Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Books read in April 2013

Apparently Book groups have taken over my reading life.  Everything I read this month had to do with a book group!

Twice Told
Scott Hunt
A book of short stories written by YA authors inspired by drawings made by Scott Hunt.  Each drawing had two different stories and it was interesting to see what inspired the authors.  In the back, each author talks a little about their process.

The Graveyard Book
Neil Gaiman
Matt and I read aloud.
This was a delightful fantasy about a boy whose family is murdered being raised by ghosts in a graveyard.  When I put it like that, the book sounds ghastly, but it really was quite sweet and whimsical.

Norwegian Wood
Read for Kenton Library Book Group
An interesting view of 1960s-era college-student Japan.  After reading three of his books, I note that Murakami seems incredibly removed from his storytelling while at the same time is able to craft incredibly hot sex scenes.  I find this juxtaposition odd.

Brave Girl
Michelle Markel
Read for Librarian Book Group
A picture book that takes us into the early 20th century advocating for better factory conditions through the eyes of a brave girl.  Though I felt that there was no solid sense of time (how much does Clara age over the progress of the book?) I thought this was a good introduction to factories and the labor struggle.  The illustrations were interesting, using textiles as well as other media to tell the story.

One Gorilla
Anthony Browne
Read for Librarian Book Group
The pictures of the animals were great.  The pictures of the humans were weird.

Eleanor and Park
Rainbow Rowell
Read for Librarian Book Group
Rainbow Rowell's name falls into the same category as Ransom Riggs (category:  YA authors with names I hope they didn't grow up with, but suspect they did).  That said, this is probably destined to be a popular YA book and for very good reason.  The setting is unusual (Omaha in the 80s) the characters are interesting (Eleanor, poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Park, half-Korean boy who doesn't fit in the standard of mid-80s Omaha masculinity) what brings them together is perfect (comics, music) and the dramatic tension in the story feels very real (I was quite worried). In short, this is a book to read now.  Go and find it.

Started and did not finish
Son of a Gun
Anne de Graaf
Read for Librarian Book Group.
Seemed interesting, but child solders is not a topic I am motivated to read about.

The most exciting piece of mail I've ever gotten.

That's my friend Cindy on the right.
And she's getting married!
And it's not just a very pretty wedding invitation, it's a record!
I'm so excited. 

My Mashed Potato storage containers

Back in this post I said I portioned out the mashed potatoes into 1/2 cup servings.  Here is a visual of what that looks like.  These are the smallest canning jars.  They are quite handy.

Postcard from Finland.

Here's my first art postcard!  It's from Juulia who is 11 and has great handwriting.  She says, "I hope this card is unbroken when it comes to you.  If here is falled letters, cards says: "Muffini" and that means cupcake in Finnish.

As you can see, nearly all the letters made it to me.

Also, this stamp makes me want to visit Finland in the summer.  Though I imagine their summer beach weather is not much different than the Oregon Coast, temperature-wise.

Two headlines from today's paper

Reading this, I audibly gasped, mostly because I've been waiting for years for male athletes to start coming out of the closet.  Also: same last name!
Oh Grant Butler.  A few years ago you decided to experiment with being vegan for a few months and I thought, "I hope you can make it that long without cheese" because cheese is the number one reason I don't want to be a vegan.  The number two reason is that I don't think it's actually a healthy way of eating.  But you, Grant Butler, took to it like a duck to water and now your write columns that amuse me such as this:

Now I don't mind a good veggie burger now and then, but really, the bun?  The bun is the best part, in fact,  the main reason for eating the veggie burger.  When you get right down to it, I would eat the bun with a bit of butter rather than the veggie burger wrapped in lettuce or what have you.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Three sentence movie reviews: P.S.

I hadn't heard of this Laura Linney/Topher Grace 2004 effort, but it was free, so why not?  It was a very interesting story (40-year-old woman believes 20-year-old art student is her dead ex-boyfriend reincarnated) and that kept me watching.  I think the whole movie could have explored a bit deeper, but overall, I was engaged the entire time.

Cost:  free because I had a gift certificate to Title Wave Bookshop
Where watched: at home.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Checking in with Brad, brother of Luann

As you might recall, Brad's girlfriend Toni proposed to him.  I've been waiting for fallout from that outside-of-gender-roles move.  Could this be it?

Friday, April 26, 2013

A glass-half-full type of a restaurant.

The weather has been gorgeous and everyone wants to eat outside.  What's a new restaurant with indoor seating to do?  That's right!  Play to your strengths. Well done Taqueria Los Gorditos.  And I've eaten there and they have a fabulous bean, cheese and rice burrito for only $4.00.

Portland Center Stage: Clybourne Park

Clybourne Park is about how neighborhoods change over the years.  Outside the theater was a map of Portland where people were invited to write their comments.
Here's my neighborhood.  The yellow post-it says "the cows used to travel through here."  I didn't focus the camera enough to be able to see what the blue post-it said.

As for the play itself, it was very good.  The writing was both funny and uncomfortable, which meant I laughed and felt twisted up the entire time.  That said, I recommend you see it not only for the subject matter, but because over intermission, the crew "ages" the house that is the main setting 50 years and it is fascinating to watch.  That alone is worth the price of admission.

I attended this play to see Andy Lee-Hillstrom (the mashed potato eating actor who inspired my current Lint project) and he was fabulous as Jim/Tom/Kenneth.  But Sal Visccuso was brilliant as Russ/Dan and Sharonlee McLean was also incredible as Bev/Kathy.  I had last seen Brianna Horne as Laurie in Oklahoma and it was fun to watch her transform from "getting along" maid Francine to empowered Lena.  The rest of the cast was also wonderful.

Because of the uncomfortable subject matter Director Chris Coleman had a talk back after every show.  It was interesting to hear about how the actors felt about their characters.  Also worth the price of admission was the essay "The House on Clybourne Street" by Beryl Satter which discussed the only way black people in Chicago were able to purchase a home in the mid-twentieth century.  The essay was a punch in the gut for me.  I understood that things were unfair, but was outraged at how unfair this particular practice was.  Do yourself a favor and read the essay.

I make a pizza.

Matt is out of town and I have the day off, so I will make pizza for dinner.  It's also the end of the month which means there isn't much left in the grocery account, so I'm going to make a pizza with what I have.  I picked some asparagus from the garden and sliced that up and sprinkled it on. Then I opened a can of sardines and added them.  There were Lima beans that needed to be used up, so on those went.   I had some leftover shredded mozzarella, which was good.  Then, after I baked all of that, I cracked four eggs on top.

This was a very fine pizza.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Don't scramble these eggs.

The K/1 classes are studying birds and one of the teachers is attempting to hatch chicks.  The incubator has been here waiting and guess what arrived today?

Don't scramble these eggs!  We shall see if anything comes of them.

Administrative Professional's Day. Someone thinks I'm pretty great.

Cupcakes, dahlia's and several cards all greeted me on the awkwardly named Administrative Professionals Day.
Here's my favorite card. I laughed when I first saw it and I smiled every time I encountered it.

Essay: Confessions of a foodie who falls for slick packaging.

I love food in general and good food in particular.  I cook the majority of the food I eat from scratch and there are all sorts of vegetables and fruits and whole grains, lean protein, etc. etc. in my regular diet.  I support organic agriculture, have bought quarters of beef, grow a few of my own vegetables and massive amounts of potatoes.  I think a lack of good food is a large part of what ails this country and I wish that everyone felt as passionate about food growing, preparation and preserving as I do.

With that said, I must confess that I have a great love for microwave entrees.

Walking down the freezer aisle of the grocery store, I feel a feeling not unlike the feeling I used to get walking down the toy aisle as a child.  There are so many choices!  And they all look so pretty!  The boxes look neat and tidy, with their square corners and their attractive photos.  The prices are quite cheap and the nutrition information is already calculated and prominently displayed. 

Unlike so many areas of my life, I can have exactly what I want.  Italian?  Yes, there are tons of pasta choices, from low fat to full fat, budget to gourmet.  Burrito?  Yes, so many attractively wrapped little packages.  Quiche?  Nancy’s has a mini quiche just for me.  What about a full meal with way too many calories in it? Marie Callender’s can step up to the plate.  Personal sized pizzas?  Lean Cuisine has me covered.  What about a grilled panini?  There are several choices.

Even heating up the food is fun.  The directions are all different, meaning I have to pay attention.  Sometimes I have to remove the plastic entirely, sometimes just poke a hole in it.  Sometimes, as with the paninis the packaging transforms into a space age type microwave “grill” after careful tearing along a perforated line.  I know the marketing people have figured out that people feel better if they have to be involved at some level of their food preparation, even if the extent of that preparation is squinting at the label and stabbing plastic repeatedly with a fork.

The other thing I love about microwave meals is portion control.  When I’m wandering the frozen aisle, I do not feel like cooking.  Because the funds for my personal chef have not yet come through, when I don’t feel like cooking my choices include finding food in the frozen aisle or going out to eat.  I love to go out to eat, but it’s a love/hate relationship.  The portions are always extremely large and I’m not very successful at limiting my consumption of the large servings.  Unlike restaurants, with microwave meals, most of the brands I buy clock in at 350 calories or less.

Take the grilled paninis I’m currently a fan of.  I get two thick slices of sourdough bread, beef, peppers and cheese all for 330 calories and less than four dollars.  If I were to purchase that same Philly-style cheesesteak from a vendor, it would cost me seven dollars, minimum, and clock in at at least three times the calories, if not four.  If I were to make it myself, it would involve purchasing an entire loaf of sourdough bread as well as making a beef and peppers mixture that would be more than one serving.  This way I have my cheesesteak, eat it and when the next meal rolls around I’m actually hungry again.

There are a ton of drawbacks to frozen entrees.  I don’t really like supporting agricultural food conglomerates by purchasing them, the packaging often seems wasteful and isn’t recyclable and most of them have entirely too much sodium.  They also have a factory made sameness about them that I can’t abide on a regular basis.  But I only have a frozen entrĂ©e every month or two, so for me they remain so much of a treat.

Three sentence movie reviews: Premium Rush

O! Joseph Gordon-Levitt, you could not be any cuter when you combine your charming self with the character archetype of the modern urban cowboy: the bike messenger.  Aside from Mr. Gordon-Levitt's performance, this also had a female lead with something to do and the always welcome presence of Michael Shannon.  This was a well-crafted film with great chase scenes and a good bit of heart and I had a very good time watching it.

Cost:  $1.00 from Videorama
Where watched: at home.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Requiem: Bookmark

At some point during the Kenton Library Book Group, David, our book group leader, offered us free bookmarks he had received.  They were promoting the 2011 Jane Eyre movie and had a  picture of Mia Wasikowska and a pretty blue tassel.  Sentinel pulled off the tassel right away, but I started marking my reading goals on my bookmark and just kept using it.
As you can see, this carried on for quite some time.
Here's Mia's profile peeking out from a reading goal.

I'm taking a three-month hiatus from book group because a writing class conflicts with the time.  I'll be back in August, and I'll find a new bookmark to keep track of my progress.  This is a good time to let this bookmark move on.

Art Building. Metal shingles.

Do you see them there, creeping up the left side?  I wonder why they started there, and not at the end of the building?

Only Twenty Dollars?

Kristyn Schiavone is a new-ish fashion columnist in our paper and I'm on the fence about whether I like her or not.  Cons:  she's not local (she seems to be out of Chicago), her writing style is a bit too "sorority girl" for me, and she's quite peppy.  Granted, those last two might be a given with fashion columnists.  Pros:  Um, I keep reading her?
But today a sentence in the article took my breath away.  Check out #4.

Only twenty dollars?  To me, a fully-employed professional, there is no "only" about a twenty dollar bill. There's not really an "only" about a five-dollar bill in my world.  So to read that a manicure is "only" twenty dollars is pretty jarring.  I think columnists/commentators make this mistake a lot.  They think that all their readers are in the same demographic as they are.  It's not a good thing.

More Aprons

So I've come to my senses (a bit) regarding the "new uniform" project, slated for this summer.  In my mind, I was going to have time (and money) to make dozens of aprons.  But I realize that isn't going to happen and, if I'm lucky, I'll get the two shirts, two dresses and perhaps ONE apron done.  But I found this great book and here are more awesome aprons, including my apron of choice.
I love the circle skirt aspect of this and the very awesome pockets.
Very cool side pocket.
Good high waist.
Excellent Handkerchief example.
This yoke is fabulous.
Good details here.
So cute!  Like a flirty 50s party dress, but an apron!
Good gathers and a cute pocket.
I love the movement here.
Good detailing.
This is cute, but I think would lead to massive hippage on me.
I like the full body cover of this one and the ruffle.  It's also reversible.
Sort of your classic "diner waitress" look.
But this is the winner.  I love the yoke, I love the pockets, I love the criss-cross in the back and I love that it has no waist.  I'm not so into the waist right now, at least not mine.
Awesome apron, here I come.  Just as soon as I finish the reunion dress, two work shirts and two work dresses.

Three sentence movie reviews: On the Road

I tried, once upon a time, to read this classic of mid-century literature and eventually discarded it, thinking, "You know what? These guys are jerks."  And you know what came through loud and clear in the film version?  You guessed it:  these guys are jerks.*

Cost:  $4.00
Where watched:  Laurelhurst, with S. North.

*This book/movie is navel-gazing male literature/cinema at its finest.  Which for me means "most boring."  Although there were fun period details and the cameos were interesting.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Postcards from Belarus and California

Is this not the greatest postcard from Belarus you've ever seen?  It's from Dasha, who is a student, a future journalist.  She sincerely wishes me the eternal spring in my heart.
This postcard came from my friend Kelly, who was in LA to see the band Heart inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

I begin the lining

Man, am I completely over making this dress.  But I aim to wear it for Greek Easter, which is coming up on May 5, so I'd best get going on the lining.

Postcards from Germany and Wisconsin

This appears to be a home-printed postcard.  It's from Ingrid, in the Paltinate, which is a region in southwest Germany, also called German Tuscany.
This postcard is from Laura, who lives on a small island in Wisconsin.  She says, "I'm sending this card not because it's my favorite, but because it creeps me out and I'd rather have it someplace else."  Laura made me laugh, because I share her sentiment.  I've got it hanging behind another postcard, so I don't have to look at it.