Happy New Year! I got up this morning and put my 2014 books-I-read list in order. The whole thing is here if you want to pore through it, but here are the highlights:
Favorite Audiobook: Graceling, by Kristin Cashore. Romantic and exciting; the full-cast audio rendition seemed cheesy at first but won me over. Strangely, the sequel Fire did absolutely nothing for me and I didn’t even finish it. I still plan to give Bitterblue a try.
Favorite Nonfiction: She Would Not Be Moved: How We Tell the Story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, by Herbert Kohl. Nonfiction. Short essay on how elementary school curricula glide over the political and activist elements of Rosa Parks’ story to make it an individual, idiopathic anecdote (“she was tired”). Aimed at educators, but made me want to read more about the bus boycott.
Favorite Kidlit Fiction (Middle Grade and Young Adult):
The Cardturner, by Louis Sachar. Love the passion for detail about bridge, love that Sachar wrote about whatever the hell he wanted and that was bridge. And I like the story too. Were the parents too cartoonish, though?
Flora Segunda (trilogy), by Ysabeau Wilce. I love the physicality, the military mama, the cultural setting, the butlers, the uncertainty of the romance, the plot twists! Can you imagine how excited I was to get a Flora Segunda gift for Fic Corner?
Favorite Adult Fiction: Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I immediately felt like I knew the characters and enjoyed their observations. Good pair with Ha Jin’s A Free Life. I want to go back and read her earlier work.
Favorite Trend: Picture-book musician biographies! Some use song lyrics in the text, and 32 pages often seems about right to evoke a life and career trajectory while focusing on the music. Included When the Beat Was Born (DJ Kool Herc), Hello, I’m Johnny Cash, and The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra. Although it’s not a biography, I also loved Gus Gordon’s Herman and Rosie. So much love and music.
New Years Day is when I practice my new perfect life and all my shining good habits, like talking to you in this blog and going for walks to the park and cooking vegetables, and yet it’s still a holiday so I can do all these things at leisure and also eat nutella and reread Dykes to Watch Out For and browse a few more Yuletide fics. Speaking of which, I’ll close with links to three Yuletide fics, from kidlit fandoms, that I loved:
currently reading: My Own Country, by Abraham Verghese. He’s one of the doctor/writers that Atul Gawande listed as inspiring his own writing career, and this memoir is about treating AIDS patients in small-town Tennessee in the late 1980s. I like it so far. I would have thought some of his wide-eyed straight-person reportage on gay culture would grate (his nervous first visit to the only local gay bar), but it doesn’t.
I meant to say Rabbit Rabbit when I woke up, I’d thought about it before I fell asleep the night before, but I went upstairs and said, “Good morning, Mom,” before I remembered. But that’s a good thing to be able to say, too.
My mom has started wearing a scarf with her bathrobe in the morning. When sanguinity and I put our bags in the rental car and got out the long-handled scraper that Hertz included, my mom came out on the sidewalk with her camera to capture Sang of the Northwest scraping the windows.
We volunteered to be bumped to another flight, and they gave our tickets away but then “found” us seats on the same flight, in First Class. Unexpected luxuries:
coffee and peeps
coffee and peeps
He is risen
coffee and peeps
Simone, who is hardly ever interested in human food, took a peep by the neck and shook it to death, then shredded its head. She is still enjoying playing with the body, except when it gets stuck on her claw.
It’s a sunny weekend in Portland! Sanguinity and I did our hiking yesterday in the Gorge, a walk at Gillette Lake on the Washington side. It was uncrowded, probably because it features power lines and clearcuts rather than stunning waterfalls. But plenty of beauty and interest including garter snakes sunning on the hillside, a lizard, perfect trilliums in the woods, and retrievers launching themselves into the water after sticks. Sang read me three chapters of Kidnapped while we lounged on the moss.
I had a lovely holiday season with family and friends and road trips. I didn’t take many photos, but here’s one of sanguinity with her BFF Miss Piggy, on the night that thrihyrne and evannichols led us through the annual Extreme Holiday Lights display around the corner from their place:
I’ve finished pulling together the list of books I read in 2012. You can see the complete list here as a Google doc if you want.
I’ll be adding these nine to my LibraryThing collection, bringing my collection there to 90 books in all:
You know, I was going to write a blurb about each one of these, but so many end-of-year book lists have gone by on my screen in the last few days that I don’t think I really need to add another. Maybe instead I’ll call out the audiobooks that got me through a lot of dishwashing: Ruby Dee reading Their Eyes Were Watching God, Natalie Moore with the perfect Wisconsin-teenager accent in Dairy Queen, and Steve Martin talking about his stand-up days in Born Standing Up.
Happy New Year to all, and best wishes for a happy and fruitful 2013!
It’s been raining all weekend, but today wasn’t too cold. I pulled on my rain gear and walked down to the canyon at Reed. It felt great to be out.
I didn’t spot the resident beavers, but they’re around.
I don’t think of camellias as December flowers, but they look as good now as they do any other time.
In the more urban part of my walk, I listened to Sara Zarr’s How to Save a Life until my player’s battery died. Both this one and David Levithan’s Every Day, which I read last week, keep making me think in the back of my head while I read, “How’s the author going to pull this off? Corner is painted…what’s the path out of it?” I sort of wish I could turn this writerly perspective off, because it’s different from wondering how the characters will solve their problems. Every Day weakened a little at the end, I thought, with a Brand New Choice taking center stage. (And the main character’s last machination? It’s in character but kind of obnoxious, I thought, a little insulting and unnecessary!) I still don’t know what will happen with How to Save a Life. But highly worthwhile, both of them.
Sanguinity and I watched Terminator 2: Judgment Day last night! I hadn’t seen it since college. Why is it called “Judgment Day”? It isn’t actually about Judgment Day. Anyway, you know what I could hardly stand? The way Sarah and John both have their bangs in their eyes. Srsly I was like, fine save the world but please get your hair out of your face! It’s no coincidence that I trimmed my bangs this morning.
Work this week, and then a week and a half off! I secretly love the budget furloughs. I’d never take this many vacation days on my own for “no reason,” meaning no extended travel, but I’m psyched.
The holidays arrived and I was like HEY I SHOULD MAKE FOOD PRESENTS, but of course what came to mind was something I’d never tried before. Rose-flavored meringues, you guys! Pink, and maybe in the shape of roses, delicate yet shippable, and related to Portland.
I made my first attempt over the weekend, with one of the eggs from my co-worker’s happy pampered hens. One egg makes a whole cookie sheet of meringues. But they were missing deliciousness. The rose flavoring was from food-quality distilled rose, um, stuff, but it needed another note to ground it. Vanilla? Cardamom? Lemon?
Also, I used powdered sugar, because Joy of Cooking said either powdered or granulated was okay, but I think granulated would make the taste and texture sparkle a little more.
I had a vague idea that cutting the corner off of a plastic bag and squeezing meringue out of it would magically enable me to make rose shapes, but it enabled me to make piles of pink toothpaste instead. Or pink sparkly unicorn poop.
Maybe I’ll have the perfect recipe ready for next Christmas.
My other idea was hazelnut and dried-cherry granola– Pacific Northwest ingredients, right? and not as sweet as the meringues. I found a recipe, but when it was time to go to the store I was like, wheat germ and sesame seeds and hazelnuts and oatmeal and this recipe lady likes to use a mix of quick and rolled oats? When I am going to Trader Joe’s which has perfectly delicious varieties of granola in a box anyway? It seemed kind of pointless. I think I’ll go back to specializing in three-ingredient recipes.
So there you have it, the things I won’t be sending out for the holidays and can blab about on the internet!
In my Labor Day browsing I ended up reading about Joe Hill, the Wobbly labor activist executed by Utah in 1915. I was surprised to see that the text of his last will and testament were already familiar to me– as a song we sang at Girl Scout Camp.
My will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide.
My kin don’t need to fuss and moan,
“Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.”
My body? Oh, if I could choose
I would to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow,
My dust to where some flowers grow.
Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my Last and final Will.
Good Luck to All of you,
I think he would have been pleased about the disposition of his ashes (as described in the article). And also that the Girl Scouts kept his words alive while washing their melmac plates after dinner.
Yesterday was the last cookout of the summer, with evannichols and thrihyrne, and tomorrow will have the appropriate back-to-school feel as I start a free class on stats at Coursera. Happy Labor Day!
The blog posts I’ve been reading from other parts of the country talk about summer being halfway over. An ultrarunner in my hometown even says she counts July 1 as the first day of fall! Well, okay, she goes to Badwater in July and everything feels cooler when you return from Badwater, so I see what she means.
But. Here in the Pacific Northwest, summer starts right after the Fourth of July. My life has become easier since I accepted this. Portland has long, long springs. They start in February and go right through June.
Now it’s time for our couple of months of real summer. The tomatoes and peppers in the garden can get serious now. We can ditch the down comforter on the bed some nights. And sunshine is coming, maybe even in the mornings!
So today is hot dogs cooked outside, and a cooler full of soda pop, and watermelon and ice cream. I’m about to go see if there’s enough rhubarb for another cutting yet. Happy summer, everybody.
Towel Day is still a bleeding-edge holiday here in Portland. No one asked about my towel (granted, it was a discreet purple hand towel), and the only other towel I saw in the wild was at the nerdy Science Pub talk on parasites.
I did ponder the meaning of Towel Day and how much I like Douglas Adams, as I walked around with towel in hand, but in part of me was simply excited to observe a book-related holiday. There’s Towel Day, and Bloomsday– any others?