Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Proposal

I posted this on my FB account earlier this week, partly in jest, but partly in earnest.  I propose that Congress move the date of Thanksgiving into early October.  It really bothers me that Thanksgiving gets lost in the Christmas shopping advertising blitz that starts right before Halloween.  I am sick of going into the grocery store or the big box store Halloween week and hearing Christmas music.  I'm already sick of seeing the poinsettia and Santa decorations in those places too.  I want to see turkeys and Pilgrims and pumpkins!  So if we were to move Thanksgiving into October, the merchants would have free reign to advertise all they want for 2.5 months!

.  In my own way, I try very hard to keep to more traditional practices.  I don't start decorating for Christmas or play Christmas music until Advent begins.  I rarely even begin to think about gifts until Thanksgiving weekend.  I have never participated in Black Friday sales, and don't ever plan on doing so.  My tree goes up usually the about 10 days before Christmas, and remains up until Epiphany. I light an Advent wreath, and I participate as much as possible in all the Advent events at church (music, services, study groups, crafts, etc.)  My choice for Christmas music skews way towards the religious carols and hymns and classical pieces. I want to keep Christmas special  with the emphasis on the spiritual aspects.  Don't get me wrong.  I love the decorations, and the lights, and a lot of the hoopla --- but I like it during the month of December, and during the season of Advent.  

I'm not sure if moving the date of Thanksgiving would make things worse as far as the commercialization of Christmas, but I suspect that it might help make Thanksgiving a major holiday again, instead of the bump in the road in the marketing season.

Another Book Review

Red Herring: A Joe Gunther NovelRed Herring: A Joe Gunther Novel by Archer Mayor
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It's been a long time since I've read one of the Joe Gunther novels.  Joe, the former police chief of Brattleboro, VT is now the head of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation.  The series follows Joe's career and relationships with his staff as well as the relationships in his personal life. It's set in VT and Vermont's culture and politics are very much present in all the novels.

In Red Herring, Joe and his team are investigating three suspicious deaths that turn out to be the work of a serial killer.  The plot is pretty straight-forward, involving solid police work and some high tech forensics.  There's a shock ending too.  I think that my enjoyment of the book suffered because it's been so long since I've read something in this series.  It took me a long time to reawaken my memories of the subplots and backstories which makes reading a series so enjoyable.  I also was really disappointed in the denouement.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Five: Pie-ola!

Rev.Songbird posted some questions about pie this week over at RevGalBlogPals:  

1) Are pies an important part of a holiday meal?
Definitely!  They are the highlight of Thanksgiving in our family.  We always have apple, pumpkin, mincemeat, and pecan, no matter whether there are 2 people or 20.  In the last few years I've also had to have a chocolate cream pie for younger son.  His first Thanksgiving break from college he came home and insisted that I make chocolate cream pie since it was his favorite.  So 10 years later I'm still adding that to the repertoire.  Yesterday we had 2 pumpkin, a mince, a pecan, and chocolate cream for 14 people.  We particularly enjoy pie for breakfast on the day after Thanksgiving.2) Men prefer pie; women prefer cake. Discuss.
That is certainly true in my household.  I actually did  a non-scientific survey this morning which supports my hypothesis.  The females unanimously chose cake, all the males chose pie, except for one who replied ice cream.  It's not that I don't like pie, but when there's a choice, I always take cake.  My favorite pies are pecan, lemon meringue, and key lime -- all made from scratch.  
3) Cherries--do they belong in a pie?
Why not?  But I can't say that I have a real like or dislike for it.4) Meringue--if you have to choose, is it best on lemon or chocolate?
Definitely on lemon.  You have to have real homemade whipped cream on chocolate.
5) In a chicken pie, what are the most compatible vegetables? Anything you don't like to find in a chicken pie?
Carrots, potatoes, and peas, most definitely.  You can add celery and/or green beans too if you want.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

One Hundred Books

I've reached 100 books read for 2010.  It's too bad that Book #100 wasn't worthy of that milestone!  I didn't hate it, but I would have preferred to at least really like it!

A Taint in the Blood (Kate Shugak, Book 14)A Taint in the Blood by Dana Stabenow
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was disappointed in this installment of the Kate Shugak series.  Kate is hired to clear a dying woman's name of a deadly arson conviction from 30 years past.  She heads to Anchorage to investigate which is where the book takes place.  She is accompanied through most of the book by Jim Chopin.  The mystery was only mildly engaging, and I missed the park and wilderness setting in this one.  I also felt like the book's purpose was more to develop the sexual relationship between Jim and Kate than to investigate a mystery.  It's my least favorite book in the series.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Party ShoesParty Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Somehow I missed this one when I was growing up.  I devoured many others in the Streatfield's "Shoes" books. It's World War II in England.  Selina's parents are in an internment camp in the Far East so she is living with cousins in rural England.  She receives a package from her godmother which contains a beautiful party dress and shoes.Of course there's no place to wear them.  The children hit upon the idea of staging a pageant that will allow Selina to wear the dress and shoes.  Over the course of the year, the children write and rehearse the pageant which grows from a small production to one involving what seems like a cast of 1000s.  It's not one of Streatfield's more engaging books, and I never really connected with any of the characters.  I do enjoy the descriptions of the mundane events of life:  tea, chores, school tasks, etc.  I also enjoy her writing style and tone, very "stiff upper lip" and proper.  It probably won't appeal to most of the readers in my class because it is dated.  But a few might enjoy it.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

98 and Counting

I set an ambitious goal for the year - to read 125 books.  I don't think I'll make it, and may not even make my last year's total.  Oh well.   Maybe a more interesting goal would be to count the number of pages read!

At any rate, here's book #98.  I really enjoy Bill Bryson's writing.

At Home: A Short History of Private LifeAt Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bill Bryson's book is a fascinating compendium of social history.   Using his 1851 Victorian parsonage as the organizing structure of the book, Bryson proceeds to share a wealth of research about the development of "life as we know it."  As he travels room by room in his house he covers such topics as plumbing, garden design, concrete, telephones, the buttons on suit jackets, evolution, archeology, architecture, the treatment of the poor, hair styles, sanitation, heating, and spices, just to name a few!  I think I drove my husband crazy with all the interesting tidbits of information that intrigued me.  It's packed with information that might sound dull and dreary, but his breezy,conversational, and humorous style is quite enjoyable.  One of the bits of information I learned was that Thomas Edison bought a concrete company and attempted to build concrete houses.  I was also fascinated by the engineering involved in the construction of the Eiffel Tower.  Some of the connections he makes between the room he's in and the topics he's covering are little stretched, but it doesn't really matter.  Sometimes this book reminds me of the current commercials on TV for the Bing internet search engine, where some hapless information consumer wanders off into stream-of-consciousness linkages.  But it's all good!

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

And Now For Something Different . . .

It was actually a good week, especially at school.  We had a 4 day week due to Veteran's Day which made it a short week, but what made it "good" was the fact that I had 2 days in a row of relatively well-behaved students. Most days I've considered myself lucky to make it through a class without a disciplinary write-up, but I actually made it through 2 whole days.  I'm not sure what the difference was - I certainly wasn't doing anything different management-wise.  Maybe the message is starting to get through that disruptions to learning aren't tolerated, or maybe the moon was in the right quarter, who knows?  I am grateful for it!

Other little things made me happy this week too.  I ordered 2 dresses from an online source (Vermont Country Store) and they arrived promptly and they fit.  They are way too long as are all my clothes since I'm barely 5 ft 1 inch, and clothing manufacturer's don't grasp the fact that very plus-size women can also be very short.  I can hem pants and dresses if I'm so inclined, and for most of my life I've done all my hemming, but I discovered a local seamstress who hems pants for $6 and skirts/dresses for $8.00.   It's an easy decision:  take an hour to pin up a hem myself using the guess and check method, hunt up the fabric sheers to cut off excess material, drag out the ironing board to press in a new hem, and then take another 1/2 hour or so to actually stitch the hem or, spend a few dollars and let a professional do it!    The dresses got dropped off at the alterations shop.  Meanwhile I took a chance and ordered a pair of tall leather boots from  Now this was a risky venture.  As a short fat woman, I have very round calves, and I've never been able to wear tall boots.  Over in Ravelry,  one of my groups was having a discussion on wide calf boots, and several people recommended Zappos.  I took the challenge, and these arrived on Thursday:

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They fit perfectly!  Another "good thing" as Martha Stewart might say.  I've never owned a pair of boots  that went above the ankle.  They literally fit like a glove, and they are comfortable.  Pricey, but I know I will get years of wear out of them.

Other good things which I really can't mention yet occurred too.  Suffice it to say, that if all goes well, two members of my family will have some celebrating to do.  (No, there are no weddings or births involved!)

So here's to a good week for a change!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Book Review Alert

Turn and Jump: How Time & Place Fell ApartTurn and Jump: How Time & Place Fell Apart by Howard Mansfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Howard Mansfield is a local author.  My husband regularly runs into him at the local wellness center, and one day came home and asked me to get him a book Mansfield had written.  My husband is not a reader, so when he asks to read a book, it is a momentous occasion.  I immediately purchased another of Mansfield's books, The Bones of the Earth, which my husband devoured.  When Turn and Jump was published, I was sent back to the bookstore to buy a copy of that.  I haven't read Bones of the Earth yet, but I just finished this newest one.  I really enjoyed it.  Mansfield uses local history to illustrate the concept of how our ideas of time and place have changed.  His first essay traces the development of how we measure time: first, by the placement of the sun, moon, and stars; next by clocks with each village keeping its own local time; and the eventual standardization of clock time.  Along the way, he comments on skills that are lost or changed.  Another essay describes the evolution of a store, from a general store to a department store to its demise.   The development of vaudeville is described and its relationship to the railroad which gives the book its title.  Part of my interest in the book of course comes from the local history aspect, but I've always been interested in how concepts/places have evolved and changed.  I am looking forward to reading The Bones of the Earth and other books by Mansfield.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Home before Dark!!

I had my annual mammogram appointment today so I had to leave school "early" -- about 45 minutes after the kids left. I got my appointment early, was taken immediately (didn't even get to sit in the waiting room and read a 6 months old magazine!), and was finished with the appointment five minutes past the original scheduled time.  I stopped to get gas on the way home and walked into my sparkling clean kitchen (cleaning lady day!!) at 4 pm.  It was still light outside despite the pouring rain.  I actually made a lovely cup of tea (Upton's Cranberry Black) and read the newspaper.  I also found time to use up some leftover rice and extra eggs in rice pudding, and we feasted on shrimp pad thai.    It's barely 6 pm and I feel relaxed.  My husband did a great job cleaning up the cooking debris I leave behind, and I can actually take some time to enjoy a stressfree evening.  Wish I could do this more often!  Of course, I'm not as ready for tomorrow as I'd like, but I'm not going to think about that now. I will bask in the extra time!