Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Wow, I really meant to post sooner than this, but my parents were visiting, and we were otherwise occupied. But I could almost post the same thing I did last time. Garden? Still nothing planted, and it's looking grim. Not really--I really will dump some basil seeds in a pot with soil. And some catnip seeds outside. Simple Knitted Bodice? I did finish the Neverending Sleeve, but I have two arms, so I'm currently knitting another Neverending Sleeve. Blech. I have till Monday to finish this for March. We'll see. I still don't think this will fit me. Can someone please extol the virtues of blocking and assure me that a Malabrigo sweater can grow with it? If not, the next blog contest will involve an SKB as a prize. Writing? Argh. This is the really frustrating one. There's virtually no way I will make my March goal of rewrites of the first two chapters. Lilah's sleeping has actually gotten WORSE, which I didn't think was possible. She's been waking up every 2-3 hours every night.

The other fun thing is that Matt's beloved Mustang died a tragic death three weeks ago. While my parents were visiting, they had a rental car, so it was fine, and then a really nice coworker of his who had just bought a new car let him borrow her old car. That conked out yesterday so Matt didn't get home until after I'd put Lilah to bed, and now we have one car again. This is frustrating because a year ago, we barely needed one car. We drove it to the grocery store once a week, and that was usually it. Matt took the bus to work, we walked to restaurants and the farmer's market, and when I was working, I walked to work. And now Matt commutes and we live outside the city so we have to drive everywhere, and we have to have two cars. And Matt and I are both horrible at decision-making (which really calls the accuracy of astrology into question--I'm a wishy-washy Pisces, sure, but Matt isn't), and there are 14 million different cars out there and we have no idea what to get. Ugh. Okay, I'll try to stop whining. But no promises. I'm not the kind of person who adores car shopping, and I'm tired.

Knitting: Well, I covered that. I finished the first sleeve on SKB, and I've started the second. It'll be exciting to see if I make it by the end of the month. I watched the Nancy Drew movie on DVD, which got me through sleeve #1. I really thought this was a cute movie. I loved Nancy Drew as a kid, and I thought the movie was fairly true to the spirit of the books. I got Enchanted for my birthday, so maybe that'll help me with sleeve #2.

Reading: Man Walks Into A Room by Nicole Krauss: I really wanted this to be a five-star review, and if I had stopped around page 75, it would have been. Krauss is a fantastic writer, and there are passages of achingly beautiful prose that highlight the potential that is never realized in this, her first novel. But Man Walks Into A Room is too scattered and wanders off on too many tangents. The book begins with a memory seemingly unrelated to any of the characters we meet for those first 75 pages, and this was annoying, but I was sucked into the gentle exploration of Samson, who is found wandering in the desert, all memories since the age of 12 obliterated by a tumor. He does not recognize his wife, Anna, and Krauss explores her reaction to Samson's condition in a peripheral kind of way. The story up to this point is fascinating and beautifully written. Then Krauss veers off onto a science-fictiony tangent that the framework just can't support. I tolerated this for a while, but by 125 or so pages, I was irritated and cranky and wanting the story to be over, but the opening had been so promising that I felt compelled to keep reading to see if she redeemed herself. Nope. After the science fictiony bit is finally blissfully over, we go into this other part in which Samson connects with a teenager and then his senile uncle in sort of obvious, yet obscure, ways. And the ending just fizzled out. This could have been a really amazing book, but Krauss was too ambitious in her scope and the story suffered for it. Ultimately, I don't recommend this book, but I do want to read her second novel, The History of Love, in the hopes that she reaches her potential there.

So, I read Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris, which is headed to the semifinals in the Tournament of Books. It was fantastic. Seriously, one of the best books I've read in a long time. It's extremely funny, with a unique voice (the corporate "we") that manages to explore group dynamics without losing the individuality of the group members. Who doesn't love a book with the awesome first line, "We were fractious and overpaid."? Excellent stuff. There is a lot of funny here as Ferris explores the contradictions, excess, and search for meaning in an ad agency just as the dot-com bubble bursts. The group dynamics shift and change as layoffs loom over the entire office and the employees wonder whether or not their boss has cancer. This would have been a fantastic bit of office humor, but Ferris goes deeper than Office Space for insights into finding meaning in one's life, how to face death, and how we break when pushed too hard. Brilliant, amazing, fantastic first novel, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

I'm taking a break with more Jane Jeffry mysteries. The one I just finished, Groom With A View, was really, really fun. It took place at a wedding in a hunting lodge. Jane is planning the wedding, and that was funny, along with an entertaining mystery.

Writing: Unfortunately, I've said all there is to say about it. But if I miss my March deadline, I'll just revise a deadline for April, because the alternative is just giving up on writing until Lilah is in school or something, and I really don't want to do that.

Cooking: I've been cooking quite a bit. I had a meeting at my house of our playground committee, and I used the infusion of people as an excuse to make cinnamon rolls. My preferred recipe is Mrs. Hoggendobber's Orange Cinnamon Buns from Sneaky Pie's Cookbook for Mystery Lovers, a really cute little cookbook/collection of anecdotes authored by Rita Mae Brown's tabby co-writer of her mystery series. If this sounds so cutesy as to be vomit-inducing for you, I'd skip the Sneaky Pie mysteries and the cookbook, but I personally love them, and I quite like this book, which I bought entirely for the aforementioned recipe for baked goods that are referenced several times in the early novels and always made my mouth water. They are absolutely delicious and worth the trouble to make.

I've also been making Heidi Swanson recipes, this time from her website, 101 Cookbooks. Lilah and I love her recipe for split pea soup, which we make with yellow split peas. Simple and delicious. We've been having it for lunch. I've also been on a quinoa kick, and made Quinoa With Grilled Zucchini. The dressing is to die for, and I could eat it with a spoon. The recipe, unless you have the quinoa and hard-boiled eggs on hand, is fairly involved. I didn't, so the items I had to wash included: pot for cooking quinoa, pot for cooking eggs, bowl to toss it in, bowl to make the dressing, thingy to squeeze out lime juice, cutting board and knife, Foreman grill for cooking zucchini, pan to toast pine nuts. I sprayed the zucchini with olive oil spray before placing on the grill, or I would have had a bowl for tossing the zucchini and oil to clean as well. And it turns out, after all this, I'm not a fan of quinoa salads. The texture doesn't work for me and the quinoa, unlike pasta or rice, doesn't absorb the dressing, but rather sits in it, which I don't care for. I wish I'd tossed the hot quinoa with a little pesto, goat cheese, and the zucchini and left it at that. The egg recipe also didn't get them as cooked as I'd like (the yolks were set, but very, very yellow) and the shells stuck to the eggs like the dickens, so I had to pry off tiny bits of eggshell. Ugh. Anyway, I love Heidi's site and her cookbook, so I'll keep trying. This one just wasn't to my taste. She has a lemon-scented quinoa salad that seems less salad-y (and much less involved) that I think I'll try next. I also want to make her healthier artichoke dip.


Holly said...

Oh my gosh! Good luck with the car shopping! We just finished that journey. I went into it thinking it would be fun. But after a week or two of indecision, and Andrew and I not being able to agree, I decided car shopping wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Hmm...maybe a Prius since Matt has to commute? Or something a little roomier for when you guys give Lilah a little brother or sister. Hee hee. :-)

I thought Enchanted was a cute movie. I took the girls to it and all three of us enjoyed it.

YarnThrower said...

Sorry to hear of your vehicle woes! Car shopping is never my favorite thing, either, though would be even less fun if it was urgent because of exiting car breakdowns! Good luck with all of that! Madison is great with the convenience of public transportation!

Good luck, also, with the rest of your sweater. You might be surprised when you try it on. Negative ease seems to be all the rage these days, too, though I've never worked with that yarn...

String Bean said...

Oh no! Not the Mustang! Get a Fit. What a fun little car. :D

I saw Enchanted. It was alright. Really cutesy and a little corny, but mildly amusing, too. I don't think I'd watch it again.

There's a book called Another Day in the Frontal Lobe by Katrina Firlik. It's told by a neurosurgeon and is very interesting. She even manages to be funny, but not as funny as Mary Roach in Stiff (about cadavers in the "afterlife"). Both of those books are very good. Both non-fiction.

Knittypants said...

I hope you guys find the perfect car, and I hope you can get a bit more sleep soon. It's so hard to get things done when you're chronically tired.

My fingers are crossed that the sweater will fit perfectly.

Stefaneener said...

I thought I'd already commented on this, before you wandered over my way. Those sleep years are hard. Hard, hard, hard. No good help there, just that you survive and it gets much much better.

It will be good to know how that sweater blocks out.

Homeschooling is an interesting choice. It's been good for us, on the main, but it's not the only choice.