Thursday, May 28, 2009

Food and bookcovers

I've just finished reading Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table, and am determined to try out some of the recipes she includes. First up is "Doron's Turkey Meatballs with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts," which you can see for yourself at her blog Orangette, which is the basis for this book.

This is a thoroughly domestic book. A little bit of memoir (no navel-gazing, d., thankfully) leavens this book about food and eating, with a collection of recipes that span the thoroughly homey (potato salad) to the truly unique (salad with chocolate). The cover alone caught my eye (how you can resist such a charming lineup of teacups and glassware?), but the writing snared me.

J.'s mom asked how I find such interesting books. For this one, I came across it using Amazon's "Customers who bought this item also bought..." feature while looking up another book, Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Eyes have it all

I am a very visual person--a visual learner, if you will, to use education terminology. My auditory senses and I have an uneasy truce (obviously), but I can rely wholeheartedly on my eyes for a visual feast.

When I was a child, I used to play one of those tormenting either/or games and ask myself: "Would I rather be blind or deaf?" After serious consideration, I would always decide that I would prefer deafness over blindness. I'm not sure if already being hard of hearing gives me an unfair advantage since I already know what it's like not to hear (though not what it's like to be profoundly, stone cold deaf), but the thought of not being able to see trees or people's eyes or the shape of letters on the page or the artwork of James McNeill Whistler or a trail snaking round the bend makes me cold to the bone.

Over the past year, I've come across a few blogs for which the visual element is an integral part of their makeup:

And the Pursuit of Happiness, by Maria Kalman
Posie Gets Cozy, by Alicia Paulson
3191 Miles Apart, by Stephanie and Mav

These bloggers have a way of focusing on visual details, whether mundane or profound, that makes the experience or story they describe more palpable, more real. I like them very much.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bikes and antiques

J. and I were in the Springfield, Ohio vicinity this past weekend. He had a race in Yellow Springs, which is a hippie-ish little town with lots of bike trails and charming older homes. When I saw that the huge Springfield Antiques and Flea Market Extravaganza was taking place that weekend, we invited his parents to come along and make a mini-vacation of it: bike-racing (or, in our case, bike-race-watching) and antiquing.

Some highlights from the trip:
  • J. placed second in the race
  • We discovered Grinnell Mill, a restored mill turned into a bed-and-breakfast with a neat open layout inside, with a door in the middle of each of the 3 floors of the mill
  • A set of 8 solid wood chairs found a new home

The flea market was overwhelming. J.'s mom and I stopped at the edge of the monstrous sprawl of booths and looked at each other, a little dumbfounded. It seemed that every corner you turned, several new paths unfolded before you. There were a few interesting booths in the middle of all the typical antiques and collectibles. One booth had a selection of architectural salvage--elegant porch posts, doorjambs, and archways, which were curiously arresting all by their lonesome, apart from a house. Another booth had what seemed to be the entire contents of an old sewing factory--wooden spools of all shapes and sizes to shelves full of huge spools of thread spanning the colors of the rainbow.

We also spent some time on the one of the bike trails in Miami Valley, where they've converted railroad rights of way to bike trails. I wish Kentucky had a similar extensive system of "rails to trails."

Of course, a visit to this part of Ohio was not complete without a stop at the Historic Clifton Mill for one of their plate-sized pancakes.

I came home feeling like we'd had a week-long vacation.

By the sweat of your brow

J.'s mom and I were admiring J.'s legs the other day. She said, "If I had pretty legs like J.'s, I'd wear skirts more often."

I agreed, then said, "Would you be willing to put in the amount of time that J. does on his bike to get pretty legs?"*

We both agreed it'd be quite nice to just wake up one day to find that our legs had transformed overnight.

*I estimate that J. puts in, on average, 10-15 hours a week on his bike.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Library at night*

Here's where I work. This is a shot of the modern addition on the library.

Here is the where the old and new parts of the library meet:

Another view of the same area:

They've turned this space into a cafe and meeting spot for the campus. People on the upper floors can take a break from their studies and look over the railing at people's heads below, maybe drop things on them. Just kidding.

*The inspiration for this title comes from Alberto Manguel's book The Library at Night.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's raining cats

Meet Sasha, the latest addition to the household. Yes, she's always this cute. She headbutts you with her cuteness, always ready for a petting.

Pope isn't too sure about her yet.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Face that launched a thousand ships

Got a kick out of D.'s blog post for today.

Oh, to be in Greece where the gods walked!

What's in name

Worldcat Identities provides summary information about every name indexed in Worldcat (authors, people, groups, etc.). Look up the name of someone, and you'll see a list of works written by and about him/her/them/it, as well as information about what other names are associated with them, how their names are translated into othe languages, and all the subject headings associated with them. It's fascinating in a way.

Some examples:

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln (Spirit)
Madeleine L'Engle

Sunday, May 10, 2009

For the mothers

Happy mother's day to my mother, whose love and patience continue to amaze me even today.

Happy mother's day to my mother-in-law, whose warm heart envelopes everyone around her.

Sorry for the Hallmark expressions, but sometimes those are the best.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

It's so common

Why Common Grounds was so attractive to us when we were in college:

"At the height of their popularity, the coffeehouses of 19th-century Vienna, Warsaw, or Budapest were famously frequented by people who didn't live in particularly lush apartments and therefore preferred to spend their time in rooms decorated like the salons of the upper classes. Hence the association of coffeehouses with poets, literati, revolutionaries, and other assorted riffraff. Hence the attraction for students today."--Anne Appalbaum (read more here)

There was a sort of allure about that coffeehouse when we first started going. It began with the directions: "Get lost, and when you see Kinko's, you'll know it's nearby." Then it continued with the wonderful coffee and the cozy atmosphere, and the loads of artsy students from the huge university in town (quite different from our tiny hamlet outside the city). And I met my husband there.

The mystique didn't last: it became as comfortable as a pair of sneakers.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Stories that included gathering dandelions for salad and ants for protein

When I was little, I wrote stories. They were usually adventure stories, long and drawn out accounts of kids trapped in the wilderness, usually being pursued by criminals or madmen. Not surprisingly, the main protagonists looked and acted a lot like me and my two best friends (also my cousins). We (oops, I meant they) were resourceful and brave in the face of danger, clear-headed and cool when it was time to make life-or-death decisions. Of course, the stories weren't complete without a cute boy or two.

The usual backdrop for these stories was the death of the parents of one of the protagonists (me), which meant she had to go live with her two cousins (my cousins), and thus the adventures could begin.

My mother would always ask me, half-jokingly, why her parents had to die. I didn't have an answer at the time, except to roll my eyes and retort, "It's just make-believe, Mom!"

Here's an article from the Guardian: "Ryan Gibley on the importance of taking kids to scary movies," which says "while children require the stability of a caring parental environment, they need also to fantasise about losing or destroying it." Experiencing the fear of such an event actually occurring is essential to their emotional development.

So there you go, Mom. I was maturing my emotions while writing those silly stories.