Sunday, January 31, 2010

Homebodies Go To the Mall

As many of my readers know, I am no home decorator. I haven't the inspiration, eye or attention to detail. My house, while cozy and warm to me, may feel stark and sometimes empty to others. Knickknacks? Hardly. Wall decor? Some. So, when I saw this placard in a boutique while on vacation with family, I knew it was for me.

Ah, yes. "There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort." --Jane Austen

My husband and I are homebodies. We aren't much the social butterflies. We are introverts (extroverts when need be). Sometimes bordering on boring. So far our daughter seems to do just fine socializing at daycares and doesn't get too terribly shy in front of strangers (a few minutes of clinging and then she's off discovering fabulous things she should not be playing with). I feel for her, though. She's going to go to school some day and some kid is going to say, "Have you been here?" or "Have you gone here?" And she'll answer something like, "No." "What's the zoo?"or "The mall, what is that?" Get the picture, dear reader??

So, imagine my surprise (and my husband's, I think), when we started talking about actually doing something on Saturday afternoon that did not involve either A. a nap, B. grocery or Target shopping? We've heard on good authority from friends that the Mall of America's Underwater Adventures is a fun family outing and that the Rainforest Cafe is a great place for kiddos. And so we started talking. And planning.

Because that's another thing about us. We plan. We are not spontaneous people. We have trouble making decisions. Um, and it should be noted that it took quite awhile make the decision to go out yesterday...) We discovered that with my Teacher ID badge, we could get a free single annual membership to Underwater Adventures. Add the dual membership (Miss L is still free!) and we scored a dual annual membership for around the cost of one adult admission price. I see rainy, wet days at the MOA in our future and some too hot to go outside summer days, too. Even if we are homebodies, we need to get out of the house sometimes.

This was a pretty big adventure for us because even though we live in the same metro area as the nation's largest mall, we live on the opposite end of the mall and it takes 30 minutes to get there. It is not somewhere where most locals go frequently. (Ok, these locals.) And after we got there, we wondered what we were thinking. MOA on a Saturday afternoon/evening in below zero weather = hoards of people! It took us almost as long to park as it did to drive down to the MOA. Sigh.

Thankfully the ticket line at Underwater Adventures moved quickly. Unthankfully, we were surrounded not only by an underwater labyrinth of aquarium tunnels (if you are claustrophobic this place is not for you), but also by everyone with children in the tri-state area. Even so, Miss L was quite enthralled and pointed and followed the big sharks & fish with her eyes, and head and body--almost tipping over in Daddy's arms. We saw seahorses and pretty tropical fish that Miss L watched intently and pointed to and said, "Uh, uh, uh." I think that's fish in Klingon. She and I even touched a starfish.

After our Underwater Adventure, we walked (conveniently only one length of the mall and the same floor) to the Rainforest Cafe, where we had reservations for 5:10. (Note, always make reservations for this place! Sheesh! I think I heard it was a two hour wait last night.) Now folks, for us, this is a big deal. We don't go out to eat very much. Especially with a 14 month old. It's just not quite the dining experience one wants to, well, experience. But we went for it anyway and figure we could always pack up our meals to go and find the car quickly (or as quickly as one can find their car at the MOA...)

We really didn't have to wait and found ourselves seated next to one of the fish tanks. We quickly ordered off of the children's menu and got settled in and looked at menus. Miss L did very well--she thought the mini cheeseburgers and corn were great! (Mom and Dad appreciated the fact that her meal was served on a plastic kid-friendly plate.) She was not a fan of cold 2% milk though. (This is what we get for usually giving her quasi warm milk.) But she was so mesmerized by the the fish swimming across from us and the children that sat next to us, that in between leaning out of her highchair, waving and clapping at the fish, she did eat some food and didn't throw too much of it on the floor. We got to actually eat our meals and she was still eating. (Thank you to the rainforest thunderstorm and its distracting capabilities!) Miss L ate a bit more, cooed & clapped at the fish some more and we marveled at how well our afternoon had gone! We were quite proud of ourselves, these homebodies getting out of the house and all.

But wait!--There's more! Now you'd think we were about done with the MOA and should really head home so Miss L could get to bed on time. But we were soooo close to the Apple store and two out of the three of us were hoping for a glimpse of the iPad. We couldn't help ourselves! Too bad for us, the iPad is not due in stores until March. Mama even got to check the Baby Gap sale rack (Baby Gap is conveniently located across from the Apple store at the MOA) and then it was time to head home.

As we walked back around the mall, we walked by the Rainforest Cafe again and who should be there? Mr. Gecko! Laura was very enamored with him, as you can clearly see from the photo. (Almost or equally as enamored as she is with Goldy Gopher when we go to Basketball games! Picture from last weekend.)

All in all, a good night for homebodies who ventured out to visit the Mall on a insanely busy Saturday afternoon. 

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Everything Austen, Or How Time Got Away From Me

Uh, er, uh......The Everything Austen Challenge, sponsored by Stephanie @ Stephanie's Written Word officially ended January 1st. Depending on how you look at things, I either failed miserably as a Janeite or I passed the bar but not quite using the list I'd originally created. Either way, I also failed to to post on the blog that I probably finished the challenge. My how time gets away from me.

The goal was to pick six things Austen to read/watch/view/listen from mid summer to January 1. I created a list. Of only six things. Some participants made a list of what looked like a zillion JA things! Why I only picked a specific six things is beyond me. Ok, no, that's not true. I was trying to force myself to read some non-fiction (always a chore for me) and take in some other Jane focused items I have ignored.

Here's my list that I officially said I'd do:
  • A Memoir of Jane Austen by James Austen-Leigh
(Yep, sitting on my nightstand. And what's more shameful is that I desperately need to read it as it's a friend's copy and it should be returned. Although I did read a few excerpts from it when I was reading the cookbooks because they referenced it. Does that count? And really, I should own my own copy. What kind of Janeite am I?)

  • 101 Things You Didn't Know About Jane Austen: The Truth About the World's Most Intriguing Literary Heroine by Patrice Hannon
(Yeah, so I just picked this up off of my nightstand last night. I read the first thing and needed to turn my light off. Hey, at least I'm getting there.)

  • (DONE.) 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?
(Recipes copied, ready for bookclub tea party this summer! Can't wait!)

  • (DONE.) A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love & Faith by Lori Smith (memoir)

  • (DONE.) Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment by Joan Aiken

  • (DONE.) Watch Miss Austen Regrets

And here's what I actually did, including all items listed as done in the previous list.

  • Watched Persausion at least once (with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds).
  • Watched P&P 2005 at least once (it's a bit more managable than the '95 version when you've got a kiddo).
  • Particpated in the Lady Susan online read hosted by the ladies of Austenprose.
  • Read several JA inspired pieces of fiction (Jane Austen in Boca by Paula Marantz Cohen, The Matters at Mansfield Or, the Crawford Affair by Carrie Bebris.)
I should have made a longer original list and I could have been entered for a great prize. Sigh. Someday I'll learn. Or maybe not. (Do you notice a trend in the titles of my blog posts? Really titles and what they really should be titled. Sigh. It's just where I'm at these days...)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

One Step Behind or Happy Belated Robert Burns Day

I have good intentions. Really, I do. But as per usual these days, I am simply one step behind.

Yesterday, in mind I celebrated the Scottish celebration of Robert Burns Day or Robbie Burns Day. I thought longingly of partaking in a Burns' supper feast of haggis, neeps and tatties while someone recited the Address to a Haggis. And I lifted my imaginary pint 'o cider to Dear Ol' Robbie Burns. (If you can't remember what he wrote, think "A Red, Red Rose" or "To a Mouse.")

And with this commemoration of Robbie Burns, the Scottish poet, I remember fondly a time not so long ago...Or was it...GOOD GOD!--Was it ten years ago already?...

On January 27, 2000, I embarked on an adventure to Aberdeen, Scotland to study at the University of Aberdeen for 5 1/2 months. In honor of this precious time a decade ago, I will offer a series of photo blog posts commemorating my trip. I just digitized my photos from the trip and am excited to share them online with some far away friends. (Although I now realize that I took extremely boring photos. I might gently borrow some photos from online. DH and M&D, I might be coming for your negatives from your visits! )

*Warning & Note: Should you read this blog and see a younger version of you at some point in the next several weeks, enjoy it and don't hunt me down. :)

Aberdeen: The guidebook I had described Aberdeen as a "Symphony in Gray." Oh how true. And how beautiful. Covered in the local gray granite, even the streets have gray granite in them. While wet and rainy much of the time, the sun seems to make an appearance at least once a day and whether wet or sparkling in the sun the gray of Aberdeen is beautiful.

St. Machar's Cathedral in Old Aberdeen (where I went to church). Located near Seaton Park and University (Uni).
St. Machar's Cathedral from Seaton Park in the spring.

Daffodils in Seaton Park (found online, forgive me).

A street in Old Aberdeen (crossing the River Don? or between Hillhead Residence & Uni? I can't remember exactly and the scrapbook is downstairs and I'm really tired, but I think I could walk right to this bridge if I was there. Funny how memory retains bits like that, eh? (Eh and it's usage: I met several fabulous Canadians in Aberdeen and they really did use "Eh" quite a bit and it stuck.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Emma 2009 on PBS this Sunday

It's going to be a busy Sunday at my house. Basketball games, Vikings football and of course, Emma on PBS. This is the BBC's 2009 version that us Janeites have been waiting for! Of course, I'm not sure about it, but most of my reservations are simply because I am not the biggest fan of Miss Woodhouse. Reviews are all over the map for this one. We'll see how it pans out.

But it's best to enjoy it, as it is one of the last "Bonnet Dramas" BBC will be presenting us for a while. Which is, of course, a shame. As a fan of "bonnet dramas," I am saddened with the decision by the BBC to
"move away from traditional 19th century-set "bonnet" dramas in favour of a grittier look at the period and a new focus on other historical eras. This change, which follows the appointment of Ben Stephenson, 31, as head of drama commissioning, will mean that there will be less of the likes of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Cranford, Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre, Daniel Deronda and Pride and Prejudice."

(See article from the Guardian last year here.)

Here's the PBS Masterpiece Emma website for your perusal.
If you're really into Emma, you can join the Twitter party sponsored by PBS and hosted by some of the bloggers whose blogs I read. :) This party may inspire me to dust off my Twitter login. We'll see. In the meantime, enjoy one of the last bonnet dramas from the BBC! Adieu.

From Lambton to Longbourn

For shame! I've had this book, From Lambton to Longbourn by Abigail Reynolds, sitting on my nightstand since summer. I am finally trying to reclaim some of my reading time and frankly, I needed an Austen fix.

Part of the author's Pride and Prejudice Variations series that explores "roads not taken in P&P," FLtL takes the P&P story from when Lizzy receives Jane's letter while at the Lambton inn and changes what happens at the inn. Rather than leaving quite abrubtly, Darcy stays to comfort Lizzy and takes some small liberties in comforting her (a pat of a hand, a possible hug and then a kiss). Lizzy, while enjoying Darcy's embrace, isn't quite sure of her feelings for Darcy as he is for her. In walk the Gardiners and you can imagine their suprise! Mr. Gardiner has every right to force them to marry, but realizes that might not be the best option given Lizzy's temperament. He also urges Darcy to keep up his attempts to win Lizzy's heart. They go their separate ways, but are thus entwined into a romance aided by Georgiana's correspondance with Lizzy, the Gardiner's encouragement and Jane & Bingley's engagement (which happens much more quickly than in the book due to Darcy owning up more quickly to Bingley).

FLtL was an entertaining read, but again (as in Impusle & Initiative) Ms. Reynolds leaves all sense of propriety behind. Darcy and Lizzy sneak kisses and caresses left and right (still remaining fairly PG, mind you) but it irked me. Yep, we all know D & L were full of passion. Who would not agree to that? But this time 'round, in this story, it didn't feel quite genuine enough for me. I feel that I&I , while again, forgetting all sense of 19th C. propriety, was more genuine to D & L's characters and character development. This one felt too lovey dovey--a bit too forces for me. Since I gave I&I 3 bonnets, I therefore, I give FLtL 2 bonnets, but with lace because it was still a fun, quick read.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Happy Belated Birthday!

My Darling Friend Jane,

Happy Belated! While I am a month late in writing this epistle, please know that I still wish you a Happy and Delightful Day! (Albeit, a month late to the day. ) I thought of you several times on your special day in December, but Yuletide preparations got the best of me. Do forgive me this minor lapse in writing, won't you?

I just wanted to let you know how much we appreciate you, Dear Jane, here in the 21st Century. We are thankful that you chose to share your wit & wisdom with us through your writing. You do make us laugh, smirk and altogether long for a much simpler life. Thank you again for seeing something in the lives of your neighbors, friends and family that you felt needed sharing. We truly enjoy your stories & letters.

I hope your day was spent in pure relaxation & exaltation in the heavens, rather than rolling your eyes and cringing at the latest mashup inspired by your works. Zombies? Vampires? What could we do next to your gentle characters? How insupportable! You must think we are rude & rather obnoxious. Maybe, just perhaps, you are excessively diverted by the attention we shower you with? Do understand--it is all out of love and esteem.

Again, Happy Belated Dear One. We remember you in our constant rereading and remembering.