Wednesday, November 27, 2013

We Interrupt This Blog. . .

I started this blog with the intention of giving myself extra encouragement and a way to be accountable for tasks around the house.  It hasn't worked out as I had planned, but so little actually does!  =)  Trying to blog about my week in review and plans for the next week has begun to feel like an unpleasant (and dreaded) chore instead of an interesting way to help me stay on task.  I plan to step away from this blog (yes, even the book lists, challenges, etc..) and concentrate on other things for now.

On another topic. .. May your Thanksgiving be occasioned by true thankfulness.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Review of Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings
Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
2/5 stars

Princesses Behaving Badly is a collection of mini-biographies (ranging from a few paragraphs to a few pages) of various royal (or royal-wannabe) women over a wide selection of history and cultures. The premise is that these are rebellious women who broke with the traditions of society, and promised to be a highly entertaining and interesting book.

Unfortunately, McRobbie writes about her subjects in a colloquial, flippant and at times campy style, which detracts from the subject matter. I've no doubt she intends to be humorous and accessible, but (for me) it clashed with the seriousness of her topic. For example, her use of terms like "crazy cat lady", "baby maker", and "broad" feels derogatory, not funny.

In a book that is supposed to be lauding women who are not typical of society's expectations, McRobbie manages to portray many of these ladies in a negative, as opposed to a neutral, light. Conversely to the premise, McRobbie appears to judge their actions by the very standards that these "princesses" faced in their own time. I was very disappointed by this; I had expected Princesses to be more on the lines of the "Uppity Women" series.

There is no doubt that the information was truly interesting, but I think the book would have benefited from more detailed biography on fewer subjects, instead of the small amount given on a large number. Photos or illustrations would also be helpful; I don't know if these will be included in the final copy.

Another point of irritation for me was the cover. It shows a slovenly drunk woman and a passionate lesbian kiss, neither of which actually occur in the book. I felt that this again was an example of trying to be humorous about the topic, but instead it depicted women in a manner that is supposed to be insulting (the drunk) and shocking/titillating (the kiss).

Overall, I was disappointed in this book as (based on the cover blurb) I expected it to be a celebration of individuality, of rule breaking, of women who didn't "stay in their place". Instead, it appeared as if McRobbie couldn't make up her mind as to whether she wanted to promote or condone this "bad behavior"; she seems to send mixed messages.

If McRobbie had approached her topic with a less jokey tone and had seemed to respect her "princesses" more, I think it could have been an excellent read. As it was, I would not recommend it. If this is a topic of interest, I would instead recommend the "Uppity Women" series by Vicki Leon, or Royal Pains by Leslie Carroll.

I was given this book by the Amazon Vine program in return for an honest review.

On a personal note: What the deuce?!  Who is her intended audience?  I can't see it being well received by feminist readers. . . perhaps she intends it for young adults?  If so, I wouldn't recommend it for that audience either.  

I'm just puzzled by her attitude toward her subject.  I was so turned off by her slangy language and the disrespect that I felt she was showing these women, that I could hardly finish it.  

That being said, there are many positive reviews by others that didn't feel the way I did.  If anyone would like to give it a try, let me know and I'll mail it to you.  Some of it is truly interesting, if you don't mind her style.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

October Book List

October 2013
Reading List

This month I did more cross stitching than any thing, so I didn't actually read many books.

It was  good month for audio books, as most that  I listened to were stellar and highly recommendable.

Books Read

  1. Anne of Windy Poplars (1936) by Lucy Maude Montgomery
    I am thoroughly enjoying this gentle series!
  2. Princesses Behaving Badly (2013) by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
    Negative review coming soon.

Audio Books:

  1. The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988) by Diana Wynne Jones
    A reread; I love this series!
  2. Overture to Death (1939) by Ngaio Marsh
    I was fairly certain of the culprit early on, but enjoyed the narrative and characters tremendously.
  3. The Maltese Falcon (1930) by Dashiel Hammet
    I cannot believe how good this was!  I can't believe I waited so long to read it!
  4. Towards Zero (1944) by Agatha Christie
    Excellent mystery; kept me confused til the end.
  5. A Damsel in Distress (1919) by P.G. Wodehouse
    A delightful tale, typical of Wodehouse.  I knew from the first chapter what the happy endings would be, but that didn't lessen the enjoyment.
  6. Little Women (1868/9) by Louisa May Alcott
    I had only read a child's annotated version before this, and yet have devoured all I can find of her sensation stories, so the heavy, preachy tone surprised me.  I still enjoyed it, but not as much as I do her ridiculous thrillers.
  7. And Then There Were None (1939) by Agatha Christie
    A long-time favorite; this time I actually remembered "whodunnit", but still had a hard time believing it.  This is such a great mystery.
  8. The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013) by Robert Gailbraith
    This was an excellent book and I highly recommend it; well plotted, with excellent character development.  Looking forward to more in this series.
  9. Crooked House (1949) by Agatha Christie
    I figured out the murderer just a few pages before the startling answer was revealed; another highly recommended Christie. 
  10. The Silver Linings Playbook (2008) by Matthew Quick
    I strongly identified with Pat.  This book was beautiful, funny and poignant.  I recommend it universally.  I will say this, though: I looked at a few of the film clips and from what I could tell, the movie took pivotal, beautiful scenes and farce-ified them.  Read the book, skip the movie.
  11. The Black Angel (1943) by Cornell Woolrich
    Stunningly good noir; highly recommend.  This is my second time reading Woolrich and both were fantastic.
  12. The Marseilles Caper (2012) by Peter Mayle 
    I can't say that the book had a very riveting plot, and yet I kept listening to see what would happen next.  I enjoyed it enough that I'm planning to read another of this series.

Looking Back on October

This October was a gorgeous month: we had mostly enjoyable weather, and the autumn colors were brilliant and long-lasting.  I love October. . .  As Anne Shirley says, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."

Despite this, October was a difficult month for me--hence my disappearance from blogging.  I was unable to stick to my tasks, and did not accomplish much.  I'm trying to ignore that part of the month, though, and focus on the good.

  • We finally got the water situation resolved!  We are now on "city water" (though I suppose it's more "county water", or perhaps I should say "pay-per-flush". . . ) and I am ecstatic about it.  No more muddy water when we have big rains, no more lime-y water that cakes on every thing, and most importantly, no more worries about e.Coli.

    I expect the first bill will be a shock, and I'll have to conserve more than I have been accustomed, but it will still be well worth the cost!

  • Mom's birthday was in October.  She and I celebrated with a mother-daughter day: lunch out and a bit of shopping.  I am so blessed that she lives close by, now.  It is such a pleasure to spend time with her.
  • I finished The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery's Autumn Sampler.

     I still think the second square is my favorite, I just love those leaves!  Number twenty-two is a close second.

    Of course, I adore all the kawaii foods and objects, too.  That is how I found the Frosted Pumpkin--googling for kawaii cross stitch patterns!

    My husband settled on number 23 as his favorite, which is also lovely.  Nineteen, too, with the night sky and full moon.

    I am proud of the fabric, too.  I used chocolate brown Rit and dyed it just lightly to make the pale rusty color.  I am enjoying making my own fabric colors; I may never buy colored cloth again!

  • I took a photo every day in October!  This is a big deal, as I consider photo taking a type of therapy.  Last year, I took a photo nearly every day for the entire year.  I had not done so well up until October.

    Here is one of my favorites from the month:

I am trying hard to snap out of my funk, and I hope that in November (another month I love, with my favorite non-birthday holiday) I can do this.  I am thankful for so much; I just want to be able to show it!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Review of Xyron/Teresa Collins Adhesive Kit

My rating: 2/5 stars

This adhesive kit contains six different adhesives by Xyron, and are labeled as "acid free" and "non toxic". The kit comes housed in a pretty, pale pink box with the Teresa Collins logo in black on the front. It is made of sturdy cardboard, is about 7" x 7" and 2" deep, and stays closed with a strong magnetic flap. It contains individual compartments for each piece, but these are just paper inserts and can be removed so that the box can be reused.

The kit contains:

-189 adhesive foam squares. These are 1/4 inch thick, which is frankly too thick for scrapbook use and for most card-making. I cannot fathom why so many were included.

-1 adhesive eraser. I have not used this, so I don't know if it works. There are no instructions included for how best to use it, but I assume it is supposed to be used like a regular eraser, to remove adhesive from paper.

-20 feet of transparent tape, in a sturdy, pink, plastic tape runner. An average roll of transparent tape contains around 37 feet, so I don't expect this would last very long. It is referred to as "disposable", so I am assuming that tape refills are not available.

-29 feet of double-sided tape in a heavy paper dispenser with a metal serrated cutter. Again, when compared to other brands of double sided tape (which contain around 33 feet), I don't expect that this tape would last long for the average paper-crafter.

-10 feet of one-inch sticker tape in a sturdy, pink, plastic container with a metal serrated cutter. This, too, has no directions for use. It is also referred to as "disposable", so again, I assume no refills are available.

-.75 oz bottle of clear-hold adhesive for embellishments. This is half the size of other brands of embellishment glue. I have not used it yet, so I cannot attest to it's hold.

Bottom line: The presentation of the product, in the lovely pink box, is the kit's best feature. At the current price of $25 for this set, it is extremely overpriced (even considering the addition of the reusable box) for the small amount of product it contains.

I received this product from the Amazon Vine program in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Looking Back

This past week was spent fighting migraines, so it wasn't extremely eventful.  I did make a buttermilk pie which turned out wonderful, and some cream cheese mints that weren't so great (sort of like eating icing).  I have been cooking so much lately; I am astounded at myself!

I made two bird feeders, to replace the ones that had finally worn out after over a year.  I use plastic gallon water jugs, and just cut out an opening.  (Make sure to leave a good sized lip on the bottom to keep the seeds from spilling out.)  The birds have no trouble using them, and while they might not be the most stylish feeders on the block, I like knowing I've recycled a jug to make them.  This time I added a thin branch through it, just in case a bird would like a perch.  I've not noticed them using it, but it is kind of cute.
There was a fantastic concert held at my church on Thursday night.  It consisted of our local symphony's chamber orchestra and maestro, two retired opera singers, two opera students, a professor of music on the organ, our local chamber choir and my church's parish choir.  The acoustics in my church are fantastic, and the concert was breathtaking.  They performed Haydn's Theresienmesse in B flat and it was so amazing that I was in tears at several points. Mom and I had the best seats, I think, at the rail of the right hand balcony.   Such a lovely evening!   

Photo borrowed from my church's web page.
In more homey news. . . St. John is getting so long!  He still looks like a baby in the face, but boy is he long!

I don't particularly have any plans for this week, as I am still having migraine trouble.  I just plan to keep the house clean, keep us both fed and cross stitch.

I am thankful for:
  • pumpkin pie spice kisses
  • autumn even if it autumn allergies do give me migraines
  • Haydn 
  • it seems we've found a new vet
  • homemade biscuits
  • audio books

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Classics Club: "Breakfast at Tiffany's" by Truman Capote

I first read "Breakfast at Tiffany's" in high school, after I saw and fell in love with the movie.  I found the novella a sad disappointment, as it wasn't like the movie, so promptly pushed it out of my mind.

As an adult, I wasn't so impressed with the movie--the horrible portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi in particular and pretty much everything else in general--so I began to think maybe I needed to reread the novella and see what Capote really intended.

I'll confess, I'm just as unimpressed as I was some twenty years ago, though not for the same reasons.

Louise Brooks

Frankly, very little.

I did think that Holly looked (not at all like Audrey Hepburn, but) like a blonde Louise Brooks, with even fuller lips.  The description of her resembled Hepburn in no way whatsoever; I can't imagine why she was cast.  Having set it in the present day when they filmed it, the clothing and manners were all wrong in the movie as well; I was glad that I had the knowledge to be able to imagine the right clothing, hair styles and props that were suitable for the story.

I also thought what an unappealing character Holly was.  I had no sympathy for or connection with her at all, nor did I find the plot particularly interesting.

Capote's prose was fine, but not stellar, certainly not captivating enough to make this (to my mind) a classic.

With the exception of the final line, which generated a small bit of emotion due to Capote's obvious attempts to twang the heartstrings, I was unmoved.  Again, I'll say that neither plot nor characters interested me enough to have any feelings for them.

I'm sure Capote had a message or an impression he wanted left with the reader, but I was unable to find it.  I was not a good match for this book.  

To show just how unmemorable "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was to me, I will mention that I forgot it even existed in my literary world.  It was on my list for the Classics Club Spin, and it's number was the one that was spun.  I read it in mid-to-late September, but was so unmoved by it that I didn't add it to my list of books read and didn't think of writing up the notes until now.

My explanation of the Classics Club can be found here
and the Classics Club itself can be found here.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

One Year Later. . .

It's hard to believe, but St. John has been with us a full year!

My  parents' neighbor saw someone dumping out St. John and his sister and brought them home.  They kept Emma and we took St. John.

He was maybe three weeks old,  full of parasites (inside and out!) and still needed milk.  He was so hyperactive that we had to convert our spare room into a kitty nursery and put him in with the door closed so he would go to sleep.

I was seriously battling my personal demons when we first got him, and his activity and the level of care he required nearly drove me over the edge.  I had never had a kitten, and just didn't think I could handle keeping him, didn't think he'd ever grow out of his wildness.

As he matured, and I healed, he has become the most loving--though still active--mama's boy I've ever seen.

I never thought I'd love a cat more than I love our Lizzie, but. .. I'll admit it.  St. John has totally stolen my heart.  There will be no other cats after him!

Looking Back

I started my week off by leaving my phone on top of the car.  This was the result:

Even though it would turn on, I couldn't use it because it was a touch screen.  I was SO mad at myself!  I picked an inexpensive one this time.

There was construction outside our home this week, and I think it was the beginnings of tapping us into the city water.  I am so looking forward to having this finished. 

The best news of the week: I won a drawing for $115 to PayPal!  My husband is adamant that it is to be used only for me.  I see visions of books and crafting items!

  • I did quite a bit of cooking.  I am becoming more adept and less nervous; I even think about wanting to cook, which is totally new.  
  • I used this recipe to make the best gluten free biscuits I have eaten.  They tasted like I remember biscuits tasting, though not as fluffy.  I'll be having them again soon!
  • Cleaned the bathroom; the tub is the bane of my existence, but I found a new foam handled scrub brush that I like and that doesn't hurt my hand which made it so much easier.  Sadly, I threw away the packaging and can't find it online no matter what I Google.  If I ever find out, I'll write a post in it's praise.
  • Finished arranging the dining room/pantry combo.  It still needs a few things done to it, but I'm not ashamed of it now.
  • I brought home a new hermit crab to join our colony.
  • I have taken a photo every day this week, of which I am proud.  I'm trying to get back to daily photos as I find it so enjoyable and life-giving.
  • recycled an old flannel shirt into strips to dry dishes on
  • I reinstalled my favorite game of all time, Zoo Tycoon, and have spent many hours playing it.  My husband bought it for my Christmas gift our first year together, and for the past twelve years I have played it for at least a month each year.  I hated the sequel, but this one has stood the test of time!
  • Completed the first week and second weeks of the Autumn Sampler.

I still feel like I'm at a standstill in most of my organizing and rearranging projects.  I'll get my husband's help with the heavy things when he takes off next month and hopefully that will get me over this hump.

Meanwhile, plans for next week include:
  • Still need to clean out the tiny closet in the "closet room" and see if I can make it usable, but it needs the door taken off first.  
  • still need to measure and plan out what will be needed for the rest of my craft supply shelves
  • Still need to reorganize the two kitchen cabinets that are left; this isn't urgent but I'll be glad to have it done.
  • Begin to sort out the junk drawer, tool drawer and miscellaneous drawer in the kitchen.  Notice I said "begin". I expect it will be a chore!
  • write up my thoughts on Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Maltese Falcon
  • It has stayed way too hot, despite being autumn, so my outside activities have been limited.  If the weather is cooler this coming week, I'd like to get outside and mow and maybe trim some branches.
  • continue working on the Autumn Sampler

I am thankful for:
  • unexpected gifts
  • family
  • leaves changing color
  • Bach
  • gluten free biscuits and gravy

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

September Book List

Books Read:

  1. In Times Like These (1968) by Emilie Loring
    As I mentioned a month or so ago, I bought a huge box of Loring novels out of nostalgia.  I loved them as an early teen. The first one I read, Keepers of the Faith (1944), was simply terrible.  Not so much the plot (which was typical Loring), but the writing--it was DREADFUL.  This one was more what I remembered her novels to be like; she's no Nabokov, but she (generally) writes a readable, pleasant, if predictable, fluff novel.
  2. The Gatehouse Mystery (1951) by Julie Campbell
    As I've mentioned earlier, I'm rereading this series; it was my favorite as a child and I recently purchased a complete set.  I'm surprised at how much I am enjoying them, even as an adult.  
  3. The Frightened Wife and other murder stories (1953) by Mary Roberts Rinehart
    Some of these stories were particularly good, others just good.  I enjoy sensationalism, and Rinehart did it well.
  4. Great Black Kanba (1944) by Constance and Gwenyth Little
    Another gem by the Little sisters, and my favorite so far.  I love the humor in their books, and the mysteries are generally well-plotted.  Excellent reading!
  5. The Best Man (1914) by Grace Livingston Hill
    A story typical of it's time with a strong hero and delicate heroine, and a gentle and improbable plot.  Hill's novels are part of my nostalgic, return-to-childhood reading, as they were a favorite in my early teens.  
  6. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958; novella) by Truman Capote
    Will write up my thoughts soon, but can say I was disappointed.

Audio Books:
  1. Postern of Fate (1973) by Agatha Christie
    This is the final Tommy and Tuppence novel, as well as the last book Christie penned.  For the first time, I was truly disappointed by one of her mysteries.  It was often repetitive and convoluted and seemed to contradict information about the Beresford's given in earlier novels.  On top of that, Hugh Fraser (my all time favorite audiobook reader) did a barely passable job.  It was often hard to tell who was speaking, which is so unlike his usual talent that I was shocked.
  2. The Two Destinies (1876) by Wilkie Collins
    I am not ashamed to admit that I adore the novels of Wilkie Collins.  While I've yet to become a fan of Dickens (I'll be willing to give him yet another try later in this decade of my life), the sensational (as a genre, not just an adjective) fiction of Collins totally immerses me.  Filled with the supernatural, the inexplicable, with thwarted love, and thoroughly Victorian heroines, this one is typical of his work and I loved every minute of it.  (Samuel West did a sterling job reading it, too.) 
  3. The Colour of Magic (1983) by Terry Pratchett
  4. The Light Fantastic (1986) by Terry Pratchett
    I'm rereading this favorite series through audio book.  The first two are, as fans know, not a true example of his talent, but they are good background for the series and still funny as all get-out (whatever that means).
  5. Murder is Easy (1939) by Agatha Christie
    Despite having read this before, and being fairly certain of the identity of the murderer, I still found myself wavering under the clues.
  6. The Girl in Blue (1970) by P.G. Wodehouse
    A non-Jeeves novel that was light and fun; typical Wodehouse.
  7. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    I think that Doyle is at his best writing short stories, at least as far as Holmes is concerned. 
  8. Brideshead Revisited (1945) by Evelyn Waugh
    I can not express how much I love this book.  I have read it numerous times; it's one of my top five favorites,.  This isn't typical of his other works (which I still enjoy) but is much more introspective and exquisite.  If you've not read it, you should. 
  9. Equal Rites (1987) by Terry Pratchett
    The Discworld evaluates gender equality and Granny Weatherwax is introduced; love this one!
  10. The Hidden Staircase (1930) by Caroline Keene
    I continue my Nancy Drew refresher course. . .  It's no Christie, but it kept me entertained.
  11. Mort (1987) by Terry Pratchett
    Another reread of the Discworld series--my literary comfort food.  Death takes on an apprentice but, naturally, things don't work out quite the way either planned.
  12. Past Tense (2010) by Catherine Aird
    She writes with a style similar to P.D. James, only a little more on the cozy side.  I had the solution figured out early on, but it was interesting to see the story evolve.
  13. The Case of Jennie Brice (1913) by Mary Roberts Rinehart
    It started off with the solution obvious, and yet took enough twists and turns to make it an interesting tale.
  14. The Seven Dials Mystery (1929) by Agatha Christie
    I'm not usually a fan of international conspiracies, but was pleasantly surprised by both an engaging plot and an unexpected ending.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Looking Back

I was simply too discouraged last week to have any desire to write about accomplishments, or lack thereof. 

The well situation is still unresolved (in other words, I'm still showering in E.coli water. . . ) but we found out this week that we can hook up to the city's water.  It's going to take much longer than it would to have the UV filter placed on our well, but will hopefully be about the same cost.  I think it will be worth it in the long run.

St. John, enjoying his prized snake skin.
  • St. John brought me special gift. . . a snake skin over three feet long, which I assume he found in the basement. He thought it was the Best Toy Ever, and was so cute showing it to my husband that evening. Notice in the photo it was broken into two pieces. I fleetingly wondered where the third tail-end piece could be, assumed he'd lost it playing with it in a favorite place, and promptly forgot about it. Imagine my emotions when I turned back the quilt and found it in my bed two days later!
  • completed the Halloween Sampler
  • baked delicious banana bread from this recipe (though I used sugar instead of honey and agave)
  • made my husband his favorite dessert for his birthday: homemade chocolate pudding pie
  • created my own recipe of a chili Bisquick pie/casserole for his lunches
  • made a huge pot of homemade cheesy potato soup for my meals (noticing all the cooking/baking I have been doing since the new toaster oven, it's no wonder my jeans didn't fit!)

I feel like I'm at a standstill in most of my organizing and rearranging projects.  Nearly everything needs a help from my husband (heavy work) so I can proceed.  He'll be taking some time off soon, and I'll have to put him to work!

Meanwhile, plans for next week include:
  • clean out the tiny closet in the "closet room" and see if I can make it usable.
  • measure and plan out what will be needed for the rest of my craft supply shelves
  • reorganize the two kitchen cabinets that are left
  • finish rereading Breakfast at Tiffany's for the Classics Club
  • I also want to get outside more this coming week, since it has cooled down some.  
  • maybe make this marshmallow pumpkin pie!
  • working on the Autumn Sampler

I am thankful for:
  • cooler, Autumnal weather!
  • time to read and to cross stitch
  • an understanding family
  • a new interest in cooking/baking
  • cats that play together

Now, for more kitty photos. . . .

St. John is maturing somewhat, but even at 12 months, he still looks like a baby!.  Here is this month's  photo mosaic.  I included a goofball photo this time.

Autumn Book Challenge

Megan of Semi-Charmed Kind of Life is hosting another book challenge.  I finished (and thoroughly enjoyed) the summer challenge, so I'm excited to participate in this, the autumn challenge.

I rarely plan out what I will read in advance, but I thought this challenge might be good for reading many I have in my private library.  I found I enjoyed looking for these books in advance, and now I won't have to struggle to remember what book came to mind when I saw the topic!
(note: I decided to just keep to this page, instead of making a new one, so, I'll be replacing my planned books with the books I actually read.)


  • The challenge will run from October 1, 2013, to December 31, 2013. No books that are started before 12 a.m. on October 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on December 31 will count.
  • New rule:up to three books for the challenge can be rereads. 
  • Each book must be at least 200 pages long. Audio books are fine, as long as the print versions meet the page requirements.

The challenge categories:

  • 5: Read a book that does not have "the," "a" or "an" in the title.
    Overture to Death by Ngaio Marsh (318 pages, audio, October 2013)
  •  10: Read a book that has been featured in Oprah's Book Club.
    Planning to read A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens or Open House by Elizabeth Berg (272 pages)
  • 10: Read a book that takes place in the state where you currently live.
     The Highly Effective Detective Goes to the Dogs by Richard Yancey, Tennessee (336 pages, November 2031)
  • 15: Read an epistolary novel.
    Anne of Windy Poplars (not entirely epistolary, but mostly) by Lucy Maude Montgomery (301 pages, October 2013)
  • 15: Read a book first published in 2013.
    Princesses Behaving Badly (will be published November 2013; I read the ARC) by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie (288 pages, October 2013)
  • 15: Read a book with something spooky in the title.
    Possibilities: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (272 pages), The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (288 pages),  The Phantom Lover by Ruby M. Ayers (262 pages), The Haunted Pajamas (374 pages) by Francis Perry Elliott or The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins (336 pages, reread)
  • 20: Read a book with "air," "water," "earth" or "fire" in the title.
    Several possibilities: Hot Water by P.G. Wodehouse (256 pages), From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne, (240 pages), Running Water by A. E. W. Mason (256 pages) or The War in the Air by H. G. Wells (389 pages)
  • 20: Read a book on which a television series has been based
    Several Possibilities: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman  (327 pages, series of the same name), Little House in the Big Woods (256 pages, Little House on the Prairie series, reread), a Perry Mason mystery, one of the Saint mysteries, Spencer's Mountain by Earl Hamner, Jr (basis for the Waltons), or The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (208 pages, series of the same name).
  • 25: Read a fiction book that has someone’s first and last name in the title
    The Lives of Christopher Chant (reread) by Diana Wynne Jones (240 pages, audio, October 2013)
  • 30: Read two books by the same author.
    Toward Zero (259 pages, October 2013, audio) and Crooked House (260 pages, October 2013, audio) by Agatha Christie
  • 35: Read a fiction and nonfiction book about the same topic.
    The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (304 pages, October 2013, audio) and Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir by Ellen Forney (256 pages, November 2013); topic: bipolar disorder
To save space, I've abbreviated the rules and categories.  Complete rules and details on the categories can be found here.

135 points

Friday, September 27, 2013

Review of Clipper 10-inch Commercial Non-Stick Pans

Clipper 315-90011 10-Inch Commercial NSF Nonstick Saute Pans

$41.99 for a package of two at Amazon
4/5 stars

I was given these pans through the Amazon Vine program in return for an honest review.

I generally do not use nonstick pans, due to PFOA concerns.  Clipper maintains that these are PFOA free, and while I only have their word for it, I was willing to give them a try.

These are extremely sturdy, heavy gauge, saute pans, with a strong handle that is ergonomic and well attached.  They are 10 inch pans and are deep enough and wide enough for a stir fry or other large recipes.

Cooking with it was easy: non stick (naturally), deep enough to keep from flipping food out, and though heavy, easy to handle.  Other reviewers note that the handle stayed cool; for me, it did get almost uncomfortably warm. (Hence four stars instead of five.) When I cook with it again, I will make sure that this isn't due to user error, and will update accordingly.

The Eterna nonstick coating appears to be durable, and Eterna has received good reviews for it's durability.  This will be proved or disproved as time goes on, and I will update my review should I find it beginning to flake within a few months.

The pan was a breeze to clean: a quick wipe in the dishwater and all food particles were gone.

The price may be off-putting to some, at over $20 per pan (these come in a set of two).  However, if the longevity of the pan matches the obvious good quality, then it is an investment that is well worth making.

On a personal note:
I am not a good cook, and certainly not good at frying or sauteing, but I was certainly impressed.  Besides doing all I said above, they are of such weight that I might keep one by my bed, in case of intruders!  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Halloween Sampler, Completed

I finished my Halloween Sampler (designed by The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery) late Tuesday night.  I don't care for Halloween, personally, and yet I love this sampler!

The beautiful cloth color was achieved by dying white Aida with Rit gray.  I used silver Kreinik for the stars of the H and W, and added it to the steel gray of the ninja's weapons.  I used a single piece of gold Kreinik with the yellow of my lightening.

It's hard to pick a favorite, but I think the owls might be mine.  Or maybe the ghosts.  Or the lollipops. Or perhaps the black cat.  No, definitely the owls.  I think.

H is for Haunted
A is for Apparition
L is for Lightening

L is for Lollipop
O is for Owl
W is for Witch

E is for Eyes
E is for Eek!
N is for Ninja (costume)

The Classics Club: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of those classics about which references are always being made, and it seems like everyone has a general idea of the plot, whether or not they've read it.

I knew it was one that I needed to read, but had always put it off, thinking it would be too depressing.  I am so glad I finally read it and recommend it wholeheartedly.  If you've not read it, make this the next book you do read!

While Orwell's dystopia is a terrible place, the book was not so much distressing as thought-provoking.  Like Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, I also found it disturbingly prophetic.  NewSpeak made me think of the horrible text message shorthand, and the Ministry of Peace was frighteningly similar to the way current governments present the need for war.  As for the Two Minutes Hate. . . How often have we seen a more subtle version of this in the recent past?!

I thought a great deal about how easily people can be "brain-washed" into living in horrid situations or doing vile acts by the government or other powerful institutions--good people, too, with honest intentions who think they are doing the right thing.

I thought about the fact that Orwell wrote this not long after the ending of World War II, and how Hitler's Germany must have been foremost in his mind.

I also thought about the control of history; the victors always write (and sometimes rewrite) history.  This is nothing new, and continues to this day.

 I felt frightened at times, by how similar some of the situations were to today's society.

I was enthralled by Orwell's prose; I had expected it to be dusty, dry, and yet it was alive and relevant.

I felt so much sadness for Winston; he was so real to me that I was emotionally invested in his journey.

I did feel confused by the Party requirements, and struggled to comprehend it fully.  I felt that it would have been better if Orwell had given that explanation early in the book, and more completely.  However, who am I to judge?!  I assume he had an excellent reason for waiting as long as he did, and my lack of understanding  was the fault of the reader, not the writer.

"The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in."

"Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull."

"If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened — that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death?"

"The object of waging a war is always to be in a better position in which to wage another war."

"A peace that was truly permanent would be the same as a permanent war. This—although the vast majority of Party members understand it only in a shallower sense—is the inner meaning of the Party slogan: War is Peace."

"All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers."

"We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."


My explanation of the Classics Club can be found here
and the Classics Club itself can be found here.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review of The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane

The Night Guest
Fiona McFarlane

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (October 1, 2013)
  • 3/5 stars

I received the advanced copy of this novel from the Amazon Vine program in return for my honest review.

This begins as a gentle, charming novel about a 70-something lady dealing with aging, memory and love--as well as what she thinks is a tiger roaming her home at night. It then becomes a psychological thriller about trust, deception and abuse.

McFarlane writes well; her character are fully fleshed out and her descriptions bring the setting to life. With one notable exception, the situations are completely believable, and could easily happen. Even the magical realism of the tiger incidents are well done.

I'm not adverse to reading uncomfortable novels; in fact, Lolita is one of my favorites, due to Nabokov's exquisite skill. However, I found The Night Guest so disturbing that McFarlane's prose could not make this a "good read" for me.

One a more personal note:

I can not stress how disturbing this novel is; it made my stomach hurt and I had to skim several chapters as the end neared.  

At the risk of spoiling it for a potential reader, I have to say that it focuses around the abuse of an elderly woman by a trusted caregiver.  It is not at all what I expected from reading the blurb. McFarlane just isn't a good enough writer to take a topic like that and make it readable for me.  I've tried to understand why I can find Lolita an amazing novel, and yet be so squeamish about this one.  As my husband pointed out, it could be because that Nabakov is not graphic and the psychological abuse in The Night Guest was explicit.  All I know is that when I pulled off the pretty paper of McFarlane's writing, all that was left was gut-wrenching abuse.  When I pull off the pretty paper of Nabokov's writing, I see so much more.

I did give it three stars, though, because McFarlane does write well.  My review is the lowest given at this point, however, so maybe I just wasn't a good fit for it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

What's in a Name Challenge: Completed

The categories:

  1. A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title
    Down Among the Dead by Patricia Moyes (June 2013)
  2. A book with something you'd find in your kitchen in the title
    A Pocketful of Rye by Agatha Christie (February 2013/audio) 
  3.  A book with a party or celebration in the title
    The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (2011) by Alexander McCall Smith 
    (August 2013)
  4. A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title
    Flame and Shadow by Sara Teasedale (July 2013my discussion)
  5. A book with an emotion in the title
    Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse (April 2013/audio) 
  6. A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title  
    After discussing it with the moderator, we agreed that The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared  by Jonas Jonasson would be appropriate. (July 2013/audio)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Halloween Sampler, Week Two

I've been trying since Tuesday to get a photo that does justice to these colors, but keep failing!  This is the second week of The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery's Halloween Sampler. 

I think the owl is my favorite for this particular week, but it's always so hard to choose!

I used silver Kreinik for my stars and added iridescent Kreinik to my moon; I dyed the cloth with the soft gray Rit.  

Can't wait to see what the final week will be!

H is for Haunted House
A is for Apparition
L is for Lightning

L is for Lollipop
O is for Owl
W is for Witch

Monday, September 16, 2013

Looking Back

 This was another unusual, off-schedule week for me, as my husband was home sick the entire week!

On Monday, I was still sick myself and my wonderful Mom came over and helped me wash dishes and get meals cooked.  I am so blessed!  We would've been eating off paper towels, without her help--though what we would've been eating, I can't imagine!

On Tuesday, I had to take my husband to the doctor, as he was actually worse instead of better!

After that, the week was a bit of a blur. I did an abbreviated grocery trip, but other than dishes and laundry that was the only weekly chore I accomplished.

I did cross stitch, and finished the first week of the Halloween Sampler.  I had such great results dying the fabric for that project that I dyed the fabric for the Autumn sampler that will be starting soon.  I'm really pleased with it too; it's a rusty color and looks lovely with the colors that will be used.

I made some mutant cookies, but rebounded today with a yummy crustless cheesecake.

I made mashed potatoes last night (there is nothing like real mashed potatoes!) and used the leftovers to make cheesy potato soup tonight.

We're waiting to hear results from the county about our water, and until then are still drinking bottled water.  Seeing as how I drink at least a gallon a day, it's a bit pricey.  Hoping for a clean bill of health on our well, and soon!

I mowed the lawn with our amazing new lawnmower.  I can't imagine why more people don't use a reel mower!

Oh--I did mop the floor tonght! Just lightly, but enough to keep me from having to admit that it was still unmopped!

Hopefully, this coming week will be more back to normal, and I can finally get to this list from a few weeks ago!
  • clean out the tiny closet in the "closet room" and see if I can make it usable.
  • measure and plan out what will be needed for the rest of my craft supply shelves
  • reorganize the two kitchen cabinets that are left
  • write up my thoughts about Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • research for a new vet
  • I also want to get outside more this coming week, since it has cooled down some.  

I am thankful for:
  • Mom's help
  • my husband finally feeling well
  • only being lightly ill
  • cool autumn breezes
  • chai
  • small victories
  • colors
  • fresh, crisp sheets
  • Wednesday noon Communion
Pretty Miss Lizzie