Monday, August 29, 2016

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Minor Spoils for a 15 Year Old Film)

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid was a guilty pleasure book I ordered from the library because I heard so much buzz about it and it sounded exactly like something I could sit on the couch and read for a couple of hours and forget about the world. And I was right.
Look, I knew how this was going to end by the end of the first chapter and the plot isn't at all new but oh the journey. It was exactly what you want from a late-summer read.  I don't think, had I been in the heroine's shoes (and I NEVER WANT TO BE), I would have taken the same actions she did.  But at the same time, does anyone know how they will react to grief or to any situation really? 

So it's not that this is the best fiction in the world (it's not), but it's worth three hours on the couch snuggled under the blanket with a kitty on your lap. Or, if you're not kitty adjacent, at least a bit of mindlessness that will forever get you thinking about the saddest scene if all of cinema*.

*The scene in Cast Away when Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt realize they can't be together because she has a new family and a new life and he is ALL ALONE and OH MY GOD I sobbed as much at that scene as I did at the end The Notebook and the next time my husband is gone all day I'm going to watch these movies.

Friday, August 26, 2016

2016 CSA Week 11: Basil, basil, basil

This week's basket is full of goodies:
Heirloom tomatoes (3)
Onions (2)
Garlic
Peppers (5)
Carrots
Basil
Rainbow chard
My plans are basically to wing the whole thing.
  • I'll eat the peppers, tomatoes, and carrots raw.
  • I'll make some pesto with the basil and maybe the chard (or maybe with some kale we still have from last week).
  • The chard will inevitably be used in an egg dish, probably a frittata.
  • The onions and garlic will just get added to the pile in the fridge. If you come visit me, please take some.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead

The copyright on this book is 1999 and I only really grabbed it at the library because his current novel, the Underground Railroad, is getting all the love right now and I decided to delve into the world of Whitehead after hearing an interview with him on Fresh Air and this was the only available Whitehead novel on the shelf.  So The Institutionist is neither new nor is what I'm about to write anything other people have written about in the last fifteen years, but the facts are that, based on the waiting list for Underground Railroad at my library, it maybe be another fifteen years before I get to read that book.

On the surface, this is about elevator inspectors in an unspecified city in an unnamed world in an ambiguous time period.  There are two distinct approaches to elevator inspecting - Empiricists who use tools, rules, and close measurement  and Intuitionsists who use instinct, touch, and some metaphysical trance-like state.   On the surface, it's a mystery about an elevator mishap.

But it appears to be an allegorical tale about race and societal engineering.  At least, I think it is. I'm the person who doesn't actually understand what the allegory is in Gulliver's Travels most of the time, so maybe I'm wrong.  There's a lot to unpack in this novel.  Elevators seems to be a stand-in for a more generic "technology" that in 1999 would have just been on the upswing (I had only had email for two years at that point) and how changes in technology could help the world in untold ways or it could be used for nefarious purposes, too. I also think it was sort of prescient in terms of how the development of the technology could be dangerous and the outcomes could be an environmental disaster.

Okay.   Fine. I think that's sort of interesting, in a vague sort of way.

But what is Whitehead trying to say about race here? I think this part definitely went over my head (ha ha! verticality is a joke!).  Are the elevators a symbol of the attempts at POC to "rise above"?  The main character is a black woman, the first in the Department, and is she supposed to represent the change or lack of change in race relations - you can change the appearance, but underneath it's the same perspective?  Do the elevators represent a race to the economic top?  A race in which blacks are handicapped?  WHAT IS GOING ON, WHITEHEAD?

I found it incredibly frustrating, but I also know I'm going to be thinking about this for a long time, so maybe he has done his job. In the meantime, I'll go ahead and request Underground Railroad from the library. I'll let you know how it goes in 2030.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

The fourth, and final, book in the Neapolitan series, The Story of the Lost Child came to me at a time when I didn't realize how roiling and chaotic my own thoughts on friendship and family were and sent me into a tailspin of doubt, reconciliation with my own foibles, and a sort of certainty that life is never what you want it to be.

While I've been posting photos of vegetables and my cat, pretending I'm June Cleaver and that everything is just fine, I'm slowly coming unglued. My birthday passed and there was one phone call from a very dear friend (a friend who is lovely and wonderful and seriously kept me from losing everything that night). My husband scheduled a class that evening and I spent my birthday alone on the couch, eating a cupcake I bought for myself, reading this book and sobbing. No phone calls from a couple of people for whom I thought that I would be important enough to remember. No presents from my husband to open. No celebration dinner.  It's not that I'm an adult who thinks people should remember my birthday. I'm really not. I don't expect it be remembered by the vast majority of other people, but there are other people whose birthdays I make a fuss over, and it was painful to sit on the couch and realize that I wasn't important enough for them to remember me. 

And then.

Then I realized that I have already had this epiphany. No one gives a shit but me and that's okay. I need to fucking deal with it. If I want to hear from my mother ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE DAY OF MY BIRTH, I am going to be the one to call. If I want my husband to buy me a cupcake and give me presents on the actual day of my birthday, I need to tell him so in advance. If I want something, I need to say it.  People have their own lives and their own concerns and I understand that I'm not that priority.  But it hurts.  And I hate that it hurts. I hate that I care and that I'm mad at people who don't care and don't know and it all feels sort of passive aggressive and even my husband who hears 99.9% of my thoughts has no idea how upset I was and still am and OH MY GOD WHY AM I NOT ON MEDICATION to sort all this out?

"Every intense relationship between human beings is full of traps, and if you want it to endure you have to learn to avoid them." (page 451 of paperback Europa edition)

This book captures so many of the rises and falls in enduring relationships.  The mother/daughter pairs, some strong, some rancorous, some so frayed you wonder if there actually was ever a physical bond; the friendships of women who have been friends since girlhoods, friendships that wax and wane as the stages of life align or separate; the romantic entanglements of the young and the old, what makes the relationships start and stop and sputter like a lawnmower engine, and how the moments of love told are always the beginning and the end, while the mushy middle is as lost to time as a series of daily normalcies that are long forgotten; and, of course, the relationship one has with one's own self, at once forgiving and loving and malicious and cruel because there is nothing so harmful as your own words of harsh judgment and excoriating criticism. 

It nearly broke me.

In every relationship, there are landmines you dare not tread. You don't talk about the time when X happened, you don't talk about Trump, you don't talk about religion, you don't talk about that person, you don't talk about the things that matter because you know that the crack is barely cemented together and when you bring it up, there will soon be an entire sinkhole into which your relationship fell.

And there's something so hard about realizing it's your relationship with yourself that's in danger of becoming that sinkhole.  You avoid so many topics in your own mind, you focus on the minutiae of living, and you become someone different, someone you don't recognize and maybe don't even like.

Who is "the lost child" in the title? I think that's an incredibly important question. There's an obvious answer in the plot of the novel, but I tend to think that lost child is really the narrator, who never had a chance to be a carefree young girl and grew into a neurotic mess of a woman.  But then again, why wouldn't I think that?

Monday, August 22, 2016

In Case You're Hiring

Zelda Marie Gimbalsh Cat
zellybeaner@catmail.org -- Kitty Kondo in the Window -- Nowhere, Wisconsin 
Skills:
Extreme fuzziness
Lowering blood pressure in humans
Cuteness
Finding bugs
Sleeping in various locations, in various positions, for various lengths of time
Improving mental health of humans, especially girl human
Playing with my toys, especially my brown ball 
Loud, persistent yowling
Finding things on the floor that aren't supposed to be there
Helping humans sleep
Chasing my tail
Creepily staring at humans when they are not paying attention to me
Jumping high on to all types of surfaces
Accepting pets from humans
Prettiest girl in the whole world
Experience:
July 2011 - present - Five years of servitude to two humans, one male and one female, in satisfactory arrangement. I sit by my bowl and demand food and they provide it. I stand by them and paw their legs and they play with me. I jump on their laps and they stop what they are doing to pet me.  I bat their legs and they get up and engage in a mighty game of soccer with me. I am cute and they buy me toys. 
Education:
Kitten school: In July 2011, I stayed at the VHydes with some of my litter mates, some giant cats, and a dog.  Here I learned how to use the litter box, engage in spirited activity with  other creatures, and how not to kill small children.  It was a useful period of time.

Five years of on the job training.The humans I am indentured to still engage in some improper activities, such as brushing me, going into a room without me and closing the door, and putting this stuff on my shoulder blades, but I'm working on training them to be better humans. In the meantime, I cat better than anyone else I know.

Friday, August 19, 2016

2016 CSA Week 10: Tomatillos?

This week brings us lots of goodies:
Tomatillos
Sweet peppers (2)
Lacinato kale
Tomatoes (5)
Onions (2)
Garlic
Jalapeno
Parsley
  • I still have a few tomatoes from last week, so I'll keep eating those whenever I need a snack.
  • I'll eat the peppers and carrots raw with lunch.
  • We are becoming overwhelmed with onions and garlic and I don't think we're the only ones. I'll try to give those away when people visit or I go visit people.
  • We'll use the kale in a frittata, as is the norm.
  • The biggest problem for me this week is definitely the tomatillos. Our farmers recommended roasting them and making salsa verde, but then what do I do with the salsa? Maybe I should buy it and then make tortilla chips out of the leftover tortillas we have from making tacos?  Do I even like salsa verde? 
What would you do with eight tomatillos? 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

But People DO Ask Me What I Eat for Lunch

I get a lot of questions about what I eat for lunch since I don't eat sandwiches and that seems to be a go to thing for a lot of people around midday.  I feel like the following is pretty representative of my lunches which is to say that it's a hodgepodge of what needs to get out of the fridge because a new CSA basket it about to arrive!

I had an appointment from noon until two yesterday and the appointment was about forty-five minutes away, so I had to spend a small bit of time planning my food options for lunch, making sure I could eat it one handed while driving, if necessary. I dug around in the fridge and here was my lunch.
My usual bowlful of CSA vegetables (two tomatoes, a giant carrot, and some dragon's tongue beans), some pretzels (we're big fans of Glutino pretzels if you need gluten-free pretzels) and a 100-calorie pack of Wholly Guacamole, two pickles, and a hunk of cheese.

I don't actually like pickles, but we have a bunch of them and I'm desperately trying to convince myself that I do like them, so I have been eating them with lunch regularly.  We don't usually have cheese, but we had people over for dinner TWICE last week and I always get too much cheese for the cheese and crackers portion of the evening (is this a Wisconsin thing - you do serve cheese and crackers as an appetizer while you finish cooking, don't you?), so we have four kinds of cheese in the fridge right now and it's all taking all of my willpower not to just go eat it all right now.

And that was that.
I had some hot tea in the Powell's thermos and some nectarine-infused water in the water bottle. For the record, the nectarines don't infuse nearly as much flavor as do blueberries and raspberries. It's not my favorite. I cut up the rest of the nectarine for "dessert."

It was all gluten-free and no bread was to be found. If I need a snack to get me through between lunch and dinner, I'll eat some more veggies or maybe have a handful of almonds. 
 
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