Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pictures of Today

Instead of being a good blogger and review two finished books, or writing about my first draft of the Katniss dress that is finished (!), I'm doing this:

Just one of the containers that held apples.

Here's the drama that was unfolding in this picture:  I was cutting up apples for applesauce,
when who should drop by, but Tom.  He proceeded to get most infernally in the way.
A while later, I took the cut up apples inside, leaving that box that had held
the apples and now had two knives at the bottom of it.  A gust of wind
blew up, blowing the box and Tom went chasing after it.
At some point, Shadow came and joined in the fun.
That is, I'm making applesauce today.  Yes, folks, canning season is in full swing, which means that writing about interesting things takes the back burner.  

Ps.  These pictures were taken with the camera on the laptop.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  My camera has croaked, leaving me sadly picture-less.  I was extremely surprised by how good these ended up turning out.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday- Top Ten TV Shows/Movies

(This week, The Broke and Bookish is having us mention our top ten favorite non-book stories, meaning tv shows, movies, etc.)

It felt weird writing this post because a.) I write about books, not movies/shows and b.) I've never really reviewed or discussed movies/shows before and I couldn't think of what to write.  However, I decided that this would be an excellent exercise in writing something I'm not used to, so here goes:

1.  Little Women-This movie definitely comes in first place.  Dear, dear, Little Women.  I loved the book so much and of course, I couldn't turn the movie down.  I've seen this movie about 8 times and it never gets old.

2.  Sherlock-This fabulous TV show is one of the few shows that I actually watched all the way through without finding it ridiculously dumb by season 2.  It's smart, funny, dark, and edge-of your-seat-watching.

3.  Pride and Prejudice-The Colin Firth one, of course.  He's the only actor I've ever seen who could pull off Darcy.  There was a version that starred Keira Knightley, but the guy who starred as Darcy (can't remember his name) was kind of sad-sack.

4.  Oh Brother Where Art Thou- Another movie I've seen multiple times.  I laugh and laugh whenever I see it.  It's very loosely based on The Odyssey and is setting in the south in the 30s.  Everybody absolutely has to see this.

5.  Jeeves and Wooster- A British TV series based on the wonderful books by P.G. Wodehouse that, sadly, didn't last long, but was wonderful while it did.  Hugh Laurie was brilliant as Wooster.  Then, later, I heard he was starring as the curmudgeonly doctor in House and I was further convinced that Laurie is a brilliant actor.  Going from a bumbling aristocrat in the 20s to a smart, bitter doctor nowadays is amazing. And he sings and plays the piano. Need I say more?

6.  Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day- A funny, sweet comedy set in the 30s based on a book that I could never find (gah).  I loved this movie.  In fact, maybe I need to see this again...

7.  Little Dorrit- The Dickens series that nobody sees.  I loved, loved, loved this series.  It's interesting, exciting, romantic, and even funny at parts.

8.  Food, Inc.- The documentary that everybody has to see.  I don't usually make sweeping statements like this, but the food culture in America in particular, and the western world in general, is beautifully addressed in this documentary.  It manages to be honest and serious, yet not so depressing that you want to jump off a cliff after hearing the news.

9.  North by Northwest- I love Hitchcock and this is probably my favorite.  I sat on the edge of my seat the whole movie.

10.  Rebecca- Do you know, I have never seen the iconic Hitchcock version of Rebecca?  I've only seen an obscure Masterpiece Theater version that was made some time in the 2000s.  It was fantastic and I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Saving the Season

It's canning season and I'm having fun looking through canning cookbooks for ideas and inspiration. There's something so exciting and anticipatory about looking through a really beautiful canning cookbook. One of my favorites this season is Saving the Season by Kevin West.  It's a big, fat canning cookbook, full of recipes for canned everything, from marmalades to pickles to syrups.  It also has the added advantage of being full of all kinds of eccentric fruits and vegetables, not just your basic strawberry freezer jam.

I love this cookbook for a number of reasons. The pictures are all gorgeous and perfectly portray the tone of the book.  The recipes are written with enough instructions to be clear, but not so much that the reader becomes bogged down by unnecessary details-a fine line to balance for cookbook writers.  The book has that lovely, crisp, new-book smell that I so adore.  And finally, the food all looks delicious.

As a little picture of the recipes that this cookbook holds, let me tell you what from this book is on my to-can list this summer:
-Watermelon Rind Pickles
-Elderberry Syrup
-Yellow Peach Slices in Tea Syrup
-Spicy Sweet Squash Pickle
-Apple Jelly with Mint
-Pine Cone Syrup

Actually, I would happily make anything from this cookbook, if given the time and ingredients, but these are the main things that I am itching to try.  I don't think I would regret trying any of these delicious recipes.  So for those of you who can, what is your favorite canning cookbook?  Do you have one, or do you stick to the basics?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Baker Street Letters

I barely read at all on vacation (I know, go ahead and be shocked), but I did finish one book on the trip down there.  I read The Baker Street Letters, a book I'd been looking forward to for quite a while.  I am a big fan of the Sherlock Holmes books and so I thought that this story of two brothers who own offices where Sherlock Holmes "lived" would be right up my alley.

Here's the basic plot: Reggie and Nigel Heath are two brothers who are radically different.  Nigel, the younger brother, is a lawyer who is slightly mentally unstable.  After a month in a mental hospital, Nigel is back, working in an underling position for his big brother, Reggie, a very successful lawyer.  Nigel discovers letters from an 8 year old girl in Los Angeles, written to Sherlock Holmes, asking for help finding her missing father.  Nigel sets off on a wild goose chase, with Reggie close behind.

Doesn't that sound good?  Well, it was kind of a flop.  Michael Robertson, the author, is one of those people who don't sound entirely comfortable with writing.  The sentences were often a bit cumbersome and the experiences of the main characters felt rather contrived at times.  He also took far too long getting to the actual mystery, with lengthy chapters that delved into Reggie's supposedly complex emotional life.  I found myself alternating between yawning and the occasional eye roll.  In short, the book wasn't very well written.

It also had the fault of being not very Sherlockian.  There were no references to past stories, no links to things about Sherlock, except for the obvious connection of having the same address.  That's not enough, in my opinion, to warrant calling this a Sherlock spinoff or even a book inspired by Sherlock Holmes.  That clever way of solving mysteries through observation that Sherlock had was completely lost in this book.

But it isn't like this book doesn't have redeeming qualities.  Robertson does have the ability to write wryly and with a sly humor that could be very enjoyable.  I liked that Reggie and Nigel were both fully human people with understandable faults.  But that's about all the good I can find to say about this book.

So maybe I wasn't in the right mood for this book, but it's definitely not the kind of book where I want to immediately find the other books and read the rest of the series.  I'm wondering if this book will settle in my mind so that I remember it with fonder thoughts.  If so, I'll let you all know.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Fahrenheit 451

Whew!  This book was good, but kind of overwhelming.  Well, that's very strong, but it was definitely a grim read for the first part of the book.  So here are my thoughts about it.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is one of those books that, apparently, everybody except me read in late middle school/early high school.  I managed to never pick up that book, but now I finally just did.  It's a dystopian novel written in the 1950s before dystopian novels were written en masse.  It is about a world where a select few live with all of the privileges that include walls of their houses completely converted to screens so that the people can "live" with their movie characters.  Books are burned by firemen because they encourage critical thought and keep the people from being perfectly placid.  The story is told by Guy Montag, a firefighter who suddenly starts to feel bad about burning all these books.  He meets a teenaged girl, Clarisse, who is like no other person he has ever met.  She spends time outside and thinks and mentions talking to her family instead of watching the walls, like most people.

Later, Montag is stunned when Clarisse is killed and he becomes disillusioned with his work of burning books.  Along with a team of old English professors, writers, and avid readers, he sets to work, smuggling books and saving them from the burning piles.

So first of all for the part I didn't like-The conversations between Clarisse and Montag were weirdly stilted.  Ray Bradbury's writing gift is obviously not conversations.  In fact, most of this short novella is descriptions and passive rather than active voice.  Every writer has it beat into his or her head at some point that passive voice must be actively avoided (haha).  Yet Bradbury skillfully uses passive voice without it becoming dry or poorly written.  I was impressed.

I was amazed by how much I loved this book.  It's a very dark book, but the end message (I'm not going to give away the ending to you) is one of hope and reconciliation.  Sure, great damage had been wreaked, but there was ultimate hope.  The other thing I found enjoyable about the story was how pro-books it was.  Of course, most books are "pro book", but this was was quite explicit about the need for reading in society.  As you can probably imagine, I very much appreciated this.

...And now I will stop procrastinating and work on bag packing.  I'm off for a trip that will take me away from this blog until next Sunday.  Until then, I hope you all have a lovely week.  The side bar with archives is there, as always.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Busy Saturday

Dearest Readers,
I have not a word in me for you.  We have dear friends staying, which means that, in a little quiet moment I happened to have, I thought I would blog and post a few pictures taken recently.  Tomorrow, when the hustle and bustle has subsided, I will be back with a review of Fahrenheit 451.

 I hope you all are having a lovely Saturday!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Our Hearts Were Young and Gay

This is a book I read a while ago, loved, and then forgot about because I wasn't blogging yet.  I pulled it out again today and realized what a wonderful book it is and how much it needs to be talked about.  Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough is the story of two friends in the 1920s from rather upper crust backgrounds who travel Europe together after they leave Bryn Mawr. This book is so wonderful because it perfectly captures the utter innocence of these two post-college girls traveling through an unfamiliar part of the world.  The book has the added benefit of being hilarious.  It's a different kind of hilarious from A Girl Named Zippy, but it's still quite funny.  I laughed until I cried and my stomach ached.

The book says that it is written by both Emily Kimbrough and Cornelia Otis Skinner, but all of the writing is told from Cornelia's point of view, so I'm not sure what Emily was doing.  However, the writing is brilliantly done and does not appear to need any added input from anybody.  Each chapter follows some part of the girls' travels.  I am amazed at all of the details remembered after such a long time (1942).  There is nothing vague and fishing through memories about the writing.  It is told as though each event happened yesterday.  From a disastrous tennis game (This is story I cried with laughter through) to buying two little dogs that proceed to pee on chairs in the Ritz Hotel, every single story is captivating and most of them are very funny.

I really have no complaints about this book, other than I laughed too hard.  There are some mildly racist remarks made about Italians for about 2 pages, but definitely not strong enough to make any huge difference in the book.

The illustrations are fantastic.  They are all pencil drawings, done of various events throughout the book.  They had the added bonus of being very funny and perfectly mirroring the writing style of the authors.  Here's an example of what they look like:
A picture taken shamelessly from Flickr.
I wish I could force everybody I know to read this book.  If you are in need of a little reading pick-me-up, or if you aren't, you simply must read this book.  Each anecdote is told at a crisp pace, filled with hilarious events that sound almost as if they were made up.  If you only can read one memoir for the rest of your life, this is the one you should choose.