Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Nook - The BFG

A few months ago, I read The BFG, written by Roald Dahl, to the Bachsters......and they loved it.  When I say they loved it, I mean they asked to re-read it immediately.  The very night we finished the story!  Then, after our 2nd reading, they asked to re-read it a 3rd time.  Not only that, but the BFG is in our vernacular now (cucumbers will forever be known in the Bach Haus as "snozzcumbers."  Charles Dickens will always be referred to as "Dahl's Chickens", with a chuckle).

Here's a link to the book on amazon.  Side note: I'm not sure what happened to my handy links with the lovely picture of the books.  I'm still looking into that, but I'm not tech-oriented, so it's going to take me a while.  Sorry!

Anyway, about the BFG.  This is the story of Sophie, a very sweet little girl who lives in an orphanage.  One night, she is lying in bed awake, at the witching hour, and she sees a strange sight: what appears to be a giant carrying a big horn of sorts, and he's using the horn to blow something into the neighbor boys' bedroom while everyone else is asleep.  But the giant is interrupted in his task when he spots Sophie.  In a second, he is at her window, and a very big hand is reaching out to get her.

Sophie is whisked off to the land where the giant lives.  It turns out he is a very nice giant, unlike the others who live in the land: they eat human "beans" every night.  The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) hates this, and he and Sophie team up to put a stop to their evil ways.

I read this story aloud to the Bachsters, and I must admit, it was a difficult book to read, linguistically speaking.  The BFG has a very mixed-up way of speaking, and I found myself tongue tied a lot.  It would probably be very easy to read to oneself, but then I wouldn't have had the pleasure of sharing the book with the kiddos.  Some grown ups might be a little put off by the idea of the giants going off to guzzle the human beans, or the fights that they have among themselves or their meanness towards the BFG.  If you know Roald Dahl's writing, these situations will not be shocking.  My thoughts are that it depends on the child to whom you are reading.  If they are very sensitive, or scare easily, then the mean giants might be too much for them.  My kids were fine with it, including Little Dude, who is 4.

One really nice thing about the book is the rich characters Dahl has created in Sophie and the BFG and their relationship.  Sophie is inquisitive about the BFG and his strange world and he is forthcoming and protective of her.  They work together to solve the problem of the giants, and include a very unlikely accomplice: the Queen of England herself!

Our oldest has a birthday coming up, and she will be getting The BFG.  I have no doubts that she'll ask me to read it right away.  And when we're all finished with the book, I'm sure she'll ask to read it again and again.  It's a keeper!


ETA: here's the official link:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The pumpkin patch

Yesterday, we took a little family trip to the pumpkin patch.  The weather was perfect and the pumpkins were plentiful!  In fact, the farmer said that it was his first day of selling for the season.  Yes, we're a little impatient when it comes to pumpkins and we must be the early birds!

We always go to a local farmer to buy our pumpkins.  He sells them right in his front yard.  There are always unique pumpkins to choose from, in addition to the standard jack-o'-lantern pumpkins: white pumpkins, "peanut" pumpkins (which look like someone glued peanuts all over them) and lots of gnarly gourds.

And of course, huge pumpkins!  Our oldest picked this huge pumpkin, changed her mind and put it back, then changed her mind again & put it back in our wagon.  All that indecisiveness led to quite a workout!

And today, the Bachsters have been plotting and planning their designs and carving schemes for each pumpkin that now resides on our front porch.  They may be too excited to wait until Halloween!

Are you doing any fun Fall activities this weekend?


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My creative commitment

"Walker, there is no path,
you make the path as you walk."
-Antonio Machado

Little Dude started preschool last week (and loves it, I should add).  Now I find that I have a few hours each week all to myself, which is an absolute rarity for me.  So, I've asked myself what I should do with this gift of free time.  Workout?  Catch up on laundry or dishes?  Run errands?  Find gainful employment?

After a great deal of thought, I've decided to invest my time in my creative endeavors.  There are photography things I want to do and knitting projects that I've been working on forever that seem to have gone nowhere.  I've pondered what would my dream job be? and I've decided to work to make my ideas come to fruition.  

The challenge will be to stay away from temptation: things like a quick errand, easier to run without Bachsters in tow.  Or getting an indulgence such as a grande decaf cafe latte with caramel.  Or just surfing on the internet.  I'll need to treat those few hours each week as time to dedicate myself towards my ultimate goal: turn my creative interests into a living.  It's a worthy goal, I think!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Nook - The Gentle Art of Domesticity

One of the most wonderful, magical things about books is how they have a way of finding you.  A good case in point is The Gentle Art of Domesticity written by Jane Brocket.  I first saw this book at the grocery store, of all places, in a big clearance bin.  I looked through it, felt that it was promising & vowed to check it out at the library.  But when I checked, the library didn't own a copy.  Then I saw it mentioned on Stefanie Japel's blog & it came to the forefront of my thoughts again.  Last time we were at the library, we happened to be in the cooking/pets aisle & I happened to spot the book.  It found me at last!

 The Gentle Art of Domesticity (sorry my usual link is not working today) is just a pure pleasure to read.  It's really different from what my first impression was when I perused through it in the clearance bin at the grocery store.  I thought it was another picture-heavy coffee table book with recipes, patterns and household tips.  It's actually much more philosophical.  On each page, Brocket discusses, muses, and provides spot-on insight about all sorts of issues related to domesticity (which, by the way, is not to be confused with the domestic.  I love the distinction and I find that I spend my days in the company of the former much more than the latter, which you would understand instantly if you saw my kitchen).  She talks about choc-lit (how certain classics pair nicely with a fine bittersweet) on page 186.  Her discussion on project gestation is so funny (page 94) - comparing a project's start-to-finish time with various animal gestation times.  I love her thoughts about life skills on page 116 when she states "embedded in the gentle arts is a sly subversive streak that encourages free thought, individuality, creative self-expression, imaginative thought processes and not a little self-determinism."

Not only are her observations astute, but her wit and sense of humor are wonderful.  I love her recipe for making hand-made bread (page 128): "preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Take the phone off the hook."  She shares on page 24 that "gingerbread houses are one of those little secrets no one ever tells you about until it's too late, like the pain of childbirth or the whole dinner-party thing."  On page 149 she reveals that she "even joined the Victorian that I could stay at the cutting edge of fogeyism."

The author shares her insights on knitting, quilting, baking, gardening, books, movies (she loves Amelie! I do, too!), color & fine art, to name a few.  But there are also some quirkier "entries" (and I say entries because in a way, each page feels like reading a new blog post - Brocket writes a blog called yarnstorm, which is just as much fun to read as her book).  Anyway, back to the quirkier entries: many musings on Cary Grant, a long discussion on various food colorings and thoughts on kitsch.

Brocket comes across as incredibly personable and charming.  Her words inspire me to focus on wonderfully creative domesticity and (as much as possible) leave the mundane domestic behind.  I'm so happy this book found its way to me!


ETA: here's the official link:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The OEC photo contest

I have some great news to share!  One of my favorite environmental groups, The Ohio Environmental Council, has just released the results of their 3rd annual photo contest.....and 2 of my photos made Runner Up!  Both photos are in the "What Green Means To Me" category.  Here is the link to the OEC website -  you can view all the shots in this category as well as the "My Ohio" category.  There were a lot of great photos in the contest this year!  You can also vote for your favorite shot on the OEC's facebook page - the top 15 scoring photos (after the winners and runners-up) are featured.

Here is one of my shots, a happy blue dasher that sat nice & still for his portrait last summer:

The other shot was one taken at Hocking Hills this July:

Since my photos placed as runners-up, I will have the opportunity to attend the OEC's Green Gala in October.  I'm really looking forward to it!

These photos are just a few things that come to mind when I ponder "what green means to me."  What comes to mind for you?


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New yarn!

I recently decided that I need to make the Bachsters some handmade goodies for Christmas this year.  I know what you're thinking: it's already mid-September, what are you thinking!  And I completely agree with you that this plan of mine is madness.  Please don't expect any posts on December 24th, because I know exactly what I'll be doing that day: frantically knitting and telling everyone to fend for themselves, Mama's busy!  Ah, the joy of the holidays!

Actually, I'm hoping it won't be quite like that.  I'm sticking with easy-to-knit items, that I can do along with my current project (which is extremely non-portable; so now that I'm sitting and waiting at gymnastics class a couple times a week, I can be productive with my holiday projects).  I'm thinking a cool hat with ear-flaps for my oldest (she had a hat like this that she wore everywhere, and has since outgrown it).  Maybe a simple vest for Little Dude.  And for the 6-year-old?  A fabulous scarf with my recent yarn purchase:

4 skeins of Louisa Harding Grace Hand-dyed yarn.  It's a wool/silk blend, and it's so wonderfully soft & touchable.  I think it'll make a great scarf.  Thanks to this thread on Ravelry, I learned that Tuesday Morning sells yarn & just put a bunch of new items on sale.  I spent about half the money as I would have if I had used the yarn that the pattern called for.  Plus, it's so amazingly soft (scratchy scarves do not go over well around here) and is the perfect variegated color for my girly-girl.

I'll keep you posted on my progress!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Book Nook - Bossypants

Bossypants by Tina Fey is such a hilarious book!  If you've seen her on Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, or caught her impersonation as Sarah Palin, then you already know how funny she is.  This book will have you laughing out loud, and liking Tina Fey more than ever.

Listed as a memoir, Fey tells story after story about her life growing up, as a young adult and her current successes in her career.  She talks about how she got her scar and being able to read people based on their reaction and questions about it.  She talks about her profanity-loving father, and how he once made her wait at the store for him while he drove home to get something to return - when she was 9.  She tells stories of all her gay friends at the summer theater camp she attended.  She talks about the power she wielded when she worked at the YMCA in Chicago & the office workers relied on her to buzz them into the building.  And more recently, she relates stories about her daughter Alice (who knows the difference between brown hair & "yellow"), her husband (& how they almost perished at sea on their honeymoon), her former boss Lorne Michael (how he called her back to work after the big anthrax scare in 2001 by asking her what kind of takeout she wanted) and how she juggles her busy schedule (she says you know you have a problem when Oprah Winfrey herself tells you that you're taking on too much).

Of course, none of this does the book justice, because Fey tells every story with humor, wit, intelligence, insight and some curse words.  I listened to the book on CD, which I highly recommend because it's read by Fey herself, so you get to hear all the funny voices she does (her Alice, Don Fey & Alec Baldwin impersonations are hysterical).  And, on the book on CD you get to hear the famous SNL skit when she played Sarah Palin & Amy Poehler parodies Hillary Clinton.  There is a PDF CD with pictures, but I never loaded it.  I expect that the paper version of the book also has pictures in it.

The book is admittedly, a bit more for women than for guys.  This is even addressed in the book when after a more feminine-centric story, Fey stops to thank all the men who have bought her book.

Tina Fey is completely at fault for making me frog (knitter-speak for rip out) a few rows in my current project because I was laughing so hard I lost all sense of what I was doing!  But it was worth it - who couldn't use a good laugh now & then?


Friday, September 9, 2011

A splendid excursion

Little Dude and I have been spending a lot of time just the two of us, now that his sisters are back in school.  He and I have been trying to do some fun things in addition to the normal errand-running.  Fun things like going to the library & playing with the puzzles; a photoshoot at one of our local Metro Parks, followed by playtime at the play area; shopping for yarn (ok, that trip was admittedly all about me).  Yesterday, we decided to take a little trip to Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream in Columbus Ohio's Short North area, which is a strip of eclectic shops, art galleries and restaurants, known for its late-night gallery hop once a month.

Jeni's is an iconic Columbus establishment.  Jeni Britton Bauer started her first ice cream venture at the Short North's North Market in 1996 (the same year DH & I moved to Columbus) with a shop called Scream (what a great name).  That business unfortunately failed, but she took what she learned from the experience & started Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams several years later.  Jeni's is known for its one-of-a-kind, rather upscale flavors like Salty Caramel, Queen City Cayenne, Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet and many other intriguing year-round and seasonal flavors.  Here's the link to the website if you're interested (if you don't live in the Columbus area, don't despair - they ship!).

While we were there, I tried the Wildberry Lavender (it's a beautiful shade of lavender and tasted liked oranges) & the Sweet Corn & Black Raspberries (I just had to try corn ice cream).  Jeni's is big on letting you taste before you buy.  I really had to stop myself from not tasting all of the flavors.  I didn't want to embarrass Little Dude!  We both ended up with waffle cones: he had Ugandan Vanilla Bean (with sprinkles, of course), I had the Backyard Mint & the Buckeye State.  And we both had a fun Mama-Little Dude excursion, just chatting and taking our time. 

Next week, my little guy starts preschool.  He's getting to be a big kid!  And I need to remember to slow things down now & then and just enjoy hanging out together.  Perhaps regular excursions to Jeni's are just the thing - what a sweet way to spend an afternoon!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Read a Book Day

Did you know that today is Read a Book Day?  Little Dude & I celebrated by going to the library & getting a big pile of new books, and then coming home and reading some of them. 

The first one he wanted to read was Get Well, Good Knight (Penguin Young Readers, L3).  There are a few books about the Good Knight & his little friends, the dragons - the Bachsters love them all!  If you're looking for some book recommendations, here's a list that I found online today of some favorite books of celebrities, past presidents and other famous folks.

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket
-Chinese proverb

Happy Read a Book Day!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Book Nook - A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches written by Deborah Harkness.

I must admit...... I loved this book.  I just finished it the other night & was actually saddened when I had to turn it back in to the library.  For me, it was one of those books that you think about when you're not reading it & you just can't wait until you can pick it up again.  The days seemed very long while I waited patiently until the Bachsters' bedtime so that I could get back to the story!

And a little about the story........our protagonist is Diana Bishop, a Yale scholar doing research at Oxford University.  Diana is young, bright, dedicated - not to mention, she's a witch.  But she doesn't want to use her magic, as she blames magic for her parent's death when she was 7 years old.  During the course of her research in Oxford's Bodleian Library, Diana calls up an alchemical manuscript entitled Ashmole 782.  She can tell immediately that it is a magical book, but as she is set to not use magic, she peruses through it briefly, takes some notes, and sends it back to the stacks.  It is here that Diana's life takes a turn, as in the days following her perusal of the manuscript, hordes of vampires, daemons and other witches seem to descend on the Bodleian and everywhere she goes - they are looking to find out what she learned from the manuscript and why she was the one able to find it, as it's been missing for hundreds of years.  It is also at this time that she meets Matthew Clairmont, a 1,500 year old vampire who takes on the task of protecting Diana from the other magical creatures.

Soon, Diana and Matthew start to fall in love, all the while trying to flee the threats on the other magical creatures.  They go to Matthew's home in France, a formidable medieval castle.  There, she meets Isabeau, Matthew's mother, Martre, the vampire servant and Baldwin, Matthew's brother.  Diana slowly becomes ingrained into their family.  Life or death situations arise in which Diana must use her magic - only then does she realize her true potential and power as a witch.

Sometimes after reading a book, I like to check out's site to see reader comments.  I enjoyed this book so much, so I was surprised by so many 1-star reviews (there were lots of 5-star reviews too, but sometimes, you can't help but be curious about the negative reviews).  Most of the 1-star reviewers said that the book was boring, that nothing really happened in the story and that Harkness writes too much about mundane details (like Diana drinking tea all the time).  There is a hint of truth here, but I think it depends on what the reader's "cup of tea" is: I don't mind a lengthy novel with lots of details if it helps me understand the characters better.  In my view, I disagree with the 1-star-ers.  I think there is plenty happening in the plot and at the times that there is no action, the story is moving forward with the romance of Diana & Matthew.  Harkness is a very gifted writer and while the story is lengthy (over 600 pages, I believe) she is able to tell a tale that (at least for me) was intriguing and write characters that are believable.

Now, this doesn't mean that I don't have any qualms about the novel - I actually just have one.  My biggest complaint is in a specific scene, in which Matthew's former vampire lover, Juliet, attacks Matthew & Diana in the woods at Diana's childhood home.  Matthew tries to protect Diana, but gets defeated awfully fast.  Throughout the novel, we are led to believe that Matthew (a knight in the crusades!  A 1,500 year-old skilled predator!) is a large, dangerous, powerful force, but he doesn't even make Juliet break a fingernail in the fight.  He's all defense & is terrible at it.  I realize that Harkness had to put Matthew in peril so that Diana could shine & save the day, but I really think it would have befitted his character if he had been able to put up a better fight.

As for the ending.  I listened to the book on CD and when I had about 5 CDs left to go, I realized there was absolutely no way Harkness was going to be able to wrap everything up in that time frame.  And she didn't - Diana & Matthew embark on a most magical adventure at the end, leaving things wide open for the next book in the series, due out in Summer of 2012 (there will be 3 books all together in the series).  I know, I for one, will be in line and eagerly awaiting to find out what's in store for our heroine and her vampire love.

As I was reading the novel, I couldn't help but think - this is Twilight for grown-ups.  There are also some elements of Harry Potter in it.  While it differs greatly from these stories, there are some similarities.  So if you enjoyed Twilight and/or HP, I urge you to try A Discover of Witches.  It will have you spellbound!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Bachsters in ParkScope

Good news!  The Fall edition of ParkScope (the Columbus Metro Parks quarterly magazine) features a picture of the Bachsters playing in a big pile of leaves.  I took the shot last year on a gorgeous Fall day.  We went to the park to get some shots of the Commit to Be Fit hike and while we were there, I couldn't resist getting some pics of the Bachsters. 

Here is the original picture:

Here's the link to the Columbus (Ohio) metro parks website & you can view the entire ParkScope magazine online.  It looks like they've got some great programs coming up for Fall!