Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How Many Books Do You Have in Your Bag?

So we're going away for a few days over the long weekend.
Back to Virginia for a promotion ceremony, to visit friends, and to shop.
It's a 7-9 hour trip depending upon your speed and traffic, and I'll have to drive halfway there and back.
We'll only be away for a few days, but it begs this question: How many books should I bring with me?
I'm 80 pages from the end of The Long Goodbye (super fantastic book - there's my 5-star review), and know I'll finish that on the way down.
Should I bring just one extra book, or two?
Or maybe 275?
That's about how many are on my Kindle.
Yeah, I'm thinking 275 books, let's go with that.
That should see me through a four day trip.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

But is it money well spent?

So my youngest is still a pre-teen for at least another two months.
After October we'll be going full throttle into the heady teenage years.
Fasten your seat belts!
This ride is going to be a doozy!
She's different from her older sister in that as a younger girl she is focused on many areas of beauty such as maintaining a polished set of nails on both hands and feet, likes to get her eyebrows threaded, and she fixes her hair every morning - things like that.
And like many adolescents she is anxious to stave off the oncoming signs of hormonal disturbance - you know, the bad stuff that happens to your face when it's not sure what the hell is going on with your body.
I bought her the generic brand equivalent of ProActiv in the grocery store a couple of months ago for $12, and then for some reason when she was in Macy's last week her father bought her the Clinique version as well as something else.
I can't remember what the something else is - all I know is that the Macy's bill was $55 for stuff from the cosmetics counter.
It's time to do some math here - you've got my $12 plus the recent $55 purchase - what does that come to?
Now you may recall that in a previous post I was effusive in my delight over the effects of washing my face with honey.
I've been doing it for how many weeks now? It really does work.
That jar of honey (local honey, my friend - I firmly support NY farmers and bee keepers) was $6.00
I think you can see where this is going.
For the past week the youngest has been washing her face with honey.
It's unbelievable - her face is clear and youthful (one would hope, she is only 12).
In other words, she really likes using the honey - a lot!
(What's even better is you can use the crystallized stuff at the bottom of the jar as a scrub.)
Time for math again.
$67 worth of chemicals with so-so results vs. $6 worth of honey with perceivable results.
You can see how she feels about it:

(Pay no attention to the crap on the couch in the background - focus on the face!)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Things I Do Good

Today my boss asked me if perhaps my ego is getting bigger because I'm signing things for him.
I replied in a rather dumbfounded (but slightly disingenuous) manner, "I don't have an ego."
"I know you don't," he admitted.
And really, I don't.
Trust me when I tell you that I have so many things wrong with me it wouldn't be surprising if my co-workers signed a petition encouraging me to become a hermit just to keep my sorry butt out of the general population.
Wow, I'm just bringing myself down here, and I haven't even gotten to the crux of this post!
Seriously, I'm a rather self-effacing individual, and it's usually so easy to find things that I've screwed up.
Rather than dwell on those, I've decided to focus on things at which I excel (because saying it that way is more grammatically correct than the way I have it in the title), and some of my most favorite things in life are reading, knitting, and watching movies.
So I got to thinking that it probably would be good to stop and consider, and perhaps create a list that would allow for reflection and focused direction in the future, and keep me from being too down on myself.
Without further ado here's a list of 20 things at which I excel in no particular order:

1. I can read.
2. I can read fast.
3. I can find lots of books that interest me.
4. I can buy lots of books to read.
5. I can successfully keep at least 10 books in a "currently reading" status without losing place of where I am.
6. I can keep books on the shelf for decades before I get around to reading them.
7. I can pass along books I've read to friends.
8. I can give unread books away.
9. I can knit.
10. I can knit socks.
11. I can buy yarn.
12. I can buy yarn for projects and then forget which project I was buying it for.
13. I can buy yarn for projects and let the yarn sit on the shelf for years.
14. I can start projects.
15. I can successfully keep at least 10 projects in a "currently knitting" status.
16. I can sometimes figure out where I left off when I pick one up again.
17. I can correct a mistake if I let the project sit for long enough (it's amazing how it fixes itself sometimes!)
18. I can tell you quite a bit about classic and contemporary movies.
19. I can tell you quite a bit about classic and contemporary television.
20. I can sit on my butt for hours at a time reading, knitting, or watching movies and TV.

Well, see that?
Already I feel so much better about myself!
I'll have to remember this post, and when I get discouraged about nothing in particular I can pull this list up  and remind myself that there is some worth in what I do (and don't) do.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bitter Harvest - Sheila Connolly

Bitter Harvest (Orchard Mystery, #5)Bitter Harvest by Sheila Connolly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When is a mystery not a murder mystery? When no murder takes place. Sheila Connolly's latest outing with orchard farmer Meg Corey is a mystery without a murder, and that's no bad thing. Winter is downtime for an apple orchard farmer, a time to take stock of your stock, of your life, and to catch up on paperwork that was held until the harvest was in. A blizzard, power outage, and a dead furnace leave Meg and her handyman cum love interest Seth Chapin plenty of time to take stock of Meg's colonial farmhouse. During their inspection of one of the front bedrooms they discover an antique sampler shoved in the back corner of a closet lying there undiscovered for well over 100 years. This discovery coupled with a series of odd, almost vindictive events forces Meg to try and figure out the sampler's origins and meaning, as well as uncover who is causing problems around the farm. Once you have suspended disbelief that no one would have found this sampler in the many years of people occupying the house, you'll find the book that much more enjoyable. More genealogy mystery than murder mystery, this cozy is best read in the middle of summer because Connolly so fully evokes the winter weather that I found myself shivering as I read - and it's August!

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

We're having weather here too, you know

While the heavily populated east coast has prepared for Hurricane Irene, I was making preparations myself.

I can't very well watch news of the hurricane unless my toes have been properly cleaned and colored.
Hope everyone stays safe!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


How can I resist this concert?
It's only three blocks from my house (win!), and Christine Lavin is a fantastic artist, an alum, and best of all a...well, read the last line and you'll see just how confident I am that I will be in attendance at this performance:

Friday, February 3

Christine Lavin:

My 25th Anniversary Concert: What Was I (EVER!) Thinking?

This Brockport alumna (’73) has made her mark interntationally as a singer, satirist and raconteur extraordinaire. During her concert she will share some of her early hits while introducing her latest songs, all the while weaving hilarious stories through her music, reflecting on the people, events, near disasters and minor miracles that have defined her life and music. As folksy as she is charming, join Lavin for a knitting circle prior to the show.

This concert is sponsored in part by the Office of Alumni Relations and Development.

Friday, February 3 at 7:30 pm

$15/$10 Seniors, Alumni, Faculty and Staff/$8 Students

Tower Fine Arts Center Mainstage

Oh yes, everyone loves a knitter.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mother's Day Murder - Leslie Meier

Mother's Day Murder (Lucy Stone, #15)Mother's Day Murder by Leslie Meier
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lucy Stone's children are getting older, and in this outing of the Maine mom's sleuthing adventures she is dealing with mean girls from her daughter's school. Also included is an interesting rivalry between two politically and civically active women, the death of one, and a murder of a teenage girl. What Meier tries to relate, and does an adequate job of conveying, is the feeling of helplessness a parent can have when they realize how ignorant they are of the influences in their child's life. Or conversely, how significantly a parent can truly screw up their child when they stifle a child's personal wishes, and control every aspect of their life.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Late to the Party, but Still Dancing

I have been getting older.
It can't be helped.
It's almost an epidemic.
We're all getting older!
What can we do to stop it?!?!
Is there any kind of emergency drill?
Part of getting older for me is that my normally very oily skin has now become somewhat dry.
The expensive beauty products that I used to use now don't work, and only make my skin dry out even more.
So I over-hydrate, and then it becomes oily and breaks out, so I have to dry it out...It's a vicious cycle.
Something has changed to fix that - certain information has come my way, and it's been good - and I mean really good - for the past week.
That's how long I've been using a new facial treatment.
See, I was creeping on someone's blog and noticed that they were convinced to take up a challenge by another friend.
What's the challenge?
To wash your face with honey for two weeks.
But won't that be sticky?
Sure, if it gets in your hair, but water washes it right off your face.
So why honey?
The answers can be found on Crunchy Betty's blog, and let me tell you, this blog is a compendium of wonderful, life-changing information.
And you can put food on your face!
The short answer is that I missed out on entering her challenge, but the long answer is that the challenge was only to just kind of participate and maybe win a prize, and I decided to do it anyway.
Man, am I glad that I have.
Not even a week in and a co-worker/cousin/friend told me, "It's like you're glowing!"
I'm sure she was just saying that because we work together/are related through marriage/and are friends, but the truth is my pores are smaller, my skin is softer, and there really is a difference to my skin.
I have been using some honey from Crete that I bought at the Greek Festival in June, but today I went to Wegman's and found some local organic raw honey (and did I mention it's local).
I believe this is the kind I really should be using, but I have to tell you that the probably over-heated honey from Crete still has worked wonders.
So give it a try - challenge yourself.
And the bonus - when you're rinsing off the honey, if you are like me and tend to leave your mouth open as you rinse, you'll get the sweet taste of honey in your mouth as opposed to the chemical taste from your over-priced beauty aides.
Go natural, follow Crunchy Betty's advice, and let me know how it works out for you!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Yes! No! More Dubstep!

The deal was that if I drove her somewhere then we got to listen to my music.
She pouted for most of the way.
Who is she?
The last one left at home, the spoiled youngest one, the baby otherwise known as She Who Will Turn My Hair Gray Before Its Time.
The rule has always been that whomever is driving has control over what is playing.
If you don't like it then this is why you have your own headphones and iPod.
It reminds me of a Simpsons episode where Lisa wants to listen to something on the radio, and Homer tells her that when she drives she can listen to what she wants. No, I didn't get my rule from The Simpsons. Anyway, next thing you know there's eight-year old Lisa standing in the seat and driving while Homer rides shotgun.
I'd post the clip, but I can't find it (nor have I looked very hard for it).
You'll just have to believe me that it was funny.
So here I am in the car with Pouty Patty feeling kind of bad (but not really) as a Yes song came on my iPod.
"Hey, listen, your sister loves this song!"
Always a way to encourage her since she idolizes her sister.
No joy.
"All I wanted to do," she said, "was listen to one song."
"What, your friends don't like dubstep?"
"No, they don't."
"Fine," I said, "one song."
Now I admit that I'm fond of dubstep - it has a great beat (and you can dance to it, Dick), but I was driving! My car, my rules, right?
So not in my control.
And I think that's what it is all about - it's not that she hates my music, or that I hate her music, well not all of it because I'm really not liking the direction Britney Spears is going, but that we both want to be in control of what we listen to.
I try to tell her how difficult it was when I was growing up because when we took trips it was usually my mother, my stepfather and me, and he would only listen to WEZO which was an easy listening (think of elevator music) radio station.
She should be so lucky that I even let her listen to one song, right?
Just to give you an idea of what we're talking about, here is a song that is not what she was playing last night, but that has been in constant rotation in the car for the past few outings:

Not a bad tune, right?
She's really been into it lately since the older ones went to a Skrillex concert last month.
I like this music - I really do - and when they mix the music, and add in the dub you don't necessarily feel like you have to dance as with old school house music because the dub is more hypnotic.
Do I even know what I'm talking about?
Who knows.
Okay, are you still with me? This is the song I was getting into (being hypnotized by) when she forced me to change to her song:

Alas, musical choices continue to painfully reflect the huge generation gap in American households.
What are your kids forcing you to listen to?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Wicked Witch Murder - Leslie Meier

Wicked Witch Murder (Lucy Stone, #16)Wicked Witch Murder by Leslie Meier
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Think of the Wicked Witch Murder as Arthur Miller's The Crucible light. Well, it tries to be anyway. Here's yet another mystery where the mystery doesn't matter as much as the social interaction of the main character, Lucy Stone, with other residents of the small Maine village of Tinker's Cove. A witch, or rather a follower of Wicca, has moved into the village and opened a shop. Her activities as well as the newly-discovered burned body of the coven leader have become the proverbial line in the sand as Meier sets out to prove that the archaic and irrational thinking that drove the Salem Witch Trials is alive and well in modern-day New England. The book is divided up into the five classical Wiccan elements, and actually takes place over several months thus making the solving of the original mystery of who killed the witch really not that important. This means that when Lucy is placed in danger once again, I'm really not feeling all that into what happens to her because again - the mystery doesn't matter. Several episodes in the story are never totally fleshed out, but I will admit that Leslie Meier does conjure up a wonderful New England town.

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Monday, August 08, 2011

Books Can Be Deceiving - Jenn McKinlay

Books Can Be Deceiving (Library Lover's Mystery, #1)Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have you ever read a book and thought, "Hey, I would say that," or "I would have done that"? For me, Books Can Be Deceiving is just that kind of a book, and it is filled with realistic characters. These are the people you would meet in any small town across America, they just happen to live on the coast of Connecticut. Lindsey Norris is the library director, and is settling into her groove in small town Briar Creek. Her college friend, Beth, who has been working at the library for ten years, has an unfortunate encounter with a corpse who just happens to be the boyfriend she dumped the night before. Lindsey and Beth don't actually seek to solve the mystery, only to clear Beth's name before the small-town police chief can effortlessly pin the blame on her. Typical mystery, but written with a certain intelligence and keen eye. Author Jenn McKinlay hits the nail on the head when describing certain bibliophile lifestyle choices, such as having "comfort books" close at hand (who doesn't have those by their bed). And any book that opens with knitting is a good one (although how Lindsey turned a pair of socks on two circular needles into a hat is beyond me - I'll have to check that out). The denouement is a bit flat, but still a rather enjoyable read, and fully worth four stars.

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Friday, August 05, 2011

Acting Apish

I'm a huge "Planet of the Apes" fan.
Bet you didn't know that.
Yessiree, I do so love the 1960s/1970s Planet of the Apes films - there's something about tales of a dystopian society that puts our contemporary lifestyle in perspective.
And they serve as such wonderful allegories for the consequences of our societal sins!
My kids think I'm a geek (for this and many other reasons) because I can tell them the names and plots from each of the films in the series.
So I'm really anxious to see the new film, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."
For the record, I never did watch the latest remake from a few years ago.
Why mess with cheesy special effects - it adds to the authenticity.
I'd really like to get out and see this film, and since no one in the house seems to want to go with me, I may just have to go on my own.
Anyone interested?
Here's the trailer in case you've been living in a cave and have missed the previews:

And just in case you want to remember how the first Caesar came into our world, here's the trailer from "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes":

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Finding Comfort in Food

It's difficult to lose weight when the phrase, "Comfort Food" carries so much (no pun intended) weight. Being an emotional eater, and looking to food for relief, or pleasure, is dangerous.
I know that when I am upset there are certain foods that instantly make me feel better. When talking about the pleasure principle, for me, nothing makes me feel better than peanut butter and crackers.
It's gotten to the point where even if I'm not upset, eating some crackers and peanut butter brings back the impression that I was upset, but now am feeling better, and I draw comfort from this.
As with anything, I can't eat too many, but even a quick consumption of a package of Ritz crackers makes me feel fully emotionally replete.
Being driven to consume certain foods based upon a visual stimulus is even worse.
How bad are fast food commercials when you're trying to diet?
Those commercials are the worst because even if you don't like Wendy's (which I don't), there's nothing more tempting than seeing a commercial for a Wendy's double burger (or anything) and then feeling compelled to go get one RIGHT NOW.
Then there is the olfactory stimulation that makes us crave certain foods
For instance, does the smell of freshly popped popcorn instantly take you to the theatre where you want to comfortably settle in for a film?
I cannot go to the theatre and not get popcorn. It's virtually impossible. Yes, I've done it a few times, but it's hard for me to focus on the film without my hands having something to do (knitters get this, I'm sure).
And the smell of popcorn literally drives me crazy.
And then we have the memories that are the most dangerous of all - the situational comfort food.
Does the thought of a snowball fight, or building a snow fort make you crave chocolate chip cookies and hot cocoa?
When someone mentions a Sunday dinner, does your mind immediately conjure up fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese?
The worst thing to happen, however, is to eat just because it's there.
I can't tell you how many times while at work, or reading, or watching a movie at home, I've opened a bag of crackers, totally ignored the serving size, and started munching away only to look up a short while later and find that three quarters of the bag is gone!
Potluck dinners, or all you can eat buffets are like mined battlefields.
So much to try, and all these good foods - its impossible not to go back up for just one more round.
Even literature is filled with images of families eating meals, and celebrations filled with ritual feasts.
We probably need look no further back than our religious rituals to see how closely intertwined food is with the rite. Look at our holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter - even the supermarkets know what to stock. Have you ever bought Halloween candy in September, just so you're ready, and then found that you have to buy more because the first batch has been consumed? By you?
The only place where I am safe from consuming food is when I'm drinking beer.
This is hardly a plus, since beer  has never been considered a valid diet aid, but I just can't mix my vices, so I don't even eat peanuts (not that they serve them anymore) when I drink.
I believe there was a cartoon character who said, "When I drinks, I drinks, and when I eats, I eats."
Or maybe that's just something I made up in my head when I was drinking (not that I really do a lot of that, so don't worry).
Life with food cravings is tough, and I wish there was some magic pill that would shut off my food stimulation switch.
I do realize, however, that finding comfort in food is all about mental satisfaction, and has nothing to do with a physical need.
I just have to remind myself that food is not there to make me emotionally well.
But dang, it sure does taste good