Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Book #82

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was a very funny book. Although I am not into the zombie/vampire/werewolf culture, I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the zombie plague against the Regency world of Jane Austen. The novel is 95% Austen and 5% Seth Grahame-Smith. The Misses Bennett and Mr. Darcy are zombie-warriors trained to defend England against the zombie infestation. A zombie attack disrupts the Netherfields ball to everyone's dismay, and Lizzie uses some of her warrior skills as she reacts to Mr. Darcy's first proposal, much to both their chagrin. I think my enjoyment of the book was enhanced by the fact that I am familiar with it. In fact, the zombie episodes made me pay attention to Austen's words even more. I could see high school English teachers using this as another hook for reluctant Austen readers.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Book #80

Fatally Flaky (Goldy Bear Culinary Mystery, Book 15) Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It's been a while since I've read this series; this is the newest. I enjoyed a pleasant weekend visiting with Gold Schultz. In this installment, Goldy is catering the wedding of a bridezilla extraordinaire. Her godfather Jack (who I don't remember from any of the other books in the series)and his best friend are mixed up in something odd, and Goldy gets involved. Archie and Tom, and even Marla, are only peripherally involved in this adventure, which is too bad. I have to admit, that these books are not good to read when you're trying very hard to stick to diet. Diane Mott Davidson is VERY talented at describing delectable treats and can even make breakfast eggs sound yummy! I guess I'm going to have to try the flaky chocolate cookies that are prominently featured in the book!

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

In the Rear view Mirror

This is it. I report back to school later this week, and then the kids come in on Aug. 31st. It gets harder and harder for me to go back. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching. I just hate the way it saps my energy and eats up all my free time. Every year I try to come up with ways to carve out more of a personal life, and by the end of the first 3 weeks, all my resolutions are out the window. I especially hate the way I leave the house by 6:30 am and rarely get back til 6:30 pm. It's nonstop all day, and then I come home to fix dinner, do a few chores, deal with the mail and phone messages, and then get ready for the next day of teaching. By the time I have a chance to sit down it's 9 pm and I'm too pooped to do much more than turn on the TV and maybe, knit a few rows for a half hour or so. And then it starts all over. Saturday comes, and all the chores that didn't get done during the week have to get accomplished, I have the business bookkeeping to do, and errands. Sunday is usually church, sometimes til noon, and then an afternoon of grading papers, and getting ready for the week ahead. I feel like I step on one of those treadmills that keep going faster and faster, and you can't step off til June!

So, what is in the cards for this last weekend of freedom??? I made a trip to Staples this morning to pick up office supplies for the business, a few things for my classroom, and my free "teacher appreciation" goody bag. Staples always gives out a bag of items that most teachers find useful -- pencils, highlighters, tape, paper clips, etc. This year's goodies came in a grocery bag size reusable totebag. I went to a couple of stores button-shopping. Do you know that Walmart doesn't carry buttons anymore!! Neither did Target or my local Michael's. I finally found some buttons for the Twilight sweater, at Joanne's, and I made a stop at the bank to get some cash! My wallet has been empty of everything but pennies for the past week. While I can use my debit card for most of my purchases, I wanted cash for my hair cut, and for a few small purchases. I don't like using the debit card for something that costs $1.00!! I even treated myself to an iced coffee at Dunkin Donuts --with an added shot of expresso!! It's really sultry -- Hurricane Bill's effects are felt even 90 miles inland, and the humidity is making everything sticky. Thunderstorms are threatening. I hope to finish Diane Mott Davidson's Fatally Flaky today, and then work on my Vintage Vest. Tomorrow is church, and I hope that my husband is ready to get the billing done. I don't want to deal with that NEXT weekend!

So, to paraphrase a friend, I'm looking at summer vacation in the rear view mirror. I'm really sorry to be leaving it behind.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

And So the Adventure Begins!

Our new pastor started today! After 3 years, almost to the Sunday since our last settled pastor left, we have a new shepherd to journey with us. The Hebrew scripture for today was apt: 1 Kings 2:10-12 3: 3-14. Solomon has just become king of Israel and when God asks him what he wants, Solomon admits he really doesn't know how to be king and asks God for help.3:9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?" She did a terrific job in her sermon connecting the scripture to our circumstances. Our new pastor will need an understanding mind to guide us; we are exhausted with the many tasks that we've had to pick up, and we are also independent-minded (stubborn??). This is her first pastorate, so she has much to learn, as do we.

Our moderator is away on business for the next few weeks, so as Vice Moderator, I am one of the "Go-To" people involved in helping the pastor get oriented. She was introduced to her first Council meeting today. I commented to one person that from the outside, it doesn't seem hard to run the meeting, but when you have to be the one moderating, it's a challenge. (Especially for me, because I'm one of those folks who always has something to say and when you moderate a meeting, you have to LISTEN a lot more than talk!)

So we are all (pastor and congregation) excited and the good kind of nervous!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Books and More Nostalgia

Book #78 was
Nightshade (China Bayles Mysteries, #16) Nightshade by Susan Wittig Albert

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Nightshade had a bit of a twist in it. McQuaid takes a role as the narrator in several chapters. What bothered me about it was that the tense changed; "McQuaid has a long list of things to do this morning, but first things first." "McQuaid wishes, just a little . . . "
The switch in tenses bugged me. Perhaps the reason for the switch was to emphasize that the chapter was being told from a different point of view, but since the chapters were also titled "McQuaid:________", I think it was an unnecessary annoyance.

With all that being said, I did enjoy this installment. China and McQuaid delve deep into her past, and we learn, finally, how China's father died. China comes to terms with her new knowledge about her family, and Ruby and Sheila mend their relationship.

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Book #79
A Cold Day for Murder (Kate Shugak, Book 1) A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I love starting a new series, especially one with lots of entries. Kate Shugak is a native Aleutian who has worked Outside as a hotshot D.A. investigator. She was nearly killed in an investigation and has returned to the Alaskan wilderness. Her former boss (and lover) has asked her to investigate the disappearance of a park ranger and another investigator which she reluctantly agrees to do.

This was a compelling read. Dana Stabenow made me feel the cold and wildness of the environment, and introduced me to a very different culture. Kate Shugak is a troubled, conflicted character also, and I look forward to getting to know her well!

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And for today's trip down memory lane:

I have been watching DARK SHADOWS on DVD. I was so hooked on this show back in the mid-60's. I'd rush home from school so I could watch the daily installment of vampires, ghosts, witches, time travel, etc. I had a crush on Barnabas, and on Quentin. My sister and I spent one Christmas vacation writing scripts that we thought the producers could use! So I found that Netflix has the entire series on DVD. I own 2 collections: The Beginning, Collections 1 & 2. These are episodes 1-70 of the series, pre-Barnabas. They are new to me; I didn't find out about the show until about episode 200. The acting is horrendous, the production even worse, but oh, how I am enjoying it!! I'm struck too by how much life has changed ---- smoking on TV, rotary phones, pay phones, clothing, hair styles. I realize that even in 1966, soap operas didn't portray "real life" but it does portray an culturally accepted reality. Anyway, I am hooked again, and have just queued up Episodes 71-209!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Radiance Cable Jacket

I love this jacket designed by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. It's a pattern from Valley Yarns that I bought at WEBS I used Valley Yarns Colrain, and it was an easy knit, although I had to buy a 40" needle to do the shawl color. It wasn't fun picking up 358 stitches!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hot Humid Blahs

Another hot and humid day is in the cards. When it's so soupy, it's hard to get motivated to clean the kitchen, vacuum the house, and washing floors makes no sense since they won't dry. I blocked my Radiance Cable sweater (foolishly) and now I'm afraid it will mold before it dries. (Pictures eventually). Before I forget, there's a nice little giveaway here

Just 2 weeks left before it's back to fast-track. Still to accomplish are most of my summer goals. I contacted someone about helping us renovate a couple of the rooms we need help with, but they haven't gotten back to me yet. So that won't be done before I go back. I have gotten some knitting done -- I finished 2 sweaters, and I started a long queued project - more on that later.

I had my physical yesterday -- no big changes other than unwelcome weight gain which I already knew about since my clothes don' fit! Everything else is fine, though. I'm trying to get a handle on diet and exercise again. In addition to my twice-a-week water aerobics (40 minutes of moderate to intense cardio), I've added 30 minutes of swimming-against-the-jets in the pool once or twice a week. I'm also measuring my food again --- and really watching the calories! I hope that I will eventually be rewarded!

Some wonderful news though! Our church has called a pastor who starts this Sunday! I haven't met her yet; I was in Greece when she preached and was voted on. (For those of you unfamiliar with the United Church of Christ, each individual church calls its own pastor) We have been 3 years without a settled pastor, and almost a year without ANY pastor. We are exhausted as you might well imagine! So if you are so inclined, pray for us!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Twilight Sweater Done

Well, except for finding the buttons! I'm really pleased with the way the sweater turned out. It took longer than expected because I kept making silly mistakes. Just as an example, I knitted sleeve #1, and when I finished I thought, wow this short! Then I realized that I had decreased every row instead of every OTHER row! So I frogged it and started again. Finished that and knit sleeve #2. So far so good. Started to sew the sleeves in. One sleeve went in perfectly. However, when I went to sew in the 2nd sleeve, it didn't fit the armhole. I had forgotten to switch to the larger needles after the garter edge. Doh!! These were not the only "silly" mistakes I made with this sweater. I did have a tough time with the placket. The directions were odd, and if I make this sweater again, I will do it using directions from another source. I don't like how the buttonholes are in the body of the sweater and not in the placket either. I've blocked the sweater and now all I have to do is find some buttons.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Blast from the Past : A Trip Down Memory Lane

In my last post I mentioned re-reading Mary Stewart's The Moonspinners. Of course I had to get the Disney movie of the same name from Netflix. The movie stars Hayley Mills, the Disney darling of the 60's, and Peter McEnery, another Disney regular. The movie shares a few ideas in common with the book: Nicky Ferris is visiting Crete with an older female relative. She meets a young attractive Englishman. She stays at a same inn. A jewelry theft is involved. Most of the character names are the same, but their relationships and the jist of the plots are vastly different. When I first saw the movie, I was 10 or 11. I adored Hayley Mills,(in the same manner as tweens today worship Myley Cyrus) and I had a crush on Peter McEnery. The movie filled all my preadolescent requirements for romance, thrills, suspense, etc. Watching it as an adult, my reactions were of course very different. I am very pleased to say, however, that the movie held up fairly well. As an adult, I noticed how unrealistic some of the situations were, and certainly some of the ways relationships were depicted were dated, but overall, it's still a fun, enjoyable movie. And Disney knew how to make a movie for "tweens" that played into the need for romance and adventure, without sex and overt violence. (Yes, the hero does get shot in the arm by the bad guy, and there are some drops of blood, but nothing gory). There's a clear delineation between the good guys and the bad guys!

In other words, I've thoroughly enjoyed the nostalgia trip of the past few days. Now I have to check and see if Netflix has Disney's "The Fighting Prince of Donegal" or "The Scarecrow" !!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

#76 The Moon-spinners

The Moon-Spinners The Moon-Spinners by Mary Stewart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a re-read but I don't think I've read it in 40 years. It has held up VERY well. The re-read was inspired by my recent trip to Greece. One of the places we stayed was Mykonos which is dotted with windmills. The windmills immediately reminded me of the 60's Disney classic -The Moon-spinners, starring Hailey Mills. I "adored" that movie to borrow a HM phrase. So, the movie is now in my Netflix queue and the book upon which the movie is loosely based, came home from the library with me.

Memory is faulty: I could have sworn that the movie/book took place on Myknonos, but the book is based in Crete. Nevertheless, I appreciated the Greek phrases, customs, etc. that I experienced for myself. Nicola Ferris is a secretary for the British Embassy in Athens and she and her much older cousin decide to spend the Easter holidays on Crete. Nicky arrives on Crete earlier than expected and accidentally gets involved with Mark, a young man who has been left for dead by a mysterious man dressed in Cretan costume. Nicky eventually ends up in the very small village of Agios Georgious where she and her cousin attempt to secretly help Mark. There is danger, murder, suspense, and romance, as well as the Cretan landscape and culture. This book was written in 1962, I believe, but it did not feel dated or old-fashioned. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and am looking forward to seeing if the very different Disney movie also holds up.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Some Book Reviews

I told you I'd been reading a lot!

The Cold Light of Mourning: A Mystery The Cold Light of Mourning: A Mystery by Elizabeth J. Duncan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a first novel and it won a couple of prizes which is what attracted me when I saw it in my public library. I thoroughly enjoyed this "cozy" mystery. Penny Brannigan, owner of a small manicure shop, is a plus-50 spinster in a small North Wales village and she is mourning the loss of her best friend Emma, an elderly spinster who has just died. Meanwhile, Emrys Gryffd is about to be married, and his London bride Meg Wynne Thompson is not a popular choice. On the morning of the wedding, Meg Wynne turns up missing, and Penny is the last one to have seen her. Penny's memory becomes a crucial element in the solving of this mystery, and a number of interesting characters are introduced. I am assuming from elements introduced throughout the novel, that this is not the last of Penny, her new friend Victoria, and DCI Davies.

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I also read these two by Rhys Bowen;

A Royal Pain (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries #2) A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Lady Georgianna is cousin to King George V, great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, and 34th in line to the throne. She's also just about penniless and runs Coronet Cleaning Services to earn a living. She is the only employee of her company and she attempts to provide her aristocratic clients good service while avoiding recognition. This is book #2 in the series that started with "Her Royal Spyness". In this installment, Queen Mary has persuaded Lady Georgianna to chaperone a Bavarian princess and attempt to get the Prince of Wales, David, interested in her instead of the dreaded Wallis Simpson. Princess Hannilore is quite a handful --- a shoplifter, an admirer of American gangsters, and just out of the convent, looking for "hot, sexy men." The usual mayhem follows --- with Darcy O'Mara coming to Georgie's rescue again. This is an entertaining, very-lighthearted series!

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Royal Flush (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries #3) Royal Flush by Rhys Bowen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The third entry into the series, "Royal Flush" sees Georgie back at Castle Rannoch, again on the Queen's business. This time she is sent by the Home Office to help investigate a series of near-miss accidents that afflict the royal family. The Court is at Balmoral which is conveniently located next to Castle Rannoch, so Georgie has a perfect cover. These books are not great fiction, the plots are far-fetched, but they are eat fun! Georgie has her own near fatal accident, and the plot hinges upon past history. Did the Duke of Clarence really die? Wallis Simpson makes her appearance at Castle Rannoch, and Fig actually welcomes Georgie to the castle.

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These next two appear to have nothing in common, but I think that they are similar in that both authors are gifted in portraying a landscape and culture authentically. I know that when I read these authors' books, I feel that I have experienced a different time and place, and that I want to spend more time in these places. I also find a similarity between Joe Leaphorn and Precious Ramotswe. Both possess great wisdom about the human condition, are forgiving of others' humanity, and are able to be open to the moment.

The Blessing Way (Navajo Mysteries, Book 1) The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the first Joe Leaphorn novel. His character is introduced matter-of-factly, with no fanfare. In fact his character is not the main focus in this novel. I've read other novels in the series so I decided it was time to go back the the start. The main character is an anthropologist who has returned to the reservation to study Navajo witchcraft, along with a colleague who mysteriously disappears. Is it witchcraft or is there a different explanation? Once again the desert landscape becomes a main character as does the influence of Navajo culture.

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #10) Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I just love this series! Alexander McCall Smith has created a woman of great wisdom in Precious Ramotswe, and I look forward to spending an afternoon in her world. In this installment the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency has been hired to investigate potential sabotage in the Gabarone football league. Mma Ramotswe learns much more about football that she ever wanted to learn. She also has to deal with the loss of a precious part of her life. Grace Makutsi faces her rival Violet Sephotho who is trying to steal her fiance, and Mr. JLB Matekoni's apprentices finally prove their worth. As always the author masterfully evokes the place that is Botswana, and skillfully points out the clash between the modern world and the way "it used to be."

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It's Sunday Already!

Not really. It's actually a Monday morning. But mentally it feels like late Sunday afternoon, and I have to go to work tomorrow. I have this metaphor for summer break: from the last day of school in mid/late June to the end of June is Friday night. The whole weekend stretches ahead, full of possibilities and plans. July is Saturday. Yes, a few chores get done, but there's still lots of time to get everything in. Then August hits, and back to school looms. As of today, I have 3 full weeks left, and then BOOM! Right back into the routine of EARLY mornings and late nights, and little down time. I guess I'm getting tired of the long days and too short ME breaks. And it feels like I haven't left school yet. I'm still dreaming about my last class, I have been working on a summer project with 3 other teachers, I'm still dealing with some professional development issues, and every time I look at my school email, there's a message about something else that has to be dealt with. I should stop reading my school email!!

Plus the weather has been lousy. It's rained and rained and rained this year. Vegetable gardens are struggling with too much water and too little warm sunny weather. Outside plans have been moved inside. It's been depressing!

I looked at the list of summer goals that I set earlier. I've accomplished one of them completely (finishing Battlestar Galactica Season 2.5), and we took steps to start on the room renovations. A contractor came in last Monday to give us some estimates and ideas; we're still waiting for the verdict. The rest of the goals haven't even been started.

I'm still knitting what I started in June, the Twilight sweater, and my knitting buddy and I haven't been able to get together once yet this summer for a knitting session. Either I've been away, or she's been away.

Don't get me wrong. The highlight of my summer is a brilliant, blazing, highlight. Greece was incredible. I am still going through my pictures. I want to pull some into some sort of a powerpoint presentation for my students, eventually. I have to do a little more research because my notes/brain have gotten fuzzy with all the info I acquired.

I have been reading a lot too. I will post some book reviews eventually, probably a whole bunch at once!

So here it is, "Sunday afternoon". I'm beginning to realize that school is just around the corner, that relaxation time is limited, and that a lot of what I would like to do won't happen...