Sunday, October 26, 2014

Oct. 26: Pumpkin Party Weekend!

A Perfect ProposalA Perfect Proposal by Katie Fforde
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How does she do it? Katie Fforde has little character development, no suspense, little originality, and not much else, but I just keep reading her! AH well. It has been a busy few weeks!

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Our temporary AFS girl, Tuva, is just about in the center, wearing my old Maine sweatshirt. 
A fun time, as usual! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Oct. 19: Off He Goes. . . .

We had a great weekend! Sticky buns, knitting project planning, "Spamalot" at the Grand last night (hysterical!), a long run (puff), and a lot of cat time for him! We'll head to Bates to see his play and his concert on the weekend of November 14, and then he'll come home for a week the next weekend! So nice to have a college be so handy.

Anyone But YouAnyone But You by Jennifer Crusie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dragged a bit in the middle (lots of lust but not much actual tension) but overall, a fluffy, fun read. One thing I really like about Crusie is that she has faith in guys--her heroes are always likable, decent men who have their flaws but also internal lives. I was sorry Max didn't have a bigger role in this one, but Alex was great!

Boy21Boy21 by Matthew Quick
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Meh. Another skimmable ya novel. . . . I was especially distressed by the flatness of the characterization, both of his family and of the town. Really disappointed at the resolution (I'll leave it there, hoping to avoid spoilers). It feels like this was an early Quick effort, and my! his writing has developed, judging by The Good Luck of Right Now's depth and compassion compared to Boy21.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Oct. 18: Nate's Weekend Home: Some books, some editing, some knitting!

The Family ManThe Family Man by Elinor Lipman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another enjoyable Lipman offering! This one is almost pure pleasure because I never felt that "my people" were in danger of any kind of emotional pain, so even Lipman's trademark annoying/selfish/mean characters didn't worry me much. The book really didn't have a climax or much tension, so many readers might find it dull, but for a stressful work week, it was ideal.

I do feel that we're due a new Lipman soon! Hope she agrees with me!

The Beginning of EverythingThe Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Davonne recommended this one with great praise, but I found it (after about the first third) only skim-worthy. The main character isn't believable as a prior teen golden boy, brought down by an accident, and the whole depiction of the high school world he moves in is wooden and unconvincing. I skimmed to the end and was disappointed by the coincidence that resolves the conflict. . . . so: two stars it is.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Oct. 13: Columbus Day Monday

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #1)Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Miss Peregrine is extremely well-written, but it doesn't quite live up to its opening promise: it starts as a truly unsettling fantasy/allegory, but then slowly* turns into yet another y.a. fantasy in which the first volume is just a lead-in to the next, which I'm not intrigued enough to read. Throughout, Riggs's writing is sharp, original, and detailed, but overall, I'm a bit disappointed. Once again, perhaps if I were actually a young adult, I'd find the book as excellent as its writing.

*possibly, the fact that it took me a solid month to read the novel is to blame for its seemingly draggy plot.

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Well, one of my goals for this weekend was to finish both The View from Penthouse B and Miss Peregrine: DONE! I also got the first twin stocking done to the toe (which I hope to complete tonight, celebrating two days of school-but-no-classes: parent confs. and testing), made streusel topped apple cake and coconut pumpkin bisque, AND emptied the cat box. AND made Nate's bed, as he is due to come home for his long weekend on Wed., and we had never made it since he left! We did have a lovely weekend with Nate at Bates's Parents' Weekend, staying at Mom's. The most moving part, besides seeing our younger boy thriving in his very own element, was seeing my father be raved over by a lot of people: one woman told her daughters, both of whom go to Bates, "This is him! This is Professor Leamon, my favorite professor!" It was just great. Nate said to me later, "I didn't know Grandpa Jim was so famous." And, as a long-time teacher myself, I know how incredibly affirming it is to be told one has made a difference. So nice.

My next two audiobooks are Margaret Allingham's first two Campion novels: Black Dudley Murders and Mystery Mile. I have read both, I think, but a long time ago, and I only remember that Allingham can do some very creepy stuff. . . . I'd like to read Elinor Lipman's newest novel, and then I think I will see if I can get Amy Poehler's new one as well. So. Onwards! Stocking toes call. . . but first, there's an apple cake that is just cool enough to slice, I think!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Oct. 11: Parents' Weekend at Bates

Taking a quick nap break chez Mama's. . . . I finally finished The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman. Next up, I hope, is Miss Peregrine, but we have been pretty busy! Great to see Nate and especially to see him with Grandpa Jim and Gram, both Bates grads. . . . What a legacy photo!

The View from Penthouse BThe View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a reread; The View is another pleasant outing from Lipman, with engaging characters, one incredibly annoying character (she's as good at doing those as Austen is), and entertaining personal ad responses shared as well. Nothing spectacular, but a good novel.

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Oct. 4: A Rainy Saturday (At Last!)

Overture to DeathOverture to Death by Ngaio Marsh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Classic "cozy", and another strong narration job by Nadia May. Always a pleasure, even when I figure out the answers early and we don't get any Troy! Finished it today, a rainy, windy afternoon, as I worked on the twins' Christmas stockings. Nice!

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Making Bread, Breaking Bread.

Tomorrow, in the United Church of Christ calendar at least, is worldwide Communion Sunday. For several years now, my local church has also used the day to celebrate our local harvest and locally grown food, using blueberry juice and locally-made bread for Communion. Today, as I was making the bread, I started to think about the various directions and connections that this act of bread making pointed to.

The recipe I use is usually either "Grandma Leamon's oatmeal bread," or "anadama bread," both out of the notebook of recipes my mom made for each member of our family years ago. Grandma Leamon was my paternal grandmother, long-time Congo-pastor's wife, amazing cook, and beloved grandmother. The story of "anadama bread" is one my brother used to beg my mom to tell and retell. Both breads were staples in my family-of-origin, and we all learned to bake both as we grew up.

The step that the anadama bread has that the other doesn't is the proofing of the dough; with the double batch the sponge threatens to spill out onto the counter, and I divide it into a second bowl just in time. As I stir the fizzing mass down, I think about the yeast, about the growth it inspires, and about the incredible science and chemistry of this process. There's something else happening here, too: a fuzzy reflection about how the yeast makes the bread rise and expand, how tomorrow the congregation will come together to be nourished and then head off into our other lives, fed and lifted (we hope) by the experience of Communion. I am never sure what I think about Communion--both as a Congregationalist Protestant and as a pragmatist--but I sure know what I think about feeding people, and I know that it's one of the most elemental forms of care one can provide. Jesus got that, too, and the idea of celebrating Communion, of celebrating the act of eating, even or especially with something as simple as homemade bread, with a community of people who choose to come together: yup. That works for me.

As I mix the cornmeal, the molasses, the flour, the yeast, the smells and colors fit perfectly with the October woods and leaves outside. I knead the dough (a double batch) and feel grateful for my strong arms, my hands that know how to move the dough, the silky flour that I work into the messy dough until it turns smooth and firm itself. As I think of the bread I'm creating, I think of how much people love it--this leftover bread doesn't go out to the birds on anyone's feeder! I've started making extra so I can give our minister, who loves anadama, a loaf, and so we can be sure there is some left over for coffee hour, even. Again, that joy, that pleasure in the taste and texture of real food, made by a real person with real ingredients and deliberate care: the whole process seems to gain a level of grace. That grace is not due to me, for sure, though I did change my sweatshirt to limit the pet hair that might float into the dough as I kneaded, and I pulled my own hair back and washed my hands carefully and often. No, I'm no saintly sanctified baker angel, but as a creator of this miracle of yeasty, sweet smelling bread, and as the thinker of this long and rambling meditation on making and breaking bread, I am a small part of this incredible cycle of longing, memory, feeding, and hunger that ends in Communion, and continues onward in Communion. See you Sunday.

First draft. Unedited, but I wanted to get it down. 10/3/14.