy Ever After; Indigo’s Star; Permanent Rose (and there’s a new one coming out this spring, Forever Rose)) are set firmly in modern day England, complete with modern-day ills – the Casson family’s mother is a thoroughly distracted artist, their father lives away and eventually shows up with a girlfriend - the flavor is much the same. The children are charming and scrappy and funny and fiercely loyal to each other, and to their wingnut parents. As so many of their friends did, I could have slipped right into the warm, messy, friendly chaos of the Casson household.

Janine Boissard’s lovely (and hard to find!) novels chronicle the lives of the Moreau sisters, growing up in France with a nurturing mother and a fiercely protective father. I remember noting that French teenagers are much more sophisticated than American teenagers.

I adored Trixie Belden and her friendly parents, rambling, comfy house, and propensity for solving scary-but-not-dangerous mysteries. Why could I never find any mysteries to solve in my safe little suburb? Hmmm?

My favorite Anne of Green Gables book is Anne of Ingleside, the one in which Anne has a gajillion children tumbling happily around a big old house. I’d fit right in, of course I would, Anne (and Susan) would love me as she did Rilla and Nan and Walter and the rest.
And sometimes I even dreamed of finding out I was Rose’s long-lost girl cousin - Uncle Alec would adopt me, too, and I could live in the Aunt-Hill, and he could make me eat porridge and brown bread and ride ponies and throw away my corsets. (I had a bit of a crush on Uncle Alec.)

Even though I had a family and a home of my own, something in each of these books made me long to be embraced by these characters, to become their friend, and to be welcomed to their homes and into their family. I wanted to be a real part of each of these families.

Last night I read Jeanne Birdsall’s second Penderwick book, The Penderwicks of Gardam Street. The first, simply titled The Penderwicks, didn’t do a lot for me, truth be told. The plot was ridiculous, the book's events absurd, and the ending completely unsatisfying. Nevertheless, I liked the girls. A lot. I loved Rosalind’s devotion to her family, Skye’s stubbornness, Jane’s creativity, and Batty’s resourcefulness. (Do we ever find out what Batty is short for??) I loved the way they functioned as a unit, and the way they helped each other and their dad.

I did not immediately read the second book when it was published but when I stumbled upon it at the library last week, I picked it up. Birdsall doesn’t do it *again* – actually, this second book is far and away BETTER than the first. Yes, the plot is predictable, but the girls are charming, inventive, silly, and downright delightful, each trying to figure out her place in the family and the world at large. Yet again, I’ve found a family I want to adopt me.

*Matt Groening

Thursday, October 08, 2009

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

So first I bought this:
Then I bought this, having waited impatiently for months for it to come out in the States:

But then last night, about to crawl into my toasty warm bed with a bag of almond M&Ms, what did I pick up off the shelf? This:

Which I am, sort of to my chagrin, enjoying immensely. I almost got rid of these Aunt Dimity books that had been my mom's (she had maybe 4 or 5 of them) but I couldn't bring myself I am glad I didn't, because I NEVER would have picked this up at the library or bookstore...

*CS Lewis

Monday, October 05, 2009

"We're plastic but we still have fun!"*

Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year, and while I don’t really know the Pulitzer like I do the Booker, it sounds impressive enough, yes? (The Road, Lonesome Dove, and Middlesex also won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, but then again, so did March. Y-A-W-N.) Olive Kitteridge was a great little book – it reminded me on one hand of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (which I believe I mentioned before) which I started to reread while in WV; OK was a much more subtle, even devious novel than OK -- but the premise is almost identical.

Once I finished OK, I recalled that I had read Strout’s Amy and Isabelle, and that it had surprised me by not being some sort of Jodi Picoult/Anita Shreve/Oprah Book Club novel and instead was a slow-moving but nicely written novel that I enjoyed very much -- but also don’t recall much about.

Strout has a book there in the middle, called Abide with Me, which I promptly ordered form Amazon in a book buying frenzy: “It’s only ONE CENT!” Never mind that shipping is 4 dollars, the book was only one cent! I am almost finished with it, and it has that same deceptively slow-moving plotting and backwards character development that OK has; in other words, you’re reading along, lulled by some quiet, almost morose storytelling when WHAM! some simple detail is dropped into the story oh so casually, and it blows up the whole story in your face. So then you readreadread, to see what else is going to happen next ohmygod….wash, rinse, repeat (but in a good way).

In other words, Elizabeth Strout should hurry up and write another book; I want to know what’s she going to come up with next.

In the meantime, I have the newest Audrey Niffenegger on my nightstand, which I hope to finish before AS Byatt’s The Children’s Book FINALLY comes out in the States on October 6. Which is, holy crap, TOMORROW. Ok, so that’s not gonna happen, I guess. The reading, not the release. I wonder if I can manage a trip to both the library and the bookstore tomorrow…there are books on hold at the library that I must pick up, if they haven’t already been shipped back from whence they came…and even if I can’t read The Children’s Book right away, I need to hold it in my hot little hands and be able to stare lovingly at it sitting on my bookshelf.

*"Paparazzi," Lady Gaga. It is to my possibly everlasting shame that I discover this song which I have grown increasingly fond of, is by the dubious Lady Gaga. I blame my newfound horrible taste in music (Pitbull, anyone?) on zumba.