Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jan. 30: Nothing Like an Excellent Book!

Cutting for Stone Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. I know I'm behind the wave of popularity, but after buying the book for Ann for Christmas, I saw it for 50 cents at the library book sale, so I bought it and then started in--and I was hooked after one page. I have NO idea what makes it such a compelling read except that it is a warm, large, moving, human, encompassing novel that is extremely well written. Verghese's writing reminds of Dickens's--WOW.

My one confusion is the actual quotation from the Oath: what does "I shall not cut for stone" actually mean?

What a wonderful book. I have multiple pages marked. . . WOW!

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Sunday, January 27, 2013


Well, the grading due date is cruelly tight this year, so I spent most the weekend grading, despite having been really diligent on Friday, our "turnover day"--and I resented that a little, so have been a tad disgruntled all weekend. That said, here are some celebrations/nice things from this weekend that at times looked like it would be all about stress and resentment.

Nice thing 1: Andy and I met friends for dinner and then went to see "The Gold Rush" (yes, that one) at the Grand with the youth orchestra playing a score for the whole thing. Great experience.

Nice thing 2: I had a nice run, then a zippy trip downtown for library books, ingredients, and a stop at the health food store for Julie goodies.

Nice thing 3: I made chocolate-peanut-butter pudding for dessert on Saturday, and

Nice thing 4: Saki came over to wait for Doug to pick her up, and we had a lovely time and a great dessert!

Nice thing 5: I had a generally lovely time with Andy and Nate this weekend!

Nice thing 6: I finished the sleeves of Moth's sweater!

Nice thing 7: I actually wrapped up and have ready to mail Silas's Christmas package (wince), Mom's b'day package (smaller wince), and Julie's "random last week of January" package (big smile).

Nice thing 8: N, Z, A, and I went for a nice walk in the VERY cold sunshine on the river. Yup, it's frozen. It's been below freezing (as in, well below freezing) most of the last two weeks.

Nice thing 9: dinner tonight was simple but fantastic: hake with Ritz crumb/Havarti topping, brown rice, and sauteed kale. WOW. What a taste treat.

Nice thing 10: I am not very disgruntled any more. YAY! Onwards!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Jan. 21: MLK Jr. Day Off

The Accidental FamilyThe Accidental Family by Rowan Coleman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Just had a discussion with my senior students about what I liked to read and whether I could shut off the critical/analytical side of my brain and enjoy fluff--which, for anyone who's friends with me on Goodreads, is quite a laugh! Coleman's book, another 50 cent treasure from the Library's booksale shelf, is a perfect example. It's JUST interesting and JUST coherently written enough to give me a nice cheery fluff read. The plot line is 100% predictable, the characters (sassy gay friend, check; plucky non-conformist friend who runs a delicious sweet shop, check; unorthodox but loving and lately rediscovered mother, check. . . ) ditto, but it was a fun read. I would guess the next book (the first one, which I haven't read, is "The Accidental Mother") will be The Accidental Career"?  Still, I'd pay 50 cents to read that one, too!

Nice, "lite" reading for a three day weekend in winter.

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The bookbag has been disemboweled and the truth is. . . not as daunting as I'd feared. Still, we need to food shop, pick up my newly tuned up and newly tired (!!) car in Brewer, and then look at all my goals in my earlier post. . .  So, ONWARDS! 

It's also MLK Day, with that wonderful quotation* fresh in my mind, and it's Obama's second Inauguration Day. Big! 

* "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: 
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Jan. 18: Friday Evening of a Three Day Weekend!

Well, I'm there! It's been the usual flat-out sprint from Christmas to now, the end of the semester/MLK Jr. weekend. I am fairly frayed around the edges, but I am deeply grateful to be as solidly well as I am given the amount of flu, the variety of staggering colds, the multiplicity of ailments, and all the other issues that are abounding these days. I'm sniffly, but not Real Flu (like Mom) or Pneumonia (like Jen), so I'm happy.

This weekend demands a combo of slumping-around-the-house-in-jammies downtime, catching-up-on-daily-life errands/chore time, and get-out-of-Dodge cabin fever avoidance. Nathaniel and I have possible plans for him to drive us to Bangor (Mom breathes deeply) so he can replace his current high-water/ripped knee jeans, I can possibly get a top or two to get me through the winter, and we can eat lunch someplace fun, different, and delicious. I'd like to see "Silver Linings Playbook," but I bet it's not at the megaplexes, so my guess is we won't do a movie. Still, just a trip to Bangor, aka "out of Dodge," will be nice.

ETA Updates on Sunday afternoon. . . 
And I'd like to
*go to the Library--I did! And got two books I cannot possibly finish by their due dates, and also a paperback fluff book for 50cents. 
*knit on Moth's sweater and possibly finish the sleeves, tho I have one of those unwelcome hunches that they're already foolishly long and I need to redo a sizable chunk to shorten them. . .Well. As of Sunday at 5:20, they are done, but they are too short in the raglan decrease sections, so I have to uncast them off and lengthen each by about 2". At that point they're both 28 sts long, so that's not a problem. I will say that buying a pattern from a magazine may mean it's not very carefully written. . . and guess where I got the "Comfy Cardi" pattern? 
*make a spectacular something to eat, sweet OR savory--Not sure if that will happen. . . though I did make ginger cookies! ETA on 1/23, Wed: Wellllllllll. . .I fulfilled that with a bang! Made fantastic spicy hominy (read: grits) chicken soup and then this terrific and easy dessert. WOW!!! Do try both: the soup is incredibly easy, healthy and delicious, too! 
*pack up and mail L's package and Silas's Christmas (!!) package--mailed L's pkg and also returned my too small boots, but Silas's package would've made me late for the PO, so no go! 
*do some "caring for" baking for colleagues/friends--see "Ginger cookies" above. 
*recognize my mom's b'day in some concrete way. . . . missed it totally on Friday. Yup, not my best moment.--got her some goodies at Reny's and will pack them up to mail next week. Getting there!

We'll see how it all unfolds. Andy's making pizza, we'll watch some "Downton Abbey," and we're warm, safe, and together. Not bad at all, already!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jan. 12: Solo Saturday!

Andy is off with his family, a familiar drive to Brunswick that he hasn't made lately, and Nate is off with a friend, so I've had a quiet but pleasant gray Saturday: nice visit with A. before he left, some basic emptying compost/filling bird feeder/banking/laundry type of stuff, then tackled an item from my to-do list: fixing Lyle's beloved but flimsy cords whose rivet button had come out. I chose some fun material and a funky button and I THINK they'll be okay at least until the corduroy fabric itself lets go, so I can pack them into the package with his finished Christmas present mitts:
and some forgotten laundry and call it good (sorry for the lazy photobooth pic). I finished them while we watched Downton Abbey #1 and #2 as our Friday night movie last night.

I also dug out Moth's neglected sweater and figured out what I'll be doing for the sleeve, for better or for worse!, and restarted that. My goal is to finish it by February vacation and then be able to buy the yarn for a mock JCrew aran sweater in Portland. We'll see! In any case, the sweater is out and I've figured out what my various notes meant, and I've knitted 1/2 sleeve decrease row, so I think I'm stuck in again.

AND then I hope to go see "Downeast," a documentary about the Stinson Cannery saga, this afternoon after a run, and then tomorrow my Honors Sophomore English class and I gather at the MDI library to watch the (interesting and very good but very adapted) film version of Great Expectations as a warm up for the class, which starts on the 28th. . . so I should do some school work today, maybe. . . It's a nice time to be just putzing around the house by myself. I do need to take Z for a w and then get my heinie outside for a run--then I can loll about, knitting and maybe even reading Peaches for Father Francis, the sequel to Chocolat, which I really enjoying!

Aaaaand then I finished it!

Peaches for Father Francis (Chocolat, #3)Peaches for Father Francis by Joanne Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved Chocolat, but I'd almost given up on Harris because of the brooding, doom-laden tone of so many of her other books. For some reason I picked up Peaches, the last of a three book series that started with Chocolat, and I loved it! Harris's narrative is hopeful, richly described, suspenseful, and illuminating: her parallel descriptions of Islamic and small-town French traditions are wonderful. It's a long book, but I gobbled it down. The food descriptions, as expected, are mouth-watering. Highly recommended!

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Jan 9: Midweek Reading!

Thursday's ChildrenThursday's Children by Rumer Godden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rumer Godden is a good story teller from my childhood and frequent trips to the Alvin Bolster Ricker Memorial LIbrary and Community House in Poland, Maine, where any book about a place that wasn't Poland, Maine was exciting. Her writing is just that: plain old good story telling. She's sort of Anne Tyler with less bitter in the sweet, Rosamund Pilcher in 150 fewer pages, Mary Stewart without the heavy romance, Angela Thirkell without the uppercrust. I like her, but I'd almost completely forgotten about her, until I found two books by her at the church rummage sale in December, and here she is back!

First off, this edition of THursday's Children has, hands down, the ugliest cover I have ever had the misfortune of seeing. I am not an artist, and I am pretty sure I could draw a more normal looking child's face than the one adorning both front and back of the book. I finally removed the paper cover and threw it away--far to painful to look at!

Secondly, the story focused on ballet, and two kids in the same family who love it. As I think back through it, I realize that the characters are quite flat, the characterization virtually always direct, and Doone and his sister Crystal are both unrealistic children, but: I looked forward to curling up with the book for a few evenings. The book was published in 1984, which startled me: it feels like it was written in the 30's - 50's for some reason. Anyway. A pleasant read, so: three stars it is!

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

January 5: Twelfth Night: Tree Down, Visitors In, Book Done!

Garment of Shadows (Mary Russell, #12)Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this one, though I have to admit I did skip some chunks of the lengthy political explanation, so though I know who the chief bad guy was (sorta), I am still a little fuzzy on who some of the secondary bad guys were. Skimming is a valuable skill for this series, I've found!

I also was a little confused because I think I listened to one of the much earlier novels in this series in between "The Pirate King" and "Garment of Shadows," so I had a strange feeling that the books were out of order--which they were, but it was all my fault.

"Garment of Shadows" starts with Russell with a bad case of amnesia, and King does a nice job of writing that--the lack of knowledge created tension despite the fact that the reader knew a lot of what was going on. Lots of likable characters in this one (Idir, in particular), and the shorter length made for a snappier reader. Enjoyed it!

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While Garment of Shadows is still overdue (it's a 7 day book), I'm proud that I got through it in close to a week, as King's books often take me a lot longer. Go, me! Go, Russell, for having a shorter adventure this time out!

Nice day today: slept really well last night, and then it was warmer today, and Craig and Heather came up for a nice visit. We took the tree down and de-Christmased the house, and put up our new "cat tree"--four levels of fun for the felines!--in the place of the tree by the window. We'll see how they like it. So far Katniss has been nonplused and uninterested, and Swipe gave it a sniff and kept on going. Hmmm.

I am sleepy, and considering a little browse on tv. . .  I think I messed up the repeats on L's Masse Mitt #2. . . Should check it!

Happy Epiphany.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Jan. 3: Cleaning House, and Found a Book I Hadn't Blogged!

Good in Bed (Cannie Shapiro, #1)Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reread this over vacation as I got a copy at the library book sale. Despite the TERRIBLE title, it's a good book--Weiner usually tries to position herself as a creator of literature who is named a "chick lit author" because of her gender and subject, and I had that issue in mind while I read the novel this time. It's a well-written, kind, often funny, sometimes sad, story, but I don't think it quite qualifies as Literature. Not sure why, but I think it's the sense that everything is really going to turn out okay: in Literature, I think one needs the terrifying sense that it might not. I admire Weiner's protection of her characters (and, by extension, her readers!) and I really enjoyed this book!

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Cold here in Ellsworth: 0.0 this morning. Woke up at 4:30 am as per usual at the start of a cold. . . so glad it's Thursday "already". . .  Cheers! Happy 2013!