March 29, 2012
hair’s breadth, clean, and off the beaten track
posted by soe 11:58 pm
Three beautiful things from the past week:
1. The furniture movers look at our stairs and then at the cabinet. “It’s not going to fit. But we’ll give it a shot.” By virtue of its narrowness, they’re able to magically make it bend around the corner, to fit it inside. (It was especially beautiful because these were the same movers a few years back who had to return our couch to the shop when I neglected to measure to the bottom of the overhang arch, rather than the top.)
2. The kitchen floor is overdue to be washed. I am being slow and crabby about getting it done. Rudi sends me to the living room for a tea break and mops it for me.
3. Rain and wind are predicted, which bodes poorly for the cherry blossoms. We get up early, drive down to the Tidal Basin, and encounter traffic and road blocks and impossibility. Rudi routes us over to Hains Point where we romp practically alone under cherry trees across from the marina.
How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world?
state of the garden 2012
posted by soe 1:21 am
I reported a few weeks ago that Rudi and I made our first forays to the garden to assess how our plot was, to do some preliminary clean-up, and to plant some peas and some salad greens.
I stopped by late on Sunday afternoon to drop off the bags of dirt I bought. (No, it never occurred to me that people buy dirt either, but at my mother’s suggestion we did it a few years ago, and it really helped our little community garden plot’s productivity. We consider it money well spent.)
Thank goodness for wheelbarrows! Lugging four big bags of topsoil and soil conditioner by hand from the closest parking spot would have been an exercise in frustration, particularly as two of the bags had holes. (One had a hole when the guy got it down off a shelf for me, and the other got caught on the camping chair we keep in the trunk.) I can only imagine that I would have felt less positive about the expense of dirt if I had trailed half of it across the playing fields en route to the garden.
Nonetheless, bags of dirt safely ensconced in a corner of the plot, I still had some daylight left in which to admire what was growing already and to take some pictures to share with you all.
We have a healthy crop of violets. When we first got our plot, we dug up a whole bunch of violets that were in the middle of the plot, and planted them along the side. (You can kind of see them on the left side of the picture up above.) I remember Mia was horrified that we’d bothered to replant them, because she knew what we didn’t at the time: Violets are smart buggers. They have infiltrated our strawberry patch, and although I do my best to weed them out (they aren’t very attractive most of the year, after all), they know that I’m not going to dig up my strawberries to get at them.
But this means that in March, I have a very pretty wildflower garden.
I have two patches of chard that survived the winter/reseeded itself. This is the oldest patch, which I believe we planted three years ago.
My herbs did well. The sage plant in the middle of the top photo came with the garden and always looks a little peaky this time of year. The rosemary that’s taking over the forefront of the shot was a gift from our neighbors after our potted plant was stolen a couple years ago. It went from being a well-behaved little guy to the behemoth you see now. We lost our lemon thyme (and, expectedly, our lemon grass), but the English thyme is holding its own.
These are our chives from last year:
Yes, chives. Those little, grass-like fronds. Except apparently, when they don’t die off, they become gigantic, aloe-like creatures. You can see at least two of them are going to have flowers, which are edible, sometime soon. I’m not sure if we’ll need to plant some new ones to have the more delicate scapes again, or if these will create more for us. It might be a matter of waiting and seeing.
The first crop of pea vines are up and roughly 1.5″ tall. I planted two more varieties, including a warm-weather-friendly one, last week. I may try planting peas again in September to see if I can pull off a late crop. No one brings them to the farmers’ market, which makes me suspect it’s not likely a winning crop, but I like to try things for myself sometimes.
The first flower on my strawberry plants. If our crazy weather keeps up, it’s a possibility we’ll be able to eat our own strawberries on Rudi’s birthday in mid-May. (The markets usually have them by that point, but my crop is usually closer to Memorial Day.)
And, finally, I present to you my first harvest of 2012. On March 25. Just crazy.
March 27, 2012
conjunction junction, what’s my function?
posted by soe 1:09 am
In case you haven’t found yourself outside in the early night hours recently, you’ve been missing this:
The moon, of course, you probably recognize without introduction. (Although you might not know that it’s called Earthshine when you can see the whole disk of the moon showing behind the crescent. It’s caused by sunlight reflecting off earth, and conditions are only right for it to happen once a month.)
The bright light “next to” the moon is Venus. And below them both is Jupiter. They were in conjunction tonight, which means that, from our perspective, they seem to line up.
And their function, I’d say, is just to look cool.
March 26, 2012
posted by soe 3:20 am
Last week, due to unusual circumstances, I was up and outdoors at both sunset and sunrise within the same 24 hours. Really. I have proof:
Sunset over I Street on Thursday:
(I couldn’t decide which shot I liked best, so you got all three.)
Sunrise over R Street on Friday:
Crazy, but beautiful!
March 25, 2012
into the stacks: among others
posted by soe 1:44 am
Among Others, by Jo Walton
From the jacket: “Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. When her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled — and her twin sister dead.”
My take: It’s been three months since I read this book and still don’t know how to describe it. The basics are easy. The family who raised Morwenna are gone — dead, injured, or crazy — and she has just left a state-run orphanage when the system was able to track down the father who left when she was a baby. Her father is cowed by his three conservative older half-sisters, for whom he works and with whom he lives. These aunts have arranged for Morwenna to attend their alma mater. Morwenna goes — because her other options are far more unappealing — but making friends does not come naturally, as she and her recently deceased twin sister had no need for others. Gradually, though, Morwenna makes friends both in school and out of it, through a science fiction book club she joins. But are they really friends if Morwenna, who, by the way, also can see and communicate with the Fae, cast a magic spell to find them?
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t easy or basic. And my description makes it sound stupid and kind of boring, which is really not at all how I wanted it to sound, because it was a really enjoyable, meaningful book. But there’s just so much packed into it that I didn’t even mention (because then you’d never read it), but that kind of blows your mind apart as you try to sort out what’s real and what’s not and whose point of view to trust and whose not to. Is Morwenna giving you a straight-up account of the story? Or, like in Brunonia Barry’s The Lace Reader, does our narrator just think she knows what reality is without having the full picture because of a tragedy?
And that’s why I’ve been stumped by how to review this book for a quarter of a year. But I really did like it and wanted to share it with you, so let’s leave it at this:
Among Others is a love letter to remaining true to yourself, to the power of literature, and to finding … a family, a circle of friends, your karass, a cwm … your people. And if that sounds like something you can relate to, I recommend the book to you.
March 22, 2012
skipping, blues, and drift
posted by soe 4:14 pm
Spring has arrived. It’s 75 degrees outside and the sun has finally chased the fog away. Today, it’s easy to come up with beautiful things. Here are just three of them from the past week:
1. Rudi and I catch the last few rays of sunlight after work from Soho’s patio. A guy and a girl go into the coffeehouse excitedly chatting and then come out (empty-handed, I’m pretty sure), even more boisterous than they went in. The guy, wearing a full suit, gives an exuberant skip as they walk away.
2. I get off at the Brookland metro stop just as twilight is fully taking possession of the sky. The Basilica’s dome seems to glow against the gradient of dusky blues behind it.
3. A breeze ruffles the cherry blossoms as I walk under the tree on our block. A handful or two of petals drift slowly to the ground, like soft, pale pink snowflakes.
How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world this week?
into the stacks: birds of a feather
posted by soe 3:10 am
Birds of a Feather, by Jacqueline Winspear
From the jacket: “Birds of a Feather finds Maisie on another dangerously intriguing adventure in London between the wars. It is the spring of 1930, and Maisie has been hired to find a runaway heiress. When three of the heiress’s old friends are found dead, Maisie must race to find out who would want to kill these seemingly respectable young women before it’s too late. As Maisie investigates, she discovers that the answers lie in the unforgettable agony of the Great War.”
My take: Empathic detective Maisie Dobbs has a new case. She and assistant Billy Beale have been hired to find and bring home the missing daughter of a self-made grocery mogul. Charlotte Waite is 32 and lonely, and this is not the first time she’s run away. Her father believes she’s being petulant and headstrong, but Maisie suspects there may be more to it than that. Could the murder of a young housewife be related? As Maisie investigates Charlotte’s past habits and contacts, she must also deal with Billy’s mood swings, stemming from lingering and chronic pain relating to a leg injury sustained during the war. And out at Lady Rowan’s country estate, it’s becoming more obvious that although her father remains optimistic about the future of the horses he’s raising that he is not as young as he once was.
The second in an ongoing series, this novel focuses much more on Maisie’s case at hand than did the previous book, which split its time between the case and Maisie’s back story. In this instance, although we’re still getting little bits of it, and although we’re still dealing with a lot of repercussions from World War I, the story is a more hopeful one, in that we can see a path forwards for the characters. In fact, that’s probably what I thought was most important in this book. Maisie specifically asks a doctor about what separates those patients who recover from their injuries quickly from those who languish. His quick answer is that it’s acceptance of the injury/illness (rather than getting stuck on the circumstances that led to it). He elaborates:
One is accepting what has happened. Three is having a picture, an idea of what they will do when they are better, or improved. Then in the middle, number two is a path to follow. (p. 221)
And that’s probably what this novel is about. Finding the path forward to the future. A good lesson to take away from characters you can’t help but like.
March 21, 2012
once upon a time vi
posted by soe 1:32 am
Spring has sprung, which suggests it’s time for our annual dalliance with all things magical.
Carl has announced the Once Upon a Time VI reading challenge is beginning today, and I’m in it for the Quest the Third. I shall endeavor, before the next solstice, to read one book that fits into each of these four categories:
- Fairy tale
And then I’ll follow it up with a June viewing of William Shakespeare’s comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. If someone has a favorite video interpretation (in case I can’t track down a live performance), please let me know in the comments.
As for specific choices, the mythology category is easy. The Enchantress, the final book in Michael Scott’s Immortal Secrets of Nicholas Flamel series, is due out in May, and it’s one of those series I have pursued eagerly and unabashedly since the first one hit the shelves. A rare hardcover series for me.
I think for fairy tale I’ll go with Robin McKinley’s retelling of Sleeping Beauty, Spindle’s End. I loved McKinley’s Blue Sword series, and my friend Amani adores this book, too.
I really liked Savvy when I read it a few years back, and I’ve been eyeing the sequel, Scumble, since it came out. I felt like Savvy had a folk-tale quality to it, so I may slot Ingrid Law’s follow-up into the folklore category.
Fantasy is a pretty open category, and the one I’m most likely to be able to fill without even trying. Lev Grossman’s The Magicians has been on my To Be Read list for years now, and Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone is high among my recent additions.
If you have suggestions for great books that fit into any of the categories (or know of a retelling/reinterpretation of Paul Bunyon), please feel free to share them in the comments.
March 18, 2012
the wearin’ o’ the green
posted by soe 2:02 am
Sock Madness is upon us, which means my knitting productivity goes back up. Last night I finished the first round pattern, Dicey.
Each sock’s cable placement was determined by rolling dice. On the leg of the second sock, I rolled a lot of cables. It nearly prevented me from finishing within the time frame allotted us. And the stress of that possibility definitely made me tense, which, in turn, means that second leg is a bit more tight-fitting than the first. But I can get both of them on, which is what’s important.
The yarn, which is in a color called Spring Green, made socks perfect for wearing around Mitchell Park on a temperate St. Patrick’s Day.
I like them better on way better than I did while knitting them.
March 15, 2012
flowers, ingredients, and 1950s
posted by soe 9:14 pm
I have a sock that needs to be done in just under 26 hours (ah, Sock Madness!), so this will be quick. Three beautiful things from my past week:
1. The flowers have really popped this week. The tulips are finally up, the magnolia trees in front of the Phillips Gallery are in full bloom, and I walked back to the Brookland Metro station on Wednesday under a canopy of cherry blossoms.
2. I did not have a jar of cherries after all. Our lemon juice was nearly out. I’d turned all our apples into sauce. But I did have pecans and corn syrup, which meant we got to eat this for Pi(e) Day —>
3. Sunday night we headed up to the American City Diner for a meal. We ate soup and sandwiches and fries, drank milkshakes (cherry for me; a black and white for Rudi), and played 1950s tunes on the jukebox with the quarters we had at hand.
How about you? What was beautiful in your world this week?