June 25, 2013

Moist Pumpkin Cake

Last fall I slaughtered a pumpkin, and I've been slowly working through the 10+ cups of flesh it gave me. Today I whipped up a pumpkin cake out of things I found in my fridge/pantry -- I made the recipe up out of whole cloth, but the results were entirely satisfactory.


Moist Pumpkin Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups stewed pumpkin (canned should work well too)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
sugar to sprinkle on top. 

Mix pumpkin, sour cream, and butter together in a bowl. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into 9x9 pan and sprinkle light coating of sugar on top (this is to crust up the top a little while it bakes). Bake about 45 minutes at 350F, until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Serve warm! This would probably be amazing with vanilla ice cream on top. 

The cake is dense and super moist, and just sweet enough. I'll be making this one again.



June 15, 2013

I feel a lot of pressure to come up with interesting titles for these book posts

Somewhat overdue, here's May's reading account. It was a frustrating month for me -- I wanted to try reading in French more often, so I read Langelot et le sous-marin jaune (a young adult spy novel), but had forgotten that I read painfully slowly in my second language. It just went on and on. And then I accidentally read what turned out to be the last in a series (Against the Odds)... probably my fault that I didn't enjoy that one. And then A Night to Remember was too big to cart around, which slowed it down -- all in all I felt throughout May that I was just slogging through things and not really finishing anything.

And then at the end of the month I realised that I still read seventeen books -- so really, what do I know?

Books Read: May 2013

01. Stranger Shores (J. M. Coetzee)
02. Bike Snob Abroad (Eben Weiss)
03. Langelot et le sous-marin jaune (Vladimir Volkoff alias Lieutenant X)
04. Inside Job (Connie Willis)
05. Bellweather (Connie Willis)
06. The Lions of Al-Rassan (Guy Gavriel Kay)
07. Letters to Karen (Charlie W. Shedd)
08. Room (Emma Donoghue)
09. A Night to Remember (Walter Lord)
10. Harry Potter and the Natural 20 (Sir Poley)
11. A Light in the Window (Jan Karon)
12. A Civil Campaign (Lois McMaster Bujold)
13. Arrow of God (Chinua Achebe)
14. Against the Odds (Elizabeth Moon)
15. Mirror Dance (Lois McMaster Bujold)
16. Clouds of Witness (Dorothy L. Sayers)
17. Black White and Jewish (Rebecca Walker)


Cumulative Stats for 2013

Total books read: 92

Average number of books read per month: 18.4

Fiction: 73
Non-fiction: 19

Books by male authors: 49
Books by female authors: 42
Books with joint male/female authorship: 1

Distinct male authors: 27
Distinct female authors: 22

Books by living authors: 82
Books by dead authors: 10

Books read for the first time: 41
Books read at least once before: 51

I'm looking forward to cracking 100 in June!

May 17, 2013

When the nanny leaves

Elementary logic tells me that because Stan and I are moving to another country, we are going to have to leave our current jobs. This is going to be hard for me. Actually it already is, even though I have two weeks left to work.

I've been taking care of Goober & Goobrette since they were four months old. They're turning three next month; this has been the longest I've stayed with one family. We actually haven't started transitioning the kids much -- that starts next week -- because right now their sense of time comes down to "yesterday," "now," and "later." We figure two weeks' worth of "soon" and "in a bit" and "in a few days" should do the trick. But it's definitely something that's been on my mind.

~~~

My first nanny gig was just a temporary arrangement, covering the first half of a summer during my university years. The family in question already had a nanny who had been with them since the birth of their first child, nearly five years at that point. She had been live-in for most of that time, but now had her own place and was being "transitioned out" -- to use the mother's words. Flora* was still working a few days a week, but I was also working a few days a week. After about a month of this the family was going to France for a vacation, and when they came back, abracadabra: no more Flora and no more me.

The thing that made this arrangement exquisitely uncomfortable was that the parents had not bothered to tell Flora that she was been "transitioned out". The writing was on the wall, of course, and she knew as well as I did what the deal was -- in fact, we talked about it more than once. But it was an exceedingly poor way to handle that transition, for Flora and for the children. The parents didn't seem to want to risk Flora accepting another job before they had gotten all of their desired use out of her; I believe the plan was to give her notice once they were actually in France. Too, they hadn't told the children anything about Flora leaving, or about why I was there. The youngest had told me many times and in no uncertain terms that "I want Flooooora" -- and this is while we were both in the house, often at the same time. I can only imagine what it would have been like once she'd disappeared entirely.

I think I have more experience with transitions that were handled poorly than the reverse.

~~~

The tricky thing with this job is that you always know that it's going to end, but you attach anyway. You have to attach to the children if you're going to be caring for them effectively. You just do. But there's a constant tension there, because the job will end: you'll move or have a child of your own, or they'll move or decide they'd rather use a daycare, or at the very least, eventually the children will grow up a bit and be in school full-time. That's the reality of the job. It just is.

A quick google seach on "how to prepare children for the nanny leaving," however, tells me that while nannies always know this, parents sometimes don't. The articles I find have three dominant tones. First, there are the preventative articles: How to Keep Your Nanny Forever in Ten Easy Steps. Then there are a few fairly balanced pieces acknowledging that yes, these transitions are hard for everyone involved.

And then there are my favourites: the articles that sound something like this:

"Waaaaah! My nanny is leaving and my life will be sooooooo hard now! Why is she soooooooo selfish? Why me? What have I done to deserve this? I can't believe she wants to [take a better job / move / go back to school / have a baby / insert other extraordinary self-centred reason here] -- the cow!!"

Amazingly, this attitude can also be found off the internet. My mother told her of a family she knows of whose nanny just left. There are two children, ages eight and ten. The parents have had to hire people to do the laundry and cut the grass and such, because they just! can't! keep up! without the nanny. (My question: why aren't your capable older children being taught how to do the laundry? My brother and I started washing the dishes every night when we were younger than that.)

~~~

In two weeks, my job ends. A few days after that, Goober and Goobrette and their parents are going on an extended vacation to the prairies and then (funnily enough) France. We're moving away in the month after they get back, and they'll actually be moving not long after that. So it will work out conveniently enough for everyone involved. But this time, we're going to do transition right. This time, there will be no abracadabra-the-nanny-is-gone.

This time, there will be a chance to say goodbye.

May 8, 2013

Proof of ties

It turns out that when you go off to study in America, America is pretty interested in making sure that you leave afterwards. So one of the things we'll have to provide when we cross the border, along with proof of identity and proof that we have enough money to live while we're there is "proof of ties to Canada."

We're not sure what that means. Sure, we plan to move back to Canada in a couple of years. And of course we have ties here -- we were both born and raised in Ontario and most of our families and basically all of our friends live in Canada. But I'm not sure how one itemizes those historic and emotional ties for border patrol.

Stan's planning to phone the American Embassy here in town to find out what they're looking for. In the meantime, I have been brainstorming some ideas of my own:

- Matching maple leaf tattoos in prominent body locations (I'm thinking: forehead)

- A choreographed recitation of patriotic poems and songs

- Investment in some anti-American bumper stickers

- Writing a series of essays on the advantages of socialized medicine (and then giving them to the border guards to read as I'm sure they'll be very interested)

- Providing a meandering anecdote about the time my cousin B and I were fighting over whose country was better, which culminated in her punching me repeatedly through her pillow while I chanted "Vietnam! Vietnam!"

- Proving my inability to remember the words to the American national anthem ("...Whose bright stripes and bright stars, na na na naa na naaaaa, Were so naaaaa na na naaaa na na na na na waving, And the rockets' red glaaaaaaaaare....")

- Explaining that Canada will inevitably draw me back since it's the only place I can get a decent poutine

Yup. That'll work.

May 6, 2013

Escapee

This weekend Goober & Goobrette's parents took off for a few days, leaving Stan and I in charge of two almost-three-year-olds and the cat. They got home sometime in the small hours this morning; when I woke up at five to six I checked to see that their car was indeed in the driveway, and then gathered my things and snuck out of the house like an escaping convict.

Not that it went poorly. It was fun. We took the kids to church yesterday, where they were extremely well behaved and had fun ("My play toys!") -- although I note that receiving a blessing at communion did not go down so well: "My scared of the man," Goobrette confessed on the way home. And as someone at church told us, "I don't know how you got your instant family there, but I like it."

Heck, I like it too. Turns out I especially like having another adult with me the whole time -- yesterday I was able to just go upstairs and take a nap without worrying that it was five pm, or that the kids were up and about, or that technically they're paying me to be awake during the day. Stan was awake, so all was well. And then I napped, and there was much rejoicing.

All the same, I was pretty eager to come home this morning. I live just fifteen minutes away on foot,
and so by twenty after six I was in my own bed, which, for the record, is way more comfortable than what they've got going on over there. I got to see Stan before he left for work, and eat my own food for breakfast.

I do have to get back there for eleven -- but I'm glad to be here, now.


May 3, 2013

America, America, my country tis almost of thee

Hooking up with Jen for Seven Quick Takes.

1. It's summer here! I know that the calendar says that it should probably be spring, but we had spring already: it was about a week ago and it was ten minutes long. Now the temperature is hanging out in the solid mid-twenties, and we're all walking around with sunburns and stunned expressions.

The fun part, of course, is that it would not be unheard of if we got another snowstorm before the month is out.

2. Having grown up in The City, I never particularly needed to drive, and so I didn't bother to learn. But last year I decided that I was going to get my licence (only ten years overdue) and so I went through drivers' ed and then took lessons with an instuctor. And he was -- how can I say this? -- a gigantic jerkosaurus. So a month or two after my lessons ended I wrote a letter to the driving school detailing my experience. (This is something that I've recently discovered: when something goes wrong, it's ok to complain. Crazy, no?)

The upshot is that they were very apologetic and are sending me out with their senior instructor this morning to make sure I'm ship-shape for my road test at the end of the month. All I hope is that we can practice parallel parking, because I haven't done that in yonks.

3. Part of the reason I decided to learn to drive is because we're moving! At the end of July we'll be leaving our city... and our province... and our country (!) as Stan is going to be pursuing graduate studies in the States. It's both exciting and daunting to think about living as ex-pats for the next three or so years. And to add to our sense of displacement, we're moving from a city of a million (note: this is the smallest place I've ever lived) to a town of 7,000. That's the size of five of my highschools.

Stan says that I'll love small-town living, and he's probably right, but right now -- in the abstract -- it just doesn't make sense to me. The town: so tiny! What do they all do there?

4. One of the used bookstores near us is having an all-summer-long five-books-for-a-dollar sale. This is basically like handing me a bag of cocaine. But it's helpful for the next stage of my reading resolution: I want to read one French book a month. I've been easily exceeding my goal of at least three nonfiction titles, and so I think it's time to add French to the mix.

This resolution also comes in light of the upcoming move, since I won't be using my French daily in Tinytown USA as I do here.

5. You know that Yiddish saying about God laughing when we make plans? Years ago I told God (and anyone else who would listen) that I would never live in my current city. And even more than that, I told God that I would never, ever, ever ever ever, not even a little, ever live in the United States.

Ah ha, ha, ha ha ha.

6. This post has basically been all about the move so far, and that makes sense I guess, since it's a pretty big deal. We're getting excited, and we've finished our paperwork and lined up somewhere to live, but there's still one thing that's giving me some major trepidation: odds are, I won't be able to get a work permit. Getting into the States is no problem because I'm going down as the dependent spouse on Stan's student status. That means that he can work, with some limitations, but I can't at all. And looking at the regulations and conditions and incantations necessary to obtaining a work permit, I'm pretty daunted -- especially because I'm not in any sort of specialty occupation.

I'd be happy to have your prayers that we'd find a way for me to get a permit, because (a) it'd be awfully useful for me to be able to bring in some income since Stan will be working and studying both, and (b) if I have to sit around the house for three years I might die.

7. On that note of (slight) hyperbole, I shall close. It's almost time to meet my instructor, so I've got some parallel parking videos to review!

May 1, 2013

April reading brings May posting

Books books books! I was a bit worried that my April reading was going to suffer due to my crippling Plants vs. Zombies addiction, but I somehow pulled off 21 -- the same as last month, in one less day. Mind you, I did have to stay up past my bedtime in order to finish Passage before the deadline last night....

Books Read: April 2013

01. The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (Stephen King)
02. No Cheating, No Dying (Elizabeth Weil)
03. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)
04. The Dark Towers VI: Song of Susannah (Stephen King)
05. The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower (Stephen King)
06. A Complicated Kindness (Miriam Toews)
07. Carry On, Warrior (Glennon Doyle Melton)
08. Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me? (And Other Concerns) (Mindy Kaling)
09. Mean Moms Rule (Denise Schipani)
10. WLT (Garrison Keillor)
11. Sailing to Sarantium (Guy Gavriel Kay)
12. Lord of Emperors (Guy Gavriel Kay)
13. Tears of the Giraffe (Alexander McCall Smith)
14. The Full Cupboard of Life (Alexander McCall Smith)
15. The Rite (Matt Baglio)
16. The Brides of Rollrock Island (Margo Lanagan)
17. Red Spikes (Margo Lanagan)
18. Escaping the Endless Adolescence (Joseph Allen & Claudia W. Allen)
19. At Home in Mitford (Jan Karon)
20. The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday (Alexander McCall Smith)
21. Passage (Connie Willis)

Cumulative Stats for 2013

Total books read: 75

Average number of books read per month: 18.75

Fiction: 61
Non-fiction: 14

Books by male authors: 41
Books by female authors: 33
Books with joint male/female authorship: 1

Distinct male authors: 21
Distinct female authors: 20

Books by living authors: 69
Books by dead authors: 6

Books read for the first time: 33
Books read at least once before: 42

About six of these are chunksters, which makes me wonder how many books I might get through in a month if I restricted it to books under, say, 400 pages. It might be worth an experiment!

April 25, 2013

In which I reveal new depths of my sports-following inadequacy

Me: I forget, did Notre Dame win their tournament thingy?

Stan: ....

Stan: You really want to ask me that?

Me: So... no?

April 1, 2013

Them books, them books, them March books

It's April! That means it's time for a March-books roundup. Also, it's the day after Easter (yay!), which means that I just ate a leftover piece of banana cream pie for breakfast. YES.

Books Read: March 2013

01. Finder (Emma Bull)
02. Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)
03. Territory (Emma Bull)
04. The Winter of Our Discontent (John Steinbeck)
05. The Lost Art of Gratitude (Alexander McCall Smith)
06. Her Fearful Symmetry (Audrey Niffenegger)
07. The Speed of Dark (Elizabeth Moon)
08. The Secret Life of Pronouns (James W. Pennebaker)
09. Love Over Scotland (Alexander McCall Smith)
10. The Importance of Being Seven (Alexander McCall Smith)
11. The Price of Stones (Twesigye Jackson Kaguri)
12. The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger (Stephen King)
13. The Good, the Bad, and the Multiplex (Mark Kermode)
14. The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three (Stephen King)
15. The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands (Stephen King)
16. It's Only a Movie (Mark Kermode)
17. The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass (Stephen King)
18. For Women Only (Shaunti Feldman)
19. The Adventure of English (Melwyn Bragg)
20. The Help (Kathryn Stockett)
21. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (Rebecca Wells)


Cumulative Stats for 2013 

Total books read: 54

Average number of books read per month: 18

Fiction: 46
Non-Fiction: 8

Books by male authors: 30
Books by female authors: 24

Distinct male authors: 18
Distinct female authors: 12

Books by living authors: 48
Books by dead authors: 6

Books read for the first time: 21
Books read at least once before: 33


March 22, 2013

Five-Minute Friday: Remember

I've actually been thinking a fair amount about remembering lately.

I'm a documenter; I keep journals and letters and obsessively hold on to scraps of paper -- birthday cards, concert programmes, the occasional grocery list -- that mean something to be. Usually their meaning is actually more of a function. I collect and curate bits and pieces that unlock memories for me.

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the summer camp I attended as a child (and for many years as staff, as well). I can't make it to the celebratory luncheon, but I've enjoyed seeing old pictures go up on facebook -- many of them from many years before I was born. Former campers and staff members have been commenting with what they remember, trying to identify years and camps and faces in these pictures of what camp looked like in years gone by.

For about the first six or seven years I went to camp -- starting the summer I was nine -- I kept a special journal that was just for writing down things about camp: what cabin I was in, who my counsellor was, the craft we did, the memory verses we (supposedly) memorized, who else was in my cabin with me, and then the special memories of what I said and did and saw. Looking back on those entries I remember those things, and usually the context around them. I'm glad that I wrote those things down.

What I really remember when I think about camp as a child, though, is not so much what I did, but the feeling of being there. It was a breathless, golden feeling -- where a week seemed about a month long and anything could happen. Camp was so far removed from my very urban regular life that it seemed almost to be contained in (or perhaps to contain) its own universe. Being at camp had its own special magic.

And so more than the activities, the songs, or the things I learned, that breathless, magic, golden out-of-timeness is what I remember. I wouldn't trade those memories for anything.



Link up with Lisa-Jo and other five-minute Friday-ers here

March 19, 2013

I bring greetings from the land of the weird

Every day that I work with the toddlers I become more convinced that they come from another planet -- perhaps Neptune. Here are some recent snapshots of my days:

~~~

Goober and Goobrette are pushing three now, which means that they're very interactive and will play imaginative games with each other. Yesterday's jeu-de-choix consisted of them yelling "Funny game! Funny game! Funny game!" at each other, over... and over... and over.

As far as I can tell, that was the entire game.

~~~

In the "Hygiene? What's that?" department, a short series of events this afternoon:

1. Goober sits down on the potty for a pee. He's not paying attention so it runs off to the side and down his leg.

2. I point out that there's pipi on the floor. "Pipi on the floor," I advise, "don't put your foot in it!" Goober puts his foot in it.

3. I dive behind him for a spare cloth diaper hanging around for mop-up needs. Goober wipes his foot off on his hand. 

4. "Don't wipe the pipi on your hand!" I cry. Goober promptly wipes his hand off... on his face.

~~~

Incidental to the above, some of you may be under the impression that it's only little boys that you have to teach to aim. You'd be surprised.

Twice now, Goobrette has urgently called me into the bathroom, where I've found her on the big potty with a lap full of pee.

"Pipi up!" she'd wail, "Pipi up!"

I still have no idea how that happens.

~~~

The three of us were sitting at the table the other day, eating lunch and minding our own business, when suddenly Goobrette's arms started flailing and she started yelling. 

"AAAARRRWOOOAAAAAA!! Me Goobrette, very loud!"

A+ for observational skills.

March 17, 2013

In tonight's episode, our heroine remembers why people don't generally trim their own bangs.

Not that they look bad, per se.

But they do look... odd.

(That's my current mantra: Not bad, just odd. Not bad, just odd. Odd is ok, right? Maybe I can cultivate some complementary eccentricities until they grow in. Not bad, just odd. Not bad, just odd. Not bad, just odd.)


Aw, maaannnnnnnn.


It seemed like such a good idea at the time.




March 15, 2013

Five-Minute Friday: Rest

The thing about rest, it seems to me, is that either we don't have enough and we start going crazy, or we have too much and we start going crazy. It's a challenge to find the balance point.

Two summers ago, I was hit with some sort of mystery illness ("We think it's probably a virus", which is doctor-speak for "yeah, we have no idea what's going on") that laid me out for several weeks. I couldn't eat much and I had no energy, and so work was out of the question and so was almost everything else. I just lay on the couch, resting, or trying to. I don't really remember what-all I did; I dozed, I read, I probably watched a little too much tv. Sometimes I just sat there.

That was rest enforced by outside circumstances, and it drove me nuts. I was bored. I was sedentary, but I wasn't really resting. My body was recuperating, but not much was going on with my soul.

I can contrast this with other parts of my life, where it felt like I was getting no rest at all. Work, church, school, other commitments... I was busy (and part of me likes to be busy), and I was exhausted. I wasn't getting any real rest, and though my body was busy enough to get good sleep through sheer tiredness... again, my body was resting, but there wasn't much going on with my soul.

Soul-rest is the real rest, I think. I've been learning something about it this Lent. I gave up tv (and movies, and youtube...) and so have been forced to do things with my off-hours that are actually restful. I've been practising piano, and colouring, and playing scrabble with Stan in the evenings. I've been cooking and sewing and writing. I've been reading more than usual. And in absence of noise, I've been sitting in the quiet.

I'm learning how to rest.

Link up with Lisa-Jo and others for Five-Minute Friday here

March 14, 2013

Ice, food, and wrath

1. Our apartment is on an embankment that overlooks one of the larger rivers in town. Yesterday the annual ice-breakage started: not naturally, but by means of a very strange-looking amphibious vehicle that is apparently here from New Brunswick (did it drive?). It's got some big inner-tube hips on either side, and a huge claw up front, and it's been working on the river for, oh, it must be pushing 36 hours now.

Yes. It worked all night. I give them kudos for industriousness, but boy howdy, we could have done without the noise.

2. Over the past day or two I re-read Kathleen Flinn's excellent The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. Flinn is a Cordon Bleu graduate who went back home to the states and pulled a What Not to Wear on a bunch of people's kitchens, teaching them to cook along the way. Each chapter has a culinary theme (meat, fish, bread, soup, etc.) and is made up of  very readable vignettes, with tips and recipes thrown in to boot.

I first read this shortly after we were married, and it was super inspiring for a while... but it was a library book, and so although I really appreciated her de-mystification of cooking, I eventually fell off the wagon again. But now I've bought a copy of my own, which I can highlight and underline and make notes in. The funny thing is that I feel more confident in the kitchen just having read it.

Tonight I'm cooking asian-style (read: has ginger, garlic, and soy sauce) braised beef with veg. We'll have to see how it turns out, but in the mean time, here's what I did:

Ingredients:

a bunch of stewing beef, cut small
soy sauce
salt & pepper
an inch of fresh ginger
half an onion
three cloves of garlic
one zucchini
two peppers (one yellow, one red)
olive oil
white wine
water

First I cut up the meat, then set it to marinate in the fridge while I was at work with the soy sauce, salt, pepper, and ginger (I cut the ginger into many many thin strips). I also chopped all of the vegetables down small.

Next, I heated some oil in a cast-iron skillet. The meat came out of the marinade, with the ginger, and went into the pan, just until it was browned. I removed the meat to a handy plate, refreshed the oil, and dumped in my veggies. I let those cook for a few minutes (basically until the onion started to go translucent) and then plopped the meat back in on top of it all. I poured a couple of glugs of wine over the lot -- red probably would be better with beef, but white is what we had -- and then added some water for good measure.

After that I covered the skillet with a large metal mixing bowl, since I don't have a skillet lid, and shoved the whole thing in the oven at 350. I'm guessing it'll be done after 1-1.5 hours, and we'll see if it's successful! My nose guesses "yes".

3. Apparently Google Reader is shutting down come July. Boo! Hiss! Gnash! Because I am vengeful, I've already switched to feedly (so far, so good). I just don't understand why they'd shut down reader (which is popular and works admirably well) over something like google+ (which... does anyone use that? does anyone even know anyone who uses that? .... Bueller?).

March 9, 2013

Veronique, I think I'd like us to be friends

From here:

I listened to a few radio interviews today in between hosting a weekly meeting for my local babywearing group. Yes, women who choose to be attached to their babies as much as possible. From what I heard, Women’s Day is all about abortion and contraception and how hard it is to get either. Isn’t there more to being a woman than to be sexually available and artificially infertile? Because my experience as a woman who raised and gave birth to 8 children, running a home and occasionally a slew of volunteer activities is worth nothing in today’s economy. My degree is outdated, I am unemployable to most but the friend who gave me my part-time job, and I can’t even get a biology credit to return to University without going back to high school. As if I hadn’t learned more putting my kids through school than is required to enter the midwifery degree I so long to get. But hey, what is really keeping women down is not having enough pills. No: What is keeping women down is the belief that women have to be barren like men to succeed and that childbearing and child-rearing are impediments to equality. So that’s your International Women’s Day reflection from a women who is not using artificial birth control out of principle. And while I call myself a feminist for my radical view on the beautiful integrity of the feminine body, ovaries and all, I know that most feminists would be ashamed to count me as their own. Cheers!

February 28, 2013

Celebrating (my) literacy in our shortest month

Following hard on the heels of yesterday's post, here's the scoop on my February reads:

Books Read: February 2013

01. American Gods (Neil Gaiman)
02. The Virgin in the Garden (A. S. Byatt)
03. Stuff White People Like (Christian Lander)
04. Still Life (A. S. Byatt)
05. The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
06. Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins)
07. Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins)
08. Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen)
09. Babel Tower (A. S. Byatt)
10. Mort (Terry Pratchett)
11. Pontoon (Garrison Keillor)
12. Look Me In the Eye (John Elder Robison)
13. In This Mountain (Jan Karon)
14. This Side of Paradise (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
15. When We Were Romans (Matthew Kneale)
16. Fevre Dream (George R. R. Martin)
17. Diamond Grill (Fred Wah)


Cumulative Stats for 2013 

Total books read: 33

Average number of books read per month: 16.5

Fiction: 31
Non-Fiction: 2

Books by male authors: 16
Books by female authors: 17

Books by living authors: 29
Books by dead authors: 4

Books read for the first time: 10
Books read at least once before: 23

February 27, 2013

Maybe all this reading explains why I never update my blog?

I meant to post this, oh, about a month ago, but it never quite made it to the top of my to-do list.

I like books, and I read a lot of them. And I like data, so I do things like catalogue them (our library is 661 volumes and counting). I used to review books; I don't know if I'll ever get back into that, but I'm still compelled to keep track of what I'm reading... and then assemble statistics.

Books! Data! Yay!

Books Read: January 2013

01. Night Watch (Terry Pratchett)
02. Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (Lois McMaster Bujold)
03. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Alan Bradley)
04. The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag (Alan Bradley)
05. A Red Herring Without Mustard (Alan Bradley)
06. I am Half-Sick of Shadows (Alan Bradley)
07. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J. K. Rowling)
08. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J. K. Rowling)
09. Have His Carcasse (Dorothy L. Sayers)
10. The Hallowed Hunt (Lois McMaster Bujold)
11. Wintersmith (Terry Pratchett)
12. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
13. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J. K. Rowling)
14. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J. K. Rowling)
15. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J. K. Rowling)
16. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J. K. Rowling)

Cumulative Stats for 2013

Total books read: 16

Fiction: 16
Non-Fiction: 0

Books by male authors: 7
Books by female authors: 9

Books by living authors: 14
Books by dead authors: 2

Books read for the first time: 5
Books read at least once before: 11

February 26, 2013

Snippets

This is the way we text:

Christine (2:15 pm): Let's name a child Gondibert.

Christine (2:21 pm): A university friend of mine is randomly in Rivertown this week! We're going to get together on Thurs probably since I'm off. I'm excited to see her :)

Christine (2:23 pm): Hmm, I wonder how long my fly has been undone?

Stan (2:33 pm): Awesome.

Christine (2:35 pm): Gondibert works for you, then?


January 25, 2013

Solving life's little ills with baked goods

A bit of a rougher day at work yesterday. I was tired, the kids were crazy and unusually destructive, and someone -- despite being put onto the potty every five minutes after snack -- managed to sneakily poop her drawers again.

But hey, at least we made scones.

Rich Scones (1 doz.)

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold margarine
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
milk, for brushing
sugar, for dusting

Mix dry ingredients with a fork. Add wet ingredients and mix to form a soft dough.

Pat dough into two six-inch rounds and place on baking sheet. Score to make 6 pie-wedges on each round. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 15 minutes at 425F or until risen or golden brown. Serve with jam or whipped cream, or just furtively eat by yourself as you hide from the toddlers. Good either way!


January 17, 2013

I'm so glad we had this little chat

A conversation at work today:

Goober: Dis airplane. Airplane waaaaay up.

Me: Airplanes do go way up. That's a helicopter, though.

Goober: [blank stare]

Me: You've got a helicopter.

Goober: No Dora careful, no Dora careful, no body careful. Rocket ship, rocket ship, rocket ship, rocket ship, rocket ship down, rocket ship down, rocket ship, rocket ship, rocket ship, rocket ship up, rocket ship up, rocket ship down. 

[wanders off] 

January 14, 2013

Apparently Les Mis is like Sugar Crisp

For those who also can never get enough:


(We saw the new film on Saturday -- and I rooted this out today since seeing it only once in three days would be just too sad -- and here is all 2:49:55 for your enjoyment. Now you too can wash the dishes while bawling like a baby as Eponine sings her last duet.)

Update: Apparently NBC has pulled this video for copyright violations. Which is understandable. But also: boo.

Update to Update: But here's the 10th anniversary concert! Hooray!


January 11, 2013

How we got married for less than $6,000

Some friends of ours recently got engaged, and last night the groom-to-be phoned Stan to find out -- well, I'm not sure exactly, but from the half of the conversation I could hear he seemed to be asking for tips and tricks for a frugal wedding. Stan and I got married for less than $6,000 -- I think that our final cost was $5,600 or thereabouts, and we were able to pay for it in cash. Here are some of the things we kept in mind when we got married on a budget:

Don't say the 'W' word! The wedding industry is full of insaaaaane markups, and as soon as you let your vendor know that you want something for a wedding, you'll be hit with all sorts of extra costs. Best bet is to tell people that you're pricing things out for a party (which: you are).

You don't need a $3,000 dress. I bought my dress online and the final cost -- after paying for custom tailoring, international shipping, and a small alteration once it arrived -- was barely over $300. The dress was lovely and it fit like a dream.

Use the services of friends and family. We were very blessed by many of our friends and family who gave their services to us as their wedding gifts. A couple from our church did our catering (final cost: about $7/head). Another friend of ours rented a van and chauffeured the wedding party around, which saved us quite a few headaches. A friend of mine who is just starting her photography business did our pictures for about half-price. My uncle did the lights and music at our reception, and the list goes on.

We did our flowers by hand, too. My Mater worked for many years in a flower shop, and so she offered to do the bouquets. I ordered two extra-large bouquets of loose flowers from a florist, and she transformed them into five bouquets, six boutonnierres, and two corsages. We got all of that for about $160. (Bridal and wedding party bouquets from the same florist started at $50 and went as high as $430 for ONE bouquet. See what I mean about insane markups?)

Skip some of the decorations. Our church has a lovely mostly-wood interior, so we decided not to do any decorations at the church itself. The interior pictures were still beautiful.

Keep an eye out for deals. Stan found a menswear shop offering a deal where if the wedding party rented at least five tuxes from them, the groom's rental would be free and he would get a coupon for a free suit (up to $400). We had enough people to swing it, and so Stan got a free tux rental, and a month or two after the wedding we went and bought him a $500 suit for only $100 cash down. Score!

Forget the frou-frou wedding favours. Let's be honest: all of those personalized shot glasses, picture frames, and candle holders go into a drawer and are never looked at again. For our favours I got a bunch of little paper boxes and we filled them with candy from Bulk Barn. People had something to eat before dinner and the favour cost was kept to about $1.25/head.

Determine your priorities. One of the hardest parts of planning a wedding is managing other people's expectations -- but what other people want isn't necessarily what's important to the two of you. If you figure out what your priorities are, you can concentrate (and spend) the most on those things, and let the rest of the chips fall where they may. Stan and I both think that the whole cutting-the-cake-together-and-feeding-it-to-each-other thing is cheesy, so we skipped the expensive wedding cake and served pie for dessert.

Having a beautiful, frugal wedding is totally doable. I wouldn't have traded ours for the world.

January 5, 2013

No, really, I'm sure they'll take you seriously now

A lot of what I'd like to say about this video has already been said by commentators both wiser and more acerbic than I; allow me to point out, however, that this is not a parody.

Apparently these women think that they're helping their cause.



Hat-tip to Auntie Seraphic and The Lonely Disciple. Oh, and Father Z.

January 3, 2013

Don't worry, I confiscated their MDMA

My family still does Christmas stockings, and while the contents tend to run more and more to edibles lately, Vater always manages to stick in a little toy or two. Among this year's pickings were glowsticks, and I collected mine and Stan's and took them with me when I went back to work yesterday.

After sunset -- call it around 4:30 or so -- I took the twins upstairs and told them I had something special to show them. We closed the door of their room and turned off the lights, and I cracked the glowsticks for them. They were a hit, and we spent a while seeing in how many different directions we could wave them.

The novelty of this wore off a lot sooner for me than it did for them, of course, so I started to look for a way to make it more interesting. Their parents had left the ipod upstairs, so I plugged it into the stereo and started pumping out some Raffi. Dancing naturally followed.

About ten minutes later I realised this:

  1. It was dark
  2. We were dancing
  3. We had glowsticks
  4. There was loud music playing
  5. People were spinning around until they fell down
  6. Two-thirds of those present were not wearing pants

Though it would have been more (in)appropriate if I had first gotten them all hyped up on apple juice, I'm pretty sure that I just hosted a toddler rave.