Monday, December 18, 2017

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

One of my grad school colleagues asked for recommendations for reading over winter break and she already had a list of non-fiction that would be my entire list for a calendar year, but one of our other colleagues admitted that all she read in her free time was LGBTQ YA fiction and she proceeded to name a bunch of books in this genre that I'd never heard of and I immediately added them all to my library hold list. That's just how I roll.

Anyway, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe came in first and I thought it was a sweet story of first love. It's like Sarah Dessen for gay boys.  There's also threads about class differences and race that resonate throughout the novel, just like Dessen will have other threads beyond the true love forever in her books. 

So this was fine and I enjoyed reading it, but I don't actually think that the book will stay with me or that the characters will.  There's something undeniably important about allowing young gay men to see a portrayal of young gay love that is supportive and fun.  There's something undeniably irresistible about a happily ever after story.  But that's where it stops for me.  It's important, fun, and there's a nice happy ending.  If that's your jam, go ahead and pick this up.

Friday, December 15, 2017

CSA Holiday Share, Part II

Well, I successfully pawned off most of the garlic and onions from the previous holiday share to lots of local friends and we had managed to use most of the rest of it (I still have some radishes, turnips, and carrots left, but those last forever), so I feel pretty solid that these shares are useful for our household.

So this share brought us:
Sweet potatoes
Napa cabbage
Savoy cabbage
Red cabbage
Butternut squash
Daikon radish
Lettuce
Arugula
Spinach
Leeks
Red & yellow onions
Garlic
Carrots
Kohlrabi
 The plan is similar to last time. I'll use the cabbage and most of the root veggies in a slaw that I make that makes me so happy at lunchtime. We'll roast the squash and use it risotto. I'm overwhelmed by carrots and I think I'll make some carrot soup a time or two over winter break.  The sweet potatoes are great sides that we make regularly with dinner.

Honestly, the lettuce didn't look great, so we're not going to eat it. We're still on spinach strike, so that's out, and as much as I kind of like arugula, it was kind of sad looking, too. So the greens were a bust, but that was not unexpected for a farm in Wisconsin in December. 
Despite that sad green situation, the fridge is full to bursting with these goodies at this point.
And we're going to have guests over tomorrow night and I hope they want garlic and onions because we definitely have some to give away. 

I'm not sure if we'll do the holiday share again next season, but I'm betting we will just because it's so nice for me to still be making fresh slaw (IN DECEMBER) and we do use the squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots so regularly. 

Friday, December 08, 2017

A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn

A Beautiful Place to Die is a mystery novel set in 1950s South Africa. I really enjoyed just about everything about it. It's an interesting look at the race and political realities of apartheid, as well as relatively gripping whodunit.

The writing is pretty good, and while I feel like the author frequently lands hard on stereotypes of characters, I also kind of wonder if they actually are stereotypes with a purpose and maybe even a bit of reality.  I think calling it a "mystery novel" makes it seem like it's a typical genre piece, but it really isn't. I guess I can't think of many novels I've actually read that take place in South Africa, outside of post-apartheid stories, so maybe that's why the novelty of this book seems so great to me.

It was interesting to read the settings, the houses, the segregated businesses, the leftover trauma from World War II, and the political machinations of the police and national security agencies.  It was fascinating to read the thoughts of characters who were in positions of power (namely the white police officers) as they grappled (or didn't grapple) with questions of consent in relation to physical contact between people with vastly different power dynamics.

In this moment in 2017 when Congressmen are dropping like flies because of claims of sexual assault and sexual harassment, Bill Cosby, Louis CK, and Kevin Spacey are blacklisted because of their own terribly sexist histories, and there is a really creepy entitled sexually amoral white man in the White House, the role that power plays in the sexual relationships in this novel really stood out to me.  Yes, the setting is a different time and in a different place, but I found myself wondering how different from the here and now the issues around consent and who has it and how they have it really are. The black woman doesn't say no and doesn't resist because she knows that because of potential retaliation to her and her family, she doesn't actually have a choice. The white man doesn't actually even consider consent because the contact is his due, his entitlement, his power.

Anyway, there are some graphic scenes in the book, so that's something that might turn people off, but I thought this was smart and interesting and thought provoking, so I'm going to recommend it to everyone to read. 

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The Saga of the Front Porch

Spoiler: There is no resolution to this situation.

We thought we would just power wash the front porch, replace a couple of rotting boards, and put some DeckCorrect on it. We wanted to do something with the front porch in the medium-term, but it wasn't really a project we were ready to tackle right away. 

What you can't see in this photo is that those columns are actually holding weight. That's our bedroom and office on top of that porch.
I mean, the stairs are a bit not to code, but it was in pretty good shape. Or so we thought.  I bet you can see where this story is going.
Dr. BB pulled up a couple of rotted boards. And, as he put the crowbar on the joist below those rotted boards, the bar went right through the support beam.  Oh, man, that's not good. That beam is holding up our bedroom.
Now there's a hole and we can totally see that someone sistered up some beams against old rotted beams, but never removed the original rotted supports, so the rot spread. 
We plopped down thousands of dollars at a company that specializes in decks and balconies after three companies came out to give us quotes and recommendations that we not do the work ourselves because a) we don't know what we're doing, b) we don't have time to do it, and c) this is a load-bearing porch.  We were told that it would be done in the last week of November or the first week in December.

I called this morning to be told that maybe, just maybe, they might be able to fit us in by midweek next week.  

We're doing a relatively big (for us) holiday party on Saturday the 16th and I'm already anticipating that there will be no front porch at that time and we will look like the trashy house.  I had dreamed of garland and lights on the porch, inviting people to come into our house. I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to let this dream go.  

So, there is a giant hole in our porch.  

The people who are going to replace it MIGHT be here next week.

I'm just going to have to let this go. I can't make the workers come any faster.  I can't do the work myself.  So here we are.  

Breathe in. Breathe out.

I'll update if anything happens. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

One Thing at a Time

There are two more weeks of classes and then finals week and then that's it. Another semester in the can.

I need to write down exactly what I'm going to do with each of the remaining class periods. I need to prepare for lecture today. I need to do laundry. I need to get ready for my tutoring student tomorrow. I need to figure out holiday cards. I need to...

Just chill.

It's a beautiful fall day. We've had no snow yet, so I can still reliably walk through the woods and ride my bike and enjoy being outside.

If I don't exactly figure out my schedule for the rest of the semester and something falls through the cracks, the students will never know.  Some of my best lectures have been when I wing it without much preparation. The students just have to shoulder some of the burden.  Chores will always be waiting and if Dr. BB needs clean clothes that badly, he can do laundry himself.  If holiday cards don't get sent out, no one will miss them much in the flood of mail in the next month. 

So I'm going to write this to myself as a reminder.  You can only do one thing at a time and this is your time to just be.

Let's home I remember this in three weeks.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Gifts I'm Buying for People

I hope my family and friends don't read my blog.

My Best Friend Who Writes
I creeped on her Instagram and found out some places she likes that sell journals. So maybe she'll get one of these. $13 at Design Works Ink.
My Best Friend Who Is Ridiculous
I have definitely discussed my near obsession with the Uncommon Goods catalog and this year is no exception. I love these Long Distance Touch Lamps ($75 each). You connect them through WiFi and when you touch it, it lights up not only your light, but the other person's, as well.  You can stay in touch, even if you don't have time for a phone call or text I think this is just ridiculous enough for her.
My Mother
Uncommon Goods is totally my go to catalog for everyone, I'm learning. I think I'm going to get her a Mother & Daughter Letter Book ($40).  My mom likes scrapbooking and I think she vaguely likes me (but she could do it with her other, more favored daughter, I guess), so this could go over well, I think. I just put it in my electronic shopping cart.
My Sister
My sister, the favored daughter of our mother, is a bit tricky. She and I do not share tastes in anything and I find that most things I give her as gifts end up stored in one of her closets.  I have given up trying anything she'll really like in favor of stuff she'll probably at least use. Maybe this hand-painted ornament with dogs on it ($65)? I'd put that on my tree. 
Dr. BB
I bought him socks just today. We're romantic here.  I might also get "him" a nightlight. I actually want another nightlight on our ground level and I think this one is adorable and he likes owls, so I would buy it and say it's for him, but really I want it.  That's how marriage works, right?  Okay, you're right. I'm not going to spend $50 on a nightlight, but if you want to, this one looks amazing.
My Sister-in-Law Who I Get Every Damn Year in the Christmas Draw Who Has No Hobbies or Interests Outside of Her Children 
I got her one of those skeleton key ornaments ($24) when I ordered mine because she and her family just moved into a new house this year, too. I also got her a One-Yard Wonders book ($21.13 at Amazon right now) because I love my copy and she's vaguely interested in sewing and I think this book has awesome projects she could work on with my ten year old niece.  With that I am approximately $5 over our limit, but I don't even care.

Sewing projects I've completed with that book include a really easy to make skirt, a set for babies, and a sewing caddy.
My Brother-In-Law the Firefighter who Watches Soccer and That's All I Know About Him
He has an Amazon wishlist. THANK HEAVENS. He's going to get something off of that.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Great Christmas Ornament Search of 2017

Every year I buy us ONE new personalized holiday ornament. It's a joy to see them all lined up on the tree (except we're missing a year - the year we lived in that terrible town when I broke my leg terribly and it was a no good, very bad holiday season where I was stoned most of the time). Most of the time the ornaments are pop culture themed (last years was Stranger Things-esque), but this year we have a milestone. I want a "Our New Home" ornament.

Here are my options.

1) Aluminum hand-stamped house shaped ornament: This one is available from The Silver Diva for the price of $22.95 plus $4.50 for shipping to the US. It looks like the seller guarantees a 30-day delivery, so I can get it before Christmas if I order it soon. I like the simplicity. I'm not crazy about the all lowercase or the heart, but I bet those can be changed.

2) Home sweet home ornament with personalized GPS coordinates: This one is from Mon Cherie Paperie and costs $17.95 plus $5.95 for shipping. The shop says 3 - 5 days until shipping and I don't see special holiday shipping notes, so this one could be purchased fairly late in the game if you're a procrastinator. You can pick your own ribbon color... I like this one, especially that it would include our GPS location,  but I wish the house looked a little bit like my actual house, you know?

3) Three-level hand-stamped nickel ornament: This one comes from WhiteLilieDesigns at the price of $20.92 plus $3.50 shipping. That's a very reasonable price to me. The promised processing time during the Christmas season is 2 to 4 business days, so procrastinators can also get this one late in the game.  I like it. It reminds me a lot of the types of necklaces mothers wear with their children's vital statistics on it, though. 
4) Custom hand painted ornament made from a photograph you send: This one is from Heirloom Art by Maria and is $39.99 plus $9.25 shipping.  This shop says it will take 3 - 4 weeks for custom orders, so if you want it, get it now. I think I might get this later on once the front porch is not torn into a million pieces and we've redone the landscaping in front, but right now it seems a bit ambitious and a bit braggy about a house that looks a little sad in the front.  Later!
5) A version of a personalized skeleton key: Lorelei Vella (left) has a two sided brass skeleton key for $24 plus $3.50 shipping and handling. It could be ready in 1-2 weeks, so if I order it now, it will be reading in plenty of time. Ancy Pants (which is an awesome store name - on the right) has a gold colored skeleton key with a brass tag attached for $28 plus $2.60 shipping. This also ships in 1-2 weeks. We have an old house that has skeleton keys that operate many of the doors and I like the symbolism of these keys.

I'm really leaning towards one of the skeleton keys, but only if we can get it in one font with correct capitalization.  I'm sort of undecided on which one I like better.  Any thoughts? Or maybe I should get the three-level hand-stamped one? Or maybe the house shaped hand-stamped one?  They're all great! I'm dithering.

Tell me what to do, Internet.
 
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