Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Things that make me happy

Beef stroganoff for dinner.

The honey spice cupcake sitting on my desk.

A book waiting for me at the library.

House, Bones and Pushing Daisies all tomorrow.

Peter, Paul and Mary.

Starbuck's Hazelnut Hot Chocolate.

Sunshine (book and actual light).

A day without classes.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bits and pieces

When I got up this morning I felt as if I'd woken up from a long bad dream. Which is a metaphor. I slept very well last night. It's just that I felt, for no discernible reason, as if all of my failures and falls of the last few weeks had been washed away and I'd been given a brand new start.

That's a lovely feeling.

Leila at Bookshelves of Doom put up the last Big Read post for A Tale of Two Cities. Naturally, she quoted the end. Naturally, I cried. Oh, Charles Dickens, what you do to me.

I'm missing old friends a lot this morning. I know I won't see them for some time and I want to be with them. I want a community instead of me, muddling along by myself. I guess that's one of those things where all I can do is pray.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hello again

We just finished dinner...yes, a little late. It was good though. We had chicken breasts cooked in soy sauce, water, ginger, and garlic, steamed rice, and green beans and mushrooms cooked in the same sauce as the chicken. Yum.

I worked six hours today and my brain is gone. A little more money, but man, six hours is hard. So I'm going to do homework and clean up a little and then try to get to bed EARLY. As opposed to really, really late, which has been the M.O. for the past two days.

I'm sorry this isn't a terribly deep entry. But like I said, my brain is on vacation.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday quote

"In His hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is His also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land."

Psalm 95, 1-2 (KJV)

[This was my post for today for The IDD Blog.

A question

So, I've been pondering a bit, and I decided to ask all my lovely readers (that's you) a question. What would you like to see more of on this blog? Bits of writing? Book reviews? A recap of my day (that would be pretty boring)? Something else entirely? Let me know.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Twilight review *SPOILERS*

I actually read this, what, a couple of weeks ago? Something like that. Anyway, I feel that Twilight is like a Twinkie (I’m totally stealing this metaphor from cleolinda, by the way). If you actually want something that’s going to fill you up, you eat real food. But sometimes, even though you know that Twinkies are sugary and full of preservatives and don’t have a natural ingredient in them, you want a Twinkie.

I have a few major problems with this story and a few things I thought were okay. Major problem no. 1: The first 150-200 pages. They were repetitive and annoying and full of teenage ANGST. I mean, I knew Bella and Edward were going to get together from the beginning and I wanted them to just get it over with already. However, once we actually reach something approaching a plot, the book becomes a lot more decent. I actually think it has something interesting to add to the vampire genre. Except for one thing (Major problem no. 2): The sparkles. No, seriously. We’ve just spent all this time with Edward angsting all over the place that Bella doesn’t take seriously enough that he’s DANGEROUS, I tell you, DANGEROUS. Trouble. Angst. Angst. So what does he do? He takes her out to a meadow and walks out in the sunlight and SPARKLES. I almost fell off my chair laughing. Maybe it’s just me, but a sparkling vampire (sparklepire to borrow from cleolinda again) does not seem all that threatening. Kind of the reverse.

I do also have some philosophical issues with the whole stalker thing and how obsessed Bella is with Edward after so little substance. But I’m sure it’s been said before, so I’ll leave that alone.

I’ll probably read the rest of the books because…Twinkies are addictive. (Cheese puffs also work for this analogy—I will eat far too many of them.)

There were also some individual lines that I want to point out the ridiculousness of. Sorry, major Twilight fans.

No one was going to bite me. p. 14 I suppose this was supposed to be funny and somewhat eerie, but I just found it annoying. Seriously.

Once I got around the cafeteria, building three was easy to spot A large black “3” was painted on a white square on the east corner. p. 15 I don’t even know what to say about this one.

Today I was worse than usual because my head was so filled with Edward. p. 75 Sigh. Yes, we know.

I shivered and rose quickly from my place of concealment p. 139 Okay, I know Bella is a big classic book fan, but “place of concealment”???? If her whole voice was like this, it would be one thing, but it’s not.

The rocking movement of his walk. I snorkled over this one. Really?

I wondered if it should bother me that he was following me; instead I felt a strange surge of pleasure. p. 174 YES. It SHOULD bother you.

I’d given more information than necessary in my unwilling honesty, and I worried that it would provoke the strange anger that flared whenever I slipped and revealed too clearly how obsessed I was. p. 230 Well, at least she admits it. That’s the one thing where I do feel a little okay about the whole obsessed thing. I mean, it’s strange, but Bella does make a conscious choice to be obsessed. I don’t understand it, but I can sort of accept that choice.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A (not so) Brief Introduction

Note: I realized some time ago that I never posted a proper introduction when I started this blog. This is my attempt to rectify that situation.

The facts are these:

I am the oldest of three children.

I was born at home. I smiled at my father when he held me for the first time. I weighed 4 pounds, 10 ounces and was ten days late. The day I was born the stock market dropped dramatically, leading the media to dub it “Black Monday.” My parents renamed it Golden Monday.

For the first two years of my life we lived in an apartment building with other families from our religious community. My friend Kathryn was born eight months after me and a day after my parents and I were baptized into Eastern Orthodoxy.

It snowed on my second birthday.

When I was two, we moved to Maine. We moved to a small town where we lived in a small grey house that was a meadow and a road from the sea. There were woods behind us. I ate rhubarb straight from our neighbor’s plant and grew tadpoles in a plastic bucket. I lost a red balloon. My father worked in a boatyard and we had a garden that amazed our non-compost conscious neighbors.

The spring after I turned four the boatyard my father was working at folded. Faced with the possibility of long-term unemployment with one child and another coming very shortly, my parents made the decision to move back. It rained the day we left and my friend Nicole’s mother cried in our kitchen.

A month after we returned my sister was born. I played house under the peach tree in the garden with my godmother’s oldest daughter for hours. I started “Children’s Garden,” our homeschool version of kindergarten where I learned how to knit, make bread, read, and write.

When I was six my great-grandmother, who lived in Ohio, died. At her funeral my great-uncle asked my father if he would be interested in buying her house, the one she and my great-grandfather built when they got married in 1927, at half the market value. My parents jumped at the chance.

We lived in that house for thirteen years.

My great-grandfather had owned a fair bit of land originally and though he had to sell it off when the Depression hit, he had saved a lot and a half for the family. We had a huge vegetable garden and we planted fruit trees. My brother was born when I was seven and a half, the last of the family. I was homeschooled until I was ten, when I entered public school. I was in public school all the way through high school.

The summer after I graduated from high school my family moved to the Pacific Northwest. The move has been very strange for me, having spent so much of my life in one region. I plan to move back to the Midwest after I graduate from college.

Where I am now
Currently I attend a private four-year liberal arts college in a small city an hour from my parents. I’m a junior English major and I love it! I do live in the dorms. I don’t know what I’ll do after college yet, but it will be something with books because that’s what I love. My love language isn’t touch or speech, or any of the other ones. It’s feeding people and shoving books in their hands.

In spring 2009 I will be studying abroad in London for four months. I’m incredibly excited about this! It still seems unreal to me; I don’t actually believe I’m going even while I’m filling out the paperwork.

My faith is incredibly important to me. I believe in traditional Orthodoxy.

I write poetry and prose. I’m currently revising a novella-length story begun as my NaNoWriMo in 2007. I should probably be doing that right now.

Books, reading, flowers, gardening, cooking, embroidery, knitting, singing, writing.

Favorite Authors (a partial list)
L.M. Montgomery
J.R.R. Tolkien
Charles Dickens
Jane Austen
Robin McKinley
Maud Hart Lovelace
Dorothy Sayers
Megan Whalen Turner
Elizabeth Goudge
Elizabeth Gaskell

Favorite Music
Some Bach
The Chieftains
The North and South soundtrack

Favorite Poets (another partial list)
John Donne
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Elizabeth Dickinson
Christina Rossetti
Dylan Thomas
Rupert Brooke
W.B. Yeats
W.H. Auden
T.S. Eliot
e.e. cummings
Wallace Stevens

Favorite Flowers
Lily of the Valley

Reading far too much, handicrafts, ignoring the messiness of my room, quoting whatever pops into my head randomly.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


So, first let me say that this is a beautiful book. (See pictures here, here, here, and here.) The title and Robin McKinley's name are both embossed. There are these beautiful bee decorations sprinkled throughout the book. Without the dustcover, the book is dark red with the author's name, the title and a bee in a circle embossed in gold on the spine. The type is nicely set and very readable.

I don't like summarizing plots, so I'll just give you the blurb from the website.

"As the newly appointed Chalice, Mirasol is the most important member of the Master’s Circle. It is her duty to bind the Circle, the land and its people together with their new Master. But the new Master of Willowlands is a Priest of Fire, only drawn back into the human world by the sudden death of his brother. No one knows if it is even possible for him to live amongst his people. Mirasol wants the Master to have his chance, but her only training is as a beekeeper. How can she help settle their demesne during these troubled times and bind it to a Priest of Fire, the touch of whose hand can burn human flesh to the bone?"

Mirasol as a character is a lot like the "typical" McKinley heroine (and hero)--well-intentioned and highly likable but also thrown into a difficult situation and struggling to do the right thing. The book gives very little background, only doling out information as we reach certain points in the story. I felt that this worked very well in giving a sense of Mirasol's overwhelment. (That should be a word but evidently it isn't.) I liked the fact that while she clearly Does Things, they don't need to be male things (much as I love, say, Hari).

This book has the richness of Sunshine but it is very clearly its own story. I found it extremely well-written and engaging and just...beautiful. Very satisfying. I hope some more people read it soon so I can compare notes!

(Pictures from Robin McKinley's blog.)


So, I was going to write up a nice post about The Penderwicks on Gardam Street and how much I enjoyed it, but then I got a notice that Chalice has arrived.

You'll see me when I'm done reading.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Amazon informs me that my copy of Chalice has shipped and should arrive by FRIDAY.

I can't wait.

Monday, September 15, 2008


“In the last resort faith is an act of will, inspired by love. Our love may be chilled and our will eroded by the spectacle of the shortcomings, folly, and even sins of the Church and its ministers, but I do not think that one who has once had faith goes back over the line for these reasons…If He is a fraud and the Gospels fraudulent—that is: garbled accounts of a demented megalomaniac (which is the only alternative), then of course the spectacle exhibited by the Church…in history and today is simply evidence of a gigantic fraud. If not, however, then this spectacle is alas! only what was to be expected: it began before the first Easter, and it does not affect faith at all—except that we may and should be deeply grieved
“It takes a fantastic will to unbelief to suppose that Jesus never really ‘happened’, and more to suppose that he did not say the things recorded of him—so incapable of being ‘invented’ by anyone in the world at that time…” (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 250, p. 337)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A poem

When You are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

W.B. Yeats

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


"Because for some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of theses small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of all the things you don't get in real life--wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift."

~Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, p. 15

Monday, September 08, 2008

August reading list

A bit late...sorry!

Life is So Good--George Dawson: Touching memoir of the grandson of former slaves who learned to read at age 98.

A Tale of Time City--Diana Wynne Jones: Not my favorite DWJ. Nothing wrong with it, I just wasn't blown away like I usually am.

The King of Attolia--Megan Whalen Turner: I'm sure you're all sick of hearing about how much I love this series. But I love this series.

You Can Go Home Again--Gene Logsdon: Memoir of one of the sustainable agriculture types. Very interesting and some great thoughts. Mild language warning.

Sprig Muslin
Duplicate Death
Lady of Quality
Unknown Ajax
Beauvallet--Georgette Heyer: Again, I read too much Georgette Heyer. I'm trying to work my way through her books so that then I can just read the ones I know are good.

Fire and Hemlock--Diana Wynne Jones: Re-telling of the Tam Lynn legend. Very well done, I thought. It would be nice to read this and The Perilous Gard back to back.

Fragile Things--Neil Gaiman: Collection of short stories and poems. Some really great stuff in there, but MAJOR content warning for several of the stories.

Beauty--Robin McKinley: Not my favorite McKinley (and she wouldn't be hurt by my saying that) but a great comfort read.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow--Jessica Day George: Well done re-telling of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon." I'd never read a re-telling of that particular story until this year and now I've read two (East by Edith Pattou is the other.)

The Penderwicks--Jeanne Birdsall: Fun story in the tradition of the Bastables and Melendys, I'd say, although not quite as well done as either. Still, I'm glad to hear that there's a sequel.

Strong Poison--Dorothy Sayers: One of my favorite Sayers. I mean, how can it not be?

The Doors of the Sea--David Bentley Hart: This is a fascinating book written from an Orthodox perspective on the problem of God and suffering. It was recommended by Deb. I want to write more fully about it.

Betsy's Wedding--Maud Hart Lovelace: Another huge old comfort read.

Deerskin--Robin McKinley: This book is wonderful and I don't recommend it to anyone. The subject matter is very difficult to deal with and I had a very hard time with it. But it's a great treatment, IMO.

Keturah and Lord Death--Martine Leavitt: I must be somewhat morbid, because I like books with Death as a character in them. I read this some time ago and it was just as good the second time around. Highly recommended.

The Homeward Bounders--Diana Wynne Jones: Not my favorite DWJ, but nothing wrong with it either.

The Saturdays--Elizabeth Enright: If I have children, they will be intimately acquainted with the Melendys. That's all I have to say.

Spiderwick 2: The Seeing Stone--Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black: Meh. Not wild about these, although the illustrations are really nice.

Up a Road Slowly--Irene Hunt: A book that I always think I'm going to like just slightly more than I do. It's still pretty good though.

A Study in Scarlet
The Sign of Four
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
The Return of Sherlock Holmes
His Last Bow
The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes--A. Conan Doyle: I'd never actually read any Sherlock Holmes and I decided this needed to be remedied.

Because of Winn-Dixie--Kate DiCamillo: You can never go wrong with Kate DiCamillo. A sweet story about a girl and her dog.

The Case of the Missing Marquess--Nancy Springer: A take-off on Sherlock Holmes. There was a bit too much Message for my taste. And I would love to have a novel set in the Victorian era where the heroine is fine with corsets and sewing. Seriously. Not everyone hated them and rebelled.

The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie--Jaclyn Moriarty: This was tons of fun! I liked it even better than the first book, The Year of Secret Assignments, partly because I kind of identified with Bindy.

Pride and Prejudice--Jane Austen: For school, but it's nice to have an excuse to read Austen. :D

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Saturday notes

I'm really loving "Early in the Morning" as done by Peter, Paul and Mary. You can see a video of them performing it live here.

This morning we went to a local farmer’s market where I bought beautiful and delicious Gala apples, half a bouquet of dahlias, and a bunch of fresh basil. A friend has the other half of the bouquet.

Since then I’ve been cleaning my room and writing a few letters. I also managed to get a few more of my decorations out—the ones that really mean something to me and aren’t just tchochkies. (Which, incidentally, means teacup in Russian. Just thought you might like to know that.)

This evening we’re going out to dinner…somewhere. I’m kind of hoping for Asian food as I haven’t had any in AGES. MONTHS.

One of my friends and I are also planning to get a meal plan where you have only 3-4 dinners covered for the week and cook the rest of the time. I’ve found that I enjoy cooking, and I get so tired of the cafeteria food here. I think my mother will be worried about that choice, but with two of us, I think it’s realistic and feasible.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


So I just made shortbread. It's ridiculously simple and the only expensive part is the butter. Which is better for you anyway, but I understand if you're like, I'm not going to blow a pound of butter on one thing!

But it's so gooooooood.

Anyway, the recipe:

4 c flour
1 c sugar

Cream the butter and sugar together by hand. I recommend doing this literally by hand as it's much simpler. Especially if you forgot to soften your butter.

Mix in flour 1/2 c at a time. At a certain point, you won't be able to use your spoon/fork anymore and you'll want to go back to the hand mixing. If you're me, you might never have left. Anyway, when the dough leaves the sides of the bowl, you're good.

Press in a pan. Score the top lightly and prick the squares with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Turn off oven and leave sitting in for 10 more minutes. Cut while still warm and soft. That's it. Seriously.

If you feel like splurging on the butter, you can't go wrong with shortbread.

In other news, I have ordered Twilight from the library. I want to see what all the fuss is about. Although I suspect it'll be one of those things where I go, "WHY am I doing this to myself? Why am I still reading this?" And then keep reading.

In still other news, we have had some seriously gorgeous weather the past few days. Which is good because, make no mistake my friends, the rain, it is coming. I enjoy the rain for the first month. Although I left my umbrella at home, so we'll see how much I actually enjoy it this year.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Morning thoughts

I'm back at school! This semester I'll be in a single in the dorm I was in last year. Next semester I'll be in London.

The sun comes in quite pleasantly even through my closed blinds. With the fan going it's cool enough right now that I don't have to open the windows (and therefore don't have to remember to close and lock them on the way out the door).

I approve of Celestial Seasoning's new boxes. At first I went: OH NO!!! They have changed it! But they've still got the correct Celestial Seasonings flair.

On the list to do today:
~Work on putting things away
~Buy books
~Go to Safeway for essentials like Lady Grey tea and Ritz crackers
~Talk to the librarians