Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad..."

I started reading Slaughterhouse Five online on Saturday, because it was insanely dead at work but there were people about so I didn’t want to risk reading an actual BOOK at the desk. How is it that I have never read this before? It’s funny and sweet and sad, and Billy Pilgrim is a strange sort of Everyman. I am reading it in PDF form, and am about at page 70 of 118. It’s wonderful.


I finished The $64 Tomato. I felt like the author never really finished the book, or rather, that it just ENDED. It was mildly entertaining, and did indeed, as one commenter pointed out, teach me to not start too big. My little 4x8 plot (tomatoes, sweet banana peppers, watermelon, basil, and parsley) and a couple of terracotta trenches (lettuces) and pots (mint) are well within my capabilities, I believe.


I ditched Final Exam by Pauline Chen. Another author who never seemed to get to her point. There’s a reason she’s a surgeon and not a writer.


I have a feeling I am going to enjoy Clare Clark’s The Great Stink but now is not the time. Same with Lord Byron’s Novel.


For some reason, Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much is True called to me, and I started it last night. I continued it on my lunch hour today. I needed a big, fat book that would pull me in, and I think this will do the trick. I remember being thoroughly engrossed in She’s Come Undone so, despite the fact that it is an Oprah book (I know, I am a snob), I am really liking it.


I had a crappy day today. I actually had a crappy weekend, carried into today, and I am not really anticipating a much more pleasant next-weekend. We are driving to see my little brother and his lovely wife and my dear little nephew who will turn two next month, which should be great, but from there we have a bat mitzvah in Greenwich CT to attend, all day Saturday, and I am not looking forward to any type of formal event with H (yes, I bought a new dress although I am sure I look like a heifer anyway), or any of the driving.

I came back from lunch at three-ish, and claimed a headache, and left at four. Atypically I was not scheduled on the desk at all today, so I didn’t leave anyone in the lurch; I just needed to BE HOME.

Is this what panic attacks are like? I’ve never had one, that I know of. It would sort of suck to start now.
Would it be wise to take the big bottle of Rescue Remedy with me?


These are a few of my favorite things:
Right now, right after I post this, I am crawling into (1) my bed, with its nice, crisp, clean sheets, and (2) my book, and (3) a pint of Chubby Hubby ice cream.

I anticipate a chance to (4) run tomorrow since H is on vacation this week.

I discovered (5) a fabulous nursery near my house, which carries all sorts of plants (including heirloom, although no Brandywine tomatoes which I am anxious to try), and seeds (organic and regular) and plenty of other cool garden stuff; my (6) no-dig raised bed is all built (thank you for the pointers, Nutmeg!) and I will put the rest of the plants in tomorrow; and I have three estimates on the fence project so we can proceed with serious brush-clearing and yard work now. I put into the front flower bed some pretty purple and lavender and white (7) alyssum which smells just like honey, and (8) I scored a gigantic, intact terra cotta pot out of the neighbor’s trash last night.

(9) My chives came up.

And (10) The Baby’s newest word is “weedwhacker.”

Monday, May 28, 2007

"...that's the most extraordinary stuff I've ever tasted! It's shattering!" - "Big X" Bartlett, in "The Great Escape"

Gina and I tried our hands at cheesemaking this past Saturday night. (Yeah, we live la vida loca over here.) I was hungry on the way over to Gina's, having skipped dinner, so stopped for some fries - this juxtaposition amused me. (I am sorry, I HAVE read Fast Food Nation, and I understand McDonald's is an evil, corporate giant, but I owe them some gratitude for getting me through all three pregnancies alive.)

We followed the recipe for Thirty-Minute Mozzarella in Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal Vegetable Miracle (I am starting to feel like a shill...), but you can also find the recipe online at the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company website. The milk was organic, pasteurized whole milk I bought at the East End Food Co-op, which is also where I found the rennet. Gina drove down to South Hills Brewing for the citric acid. The thermometer was an old candy thermometer I had lying around. It was mildly inconvenient that the temps we needed to observe were under the milk, but we figured it out. We started with the gallon of cold milk; at 55 degrees F, we stirred in the 1/4 tsp of rennet dissolved in a quarter-cup of bottled water.

We stirred languidly, the pot over a medium-ish flame.
Just as we were saying, "It's not DOING anything," the milk began to curdle, just the teeniest bit, at about 88 degrees F, as promised.

From there on, we exhibited a leetle bit more faith, added the (1/4 tsp dissolved in water) citric acid, and the curds, they came. Right about at 100 degrees F, again as promised. The whey became sort of clear but yellowish. Very attractive. (Like the juvenile I am, I observed that it sort of looked like vomit. Well, it DID.)

We scooped the biggest curds out, but resorted to a colander/strainer type thingey for the rest of the draining. If you were going to use the whey to reheat the cheese, you would want to drain into something, but we - wasteful people and not having any handy piggies - poured it down the drain. (Gina observed, more than likely correctly, that this was probably the first time whey had ever been poured down that drain.)

"Wringing out the cheese, wringing out the cheese! We shall come rejoicing, wringing out the cheese!"

We dutifully heated (35-40 seconds in the microwave)and kneaded and stretched it, heated and kneaded and stretched again, heated and kneaded and stretched again. We actually had to reheat a fourth time as the first two times we had not heated nearly enough. You want the cheese to be almost liquidy, and yes, it gets HOT. We were all, "Wow, wussies!" kneading the first two times, "La la la, this isn't too bad!" but when we'd finally heated it ENOUGH, I danced around and did my Ouchy-ouchy-ouch dance while stretching the cheese. (It was very attractive, let me tell you.) We put on and kneaded in about a teaspoon, maybe two, of kosher salt when directed to 'salt to taste.'

Finally, we had something resembling cheese. (On top of tupperware, as all of Gina's plates are white, and the cheese wasn't shown off to full advantage on them.) It smelled good, and it looked ok, rather...cheese-like, even if I do say so myself. I can't wait to try mine on homemade pizza tonight.

See how CUTE? I am SO giving people homemade mozzarella cheese for Christmas this year, wrapped in foil over the wax paper and tied with ribbons at either end. So festive, cheese bon-bons. You know, nothing quite says "Season's greetings!" like a ball o' cheese.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

"But no one digs like the mighty worm..." - Ralph's World, in "The Mighty Worm"

After I dealt with the overdue fines on the children’s books (they charge fines for books from another district library, but not your home library); returned the books I could find; got a list of the ones we can’t (down to four, now); and resolved the $35-replacement-fee for a $12-book (I am personally ordering a replacement copy for $12 + $3 shipping, and they will accept that as long as it is EXACTLY THE SAME – um, ever heard of this crazy little thing known as an ISBN?), I made Primo lurk in the stacks while I speed-perused the organic gardening books. (He entertained himself by teaching himself about the LC call numbers, with a little instruction from me. I was so proud.)

I emerged from the library with the following books:

The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden - William Alexander. I fear I am coming on with the fervor of the newly-converted zealot. This book might just put me back in my place.

Portrait of a Burger as a Young Calf: The Story of One Man, Two Cows, and the Feeding of a Nation - Peter Lovenheim. I read Fast Food Nation; it scared the bejesus out of me. I read Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats; also terrifying. So why not go for three? Besides, how do you resist the title?

The Urban/Suburban Composter - Mark Cullen & Lorraine Johnson. I am happy enough contributing to my neighbor’s compost bin; but there’s still stuff I don’t know what to do with. I am hoping this book will provide some answers. (And I have been doing research into the dog waste issue. This concerns me even more than the disposable diapers, as at some point Terzo WILL be potty-trained, but I don’t anticipate Punto ever figuring it out.)


Chicken of the post: Australorp.
Great layer (avg 5/wk); docile, and pretty, too!
Cluck cluck cluck, cheep, cheep...


In other, non-gardening, non-chicken-related news, I decided against running this and registered for this, instead. I need longer than a few months to get ready for a half, and my crotchety knees have already begun protesting.
But on the upside, I managed to run two-and-a-half miles this morning without stopping. Well, I PLOD, but I didn’t STOP plodding, is the point.
My brain loves its endorphin bath.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. - Barbara Kingsolver

All righty, I am digging this eat-local thang. Let me on the bandwagon! I’ve always been sort of conscious of the vibe, but now I am realizing exactly how much good even just a little effort can do. And I have the zeal of the convert, only not so much converted as convinced. Maybe more on the do-good-to-your-fellow-man and a little less on the hellfire and brimstone, but you know, otherwise...just like a convert.

Barbara Kingsolver has inspired me with her wonderful Animal Vegetable Miracle; Suse and I have been planning our commune’s farming venture (Suse, can we name some of the chooks (that’s Aussie for chicken, my little Internet schweeties) Burp and Slurp? I’ll explain later...), and I have been reading about chickens and chicken coops and chicken feed and chicken breeds pretty much nonstop.

Gina and I have a date on Saturday night to MAKE OUR OWN MOZZARELLA.

My CSA starts next week (and we are going to be gone for a bit, meaning my first haul of strawberries and asparagus are going to be eaten by other people! Wah!)

I have found a source to recycle plastics 6 and 7 (the city only takes up to 5); once a pile accumulates, I can drop them off on my way to work (which means I have to drive rather than take the bus...hmmm...everything’s a trade-off, I see). I have found a place that accepts paperboard and boxes for recycling, so all our cereal boxes and cartons go in a box to be hauled off once a month there, along with any corrugated cardboard we have amassed. I am contributing kitchen scraps to my neighbor’s compost bin. I faithfully dump several pounds a month of junk mail and scrap paper into one of those fundraising recycling dumpsters. And the grocery store recycles plastic bags of any kind. Our family’s garbage output has decreased from emptying the trash once or sometimes even twice a day, to emptying about once every two days.

Alas, we still have all the dog poop and cat litter to cope with (it’s the only type of “manure” you CANNOT compost – why is that?) - and I am still using disposable diapers. I also am still drinking my share of “Colombian blood” in its 10% post-recycled sleeves and paper cups. But we are working on it. I am in the market for a nice, hefty, refillable travel mug type of dealio...

(But I continue to drag the empty soda cans and bottles out of the desk trashcan at work and throw them in the recycling bins – is it so hard to walk the ten steps to the bins? Really?)

I just requested Joan Dye Gussow’s This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader from the university EZBorrow program. I also want to read Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally, by Alisa Smith, but my public library account is currently blocked because I owe them for a lost book (Primo’s, not mine). And I am trying to track down a copy of Jackie French’s Backyard Self-sufficiency but it is apparently unavailable in the States for less than a mortgage payment or two.

I am also interested in reading It’s a Long Road to a Tomato, by Keith Stewart; Second Nature by the inestimable Michael Pollan, which is sitting on my living room bookshelves; Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Food - Gary Paul Nabhan; and Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors: Cooking and eating from America’s Farmer’s Markets. (As is my wont, I will track down and read voraciously every single book I can find about a topic that has piqued my interest. It’s Droutism, but for books.)

Today – today I built the raised part of a raised bed. It’s only a little bit raised, to account for the slope of the side yard. See why I am terrified my children will roll down the hill and over the wall into the brick alley below?

Thank God I have my Matrix. But the little truck, it is missed.

The walls of the bed are contructed of 2x4s which, at a buck-fifty for an eight-foot-length, seemed about the right price. My nailing skills leave a lot to be desired so I just screwed the damn thing together with scabs and 3/8" drywall screws and my weenie little drill, and hope it won’t be moved for a long while. Next comes the fun part (ha!): removing the grass and digging in the peat moss and topsoil.

See my collection of studly tools? I DO own a real (Makita) drill, but it’s dead, so I am forced to use my mother’s itty-bitty Black and Decker.
And I love my Sawzall. I have no idea how we lived before we bought a Sawzall.

I have been bringing home stray plants for several weeks, and they will be greatly relieved to be in the ground...currently they live on my front steps.

Except my tomato plants. They’re my favorite (shhh, don’t tell the others). They went in right up against the house, where H is terrified I will flood the basement while watering them. (Yeah, I know, hard to believe he’s an engineer.) (Also, I am well aware that my rosemary is looking peaked.)

My lettuce trenches come in a close second; I just planted them a few days ago so no sproutage yet but I look forward their tidy little rows marching down the planters.

My Shasta daisies seeds have sprouted! I like masses of the things, but started plants are too expensive. So just as at the old house, I dumped several seed packets into some peat pots and voila! We have daisiage.

The chives, however, refuse to poke their pointy little heads aboveground.

While waiting for the weeniedrill to recharge, I cleared weeds and removed dead-leaf mulch and yanked out maple volunteers from around the rosebushes. We have about a dozen lining the alley wall. We also, turns out, have wasp nests all over the place. Which I discovered after raking out the roots of some dead grass under the rosebush. They were little teeny wasps, and were fortunately even less interested in me than I was in them.

The cat, whose secret hiding-from-Punto place I discovered, was even less interested in me. Go figure.

The raised bed is four feet by approximately eight feet. A prefab chicken coop with a covered run would have a footprint only about two feet longer, and if I built my own, I could tinker with the dimensions/layout.
The other sideyard is crying for chickens.

Cluck, cluck, cluck!

Monday, May 21, 2007

"I will myself go find some herbs for you That will be good for health and pecker too." - "The Nun's Priest's Tale" - Chaucer

How cute is this little chickie?
It’s a Chantecler (Yes, I am a dork, I like the literary reference), and they lay 4 eggs a week. That’s pretty good laying, especially if you had two or three. They are not broody, meaning they are not physiologically disposed to sit on eggs or hatch chicks. They’re relatively rare, but you can get them from a couple different hatcheries. They are expensive, at four bucks a chick.

This is a Buff Brahma bantam (bantams might be preferable for city chickens, as they tend to be smaller). They will indeed sit on eggs to hatch chicks, and they lay about three eggs a week. I love their color, and I like that they’re not crested. Crests sort of squick me out a bit. They run about 3-4 dollars a chick.

The Wyandottes are really pretty and plump too, don’t you think? This is a silver-laced Wyandotte (they come in gold- and blue-laced also). This breed lays about four eggs a week; they are apparently pretty darn laid-back, too. The hens run about $2.20 a chick.

I really adore the Rhode Island Reds and Whites (this one is a hen; the males are almost black). I don't even mind the crests. They will lay a whopping five eggs per week, and are very rigorous and sturdy. The New Hampshire Reds, equally attractive, are derived from this breed, but they only average three eggs a week. The Rhode Islands are about 2 dollars a chick; the New Hampshires are about the same.


You can pick out the breed that would best fit your lifestyle and backyard, right here:
Chicken Breed Selector.

Did you know that it is legal to keep chickens within the city of Pittsburgh limits?

I just dare anyone to complain about chicken noise (there’d be no roosters, so no crowing) when cars routinely drive down this street with radios so loud as to make my windows rattle.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" - The Book of Revelations 6:17

I finished Cormac McCarthy’s The Road while sitting at the reference desk yesterday afternoon – distinctly against rules, to read at the desk, but it was quiet, and I HAD to keep going.

Is it very professional to have to help patrons with my eyes red and still streaming? No. No, it isn’t, but he seemed to cope.

[An aside: He’s one of my new favorite patrons, a nursing prof from Canada here doing some research work with his then-advisor/now-colleague, on nursing methods and phenomenology. His pet topic, the becoming-human theories of Rosemary Parse, are interestingly similar to many deconstructionist literary theories, all of which I find, frankly, just this much hooey but also find fascinating to discuss.

His favorite question: “How IS THAT for you? How is that, the experience of [insert research topic here]?” Now, turns out, I am more scientifically minded than I ever thought possible, as the LAST thing I would ask, say, a terminal cancer patient is, “How IS THAT for you?” I would be much more inclined to explain palliative measures, and talk about the practical matters like pain management, family and support situations, and hospice possibilities. But he is far more interested in the lived-experience. Hooey! Hooey, I say, but some fiery discussions ensue.

Some days, I do love my job.

Besides which, he has the loveliest lilting accent, which he informs me is Acadian. (This fact set me to singing “Farewell to Nova Scotia” for several days.)]

So. On The Road again.
Would I tell you to read this book?
Unequivocally, YES.
Would I tell you I LIKED it?
No. No, saying I liked it would be insane.

It is exquisitely, sparsely written.
It is lovely in the way that winter-stricken tree branches black against the pewter sky are lovely.
Or maybe in the way that the delicate bones of a skeleton are lovely.

It is, perhaps, beautiful in the way that the inevitability of death is beautiful.

I have watched someone die, and I have three children who are my heart, and this book tore me up. I read it with a sense of urgency, and a stone feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I could have read it all in one sitting, but I had to stop often and breathe and put it aside for a day or two. I had to read it when I would be uninterrupted. I didn’t especially WANT to read it, but I had to read it.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Friday, May 18, 2007

"Then why did I have the bowl Bart? Why did I have the bowl?" - Milhouse, in "The Simpsons"

My children are driving me up a wall. Remind me again why I am jonesing for a fourth?


Terzo has learned to say Mama, although I am not sure he knows what it means: he wanders the house chanting it: “Mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama mama…”

He is becoming increasingly verbal and the two older hooligans delight in making him say potty words:
“Terzo, say Poop!”
“Say Pee!”
“Say Fart!”
“Say Mama’s going to kill herself if you don’t cut her a break really soon!”

And he is into EVERYTHING. Because of the way our kitchen cabinets are built, I use rubber bands and/or wooden spoons to hold the doors shut. Ditto the cabinet in the bathroom and the video cabinet. He has managed to unwrap ponytail holders from every one of these places, regardless of how tightly I wrap them. And while I understand that not everyone grasps the importance of alphabetizing your videos, it would be nice to not have the boys crunch over a layer of them when they walk through the living room.

He likes to go into the bathroom and flush the toilet and turn on the faucets and pull all the tissues out of their boxes. He also unrolls the toilet paper and wanders away with anyone’s toothbrush he can reach, leaving them in weird, unsanitary places like under the kitchen radiator or in the dog bowl.

Speaking of, he likes to splash around in the dog’s water bowl like it’s his own personal wading pool, and if he can open the door to get down onto the landing (I have caught him several times trying to wedge his solid little body through the cat door), he methodically places each and every bit of kibble in the cats’ bowl into their water bowl.

He especially enjoys navigating the living room without touching the floor: from the piano bench to the armchair, along the back to the arm of the couch, along the couch to the ottoman to the coffee table from whence he flings himself triumphantly onto the second armchair.

He routinely tries to ride Punto as if the dog was a horse, and failing that, he steers him by his tail. The one cat knows enough to hide from him but the other, less bright one has also suffered to be straddled and ridden.


Meanwhile, Segundo has turned into a very...volatile...four-year-old.
EVERYTHING is a TRAGEDY! Of the highest order!
Resulting in floods, FLOODS, I tell you, of tears!
Because life is terrible and IT’S! NOT! FAIR! Accompanied by stomping feet and jumping up and down for good measure, in case I didn’t grasp that IT’S! NOT! FAIR! WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s not fair that he has to eat cereal for breakfast! Wait, no, it’s waffles that’s not fair! And it’s not fair! That his clean underwear is folded in his drawer! And it’s certainly not fair! That we require him to eat dinner before he has a treat! NOT! FAIR!

I expect him to brush his teeth?
I expect him to put his dirty clothes in the laundry basket?
I expect him to not push down his younger brother and take away his toy?
I expect him to stop yelling and go to sleep sometime before midnight?

No one loves him, he’s going to hate me FOREVER, and by the way? It’s NOT FAIR!


By comparison, dealing with my motormouth Primo is a cakewalk. It only took threatening to not let him go to a t-ball game, and making him apologize to his teacher, to get him to stop chattering so much in class and listen.

I do wish he came with a volume knob, as I do not want to listen to anyone (well, except maybe Colin Firth) recite the Pirates’ batting statistics, game schedules, shoe sizes, and a gamut of other fascinating facts, before breakfast, or for that matter, EVER.

I freely admit it: I DON'T CARE what the starting defensive line of the Ottawa Senators is, what high school Chris Duffy attended, or Ben Roethlisberger is left- or right-handed.

I even don’t care who Primo would vote for, were he old enough to vote.
And yet? He continues to regale me ceaselessly with all this information, and more.

Just so you know:
He’d have voted for Rick Swartz, and not Dan Onorato, for county controller.
He’d have written in Bill Peduto for mayor, too.
He doesn’t get why I voted for Cathleen Bubash, but fully concurs with my choices of McVay, McCarthy, and Williams, for judge of Allegheny Court of Common Pleas.
He thinks Len Bodack is not a nice man, and that he should concede to Patrick Dowd before the county verifies the race results. After all, he is convinced that Patrick won.
And he’s very glad Heather Arnet will take Patrick’s seat on the school board, because it’s really important who’s on the school board since he goes to the public schools and they run the public schools.
And shouldn’t we take our yard signs down now that the primaries are over?
Why don’t people take down their Bodack signs now that he lost?
He just doesn’t GET IT.


I am beginning to prefer the company of my goldfish, who may be boring but at least he stays in one place, and he’s quiet.

Except lately, even he’s been making these weird “bloop, bloop, bloop” bubbly sounds...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

"No, it's not my house." - Kathy Niccolo, in "House of Sand and Fog"

I would argue vehemently that books made into movies are most often unsuccessful. I almost never see a movie of a book I loved; made that mistake once and will NEVER do it again ("Possession").

In some cases, a movie absolutely destroys a perfectly lovely, intricately layered, wonderful book (Again: "Possession," anyone? UGH. Also, "The Prince of Tides." WTF were they thinking casting Nick Nolte in the Tom Wingo role?!?!)

I CAN think of books which were made into movies that I enjoyed almost as much as I did the book: The World According to Garp, Angels and Insects, mayyyyyyyyyyyyyybe Cider House Rules.

But seldom is the movie better than the book. Seldom, but not never:

House of Sand and Fog - Andre Dubus III. I still HATED the Kathy Niccolo character, but I really liked Ron Eldard as Lester, and Ben Kingsley made Colonel Behrani much more sympathetic and complex than he was in the book.
My friend E, her husband, and I watched it last Friday night. By the end, poor J was sitting between a pair of sobbing, hiccuping women; I am sure he didn't know which way to turn - he just kept eating the popcorn.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (HP2) - JK Rowling. Oh my dear God, will this book n.e.v.e.r e.n.d???? But the movie was terrific – much faster-paced. Much more sure of itself. Plus, as always, a perfect excuse to ogle Alan Rickman as Snape.

Bridget Jones’ Diary - Helen Fielding. Renee Zellweger totally rocked in this movie, (and Colin Firth didn’t hurt it, either). Once I’d seen the movie, I enjoyed the book much more. The movie allowed Bridget to be fussy and flaky but also funny and cute and charming; none of that came across for me the first time I read the book.

You could probably convince me to include Peter Benchley’s Jaws and Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the Gene Wilder one, NOT the remake with Johnny Depp), if you tried a little bit.

Check out this blog for further thoughts…

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wars and elections are both too big and too small to matter in the long run. The daily work - that goes on, it adds up. - Barbara Kingsolver

I swiped this from Naked without Books, who swiped it from Bookfool, and she told two friends, and so on,and so on...


A book that made you cry: Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson; The Book Thief – Markus Zuzak; A Thread of Grace - Mary Doria Russell

A book that scared you: Salem’s Lot - Stephen King. I slept with a crucifix next to my bed for months, and to this day I hate to look out the bathroom window at night.

A book that made you laugh: Virgins – Caryl Rivers (possibly the funniest book I have ever read); The Egg and I – Betty MacDonald; Bright Lights, Big Ass – Jen Lancaster; The Gashlycrumb Tinies - Edward Gorey

A book that disgusted you: Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted; I can deal with violence if it’s well-written and relevant, but I was NOT impressed by this book or its gratuitous yet lovingly detailed violence.

A book you loved in elementary school: Understood Betsy; Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm; Trumpet of the Swan; The Little Princess; the list could go on and on.

A book you loved in junior high: The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger. Very funny, painfully honest, what a terrific book for a shy, awkward teenager to find, read, and empathize with. I can’t remember who gave it to me, but God bless ‘em.
I also read every Trixie Belden - stil have 'em, too.

A book you loved in high school: I don’t really remember anything I read in high school; I spent a lot of time plowing through my mom’s random mysteries. That’s when I read all the Brother Cadfael books, so I would have to pick those. Although I remember reading Thomas Costain’s Silver Chalice, and Frances Parkinson Keyes’ Came a Cavalier, and liking both very much (and not that I can remember a damn thing about either, now).

A book you hated in high school: The House of Seven Fucking Gables. Which I read again, later, in college, and thought was just fine. I resented that we were not permitted to read Scarlet Letter, I think.

A book you loved in college: Pride and Prejudice, which I read for the first time when I was sick with the flu in my junior year, on the night of one of the biggest parties of the year, and my boyfriend, instead of coming to spend a very little bit of time with me, stayed at the fraternity house and partied, hanging out with several women by whom I felt very threatened.

A book that challenged your identity: Book of Common Prayer (Anglican Church)

A series that you love: Laurie R King’s Mary Russell series

Comfort books: Hens Dancing; any of Laurie Colwin’s novels; Shell Seekers.

Your favorite horror book: I don’t read horror; my sole attempt (successful) was HP Lovecraft’s In the Mountains of Madness.

Your favorite science fiction book: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Your favorite fantasy book: Madeleine L’Engle’s books for teenagers – An Acceptable Time, Young Unicorns, Arm of the Starfish. Or apparently, Time Traveler’s Wife counts...

Your favorite mystery book: Brat Farrar, but honestly, anything by Josephine Tey

Your favorite graphic novel: Easy! The Sandman series, probably Brief Lives if I had to pick, but otherwise, the whole kit and caboodle.

Your favorite biography: Laurie Colwin’s food books, Ruth Reichl, MFK Fisher. Hmmm, another theme...I did enjoy very much Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Love Pray.

Your favorite “coming-of-age” book: Roller Skates – Ruth Sawyer

Your favorite classic: Gone with the Wind, which is totally a soap opera and I find it hilarious that it’s considered this big, intimidating classic.

Your favorite romance book: Jane Eyre, although I admit to a weird fondness for this fluffy little novel called Just Desserts, by Patti Massman ; or Judith Krantz’s Mistral’s Daughter.

Favorite kids’ book: I am partial to The Big Orange Splot; but I also like I Love You, Stinky Face and Yellow Submarine, which is just FUN to read out loud. “I’m a born lever-puller, me.”

Favorite cookbook: To use – Real Simple Real Food; How to Be a Domestic Goddess – Nigella Lawson (these can change depending on mood, what’s in season, what’s new, etc.); for reading: John Thorne or Laurie Colwin. For both: Consuming Passions - Michael Lee West

Your favorite book not on this list: Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie; Possession – AS Byatt; Stones from the River – Ursula Hegi.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"He should have just accepted things as they are instead of trying to interfere with destiny " - Tracy Flick, "Election"

Tomorrow Pittsburgh holds its 2007 primary election. (Post Gazette coverage and endorsements here.)


H and I have been fairly involved in one campaign, Patrick Dowd’s, for District 11 City Council seat. Mr Dowd, who has been effective on the Pittsburgh Public Schools school board and would be a forward-thinking City Council member, who has displayed much integrity and intelligence, runs against Len Bodack, the incumbent, and a party hack. Mr Bodack has been nearly invisible this race – no website, few public appearances, certainly no debates even though Mr Dowd challenged him to one early on, and repeated his desire for a public debate several times. In addition, he seems to think that Lawrenceville is the only neighborhood in the district that matters – news for you, Mr Bodack – Highland Parkers and Morningsiders and Stanton Heights’ers are part of your constituency as well.

Mr Bodack has out-and-out called Mr Dowd a liar (in capitals and boldface!) in campaign mailers; however, to be evenhanded, this was in response to Mr Dowd’s insinuations that Mr Bodack is corrupt, that money has changed hands or been promised in some shady ways. (Is this true? I don’t know, but in truth, it would not surprise me. The Pittsburgh political machine is well-known for its old-boy cronyism. Our incumbent mayor is a decent example.) So yes, both candidates could have taken a higher road, but my vote goes without dispute or second thought to Mr Dowd. (Whom, in the interest of full disclosure, is someone I personally know and respect, and consider a friend.)


The school board race is the one that, as a parent of a child in the public schools, most concerns me. Stephanie Tecza is running against Heather Arnet. What first concerned me about Tecza is that she was one of three candidates up for endorsement from the District 2 School Board Coalition; each candidate agrees that, whomever the Coalition endorses, the others will drop out of the race and support the chosen candidate, thus ensuring community’s political support for the candidate deemed best. The Coalition endorsed Ms Arnet and Ms Tecza decided to run anyway. Her reason, that the Coalition “did not reflect the diversity” of the district is neither here nor there: she knew coming in who comprised the Coalition; her decision to fly in the face of this pledge and run anyway demonstrates a lack of integrity and commitment.

In addition, she is running on the platform that the district does not do enough for special ed kids (she has two children, one of whom has Down’s Syndrome). As the parent of three typical children, perhaps I am being insensitive, but I would like the school board to worry less about a particular group of students and focus on balancing the budget and providing a decent education for all its students. I think that a special-interest-biased member at this point in the board’s history will cause unnecessary disruption and short-sightedness. What we need is what Ms Arnet offers: “ I think the last few years have brought increased accountability and also a very strategic focus on increasing student achievement.” … she wants to help that agenda move forward.
My vote goes to Ms Arnet.


Other races I am keeping an eye on include that of Controller: Doug Shields is a fine guy, but I would like to keep him on City Council where he has done a great job, and where perhaps he and Mr Dowd can work well together to help this city live up to its potential. He is running unopposed for his council seat. His opponent for controller is Michael Lamb, which is who I will be voting for. It’s not that we don’t like you, Mr Shields! We just like you where you can do the most good, on the City Council.


I will be voting for Jack McVay, Joe Williams, and Michael McCarthy for Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.


I don’t know what to say about Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. I don’t like him, but that’s more of a gut reaction than any sort of studied, intelligent political decision.
I was living on the North Side when he ousted Barbara Byrnes for City Council, running and winning in that staunchly Democratic neighborhood on his name (or rather, his father’s and grandfather’s name). He was elected President of City Council as a compromise candidate among rival factions and upon Mayor O’Connor’s unexpected illness and death last year, he ascended to the position of Mayor. There was some debate after Mayor O’Connor’s death as to whether there must be an election for the new mayor; the law is ambiguous, and some argued that the mayoral term does not expire till 2009; as it turns out, it doesn’t matter - his election is a formality, as he is running unopposed.


Tomorrow is 2007 primary election day.
The polls are open from 7 a.m. till 8 p.m.
Go vote.
And if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

"I totally have no other talent and I would be totally out of work if I did anything else." - Neil Young

Our annual church book sale began last week; because I buy so many books from them, at ridiculously low prices, I am feeling compelled to donate some. Although I heartily regret the weeding of my collection when we moved three years ago, it only seems fair that, with all the thousands of books in my house, I should rustle up at least a few to donate. Here's what I found and decided I could part with, with little or no regret.

  • Some book I picked up somewhere called An Egg on Three Sticks. No idea why I thought I might want to read it, because, in addition to its ridiculous title, it’s written in the breathy, melodramatic voice of a teenage girl, with little clarifying punctuation, lots of run-on sentences and “you knows” and “likes,” and it drove me BONKERS. The reviewers on Amazon seemed to love it, but I tried three times to read it, and got disgusted very quickly all three times. The time has come to inflict it on someone else.

  • Riding the Bus with my Sister; but Sarah Louise has first dibs on it. Lemme know, SL; I can get it to you if you still want it. Otherwise, to the church sale it goes.

  • A copy of Jane Hamilton’s The Book of Ruth and a copy of Timothy Findley’s The Telling of Lies, both of which I picked up from the free paperback exchange at work, and then lost interest in almost immediately.

  • Duplicate copies of Touch and Feel Farm (It’s a children’s book like Pat the Bunny, get your minds out of that gutter!); Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever (one of the creepiest children’s books ever written, and at least the fourth copy I have given away. Note to gift-givers: It is NOT an acceptable or appropriate baby shower or baby gift. It is CREEPY. And icky. And ew-wy.); Magic Treehouse’s Vacation under the Volcano and Tigers at Twilight (these two duplicates are due entirely to Joke’s son, who generously and kindly sent all his MT books to Primo).

  • I Want to Know About the Holy Spirit; and its companions, I Want to Know About the Church, and I Want to Know About Jesus.

    "The best way to learn is by seeing, doing, and exploring things for yourself. And what better way to learn about the Holy Spirit than this fun, informative book!...It's packed with full-color photos, cartoons, and graphics. And it's ready to guide you into adventures in faith and fascinating discoveries...Learning about the Holy Spirit has never been this much fun!"

    Um, I am not sure I WANT learning about the Holy Spirit to be this much fun. And exactly what sort of full-color photos do you suppose it contains? I have to go home and look, to see if perhaps they captured part of the Great Three-in-One on film.

    A friend gave these to my kids in a big bag of books her two teenagers had outgrown; even when she handed them to me, she almost seemed embarrassed by them. She is NOT some sort of religious freak, and I am sure these books are very informative and well-put-together; they’re just not my boys’ cup of tea.
    Or Communion wine.

  • Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography. By rights, this is not mine to give away. The drummer in H’s band lent it to him more than two years ago, and it has been riding around in MY car for the past ten or twelve months because H keeps “forgetting” to take it to return to B. I find it on the floor, in the hatchback, in the CD storage case, under the seats, and jammed in the glove compartment. My boys have stepped on it, sat on it, and dropped Cheerios and juice boxes on it. I am donating the damn thing just to get it the hell out of my car.

So there you have it. The Great Weed of 2007.
Of course, with the half dozen books I dragged home already last week from the sale, I am almost even already. We do NOT believe in Zero Population Growth, or Zero Book Growth, in THIS family.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"How would Elvis Presley know the going rate for a tooth?" - Priscilla Presley


My baby, my first-born, my eldest son...

Just lost his first tooth.

It's all downhill from here: puberty, acne, college, girlfriends, marriage, grandchildren...I may cry.

“A male gynecologist is like an auto mechanic who has never owned a car.” - Carrie P. Snow


C’mon, people, this is ME. Not some lucky, lottery-winning babe who is always in the right place at the right time, and wearing the right clothes to boot.

My family’s favorite joke (ha ha fucking HA) is that we have a black cloud hovering overhead, and H and I often hope that the Babe good luck will offset the Maiden-Name-of-Babe family terrible, horrible, awful, no good, very bad luck.

We shall see. But in the meantime, I did NOT find my earring.

Here is its lonely mate:
WANTED: single earring for long-term relationship. Cute, classy, confident. Must like puppies, long walks on the beach, and cuddling by the fire. If you are silver and amber, and dangling from a French wire, I would love to hear from you.


I have, however, hit the jackpot in book-reading lately.

I gobbled up Sheridan Hay’s The Secret of Lost Things, which I loved, and never wanted to end, and which also prompted some very disturbing research into the disorder of albinism. And you all know how I love that sort of stuff.

I have embarked upon Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which, for those of you who don’t follow this sort of thing, is her account of living off the land for a year. Well, if not off the land like some latter-day Grizzly Adams, at least eating locally, being aware of the provenance of the food she is putting in her mouth and her family’s mouths, and the challenges and joys of said enterprise. The book is interspersed with horrifying but fascinating little info-sketches (written by Kingsolver’s husband, a biologist) about the industrialization of food by the giants of agribusiness, among other things. You may never put a mass-produced, feedlot-raised hunk o’ cow in your mouth again (which I have had a hard time doing ever since I read Fast Food Nation ANYWAY).
So, the three pounds of asparagus in my fridge is singing out to me to be cooked for dinner tonight.
And the farmers’ market is warbling away, starting up for the season on Monday. (And my CSA starts soon, as well.)

I can never give up bananas or avocadoes (for Gina, it’s bananas and pineapple) but I can be more responsible about what I and my precious guys (oh, and H) are eating. (I suppose this means I should no longer feed them chicken nuggets from a box? OK, let’s not get CRAZY.)

Anyway, it’s a beautifully written book, and if a wee teeny tiny bit hyperbolic, also speaks to me and my food-loving heart. Kingsolver accurately points out: "Food is the rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

(The downside of the book is that I feel *really guilty* that my three tomato plants, basil and rosemary sprigs, and three blueberry bushes are languishing on my front porch, and are not in their lovely raised bed yet.)


Lurking in the wings is Mr Y, almost finished, and Dead Clever - it may just be that I am not at the moment in the mood for Scarlett Thomas.
I am however in the mood for Bright Lights, Big Ass which, while mildly annoying at times, and sometimes causing me to want to snap, “Oh for God’s sake GROW UP!” also happens to be falling-down, laugh-out-loud funny a LOT. I can forgive a person – and their book – an awful lot if they make me laugh. And it may well be that Jen Lancaster is the only writer I know of who can make me howl just talking about a routine (for most of us) visit to the gynecologist.
Now THAT'S funny.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"...and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the LORD.” - Hosea 2:13

I have discovered the downside of walking to school.

If, upon arrival at the bus stop, you realize your right earring is missing – a cute little silver-and-amber dangly number – and you must retrace your steps because you have sentimental attachment to these earrings (brought back from Russia for you by one of your best friends from college), you have a fucking LOT of ground to cover.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." - Annie Dillard

You know, I want to post, but I also want to read the new Barbara Kingsolver so I can discuss it with Jess and Gina.

So, a quick recap of my weekend:

Friday night: invited to a friend’s impromptu birthday celebration; other friend calls me to pick me up but I am asleep on couch and punk out on her.

Saturday: work in stiflingly warm library while other people revel in the sun and balmy spring air outside. Spend lunch hour devouring brought-from-home caramelized onion pizza with gorgonzola and spinach, and The Secret of Lost Things, which I wish would never end.

Saturday night: putz around house and feed boys breakfast for dinner while H takes his mom out for dinner and the symphony as her birthday gift.

Sunday morning: frantically edit a dissertation proposal my client needs by noon, to submit to his advisor. At 10:55, send boys off to church with H, shower, and then rush to church, only 15 minutes late. Take communion for only second time ever as official Episcopalian. Am still in awe of the sense of community and peace I feel doing this; feel like a bit of a religious nut saying so, but it’s true.

Sunday after church: allow boys to eat two pieces of chocolate cake each for lunch while I scout out the church summer book sale. I come home with the following haul, for $22 (would have been far less, but felt guilty only paying hardcover price of $3 for Audubon book).
The Double Bind - Chris Bojhalian
Blessings - Anna Quindlen
Awakenings - Oliver Sacks
I Know This Much Is True - Wally Lamb
The twelfth edition of The Fanny Farmer Cookbook
Too Many Tomatoes - Lois Burrows & Laura Myers (because I am hoping to get a garden planted in a raised bed sometime this week)
and the score of the day: an almost-pristine hardcover copy of The Art of Audubon.
And well worth the resulting sugar rushes and crashes.

Early Saturday afternoon: field several phone calls from my client who cannot seem to open my email attachment containing his edited proposal. Open edited document in Word, accept all my own changes, email him resulting document. He can open this one, and tells me he is sending it to his advisor as is. Oh gosh – half my remaining notes were missing citations. Oh, well.

Sunday afternoon: attend a First Communion party for H’s first-cousin-once-removed. While children are engrossed in animal balloons and amateur magic act, I spend the entire two hours self-consciously picking at my food, as H’s cousin has dropped 3 dress sizes and now looks like fashion model. I feel like a heifer, and am sure H thinks so as well.

Sunday late afternoon: pour very tired children into their beds for brief naps. Take Punto out for my run (2 miles) and then let him loose to jump in the duck pond and doggy-paddle after delicious ducks. He fails to catch a single duck.

Sunday night: everyone goes to bed by 830, leaving me in peace and quiet, to drink a cup of coffee and eat an avocado sandwich and read and write blog post. Wish cat would stop scratching window to be let in. Wish dog would stop farting. Wish tomorrow were beginning of long, solitary beach vacation for me.

Friday, May 04, 2007

"We did not go to Mexico to buy weed." - Kemper, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"

How many men at work do you suppose receive the following email from their wife:

To: H_At_Work [h@veryimportantjob.com]
From: Babelbabe [onlymyrealname@commie.net]
Sent: Friday, May 04, 2007 10:31 AM
Subject: RE: Home Depot

Hey, guess what I just bought?

And respond accurately with “A chainsaw”?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

"...but I won't dwell upon these trifling family matters” - Lord Byron

The first few years of my marriage, H’s mom gave me for my birthday:
  • a denim shorts-and-shirt set studded with rhinestones, in a size six (I was at the time probably a size ten)
  • a greenish flowered rayon dress with embroidered flowers all over the skirt, size large (I was probably a medium – she tried)
  • a Mary Higgins Clark mystery
The year she gave me the rest of my wineglasses from the wedding registry was a vast improvement.

The year after that, she gave me a gift card to Old Navy, which was just fine.
I like Old Navy.

Then she went straight to cash.
I have no problem with cash.
Except my mother used to give H cash for HIS birthday and I know she gave us both the same amount.
I don’t want to sound petty here – but I will – but H’s mom gives me half of what she gives H.
This year, my amount got reduced another ten dollars.

I suppose, really, I should be grateful she gives me anything at all.
It’s nice of her.
She spends a lot of money on my boys, so it's nice of her to remember my birthday at all.
It really is.
Plus, this year she got it exactly right.

This morning, with my birthday cash in hand, I went to Barnes and Noble and bought:

The new Barbara Kingsolver, because I own and read everything she writes.
This one looks really interesting, especially in light of my exciting discovery today that Construction Junction recycles paperboard! No more throwing out cereal boxes and OJ cartons. I am actually not sure what recycling has to do with eating locally, other than being tenuously connected by being-good-to-the-Earth-ness, but either way I was happy about both!

Jen Lancaster has a new book out, and everyone should go buy it. Because, wouldn’t you hate to meet her at Blogher and not have read her new book? Besides, she is just as funny in her book as she is on her blog. Who doesn’t want to laugh out loud while reading on the bus, just like a crazy person?

The saleslady at B&N had a bit of a tough time tracking down Jen’s book (Jen. Me and her. We’re like THIS.) but we finally found it on the New Paperbacks table. Because it would be a New Paperback. And I was all, “Wow, Jen is soooo funny, you should read her first book.” Basically, pathetically, trying to pass myself off as a personal friend to the famous author. (Are two famous authors not enough for me? Do I really need more? If you cut me, do I not bleed? )
But you know, Jen blogs; I blog.
She has ten thousand readers; I have ten readers.
We are blogging sisters, of a sort.

So, now that I have embarrassed myself by acting like I am still a junior in high school, I also bought this, to carry on the high-school theme:

Because, let’s face it, regardless of how erudite The Sandman series really is, it plays perfectly to the angst, the pseudo-depth, the sturm und drang of the average adolescent female.

Besides, in the last volume I read, Dream died, and I can’t quite cope with that well enough just yet to read The Wake, so Endless Nights it is.

My mother-in-law has done herself proud with the birthday gifts this year.
Thanks, Mom!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

“The end of the animal trade would leave more time to trap or beat to death pop star wannabes.” - Simon Cowell

How did I miss the ENTIRE Morning News 2007 Tournament of Books? It’s way more fun than the Man Booker prize, and besides, I have a raging girl-crush on Jessa Crispin, the editor of Bookslut and one of this year’s TOB judges.

OK, admittedly, I hadn’t read even half of the contending books, but this particular verrrrrry quiet night at the ref desk, this fact wound up making the recaps of the contest that much more engrossing.


Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn (her weakest novel, IMHO) made a decent showing, handily defeating Arthur and George, The Lay of the Land, and Against the Day before succumbing to Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan (which, I am so confused, I thought was knocked out in the first round by Half of a Yellow Sun; oh, wait, Zombie round, in which TOB readers get to vote a book into the competition).

The round one match-up of The Echo Maker versus The Emperor’s Children, two of the world’s most boring books, would have been enough for me to fling myself off a handy parapet. I felt for poor Marcus Sakey, whoever he is other than the judge of this pairing. Emperor's Children won. Again in my oh-so-humble opinion, Echo Maker should have made it to the second round instead, as it was at least nicely written, if dull. EC was abysmally, mind-numbingly dull AND badly written (I disagree with Jessa on this one, although her comments about the stereotypical characters are spot-on).

Monica Ali’s second novel Alentejo Blue was in contention; her first novel Brick Lane made me yawn, so I never started the second.

I don’t care for Thomas Pynchon, and Richard Ford puts me to sleep with his middle-aged male “Everyman” protagonist busy having a midlife crisis in suburban New Jersey.

WARNING: Total unpolitical incorrectness ahead…
I have not and probably will never read either Half of a Yellow Sun or The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo. Because one is about Nigeria’s civil war, and one is set in post-war Namibia (a nation recently made famous by Angelina Jolie, thankyouverymuch), and I am sorry but I don’t CARE. I mean, I care in the sense that I wish there was better, less corrupt government in many of the small African nations, and I wish the refugees were better cared for, and I wish the Tutsis and the Hutus hadn’t felt the need to go slaughtering each other; I care in the way I care about what goes on in the real world. But Africa holds zero fascination for me; there are a thousand places on this planet I would rather visit and see before I decided to go to Africa. I will eagerly devour anything I can lay hands on about India; I enjoy European novels; and we are all aware of my minor Arctic/Antarctic fetish. But I am just not particularly interested in reading about Africa. I never even made it through Things Fall Apart even though H gave it to me so I could better understand the years he spent living in Cameroon. It didn’t do anything for my understanding other than to leave me saying, “Thank God I never joined the Peace Corps and got assigned to Cameroon.” So there you have it. And now I feel all Don Imus-y.

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was the ultimate winner (also garnering the 2007 Pulitzer), and I actually have it sitting in my bedside basket to be read, now sooner rather than later. I am excited and more than a little scared. One too many people have mentioned babies cooked on spits for me to be comfortable...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

“I had other priorities in the 60's than military service” - Dick Cheney, vice-president of the United States

What do I have today? Other than an indignant political post brewing, that is...let's see....

Dropped my older brother at the bus station this morning. He’d been here since Saturday, and his visit was great. He and the boys played a lot of hockey in the backyard, he accompanied Primo to his first t-ball practice, he played Stratego and Don’t Wake Daddy and dominoes with the boys all weekend long, and he watched The Baby while I ran Seg to the pediatrician yesterday (poor little guy has an ear infection, complete with perforated eardrum). I cooked this amazing Parmesan chicken on Sunday, and salmon with roasted fennel and onions yesterday, and we demolished a Victoria sponge layered with mascarpone and homemade lemon curd (most successful experiment). Not to mention a shocking amount of alcoholic beverages.

About that ear infection: Seg started complaining his TEETH hurt on Friday. Lots of crying and whining, lots of clinginess; I dosed him up with Motrin and stuck a warm water bottle on his pillow, under his face. Called the pediatrician and got an appointment for Saturday morning, which I called and cancelled because he was fine all night and woke up Saturday perky and chipper. However, by the time I got home from work on Saturday, the pain was back, and by Sunday had migrated to his EAR. Injudicious pouring of Motrin and he was mostly fine, but I took him to the pediatrician first thing Monday – or at least, as soon as they could fit him in. He was VERY BRAVE while they dug out tons of wax and dried blood and pus from his ear. The doctor thought it had ruptured probably Saturday which is why he felt so much better that morning, but she put him on two kinds of antibiotics, and Motrin for the pain and fever till it eases up. He slept all through the night last night, seemed fine by this morning, and indeed was healthy enough to get into a screaming match with Primo over whose hockey gloves were whose after breakfast. Not to mention teasing both brothers that HE got to drink “yummy pink medicine.” Ah. All better.

And about that amazing chicken: I bought Real Simple: Meals Made Easy at the library’s Half-Price Scholastic Book Fair a few weeks ago, and it has become an inspirational source for meals. Who isn’t sick of cooking the same old thing all the time, and unfortunately we cannot live on desserts from Nigella (not that I wouldn’t like to try, mind you). Some of the Amazon reviews complained that the recipes call for things the “average home cook” might not “stock”, but c’mon, anyone who cooks at all keeps chicken breasts in the freezer, and a stockpile of dried herbs handy, don’t they? Seriously? A couple recipes will NOT be attempted – the very idea of eggs baked in spaghetti sauce is indeed revolting – but I have the Cannellini-and-Tuna salad on tap for tomorrow night, I will probably give the vegetable pasta, the chicken souvlaki, and the roasted cod with potatoes a whirl at some point, and I will most definitely make the Parmesan chicken and the fennel salmon again.

I am cranking through and once again enjoying End of Mr Y. I realized that, despite the fact that it is a novel, it covers some pretty profound philosophy, and so I need to take a break now and then. I am halfway through Susan Isaacs’ Past Perfect, whose heroine is whinier and more insecure than Isaacs’ heroines usually are, and with whom I feel no empathy at all, again, most unusual for an Isaacs book.

I pick up Salley Vickers’ Instances of the Number 3 at my library’s ILL today, and then Lord’s Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, The Secret of Lost Things, and Scarlett Thomas’s first detective novel Dead Clever at the public library, on my lunch break. Plus, I took home Sophie’s World last week, to bone up on my almost nonexistent philosophy knowledge.

Fair weather and lots of good reading ahead!