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RIF 4 [29 Dec 2009|01:33pm]
What I read in 2009

Angle of Repose Let the Right One In: A Novel The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America I Am the Messenger Revolutionary Road The Caine Mutiny The Big Sleep
Andersonville Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant: A Novel I Love You, Beth Cooper Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers : A Novel Later, at the Bar: A Novel in Stories Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said Dalva
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West Straight Man: A Novel On the Black Hill The Magnificent Ambersons Continental Drift Watchmen Country Girl, City Girl

Click on the cover to see my review. I didn't read as many books as last year, and I gave up on a couple that are shown here, but I did read another bunch of long ones. I really love getting into a long book that I like, because I hate when good books end.

PULITZER PROGRESS: The Caine Mutiny and Andersonville were two long ones from the Pulitzer winners list that I never would have read if not for that list, and I really loved them. Also on the Pulitzer list were Angle of Repose and Martin Dressler, but I would have been plenty happy not having read them. I tried to read Empire Falls, but I put it down after about 80 pages because it's still too soon after having read Nobody's Fool, which is a very similar book also by Richard Russo. There are still 59 books from that list that I have yet to read. I have a few now on my shelves, and a few are short stories collections that I will probably need another lifetime to get through. There are just a few that I know I will probably never read, like the Richard Ford book because I hated the prequel, same with the remaining Updike Rabbit books, otherwise I will give most of them a chance!

YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS: Last year a few of you gave me some really great recommendations, many of which I'm still working on getting to reading! I loved The Good, Good Pig, thanks supersnackcake, but it has only made me feel terrible about eating bacon. I have not stopped eating bacon, mind you, I just feel terrible about it. I also had read The Left Hand of Darkness back in college and really wanted to re-read it, but I can't find it anywhere! I think I loaned it out and never saw it again. And there were a couple of others Tara suggested that are still on my used book store shopping list--if I find any there, then that's when I'll read them! vozeatscake also had some great suggestions that I have been on the look out for. I just put in an order at allbooks4less.com (a killer site suggestion earlier this year from boygirlparty) that includes The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and also The Road Home by Jim Harrison, the continuation of the story in Dalva, which I read this year and loved, thanks to a recommendation from pondbluebird. After I finished that, I had to read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee because I realized I didn't know anything about Indian history, and I got so enraged that in my sleep one night I accused Dave of becoming "as bad as the White man!"

At the end of 2008, the library by my office closed down for construction, and has been closed ever since. It sucks. There is a library near my apartment, but it's just far enough away that I have never been--the one near my office was perfect, because it got me out from behind the computer to take a walk. What that means is that I own, and still have, every single one of the books I read this year (except for Revolutionary Road, see review for the reason). I should put some more up on bookmooch, but I haven't found any of the books that I want on that site in months, because I suspect usage has dwindled. Maybe I should sell some? I am definitely out of space for books. I dream of my own library, a room in a house filled with floor-to-ceiling shelves stuffed with all the books I've read and am going to read. It's too bad that I can't hold on to all these books that I'd like to while I'm waiting, and waiting, and waiting for that room.

So...what should I read next year?
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[14 Oct 2009|01:22pm]
When I started to knit as an adult, I took a class where my wonderful teacher told me I knit way too tight. That I was tense and needed to relax.

A few months later, somewhere in the spring or summer or 2003, I started to knit a pretty ambitious pair of socks. I like jumping right into a challenge. My first knitting project the fall before, in that class, was a scarf. The second, a plain, boring sweater that almost made me want to stop knitting completely, and that I gave to charity immediately. The third? This bird sweater! For me, if I start a new skill with a really challenging project, and I can manage that, then I know all the following projects will be cake.

I can't remember exactly what led to me stopping after I finished the heel turn of the second sock. I ran out of yarn, and at the time I could only get it by sending a check and an order form to the seriously awesome Nordic Fiber Arts store, but I was lazy and didn't do that. I also needed a little break from knitting. These socks went into a plastic bag, then into another canvas tote bag, along with the pattern, which I had photocopied from the book at the library.

Fast-forward to this past winter, 2009, when I decided to tackle some unfinished knitting projects. That tote bag had been bouncing around my life for years, a burden of something so close to finished! So I brought it out, and the first thing I found was the photocopied pattern, half-eaten by my old cat Murphy (who had passed away two years previously, so he was still exacting his kitty mayhem from the beyond). Of course it was the end of the pattern, the part that I needed.

Finally, a month or so ago I finally bought the book (a great decision) and the yarn (now available to purchase easily online). And here we are today! This past weekend, I finished the final foot. It went so quickly, that I'm baffled as to why I waited six years to finish it.

Norwegian Stockings

The only problem I had was with my new tension. Six years ago, I was knitting too tight, according to all reports. Currently I am knitting so much tighter that I had to do an extra pattern repeat on the foot so that it would be long enough to make a matching pair! This pair of socks is a testament to blocking--and a lesson to myself that I really, really need to ease up...

Norwegian Stockings detail

...since, apparently, wine while knitting is not enough to loosen up my stitches. I thought I was so clever.
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[02 Sep 2009|03:21pm]
One morning in July, my friends told me they were gettin hitched. The next morning I went to a courthouse with them to sign something that made me swear I knew them, and then they called up and made an appointment for the ceremony, which would be a month later. That was all well and good until I realized I wanted to make something for them, and they had inconsiderately, dare I say it--insensitively!--only given me a few weeks' notice. Well, a flurry of cutting and sewing (and a little bit of seam ripping and re-sewing) and I managed to make them a wedding quilt that I hope they love for a long time!

Summer Wedding Quilt

I tried to make it look as summery as possible, so they'd remember their nice summer (and I was also glad to be able to give them something with the date on it so they'd remember that too, since they couldn't get their rings inscribed, ha).

It's the first big quilt I've ever actually finished! It is 72" x 72", good for covering two people on a couch. Each Ohio Star block is 12", and the sashing is 2". I tried to pick something somewhat easy--all the same star pattern but in different fabrics--so that I could finish it quickly, but I still wanted it to be challenging so I'd stay interested.

Of course, that's where I ran into problems. I was sitting at the machine sewing together a stack of pieces, actually having these ultra-hubris-y (and of course, badly foreshadow-y) thoughts such as "I am the sewing version of Henry Ford and this quilt is my Model T...I am the definition of efficient...I could be a quilt factory!" (Does it make it any better that it was very late at night and very hot and humid? Of course I was crazed! I had mad thoughts! MAD!) Then I pressed the seams on the whole stack, and then arranged the next pieces to attach to the newly-stitched stack. It was not until I was about to start sewing the next parts that I saw how I'd sewn along the wrong side of the last pile, and that everything was upside-down! Gah. Rip! Do-over!

A Little Close-Up of the Summer Wedding Quilt

Besides learning I need to stop and think more while I'm doing things, I also leaned that I'm a terrible quilter. I'm great at hand-stitching, I'm good at machine sewing, I'm not great at measuring and cutting, ironing makes me homicidal and is how I get hurt most often in the whole quilt process, but I am a bad, bad machine quilter.

Granted, this was the first large thing I have quilted. It's the first time I used a walking foot, which may not even be the right one for my fairly lame machine. The stitch length is all wonky in the quilting, and it's in "straight" lines, with very heavy quotation marks. Also, I still don't have a good space to baste all the layers of a quilt, and draping it over my coffee table to do so may not have been the best choice. And finally, while wedging the ironing board between the open door and the little table the machine is on was helpful, I do dream of a big open space that might make the day after quilting feel less like I'd just completed swimming one hundred laps of the butterfly stroke.

But that's just a list of notes to myself for the next time--though if you have tips for machine quilting, let me know! It turned out better than I expected, and I was pretty excited when I finally got to step back and see the whole thing. I made Dave come outside with me and hold it up so I could take a picture before I gave it away. He seemed a little embarrassed, but on our busy street, I've definitely seen weirder things than a person holding up a quilt!
19 comments|post comment

[31 Aug 2009|11:57am]
I was walking down my street the first fall after I moved into my current apartment and found a lovely leaf on the sidewalk. I picked it up and brought it inside, looked up info about it, and then placed it inside a heavy book. Since then, I've only seen the leaf once (and I can't remember which book it's in), and I haven't really thought more about the tree it came from.

Then yesterday afternoon I was sitting on a folding chair outside of the laundromat, waiting for some things to dry. Across the street is a stand of trees in front of a public school. It's a bizarre group of trees, pretty varied and clearly planned. All I can find about that tiny patch of land is a caption to an unposted photo in a NY Times article about the NYC Greenstreets program, which began in 1996, and it says, "Fort Hamilton Parkway between 58th and 59th Streets, Brooklyn. Completed June 10, 1997. 19,720 square feet." Of course, I imagine that square footage includes the surrounding sidewalks where old folks do Tai Chi at dawn and younger ones shoot craps and steal internet data in the midnight hours.

So I was trying to read my book, but I was distracted by all the warm-afternoon chaos. A man passed in front of me wearing a t-shirt with the sleeves torn off, and across his chest it said: Keg Security. A little boy in glasses kept trying to ride his tricycle into the laundromat. And across the street, a middle-aged Chinese woman was whacking a tree with her umbrella. Her elderly mother and her young daughter gathered things from the sidewalk and stuffed them into plastic bags. I suddenly remembered Gingko seeds.

ginkgo tree

All I could remember about Ginkgos, from what I'd looked up after I found one's leaf on the sidewalk, was that they are hardy trees suitable for a wide range of environments, they are really, really old, and they can stink really badly. I get that data mixed up in my head with the Ailanthus tree, which I think of as a giant asshole weed, which also stinks. Turns out it's the female Ginkgo and the male Ailanthus that stink, but you can't tell which sex the tree is going to be until it's matured. For the Ginkgo, it can take decades. Because it's tough and because it's stinky, some cities (including NYC) only want to plant male Ginkgos--which is of course ridiculous, because then the plants can never repopulate on their own.

ginkgo nuts

Turns out the stink comes from the seeds that the Chinese family was collecting--even though I don't believe they're ripe yet. Called Ginkgo nuts, they're popular in Asian countries, but haven't caught on much elsewhere because the outer shell has a chemical in it that is also found in vomit, hence the stink. I've smelled that stink, and I know it is horrid, but I was so intrigued that there was free, fresh food right across the street from me in an urban area, that I wanted to try it right away.

Thankfully, I found that someone else got paid to do the same thing, basically. She wrote this article for Gormet, and it is enough for me to live vicariously through that. Reading what it's like to deal with them, I definitely don't need to try it myself: "I rummaged through the stinky stew in the plastic bag until I’d extracted a nut from each of the gag-inducing fruits. I overcame several waves of nausea, I burped and winced, and, on one of the last fruits, I sneezed loudly enough to jerk my dog awake from his nap." Ultimately she finds a way to cook them that makes them pretty tasty, but I think I'll pass. This year, I'm going to try some late-night fig thievery instead, which will smell much nicer, for sure.

Have any of you ever had Ginkgo nuts?
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[10 Aug 2009|01:01pm]
One more call to join up in a quilting bee I mentioned the other day!

Alison 2

If neesypea is in (no pressure, but you should totally do it!), then we just need at least one more person, but if not, then two more. It will be a lot of fun, and very little work! You can look forward to mail! And you will end up with an amazing quilt at the end of it!

Come on, do it!
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[31 Jul 2009|10:58am]
Inauspicious beginning: New upstairs neighbor boys began moving in last night at 11:30pm. Passive-aggressive Mary knows they are boys because she spied them through the front door peephole.

Better news: Food is awesome in the summer! Yesterday the sun woke me up early. I was so surprised to see it--it was supposed to be all rainy again--that I got up and went into the city and stopped at the farmer's market before work. I got some tomatoes and peaches and radishes and lots of other good stuff.

Little Bits Dinner

Last night we had a dinner that was basically a bunch of side dishes, which is my favorite thing. Usually at a restaurant I'm more drawn to the sides or the appetizers, and I will often just get a couple of those instead of a main course. If I didn't have to feed Dave too, I would probably mostly eat side dishes for dinner: mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, tomato and avocado salad, carrots and celery and hummus. Not to say Dave didn't love this dinner also, cause he sure did. I found out this week that I am way low on the vitamin B12, and while I'm sure there are a lot of reasons, maybe my aversion to main courses doesn't help!

Butter-Poached Radishes

(These measurements are all guesses. I just dumped stuff in.)
3 tablespoons of butter
1 clove of garlic, sliced
A few (5-6) French Breakfast radishes, cut in half
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup of water
1 teaspoon of tarragon
pepper and sea salt

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Add the garlic and the radishes and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the sugar, vinegar, and water and cook for another couple of minutes until the liquid reduces somewhat. Add the last tablespoon of butter and cook another minute, glazing the radishes. Remove from heat, add the tarragon and pepper to combine. Top with sea salt. Have lots of bread on hand to dip in the sauce!

Tomato Breakfast

This morning I had some berries, coffee with milk (I'm always impressed with myself if I can remember to have fresh milk in the refrigerator--but then I have to remember to use it or lose it), and a bagel with cream cheese, yellow tomatoes, basil, and salt. Dear tomatoes, I love you and miss you for like nine months of the year, and I'm sad to hear there's a blight wiping so many of you out, so I am really glad to take any opportunity I can to eat you over the next few months, Love, Mary.

Will it be a disgrace to a peach to eat it in a sandwich with Nutella later? NO.

The cat says hello:

Latke in a 30s Crime Scene Photo
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[26 Jun 2009|01:32pm]
July is my month in our virtual quilting bee, and I have been planning for it basically ever since we started talking about it back in January. I knew I wanted to do something with a lot of solids, and I was thinking about grays, but then I couldn't decide on what other colors to add. There were too many! Have you ever looked at all the Kona solids? That's heaven. I love them all! I finally narrowed it down to a few kinds of greenish blues and a buttery yellow, and realized I would try to get some other colors in there without having to make the decision myself...

my fabrics for TTQB

The theme is "crooked stripes," which hopefully gives a rough idea of a goal but leaves a lot of room for everybody's creativity. And I'm asking that each gal add at least one other fabric (see, that way I don't have to choose, plus it will be such a cool surprise to see what everyone adds), either another solid, or something with stripes. I hope everyone thinks it's a fun challenge. I'm so anxious to see how it all turns out!
10 comments|post comment

[24 Jun 2009|05:14pm]
Since February, I've been working on the Threads Together Quilting Bee, along with wonderlandq and jennicakes and some other lovely ladies. It's been an awesome way to build up some new sewing techniques and work with fabrics and color combinations that I wouldn't normally choose myself. A new envelope of awesome shows up each month! These are the squares I've made so far:

Blocks so far

And July is my month! I've had my idea kinda ready and my fabrics picked out for a while, even though once I cut everything up I decided to leave one out. I've just got a little fine-tuning to do and then I'm sending out my fabrics! I was excited before, but as it's getting closer, I'm really really excited to see what everybody makes. Ohh, mysterious, what will it be... I'll update soon when I've figured everything out.
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[12 Jun 2009|03:07pm]
It was foggy and drizzly and cold, and they lost in extra innings, but I got to see the Mets in the new Citi Field (corporate name=blech) for the first time last night.

Citi Field

I was sitting right on the center seam of the stadium. There was a funny girl sitting next to me with her dad, she was eleven or so and a huge Mets fan, she was really, really into it. The bathrooms were very empty and speakers stream WFAN while you stream other things, ha. I had a hot chocolate at the end of the night to keep warm, and I can't honestly remember the last time I had one! It hit the spot.

Mets lights

single shacks

Dave has been a few times already, but he hadn't tried any of the exciting food, so we got to the stadium early to get Shake Shack burgers. We each finished a beer while waiting on the insanely long line. People were very nice though--baseball stadiums generally generate excitement and comradery, but people are still seeing this place for the first time, so all those nice feelings are exaggerated. Some ladies in front of us on line let us try the Box Frites they were snacking on because they wanted us to know how awesome they are (so, so, soooo awesome), and other strangers discussed beer options and compared all the good food they'd already tried.

HospitalityThe line was long, but once we ordered our food came immediately. These are the best fast food burgers ever! Though I haven't had In-N-Out burgers. Dave and I stood at a cafe table to eat, and some people walked up to share the other half. Again, nice people, who talked about what they'd gotten to eat. Then suddenly joining them was Danny Meyer, the guy responsible for the very burgers we were exclaiming over, with David Swinghamer, who is another big shot with Danny Meyer's restaurant group, and is actually in charge of their stuff at Citi Field. Danny Meyer asked us how we liked our burgers, and I mocked an "Ehh, they're alright," which got a good chuckle. Wealth shined from those guys, damn are they rich.

As much as I hate the name and look forward to CitiGroup's likely demise and the resulting stadium name-change (even though it will probably just change to some other corporate sponsor, huh), Citi Field is pretty great. You can watch from so many different places, it's roomy and feels grand, and oh man the food options are just awesome. If anyone wants to come visit and go to a game, let me know!

Notice that I will mostly just talk about food, and not much about baseball, as just happened here.
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[18 May 2009|02:04pm]
Hello there! I've been internet-living by the old chestnut "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" for a little while. But I finally have something nice to say, WITH PICTURES! Of course, it is all about food. I will have nice things to say about quilts with pictures soon, too, but for now, feast your eyes and then figure out ways to invite me places where I will be compelled to bake something for you.

croissant pile

CROISSANT PILE! For my birthday a few months back Dave gifted me a breakfast breads and pastries baking class, which just started last week. It took two sessions to make these (we made a bunch of other stuff too, but these take for-ev-er). Never say never, right, but I will never make these at home. It made me appreciate the croissant though, so if you find a place that makes them fresh and good, give the baker a hug.

croissant pre bake that is a lot of butter

These are them in the kitchen. Besides the fact that they are only really delicious when they're super fresh, I could never make these because I have about 12x24 inches of counter space, and at some point I rolled the dough out to something insane like 18x36 inches. Seriously. We had yard sticks to measure.

rhubarb soda

Things I can make on my tiny counter include strawberry-rhubarb pie (I didn't take a picture) and this here rhubarb soda. Really easy! If you find rhubarb at all appealing, you should make this. The syrup is such a crazy pink. Like, "how does this exist in nature" pink. Bonus, you can make rhubarb cosmos if you're so inclined (I was inclined, and then I was reclined).

Dave cake 09

I also made a cake for Dave's birthday last week, an almond white cake with almond and raspberry filling from a recipe from the Cook's Illustrated baking book. Too sweet for me, but Dave liked it.

Hey thanks for all your vacuum advice! I ended up with the Pet Spaceship one, but um, haven't tried it yet. Sure looks like it works really well, though!
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[28 Feb 2009|01:13pm]
This was one of the weirdest things I've ever cooked. Weird, but delicious.

brazilian chicken stew

Brazilian Chicken Stew
From The Daily Soup Cookbook, which is really great. Lots of time consuming recipes, but great, really unusual and interesting.

Recipe behind the cut...Collapse )

I've never had anything like this. It's spicy, and it's sort of like a Thai curry, but the cashews, wow, so great. I've caught a little cold, and this is really my perfect comfort food for when I'm feeling sick. Warm, rich, hearty, and spicy enough to clear the sinuses!
6 comments|post comment

[25 Feb 2009|05:52pm]

I think I got most of you?
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Trade for a sort of weird handknit hat? [31 Jan 2009|05:06pm]
I found this hat today in a bag that was in another bag that was filled with the yarn I'd made it with, when I made it a billion years ago. I wasn't really into it then, and I'm not really into it now--I was just making it to practice new ideas. It's probably a small/medium. Would anybody like it? I hate to think of it sitting in a bag for another 6 years. I'd love to trade it for something, who knows what, if you really think you'd wear it. More info about it at the flickr page, just click the photo. Let me know!

old hat
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[23 Jan 2009|02:55pm]
This week feels like it's been a wash, but upon reflection I see that I got a lot done. For instance, I finished knitting my simple green scarf with awesome fringe:


I took this in the morning right after I took a shower, and you can't really tell, but my hair is wet, which it always is when I leave the house. I don't blow dry my hair, and never have. This reminds me of my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Grady, who was the first person I think I ever butted heads with simply because I disagreed with how she wielded her authority. When I came into school during the winter with wet hair, she was furious! She said I was going to catch pneumonia and die. One day she got fed up and told me to go to a bathroom to dry my hair with one of those air-dryers for your hands. Thing is, the only place they had those machines at the school was in a different building, so I had to put on my coat and GO OUTSIDE to get there to dry my hair. I told her that seemed dumb, seeing how I might die from pneumonia, and that comment didn't go over well. I guess I've always pushed people's buttons, oops ;)

Also this week, I finished two pairs of mittens that I started years ago, but put down for some reason with very little left to do:

moustache mitten k mitten

It is a relief to be done! I felt a little anxious and guilty every time I saw the unfinished mittens. "Finish us! We're so sad. We'll be happier when people can wear us!"

Check out that awesome handspun yarn from miss moustacherides! It sort of makes me want to eat the mittens, they look like they're made of cotton candy.

Finally, my week's list of accomplishments includes changing my IM pic to something that makes me laugh every time I enter a new misspelled snarky comment. It's from the one I'm using now here on lj, but just the gravy can, which is from one of my favorite cartoons, "Chow Hound." It's kind of dark. Maybe the theme of the oppressed finally getting justice over a tyrant appealed to me even before Mrs. Grady? Definitely my most-quoted Warner Brothers cartoon at Thanksgiving.

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xmas presents part 2 [05 Jan 2009|11:19am]
My niece is really into her American Girl doll (an extravagance that she got after being really good when the whole family had to get a series of rabies shots because there'd been a bat in the house. I asked what they got my nephew, my brother told me they'd gotten him a 100 Grand candy bar from the hospital vending machine. He was two, so he may have believed it really cost that much.) So for xmas, Dave and I got her Coconut, the American Girl doll dog, which was apparently the #2 thing on her xmas list, a set of doll pajamas and bunny slippers, and then I decided to make a little doll quilt.

miriam quilt

I love how it turned out, it's just as I'd planned. But man, I learned I am bad at things that require precision. With all that measuring, I'm still too lenient: "Eh, it's close enough." Which of course it never is, in the end. And straight lines, I curse them! I probably don't have quite the right tools either, or the right amount of space cleared, but it's definitely the patience for sameness that makes quilting difficult for me. I should stick to quilts that are more freestyle in the future, but of course I'm working on a pinwheel quilt right now, basically the same points and corners that frustrated me about this one. But at least the pinwheels aren't all solid, so it won't show mistakes as boldly!

Crush! Kill! Destroy!

I also crocheted a little stuffed robot for my nephew to match some awesome robot pajamas I got for him. This was way more up my alley, working without plans, making it up as I went along while watching It's a Wonderful Life, and adding an evil-but-cute face at the end. Crush! Kill! Destroy! HUG!
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xmas presents part 1 [03 Jan 2009|12:47pm]
I went a little crazy and made a bunch of my presents this year, but it was so much fun and I know they'll be appreciated. Now I'm almost at a loss for what to do, though! I have some things to work on while I sit inside and drink tons of coffee and wine and begin to watch The Wire and season two of Friday Night Lights, but not racing to get a present finished is an unusual feeling! Like, almost, relaxing?

I made three blankets, because everyone can use another blanket, right? I know I can. Dave makes fun of me because right now I have six blankets on my side of the bed. I'm a cold person--I also always have more laundry than him in the winter because at any time I'm wearing at least three layers of clothing.

For my parents, in cotton because they're in Florida:
big round blanket

For my brother Jon and sister-in-law Rebeccah:
square target blanket

For my brother Peter and sister-in-law Caitlin:
Seashore blanket on radiator

I also made a couple of things for my niece and nephew, but I haven't downloaded the pics yet. Looking at everything together when I was wrapping, it made me wonder how my fingers didn't just drop off! It didn't seem like a lot while I was making everything--it's not like I did all this in a month, I know at least I started my parents' one in the spring--but it does make me wonder if I should resolve to get out more in 2009, ha.
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RIF 3 [29 Dec 2008|10:23am]
What I Read in 2008
How I Live NowThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoThe Lathe of HeavenThe RoadThe Shipping News : A NovelElbow RoomThis Boy"s Life: A Memoir
The House of the ScorpionLonesome DoveThe SportswriterThe Accidental TouristThe Executioner"s SongA Good Scent from a Strange Mountain: StoriesBreathing Lessons
Gilead: A NovelIn the Country of Last ThingsThe HoursDishwasher: One Man"s Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty StatesThe Mambo Kings Play Songs of LoveWinter"s BoneAll Quiet on the Western Front
So BigThe Bridge of San Luis ReyRabbit, RunA Thousand Acres: A NovelNobody"s FoolLife of PiThe Debt to Pleasure: A Novel

click on the cover to see my review, or see the title list and my faves behind this cutCollapse )

This feels great, to look back and see how much I've read! (Especially since two of those books were 900+ pages, yikes.) The last few years have been good ones for me and reading. I'm a really slow reader, and I get easily distracted, so sometimes, if it's not a book I'm interested in, it feels like a chore. So I never read as a kid. I didn't read in high school, but I was excellent at pretending like I had, I guess. And then for some reason I went to college and became an English major. I was good at bullshitting in writing, but I knew it was stupid that I didn't really like reading. Gradually I got into it, but this was still all work, not for fun.

Then I was in a class about the publishing business, and we were talking about what we read in our free time. Nobody had free time to read anything besides books for school. The professor asked us to think about what our reading habits might be like in the future, and then to take a look at the things people read in public, on the subway and in coffee shops and things like that. Ask what our parents and older siblings were reading. He was trying to remind us that working in book publishing, whether writing or editing, is hard because generally people don't spend a lot of time reading. More and more books are being published all the time, but there's not a large audience for them.

People on the subway or drinking coffee are often reading free newspapers, only occasionally a book, if they are reading at all--I see more people playing games on their cell phones. When I see people reading books now, if it's a younger person they might be reading something popular in fiction, something that's just become a movie, and when it's an older person it's often a self-help book. I know this is a weird polling, but if people aren't reading on their long commutes, what is the chance that they're reading at home? I read on the train all the time, but I barely even read at home (I read magazines there, but it's mostly skimming). If not for the train, my list would be a whole lot shorter.

So what are people doing instead? Watching TV, passively clicking through the internet, going out with friends? And isn't reading just another time-waster? When does it become smartypants?

Those are things I'll wonder about forever. One thing I know for sure though, that I think I learned this year, is that books are absolutely and wonderfully subjective. I can often argue about TV and movies, I can feel that the other person is dead wrong and tasteless and can, with enough convincing, be brought around to the right way of looking at the thing. And vice versa. But a book is such a time investment, and can involve so much emotion, that if you and I found different things in it, there is no amount of convincing one way or the other that what we found is wrong. It's all right. I have my tastes, you have yours, and maybe sometimes they will overlap.

So...what should I read next year?
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Mmmm, Latkes [26 Dec 2008|09:14pm]
Latke roll

A few nights ago, I roasted a chicken, made a salad, and fried up some latkes! The potato kind, not the cat Latke, shown above being annoyed when I opened her hiding place and woke her up. It's nice to eat a real meal every once in a while, and I kicked latke ass. Again, the potato kind, not the cat.

Latkes for Two

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Pow! Pop! [21 Nov 2008|02:04pm]
I finally finished this blanket last night! I started crocheting it last December, and I was mostly done with it at the end of April, but then I ran out of yarn as I was doing the border (of course, with just one last round to go!), and I didn't get around to buying more until recently. It's gotten so cold that I had to finish it just so I had something extra warm to sit under while I'm working on Christmas presents.

Pinata blanket

And man is it extra warm. It's what I imagine it's like having a sheep sitting right on top of you, minus the obvious complications of having a sheep sitting right on top of you.

Pinata blanket from above

Also, since I started it, I've thought it looked like a pinata. It's so bright and crazy, it would only be better if it were stuffed with candy, and it's made just to be destroyed. Well, not destroyed, but used, which is the point of woolly blankets, right? This won't last forever, not with my cat clawing into it every day, and it's going to be dragged around and dropped and stretched and loved. And I'm sure it will be filled with candy (not intentionally) at some point.

I hope you all have a woolly blanket to sit under this weekend! It's going to be a cold one around here. They said snow today, but I have not seen flake one. I want it and fear it at the same time! Hello, Winter!
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[25 Oct 2008|12:59pm]
I still have apples from when I went apple picking about a month ago. They're in a drawer of their own in the refrigerator, and they are wrapped individually in newspaper, which should keep them good, supposedly, for months. So far, so good, but I'm almost out of apples, so I won't really get to test that "months" theory.

This morning I used three of the tiny ones to make my favorite baked apple pancake, which is more custardy really then pacakey. Whatever it is, it's tasty. Aside from peeling the apples, this is really quick, and it's so warm and comforting on a cold fall morning. It's not too cold yet, but I am now remembering why I bake on weekend afternoons in the winter--using the oven really helps warm up my cold apartment!

apple pancake

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