Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dec. 29: The Children's Book

I have just finished reading A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book. I enjoyed her Possession, which took me out of a long dry streak and got me very involved and swept up, and CB did the same, though it took a while to do so. Byatt is a writer who can create another time period and also create characters who are people, so the reader feels as though she has lived through a different time and met people who never existed. The Children's Book covers the late Victorian period up through 1919, and spins off the socio-economic-psychological-political-emotional atmosphere of the time--the feeling that is at once naive and creepy and sexual and strange, all at once. I don't like Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland, and/so I skipped the stories that Olive writes that are in the heart of the plot, but Byatt certainly depicts the individual situations that those stories grew out of. There are weird things about it: Tom and Olive sort of fade out of the story, as does the Violet plot, but at the same time, that's how time passes and history unfolds. And Byatt gets away with telling a lot, a ton more than I'd allow any of my students--but somehow (though I did skim some of those political updates that lasted pages) she keeps the characters alive and immediate. It's an interesting book--not an easy one, and not a simple one. But I'd add it to the curriculum for my "Class to Help Students Understand History through Literature If Time Managment is Not a Problem"--and it would be a hit!

Rain last night, snow this am--6" of it! Pretty.

Note: just went online and read some reviews of CB. Lo and behold, there is literary gossip I did not know (!!), but at least the Times reviewer was much of my mind. . . . [<=That's supposed to be a link. Not sure if it is.] Perhaps I should now research Byatt's life in particular!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

12/26: Boxing Day!

Tho not much boxing of any kind (with gloves or INTO boxes) being done today. Here's a pic that captures the spirit of yesterday:

Elder displaying and celebrating some of his good loot, sportin' the flame fleece pants I made for him two years ago. . . We had a nice day. It went pretty fast, but not greedily, just excitedly. Elder's big deal was that he used his own work savings to buy BH and me a sound system for the house--wow! In a nice parallel, I'd asked for and gotten several cds (ahem. . . NINE!) so we had a housefull of new, great music. It's unlimited screentime in our house on Christmas, so Younger spent a lot of quality time with his new DSi from his grandfather, and he also watched nearly ALL of his season of Scrubs. I read, napped, cooked, washed dishes, talked on the phone. . . . and then this am Gram and I went to the Grasshopper Shop for some "immediately after C'mas b'day shopping" and used my 20% off certificate to great effect, and then she headed off. Since then Younger and I have gone for a nice walk, a short one with Zeus, who is feeling noticeably better to my immense relief, and a longer one to replace a run since my hamstring is still pinging uncomfortably. Then we watched some "Scrubs" while I started on BH's hat. . . and we played some Kings in the Corner, and I'm about to have a shower. . . at 4:34 pm! Maybe some picking up tonight, but nothing too major. Feels pretty darn good, I must say!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dec. 23: VAY-KAY-SHUN!

And dog is feeling better after a shot from the vet, we had a really nice dinner out at Finn's yesterday evening, the much-vaunted storm has dwindled into flurries so Gram can make it up as planned, and I've already had a nap (right after school yesterday) and done some reading and slept in. . . .

so things are off to a great start!

Warmest wishes to everyone for a Christmas that opens your heart and feeds your soul. May there be light and warmth and love--and enough for everyone.

Here's my Christmas image, post-pageant and in the midst of the snowstorm on Sunday!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dec 20: Pictures at Last!

I thought about writing a few times, but I did want to get some pictures to liven up this space, and I was off doing a lot of things (many of them a great deal of fun) and then there's the whole Christmas event/busy-ness. . . . oh and I am just finishing off writing a grant proposal--so ah well. It's been a nice Advent--the boys decked the tree (seen above) on the first weekend of December, which was wonderful. I am not fussy about how it's decorated, I just like to get it up and done so I can revel in its beauty. And this one has been beautiful! Elder, despite (or maybe because of) losing laptop privileges due to a poor report card, has been a lot of fun, and Younger always is ready for a game, a snuggle, or making a batch of something or other. We've rediscovered UNO and played numerous highly contested games, some of them lasting for ever. . . but all in all, it's a been a good December!

And to close, the picture below is of the fingerless gloves that will be my last present for my Secret Angel at school, a man I don't know very well. The pattern is called "Dashing"--the companion to the women's pattern, "Fetching"!--and I used some of Younger's Weasley sweater yarn and all seemed to go very nicely. I got the bulk of them done in the car headed down to see BH's dad last Saturday--I even brought Younger's headlamp so I could see to knit en route home!

Two days of school this week, then my mom comes up on Wed, and then the fun begins! Off for a cuppa and a read of Stones into Schools--an EXCELLENT book!--before getting more productive. Cheers!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dec. 5: A List Entry Just Because

It's December, and as always when Advent starts in November, it seems to be moving fast. Today Elder had a meet and BH had a meeting in Augusta, so Younger and I headed out to do Festive Things downtown, which we did--didn't buy much except at the church fair, but looked at and planned and greeted and went to the new Goodwill (seem appropriate, yes?) and all that. Oh, and I got some pretty blue snowflake flannel to make Elder two festive pillow cases, which will be one of my relatively few handmade presents this year.

Other observations:

*School has, honestly, been delightful lately. My frosh have been funny and fun, and my decision to have my seniors choose and read a poem, one each day till Dec. Break, has wildly exceeded even my optimistic expectations. The New Principal has asked me to help apply for a grant which I might then administer, becoming full time before next year but not increasing my correcting load, and flattering me immensely as well.

*My family has been incredibly endearing lately as well. Elder, in all his 16 year old, 6'6" teen hipness, still gets deeply excited about the holidays, and Younger has been growing up, physically and behaviorally, so much as well that I am swamped with love for them a lot. Thursday night BH and I went out to dinner to plan Christmas presents for them, and we had a great dinner and great planning and a great time, and then when we came back Elder was so chatty and funny that neither of us could get our work done, while Younger and BH had a similarly warm time upstairs reading. Just. . . wow. Lucky, lucky. Then last night the boys put up the tree and decorated it, and today we're supposed to get snow!

*I'm even reading books I like these days, too. Wow. If this is Karma, sign me up for more, please!

Passing comment: I am considering making a New Year's Resolution to sign up for sewing classes and one other sort of classes as well--banjo lessons again, if I can find them in Ellsworth, or maybe signing up for yoga again, or maybe taking a knitting class on finishing techniques. These seem like things that would add greatly to my life but that right now I am too lackadaisical to actually commit to, so a NYR might be JUST the thing!

Off to walk Z with Younger as a way to rest my humming hamstring. I think I need new runners!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Nov. 28: Ahhhh!

It's nearly 5 pm on Saturday, and we are home. It's very windy out and the temperature is dropping as the rain we've had for a few days moves out. My legs are sore from my run--the second in two days!--brought on in place of a swim when the pool was closed due to a vomiting incident. I am clean but hungry, and am pondering what to eat for a snack and when to eat dinner.

Our trip to Gram's was nice, though the sleeping situations were not particularly comfortable (so good bye to my hope for lots of sleeping!) and we were VERY BUSY--my nephews are go go go boys so we went went went. Shopping, train viewing, shopping again, and a movie. . . wow! It was terrific to see everyone and to have an extra day that wasn't a travel day. My father in law seemed to enjoy our dinner out at Kennebec Tavern, and we ran into friends from church there (!!!) after our delicious meal. Elder and Younger were delightful: great with their granddad, great with their cousins, fun to ride in the car with. Our travel entertainment was my first present to the boys for the season: Terry Pratchett's first two Tiffany Aiken novels, Wee Free Men and Hat Full of Sky, on cd. We have 1.5 discs of WFM left to go!

I finished the latest Isabel Dalhousie, the name of which escapes me but which I enjoyed (yellow cover. . . picture of empty box on front. . . ), and then read part of the newest Maisie Dobbs, Among the Mad, and part of the second Louise Penny, A Fatal Grace. With the apartment full of 10+ people, reading wasn't always the easiest thing to accomplish. I did make one and a half pairs of mittens, though!

Well. I am hungry, tho have decided against a gin and tonic, having had two Mike's Hard Lemonades (one pomegranate, one "light". . . bleah. Go for the extra calories, I'd say) this vacation. Dinner early, perhaps. Then. . . more knitting and a read, maybe? First Sunday in Advent is tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nov. 24: Vacation AlREADY???

How nice to have a two day week! Am looking forward to a break that includes
--great family time
--lots of sleep
--generally relaxing.

Happiest of Thanksgivings to one and all. . . .

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nov. 22: Nice Times.

This weekend consisted of (among loads of laundry, church, and various other items):
taking in two high school shows: my high school's "Thoroughly Modern Millie" (growing season for them, but fun, impressive, charming) and Ellsworth's "The Wiz" (much more stage crafty with terrific costumes and effects, terrific music, many dear people in it) with Younger;
finishing The Bespoke Stocking of 2009;

and running a Turkey Trot 5k with Lori, a good friend from school, and younger, and 365 other folk! Our goal (all of ours) was to finish in under 30 mins, and we all did--Younger in 26.03, me in 26.57, and Lori in 27 plus a few seconds. . . and we all got tshirts, and were given a turkey each (Lori and our family, that is) by a colleague who won loads of them! Much, much fun.

Now home and looking forward to dinner and trying to whack up the ginger (in Bertie Wooster's immortal words) to do something more than slump here all evening.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nov. 14: Wishes

1. Top wish du jour: a clutter vanquisher, a la Mary Poppins. Let's just make all those piles of pencils, old papers, bills, computer stuff, clean laundry, dirty laundry, yarn, etc., vanish back where they belong. Better yet, let the trash end up in the trash, following my definition thereof.

(Feeling better already. Do I need three wishes?)

Wish #2. Insta-travel machine, so Julie and I can spend the day together, or even just have lunch.

Wish #3. If I had the other two, this might be superfluous, but I might enjoy "super kitchen speed" so I could
make a big batch of squash soup
make a batch of bread
peel, core, slice, and deal with all the apples sitting in the garage--pie? sauce? cake?
make some Katherine Hepburn's brownies
make a batch of ginger cookies
AND still do other stuff like going for a run, working on The Stocking, and picking out a new book. Oh, and laundry.

Finished The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly last night. It's read by Stephen Crossley, who was fabulous, and it's a fascinating story, but very sad. I think. I've been pondering it a lot. I also finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and that's a ponder-worthy book, too. I have to admit I skipped sections: it's all about the people for me, and whether it's chaos theory in Jurassic Park or the dream sequences in Holes, I will skip what doesn't directly involve the people. Therefore, considerable numbers of pages whirled by as Renee pondered happiness or Paloma discussed philosophy. . . . but it was an intriguing book and I'm glad I stuck with it! Last on my list is Inkspell, which I've been halfway through for weeks. Might finish the toe of the stocking and the rest of the book at the same time!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nov. 11: The Brighter Side of the Day Off

I had forgotten, after a summer not terribly conducive to gardening, how satisfying a good garden session can be.

And exhausting, as well.

Two items lurked in my mind: bulbs and "putting the garden to bed." Bulbs are ideal because they are a huge boon of color, life, and hope that appears when there seems to be little of any in our Maine landscape, and putting the garden to bed because I tend to be bad at that stage of the process, partly because I like to leave seedheads for the birds, and partly because I am a Memorial Day to Labor Day garden since I teach in a public school. A logical time to attend to both items is, of course, our day off--both because it's a treat, and because it's a nice climatory time to plant and trim. SO, this morning, I headed off to get potting soil to plant some hyacinths for forcing and some more bulbs to plant around the trees by the church. I found organic potting soil and, to my delight, bulbs for 50% off, so I got 42 assorted daffodil bulbs and 12 assorted hyacinths for about $12, and the work commenced.

Home first: I had thought of two gardens, one at home and one at church, but of course there are two at home, small ones but each full of tall reedy things to cut down before raking free of oak leaves. I did that, then corralled some small pots for bulb forcing and also planted a few new daffs (BH bought me 6 lovely new bulbs of good ol' King Alfred from a fundraiser at his school) and a few hyacinths in the newly cleaned beds. Lunch after an hour and a half of work tasted pretty good. . . . and then I rooted myself out of my chair and headed down to the church to plant bulbs there and clean the upper, and more visible, garden.

There the real work began! The soil around the trees was packed and hard, and the one trowel I'd carelessly brought nearly broke, so I ended up doing a lot of sod removal, invention, and plain ol' digging. Got the four trees done, planted, and fertilized, however, and I do hope that April next year is bright and pretty around those maples' ankles. Daffodils will come back, and it would be great to start a legacy of yellow (and white with orange trumpet and plain ol' white) happiness!

Cleaning up the front bed followed: I was already sweaty, and the cutting was satisfying and dirty too. The globe thistle from my beloved mil is on its third flowering this year, so I left its brave blue shoots there for the birds, but otherwise I cut and pulled and raked and neatened, then truly put everything to bed with some nasty old hay from last year as mulch. It looks kempt and restful, and since a lot of the hay already had worms breaking it down, I'm hoping that when we rake it up next Spring some of it will have decayed completely. I slipped a few new bulbs into gaps in that garden, too, and then staggered home to force myself to put away all the tools and then collapsed into bed for a rest/drowse/nap for an hour.

But how nice to have done all that! I keep thinking of those bulbs, and that hay, and those quiet gardens. "Put the garden to bed"--it's a great image, and I am so glad to have done it! Let it rain, let it snow, let it freeze. I'm ready!

Nov. 11: Veterans'/Armistice Day

I am glad, glad, glad to have this day off, but it's a holiday that makes me sad. It originally celebrated the Peace that ended that "War to End all Wars" but that really led up to the Next Big One (I had to rephrase this sentence since that opener is so unwieldy), but now has become yet another war-related commemoration. . . and while I do think that veterans, people who answered the call, deserve honor and support, far too often these holidays become jingoistic relivings of simplistic us-them world paradigms.

WOW. I am reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog, slowly and carefully, and I think Barbery's diction is rubbing off on me.

Nonetheless, I do think that somehow Memorial Day and now Veterans' Day and also the Fourth of July have become days to celebrate war. We don't wear black. We don't gather up the widows and orphaned children and go to VA hospitals and ask hard questions about why we keep cranking out so many veterans. We don't feel the grief and bewilderment that "man's inhumanity to man" should evoke in us. All too often, we wrap ourselves in the flag and we say thank you but we say, "And we'll be ready for the next Big One, too,"--instead of vowing that there should never be another one at all.

And why don't we have a Peace Day? Or even a day to remember all people we've lost, not just soldiers? I love the Mexican Day of the Dead--which could be our Memorial Day, but again: here comes war. We don't do well with grief as a country. We prefer rage and revenge.

But on this sun-soaked day, due to hit 50 in November! In Maine!, I plan to plant bulbs, deadhead gardens, do some mulching, tend a flu-ridden Elder (temperature of 101+, and that's WITH ibuprofen!), and maybe even take a nap. The cold (nothing more, but it's a doozy that has reached deep into my lungs to entwine its gunk with my bronchioles) is ebbing, and I'm hoping fresh air, a gentle run, and a nice snooze will help see it out the door.

And on this Veterans'/Armistice Day, I pray for support for all veterans, and I pray that my country and all countries will not act in ways that propagate war, but in "ways that make for peace."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Nov. 7: Blog Kvetch

Home from Younger's band festival--as usual, amazing to see what early rising, a bus ride, and 6 solid hours of practice can do. 150 middle school musicians and the same number of same aged singers made LOVELY music. Fun!

But have been reading some blogs as entertainment and I am starting to consider an entry test for potential bloggers: The Apostrophe Test. It's/ its, yours/your's (which doesn't exist), the there variations. . . I honestly think that people who write for the public (and isn't that what a blog really is? That's what makes it "not my teen journal", right?) need to learn and follow those rules.


Or maybe I just need some sleep. Like 10 hours of it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Nov. 6: Ye Gods!

I do love November, and this has been a lovely one so far, complete with some pure-lighted bare treed sunny days (Lori and I ran my favorite Park trail on Wednesday on one such) and also a few sullen, raw, can't-wait-to-get-some-tea days. It's been plenty busy, however, and somehow I'm not prepared for the date above.

But what brings me to post (though I have several kicking around in my head) is that Cornflower cited a comment of mine! I'm SO excited. Reading blogs--the best ones, the ones I've still got bookmarked after my renewed struggle to keep technology from completely controlling my life--makes me feel part of a funny, friendly, smart, international, literary, creative community, and being cited by someone who IS REALLY one of those people. . . ooh! It's a lot for this lone blogger from Ellsworth, Maine!

During the early part of this week, I have been pondering the joys of single-mindedness, and realizing that being a teacher AND a mother, I don't get much of a chance to practice those joys. However, I am learning to treasure the half hour with a cup of tea in a quiet house and the comfy read before bed. I just finished Sense and Sensibility for the first time in a few years. . . Lacking single-mindedness lately, it took me quite awhile, but I did it tonight. And I am much enjoying John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things in the car--it's a fascinating and unsettling mix of kid and adult story.

Tomorrow I am chaperoning Younger's Honors Festival Band Trip. Since I'm not in charge, I can work through some correcting and possibly even work on The Stocking (which is giving me some trouble). However, I will be multi-tasking once again. Single-mindedness will come. . . someday!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oct. 29: Heading into November~

My camera does not quite do justice to this gorgeous tree (I overuse "remarkable," which was my adjective of choice in that sentence. . . I think I picked it up from Dustin Hoffman's role as Willy Loman in the PBS "Death of a Salesman" years ago. It is a specific word: worth remarking over. . .but I am trying not to use it fifty times a day) which, every fall, lights up the end of the school, but there it is anyway. We're entering the phase of fall that I love, when many of the trees are bare, but their dark limbs serve to emphasize the incredibly intense color of the few late-changers. Later, in deep November, the beech leaves will be the only remaining color, and their deep copper will stand out against the grey and black branches and, if we're lucky, a few early snow storms. For now, our colors are still bright in places, and the grass is shockingly green.

We've had a spell of warmer weather lately, and though it's due to be showery, Saturday, the day of Elder's regional xc meet, should be the warmest in a bit (55!). Nice to have a warmish Halloween: how I remember those battles with Mom about wearing a jacket over my costume when we went out trick or treating!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Oct. 24: Saturday Night Monsoon

What a mellow day! At the moment, BH is asleep in my pink study, which glows with the lights on, and the rain pounds on the skylight and alternate windows as the storm changes directions. Both boys are at a Halloween party from which BH will fetch them in about an hour, and I've just finished a second (successful) draft of the top of the latest commissioned stocking. I think I have some reading in me next: I've knitted a great deal, read some, cleaned my study and various piles of patternsbillsletters recipesarticlesmagazinesjunk from around the house, and also had a good run around noon, just before all weather hell broke loose and it really really really started to rain, so I feel pretty pleased with myself and endorphinized to boot. As I ran, I realized that one thing I really missed about running was being able to go out in terrible weather and warm myself up, so that I could return on a freezing cold or driving rainy day and feel pretty darn good--which is what happened today. Wet, yes, but studly? Definitely. AND charged up and warm.

So. My eyes are getting prickly, and I think I will quickly do my banking and then go down and read for a bit before I fall asleep. . . I am reading through Elizabeth Noble's The Friendship Test, which is a lot like her Reading Group: predictable and warm. I also am still reading Sense and Sensibility, and I have two other library books I'd like to get to. I wish I could magically transfer some of those onto cd, then I could do the stocking AND "read". . . what a skill! Anyway. Time to go enjoy the calm of the evening a little more deeply, along with humble thoughts for people and creatures who aren't blessed with a solid roof and reliable heat!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Oct. 22: Thursday. Yes!

I was thinking that this week was a quiet one, as I only had one evening commitment on Monday, but I conveniently overlooked the jam-packed afternoons that awaited me. AND BH going to a conference for Wed. night - Friday and that type of thing. But most of the items have been fun--hair cut, Younger's final middle school xc meet, trip to Brewer for Younger's teeth which means some one-on-one time and maybe some errands--so things are good. Yesterday was a stunning, golden day, then today is cold, rainy, and raw: so glad I'm not cheering on my runner today! Apparently Saturday, Elder's regional ch.ships for xc, will more than make up for it--"steady, soaking rain," I heard mentioned--so we'll snuggle up now.

Boys are great: how they are growing! How they are growing into people I enjoy and like spending time with! How nice!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wed. Oct.14: Freshman Work Day

Today was the Freshman Community Service Day, and thank HEAVEN it was sunny and dry. . . though very, very cold, especially after it clouded up and got breezy in the afternoon. However, my group was working at the new community gardens in a nursing home complex in Bar Harbor, and there were lots of chores to keep us busy, mostly low skill: painting a fence. Painting the raised beds (really raised--like 4.5'--so that old backs don't need to bend much. Brilliant.). Raking and bagging leaves. Painting a sign. It was the best work site I've been to: there was so. much. work., and it was pretty "safe"--we couldn't hurt ourselves or other people, and we could definitely see the results of our work. It was great, and the kids were great.

Still, the kids were. . .kids! Fourteen and frisky, and there was a considerable amount of managing to do, so I was busy. While we were there, an old woman drove up in her van and veeeeeerrrrrryyyyyyy sloooooooooooooowly made her way into the main building with her walker, and we all sort of watched her on her way, ready to help, but not needing to. She came out just as we were leaving, and I helped her open her van door. She looked at me and said, "Are you the teacher?" and I said I was, and she looked at me, straight in the eyes, and said, "Well, you're a very good teacher! I've been listening to you all day [gulp, I thought] and those are good kids, they are, but they have lots of energy and they need to be directed a little bit. Well, you do a great job of that. You talk to them just right and I can tell you're a great teacher." And then she gave me a big hug and drove away!

That completely made my day!

Now I am trying to read through some Death of a Salesman responses before I completely collapse. Sun+ work+wind+cold+lots of horsing around and talking = sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepiness!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oct. 12: A Nice Afternoon

Not as Martha Stewart as it coulda been, on many fronts (note the sheets drying in the fresh fall air!), but a great fallish lunch and cup of tea in front of the fire.

And on tap for today? Well, it's unrealistic to think I could finish my 1/3 done sock, start a Christmas project, do all my correcting, make apple cake, pick up the house, AND go for a walk. . . so I guess I'll settle for "enjoy the day, do some stuff, and deal with the limited nature of time!"

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Oct. 11: =Ahhhhhh=

So what did YOU do over your long weekend?

More foties to follow!

Friday, October 9, 2009

October 9: A Quiet Friday Night at Last!

It's been a great fall so far, but my it's been busy! Seems like every weekend one of us has been away, had a meet, a major commitment, or a deadline, and sometimes all of those at once! Finally, on this three day weekend we have

Nothing Major Planned.

==Deep sigh of satisfaction.==

To make things even better, BH and I drove to Elder's xc meet together, Elder ran well and we got to see a lot of students/friends/people we like, and the rain held off until we got home, though the looming clouds set the lovely leaves off amazingly well. BH and I had dinner at Finn's, a new "Irish pub" in town, which had good food and reasonable service, though its noise level got pretty uncomfortable as the place filled up. Town is feeling very Fallish now: there are empty parking spaces, the traffic is calmer, and down town just feels cleared out. Yay!

Poor Younger seems to have picked up a stomach bug, though he's been so prone to them in the past that he's very accomplished at being sick and its details (which I will spare any readers). I hope he's through the worst and can sleep in tomorrow and call that all good.

My wishful thinking list for this weekend includes:
correcting three different batches of work for school
reading some of the three good books I've got lined up
picking some good crunchy apples
baking with said apples: pie? cake? sauce?
removing the screens, separating out the ripped ones for repair and storing the others
cleaning up some of the piles in my study
doing some planning for Library and church details that I need to attend to
running and swimming and maybe going for a final long bike ride on Monday.

That seems manageable, huh???? Cross your fingers for me. But also remember the joys of a rainy Friday night with most of the family tucked up asleep and the last one expected soon!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Oct. 3: Book Reviews and Updates. . .

Wow. It's October third (I think. I frequently get weekend dates wrong. . . ) and a cold but sunny Saturday morning, although both the forecast and the wind that turns the leaves upside down promise differently come noontime. I'll have to check the laundry I hung out yesterday and start finishing it off in shifts in the dryer, I fear. I was at the Me. Conference of the United Church of Christ annual meeting all last weekend, so there is a laundry backlog that the "possibly heavy at times" rain is not going to help me with. AH well.

Yesterday I took a personal day from school, partly because I knew this weekend would be busy, and partly because I could! I managed to finish my February Lady Sweater and my meeting socks, prep for Elder's varsity team spag. feed and overnight, go to Shirley's 20% off yarn sale, and clean my car. . . I also just reveled in the fall light that flooded the house at midday, and took Zeus for a lovely walk in it too. A nice day.

I have had a flurry of reading lately: still trying to cut down on my computer time, I've found a vein of good books. . . some on CD, some on real paper. Here they are, in some kind of order, I think.

--The Help, by Katherine Stockett. I think I mentioned this one before: it's written in a variety of voices, primarily several black women who work as "help" in Alabama in 1963, and one white woman who works with them to write a book about that experience. It recreated a time period I had not experienced with impressive reality, I thought, much like Water for Elephants did. The characters were developed and the plot kept me involved. Oddly enough, it echoed Mockingbird, the Harper Lee biography I read last year, tho they are not much alike in many ways!

--Marilynne Robinson's linked novels, Gilead and Home. I listened to Gilead, having read some of it about 2 years ago, and then read Home in great gulps over the past week. They are beautifully written, devastatingly sad books that remind me of my grandfathers, raise key issues of faith and forgiveness, and are worth rereading. The first one, Gilead, has many passages that are . . . dull, or at least incredibly convoluted and specialized in focus: discussions of predestination, sin, abolitionism. . . . and I can see how I didn't finish the book the first time through. While listening to it (and this time I thought the cd succeeded in spite of the reader, who was a bit pedantic), I'd find my mind drifting. . . and then I realized that possibly Robinson did that on purpose, since Ames, the narrator, is frequently daydreaming, resting, or pondering, and he drifts away himself. Home, on the other hand, is much more traditionally structured, and moves faster, though it really tells the same story as Gilead of the homecoming of a much loved but very prodigal prodigal son. The conclusion of Home is more decisive and more devastating, though also more hopeful, than the ending of Gilead, but together they are powerful, unforgettable, and well worth reading--or listening to. Wow.

--Finally, sandwiched in there, I read most of Strength in What Remains, by Tracy Kidder, a biography of Deogracias, a young man who survives the genocides in both Burundi and Rwanda, and gets to the US with $200 and no English in 1998 (?). By the end of his story, he's working for Paul Farmer's Partners in Health, which links with Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains, but this book is much more Kidder-oriented--not in a bad way at all, just that Kidder plays more of a narrative role, trying to explain how Deo's experiences come across to someone who meets him and what it's like for Kidder to travel to Burundi with Deo. It's an enlightening but terrifying story, and raises questions about genocides, but also survival and coping. It certainly provides the emotional aspect that I felt was totally missing from Ishmael Beah's book (Long Way Home? Long Walk Home? )about his role in the genocide, so maybe they'd make a good pair. . . with a hefty dose of Prozac and hopefulness on the side. Adopt two kittens and read these two books and maybe you'll make it out okay.

--And now I'm rereading a fluff book, a Brit chick lit book, The Reading Group. I think I deserve a little leaven, don't you?

Whew! Muchas literas (ahem). . . maybe I'll take some pics and wedge 'em in, but I have to go fetch down laundry and then go for a run with Younger. Hope your days allow some admiration of the out-of-doors!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sept. 22: Love!

I am currently listening to Marilynne Robinson's Gilead in the car. I have read it before, though quite hastily, and liked it. On this dvd (a Marden's [mishmash clearing house store] buy last year?), I am not crazy about the reader, but


the story, the words, the mindset, the humor, the images, the words, the words, the words.

I have that upwelling feeling that one gets when falling in love. Step two will be stopping friends in the street to tell them "listen to it, listen to it, or read it, it's wonderful". . .

So what are you waiting for? Go fall in love! And I hear there's a sequel/related book: my anticipation grows!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sept. 20: Serendipity

Today was one of the days (actually, the whole weekend felt like this) when I had to struggle to live in the moment, not to fret over all the time I didn't have to do the things I dreamt of doing. . . but the gorgeous weather helped to remind me that "all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well" (Julian of Norwich). With the space that made, I went for a walk with BH and Zeus; BH stopped at the Y to swim, while I took my still-present cold (which precluded my usual Sunday am swim) with me to walk with Zdog instead. And there was the "aha!" moment: we ran into church friends who are readying their house for sale, and whom we hadn't seen for a long time. I taught both their sons, and we (I should say "I", as Z was busying snuffling around their underbrush and ignoring us all) had a great visit--nothing earthshaking, but just catching up, and the kind of visit that makes me feel connected and rooted in a warm and steady community. Glowing, I headed on up the road, and then coming past the woods path, on a place where my route on the road runs parallel and above the woods path, I saw someone with a dog down on the path, and that person was

picking up trash. Not just one or two pieces, but with a trashbag and one of those cool sticks, and he was going at it seriously.

This simple fact dazzled me: someone else was taking care of a piece of the world I love, and one that I can get all het up about the neglect of (ouch. Bad sentence), feeling that I am the only one who "ever does anything," and "why don't people. . ." and "There oughta be a law. . ."--and there was someone, who turned out to be a friend of mine from the Library board, out there doing more than I ever think to.

Okay, okay, I get it. Well, for today I did. Making the time for the walk in the lovely day led to that great visit and then the humbling but reassuring discovery that I'm not the only one on the clean up team around here. There's a lesson there, and it's not too far under the surface. I hope I can remember it for the rest of this year!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

September 5: Saturday Morning, and the birds are here!

Zeus and I are out on the deck because it was just too lovely to stay inside, and the birds are all over the little cheesy feeder I filled with sunflower seeds and cracked corn last week. There are at least two small nuthatches (maybe "yearlings", aka hatched this spring?) and a clutch of chickadees, also pretty small, but I haven't seen a lot of goldfinches for a few years, since we thinned out the trees around the house. Maybe I'll try thistle seed in one of the feeders, since the finches really like that. We might put feeders on the outside posts of the deck as well, which would make it easier to see the action from inside the house (it's chilly out here even with a fleece vest on!) and might allow more experimentation with less squirrel interference. I do love the way the birds aren't visible at first, but then you realize, if you take the time, that the trees are alive with them, and they come swooping out and really aren't even very timid: I just had a nice face-to-face with Small Nuthatch, and, far from being afraid, s/he looked like s/he planned to take a sip of my coffee!

The sun is just pouring down on the tops of the trees, and the leaves are glossy and green, rustling and shining in the wind. It's definitely not summer anymore, but it's due to be a lovely day, and even though I worry about H1N1 and teaching a good class and helicopter parents and no time to myself. . . . I think it will be a good year. And I love a sunny Saturday morning!

Friday, September 4, 2009

September 4: Ah, FRIday!

This school year is off to a TERRIFIC start: the district days were interesting and/or fun, and our own school opening days were really inspiring, visionary, and fun. The energy in the school is wonderful, and my advisees and my ninth grade students (who come today) were chipper, interested, funny, and a lot of fun.

Still: Friday afternoon is wonderful, and I realized that summer lacks that complete-collapse feeling. I am enjoying it now! Happy Friday!

(To add to the feeling of achievement: took Zeus to the vet with Elder's help and yes, Zeus does have an ear infection! We now have meds, ointment, cleaning stuff, and a sense of accomplishment!)

(and: Younger, on his first day of school in his newly remodeled school, was interviewed for the local news! Much excitement! Check it out. . . . . . but you can't, since I can't insert a link. Hmmm. Might figure out how to do that, sometime!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Aug. 30: The Last Day

It's a lovely golden day and has been since about 12:30, when the sun fought off the fluffy clouds and the temperature went from about 50 to 65ish. I have written a letter on the deck, hung out two loads of laundry, planted the mums that Swimgirl's mom gave us, filled and hung three birdfeeders, and taken down the hummingbird feeder. I still need to decide what socks I want to make next, since this morning I sewed in all the ends and blocked . . . .

the February Lady Sweater!!!!!!

At this point, I'd call it a modest success--it'll be interesting to see what I think when the buttons are on and I'm wearing it post-blocking. The yarn, Reynolds Cricket, is the tricksiest part: as I was finishing I was thinking I wanted to start it all over in some of the natural Candide I have, and the other half of my brain was thinking that I didn't. ever. want. to. do. another. gull. wing. lace. repeat. again. In reality, I think I'll make a baby version in the rose colored Cashmerino I have in my stash and call that good. Oh: pic with my rinky-dink camera:

It's currently drying in the screenhouse; I'll bring it in tonight and hope that an evening inside will finish it off. We shall see!

Today is such a perfect late summer day: it's really too cold to swim, even! I am in a long-sleeve shirt and jeans on the deck, and I could use a fleece vest (Younger snagged my pullover). I had hot tea after we came home post-food shopping, and it tasted great! Next week is due to be gorgeous, dry, and cool (low 70's), so all the signs are there and pointing toward school. Let it be so!

It's been an interesting summer, for sure: July was hard. I don't know if it was my micro-managing side, my loss-of-school-people-fix withdrawal coupled with sunshine deprivation, or what, but man! It was a tough month. August, on the other hand, has been wonderful--I almost feel that having only August would've been enough for me! My Wabanaki class, my time with Julie, the weather, the family time, running with Younger, working on FLS, doing a little schoolwork each day (at least in theory), then our recent festivities of dinner with Bigfamily, Younger's b'day party/overnight/b'fast, BH's and my elegant anniversary lunch, and Elder's xc dinner, then yesterday's smash hit coupling of terrible weather, triumphant closing run, fun out to lunch, tons of movies, and deliberate knitting, knitting, knitting--WOW. I feel really ready to go back and make the most of it. I guess that's what a vacation is for!

So, in closing. . . a shot of Zeus personifying enjoyment in this green and gold world we're living in:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

August 28: The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday. . .

We've got 'em! I was the first up at 7:50, and Younger the next at 8:50--and we went to bed early, too! Rain started gently but has been hard on and off, and it's been a great day for me to fulfill my sincere hope of finishing sleeve #2 and blocking FLS today! I have flown through the two remaining House of Eliot episodes left on cd #3 and am ready to take a break from them and go for some real movies. While the show is lovely to look at, I feel that the stories have become a little set, and the plot features the kind of problem to which the reader can see the answer long before anyone in the story does. Tilly needs glasses, of course, but she can't afford them! If Bea would be less bossy, Madge would stay! Of course Jack loves Bea! etc. Sooooooooo. . . I'm postponing the rest till I need some good knitting background.

But mostly I want to boast about Younger, by starting off talking about ME. I'm a structure person: I tend to make plans and then try really hard to follow them through. Not everyone enjoys this approach: Elder, for example, and BH only sometimes see the wisdom of my approach. Younger, however, tends to be even a little too fond of structure. . . but when I was thinking about him and his upcoming cross country season, as well as his tendency toward self-doubt and chunkiness (at 13, granted), I thought that a plan might work for both of us, and we decided to run every other day during August. We started at 20 minutes on August 3, and he will have preseason on August 31, so today, August 28, we had our last run: 34.51 minutes, at a good clip, a 2 minute improvement over the same course two days earlier, and in the driving rain. Younger uttered no complaints, and he really pushed in the last half mile. I am so proud of him (and of me. Though I work out five times/week, running every other day, about 3 miles, is not what my 46 year old knees/feet/joints necessarily desire, especially when I spend some of my energy exhorting a less-than-excited 13 year old, so big cheers for me, too)!!! I feel that we've taken a huge step towards life-long fitness, and we've had a good time (ahem: all in all), and we did what we put our minds towards. Ha! We rock! And here we are, being tough, right after our return. Two hot showers, fresh clothes, and a celebratory lunch at Karen's Cafe followed. Yay!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August 26: From the Porch

A lovely morning after a perfect night for sleeping--breezy, cool, quiet. I was the first one up at 7:30, and Younger appeared next at 8:45! Elder was due for a late night good bye visit with a good friend and role model who's off to college, so he's sleeping in as long as he'd like. Emotional times are wearing, especially for boys, I think--but I'm so glad that Elder and his friends are admitting that and taking the time to say good bye. In any case, it's a quiet house this morning.

Five days left till BH and I go back to school, and we've got plenty planned in those five days. I keep trying to get a hike up Cadillac together, but can't seem to get anyone to go with me, so we'll see what unfolds there. Maybe it'll become a Labor Day/last gasp of summer outing instead. Younger is having his very belated friend b'day gathering here on Thursday night: two movies, cheap pizza, and six boys in our screen house. Friday night we've asked Elder's xc team over for spaghetti after practice, as they have their first meet on Saturday at MDI. Things are cranking up again!

The boys and I are on Artemus Fowl book four, having skipped book 3 since it was "out" at the library listening site (not sure how that works, but that's what it said). I'm hoping we can figure out how to work that site once school starts, since I'll be in the market for books on cd for my commute once again. As it is, I am listening to Artemus while I work on sleeve #2 on my February Lady Sweater (!!) and Elder listens to it while he works on his artwork.

I am thinking of a portable project for the various meeting days upcoming, and I am thinking SOX! I have four options at least, but I"m leaning toward making a pair for me from my Koigu PPM handpainted stuff in pink. I don't want to get distracted from the sweater efforts yet, so perhaps I'll wait till Sunday afternoon to get that decided.

In the mean time, I'm in the balance between getting stuff done and reveling in my lassitude. . .

Monday, August 24, 2009

August 24: The First Day of the Last Week

--Big crisis for me was the LEAKS we had in our NEWLY SHINGLED ROOF when the incredible rain produced by the remnants of Hurricane Bill arrived on Sat. night and last night. As I lay in bed listening to the water dropping into the bucket at the top of the stairs (falling through the light fixture, just for another scary touch), I let myself get all knotted up, feeling that old black wave of "why does this happen to meeeeeeeeeeeeeee?" sweep over me. Coupled with the Ongoing Question of the Stupidly Rigged and Inefficient Heating System and the Mysteriously Triggering (But Only at Night) Fire Alarm System, the Leaks Despite $4000 of New Shingles Roof made me feel like Ma Joad or at least like we owned the Amityville Horror house. Then I snapped out of it: admitted I was pissed but realized that it was NOT the end of the world or even a huge crisis, got up, had a snack, finished the book I was reading, and fell asleep by midnight. Still: we're calling the roofer today.

Dentist today and then a stint weeding the big gardens at the church, which need some TLC. All this rain will make it a pleasant job, I think, as the weeds should slide right out. The last week is always a battle between soaking up some lassitude and doing everything I meant to do but didn't, due to soaking up too much lassitude. May the balance be struck!

Friday, August 21, 2009

August 21: Well We've Got Cooler!

It's also foggy, damp, and still. I think it's tropical moisture from the much-vaunted Hurricane Bill, whose wrath we're supposed to feel (?) on Saturday/Sunday. An interesting sign of the change in air was that the fire alarm system went off TWICE last night, the first time since a week ago Sunday, when our visiting guest dad who thinks about such things was pretty sure it was a malfunctioning unit in my study. Alas, 'tis not, apparently. After explosion #2 I (BH is checking out nursing homes for his dad with his brother these two days) went to the cellar and turned off the fuse. Oy.

Yesterday was a busy busy busy day: curriculum/course planning work from 8:30 - 2:30, tho an accident in Somesville meant most of us sat in our cars for 45 mins to an hour. Once we got to Sue's, the work was good and the food delicious, however! I stopped by school en route home (still thinking, "Hot dog! I'm ahead of the game!") and got my new laptop decorated with all the stuff Anne Computer Whiz had recovered from my old laptop (we teachers are SO LUCKY!), which took a really long time at the end of a day and in the middle of a list of errands. . . . and then I had to shop for Friday dinner with the Big Friend Family, now up to seven with their two new kids and eight with a nephew who's visiting. { I think I made some good calls on that: pulled pork in the slow cooker, coleslaw, and blueberry buckle INSTEAD of pie, with ice cream or whipped cream, and ice cream/chocolate sauce if the kids prefer. Of course, it's now 9;13 am and I haven't stuck it in the cooker yet, nor started The Great Clean. There. The boys and I have just agreed (ahem) to have them start picking up at ten, and then I can start cleaning. It's a running day for Younger and me, so I'll have to fit that in somewhere. . .} THEN I went to the Farmer's Market and picked up the share, and when I got home I had to fit all the stuff into the fridge. . . Believe me, I was ready to collapse into a chair to read the weekly paper with a big glass of water!

Last night we lolled about a bit, then Elder finished his amazingly detailed AP pic of a praying mantis and Younger and I watched two episodes of "Scrubs" (I'm enjoying wasting my nights as soon I won't be able to . . .!) while I worked more on my sleeve. We'll see how it turns out over. Right now I'd say it's better but not ideal. I may need to actually decrease some stitches before the cuff. !!!!

So: soon to my feet, for b'fast and some good hard work. Ta DAAAAAAAA!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August 19: Hot, hot, hot

It's been about a week of hazy, hot, and humid weather, and (shhhh) I'm getting ready for it to change! It's not so much the days, as we're blessed with the river to swim in and there's usually a breeze somewhere, but the nights aren't much fun! There are rumors that we'll get remnants of various hurricanes up here this weekend, but I'd settle for a nice northern flow and some Septemberish weather, especially as I need to do a (final?) thorough clean on Friday and the floors, skipped when Julie and co. came but used heavily thereafter!!!, need real attention. In this weather if I wash them, they'll stay wet all day!

Sweater news: I don't think I've ever watched so much screen stuff: episodes of "Scrubs," "Columbo," and soon more "House of Elliott" (tho I love that and would watch it regardless!). . . and then I decided to take out the last 12 lace repeats on the first arm,go down one needle size, and aim for a less flowing shape. I'm making the arms full length, and I don't want a LOT Of extra fabric. So: I am now about at the elbow, take #2, sleeve #1, struggling a bit with the flow of the stitches on the round needle after the lace rows, but doing okay. I think I'll have to use double points for the next needle downsize--in about 10 repeats, I think. I was checking Ravelry yesterday to see what people were doing about sleeve changes and again I was amazed by the number of people who can set out to do these in ONE MONTH! I must investigate this!

But I'm also getting a hankering to make socks, remembering that BH would like a hat for C'mas (and I'd like to do it secretly so it's a surprise), considering a commission to make a stocking and a chullo for my patron of last year, and and and school is looming. SO: I knit, I knit, I knit, and hope for a cooling trend. Not bad, not bad at all.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

August 13: Friends. . .

There we all are, just before our CT friends left. What a nice week of activity, visiting, adventure, UNO, and good food we had! The two womenfolk even got to go see "Julia and Julie" yesterday--with no kids! The house is quiet and empty now, with BH off fishing, Elder at Swimgirl's house, and Younger at Gameboy's. I have done and hung up four loads of laundry--humid nights and lots of swimming meant lots of musty wash, so it's up and drying, tho it's a half-sunny, chilly day and not great for drying. Tomorrow, maybe. Though we didn't fit in everything we wanted to do--a meeting surfaced that couldn't be changed, so the Saturday departure became a Thursday departure--we did a lot: I taught Daughter to knit, which she took to with great alacrity; we hiked Pemetic Mountain in Acadia on a GORGEOUS Sunday; we went fishing; we went to Lamoine Beach and did some kayaking/wading/rock skipping/lolling around; we swam in the river a lot; we ate out at Ben and Bill's, Jordan's, Martha's, and Julie and I snuck out to the Riverside too; we had lobster; Younger and I ran every other day, regardless; Elder got his braces off; there was minigolf and a trip to the Fun Park; we played two looooong games of UNO and took many walks. It was a very nice visit!

Starting tomorrow, Elder and I have to be more structured in our time, which will be especially hard for him--I use it/need it to deal with my approaching school anxiety! I have my Wabanaki unit due on the 22nd, and also have several pieces of work due as paid summer work (yay!). . . but I need to DO it, which means I'll need to set up a schedule of some kind. I am thinking that 9 - 11 most mornings will work quite nicely, but we'll see. If I could stick to that, things would get done pretty easily, and I'd be able to work out right after, and then the rest of the day would be mine. Pipe dream? Maybe!

BUT I did want to update my recent spate of lite whodunit reading with an excoriating review of Cordelia Frances Biddle's Deception's Daughter, set in the late 1800's amongst the highest and lowest of Philadelphia's social classes. Apparently the author comes from the former. . . but she is much, much, much too fond of mannered sentences and awkwardly stylized speech for my liking: the whole story is told in present tense, which is a jarring detail, and that's topped off with various grating descriptions of people's burning eyes and passionate gazes. It made me cringe, and I speed-read the last 1/3, but overall, I feel fully qualified to say: Don't bother. I'd read quite good reviews of it (my knowledge of BIddle as a writer came from the Daedalus catalog, warmly recommended), but: beware.

Sweater progress: I have fallen in love with the "House of Elliot" series, and between them and knitting with Daughter I have gotten about 3 inches on one sleeve done. I don't THINK I'll be wearing my FLS on the first day of school, but I am making (some) progress. And that counts! It's certainly a faster round with only (maybe) seven lace repeats and then a knit row vs. maybe 20 repeats and a purl! Again, if I can get my "gotta do" work done in the mornings, then I should have plenty of time for my "wanna dos" in the afternoon and evening!

I am hoping to swim a bit this afternoon, and hoping that will loosen up my shoulder. Mixed progress, but overall I'd say it's better--more a 5 than a 7 in the discomfort level lately. Let's hope the progress down the scale continues!

And, last but not least, on Tuesday, our quietest morning, I painted my toe nails, thus making myself inordinately happy AND saving myself at least $20 at the same time. I have to remember what a return I get on 20 mins of work!

(Color of toes not exactly as shown; I'm too lazy to take and post a current pic so this one's a rerun from a year ago, April!!!)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

August 8: Appreciating Vacation

Well, let's see: August has been a blur so far: We had a very successful yard sale on Saturday the 1st, making over $350 for the Heifer Ark, and then Sunday I tidied up the financial loose ends for THREE church fundraisers, and the boys and I had a lovely quiet time listening to the Artemus Fowl cd (Irish and Younger were right: reading, not skimming, was the key to enjoying the book) up in my study while I cleaned up in readiness for

EPC 251: EMBRACING THE WABANAKI INITIATIVE, which hit like a whirlwind on Monday at 8:30 in Bangor and washed everything else in my week away!

The Wabanaki is the tribal confederacy of Native people in Maine, composed of four tribes, the Penobscot, the Passamoquoddies, the Micmac and the Maliseet. In early 2000, their tribal rep. to the State Senate managed to get an unfunded mandate passed saying that Maine kids should be exposed to Wabanaki culture and history on a regular basis in school. SO: we're supposed to teach it, but most of us teachers know very little about the Wabanaki in that deep way you need to know to be able to be excited and full of resources and able to do a really good. Well, suffice it to say that after four books, 8 guest lecturers, numerous powerpoints and documentaries, a media review, a curriculum review, a visit to Indian Island, and 50 hours of class, I feel like I can do it. I also came home and slept for 2 hours yesterday afternoon!!!!!!

Ironically enough, it was a lovely week of weather. My best friend in the world and family arrive around lunch time today, and today is lovely, so we'll hope the trend continues. But I am newly ready to enjoy the joys of summer! FOR THREE WHOLE WEEKS! YAY!

Friday, July 31, 2009

July 31: Progress? What Progress?

Last day of July, and a rainy one it's been. . . I am on the verge of my first ever yard sale (to benefit our church's effort to raise $5000 for a Heifer International Ark--two of each of the animals Heifer provides for families in need around the world). We'll see how it goes, but I am blown away by the help and support everyone is offering, crowned by my BH but ably supported by Elder. . !!!

However, the heading refers to my February Lady sweater. HOW do people crank it out in one month or less? I have been knitting A. LOT. Every evening I knit at least an hour, and I have NOT had to take out major swathes or anything. I am about one or two lace repeats away from starting the garter edging, and that's great! I even tried it on last night and am cautiously optimistic, given that virtually everyone who's made it says it grows when blocked ("What ees dis blocking you spik of?"). Wearing this creation, the most complicated sweater I've made I think ever, seemed within my reach. . . but then suddenly I realized:


Long sleeves.

TWO of 'em.

All gull patterned lace.

This could take some time.

"More books on cd, Jeeves!"

Saturday, July 25, 2009

July 26: Mornin'!

The show was great fun: I was amazed at how smoothly it ran after only five weeks of work, and delighted by how much fun they were all having. Younger went off for a late dinner/celebration after the show: a huge step forward for him socially!

Now I am browsing knitting blogs, all the while feeling that more knitting and less browsing might mean more progress. Certainly the infernal "it's too hot to knit this summer" problem has not raised its head so far! I did do several lace repeats (3, maybe?) last night while waiting for the show to start, during intermission, and then at home, waiting for Younger to appear (and to get to go to SLEEP!). I may finagle the sleeve stitches so I can try it on and make a decision about length soon.

The skies are only mostly cloudy, not pouring rain, today, so my spirits and energy are higher. Cleaning? Finishing the Skirt? Etc? We shall see! Let's hope at least that my brother and BH have great fishing!

Friday, July 24, 2009

July 24: Opening Day/Night!

Today Younger's theater camp opens "Bye Bye, Birdie!" with a 12 noon showing for the YMCA camp as a dress rehearsal, which BH will attend. I'll go tonight "for real" and then again tomorrow night for closing. Younger is very excited, and I'm proud of him in a complicated and mushy way: he has dealt with some stress (practices every day since school ended, riding himself up and down the hill on his bike, not getting a big part, being part of a show with older kids, etc) and has really thrived (throve? thriven??) and been increasingly independent and happy. He sings around the house and practices dance steps and retells terrible jokes the cast enjoys. . . . He's making his own way and loving it, so I'm proud and delighted and touched.

Today is also a day of heavy rain, though I'm watching to see if the old "rain before seven, stop before eleven" saw holds true. It's 11:03 and raining less heavily, so maybe that counts, at least for this soggy summer! I am still in my jammies, and have read and then played about on Ravelry for a bit. I'm pondering making the free skirt pattern I got from Sewing by the Sea using the funky rayon print I got at Marden's yesterday (3 bucks and change), but I might also want to really neaten up my study before that, and I had considered cleaning at least half the house today and doing the rest tomorrow. I could ALSO plop myself down on the couch with a movie and do some serious repeats on the FLS. . . but I just. don't. seem. to. be. able. to. muster. up. the. energy.


Younger and I did make luscious millionaire's shortbread yesterday, and I did finish reading The Private Patient, a classically well-written and enthralling Adam Dalgleish novel by PD James, and I am very close to finishing the Nicolar book for my class. . . . so I have been doing stuff, but I am definitely in a quagmire of sorts--bored, moldy, lethargic, flat.

However: this post has been written over a span of about 2 hours, as several people have stopped by, BH and I have loaded Younger's old bike into BH's car for its delivery to my younger brother's older son (!!) this weekend, and I have begun and stopped a few things, like cleaning off the dining room table to cut out the skirt, etc. When I told him I was out of solar energy, BH also said to me, "So have a lazy day in your pajamas. No harm done." And he's absolutely right: what difference does it make? I don't really have to always be "a human doing": sometimes I can be a human BEING! So: whatever gets done, gets done. Inspired by his insight and given a burst of well being by it, I have brushed my teeth and changed out of my pjs. Plans (!!) include maybe cutting material, taking Zeus for a walk if the rain subsides, and maybe watching some "Columbo" and knitting. OR MAYBE NONE OF THE ABOVE!!!!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

JULY 21: Lest You Think. . .

that I am a rain-hater, I thought I'd write about the lovely rainy afternoon/evening I'm enjoying. Younger and BH have gone to see the latest HP, but I am happy to spend the evening pottering about, watching my latest Netflix (had it for at least a week now!), knitting on my sweater, and enjoying the rain. Elder is going to a swim meet (his last for the season) in Canada this weekend: unfortunately BH and my younger brother have planned a fishing weekend and Younger's show is this weekend, so none of us can attend. . . but we can send food. Elder doesn't have a remarkable sweet tooth (Younger inherited mine, I think) but he does love some things I bake, and one of them is a family standby: Choca-Dotta Pumpkin Cake. If my sister--I think my only reader, in fact!--reads this, she will cringe, since she hated the name when we were kids, tho I don't remember her minding the cake at all. It's a dense, heavy cake, one I often make in the fall and winter, and I thought it would be great for (fairly) healthy breakfasts or snacking for the four days the team will be in St. John. Elder himself is exhausted and sleeping right now (or texting Swimgirl. . . once I'm done this I'll shut off the router, just to check), but it adds to my cozying in feeling of this evening to have the cake in the oven.

AND here's the recipe. Ann, if you've forgotten it. . . have at it! You can call it whatever you want!

Choca-Dotta Pumpkin Cake
(my version)

For starters, mix the "wets" so the bran flakes can dissolve. In a large bowl,
beat 4 eggs and mix with
2 cups or one can of pumpkin (probably not the pie filling, tho I've never tried it)
1 cup of oil
1 1/2 cups of bran flakes (yeah, weird. But this way you can justify eating it for b'fast or sending it on a swim trip). Let that sit.

Then: sift together
2 cups of flour
2 tsp baking pwdr
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves (be sure to take a nice sniff--what smells better?)
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger
2 cups of sugar (don't really need to sift that, but it makes it easy to keep the dries together)

Mix the dries into the wet, and add 1+ cup of chocolate chips and, if you so desire, 1 cup of nuts. Elder does not desire the nuts but does desire 1.5 cups of chips. SO!

Then: spoon into pans: if you do it in the one tube pan it calls for, grease it well and put the oven on 325 for one hour and a quarter and maybe you'll still need to put tinfoil on the top. I like to do a tube pan AND a small loaf so they don't get brown on top AND so the family can have some for b'fast and still send a nice tube cake to Canada. In that case, I start at 350 and then turn it down to 325; the loaf takes about 45 mins and the cake. . . an hour? But overall: bake till it seems done: some crumbs but no goo on the tester, pulling away from edges, etc.

Enjoy!!!!! My brother loves it with oranges and chocolate sauce. Go figure!

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20: Progress (or lack thereof)

Lately our family evenings have featured watching at least one episode of the Jeeves and Wooster set that I gave BH for a belated Father's Day gift. Each show lasts about an hour or so, and while we watch it, I knit on the body of the February Lady Sweater (adapted by Pamela ?? [too lazy to get off porch and check] of Flint Knits), and I must say 1. I am enjoying the gull lace pattern, and 2. I am stunned by how slow the process is! So many bloggers I read seem to have finished projects to show off every day or so--lace shawls, sweaters, shrugs in ornate lace patterns, complete pairs of socks! When I'm teaching and thus tied to evenings of correcting or prep that precludes knitting, I thought that was the difference. "Humph," said I, "those professionals have the whole evening from 7 to at least 10 pm, maybe with a ride on the train or bus home, for knitting! Hence the progress!" Now, however, I am changing my opinion, and wondering what is up: I knit at least an hour nearly every evening, but I still think my sole project for the whole summer might end up being one. sweater. (and that's assuming enough for me to look like an old Italian lady as I cross myself and spit over my shoulder to ward off the Evil Eye). What gives? I knit "fast", with a modified continental style (I think it's called "English"), holding the yarn in my right hand but not dropping the needle to wrap it, and I use good tools. . .

But, as I run my mind's eye over my fuzzy (I fear my Cricket will pill like the devil but it's a pretty yarn nonetheless), lacy bodice-to-date, I guess I just have to accept this: I'm making progress. And progress is really what knitting's all about!

If I get my "gotta do's" done, I might post a pic of the sweater so far! It has come a ways, I do admit!

Edited to add promised picture of "Feb. Lady Sweater with Controller and Plant Pot". . .

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 19: Pic Coming. . . Lovely Maine Day

Wow--it's summer! Breezy, warm, sunny, even a few fluffy and some black clouds didn't interfere with that ambiance. Sometimes it just happens. And today was summer. Wonderful! I drank my coffee on the cleaned front porch without a fleece or a sweatshirt, and the day continued in that vein. Amazingly, it was the church picnic out on Newberry Neck, and we decided to go, though we knew we'd be the only family with children (child, really: Elder had to life guard and then mow two lawns, so Younger was it). The weather was such a clear sign that we couldn't ignore it--and BH suggested deli sandwiches instead of grilling, which made it fun and easy. And we had a wonderful time: everyone was tickled that we'd come, Younger brought his b'day origami books from my mom, and someone had also brought bocce, which is the perfect intergenerational game with a big group: it's fun to watch, it's easy to play, it's fast moving, it's very low stress, and it got us out into the sunshine. What a nice time we had--and of course the view of Blue Hill Bay didn't hurt anything, either! There were a good number of sailboats whizzing up and down (and we saw one washed ashore, unfortunately, after a broken mooring), white caps, and deep, gorgeous blue water. Ahhhhhhh.

Then we came back and Younger started to do his yardwork chores, only getting through most of the mowing part as the weedwhacker didn't work. . . but I did some major clearing and brushcutting, wreaking havoc against the bushes that had crept back into our walls, hedges, and washline. It was good sweaty dirty work (break to go admire the large black mouse that Swipe the cat has caught and is announcing proudly on the porch. Apparently we won't go hungry if he has anything to say about it. . . Nice kitty! Good boy!): I put on lots of sunscreen and bug spray and had at it! The yard looks better (the weedwhacker's ailment means it doesn't look great yet) and my shower felt TERRIFIC!

Shall I say it again? What a nice day!

Friday, July 17, 2009

July 17: Family and, at last, a ZIPPY BOOK!

Just finished Dick Francis's Under Orders--wow! I used to like him a great deal, and then just fell out of reading him, but having listened to one of his at the very end of the school year, I thought I'd try another, and Under Orders was great: fast moving, suspenseful, informative, and a lot of fun! Nice to read a really zippy book! I also started another book for my Wabanaki course, Joseph Nicolar's book about the Penobscot, The Life and Times of the Red Man, and it is fascinating, though I haven't even read his work yet, only various intros and discussions and historical backgrounds. BUT: hopeful nonetheless. AND I have the newest P D James to read as well!

And we have spent some lovely time these three days with BH's cousin, cousin's wife, their four kids, and BH's uncle. What great people! I wish the weather had been better for them, but the upside is that we got to see them more! Today they came to Ellsworth and we got Thai food for lunch, after which they headed off to watch the new Harry Potter. How terrific to see them and to enjoy them so much. Family: always a crapshoot, but sometimes you win!

We're due for heavy rain and maybe t'storms tomorrow, then . . . . clearing, we hope! In case we're denied, I DO have some good reading.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

July 16: Happy Birthday, Younger Son!


The young man in question is modeling his new ORANGE CROCS on our deck before heading happily off to theater camp. What a blithe spirit he is!

Seems like we may be embarking on another stretch of grey weather. Glad I am not on the boat in NE Harbor with BH's uncle and cousin and their family: four teens, two parents, one granddad. Yikes. If it continues grim, they may come over to . . . oh, take hot showers, do some laundry, and go see Harry Potter #6, just as a change.

Off to eat steak tips, caesar salad, garlic bread, and german chocolate cake!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 14: Book Review

Well, yesterday was a sort of loose-endy day, with the result that I was grumpy and bored by day's end. However, I did do some good stuff, including finishing Leeway Cottage by Beth Gutcheon. I'd picked it up at the Friends' book sale in April and it had kicked around in the back of the car, but I finally started it, then put it down, then picked it up. . .and I finished it last night.

I've noticed that I've been noncommittal about a lot of the books I've read lately, and I wondered about that, so maybe it's a good thing that I feel pretty strongly about this novel: it's not good. Gutcheon is a good writer, I think--it's not the style or the structure that make Leeway Cottage less-than-satisfying--but she has tried to do too much. The book seesaws between being a "the rich are people too, but their parties are better and houses are nicer" book a la Anne Siddons and being a human interest/historical insight novel a la. . . well. . . Geraldine Brooks, maybe? It doesn't work. There are no likable characters except for Laurus Moss, the dad/husband/main character, and he is essentially a closed book--we're told he's calm, we're told he loves people, but we don't see or understand much about him. His wife/the other main character, Sydney, is spoiled and obnoxious, but she morphs from being the most sympathetic character in the book into that beast without explanation except that she's away from Laurus for four years during the war. Finally, and most grievously, the character of Nina, Laurus's sister, is fully explained in a searing description of sexual abuse at a concentration camp that appears so randomly (well after her death and even after the deaths of Sydney and Laurus) that I thought it was a publisher error. I think (on reflection) that Gutcheon was providing explanation for Nina's behavior in the metaphor of "after you die, you see The Movie that explains everything you didn't understand in life", but I don't think it works. None of the main characters suffer trauma--even bad boy Jimmy is saved from drug abuse or car accidents, which he surely deserves!--so the detailed Holocaust imagery is grating.

Couple all those objections with the fact that the major narration of the book occurs in a rapid fire general summarizing voice
and that Gutcheon has half-changed the geography of this area to disguise it while leaving a good deal of it intact--a pet peeve of mine!--and you've got a book I can feel strongly about. Why call it "Union" but refer to Main Street and the malls on High Street and also refer to the actual Ellsworth, Bar Harbor, and Northeast Harbor? I think Leeway Cottage is an effort to take a standard beach book and give it enough content to warrant a section in the back with author's insight and some heavy war/heroism discussion. I think I'd prefer the unadorned beach book, myself!

Anyway: I'd call this a don't-bother book. It's going back to the library today to be put into the book sale pile, and the miraculous cycle of book sale recycling will move onward!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 12: Shakestonington, Indeed!

Today Younger and I (pictured at scenic overlook at Caterpillar Hill, en route; pic taken with my limited camera's limited timer option so the scenic overlook aspect was pretty much. . .overlooked) went to see "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Stonington Opera House and it was TERRIFIC. ALL the actors were amazing, the set was creative, fascinating and variable, and the action was non-stop. . .oh, and the music, done by a live band supplemented by Puck/Philostrate and Theseus/Oberon, was wonderful too. We were in the second row, and we simply lapped it up--I was delighted that Younger got it so much, so well, and so fast--on the way home he said, "I thought it would be harder to understand! I got everything!" and he surely did. He even got me a delicious dark chocolate and coconut candy bar at intermission that was good, so talk about your rave review! The costumes and setting were very interesting in that this production really emphasized Hippolyta as captured warrior queen, and actually left that aspect unresolved at the end, with her still leery of Theseus; the four lovers became the four rustics and were absolutely terrific. Younger and I were unsure as to which actor we thought was best, but the woman who played Helena, the first-scorned-and-then-adored maiden, was my favorite. The production was really physical, too, opening with a sort of shadow play of the war against the Amazons, and throughout there was lots of wrestling, leaping, smacking, kneeing, falling, etc. Bottom/Demetrius stretched his final death scene in Pyramis and Thisbe ("the most lamentable comical tragedy of. . .") into nearly 10 mins, dying at least six times. It was pure, unadulterated pleasure. Yay, Stonington! I will surely be checking to see what's on for next year, and Younger will be right next to me, too!

What a fun/busy/varied weekend we had. I am ready for Monday so I can catch my breath!!!!!

July 12: Our Busy Weekend

It's been fun: yesterday Elder, his friend, Younger and I hit the car at 8:45 to drive to Westbrook for the older boys' swim meet. It was an easy, fast drive down, and a gorgeous day, so having to wait for Mom to show up (she got lost, which surprised me: I'm not sure if she's getting worse about following directions or if I'm getting better, as we both looked at the posted web directions but she didn't follow them!) in the sun and nice warm breeze was a pleasure! We had plenty of time for a nice lunch--thanks, Mom!--and then a return to find that the events were an hour behind those printed in the schedule: not sure how that happened, but other than that, things went well. Elder swam very well, dropping time in both his events, and was a little more outgoing to us, coming over to chat and even waving from the blocks. THAT is a welcome change, even though I decided to go to this meet for myself rather than for him.

It amazes me how the parents tell me, "Prepare to lose any life of your own if your kid swims!" I had a good conversation about that with Elder's friend's mom, who was feeling guilty that her son was hitching a ride with us since they had company coming, and I said that I was doing "my turn" and it was great! I just think that having Elder fall in love with swimming shouldn't mean that the rest of the family loses every weekend and spends hundreds of dollars on food and hotels so we can follow him around New England (and into Canada. More on that later!). We will pay his freight, yes, and help out when we can, but I think he's fine with us not being at every meet (in fact, I know he's fine with it. He has TOLD me he's fine with it!)--and we DO have two children, one of whom is, understandably, not entranced by sitting in humid, dark pool galleries to watch his brother in the water for 1.08 minutes. So I am fascinated/horrified by this very American/21st century/kid-centered phenomenon of "The Swim Family" (often, of course, the swim MOM, just like the soccer mom or the lacrosse mom): while my desire to pull our own weight/raise our own child mandates that we do play a role, my equally strong sense that we are a family which has four members, not one, mandates that we keep everyone's interests and needs in mind.

But Younger and I had a nice day, ending up our trip to southern Maine with a nice stop at Target and then dinner at Applebee's (I usually aim for non-chain restaurants, but I was hungry enough to eat my own elbow, and there it was. . .), and he kept saying, "I had such a nice day!" Not a bad outcome. Today we have church and then a trip to Stonington to see "Midsummer Night's Dream," if we can get the tickets figured out (website issues). What a whirlwind of cultcha and sport!

Friday, July 10, 2009

July 10: Look What WE'VE Got!

The sun is back! Zeus the dog and the old cat have been lolling around in it, clearly enjoying it. Yesterday was lovely but cool, and today is truly a Maine summer day--hot in the sun, perfect in the shade, and possessing a lively, warm breeze to dry my laundry. . .

of which I have hung four loads! I did my "every ten days or so" deep clean of the house, so that's done, and since then the animals and I have just been enjoying the soft air, the wonderful smell, the light playing through the skylights and the leaves, and the welcome reminder of what summer is all about. Happy days!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 5: We are NOT talking about the weather.

Just so you know.

But I just finished reading The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, a mystery that I've been hearing about from every direction lately, and that I found, to my surprise, at our library right off the bat!

The main character, Flavia de Luce, is an 11 year old British girl living in 1950, and she sounds like a holy terror. . . but I ended up liking her nonetheless. The narration is a little abrupt and choppy, but it does help create a strong sense of this girl, her intelligence, and her view of the world. All in all, I liked it a great deal, and am disappointed to discover that even though this won an award for first novel in a detective series in 2007, the second book in the series isn't due out till 2010. Get writing, I sez!

Am pondering a bike ride. . . also had a terrific trip to Silveridge Farm in Bucksport to pick berries for a church fundraiser. We slid in between a torrential down pour on Thursday night and a spectacular rainstorm on Saturday afternoon. Oops. . . no weather talk, right? But the berries were lovely, and we got 36 quarts in little time. Look at us!

So: good stuff. And a good time at Swimgirl's house for the Fourth, too.

Friday, July 3, 2009

July 3: Making the Best of It!

Well. It is still mostly grey and mostly wet, with a few breaks of sun, like the ten minute one we got moments ago. I've been doing okay, although when we had a HUGE thunderstorm that lasted about an hour and a half last night, complete with torrential rains that postponed our fundraising trip to pick strawberries to sell at church and necessitated about 15 phone calls. . . . I was a tad pissed off about that. Incredibly enough, it didn't seem to make a difference.

As usual, we're at loose ends for the holiday tomorrow. With no family around, we're usually reluctant to call other people to ask them over, because often it turns out that those people have a family or neighborhood tradition, and we don't want to make them feel like they have to invite us. . .etc. etc. So far BH doesn't want to do any of the things the boys and I think are fun (going to Bar Harbor and walking around, going to see the fireworks, etc) and he doesn't have any great replacement ideas. . . so we'll just see what, besides strawberrying, unfolds! ETA: HA! New discovery: when mother tells son that he may not go to girlfriend's house because the Fourth is a family occasion, girlfriend's family invites family to their house! Win-win all around!

Today, though, I got onto my cooking horse and we're having a luxuriously toothsome dinner: pulled pork in the slow cooker and then coconut cupcakes for dessert. There are enough cupcakes that we should be able to take extras with us for a snack when we pick tomorrow, thus enabling us to try them with fresh strawberries, too! I also got stubborn and hung out two loads of laundry. After all, there IS a breeze, so. . . . we'll see.

I have also done two pattern repeats and separated for the arms on my Feb. Lady sweater (pattern adapted by Pamela Wynne, I will add since she had a long entry on her blog about how no one was giving her credit. Since I would have NO IDEA how to adapt such a pattern [and don't yet know if I can even follow the directions correctly], I give her all credit. ALL. ). The gull wing lace pattern makes sense, but I can't yet do it easily. A few more reps and I bet I'll have it, though!

Dinner was great and I am hankering for coconut cupcakes (ala Barefoot Contessa, a cookbook I love but don't use a lot, partly because it calls for tons of butter and eggs and stuff. Both cupcakes and icing called for 3/4 lb butter. EACH. On the upside, it made twenty four cupcakes, and I have icing enough for the carrot cake I'm bringing to Swimgirl's house tomorrow.) which I will light into at 7 pm (boundaries are good). We will also watch at least one of the Jeeves and Wooster cds that I got on big time sale from Daedalus Books for BH's belated Dad's Day gift. And I'll aim for another pattern repeat on the sweater. I'm on a roll (which is good, as I tore out the 4 hour scarf I started in a meeting this week. Needs bigger needles for more laciness, I think)!

AND the sun came out a bit. Just a bit, and exactly when I was elbows-deep in pulled pork defatting it and unable to go out. But we'll take it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 30: Good Stuff

BH and I just had a conversation about how we were coping with the extended greyness, and we reminded each other that overcast vacation is still more fun, and richer than, work days. . . . and I must say I have been fulfilling my pledge to make the most of my vacation time.

DID clean the house from top to toe, pores out, yesterday. . . .

DID go to Schoodic Fiber Arts Festival (tried to add a link, but with no apparent luck; go to http://www.schoodicarts.org/ to check it out) yesterday with Marie. . .

AND did finish Cursed Sock #2 while watching three episodes of "Rosemary and Thyme" with Younger last night!

That leaves about 1/2" straight sock and about 1" ribbing to do on the first sock, the one that I have frogged seven times and counting, and then, I informed BH, he is to put them on his feet and I am to hear no more about them. Ever.

I also got a different #7 round needle for the Feb. Lady yesterday, so once Sock 1 is done, I can get started on that.

Shazaam. Take that, overcast!