sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

September 30, 2010

just the two of us, my rockers, and new to us
posted by soe 4:45 pm

I’ve spent the last week preparing for, experiencing, and winding down from a visit from Grey Kitten and his husband, David. It’s been an exhausting whirlwind of a week. Here are merely three beautiful things from a whole laundry list from which I could have chosen:

1. On Saturday morning, Grey Kitten and I get an hour to ourselves. While we’re good in a crowd (there’s no point in reincarnating a chicken without an audience, after all), it’s the moments we spend one-on-one that have always been my favorites. We just sit and talk, but it doesn’t really matter.

2. Rudi and Grey Kitten spend several hours playing Rock Band on Sunday night. They’re two of the most important men in my life and seeing them having fun together made me happy. It also makes me understand why both of them have fit into my life so well.

3. Intending to spend a couple hours at the National Gallery of Art on Sunday afternoon, the four of us get off the Metro at Judiciary Square. Intrigued by the National Building Museum directly in front of us, David suggests we head there instead. Rudi and I have never been inside and are charmed by the vastness of the atrium, the indoor fountain, the children sprawled about playing, and the permanent display on D.C.’s urban planning and history. (There’s a Lego exhibition that goes on for another year that I think he and I will have to go back to.) After the museum closes, we cross the street to the National Law Enforcement Memorial with its lion sculptures and spend a few minutes sitting by the fountain.

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world this week?

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September 24, 2010

having a ball, superb execution, and a scene
posted by soe 12:30 am

Fall cleaning is underway, but won’t be complete in time for the friends who come to town tomorrow. I hope they won’t mind…

But before they get here (or we’re buried under a pile of cds), let’s look back at three beautiful things from the week:

1. Andy and Jamie get married on Saturday. They seem to have a blast. I’ve now been to enough weddings to know how rare and wonderful it is to find newlyweds who actually appear to be enjoying their special day (rather than just being happy to be married or to know that the busyness that has tied them in knots for weeks is coming to an end). I wish them a lifetime of such moments.

2. Amani returns from her two-week honeymoon. Her pre-wedding request to Marcus had been that he handle all the details and surprise her, adding that she’d love to leave the country. She reveals via IM that he took her to England and France. Well done!

3. Leaving the stadium after a late afternoon baseball game, we see through the twilight a full, pale pink moon perched on the eastern horizon. By the time we pedal the length of the Mall and reach Constitution Gardens, the moon has crested the surrounding buildings behind us. We pause on a bench by the pond to admire the Harvest Moon and Jupiter posed perfectly over the Washington Monument.

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your life this week?

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September 23, 2010

booking through thursday: current
posted by soe 1:37 am

Today’s Booking through Thursday question is:

booking through thursdayWhat are you reading right now? What made you choose it? Are you enjoying it? Would you recommend it? (And, by all means, discuss everything, if you’re reading more than one thing!)

I’m at an odd moment right now, because although my brain would tell you that I currently have four books in progress, really, I’m only reading one of them actively. Usually I have a couple on the go at once, but after a summer of finishing several books a week (no, you wouldn’t know it from the pace of my review writing), I seemed to have slowed down.

The one book that’s being picked up on a regular basis is M.M. Kaye’s Sun in the Morning: My Early Years in India and England, which Karen gave me for Christmas two years ago. I’ve been dabbling in it all summer (hot days=India, in my mind, apparently), but hope to finish it in the next week. I am enjoying it and would definitely recommend it, even if I do sometimes find the author a bit crotchety.

A book I need to get back to soon is Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, which is at the end of its library renewals. This novel got great reviews, which led me to pick it up at the library when I saw it last month, but it’s slow in its first hundred pages and I’m not entirely feeling the love. I’ll probably give it another couple of chapters to see if it grabs me. (Since reading Michael Chabon, I’m now much more inclined to keep reading past my usual 50-page test phase if something’s gotten good reviews. Some people just aren’t really good at openings.)

My bathroom book was inspired by a spring swap package that included a canister of Zingerman’s tea. I recalled that I’d bought Ari Weinzweig’s Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating: How to Choose the Best Bread, Cheeses, Olive Oil, Pasta, Chocolate, and Much More for Rudi a couple years back and his chapter on tea inspired me to read the rest of the book. I’m about to embark eagerly upon the cheese chapter, but having a resident in my bathroom has slowed the time I spend in there reading.

And, finally, an advance reader copy of A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz, is what’s being read at work. He’s woven a number of retellings of the authentic (and, thus, dark) Grimm stories into a cohesive whole (making Hansel and Gretel stand in for any number of main characters), with entertaining asides by the narrator, à la Lemony Snicket. The published version isn’t due out until November, so it’s okay that I’m taking my time with it (due more to my recent lack of lunch breaks than anything else). I think the book is clever and a nice addition to the fairy tale genre, so look for a review as we get closer to its launch date.

That’s it for me. What are you reading? Anything you’d recommend?

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September 22, 2010

into the stacks: the particular sadness of lemon cake
posted by soe 1:06 am

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

From the jacket: “On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites in her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the slice. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother — her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother — tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.”

My take: We’re constantly asking people how they’re feeling. “How are you? How’ve you been?” We say it dozens of times a week. And while sometimes we want to know, usually the answer we’re seeking is the equally familiar, “Fine. And you?”

Imagine if every time you rotely inquired about someone’s emotional state, they told you in raw and intimate detail. Everyone, every time. You’d stop asking in short order.

Now imagine you didn’t even have to ask. People just randomly sprung this information on you each and every time you turned around. This is what happens to Rose one afternoon just before she turns nine. Suddenly, with every bite of food, she is privvy to the food handler’s most intimate emotions. Desperately sad? She can tell. Bored with your life? She knows. Furious with the world? Got it.

For an unknown reason, that is now Rose’s unfortunate special gift. She can tell from the smallest nibble of sandwich that her mother feels lost and that her best friend’s mother is full of overwhelming love. It’s just too much to handle and she starts forgoing homemade food in favor of vending machine fare and processed food — although she can eventually distinguish where the ingredients are grown and manufactured, usually there is little human contact to rub off on it — and raw fruit and vegetables.

She tries to explain to her family, but her parents write it off as a random oddity (maybe she has the flu?) and her odd, distant older brother has difficulty processing anything emotional, instead preferring the hard facts of science. The only person in her life who is sympathetic is her brother’s friend, George, who does some experimentation to validate her experiences.

Rose is going to have to figure out how to deal with this for the rest of her life — and how to deal with the secrets she learns about those closest to her.

This was a compelling read, although I won’t go so far as to say I liked it. Don’t get me wrong, the author was brilliant, the story was taut, and the novel deserves every single accolade it’s received. But its eventual ending took me to a dark place and that’s just not where I want my fiction to leave me. I recommend it, but caution those who, like Rose, ingest emotions to tread carefully.

Pages: 292

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September 21, 2010

hair balls can be awesome
posted by soe 12:10 am

Back in July, I signed up, as usual, for the Tour de France knit-along. My goal was to get my lace cardigan completed.

Did I finish?

Oh, no. I had two setbacks: First, I had a challenging sock test knit that arose at the last minute that took up most of my knitting time. Second, I discovered I’d made a mistake on the section I did get done. So I ripped most of it back and put the sweater into time out.

But I checked in every day on Ravelry to read others’ progress and to share thoughts on the race. I contributed two stage previews. I felt like even if I had failed in my own goals that it was a successful knit-along.

And then after the Tour ended, Avivah, a fellow knit-along member, pinged me on Ravelry. She dyes yarn and had generously decided that she was going to randomly choose a member of each “team” and send them some of her Hair Ball Yarn — and I was the winner from the Katusha team!

The package arrived last week — and what an amazing package it was!

A Prize Package

Want a closer look?

Pretty Yarns

The yarn represents the green mountain jersey, the gold winner’s jersey, blue for Katusha, and red for the polka dot sprinter jersey. The green skein is 100% superwash merino, while the other three are 60% superwash wool, 30% bamboo, and 10% nylon. It’s going to be hard to knit them up because I’ll have to stop squishing them long enough to wind them into balls. I foresee some socks or perhaps a shawlette.

The package also contained these great stitch markers. How timely the week we added a new member to the household! (I write as little claws sink into my ankle…)

Kitty Stitch Markers

But, really, aren’t the labels appropriate (and adorable), too?

HairBall Yarn

Thank you, Avivah! I can’t wait to start knitting!

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September 20, 2010

into the stacks: practice makes perfect
posted by soe 12:30 am

Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James

From the jacket: “When it comes to the laws of attraction, Payton Kendall and J.D. Jameson are lawyers who know the meaning of objection. A feminist to the bone, Payton has fought hard to succeed in a profession dominated by men. Born wealthy, privileged , and cocky, J.D. has fought hard to ignore her. Face-to-face, they’re perfectly civil. They have to be. For eight years they have kept a safe distance and tolerated each other as coworkers for one reason only: to make partner at the firm.”

My take: Ah! Boy and girl meet. Boy and girl passionately hate each other. Boy and girl have to spend lots of time together pretending to like each other. Boy and girl discover the passion was not hate after all. The end.

It’s a formula we’re all familiar with, but we always enjoy seeing how an author makes it his or her own.

Julie James does a good job with pacing and dialogue. And her main characters definitely have chemistry together. The story unfolds as the two of them discover that after eight long years as associates together, they will not both make partner as had been long assumed by everyone. Instead, only one would make partner, while the other will be expected to hand over his or her case notes and quietly and quickly disappear into the sunset. They’re neck and neck in their race, they’re told, and the final two weeks before the decision is made will determine the outcome. When asked to woo a potential client, the two nemeses will have to find a way to put their strong feelings aside to work together. And if they can do that, who knows what other crazy things will follow?

However, what I found eye-rollingly annoying was the story’s hook: Payton, a self-proclaimed feminist liberal vegetarian, finds herself spurning the nice guy public defender in favor of the guy who belongs to a sexist country club. I’m not saying that’s it’s not a valid choice — either in fiction or in real life — but just that it’s not one I find appealing — or sexy. And Payton is no Katharine Hepburn, able to make me love her characters even though all of her seemingly female empowering movies end with the traditional status quo untoppled.

I won this book and a gift card to Barnes and Noble in a contest at Stacy’s Place on Earth. It’s not my normal reading genre, but it was a convenient size for carrying in my bag on the metro and its story fit well with the read a few pages at a time type of reading my normal commute permits. Honestly, though, I liked it more than I expected to and found myself picking it up even at home. Worth a read if you have a few hours and want some book candy.

Pages: 291

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