Saturday, March 28, 2015

March 28, Saturday: Some Thoughts on New Eateries

Well, it's nearly April, and so far March has lived up to my hopes by being much less snowy than February, though it has been bitterly cold. Lately, we've gotten up to the 40's, had some rain and melting, and have begun to see some reduction of the snow--some. We'll take it. Today I am participating in the Flattop 5K, my first race since. . . . the Memorial Mile? My goal is "have fun, and 32 or under." We'll see.

I have been thinking about restaurant start ups, since there have been several new places opening Ellsworth--which is a relief, because there have been a flood of closings! Andy and I in our newly free status, have been able to try a lot of them, and here is the big suggestion I'd have for anyone opening a new restaurant, especially in a small(ish) town or city: request feedback. Offer $1 off the bill or a free dessert for anyone who will fill out anonymous feedback. Ask questions like "How was the service?" (Answer, for last night: slow, and it was really frustrating to watch at least two waitresses drinking soda at the service station while we waited 10 mins for our water and bread. Get your house to work together so that it's not "that's my table, and that's yours," but "These are our customers.") and "How was the food: taste, quality, portion size?" (Answer for last night: just okay. I could make it as good at home, and that, for me, is the kiss of death. I won't pay money to have someone else make me my own food unless I am very, very tired. Portion size: quite good. Not stupidly enormous, not tiny. Quality: okay, but my medium burger was really more rare in the middle. As a steak house, you might want to get that down.) and "How was the presentation?" (Answer for last night: a bit bleak. My husband's excellent scallops and vegs. were on one side of an otherwise empty plate. As in--empty. No garnish, no cheap but pleasant pile of rice. A little odd.).

You really need to wow us--or else before long we'll be going to another new restaurant in the same place yours is now.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

March 21: Silverstreak Saturday!

Designated Daughters (Deborah Knott, #19)Designated Daughters by Margaret Maron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Margaret Maron's Deborah Knott books are always an easy, pleasurable read, and Designated Daughters is no exception. Deborah has an easy narrative style, sharing various insights of judicial and family life, and her voice makes any of the novels interesting. However, with the theme and title of this effort, I expected some kind of insight about the demands of care-taking, the issues of an aging population, or health care costs, and Maron didn't really deliver. She has several plots going in this story, and, as a result, the book is a little uneven. I think Maron/Knott would've had some good points to share, and, without them, the effort was a little disappointing, though still a pleasant read.

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wish I could five-star this one without calling it "amazing"--it was compelling, addictive, and led to sleep deprivation and a huge stack of overdue correcting on my desk, but it was, at the bottom, an extremely readable private eye novel, and not "amazing" at all. However: there is so much to praise in this one! Cormoran Strike is a likable, interesting character, and his interaction with his temporary (or not) secretary is fun to watch, as she's a lively character well; "Cuckoo" comes alive through these pages, as do many of her friends and family. There is an element of People-magazine-esque star-gazing in the story, but Cormoran and his adventures are what kept me up and neglecting my work. The writing is effective, tight, and clear: I noticed no Harry Potter-isms creeping in and clogging up the works.

One question: why bother to adopt a pseudonym if one is going to out oneself anyway? I was a bit confused by that. But: I really disliked the Casual Vacancy, but I *loved* Cuckoo's Calling. I've gotten The Silkworm on audiobook, partially to insure that I don't binge read it and mess up my orderly life!

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Well: it's Saturday evening, and Andy and I are back home after a Silverstreak visit down to Lewiston to see Nate and the Bates Choir sing Mozart's "Requiem." We stayed at the Ramada right off the highway, and we had a lovely dinner at DaVinci's (I was expecting standard large scale Italian, but it was locally grown and deliciously unique!) with Nate, pre-concert, and made it to Olin in easy time. To our surprise, Mom and Anita came too (we hadn't made plans with them as we didn't really decide to come down until Thursday!), and seeing them so casually made us feel like we were real locals! The concert was lovely--I forget how exciting and fun it is to see live classical music, and Bates has a wonderful soprano soloist whose voice is transcendent--and we all ooh'd and ahh'd afterwards, and then A and I headed for bed!

Today, we had breakfast with Nate at Forage, and then did some errands, ending up at the Bates bookstore, where we had a lovely moment: a mom and her daughter came in, and the mom announced that her daughter had just been accepted, after having been deferred in December. They were from Waterville, and everyone in the bookstore at that moment was from Maine, so it was a very down-home, pro-Bates, rah-rah celebration. The girl didn't even look embarrassed. It was great.
We headed home soon after, and got home around 1. I've done some laundry, scored some (very poorly done) masks for OMM, and done some b'day errands AND gotten ice cream to go at the Moo. What a nice way to kick off a weekend. Tomorrow I plan to skip church (sorry; I super-duper need the time!) and crank through more correcting.

We also had a nice week with Lyle home/at UMO with Sam/around. He is clearly beginning to think about next year (woooooooo), and has lost some of his edginess about home, and us, and such. We'll see how things unfold. It was certainly nice to have a chance to talk to him occasionally!

We have had snow today! Aieee! But at least the piles of snow have shrunk somewhat. So far, March has followed its instructions (from me) and has been less intensely wintery than February. YAY!

I may post some pics. We've been busy lately: Nate's play two weeks ago, Incoming Parents' Night and Parent Conferences during two weeks, one of those weekends that simply disappears last weekend, and then a late night watching the One-Act for me on Wednesday, AND a good deal of avoidance of work due to "The Cuckoo's Calling". . . I am hoping to reset the balance this weekend and enter Monday with a little more organization under my belt.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

March 10, Tuesday: Busy Day, Busy Week, Great Book

Althea & OliverAlthea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Memorable, original, and brilliantly written. There is much troubling/disturbing in this book, but Moracho is a stunning writer.

The picture she paints of adolescence is unnerving; Althea is a character who's hard to root for, and the Red Hook scenario is a bit unrealistic. Still: I read it in three busy school days and found the voice, pacing, and, especially, the writing outstanding.

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Weekend seeing Nate's play and my family; time change; warmer weather; Parent Conferences coming up on Thursday: I think I'll be happy to see Friday, 2:15 roll around!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March 3: Tuesday Afternoon Reading. . . Pre-storm?

We're potentially due for 5 - 7" of snow, turning to rain in the morning. . .Could it be another Wednesday bites the dust? Yikes. In any case, thanks to my Lenten avoidance of FB during the week, I am getting a lot of reading done. Three cheers!

BelzharBelzhar by Meg Wolitzer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this YA novel by the author of The Interestings. It did bear some resemblances to The Interestings, but in this outing, Wolitzer crafts a well-paced and original YA novel that contains some fantasy elements but still serves to illuminate important truths about literature, life, and (to continue the alliteration in an annoying way) loss. One plot line is a bit thin and, oddly enough, I found the character of Ms. Q disappointingly flat, but overall the book was a well-written and thought-provoking flight of imagination based in some valid insights about human nature. Enjoyable!

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