sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

February 17, 2011

honestly, cat
posted by soe 1:54 am


Dear Corey,

I get why it is that we have to hide all the carbs in the microwave to prevent you from stealing croissants and cookies and bread.

And I get why it is that I have had to learn to put my knitting away, no matter how short a period it is that I’m going to be away from the couch.

But, for the love of all that is feline, can you please explain to me why it is that you insist on devouring our shoelaces?!? They are not good for you, and dealing with that fact is definitely not good for us.

Please keep this in mind in the future.


soe and Rudi

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February 16, 2011

into the stacks: crunch
posted by soe 2:09 am

Green Badge 2011
I’m behind again on my book reviews. Expect more coming this week. First, though, is this young adult book I read back in mid-January:

Crunch by Leslie Connor

From the jacket: “Dewey Marriss is stuck in the middle of a crunch. He never guessed that the gas pumps would run dry the same week he promised to manage the family’s bicycle-repair business. Suddenly everyone needs a bike. And nobody wants to wait. Meanwhile, the crunch has stranded Dewey’s parents far up north with an empty fuel tank and no way home. It’s up to Dewey and his older sister, Lil, to look after their younger siblings and run the bike shop all on their own.”

My take: I first learned of this book when I overheard a children’s room employee at my favorite local bookstore recommend it to a customer back before Christmas. When it was shortlisted for a Cybil, I quickly checked it out of the library.

I’m glad I did.

Written as an answer to what might have happened if the gasoline rationing of the ’70s had gone further, if gasoline had just suddenly become unavailable, this story is considers how a family of five kids might have dealt with the surprise extended absence of their parents. Mr. and Mrs. Marriss headed out for a week-long 20th anniversary road trip, leaving their four younger children in the capable hands of their 18-year-old daughter. Their eldest son, 14-year-old Dewey, is entrusted with the running of their backwoods bike repair shop. Gas has been rationed all summer, but it is a shock to the entire country when the pumps suddenly go dry, stranding motorists, including the Marriss parents, far from home and forcing local commuters to become more creative.

Suddenly, the highway that runs along the Connecticut coast is no longer filled with rush hour traffic and tractor trailers. Instead, its three lanes have been taken over by pedestrians and cyclists.

Although their parents check in nightly from their location near the Canadian border, the family dynamics start to fray. Five-year-old twins, Eva and Angus, have their bikes stolen while they’re at day camp. Lil’s art class in Elm City is cancelled. And the community’s new-found reliance on two wheels instead of four means that there is suddenly an uptick in business for Dewey and his brother Vince. And while at first this just means one or two more bikes each day, as the lack of gas seems to stretch out interminably in front of everyone, a corresponding and exponential growth in customers means the two teenagers are working non-stop, trying to keep a handle on the family business until their parents can eventually make it home.

This is a gentle book, with gentle characters. The kids have spats with each other, but it’s obvious they care about each other. Lil takes seriously her role as de facto head of household and tries to keep well-intentioned adults from infringing on her turf. Vince, who is perfectly happy with either a fishing rod or a socket wrench in his hand, hates talking to customers and gets grumpy whenever his brother has to leave the shop in his care. Dewey is old enough to feel that he shouldn’t have to listen to Lil without some input of his own. And the twins just want to know when Mom and Dad will be back. Some bad things happen, as they are wont to do during times of economic hardship, but they aren’t terrible and there are caring people around to help deal with the fallout. And through it all the Marriss parents are calling each day from hundreds of miles away, trying to provide a sense of normalcy during an abnormal time and the reassurance that if they all just stick together, they’ll make it through okay.

It’s been a long time since I wept with joy at the end of a book. I recommend this unabashedly for the 4th-6th graders in your life — and for you, too.

Pages: 330

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February 14, 2011

posted by soe 11:14 pm

I think the secret of contentment must be in managing expectations. You see it often in self-help programs — for instance, in those abuse cessation programs that instruct you to live one day at a time and in yoga classes that remind you not to let your mind wander to tasks other than your breathing and your position.

Today was my birthday. I like birthdays in general and mine in particular, and I a big fuss. But I also recognize that not every year can be filled with fireworks and am perfectly content to settle for a little fuss and some out-of-the-ordinary activities. So for the last few days, I had been thinking up plans of how to fill the time before people had time to hang out with me in the evening. I had the day off and was going to start out early (for me) and pack the day full of exciting things like buying tulips and seeing lion cubs at the zoo and attending high tea or maybe a yoga class.

However, I’m not really an early (even for me) kind of girl and, when left to my own devices, find it really hard to get out of the Burrow before three in the afternoon. (My boss always finds it comforting to hear that it’s not just workdays when I have difficulty getting out the door in a timely fashion.)

And today was no different. I didn’t move quickly. Della wasn’t being overly cooperative about eating. I had put laundry on before going to bed that still needed to be hung up. I couldn’t find the jam I wanted and then when I picked a substitute, I couldn’t get the lid open. I had to address some envelopes I wanted to send out in today’s mail. So, I didn’t leave home until nearly three and when I walked out the door, I couldn’t decide which direction to go in, knowing there definitely was no longer enough time to fit everything in.


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February 10, 2011

winter color, office decor, and old favorite
posted by soe 11:52 pm

Three beautiful things from my past week:

1. I buy three reasonably priced bouquets of flowers at Trader Joe’s — purpley blue irises, pink tulips, and little yellow roses — and squeeze them all into a vase to brighten up our kitchen.

2. The next day, I also buy a pot of hyacinths at the farmers’ market. Still furled up tight, the buds have only a hint of color. I can either buy one that will be pale or one that will be dark. I choose the darker hued and watch the plant grow each day. Tuesday morning, it’s obvious the plants will be fuchsia. Wednesday morning, the first flowers are out. That afternoon, I moved the plant from my windowsill to my desk where I could inhale its gorgeous scent. By this morning, the second bulb’s first floret had popped open.

3. The dvd of The Bishop’s Wife that I requested from another branch of the library back during the holidays finally shows up. I spend a pleasant Friday evening with my knitting and David Niven, Cary Grant, and Loretta Young.

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

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February 9, 2011

best reads of ’10
posted by soe 2:56 am

Six weeks into the new year, I thought I’d better release this into the wild before it becomes too late to do so. (That’s what happened last year — and the year before. I get behind on my reviews, think I should get caught up before I tell you what I like, and then spend too much time not getting things done.)

So this year I thought I’d do things a little differently. I’ll give you a paragraph about why I liked each book. If I reviewed the book, I’ll include a link to it. If I didn’t, well, then, I won’t.

I’d also like to note that the top five were really easy to narrow down. The rest were harder, which is why you’ll find a group of honorable mentions at the end. Because I’m not the Nobel Prize committee, after all, and I can do that if I want.

The best books I read in 2010:


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February 3, 2011

turrets, coming in from the cold, and citrus
posted by soe 11:38 pm

It’s Thursday, which means it’s time to look back at three beautiful things from the past week. Here are mine:

1. After being lit in Christmas colors back in December (for the first time, I’m pretty sure), the turrets of the building north of Franklin Square are seasonally appropriate once again this week, bedecked in white and red for Valentine’s Day.

2. Twice this last week, I’ve walked home from work wearing inadequate clothing for the temperatures. Feeling the warmth come seeping back into my limbs after I reach the Burrow is delightful.

3. A bag of clementines make the kitchen smell particularly nice.

So, how about you? What’s been beautiful in your world this week?

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