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You remember Crazy Neighbor?  Yeah, him.  The one who threatened the old upstairs tenants.  The one whose smoking caused them to leave.  The one who went on numerous 30 second car trips everyday until he totaled his car.  The one who we suspected of blackmailing our landlord, and dealing drugs, and evading court summons.  The one we knew was behind on his rent.  That’s the one.

He’s gone.


I suspected something was up yesterday, when a lot of trash appeared on the curb with “free” signs.  And today my dear roommate texted me to say “he’s moving!”  I came home from work to see an empty apartment next door, with our landlord whitewashing the place, along with his extended family – his wife, the grandmother, and their two (!) children.

When on earth did they have a second child?  Babies seem to be appearing faster than those pesky grain moths we had.  Hmm, that’s not a very pleasant image.  But they’re everywhere.  On the streets.  At church.  I know of at least four babies born in the past month.  I’m probably forgetting another half dozen.  Which is not to say that I’m complaining, especially as I’ve been bestowed an unexpected godson* out of the bunch, it’s just…overwhelming.

*Godson to be?  Pre-godson?  How does one say?  I’m expecting, as it were.

Saturday morning.  Instead of sleeping until the last possible moment, I heard the siren call of The Queen of Attolia and got myself halfway up.

Here’s what happened.  I raved about the series to my roommate.  She read The Thief, and did that chuckling-while-you-read thing, and I constantly asked “which part are you at?”  “What’s funny?”  You get the idea.  My the time she moved on to Queen, I couldn’t wait any longer to reread the series.  Plus, I have a really terrible memory for plot points.  I’ll remember the characters, and the main arc of the story, a few random scenes, and how I feel about it, but most of a book flies right out of my mind.

These are books that bear rereading.  I found myself flipping pages back thinking “she foreshadowed this, didn’t she?” or “wasn’t that an odd comment?  Will it matter…OH.”  Lots of light-bulb moments.  Lots of clever foreshadowing and hints about what the characters aren’t telling you.  In fact, that might be my favorite aspect of the series.  How much the characters keep hidden.  With clues, of course, for the reader.

“‘We might someday attain a relationship of mutual respect,’ [the magus] said softly. First, I thought, I will see gods walking the earth.”  

Yesterday at at work I was helping to set up for the annual volunteer brunch.  Which I attended from the age of 9 until high school.  It’s always in the children’s department, tables set up in any possible space and catered by a local drive-in.  Yeah, you read that right.  We do things classy.  Apparently another library in the county has theirs at the country club.  Hmm.  And they’re fighting the redistribution of tax funds so that the poorer libraries get a tiny bit more?  We all had a good chuckle over imagining our brunch at a country club.  Ah well, time to really get up and get ready to go hobnob with the volunteers.

Awesome.  Someone found me by searching for “stale chocolate cake.”  That’s me.  Actually, I’m fresh out, but that bundt cake I made for Easter (Easter at the cousins’ and not Pascha at the church) was delicious after it got stale, warmed up and with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Moving right along.  I’m so glad I pushed through and finished the marvelousness that is Peace Like a River, because it had one of those endings that makes you all nervous, and and you feel your own breath catch when your narrator is having trouble breathing, and you worry about how it will end, and then the ending is just so spot on perfect, in tone and character and joy that you have to run around and scream “read this!” for a while.  So that’s what I’m doing.  Longer review at Revish.  And it’s been added to my Read These section as well.  Thanks to Stonecutter Annie for rooting for the book and making me finish it (any time I considered just returning it to the library, I thought of her and how she’d loved it).

Now for a second cup of coffee and some banana bread.  My how times flies when you catch up with your prodigal roommate, walk through the wildlife refuge, and finish a good book.

Last night I “couldn’t put down” Just Listen.  call me crazy, but I was lying on the couch listening to it and playing solitaire.  (Kitri, it’s time for you to come home!)  It’s one of the stories where you talk back to the characters when they make stupid (but in character) decisions.  Hmm, just yesterday I was counseling Q on her use of the word stupid (“not a nice thing to say” blah blah) and here I am using it.  Must curb hypocrisy.  At any rate, Dessen makes a goodly effort to help us understand why the characters do what they do, and they feel alive and breathing, the sisters feel like sisters and the love interest isn’t too pat.  What feels odd, to me at least, is the way the fluffy elements (clothes, the girly feel, etc) get mixed in with the serious (major secret keeping all around, although we, the readers, are privy to it all).  But, I suppose that’s life.  The blend is appealing – it’s not a dark, depressing book, neither is it all fluff – but it sometimes jarred me.

Speaking of Library Thing, I think I like the idea more than actually maintaining it. Well, huh.  I was just going to mess around with mine, and it’s disappeared.  It’s doesn’t even recognize my email address.  The Case of the Missing Library Thing.  Now I’m annoyed.  Oh well, that brings me to Revish, which is more keeping track of reading lists, what you’re currently reading, and reviews.  Quite handy is the section, as you add a title to your “to read” list, that allows you to add comments.  Like who recommended a book, which is something I’m constantly forgetting.  I keep meaning to keep more detailed records of what I read, especially the children’s and YA stuff, so that I have a decent annotated list to fall back on for recommending.   So I’m giving it a try (I’m jessmonster, of course, if you go looking for me).

It’s time for making banana bread, and figuring out what I’m going to eat this week.  Last week I made a half-pan of baked ziti and it lasted pleasantly through all the days I needed to pack meals or reheat something quickly.  I need to find this week’s equivilant, perhaps a soup.

Check out this annotated list of Newbery winners – arranged “not by year – but by how much a totally biased group of readers enjoyed them.” First of all, I’m impressed that a group of people actually managed to do this – read them all and rank them – even if I disagree with a few placements.

  • The Hero and the Crown at 46?
  • Holes at 27?
  • Walk Two Moons at 52?
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler at 20?
  • The Tale of Despereaux at 13?

But on the other hand, who can argue with The Giver at Number One? I certainly can’t. The most fascinating aspect of the list, though, is how poorly ranked some of my childhood favorites are. Granted, I haven’t read them in ages, but I have fond memories of a bunch that they hit hard:

  • Up a Road Slowly – 71
  • The Grey King – 65 (although, granted, not the best in the series)
  • Caddie Woodlawn – 58
  • The High King – 55
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond – 44
  • Jacob Have I Loved – 41
  • Johnny Tremain – 37 (I had an inexplicable love of Johnny Tremain in 5th grade. Read it numerous times.)

So maybe it’s time to do some rereading.

The best part of the list? Criss Cross at 54. “The group gave it an audible, exasperated gasp.”

I could probably get my school reading done much faster if I didn’t stop to chuckle over phrases like that.  That’s describing a library catalog lacking in organizational elements.  Yep, much as the cataloging class is (yawn) boring, it’s right up my library nerd fighter alley.  I’m so used to the idea of a library catalog that it’s hard to step back and think about it.  It just is, and I use it…except for those days at work when I’m creating spanking new entries in the catalog.  Which, of course, are then replaced with fuller records by our network staff, but still.

My OCD personality disorder side wants to take the whole catalog and clean it up.  Make everything connect like it should, link to proper subject headings blah blah even though I would rather stick needles in my eyes than actually do that all day.

Ahem.  Back to the real world.

I’m listening to Just Listen (appropriate, huh?) now that my car stereo miraculously returned to life.  It stopped, a few weeks ago, and even though I was getting used to the silence, I would still punch buttons once in a while in the hopes that rumors of its death had been greatly exaggerated.  And yesterday it worked!  So I stuck a half-finished tape back in and chortled with glee.  Of course, yesterday was the day that a print copy of Just Listen finally came in on hold so I could finish the story.  But I won’t tempt fate by returning it just yet…

Stolen from various places.  I’m feeling too lazy to link.  Sorry.

In the kitchen with…Jessmonster

Variety is the spice of life.
In my cupboard, I have this many spices: NO idea.  Couple dozen?
Rack or no rack? One rack above stove, with random jars lined up on the stove and on the counter next to the stove, and a slightly melted twirly rack on top of the fridge, with random spices in plastic bags…
Alphabetize? HA.
Which spice do you use most often? Lately, oregano.  Rosemary.  Nutmeg.
Which recipe? Waffles & pancakes.

It’s like the pot calling the kettle black.

Coffee or tea? Both.
Do you make coffee at home? Yep, in French press or Kitri’s little drip pot.
If you make tea, loose or in bags? Bags.
How many kinds of tea do you have? Probably more than I have spices.  27, as it turns out.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
I use my stovetop: Most days.
I use my oven: Often.  Bake at least once a week, use it to toast things.

Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?
Soy or cow? Cow, straight from the.
Skim or whole? Whole, sometimes with a little of the cream skimmed off for coffee.
How many gallons a week? half a gallon.

There’s nothing like rejection to make you do an inventory of yourself. (James Lee Burke)

Three items in my freezer (right now):

  1. Vanilla ice cream (Double Rainbow).
  2. Frozen berries – strawberry, raspberry, marionberry, boisenberry – from my parents’ crop last summer.
  3. Chicken breasts from before Lent.

Three things in my fridge (right now):

  1. Leftover lamb.
  2. Smoked mozzerella.
  3. Sliced turkey.

Item I am most chagrined about: a zucchini that is getting wrinkly.

Item I bet no one else has: I would say lime & ginger water kefir (not ready to drink yet), except I got the grains from Maria and I believe she reads this, so…pancake batter AND waffle batter?  Local honey sold in a cabinet out front of someone’s house?

After the kids had scampered off on an egg-hunt on Pascha, I whipped out the camera.   The bay leaves (and bread crumbs and bits of nuts and dried fruit…) had been swept up by this Sunday, and it looked so bare after all the mess.

Now that I’m free to cook and eat whatever I like, the domestic good times have been rolling around here.  Yesterday was the first annual LambFest.  It was just about the simplest dinner party to host ever, as all I had to do was the Lamb.  I wrangled my guests into bringing: an elaborate salad, a sweet potato casserole (which was really more of a warm, savory pudding), chocolate chip cookies, and of course dear roommate whipped out a few bottles of wine from her (extensive) stash.  I’d never cooked lamb before (I don’t often cook meat) so I was nervous, but I just rubbed the chops all over with a blend of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, marjoram and oregano, and let them rest for a while, and then broiled them up in mere minutes.  The whole meal was beautiful.  Note to self: have people over for dinner more often.  If only because it inspires me to clean up the place…

In reading news, I’ve run through a couple children’s books lately:

  • Weedflower, which I enjoyed SO much more than Kira-Kira.
  • Maude March on the Run!  Wild west, adventure, girls mistakenly accused of bank-robbery…fun sequel times.
  • The Thing About Georgie – I loved the beginnings to each chapter, and I read it in about 2 hours.  Fun with a little thoughtful thrown in.
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret  – I think I was more in love with the format than the actual story, although there was nothing at all wrong with the story.  Loved the illustrations.
  • Esperanza Rising.  Yeah, yeah, everyone says it’s good. Because it IS.

I also started The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, although I got distracted when Kitri and I spontaneously started reading aloud in the evenings – we were discussing, what, Newbery winners?  And I pulled Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH from the shelf, because it’s been years since I read it, and K had only seen the movie, and we were trying to remember exactly what it was about, and before we knew it, we were munching popcorn and tossing the book back and forth (literally) between chapters.

Excuse me, I have to go eat some baked ziti and catch up on all the schoolwork I abandoned during Holy Week and Bright Week.

Bright…Wednesday?  I sure hope it’s Wednesday, because if it’s any other day of the week, I’m late for work.  Still rainy and overcast.

Eating warm chocolate cake with a scoop of coffee ice cream.  Reading The Way of the Storyteller and alternately feeling enthusiastic (nothing is lost!) and rejected (she can be a trifle elitist, she can).  But mostly inspiring.  Makes me want to rush out and listen to as many storytellers as possible.  And find the stories I want to tell.  I’ve never really done it, real storytelling, not out loud.  But I’m in love with the idea of taking on a story to such a degree that you can tell it from memory – not word for word, but as something alive and dynamic each time you tell it.  And that one’s experiences and life go into stories as into a compost heap, that life feeds on stories and vice versa.

In other news, March book tallies are in.  My grand total was 17, with a good balance between juv and adult – 10 to 7.  I also got caught up on this year’s Newbery Honor titles, which I both enjoyed, especially Hattie Big Sky (I read Rules last year).  Only eight of my seventeen counted (by my loose standards) as historical fiction, so almost half.  So far this month it’s been ALL historical fiction, but I’m already falling behind since I’ve only read 3 in 10 days.  Horrors!

Time to skedaddle off to the library – where, I realized, I never browse.  I only put stuff on hold.  I kind of miss browsing, but my list is so long, I’ll never run out of something to read.  Not to mention the books I own that remain unread…

April 2007

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