Saturday, April 21, 2012

it's creepy because they all have subtitles

I only have five or so friends on Goodreads, so I will now share my just-finished/current reading list with you, my dear [thousands] of blog readers:

How Characters of Fiction, Myth, Legends, Television and Movies
Have Shaped our Society, Changed Our Behavior, and Set the Course of History
by Dan Karlan, Allan Lazer and Jeremy Salter

Quick essays about characters who have from Ulysses to Prince Charming to Buffy. Perfect for the parent who has 3 mins here, 10 mins there.


Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
by Kay Redfield Jamison

At first glance the book seemed to offer a cause/effect relationship between bipolar disorders and creative brilliance which depressed me (so perhaps there's hope for me after all). But then obviously the book actually claims no such thing. Not exactly, anyway. I ended-up skimming most chapters because they was so full of quotes about the darkness and terror of depression and mania while what I was in the mood for was less about the dreary torment of an ill mind and more about what the writers/composers thoughts when pen/brush was put to paper.  

(If I were you I'd skip Jamison's book and instead read The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain  by Alice Weaver Flaherty. Now that is an excellent book about the creative process and thoughts about what happens when the creative mind runs amuk.)


More than 250 Lists, Charts, and Facts to Make Planning Easier and Faster
by Sonya Haskins

Have I written lately about my love affair with that most amazing thing The List? And to think, an entire genre of books exist full simply of lists. Exciting beyond belief. Haskins lists range from the normal sort of thing (seven wonders of the ancient world) to the ho-hum (notable Christian missionaries)  to the I'd- completely-forgotten-about-these (mathematical formulas), the perpective-challenging (deadliest animals--sharks kill 100 people a year compared to 1 million killed by mosquitos). Finance terms. Mythology. Boy Scout merit badges. I liked it.


Crushing, fermenting, aging, and bottling your own wine
By Bruce Palmer

Currently reading this one, at my husband's behest. He (and Bruce) are starting to have me convinced a good 50-cent bottle of wine may be within our reach. What's to be lost by trying (other than the initial hundreds of invested dollars and all our waking weekend hours)?


Living Creatures in Poems and Prints
by Stephen Addis with Fumiko and Akira Yamamoto

This is a re-read. Haiku makes me happy and the woodblock illustrations are beautiful, even when the pictures are of bugs. And who can argue with this: Swarms of mosquitos / but without them / it's a little lonely  ~Issa  (In a poll of two breakfasters ages 3 and 35, fists were shaken at mosquitos [see above. 1 million killed a year! Also: ouch.] but it was agreed there would be less to talk about if the bloodsuckers were suddenly nonexistent.)


And that's the scoop! If you're interested, check me out at This one time a total stranger liked one of my reviews, which means I'm not absolutely full of crap and just clicking rating stars all of the time. Ok, mostly that's what I do, but not always. I try.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Quick, critique your autobiography!

Last night I was challenged by a timed writing exercise which asked me to write a New York Times style book review of my own autobiography. Only problem:  the fictional autobiography in question had to be based on my true life. No exciting lies to vamp it up. Sixty minutes later and all I'd come up with was I'd been born someplace, went to school, and eventually married and grew come kiddos. True, sure, but so, so boring. Alas, it's as though I've never lived at all.

Which of course isn't true. I've had a homebirth, for goodness sake! So I've been thinking about it since and have given myself another chance. Here is one reviews of much, much better autobiographies. I gave myself my lunch--30 minutes--to write it. Hope you enjoy!

The Squirrels Are Coming!

Thomasin E. N. Propson's darkly comedic autobiography The Squirrels Are Coming! immerses the reader in the wacky world of the author’s childhood within a large homeschooling family and her subsequent attempt to blaze a trail of her own.

In contrast to rosy-cheeked, brightly-scrubbed versions of the typical homeschooler, Propson reveals the lifestyle’s mouldier notions, including a tale of an actual decomposing apple she kept underneath the kitchen sink--a botanical lifecycle lesson gone wrong--as well as the delight she took threatening her younger sibling, fearful of the ever-leering backyard squirrels, that a squirrel uprising was near at hand.

From her early childhood in Seattle, Washington suburbia to the teenage years spent in small-town Silverton, Oregon, Propson describes a childhood when walking into town to spend money on non-organic candies was still heralded as a girl's birthright rather than the parental neglect as it is commonly agreed to be today. Though hopped-up on sugar, her academic accomplishments are noteworthy, albeight tainted by the homeschooler stigma. As her innate quietness of spirit, initially attributed by society as  homeschooled awkwardness, gradually became recognized as supreme creative soul (confirmed in adulthood by DiSC testing) so did grow Propson's confidence--unpublished poetic genius vibrantly alive.

Propson's life since childhood has not been your typical homebody affair. After a brief stint as a “Bud Girl,” and a humerous fling with an older rock star, her dissatisfaction with the fast life of the west coast lead her to move east, where she settled in wholesome Wisconsin, graduated a proud Badger from the UW-Madison, and met and married the love of her life, chiropractor Justin Propson. Together the couple have slapped a coat of paint on an older home on Madison’s north side (which she claims to  love even though it lacks a dishwasher) and are raising two beautiful daughters, or as Propson lovingly refers to them, "future dishwashers."

Propson's life has come full circle, from child to wild and now again immersed in the beauty that is family. “I look forward to the day my brother visits,” she says, “so I can point out the squirrels who steal from our birdfeeder.” We are who we are, they say. And so it is.

Not perfect, but much better than last night's attempt.

Wait, still crappy, you say? Do better yourself, I dare you. In 30-60 mins. It's more difficult than you first realize.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Uli's Sea Fresh Plus (Jason Naturals Brand) Toothpaste Review

This tastes like it would sound if I heard it in my stomach.

So there you have it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Whatcha Readin' Wednesday: a poetry reading

For the past year now, my husband has been working through an anthology of American poetry with Uli as part of her bedtime routine. Poem by poem, night by night. Hundreds of poems.

As a three year old she may have only a limited grasp of the poems' meanings, but surely listening to the rhythm and vocabulary of the great works of American poets has the potential to be more mentally enriching than another round of The Pokey Little Puppy.

The other night Justin shared with me that evening's poem and suggested I post it for a Whatcha Readin':

The Reading Mother

I had a Mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of GĂ©lert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trustily his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings --
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a mother who read to me.

~Strickland Gillilan.

I'm flattered he equates me in some manner to the mother in the poem, since, while I do intend to read to Uli and Ilse each day, I honestly don't always meet that goal. But Justin? He does, indeed. Truly he should get credit as a father who reads to his girls. A poem written for him. He's opening worlds to them with every book they read during the day, for every poem at day's end. They are indeed lucky, my girls. Jewels and gold are nice for some, sure, but my girls have a father who reads to them (reads poetry!), and I wouldn't trade that for a million caskets of loot.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Dress Take Deux

Once upon a time I had a little two year old who was also an only child. It was Easter and she was thrilled. Thrilled to be outdoors. Thrilled to be at grandma and grandpa's house. Thrilled to find these mysterious things called Easter eggs just lying about. 

Eggs galore, 2011

Croquet 2011. Because we used to be fancy like that.

Now it's 2012. Yes, she's wearing the same dress. (Last spring it was roomy. This year it was only with effort we got her arms in--but she was determined it would be worn. Yes. It. Would.) 

But she's not the same lawn-gaming tot. Dearest, no. Uli is now Three with Attitude. And sunglasses that perch Just So. 

And lest she be left out of the trip down memory lane, do let us remember little sister Ilse has developed over this past year as well...

Ilse, Easter 2011

Ilse, Easter 2012.
Doing the baby splits or something near enough. Best picture I got, sorry.

Don't even try to tell me that next year Ilse will be wearing her big sister's dress. No she will not! (She might. She's my roly-poly baby compared to thin little Uli. But we can't think like that. Three years of the same dress would make us crazy overly thrifty, right? Even if it's super adorable?)

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Very Hungry Ilse

Introducing that first taste of solid food is a milestone for which I believe the camera was specifically invented.


Wow. Unexpected!

Not so sure this is a good thing.

OK. One more try.

Well, well. There may be something to this "solid food" thing!
 We've barreled through several new tastes since turning 7 months, starting with the apple sauce captured above, moving on to an extremely successful mixture of beans and apples and breastmilk, and then to banana/avocado/breastmilk and now to carrots and coconut oil.

I've felt empowered this time around, making our own baby foods at home. I know exactly what is going into Ilse's tummy, and I know that it's tasty (because, of course, I taste test it all!). Thanks to Tara of  BebeMeals and her class at Whole Foods for giving me the gumption to take this baby food making business into my own hands. So much nicer (and less expensive) than buying jarred food. And extremely fast. I don't know what I was sweating about, thinking I'd be laboring for hours in the kitchen. Wrong. (Sorry, Uli.  I didn't know better back then.)

Monday, April 2, 2012


Uli:   Mama, do you love me?

Me:   I do, Sweetheart. I love you with all my heart!

Uli:    {nods & shrugs}  I love bananas.

March is over. It came in growling, its slumpy dark clouds and rain smashing my spring is near mood back down to less than joyful. Then the record-breaking eighty degree warmth roasted us all out of our sweaters and had us burrowing under our beds to rediscover our winter-banished shorts and tanks. At the same time it dashed the maple syrup industry's opportunities and squeezed the apple trees' blossoms out from the trees tips many weeks too soon, setting the farmers all aflutter (and creating some not insignificant a-fears). Even as the crocuses bloomed and we swatted the year's first mosquitoes, the threat of a last horrifying frost lingered in the back of everyone's minds. (And continues to linger.)
The last few days of March looped back to seasonally-appropirate gloom and damp, but left us with the hunger for summer. Forget spring, summer will be here before you know it! Summer, my true love. Or, if you're not me, then perhaps March shocked you by presenting summer far too soon and you're now thankful for the retreat back into regular spring. April's clouds, rain, mud:  they make you happy because they don't require sitting in front of a fan sipping iced tea though what's wrong with that I just don't know.
Uli embraces this novel non-snow-covered world with her whole soul, gathering and arranging the pinecones (illicitly gathered from the neighbor's yard, though I dare say Nancy wouldn't mind) and snapping flowers off by the head to present to Mama (sweet, though what do you do with ten stemless blooms a day?). I watch her attempt to scramble up trees after the squirrels, scoop garden rocks out of the beds to create towers on the steps, and shiver with the excitement of holding a slug and I remind myself that though it means muddy shoes and sweaty hair that she is very anti-washing I'm witnessing a child falling in love (again) with the outdoors.
It makes me smile. It makes me fall in love with my daughter that much more.


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