Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

"When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam,
May luck be yours on Halloween."
-Author Unknown

Hope you had a great Halloween!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Book Nook - The Guernsey Literary Society

I can't help but compare this week's Book Nook selection to a cup of chamomile tea.  It's nice & comforting, but rather mild.  You might have a cup at your Great Aunt's 75th birthday brunch, but it wouldn't be your beverage of choice if you were at a club in NYC, say.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is a nice book.  I wouldn't call it a great book, but it's a nice story (if a bit predictable).  It's the kind of book that you can easily set down for several days & then pick back up & get back in it.  Not a page turner, but is certainly the chamomile of books.

Juliet Ashton is a writer living in London in 1946.  She is looking for her next writing project & starts a correspondence with Dawsey Adams, a resident of the island of Guernsey.  Eventually, Juliet starts regular correspondence with several other islanders, and through those letters we learn of the Nazi invasion of Guernsey & what life was like for those living there at the time.  Juliet also writes regularly with her friend Sophie, Sidney (Sophie's brother & Juliet's publisher), & Marc (Juliet's would-be suitor).  The novel is told in epistolary style, meaning it is comprised entirely of letters to & from characters.  Word of the day!

I really enjoyed the style of unfolding the story through letters.  Many of the letters back & forth seemed very natural & real.  There were only a couple of times it seemed that the authors pushed the envelope - I couldn't resist the pun -  (Letter: would you like to have dinner with me tonight?  Letter back: yes, that would be great.  What time?  Letter back:  how about 7:00.  Where would you like to go.......).  You get the point.

Now, about the characters.  I think the authors are trying to create a handful of quirky characters, and they succeed in a few spots (I thought Ysolda's head bump reading was funny), but overall I thought the characters were a little mild. Yes, like chamomile tea!  And a few of them changed course a bit too much - Marc at first seemed like a nice guy, not the demanding jerk he ended up being.  I would have liked seeing the Juliet/Dawsey story line played out a little differently.  And there was much discussion about Elizabeth, but I only have a blurry vision of her as a character - she seemed a bit flat for being so important to the story line.

I know I sound like I'm being a bit hard on the book.  I really did enjoy it, but I feel it's important to say again, that it's just sort of....mild.  Mild isn't always a bad thing, but sometimes you just have to be in the right mood for it to appreciate it.  I would like to add that I read the book on CD (as usual!) and really enjoyed the different characters getting a different actor playing them.  I think the actress reading Juliet's part is the same person who read The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel (Thursday Next Novels (Penguin Books)), which is a really great book incidentally.  In fact, there's a line in this book that says something about "Thursday next" & the actress even accentuates it rather noticeably.  Anyone know if it's the same person reading both books on the book-on-CD versions?

If you are looking for a real page turner, skip this one.  If you are looking for a high-adrenaline, complex storyline, stay-up until 3:00am to read just a little more, I'd look elsewhere.  But if you're looking for a nice story that is quietly entertaining, then this book just might be your cup of tea.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Another FO (Finished Object)

I couldn't resist - I made another candy corn hat!  I actually have enough yarn to make a third, but I think I'll stop here.  This one's for my Bachsters:

Click here for the link to my ravelry page, to see more pics & my notes on the project.  Actually, I didn't change much at all from the original pattern.  This hat is so cute & easy to do!

Have a great day!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Nook - The Very Best Pumpkin

The Very Best Pumpkin written by Mark Kimball Moulton & illustrated by Karen Hillard Good is a sweet story about a little boy who tends to a little pumpkin growing all by itself on the edge of the pumpkin patch.  This pumpkin grows to become the perfect pumpkin, perfect for giving to a new friend.

There are two things I love about this book...the story and the illustrations!  The story unfolds nicely & it is very touching to watch Peter & Meg's friendship grow.  I actually got a little teary-eyed the first couple of times we read the book when Peter gives the pumpkin to Meg.  It was such a kind, selfless act.  I don't think it was the intention of the author, but I also thought the story was rather....romantic.  I know, I know, it's a children's book!  But when Peter gave the pumpkin to Meg, it just struck me that these two just belong together.

And the illustrations....oh, the illustrations!  They are quaint & whimsical, with a vintage feel to them.  There are little curlicues everywhere - for flight paths of butterflies & bees and tendrils of plants & pumpkins.  Mustard yellow, burnt orange & moss green permeates the palette.  The ladybugs are perhaps the cutest I've ever seen illustrated.  And the coolest part?  The illustrator used watercolors along with instant coffee & bleach to create the pictures!  Even if you don't actually read the story (which would be a pity) just looking at the pictures is a treat!

Like Peter's pumpkin, this book is just perfect.  And also just like that special pumpkin, it's perfect for sharing!  Enjoy!


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Food Pantry

A couple of days ago, the Bachsters & I took a bunch of canned goods to our local food pantry for donation.  The girls both had birthday parties earlier this year and we asked their friends to bring canned goods instead of presents.  I wanted to make sure to bring the Bachsters along so that they could be involved & maybe understand the importance of the Food Pantry a little more.  They were all for it & each of their little hands carried a bag or two of canned goods.  We definitely got a little workout because we had several bags!

Wouldn't you know it, when we got home, I found a couple of bags that we had forgotten!  I'll get some more canned goods from the store so that we can add to those bags & make another hefty donation.

I hope you're having a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A plethora of pumpkin treats

This time of year, I can't help but make homemade pumpkin goodies.  And I've been cranking them out lately!  Here are a few of the pumpkin desserts & dishes I've made this Fall:

This is the pumpkin bread I mentioned a few posts ago.  It is so yummy - and the recipe makes 2 loaves, which makes the Bachs happy.  I just finished the last of it this morning, with cream cheese on it.  So good!

These are pumpkin pancakes!  They are really easy to make and smell wonderful as you are preparing & cooking them.  I've been making these so much lately that one of the Bachsters said "pumpkin pancakes, again?" the other morning.  It was said as a comment & not a complaint, because no one ever complains about pumpkin pancakes for breakfast!

I modified this recipe for rigatoni with pumpkin and bacon to make it vegetarian.  It's still really great & is one pumpkin recipe that I really look forward to making every Fall.  I stock up on a few pie pumpkins because I know I'll want to make it more than once.

All of the above recipes are from Martha Stewart.  Thanks Martha - these recipes are keepers!

Pumpkin ice cream is also on my Fall must-have list, but I can't make it at home since my ice cream maker broke.  Last year on my birthday, I treated myself to pumpkin ice cream at Jeni's - I think I just might make that an annual tradition!

What pumpkin treats do you enjoy in the Fall?  Let me know, as I am always on the search for excellent pumpkin goodies!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Nook - Coraline

I read Coraline by Neil Gaiman earlier this Spring, but this would actually be a much better time of the year to read it.  It's creepy & spooky & just the thing for a chilly October evening (well, it's in the 80's here today, so I'm not sure about "chilly" but you get the point).

To give you a brief summary, Coraline is a young girl who has just moved into a new flat with her parents, who are always busy working (from home) or making complicated recipes.  To busy herself, she explores her new surroundings & meets her new neighbors (who are all a little quirky).  She finds a door in the flat that has a brick wall behind it, but finds it fascinating enough to go back and check again - and when she does, this time the brick wall is gone and a tunnel is in its place!

On the other side of the tunnel is a sort of bizzaro-world.  Everything sort of looks the same, but it's even better (at first, that is).  There is an "Other Mother" & an "Other Father" who seem loving and want to please Coraline.  They have these weird button eyes, but that's no biggy - they don't make Coraline eat strange food from complex recipes!

Coraline leaves the "other" reality, back through the tunnel.  But she eventually goes back.  When she does, it becomes clear that the Other Mother runs the show in this world, and she wants Coraline all to herself, for good.  She'll even give Coraline her very own pair of button eyes!

Coraline is a smart girl & she refuses.  When she heads back home, however, things are askew.  Her parents do not come home after a shopping excursion!  After some time, she figures out that the Other Mother is not playing nice anymore and goes back through the tunnel to get them back.  This is where things get especially creepy & Coraline must be brave & smart if she wants her old life - and old parents - back.

There are 2 things that will stay with you for a long time if you read this book:  the imagery, and the creepies!  I still can picture in my mind's eye the tunnel, the perfect sitting room with the snowglobe on the mantle, the Other Father in the basement (that one gets filed under both imagery & creepies).  The author does an excellent job of creating lavish images that tend to reverberate.

Then there's the creep factor, another skill the author puts to good use in this book.  There's the aforementioned Other Father in the basement scene (seriously, that was the creepiest/scariest scene), being alone in the house when one suspects evil things have happened to one's parents, a multitude of rats....and of course, the Other Mother's hand!!!!  I won't go into too much detail, but there are many scary & creepy things happening here.  But, you've got to hand it to Coraline....she keeps her wits about her & tackles her problem with courage & intelligence (and some help from the talking cat).

I know this book is marketed to children, but I would think twice before reading it to young children or even letting tweens read it.  I think it's more of a PG-13 (and up) kind of read, but it all depends on the individual.  I also have not seen the movie, but have it on reserve at the library!

On a final note, Neil Gaiman is a wonderful performer on the book on CD, so if you enjoy audio books, definitely listen to it vs. reading the hardcover.  So there's yet another attribute Mr. Gaiman posses - painting a lively image, giving us the creeps, and reading us a really great story!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Check out my pic in Pickerington Magazine

A few weeks ago, I submitted several photos for the annual "shutterbug" feature in Pickerington Magazine.  I'm happy to say that one of my photos made it in!  Mine is the picture of the geese:

Here is the link to Pickerington Magazine's website, although I couldn't access the article online.  I guess this is an annual feature for them, so I'll make sure to keep taking shots in Pickerington & hopefully, I'll get more pictures in the magazine in the future.  I was fortunate to have 2 photos in last year's magazine.....and one of those was the cover shot!!!!  Here is the shot that was on the cover of the Oct/Nov 2009 issue:

I've been deleting photos off the computer to make more space & the Geese at Sycamore file was one of those.....sorry, I wanted to show it a little better.  But if you are in Pickerington, Ohio this Fall, pick up a copy of the magazine & check out the article.

I just wanted to share my good news with you!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Candy Corn Hat

If you guessed candy corn hat from the hint in my last post as to what project I'm working on, you're correct!  And now it's a FO, or finished object.  It's so cute, too!  It's a present for a friend's baby, but once the Bachsters saw it, they all wanted one.  So, I might be making a few more in the near future - good thing it was quick!

Here is the link to my ravelry page & you can check out the size modifications I made (I think you need to register with ravelry to see the page, however).  I hope it fits the little one I made it for!

Have a great evening everyone!

Friday, October 8, 2010

A new WIP

I keep adding new Work In Progresses!  I currently have 3 knitting projects going on & I've just added a 4th!  I'm leaning a new technique for this one - knitting with double pointed needles.  I had to rip out my first attempt,. but I'm happy to report that attempt #2 is going well.  Here's a pic of the yarn I'm working with:

It's Cascade 220 - I've never used it before.  I'm loving the yellow & keep thinking to myself.......this would make a great sweater.  But there's just no room for a 5th WIP right now!

Based on the colors, do you have any guesses what I might be making?   Mmmmm.......I mean, hmmmmm!


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Book Nook - Fletcher and the Falling Leaves

The other day, Little Guy & I were at the park & we saw some of the first leaves of autumn falling.  I commented on this & he said, "poor little trees."  I couldn't help but think of this week's book.....

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves is a sweet book about a little fox who has some serious concerns about his favorite tree.  As autumn turns the leaves to brown, and then they start to fall, Fletcher worries that his tree is sick and does everything he can to help it.  His efforts include tying leaves back on the branches, calling for help loudly & tucking the last leaf into bed to make sure it is safe & sound.

The story is rather soft & gentle and the illustrations mirror the tone nicely.  I love that you can actually see the texture of the watercolor paper - it's as if you are holding the original.  The colors are soft & muted & lovely.  And our main character's illustrations are as sweet & cute as his personality.  There's also a nice, sparkly surprise at the end.

There are 2 more Fletcher books, apparently - a Spring-related one and a Christmas-related one.  I haven't read them, but I would love to check them out.  I love trees, & I would be happy to share a book (or in this case, all 3 Fletcher books) about trees & how cool they are with my Bachsters.

By the way, on a little side note, I realize this is Tuesday & Book Nook is a Monday tradition.  All I can say is, the dog ate my homework!

I hope you are enjoying the first weeks of Autumn!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

French Week wrap-up

Like all vacations it seems, there just wasn't enough time to do it all here at French Week(s).  I really wanted to seek out authentic French cafe au lait, but didn't get the chance (I'm not a coffee drinker usually, but the cafe au lait in Paris was fabulous & if/when we go back, the first thing I'm going to do is get coffee)!  I also didn't get a chance to watch my favorite movie of all time (which happens to be French), Amelie.  And I'm working on a little France-related knitting project that I was hoping to have wrapped up for the French Week(s) finale, but malheureusement, it is not ready.  So, we may have a petite French Week coming soon!

Here is a teaser of the knitting project I've been working on:

I think it will turn out cute - I'll post it as soon as it's done!

Anyway, on our last full day in France, we visited Versailles!  It was wonderful, beautiful, gorgeous, amazing, etc, etc.!  I am so glad we went there!  It was one of my favorite parts of our trip.

The palace itself is beautiful & huge and you can walk through various rooms & see works of art & furnishings (like Marie Antoinette's bed).  DH took a picture of me standing in front of a fireplace & the log is twice the length of my body - everything there is so grand!  And then there's the outside of the palace - the fountains (which we saw running) & the gardens are so opulent.  If you explore even further, you will come across the Grand Trianon Palace, which was King Louis XIV's palace-on-the-side.  I think we were the only ones there, so we pretended that it was all ours!  Outside, there were brides everywhere - we came across like 3 or 4 of them, all getting their professional photos done!  What a gorgeous setting for wedding photography!

We also explored the Petit Trianon (I regret that we didn't go in - next time, we will for certain!), the temple of love, which Marie Antoinette had built for her husband & Marie Antoinette's hamlet.  If you go to Versailles, you must check these out!  It's sort of off the beaten path, but these areas are not only beautiful, but they also give you a well rounded view of Versailles as a whole.  We were practically the only tourists in all these parts of Versailles - it was just us & the brides!

That same day, we also went to see Sacre-Couer.  As you can see, we had perfect September weather:

The funny thing about Paris is that there are so many opportunities for a good view.  You can go up in the Eiffel Tower of course, but also in many of the cathedrals, departments stores, museums, etc.  So, we could have gone up in Sacre-Couer, but we chose not to - next time we will!  We did go inside the cathedral & there was mass, so we popped in & out - it was beautiful!

We did ride up the big Montmartre hill on the funicular, which was cool.  Seriously, we did so much walking on our trip that any time we saw an elevator or a funicular, we jumped at the chance!  We stayed in the Montmartre area that evening for dinner & DH asked the waiter to take our picture (gasp!  I didn't think French waiters were open to that sort of thing - but he politely obliged & my eyes are closed for the pic)!  We also took a Seine river cruise that night, which was neat at night.  I particularly loved seeing the buttresses of Notre Dame from the boat, as we did not see them when we visited the cathedral.

My intention today was to watch Amelie & eat creme brulee - I only got to the creme brulee part!  But it was delicious!

I got the recipe from The Best Recipe - very quick & easy and I always tell myself that I need to double it because it goes fast around here.  I usually make creme brulee on New Year's Day - that's my goofy little tradition because it rhymes!

In conclusion to French Week(s), if you ever get a chance to go to France, go!!!  I hope we can go back someday.  It is so wonderful.  I just don't have the words to do it justice.  And if you go, please share your pics with me!


Saturday, October 2, 2010

More French Week

French Week has been somewhat postponed this week due to a technical difficulty - I've maxed out our computer with my pictures!  So, I've been saving them onto disks and deleting, but honestly, I'm a delete-phobe.  That's what got me into this predicament in the first place!  I'm happy to report that I've cleared enough space to save some of my French week photos & share them here......quelle joie!

On day 3 of our Paris trip (9 years ago), DH and I did the following: visited Napoleon's tomb & Les Invalides museum, visited the Rodin museum, went to Rue Cler & went all the way up the Eiffel Tower!  Another busy & fabulous day!

Here's a pic from Les Invalides museum:

There were hundreds of suits of armor at this museum, so if you are at all interested in that sort of thing, I definitely recommend going.  It was so interesting to see all of the detail that went into the armor.  Also interesting was the size - many of them were quite small!  There were a couple of rooms in which they had all the suits of armor just lined up, sort of staring at you - very cool!

We headed over to the Rodin Museum next, which is housed in the artist's home.  It was really beautiful & you can wander around among all the sculptures inside & out.  The Thinker is there, as well as a great view of the Eiffel Tower.

I don't have a great photo of Rue Cler to share, but if you go to Paris, you must go there!  It's just a street with lots of little food shops, but it is so...."authentic" is the best word.  You will come across lots of nice people who cannot speak English at all.  You will get a glimpse of real Paris, not the touristy one.  We also got the best meal of the trip at Rue Cler - a crusty baguette, some French wine, some cheese & chocolates.  We ate it in our hotel room that night and it was divine!

Speaking of wine, I popped open a bottle of wine earlier this week in celebration of France.  It's Red Bicyclette & I just got it at my local grocery store.  But it's good & it is French!

Little Guy & I went to La Chatelaine a few days ago - they are a French bakery/bistro/restaurant here in Columbus, OH.  They have the best croissants, which are a must when one celebrates French week, n'est-ce pas?

We took some home to the Bach Haus, but they didn't last long.  We also got a napoleon (also a must for the occasion) as well as a chocolate mouse, which caused some trouble when it was revealed that he was to be divided up!

All week, we've been listening to some vintage French music from a CD called Vive la France.  The Bachsters really seem to like it, which proves that they got my French-lovin' genes.  The songs are all from the 1930s & 40s.  One of my favorites is Bel Ami by Tino Rossi.  My 5 year old commented that they were singing about a fairy & I had to explain that no, it's Paris, except in France they say it like pear-eeeee.  Fairy - isn't that cute!

I told DH the other day that we need to start saving up now, because I want to go back!