Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Week of Creatures

As the optimum window for planting perennials is drawing to a close, I find myself out in the garden more and more trying to get caught up on everything that didn’t get done during the last chaotic months. This “being outside time” has been hot and hard, but has also brought gifts of small creature sightings that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Like a few days ago when I helped in the rescue of a least shrew that had fallen in a half-undug hole of a fence post hole and was in danger of being squished during the final pry-out stage. There are toadlets galore in the garden. And something chewy that has taken refuge in the wood pile. Heard it. Seen the aftermath. Have yet to see the actual creature.

At least there have been no sightings of snapping turtles or wild cats this calendar year. So far.

It feels like the garden is finally taking shape. It was basically a desert when we bought it in 2008, and we ended up having to remove about half the few trees and shrubs that were here due to poor health and/or poor placement.

Three more bushes were installed this week:

a Green Giant arborvitae, Royal Purple Smoketree,

and a Verdoni Hinoki Falsecyrpess.

And lots and lots of day lilies, Asiatic and Oriental lilies.

We ate dinner at a business associate’s home a few nights ago, and I was bemoaning the fact that I have been spending several hours every morning working in the garden, but that I’m hopelessly behind for the year. This associate couldn’t imagine what on earth I would have to do in the garden that would take me that long. Hmmmm... Having glimpsed her lawn and garden, I’m not surprised by her surprise. There are a few flowers, including a long line of old-fashioned echinacea bordering the approach to her front door, but nothing is in beds, and the only weeding is what the mower catches as it trims the edge, so all the day lily beds were as much overgrown grass as they were lily. Yes, I’ve got a weed issue in my beds too, but there is also an obvious attempt at controlling them, and those that are there only have a month of growth rather than an entire season.

After I’d written this post, but before it went live, I got a call from my MIL. She, too, asked if I was done with my gardening work. I wonder if the general public (and these are both people who own their own homes with a yard that should be tended) realize that yard work is a bit like vacuuming and cleaning the toilets. Done right, tasks should be repeated on a semi-regular basis. Back to my garden...

Buttered Popcorn from our 2010 purchases continue to be a favorite for me. Michael is extremely fond of Mallard, also from 2010.

We picked up some gorgeous Asiatics. Unfortunately a severe spring storm destroyed their blossoms before I could take proper pics.

But this Nosferatu is a delicious addition dropped into the center of the Buttered Popcorn,

and I’m such a huge fan of the Yellow Tiger Lily that I went back to the garden center to buy another pot..

And to wrap up the week of creatures, I bring you a moment of fuzzy bliss, compliments of Aspera and the newest addition to our household, a very patient PiƱa.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Recent Conversation

MIL: Does it hurt? she asked.

ME: Nope.

MIL: Did you scream?

ME: Nope.

MIL: Well I would have screamed if a tiny leopard had jumped on my face in the middle of the night.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Weekend Wrap-up

This weekend I have two movie reviews, and two recipe reviews.

Food first:

This recipe for Strawberry Summer Cake is to-die-for!

I left off the extra 2 T sugar sprinkled over the top, but didn’t miss it a bit. Very fast and easy to prepare.

Sunday night I whipped up a batch of Mandarin Chicken from the Woman’s Day Collectors Cookbook ©1973. It’s a very different dish than I’ve ever made, and the recipe directed that I marinate the chicken breasts in a stick of butter and 1/2 cup of white wine. Awesome! As it turned out, the dish was much milder (read: bland) than I expected or prefer. Jotting down some notes about how I’d modify this in the future, like omitting some of the syrup from the drained mandarin oranges, and throwing an entire can of oranges into the blender to get a better infusion of mandarin juice throughout the sauce. Amping up the soy sauce and adding cashews could also help the dish overall. Will know for next time.

On the movie front, if you like English-language foreign films, then check out The Station Agent. No, it’s not foreign, but it has the pacing and feel of a good foreign flick. It’s written and directed by Thomas McCarthy, who played the reporter in the final season of The Wire. Available on DVD.

Saw the film trailer for Potiche, starring Catherine Deneuve on one of the latest Millennium Trilogy DVDs. It’s playing at some art houses now, and it was a fun film. As a knitter, I especially loved the scenes with her son Laurent and his sweater.

I know. How deliciously ’70s!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Filling a Much-Needed Prescription

After the long, stressful, emotional and life-changing weeks we’ve had, we sorely needed an evening of this:

Live music performed by a bossa nova band, which was followed by:

A screening of an incredibly cheesy lucha libre movie starring Mil Mascaras.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Have You Ever Wondered...

if the wrong plot is ever prepared for a grave...

and what it would be like to discover this during the graveside service...

and order a new grave dug...

and the remains/coffin/vault removed from the wrong plot...

and placed in the correct plot?

Well, that’s one thing I don’t have to wonder about any more. Cross that baby off the list!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Rest in Peace

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The End of an Era

I’m finished. The final page of the final book in the Earth’s Children series has been read. Am I disappointed that the journey I began in 1980 is over? Nope. Relieved is more like it.

For the whippersnappers out there that weren’t of reading age (or possibly even alive) back in 1980 when the first of the series (Clan of the Cave Bear) was released, I can tell you that female protagonists were few and far between on the literary landscape of the time. Nancy Drew was about it, and that’s like saying that playing with an Easy-Bake Oven is as good as a Mr. Wizard’s Adventures in Chemistry Set. So a book with a strong female lead, that was rich in details of prehistoric humanity and the flora and fauna of the Upper Paleolithic era... let’s just say the book had me at “hello.”

I have read the entire series as each book was released. I wish I could say I loved each and every one of them, but that would be a lie. I enjoyed the first two or three, while the later ones have been incredibly disappointing. But I felt committed to see the journey to its end.

Nine years passed between the publication of book five, The Shelters of Stone, and book six, The Land of the Painted Caves, and thirty one years have passed between the release of the first and last books of this series. That’s a lot of time, and my memory was pretty foggy on some of the critical plot points, so back in March I started reading the entire series over. That’s over 4000 pages, people. And what I found was that the books were mainly filler and fluff. If you were to remove all the passages that described the buildings, animals, and plants—and removed all of the (many, many) detailed descriptions of the main characters having intercourse—the books would have been about a quarter their size.

And it’s not stellar writing, either. For the most part she seems to be writing to a fourth grade reader level, then she throws in odd words like “diffident” that isn’t generally used in casual conversation but she uses it with such frequency that you’d think it was an article like “an” or “the”.

I dare say, if the author were to shop the series around today, that it’s unlikely that she would have found an agent and publisher. There’s more competition from pedigreed professional writers, and fewer publishers willing to take gamble on a new author.

Did I really read all 4000+ pages? Um... no. I found myself skimming large passages of the previous books because I was trying to refresh my memory on the characters and plot points, and that didn’t require knowing what types of grasses were growing on the steppes they traveled through in chapter 13. And then I found myself skimming large tracts in the final new book because I wasn’t all that fascinated with the descriptions of the dozen or so caves she visited during her donier tour, or by the cave paintings themselves. I might have been more interesting if she’d made an attempt at explaining the symbolism behind some of the images, but she avoided that entirely.

No. I’m done. The last three books are in a pile on the dining table waiting for the next trip to the local library where they will land in the donation box with a mighty “thud”. I’m more than okay that they are done, and more than okay that I will never feel compelled to read them again.

More time for knitting.

Monday, June 06, 2011

When it’s 93°, and You’ve Just Spent a Sweaty Morning at a Civil War Reenactment…

there’s only one reasonable thing to do:

Take a community nap!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Minutes to Spare: A Finished Object

This is the Cable Vest from Lion Brand, made for size 1. Fiber is Red Heart Eco-Cotton blend in chocolate and accented with almond.

The reviews of this pattern remark that the neck hole as written is too small to fit easily over a child’s head, so I made mine bigger, and made adjustments to the pattern accordingly.

I was nearly done the evening before this was to be gifted, but ran into a major snag at the 11th hour and had to frog the neckline ribbing and start over. With the neckline re-do, plus knitting the ribbing on the sleeves, seaming, and sewing in loose ends, this sucker barely made it in time. In fact, it was still damp when I took it out of the dryer and rushed it over to “W’s” house for the gathering. Whew!