Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dec. 26: Boxing Day!

Well, we had a lovely Christmas--low key and pleasant. The sun came out, turning the icy trees to shining crystal, and the wind did not rise, so we still have heat and power, while thousands don't. We ate good food, enjoyed wonderful presents, watched a funny but woefully profane movie ("The Heat") as a family, and Nate and I went for a cold Christmas afternoon run. Much to enjoy and be thankful for.

And today features snow (stopped now, but 7" forecast??!!!) and, I hope, some cleaning up. I just succumbed to another Audible sale and have two *more* audiobooks waiting for me, so cleaning up (starting with the farthest corner of my bedroom and working slowly down through the house) has a new appeal. One of them is Tale of Two Cities, at 13 hours, which I devoutly hope I won't get completely through!

The jammie pants got made, though Cam's were too small, so she has mine and I am tentatively planning to make another pair for me; both hats are done, tho L will probably regift his (which is fine); I think I'll restart N's Old Friend Pullover, start a basic pair of socks for me with the yarn that was frayed in spots, and start the purple version of N's hat for myself with my Secret Angel yarn. I got TONS of books for C'mas so there is much reading in my future.

Life of Pi: finished. But my, it's a weird book. Just not so sure about it.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dec. 22: My Favorite Pre-Christmas Date

Not sure why I like the 22nd so much, but the date just appeals to me. I still have shopping and projecting to do, and there's a huge and extremely dreary rain/ice storm reigning outside, but am feeling happy and content. So. There we go.

Andy and I had to usher at church today, so we headed down and enjoyed a small and select congregational viewing of the pageant, a perfect way to handle the bleak weather and low turn out. Fun to see the kids I remember as babies playing lanky Mary and Joseph, blushing angels, flustered shepherds. . . . Really nice. Home now and trying to decide what to do next. Gotta do something!

The Moon and MoreThe Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah. . . "As close as this painting behind me, which as the flash popped, I reached a hand back towards, suddenly knowing what it was I'd seen on it earlier" (435). Editing much? Yikes!

Much as I enjoy Sarah Dessen, the book is nearly as muddled as that sentence. Is the plot about Emaline's relationship with her father? with Luke and/or Theo? with her half-brother? Her "dad's" obsession with remodeling? Her mom's lack of boundaries? Her own plans for the future? Her strangely-undeveloped friend Morris's inability to do anything right?

Well, yes. And it remains just that muddled throughout. Waaaaaay too much detail tossed in, wasting characters and plots that could've been interesting and thought-provoking otherwise. There are possibly 4 novels sloshing around in this one. I finished this on the basis of the name on the cover. That said, I really hope she slows down the rate of production and ups the quality of her writing, or she'll lose that vote of confidence.

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Well. It's nearly bed time (10 pm just struck) and it's been raining and freezing all day. Hard to tell how really bad it is, but Camilla, Andy, Nate, Zeus and I walked down town for some errands around 2:30 today and we were slipping all over. Lyle claims the driving is not so bad, but many places have lost power, so I am happy to stay put! I am nearly done with Camilla's stocking, and we watched "The Hobbit, Part I" today, so that was fun. I also did some great vacation tasks. I'll keep a list, because I'm oriented that way. So:

Great Vacation Tasks
read Life of Pi 12/26
clean out dryer so house doesn't burn down
clean my shower drain 12/22
clean my bathroom's fan vent (so dusty!)  12/22
take family picture 12/25
send said family pic out as New Year's card in process
make self a warm hat with either skein of lovely yarn I got for Christmas 12/31
have some people over for some reason 1/3: AFS kids for games!
go bowling, tubing, skating, or sliding: did not do it! COLD and/or stormy. 
go to the movies: Saving Mr. Banks or The Hobbit, II 12/23 Still want to see "Mr. Banks," but the weather did not cooperate. 

Will update as things go!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dec. 21: Winter Solstice Book Reviews!

A Christmas Carol, The Chimes and The Cricket on the HearthA Christmas Carol, The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love Dickens, and I love a bargain, so when Audible offered me a Jim Dale reading of this story free as a Christmas thank you, I jumped at it . . . Perfect listening for the week before C'mas vacation, thought I.

Well. It's one weird little story. It opens with a long "conversation" between the cricket on the hearth and the tea kettle. Honest. Then we meet the family who lives in the house: little Dot (whose real name is Mary) ad her (in modern eyes, creepily) older husband. . . . and, luckily, Tilly Slowboy the mentally deficient housemaid and the baby, about both of whom we get some great Dickens humor to leaven the schmaltz that drips from this little offering. There is an evil(ish) toy manufacturer, a saintly father, an angelic blind girl, a nearly undeveloped fiancee, a missing brother. . . lots of spirits of family and goodness and the like. Still, towards the ends Dickens manages to wring the old heartstrings, as he usually does, but I did miss the wry humor and control of his best writing (Great Expectations; Nicholas Nickleby; Christmas Carol). Not a good introduction to his work, but it was interesting to hear anyway.

The Last Dragonslayer (The Chronicles of Kazam, #1)The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really like Jasper Fforde's Tuesday Next series: he's funny, very smart, and creative, so when I saw he had a ya novel, I got it for Nate's b'day. That young man enjoyed it, so I picked it up to read it recently when I unearthed it in a decluttering binge. Unfortunately, I found it only okay, though I enjoyed reading it. I think Fforde needs a bigger canvas than he allowed himself in this novel: the book felt rushed, and the alternate reality felt perfunctory and thin. If this were the length of the average ya fantasy novel (500 pages or so), I think Fforde might've been able to cast his usual spell, but at just under 300 pages, it just falls a bit flat. I liked it––we have the sequel out from the library right now, and I plan to read it, too--but it just doesn't match his usual panache and wit!

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday, Dec. 20: Vacation. At Last.

Home and flopped on the couch. Andy and Camilla made her Norwegian sugar cookies. Nate is taking a nap. Lyle is wearing his jammies, doing laundry, and watching bad movies on his laptop. It's raining and due to ice up so C's meet was canceled and we can spend tonight in. Yay!

Good day at school. . . many alums back to say hi. . .I placed second in the cookie contest and ate more sugar than needed for a week or so. Cleaned my desk. Did a few "must dos". Made it home with a lot of student goodies and glad to be here.

Goals for vacation: lots of sleep. Naps, even. Lots of reading. Life of Pi, for sure. I have a new Sarah Dessen, which I might start with. Need to finish my stealth sewing. . . tomorrow, I hope. Would love to go to the Farnsworth. And out to lunch. I'd like to eat a lot of soup. And see some movies. And maybe skate and go tubing? And maybe bowling.

All doable.

Nap now?

Ah, vacation. So glad you're here!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dec. 18: My First Snowday!

Unfortunately, Camilla and Nate only get a two hour delay, but I think they could've used a whole snow day, too. Oh well. I *really* wanted today off. And I got it!

Here are some snow pics from Sunday, our most recent storm, just to give you the flavor:

      Of course I woke up at 5 am to check, and then since there wasn't yet an announcement, I started getting ready to go for my swim, and then just as I was about to leave. . . the phone rang! I did go back to bed for a brief loll, but I was really too excited to sleep. So here I am. Have been reading my new bio of Ngaio Marsh (recently arrived second hand) and reveling in nostalgia for a time that never existed/I never experienced; plan to swim once the kids get off to school and couple that with a trip down town for some books at Union River Toy and Books, the makings of chai at the health food store, and a stop for vacation reading for me at the Library. . . very exciting! I also have some stealth knitting that I might be able to finish up. 

As I look at that list, I realize that my chances of a nap are dwindling!

And we will also head towards the mailbox, as the date for early decision notification is upon us, and Nate is waiting with "Batesed breath". . .  So much going on. 

And, again, I am deeply grateful for the fact that it can be bitter cold for going on three weeks and our only concern is staying warm: we can afford good food, as much fuel as necessary, and warm clothes at will. Not everyone is so lucky. "In the bleak midwinter," as the carol goes, let's extend the light to include as many people as we can. 

(not my image. Linked from

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dec. 10: A weekend slips by me with no blogging. . . .

Though I surely meant to! The kids were in Quebec, and I had a nice chunk of time to do some stealth sewing and then also to spend time with the man I married 24.5 years ago--a really nice weekend, but time flew! A few audiobooks, however. . .

 Pietr the LatvianPietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Listened to this odd little number just to see what it was like, as Yarnstorm lady had read and enjoyed all the Maigret novels in order. This one reminded me a lot of The Thirty Nine Steps in its woodness and its clear identity as A Police Novel From A Certain Time. A dash of anti-Semitism, a few unique characters, a wife who hardly appears. . . all in all, this first Maigret novel, while perfectly fine as a type, didn't leave me ordering up all the rest!

Tied Up in TinselTied Up in Tinsel by Ngaio Marsh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

About ten years ago I made a New Year's resolution to read all the Ngaio Marsh books, and I did, and highly enjoyed the process. I re-enjoy each one I listen to or reread. This one was a little festive, so it was great for an early December entertainment. Brava! Marsh is truly a master, and the reader (not Nadia May, but another great reader) was terrific.

Stitches : a handbook on meaning, hope, and repairStitches : a handbook on meaning, hope, and repair by Anne Lamott
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Impulse by at Northshire with Julie during the visit to Lyle. Granted, I read it in bits over a few weeks, but right from the start it felt perfunctory and repetitive. Ironically enough, I wondered if Lamott was stitching together (ouch) bits from her other books and essays to create a patchwork quilt (again) of a book. I was, frankly, disappointed. It is a far cry from "Help, Thanks, Wow,"--equally short but moving and reflective--or "Traveling Mercies." I'll reread it soon, and maybe see the error of my ways, but right now, it's a weak "okay."

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

December 1: Happy Advent!

Tell the Wolves I'm HomeTell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

LOVED this book: also a "Lyle trip purchase" at the Northshire Book Store, it absorbed me immediately. The characters are intriguing and the book is inventive and what I've heard people call "fully realized": I could picture each setting vividly. Lots to think about--I actually gobbled down the last 40 pages or so as it was getting late but I wanted to know what was going to happen! My one quibble is that I just wasn't so sure what the wolf theme was getting at. It's multi-layered for sure, but it seemed a little muddy, though that could be completely my fault due to my greedy reading.

Anyway: my two impulse buys were both hits. They'd make great reading for the holiday season, by the way!

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Well, what a nice vacation this became. Some down time, lots of "doing time," good family time, and a fun Santa Run today! We're all tucked in now, expecting to hear from Lyle about his safe arrival at Skidmore any time, with fireplace on against the greasy chilly weather, little lighted trees up in the windows, and us all about starting our work. Putting all thoughts of a movie and knitting out of my head. . . So greedy!