Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wed., Dec. 30: Thinking about Resolutions

I intended to post earlier in the week. . . but there was this thing called Christmas, and then . . . .

Oh well. I realized that as of last week at this time, we were still in school, so there is time. Our family gathering at Mom's is the last weekend of A's and my vacation, which is pretty unusual. Luckily, I don't have much/any correcting or even much actual prep to do for school, so I can cruise into the weekend away with my stress levels low.

For Resolutions this year, I think I have four:

1. hike/walk/get outside  someplace new once/month;
2. write an actual old-style communication to someone once/month;
3. keep working on my writing for publication;
4. finish one of my current sewing projects.

1 and 2 are the ones I'm most committed to; 3 and 4 are more like reminders to myself.

I also liked my one word resolution last year: "Enjoy!" was useful in combatting the side of me that borrows trouble and worries unnecessarily about things that are really designed to be fun (like our trip to Scandinavia, for example). Perhaps my one word resolution this year should be "Onwards!" keeping in mind A's and my two-to-five year plan and my newly commenced Proficiency-Based Education coursework. Who *knows* where our plans will be next year at this time?

So my remaining vacation goals are
--running the Resolution 5k in Bar Harbor on Friday morning at 9!
--having a good social time with my family this weekend, despite all the potential for crazy-making;
--getting a resume draft done;
--finishing my draft-recertification work;
--typing up one essay I've already written and possibly drafting a second one.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tuesday, Dec. 29: Another Day of Ahhhhh. . . .

Though this one contained a fairly substantial snow storm! It's been snowing all day, with temps around 17, and we've gotten about 8". It's 8 pm and still coming down strong--super nice to have a day with no travel plans and a chance to just enjoy the storm. N. and I ran at the Y on the treadmills, practically solo, and I wrote thank you notes and found yarn to complement my fuchsia baby cardi that turned out to need more than the 2 skeins of yarn I bought for it in Belfast. . . . and cleaned the kitchen and such the like. I also finally ordered New Year's cards with the pic that Mom took of us all after the Christmas Eve service. I think it's important to keep reaching out as personally as possible in these days of split-second connections, and I think cards are one way to do that. So here we are. . . I cropped out the lamp for the card, so it's a bit less unevenly lit, but in general, it's a fair show of all four (five, including Zeus) of us, so we're going with it.

I also finished listening to Venetia, by Georgette Heyer, which I'll blog at both Audible and Goodreads. It's a childhood favorite of Ann's and mine, but one that I hardly remember, which means I haven't read it  since my last teenage bout of the flu. It was a lot of fun--a good reader, a lovely, strong female lead, a few irritating supporting characters, an interesting conflict and, of course, a dashing rake. I'd like to know more about Heyer as a person, since her protagonists are always so interesting--though I am certainly mired in the Ngaio Marsh biography I started long ago on the same premise! Anyway, Venetia was a fun "listen" in the busy days of December, and a nice way to come down from the high suspense of Career of Evil.


The Lure of the Moonflower (Pink Carnation #12)The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wish I could give this 2.5 stars: The Lure of the Moonflower, the final entry in the Pink Carnation series, is less ridiculously vapid and mind-numbingly over-written than the recent books. . . which is a sort of a recommendation, I suppose! Especially at the beginning, when Jack is the main focus, Willig's writing is controlled and zippy; after about 1/3 of the story, however, the plot and characterization begins to topple under its own weight, becoming too full of backstory and internal struggle to interest me much. I skimmed.

It really seems that Willig is a skilled writer whose work suffered from its own popularity and the drive to produce more books with little regard for their quality. However, since I recently tried to reread The Pink Carnation itself and ended up giving up in annoyance and donating the book to the Library booksale, perhaps my tastes have changed.

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday, Dec. 27: Snow at Last!

Nasty, grizzly, raw, sleety/snowy day. . . . but we had a gathering for a bunch of Nate's friends, and that was fun--and also inspired us to clean the house. Once everyone left (always a nice time after a party!), I finished reading Out of Nowhere, which I started over Thanksgiving and then got distracted from. It's an excellent book. *Excellent.* Go read it, before vacation ends!

 Out of NowhereOut of Nowhere by Maria Padian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Maria Padian's Out of Nowhere is a terrific novel--it's written in a realistic voice, deals with timely issues in an honest way, and moves rapidly. While I wish she hadn't changed the name of the town from "Lewiston" to "Enniston," it was fun to match up the stories: the mayor became female; the good Italian restaurant, DaVinci's, became Michelangelo's; Bates turned into Mumford. I remember the rally that I took Lyle to, described at the end, as well! However, the other aspects of the novel are what makes it truly impressive: the novel isn't glib, doesn't offer a Hollywood-esque soft focus finish, and the questions of religion, reason, and fairness stay clear and powerful. I'm thinking it might be an excellent book for Maine high school students to read!

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday, December 20: EEK! Time flies!

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #16)The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this one as Mma Ramotswe tried to take a holiday--but still stayed busy, examining her conscience and the world around her. These books are like a mini-vacation in themselves: slow, sweet, and mellow.

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Finally, some chilly, Decemberish weather, and even some snow! Nate is home, the tree is up (just lights, but that's my favorite stage, I think), and Julie's package is ready to be mailed (thanks to Nate) tomorrow. Busy times, but only 2.5 days this week. Might just make it.

Hope to have a time to write longer soon: about my two classes and their huge enjoyment of Much Ado About Nothing, about Michael at the pageant, about the blessings of family rediscovering itself. I'm hoping to have a completely pajamas day sometime soon!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dec. 13: A Warm, Sunny December Sunday

The Novel Habits of Happiness (Isabel Dalhousie, #10)The Novel Habits of Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of two McCall Smith series I enjoy; even so, there are better and worse entries. Novel Habits falls right in the middle: its mystery isn't really solved at all, and Isabel decides on her response to the mystery itself by a series of logical decisions that she then seems to reverse, but there's plenty of the usual lovely Jamie, delicious food, beautiful Edinborough/Scotland, and leisurely enjoyment. A fillip of collegial intrigue and a question of family size adds more interest to the plot. If you already like the Dalhousie series, this one will fit right in, but it's not a dazzling introduction.

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

December 6: Happy Advent!

It's a lovely afternoon, full of lambent light, and 50 degrees on our front porch. I ran the Santa Run 5k today, and though I felt really draggy and had an above-30 min. time (boo! Perhaps two days off and an egg sandwich for b'fast were not good calls), it was lovely weather, great company, a terrific cause, and could not be more conveniently located: right across the street. I also pre-registered so I got a gorgeous green long-sleeved tshirt. So my 10th 5k is in the bag. Booyah.

Andy and I both did some yard work/cleaning up (I took the screens down, put up the little trees for the windows, and swept the cellar stairs) and then I have been doing detail work on the lap top. Soon I plan to work on my learning map for Shakespeare and also take a shower. I had dreamt of a nap, but I have taken a while to get to my work, so I doubt that will happen. 

We went to see Nate's choir concert at Bates on Friday night and had a lovely time, meeting him and his roommate at a Thai place with time for a nice dinner, then meeting Mom and co at the Olin Arts Center to enjoy the "Opera Choruses" concert. What a pleasure! We had breakfast with Mom and Anita the next morning, and a really nice visit with them over it, and then Andy and I headed up the coast, talking "imagine if" and plans for our futures. Very exciting. 

I hope to have some pictures of the race, the knitting I finished recently, and the yarn I'm going to start making this cardigan out of, but right now, I have only a book review for JK Rowling/R. Galbraith's Career of Evil, and maybe a few more. ETA: Pic shared by Pamela, so there it is! 

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, #3)Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am not a huge fan of suspense, especially when it's coupled with psychological darkness and/or violence. Anyone who's read Career of Evil is currently snickering, because it's hard to get darker or more violent than Galbraith's latest story! A few times I nearly quit and traded over to the "real book," so I could skip particularly gory sections, but I soldiered on and, ultimately, found Career as engrossing and suspenseful as the other two Cormoran Strike novels in the series. I *do* question whether we needed as much detail about the bad guy's sexual habits, and if I could interview Rowling, I'd ask her about the violence against women that pervades this book. . . . but it is well written, the characters continue to develop in interesting ways, and, nearly against my will, I found it fascinating. That said, I can't imagine what Strike's next outing will involve!

Note: listened to the audiobook and the reader, Robert Glenister, is AMAZING.

Dumplin'Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dumplin' is a pleasure--original, fun, touching. It could be more developed, because not all of the fascinating characters get the attention they deserve, but I am on board for more of Murphy's novels!

Signs Point to YesSigns Point to Yes by Sandy Hall
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Started this one with great interest, but abandoned it halfway through. The characters are poorly developed, and the plot development is halting and uneven, with a strange lack of detail: the protagonist finally spends some one-on-one time with her crush and Hall provides no details of their conversation or even the protag's thoughts. I was very disappointed!

Three Famous Short Novels: Spotted Horses, Old Man, The BearThree Famous Short Novels: Spotted Horses, Old Man, The Bear by William Faulkner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

MDIHS Readers&Writers read "The Bear," the last of the stories in this collection, as our first group read for 2015. I found the first 1/3 of the book––the bear hunt part––to be stunningly, staggeringly gorgeous. His sentence structure and his vocabulary were mind-boggling. The next 2/3s were more challenging: if I'd been his editor, we'd have had some battles over his unremittingly complex prose and the inscrutability of his language. The goal of that level of challenge was harder to see in those sections. However, all in all, I am delighted that we read this, and I am dazzled and fascinated by Faulkner's writing.

That said, I will probably not be digging into the other two stories in a hurry, unless the Readers&Writers decide we should!

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(It feels a bit insulting to the English language to have Faulkner and Signs Point to Yes on the same page. I think Murphy and he would have a grand ol' time together, however!)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

November 21: Saturday of "Vacation" Week

        Vacation is in quotation marks because we don't have students for a full week, but Monday and Tuesday will feature professional development work, so plenty of stuff to do. Still: "a change is a good as a rest," apparently, and I look forward to this week every year.

         Nate is home from Bates (so nice to 1. have him have a car; last year we were driving to Skowhegan to pick him up, which saved us an hour each way, but still: Friday night driving errands [and it always seems to rain or snow before breaks] tend to be grueling commitments; 2. have him close: Lyle's long, dark, traffic-heavy drives back from Saratoga Springs always worried me) with every piece of laundry he's ever worn, but his usual good nature, fund of interesting pieces of info, and variety of weird videos we "have to" watch or listen to or learn about. His request was for black bean soup and corn bread for dinner (!!??) so that was a 15 minute grocery shop and then about a 20 minute prep session. Our recipes for both are tried and true:

Easy Black Bean Soup

about 4 of the smaller cans of black beans, rinsed and sort of drained (last night I used 2 bigger cans and one smaller can)
about 2 cups of salsa, whatever kind you like (hot, med. or mild): we use Sister's, usually (and I did last night)
up to one box of chicken broth (but you could use veg. or maybe beef): amt. depends on your desired consistency (last night I used about 3 cups total)
various toppings: sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado or guac.. . . . lime juice is highly recommended. 

Cook the salsa for about 5 minutes in a medium/large soup pot, then dump in the beans and some of the broth; let simmer for at least 20 mins, then: squish up some of the beans with a spoon OR use an immersion blender OR transfer some to a stand blender OR leave as is. . . . Adjust amounts of beans and broth; add some salt if desired and/or more heat with various peppers, etc, and serve!

Of course, it looks weird, but it's delicious and pretty darn healthy. I think the base recipe came from a Real Simple "cheat recipe" years ago. As in: 10 years? 15?

Easy Corn Bread (from the back of one of the corn meal bags, I think)

Stir together:
1 1/4 cup of flour (I often use 1/2 c of whole wheat in there, though it reduces the rise)
3/4 c cornmeal (harder to find nowadays)
1/4 c sugar
2 tsps baking powder (I often forget this, which results in a polenta like patty. Not recommended, but it can be crumbled into whatever you're eating. Not so good with jam or honey, though)
1/2 - 1 tsp salt (I forget the exact measurement so I wing it)

**Heat oven to about 400; if you have a cast-iron skillet, put a lump of butter into it and put into the oven to heat about now. If you don't have a cast-iron option, turn the heat down to 375 or so and use a greased 8 x8 or so (medium sized) pan.**

Mix 1 c. milk, 1/4 c oil, and 1 egg; stir into dry ingreds. and, once the skillet is hot and butter is melted, pour mixture into skillet. Bake for about 20 mins. If you used w. wheat flour, it will not rise a lot; if you made "company cornbread," it should be quite puffy; use usual tests for doneness regardless.

Eat with tons of butter, honey, and/or jam.

It makes me laugh to look at this recipes, full of Granny lingo and ball park figures, but really: these are pretty fool proof, cheap, and, amazingly, impressively delicious recipes. Great for beginning cooks, broke young adults, and busy families. Since the soup also looks a bit dubious (my students would ask me, "Is that chocolate pudding?" in tones of horror), it's great for training kids to be adventurous eaters. My boys have inhaled it all their lives.

And: today he and I go to see my h.s.'s fall musical, which is usually stupendous. This year it's Chess, and the reviews are superb. I love seeing my students doing things they love to do, especially together. And: boom.

Tomorrow N and I will run the Turkey Trot in Brewer: it will be my seventh or eighth time, maybe? We registered early, and that means we'll get our laughably ugly tshirts. . . . and then run with company (probably more than 600 other people). Andy is coming up with us to cheer us on this time, which will be fun. AND I'll go to church tomorrow! It's been at least three weeks since I've been, and I'm delighted to get back.

My other wishes for my week:

  • to finish the Madelinetosh Vintage hat I'm working on, possibly for Andy for C'mas; 
  • to finish the various odds and ends of baby knitting that I have been carrying around in my bag since summer;
  • to do some reading for pleasure (Out of Nowhere by Maria Paidan, set in "Enniston," aka Lewiston, and Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan, author of The Middle Place, which I loved)
  • finish the enthralling but scary Station Eleven, which I find I need to read in daylight;
  • to read Faulkner's The Bear for MDIHS Readers&Writers and prep our next meeting;
  • to work on the table runner for Tove;
  • to get Nate's Advent chain done! Yikes!
  • to do some baking/cooking for pleasure;
  • to score the literary analysis papers from my 9th graders! 
I'm currently listening with mingled horror and delight to Career of Evil, the third Cormoran Strike novel (wow. It is creepy and irresistible!), waiting to start an increased dose of my thyroid meds after a recent test revealed that the ol' gland is slowing down even more, and considering that I might want to push myself to sew more! I want to make the Washi dress I bought the pattern and cheap fabric for a year and a half ago. . . . so I think I actually need to get up and make it. Sheesh.

I will share that I am proud of these:

Nate's orange socks, which are a bit tricky to get on, but which wear nicely when he gets them on (and contrast nicely with the collegiate stacks at Bates's library!). Yay!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 15: A Nice November Sunday

Have finally finished my school law class (and I got an A!), but haven't really been able to get stuck into a book yet. I'm about 1/4 into Station Eleven by Emily Mantel, but mostly it's been audiobooks. I just downloaded the new Cormoran Strike (it's 17 hours. . . I can't wait. . . ), and I just finished:

Driving with the Top Down: A NovelDriving with the Top Down: A Novel by Beth Harbison
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

. . . . Can't figure out if it wants to be a steamy novel (good Lord! I blushed!) or a fairly well-written troubled-teen story or a trite "I regret my life" bit of fluff. Doesn't succeed overall, though it has its interesting sides. Really just okay.

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Had a nice time with A's college friends; after they left I planted about 60 bulbs, dividing them up in three different gardens and supplementing with compost to, I hope, ensure their continued bloom. I then deadheaded and raked the front garden, getting gloriously dirty and sweaty, so I finished up with a shower and rest.

Soon: a new knitting project! Nice weekend.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

November 14: Random Sweepings

Well, we're not going away this weekend, but we are having Andy's former college roommate and his wife overnight, so it's not a pj weekend at all. However, still nice to wake up at 8:30 and pad around in my jammies a bit.

Some loose ends tied up:

A hat for our Syrian refugee knitting project, made by instinct but finished following the Yarn Harlot's Lorne's Hat pattern, and Nate's long-promised orange socks, started in Norway, made even funkier by the Fault Lines pattern. I am hoping he can get his spatulate size 13s into them. If he can't, he may gift them, but I am *done* making socks for the young man who is fully capable of knitting his own! 

I have also finished the school law class, which was ultimately a lot of hoops for a bit of learning. I wrote a very honest evaluation on Wednesday, and am trying not to feel guilty about it, especially after all my scores were 100%s. It was just not well-taught, and one of my central teaching tenets is that people learn from targeted, specific feedback and challenges. This course had neither. So. 

Today I plan to do some cleaning (an hour), a swim, some bulb planting, and some school, before our guests arrive. Next week I hope to make an app't for my yearly check up (I'd love to switch to a doctor who would send reminders, too. . . . Do they do that anymore?) to get my thyroid checked again (weird sleep patterns and temperature swings. . .  could be The Change, but could be thyroid) and to get the okay for p.t. on my cuboid bone in my right foot, which is still giving me trouble. 

And the attacks in Paris are shatteringly sad. The Fred Rogers quote, "Look for the helpers," does sustain me, but the magnitude of hatred in our world is devastating. Holding that feeling into the clear, crisp sunshine of November. 

Onwards, with humility and gratitude. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

November 7: A Breath at Last!

Well, I have finally completed my second big school law paper (this one on special ed. "best practice" with a million subsections and 21 pages), mostly completed my grades and comments for first quarter, helped organize two big Student Council events in two days (girls flag football and the blood drive), and met my personal (still fit in my 6/week workout goal) and professional (have been rocking the RTI Writing block and being a good classroom teacher too) goals! Then I did sleep till nine this morning, which felt pretty darn good.


A and I are heading down to Lewiston to see Nate in this play, as the Nutcracker, and again stay in a hotel booked cheaply through, and visit with my well-healing mama and see the matinee of the play with my dad and stepmom. We'll come back late on Sunday, so I am trying to relax but also pull together loose ends for school, which might not happen 100%, but I'll try.

At the same time, I am longing for time to knit and create and sew and bake and cook. Kate Davies is so inspiring, and so are the Liesl and Co patterns and Quince and Co. has just released a bunch of new colors and . . . . so. And I keep thinking about what I am interested in "doing next", which deserves some thought, but there are still areas that fascinate and delight me in teaching, not least the essence of kids engaged in learning, apart from all the grades fixation and technological immersion crap that is making teaching so un-fun.

So, there is much percolating. L is in Portland, excited and a bit scared, but also learning how great it is to be really at the center of things, as when our b'fast gathering last weekend was about 2 miles from his apartment. And with N having a car, and L having an apartment and a car of his own, A and I are feeling a bit. . . . free and open. And delighted when gatherings like this one occur:

(Nate, bro Tom, Dad, JB, Ellyn, Ann, Lyle, Andy, me)!

We're entering the more centered part of the year, and this year especially I think the holidays will be fairly focused and calm (cue ominous music. . . ), so I am trying to breathe deeply and be aware. 

And possibly finish a few knitting projects, like Nate's socks and a few pairs of booties and maybe even a hat for our Syrian refugee efforts. 

Hello, November. 

That's Nate, before the evil spell is broken! 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Saturday, Oct. (counts on fingers) 24: Yellow Leaves!

It's 35 degrees at 8:30 am, and even though it's pretty much overcast at the moment, the leaves are such a bright yellow that it seems the sun is out. October is here--late October is here--and we're living in that wonderful balance when outside is lovely and the inside welcoming. It's baking, hiking, nesting, knitting, walking, gawking time. Glad to have a moment to take a breath and soak it all in!

There have not been many breaths, however: I believe that my desire to move forward has led to a few too many "yes" statements for the kind of down time I love: I am up for recertification this year, acting as a mentor, helping to lead the new student council, leading MDIHS Readers & Writers, taking a School Law class that is driving me crazy, still a learning area leader for the largest department in the school, and that's just in my professional life. Outside, I'm still married and a mom and a daughter, involved in our church and committed to staying active and involved.  Yikes.

So. A quickish update here before I bake two pumpkin pies for the church supper, make pulled pork and bread for dinner, and, I devoutly hope, complete the first draft of my "best practices in regular ed." paper for School Law. Though I had a great time running in the Run for Shelter 5k in Bangor last Saturday (pic below), I am taking this weekend off from running since my knees have been a bit weird and going for a long walk instead. And I want to update my Goodreads, since I have read some good ones!

So, books: 

The Bones of ParisThe Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a fantastic "listen"! My only regret is that Audible didn't make it clear that it was the second in the series, so now I have a pretty good idea of what the first one is about, without the pleasure of actually reading it. I'll have to decide if I want to read/listen to it.

Creepy, creepy, creepy, but also fascinating and detailed. Really interesting to read King writing not in the voice of Mary Russell--she seems to be having a wonderful time doing it! Her writing skills are top-notch, and her plot walks the fine line between different points and conversations that hint at the answer and keeping the tension going. The reader was fantastic, which truly topped off the experience.

Highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart.

The Nature of the Beast (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #11)The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, this Three Pines visit did NOT annoy me so much that I had to quit 1/3 through, as the last Penny I attempted did, so either it's a better book or my self-imposed Penny vacation did the trick and I came to this one with fresh eyes. It is a large, ponderous book, with a little bit of the nudge-nudge background plot line that can make a reader feel like a child in a gathering of adults, but though the midsection of the plot verged on the tedious (much like this sentence; sorry), the solution was tight and clear.

The narrative focus seems to be expanding to include Gamache's son-in-law and his next-in-command, which means Penny doesn't have to make Gamache quite so haunted or his neighbors so overstated, which is a relief. I'm afraid that the serial killer guy is going to become a theme in the next few books, however, so perhaps I'll go back into Penny avoidance mode. Still: I found this one good. I did read the actual book instead of listening to it.

Death and JudgmentDeath and Judgment by Donna Leon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Donna Leon as a general rule, but I didn't read much of her for a while and I remember wondering why I'd fallen out of the habit. I had a vague recollection of finding her books really dark and depressing, though I have found her more recent Brunetti novels truly enjoyable.

I reread (I am pretty sure I've read it before) Death and Judgment when I found it at a book sale, and now I remember why I thought her books were dark. It's got all the good Brunetti stuff I love: those lunches! That great family dynamic! All that local color! But by the end of the story, it's clear that the world is broken, the bad guys are essentially unpunished, and justice is not served. Somehow--and this is truly a recollection of my overall impression, so I may be incorrect--Leon's more recent books seem to present a less bleak view of the world. Maybe it's because Brunetti and his key team members have been able to organize themselves in the later books--I'm not sure. However, after reading Death and Judgment, I thought, "Man! This is pretty darn depressing--but I do love her stuff!"

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday, Oct. 9: Three Day Weekend!

A lovely day. It's nearly 11 and I am *beat* after a super-busy but generally good week. Will simply post the poems I wrote (and read!) for the Merging Forms project with Artwaves Bar Harbor, and toddle off to bed. Coffee and, apparently, sunshine tomorrow morning. Much fun and much heavy rain today.


A Sonnet to Hanging Laundry (8/18 - 19/2015)

Hot on my shoulders now the sun light falls, 
As at my feet the sodden laundry waits,
And all around me summer’s nature calls—
Cicadas, blue jays, doves that seek their mates. 

The laundry lines stretch empty, tight, and new
Against the posts’ now battered, darkened bark:
Dead trees, they well perform the task they do
And hold the harvest of my human work. 

Around me, as I bend and shake and fold
The living world exhales its summer sigh:
Leaves tremble in the breeze, the sunshine’s bold
Evaporation leaves the daily laundry dry. 

To do the laundry this way is no chore: 
It drains me only of my mindless stress, 
and modern-day obsession: faster! more! 
The sun, the clothes-line, laden basket: less? 

Such worthwhile work done here amid the trees
Leads sweetly to fresh laundry . . . and great peace.

Hanging Laundry Haiku (s) (8/19/2015)

I fold dry laundry
As sweet air moves the wash line
And work becomes joy. 

The wash line stretches 
Through sunlit air. I fold dry 
Laundry. Is this work? 

The clothes line stretches
Through green and sun-lit space. 
Laundry hangs, air-dried. 

 Meditation on Hanging Laundry (8/19/2015)

The morning sun warms my shoulders as 
I pin the wet clothes on the line, 
surrounded by woods, full and lush with summer. 
Two heat-stunned cats loll near me in the grass, my steady bend-and-straighten rhythm no surprise; our old dog chops a passing fly, 
then lies back down. 
I make my own designs on seven lines: today, all towels in back, 
then jeans and shirts, saving the fiddly pairs of socks for last. 

A blue jay calls above my head; cicadas shriek. 
The sun’s so strong the lightest shirts are nearly dry 
before I flip the empty basket upside down. 

I’m done; the clothes line bears its patterned load, 
each item neatly drying in the sun, held by old clothes pins darkened by past seasons’ rains that flawlessly perform their only task. 
In half a day I’ll come back out, reverse the process, fold and put away, and meet the same great beauty that rewards me now, 
turning this duty into ritual and joy. 


Study in Contrast
~Response to Jane's Painting~

You pause before you plunge ––
your human flesh, sun-warmed, 
pliant, tender, poised against
Nature’s plenitude ––

also in itself a contrast ––

cool water’s rippling liquid green and gold embrace
that laps the rough, unyielding granite’s upthrust strength. 

But most, this image, 
captured, calm, forever, 
creates one perfect balanced moment
held dear against the harried rush of endless time
outside the frame of our attention. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Wednesday, Oct. 7: What?????

I'll Give You the SunI'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

IGYTS is a remarkable book. I'm not sure who Nelson's target audience is, but I've been recommending it like crazy. Her writing is powerful, effective, and sure: I'd love to read the "real copy" sometime to copy out some of the passages that knocked my socks off as I listened. It's one of the only books with a non-traditional love angle (ahem; no spoilers here) that managed not to sound Like It Was Making A Statement. It's pretty explicit in spots--in ways that came right to the edge of being too much and in areas that might make people uncomfortable in general--so I've recommended it with cautions attached, but its depiction of family, of siblinghood, of first love/sexual love/lost love, of creativity, of art, of loss is memorable and affecting. I was rapt--and especially appreciated the long conclusion, where I *did* get to see how it all worked out, rather than being left to wonder about the people I'd grown so attached to.

I truly enjoyed this novel. I haven't read any other reviews, and I'm curious to see what other people thought.

As far as the audio goes, the female reader was top-notch, but the male reader was only okay, unable to manage a passable British accent for a crucial role. I still loved it, which proves its quality!

Ah! Been so busy. . . . not much reading, but the commute goes on forever! :) One more audio review coming up, but have to feed the hound.

The MasqueradersThe Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is typical Georgette Heyer: fluffy fun, but a little more developed than her usual outing. Listened on audio: it was quite well read, though the narrator seemed to run a bit short on voice options, given the huge cast, and the father was particularly grating. Interesting to read an earlier setting than Regency England for Heyer; her historical details were enjoyable, though the situations, once again, strain credulity.

Read/Listen to this after a tough week: relax and enjoy!

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sunday, Sept. 13: Gray, Cool and Rainy

It's beginning to feel more inside-y and more like we might eventually hit sweater weather––the fact that my hot flashes have paused for a while probably helps, too. We got heavy rain on Thursday night/Fri. morning, and now have a drizzly Sunday which slows everything down.

I'm working on a list for the fall, as I/we adjust to one son being an adult with a home/camp about 4 miles away and the second one established at his college 2 hours away as a sophomore. My course load is a little less crushing this semester, so I feel a little more reflective and a little less swamped, though I *do* start a School Law class on Sept. 21, so this state may be short-lived. However, I am working to fit some balance into my life. Therefore, some goals:

*stay off Facebook (mostly) during the week. Too much of a time-suck.
*Work a little each day on a project: Nate's long-promised socks (one done, one 3" in, as pictured below)

     or on the runner I want to make and have actually cut a few strips out for. It's so easy to feel that I can't get anything done during the week that my projects all come to a standstill, when, really, I do have pockets of time, and I am lucky enough to have a place to leave them out! 
*Keep in touch with my family. I call Mom once a week, and soon we'll be headed regularly to Bates to see Nate in plays and concerts, so we'll see Dad and Mom pretty often, but I do want to stay in written or phone touch with the rest of the crew more regularly. 
*Fit in some fun stuff during the weekends: I hope to go out to lunch someplace new in Bar Harbor next Saturday, for example. We'll see if that works. 

So that's my list so far. I also have a nice set of new audiobooks that I got at the Audible $4.95 sale, so I can keep "reading" even when I'm sewing or knitting something that demands my full attention––or even doing laundry, cooking/baking, or cleaning up! So much good stuff ahead. 

In the meantime, I think I'll make a cup of tea (my first in a long time!), call my mama, and write my sister. Happy September. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Saturday, September 12: Hey! Life Goes On!

Me Being Me Is Exactly as Insane as You Being YouMe Being Me Is Exactly as Insane as You Being You by Todd Hasak-Lowy
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well. Maybe, in honor of the book's format, I'll do a bulleted list of pros/cons/and observations.
1. I read the book in a few days, interested in finding out what the heck it was going to do/where it would go.
2. The format is an interesting one, but sometimes fiddly/unnecessarily confusing.
3. The book was sexually explicit in a weird way: almost as if an actual 15 year old boy had written it. I was not 100% comfortable with that. I wonder who would be. I don't think actual 15 year old boys would be comfortable with that, in fact.
4. The characterization in the book was extremely uneven: I couldn't really get a sense of many/any of the characters except Nate, the stoner brother. Darren was hard to read, and the pivotal character, Zoey, was even more confusing or underdeveloped--in a classic case of the author "telling, not showing," I could understand the events and conflicts, but I couldn't really feel them deeply.
5. Overall, I think this book needed less style and more developed content. It treats some serious issues shallowly and, therefore, cheats the readers a bit.

The Shepherd's Crown (Discworld, #41; Tiffany Aching, #5)The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Stephen Briggs as a reader: Terry Pratchett as author: Tiffany Aching as main character: what's not to love?

This is not Pratchett's strongest outing. It IS his last, and it's a huge bonus in light of his diagnosis with Alzheimer's. There's an afterword that sums up nearly everything that I thought as I was listening to it, but the gist is as follows:
--this is Terry Pratchett's last book. It offers some poignant, funny, honest insights on life, humans, humanity, change, and death.
--there is a lot in the book: elves, trains, Ank-Morpork (sp), Vetinari, witches, goblins, and the Nac Macfeegles all intersect, but the novel is not the 500 pages it deserves (and wants) to be--Pratchett just ran out of time. Preston gets very short shrift, as does Vetinari! Unfortunately, the Wee Free Men are short-changed, too.
--I think each reader needs to decide if s/he feels it's worth it to visit one last time, even if the master is diminished, or if s/he would rather stick with the more complete and polished works.

Ultimately, "it is what it is." I'm glad I had a chance to read Pratchett's last--though definitely not his best--work.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Saturday, August 29: Looking Back at a Fantastic Summer!

2014-15 was a brutal school year emotionally: while my teaching was the best it's ever been (yay!), the appreciation, support, sanity, work demands, and interpersonal work atmosphere was exhausting and draining. Nothing like working harder and more successfully than ever and having the School Board decide it's time to Take A Stand on the contract. Wow. Anyway: what a great time to have an absolutely transcendent summer. Truly. I did some school work, but not a lot; I went into school twice only, and I had a series of fantastic, fun activities that really proved that "a change is as good as a rest." I wonder if I can post a picture for each event! June 23: Andy and I went to see Keb Mo at Stone Mountain Arts Center.

What a great place, and what a great concert. 

A few days later, Nate, Andy and I had a wonderful week in Denmark with Silas and his family:
At Helsingor, Hamlet's castle, with our fabulous hosts

which we followed up with another great week in Norway with Camilla and her family!

Hiking at midnight in Molde with Camilla and Amalia

Even after we returned to the relative normalcy of Ellsworth, Maine, the fun didn't stop. We sailed the newly-restored "Fabulous" out of Sorrento Harbor: 

I went for several hikes with friends: 

On top of Dorr with Dawn and Cathi
went to the twins' first birthday, a Sea Dogs' game with Andy, Dad, and Ann, and spent three days in Rye with Julie! 
Big ice cream!
Whale watching! 
After all that, I ended my summer with a weekend in Brunswick with Ann and Sue. We added to my string of 5ks with the Topsham Veterans' Support Run: 

Post-race: matching tee shirts.

Post paddle. 
and we added Lynne for an afternoon of stand-up paddle boarding!

Back home, there was plenty of this: 

and we still have Labor Day weekend forthcoming. 

First week meetings were upbeat and cheerful, which was great––the magic continues! 

Unnatural Death: The Dawson Pedigree (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #3)Unnatural Death: The Dawson Pedigree by Dorothy L. Sayers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a delight: I thought I'd read this one quite a bit, but discovered I'd been confusing it with another Miss Climpson story (the one where she meets with the seance people), so this was only vaguely familiar! What a pleasure to have an almost-new Wimsey. This one moves pretty fast, and has some unusual characters (I will say no more); it's fun to see Miss Climpson in her earliest stages, and Peter and Parker just beginning to set forth.

The 1969 edition is a true classic: acid green cover, tiny cramped font, and various typos/editing mistakes, including a few lines transposed on a page. Not easy to read in dim light, but certainly a vestige of a time when publishers were so sure people would read that they didn't woo their readers with attractive packages.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thursday, August 27: Finally, the humidity broke!

Paris, He SaidParis, He Said by Christine Sneed
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I agree with many of the reviewers listed below--oddly, with those who say this is wonderfully written, *and* with those who say, "What the heck happened here?" Sneed's writing voice is compelling, clear, and elegant, but the book left me flat, and I almost deserted it midway through. I guess my issue is that the people in the story have no pulse. They have a lot of sex and live interesting lives, however.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday, August 24: A Few Post-Weekend

Marry, Kiss, KillMarry, Kiss, Kill by Anne Flett-Giordano
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Certainly a lively plot, but Flett-Giordano tries a bit too hard for the sparkling repartee and Chandler-esque "crackin' wise, see?" dialogue--it gets annoying. Example: one character makes a tasteless remark and another comments that it was offensive "like dry-swallowing an elephant tranquilizer." Or "The sex that night was baby-bear's-bed good." Classic mixed one: "she was stumbling like a new-born colt after a couple of martinis." Colts? Martinis? Really?

Bodies end up everywhere, and character development is heavily of the "tell, don't show" variety, but it would be an entertaining book to find in a summer rental.

Girls' Poker NightGirls' Poker Night by Jill Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nearly gave up on this due to its super short, super zippy one-liner format, but am ultimately glad I stuck with it, as Davis manages some really interesting character development in the last third of the book. Davis is a funny writer, and it was nice to see her turn a laugh-track into a more rewarding and reflective novel about relationships, friendships, and trust. Stick with it!

Treasure IslandTreasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A classic, beautifully structured and paced story written when young adult writers didn't think their readers were stupid. So much to recommend it--listening to the story, which I've known since my father read it to us numerous times as kids, the miles flew by. Highly, highly recommended. Why has no one given this a serious, historically appropriate rendering like Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle's Pride and Prejudice? It could be fantastic!

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thursday, August 19: Updatin'!

Alice, I Think (Alice MacLeod, #1)Alice, I Think by Susan Juby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Started off well with an hysterical satire of over-permissive parents who indulge their kids in any weird whim and don't prepare them for the realities of life; Alice's travails as she enters high school start to drag, and then the plot seemed to lose all direction and I skimmed to the end. An early Susan Juby.

Making Piece: a Memoir of Love, Loss and PieMaking Piece: a Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie by Beth M. Howard
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Making Piece was recommended by Orangette, the blogger whom I adore, but I did not like it at all. Her writing is self-conscious and dense, full of mixed metaphors and tortured similes: "His hands crimped the crust's edge, moving aroudn the circle with the deft and speed of a seaman coiling ropes". "This grieving business was like making pie for the first time. One needs some instruction in how to do it--consult a recipe, make a grocery list, and go after the goal with gusto."

She tries to do a symbolic examination of loss . . .and pie. . . but wow. Major fail in my mind.

Other Waters: A NovelOther Waters: A Novel by Eleni N. Gage
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Enjoyed this novel much more than I expected to. It's written by a Greek-American woman in the voice of an Indian-American woman, focusing on the issue of relationships, finding a spouse, and pleasing one's parents. The inside-view of life in India was fascinating even as I wondered how legitimate it was. Enjoyable and vivid, if a little "where is my life going/why can't I find a guy?" whiny in spots.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

August 12: Rainy Day = Reading Time!

Kissing in AmericaKissing in America by Margo Rabb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Moving, funny, well-written, and original, Kissing in America is an outstanding ya novel. Rabb manages to make Eva appealing and understandable while also letting her flaws gradually show through so that we can rejoice at her growth. Highly recommended.

The MiddlesteinsThe Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think The Middlesteins would be a great book group novel, as I enjoyed it but would really like to discuss it with someone! Attenberg's writing reminds me of Elinor Lipman's, but in this novel she tackles a difficult subject--obesity--and shows how it impacts both the obese person and the people who love, or try to love, her. Thought-provoking, sometimes funny and sometimes painful to read, the novel delves into relationships, needs, histories, perceptions, and the whole idea of appearance, health, and what we owe to each other. Highly recommended.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Aug. 9: More reading! Look at me GO!

Madam, Will You Talk?Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My sister and I adored Mary Stewart as teens/tweens in Poland, Maine! Found this one at the church rummage sale. Masterful men--lovely, fast-driving war widows--winsome, sad children--and France as the background. Oh, and suspense and love in three days. Classic post-war romance/adventure.

Falling in Love (Commissario Brunetti, #24)Falling in Love by Donna Leon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Her latest. I loved it. Links to her first Brunetti (Death at La Fenice) and also Acqua Alta, neither of which I remember, so. . .more Leon on my list!

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

August 8: A Beautiful Saturday!

Getting the Girl: A Guide to Private Investigation, Surveillance, and CookeryGetting the Girl: A Guide to Private Investigation, Surveillance, and Cookery by Susan Juby
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed Juby's Truth Commission, so I tried a few of her other books. This one, published in 2008, was certainly disappointing. I'm not sure if the male persona was clunky, or if the plot was just too draggy, or what, but the story didn't grab me and I ended up skimming just to see if everything turned out the way I expected it to (it did). Great title, but it certainly lacked zip and energy.

A Good Year for the Roses: A NovelA Good Year for the Roses: A Novel by Gil McNeil
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If this had been the first Gil McNeil I'd read, I think I would've loved it. However, having read her Beach Street Knitting Society series (and loved them!), I was disappointed to find this novel a near-carbon copy of the characters, situations, plots, and settings of those books. A husband has left (divorce, not death, this time); family is difficult (exs and immediate relatives, this time); elderly relatives are lovable, feisty eccentrics; kids are sometimes annoying but good at the core, still nicely differentiated, but otherwise nearly exactly like the Beach Street gang; there is a high-maintenance but supportive friend from away and several on-site supporters; the setting just needs some sprucing up to become a going concern, and, in fact, the whole resolution feels suspiciously like the resolution of the entire Beach Street series. I do enjoy those chatty, funny "chuck it all and start again" stories, but Molly even suffers "slow-motion panic attacks" at night the way the BS woman did, and the kids "tut" in scorn as well. Why didn't McNeil continue that series if she had nothing new to say?

One big new issue was the nearly complete lack of commas in this text: while British usage employs far fewer commas in direct address than we Americans do, in this text the lack was jarringly obvious. Example: "That wasn't Roger's fault Molly, you know that."
"I'll see you later Mum."

While I soldiered on to the end, I was disappointed by McNeil's predictability and lack of originality. While many writers I enjoy (Katie Fforde and Jennifer Crusie, to name just two) create similar plots with happy endings and meet cute romance stories, their books are not essentially interchangeable. A Good Year for the Roses and the other McNeil novels I've read to date are.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Changed the WorldI Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to I am Malala over a few weeks, finishing it en route home from my vacation. As a work of literature, there are certainly a few rough spots, and Malala's commitment to providing context and information about family connections makes the plot drag in spots, but the story it tells is remarkable. Not only is Malala a brave, focused, and determined young survivor, but the story of how extremism took over her homeland and nearly cost her her life is informative, scary, and absorbing. As a feminist, a woman, a graduate of a women's college, and a teacher, I want all my female students--the male ones, too, but less urgently--to read this book and consider how we can use our benefits in this world to extend those benefits to other women who are denied them because of their gender.

Questions: why is Malala's mother still illiterate? I was a little bothered by the way Malala was the chosen child in her father's eyes, and no one seemed to consider her mom much.

What is the best way for educated Western women who have enough money to live lives of ease to help women who live lives of unimaginable hardship? I think Nicholas Kristof might have some ideas. Much to think about here.

Beastly Things (Commissario Brunetti, #21)Beastly Things by Donna Leon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another hit: this one is typically disturbing, involving both the issue of our food chain in the 21st century and ethical choices with grave consequences. However, it somehow manages to be both interesting and good, so a strong Brunetti outing start to finish.

Happy ReturnsHappy Returns by Angela Thirkell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not her best. Way too many skimmable/skippable passages (even pages!), and way too little happening. Still: I read it, and that says something--either about me or about Thirkell. Your choice.

Getting the Girl: A Guide to Private Investigation, Surveillance, and CookeryGetting the Girl: A Guide to Private Investigation, Surveillance, and Cookery by Susan Juby
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed Juby's Truth Commission, so I tried a few of her other books. This one, published in 2008, was certainly disappointing. I'm not sure if the male persona was clunky, or if the plot was just too draggy, or what, but the story didn't grab me and I ended up skimming just to see if everything turned out the way I expected it to (it did). Great title, but it certainly lacked zip and energy.

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