Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #1

I heard about the apparently famous Thursday Thirteen from Caffeinated Librarian a while back. I thought it might be fun to give it a go, despite my late arrival to the party (yet again). It might be just what I need to get my creative blogging juices flowing again. So without further ado...

Thirteen Childhood Memories

1. In the spring and summer, on days when my Grandmother would babysit my sister and I, we would walk to a nearby farmer's market and enjoy the sights and sounds. I still remember the smell of fresh baked bread; the piles of ripe, red tomatoes; the friendly faces of the vendors, who would slip a piece of candy or other treat my way while my Grandmother tested the firmness of some vegetable or another.

2. My sister once lost my favorite baby doll during the walk back to Grandma's house from the market. We retraced our steps for what seemed like hours, but never found my Yawny Baby.

3. When I was growing up, I owned the Barbie Dream House complete with an elevator on a pull string and little plastic furniture. It wasn't the super-expensive wooden Dream House; it was the one made of plastic with the cardboard backing that had room scenes printed on it. I didn't care, though. My sister and I played with it for hours at a time.

4. I had a pink, banana-seat bike that my mom won in a raffle. It was the coolest! It had white rubber handle covers with pink and white streamers hanging from them.

5. We got an above-ground pool one summer when I was in junior-high. That summer it rained endlessly.

6. When it wasn't raining, I would spend as much time as possible in the water, where I was finally weightless.

7. Hot summer night rainstorms were the perfect excuse to play in the rain and skip in the puddles in our crumbling sidewalk.

8. Feet of snow in the winter meant building "igloos" and caves in the drifts. Who says you have to put away your sand buckets in the winter?

9. On New Year's Eve, my sister and I (and whatever babysitter was watching us) would have a mini-party, complete with noise makers, cardboard tiarras sparkling with glitter and glue, and enough snacks and soda to make us sick. We'd stuff ourselves and hope we could keep our eyes open for the ball-drop at midnight.

10. We had bunnies for a while and they would always get out of their cages and fenced-in running (or rather hopping) area. We would chase them around like mad kids, trying to catch them before our cat did.

11. We bought our first VCR, a Beta, at BJs in the nearest big city, along with huge packages of toilet paper, paper plates, paper towels and the like. If I remember correctly, going to BJs was a major outing for our family. Very exciting stuff!

12. Reading a complete book in a single day was a regular occurrence. I miss those days.

13. My family's cat gave birth to a litter of kittens just weeks after we took her in. I remember watching those helpless little babies, rooting around for their Mama's milk, so tiny and soft and adorable. Having to give them all away was very hard for me. I didn't understand why we couldn't keep all 5 of them. It's not like they took up much room. They all fit in a little box.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Friday, May 25, 2007

She's Alive!

I'm alive and kicking. Really.
I've been doing the following in my absence:

Not too eventful, but very productive.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Book Meme

I apparently forgot to hit the publish button on this one almost a month ago, so you're getting two posts for the price of one today! Enjoy!

Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror?

Fantasy - This is Harry Potter's fault.

Hardback or Trade Paperback or Mass Market Paperback?

Hardback or Trade - Mass Markets just seem so small in my hands.

Amazon or Brick and Mortar?

Brick and Mortar - Atmosphere is everything.

Barnes & Noble or Borders?

B&N, but only because it's more convenient for me. Plus, the Borders around here don't have cafes in them.

Hitchhiker or Discworld?

I guess since I have no idea what this is referring to, I'll have to say neither...

Bookmark or Dog-ear?

I'm a bookmark girl (although I used to dog-ear everything). I can't even count how many bookmarks I have laying around, and if I can't find a bookmark there's always a slip of paper or a magazine subscription card within reach.

Asimov’s Science Fiction or Fantasy & Science Fiction?


Alphabetize by author, Alphabetize by title, or random?

Random - too much order freaks me out. Although I do tend to order them by size.

Keep, Throw Away or Sell?

Keep or give away. Never, EVER, throw away.

Keep dust-jacket or toss it?

Keep it! Who would toss it? Who?

Read with dustjacket or remove it?

With it, unless I'm traveling or carrying the book around in a bag.

Short story or novel?


Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?


Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?

At breaks, unless my eyes disagree and close on me.

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time?”

Depends on my mood.

Buy or Borrow?

I buy more than I should and don't borrow enough.

Buying choice: Book Reviews, Recommendation or Browse?

Yes, yes, and yes.

Lewis or Tolkien?

How could I choose?

Collection (short stories by the same author) or Anthology (short stories by different authors)?

Usually collection, but sometimes anthology

Tidy ending or Cliffhanger?

Tie it up in a little bow, please.

Morning reading, Afternoon reading or Nighttime reading?

Morning on the weekends and nighttime during the week.

Standalone or Series?

I usually get bored with series before they're over and then don't finish them. I'll take standalones most of the time.

New or used?

As long as it's readable.

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?

The Knight and the Dove by Lori Wick

Currently Reading?

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama and The Best Life Diet by Bob Greene

Wacker of Weeds

I met my next door neighbor to my left when I got home from work today. She offered me the name and number of their lawn guy (now she offers, I thought). We chatted on our stoops for a few minutes and then I went inside to assemble my weed wacker.

You see, in my lawn care ignorance, I'd let my grass grow way too high before I finally found the reel mower I'd been looking for at Home Depot. A reel mower, if you're unfamiliar, is really only effective when your grass is less than 2 1/2" tall. Mine was well beyond this limit, and growing fast. And I couldn't seem to catch any of the neighborhood lawn-care specialists to get it under control so that the reel mower could take over. Thus the weed wacker purchase.

I never thought I'd be spending my hard-earned money on things like heavy-duty extension cords and 3.4 amp weed wackers. Until Wednesday, that is, when I decided my lawn (by which I mean postage-stamp sized patches of grass in the front and back of my house) was becoming a jungle in the city and took a trip to Sears. There, C.J. so kindly took me through the many weed wacking options and I decided on the low-end Craftsman model. It would get the job done, C.J. told me, well enough that my reel mower could handle the rest. And I could use it to get at those hard-to-reach places, too.

C.J. was right. Tonight, I took weed wacking into my own hands. And in about two hours, I successfully mowed my back yard. It's not as easy as you'd think. Wacking weeds is hard work, despite the motorized parts. My left arm is still partially paralyzed from the strain of directing the wacker. My right hand is cramping from sqeezing the power trigger. And I may not be able to lift my arms or walk tomorrow because my shoulders and lower back feeling tighter with every passing moment. I'll be picking grass and weed bits from my hair for days, but I'm extremely proud of my accomplishment.

My neighbors were, too.

B & B, a husband and wife that live across the alley, had been sitting on their back porch watching me work myself into paralysis. When I finished, Mrs. B came over to introduce herself and offer me her rake. It was the first neighborly gesture I've received since I moved in. So, after talking for a few moments, I raked the mowed grass into three big piles (yes, I said three piles).

As I was heading down the alley to return the rake, I ran into one of my neighbors from the house on the right. Mr. W introduced himself, and commented on what a great job I'd done with my lawn. I thanked him and we talked for a few minutes about how long he'd lived there and how well I was settling into the house. As we were talking, Mr. B came over to introduce himself. We all talked about the weather and my great mowing job, and then Mr. W climbed into his car to leave. Mr. B took his rake and headed back home, inviting me over any time. We waved to each other as I went inside to eat dinner, leaving the piles of grass for tomorrow.

It's amazing what nice weather and a weed wacker will bring. I'm finally starting to feel a sense of community in my new neighborhood. And I'm feeling pretty bad-ass for having taking on the jungle in my back yard. Next expedition: the front yard.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

TBR #5 -- It's a Record!

It's the beginning of May - that's month number 5 - and I'm starting my sixth book in the TBR Challenge that I so bravely--and doubtfully--signed up for back in the fall. I haven't been very good at keeping up with reviews, but I've read five books in four months: On Writing Well, by William Zinsser; The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards; The Guy Not Taken, by Jennifer Weiner; How to Read Literature Like a Professor, by Thomas Foster; and The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. That's got to be my reading record for the last several years. I don't know when the last time I managed to put away more than a book every month or so was. Maybe early high school. I've always loved to read, and I've always made time to do it, but over the last couple of years I've been reading less and less. Until this year, that is. And whatever my yearly total is for 2007, I'm going to make it my personal challenge to better that by two books for 2008. Now, on to a mini review.

My fifth read for the TBR Challenge was The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri. I had high hopes for this book, because I'd heard nothing but good things about it. It wasn't action-packed or exciting, but it was a well-written narrative that kept me turning the pages. I found myself relating completely with the main character, Gogol, who spent most of his life rejecting the life his parents had lived and attempting to turn his back on his culture. Much of the story was centered around his attempts to become his own person and the internal struggle of finding a balance between his Indian heritage and his American upbringing. It was a powerful story about how the choices we make from the moment we are able to make them shape who we become. I think the most important point I took away from the book was that we often fight against the currents of our past, only to discover that we belong downstream after all. I'm looking forward to reading Interpreter of Maladies in the near future.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Everyday Surprises

Today was one of those days where simple things, things that I probably see and do pretty regularly, seemed particularly surprising.

There was my lunch-time walk with a co-worker in the warm sunshine, the light breeze blowing, the smell of flowers in the air and the sounds of ships drifting off the Bay. I was almost too enthralled in the beauty of the day to pay attention to the conversation we were having, except that certain observations about my boss were exceptionally funny in the moment.

There was a conversation with my Dad, in which I learned that while he was in the Navy he had been stationed in Brooklyn for a year and a half. It stunned me that in 31 years of life, I don't ever remember knowing details about my Dad's time in the Navy. I knew he had served, and the approximate time-frame of his enlistment, but I had no idea that he was a Sailor for 4 years, that he was also stationed in Florida and South Carolina, or that he'd traveled to England, France and other European countries. It was almost like I was meeting him for the first time.

There were the husband and wife Mallards, nuzzling in the park near my home. They were sitting in the tall grass, almost hidden from my sight, just a few feet from the curb. The man-Mallard, with his shining green feathers, sat beak-to-beak with his missus. In the middle of the city, two ducks fell in love.

There was the friendliness of strangers as I walked in the cooling evening through my new neighborhood. The woman walking her dog, who met my eyes and said hello. The couple spreading grass seed in their yard. The young man who cat-called from his porch and asked if I was out exercising. It seems the sun brings out the best in everyone.

So many wonderful surprises in one day. I hope that doesn't mean I've used up my surprising moments rations for the month.

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