Winding Up

Jul. 23rd, 2017 07:51 pm
osprey_archer: (shoes)
Somehow my six-and-a-half hour drive stretched to eight-and-a-half (I only stopped at Dunkin Donuts once, I swear!) but in the end I did make it to DC! Where Caitlin and I promptly made beer bread and ate it piping hot with brie (the only way to eat beer bread), and now we are going to watch The Great British Bake-Off. (The universe has been conspiring to get me to watch The Great British Bake-Off.)

But before this, I spent a wonderful few days with [personal profile] asakiyume! We baked scones with fresh-picked currants and slathered them with blood-orange marmalade, at which we looked askance at first - it is very brown-looking - but it is delicious, A++ highly recommended.

We also had much ice cream and - and! - visited Emily Dickinson's house, which is delightful and I highly recommend that too. They have Emily's writing desk, which is much smaller than I expected - really only the size of a bedside table - but it sits right by the window, overlooking the garden, in a room all done up with rose-covered wallpaper, and just seems really like the perfect place for Emily Dickinson to reside.

We went over to the graveyard, too - did you know that they carried Emily's coffin over the fields when she died, so that even her corpse could avoid the public gaze that she shunned in life? I thought that extremely thoughtful of the pallbearers. In any case, the grave is now the center of much public attention, and the top is covered in pencils and seashells - and the shells spill over onto Emily's sister Lavinia's grave, too. I'm not sure why (are sea shells particularly associated with either of them?), but it's nice that Lavinia is not neglected.

And we went to the reservoir and took a VERY LONG walk and had a picnic, and read aloud a chapter of The Railway Children (the most sexist chapter, sadly, which is too bad, because most of it is full of refreshingly equal-opportunity adventures) - the modern world could do with more reading aloud in it. I shall have to try to talk my roommate into it when I return.

Which will be on Tuesday! The trip is almost over! Tomorrow is the last hurrah - I'm going to the National Gallery (I always go to the National Gallery when I'm in DC) and perhaps one of the other Smithsonian Museums, although I'm not sure which one. I did Air & Space last time, which was delightful, but I think I ought to branch out.

Ithaca

Jul. 16th, 2017 11:00 pm
osprey_archer: (shoes)
I am arrived in Ithaca! The one in New York, not the Greek island, although the Greek island would also be a splendid place to visit someday.

We had a splendid dinner at a restaurant called Rulloff's, which is named after a famous nineteenth century Ithaca murderer (or famous at the time, at least; I had not heard of him until I read his famous last words written up on a chalkboard on the wall in the restaurant), and possessed of excellent food. We had crepes for dessert - or at least, we ordered crepes; I am not sure the chef understood that crepes are in fact supposed to be thinner than ordinary pancakes. However, as the pancakes were topped with raspberry compote and Nutella creamed into mascarpone, of course we forgave them their trespasses and ate them up entire.

***

And I had another thought about Oneida, which I forgot to put in my post yesterday.

Our guide mentioned that over the years in Oneida, the community voted to stop using tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine. Now on the one hand, these are all pretty normal nineteenth-century candidates for reform (the Mormons also banned, and IIRC still ban, all three).

But at the same time, hearing about this reminded me of the Rat Park experiments, which were studies in morphine addiction that took place back in the seventies. Rats in ordinary lab rat cages swiftly get addicted to morphine when they're offered the opportunity to take morphine-laced water. However, Bruce Alexander discovered that rats who lived in a less restricted environment - in a structure he called Rat Park, where they had toys and (more importantly) other rats to play with - barely used the morphine water at all.

And what occurred to me is that, for all its problems - which were after all severe enough to eventually break the community apart - Oneida was basically Human Park. Here you've got all these people hanging out together all the time, even doing a lot of their work in bees (think quilting bee, not spelling bee) so it will be more social and fun, constantly putting on entertainments for each other and playing croquet together and, of course, having lots of sex. Who needs cigarettes or beer or even tea when they've got infinite croquet?

...I mean, you'd still have to pull my tea out of my cold dead hands. But then I'm not living in Oneida, now am I.

***

Although it's also worth noting that living for five years in Oneida failed to dent future presidential assassin Charles Guiteau's delusions of grandeur even slightly, so clearly all the togetherness in the world is not a panacea.
osprey_archer: (food)
Last week was a good week in tips, so I decided to treat myself to something from the fancy food store next door - the place with barrels of balsamic vinegar lined up along the walls, and helpful clerks who leap at the chance to let you try as many as you want.

I had been feeling a craving for spinach salad (with bleu cheese and dried cranberries, the only way to spinach salad), so I went in with the idea of getting something that would make a good dressing for that, and walked out with a bottle of blackberry-ginger balsamic and OH MY GOD BEST SALAD DRESSING CHOICE EVER. I want to throw a dinner party solely so I can serve all my friends spinach salad for the first course so they will all be amaaaaaaazed at this vinegar.

The other thing I use balsamic vinegar for is caramelized onions (specifically, deglazing the pan at the end), and this... was less successful. I put them on little French bread pizzas and they were much too sweet & fruity & just odd.

But I didn't want to just throw them all out (do you know how long it takes to make caramelized onions? An hour. Most of it spent lying on the couch reading The Hunger Games [I JUST GOT TO THE BEGINNING OF PART 3 OMG], BUT NONETHELESS an hour, who wants to throw away an hour of work), so I thought about it for a while, and then INSPIRATION STRUCK.

And I bought of wedge of brie and made little open-faced sandwiches with brie & caramelized onions in the oven, and the brie tones down the fruitiness and basically makes everything amaaaaaazing. I had it for dinner last night and I loved it so much I had it again for lunch today.
osprey_archer: (books)
I hope everyone had a merry Christmas! Or a happy Sunday for non-Christmas-celebrators.

I got (among other loot) a gigantic Cooks Illustrated cookbook, which I have been flipping through lovingly and with glee. One of my New Year's Resolutions for 2017 is to practice cooking meat (I'm thinking one new recipe a month?), and this book will clearly aid me in my quest.

Also it has a beautiful crepes recipe with a lot of suggested fillings and I so want to have a crepe smorgasbord.

In any case! Today is Monday, which of course means it is Caldecott day, and this week's book is Always Room for One More! Which is an illustrated Scottish folk song about a man who invites every passerby into his house, where they all dance together with him and his wife and ten children, until alas! the house falls down. But then all the visitors band together and rebuild it, twice as big as before.

There are great washes of pink across the bottom of the page, to represent the heather I suppose, and the people are drawn with tight little crosshatching, so all the characterization has to come through using their gestures, because they don't have faces. It is not my favorite illustration style, but I did quite enjoy the song.
osprey_archer: (books)
Lenore Newman’s Speaking in Cod Tongues: A Canadian Culinary Journey suffers from the same problem as Kelsey Osgood’s How to Disappear Completely: On Modern Anorexia: both books have theses that undermine their own existences. How to Disappear Completely is an eating disorder memoir that hypothesizes that eating disorder memoirs actually help spread eating disorders (because girls who are already sad read them and go “Hey, this is a culturally acceptable way to express my sadness! And meet unrealistic standards of feminine beauty and self control! AND possibly get a book deal! SCORE.”), while Speaking in Cod Tongues is an attempt to construct a theory of Canada’s national cuisine while simultaneously contemplating the fact that the very idea of a national cuisine is a hegemonic nationalist construction.

And in both cases I found the authors’ theories convincing and went “Hey! Yeah! ...but if your thesis is correct, doesn’t this mean that your book is part of the problem and shouldn’t exist?”, which makes for a weird reading experience.

In Newman’s case, this is especially sad because it seems so unnecessary. She has the makings of an interesting food history/memoir about Stuff We Eat in Canada, and if she weren’t so determined to make a national cuisine of it she could have focused more on the areas where she had plenty of information and not tossed in the obligatory (surfacey and dull, although mercifully short) sections about provinces where she’s clearly spent less time.

Also Newman is not that good at describing the way food tastes - she seems averse to saying she dislikes anything, presumably because saying something tastes bad is an expression of hegemonic domination - okay, honestly, I think this is the core flaw of the book. Newman is so afraid of saying something problematic that she often shies away from saying much of anything.

But despite these rather core flaws, I did enjoy the book. She’s got a wonderful set of food facts to share, especially if like me you know very little about Canadian cuisine. The titular cod tongues, for instance, aren’t tongues at all, but one of three fatty pieces of meat in a cod’s head (the other two are called cod cheeks). It's too bad you have to wade through all the theorizing to get there.
osprey_archer: (food)
There's an artisanal cooking store next to one of the Starbucks where I work (I'm alternating between two now. They just can't get enough of me), and as I got to work a bit early today, I decided to drop by. Just to look around, you know, not to buy anything.

Famous last words! One of the clerks took possession of me the moment I arrived, which normally I don't like, but she was so enthusiastic and helpful and also so delighted to get me samples of everything that in fact I was rather charmed. I tried:

1. Habanero sugar. "It's super spicy," she warned me, so of course I had to try it, and to get my mouth to stop burnings she had to get me a little cup of water and also

2. Balsamic vinegars, multiple varieties. They have an entire wall of little vinegar barrels with spigots so you can fill vinegar bottles fresh from the source, as it were.

3. Olive oils, which she kindly mixed with the vinegars for me, so I could get an idea of what they'd taste like as a vinaigrette. I particularly liked the basil olive oil with the peach vinegar, which tasted like summer (in fact the basil olive oil was one of the few things I could easily imagine a use for; peach vinegar may be delicious, but what do you do with it?), and also a blood orange olive oil which she mixed with some vinegar, I can't remember which now, but it was the perfect vinaigrette for a fancy holiday dinner with a salad stuffed with oranges and walnuts and pomegranate seeds, all the tastes of the season.

She'd been so nice that I felt I ought to get something, and I could not in that moment imagine how to use habanero sugar, so I got a little ounce bag of raspberry sugar instead. I'm thinking of making some lemon bars & sprinkling the raspberry sugar on top. Or perhaps it would go well on top of Christmas sugar cookies - white vanilla icing and red raspberry sugar?

The habanero sugar has been on my mind though. You'd need to be careful about proportions, but I think - if you used just a very little bit of it - it might be a good addition to rich chocolate brownies, just to give them a little kick.
osprey_archer: (tea)
We had some extra heavy cream left over, so I decided to try a new scone recipe - or rather an old scone recipe; my aunt's cream scone recipe, in fact. No butter, just flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and heavy cream, and you get tall and fluffy scones.

Also my roommate has an awesome wintery tea set. (The design is actual gray flowers, not snowflakes, but hey! Same diff.)





osprey_archer: (cheers)
It's snoooooooowing! Or rather, it was snowing earlier, and if there is one thing better than sitting inside toasty warm watching the snow fall outside the window, it is arriving home after a long drive and then being inside toasty warm watching the snow that you are no longer driving through fall.

I am back in my hometown for a doctor's appointment tomorrow, and I am planning to make chocolate muffins with peanut butter chips tonight. Back when I was in high school, I used to buy one of these at the local grocery store every Saturday - it was about a mile walk, and I would get the muffin and walk across the parking lot to the newly opened Starbucks and get a hot chocolate and eat it with my muffin.

Then the grocery store stopped selling chocolate peanut butter chip muffins, because I guess they didn't realize that that is the most perfect muffin ever and they should have sold them into perpetuity. I mourned these muffins for years before realizing that I could, in fact, make them myself - they're particularly good with the peanut butter chips studded over the top so they get just a little bit toasted in the oven.

I've also been thinking about learning how to roast my own granola, although now that I'm looking at recipes I'm no longer sure that this would, in fact, be cheaper than just buying granola at the supermarket. But on the other hand, think of all the variations you can try! Honey or maple syrup? Almonds or cashews? Almonds and cashews? And of course there are pecan possibilities for that delicious autumn flavor! (It is getting late for autumn flavor, what with the snow and all, so maybe next year for that.)
osprey_archer: (books)
I’d like to be able to whole-heartedly recommend Rob Dunn’s Never Out of Season: Why Having the Food We Want When We Want It Threatens Our Food Supply and Our Future, because I think it’s got an important and thought-provoking message; certainly in my post-apocalyptic imaginings I had not spent much time contemplating the possibility of a vast famine (followed probably by a vast pestilence, given that the malnourished survivors will be easy prey for disease) caused by some pest destroying our increasingly homogeneous genetically modified crops, in much the same way that the potato blight caused the Irish potato famine.

The Irish potato famine was as devastating as it was in part because the potatoes themselves were so close to genetically identical: they all came from a very few ancestors imported to Europe from the Americas. Naturally, human beings learned nothing from this, and instead of diversifying have spent the last century narrowing down the crops we grow to the few highest-producing varieties of just a few plants.

Never Out of Season is a cri de coeur for us to embrace and protect crop diversity before it’s too late, and it’s, well, it’s just a bit repetitive. It could have made a kickass magazine article but as a book, each chapter is just a further repetition of this theme - not even really an elaboration of it; just variations of the same story where a lack of crop diversity leads to disaster.

Although I did find the story of the scientists in the Leningrad seed bank during the siege quite touching. There they are, surrounded by bags of rice and barley and wheat, succumbing to diseases brought on by malnutrition because they’re stoically saving their seed collection for the future.

In any case, there’s a great seed for an apocalypse story in here. Or a post-apocalyptic paean to crop diversity, centered around the characters working their polycultural garden and feasting upon the fruits of their labors.

Cookies!

Nov. 13th, 2016 11:05 am
osprey_archer: (food)
Here are the Christmas cookies that I made for holiday launch:



No one could mistake them for professionally decorated cookies, but still I think they turned out nicely. I did the piping with DIY pastry bags made by snipping the corner off a Ziploc bag, which works pretty well; I got better at it as I went on. The mitten cookie off to the right with the pine tree piped onto it is one of my final efforts, and I think it shows a definite increase in control.

I enjoyed icing the cookies so much that I'm thinking I'll have a cookie decorating party with my friends as Christmas approaches. Who doesn't like making cookies look pretty? We can put on some Christmas music and really get in the spirit of things.
osprey_archer: (window)
I usually write my Wednesday Reading Meme out ahead, as I finish things, but I didn't this week and after the election results I don't have the heart for it; it seems rather pointless.

I suppose one could also argue that continuing to see the point, or hope for a point, in times of darkness is in itself pointful - this is not a very eloquent way to put it; I didn't sleep well last night - anyway. So I guess I'll do a short version of the reading meme anyway.

This last week I finished reading the newest American Girl series, which I mean to give its own separate post (still no illustrations D:, but it is an improvement over the Maryellen series), and Madeleine L'Engle's memoir A Circle of Quiet, which I actually did find inspiring, although in an introspective way - she had some things to say about self-absorption as a form of self-annihilation that I found thought-provoking, that we are most ourselves when we are least conscious of ourselves -

But I also meant to write about that at more length in its own entry. And while it is inspiring, it is not the finding-a-light-when-all-seems-dark inspiration for the moment.

I made scones this morning, and broke out the strawberry-rhubarb preserves my father brought me from Maine, and Julie and I had a breakfast tea party. I have sugar cookies in the oven to take to work for the holiday set-up this evening. I am not sure what else to do.
osprey_archer: (food)
Today was a mixed day for Reeses. In the morning I went to Dunkin Donuts, intending to get one of their Reeses doughnuts which were amaaaaaaazing, filled with peanut butter with sweet chocolate glaze on top, all in a soft yeast doughnut - but, as the past tense has no doubt warned you, they seem to have been discontinued. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Dunkin Donuts, I would have bought so many of those!!!!

But on the other hand when I was at Target later I saw Reeses cups stuffed with Reeses pieces, which I had heard about but never seen with my own eyes, so of course I had to give them a try. I was quite suspicious about it until the first bite, but actually they were good! They didn't overstuff them with Reeses pieces - I was, I must confess, envisioning a chocolate shell barely held together over a tightly-pressed cylinder of Reeses pieces - but just had a smattering of them through the peanut butter, which gave it a satisfying crunch.

While I am reviewing candy (clearly I should add a candy review feature to this blog. I have thought about doing reviews of new Starbucks food, given that I eat so much of it), I should also tip my hat to the TimTams [livejournal.com profile] littlerhymes sent me, which are like fancy melt-in-your-mouth KitKats. I approve!

Walking

Oct. 25th, 2016 07:47 am
osprey_archer: (snapshots)
I walked to the library yesterday, which is rather a long walk and mostly alongside a busy street; but I found a couple of picturesque scenes along the way.

Like this Swing )

I also found this house, which looks like a throwback to the old days when this area must still have been farmland: here )

Mondays are my day off, so we made a rather fabulous dinner last night. For hors d'oeuvres we had slices of apples with honey and brie (I did not take a picture of these, because they were not visually very interesting, but they were delicious, highly recommended), and I also caramelized onions to put on bagel pizzas.

I caramelized only half an onion, and ended up putting all of it on the bagel pizzas. This was delicious, although it probably would have been better to caramelize a whole onion and save some for later.

The world's most loaded bagel pizza )
osprey_archer: (cheers)
I am returned from Chicago, whither I went for my friend Rachel's wedding, which was GORGEOUS and also scrumptious. She had the best hors d'oeuvres: croutes with smoke salmon and croutes with chicken liver pate and compote, balls of fried goat cheese, little berry tartlets with brie; and creme brulee French toast with Chantilly cream and blueberries for the main course, along with bacon and asparagus quiche and chicken mushroom crepes, and a vast three-tiered plate of doughnuts in place of a traditional wedding cake.

Mmm, it was all so good. Chicago as a whole was lovely; I arrived a day early, planning to go to the Art Institute, but it was so beautiful that I couldn't bear to spend the day indoors and walked along the lake shore instead, all the way up to Lincoln Park Zoo, and then cutting across to visit my favorite shops on Clark Street. (I am finally getting a hang of Chicago geography! At least for this very small part of Chicago.) I was very tired by the time I reached the motel.

And now the weddings are done for the year! (Well, I have YET ANOTHER friend getting married, but she is only inviting family because the wedding is happening in Pakistan, and honestly it's just as well because I don't think I could do a a fourth wedding even if it wasn't halfway around the globe.) Just in time for me to start planning for Sae's wedding, which is next June. In Japan!

I am also way behind on The Count of Monte Cristo, because I didn't want to lug the book around Chicago (it is an awfully big book).
osprey_archer: (cheers)
It's been a busy few days! My caramelized onion plans on Wednesday had to be put back, as my roommate proposed going to the gardens at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and who am I to say no to a trip to the gardens? (Actually I had to take some time to think about it. I do not adjust swiftly to changing plans, even if the new plan is clearly superior.)

But we did go to the gardens in the end and it was lovely. I took along The Magic Pudding, which I have been saving for a special occasion, and read it in the ravine garden on a shady stone bench, and it was lovely too; like an antipodean Wind in the Willows, with koalas and bandicoots rather than water rats and moles.

Also a penguin. Are penguins native to Australia, or was the author just like "Yeah penguins! I love drawing penguins!"?

Actually I enjoyed it more than The Wind in the Willows. The story is more cohesive: the main characters have a self-replenishing pudding, which their nemeses are forever trying to steal. Also the pudding has a foul temper and is forever shouting at them, as puddings do, although I can't really blame it, because they're always stuffing the pudding into logs and things which is doubtless hard on its temper.

Yeah. It's a delightfully weird book, too. I particularly enjoyed Bunyip Bluegum's hifalutin speeches. Why shouldn't a koala hold forth in the highest style of late-Victorian oratory?

In any case! I made a caramelized onion grilled cheese sandwich with sharp cheddar cheese a few days later, and it was exactly as delicious as I dreamed. The first time round I put on a bit more onion than I should have and it rather overpowered the taste of everything else, but the second I cut back a little and it all blended perfectly.

And then yesterday I drove to downtown Indianapolis to attend an art fair and also to see the Central Library, which is GINORMOUS and rather intimidating and also possessed of a piece of rolling ball sculpture, which consists of a bunch of marbles rolling about on metal tracks and bouncing over xylophones and generally being mesmerizing.

I didn't mean to check anything out, but they had D. E. Stevenson's The Four Graces and I just couldn't resist. After all, the first visit to a library ought to be marked by checking out a book, am I right?

Right now I'm reading Ethel Turner's Seven Little Australians on my Kindle, though. I blame The Magic Pudding; its kickstarted an interest in Australian children's books.
osprey_archer: (food)
I went to visit a couple of friends the other day, and left their house loaded down with cherry tomatoes and all their carbs (they are on one of their periodic low-carb diets again), which of course inspired me to exciting heights of cookery. I made roasted tomatoes! I have always wanted to roast tomatoes!

Perhaps next time I will roast them with garlic cloves so I can spread the sweet soft-baked cloves on toast. Hmmm.

Part of my haul included little pre-made Melba toasts, so I also made a sort of caprese appetizer thing with goat cheese and basil and cherry tomato halves. Delicious!



I have tomorrow off, and now that I've been bitten by the cooking bug I want to make something new & exciting. I have some bread that really needs to be used up, so I'm thinking fancy grilled cheese of some kind - I read a really interesting recipe once for grilled cheese with caramelized onions, and I've always wanted to caramelize an onion...

On the other hand, grilled cheese is so good and classic just like it is, maybe I shouldn't fuss with it? I went to a restaurant - this was such a disappointment; I'd been looking forward to this restaurant so much - and I got a grilled cheese sandwich with brie and blackberries, and the blackberries were still cool, and the brie was all runny (which is probably inevitable with a grilled cheese sandwich with brie; I should have realized beforehand) and in short it was a decidedly inferior grilled cheese.

On the other hand, if I've just caramelized the onions they will be hot and delicious. And they would go so well with sharp cheddar, don't you think?

And if I'm caramelizing onions in the first place, I really ought to do some extra and use them for dinner. I have all that goat cheese - I bought a big log - and we have basil and rosemary in the backyard - and I do have a bunch of apples... I'm sure I can manage something good.
osprey_archer: (books)
I was so excited about Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline's Rescue, my Caldecott book for this week, that I went out and got an eclair to eat while reading it. Maximum Frenchness achieved!

Anyway, this book is cute. I do wonder why Bemelmans won for this book and not for the first Madeline book, which is so iconic, but then when it was first published I daresay no one knew it was going to be iconic.

I actually haven't read any of the Madeline books - there are it seems five others - and now I'm contemplating getting them allllll and baking some madeleines (my mother has a madeleine pan) or possibly just buying more eclairs and having a miniature Madeline reading festival.

Honestly the hardest part of the Caldecott project is that I keep running across non-Caldecott picture books I'd like to read (or have read, and would like to reread) - I'm so poorly read in picture books.

Like next week is Marcia Brown's Cinderella, which looks cute, but she also wrote an adaptation of Stone Soup, and I LOVED Stone Soup as a child - the soldiers walking in town and the townsfolk slowly coming out with their hidden carrots and cabbages and everyone having a great big soup feast at the end.

...Anyway. I don't actually have a lot to say about this book (although I did like the page where they're looking for their lost dog in a graveyard that has all the famous dead French people: Sarah Bernhardt! Hugo! Bizet! Also Oscar Wilde with a sad little poem about outcasts), but it is cute and I did enjoy it.
osprey_archer: (snapshots)
Over the last couple of weeks since the move, I have accrued a certain number of photos of my new life, and of course I decided to SHARE.

I went for a long walk around the neighborhood to see what I could see; findings included a Russian deli, a New Age store and a Christian store standing almost cheek by jowl, and this This weeping willow tree )

On the same walk, I found this restaurant sign, in the most glorious handwriting )

Later on, Becky and I went for another long walk - Becky calls them "rambles," which I like - through the grand park out by her house. We found a hitherto-unsuspected natural history museum, a lakeshore path, and this confused owl )

A few days later, Becky and I convened for an autumn tea party )

In other food news, my family dropped by for dinner at our favorite Greek restaurant in Indianapolis, and of course my mother brought me a load of food for the apartment, including two enormous gorgeous peaches. Actually I was a bit worried about the peaches - no fruit, I felt, gets that large naturally - but they turned out to be delicious and perfectly ripened and glorious.

I grilled one of them )
osprey_archer: (friends)
A rather splendid day, for the most part! Today was my last day at my current Starbucks (I'm starting at the new store...next Friday, eek! Remind me to post the photo of the lounges), so I made a plate of chocolate chip cookies as a goodbye present for everyone. Very well-received! If you want compliments on your cookies, nothing does it like butter.

And! It turned out that my boss had sprung for a pizza party for those of us on staff at time, which was awfully nice of her. I particularly enjoyed these mozzarella cheese puff things - I can't figure out what they would be on the Pizza Hut menu - but they were scrumptious.

And later on I went to the library to pick up a movie to watch with Becky (she's coming tomorrow to take down the first load of Apartment Stuff, which I have carted up to the living room for easy loading. I may have brought up a rather optimistic amount...), only to discover that lo! This is the first day of their fall library sale!

So I also found a book to give to Becky as a thank-you gift (Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Headless Cupid; Becky shares my love of children's literatuer) and - and - AND! A copy of the complete collected Raffles stories by E. W. Hornung! Which I bought on the spot, naturally, never mind I already don't have enough space on my shelves.

In between I cried for about on an hour in a bout of bitter hypochondria. I was rather hoping I would be all over this before the move, but I think probably that was an unrealistic expectation, and it is progress, surely, that it sucked up only an hour rather than dragging the rest of my day down the drain with it?

I think I'm getting a bit better at coping with it at least. I've discovered that it really doesn't work for me to try to watch TV, even a TV show I like, to try to distract myself: it leaves too much of my mind free to keep worrying. It's better to haul around box or sort papers or read or do anything else that will force me to focus my attention.
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

I already posted a review of Paradise Now, and nothing since then.

What I’m Reading Now

Louisa May Alcott’s Moods, and I have to say, I can totally see why posterity ignores this book in favor of Little Women and Alcott’s other children’s books. Alcott preferred writing about men (she mentions this numerous times, sometimes within her own books for girls), but most of her guy characters are sooooo booooring in comparison to the girls. (I make an exception for Laurie. He’s practically an honorary Marsh sister anyway.) Moods features a lantern-jawed paragon of manly self-reliance whose name I can’t even recall.

I’m also reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, which I am enjoying very much, insofar as one can enjoy a book that makes one look with distress at the entire contents of one’s refrigerator because most everything in it is the product of our remarkably broken industrial food system. It’s certainly compelling.

I’m not sure about Pollan’s choice to give the plants’ point of view, though. I suppose my resistance to anthropomorphizing plants might be just as much a result of prejudice as the slowly-crumbling resistance of many scientists to admitting that non-human animals have feelings, but... plants. Do they have opinions? Do they make plans? Even if they do, how would we possibly know? Plants are the true alien life form, more utterly unlike us than anything in a science fiction novel, and I’m not sure we can bridge that gap to communicate with them.

What I Plan to Read Next

Paradise Now has reminded me that I’ve long wanted to read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance, which was based on his time at the commune at Brook Farm. The only other Hawthorne I’ve read was The Scarlet Letter, for ninth grade English, which did not leave me with a high opinion of Hawthorne, but surely he cannot fail to make a book about Brook Farm charming.

Paradise Now also reminded me that I’ve always intended to read Thomas More’s Utopia, but that is more along the lines of “a book I plan to read sometime in the future” than “a book I plan to read next.”

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