sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

February 13, 2012

laziest cat ever
posted by soe 3:49 am

Corey’s latest trick is to lie in front of the food dishes, dip his paw in, and pull out a piece of kibble, so he can it while reclining.

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February 9, 2012

efficient, pretty in pink, and team spirit
posted by soe 11:14 pm

Another Thursday come and gone. Let’s look back at three beautiful things from the past week:

1. I need to get home quickly, and the cabbie who picks me up gets me there quickly, despite potential traffic snarls.

2. Quince, when cooked, turn from an apple-flesh white to a rosy hue. (They also smell delicious when poached with a vanilla bean.)

3. My winter volleyball team (to differentiate them from the folks I played with this fall) cheerfully heads out for drinks after our game. The matches themselves were not particularly good, so it’s especially refreshing that we all end the evening on a positive note.

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

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February 8, 2012

into the stacks: we bought a zoo
posted by soe 2:39 am

We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Change Their Lives Forever by Benjamin Mee

From the jacket: “In the market for a house and the adventure of a lifetime, Benjamin Mee decided to uproot his family and move them to an unlikely new home: a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside, complete with over 200 exotic animals. Mee, who specializes in animal behavior, had a dream to refurbish the zoo and run it as a family business. Naturally, friends and colleagues thought he was crazy.”

My take: It sounds like an ideal story, doesn’t it? An English guy, family in tow, buys a rundown private zoo with the intent of restoring it to its former glory and turning it into a reseeding ground for endangered animals. Add in family drama, personnel issues, escaped deadly creatures, a health crisis, and two small children and it’s what movie dreams are made of. Which may be why you recognize the title of the memoir I read last month — it was a movie that came out at the end of last year.

The book, which the film’s release brought back to my mind, has a lot of potential. There’s a lot of good material in it — from Ben’s start in the French countryside, where he and his wife Katherine are raising their two young kids — all the way through the Mee family buying a dilapidated zoo from an eccentric old British man in Dartmoor and renovating it. You learn a lot about a lot of different things — from cutting edge cancer research to what an ordeal it is to secure loans and financing to bring such a business back from ruin. You get glimpses of the journalist Mee must have been before he gave up freelancing for a little piece of Dartmoor and several tigers.

But the book is weighed down by inadequate editing. Characters are sometimes reintroduced within pages, while others reappear after hundreds of pages away with nary a reminder about their purpose in the story. There’s a lack of focus, as one might expect in a sprawling family drama that involves a tapir and peacocks, but it’s nothing I feel like a good red pen from a bit of distance might not have been able to fix.

So, I guess I’d say if you think the subject matter interests you, it’s worth seeking the book out. But I didn’t connect with it in the way I expected to.

Pages: 261

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February 7, 2012

into the stacks: how to save a life
posted by soe 2:36 am

How To Save a Life by Sara Zarr

From the jacket: “Jill MacSweeney just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends — everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one. Mandy Kalinowsky understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted — to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?”

My take: Mandy is pregnant and looking to give her child up for adoption. Jill’s recently widowed mom, Robin, is looking to adopt a baby, and an open-adoption website helps them find each other. Robin invites Mandy to move in with them while they wait for the baby’s arrival — two decisions that cause Jill, still reeling from her dad’s death, to flip out.

It’s like her mother has become someone Jill doesn’t even recognize. Jill has enough to worry about without a pregnant stranger living in her house and without her mother making what seems like a sudden and insane life decision: Jill’s about to graduate from high school, but while she knows she doesn’t want to head to college right away, she’s not sure what she does want to do.

She suspects, though, that at least the short term answer may involve a boy — either her reliable on-again, off-again boyfriend Dylan or Ravi, the sympathetic anti-fraud manager who works in the corporate office of her after-school bookstore job and who, it turns out, attended high school with her briefly.

Meanwhile, Mandy has moved into a house that’s way nicer than the ones she grew up in. Robin is far kinder to her than her own mother had been, and she can see that the baby she’s bearing will have the childhood she never did. Sure, she might have glossed over a few things to make the story work out better, but she’s sure it will be for the best. Now if she could only figure out what her own happy ending might look like.

Told in alternating chapters by two teenage girls, this novel is about figuring out what you want out of your own life and what makes a family. You’ll end up caring about all of the characters — and hoping that each of them can find their path forward.

Personally, I found it such a compelling read that I had to stay up late to finish it just to find out.

Pages: 341

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February 6, 2012

early february weekending
posted by soe 2:29 am

Amanda shares these free-form posts each Sunday night with the shape of her weekends. I thought this week I might do the same. (Yes, I accept the accusation that it’s a cop-out on composition and narrative.)

loud, upbeat music turns a friday night sulk into a dance party.
saturday is a day in the kitchen:
i find clothilde’s quince recipe
and make applesauce
and roast a pumpkin.
dishes. so. many. dishes.
clean sheets for the bed.
clean towels for the bathroom.
never out of pj’s.
a nice long chat with rudi’s mom.
a supernatural british tv show may be too scary for me.
finish knitting a sock.
start a new book.
today starts with the farmers’ market:
more quince for cheap,
the first rockfish of the season,
beets to go with the cabbage i bought last week.
then out to hyattsville with rudi, john, and sarah:
lunch at franklin’s
followed by a poke around a tangled skein.
secret service at politics and prose. didn’t see the famous politico’s family member.
rudi notices their vanilla syrup for my steamer is hand-made; no wonder it’s so potent.
the grocery store is less crowded than feared, and the cats appreciate being fed.
home in time for an accidental nap on the sofa, then the super bowl.
cast on a hat for a swap gift — pretty purples and quite squishy.
the pats didn’t win, but you couldn’t begrudge the giants their first and fourth quarters.
betty white, darth vader, and clint eastwood had the best commercials. matthew broderick and snoopy did well too.
madonna was okay, but needed shorter heels.
cocoa before bed.

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February 2, 2012

rain-phobic city, L2 driver , and lunchtime
posted by soe 10:54 pm

Three beautiful things from the week that marked our ninth anniversary of moving to D.C.:

1. Several events have conspired to make it mandatory that I go to the DMV inspection station the final Friday morning of the month — one of the days they instruct you to avoid at all costs. I wake to rain, but without a choice in the matter, head across town, feeling more than a little grim about the likely wait. But instead of a crowd, I find myself able to drive right up to the building, and my car has its pass sticker in less than five minutes.

2. The bus driver greets all the passengers getting on the bus and cheerfully chats with each of the senior citizens, asking about details of their lives. He’s just the sort of bus driver that Sesame Street and Richard Scarry brought me up to expect.

3. Three sunny days in a row, my coworker Sarah and I leave our desks and go outside. Twice we sit and eat lunch and talk about things that have nothing to do with work. It’s been a long time.

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

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