Sunday, December 04, 2011

I'm so behind on books

Here's a huge booklist post. I'm at risk of missing some simply because I'm sooo behind.

Book #8 - Animal Farm by George Orwell - Quite creepy the control the pigs took and how easily they duped the other animals into going along with it. The power of "protest chants" in propaganda. Eerie.

Book #9 - Absolute Sandman Vol II by Neil Gaiman - Love Gaiman! "Seasons of Mist" was quite cool for all of the varied powers gathered for the key to hell. "A Game of You" was also quite good, though I disliked her imaginary world coming to an end.

Book #10 - Bad Girls and Wicked Women: The Most Powerful, Shocking, Amazing, Thrilling, and Dangerous Women of All Time by Jan Stradling - This was a lot of fun and really interesting. I had never heard of Ching Shih, the Chinese pirate queen. Elizabeth of Bathory was mentioned in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, and so it was neat to see her story here, crazy as she was. Some of these women were just portrayed as bad by history, by men who resented women with power. Others (like Elizabeth) were quite quite evil.

Book #11 - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - I've posted on this here before. Wow. And I keep going back to elements of the story. Quite the book.

Book #12 - House of Mystery - Love Stories for Dead People by Matt Sturges and Luca Rossi - Those stuck in the house explore the basement in an attempt to leave. Good stuff.

Book #13 - In the Beginning:Creation Myths from Around the World by Virginia Hamilton- a compilation of origin myths from cultures all over the globe. What's fascinating are the common threads that wend their way through so many.

Book #14 - Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen - I didn't expect to enjoy this, but really did. I was especially endeared to the older version of Jacob,the narrator in the nursing home. He made me think of my grandfather.

Book #15 - House of Mystery 3 - The Space Between by Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham, Chris Roberson - This is an awesome graphic novel, continuing the struggle of the small band trapped in the House to escape.

Book #16 - Ghost Story by Peter Straub - Neil Gaiman and others had mentioned this as one of the scariest books they had ever read. And it got quite creepy. It's the type of thing where you start to wonder if reading about it will get you, yourself, in some kind of trouble. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing...

Book #17 - The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander - I loved the dual perspective of psychotherapist wife and conductor husband. The stories on how to integrate creative thinking into all aspects of life were great - I particularly liked the illustration of "being the board" and the risks of "downward spiral" talk. I know many who could benefit from this perspective.

Book #18 - Fables 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham - OMG this is good, too! The dynamics of the Fables characters in Manhattan and the lives they have crafted for themselves after quite some time in this world are quite good. I liked the backstory on the Big Bad Wolf and how he was recruited to sheriff, also.

Book #19 - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson - As everyone I know who has read this agrees, it starts SLOW. But eventually he gets through detailing everything to high heaven, or mostly through, and you get to the mystery and the kickbutt and it sweeps you along. A classic "just one more chapter" book.

Book #20 - Armageddon's Children by Terry Brooks - Oh, man. Love. This is the first in the trilogy to tie the Shannara tales to the Knight of the Word - a way post-apocalyptic future populated by trolls, dwarves, and elves to the present day fight against the Void. In this, the end is already near. War, terrorism, biological weapons, plague, draught, and oh, yeah, demons, have ravaged our society. It pulls you in enough that you start to marvel at the conveniences of our lives and how they could become awful inconvenient if power was lost...

Book #21 - The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson - Another really slow start. But good once, as Mom put it, the "OMG moment" happens.

Book #22 - The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson - This one starts in the middle of something! So there isn't a lull, really. Maybe a bit in the middle, but it's got a great overall pace. You'll get a bit ill at bureaucracy in bits.

I won't hit 50, yet again, but better than last year! Probably not even 30. I have 3 or 4 that I'll get finished probably before the end of the year. It's because I hit a spot in my rotation that slows everything down. Henry James, you messed up my count!
More soon.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Been a while! Paris together - Days 4 & 5 - explore at your own pace

*I have to finish the Paris saga, then we'll get to more timely stuff. So, here's the last post.*
We woke early on Monday and went to Notre Dame, hoping it'd be easy to get in. There was absolutely no line, which was awesome. The cathedral is so beautiful and so awesome in the work that it took to make.

We toured the treasury and saw some of the jewels of bishops and priests past - pretty crazy how much wealth is represented there.

There were a couple of ostensoriums - which are quite ostentatious (and also know as monstrances). On exiting the cathedral, we passed a growing line. Got there just in time.

We returned to the hotel for a brief nap, then headed out for Montmartre. This is my favorite part of the city. Each visit I spend more time exploring the quiet backstreets of the hill, admiring the views, and trying new cafes. One of the delights in Amelie was the familiarity of the area in which it was filmed.

The metro stop we chose had a crazy spiral staircase to the top - and an elevator, but there was a creepy guy there - so I emerged winded and parched. We found a cafe where I had an apple galette and a lemonade. Then we trekked to the stairs up to Sacre Coeur. I would probably take a different set next time. The ones we chose were just as picturesque as the others, but smelled of restrooms and the graffiti was a little too lewd.

The view from the steps in front of Sacre Coeur was a bit obscured by construction, but the musicians and spirit remained. We headed inside. The mosaics in the church are incredible. I could have spent all day just absorbing them. In contrast to Notre Dame, the approach and entry to Sacre Coeur is rather unassuming - you would not guess at the splendor inside.

On to the Place du Tertre, a small square jam packed with artisans doing portraits, scenic paintings, silhouettes -and cafes that have, over the years I have visited, taken more and more of the space. We stopped at one cafe and sat in an open window to the square. J had a tarte tatin and I ordered the chocolate liegeois. We were both in heaven, but especially J, who still crows over the carmelization of the apples in the tatin.

We circled the square, looking at the artwork and stopped at a painter doing some simple yet compelling street scenes in oils. J struck up a conversation and we had a good chat and bought a painting. On J's return from the countryside prior to flying home, he stopped by and chatted with the guy again.
Afterwards, we took a small walking tour to see some of the lesser known sights of the hilltop, then stopped at a patisserie for some incredible fresh bread and at a nearby grocery before returning to the hotel. Dinner was bread and cheese and fruit in our room - packing and strategizing and enjoying our last bit of time together.

The next morning we parted in the metro, me to the Opera and the Roissy bus to the airport, J to the Gare Montparnasse and a train to Limoges. It was sad and tough and we held each others' eyes until the last possible moments, as J's adventures continued for a couple of more weeks on his own.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Paris together - 6 million souls - Day 3

Day 3 in Paris got off to a slow start. J had his first croque monsieur - liked it - and we headed to the Montparnasse area and the Catacombs.

The line was long, wrapping the entire block. It was a gorgeous day, though, and we decided to wait. And then we had been there long enough and moved far enough that we didn't want to throw that away. And we were entertained by the conversation of 2 Australian globe-hopping couples ahead of us.
The Catacombs are an ossuary. From the late 1700's to the mid-1800's, bodies in cemeteries close to the then edges of the city were thought to be causing/ exacerbating plagues. So the effort began to move bodies from those graveyards to an old limestone quarry "far from town". The only inhabitants buried directly in the Catacombs were the casualties of a specific battle during the Revolution.

We walked the paths with careful respect.

6 million bodies, all told. Their thigh bones and skulls stacked in careful formations along the passageways. With all of those bodies, something supernatural is bound to have been shaken loose, roused, stirred. Did I maybe capture something in the pic below? At the top of the lit area are the heads of those in front of me, but what is that on the lower right? Maybe it's just light on the opposite wall. I think it looks awful face-like.

This was the landmark of the day, but still only half of it. Other things:

  • As we emerged to a main street and were about to cross to find a cafe for a drink and snack, a flash mob of hundreds of roller bladers woooshed past - and kept coming and coming.  They gathered in a square in front of a church, talked a bit, then dispersed.
  • Passed St Germain des Pres and Les Deux Magots (a famous cafe).
  • Visited the apartment of a dead designer chic -the area still had some cool galleries.
  • Toured the Pompidou Centre, starting on the upper floors and descending - we didn't finish.  What was awesome was J's joy and delight at seeing the works he's been studying the last 4 years in the flesh.  There was a painting titled Alice and several paintings by Dado that I found quite creepy.
  • We returned to the Duchess for dinner.  A mistake.  We'll stick to the memories of the first night.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Strange August part II

Last Saturday, Dad called to let us know that Papa Musso (Mom's father) had passed away. He had been in intense pain for quite some time, with the past year being especially rough. A few weeks before, he had moved into a hospice home and it was there that he left us.

I remember Papa as a dabbler. He had several things going most of the time, it seemed. A veteran of the Merchant Marines during the war, he later served as Police Chief in Sodus Point and in a small North Carolina town. When I was growing up, he was Mayor of Sodus Point for some time. His property when I was little had a gas station/ shop that he rented out, and a building full of furniture that he brought up from NC to sell. He also sold used cars. My grandmother said essentially that anything he put his mind to, he could do. He could tinker with and fix many things.

I don't know enough about Papa's childhood. His parents sailed from Palermo, Sicily, after leaving their hometown of Realmonte, around the turn of the century, with their eldest daughter. They had a farm in the Sodus/ Sodus Point area. Papa at one time worked slaughtering turkeys & chickens, although that may have been at another farm. More recently, he was an avid gardener and I think about his garden each time I go out to tend my raised bed.

He had a mischievous spirit. He loved to pick on people and rile them up. This was exceptionally annoying and could seem mean growing up, but I look back on it with fondness for the spirit behind it. He had nicknames for Mom and his brother Robert that they hated. If he said something that made you mad or embarrassed, he'd then say "Ouch" repeatedly.

All in all, though, he loved us. He doted on Mom - he saw how super special she is and talked often about how important she was to him. He took good care of Grammie and watched out for her.

The memorial is tomorrow. His body was donated to science, a wish he had talked about since I was small. His spirit is beyond pain and at rest. Farewell, Papa. Love you - all the time.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Quick break from Paris - strange August part 1

August has distracted me a bit from the Paris posts. I always try to approach the month with a stuck-on positive attitude, as my birthday month. But sometimes you get curve balls.

First, my parent's cat, Yellow (or Yeller), passed away. He was quite old - around 22? - and was in really rough shape, but he was such a sweetie. He never had a loud meow. He would purr if you spit at him, but he was uber-bashful of strangers. He sometimes ate bees. Most of all, he was a good buddy for Mom. Poor guy.

Then Mo got sick. He was puking a lot and acting quite funny. Murphy even noticed and was following him around, keeping careful watch. So we took him to the animal hospital. Turns out he had a fever so high he was risking organ damage. They kept him 2 nights. After getting his temp down, bloodwork showed high liver enzymes, so they did an ultrasound. He had an infection that was inflaming liver, gall bladder, and bile ducts. He's home now and back to normal. Murphy no longer thinks he smells like some alien-pseudo cat and the vet thinks Mo can go back to normal food and should be OK. Phew.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Paris together - The value of lingering - Day 2

Oh, man, I thought I had more of a start on this. OK, here goes.

On our second day in Paris, we hit the Louvre. We didn't do the whole thing. The ancient Persian stuff and the sculpture court, over to the Roman, Greek, and Etruscan stuff. Down to the foundations. Up to the 16th/ 17th century European paintings (where Cranach is, whichever century he's in). Finally, the Egyptians.

One word of recommendation - do not do the Egyptian stuff last! We couldn't find our way out and we were tired and at least I was getting very cranky. There was an exit sign at the foot of a staircase pointing up. Get to the top of the stairs and there's an exit sign, pointing down. Gah!

J and I enjoyed capturing a different perspective on things you may have seemed used to seeing. At the Venus de Milo, for example, I focused close up, J focused on the crowd.

In the Roman section, the ceilings are exquisite. I especially liked when the sculpted characters reach out at you. Chubby cherub arms and feet. Put a cozy pillow under there and gaze for hours....
We stopped at one point for a bite and a drink (the air was soooo dry there) at a cafe on a balcony overlooking the central courtyard and Pei's pyramid.

The cafe was run by Angelina - a swank cafe on the Rue de Rivoli. I started with a pamplemousse presse - fresh squeezed grapefruit juice that was soooo yummy. Then I got a dessert called simply "Fraises" or strawberries. It was a strawberry couli over custard with a bit of toasted brioche. Heaven!

After we finally escaped from the Egyptians, we left the Louvre and hit a carnival in the Tuileries gardens just in front of the museum. The Ferris wheel was big and gave us such awesome views of the city - nearly every landmark was in sight (with the exception being the Opera Bastille and it's crepe-y goodness). We had a blast posing & shooting pics, playing with zoom and Swampy and whatnot.

Walking to Place Vendome to see Napolean's column, we noticed something going on at the Westin. Multiple chics in Bo Peep style costumes - usually accompanied by stern looking guys - were about and made their way into the hotel. Hmmmmm.

Our next stop - crepes. I tell everyone who mentions Paris that I know where the best crepes are. And the dude is still there. They have a bit of crispiness but also a bit of thickness - enough to make them a heavenly carrier for your filling of choice - in my case almost always Nutella. J compared them to his earlier crepe from near Notre Dame and agreed. I melt thinking of them!

One thing that struck home that day was the value of lingering. In cafes, at meals, people watching, absorbing. Taking pleasure in the pause and soaking up whatever the city put in front of you during those moments. The small bites of food that accompanied these moments were so well done that they more than satisfied. Rather than hurrying to get to the next to-do or destination, to get out of where we were, we started to linger, to stay to absorb - and it was just as important to our vacation experience as the sights.

After crepes, we took a brief walk through a bit of the Marais to the Place des Vosges. The lawn was covered with people - singles, couples, families - in typical Parisian style and we sat on the fountain for a bit, enjoying where we were, watching some very chocolatey kids play in the dirt and water.

Next, we stopped at the Musee Carnavalet - a small, free museum that shows what the interior of the homes of the wealthy and royalty would have looked like around the time that Place des Vosges was built.

Dinner was at The Duchess restaurant in a passage near our hotel - the Passage des Panoramas. These are roofed alleyways lined with restaurants and small shops - miniature streets of sorts. The restaurants still put tables "outside" their doors in the limited space.
This was our first French meal. J had duck with lots of butter that he called the French equivalent of fried chicken. I had sole meuniere. We started, though, with some Kir for an aperitif - a blend of casis and bubbly hard cider. mmmmm And we ended with a shared glass of almond Cognac. We loved the people, the place, and the food.

We followed dinner with a little bit more people watching at the Cafe Zephyr. I was chilly in the evening air, so I ordered chocolat chaud. It came, melted chocolate at the bottom of a teacup and a small pitcher of steamed milk. J tasted the chocolate and melted - it was soooooo good. Not always, but quite often even the small things were just so lovely.

My notes for the day mention a puppy riding a suitcase. I vaguely remember seeing that, but it's
not that interesting.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Paris together - Prelude, arrival, walkabout - Day 1

I noticed as we traveled to Paris that my anticipation differed greatly from my last visit. That business trip was straightforward. I had to go and the complications of getting there made the being there a bit "cardboard", average, run-of-the-mill, flat. As J and I waited in Chicago for our flight to Charles De Gaulle, it was quite different - an aura of mystery, fog, and uncertainty shrouded my perspective, my speculation on what we'd encounter. It was an adventure, a bit of renewed innocence...

We arrived and I started kicking myself. The short walk on an afternoon when you're doing nothing else that I envisioned to the hotel turned out to be a supremely annoying haul with luggage after flying all night. We checked in to the hotel and I wavered back and forth, wondering if it would be good enough, wishing I had picked somewhere else simply because it was a little more unknown than expected.
In reality, I did underestimate the walk. The hotel wasn't in a horrible area and the abundance of restaurants nearby was a boon for tired sight-seers who wanted to take the evenings a bit more easy. It was a small but cozy and quiet room and we enjoyed it. Sleep helped to ease the self-doubt.

We found a nice simple place for lunch just up the street from our hotel. J had a bolognese that was lovely and I had a plate of fresh roasted veggies drizzled in balsamic. Perfect. After a nap, we headed out for one spot on our list that I thought would not require a ton of brain power to process, Notre Dame.
First we stopped at the bouquinistes - the booksellers along the Seine - our favorite stop for used books and funky postcards.
Passing through Ile de la Cite, we were herded off of the street as a film crew got ready to shoot.
We approached the cathedral from the rear, alongside the gardens. The bells were tolling. It was incredible. Every atom in the air vibrated with those great peals. It filled your soul, whatever your affiliation might be. As we photographed the gargoyles, I felt cleansed, engergized, and connected to the stories of the past. Turning the corner at the front of the building we decided against touring the interior that day - the line stretched clear across the massive square at the front.

After J tried his first Parisian crepe (not THE crepes, those came later), we swung by the Hotel de Ville to the fountains near the Centre Pompidou. Lifting our eyes to the cathedral at the back of the fountains, we decided to explore.

St Merri's is a miniature Notre Dame in layout and design. Its bells are the oldest in the city, having survived the fire (but a bit tinny and not as powerful as those of the big sister). What I loved about St Merri was the modern art integrated into the super classical atmosphere.
Dinner was at a brasserie near the hotel. Kinda' like an American bar & grill - a bit more attention to drinks than food. But it was Paris so still we smiled and our first day came to a close.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Spiders, tires, and thank yous

If you garden, you deal with bugs. I'm okay in most situations - if I don't have to touch the bug or if it's solitary/ non-swarming. Spiders make me jump because they bite me. And our garden gets big frickin' spiders.
They've taken to covering the raspberries with webs. Which means, when enthusiastically picking all the good berries I can find under the leaves and within my reach, I have to touch the spider webs. Today I got really into it and was sticking my head under branches to find new clusters of juicy fruit. I'd emerge with some bit of the gossamer strands stuck somewhere, usually to my glasses. And it brought to mind the giant spiders of LOTR and other fantasy books. How big must the spiders be who lay such webs? Could it be that, while they may get by catching the beetles and bugs trying to get to the berries, their real target is a bespectacled human doing the same?

Yesterday, I tried to pump up my bike tires. I pumped for forever. The tire was pretty flat, it's been a long time since I've been out. I made progress but still had a ways to go. My arms ached today.
But I was determined to at least finish one tire tonight so that I can finally take the ride I've been wanting to.
So I opened the garage, put the pump on the tire, and with 2 pumps it was done.
Maybe I didn't have the pump connected right yesterday?

And so thank yous:
- to the spiders who did not bite my face or crawl into my hair while I came so close to their webs
- to the kind spirit who pumped up my tires in the closed garage during the night/ while I was at work.

A shift of perspective and the backyard is full of stories. ;-)

Nite all.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

30 Days of Creativity - Day 30!

Made it! Not only 30 days of creations but 30 days of posts!

Today I created: I love Garretts....

J then modified & improved it, Cupid style.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

30 Days of Creativity - Day 29

Almost done! Although I hope to keep creating in July.

Today I created: a cucumber portrait

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

30 Days of Creativity - Day 28

I'm focused elsewhere. And work was insane.


Today I created: a relative clear upper portion of my closet (the floor is another story).

Monday, June 27, 2011

Last minute, but not horrible - 30 Days of Creativity - Day 27

After running a bunch of errands and trying to make a decent dinner with a few monkey wrenches thrown in, I just kinda felt like vegging in front of the TV. But I couldn't miss a day, so here it is.

Today I created: a shipwreck (origami).

Sunday, June 26, 2011

OMG, getting v excited for our trip! and 30 Days of Creativity - Day 26

Bought suitcases, thinking of packing, house getting in order. Writing out itineraries, thinking about travel day activities...

Today WE created: Part 1 assembled of shelves made from old dresser drawers.

I'll do a fuller post - with pre and post pics so long as I can find the pre ones - once it's complete. But I'm very excited to have this up so I can decorate it when I get back. Plus, it frees up floor space so I can set the rowing machine again.

I like building things w J.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Busy and 30 Days of Creativity - Day 25

Today we spent a lot of time cleaning the living room thoroughly, plus other housework. Tired.

Today I almost didn't create anything - I was tired. Progress is slow on big projects, especially those that require help from other people.

Today I created: 2 balls of plastic yarn from 3 colorful bags.

This will be used in a crochet project after the current one is finally successfully finished.

Book #9: Absolute Sandman - Volume 2 by Neil Gaiman. More goodness. I especially liked the long dream world sequence, although not when the friends died, especially the big furry one in NYC.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Focus shift and 30 Days of Creativity - Day 24

I got a bunch done in the garden tonight, including gathering columbine seeds for people *cough*ljc*cough* who may be interested in them.

I did a bunch of puttering cleaning - I see results in all rooms, even though J may not.

Both of these are surprising given how absolutely beat I was most of today. Wow.
But now I need to get ready for our vacation (more on that another time).

Today I created: 10 more rows. I'm at 26, and *fingers and toes crossed* and no signs of sloping yet. 26 out of 54.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Funeral thoughts and 30 Days of Creativity - Day 23

Funerals are supposed to be a celebration of life, a remembrance. But I think you can't experience the death of someone without it also making you think of your own life - what it means, what's important, what you might be missing when caught up in the day to day. There are connections that have lapsed for no good reason. I hope we can keep up the good intentions. It really shouldn't be just with a loss that we catch up.

Today I created: better bonds with some cousins, I think.

Today I created: another 4 rows of my crochet project.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Calling hours & 30 Days of Creativity - Day 22

Today we had calling hours for Uncle Ralph. What an emotional ride.
We'll miss you Uncle Ralph. I still owe you pie.

Today I created: 4 medium origami waterbombs

Yesterday's are in the background, for scale.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

30 Days of Creativity - Day 21

Today I created: 4 origami waterbombs with tiny paper.

Oh, I have plans for these! Could be cool!

Monday, June 20, 2011

30 Days of Creativity - Day 20

Today I created: jalapeno mango bulgar.

I wanted a grain for supper and was tired of the usual combos and it was too late to try to find a recipe.

And then I saw the almost too ripe mango in the fridge and decided to give it a shot.

I toast the bulgar in butter before adding water - and the creaminess of the butter & bulgar went perfect with the mango.

I liked.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sad news & 30 Days of Creativity - Day 19

While we were gathered to spend time with Dad today, we got word that his brother, our Uncle Ralph, had passed away - suddenly, unexpectedly. Our gathering quickly shifted to supporting Dad as he made some calls and dealt with the news.

My Dad is the best and one of the strongest men I know, and I ache to see him upset. I hate that he had to have this news.

My cousin Jason, Uncle Ralph's only child, is a great guy and a father himself and my heart goes out to him and his family.

I was all knotted up thinking about it on the ride home. I told a close friend. I talked to J. But I needed to post it, let my twitter and facebook circles know that something had happened. And I wondered why. And as well wishes started to come in, I thought about it more. Was I sensationalizing? Posting simply to get people to feel obliged to send well wishes?

I thought it out and my thoughts came out as a poem.

Today I created: a freestyle poem about dealing with tragedy in the social media age.