Showing posts with label Funny. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Funny. Show all posts

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Yes Sister, No Sister

Recently, I've been reading the memoir Yes Sister, No Sister.  I've mentioned it several times on this blog.  It ended up being a really fun story of a young woman in the 50s who leaves her military parents in India to go to study nursing in Yorkshire.  She starts work with her school friends at Leeds General Infirmary and proceeds to have all kinds of fun and challenges in her path to nursing.

Jennifer Ross (the author's real name is Jennifer Craig) tells the partly gripping, partly humorous, partly moving story of nursing in a warm, affectionate voice.  It is obvious that her early years as a nurse spent in Yorkshire were very good years, in spite of the long hours and sometimes cranky head sisters who ran the hospital.  There is also a whole host of likable characters, from kind Sister Busby who fixes the young surgeons' mistakes to Jennifer's best friends, Jess and Sandy.

I won't lie, there are definitely gory parts and Jennifer Craig does not gloss over the nasty hours of cleaning out bedpans and the man whose leg she felt pull off of his body.  This doesn't repulse me like it does some people, so I wouldn't recommend this book to just anyone because of that.  But to counteract the sometimes dark parts of nursing, such as seeing a dead body for the first time, there are things like the old man with the funny Yorkshire accent and the hours spent laughing with fellow nurses over funny incidents.

Jennifer Craig, along with being a good nurse (or so it appears from the stories), is also a good writer.  She doesn't bog the reader down with piles of technical writing and parts of medical procedures that are mentioned are explain in layperson's language.  Her writing style is breezy and funny and there is nothing pedantic or solemn about the way she presents this life story.  I think that it's kind of the nurse's version of the James Herriot stories.   I've always loved Herriot's writing style, so it's great to find somebody else who has the gift of being good at their profession and at telling a story.

If you are completely put off by the occasional mention of blood and guts, then please do not pick up this book.  But if that doesn't faze you, then go ahead and read this.  The stories are fantastic.  I had a heck of a time finding this book.  It appears to be only sold with Amazon UK and I couldn't find it at the library.  I finally found some place in North Carolina that had the book used.  So if you have this book at your library or close to you somewhere, you're very lucky!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Cats- An Explanation and an Introduction

As I was heading out to feed the chickens, I watched the cat sociology and made up a story as I watched. Then, a brilliant blog post sprang into my head and took hold.  I arranged and rearranged sentences as I lugged buckets and shook mud out of my boot, then came running inside to quickly get the post down on paper.  So here it is.

As you may know from my frequent kitty pictures, we have a host of barn cats.  These are not cosseted little darlings, mind you (not that I have any problem with cosseted kitties).  They get their first vaccinations, get fixed, then live pretty rough and tumble lives.  Yet we all have soft spots in our hearts for these kitties and they have all come to have personalities, both real and made up.  Now you're probably wondering what on earth I mean.  My family has an odd tradition (and it's generations deep) of making up a character for beloved pets.  It's usually kind of based on the animal's real personality, but it's definitely very much rooted in the imaginary.  I was thinking about why we do this and I think that it's because we all read and grew up reading.  We are so used to fictional characters that turning our animals into fictional characters themselves is no problem!

So, I thought I would properly introduce you to the cats, both their real and pretend personalities.  I did want to make a little clarification: these cat personalities are in no way related to people that we know.  Most of them are quite stereotypical characters that nobody is really like.

Tiger-I'm not sure if he's ever been in a blog post.  He's a huge cat and he kind of feels like the patriarch, probably because he and his sister Midnight were the first cats to come on this farm.
The Pretend Tiger is the CEO of the cats.  He puts together power point presentations of how many mice have been killed, how we can "grow the business" and how the rates of mouse killing have "impacted" our growth (can you tell how much business incorrect grammar lingo bothers me?).  He's a slick businessman in a suit and he's an affectionate adoptive uncle to his nixy little niece and nephew, Tom and Shadow.
                                  (Couldn't find a picture of Midnight)
Midnight-I'm sure I've never posted about her.  She is almost never around because she takes long hunting trips and keeps to herself and kills lots and lots of mice.  She also hates other cats.  However, she loves people and is always up for a good snuggle, as long as she doesn't smell like the latest skunk she got in a fight with.
The Pretend Midnight is a bit of a recluse.  She is a spinster who lives in a little cottage in the woods by herself.  She's fiercely protective of her bachelor brother and she's convinced he can't survive in the world without her.
Sadly, this is the only picture I could find of Patsy Cline.
But you get an idea of what she looks like.

Patsy Cline-Yes, we have a cat named Patsy Cline and yes, it's after the country singer.  See, she came around singing a song about a man who'd done her wrong (the common theme in Patsy Cline songs, doncher know).  Sure enough, Patsy Cline was pregnant and now we have Shadow and Tom.  The Pretend Patsy had a rough background (she probably did in real life) that involved a string of men and one cat in particular-a greasy longhaired cat who came riding up on his little kitty motorcycle to visit her at the restaurant where she worked.  After Patsy had Shadow and Tom, she moved here (that's obviously real) and has since vowed to stop chasing men around and having kittens.  Except now she's flirting with Tiger, which enrages his protective sister and is causing all kinds of uproar.  The kittens have moved on to live with their uncle Tiger while they go to school in town.  Patsy is glad to have a quiet little cottage to herself.
                                         (No picture for Grouchy Kitty available)
Grouchy Kitty-Grouchy Kitty is even more of a recluse than Midnight.  Actually, she isn't even our cat, she just shows up and occasionally eats our cat food.  She sits in corners of the horse stalls and growls to herself.  The Pretend Grouchy Kitty comes to the monthly meetings that Tiger holds.  She sits in the back of the room and talks to herself in a low, slightly insane voice.
I love Shadow's whiskers!

Shadow-Shadow is quite uncomplicated.  She's not crazy, she doesn't have a sad past, and she doesn't have corporations to manage. She lives with her brother in their rich old adoptive uncle Tiger's house.  I'm picturing the rich old gentleman's house in A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett when I picture Tiger's house.  It's full of rich old Indian rugs and an old fashioned nursery for the kittens, complete with a Mary Poppins-esque nanny.  Perhaps Tiger could hire Grouchy Kitty as nanny….
I love this picture of Tom because you can see
all of his face.  It's really hard to photograph cats, so
I resorted to selfies with Tom to get him to hold still.

Tom- Tom is also a pretty uncomplicated cat.  He's named for the Beatrix Potter character, Tom Kitten.  The Pretend Tom is about 12 years old and he scampers around causing all kinds of trouble and generally being a nuisance.  But everybody loves him all the same.
I actually made myself laugh writing this.  I know, I know, I am so funny.  But I have to thank my family for endlessly discussing this and making up many of the stories mentioned here.  Without them, our cats would not be half such developed characters.  Now aren't you inspired to go out and give your pet an interesting imaginary life?  If you aren't, it's because you're a member of my family and you've already been doing it and this is old hat.  You don't even see what's so weird about talking about a little kitty motorcycle.

*A bit of business-I am cussing like mad because apparently I deleted Thursday's post.  Help me!  How the heck do I get it back?  Or is it lost in the blogger abyss for time eternal?*

Monday, June 9, 2014

Her Royal Spyness

I just finished reading the first in a great new series!  It's called the Royal Spyness series and they are about a young woman who is 34th in line to the throne.  Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie is in the uncomfortable position of being a young, unmarried woman in the 1920s with not very many encouraging prospects (romantic or financial).  Georgie, as she is called by her friends, is poverty-stricken because she has no financial support thanks to her half-brother cutting off her allowance, yet she can't respectably get a job thanks to her title.  The Great Depression in the United States is obviously affecting things, which makes it even harder.  However, Georgie has a job thrust upon her when a villainous Frenchman who was trying to get the family estate is found dead in her half-brother's bathtub.  Of course, the brother is accused although he is innocent, so Georgie sets off to find out who the real murderer was.

When I first saw this book at the library, I was slightly skeptical.  There was something slightly cheesy about the cover and, really, pun titles do not impress me.  However, it was a really enjoyable romp of a read.  Sure, it's not the most serious writing and will never compare to, say, Agatha Christie, but it's well-written and an interesting story.  I actually laughed out loud in several places.  It was a perfect book to devour in one sitting Sunday afternoon.

Georgie is a likable character and the characters around her are all very well-drawn too.  From her bumbling half-brother who never does anything right to her pinched, humorless sister-in-law, the characters are all interesting and different.

There were some minor faults I found with the book, but none of them were enough to make me dislike the book.  The whole "upholding the family honor" thing was played so heavily that it felt really overdone.  I'm sure there were expectations of a young, unmarried woman so close to the throne.  But bringing up the brave uncle who stood to face the cannons on the Scotland moor every. single. time. there's a creaking noise in the house felt crazy.  The love interest is of the sort that you know is going to be unsuitable as soon as you meet him.  These crime solving women never, ever end up with the romantic interest (I've never understood why).
The next one in the series.

In spite of it's occasional faults and foibles, the story is well-written and I'm very much looking forward to reading another one of these books.  I'm off to check it out of the library!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Words I Love (And Wish Were Used More)

I was taking the laundry off the top of the line and over and over in my head I was happily repeating the word, "befuddle".  This might sound ridiculously strange, but sometimes I'll come across a word (doesn't have to be a new word) in a book and the word just strikes me.  I savor it as I go about my business and, usually, the word sticks with me for a long time.  Anyway, I thought I would share some of my favorite words.  Most of them aren't particularly extraordinary, they're just words that strike me as  fun to say (or think).

So here are my words that I think are really fun to say (and just fun words in general).  Thanks to for the definitions.  The examples are my own.

1. Flack-  Eg. "He didn't get a lot of flack about his latest business decisions." It means "to publicize or promote something or somebody".  However, when I've heard it it always has negative connotations.

2. Defunct- Eg. "The computer that once worked quite well is now completely defunct."  It means, "no longer living; dead or extinct; no longer operative or valid".  I don't know why, but saying this word just amuses me.

3. Jabberwocky- Eg. "When Joe talks, it is merely jabberwocky." It means, "Invented or meaningless language; nonsense".  I have loved the Jabberwocky poem by Lewis Carroll for a long time, so this word is one of my favorites.

4. Mellifluous- Eg. "Everything she said was mellifluous in tone."  It means, "sweet or musical; pleasant to hear".  This word is just so fun to say!  I also love that it sounds like what it means.  It's not quite onomatopoeia, but it's awfully close.

5. Perspicacious- Eg. "Lucy is quite perspicacious when it comes to people's characters".  It means, "having a ready insight into and understanding of things."  I still remember the first time I ever heard this word in about 5th grade.  I was completely struck by how fascinating the word sounded and scurried off to ask somebody what it meant.

6. Tintinnabulation (yes, I spelled that without looking it up!)- Eg. "The tintinnabulation of bells filled the air."  It means, "a ringing or tinkling sound."  This word just sounds joyful, doesn't it?  I don't think I've ever used the word in sentence in real life, but it's a nice word to know.

7. Vicissitudes- Eg. "Ah, the vicissitudes of life."  It means, "a change of circumstance or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome of unpleasant."  It's just a handy word to have on hand when you're gripping and it's fun to say as an added bonus.

8. Avuncular-Eg. "Mr. Smith had an avuncular manner."  It means, "of or relating to an uncle."  Again, don't think I've ever actually used this.

9. Placebo- Eg. "Aunt Beatrice begged for her placebo pills every morning and night, little knowing that they did nothing".  It means, "a harmless pill, medicine, or procedure prescribed more for the psychological benefit to the patient than for any physiological effect."  Just a funny word.  I first read it in a science magazine in middle school.

10. Gormless- Eg. "Freddie is a gormless lackard."  It means, "lacking sense or initiative; foolish."  This word makes me grin every time I read it or say it (yes, I have used this word several times).  It's normally used with another archaic insult word because it's an adjective.  So you couldn't say, "Freddie is a gormless."  I think this might be my favorite word on the list.  It's quite handy as an insult when you're just enraged. I first heard this word in a children's book, The Penderwicks.  I am eternally grateful to Jane Penderwick for this great word.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Henry Reed

I'm back again today with yet another wonderful children's book, this time for slightly older readers.  This book is in my personal library and the other day I just randomly picked it up and started reading it.  The book is called Henry Reed's Babysitting Service.  Henry Reed is the son of an ambassador who travels all over the world.  Every summer, he comes to his aunt and uncle's cozy little 1950s New Jersey neighborhood.  There are several books, but my favorite is definitely Henry Reed's Babysitting.  After the previous summer which is covered in the first book, Henry returns to Grover's Corner and proceeds to plan another moneymaking scheme with his friend Midge.

After conducting lengthy surveys of all the neighbors, they see that there is a real need for babysitting.  And there starts the fun.  There is the busy housewife for whom they cook hamburgers, little knowing that the "hamburger meat" is really ground horse meat for the poodle; and there's the extremely naughty little girl who is surprisingly good at hiding from her caretakers.  But no matter what Henry and Midge do, they always have surprising adventures.  And of course, as in all good 50s children's books, adults are blissfully absent, meaning that the children can have uproarious times without any supervision whatsoever.
Henry and Midge

The book is written in a diary form (something I don't normally enjoy reading), but the stories are so funny and interesting that it works quite well.  I think that the diary form actually works very well for the reader because Henry's voice comes through so clearly without interruptions from the author.

I first heard of these books in middle school, when my dad read one of them aloud.  I remember loving them at once, so it was fun to read through this book again. This story is really great for any age.  Along with Henry's very funny voice are the great illustrations.  All 5 of the Henry Reed books were illustrated by the famous Robert McCloskey (who illustrated and wrote Blueberries for Sal).  Anybody as young as 6 would get the humor and the adventures and there is something timeless about the stories, even with the 50s American references.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Please Don't Eat the Daisies

Please Don't Eat the Daisies was a re-read for me.  It is the comedic essays of a New York theater woman in the 50s.  Jean Kerr was, apparently, married to a famous drama critic and was known for her humor in the 50s and 60s.  This was her first foray into writing.  Each essay is hilarious and covers such topics as "How to be a Collector's Item" and "Dogs I Have Known" (my absolute favorite).  This book is interesting because, although it covers such dated topics and ideas, there is something so recognizable about the experiences and thoughts covered.  And I think that's why this book is still so amusing today.  Added to this already great book are the funny pencil drawings done by Carl Rose.

Here's a excerpt from the book:
"It's not just our own dogs that bother me.  The dogs I meet at parties are even worse.  I don't know what I've got that attracts them; it just doesn't bear thought.  My husband swears I rub chopped meat on my ankles.  But at every party it's the same thing.  I'm sitting in happy conviviality with a group in front of the fire when all of a sudden the large mutt of mine host appears in the archway.  Then, without a single bark of warning, he hurls himself upon me. It always makes me think of that line from A Streetcar Named Desire-'Baby, we've had this date right from the beginning.'  My martini flies into space and my stokcings are torn before he finally settles down peacefully in the lap of my new black faille.  I blow out such quantities of hair as I haven't swallowed and glance at my host, expecting to be rescued.  He murmurs, "Isn't that wonderful?  You know, Brucie is usually so distant with strangers."

Illustration found from some Ebay listing.  I had the worst time trying
to find an illustration for you (I was being lazy and didn't feel like getting
up to get my camera).
This book is perfect distraction reading.  My recovery from the oral surgery has been longer than expected and this was the perfect antidote.  This book would also make great on-the-fly reading because each essay is fairly short and the essays could be read in any sequence and still make perfect sense.  I recommend this book for anybody that likes humorous reading and a little slice of late 50s American life.

The Doris Day movie.  This movie was not that great.
I think I didn't like it in large part because I had just read the
book.  There's just no way a movie can capture a funny voice
and a collection of essays without messing everything up.
I think that this might have been a tolerable movie, had
I not just read the book.
I've linked to both the book (there's several used copies on amazon) and the instant-watch movie, should you be curious about either.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Growing Up Plain

This was one of those books that just kind of appeared in my house.  I have no idea what it's origins are, but it was a great book.  Growing Up Plain is the ramble-y reminiscences of a woman who grew up in a Conservative Mennonite (I was amazed that Wikipedia had a page on Conservative Mennonites! Dear Wikipedia, you know everything) home in the 50s.  Each chapter is just a string of stories, following Shirley Kurtz through her childhood all the way to college.  The book was really short-only about 75 pages- and I sped through it.

Now for my analysis of the book.  Kurtz is an extremely gifted writer.  She has a funny voice that comes through clearly in all of her books and the ability to make you understand a very niche viewpoint.  That said, the book was quite skimpy.  It felt almost like a book of memories that you would write down for your children to read and remember instead of a published book.  Kurtz occasionally went off on little tangents, analyzing a boy at school or the way the bishops behaved when she was a girl.  The wasn't necessary and I think that the book could have been made a little more concise if those parts had been left out.  I also think that this book would make a lot more sense if you at least have some understanding of Conservative Mennonite culture.  This is not a book for somebody who has never even heard of these people.  However, if you have read something before this or perhaps even know a Conservative Mennonite, this is going to be a very interesting and funny read.  Kurtz's stories are interesting and understandable to those who know about where she came from.

If you want to read this book (and I recommend that you do), but have no prior knowledge of Conservative Mennonites, start by reading An Introduction to Old Order and Conservative Mennonite Groups.  This will be good place to get started and then you'll really enjoy Growing Up Plain.

Ps.  I'm experimenting with using amazon affiliates program.  This means that if any of my readers follow this link and buy the product I linked to, I will get a small commission. I promise that all the opinions on this blog are still my own and amazon has not paid me anything to review a book one way or the other.  Please let me know if you have any questions.  I'll be more than happy to answer them.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Knickerbocker Knockabout

Would you like to hear a gripping, enthralling, edge-of-your-seat story written by yours truly?  Well, here goes.
The pasture where our escapee first headed to

Two days ago, we decided to move the pigs.  Remember those cute babies?  Well, they have grown decidedly bigger and louder and it was time for them to move from their little nursery (the horse stall) out to the big world.
The brambles she got caught in.  She still has a scratched up
nose to show for it.

The first drama came when we went to pick up the pigs.  They screamed like I have never heard anything scream before.  Loud, piercing screams.  After hastily dumping them down in the middle of the pasture, we realized that they needed to be shooed chased madly into their house (where the food and water will be) for a couple of days until they learn that that is their home base.
The place where she ducked under the fence.  

Two of the pigs, after being chased around and around, decided to go where they were supposed to go.  We were relieved, but there was that one stubborn pig that was determined to stay right where she was.  We started to shoo her and, just then, she decided to dodge between my legs and charge straight through the electric wire.  I have never seen an animal so determined to get through an electric wire in all my life.  She dodged through the wire and then ducked right under the (we thought) carefully sealed gate.  I really thought I was going to lose my mind.  Here was a pig that, evidently, had no respect for an electric wire and 60 acres (not counting the neighbors') on which to charge madly.  I briefly considered just letting the dumb thing wander through the woods for the rest of her life.
This gate to the pasture where the pigs were supposed to be.

However, we took off again, chasing this pig over hill and dale (actually, it over through knee-deep pasture and brambles).  This pig first of all decided to take off through one of the biggest pastures.  She ran at a breakneck pace that none of us could keep up with and then plunged herself into neck deep brambles.  We were sure that we could catch her because she was caught, but when I reached for her, she managed to tear herself loose and run again through the electric wire and through the barn and through some more pasture before finally turning around and racing through the open gate into the pasture where she was supposed to be.  Exhausted, she threw herself down directly on the electric wire and it began repeatedly shocking her.  I don't know if the little burning sensation calmed her, but she didn't budge.  We turned the electric wire off and gently walked her back to her sisters in the barn.  She went without a peep.
The three piggies.  The one of the left is the escape artist.

Yesterday, my grandmother reminded me of a poem from the children's book, Father Fox's Penny-Rhymes.

"Knickerbocker Knockabout
Sausages and Sauerkraut
Run, run, run, the hogs are out!
Knickerbocker Knockabout"
All's well that ends well...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Growing Up Born Again

I have no idea where this book came from.  It just kind of appeared in my library and when I saw it, I knew at once that I had to read it.  The cute 50s family on the front was enough to convince me.

I picked up the book, wondering what I was in for.  It turns out, this book is a charming, funny, whimsical look at what growing up in in evangelical Christian, 1950s American family was like and all that that entailed.  I think what most impressed me was the way that the five authors could laugh at that background, but not turn it into ridiculing their childhoods.  I did not grow up in this kind of church, but the story still resonated with me in so many ways.  I think it was in large part because I love reading about this era in America and also because little subsets of people fascinate me.

This book is a very light, quick read and it was perfect for this weekend.  The chapters have titles like, "Holy Bible, Book Divine" (a look at the Born Again family's view of the Bible), "If You're Saved and You Know It", and "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus".  The book is chock full of 1950s and 60s illustrations of church-related subjects.  There are funny pop-quizzes (I'll have you know I scored very high on them) and advice for what to bring to a church supper (jello salad or tuna noodle casserole with potato chips on top).  There is a sample bulletin with notes showing when it is acceptable to shuffle your feet or run to the bathroom and musings on going to church camp.

This book comes highly recommended.  Even if you aren't (or weren't) a BA Christian or even a Christian, this book is extremely funny.  Of course, a few of the references make a little more sense if you have had some experiences like these, but for the most part the book can be enjoyed by anybody.  When I looked online, this book appears to be fairly easy to find, although it looks like it isn't printed anymore.  I found several used copies on amazon and you might be able to find one at your library.  If you know me and want to read this book, I'll be more than happy to loan it to you.  You're sure to enjoy this wonderful book.