Thursday, November 30, 2006

T-Minus 3 Hours Until December and Counting

I finally started Christmas shopping. I shouldn't say finally, it's still November for a few more hours. And my mom is just appalled at people decorating right after Thanksgiving. I told her the Rockefeller Center tree is up now and I think that settled her down a little. I'm not decorating until this weekend or next. I do like it to actually be December before decorating, but I will start listening to Christmas music on the day after Thanksgiving. In college, I used to bring my Christmas CDs in the car on my way back to New Jersey for Thanksgiving, but I'd save them for the trip back to college when Christmas season had officially started. The "Lite While-you-work" station here plays nonstop Christmas music from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Day, so I've been listening to that a little. I do love my Very Special Christmas CDs, though. I have three and I've had them forever, since high school. I also have my Elvis Christmas and Harry Connick, Jr. in my heavy rotation.

So I started the aforementioned Christmas shopping with some catalog purchases. Not many because some of those gimmicky catalogs are EXPENSIVE. I'm talking about ones like Paragon, Wireless, Signals, Hearthsong, Plow and Hearth, you name it, I've gotten it in the mailbox. Some I just used for ideas--like how about Electronic Mad Libs for an 8-yr.-old niece? And the Goodnight Moon Game for Toddler I found cheaper at Amazon than in the Young Explorers catalog. End result: I was able to put a bunch of catalogs in the recycling bin finally. I kept the Harry and David's out and the Penzey's Spices for the recipes.

Then I went to Borders and got an NY Times Crossword Puzzle book for my dad and a pocket Audubon bird book for my mom. And Toddler got this as a new Christmas book. I should look for a Maisy one. He's crazy for Lucy Cousins creations.

Oh yeah, and I kind of don't want to decorate too much before the crazy warm weather settles down. It's the jet stream or something but the East Coast is having record highs with temps in the high 60s and 70s. Not cool. (No pun intended.)


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

First Thoughts: Back Bay and One L

Back Bay seems like a cheesy 70s novel so far, but, hey, nothing wrong with that. I have this old, old used copy with a cutout on the front cover, like one of those peekaboo windows to one of the characters' faces on the inside flap. Then on the back of the front cover are artists' renderings of the fictional characters in different dramatic poses. It's really dated. The other funny thing is that there is a big family tree in the front and the bottom row, which represents the hip new generation in their twenties, were all born in the early fifties. But the book was published in 1979 so it makes sense.

I'm really excited about One L because it's literary nonfiction. I had always thought it was a novel about the first year of Harvard Law School right up until I read the preface. Nonfiction is rapidly giving fiction a run for its money in terms of what I like to read most these days, especially with the explosion in fascinating literary nonfiction titles over the past few years. See The Hinterlands for a really complete rundown on this genre. Anyway, interestingly, One L was also written in the seventies. Scott Turow's first year at Harvard Law School was in the fall of 1975. Probaby the moment I was born, he was reading a case for a class the next day. Here are two of his groovy points of view from that decade: The first is that, upon walking into the registration room on his first day, he notes that most of the men wear their hair "quite short." The second is this: "The casebooks are especially dear, $16 to $25 when bought new, the prices probably inflated because the publishers recognize that casebooks are required reading and have to be purchased." A quick Google search shows that casebooks nowadays are between $75 and $100.


Hey! What If . . . . .?

Here's an idea I just had which was triggered by Cam's poetry meme. What if there was a website something like A Curious Singularity but for poetry instead? A Curious Singularity was started by a group of people who wanted to further their understanding of the short story. I almost joined this group when they first started but that was right around when I closed down my old blog and took a break from blogging for a few months. I wanted to join because I've just never been able to really get into the short story. I've bought anthologies and collections and read them in magazines and I'm always like, "Ehh," at the end. So I thought that would be an interesting group to join. (I actually might go back to August and read everything they've read so far.) But anyway, back to my idea. It's kind of the same thing with poetry. I don't have a good understanding of it but I'd love to expand my knowledge base and get into it more and, based on other people's answers to Cam's poetry meme, other people seem to feel the same way. Plus, I need some suggestions about where to start with poetry. I recently bought a Mary Oliver book at the used bookstore, but it's all about the dead animals she finds in the woods behind her house and it's just kind of gross. There are a few poems in there that I really like, though. And I'm curious about Adrienne Rich and other contemporary poets as well as classic ones. I thought about maybe reading a poem a week and posting about it, but I feel like that would be boring to read.


Monday, November 27, 2006

The One Word Meme

Got this one from BettyBetty

Yourself: curious
Your partner: caring
Your hair: brown
Your Mother: confusing
Your Father: better
Your Favorite Item:
Your dream last night: I could've told you this morning, but now I forgot
Your Favorite Drink: gin and tonic with lime
Your Dream Car: don't care
Your Dream Home: one that feels cozy but is still roomy
The Room You Are In: living room
Your Ex: a friend (just when we see each other in social situations; he's married to my best friend's sister's best friend. Got that?)
Your fear: anything negative pertaining to my child
Where you Want to be in Ten Years? teaching again and happy
Who you hung out with last night: in-laws and Toddler's cousins
What You're Not: too snobby
Muffins: yummy
One of Your Wish List Items: a nice cookie press
Time: 11 pm
The Last Thing You Did: taped Studio 60; made cornbread
What You Are Wearing: yoga-type capris, V-neck maternity T-shirt
Your favorite weather: crisp fall
Your Favorite Book: Jane Eyre
Last thing you ate: cornbread with butter
Your Life: everchanging
Your mood: content
Your Best Friends: interesting
What are you thinking about right now: bloglines just went down again
Your car: new
What are you doing at the moment: this meme
Your summer: alcohol free (pregnant)
Relationship status: married
What is on your TV: the evening news on mute
What is the weather like: chilly, nighttime
When is the last time you laughed: talking to my sister on the phone about 2 hours ago

Consider yourself tagged if you see this and want to do it. It's a fun one.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Mayflower: Finished!

I finished the first book I set for myself for the From the Stacks Challenge, Mayflower, by Nathaniel Philbrick. It was a good read, especially during the Thanksgiving holiday. The first part of the book tells the story of the Pilgrims from their origins in Scrooby, England, (the birthplace of William Bradford), to their settling in Leiden, Holland, to all the trials and tribulations they went through just to plan their move to America. They had two ships booked originally: the Mayflower and the Speedwell. It turns out that the Speedwell's captain sabotaged the ship by putting too big a mast on it and then using too much sail for the size of ship it was. So the Pilgrims left from Southampton for the big trip to America, only to have to turn back a few days later and land a few miles west of Southampton in Dartmouth for repairs to the Speedwell. They left again only to have the same thing happen and they had to turn back to England and stop in Plymouth for more repairs. This is when they ditched the Speedwell and all crowded onto the Mayflower. That's why there were 102 passengers on one ship. A lot of people dropped out of the trip, too, fed up and/or freaked out by all the complications, otherwise it would have been even more crowded. This first part of the book goes up until the legendary "first Thanksgiving."

The second part of the book is devoted to King Philip's War which took place between 1675 and 1676, about 50 years after the landing of the Pilgrims. By this time, Massachusetts Bay Colony was in full swing, having been populated by the Puritans starting around 1629. They flocked to Boston and its outskirts by the thousands. So now there was Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts Bay Colony, the beginnings of Rhode Island started by Roger Williams and the beginnings of Connecticut. The children of the Pilgrims and Puritans and the children of the Native American sachem Massasoit (and others) did not work on their diplomatic relationships as their parents had before them. One thing led to another and a war started. Basically the Native American population was decimated after this.

You know how reading is an organic process and you want to read your next book kind of based on what you just finished sometimes? Well, I was thinking about reading the original Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford himself. It's on order at Barnes & Noble. Plus I'm also interested in following up on two people who were in the book Mayflower: John Sassamon, a Native American who was five when the Pilgrims arrived and then attended Harvard in his thirties (isn't it amazing how fast things grew?) and Mary Rowlandson, a woman taken prisoner by Native Americans during King Philip's War. Eventually I might do this, but for now, in order to get some From the Stacks reading done, I'm moving on to One L by Scott Turow and Back Bay by William Martin. Both revolve around Harvard and Boston which are inextricably bound with the Puritan/Pilgrim stories anyway, so I'm still kind of following with my theme, but reading books I already had.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Poetry Meme

Cam tagged me for this. Thanks!

1. The first poem I remember reading/hearing/reacting to was
the nursery rhymes my grandmother used to say with me when I was really little. I remember Simple Simon and one about putting salt on a bird's tail that I loved.
2. I was forced to memorize (name of poem) in school and........
I remember my whole 9th grade English class having to memorize Shakespeare's sonnet 29. I remember snippets like "trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries" and "look upon myself and curse my fate" and that's about it.
3. I read/don't read poetry because....
I generally don't read poetry but I always have this plan to. I guess it's just because I'm so taken with the book form that I don't give poetry the time it deserves.
4. A poem I'm likely to think about when asked about a favorite poem is .......
I remember in 8th grade LOVING "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes. That got me into poetry for a little while, but eventually I left it again.
5. I write/don't write poetry, but..............
I used to write poetry in high school and college when I was a way more dramatic version of myself and had huge emotions to get out. Now I never do. Am I too self-censored now? I hope not.
6. My experience with reading poetry differs from my experience with reading other types of literature.....
I think that I just can't speed along through poetry like I can with other literature and that's to my detriment. I need to slow down. And sometimes when I read at night, depending on the pacing of the book I'm reading, the words keep going through my head when I try to sleep, which defeats the purpose of my reading before bed. So maybe poetry before bed will help me slow down and savor ideas and words instead of getting a frantic brain.
7. I find poetry.....
sometimes boring; sometimes inspiring; sometimes beautiful and interesting
8. The last time I heard poetry....
was when I read Tumble Bumble by Felicia Bond to my son before he went to bed
9. I think poetry is like....
unlocking inner thoughts and emotions that cannot be expressed any other way

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Prep and Reading Progress

Man, I need to sit down. Not that I've been doing anything that strenuous, but I guess it's this belly that's starting to weigh me down. So . . . coconut cream pie--in the refrigerator (I'm eating leftover pie filling with whipped cream out of a coffee cup); cranberry muffins--in the oven. I'll probably make cranberry sauce, and Toddler's stuffing and mashed potatoes now during naptime. And then he can "help" me make his vegan pumpkin pie when he gets up. I'm making his sides here because he's allergic to dairy and eggs and this way my mom doesn't have to worry about holding stuff out for him before adding milk or worrying about which is a soy milk version and which is not. She has enough to cook as it is. And I know she won't be entirely concentrating on what she's doing because a)my sister is bringing her English boyfriend to meet everyone for the first time and it's also his first Thanksgiving and b)they're culinary students so my mom is a little intimidated about cooking for them. So my plan is to plug away at Mayflower during the little downtimes of my cooking this afternoon. Then if I have time after that, I'm so laying on the couch and reading until Toddler wakes up. It's rainy and chilly and perfect for reading.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I Like These Quizzes That Tell Me What I Already Know

Saw this on Kailana's.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Literate Good Citizen
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Everybody's Doing It: The Aspirational Meme

So Litlove has written a meme that has appeared on many of the book blogs, and who I am not to jump on the proverbial bandwagon? The chocolate genoise for the Swiss Black Forest Cake is in the oven for my dad's birthday. Both men are sleeping, the big one and small one. So I think it's time for a Sunday meme.

1. What part of the past would you bring back if you possibly could?
This may sound weird but somehow I must explain. It would be being a kid and living with my immediate family. Like elementary school age. Of course, not everything was perfect and there were always issues, but I was less aware of them at that age and I sometimes (especially at holidays) miss the camaraderie of living with a brother and sister and two parents and dog and cat. I love my life now and living with my husband and creating that same (albeit more functional) environment for my kids, but I just loved being a kid myself.

2. What character trait would you alter if you could?
I would have more patience and not be as bossy to my husband, especially regarding Toddler

3. Which skill would you like to have the time and energy to really work on?
Writing. I talk about it a lot and do it very little.

4. Are you money poor, love poor, time poor or freedom poor?
I'm going with freedom poor. A two-year-old kind of limits where you can go and what you can do. But I don't begrudge this. I don't want him to grow up too fast and I know my time will come again when I'm not the necessary Mommy anymore. And then I'm sure I'll miss that time, too.

5. What element of your partner’s character would you alter if you could?
He needs more patience sometimes.

6. What three things are you going to do next year that you’ve been meaning to do for ages but never got around to?
Now that I'm not teaching cake decorating anymore, I'm going to make my former class night into a writing-outside-the-home night. I'm going to get licensed as a home baker so I can make cakes for my friends' new children's party planning business. Hmm, I'm going to finish the Christmas cross-stitch I started for my mother-in-law a year and a half ago. She didn't get it for Christmas last year and it won't be ready for this year. Maybe Christmas 2007?

7. If your fairy godmother gave you three wishes, what would you wish for?
OK, I'm not a science fiction nerd, but I would really like to be able to time travel. I just have this burning, yearning desire to go back in time and just see everything and everyone in certain time periods. I wouldn't even have to get involved, just observe. Like now I'm reading Mayflower and I would LOVE to be able to go to Plymouth in 1620 and just see it all as it really happened. Second, I would wish for a greater awareness of global warming for everyone in the world so we can slow and ultimately stop whatever is not natural. And third, continued health and increasing happiness for all family and friends.

8. What one thing would you change about your living conditions?
Less stuff + slightly bigger house = breathing space (and room for downstairs bookshelves)

9. How could the quality of your free time be improved?
Well, I take what I can get and I try not to do housework during naptime so I can use it for my dabblings (reading, listening to classical music, baking, blogging) but I suppose if I slept longer at night, I wouldn't fall asleep reading at 2 in the afternoon and therefore I'd get more reading done. But I'll probably continue to go to bed too late because I also like my adult time after Toddler goes to bed.

10. What change have you made to your life recently that you’re most proud of?
I quit my cake decorating job and I was offered a position with our local writers organization as their second paid employee. I was interviewed and, for all intents and purposes, hired, but now the actual hiring has to pass through a board meeting. So if all goes well, I suppose I'll be quite proud of my new job.


Friday, November 17, 2006

An Attempt at Organization or, I Feel Like Playing with a Book List

Since I am currently reading 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley (see sidebar for link), I thought I should go through the list of 100 books she read and comments on to see what I have read already. For organizational purposes only. Or out of guilt that I'm devoting all my reading time to Mayflower and not to this. (But I think it's because you need to be really awake to read this book, and with a two-year-old and 23 weeks pregnant, I'm not often that wide awake. I'm already blaming something on my daughter and she's not even born yet. Sorry, New Baby!)

Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji
Author unknown, The Saga of the People of Laxardal
Snorri Sturluson, Egil's Saga
Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron
Marguerite de Navarre, The Heptameron
Anonymous, Lazarillo de Tormes
Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, vols. 1 and 2
Madame de Lafayette, The Princess of Cleves
Aphra Behn, Oroonoko
Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, Roxana
Samuel Richardson, Pamela
Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote
Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
Voltaire, Candide
Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker
Choderlos de Laclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
The Marquis de Sade, Justine
Sir Walter Scott, The Tale of Old Mortality, The Bride of the Lammermoor
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Jane Austen, Persuasion
James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
Stendhal, The Red and the Black
Nicolai Gogol, Taras Bulba
Mikhail Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time
Honore de Balzac,, Cousin Pons and Cousin Bette
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (Well, I need to read this one again because when I was reading it the last time, I got to the last 2 or so chapters and then lost it. I couldn't find it anywhere. So I read 95% of it.)
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, or the Whale
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White, The Moonstone
Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
Emile Zola, Therese Raquin
Anthony Trollope, The Last Chronicle of Barset, The Eustace Diamonds
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
George Eliot, Middlemarch
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady, The Awkward Age
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Bram Stoker, Dracula
Kate Chopin, The Awakening
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth
Max Beerbohm, The Illustrated Zuleika Dobson, or an Oxford Love Story
Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier
Sinclair Lewis, Main Street
Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavransdatter, volume I, The Wreath
James Joyce, Ulysses
Italo Svevo, Zeno's Conscience
E.M. Forster, A Passage to India
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Franz Kafka, The Trial
Hermann Broch, The Sleepwalkers
Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time
D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover
Virginia Woolf, Orlando
William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
Robert Musil, The Man without Qualities, volume 1
Mikhail Sholokhov, And Quiet flows the Don
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart
P.G. Wodehouse, The Return of Jeeves, Bertie Wooster Sees it Through, Spring Fever, The Butler Did It
T.H. White, The Once and Future King
Christina Stead, The Man Who Loved Children
Junichiro Tanizaki, The Makioka Sisters
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Rebecca West, The Fountain Overflows
Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate and Don't Tell Alfred
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Jetta Carleton, The Moonflower Vine
Yukio Mishima, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea
Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
John Gardner, Grendel
Alice Munro, Lives of Girls and Women
Naguib Mahfouz, The Harafish
Iris Murdoch, The Sea, the Sea
David Lodge, How Far Can You Go?
Muriel Spark, Loitering With Intent
Anne Tyler, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Jamaica Kincaid, Annie John
J.M. Coetzee, Foe
Toni Morrison, Beloved
A.S. Byatt, Possession
Nicholson Baker, Vox
Garrison Keillor, WLT: A Radio Romance
Kate Atkinson, Behind the Scenes at the Museum
Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance
Francine Prose, Guided Tours of Hell
Chang-rae Lee, A Gesture Life
Arnost Lustig, Lovely Green Eyes
Zadie Smith, White Teeth
John Updike, The Complete Henry Bech
Ian McEwan, Atonement
Jennifer Egan, Look at Me

Yep, good thing I own the Smiley book. It's going to take me a while to catch up with her.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

First Thoughts on Mayflower: Winter Reading Challenge: First Book

I really love all of the seasons and relish their changes every year. And like many people, I love to do seasonally related things, i.e., apple picking in the fall, taking pictures of all the flower buds and bees in the spring. etc. And this year we tried Alton Brown's popcorn recipe where you use a large silver bowl over the stove instead of a pot with a lid (or the microwave). And M. thinks we'll be able to do it over my parents' chimenea so, of course, I'm all gung-ho to do it over Thanksgiving weekend so it'll feel closer to authentic Native Americans and Colonial people. And this is all why I chose to read Mayflower first for the Winter Reading Challenge. How much more timely can you get?

So first of all, I'm excited about the History Channel's "Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower", airing on Sunday night at 8 pm, because this book is also an untold story. You get all the "behind the scenes" of what the Native Americans went through in the years before the Pilgrims showed up. Let's just say they were not unfamiliar with Europeans. And Europeans in general had not proven themselves to be friendly, reliable, or respectful. But we knew that.

Another cool thing is that the dates of 1620 happen to match up with the dates of 2006. So when Philbrick refers to the Pilgrims' arrival in America on Saturday November 11, that date falls on the same day of the week this year, too. So last night I was reading and he mentioned Wednesday November 15, and lo and behold, it was Wednesday November 15 for me, too.

And my final first thought is that Philbrick gains credibility with me (not that he needed to) because astronomical and geological information he includes to add depth and detail to the Pilgrims' story jives with information I just read in A Short History of Nearly Everything. For instance, Philbrick says that the Pilgrims saw a comet in 1618, and I remember reading about it in the Bryson book, although I need to look it up to remember the details. Also, when we read about the Pilgrims' first winter in Massachusetts, we always read about how cold and harsh it was. Well, it really was colder and harsher than winters there now because they were in the middle of a mini ice-age until about the early 19th century, I think. Again, I remember reading about the mini ice-age in the Bryson book. It's so fun to be able to connect books like this.

So I'll continue reading and give my opinion at the end, and at the Thanksgiving table, too, I'm sure. (We'll have an Englishman there, too. My sister's new boyfriend is from Brighton.)

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Cookie Poetry

I really wanted to go food shopping today to get ingredients for Cookie Month, but it's pouring rain. Last year I had Cookie Week which is just what it sounds like; for about a week before Christmas I made cookies everyday and gave them as gifts. But I got a little stressed because I was running out of time. So this year my plan is to start earlier and go for the whole month, freezing cookies or dough as I go along. Hence, Cookie Month. I went through my Christmas cookie book and wrote down a list of what I'll probably make. Behold the poetry.
Gingerbread Men
Gingerbread Snowflakes
Raspberry Swirls
Tea Cakes
Rolled Cinnamon Sugar Angels
Chocolate Chubbies
Coconut Macadamia
Coffee Bean
Cocoa Almond Biscotti


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Early Reading Meme

I can't resist reading memes. This one's from Kate's Book Blog.

1. How old were you when you learned to read and who taught you?
I was four and I taught myself. I did used to make my mom write out the alphabet for me all the time so I could copy it. And I remember copying the words in books right above the printed word. But my parents tell the story of when they were reading a familiar story to me, I think it was Pinocchio, and they started to paraphrase, I corrected them and asked why they weren't reading the words anymore. And that's when they saw I could read.

2. Did you own any books as a child? If so, what’s the first one that you remember owning? If not, do you recall any of the first titles that you borrowed from the library?
We had shelves and shelves. There is a picture of my sister and I in our pajamas sitting on our books which we had lain flat edge to edge across the whole living room rug. I'm going to my parents' later, I'll have to find it. The very earliest book I remember loving was this one with penguins and it was some kind of phonics book. (I think it was one of the ones that helped me learn to read. I've always been a phonics/linguistics nerd.) Then there was a brown book with a lion on the cover that was like a Time/Life nature book of all different animal photographs. I pored over that one. I also loved Arty the Smarty.

The book I remember borrowing from the library every single month was Peppermint Fence which was actually an old reading textbook. I later found it on eBay and now I have my own copy.

3. What's the first book that you bought with your own money?
Hmm. I remember the first cassette tape I bought with my own money because I had such buyer's remorse as soon as I left the record store that I went right back in and tried to return it. They wouldn't take it. It was Madonna's True Blue. But the first book with my own money? I remember borrowing money from my sister to buy Judy Blume's Forever and then feeling so guilty because it had so much sex in it and my sister was still in elementary school. (Not that I let her see it.) Anyway, it must have been Sweet Valley High books. I was crazy for those and the Babysitter's Club series in 5th/6th grade. Prior to that it was a lot of Beverly Cleary, Nancy Drew, and Judy Blume for the younger set. And then there was Betsy's Little Star which was actually the first chapter book I ever read but I feel like my mom must have bought that one for me.

4. Were you a re-reader as a child? If so, which book did you re-read most often?
I was not a re-reader. I remember my best friend constantly re-reading her favorite book, Freddie the Thirteenth about a girl from a huge family, and I always thought that was so weird of her to do. The first and only book I ever read more than once (three times, to be exact) was Jane Eyre.

5. What’s the first adult book that captured your interest and how old were you when you read it?
Like Kate from Kate's Book Blog it was probably Gone with the Wind. My sixth-grade teacher loved it and showed us the movie in class and, of course, I got all enamored with it and had to be Scarlett O'Hara for Halloween that year. So I did read it that year I was eleven. But now that I think of it, Little Women may have come first.

6. Are there children’s books that you passed by as a child that you have learned to love as an adult? Which ones?
No, but I can do the opposite--books I read as a young teenager that I could never read now. I used to read tons of Christopher Pike and Dean Koontz novels. Now I'm scared of my own shadow. I don't know how I did it back then. (I do think I'm more easily disturbed by scary and violent material now that I'm a mom, though.)

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It must be a pregnancy thing. I've read that you have more vivid, memorable, and fun dreams when pregnant because you tend to wake up during REM sleep more often either because you have to get up to pee or move because you're uncomfortable. My non-pregnancy dreams are usually epic, huge, and vivid with lots of storylines and people I don't know in them, but now there is definitely an element of fun and excitement more regularly than usual. And some of these are increasingly involving men. I'm not talking about sex dreams (although there was that one with Tyler Florence, but that was pre-pregnancy--can you believe he's doing Applebee's commercials? But I digress). The last dream I remember was all about this fun flirtation with Matthew Perry. Not a surprise since I LOVE Studio 60 on Monday nights. I did like him as Chandler but now I really really like him. And last night, it was Brad Pitt who kind of turned into my 9th grade crush (but no, I wasn't dreaming about a 14 yr. old--he was like an adult now), Pat Kehrle. Where are you now, Pat? Anyway, there was one more, but I don't remember who that one was with. Why can't it be Val Kilmer next, my true celebrity love for years and years since I saw him in the movies as Madmartigan in Willow when I was 13. He's been my unwavering favorite ever since. He even outlasted my long teenage thing for Christian Slater. So, yes, there is a fun side to being deprived of beer, wine, tuna, deli meat, and caffeine.

Dare I Post This?

It's a blog quiz. What's your Literary Personality? But, a coloring book? I took it twice, once before bed and then first thing this morning, refining my answers the second time and I still got the same result. It's actually pretty true, but it makes me sound fake and shallow.

You scored as A coloring book. Children love you--and so do many adults. They find you approachable, simple and friendly, all of which perfectly describe you. Instead of throwing big words around, you communicate in the international language of pictures. In order to be as open as possible, you present yourself simply, allowing those around you to customize you to their liking. Sometimes this results in you turning into a primitive masterpiece, and other times you resemble a schizophrenic's daydream. So long as the one talking to you understands you, you're happy. Zen and the art of crayon-sharpening.

Your Literary Personality
created with


Friday, November 10, 2006

Dabbling in Science and Natural History

Who doesn't love Bill Bryson? And, I might ask, who doesn't love literary nonfiction? Because to love one is to love the other, at least for a little while. I just finished Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything and really found it super-fascinating. Although if he had scaled it down to A Short History of the Findings of Paleontology, Geology, and Anthropology of the Last 300 Years, I would have found it equally fascinating. Since those were the branches of science/social science that constituted my favorite parts of the book. I read of another blogger who couldn't finish it due to the scariness of certain parts regarding the possibility of earthly destruction via rogue asteroid, the eruption of the mega-volcano that is Yellowstone National Park (which would easily take out half the country and affect the whole world), and even the possible weakening of our magnetic field which we need to protect us from lethal cosmic rays from space. And yes, these sections were indeed unnerving. But also extremely fascinating.

He'll take you from a mini-crash course in subatomic particles to the amazing discoveries of women astrophysicists in the fifties to the hilarious and entertaining portraits of various scientists and historical figures to the current theories regarding the classifications of Homo erectus and the mysteries behind the tools and migration patterns of early humans. And it's all told in Bryson's conversational, clever, funny, and endearing manner.

I regaled M. with so many anecdotes, facts, and tidbits regarding everything from the blue whale to Jupiter to the structure of the atom, that he started asking me for a date when I thought I'd be finished, so he could start reading it. As it turns out, our copy fell apart and I was able to finish the last section unbound while he started the still bound part. Which I'm glad happened for that reason, and also because I now have the tantalizing bibliography to pore over full of titles like Tales of the Earth: Paroxysms and Perturbations of the Blue Planet, Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy, and Bones: Discovering the First Americans. Oh yeah, and Blue Latitudes by Tony Horwitz is in there, which is on my list of Winter Challenge Books, so I might just go there next.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

From the Stacks: Winter Reading Challenge

Winter Reading Challenge

I love the idea of the reading challenges and reading projects. I try to institute reading projects on myself, but they never last very long. I signed up for one of the blog reading challenges that go around once before but then I kind of quit blogging for awhile, so I didn't participate. But this one is great because it's all about targeting books you already have on your shelves that you haven't read yet. This is an ongoing issue for me as it seems to be for other bloggers, too. This challenge requires you to read five books you already own. Narrowing it down to five is the problem. I put Toddler in his bed for naptime and went into my room to creep around my shelves for a few minutes, taking inventory on what I had and what looked good enough to make it into the challenge. I came up with a list of eleven books.

As I started posting the comment saying that I was ready to join the challenge but wasn't ready with my list of five, I started listing five of the books anyway. Were they the choices of my subconscious? I guess. They are the ones in bold above. So I'll go with those, and like Lesley of A Life in Books, I, too, reserve the right to switch out.

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Impulse Buys

I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this month, but I decided to do something to help my writing anyway. Now that I'm not teaching cake decorating anymore, M. and I have agreed to still get me out of the house at least one evening per week. And that outing will be my writing night. I just can't get into the swing of writing at home. At naptime, I always want to do something else. And then by the time I'm done procrastinating, naptime is over. I tried getting up at 5 or 6 everyday for a while, but I'm too tired for that. Also, with a newborn on the way, that's not gonna happen. So in addition to that plan, I just bought two books that I'm hoping will help my writing and inspire me. One I've been wanting for a while, one I just heard about here. The one I've been wanting is:

13 Ways of Looking at the Novel
by Jane Smiley

and the one I read about on another blog is:

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them

by Francine Prose

I ordered them from Amazon so I won't have them right away.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

But I Knew This Already

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Northeast

Judging by how you talk you are probably from north Jersey, New York City, Connecticut or Rhode Island. Chances are, if you are from New York City (and not those other places) people would probably be able to tell if they actually heard you speak.

The Inland North
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes


Friday, November 03, 2006

During Naptime

While I would like to listen to Mahler's 1st Symphony or finish my Bryson book or read a few pages of the new book I couldn't resist from the library yesterday, The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes edited by John Gross, I have to make one of these. I really wanted to make one of these instead but the store didn't have them yet. Not such a bad deal. It's one of my last duties for Wilton and I get paid for doing it. Then I have to do a demo next Saturday and I'm done.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Science and Music for Dilettantes

I'm still plugging away through Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. It's tremendously fascinating, and of course, it's stirring up all kinds of longings for more science writing now. Hence, my Stephen Jay Gould purchase of the other day. I might start a reading list of good intro books in the sciences for dabbling dilettantes like me. Also, I'd like some suggestions also. Although Bryson's book covers chemistry (biochemistry), physics (astrophysics, geophysics), geology, archaeology, paleontology, biology and other branches of science, I'm most interested in natural history and geology, paleontology, and archaeology. Although, is archaeology a social science and not a physical science because it deals with finding out about civilizations?

Last night I finished teaching my last Wilton class early (I'm quitting due to a variety of reasons: imminent baby, boredom, babysitting issues, the incompetence of the retail world) and so I went to Borders before heading home. (I wanted Mr. Two Year Old to be in bed before I got home also.) Do they have a better selection than Barnes & Noble? I think they do. They seem to have a better backlist (can you say that regarding a bookstore or just a publisher?) whereas Barnes & Noble focuses on the big names that sell. For instance, Borders has a really great 'books on music' section with all kinds of books on music theory, biographies of composers, books about music appreciation, and essays on music. Barnes & Noble has maybe Classical Music 101 and that's it. (But we like to go to B&N anyway because I worked in two of them so I feel attached and Mr. Two likes to ride the escalators and elevator and play with the Thomas the Train set in the children's section.) Anyway, my purchase of the night was Mozart in the Jungle by Blair Tindall.

Now I'm off into the chilly, rainy early November day to the library to pay for my late CDs and get the next ones to listen to in my studies. I'm still on symphonies. I'm getting Mahler, Richard Strauss, Prokofiev, Vaughan Williams, and Elgar this time.

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