Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Bah-Humbug List

In the sprirt of my favorite middle school research project of the year (7th graders read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and host a Fezziwig Party at the end of the unit), I offer my Scrooge inspired Bah-Humbug list. I'm not feeling very much like it's the Holiday Season this year...
  • It was 58 degrees in my office at work for three days running. Don't get me wrong, 58 degrees is great. But not on negative degree days without windchill. Seriously people. At least I know what to get some of my co-workers--snuggies. In school colors, of course. Perhaps, embroidered even?
  • Driving on the morning of the first snow in MN. Aren't we supposed to know how to drive?
  • 12.5 month olds who throw temper tantrums because they don't get their way (especially at the evening meal). This is getting old fast. Anyone have any tips? Tantrum-y child, one. Mom and Dad, zero.
  • Tacky Christmas songs. Like "Jingle Bell Rock" or "I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus." Again, seriously people. (Of course, don't misunderstand me. John Denver and the Muppets and the Carpenter's Christmas are two of my favorites, but on the all Christmas radio station I'd like to hear something with substance. Or at least Kermit.
  • Remembering gift ideas for yourself that you've thought of at least 30 times in the last year AFTER you've given your family ideas and it's really just too late.
  • Forgetting the book you are reading at your parents and it will be three weeks until you get it back. (While the world won't end for this one, it is disappointing. And I'm too cheap to buy another copy.)
  • Numerous attempts over the last month for a family Christmas photo. No dice. Screaming child or wiggly child, two. Mom and Dad, zero.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Jane Austen Cooks (Everything Austen Challenge!)

As part of the Everything Austen Challenge, I said I'd find these JA cookbooks and read them/make something. Ok, so I actually read all three when I meant to only find one of them and make something. But I didn't make anything. Yet. (I did make a few photo copies and intend to make something when my bookclub does a tea party midwinter...) So does that mean I can cross them off of my EAC list? To me, it does. Check mark, please, dear Jane.

Thus, without further ado...

Feasting With Fiction: Cooking with Jane Austen by Kirstin Olson
2005, Greenwood Press, 414 pgs.

Organized by type of food (beef and veal, mutton and lamb, pork, poultry, game, seafood, egg and dairy, vegetables, fruits, nuts and fruit desserts, bead and porridge, pastries and sweets, soups, stews and curries, sauces and spices, beverages. It ends with sample menus from Jane's books (or as close as we can come to a sample menu). Offers great insight into the preparation of food of the time and offers quotes from Jane's various works before some recipes. I did appreciate the index, "What's with all the butter?," however. :) Mmmm, butter.

Downside: The font. Um, hello Mr. or Ms. Editor? Did you think this font (unknown, but here's a sample image.) would be easy to read? At first glance it appears normal, but after trying to read most of this cookbook, I had sore eyes. The modern recipes are also in smaller font, making it even harder to read and then in turn, make. Sigh. Who thought this font for a book--a reference book no less, would be a good idea.

The Jane Austen Cookbook by Maggie Black and Deirdre Le Faye.
Chicago Review Press, 1995, 128 pgs.

Organized more by occasion than by type of food (think 'Family Favorites' or 'Assemblies & Suppers,' not pork or beverages). The introductions are quite good--Social and Domestic Life in JA's time, The Novels & the Letters and Martha Lloyd and her Recipe Book. It's a pretty simple cookbook. The introductions offer insight into food in Jane's time and the recipes are simple originals followed by modern versions.

I found this cookbook to be much more accessible than Cooking with Jane Austen. Maybe I am a purist in this sense. The use of Martha Lloyd's cookbook feels right and pure. (Note: ML was a family friend who lived with Jane and family at Chawton Cottage, and later married one of JA's brothers). If I am going to cook from Jane's time, it's going to be a recipe she might have mentioned in one of her letters or one that she might have actually eaten (the authors note that JA mentions most recipes or dishes from ML's cookbook). So I choose these recipes rather than ones from popular cookbooks from Jane's time. While the author's do supplement recipes to fill in some gaps in order to complete a meal menu, the majority of recipes come from ML's cookbook or also Mrs. Philip Lybbe Powys (Austen family friend, whose recipe book now resides in the British library) and I like that.

And did I mention that the font is legible? Hmmmm...

Tea with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson
Jones Books, 2004, 108 pgs.

Tea with Jane Austen is more of a regular non-fiction read, than a cookbook read. Author Kim Wilson does a good job of explaining the ins and outs of tea and tea drinking during Jane's lifetime. There are a few recipes in each chapter, but essentially this book is just a nice read about tea. I learned some--a solid explanation of breakfast, supper, dinner and tea times during JA's life and how it changed during her lifetime, too. And relearned some (remembered?)--tea smuggling was big, tea was expensive, beware of smuggled tea or tea that you didn't quite know where it came from which is why Jane and family bought from Twinings directly (when in London/if possible). Again, this book was accessible and enjoyable. Especially with a cup of tea. Sigh...

As a side note on the EAC: It has become clear to me that I have 2 books to read in about a month. I'm not sure if I am manage these 2 tasks with the holidays fast approach. I have done at least 6 (if not more, mind you) Austenesque things since this challenge began, but not necessarily the ones on my list. Again, sigh. C'est le Vie.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Jane Around Town

Here are some great links I can't help but share, discovered from some of the great Jane blogs that I read.

Regarding Zombies:
  • An article from United Airlines inflight magazine, Hemispheres. Quoting one of the authors of a blog I read. :) Here's a link to said person's blog and her quip on the article, too. Image to the right if from the article, I think it's pretty schnazzy. :)
  • Just announced: Dawn of the Dreadfuls. A prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Here is what publisher Quirk has to say about it: "In this terrifying and hilarious prequel, we witness the genesis of the zombie plague in early-nineteenth century England. We watch Elizabeth Bennet evolve from a naïve young teenager into a savage slayer of the undead. We laugh as she begins her first clumsy training with nunchucks and katana swords and cry when her first blush with romance goes tragically awry. Written by acclaimed novelist (and Edgar Award nominee) Steve Hockensmith, Dawn of the Dreadfuls invites Austen fans to step back into Regency England, Land of the Undead."
Non zombie related fun:
  • Ever wonder about curling your hair during Jane's day? Here's a link about paper curling.
  • I am working on reading 3 JA cookbooks right now (Yes, I am one of those who can sit down and actually read a cookbook. Reading them for the Everything Austen Challenge. More on them later.)
  • The Morgan Library's exhibit of Jane Austen letters etc. opened this weekend. Anyone going to NYC? :)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Anglophile Tea Time

Two weeks ago, my darling friend Sarah and I met for our annual birthday tea. Each fall we celebrate our birthdays (July and September) with a full several course tea at one of the local tea rooms. Sarah is my fellow anglophile from college. Besides being in band (Go Clarinets!) together there, we were both in England at the same time on various study experiences. We met up in Oxford and had, of course,....pizza! (We now lament that we did not have proper tea together in England, but alas---C'est la vie.)

This year we had afternoon tea at The Mad Hatter in the fair city of Anoka, MN. It was a delightful afternoon, the company and conversation wonderful and very relaxing.

Tea, with cream.

Creamy Wild Rice Soup.

Tea Sandwiches with Fruit: Egg Salad, Cucumber,Turkey Croissant with something Tomato and Chicken Salad with Apple Butter on Cinnamon Bread.

Dessert Tray: Orange-Cranberry Scones served with Clotted Cream, Preserves & Lemon Curd, Chocolate Brownies, Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Lime Tarts.

Smiles all around.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Miss Austen Regrets (Everything Austen Challenge 3)

I finally had a chance to watch my taped copy of Miss Austen Regrets, which I'd faithfully taped during the 2008 Masterpiece season of the complete Jane Austen. But somehow I'd forgotten that I didn't get a chance to watch it, and it ended up hidden in the depths of our entertainment center. To watch the movie, I had to dig out an older VCR from a closet in the basement and get it set up. I'd attempted to watch it sometime in August, but had to stop (kiddo waking up from a nap?). So finally, when I was home with said sick kiddo a week ago, I took the time to enjoy a nice mug of hot apple cider and watch Miss Austen Regrets.

Loved Olivia Williams as Jane and Hugh Bonneville as Rev. Bridges. Loved them. Did not like Imogen Poots as Fanny, however. If you ask me, she has the most distracting smirk ever! Likewise, Fanny came across as a very selfish girl. But perhaps she was when you think about her age and Jane's age etc. It was an interesting plot, to take the premise that Jane regretted not marrying and to show the consequence of that decision. Interesting, but it left me sad in a way that Becoming Jane did not. I haven't yet figure out how to explain that feeling. Becoming Jane's ending felt bittersweet and left me crying. Somehow there was no blame placed on her in that movie or that wasn't the point of Becoming Jane. Miss Austen Regrets left me sad and annoyed. Annoyed that Mrs. Austen was so spiteful and blamed Jane for their economic ruin, sad that Jane felt so pressured to marry and that she felt guilty at the end of her life for not marrying, but also annoyed that she was made to feel that way. Both movies have merit in showing different points in Jane's life, and maybe it's good to feel annoyed and mad that she (and other women) felt that they had no other choice than to marry.

I did like the imagery of Jane walking through the country fields like this picture from the movie shows. It accurately portrays what I think of when I think of Dear Jane taking long walks across fields near Steventon and Chawton Cottage.

Things I Wanted To Blog About At the Time

Things I Wanted To Blog About At the Time: A Collection by BB.

These blog entries were written in full, usually in my car whilst driving to and fro from said place of employment quite eloquently in my head. (Really, I need to get a voice recorder, because I write sooooo well in my head. So much me for writing the great American novel.)
  • Coffee Taste Tests. I participated in an online taste test of Starbucks VIA ready brew packets at Marilyn Brant's blog, Brant Flakes. Here is where I fully admit to drinking instant coffee most mornings. And here is where I fully endorse the Starbucks VIA packets. It is by far the smoothest, best tasting instant coffee I have ever tried. This from someone who isn't the biggest Starbucks fan. But should I find myself inside a store and they finally come to MN (only available in NY, Chicago etc. right now), I have a sneaky suspicion that I'd need to purchase one.
  • Lady Susan Soiree Finale. Finished participating in the online read of Dear Jane's Lady Susan at Austenprose. It was a delightful group conversation! And there are some great moments and quotes in LS. Here are just a few of my favorites, with this link from the Soiree of more quips and quotes.
"I take London in my way to that insupportable spot, a country village." Lady Susan, Letter 2
"Where there is a disposition to dislike, a motive will never be wanting." Lady Susan, Letter 5

"There is exquisite pleasure in subduing an insolent spirit, in making a person predetermined to dislike acknowledge one’s superiority." Lady Susan, Letter 7
"In short, when a person is always to deceive, it is impossible to be consistent." Mrs. Vernon, Letter 17
  • Grocery Shopping @ Super Target. Thinking that the party-line that T employees are told to tell guests is "Yep, I'm having trouble getting that in." Seriously. I was told that 4 times last weekend. Isn't the point of a Target run to not have to go to Cub, too? But lo and behold, the last 2 or 3 times I've attempted to grocery shop at Target, I've had to go to Cub, too bc T was out of things I needed (and needed that day, mind you!). One word: Nrrrrrrr.
  • Finally did another Everything Austen Thing. Planning on posting about it later. YAY! (Ok, there have been lots of Austen things in my life, but this was one from my official list.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A September Lament

It's official. I am behind in blogging. To who or whom am I behind to other than myself, is unknown and inconsequential. However, I had topics I wanted to blog about. Really and truly. And then September happened. It happens every year. September is such a lovely month. And every year I pretty much miss it. Could the school year start in say August or October? (No, I like October a lot, too.) Let's try November. Every year, I think to myself, "I am not going to miss fall. I am not going to miss fall." And then, well, I do.

I am also behind in my blog reading. I just read a friend's blog and WHOA! she wrote what I was going to write about September! (And much more eloquently, mind you.) September is survival mode for educators. We miss much of fall because we're too stressed/sucked into overload/overdrive/exhausted to partake in the wonderful month of September in our 'real' lives.

So as I sit in a quiet house, with a napping sick daughter, I lament the loss of September. I lament missing the leaves start turn. The crisp fall walks I long to take. The trips to the orchard to buy crazy multitudes of apple products, pumpkins and gourds. Really, there is still a month left of fall to enjoy most of these things, but it seems like I've missed out on something big. Again, I lament you, dear September.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Having survived the first day of school, I am already dreaming of getaways. Thanks to the ladies at Austenprose for mentioning this one. Can someone say 3 day weekend in NYC--The Morgan Library and Museum, a Bway musical and kicking around Manhattan? (Of course, I'd have to get on a plane...hmmm, I'll just admire the lone image online. Sigh/Gulp.)

The Morgan Library and Museum upcoming exhibit: A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy from November 6, 2009 to March 14, 2010.
A bit from the description of the exhibit: "The Morgan's collection of Austen manuscripts and letters is the largest of any institution in the world and includes the darkly satiric Lady Susan, the only surviving complete manuscript of any of Austen's novels." Click on the link above to read more about it.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Soirée with Lady Susan

This week and next I am participating in A Soirée with Lady Susan at AustenProse. The soiree divides Lady Susan up into four segments, and those partcipating are reading and blogging about it.

For the event, I splurged with some birthday funds and purchased a print copy of Lady Susan since I didn't own one already. (While Austenprose offered some options for online reading and audio versions, I am a print nerd. What can I say?) I was so sure that I'd read it before, but after starting it I am an ashamed Janeite! I have no recollection of reading LS before.

Austenprose touts LS as "Jane Austen’s delightfully wicked novella." Written in epistlatory form, LS is delightfully wicked; nothing like other Austen works or main characters and intriguing because of that fact. One can't get enough of Lady Susan. It’s hard not to like her or want to understand her. If I can feel that way about her, it is no wonder that so many of the other characters in LS feel the same way. She has this way of captivating her audience that makes her such an intriguing villainess.

Questions from letters 1-11: What is she up to? Who is she after? Can the reader believe anything they read from Lady Susan? Does she really mean what she says about her own daughter? Is she really that callous? Is she just a coquette or a woman full of more artful wiles? What kind of woman is Alicia Johnson, Lady Susan's confidante?

Stay tuned for more Lady Susan and her delightfully wicked ways.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters Giveaway

I admit, I've been skeptical of Quirk's latest JA mashup, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. P&P & Zombies was fun, but S&S & Sea Monsters seems a bit much, perhaps too much.

Readers will have to decide for themselves. Here's your opportunity--Stephanie over at Stephanie's Written Word (Everything Austen Challenge) is giving away several arc copies. Try to win one of them here.

Lady Susan Manuscript on Display

Janeite Alert Having To Do With Lady Susan:

If you would like to gaze upon Jane Austen’s manuscript of Lady Susan, don’t miss the new exhibit at The Morgan Library in New York, A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy opening on November 6, 2009 through March 14, 2010.

If anyone plans a trip to NYC and goes, you have to let me know!

Summer's End

This picture of L is a few weeks old, but I wondered at the time if it was significant. Does it mean that L already thinks that of her far off futurist first teacher? Or is she trying to tell me something that either she or my students think of me? Was she just trying to prepare me for "School Mode?" Or does she just like to eat paper? (Hint: Choose door #4.)

So with this picture, I offer a week of several highs and lows.

We've officially jumped into "school mode," which is to be said in some deep, dark voice like a TV voice over. "School mode" means back to reality and with it some not so pleasant facts.

  • Momma gets less L time. Significantly. This momma relishes summer and the blessing that it is to be home for a glorious 2.5 months (let's not call 3, because folks, it isn't.). This harsh reality check was capped by Tuesday's brutal 13 hour day. Full of back to schoolish types of meetings, reminding us teachers to do the same things we always do because we're professionals, but somehow making us feel slightly less than the professional we are. More meetings, work time in classrooms--which for me is like being in a fun house or maybe a tilt-a-whirl. Start one thing, get into focus, SLAM! The car moves and someone interrupts for a different task, no time to finish that task because---SLAM! you are being flagged down by passing staff members. (Dang library with no walls!) And all the while people keep asking, so how's the unpacking coming? So it's no wonder that after saying good by at 7am and getting home at 8pm, I just started to cry as I gave my daughter a smooch goodnight as she slept in her crib. I had to just sit and listen to her breathe and watch her finger her green stuffed dog as she slept.
  • There is less sleep happening for all members of our family. It stinks, thus says the person who is a real grump when she doesn't get enough sleep.
The week did have some highs thrown in for good measure.

  • L likes daycare. She's going to be one of those kids who cries when it's time to leave. Socializing is good for her. At least I just keep telling myself that...
  • I have only been able to read a cookbook before passing out each night. But the cookbook is promising. Desperation! Dinners: Home-Cooked Meals for Frantic Families in 20 minutes Flat by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. I have so many recipes post-it-ed that I am contemplating just buying the book to save in copying costs. Seriously.
  • We're still in BB doesn't have to "do" her hair for work yet. I love the August humidity. I can leave the house with wet hair and it's ok because everyone else has frizzy hair, too. Now if only this time saver could fly in January amidst 30 degrees below zero.
Sigh. Goodbye Summer.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An Anglophile Reminisces

One of my summer projects was to get some of my old negatives put onto CD's and thus begin the digitization of some great photos. Ok, and who can resist the great megastore Costco and it's cheap photo lab!? I started with my first British adventure. England, Scotland and a bit of Wales with my parents in July 1996. (Don't worry, Mom and Dad, no people photos here. You're safe!)

And so, on this rainy August day, this Anglophile reminisces about various points in Great Britain.
The main bath from the Roman Baths in Bath, England. (Was the word bath ever used in a sentence more frequently?) A grey drizzly day, we wandered around with our self guided tour and enjoyed the Roman baths and the city. Remember the Royal Crescent (which I don't have a picture of, so that must not have been my film.)? Remember the excitement that Jane would have seen it and she would have walked those streets? Ahhh, the beginnings of the Jane fix sets in.

Scott's View--Sir Walter Scott's favorite view of the Eildon Hills from Bemersyde. It is said that the horse pulling Scott's hearse to internment stopped at this spot as it usually did on its daily rambles with its master. Sigh. I had this photo framed for many years.

The Thames, Parliament and Big Ben. Need I say more?

And Tintern Abby in Wales. We did one of those brief, "Let's take this road and then you can say you've been in Wales" journeys on our tour. We stopped at the beautiful and peaceful abbey that Wordsworth wrote his poem, Lines Composed A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a tour, July 13, 1798.

And now for a spot of tea and a biscuit...

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Lure of the Farmer's Market

Earlier this summer I wrote a post titled "The Sweet Smell of Summer" and I think I could title this one the same as well. L and I ventured to the farmer's market on Tuesday for what will probably be our last time of the summer. (Sigh. But I am excited that next summer she will hopefully be able to help me pick things out!)

I went with no particular agenda--just wanting to go and see what looked good. Having just been to the store, there was nothing we needed. As usual that darn farmer's market lured me in. First, it starts with a visual feast of various colors, Green peppers, yellow-green hot banana peppers, sweet banana peppers, purple (?!?) peppers--kid you not!, white onions, green onions, purplely red onions, bright red tomatoes, purple eggplants, cucumbers and zucchini a plenty. I swear, the colors alone make me want to buy and prepare things I (we) never prepare or eat. (Anyone remember the last time I purchased an eggplant? Uh, never.) Next summer, I'll take pictures of the veggies and their colors.

But what gets me every visit are the smells. This visit, from two stalls away the basil did it. I could smell the rich, bold basil and was sunk. For $1.00 I purchased the cluster of basil in the above picture! That's right--for at least three times less than the store and at least three times more basil! Just recently holding my impromptu purchase, my mind quickly ticked away what we could possibly make with that much basil. And then the same vendor's tomatoes caught my eye. The lightbulb turned on and I pushed the stroller down to the local artisan bread maker. Ah yes, Parmesan-garlic French bread for bruschetta...

I'd meant to take a picture of the finished product, but remembered after we'd had our meal of bruschetta and melon. Cest la vie. Of course, there is still more basil to go. So far I've given some to a friend, made pizza Margherita, and put it in salad and we're still trucking along. I think we'll have to make another pizza and dry some of it. It's like manna from heaven. It just keeps multiplying or so it feels. Darn that farmer's market!

The Matters At Mansfield (Or, the Crawford Affair by Carrie Bebris

So, having just finished Mansfield Park Revisited, I decided to stay on the MP kick and the the fourth Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mystery by Carrie Bebris--The Matters at Mansfield (Or, the Crawford Affair). Which was all fine and dandy until I was about a chapter in, hooked, and realized I've read books 1 and 2, but not 3. So apparently, I'm a bit behind as the characters are talking about things I didn't remember occurring. Oh well. My guess is that I wouldn't have remembered even if I had read book 3.

Plot description: Lady Catherine is set to marry off Anne de Burgh to a wealthy gentleman who has the personality of a pit bull. Unbeknown to anyone, Anne runs off with, yes Henry Crawford (who she met in Bath during the previous book's time while Lady Catherine was at Pemberley). Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam chase after Anne and Henry to Gretna Green to bring them back to her family, but along the way the weather holds them up in a small village--Mansfield. No one there is happy to see Mr. Crawford. And then Lady Catherine and Elizabeth arrive and so does Henry's other wife and then there's a murder. And it's all very Murder She Wrote-esque with D & E solving the crime with no help of today's forensic science wonders. :)

Overall, I was pretty entertained by this book. I vaguely remember the other two and know I liked the first one but wasn't thrilled with the second. Bebris gets Lady Catherine dead on--and D & E's sense of dread of Lady Catherine is priceless--both think they are going to die at the card table with her at several points. While not something Jane would have actually written, the witty sentiments expressed by the two could have come from Jane's pen. So, while a bit outlandish and silly, it was entertaining and anything that ends in a duel wins the excitement award.

3 Bonnets out of 5.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

First Fruits

One of the readings from church sometime last month:

2 Kings 4:42-44
A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing some food form the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, 'Give it to the people and let them eat.' But his servant said, 'How can I set this bfore a hundred people?' So he repeated, 'Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, 'They shall eat and have some left.'' He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

And this was the poem that was in our bulletin. I'll let it speak for itself, Ms. Burgess says it so well. Truly beautiful.

The First Fruits by Ruth Burgess

When I bring you the first fruits
you get what you get:
you get my energy,
my imagination,
my scribbling,
my experimentation,
my dreams,
You get the raw me.

Part of me would prefer to bring you
the finished article:
the tried and tested formula,
the buffed and polished carving,
the machine that I know will work.

But that is not what you ask for;
because you want to be with me in the making,
in the messiness,
the uncertainty,
The laughter and the pain.

God of first fruits,
here I am.
Come and work with me always.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Jane Austen in Boca by Paula Marantz Cohen

DH (Dear Hubby) asked me what I was reading last night and I had to try to describe Jane Austen in Boca by Paula Marantz Cohen. How I described it: Think P&P with Jewish New Yorkers retired to Boca Raton, Florida. Widows and widowers abound scouting out new relationships amidst tennis courts, card nights, and quite a bit of chutzpah!

And how the publisher describes it (I am not feeling very eloquent in decriptions today): "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a nice Jewish widower must be in want of a wife. Jane Austen centered her classic novels around "three or four families in a country village." So does Paula Marantz Cohen in this witty twist on Pride and Prejudice---except this time the "village" is Boca Raton, Florida. Eligible men are scarce in Boca. When good-hearted meddler Carol Newman learns that the wealthy and personable Norman Grafstein has lost his wife, she resolves to marry him off to her lonely mother-in-law, May. Even May's sharp-tongued friend Flo approves of Norman---although Norman's best friend Stan, a cynical professor, keeps getting under Flo's skin. Will May and Norman eventually find happiness? Will Flo succumb to the charms of the suavely cosmopolitan Mel Shirmer? Misunderstandings abound until love conquers both pride and prejudice in this perceptive, engaging comedy of manners."

Boca was a hoot! And friends, unlike my last read, it took me 2 days to read. So, truly, this one was entertaining. I loved the insertion of Jewish culture and comedy into the plot of P&P. It was laugh out loud funny at times. Not the most literary of books, but a fun summer beach/porch read.

I'd give this one 4 bonnets out of 5 bonnets (while no period costumes, the shopping trip descriptions make up for it in laugh out loud wit).

Mansfield Park Revisited (Everthing Austen Challenge 2)

Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment by Joan Aiken.

This book was my second Everything Austen Challenge. Originally published in 1985 by Doubleday, this novel was republished last year by Sourcebooks Landmark. (Everyone's favorite JA sequel publishing house.) As a side note: Yes it's the Joan Aiken. Prolific writer, author of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase etc. for kids...And as another side note: I swear I have read another of Joan's Austen books as there are several. But I've gone through all of the titles and can't figure it out. The only thing that I can figure is that Sourcebooks has used the phrase "A Jane Austen Entertainment" as the title of another of their books because I know that was in the title of a book I read at some point....Hmmm.

Back to the book--Here's a quick description:
It's set where the original MP ends, Fanny's dear sister, Susan comes to take her place as Lady Bertram's new companion. Sir Tom dies in Antigua, Edmund and Fanny must go there to settle some business affairs as the new Sir Tom must stay to manage the estate etc. Who should appear just after Edmund and Fanny depart, but Mary Ormiston, nee Crawford, who is deathly ill and just wants to come to Mansfield to get some fresh country air and hopes to see her good friends. Add a meddling Mrs. Yates (Julia Bertram), the devilish Henry Crawford and the quaint parson and his sister who take Edmund and Fanny's places and there you have it.

Even with the best intentions this book should not have taken as long to read as it did. It's a mere 201 pages and I swear it took me two weeks to read. (While I just read one book this weekend.) That being said and admitted, I think it speaks volumes as to how entertaining this "entertainment" truly was. Sigh. Joan Aiken you are usually great. But I have to argue the value of entertainment here. There was no Fanny. And while you did justice to Susan's character and got Lady Bertram spot on, I was disappointed. Mary Crawford is dying some mysterious illness and she is all sweet and sugary.

(Insert screech of tires here.) What? Hold the phone, please. Now, I fully admit it's been awhile since I read MP, but sweet and sugary? Syrupy, maybe, but only to where it would suit her purpose. I just couldn't buy into the fact that Miss Crawford was so nice (and dare I say, genuine?) to Susan. In fact, they became fast friends. While the rest of the story was a bit entertaining (Julia trying to marry Tom off to her sister-in-law and ensuing fiascoes that arise etc.), this one character flaw made it so I was irked the whole reading. Every time she appeared on page, I felt a little twitch start up. It just did not work for me. I guess I need to reread MP and see if my interpretation of Mary Crawford is the same as it once was or if I'm completely off on this one.

I hate to say it, but 1 Bonnet out of 5: Listening to Mr. Collins read Fordyce's Sermons is better.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Excuse me, but is that a drapery you're wearing?

The other night I just couldn't take it anymore. We've been without a VCR player for quite a while and I wanted to watch the 1995 Persuasion which is, of course, on VHS. So, I went digging in the basement and dug out a VCR that had been hiding in a closet and hooked it up and set about to watching P whilst puttering about the living room.

I've seen it so many times. And know so many of the lines by heart. But I looked up at the right time this time. And maybe it's because we graduated from my college dorm room TV at 13 inches to a "big kid" flat screen TV (27 inches or something) that I noticed it.

Is Sir Walter Elliot wearing a drape or is it just me?
I had to do a little internet digging to find a picture of it, but here it is. Take a look, folks, and get back to me. I think he's part of the draperies. Only Sir Walter would try to show his finery by matching the drapes. Oh, Good Sir, weren't you supposed to retrench when you went to Bath? Personally, I blame Lady Dalrymple.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Harry Potter and Jane Austen? Yep.

Sigh. He's coming. Can you feel him? The Dark Lord ascends. Ok, well, not quite yet, but after seeing the Half-Blood prince last weekend, I feel a foreboding sense of darkness blanketing Harry and the gang.

All summer the one movie I wanted to see was HP & the Half-Blood Prince. It was the one outing I anxious looked forward to, especially because it came out in theatres on my birthday. But then there was an unexpected camping trip to the BWCA for my partner in crime and HP had to be postponed. I was ok with that as long as we got to go.

Ah, and it was worth it. The expensive meal in downtown Mpls (to celebrate an anniversary, not to celebrate HP), then going to the local theatre all dolled up. Yep, it was all worth it. I'd read a review that called this HP movie "artsy" and I like that. It's been interesting watching the movies as they ebb and flow with the tides of directors & screenwriters coming and going. (1. Chris Columbus/Steve Kloves, 2. Chris Columbus/Steve Kloves, 3. Alfonso Cuarón/Steve Kloves, 4. Mike Newell/Steve Kloves, 5. David Yates/Michael Goldenberg & 6. Daivd Yates/Steve Kloves.) Each one has its own sense of something--be it awe, wonder, intrigue, foreboding and that works for me. They don't have to be just like the books, but I do think they do a good job on their own of telling the HP story.

A bits were added here and there (fire at The Burrow, the inferi scene), but all were done to tell part of the story that couldn't be fit into the final cut of the movie. (IE: The Burrow = muggle attacks throughout the book?) I loved the black inky smoke that arose from the pensieve and was also used for credits. Portraying the budding romances of H&G and R&H was done well. Sigh.

But friends, what has this to do with Dear Jane Austen? Oh, read on. There's always something.

I just happened to glance at the Sunday newspaper as the movie came out and what did they liken HP to? That's right folks--Pride and Prejudice. The article actually quoted John Granger, a Potter scholar. So I did some digging and found the actual artcle. "Harry Potter and the Ivory Tower: A Poster Scholar Puts J.K. Rowling's series on a shelf with Stoke, Chaucer, Austen and other Great Book Authors" can be found here.

Here's a small excerpt about its likeness to P&P:
Just as the key to Darcy and Elizabeth’s engagement in Pride and Prejudice was Darcy seeing past his pride and Elizabeth overcoming her prejudice, Harry’s victory over Lord Voldemort must come through love and after the revelation of an unexpected back to a revered or reviled front. Harry, like Darcy and Elizabeth, however, had to transcend his pride as a Gryffindor and free himself of his “old prejudice” against Slytherins.
Earlier in the article, Granger also discusses pride and I liked his thoughts. I'd never thought of this before. "Capital, capital," as Mr. Lucas would say.
We have, of course, the constant of “proper wizard pride” by which all nonmagical people, indeed, even magical brethren who are not “pure-blood” witches and wizards, are held in disdain. The Muggles we meet too hate the abnormality of the people living in Harry’s world. The poor, the clumsy, the awkward, the stupid, the ugly, and the unpopular at Hogwarts are also shown to have a hard time. Even the “nearly headless” ghost is a second-class citizen among the properly “headless” ghosts and prevented from participating in the annual Headless Hunt.
It is a fun article and worth a read for all Potter fans as well as Austen fans. :)

Where the Wild Things Are

I had to go to B&N to purchase some books for a baby shower gift yesterday and of course I came home with more than just gifts. It's just inevitable; a trip to B&N means buying books for someone in our family. (Me, the kiddo etc...) I had small small stack of board books, gifts and personal, and then I rounded a corner shelf in the children's section and there it was. A Maurice Sendak display. And I remembered...
We don't have a copy of Where the Wild Things Are just yet. And it is, well, Where the Wild Things Are. You know, Winner of the 1964 Caldecott Medal for "Most Distinguished Picture Book of the Year," and first published by HarperCollins in 1963...While I wasn't completely enamored with this book as a child (not sure we even owned a copy), I knew it and liked it. And we'd just been to the movies where we discovered that this beloved book is going to be a movie coming out in October. And so I came home with a hardcover edition. I just had to.

See the trailer here.
(Youtube has the embedding turned off for this one and I don't have it in me to find it somewhere else.)

Really, though, what I'm excited about is that Maurice Sendak has given his blessing over this movie. And it's not a cartoon or a special effects filled action movie. It's live action, but simple from what the trailer and video below show. It just looks right.

Looks like we're going to need another babysitter...

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Memorial of Sorts

Saturday (July 18) marked the anniversary of Dear JA's death (in 1817). How fitting, then, that it also coincided with the family and I breaking out my birthday present--a Pride and Prejudice board game.

Each player is a couple (Darcy & Elizabeth, Bingley & Jane, Charlotte & Collins, and Lydia & Wickham) and one races around the board answering questions about the novel, visiting Longbourn, Meryton, Pemberley etc. and drawing Regency cards (think Chance in Monopoly--Go to Meryton to purchase lace for a new bonnet and while there collect the token if needed.) in order to collect tokens to fill your game card. Once all tokens are collected, the players race to the parish church to be the first couple there in order to win. It was a good time; I'm looking forward to playing it again, but this time as Lydia & Wickham and not Darcy & Elizabeth. HA!

Which Jane Austen Heroine Are You?

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

Thought I'd share this lovely little JA quiz I came across today.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Walk With Jane Austen (Everything Austen Challenge 1)

Lori Smith's A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love and Faith by (Waterbrook Press, 2007) is a delightful memoir of an Austen fan's journey through England's Austen landscape. Smith travels throughout England making stops in Oxford, Steventon, Chawton, London, Winchester, Lyme, Bath, Lyme Park & Chatsworth (with a few more thrown in there) where she envisions Austen's life amidst the local landscape and takes readers into her own life and emotional journey of depression and love mixed with humor.

This book is an easy and compelling read, which surprised me. Usually, I am not the biggest fan of the memoir. Just by chance, it seems I've been on a kick of them lately and so I was a bit lackluster in wanting to start this one after picking it up from the library. However, Smith's journey is empathetic and her style of writing easily flows from chapter to chapter. One bit that stuck out to me was her reflection upon Jane's close friendships with her own. There was something about the way she phrased it, I could relate to it. I think most people could relate to it at some time or another in their life. She says,
"My friendships shift with what sometimes feels like alarming frequency, sometimes painfully so, regenerating themselves like skin cells, or taste buds so that you fear that seven years from now your group of friends will not look the same as it does today. Dear people move in and out, we no long move in the same circles, or see things quite the same way. Sudden changes sometimes, other times just slowly growing in different directions. Sometimes there is no emotional distance at all, only physical separation, but always some level of grief, some question about whether there will be more who understand me or whether I will just be alone. I've heard the saying about choosing your friends, but I think most of my great friendships have just happened to me. Some are easy and fun, some are serious, some feel slightly askew between seasons of nearness (111-2)."
More than anything, though, this book made me long for England. Having been to so many of the Jane Austen sites, I could clearly envision Smith's description of the sights and how she saw them. I noticed I stopped to daydream numerous times and remember pouring rain at Lyme Park, a dark and damp Winchester cathedral--me making a B-line to Jane's tombstone, Bath--so much Austen, rain and Roman Baths, and the brief glimpse of Chawton from a tour bus, but with enough time for a photo. Sigh. (Which I'd show you, but I'd have to scan them as they are on actual film and scanning isn't a priority right now.) I have a feeling that I might have to plan my own Austenland tour for my next visit (which is now shaping up to be an extended stay in Scotland and England).

5 bonnets.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Everything Austen Challenge

Friends, there is so much Austen Fun (yes, fun with a capital F) in the blog world right now! AustenFest has concluded; it had some great author interviews and I won some coffee (no books, sadly). Now it's time for more AustenFun!

Blogger Stephanie @ Stephanie's Written Word has introduced the Everything Austen Challenge on her blog. For the next six months participants are to pick out six Austen-themed things you want to finish to complete the challenge. Those "things" can be reading a book (Austen or Austen Fanfic), watching a movie or crafting in some way shape or form. It's pretty wide open. Sign up at the blog (more details there, too) and you can win the DVD for Lost in Austen as a prize!

For twice the challenge, the ladies at AustenProse have upped the ante--if participants do 12 things Austen, not only will participants be in the running for the DVD, but also for a book from Laurel Ann's reading list of her Austen things at AustenProse. See Stephanie's entry here about the 12 things.

So here are my six things. Many of these books are in my book pile, so this is good for me. I will get them read! (I am afraid to commit to 12 for fear of not being able to meet them as my reading/movie watching/all things me time is limited these days.)
  • A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love & Faith by Lori Smith (memoir)
  • Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment by Joan Aiken
  • A Memoir of Jane Austen by James Austen-Leigh
  • 101 Things You Didn't Know About Jane Austen: The Truth About the World's Most Intriguing Literary Heroine by Patrice Hannon
  • Find a copy of the Jane Austen Cookbook by Maggie Black OR Cooking with Jane Austen by Kirsten Olsen OR Tea with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson and make something from one of them--find a recipe for scones or biscuits perhaps?
  • Watch Miss Austen Regrets, which I taped when it aired on PBS and just discovered that I never watched. (This is what happens when you rearrange your living room and have to rearrange the DVD's/VHS tapes.)
Phew! I think there might be some more fanfic on my list--I mean, I could just type all of the books I know I want to read, but it might be a bit much. Plus, there's always reading Persuasion again. Or watching both the newer BBC/PBS version and then comparing it to Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds. Hmmm....

Fun with Zombies

MPR often starts segments with bits of music to start and finish as story. Tag music, I think they call it. Today, I would play the Cranberries song, "Zombie." Imagine screeching/singing/yelling of "Zombie, zombie, zombie, b, b, b..." running through my head. I hope it's now in your head. Heh heh heh....

On our recent vacation I finished Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith.

I took this book slow and savored it like a nice, smooth cup of coffee or tea or a rich dessert. I enjoyed the book; it was just plan old fun, albeit a bit out there. Some might call it sacrilege to defile a JA work, but I think those folks are too prim & proper. They need to let go and have fun.

Let me set up the story. First, it is pretty much P&P as we know it. Mr. Grahame-Smith changes some wording and some of the story here and there, but much of it remains intact. Lizzy & the sisters Bennet are warriors that fight for the crown to defend Hertfordshire against the terrible plague of unmentionables (zombies) that swarms the land.

Cue the regular plot events in P&P (Netherfield Park is let at last, Bingley and Jane fall for one another, Darcy is a proud as ever etc.) However, slight differences occur in this version--the Netherfield kitchen staff are eaten by zombies during the Netherfield ball & Charlotte is bitten by a zombie and dies a slow death/change into one of the unmentionables that only Lizzy seems to notice.
As dinner continued in this manner, Elizabeth's eye was confinually drawn to Charlotte, who hovered over her plate, using a spoon to shovel goose meat and gravcy in the general direction of her mouth with limited success. As she did, one of the sores beneath her eye burst, sending a trickle of bloody pus dow nher cheek and into her mouth. Apparantly, seh found the added falvor aggreable, for it only increased the frequency of her spoonfuls. Elizabeth, however, could not help but vomit ever so slightly into her hankerchief (121).
Lizzy is a bit blood thirsty, showing little or no patience for her sisters and other silliness surrounding her. (She imagines beheading Lydia at one point while she prattles on about bonnets and officers.) This line from Lizzy made me laugh:
There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every zombie comfirms my belief that God has abandoned us as punishment for the evils of people such as Miss Bingley (103).
One of the best bits, though, is Lady Catherine as a warrior with a line of ninjas. Grahame-Smith treats us to the Lady Catherine confrontation scene in the Bennett dojo as Lady Catherine & Lizzy spar all the while delivering the "shades of Pemberley" lines. It's priceless!

I'm giving this one 4 bonnets for a fun summer read. Also, I leave you with this image. I just happened to leave the book on the floor and someone found it. I think I have a Jane Austen Addict in the making.
Oh, and kid you not, said child got into the DVD's for the first time the other day. Guess what the first DVD she pulled out was? That's right! P&P '95 with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Again, not staged at all. :)

"Zombie, zombie, zombie, b, b, b...."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

JA Sequels Etc.

Here is a list of Jane Austen sequels or companion novels that I've read and the ratings I've given them. Also linked here a description of my Bonnet Rating System in case you need a refresher course, Dear Reader.

Pride and Prejudice--Continuations

  • Pemberley Shades by Dorothy Bonavia-Hunt (read sometime in HS): 3 Bonnets
  • The Diary of Henry Fitzwilliam Darcy by Marjoirie Fasman (BB read in college): 3 Bonnets
  • Mr. Darcy's Daughters by Elizabeth Aston. 0 Bonnets. Ok, I haven't read the books in this series. But Darcy and Elizbeth would never name a daughter Octavia. I'm sorry, but no. I stand on that principal alone and will not read these books.
  • Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife by Linda Berdoll (read 1/06): 5 bonnets.
  • Darcy and Elizabeth: Nights and Days at Pemberley by Linda Berdoll (read 6/06) 5 Bonnets
  • Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer (read 3/07): 4 Bonnets.
  • Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange (read 6/07): 3 Bonnets, no lace.
  • Fitzwilliam Darcy Trilogy--1. An Assembly Such As This, 2. Duty and Desire and 3. These Three Remain by Pamela Aiden (read 8-9/07): 3 Bonnets
  • Letters From Pemberley: The First Year by Jane Dawkins (read 12/07): 3 Bonnets
  • Suspense and Sensibility (or First Impressions Revisited): A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery by Carrie Bebris (read 2/08): 1 bonnet.
  • Pride and Prescience (Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged): A Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mystery by Carrie Bebris (read 2/08): 3 bonnets.
  • More Letters From Pemberley: A Novel of Sisters, Husbands, Heirs 1814-1819 by Jane Dawkins (read 3/08): 3 bonnets.
  • The Darcy's & the Bingley's: A Tale of Two Gentlemen's Marriages to Two Most Devoted Sisters by Marsha Altman (read 1/09): 3.5 bonnets.
  • Mr. Darcy's Decision by Juliette Shapiro (read 1/09): 1.5 bonnets.
  • The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Mary Street (read 2/09): 4 bonnets.
  • The Darcys Give A Ball: A Gentle Joke, Jane Austen Style by Elizabeth Newark (read 2/09): 3 bonnets.
  • The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins (read 3/09): 1 bonnet.
  • Impulse & Initiative: A Pride a Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds (read 3/09): 3 bonnets.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan (read 4/09): 2 bonnets.
  • From Lambton to Longbourn by Abigail Reynolds (read 1/10): 2 bonnets, with lace.
  • Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World (read 2/10): 3 bonnets.
  • The Plight of the Darcy Brothers: A Tale of Siblings & Surprises (read 2/10): 3 bonnets.
Pride and Prejudice--Modern Settings
  • Impressions by Marilyn Sachs (read 4/07) (Young Adult fiction): 3 Bonnets.
  • Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman (Young Adult Fiction) (read 3/08): 2 bonnets.
  • Pemberley By the Sea: A Modern Love Story, Pride & Prejudice Style by Abigail Reynolds (read 2/09): 4 bonnets.
  • Jane Austen in Boca by Paula Marantz Cohen (read 8/09): 4 bonnets.
Pride and Prejudice--Mashups Etc.

  • Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler (read 6/08): 3 bonnets.
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith (read 7/09): 4 bonnets.

  • The Family Fortune by Laurie Horowitz (read 6/07): 3 Bonnets.
Mansfield Park--Continuation
  • Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment by Joan Aiken (read 8/09): 1 Bonnet
  • The Matters at Mansfield (Or, the Crawford Affair): A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery by Carrie Bebris (#4) (read 8/09): 3 Bonnets.
Jane Austen (Fiction)

  • The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James (read 10/08): 3 bonnets.
  • Cassandra's Sister: Growing Up Jane Austen by Veronica Bennett (Young Adult Fiction) (read 1/09): 2 bonnets.
Jane Austen As A Theme (Modern Settings)

  • The Jane Austen Bookclub by Karen Flowler (read 9/04): 1 Bonnet.
  • Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter (10/07): 0 Bonnets.
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale (read 12/07): 2 Bonnets.

  • A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love and Faith by Lori Olson (read 7/09): 5 bonnets.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Sweet Smell of Summer

Early this morning L & I made our first trip of the summer to the local branch of the St. Paul farmer's market. We went bright and early to avoid the heat, but it was still stifling!

As we walked (L slept in her stroller), I took in the sweet smells of (early) summer produce! Sweet & tangy yellow & white onions, a damp earthy smell of dirt & warm veggies, warm sun baked June berries...It was pure heaven. Less the heat and so I quickly stopped, smelled the produce, admired its beauty, breathed a big sigh and cruised down the row of vendors, hoping Miss L would stay sleeping. (She did, until we got home, which is another story...)

Farmer's markets always make me want to eat nothing but vegetables. I even look at things I never eat--various kinds of lettuce, cabbage, beets and think to myself, "I should get some of that." As the summer progresses, I try to vary what I buy. Today it was June berries--which were entirely too expensive, but just the smell of sun-ripened midwest berries versus the CA overly plump, no taste things we buy at the store had me sold. Some rhubarb as our rhubarb crop was miniscule this year and snap peas for dinner tonight. There was something about the bright green peas and their light airy smell that sold me today. Mmmm, is your mouth watering yet? Gosh, mine is...maybe I'll just have one berry before dinner?

Monday, June 22, 2009


Thanks to Mom for the email tip about author Marilyn Brant's blog, Brant Flakes and AustenFest (description of AF post here) on her blog!

In honor of Brant's upcoming novel release--According to Jane, due out late September--she has guest authors of other JA fanfic posting with her on the blog. Today's author is Syrie James, author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, and it was a fun interview. Complete with virtual tea, scones and prizes (did someone say galley copies of books?!), it's a great time! Check it out!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Quote of the Night

"If educators can't/won't change job related expectations/duties to reflect changing needs, we become Chrysler or GM."

--Stuart Ciske (a Tweet from the WI Department of Public Instruction as read in School Library Journal)

QotNight because this was read super late last night...My summer goal: actually read School Library Journal issues during the actual month they are for. So far: goal attained. It's a first.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Art of Doing Nothing or Balance

Admission: I finally finished a bookclub book. A year later. I've been toting around a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir Eat, Pray, Love for the last year, since bookclub read it and I got through the first 4 or 5 chapters and just couldn't keep my eyes open. In the throngs of 1st trimester exhaustion, last spring it just wasn't going to happen.

I may have, however, also gotten the book on audio cd and I may also have ripped it to listen to later. And finally this spring with my new iPod, I started listening. What's really sad is that I have read the first maybe 10 chapters countless times. Why? Because when I was actually attempting to read the book I kept having to start over to remember what was going on. And then my iPod changed changed playlists without me knowing what track I was on...It got to the point where I knew what she was going to say next!

Finally, though, I made it past that point in reading/listening and I finished the book. One bit of a chapter really struck me and so I relate part of it here.

From chapter 21, "Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one. Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that's not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment. Americans work harder and longer and more stressful hours than anyone in the world today. But as Luca Spaghetti pointed out, we seem to like it. Alarming statistics back this observation up, showing that many Americans feel more happy and fulfilled in their offices than they do in their own homes. Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working, yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure). Americans don't really know how to do nothing. This is the cause of that great sad American stereotype--the overstressed executive who goes on vacation, but cannot relax."

What struck me is the truth of this paragraph. We (Americans) work hard. We aren't good with quiet. We don't know how to relax, how to simple "do" nothing. And yes, mom, I've eaten cereal out of the box watching horrible Saturday afternoon movies. Just because it was the opposite of working. But pleasurable? Maybe, but mostly not. How do we just be? Is that why Americans take the "great American vacation" each summer? To get away to the cabin, the lake? To do nothing? There's got to be a better way to find the nothing time.

During both my time in Scotland and Italy, what was impressed on me was the art of doing nothing. Of being. Of being relaxed and in no hurry. My Scottish flatmates taught me the saying, "I can't be arsed" when they didn't want to do something or were feeling lazy. But somehow, it wasn't about laziness, so much as somehow really saying, "I don't need to do anything else. I'm happy just sitting here contemplating the rain fall from the sky as I drink some warm tea." Interestingly enough, I have never been more relaxed in my life than the time I spent living in Scotland. In Italy, meals can last upwards of 3 hours and teach you to just sit, wait and just be. Sip some wine, watch the people around you, enjoy, relax. There is nothing else you need to do this afternoon or this evening. Or--sit and eat your gelato on the steps of some old church and listen. You can't know a place until you hear it, taste it--Wait! that's Frances Mayes talking...Back to this one.

As Liz Gilbert searches for balance in her life, she meditates and learns about the art of quiet, and of stillness of the mind. Btw, she's got some great inner dialogue that she shares with us readers as she learns to meditate. The kicker is--she finds it, that balance thing. And what hit me the most from this book was--can I, will I?

A Joke or Two

If you know me, you know I can't tell a joke to save my life. Thanks to Reader's Digest, I have discovered these gems or groaners. (Depends on your funny bone.) I actually remembered the pirate one to be able to tell a co-worker. In my 30 years, it was the first time I'd probably told a joke and remembered the punch line. So without further ado, I present my entire repertoire of jokes. And yes, they are bar jokes.

Charles Dickens walks into a bar and orders a martini. The bartender asks, "Olive or twist?" (Being a librarian and taking the theme of this blog into account, I thought it was a good one.)

A pirate walks into a bar with a paper towel on his head. The bartender asks, "Why do you have a paper towel on your head?" The pirate replies, "ARRR, I have a bounty on me head!"
(Ok, I really did laugh out loud when I read this. I know. Really. I know. Sad but true.)

Friday, June 5, 2009

On My Mind

What's on my mind this week: Exactly a year ago this weekend, I won a bundle of baby stuff in a silent auction fundraiser. Included in this bundle was the sleeper L is wearing in this photo. JD and I unpacked our mass of baby items at the time and held up this sleeper. We marveled at how in a year or less someone would fit into this cute little striped green outfit. And here she is. :) Sigh.

200 More Miles To Go

Normal ends of school years aren't so bad. The library closes to collect books, we do an inventory, clean the shelves up, get things looking spic and span & get ready for the next school year.

But this year, not so much. It's a bit different & a bit more stressful. Last spring, I was told we were on the list to get new carpet the following summer. So I walked into this school year thinking we'd have to box things up etc. Then I came back from maternity leave and due to budget cuts was told there would be no new carpet. While I was disappointed, I was ok with it. Really, who wants to pack up books? It's a lot of work and, well, after returning to work this spring, my heart just wasn't in it.

I knew something was amiss when both our head custodian and principal came to find me in the back workroom one morning. (Note: Principal rarely visits the media center...) I got the "good" news that, indeed, we would be able to get new carpet. So instead of a busy, but reasonable end to the year, we're packing up books into boxes and palletizing all of the boxes of books, all while checking teachers "out" of the building, getting returned textbooks shelved, urging a rather large number of disgruntled students to pay for the long since overdue/lost/damaged/at my dad's house books. In theory, none of this sounds difficult, but when all added together it's just simply insane.

For the last week, I've had the Cowboy Junkies song "Two Hundred More Miles" in my head. "I've got two hundred more miles of rain asphalt in line, before I sleep." The version I have is a haunting live version that just leaves the song floating in your head, pounding like the rain. I think this was how I was feeling about making boxes, packing things up and watching as the shelves got closer and closer to empty. Just a little bit more. Just a few more days of school. Only the 900's to box. Only the fiction to box.

What baffles me is the lack of, well, a clue, that so many of my coworkers have. (If you are a coworker and reading this, don't take it personally. I'm just simply quite amazed at how oblivious others can be of their surroundings.)

"So, do you do this every year?" My inside thought: "Hmmm, you've worked here longer than I have. Where have you been? You really don't pay much attention do you? No. No, I would not choose to do this." Outside thought: Lips pursed, eyebrows shrugged, "Uh, no. We're getting new carpet this summer. Let's hope it's worth it." Smile.

The other favorite I conversation I have is,
"So, I bet you'll be busy in August."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, this is going to be a lot of work to unpack the books blah blah blah."
"Uh, I start when you start in September next fall. Would you like to come in on your free time and not get paid to unpack?"
Staff member looks at me with mouth slightly open, then shuts it. "Oh, I suppose..."
"Yeah, the library won't be open until mid-September at the earliest." I sigh with much emphasis and stress, then roll my eyes.

Let's just use the old cliche, "De Nile ain't just a river in Egypt, baby." Denial...I am choosing to block all thoughts of September out of my head right now. "I've got 200 more miles of rain asphalt in line, before I sleep."

And so with an exasperated sigh, I report to you, dear readers, that the books are completely packed. There are 450 some odd boxes of a middle school library boxed up on pallets. There are about a million odds and ends to complete in the last 4 days here, but the end is in sight.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Happy Thoughts, Indeed

Happy Thoughts:

1. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies arrive at my doorstep on Monday. I am taking it slowly but it's hilarious!

2.One of the best parts about my job is having kids get really excited about books. Yesterday, the 5th book in a series came out (The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan) and I ran to the bookstore during my lunch to get the library some copies. We worked hard to get the books processed and checkout ready quickly and they were all checked out by the end of the day. We gave the copies to some of the guys who'd requested it and they just beamed and I got several big thank you's. Those smiles and thank you's make it all worth it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy

Just finished one of my recent B&N purchases, Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan. It was tolerable, I suppose. (Although, it did tempt me, obviously, I purchased it. :)) But after that point, it was still only tolerable. This was one of those book purchases that tempted me because of the size and feel of the book. It was the right size. The right cover sheen. But really? I'm thinking this one wasn't really worth my time. It was very, very Danielle Steel-esque. I felt the plot lacked some, D & E were suddenly ardantly in love and there was no separating them for the duration of the book (the first five months of their marriage). And once the romance started, the text was too ful of "beloved" this and "my love" that. YICK! At least for my taste, it was obnoxious after a certain point.

Plus, Lizzy rarely talked of Jane, wrote her letters. She was completely absorbed into the Darcy world. For me, that lack of correspondance with Jane made the book lacking in JA truth and purity. What is true of Lizzy's character is that she would have communicated with Jane and we don't see any of that in this book at all. She's none existance after their double wedding.

This book appears to be the first in a series by the same author. Really, though, I'm not sure any of the other books would be worth the time. There is so much other good fanfic out there...best use my reading time wisely. 2 Bonnets in the Bonnet Rating System.

Monday, April 27, 2009

New Name?

Am contemplating renaming said blog. I really didn't mean to name it something that had actually been published as a book. I discovered said book shortly after starting said blog. Now I just read there is going to be a sequel to said book. Hmm, I wasn't happy with the end of the first one (rest of it was good) but wasn't so sure about the end. But I'm sure I'll read it anyway...

Quandry am I in. (Thank you, Yoda.) What to do? Any suggestions? I'm not feeling very original tonight.

Zombie Mayhem Coming Soon!

La Vida es Hermosa: Imagine my delight when I checked my email and Amazon told me my copy of P&P & Zombies would be arriving sometime late this week or early next week! YAY!

(And here I was about to cancel the order and break down and buy a used copy. I know, normally I would go used, but I felt like I needed my own brand new copy for this one...)

Lost In Austen

So, again, I've had this post waiting for quite a while, thinking I just want to add a quote or a video or something and it seems to take me forever to actually accomplish this task. Gha! Finally...

PBS is re-airing a British series from ITV called "Lost in Austen" right now and imagine my distress when the first episode aired and I couldn't keep my eyes open. What does one do? Especially when one no longer has a working vcr hooked up to one's tv? Good question.

Super husband to the rescue! He probably earned several bonus points on this one. We've downloaded not only the first episode, but episodes 1-4 (the entire series) and may or may not have already watch the entire series! Yippeee!

The premise is a bit on the lame side, I will admit--Amanda Price finds Miss Elizabeth Bennet in her bathtub having come through a door from Longbourn that opens to Amanda's bathroom in current day England. Amanda then goes through the door and ends up in Regency England. What follows is a comedy of errors, as the entrie plot of P&P is disrupted because Elizabeth is not there to "make" things happen--Bingley starts to fall for Miss Price, not Miss Bennet; Amanda and Darcy start verbal sparring matches, not Lizzy & Darcy; Mr. Collins wants to marry Amanda, not Lizzy--so he marries Jane instead much to the dismay of Bingley & Jane (who now loves Jane because Amanda told him she prefers other women--I mention this because in a great plot twist, this comment comes back in Episode 3). You see where all of this is going.

I fully admit to being somewhat bored and somewhat annoyed at the story during the first 2 episodes. It was a bit painful to watch Mr. Collins and Jane and the characters were all a bit out of sync. The JA purist in me struggled, but nevertheless, I persevered. The Wickham character in the one, was something else however! He is actually a nice guy, and helps Amanda fit into Georgian England and is apparently just misunderstood. It's a good plot twist on Wickham that we would never imagine, so it was somehow believable and it worked.

Then came episode 3--and some great laugh out loud moments that even dear JA couldn't have foreseen... The best being when Caroline Bingley approaches Amanda at Pemberley and comes on to her, sharing CB's secret that she is a lesbian. Amanda's inside thought that we, the audience, hear is something like, "Goodness, Jane Austen would be fairly suprised to hear she'd written that!" It was hilarious! So much so that I had to watch episode 3 twice.

More great quotes from episode 4: As Amanda, Darcy, Lizzy etc. are trying to get through her bathroom and back into the P&P story: "You, are taking him through there right now. The rest of us are gonna say goodbye nicely and watch you step through all that plumbing into fictional Georgian England. And that will be it and then we'll all spend the rest of our lives in therapy. It's going to be fine."

And then, this one just can't be typed, I had to clip the video...

So now the only thing that still irks me is the title of this series--Lost in Austen is also a book and I can find no relation to it at all. (Book: Lost in Austen by Emma Campbell Webster)

Overall, it was still a bit too much for the purist that I am when it comes to JA. But really it was good fun. Afterall, "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?" (Mr. Bennet to Lizzy in P&P, Dear JA)...HA!