Tuesday, November 18, 2008

on my way

All righty, I'm off.  You all have great Thanksgivings!

This might help.  

Monday, November 17, 2008

nothing rotten here

In our please-let-it-become-annual tradition of spending Thanksgivings out of the country, we're headed off to Copenhagen! And London! And Edinburgh!  

The first half of the trip is ostensibly for business; for Pete there is no "ostensible" about it, but I will support him in his career by visiting billions of cool museums (and is it just me, or does the way Danish look make you giggle too?) and wandering beautiful streets and maybe going on the world's highest carousel.

Erase that "maybe."  After checking out youtube, wild horses couldn't keep me away.  

Mmm tasty!

Speaking of tasty, we celebrated Thanksgiving early, just in case the U.K. doesn't have turkeys, or in case the European-sized oven proves an insurmountable obstacle. You never know.

Le Menu de Thanksgiving chez petey and lars et avec Ruthie and Amberpherivia:

Turkey, cooked with the revolutionary new Cooks Illustrated method where you cook it in pieces, and not in one gigantic carcass.  I highly recommend it--white meat stayed juicy, dark meat was salmonella-free.  It also made the best gravy I have ever et.
- Brussels sprouts with pistachios (sooo good, I swear. Recipe here.)
- Bacon and apple stuffing; Cooks Illustrated hit another home run.
- Green beans with tarragon and lime.  Yup, C. I. again. Didn't love this recipe, though it was a fun twist on a traditional classic.
- Light-as-a-dream hot rolls to die for, via Shirley Corriher in her incredible Cookwise.  Can't say enough about this fantastic book.
- Sweet potatoes courtesy of Amberpher, emphasis on the Amber.  Everyone loved em, except me, but I'm deeply prejudiced and think yams, like mosquitos and the 495/I-270 interchange, were a giant cosmic mistake.
- Pumpkin pie from le freezer. Life is too short to mess with pie crusts.
- Melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cupcakes, adapted from this great recipe posted on Chocolate & Zucchini.  I didn't quite get the cooking time right, but it didn't matter.  This was still bliss.  It may be my favorite cupcake recipe of all time, and I've tried a few.  The texture's awesome, it's simple to whip up, and it tastes like all your wildest dreams come true.  The cake's rich enough that all it needed was a dollop of whipping cream on top.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

counting the gray hairs

So I've been getting some odd catalogues lately. (Not as odd as the ones we got when we first moved in though: I feel like I know A LOT about the previous owners.) Yesterday's catalogue, though, has ensured that I will spend the rest of my life here dodging the mailman.

Can you tell by the name?  How about the subtitle, "Support, Comfort, Independence"?Apparently some consumer algorithm's been tracking my spending habits at yarn stores, and concluded that I really am over 80 and in need of all kinds of orthopedic aids.

But it makes for interesting reading; Support Plus has an array of ingenious products and even more ingenious copy-writing.  Here's some of the best: a phone speaker headlined "Don't Miss the Joy of Friendly and Loving Phone Conversation!"  Aww, sweet.  I'm reminded of the awesome seminary video The Mailbox -- I'm trying desperately but unsuccessfully to find it online, first time youtube has ever failed me, but it's all about this lovely old lady who lives alone and spends her WHOLE DAY waiting for the mail. She never gets any letters, ever, because her grandchildren are ungrateful little slobs, and on one lonely trek to the mailbox she ends up slipping on the ice and dies cold and alone and is eaten by wolves.  Or maybe I dreamt that part. 

 Anyway, good movie, and that lovely old lady would've ADORED this catalogue.  And Friendly and Loving Phone Conversation could've brightened her lonely days.

Another attention-grabber promises you can FINALLY "Overcome the Difficulties of Cutting Toenails!"  As we all know, "getting to the toenail cutting position is hard enough. This clipper multiplies your hand strength and helps prevent injury. Very well made."  Toenail cutting injuries? I think I just came up with a great new House episode.

I also heart the $4.95 non-slip rubber doorknob sleeve, with, get this, anti-microbial protection.  I'm adding this to my Thanksgiving litany: I'm grateful to be able to turn doorknobs on my own.   Even if they ARE covered in microbes.

OK, just found a super excellent product and just in time for the holidays: you can "Maintain Independence & Hygeine" with a Self Wipe Toliet Aid.  It's "helpful and discreet, for people who have difficulty performing self-hygiene when using the toilet."  Hee.  White elephant gift, anyone?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

you're interrupting my sleeping time

Good freaking gravy. This is crazy cool.

christmastime in the suburbs

The sudden cold weather makes everything feel like Christmas--it's too early but I'm ready for hall-decking.

This wreath would be fantastic, no?

And for decking out oneself, look at these Australian lovelies:

Sweet rose pendant here, outback-boulder inspired earrings here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

vogon poetry

Oh dear, I have been a baaad blogger. It's cause I WANT to blog about my trip to the Middle East, because it was fabulous and I must remember it 4evah, but when I sit down to actually write it, I feel so . . . daunted.

So today I'll tell you some work stories instead. Nice, manageable work stories.

One of the best things about my ESL job is I get to teach whatever I want, however I want. There's no one breathing over my shoulder and no one fighting me for control. HOWever, we recently hired an extra teacher. I'll call him Dr. Bob (he insists on the "Dr.").

Dr. Bob's teaching role in our organization was supposed to be fairly limited, and he and I were not supposed to interact. But in a brilliant display of the principle "Say It Loud and Long Enough and You'll Get Whatever You Want," he ended up worming his way into ALL the classes as a co-teacher. So MY CLASSES, my precious precious classes, got invaded by Attila the Hun.

Now Dr. Bob looks great on paper (that blasted "Dr." ) but in the classroom, he's a barbarian. He hollers at the students, he takes 45 minute smoke breaks, he irritates the stuffing out of me, and, worst of all, he doesn't teach anything. His idea of teaching is spending a couple of hours reading out loud poems he's composed. The problem is 1) they're crappy poems and 2) he's reading them to students who are BARELY LITERATE. This helps them learn what, exactly?

Actually, I take that back. Learning to suffer obnoxious people without employing throttling is definitely a useful job skill (and apparently one I have yet to learn). But Dr. Bob certainly isn't helping with the English teaching. In fact, he seems to think he's one of the students. When I ask a question like "OK, class, how do we spell 'pencil'?" he waves his hand wildly in the air and shouts "P - E - N- C - I - L!" and grins at me, apparently waiting for congratulations. He's just lucky the P - E - N - C - I - L doesn't find its way up his nose.

Juuuuust kidding. I would never advocate violence. But I certainly do advocate going to one's boss (and going back, and going back again) and trying to get Dr. Bob fired. Apparently I've learned something from him after all, because if you say it loud enough and long enough, sometimes you do get what you want. I just found out Dr. Bob is outta here.

It's just in time, too. He's spent all week interrupting me in the middle of teaching (who DOES that?) and trying to sell me a self-written, self-published children's book, telling me it would be a great ($30!!) holiday present. There are no children I hate that much.

So here's to freedom from Dr. Bob, and freedom from his hideous poetry.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I loved Egypt first for Ramses' sake. That's Elizabeth Peters' Ramses, of course; hotter than wet-shirt Darcy and with ten times the brainpower. (Someday I plan an e-card site dedicated to his archeological perfection.)

After a few visits and several months in Cairo, my relationship with Egypt is different, less starstruck. Naguib Mahfouz, Egyptian Nobel Laureate, said that Cairo is like meeting your beloved in old age; I'm not a Cairene, but I think he's right. There is plenty in Egypt to adore (the sweet carb overload of koshari, golden limestone igniting at sunset, rollicky Egyptian Arabic jabbing like a mirthful elbow in your ribs) and there is plenty to flinch from.

My last time in Cairo, I'd left cheerfully. I'd been studying Arabic solo for a few months and was eager to get back to my fantastic new boyfriend and hassle-free streets. So on this trip I was pretty surprised when the magical smell of burning trash and scorching Sahara made me tear up right there in the Cairo airport. (Of course, I teared up at The Secret Life of Bees, too: indications are good that I am a sap.)

I spent our 72 hours in Egypt in a daze of jetlag and nostalgia. The pyramids were as impossibly huge as ever (and as impossibly smelly: we all emerged from our excursion inside one dripping with sweat and reeking of cat pee); the traffic was as charmingly insane. The smog was--well, look at this picture taken from our airplane. Perfect blue sky, meet Cairo.

We spent a day in Luxor, which, for all its jillions of tourists, still feels pretty chill. Here's a load of bananas going who-knows-where. And there really is something thrilling about the Valley of the Kings: you look around to see dirt, dirt, dirt, and oh, here's buried treasure. (If you haven't read Howard Carter's account of finding King Tut, you're in for a treat.)

Our Cairo hotel, InterContinental Citystars was absurdly decadent, Luxor's Sofitel --despite being literally on the Nile-- just couldn't compare.

We spent (not enough) time at the Egyptian Museum, where I could wander happily for weeks a la Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler, Coptic Cairo, and of course the temples of Luxor and Karnak. I dragged Becky and Ann to the wild Khalili bazaar, where we were (not unwillingly) accosted by scores of henna girls, men selling the same exact silver necklace, beggars, wannabe cab drivers, and slick-as-cow-snot hawkers.

On our way home, our taxi driver, who was a very nice man, confided that we were Answer to Prayer, because our American passports would let us into the Duty Free Store, right next to our hotel, which contained the foreign alcohol he desparately needed for his niece's wedding later that week. Pushover Ann agreed to help out. And that, Mom and Dad, is why my passport now says with "Three Alcohol Units; Three Cigarette Units." I swear.

I'm pretty sure the cigarettes weren't for his niece.

Friday, October 24, 2008

aaaaand i'm back: the overview

Why hello there! I'm back from a terrific Middle Eastern trip, and well overdue blogging about it. Leslie and Konga have already beat me to the punch.

My camera's got 391 pictures from 14 days of traveling; we saw brillions and brillions of things. I only got through one book, that's how busy we were. I want to write about el tripo in some detail, because some day I hope to play tour guide myself. It's totally understandable if you'd rather drink camel spit than read about every single freaking tell, so to make skipping easier, I'll give a trip overview here, and then blog in separate entries about the rest.

The trip was an official tour, my very first, and it worked out quite well. There were about 40 of us, mostly family -- great aunts and second cousins and uncles et al. (Poor Peter couldn't make it; he had to stay home with the nose to the grindstone. Bless his reliable heart.) We all crammed onto a bus with local tour guide, corporate tour guide, bus driver, security guard, and Mike Wilcox from the U of UT (Biblical history superstar), and proceeded to blast through Egypt, Jordan, and Israel/Palestine.

I've spent time in these countries and neighboring ones before (up to a sum total of 12 1/2 months now, woot!) but it's always been to study the language, and I've enjoyed myself most when hanging out with the local folk and exploring solo. This time was much more traditional (some might say "ugly") tourist. We were whisked en masse from bus to site to bus to store to bus to hotel. So it wasn't quite the cultural experience I've had before, because pretty much every moment of every day was scripted. Also, we were totally subject to the local guide's lust for commi$$ion; because we were herded to specific restaurants and specific souvenir stores, we paid Maximum Rip-off Price for felafels and trinkets. (Seriously. $13 a felafel sandwich is absurd, no matter how lousy the dollar is right now.)

There were some advantages to being part of a tour group, though. Not having to organize the logistics of travel (negotiating with cab drivers, figuring out where to eat, tracking down hotels) meant we were able to see an incredible number of things in a very short time. The historical lectures we got, particularly in Israel and Palestine, were also exceptional. Traveling with such pleasant people was another real plus, and so was getting access to some extraordinary sites (like an active archaelogical dig that was uber Indiana Jones). I would totally do it again.

And the loot? I bought me: 3 necklaces (turquoise, dove w/olive branch, and widow's mite, which occasioned some very elaborate and probably illegal early morning meet ups), a fabulously gooey mud mask from the dead sea, and a lovely lion-n-lamb olive wood piece.

Great family. Great place. Great trip.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

gone camel riding

I'm off to Cairo, Luxor, Amman, Jerusalem and a bunch of places in between. Common denominators: camels and hummus. Yeah, I'm pretty much blissed out.

If there's internet, I may blog a bit; if not, I'll catch you in a couple of weeks! Yallah ciao!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

"If I'd known how much packing I'd have to do, I'd've run again." - Harry S. Truman

I've got the pre-trip jitters, which I'm calming by overpreparing. Today, for example, I bought a bunch of nonessentials that MIGHT make my trip more fun but will probably just contribute to massive overweight luggage fines.

Still, some of the gadgets are pretty cool. Behold:

From top right clockwise, we've got a DIGITAL LUGGAGE SCALE. I could, of course, just buy a scale--but this is so much cuter. I am also relieved to not have to worry about the wild checked-to-carry-on scramble at check in, which always seems to result in my underwear or dirty socks being exposed to public scrutiny.

(My desk chair, incidentally, weighs 11.2 pounds. A half-full gallon of milk is 10.2 lb, and my new cookie sheets, at 2lbs, weigh the same as my left foot. I'm kind of addicted.)

I also got earplugs that are supposed to prevent congested ears from messily imploding with airplane pressure changes. Isn't that the worst? It's like aural kidney stones.

I got luggage locks (I'll be rooming with my sisters, and I so do not trust them to keep their hands of my DVD collection), moleskin (why are comfy shoes so impossible to find?), and a hunk of good-enough-to-eat Godmother soap from Lush. Although unless my luggage scale is particularly affable, I'll have to leave the soap at home.

Still to pack: billions of ziploc bags, billions of paperbacks, and billions of knitting projects. My greatest fear in foreign travel is boredom. I was hoping to get Leslie's sweater done before the trip, but the lace is proving a worthy foe. Note to self: must learn basic math. "Repeat four more times" actually means a total of FIVE repeats is required.

Here's the lace for the back of the sweater. It's unblocked, so it will get much prettier. And the best part. . . it only weighs a tenth of a pound!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

how did people stay home sick before the internets?

Have just discovered xkcd, which is excellent news, as I've run out of BBC miniseries, dayquil, and Spore levels.

Friday, September 26, 2008

bulbous bouffant

My family's loved this dialogue for years--and I just found this perfect animation for it.

Hooray for gaberdine! And have a terrific weekend!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

you stylish traveler, you

In two weeks, I'm going on a glorious Middle Eastern tour with extended family, and I'm so excited I can barely stand it. I was thinking about it so fixedly this morning, that I caught myself trying to shave my legs with a toothbrush. Oy.

There's much to do before I leave for happy hummus lands. I should probably fold the laundry that's been heaped on the floor since August, and I ought to finally figure out how to unclog the second sink in our bathroom, and I definitely need to find appropriately adorable travel accouterments. Like iPod cases, baggage tags and passport holders.

I've been checking out the passport holders, at least, and am so amazed by all the adorable options out there that I can't believe I've gone this long without one. And if you're already stressing about Christmas gifting like I am, may I suggest a passport holder is an excellent gift option for the have-everything kind of recipient. They're affordable, cheap to ship, and a perfect blend of practicalness and whimsy.

Here's one from duct tape -- nice and urban.

I love the selection at buyolympia, which includes the crash position one above. They've also got a great pirate n' octopus fight on one of their passport holders; I imagine it would be very comforting to travel with. If you were afflicted by food poisoning, or an amorous taxi driver (ah, how I love the Middle East), or construction outside your hotel you could at least take out your passport holder and realize life could be much, much worse: you could, after all, be a pirate monkey being throttled by an angry octopus.

I ended up going with a passport holder that's slightly less twelve-year-old-boy: this great thrush one from buyolympia is my fave.

More fun passport holders can be found here, here, and here. Nothing says, Security! I'm a innocuous! like a passport covered in skulls.

Enjoy. I'm off to go clean Peter's toothbrush--hope he hasn't noticed yet. Turns out, he may not miss me at ALL.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"i do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them." - jane austen

I'm on one of those obsessive knitting jags where I can barely set my yarn down long enough to brush my teeth, so I'm watching a lot of movies to be background noise to my agonized screams and nearly-swears.  (Knitting lace is pretty much my version of a hair shirt.)  Autumn makes me feel cozy and domestic and in need of beautiful new clothing; naturally, then, I'm watching loads of Jane Austen movies.

Except of course the thing about Austen is, she's not that cozy.  I just read the superlatively excellent Searching for Jane Austen by Emily Auerbach, and am now chock-full of Austen trivia.  Did you know, for example, how hard her biographer-brother worked to edit her image after she died?  He censored her letters before publishing them; he whitewashed her rowdy juvenilia; he even gussied up her only portrait so that she'd seem more compliant and sweet. Here's the original, painted by her sister:
Discontented expression, clenched arms, plain clothes, penetrating eyes.  

Now here's the pretty-pretty version published by her brother:
There's more frills on the bonnet and dress; mouth is softer, eyes are calmer.  Her arms are now genteelly clasped, and even her hair has been tamed

Which woman do YOU think would be more likely to quip, "I was as civil to them as their bad breath would allow"?  Which woman would suggest, of a critic, "Kill poor Mrs Sclater if you like"?  

And which woman would be more fun to invite to dinner?

All right.  Mini-rant's over.  I'm going back to my yarn.   

(Hey.  Feminists are knitters too.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

to everything there is a season

Fall is the BEST.  I could breathe nothing but fall for a year and still want more.  I love the way everything gets golden; I love that fall smell(what IS that, anyway?); I love apples.

And I love it when ilee's releases next year's calendar.  It's letter-pressed perfection, and happily much more affordable than ilee's (equally mouthwatering) custom-made invitations.

And it went on sale today.  I won't tell you how long I spent this morning hitting refresh, waiting for it to -- finally! -- be posted.

Now I need just need to figure out what to do with my 2008 ilee calendar.  It's waaaay too pretty to sit in a landfill somewhere.  Anyone have any suggestions?

Friday, September 19, 2008

yo-ho is a jubilant and pleasant greeting

So I've been a bit incommunicado this week. I blame it on 1) new books from Robin McKinley AND Elizabeth Peters, talk about holy embarass de richesse, 2) Spore, and 3) my co-teacher's horrifically imploding marriage, which means that I'm doing her job as well as mine while she tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered life.

And she's so unhappy that I feel a beast for wishing she thought work would help. She just told me she plans to be out for another 2 weeks. Argh and avast.

At least it's Talk Like a Pirate Day! What a fabulous way to start off the weekend!

If you're not a natural at pirate speak--hey, we all have different gifts--check out this incredibly informative video. (I find the music particularly soothing.)

Monday, September 15, 2008


(click to embiggen)

I've recently found Robin McKinley's wacky, footnoted blog (she rings bells! and tends roses!), and she linked to this awesome comic.

That is sooo me and Peter. Our townhome has a second bedroom which holds: one elliptical machine; seven pieces of Middle Eastern art that, to preserve our marriage, have been banished to the upstairs; and five thousand, two hundred and seventy-three books.

About seventeen of those books are Peter's.

Sigh. I see his point, but-- you can't throw away BOOKS! What if next Thursday or next April or next year I need to read this fascinating book on Eastern Shore seagulls? What if my future children need to read this 1950s copy of Black Beauty? What if some neighbor needs to borrow this book on the Balfour Declaration?

Next townhome we're getting three bedrooms--one for Peter's elliptical, and one for my books.

Friday, September 12, 2008


just wanted to say...

I love this t-shirt.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

baby blocks

I've got a friend's baby shower coming up, and I am stumped on what to get.  I think these cheerful wooden blocks would be a lovely gift--if they weren't $11 each.   

Or what about these hand-crocheted alphabet blocks for $130?  (Wow!)

Actually, my all-time favorite blocks are these Arabic alphabet ones.  I love the retro graphics and the colors.

(Yes. I read waaaay too many mommy blogs.)

Monday, September 8, 2008

roller coasters, mariokart, and hurricanes

We had family in town last week, including the M&M nephews, who whupped my sorry self in MarioKart.  And this despite the fact that their combined age is 20.  (Obviously, I need to practice more!)

Somehow, we were able to tear ourselves away from the Wii long enough to weekend in Williamsburg, which is a lovely place, and would have been lovelier without Tropical Storm Hanna.  We knew we would only have a day of good weather; we knew Williamsburg is a historic treasure trove, with Yorktown and Jamestown only minutes away; we knew we would have to prioritize.

We spent all day at Busch Gardens.

Thanks to impending Hanna and, perhaps, to other travelers' keener sense of history, we were just about the only people at the park.   It was glorious, and we rode the Griffon till we couldn't see straight.  It's pretty much my idea of heaven: after a 205 foot climb, you're suspended face-down (just a leeetle too long) over a drop that DISAPPEARS BENEATH YOU.  Harps of gold have nothing on that.

We did forsake the glories of Busch long enough to enjoy a fantastic meal in Colonial Williamsburg. The food was good enough, but the setting was enchanting.

Deciding to ride out the hurricane in our hotel, we made emergency trips to the store to stock up on cookie dough, baby food, the basics.  We frolicked in the outdoor pool while we waited for Hanna to hit.  It was rainy but not distractingly so.   

We kept waiting for the storm, kept bracing ourselves, kept wondering if our cars were parked far away enough from tall trees.  And nothing ever happened.  It turns out we'd played Sharks and Minnows all the way through Dread Hanna.

Thank goodness for Busch Gardens.  At least we got SOME thrills.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


And the nie nie cupcakes go to... Patrick!  He outbid everyone, including, generously, his own self. 

Thanks very much indeed for participating here and elsewhere!  If you're not done yet, there's still some auctions going on, and a great promotion from fantastic photographer Jonathan Canlas.  I chose our wedding photographer because she'd studied with him (but was, uh, a better budget fit).  If you're thinking about getting family photos done this month, check out his super kind offer.

We've got family visiting so I'll probably be posting more heavily next week.

Happy end of summer!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

nie nie day auction: cupcakes

I'm hosting an auction today in honor of my brother-in-law's sister, Stephanie Nielson, who was recently in a plane crash with her husband Christian.  They were severely burned, and remain in critical condition. With over 80% of her body burned, Stephanie in particular is in for months of recovery.  They have four small children.

Stephanie's well-known on the internets for her blog Nie Nie Dialogues, and since her accident, there's been a huge outpouring of love and support from literally around the world.  (You can read more about the Nielsons and how to help here.)  

Today's been declared Nie Nie Day; hundreds of bloggers are hosting silent auctions, with all proceeds going to the Christian and Stephanie Nielson Rehab Fund.  You can see a list of all the auctions here (hand-made jewelry! signed BYU football roster!).

I'm auctioning off three hand-knitted cupcakes.  They've got cherries on top, multicolored sprinkles, and detachable wrappers--I think they're too cute for words.  They'd be great as birthday present toppers, or as baby toys; they're stuffed with filler and super soft.  You can pick the colors, or I'll pick 'em for you.

So here're the rules: leave a comment to bid on the cupcakes (using whole dollars), and leave your email or blog address.  This auction will run till midnight EST on Sunday, Aug 31st.  I'll post the winner, and if it's you, I'll contact you directly.  Then you'll pay the amount of the winning bid to the Nielson Rehab PayPal Account (click on the button below).

Once you've contributed, forward me an email of the paypal receipt to peteynlars@gmail.com.  I'll make your cupcakes and send em out (free shipping!) pronto.

Even if you're totally uninterested in knitted cupcakes (the mind boggles!), check out some of the other auctions going on to benefit the Nielsons.  There's some pretty incredible stuff.  And it's a pretty incredible endeavor, the way hundreds of people have been touched by this tragedy and come together to try and help.  Gives you faith in humanity.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

bobble baubles

I love love love this jacket from Vogue Knitting Fall 08.  The colors are wild and the details fabulous.  I drool over those puffed sleeve bobbles.

Sweaters are still waaaaay out of my comfort level, but this one is so delectable I might have to tackle it.

First: convince one of my sisters they NEED this. I knit much quicker when it's for someone else.  (Alas for my poor neglected cupcakes.)

Second: find a really patient knitting mentor.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

barrezueta baubles

During vacation I came across Lorena Barrezueta's lovely work.  (And also: that's a really fun name to say.  Barrezueta.  Barrezueta.)  She's got gorgeous pottery pieces, and has just started a jewelry line with these little beauties:

Ceramic pendants with 24k gold ASL letters.  Yum.  This is going on my Buying-As-Soon-As-I-Can-Figure-Out-How-To-Justify-It-List.  It's a pity that ASL "L" and the sign for "loser" are the same, but I won't let that stop me.

She's also got some very funny bracelets.

The jewelry's all sold privately, with prices here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

bathtub baubles

When my folks moved to London, like, last week, they sold their house and everything in it. Everything, that is, that I didn't claim first.

One of the things I got dibs on first was a fabulous set of glass globe candleholders. They're hung on nice-enough-to-eat chocolate velvet ribbon, and Momma had them suspended over her soaking tub. (I tried to claim the tub, too, but it wouldn't fit in the car. Or, for that matter, in my bathroom.)

Today I managed to hang them over MY bathtub.

You may not realize how epic that statement is. Context: when it comes to DIY-ing, I have the anti-Midas touch. Everything I touch turns to rust and ruin. For example. There are 3, count 'em, 3 toilet paper holders in our house, all installed by me, and all, Peter has since pointed out, upside down. The paper towel holder I screwed into the kitchen wall unscrews itself weekly; every successfully hung painting hides behind it several dozens of a-little-higher-now-over-to-the-right nail holes.

But this time? 7 baubles: 7 holes. I'm feeling GOOD.

Now all I need is a long, hot bath.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I just finished my Biggest Knitting Project Ever.  Everything was big: the needles, the space under my couch the yarn took up, the finished blanket, my pride in getting 'er done.   

My grandma gave this blanket as Christmas gifts last year.  I fell in love with it then, and resolved to take up knitting.  It's just so darn cuddlylicious, to quote a Project Runway contestant.  (This blanket has seen a lot of Project Runway.)  I like the simplicity and the sophistication of the cables.  Seed stitch, the background, is my favorite stitch.

I've sent it off to the Old World to cheer my now-expatriate family in their time of exile.  Ha.  As if.    They are living it up in London, and this blanket wants to get in on the fun.

And so do I.  We're planning a Thanksgiving trip out there, and I am already s-k-y-d psyched!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

what i'm reading

This is a list of the books that are now or have recently been on my nightstand. And dresser, and couch, and floor. I keep it more-or-less updated, and it's be accessible from that handy tab up top. I'm always looking for new reads, and I'd love to hear books you're into.

Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Relin
I resisted reading this for a long time, thinking it was cheezy inspiration fiction.  Turns out it's actually cheezy inspiration NON-fiction, and absolutely wonderful.

The Fire, by Katherine Neville
I adore The Eight.  But this-- this is unreadable Da Vinci Code knock-off drivel.  No offense.

Good Poems for Hard Times, collected by Garrison Keillor
This great collection of poems, from classic to modern, has gotten me reading poetry again.

The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey
A lovely read about revisiting Richard III.  I always forget what a good writer Tey is until I pick her up again.

The Murders of Richard III, by Elizabeth Peters
Fun fluff.

Bakewise, by Shirley Corriher
This is more than just a cookbook, y'all.  It is genius INSIGHT into the SOUL of cooking.

Collected Poems, by John Donne
Holy cow, how have I never been obsessed with him before!  Well, I'm making up for lost time now.

Sonnets, by Petrarch
I originally picked this up because of his muse's name; I keep coming back to them because of the lovely lovely language.

Reaper Man, by Terry Pratchett

Maskerade, by Terry Pratchett
Phantom of the Opera spoof. What's not to love?

Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths, by Karen Armstrong
A fascinating read by a fascinating author.

Jerusalem: The Eternal City, by Galbraith, Ogden, and Skinner
I've had this for a while, but I think this time I may finally get through it.  It's a great historical, religious, linguistic, sociological, and political overview of the city.  Pretty high-level, but hits all the main points.

The Life of Christ, by Frederic Farrar
Wonderful.  Think Talmage but better.

Vicious Circle, by Mike Carey
Fun hardboiled gothic fluff.

The Likeness, by Tana French
Loved it as much as the first one.

In the Woods, by Tana French
Creepity psychological thriller. Just ordered the second one.

Waiter Rant, by The Waiter
Turns out the blog's better.

, by Terry Pratchett
This is a very different Pratchett book than the other 37 of his I've read. Firstly, it's for young adults (but when has that ever stopped me); secondly, it's SERIOUS. There's still cleverness and wit and lovely lovely names--Biggleswick the Butler, Ermintrude Fanshaw (the Honorable Miss)--but the main themes are religion, colonialism, scientific inquiry, and, oh yes, death.

The Devil You Know, by Mike Carey
Recommended to the world by Robin McKinley (read her review here), and well worth the read. It's half ghost story, half hardboiled detective story, and full on compelling. Also, full of naughty words, so preview it before gifting it to Great Aunt Dotty Sue.

To Say Nothing of the Dog
, by Connie Willis
A much-loved favorite. Especially laugh-out-loud for readers of Jerome K. Jerome and Dorothy Sayers.

Teaching Multilevel Classes in ESL
, by Jill Sinclair Bell
Doing some much-needed reading up on how to do my job. This book is very sensible, but kind of overwhelming. The amount of prep time it assumes is approximately insane.

Men at Arms
, by Terry Pratchett
Corporal Carrot is one of my favorite characters ever written. Angua is so not good enough for him.

The War Within
, by Bob Woodward

Laughter of Dead Kings
, by Elizabeth Peters
Meh. There's probably no way to top Night Train to Memphis, but this seemed so half-hearted.

, by Robin McKinley
A delight. I can't wait to read it again. [Liked it even more on second reading.]

Dreams of Trespass
, by Fatima Mernissi.
I'd forgotten how great this fictional Moroccan memoir is. It's moving and good-tempered and really, really interesting.

Wit, by Margaret Edson.
A lovely play. The movie (with Emma Thompson!) is also great, although it made me a wee bit verklempt.

Organ Registration in Theory and Practice, by Harold Greer
Great. And holy cow technical.

Abigail Adams: A Biography, by Phyllis Lee Levin

Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
Yay, a Pratchett I hadn't read! And this one, about theology and Greek philosophers, is a great one.

And Only to Decieve, by Tasha Alexander
Fun and fluffy.

C. S. Lewis, by A. N. Wilson

Dragonhaven, by Robin McKinley
Much better the second time around, though still not up to her usual magic.

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
Whenever I start reading this, I get amazed at how wonderful it is. And then when the ending rolls around I'm always disappointed.

Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

Martha Washington: An American Life, by Patricia Brody
Pretty light, but I've never known much about Martha Washington, and it's interesting enough to just learn the facts. If anyone knows a heartier Martha biography, I'd love to hear about it.

Outlaws of Sherwood, by Robin McKinley
Possibly my favorite book of all time, despite the bleakness.

The Fifth Elephant, by Terry Pratchett
Can't get enough Pratchett. It breaks my greedy heart that he's got Alzheimer's.

Lords and Ladies, by Terry Pratchett

Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer

Dreams of Trespass, by Fatima Mernissi

Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
This is a vampire book about a baker who makes Cinnamon Rolls As Big As Your Head and Meringuemanias and all sorts of brilliantly-named goodies; her superlatively ordinary world crosses with some nasty, dark Others, and the creepy fun begins. ("I never heard them coming. Of course, you don't, when they're vampires." Delicious!) I should warn you that this book is firmly in PG-13 territory; if you're like me --and yes, I am turning into my mother-- you'll want to read with a white-out pen for the naughty bits. There aren't many of them, but they are zingers.

Till We Have Faces, by C. S. Lewis
Also in the top three all time favorite books. I've read this a billion times, but the redemption always gives me chivers.

The Four Loves, by C. S. Lewis

Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

Tolstoy, by A. N. Wilson
Awesome biography--Tolstoy was seriously odd.

Water, by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson

Thrones, Dominations, by Dorothy Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh

Bunch of thrillers, by Patricia Cornwell
Liked these at first, but then I started intensely disliking the main character, and the series is ruined for me.

The Alvin Maker series, by Orson Scott Card
As usual with Card, the first three books are the best.

Edith Wharton, by Hermione Lee

Mind of the Maker, by Dorothy Sayers

Time to Be in Earnest, by P. D. James
One of the most enjoyable autobiographies I've ever read. It's fragmented and almost neurotically reserved, but by the end I felt like I was looking out from the inside of James' head. Really lovely.

Taste for Death, by P. D. James

Death at Black Dudley, by Margery Allingham
I wished I liked Allingham more. I mean, she's ok, but she's no Sayers. Sigh.

Blindness, by Jose Saramago
Holy schinkies, this was awesomely bleak. And waaaay too rough for me to ever read it again (I still have nightmares), but I'm glad I did the first time.

Short Stories, by Leo Tolstoy

Searching for Jane Austen, by Emily Auerbach
Felt like taking a seminar on Feminism and Jane Austen. Really really great.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
I love the detail, and all the fabulous footnotes. I hope she writes more.

Monday, August 18, 2008

vamping it up

This is the part of the blog where I review Breaking Dawn.  If you’re not into vampire heart throb novels, then, uh, see you next post.  

So here’s the deal.  I love campy.  I eat camp warm, with chocolate syrup and a spoon.  Tasty tasty camp.  The first three books in the series are chock full of camp, which is what makes them so much fun.  But Breaking Dawn veered waaaaay off the camp-o-meter into a laugh-out-loud land of ridiculousness.

Warning: here be spoilers.

Firmly in lol territory: “Renesmee.”  Really?  Really, Stephenie, is that the best you could do?  It may be ultra-Mormony to name a child after two parents at the SAME TIME--but surely there are other ways to reference your culture?  One imagines a scene where vegan Edward snacks on green jello, perhaps, or a darkly funny reference to funeral potatoes.  Anything would be better than Renesmee Carlie, for crying out loud.  Though it should come as no surprise that a woman named Stephenie--just WHAT was so wrong with using an “a”?--might well have unusual tastes in names. 

(Aside: for a fun Mormon Name Generator, click here.  My Mormon name is, awesomely, Lauradene LindaGay.)  

But Renesmee?  Bella has doomed her child to a life of snickering and, no-doubt, superfluous hyphening.  She should’ve tested it out first: “All rise for the honorable Renesmee Cullen.”  Nope, no good.  “It gives me great pleasure to introduce out new CEO, Renesmee Cullen.”  Heck to the no.  “Stay tuned for our interview with acclaimed author Renesmee Cullen.”  Pass the remote.   I was giving Breaking Dawn the benefit of the doubt until this name debuted--but after that, it was pretty much dead to me.  And not in a sparkles-in-the-sunlight kind of dead, either.

I was also precioused-out by “nudger,” which Bella uses ad nauseam to describe her superfetus.  And surely I’m not the only one who giggled at the fastfowarded pregnancy (which still managed to cram in endless medical nastiness).

I giggled more on learning exactly what vampires do with all those sleep-free nights.  Hee.   And you gotta admit that the pillow-biting, which is being swooned over on fansites, was just odd.  Though it does make for a really great euphemism.   “Hey baby, wanna bite some pillow?” has a great blend of the dirty and the absurd.  

I suppose I do have to credit Meyer (more “e”s!) with fearless creativity; I don’t think I’ve ever read a book before where a love triangle is resolved by the lover falling for the beloved’s INFANT DAUGHTER.    Was this the only way she could think of to resolve things and leave everyone happy?  Well, leave everyone over the age of consent happy, anyway.  

There was a similar chickening-out during the showdown with the Volturi.  How conVENient that Bella just happens to have super-shielding abilities.  How conVENient that dozens of vegan vamps were hanging around just waiting for a chance to take on the Volturi.  How conVENient that Bella can keep seeing her folks after all (still not sure how that one worked out).  Not that you read a book about vampires looking for believability--but consistency would have been nice.

I’m getting soul-weary thinking about it.  If you haven’t had enough vamp yet, check out this very fun Breaking Dawn quiz.  And, if you’ve read the book, tell me what you thought.  (Pic stolen from L. Llew’s fabulous Breaking Dawn midnight release party.) 

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Some of my favorite places to visit on the internets:

kith & kin
Bryan and Camille
David and Jen
Joel the Rockstar
Johnny Boy
Jon and Em
Jorg and Em
Joyful Expressions
Just Kidding
Matt Goes Hunting
Tiffany and Darren
The Farns
Tucson Adventures
Votaw Family

clever folk
A Little Sussy
Cicada Song
Design Mom
Eric D. Snider
How About Orange
MIss Nemesis
Petit Elephant
Oh Happy Day
Oh Joy!
Specs Appeal
Starting Anew

brain builders
Bureau of Communication
Daily Painters
Desktop Defense
Feast Upon Word
How to Do Stuff
Knitting Iris
Rules of Thumb
Word Shoot

middle east
Across the Bay
Anon Arabist
Arab Art
Bitter Lemons
Creative Syria
Syrian Comment

All Recipes
Joy Kitchen
Kalyn’s Kitchen