Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Here we are again

Apparently every two years I blog about Hallowe'en; I'm not sure what happens in the intervening years. But I do know my feelings haven't changed much. It's not really my holiday, and I think my attitude is rubbing off on the kids. We still don't have pumpkins (they're on my list for today--think I can get them at half-price?), and Nick was so casual about his costume that it wasn't until a night or two ago that I realized he actually was expecting to go as something, not just pull a "costume" (ninja warrior, anyone? We've got the uniform!) together at the last minute. Which is why I found myself browsing the racks in Walgreen's Monday night, where I found a black grim reaper/ghoul robe for him and some face paint. So that's done. I also did actually remember to buy candy, though increasingly I don't like handing it out--after the first onslaught of cute babies in pumpkin buntings and toddlers dressed as princesses and bunnies, it devolves into teenagers without costumes and, saddest of all, uncostumed young moms pushing uncostumed babies in strollers who silently hold open a bag as if to say "this is my dinner." I always hope it isn't.

I'm also feeling slightly out of sorts because the weather has changed but the time hasn't. Does it really make a difference to energy usage for us to push the shift back to Standard Time so much later than usual? It will still be dark when the kids come in from trick-or-treating--it may already be when they go out, in fact--and it's dark in the morning when Mariah and I get up. All I know is I'm looking forward to that "extra" hour of sleep this weekend.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Reading Meme

Caroline tagged me with this a while ago and it's taken me until now to get to it. I'm too busy procrastinating drafting working on a paper to be delivered in mid-November. But I have been working through a few novels lately, so I thought I'd give you a taste of the variety of my reading lately.

First, here are the rules:
"Open the book you’re currently reading to page 161, and post the fifth sentence on the page, then think of 5 bloggers to tag."

OK. I read Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go over the weekend, but I'm including it here to prove I do, on occasion, read books for adults. Though I must say, the premise of this novel is scarily like Nancy Farmer's The House of the Scorpion, published two years earlier as a children's novel. And, for what it's worth, I bought the Ishiguro novel used at Plato's Closet, a YA hangout if there ever was one.

Here's the fifth sentence on page 161:
"Well, she never got to make that decision because of what happened next."

Also in progress, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. This one's because I have a student working on an interesting honors thesis on female orphans in children's lit. Rebecca isn't technically an orphan--her mother's living--but she fits the template my student is working with so I'm re-reading the novel.

Page 161 only has four sentences, though, so here's the fourth:
"I wish you could take things easier, child; I am fearful for you sometimes."

(Side note on Rebecca: I'm reading an old paperback I picked up used, but it is one of several books available in the Charming Classics series, packaged along with a necklace. My student and I are amused at how many of the books she's writing about are available in this series: A Little Princess, The Secret Garden (the pendant is a key), Heidi, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, at least--there are many more in the series, though.)

I'm also slowly working my way through Little, Big again. I first read this in college, when I had a chance to interview the author by phone (one of my first bylines). It's a lovely book, and I'm not quite sure why I'm going so slowly through it this time, but doing so makes much clearer to me all the intertextual references (to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, especially) that I missed the first time through.

Page 161, sentence 5: "I mean," Doctor Drinkwater said, reappearing beside him, "that every Christmas seems to follow immediately after the last one; all the months that came between don't figure in."

Nick and I are also working our way through Daniel Pinkwater's Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars (in his Five Novels). We took a little break for the World Series, but we'll be getting back to it soon.

Page 161, sentence 5: "In Alan's case, they would be so grateful he wasn't there, they weren't likely to look into the matter."

Finally, also on my bedside (along with an ever-growing stack of New Yorker magazines) is Jane Yolen's Take Joy: A Writer's Guide to Loving the Craft. I haven't gotten very far with it yet, but I am enjoying dipping into it occasionally. Here's the fifth sentence on page 161:

"I responded: "Every time an editor wants to talk about plots and depth, they bring in the old onion." Now doesn't that make you want to read more?

As for tagging five more--Life in Scribbletown already did it, even before I did; if you're reading it here, feel free!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Finished Object

The baseball playoffs have been really good for my knitting. I finished up a baby sweater the other day that is on its way to New York for my friend Abby's new little one. This is a famous pattern, apparently--Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket. The surprise is that it actually makes a jacket--when you're finished knitting, you have a thing that looks like, well, nothing much.

Then you do a not-terribly-complicated origami fold, sew up two seams (hint: they are across the shoulders), put on some buttons, and voila! A jacket! It really does feel a little bit like magic.

I knit this one out of sock yarn (Patons Kroy Stripes, if anyone cares) with little needles, and it's still way bigger than the pattern says it will be. Somehow I have to learn to tighten up my gauge; I knit everything bigger than the pattern. When I'm felting--or knitting for a baby, who will grow into almost any size--that's fine, but sometimes it matters. Then again, I could just keep knitting scarves, shawls, baby things, and felted stuff, and then I'll be ok.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

conscious consumer

I'm feeling very much the conscious consumer these days, especially after our car-buying episode last week. When we left off, I was about to go buy a car, in the hopes that it would be like buying an appliance. Well, it sort of was and it sort of wasn't. Here's the short version: we went to CarMax, drove three cars, and bought the last. It was a fine little car, a bit over our budget but still affordable. And then we returned it.

Here's the conscious consumer part: we chose a used car on the theory that building a new car eats up a lot of resources, so if we could find an efficient (enough) used car we'd be doing the environment a favor. Makes sense, right? Besides, the whole point of selling the last car was to reduce expenses. But because we'd spent more money than we meant to, we began to experience almost immediate buyer's remorse. And... we have a neighbor with three cars. For years Mark has been asking if he wanted to sell us one--he is a meticulous maintenance guy, so we know it would be a good car. So when the buyer's remorse hit (and it hit pretty hard, though the car did look cute parked right out in front of the house) Mark went over to ask--again--if maybe he had a car to sell. And for once, he did. Not right now, but in about a month. And for much, much less than CarMax wanted for their (to be fair) much newer car.

It felt like a sign. Or at least a big relief.

So, after two days, we took advantage of the CarMax 5-day no questions asked return policy, and returned the car. And it took about 15 minutes (plus the drive, alas!).

All in all, an interesting experiment in conscious consumerism.

Now here are the rules for the meme (you've already seen this here and here and here...I'm late to the party!):
Pick a recent shopping trip -- for clothes, shoes, groceries, doesn't matter. The only guideline is that it will be easier to play if you purchased at least a few things.

Now tell us, about your purchases:

1. What are you proud of?
2. What are you embarrassed by?
3. What do think you couldn't live without?
4. What did you most enjoy purchasing?
5. What were you most tempted by? (This last one may or may not be an actual purchase!)

This is a grocery store trip from last week. Unlike Caroline, I go to the grocery store pretty often. Sometimes almost daily. I often go early in the morning, at about 7:30, right after I drop Mariah at her bus--it's less crowded, and the day-old bakery items are worth a look. I had a grocery list with me, but as usual I bought a lot of stuff I hadn't put on the list. Here's what I brought home:

  • one box Annie's mac-n-cheese (we were gong out to dinner that night and it's a good bet for Nick when we're not home)
  • one can Bustelo decaf espresso
  • two cans full circle (local organic brand) organic black beans
  • one box full circle golden flax cereal
  • one large facial sponge
  • one reusable shopping bag
  • one box frozen crispy mini tacos
  • one package boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 large lemons
  • 2 packages chocolate chip bagels (thrift items)
  • 2 packages pita bread (thrift items)

So: I'm proud of the cereal. Mariah discovered recently that she likes it, and since she's experimenting with being vegan, I'm all about making sure she gets the nutrients she needs. Flax seeds provide omega-3 oils, more commonly found in fish. Yay.

I'm a little embarrassed by the reusable shopping bag, since I already have two (and two reusable bins, supplied by this very store) that I had forgotten to bring. But for a buck, I figured we could use a third one. And I am now trying to remember to store them in the car.

I couldn't live without the decaf. I love the taste of coffee but not the effects of caffeine, and this brand is relatively inexpensive and delightfully strong. Yum.

I'm not sure I enjoyed purchasing any one thing on this list more than any other. Mostly, I like going to the store in the morning. Most of the cashiers know me--by sight if not by name--and we chat a little over the thrift purchases and such and it feels a bit like home. That particular morning there was a not-too-muzaky remake of REM's "Rockville" playing, and it made me feel nostalgic.

I was tempted (this is so boring!) by various fancy face washes, and I had run out, but I didn't buy any because I wanted to check out what Mariah had. She used to inherit my castoffs (clothes, makeup, random cosmetic items) and now I inherit some of hers. Payback time!

So that's it for my conscious consumption. I'll tag anyone else who wants to play--and stay tuned, since Caroline just tagged me with a new meme!

Thursday, October 18, 2007


There's so much going on these days that I don't have time to tell anyone about it! I guess that's a good place to be, really. In case you haven't noticed, I'm blogging for a cure over on my other blog today--you can read an interview with D.B. Johnson and see a really lovely snowflake he made over there.

I've also got a new column up at Literary Mama; I'll have more to say about that over on the other blog in a couple of days.

And Caroline tagged me with the "conscious consumer" meme, and I do want to get to it, but not today. Today I think we have to go buy a car. (Yes, we sold our cute impractical car and we are about to try to buy a car as if it were just an appliance--does it work? Can we afford it? Does it clash with our stuff? Done!)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

another finished object

I've been knitting during the baseball playoffs, which I find is a very satisfying way to pass the time. I don't really have a team in it this year (sigh: biggest end-of-season collapse in history) so I don't feel compelled to watch every second, which makes for good knitting time. Mostly I'm working on a (to me) somewhat complicated lace pattern that involves actually paying attention to the knitting, but I also did a very quick knit to felt (or, technically, full), and I finished it a couple of days ago. Now it's all felted and dry and it is my new fall purse. This is the "bag of many pockets" from the book Felt Frenzy. I knitted it from Patons Soy Wool Stripes, a blend of wool and soy that I really really enjoyed--I'm delighted to discover that I have a skein leftover to play with. (The non-stripey section is Cascade 220 Heathers, a worsted-weight wool, for anyone who cares.) This only took me a couple of evenings to knit, and then twenty minutes in the washing machine to shrink it down to size. It has pockets for my cell phone, keys, and pens, and is altogether a wonderful thing.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

worrying about weight

I don't really know any women who don't on occasion worry about their weight. They weigh too much, or too little, or it's in the wrong get the picture. Add to those "normal" worries the hype about obesity and the importance of exercise, and you get a recipe for, well, anxiety at the least, and some really dangerous behavior at the other end of the spectrum.

Which is why I was so happy to see this post, and the pictures. Don't do the flickr slideshow; that won't give you the captions. Look at each picture and try to guess: is this person underweight? Overweight? Obese? "Normal"?

It's hard. Because the BMI (Body Mass Index) numbers that we have all been taught are--well, at best--misleading. Others have harsher words for them.

(I got this from Jennifer Niesslein, who has all kinds of other fun stuff on her blog today, too.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Not that call (yet)

Mariah drove herself to school today, as she now does every now and then when she has to stay late. We prefer her to take the bus, for both environmental and economic reasons. But since school is 20 miles away, we're also glad that she can now drive herself on occasion and save us the trip when she has to stay after school for an event.

This morning, though, was her first morning back after two sick days. And she called only forty-five minutes into the school day to say she really wasn't feeling well and she'd be heading home again. After assurances that she was well enough to drive, I agreed that she could and we both hung up.

About twenty minutes later she called again, in tears. She was in a gas station not five miles away from school. The car takes diesel and this station doesn't have it, so she'd pulled in to a parking space to ask the attendant where she could get it. Only--and this took some piecing together--she'd apparently run right up onto the concrete barrier marking the end of the parking space, and in pulling back off it had pulled off some of the lower part of the bumper as well. As I say, this took some piecing together through the tears, brought on as much by her illness as the damage to the car.

After we figured out that she could probably still drive the car, and that she didn't need me to come down and rescue her, we hung up. When she got home she showed me the damage--minimal--and explained how she'd pulled the plastic housing back into place. It will need repair, true, but she'd managed to get the car back in driving shape, find and buy diesel, and drive home.

In the end it turns out to be a story of how she doesn't really need me, how she could manage on her own. I was glad to be at the other end of the phone when she called, but all I did was reassure her. I'm at the far end of the process Caroline has been documenting this fall--again and again I realize it's Mariah's turn now, that she has to take responsibility for herself, and that she can.