Thursday, January 31, 2013

Theme Thursday: Sun Flare

We had 2.2 minutes of sunshine and boy, was I ready.  I had already googled "how to photograph a sun flare," and came away with a few directions.

  • Must have sunlight.
  • Focus on something between the camera and the sun.
  • Use a big F stop, which means a tiny aperture, or as I like to call it, "light hole."
  • Use a low-ish ISO.
  • Use a slow-ish shutter speed.
  • Set the white balance to cloudy.  Or sunny.  Depending on the weather.
  • Take the setting off green square and go to that new territory called "M."
  • Try, try again.  Don't let anybody tell you that you can't take pictures of the sun.  You know who you are.
So after dozens of click-delete-reset-repeat, I got this:




1/80s, F22, ISO400

HA!  It can be done!  This is on my front porch.  That, my friends, is the sun.


Everything was the same, except I lowered the exposure time to 1/60 of a second.  No multi-colored bubbles.


I don't own any version of Photoshop and I haven't gone to Picasa yet.  I use Creative Memories Memory Manager, because I used to (and would still like to be) big into scrapbooking.  I bought their program to sort and save my pictures, and I use their editing tools too.  But not today.  Everything you see today is SOOC.  That means Straight Out of the Camera.  PW taught me that.



Blarg.  Sometimes Blogger lets me put captions, and sometimes it doesn't.  Does anyone else have this problem?
 
Anyway, Sun Flare #3 has all the same settings as above, just a different arch on my front porch.
 
 
Same as before.  1/60s F22 ISO400.  Stupid blogger.  I guess I only get two captions along with my two minutes of sun. 
 
See more and better photography skillz over at Clan Donaldson's Theme Thursday link-up
This post was brought to you toddler-free by two episodes of Shaun the Sheep.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sheenazing Nomination and What We're Reading Wednesday

I'm not a recipient, but I couldn't find an official nominee button.
Some kind person or persons thought enough of this bad blog to nominate Housewifespice in the category of Smartest Blog. 

Yippee!

You can go over here to vote, but seeing as how I'm up against some big time blogheads, I'm not expecting to win.  Hey, just to be in the same ballpark as Simcha Fischer, Jen Fulwiler, and Aunt Leila and her daughters is huge. 

Done voting?

Good.

I fell down my icy front steps Sunday afternoon, on my way to a happy hour of all things.  I spent the rest of my evening icing my swollen knee with various bags of frozen vegetables and sitting on a heating pad for my tailbone.  It was a total wipeout.



Having just finished, The Wizard Heir (see below), I tearfully asked the Chef to bring me any other book from the library bag.  Doesn't everybody have a library bag?  Stuffed to overflowing with treasures that will only cost a fraction in fines what my bookstore bill might have been?  It lives in the front hall, or in any other season, the front hall closet?  No?  It's the latest thing in decorating.


He brought me Girls Don't Fly by Kristen Chandler.  I'm always saying that the age of the reader should be equal to or greater than the age of the protagonist, and Myra is a senior in high school just shy of her eighteenth birthday.

The good stuff:  Scholastic underachiever, Myra, goes all out for a scholarship to study wildlife in the Galapagos Islands.  Lots of beautiful island imagery, and neato factoids about flightless cormorants.  She loves her sibs, from pregnant, single older sis to the four younger brothers she is always tending, and they love her too.  She tells an on-going fairy tale/pirate story to her brothers, chronicling her obstacles as she tries to win the scholarship.  She is hurt by the nasty rumor that pretty boy, Eric, dumped her "because she couldn't keep her shirt on,"  but the truth is he dumped her because she would NOT sleep with him.  Yay!  Teen chastity! 

The bad stuff:  That's not to say that she's against pre-marital sex, she just didn't want to have it with him.  Her parents are very anti-religion.  Set in Salt Lake City, there's lots of instances to poke fun at this.  "At my school we had to dance a Bible's distance apart."  "I've never read the Bible." 

All in all, it was better than I expected.  I'd give it a C and I'd let high school seniors read it.  Plus, it kept my mind off my injuries until Downton came on.  I was so disappointed that Isobel wasn't the principle who died.  And what's with all of the bloggers hating on Bates?  Aside, from trying to purge his hairy bedroom scene from my mind, he's still one of my faves.  Remember first season Bates? 


Okay, Angela, I read Insurgent by Veronica Roth and I'm still not feeling the love.  Tried to quit halfway through, but I had not replenished my library bag at that time. So I offered it up suffered through.  Too many characters, and I don't like any of them.  More violence, more snogging, more saving-all-of-the-plot-related-action-for-the-last-100-pages or so.

I know many sci-fi and Hunger Games fans love this trilogy.  I'm just not that into it.  It's less sexy than it's predecessor, and there's a smidgen of forgiveness plus an ounce of guilt.  I'd let Susan read this one, except I won't let her read Divergent.  Do I have to read the third one?  What's it called again?  Regurgitate?



 Here's one that I wouldn't have read if Angela and Isabel hadn't told me to, and unlike the last one, I really liked The Whisper by Emma Clayton.  All of my hang-ups and issues in the first episode, The Roar, were more than compensated for in The Whisper.  

I just wish there was more balance between the two.  In The Roar, it's all doom and gloom, totally hopeless, super-powerful bad guys with no way to take them down.  In The Whisper, from page one, the good guys are winning and they keep winning the whole book through.  Sure, things look a little precarious here and there, but our hero children definitely have the upper hand the entire time.  Maybe these books should be combined under one title and jacket. 


Remember a few weeks ago, when I gave thumbs up to The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima, well this week, Lucy insisted I read the sequel, The Wizard Heir.  I had to vociferously stop her from giving me spoilers before she finished and forked it over.  It was very hard for her not to give stuff away.  She liked it even better than the first one, and I have to agree.

The good stuff:  Main character, Seph (Joseph) McCauley is great, and he's Catholic.  He attends Mass and prefers the Latin rite.  At one point, he is accused of practicing occult magic, but he says, "I'm Catholic and I wouldn't do that."  Boo-yah!

The bad stuff:  Seph is tortured with nightmares by the evil headmaster.  He is tempted with drugs and alcohol from the headmaster's henchmen.  But he never accepts.  Because he's awesome.  And Catholic.  Did I mention that he's a practicing Catholic?  Shown in a good light?  Just want to get that out there.

Lucy finally finished The Dragon Heir.  Too late, I already started Chima's other series, The Seven Realms:  The Demon King.  No demons in sight so far.  Demonai is the name of one of the Native American-ish clans struggling to balance power with the wizard race.  It's shaping up verrry nicely, more on this next week.




The Chef's new favorite book is I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen.  I had gone to the library to get this year's Caldecotts, Newberys, and the newly announced Caudills.  Jon Klassen is the winner of this year's Caldecott for his book, This Is Not My Hat, but that was checked out.  So I settled for another one by him.

The text is in different colors for the different characters, which makes using funny voices when you read that much easier.  When the Chef reads it, the main character, a bear who has lost his hat, has a deep baritone and a slight lisp.  The turtle sounds Italian, and the armadillo could be Hispanic.  Every character has a unique and hilarious voice. 

Of course when I read it, the bear is a very frustrated female. 

Either way, the Chef was near tears while reading this very funny story with a surprise ending, and the rest of us were in stitches.  I'm not quite sure what was funnier, the way he read it, or the way Baby J faked laughter on every page.  She squinches up her eyes, and sounds like she's wheezing.  Also, ridiculously funny.

I can't wait to read the award winner.

If you go to my library, and you're looking for the newest award winners and nominees, I'll return them in three weeks. 




Friday, January 25, 2013

7 Quick Takes Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

1.  Ear Worm
Would you like to know what's been playing in my head since I finally got rid of the Japanese Fit's Gum Commercial that had been on repeat for the last week and a half?

Are you sure?...Watch and listen at your own risk, and then you can search the real news interview that prompted this auto-tuned parody.    Don't do it.  You'll only regret it.



2.  Meal Planning
My friend, Sara, sent me this link about using Google Calendar for meal planning.  So simple, yet so brilliant.  Enter your meals on your Google Cal, you can add links to the recipes in the description box, and then set them to repeat at whatever frequency you desire. 

For example, this week was the "week of Ham."  Glazed whole ham with mashed potatoes and this delish snap pea salad from Chef John Besh (the snap peas are chopped!  Brilliant!) on Sunday.  Ham and Bean Soup with two varieties of Beer-Batter Bread:  Cheddar and Jalapeno or Gouda and Bacon, on Tuesday.  Then Ham on Pretzel Bun sandwiches in the lunchboxes for a few days and "Buh-bye ham."  So last night I made a staple dinner around here, Creamy Skillet Penne with Italian Sausage and Broccoli.  I'm setting the Trifecta of Ham to repeat annually, but the pasta dish will reappear every six weeks or more.

3.  John Besh



Speaking of John Besh, I had seen the southern chef on Top Chef and other such shows.  He has an engaging personality and his specialty is all things N'awlins.  My mom knows somebody who knows somebody, and for Christmas she gave the Chef a personalized autographed copy of Besh's latest cookbook, My Family Table, A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking.

His open-ended recipes are perfect for the creative cook, such as Risotto of Almost Anything, Cream of Any Vegetable Soup, and Simple Meat Ragout for Any Pasta.  Like every cookbook, this one is loaded with mouth-watering photographs.  From the dedication,
...It is also for the thousands of parents and children, brothers and sisters, separated from their families in defense of our nation, dining on Meals Ready to Eat so far from those they love...
to the references to his Catholic faith, Sunday Mass attendance, and family life with wife and four sons, My Family Table has lots of thoughtful text as well.


4.  More Meal Planning
I'm super intrigued by Dwija's adventures in slow-cooking and advanced prep meal planning

5.  One More Recipe
Everyone has those classic Christmas cookie recipes that they loved as a child, that only Mom knows how to make.  Since we're still baking our way through the Christmas season (Candlemas is the end, dontcha know.), I had Lucy make Cornflake Nougat Bars this week. 

Imagine Rice Krispy Treats, but with cornflakes instead of Rice Krispies and covered with a thick coating of semi-sweet chocolate.  I don't know why I can't stop eating them.  It's probably because they are gluten-free (I think) and double as a breakfast food as well as a snack.  This recipe shows them dyed green and made into little wreaths.  My mom used to make holly clusters decorated with red hots, but then she stopped using food coloring. Chocolate covered squares are way better.

I can stop eating them now, because they are all gone.  :(

6.  Baby J
God love her.  She names everything after the people in her family.  Ev.er.y.thing.  For example, she has a shape puzzle.  Peter is the brown parallelogram, Edmund is the red and blue trapezoid.  I'm a yellow triangle.  Susan is the purple octagon.



She was terrified of baths for a few weeks.  And then I got her these bath trinkets.  One is Susan and the other is Lucy.



She cannot make a "k" sound.  She loves "buhts" (books), the color "peent,"  and her "pitty peent tote" (pretty pink coat).  Tonight, since the home crowd is down two, and we're out of ham, we went out for burgers and shakes.  But she doesn't say "shake."  She says something else completely and we shamelessly tried to make it say it over and over again.  She got frustrated and started calling her shake, "moo."

Also, she got a haircut.  No more Bozo side wisps.  She asked for the Julia Patton boy-bob.



7.  Skating Partay!
Edmund is having his 2nd annual class (just the boys) birthday/skating party.  Do I really have to make goody bags for 10 year-olds?  I'm thinking about buying boxes of candy bars from Costco's and letting them each take one for the road.  But then I think they get waaaay too much candy at school, and I will have already fed the cupcakes and cocoa.  Any ideas floating around the blogosphere?  Bueller?    
Bueller?
Or I will have to take Baby J to (cue horror movie music) more than one store, and hit our local Dollar Tree to see what kind of tchotchkes they have for big kids who are still small enough to want goody bags.
 
Thinking about the feast of the conversion of St. Paul and his faith journey from avid persecutioner to martyr/defender of the faith, and Jen Fulwiler and hers, I am filled with hopefulness about the pro-life cause in our country. 

Woo Hoo!  The Pope tweeted about the March for Life!

Catch more Jen here.
 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What We're Reading Wednesday

I'm starting with the best first, because Facebook always uses the first photo as the thumbnail.  So, when I start with the worst first, it looks like I'm endorsing a book I don't like.


I very much loved this mash-up of fairytales retold as one romantic adventure.  Similar to Jessica Day George, Alethea Kontis weaves together the tales of the Princess and the Frog, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, the Princess and the Pea and more in her novel, Enchanted.

Our heroine, Sunday, is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, all of them named for the "Monday's child is fair of face...etc"  nursery rhyme.  Gifted or cursed with the ability that anything she writes comes true, Sunday tries only to write about things that have already happened.  Trouble is no one in her family wants to read their own history, that's where her new friend Grumble comes in.  Grumble is a frog.  Well, he used to be a man, but now he's a frog and he's Sunday's best friend...until he's more than that...and then one day he's gone.

You'll have to read the rest yourself.



Speaking of Jessica Day George, Susan received the third installment of The Princesses of Westfalin trilogy, Princess of the Silver Woods.  Another mash-up, this time it's Little Red Riding Hood and some more about the Twelve Dancing Princesses.  The Twelve Princesses are all sisters, and they're all named after flowers.  Each installment has a different princess as the main focus, but each sister is still in the story.  I'm just too confused about which flower princess had which adventure and is married to which hero.  I didn't read the books in order and it's been too long since I read the last one.  Don't let my dementia stop you though.  Even with the large cast and my confusion, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.



This is the edition I wanted to get Lucy, but it was backordered, and didn't match the other titles, so below is the edition she got.



We watched You've Got Mail during Advent.  I love old Meg Ryan movies and it's sort of Christmassy.  It would have been a great family movie, save the multiple references to "cyber-sex."  sigh. 

There's a memorable scene that inspired me to watch it again after all these years.  The scene is when former indie bookstore owner, Kathleen, goes to the Children's Department at the mega-store, Fox Books.  She overhears a customer asking about the "shoe books."  The mega-store employee has no clue, but Kathleen tearfully steps in and shares the titles, the author, and the order in which they should be read.

So, lacking any inspiration for a book for Lucy for Christmas, I ordered the "shoe books" for her.  I, myself owned Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild once upon a time.  I remember liking it, but feeling woefully untalented as the main characters are adopted sisters who each have a unique and incredible talent in different areas of the arts, which you can infer from the other titles in the series, Theatre Shoes, Skating Shoes, Dancing Shoes, Party Shoes, etc.

If Noel wrote a book about me, it would be Shopping Shoes or Reading Shoes or Eating Shoes.  Probably not Eating Shoes, seeing as there's a double-meaning there.

Lucy read Ballet Shoes.  She says, "It was interesting to learn about the life of young performers and what the stage was like in the early part of the 20th century."  I had to press her for that quote.  I had asked her to do a guest post and that idea went over like a lead balloon.  She also said, "I liked it."  Turns out, Ballet Shoes is a Reading Counts book at an 8th grade level, so she got credit at school too.  Those books are hard to find. 



Okay, this picture should have been the first.  Easily one of my favorite books of all time, you may think Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder is all about how shoes are made, or how to make head cheese, or harvesting, or cutting ice, or breaking oxen, or making bobsleds, or eating ham and other pork products, and butter, and multiple types of pie each day.

Well, that's not even the  half of it.  Farmer Boy is wonderfully told stories about how when Father sold the colts and it was too late to go to the bank, they almost got robbed that night.  But a stray dog that they had fed protected them!  And about how Mean Bill Ritchie and the bad boys that MURDERED the teacher last year get thrashed by the young new teacher.  And the time Almanzo got hit in the eye with steaming hot potato.  And how Almanzo and his sibs ate the WHOLE BARREL of sugar during the one week his parents were out of town.  Don't forget the part where Almanzo gets into a fist fight with his (jerk) cousin, Frank, on Christmas Day!  Or how he found a pocketbook in the road containing $1500.   

We just finished listening to the audio book over the weekend.  Would you believe sixteen year-old Peter was the one who kept asking to listen to it?  I've raised him to have good taste in stories.

Speaking of Peter, he and Susan are leaving tomorrow bright and early for the March for Life in Washington DC this Friday.  The Chef and I both went when we were in high school, and I'm glad they have the opportunity to do so as well.  I'll be praying for them and all the pilgrims who are marching on Washington this Friday, and as a Mother Hen, I'd appreciate it if you joined me.  As Baby J would say, "Fanks."


Friday, January 18, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday

Normally, I'm totally against this kind of rant, because it happens to all of us, but my day/week has been exceptional and I have nothing else to say, so take cover.

1.  Baby J is terrified of me taking showers and held the curtain open and screamed at me the whole freezing time today.  (Never shave goosebumps.)

2.  Baby J chewed up a whole string cheese stick and spit it out on my pants.  (Even Mickey Dog refused to eat it.)

3.  Baby J has refused to nap at any time this week, unless it is the moment we have to leave to pick up Edmund and Lucy from school.

4.  Baby J knocked over the huuuuge box of giveaway items I keep on my treadmill.  (Duh.  That's what treadmills are best at, keeping stuff off the floor.)

5.  Baby J fought me on wearing a coat to do carpool pick-up today, and slammed the closet door on my head.



6.  Baby J spilled my iced tea all over the rug.

7.  Baby J can unfold laundry faster than I can fold it.

The Chef and Baby J are out picking up take-out for my dinner, because everyone else is gone and they really love me.  I know I am blessed.  I really do.  Now, I will turn off my computer and enjoy one of these.

More beer, less whine.

Go see Jen for less whine.
 

Friday, January 11, 2013

7 Quick Takes

1.  Audition Jitters

Audition time again!  Remember this post on Expectation Management?  Tonight, I'll be suffering for two, as Edmund is hoping to make his stage debut in this spring's production of...

 

2. The World's Best Non-Iron Blouse for Pears

I had never been in a Banana Republic before last week.  For several weeks, I have been on a quest for the perfect chambray shirt.  I saw a light blue blouse in the window of BR and thought it might suffice.  After a horrendous experience, in which I discovered the original fitting rooms were for storage, the underfed wraiths are employees who appear, then disappear when you need another size causing you to put on your blouse, sweater, coat, purse and go get it yourself, and lastly, swallowing my pride because the blouse runs VERY small, I invested in one. 

Except I'm not a tucker.  Looks much better untucked.

At checkout, I was given that online customer survey which rewards one with a 20% off coupon.  So, I reamed them out online, and went back this week to get another blouse at 20% off.  I also got another survey opportunity.  Soooo.....I might be picking up a third blouse next week.  How many can I get before a) they discontinue them, b) they pick up on survey/coupon scheme, c) it becomes apparent to all around me that I wear the same shirt/different color every day?

This magic blouse has wonderfully deep side darts to emphasize a small waist, and flares out enough to cover ample hips without being snug.  And it's long enough!  And it has enough buttons in all of the right places.  None of that awkward "do I button this one and go Amish, or unbutton it and throw on a cami too?"

 The fabric has a lovely sheen that says, "This woman showered today and put thought into her outfit, and has a clean house.  She never does the dinner dishes in the morning."

Oh, did I mention, it's Wrinkle Free?  But miracle of miracles, when I was wearing blouse #2 on Wednesday, both Peter (age 16) and Susan (age 15) separately told me that they liked my shirt!  Cue Twilight Zone music.  It's a magic blouse.

3. Craftastic.

Last Saturday was "Support Religious Freedom by shopping at Hobby Lobby Day," as well as the day before Edmund's 10th birthday. 
I scoured Ravelry and Pinterest and wrote down my list of ingredients for Epiphany Day Cake, these DIY bookmarks, Charlotte's bandana baby quilts, and this Gap-tastic Cowl

4.  What?!  Birthday presents for a boy at a craft store?

One hour and lots of $upport later, I had some of my supplies and the following birthday gifts for a 10 year old boy:

sketch pencils in tin box with sharpener and eraser $5-6
hardcover sketch book $8-9
Paint-by-number kit of boss looking wolf $5


They also have cool circuitry sets, models to build and paint, science kits to grow crystals, and leather and woodworking stuff. 

5. Less about the Lobby, more about Joann's

Half of the stuff on my list (the bookmark supplies, fancy thread like Sulky or Gutterman) is not sold by HobLob.  Would you believe those nice folks suggested I hit Joann Fabrics?  Personally, I prefer Joann's.  HobLob has trouble keeping things in stock, their tiny yarn department is laughable, and the sale ads are very confusing.  Also, Joann's takes competitor coupons, such as Michael's and the Lobby.  But the Lobby doesn't.

Joann's cake babies don't have mohawks either.  I discovered this too late for this year.


Hobby Lobby baby above, Joann's babies below




6.  Riding on the tails of her fame...

One of my roommates in college, fellow UD grad, Chicago transplant, and also a mother of five is Jen Mayfield.  We were/are so alike, sharing tastes in music (Blues Travelers, Janis, and Squeeze), books (Possession by A. S. Byatt), and beer.  We both have degrees in English with concentrations in Medieval/Renaissance Studies (jealous?).  We are like twins separated at birth.  Except that I'm from the Midwest and she's from Long Island.  And she is dark and I am fair.  And she runs marathons, and I run to Chik Fil-A.

A couple of years ago, she invited me to try out for her roller derby team.  Her derby name is Hellenor Throwsevelt.  But, alas, I was pregnant at the time, or I could have been Barbie Machete or something. 

Amazing Jen is now the star of a Diet Dr. Pepper commercial!  You can catch glimpses of her kids and husband, Andy, too.  She's in lots of their ads and even some of their radio spots.  She's also in an interview available on YouTube.  She didn't mention me, because she respects my privacy. 

I'm going to invite her to my bootcamp class.  She's done an Iron Man Triatholon, but can she roll around Tobias style with me?  We shall see.

You can watch the commercial here:

 

And here is her interview...
 

7.  We are looking forward to a nice, warm weekend here in Chicago.  Highs in the upper 50s!  It should be a relaxing respite from the non-stop skating parties we had last weekend.  I'm looking forward to some mentally challenging bridge games as well as some delicious micro-brews. 



Seeing as how it's STILL the Christmas season, and how I was too sick to bake during Advent, I have slowly been chipping away at that giant pile of cookie ingredients.  I have to say, I didn't plan to celebrate like this, but it has been truly lovely, and delicious.  Last week, in addition to Edmund's obligatory Star Wars cookies for his class (that turned out EXACTLY like the images on the box), I made Oatmeal, Pecan, Cherry, Chocolate Chip cookies.  (I made them half as big and baked them a wee bit less.) The Chef said they were the best cookies I've ever made.

Come Monday, you can join me in praying for freezing temps to get the rink frozen again.
Until then, you can pray for bedridden, pregnant Jen.








Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What We're Reading Wednesday

Aaaaand we're back.  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and a Festive Epiphany to you all.

Here I am at public library, blogging on my new laptop like a grown-up.  And because I have no children with me, I have to be upstairs in the Grown Up Section, where I have no business being.  I don't read these books, watch these movies, or listen to this music, as my current playlist includes Wee Sing Fun and Folk and Farmer Boy the audiobook.  But I can pose as an ah-dult for this 45 minutes while Edmund is with the tutor.

WIZARDS! 

It seems like the last several books I've read are all about wizards.


The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney is an example of a very well-written book that is not suitable for children, and probably not adults either.  Delaney writes super scary tales of Thomas, the seventh son of a seventh son, who is apprenticed to the County's spook. The spook's job is to keep the County free of witches, boggarts, and ghosts.  The current spook, Mr. Gregory, has a soft spot and would rather imprison Mother Malkin, a witch, than destroy her.  When Thomas inadvertently frees her, the real terrors begin. 

Mother Malkin is a "blood witch," and when a village child goes missing, Thomas can guess what was in the meat pies he fed the witch as a favor to a mysterious girl in the woods.  Huge doses of horror abound in this book, witches eating infants, the dead possessing the living, summoning spirits by stealing their bones, studies of exorcisms and more.  I found it hard to put down and hard to sleep afterwards.  Also of concern is the mocking way in which Mr. Gregory refers to priests, even his own brother, and he also admits to having been a priest at one time.



Wereworld:  Rise of the Wolf by Curtis Jobling (creator of Bob the Builder) started out with so much promise! A new realm of fantasy, where all nobility are therianthopes, or shape-shifters.  The current king is a were-lion, his predecessor, a werewolf.  There are were-bears, were-foxes, were-boars, were-stags, nasty, nasty were-rats, and even a pirate were-shark. 

Young farm boy, Drew, has no idea that he is the one true heir to the throne, and the world's last werewolf.  One night, his father and brother are away and a terrible, vicious beast mauls and kills his mother.  Upon returning home to the carnage, his father believes him to be the killer.  So he flees an begins a fantastic adventure to discover his identity, and re-claim the throne.

My big problem with the novel is with Drew's friend, Hector.  Hector, a were-boar, was trained in the healing arts by Lord Vankaskan, an evil were-rat.  Unfortunately, Hector also picked up some of the dark arts too, including reviving corpses to communicate with them, and summoning the dead for conversations.  These actions are forbidden, but once started, Hector cannot seem to stop.  Halfway through the second book, Rage of Lions, it appears that everyone including Drew is opposed to Hector's actions, but now he is constantly plagued by undead spirits.  Too creepy and occult-like for moi.



Janitors by Tyler Whitesides was a breath of fresh air after the above two.  Written for a younger, elementary school crowd, Janitors is about Spencer and the mysterious creatures he sees all over the school after washing his face with the vial of pink soap he found in the boys' bathroom.  Turns out there is an evil organization out to destroy the world by undermining elementary school education.  The magical creatures cause forgetfulness, confusion, daydreaming, and sleepiness.  Only the secret society of Janitors know what's at stake and how save the school.  Creative and witty, if yucky/crude at times, Janitors will find lots of popularity with the 12 and under set.



Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull is a decent read.  Jason is whisked away from modern America, studying for an anatomy test, practicing baseball, and the like to a completely new world, Lyrian.  Very Narnia-esque.  And like the Chronic-what-cles, this world is in the grasp of an evil, yep, you guessed it, wizard.  But Jason is not alone, another "Beyonder" appeared at the same time he did, Rachel, a smart, Hermione-like, homeschooler.

Since they have no way of returning home, they decide to go on a quest for the six syllables of the Word that can destroy Maldor, the big, bad emperor. 

My only prob with this book is that Jason likes to whine about his parents back home, how they won't know how to take care of his dog, how they can't trust him to study for the test and practice at the batting cages, so he just blew them off and went to the cages anyway.  He's very jealous of the only child, Rachel, whose parents travel around the world with her to educate her, because they are independently wealthy or I missed what their jobs are.  He is also jealous of his older sibs.  The ten year gap between them means he feels he missed out.  There are no pictures in his baby book. 

So, maybe I'm a little sensitive to that kind of thinking, seeing as how J-Babe is 8 years younger than Edmund, and I have not gotten around to her baby book yet.



Adventurers Wanted:  Slathbog's Gold by M. L. Forman is the tale of how fifteen year old Alex gets whisked away to another world (heard this one already?)  where he is recruited to go on a adventure with some men, some dwarves, and an elf to kill a dragon and claim the hoard.  Interesting twist, huh?  It's a fun version of Hobbit-lite.  Oh, and btw, Alex is predicted to be a dun.dun.dun.dunnnn... Wizard.




And now for something completely different,  Cinda Williams Chima's The Warrior Heir is about young Jack, who does NOT get transported to another world.  Rather, one day he stops taking his meds, and discovers that he has super-human abilities.  One discovery leads to another, and soon he finds that he has been surrounded and protected by (here it comes) wizards, enchanters, soothsayers and the like his whole life. 

There is a long and complicated back story and I'm way past my 45 minutes, now blogging while throwing mozzarella sticks at the three youngest, no dinner in sight.  If you were going to read any of the above, or try to make your child do so, Lucy, Susan and I, all agree that this is the one to read.  It's part one of a trilogy. 

Trilogies are my favorite.  Gives you more than one story, but not too much more.  The end is in sight.  I always get a feeling of dread when I see a book is called "Book 1" as though the author and publishers have no idea where this is going to go, like Nancy Drew and her one trillion episodes or the far too many Series of Unfortunate Events, or 39 is too many Clues.  There are exceptions, like the Potter series, Narnia, Little House, but you have to be really brilliant to pull that off.  Even Tolkien stopped at three.  Or four.  Depending on how you look at it.  I must stop.  The end.  Until next time.  Done.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Theme Thursday: Sun Flare

We had 2.2 minutes of sunshine and boy, was I ready.  I had already googled "how to photograph a sun flare," and came away with a few directions.

  • Must have sunlight.
  • Focus on something between the camera and the sun.
  • Use a big F stop, which means a tiny aperture, or as I like to call it, "light hole."
  • Use a low-ish ISO.
  • Use a slow-ish shutter speed.
  • Set the white balance to cloudy.  Or sunny.  Depending on the weather.
  • Take the setting off green square and go to that new territory called "M."
  • Try, try again.  Don't let anybody tell you that you can't take pictures of the sun.  You know who you are.
So after dozens of click-delete-reset-repeat, I got this:




1/80s, F22, ISO400

HA!  It can be done!  This is on my front porch.  That, my friends, is the sun.


Everything was the same, except I lowered the exposure time to 1/60 of a second.  No multi-colored bubbles.


I don't own any version of Photoshop and I haven't gone to Picasa yet.  I use Creative Memories Memory Manager, because I used to (and would still like to be) big into scrapbooking.  I bought their program to sort and save my pictures, and I use their editing tools too.  But not today.  Everything you see today is SOOC.  That means Straight Out of the Camera.  PW taught me that.



Blarg.  Sometimes Blogger lets me put captions, and sometimes it doesn't.  Does anyone else have this problem?
 
Anyway, Sun Flare #3 has all the same settings as above, just a different arch on my front porch.
 
 
Same as before.  1/60s F22 ISO400.  Stupid blogger.  I guess I only get two captions along with my two minutes of sun. 
 
See more and better photography skillz over at Clan Donaldson's Theme Thursday link-up
This post was brought to you toddler-free by two episodes of Shaun the Sheep.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sheenazing Nomination and What We're Reading Wednesday

I'm not a recipient, but I couldn't find an official nominee button.
Some kind person or persons thought enough of this bad blog to nominate Housewifespice in the category of Smartest Blog. 

Yippee!

You can go over here to vote, but seeing as how I'm up against some big time blogheads, I'm not expecting to win.  Hey, just to be in the same ballpark as Simcha Fischer, Jen Fulwiler, and Aunt Leila and her daughters is huge. 

Done voting?

Good.

I fell down my icy front steps Sunday afternoon, on my way to a happy hour of all things.  I spent the rest of my evening icing my swollen knee with various bags of frozen vegetables and sitting on a heating pad for my tailbone.  It was a total wipeout.



Having just finished, The Wizard Heir (see below), I tearfully asked the Chef to bring me any other book from the library bag.  Doesn't everybody have a library bag?  Stuffed to overflowing with treasures that will only cost a fraction in fines what my bookstore bill might have been?  It lives in the front hall, or in any other season, the front hall closet?  No?  It's the latest thing in decorating.


He brought me Girls Don't Fly by Kristen Chandler.  I'm always saying that the age of the reader should be equal to or greater than the age of the protagonist, and Myra is a senior in high school just shy of her eighteenth birthday.

The good stuff:  Scholastic underachiever, Myra, goes all out for a scholarship to study wildlife in the Galapagos Islands.  Lots of beautiful island imagery, and neato factoids about flightless cormorants.  She loves her sibs, from pregnant, single older sis to the four younger brothers she is always tending, and they love her too.  She tells an on-going fairy tale/pirate story to her brothers, chronicling her obstacles as she tries to win the scholarship.  She is hurt by the nasty rumor that pretty boy, Eric, dumped her "because she couldn't keep her shirt on,"  but the truth is he dumped her because she would NOT sleep with him.  Yay!  Teen chastity! 

The bad stuff:  That's not to say that she's against pre-marital sex, she just didn't want to have it with him.  Her parents are very anti-religion.  Set in Salt Lake City, there's lots of instances to poke fun at this.  "At my school we had to dance a Bible's distance apart."  "I've never read the Bible." 

All in all, it was better than I expected.  I'd give it a C and I'd let high school seniors read it.  Plus, it kept my mind off my injuries until Downton came on.  I was so disappointed that Isobel wasn't the principle who died.  And what's with all of the bloggers hating on Bates?  Aside, from trying to purge his hairy bedroom scene from my mind, he's still one of my faves.  Remember first season Bates? 


Okay, Angela, I read Insurgent by Veronica Roth and I'm still not feeling the love.  Tried to quit halfway through, but I had not replenished my library bag at that time. So I offered it up suffered through.  Too many characters, and I don't like any of them.  More violence, more snogging, more saving-all-of-the-plot-related-action-for-the-last-100-pages or so.

I know many sci-fi and Hunger Games fans love this trilogy.  I'm just not that into it.  It's less sexy than it's predecessor, and there's a smidgen of forgiveness plus an ounce of guilt.  I'd let Susan read this one, except I won't let her read Divergent.  Do I have to read the third one?  What's it called again?  Regurgitate?



 Here's one that I wouldn't have read if Angela and Isabel hadn't told me to, and unlike the last one, I really liked The Whisper by Emma Clayton.  All of my hang-ups and issues in the first episode, The Roar, were more than compensated for in The Whisper.  

I just wish there was more balance between the two.  In The Roar, it's all doom and gloom, totally hopeless, super-powerful bad guys with no way to take them down.  In The Whisper, from page one, the good guys are winning and they keep winning the whole book through.  Sure, things look a little precarious here and there, but our hero children definitely have the upper hand the entire time.  Maybe these books should be combined under one title and jacket. 


Remember a few weeks ago, when I gave thumbs up to The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima, well this week, Lucy insisted I read the sequel, The Wizard Heir.  I had to vociferously stop her from giving me spoilers before she finished and forked it over.  It was very hard for her not to give stuff away.  She liked it even better than the first one, and I have to agree.

The good stuff:  Main character, Seph (Joseph) McCauley is great, and he's Catholic.  He attends Mass and prefers the Latin rite.  At one point, he is accused of practicing occult magic, but he says, "I'm Catholic and I wouldn't do that."  Boo-yah!

The bad stuff:  Seph is tortured with nightmares by the evil headmaster.  He is tempted with drugs and alcohol from the headmaster's henchmen.  But he never accepts.  Because he's awesome.  And Catholic.  Did I mention that he's a practicing Catholic?  Shown in a good light?  Just want to get that out there.

Lucy finally finished The Dragon Heir.  Too late, I already started Chima's other series, The Seven Realms:  The Demon King.  No demons in sight so far.  Demonai is the name of one of the Native American-ish clans struggling to balance power with the wizard race.  It's shaping up verrry nicely, more on this next week.




The Chef's new favorite book is I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen.  I had gone to the library to get this year's Caldecotts, Newberys, and the newly announced Caudills.  Jon Klassen is the winner of this year's Caldecott for his book, This Is Not My Hat, but that was checked out.  So I settled for another one by him.

The text is in different colors for the different characters, which makes using funny voices when you read that much easier.  When the Chef reads it, the main character, a bear who has lost his hat, has a deep baritone and a slight lisp.  The turtle sounds Italian, and the armadillo could be Hispanic.  Every character has a unique and hilarious voice. 

Of course when I read it, the bear is a very frustrated female. 

Either way, the Chef was near tears while reading this very funny story with a surprise ending, and the rest of us were in stitches.  I'm not quite sure what was funnier, the way he read it, or the way Baby J faked laughter on every page.  She squinches up her eyes, and sounds like she's wheezing.  Also, ridiculously funny.

I can't wait to read the award winner.

If you go to my library, and you're looking for the newest award winners and nominees, I'll return them in three weeks. 




Friday, January 25, 2013

7 Quick Takes Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

1.  Ear Worm
Would you like to know what's been playing in my head since I finally got rid of the Japanese Fit's Gum Commercial that had been on repeat for the last week and a half?

Are you sure?...Watch and listen at your own risk, and then you can search the real news interview that prompted this auto-tuned parody.    Don't do it.  You'll only regret it.



2.  Meal Planning
My friend, Sara, sent me this link about using Google Calendar for meal planning.  So simple, yet so brilliant.  Enter your meals on your Google Cal, you can add links to the recipes in the description box, and then set them to repeat at whatever frequency you desire. 

For example, this week was the "week of Ham."  Glazed whole ham with mashed potatoes and this delish snap pea salad from Chef John Besh (the snap peas are chopped!  Brilliant!) on Sunday.  Ham and Bean Soup with two varieties of Beer-Batter Bread:  Cheddar and Jalapeno or Gouda and Bacon, on Tuesday.  Then Ham on Pretzel Bun sandwiches in the lunchboxes for a few days and "Buh-bye ham."  So last night I made a staple dinner around here, Creamy Skillet Penne with Italian Sausage and Broccoli.  I'm setting the Trifecta of Ham to repeat annually, but the pasta dish will reappear every six weeks or more.

3.  John Besh



Speaking of John Besh, I had seen the southern chef on Top Chef and other such shows.  He has an engaging personality and his specialty is all things N'awlins.  My mom knows somebody who knows somebody, and for Christmas she gave the Chef a personalized autographed copy of Besh's latest cookbook, My Family Table, A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking.

His open-ended recipes are perfect for the creative cook, such as Risotto of Almost Anything, Cream of Any Vegetable Soup, and Simple Meat Ragout for Any Pasta.  Like every cookbook, this one is loaded with mouth-watering photographs.  From the dedication,
...It is also for the thousands of parents and children, brothers and sisters, separated from their families in defense of our nation, dining on Meals Ready to Eat so far from those they love...
to the references to his Catholic faith, Sunday Mass attendance, and family life with wife and four sons, My Family Table has lots of thoughtful text as well.


4.  More Meal Planning
I'm super intrigued by Dwija's adventures in slow-cooking and advanced prep meal planning

5.  One More Recipe
Everyone has those classic Christmas cookie recipes that they loved as a child, that only Mom knows how to make.  Since we're still baking our way through the Christmas season (Candlemas is the end, dontcha know.), I had Lucy make Cornflake Nougat Bars this week. 

Imagine Rice Krispy Treats, but with cornflakes instead of Rice Krispies and covered with a thick coating of semi-sweet chocolate.  I don't know why I can't stop eating them.  It's probably because they are gluten-free (I think) and double as a breakfast food as well as a snack.  This recipe shows them dyed green and made into little wreaths.  My mom used to make holly clusters decorated with red hots, but then she stopped using food coloring. Chocolate covered squares are way better.

I can stop eating them now, because they are all gone.  :(

6.  Baby J
God love her.  She names everything after the people in her family.  Ev.er.y.thing.  For example, she has a shape puzzle.  Peter is the brown parallelogram, Edmund is the red and blue trapezoid.  I'm a yellow triangle.  Susan is the purple octagon.



She was terrified of baths for a few weeks.  And then I got her these bath trinkets.  One is Susan and the other is Lucy.



She cannot make a "k" sound.  She loves "buhts" (books), the color "peent,"  and her "pitty peent tote" (pretty pink coat).  Tonight, since the home crowd is down two, and we're out of ham, we went out for burgers and shakes.  But she doesn't say "shake."  She says something else completely and we shamelessly tried to make it say it over and over again.  She got frustrated and started calling her shake, "moo."

Also, she got a haircut.  No more Bozo side wisps.  She asked for the Julia Patton boy-bob.



7.  Skating Partay!
Edmund is having his 2nd annual class (just the boys) birthday/skating party.  Do I really have to make goody bags for 10 year-olds?  I'm thinking about buying boxes of candy bars from Costco's and letting them each take one for the road.  But then I think they get waaaay too much candy at school, and I will have already fed the cupcakes and cocoa.  Any ideas floating around the blogosphere?  Bueller?    
Bueller?
Or I will have to take Baby J to (cue horror movie music) more than one store, and hit our local Dollar Tree to see what kind of tchotchkes they have for big kids who are still small enough to want goody bags.
 
Thinking about the feast of the conversion of St. Paul and his faith journey from avid persecutioner to martyr/defender of the faith, and Jen Fulwiler and hers, I am filled with hopefulness about the pro-life cause in our country. 

Woo Hoo!  The Pope tweeted about the March for Life!

Catch more Jen here.
 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What We're Reading Wednesday

I'm starting with the best first, because Facebook always uses the first photo as the thumbnail.  So, when I start with the worst first, it looks like I'm endorsing a book I don't like.


I very much loved this mash-up of fairytales retold as one romantic adventure.  Similar to Jessica Day George, Alethea Kontis weaves together the tales of the Princess and the Frog, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, the Princess and the Pea and more in her novel, Enchanted.

Our heroine, Sunday, is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, all of them named for the "Monday's child is fair of face...etc"  nursery rhyme.  Gifted or cursed with the ability that anything she writes comes true, Sunday tries only to write about things that have already happened.  Trouble is no one in her family wants to read their own history, that's where her new friend Grumble comes in.  Grumble is a frog.  Well, he used to be a man, but now he's a frog and he's Sunday's best friend...until he's more than that...and then one day he's gone.

You'll have to read the rest yourself.



Speaking of Jessica Day George, Susan received the third installment of The Princesses of Westfalin trilogy, Princess of the Silver Woods.  Another mash-up, this time it's Little Red Riding Hood and some more about the Twelve Dancing Princesses.  The Twelve Princesses are all sisters, and they're all named after flowers.  Each installment has a different princess as the main focus, but each sister is still in the story.  I'm just too confused about which flower princess had which adventure and is married to which hero.  I didn't read the books in order and it's been too long since I read the last one.  Don't let my dementia stop you though.  Even with the large cast and my confusion, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.



This is the edition I wanted to get Lucy, but it was backordered, and didn't match the other titles, so below is the edition she got.



We watched You've Got Mail during Advent.  I love old Meg Ryan movies and it's sort of Christmassy.  It would have been a great family movie, save the multiple references to "cyber-sex."  sigh. 

There's a memorable scene that inspired me to watch it again after all these years.  The scene is when former indie bookstore owner, Kathleen, goes to the Children's Department at the mega-store, Fox Books.  She overhears a customer asking about the "shoe books."  The mega-store employee has no clue, but Kathleen tearfully steps in and shares the titles, the author, and the order in which they should be read.

So, lacking any inspiration for a book for Lucy for Christmas, I ordered the "shoe books" for her.  I, myself owned Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild once upon a time.  I remember liking it, but feeling woefully untalented as the main characters are adopted sisters who each have a unique and incredible talent in different areas of the arts, which you can infer from the other titles in the series, Theatre Shoes, Skating Shoes, Dancing Shoes, Party Shoes, etc.

If Noel wrote a book about me, it would be Shopping Shoes or Reading Shoes or Eating Shoes.  Probably not Eating Shoes, seeing as there's a double-meaning there.

Lucy read Ballet Shoes.  She says, "It was interesting to learn about the life of young performers and what the stage was like in the early part of the 20th century."  I had to press her for that quote.  I had asked her to do a guest post and that idea went over like a lead balloon.  She also said, "I liked it."  Turns out, Ballet Shoes is a Reading Counts book at an 8th grade level, so she got credit at school too.  Those books are hard to find. 



Okay, this picture should have been the first.  Easily one of my favorite books of all time, you may think Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder is all about how shoes are made, or how to make head cheese, or harvesting, or cutting ice, or breaking oxen, or making bobsleds, or eating ham and other pork products, and butter, and multiple types of pie each day.

Well, that's not even the  half of it.  Farmer Boy is wonderfully told stories about how when Father sold the colts and it was too late to go to the bank, they almost got robbed that night.  But a stray dog that they had fed protected them!  And about how Mean Bill Ritchie and the bad boys that MURDERED the teacher last year get thrashed by the young new teacher.  And the time Almanzo got hit in the eye with steaming hot potato.  And how Almanzo and his sibs ate the WHOLE BARREL of sugar during the one week his parents were out of town.  Don't forget the part where Almanzo gets into a fist fight with his (jerk) cousin, Frank, on Christmas Day!  Or how he found a pocketbook in the road containing $1500.   

We just finished listening to the audio book over the weekend.  Would you believe sixteen year-old Peter was the one who kept asking to listen to it?  I've raised him to have good taste in stories.

Speaking of Peter, he and Susan are leaving tomorrow bright and early for the March for Life in Washington DC this Friday.  The Chef and I both went when we were in high school, and I'm glad they have the opportunity to do so as well.  I'll be praying for them and all the pilgrims who are marching on Washington this Friday, and as a Mother Hen, I'd appreciate it if you joined me.  As Baby J would say, "Fanks."


Friday, January 18, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday

Normally, I'm totally against this kind of rant, because it happens to all of us, but my day/week has been exceptional and I have nothing else to say, so take cover.

1.  Baby J is terrified of me taking showers and held the curtain open and screamed at me the whole freezing time today.  (Never shave goosebumps.)

2.  Baby J chewed up a whole string cheese stick and spit it out on my pants.  (Even Mickey Dog refused to eat it.)

3.  Baby J has refused to nap at any time this week, unless it is the moment we have to leave to pick up Edmund and Lucy from school.

4.  Baby J knocked over the huuuuge box of giveaway items I keep on my treadmill.  (Duh.  That's what treadmills are best at, keeping stuff off the floor.)

5.  Baby J fought me on wearing a coat to do carpool pick-up today, and slammed the closet door on my head.



6.  Baby J spilled my iced tea all over the rug.

7.  Baby J can unfold laundry faster than I can fold it.

The Chef and Baby J are out picking up take-out for my dinner, because everyone else is gone and they really love me.  I know I am blessed.  I really do.  Now, I will turn off my computer and enjoy one of these.

More beer, less whine.

Go see Jen for less whine.
 

Friday, January 11, 2013

7 Quick Takes

1.  Audition Jitters

Audition time again!  Remember this post on Expectation Management?  Tonight, I'll be suffering for two, as Edmund is hoping to make his stage debut in this spring's production of...

 

2. The World's Best Non-Iron Blouse for Pears

I had never been in a Banana Republic before last week.  For several weeks, I have been on a quest for the perfect chambray shirt.  I saw a light blue blouse in the window of BR and thought it might suffice.  After a horrendous experience, in which I discovered the original fitting rooms were for storage, the underfed wraiths are employees who appear, then disappear when you need another size causing you to put on your blouse, sweater, coat, purse and go get it yourself, and lastly, swallowing my pride because the blouse runs VERY small, I invested in one. 

Except I'm not a tucker.  Looks much better untucked.

At checkout, I was given that online customer survey which rewards one with a 20% off coupon.  So, I reamed them out online, and went back this week to get another blouse at 20% off.  I also got another survey opportunity.  Soooo.....I might be picking up a third blouse next week.  How many can I get before a) they discontinue them, b) they pick up on survey/coupon scheme, c) it becomes apparent to all around me that I wear the same shirt/different color every day?

This magic blouse has wonderfully deep side darts to emphasize a small waist, and flares out enough to cover ample hips without being snug.  And it's long enough!  And it has enough buttons in all of the right places.  None of that awkward "do I button this one and go Amish, or unbutton it and throw on a cami too?"

 The fabric has a lovely sheen that says, "This woman showered today and put thought into her outfit, and has a clean house.  She never does the dinner dishes in the morning."

Oh, did I mention, it's Wrinkle Free?  But miracle of miracles, when I was wearing blouse #2 on Wednesday, both Peter (age 16) and Susan (age 15) separately told me that they liked my shirt!  Cue Twilight Zone music.  It's a magic blouse.

3. Craftastic.

Last Saturday was "Support Religious Freedom by shopping at Hobby Lobby Day," as well as the day before Edmund's 10th birthday. 
I scoured Ravelry and Pinterest and wrote down my list of ingredients for Epiphany Day Cake, these DIY bookmarks, Charlotte's bandana baby quilts, and this Gap-tastic Cowl

4.  What?!  Birthday presents for a boy at a craft store?

One hour and lots of $upport later, I had some of my supplies and the following birthday gifts for a 10 year old boy:

sketch pencils in tin box with sharpener and eraser $5-6
hardcover sketch book $8-9
Paint-by-number kit of boss looking wolf $5


They also have cool circuitry sets, models to build and paint, science kits to grow crystals, and leather and woodworking stuff. 

5. Less about the Lobby, more about Joann's

Half of the stuff on my list (the bookmark supplies, fancy thread like Sulky or Gutterman) is not sold by HobLob.  Would you believe those nice folks suggested I hit Joann Fabrics?  Personally, I prefer Joann's.  HobLob has trouble keeping things in stock, their tiny yarn department is laughable, and the sale ads are very confusing.  Also, Joann's takes competitor coupons, such as Michael's and the Lobby.  But the Lobby doesn't.

Joann's cake babies don't have mohawks either.  I discovered this too late for this year.


Hobby Lobby baby above, Joann's babies below




6.  Riding on the tails of her fame...

One of my roommates in college, fellow UD grad, Chicago transplant, and also a mother of five is Jen Mayfield.  We were/are so alike, sharing tastes in music (Blues Travelers, Janis, and Squeeze), books (Possession by A. S. Byatt), and beer.  We both have degrees in English with concentrations in Medieval/Renaissance Studies (jealous?).  We are like twins separated at birth.  Except that I'm from the Midwest and she's from Long Island.  And she is dark and I am fair.  And she runs marathons, and I run to Chik Fil-A.

A couple of years ago, she invited me to try out for her roller derby team.  Her derby name is Hellenor Throwsevelt.  But, alas, I was pregnant at the time, or I could have been Barbie Machete or something. 

Amazing Jen is now the star of a Diet Dr. Pepper commercial!  You can catch glimpses of her kids and husband, Andy, too.  She's in lots of their ads and even some of their radio spots.  She's also in an interview available on YouTube.  She didn't mention me, because she respects my privacy. 

I'm going to invite her to my bootcamp class.  She's done an Iron Man Triatholon, but can she roll around Tobias style with me?  We shall see.

You can watch the commercial here:

 

And here is her interview...
 

7.  We are looking forward to a nice, warm weekend here in Chicago.  Highs in the upper 50s!  It should be a relaxing respite from the non-stop skating parties we had last weekend.  I'm looking forward to some mentally challenging bridge games as well as some delicious micro-brews. 



Seeing as how it's STILL the Christmas season, and how I was too sick to bake during Advent, I have slowly been chipping away at that giant pile of cookie ingredients.  I have to say, I didn't plan to celebrate like this, but it has been truly lovely, and delicious.  Last week, in addition to Edmund's obligatory Star Wars cookies for his class (that turned out EXACTLY like the images on the box), I made Oatmeal, Pecan, Cherry, Chocolate Chip cookies.  (I made them half as big and baked them a wee bit less.) The Chef said they were the best cookies I've ever made.

Come Monday, you can join me in praying for freezing temps to get the rink frozen again.
Until then, you can pray for bedridden, pregnant Jen.








Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What We're Reading Wednesday

Aaaaand we're back.  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and a Festive Epiphany to you all.

Here I am at public library, blogging on my new laptop like a grown-up.  And because I have no children with me, I have to be upstairs in the Grown Up Section, where I have no business being.  I don't read these books, watch these movies, or listen to this music, as my current playlist includes Wee Sing Fun and Folk and Farmer Boy the audiobook.  But I can pose as an ah-dult for this 45 minutes while Edmund is with the tutor.

WIZARDS! 

It seems like the last several books I've read are all about wizards.


The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney is an example of a very well-written book that is not suitable for children, and probably not adults either.  Delaney writes super scary tales of Thomas, the seventh son of a seventh son, who is apprenticed to the County's spook. The spook's job is to keep the County free of witches, boggarts, and ghosts.  The current spook, Mr. Gregory, has a soft spot and would rather imprison Mother Malkin, a witch, than destroy her.  When Thomas inadvertently frees her, the real terrors begin. 

Mother Malkin is a "blood witch," and when a village child goes missing, Thomas can guess what was in the meat pies he fed the witch as a favor to a mysterious girl in the woods.  Huge doses of horror abound in this book, witches eating infants, the dead possessing the living, summoning spirits by stealing their bones, studies of exorcisms and more.  I found it hard to put down and hard to sleep afterwards.  Also of concern is the mocking way in which Mr. Gregory refers to priests, even his own brother, and he also admits to having been a priest at one time.



Wereworld:  Rise of the Wolf by Curtis Jobling (creator of Bob the Builder) started out with so much promise! A new realm of fantasy, where all nobility are therianthopes, or shape-shifters.  The current king is a were-lion, his predecessor, a werewolf.  There are were-bears, were-foxes, were-boars, were-stags, nasty, nasty were-rats, and even a pirate were-shark. 

Young farm boy, Drew, has no idea that he is the one true heir to the throne, and the world's last werewolf.  One night, his father and brother are away and a terrible, vicious beast mauls and kills his mother.  Upon returning home to the carnage, his father believes him to be the killer.  So he flees an begins a fantastic adventure to discover his identity, and re-claim the throne.

My big problem with the novel is with Drew's friend, Hector.  Hector, a were-boar, was trained in the healing arts by Lord Vankaskan, an evil were-rat.  Unfortunately, Hector also picked up some of the dark arts too, including reviving corpses to communicate with them, and summoning the dead for conversations.  These actions are forbidden, but once started, Hector cannot seem to stop.  Halfway through the second book, Rage of Lions, it appears that everyone including Drew is opposed to Hector's actions, but now he is constantly plagued by undead spirits.  Too creepy and occult-like for moi.



Janitors by Tyler Whitesides was a breath of fresh air after the above two.  Written for a younger, elementary school crowd, Janitors is about Spencer and the mysterious creatures he sees all over the school after washing his face with the vial of pink soap he found in the boys' bathroom.  Turns out there is an evil organization out to destroy the world by undermining elementary school education.  The magical creatures cause forgetfulness, confusion, daydreaming, and sleepiness.  Only the secret society of Janitors know what's at stake and how save the school.  Creative and witty, if yucky/crude at times, Janitors will find lots of popularity with the 12 and under set.



Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull is a decent read.  Jason is whisked away from modern America, studying for an anatomy test, practicing baseball, and the like to a completely new world, Lyrian.  Very Narnia-esque.  And like the Chronic-what-cles, this world is in the grasp of an evil, yep, you guessed it, wizard.  But Jason is not alone, another "Beyonder" appeared at the same time he did, Rachel, a smart, Hermione-like, homeschooler.

Since they have no way of returning home, they decide to go on a quest for the six syllables of the Word that can destroy Maldor, the big, bad emperor. 

My only prob with this book is that Jason likes to whine about his parents back home, how they won't know how to take care of his dog, how they can't trust him to study for the test and practice at the batting cages, so he just blew them off and went to the cages anyway.  He's very jealous of the only child, Rachel, whose parents travel around the world with her to educate her, because they are independently wealthy or I missed what their jobs are.  He is also jealous of his older sibs.  The ten year gap between them means he feels he missed out.  There are no pictures in his baby book. 

So, maybe I'm a little sensitive to that kind of thinking, seeing as how J-Babe is 8 years younger than Edmund, and I have not gotten around to her baby book yet.



Adventurers Wanted:  Slathbog's Gold by M. L. Forman is the tale of how fifteen year old Alex gets whisked away to another world (heard this one already?)  where he is recruited to go on a adventure with some men, some dwarves, and an elf to kill a dragon and claim the hoard.  Interesting twist, huh?  It's a fun version of Hobbit-lite.  Oh, and btw, Alex is predicted to be a dun.dun.dun.dunnnn... Wizard.




And now for something completely different,  Cinda Williams Chima's The Warrior Heir is about young Jack, who does NOT get transported to another world.  Rather, one day he stops taking his meds, and discovers that he has super-human abilities.  One discovery leads to another, and soon he finds that he has been surrounded and protected by (here it comes) wizards, enchanters, soothsayers and the like his whole life. 

There is a long and complicated back story and I'm way past my 45 minutes, now blogging while throwing mozzarella sticks at the three youngest, no dinner in sight.  If you were going to read any of the above, or try to make your child do so, Lucy, Susan and I, all agree that this is the one to read.  It's part one of a trilogy. 

Trilogies are my favorite.  Gives you more than one story, but not too much more.  The end is in sight.  I always get a feeling of dread when I see a book is called "Book 1" as though the author and publishers have no idea where this is going to go, like Nancy Drew and her one trillion episodes or the far too many Series of Unfortunate Events, or 39 is too many Clues.  There are exceptions, like the Potter series, Narnia, Little House, but you have to be really brilliant to pull that off.  Even Tolkien stopped at three.  Or four.  Depending on how you look at it.  I must stop.  The end.  Until next time.  Done.