Tuesday, April 28, 2009

6/11/09 - Editing this post to delete the pictures, in hopes that my blog layout returns to normal. Sorry!

Chocolate Parties!

I had the luck of being invited to a chocolate party. Yes, a chocolate party. Nancy had a Werther's Party through HouseParties, so we turned up to get some free snacks. BAGS greeted us. Not little snack-size, 100 calorie bags. BAGS. Like, grocery-store, full-on purchase sized bags. Of Werther's caramel chocolates. Dark AND Milk. Bliss.

The verdict: Chocolate good. Caramel chocolate better. Dark caramel chocolate BEST.

I've been reading obsessively these days. I finished another book for review, The Boy from Baby House 10, by Alan Philps and John Lahutsky. What an amazing story. John was born as Ivan, nicknamed Vanya, and spent 9 of the first 10 years of his life in a 'baby house' - basically, a baby gulag in Moscow where he and the other children were sent if the state or their parents determined that they were not able to be cared for in the home. Because being stripped of belongings and abused and neglected by your so-called 'carers' is MUCH better. As a human being, I was mortified. As a parent, I was furious. But it's a book people need to read. It's coming out in a few months, keep an eye out for it.

I'm almost done with another Doctor Who novel, The Wishing Well. Martha Jones is the companion in this one, and I have to keep reminding myself it's not taking place in the American Old West but a British village. Love the story, but my American brain is just having a hard time imagining a little old British town with a wishing well as opposed to an old Western gulch town - you can thank television, I guess, for that one. I should be done and onto the next one shortly.

I'm also reading another one for review, House of Cards, about a card writer/editor's time at Hallmark. More to come on that one, but it is as hilarious as the narrator is tedious and irksome. I think it's hilarious BECAUSE he's tedious and irksome, because I don't think he realizes that he actually comes off like a narcissistic jackass. Ever experience that?

Oh, and I haven't given up on Canticle for Leibowitz by any stretch. I'm off to renew it at the library today. I'm off, and since we're expecting a 91-degree day, I'll be filling up a big bottle of water to accompany me.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spring Break!

Mercifully, my children aren't at the age where Spring Break is synonymous with "South Beach" or "MTV". For Spring Break this year, we escaped the Concrete Jungle and headed to literally greener pastures - Amish Country, in Lancaster, PA. We took my mom along, who really needed a break herself.

Let's hear it for Waffle House!

There is something very relaxing about waking up and seeing green everywhere. Our EconoLodge was right next to a farm, so we got to see (yes, and smell) the cows every morning. No alarm clocks, no work stress, no e-mail - it was bliss.

I was blown away by the amount of craftsmanship that still exists in Lancaster. There are handcrafted gifts in every store, from the beautiful quilts that Amish Country is known for, to the incredible amount of woodworked gifts - I treated myself to a little tin star (so many of the homes have the beautiful bigger ones on their doors - where am I putting that? My living room?) that's hanging in my kitchen, and the cutest little sheep - I've recently gotten little sheep figures in a couple of my knitting swaps, so I've kind of fallen into collecting them.

I also went to the Lancaster Yarn Shop, which was just gorgeous. I could have bought every single thing they had, if there wasn't that whole money thing involved. Just amazing yarns. I did have great deal of restraint - I didn't buy a thing. Lately, I've found that just increasing my stash hasn't helped when I go to find something to knit. I take part in a few swaps, so I love getting my stash increased that way, and it also helps me knit things for me - if I buy my stash, I end up knitting for everyone else.

Speaking of knitting, I had started a Stargazer sweater over the drive - figured the stockinette sleeves would make for good car knitting. For some reason, though, I got about halfway through one sleeve and I just noticed several little holes - I thought I was knitting evenly, but they were really on my nerves, so I frogged the sleeve. Yes, the whole sleeve. Augh.

I'm still working on the Cirque sock, but that required a completely different level of attention, so it ended up languishing in my knitting bag for the trip.

I'm still reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which I'm enjoying much more than I thought I would originally would. But I've got to say, it's completely different from Blade Runner, the movie - in a good way. I'm looking forward to reading the supplement which details more about the making of the movie, because I'm thinking Ridley Scott used Dick's novel as a jumping-off point for telling his own story using Rick Deckard and the idea of retiring replicants. I think I'll watch the movie just after finishing the book, so it's fresh in my mind and I can get a full picture.

Back to Amish Country. We visited Kitchen Kettle Village, a shopping village where we got to take the kids and Mom on a buggy ride and wander around enjoying the beautiful day. We ate fresh kettle corn - I may never be able to eat the 99% fat-free microwaved stuff again - and Mike and the boys enjoyed freshly made ice cream.

The FOOD. I can't even describe it. We went to a few Amish-type places, where we had corn fritters with powdered sugar (heavenly!), homemade noodles in a chicken pot pie, brown buttered noodles (caramelizing the butter at the bottom to give it extra flavor) - I could go on and on and on. Heartbreaker managed to find macaroni and cheese everywhere we went, and Cutie Pie actually ate - at one point, after polishing his third hot dog off at Jakey's Amish Barbecue, Mike and I considered a move to Lancaster County, since we finally found a place he'd eat.

We also found several petting zoos, which I enjoyed as much as the boys did. Kitchen Kettle Village even had a llama, which I was desperate to shear and spin. ;) As you can see from the picture below, he was quite interested in being fed - right after this picture was taken, he managed to lean over enough to headbutt my Mom as she got the feed out!

Heartbreaker was looking forward to his funnel cake, so when he finally got a chance to have it, he expressed his glee. And that funnel cake was HUGE.

All in all, the boys thoroughly enjoyed having Nana spend three days with them. And the feeling was more than mutual.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I Finished Two Books...

I finally finished To Heaven by Water. While it wasn't as bad as I feared it was going to be, it's not my literary cup of tea. But I did enjoy the way the author layered his story - I cringed, thinking it was going to be one particular storyline, but that was only the opening scene. The novel unfolded, and seeing how each of the main characters struggled to move on after the death of their mother/wife drew me in quite a bit. Good stuff.

I also finished a re-read of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. You know when you're in the mood to revisit an old book friend? I'd gotten a jonesing to reread H2G2 a few weeks ago, so I hit the library and ended up with that, A Canticle for Leibowitz, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - I've been on a Blade Runner kick since I got my suitcase of DVDs a couple of weeks ago.

I have to say, I enjoyed re-reading H2G2, but the re-read didn't make it any clearer than it was the first time I read it almost two decades ago. Which, I guess, is the point. It was a lot of fun, and I still love Marvin the manically depressed android. Having Alan Rickman voice him in the movie was an example of perfection in casting. I think I want to sit down and watch the movie again, having the book fresher in my mind now. I do remember them covering a bit more in the movie than the book had, so I may have to check out Restaurant at the End of the Universe sooner rather than later. I've only ever read the first book in the series. Feedback, anyone?

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter and/or Passover!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Ah... Spring.

Today kicked off the boys' Spring Break, and it couldn't have arrived on a more perfect day. We woke up, relaxed, played some video games, ate breakfast, and finally, headed out to the playground - I was going to be damned if I made us sit indoors on a beautiful day like today. Loaded up a big bag with snacks, drinks, some knitting for me, baseball mitts for the boys, and we were off. Cutie Pie ended up meeting a friend at the playground, so Heartbreaker and I threw the baseball back and forth for a while. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun being out with my boys. Is the secret actually getting in there and playing with them, rather than sitting on the sidelines, waiting for some other kid to bump yours?

We were off to McDonald's for the boys to have lunch, then I treated them to Baskin-Robbins ice cream. I was tempted, but held off. Cutie Pie proceeded to wear the better part of his ice cream - and I didn't even sweat it. Being dirty is part of being a little boy, isn't it?

We headed home so I could eat my own lunch, and then I dropped them off at a friend's house. I offered to stick around, but was told to go enjoy myself. Sweet! So I came home and finally watched The Amazing Screw-On Head, loaned to me by my friend Chuck ages ago. How did it take me this long to catch this? It's like Hellboy (same creator) but further back in time. It's good, solid steampunk - but taking place in the U.S. rather than the U.K. Paul Giamatti voices the Screw-On Head, and David Hyde-Pierce takes voiceover duties for Emperor Zombie, Head's nemesis. It's surrealistic, it's dark comedy - it's just freaking great.

And it was only one episode. The hell? Sci-Fi, you let the updated Flash Gordon abomination run for an entire season, but only let a pilot episode of this show slip through your fingers? Cartoon Network - Adult Swim needs this in their lineup. Take a look.

I also got some time with Blade Runner today - Hubs surprised me with the Blade Runner suitcase as an early Easter gift, so I've been jonesing to watch it for a couple of weeks now. It holds up nicely, considering it's 27 years old. Wow.

Off I go to get the kidlings...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

And I've Been Reading, Too...

So during my blogging hiatus, I've been doing more than Twittering/Facebooking. I managed to polish off Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking in about two hours - wow, Princess Leia has issues. It's a quick read because it's pretty much a stream-of-consciousness look back at the life she's had that hasn't been wiped out by electro-convulsive therapy. Getting glimpses of the life she had with her parents (can you say car wreck?), the madness of Star Wars, and her relationships is kind of like reading Star Magazine, but the stories are all real. Wow.

Still sticking with the Mary Todd Lincoln fictional bio, in between book reviews. Currently, I'm in the home stretch with a book called To Heaven By Water, which is a story about the lives of a retired British journalist and his grown kids after his wife dies. The hard part about books like this? There are flashes of interest between parts that slog along. I have to push this one through because I want to be done with it; I've got two more manuscripts on the on-deck circle and am in a serious sci-fi mood, so I want to get to some of MY books.

I've been knitting, too, although for a little bit, my knitting mojo seemed to have followed my blogging mojo out the window. I tried to cast on for a warm winter hat for winter's last gasp, but ripped it out because I couldn't get gauge. I tried to cast on for two different spring sweaters, but they fell upon the same fate as the hat. Finally, I just did what I normally do when I can't get it together - I picked up some sock yarn and went to what's become my 'go-to' project - socks.

I'm working up the Cirque pattern from the Spring 2009 Knitty issue, and I love it so far. I love cabled socks, but I've never made a pair for myself; this pair has little circular cables all the way down the leg and through the instep, so it should look nice when it's done. I'm working it up in Panda Soy Silk, which I believe also has a little bamboo to it. It feels so soft; I hope it washes up nicely.

Okay, so back to books. When I was growing up, my Uncle Billy had the greatest room in the world. It had several bookshelves lining the walls, and I remember how I'd sit on his couch/bed and look through them constantly. I remember his various Time/Life series, his encyclopedia, and most of all, I remember the paperback novels. Science Fiction, fantasy, some horror, all for me to browse. Uncle Billy's the person that introduced me to Tolkien as a child; he, along with my father (believe it or not!) imbued me with a love of science fiction and fantasy, which ended up forming a lot of the person I am today.

Anyway, recently Uncle Bill handed off a box - a BIG box - of those paperbacks. Digging through the box, I saw covers from 30 years ago that I remembered like it was yesterday. I've posted a picture above of two of the books - how '60s/'70s sci fi are they? So awesome.

I even tried to dig into one of them right away. The Gray Prince, the book on the right, is a Jack Vance novel. When I looked Vance up on Wikipedia, I discovered that he's a pretty heavy hitter in the sci fi arena, so I dug right in. Holy. Crap.

As my friend Keith put it, when I brought the book to him, "pre-Star Wars sci fi and post-Star Wars sci fi are two VERY different things." Talk about psychadelics. After two weeks and a total of nine pages, I waved a white flag. I'll have to try this another time, when I don't have Star Trek on the brain. In the meantime, the books are safe and cozy and awaiting my leisure. I feel like I've got a nice little piece of my childhood back.

My on-deck circle... soon, my sweet Doctor Who books, soon... (yes, there are other books there - notably, Cryptonomicon and a Battlestar Galactica novel called Unity, not to mention the Torchwood books) And yes, that is Daniel from Sandman standing guard in front of the books.
I Got an Award!

So despite my blog mojo having gone missing for several weeks, I still managed to garner an award from one of my knitting sisters, UrbanZooKnitter. Not only is she a kickass knitter, she's an all-around great person. I'll gush more about her below, as I'm awarding her right back, but I just wanted to thank her here.
We've got some rules here, so let me post them and move along:

- Put the logo on your blog or post.
- Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude! (holy crap, 10?!)

- Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
- Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
- Share the love and link to the person from whom you received your award.
So I nominate:
1. A.J., author of the UrbanZoo, who not only knits beautiful things, but is a devoted pet mom, gardener, and spouse.
2. Stacey, my co-Geek Sisterhood blogger and author of the Stacey's Stream of Consciousness blog; she finds some of the coolest links on the Internet and is lethal in a craft store.
3. Linda, at Coffee n Danish, has been my friend for eons, and is one of the calmest, most together people I've ever met. She hasn't blogged for a little while, so I hope this entry gently reminds her how much I miss her on the blogosphere.
4. Lauren, another Geek Sister who has taken a little hiatus from her blog at I Was Thinking of an Unreleated Thing to enjoy her little squish, has left New York for somewhat greener pastures. We miss her here, but thank goodness for e-mail and webcams.
5. Nancy over at Bronx Girl Knits knits, loves sci fi, and also writes for Pink Raygun, which makes my girlie geek brain happy. Oh, and she loves herself some Doctor Who - love ya!
6. Peg, the Chaos Mommy, is another mom who makes it all look good - an armed forces wife, three kids, assorted pets and all.
7. Piera, fellow coffee and rage fanatic over at There's Just Not Enough Coffee, is coming back from a blogging hiatus - welcome back, Piera!
8. Snowflake, over at Snowflake Submerged, is another mom with whom I share way too many things - our kids, for instance, are very close in birth months and years; we both have an unabashed love of Tolkien, original Star Wars, and Watership Down; and we're both Catholic school refugees, to start. She's also an armed forces wife, holding down the homefront.
9. Marly, podcaster, blogger and needlewear designer extraordinaire over at Yarn Thing, is another example of the cool people you meet online. She's got a great knitting and crochet podcast, and is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. Check out her site and her podcast, even if you don't knit or crochet; she's hilarious and her laugh is infectious.
10. Karen over at The Knitting Patch is a knitter and spinner who makes some of the most beautiful socks I've ever seen. I miss our Pret Knit nights, and hope we get to have one soon. She also does an incredible amount of charity work with New York Cares, so she's an all-around awesome person.
Wow, coming up with 10 bloggers was not nearly as difficult as I thought - I feel like I've left people out! So to everyone who may have felt left out, I apologize - there are more awards out in the ether to be had, right?