Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Skulls, Tombstones and Graveyards

Halloween totally justifies my morbid love of graveyards, especially old ones. And while Boston wasn't quite the Fall Paradise I had hoped, it did provide a lovely graveyard.

I was quite taken with the skulls that adorned many of the tombstones. They are a stark contrast to the cutesy decorations and the sugar loaded candy in every grocery store that mark the oncoming celebration of Halloween.


Adrenaline Rush

We hiked Indian Head Trail starting at the trailhead at Flume Gorge Park, New Hampshire. The entire trail is encompassed by trees that block the view of the valley below. That is, until you reach the summit. Once there, the trees suddenly clear and there is nothing but you, a monstrous granite rock beneath your feet and a View.

With no guard railing to stop me, and with a fresh breeze whisking away all the condensation that had accumulated on my skin (because surely that wasn't sweat? Even Arizona doesn't produce sweat like that!) I couldn't resist the urge:

New Hampshire in the fall beats Boston every single day. Look at those fall colors. Love you NH!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

End of Summer Book Review

It's been a while since I posted a long book review. And since you're dying to know whether you should read some of these, here's my take on 'em:

Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance
by Marthe Jocelyn

The jacket design for this book is exquisite (because who doesn't love an old fashioned book cover?). This is the story of Mable Riley who accompanies her sister (the new school mistress) to a different town to board with complete strangers. Mable is a daring sort of girl who becomes curious about a neighbor woman who rides a bicycle, wears bloomers instead of dresses, and thinks quite highly of women's rights. (She also has a cottage named "Silver Lining" because her "little cottage is a spot of brightness in a dark world"). Set in Canada in 1901, this book nicely encapsulates how people learn to live with each other's differences, while still maintaining their own opinions. Not everyone is converted to the ways of women's rights, and the solution to the problems doesn't come about in a fairy tale wrap up. Which makes it refreshing to read. I do love Mable's take on boring primers--she twists the dull rhymes into new ones of her own.

Smiles to Go by Jerri Spinelli
This is the story of a boy who takes the world very seriously. He's worried about what will become of him after he dies, he has a twelve step plan for his life...he's serious about becoming something in life--he's a planner and a thinker and a worrier.

But his best friend isn't like that at all. He's carefree to the point of driving the protagonist to worry that his friend won't get anywhere in life. And at the edges of all things in the protagonist's life is his annoying little sister (who, for the record, is cool times ten (in an annoying little sister sort of way), e.g. she refuses to eat dinner with regular utensils, instead she uses play tools: a plastic screwdriver and pliers...)

I love how Spinelli creates these characters who are Very Real. They have quirks, they have interesting personalities with depth. This book looks at the question: How do people who think that life has to be lived according to a 12 step plan respond to people in their lives who don't have plans like that? How do you love your friends for what they are instead of picking at them for what they are not? And for those of us who too often saw our siblings as a annoying pests rather than friends to be loved, this book sends a powerful message.

This book is at times philosophical (think Star Girl), but really, for those of us who don't see the world that way, it's good to be reminded that some people out there do.

Lucky Stars by Lucy Frank
Kira's dad makes her sing for money in the subways of New York which is embarrassing in some ways but good in another: she has an amazing voice. It's a gift she loves, but not enough to overcome her annoyance at having people laugh at her for being a panhandler.

Jake stutters, and it consumes his life and the way he sees himself. He can't get past that barrier in his mind, that is, until he meets Kira and wants to be her friend.

And Eugene...well, he's overweight and funny and doesn't care what people think...and he's Jake's best friend and right hand man, stepping in to help out when the words won't come.

Somehow, all three of them end up thinking about joining choir at their school.

I love this book for it's characters and for it's realistic look at being a teenager. Teenagers have tough decisions, have sincere and very pressing concerns that aren't always drugs, sex and cliques at school. And on top of that, they have parents and teachers and all the restrictions and responsibilities that come with living in a world controlled by adults.

Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks
How do villains learn what they learn? How about in a school for villains!
This book goes so much beyond being another boarding school story. This is the story of a boy genius (Cadel Piggot) (and I think the author does a fabulous job of making him into a believable genius) who finds out his father is one of the most dreaded villains in the world. And his father is doing everything he can to ensure his son is well equipped to take over the family business when he grows up.

Cadel loves that his talents are not only appreciated, but encouraged. He likes too that his dad has a plan for his life. But parents' dreams and ambitions aren't enough to fill their child's need for a dream of his own.

This is a unique twist on a coming of age story. I love that the author recognized that everyone, genius' included, need love and to feel wanted. I also loved reading about systems, numbers, math...the references were very much over my head, but the story was still very readable (and enjoyable) in spite of it's "genius" material. Also, the "bad" things Cadel does are funny and fun because they are actually clever and not stereotypical dumb bad guy stuff. I would peg this as a book for older teens.

Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? by Elenor Updale
A prominent thief is seriously injured while trying to escape from a job. A doctor wanting to prove his theories about surgery operates on the thief and saves his life through the use of groundbreaking medical techniques. The doctor uses the thief as a model in his lectures, continues trying new techniques on the thief.

All the while the thief thinks of the day he'll be released from prison, and he decides he wants the life of a gentleman. And because of the lectures he's "attended" as an exhibit, he's been introduced to the newly constructed sewer system in London. And he realizes that it is the key to his success as a thief. And so, upon his release, the thief, now calling himself Montmorency, embarks on his mission to become a gentleman.

This is a young adult novel without any young adult characters in it. It's a great adventure read, though I would also recommend this book for older teens. Both this book and its sequel deal with adult situations and dilemmas, though nothing is particularly sensual or objectionable for a mature reader. Also, this book works very well as a stand alone novel, though there are two other books about Montmorency.

Late Bloomers

I planted some flowers earlier in the summer and so far they've only managed to grow some green leaves about four inches high. That is, until last week, and then this popped out:

Nice, eh?!

Some little shoots had popped up in our hydrangeas so The Rock replanted them and last week this little guy showed up:

It's like spring, except it's almost Fall, but I'll take flowers whatever season they think it is.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ode To Mrs. Consoli, or Some Amazing Ribs

Oh boy. This is the one. (for me anyhow)
Country style ribs were on sale last Friday at the Highly Esteemed and Marvelous Buy Low, and I bought a pack. Then during class today, I googled 'quick bbq ribs' and we now have Mrs. J. Consoli to thank as we eat and weep over her "Quick and Tasty 3 Step BBQ Rib Recipe."
Mm. Mm-mm. Watch out though, them thar ribs are super addicting, and I think you could get your month's worth of cholesterol if you eat the whole recipe. See the nutritional facts to the right.
I only had three tiddly little pieces and that was enough for me (although I think I would have eaten myself to death if I wasn't the Unselfish-Thoughtful-Soul-Who-Thinks-of-Her-Husband and her right aorta)
Note: We don't have a real grill as yet, and so I used the George Foreman grill instead and it worked marvelously.

Corn Colors

We grew two special types of corn this year and they are quite beautiful, so I'm sharing pictures with you.

This is Sweeheart corn (good for popping, not eating)
It's really small. About the size of a racquetball. It's the perfect color combo for fall, though, don't you think?

This is our Blue Hopi corn:

And, no, it did not taste that good. Because we left it on the stalks too long, or something, and it was quite firm and not super edible straight off the cob. I'm thinking we need to grind it into cornmeal (blue corn chips anyone?). Maybe that's just the way the corn is supposed to be...we're novices over here, in case you forgot. So, if you know the answer to why our blue corn isn't soft enough to eat, let me know!

In case you haven't gotten the picture...

If you come to visit us, we will take you outside to play. The Rock's friend from school visited this weekend and, you guessed it, we did some of this:

It totally looks like the cactus is poking me! (it's not. But not to fear! I'd already been stabbed by a few poky plants.) (also, if you enlarge the picture by clicking on it, you can see my intense concentration...or consternation).

Just another plug for the FP being the BEST PLACE EVER. (or, maybe just the Pokiest Place Ever. Hard to say.) --Lu

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

When Em came to Town

My good friend Em visited this weekend and she brought the rain with her, just like last time. She's a brave girl so she opted for mountain biking even though rain was threatening. The threat was fulfilled in the form of DOWNPOUR and FLASH FLOODS!

I can't adequately tell you the thrill of riding through rushing water where just an hour before there was none. The brown water splooshing up over your handlebars, all over your legs, your poncho only barely noticeable because you were already soaked when you put it on...

The adventure didn't end after we'd gotten back to the truck. The Rock later said, "I know about flash floods, so before I drove through the wash I looked up it..." What he said to Em and me was "Look at that!" There was a two foot wave of water rolling down the wash! We were 5 seconds too late to make it across safely so we waited 20 minutes for the water to get a little more manageable. Then we waited 20 minutes again when we had to cross the same wash half a mile down.

On Monday I secured proof of The Rock's love of animals/crawly things:

(we nicknamed this the Pool of Wonders because it's a cool little pool in the rocks, there's an 'island' in it, AND there was a beetle (shown), a snake in a crack on the back wall AND! a dead tarantula floating in the water).

I vote this one of the Top Weekends in the FP. Thanks Em!

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Grand Potato Experiment

When we converted our dirt plot backyard into a garden, I insisted that potatoes--Red Potatoes--be included. This led to me also insisting that tires be used to increase our potato yield. Being the romantic he is, The Rock returned from a mountain biking excursion with a present for me--a truckbed full of used tires. (and I must note that he carried each tire up a hill to his truck! Now that's love, people.)

For several weeks (or was it months?) we used those tires to increase our liklihood of being voted Best Redneck Front Yard--but when no award was forthcoming, The Rock stacked the tires neatly in the backyard until our potato plants grew tall enough to need additional tires.

Eventually each grouping of plants had 3 tires as shown here:

Because some of the plants started dying we decided it was time to harvest the potatoes. (Which was convenient because my roast recipe this week called for 2 lbs. of red potatoes).

Eagerly, I set out to dig up the left tire stack. Later that day The Rock dug up the right tire stack.

This was our total yield:
Note the AA battery for scale.

[also note me wincing because the ONLY potato in my entire stack of tires was the size of a pinto bean. It isn't pictured above...I threw it away in frustration.]

However, our Ugly White Grub yield was significantly higher. I don't have a picture to verify this--and you might be glad for that. They were quite...well, grubby.

After smooshing a few grubs, I found a better method of disposal--the black ant superhighway running just behind me.

Ironically, we'll proably be trying to ward off those very ants come spring, and they now have extra strength to fight back because I made it rain grubs one fine September day.

The Rock and I had a pow-wow and we agreed that next year we're going to grow potatoes the old fashioned way in light of this year's results.

We haven't decided yet what to do with the tires...we might recycle them back to the front yard. Or maybe we'll get a little more creative...

Thursday, September 3, 2009