Thursday, April 2, 2020

Bits and Pieces of Now

Yesterday Matt, my mom, and I were supposed to fly to the east coast. My stepsister was getting married in DC. We were going to celebrate with her and take in museums and monuments in the city before setting off to Shenandoah National Park.
As recently as March 12th, we still thought maybe Matt and I would be able to make it happen, though in retrospect that was foolishly optimistic yearning. We could see the writing on the wall and were in denial. My eldest sister lives in Seattle and, as the situation rapidly escalated there, she called on the last day of February urging us to buy some extra food and supplies. Matt works for our county health department where they’d been starting to prep and stockpile supplies going back to January.  I largely ignore the news and had my head, admittedly, in the sand.  Italy was a sucker punch for me that sealed the deal.  Not only was DC off the table, but the excrement was hitting the air conditioning, to borrow a phrase from my beloved Kurt Vonnegut.
It is almost embarrassing to have to admit how much I was apparently clinging to my “it couldn’t happen here/to me” mindset.  It makes me feel dumb, but it’s the truth.
Was that really just three weeks ago? When we canceled the trip and battened down the hatches?!  It seems so much longer, as if each day has stretched. Or as if the planet’s spin has slowed, drawing out the days.  Time truly is such a relative thing. I really came to appreciate that when I started going to the gym. One minute of squats is nothing, but you should hear me moan about one minute of burpees.
The wedding has been postponed, along with, well, just about everything else in life.
I’m making the most if it, as I do.  That isn’t to say that I’m not anxious or worried. It’s hard not to be. I just try to focus on other things. More productive things. Things more directly under my control.  Plus, while I certainly miss concerts and dinner parties and all the rest of my usual hustle-and-bustle, it wouldn’t be completely honest if I didn’t acknowledge that I’m enjoying the unscheduled, steady quietude of my current home based experience, too.
We planted the garden with the early crops. I finally finished the curtains for our bedroom. I read a lot. Matt and I play a lot of games—board games, old school Nintendo, and darts, mostly. We have even carried on with our Tuesday night bowling tradition thanks to the Wii. We’ve been eating some incredible food, taking extra time on it. My family has been delightfully adept at engaging each other through remote, technological means. My cousins even created an online game room so folks can play Whist—with our family-style house rules. I had my first ever video chat with my dad. There have been a few nights spent around the backyard firepit. I’ve played my guitar until my fingers ache. The cats love our total lack of weekend and evening departures. They think this is the best thing that ever happened, I suspect.
There’s plenty to do. I’ve certainly said that I have too many interests and not enough time in the past. And here we are. The time has come. Plus, it’s important to remember how blessed we really are. We’re both still getting paid. We have an emergency savings account. We have full cupboards. We’re healthy. We have so much that enables this household to work, even if it doesn’t feel as easy or normal as accustomed.
We’re settling into this new, relatively temporary pattern of living.
Matt has been picking up a spot of overtime— he reports this is the first time that has ever happened in his life. It’s obviously a busy and stressful time for all those involved in healthcare, even those behind the scenes, like Matt. He works in the purchasing department and it has been a tricky time making sure all the needed supplies are available.
[Sidebar:  I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for medical professionals, nurses especially. This is all the more so in the current climate. Blessings of health and strength upon all the doctors, nurses, techs, therapists, etc. of the world!]
As for me, the library—the whole campus—is closed, more or less. It’s a sad-looking ghost town. Students are still learning and professors are still teaching, it’s just all online now. Initially I was still going to the library, but was directed to work remotely starting March 12th. I felt quite clumsy at it for the first week, but I have settled into it there, as well. I am still able to help students obtain e-books and digital copies of articles. I’ve been compiling statistics and updating policies and manuals. I discovered that listening to webinars and other online training is significantly more enjoyable with a snuggly warm cat on my lap. I set up a little desk under the picture window and like it so much—the light is great and so is the birdwatching—that I might leave it when I return back to work. It’s a lovely space to make art and write postcards, too. Working from home is not the same in just about every sense, but it will do. I am going to be an expert at all of the tricks and shortcuts on my phone by the end of this thing. I do all of my telecommuting from our teeny tiny iPhone since we don’t have regular home internet.  I’m learning so much.  Boy!  Aren’t we all?!?

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Recipe Page Reboot 2020

I launched a new rendition of my recipes page today.  I'm calling it my Digital Recipe Box this time, in honor of its physical counterpart in the kitchen.

The other recipe list was, well, just that: a list.
I opted to make it more visual this go-round instead of just text-driven.
I also decided to change how it was organized.  No longer sorted by Mains versus Sides versus Sweets, the Digital Recipe Box is grouped by frequency of use.  This allowed me to showcase our household favorites at the top while still including seasonal recipes and even the trials and errors further down the page.
For the life of me I can quite perfect the formatting and some of the recipe posts themselves could stand a little TLC (seriously...I post some "bad pictures of good food" on here...), but I'm pleased with the updated look of the page.  It is more useful to me and hopefully will be to others as well.  I certainly find it more visually appeal, too.

Reworking the page has reinvigorated and excited my cooking imagination, as an added bonus.  It reminded me of a few recipes that have inexplicably fallen out of rotation and need a renaissance.  It makes me eager for our garden bounty and the season-specific menus we can create as a result.  Soon enough!  Matt has strapping little peppers and eggplants under lights in the seedling nursery.

So, all around, a very satisfying project.  Here's hoping it serves me well.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Newbery Award Challenge - 2000s

Only two months into 2020 and already one decade down.  I'm well on track to finish the Newbery Project this year.  I must say that I derived a great deal of enjoyment from this decade of winners.  They're a solid crop.
Christmas Eve with the fam.
2000 - Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
I thoroughly enjoyed  Bud, Not Buddy.  Set in the Great Depression, and starring a young orphan, it is certainly a bumpy ride, but an entertaining one--and one with an overall happy ending.

Bud himself is a supremely likable character.  He likes having a good time and is quite street savvy, but he is also a hard worker and a very polite and well-intended boy.  The story is punctuated with his "Rules for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself."  Things like, "When an adult tells you they need your help with a problem get ready to be tricked- most times this means they just want you to go fetch something for them."  Or "If you got to tell a lie, make sure it's simple and easy to remember."  Or "If an adult tells you not to worry, and you weren't worried before, you better hurry up and start 'cause you're already running late."  He's developed quite a list of these rules because he's been forced to take fend for himself for much of his short life.  Bud grew up without knowing his father.  When he was six years old his mother died and Bud was moved into a group home for orphans.  It isn't the same as having a real home, but he's not abused or anything there and he strongly relies on the remembered life he had with his mother.

At the start of the story he goes to live with a foster family who are not nice people, especially their son, Todd.  In one scene the bully shoves a pencil up Bud's nose while he's asleep which actually made me slap my own hands over my face in sympathy pains.  Bud hits the kid.  I'm not saying that was the right response, but especially given the setting of the story it wasn't so bad.  Still, the parent's always take their son's side and they lock Bud in a shed for the night intending to send him back to the home the next day.

After his escape from the shed he heads to the library.  I absolutely adored the way the library and librarians were presented in the story.  The library is a magical place for Bud.  He can lose himself and the cares of life by spending a whole day reading.  The friendly librarians always help him find the information he wants--say, the distances between Flint (where he lives) and Grand Rapids (where he think's his dad lives).

Bud has an old cardboard suitcase full of keepsakes from his mom including some fliers for a jazz musician named Herman E. Calloway.  A series of things--some valid and others superstitious--lead Bud to believe Herman Calloway (Mr. C) is his father.  So he hits the road to Grand Rapids to meet him.  This doesn't go well.  First off, Bud is disappointed to find out Mr. C is quite old and mean-spirited.  He hits it off with Mr. C's band though.  They were my favorite characters.  They're sharp and sassy and over all just a barrel of laughs.  I think it does Bud a lot of good to finally have some male role models and guides.  They even buy him his own instrument and start giving him lessons.  I don't want to spoil the really solid twist at the end, but I'll say that Bud is wrong about Mr. C being his father, but he finds his home and his family none the less.

Race inequality is an undercurrent of the story.  For example, when Bud is hanging out in the "Hooverville" outside of Flint there is only one white family there.  They who won't take any of the food, fire, or blankets offered them by the other refugees since they're white and don't need charity from black folks.  ...even though their baby is sick and coughing.  It really illustrated how dumb such racism and (self) segregation is.  Mr. C's band has one white member and he arranges all of their gigs for them so that by the time people realize they've hired a non-white band to play their polkas it is too late to find another band.  I thought that was a really clever way to game such an unfair system.

The book was made all the cooler when I read the author's note at the end.  While definitely fictionalized for the novel the author based Mr. C and Lefty Lewis on the lives of his own grandfathers.  There was even a picture of them on the last page.
A friend of ours organized the renting of a limo so a group of us could go on a Christmas light cruise together.  It was incredibly fun.
2001 - A Year Down Yonder by by Richard Peck
A Year Down Yonder was a really fun story to read, populated with interesting characters and a good deal of old-fashioned charm.  Grandma in particular was an amazing character.  I can't say I always approved of her methods, but she was fair and kind in her way.  The story is that of Mary Alice Dowdel who is sent from her home in Chicago to live with her country grandma for a year as the family has fallen on hard times due to the Great Depression.  Mary Alice doesn't want to give up her city life to go live with the strong personality that is her grandmother.  By the end of the book though she doesn't want to go back to Chicago, finding comfort and belonging in the tangled web of small town life.

Mary Alice has a bit of a hard time settling in when she first gets there though and her Grandma doesn't seem used to sharing a house with someone else, having lived alone since her husband's death.  Grandma is a resourceful, feisty, intelligent woman who knows how to get what she wants without really breaking the rules.  Take the pecans, as an example.  Grandma is told she can have all the fallen pecans on a neighboring farm.  There are not many.  Grandma solves this problem by taking a tractor and bumping it into the trunk of the tree causing a shower of pecans for them to collect.  This struck me (and Mary Alice) as stealing, but then Grandma served every single slice of her pecan pie at a community gathering where there otherwise would have been slim pickings.  It wasn't as if she stole for personal gain then, but for the benefit of the entire town.  Grandma's mind worked logic like that.  She also looked after the needy on the sly, in a way that didn't make it seem like she was helping them.  I imagine she didn't want to injure their pride, nor develop a reputation as a softy.

Mary Alice's brother is off working for the CCC during the book and sends her postcards from his travels.  One of the postcards was from the Fort Peck Dam which I appreciated on a personal note.  I spent a lot of time at Fort Peck growing up and much of my family still lives around there.  There is also a man who comes to town as part of the WPA's scheme to get artist's back to work by having them paint murals on/in public buildings and rooms at Grandma's house.  He causes quite a stir--the scene in the book shocked me by its contrast to the quaint scenes from the rest of the story--when he attempts to paint the postmistress as a nude.  A snake ruins the portrait session and sends the postmistress running through town stark naked.  Grandma's blasts a shotgun into the sky to make sure that the sleepy town gets to their windows in order to see the spectacle.  She didn't approve of the nude being painted under her roof and I guess that was her way of saying so.

A Year Down Yonder is the middle book of a trilogy, but I had no problem reading it as a standalone with great enjoyment.  Still, I added the others to my To-Read list for some other day.
I saved all the lids from the paper boxes at the library and made Johnny--a box loving cat if there ever was one--a sprawling cardboard obstacle course for Christmas.  With bonus wrapping paper!
2002 - A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
While reading A Single Shard I identified another common theme running through these Newbery books--finding a sense of belonging.  I may have touched on this already, but reading A Year Down Yonder and A Single Shard in such rapid succession made the connection unavoidably obvious.  We all want to belong, I guess, and kids are a prime target for the message since they're so deeply in self-discovery mode.

A Single Shard is the story of an orphaned boy named Tree-ear living in 12th century Korea.  He lives under a bridge with another village outcast called Crane-man.  Crane-man was born with a leg "shriveled and twisted" and was not expected to survive.  He defied the odds and outlived the rest of his family, though he was never able to make a livelihood for himself.  After his family was gone he had to sell off his possessions, ultimately including the family home, to survive.  After losing his home he moved under the bridge which is where Tree-ear found him. While their life is hard--living rough and scrounging for food in garbage dumps--they have made a sort of family together which makes it bearable.  They help each other and make each other's lives easier.  Crane-man tells Tree-ear stories, teaches him tips on survival, serves as his moral guide, and is basically a father-figure to him.  "Scholars read the great words of the world.  But you and I must learn to read the world itself."

Tree-ear is fascinated by pottery--a specialty of their region.  He secretly observes the potter Min for months, learning as much as he can by watching and developing a tremendous enthusiasm for the craft.  One day he sneaks onto Min's porch to have a closer look at some fresh pieces set out to dry and accidentally breaks one.  Min catches and beats Tree-ear, who then begs to work off the broken piece through his labor. After working off his debts he ask Min if he can stay on as his assistant, dreaming of the day the master potter will let him try the wheel instead of hauling wood and digging clay and other menial tasks.  Little did he know.

Min is hard on Tree-ear, but Min's wife much more quickly takes to him--making sure he is fed, clothed, and asking that he call her "Auntie" which means a lot to a boy who has no memories of his family and has only known kindness from Crane-man.  Eventually it is because of his affection for Min's wife that Tree-ear embarks on a risky journey to take his master's work to the capitol in hopes of earning a royal pottery commission.  Getting a commission is a big deal.  It means steady money, work, and security for life--as long as the quality of work remains high.  Leaving Crane-man to embark on this journey is very hard on both of them.

It is also straight up dangerous for Tree-ear who meets bandits along the way.  Worse than simply robbing Tree-ear though, the thieves break Min's pottery examples.  Tree-ear has only a single shard to demonstrate his Master's skill to the royal court.  Fortunately, it is enough.  Not only does the shard earn Min a royal commission, the journey earns Tree-ear a real name, a place at the pottery wheel, and most importantly, a family.  He certainly experiences loss along the way, but it was a lovely story over all.
Making sugar cookies.  
2003 - Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi
This was a fun adventure to read and once again a story of a young person finding their place in the world.  Crispin spends most of his life not having a name.  He and his mother lead a very impoverished life as serfs.  It is Crispin's understanding that this is how God has ordered the world.  He doesn't pity himself his lowly position because he believes it is God's will and who is he to question God's will?

When his mother dies Crispin is left with nothing.  The landowner's greedy Steward, John Aycliffe, demands Crispin's beast of burden as a death tax and so strips him of his meager livelihood.  That soon becomes the least of his worries though.  John Aycliffe sets a rumor about that Crispin robbed him and designates him as a "Wolf's Head," meaning he is less than human and anyone could--and should--kill him at first sight.  This sends Crispin on the lamb, literally running for his life.  Right before he departs though he visits the local priest because he had always been good to Crispin's mother.  The priest give Crispin a few clues about his mother's past that he finds hard to believe and immediately made the reader know there were some twists and turns ahead.  The priest tells Crispin that he was baptized under that name, the first Crispin has heard of it.  He also learns that his mother could read and write.  These activities were almost exclusively the domain of priests and certainly not expected from a peasant woman.  Before the priest can divulge more though he is murdered and Crispin is baffled and alone in the world, with a death sentence on his head.

Crispin's fortune changes when he meets a traveling entertainer (or murmurer) called Bear.  Bear is a giant of a man who dazzles Crispin with his ability to juggle, make music, and interact with a range of people comfortably.  Crispin believe himself to be lower than dirt and acts accordingly, as such, the world treats him as dirt, too.  Bear quickly works to remedy this.  He takes Crispin on as his apprentice, teaching him to play the recorder and how to act when working a crowd.

Two threads converge in the town of Great Wexly.  Bear is helping stir up a rebellion intent on getting rid of the unfair feudal system they live under.  He won't accept that the adage It-it-what-it-is and instead dreams of a world of Let-it-be-what-it-could-be!  Coupled with Bear's treacherous activities, Crispin is still a wanted man.  They barely make it out of Great Wexly alive.

Bear is a really fun character.  He appears gruff and unfriendly, but is a very caring and generous person.  He was trained as a priest, but ran away and took up with traveling minstrel types.  "My companions taught me better languages; the language of song, of hand, of foot.  And most of all, of laughter."  He almost immediately acts toward Crispin as a father, which is something Crispin has never known.  Bear helps Crispin develop a trade and a freedom he could barely have imagined at the start of the story. Crispin realizes that every human has value, even a lowly peasant boy like him.

It was interesting to read a book set in this medieval era.  There are villages empty because of "The Great Mortality," which is a very real and recent catastrophe.  Feast Days are the only way to keep track of the date (i.e. Crispin knows he was born St. Giles Day, but not what date that is) and the chiming of the church bells are the only way to keep track of the time in any specific way.  I enjoyed the colorful language and hope to remember some of it for our next Renaissance Fair--By the Devil's own spit, by the bowels of Christ, the Devil take your hurts, God mend all, by God's holy wound, and so on.

A couple of ideas I really appreciated:
-The greater a person's ignorance of the world the more certain they are that they're at the center of it.
-If you have to chose between alertness and worry, being alert will help you live longer.
Christmas Day brunch at Ryan and Bek's place.
2004 - The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
I had a feeling that I'd enjoy this book and I was totally right.  It was an awesome story--a classic Knights and Princesses adventure saga, but with the wonderful twist of mixing humans and animal characters so that the knight is a wee little mouse.  Like so many others in this Newbery project it is a finding-your-place-in-the-world-self-discovery-be-true-to-yourself sort of story.  There are two such stories woven through the pages actually--one involving humans (Princess Pea and Miggery Sow) and the other the more diminutive animal members of the castle (the rats and the mice).

The star of the show and namesake is Despereaux.  He is an undersized, runty little mouse, the only one to survive from his litter.  He was born with his eyes open which was so strange it caused quite the kerfuffle.  Despereaux would continue to cause alarm with his strangeness as he grew up.  He just wasn't like the rest of the mice, no matter how his family tried to show him the proper ways that mice behaved.  It was during one of these lessons--learning how to eat glue and paper in the library--that Despereaux is exposed to books and reading and by extension a code of honor and courtly love.  He is also the only one of his kind that can hear music.  He is enchanted by these honey sounds.  By following them one day, he meets the Princess and the King...and changes his life--and the lives of lots of others around him.  See, the mouse code declares that any mouse who reveals himself to humans--and Despereaux went to far as to talk to them!--must be banished the the dungeon where rats and certain death reside.  No one expects to see him again.  Even his own father sends him off to his death because he Despereaux is different and being different isn't allowed.

While down in the dungeon though Despereaux learns of a plot between a very clever and disillusioned rat named Roscuro and a rather dimwitted and mistreated servant girl named Miggery Sow.  They intent to trap his beloved Princess in the dark, horrible dungeon forever.  His heart bursting with love and adoration for the Princess, Despereaux defies all odds in his attempt to save the her from this dreadful fate.

Despereaux is an easy to love knight in fuzzy armor.  I have to say though, the villians in this book were harder to hate.  The author did a good job of relating their history so as to place them in context.  Both Miggery and Roscuro has unfortunate things happen to them which left them hardened and easy to manipulate, burning with a desire for revenge.  I felt bad for both of them, especially Miggery Sow who never had a nice thing done to her, basically, and was made deaf through abuse.  Roscuro, like Despereaux actually, just wanted more from life than was deemed permissible by his culture.  He was just different, too.

It all works out in the end, of course, and was a lovely adventure a long the way.  I mean, the story was good and then to imagine a tiny mouse sized knight--complete with sewing needle sword--was just really great.  Very enjoyable.  I also liked the way the author addressed the reader throughout.  Things like, "Reader, you did not forget about our small mouse?" when the plot jumps from Miggery's tale back to Despereaux's.  I just requested a copy of the movie adaptation through the library.  I bet I'll like that a whole lot.  Feature-length cartoons are often my favorite movies.
My mom, sister, and niece came to visit a couple days after Christmas so we got to celebrate a belated Christmas together.  We had brunch, exchanged gifts, and had a jolly good time.  A solid amount of silliness may have been involved, like this silicon steamer basket hat!
2005- Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
The name of this book translates to something like "glittering" or "sparkling" from Japanese.  It is the story of a Japanese family who moves to Georgia in the 1950s.  It was a sad and distressing book, really.  Lovely in its way, but that's my overall impression: such a sad story!

When the family's Japanese grocery story fails they're forced to leave behind their Japanese-American community and move to the Deep South for jobs at a chicken hatcery.  There isn't a strong Japanese community there though and they can't find a place to fit, really.  They're not white, but they're not black either and in the 1950s that was an especially big deal.  This leaves them without a real sense of connection to their new neighbors and community.

Katie and Lynn are sisters and very close.  Katie looks up to Lynn a lot and Lynn helps Katie navigate their new world, explaining why people stare and encouraging Katie to find all the kira-kira (glittering) positives in life.  Lynn always thinks there is good, if you look for it.

Then Lynn gets cancer...and thing go very badly for the family.  There isn't enough money, they have to move house, Lynn's friends start to drop her, and everyone is gripped with a sense of hopelessness.  I can only imagine..  When Lynn eventually dies their normally reserved and dignified father totally loses it and, in a fit of grief over his daughter's death and the injustices of the world, smashes up the fancy car of his rich (and uncaring) boss.  He later owns up to it, because that was the right thing to do and he wants to set an example for Katie, even though it means he loses his job.

Katie reads her sister's diary after her death and this seems very therapeutic for her.  Plus, Lynn had made a will, of sorts, and expressed her dreams and desires for her family as they went on without her.  Katie realizes that she has to go on living, keeping her sister's memory alive and relishing in all the things that make our days have beauty and meaning.  All the things that are kira-kira.  I like that sentiment a lot.
My mama double-fisting peanutbutter toast.  I take after her in so many ways.
2006 - Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins
I liked the format of this story more than the story itself, I'd say.  More to the point, I liked how the criss-crossed, interwoven narratives--Hector, Phil, Lenny, and Debbie--lived up to the book's title.  The story itself was only okay, but the way it was told was pretty cool.

I especially enjoyed the thread of the story where Debbie starts helping out an elderly German neighbor.  There was also a thread that reminded me of myself a little bit.  After seeing a guitar player perform live Hector signs himself up for guitar lessons.  They end up being not nearly as cool as he might have thought, though he certainly learns things and it exposes him to new people and experiences.  I took guitar lessons once a week with a mixed group of townsfolk that struck me as very similar.  I'm not sure I learned as much as Hector did.

There was a necklace that got passed around between several of the characters.  I'm almost wondering if there wasn't some sort of significance there that I am overlooking.  It seemed like it was going to lead to some sort of big reveal, but really didn't.  So, I don't know what that was all about.

It wasn't a bad book or anything, I just didn't come away with a lot to say about it, I guess.
Playing Spoons at the Christmas Day brunch.
2007 - The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, illus. by Matt Phelan
This was a short and sweet little read, funny, too.  Lucky is a youngster living in the California desert country in a teeny trailer park town called Hard Pan.  Lucky's dad never wanted kids and so has basically nothing to do with her aside from mailing support checks.  This works out okay until Lucky's mom dies in a freak accident.  Her dad finds her a new Guardian so he can continue his absence from her life.  Her new Guardian is actually her dad's first wife, a French woman named Brigitte.  It was initially supposed to be just a temporary arrangement, but that was two years ago.

The story centers around Lucky coming to the conclusion that Brigitte is going to resign as her Guardian and go back to France with the result that Lucky will become a ward of the state or sent to a foster home.  It seems like maybe there is too much sand and snakes and not enough fresh food and civilization for Brigitte.  Lucky is trying to find her "Higher Power" so that she can convince Brigitte to stay.  She knows about Higher Powers because one of her hobbies is eavesdropping on all the 12 step meetings in town--over-eaters, alcoholics, smokers, gamblers.  This is, by and large, an amusing pastime.  She does overhear  some rather personal things she really shouldn't though--since it is supposed to be anonymous--about her friends and fellow townspeople.

Eventually Lucky decides to run away into the desert surrounding town.  In a dust storm.  She has a half baked idea that this will help.  That Brigitte won't leave.  Or that she'll realize how much she loves her.  Or something.    Fortunately this doesn't go at all as planned and, after causing a lot of alarm, she is found and returned to town--and to Brigitte.  Her Guardian tells Lucky that she's going to officially adopt her---that's what all the travel preparations and other "warning" signs of change had been about--and so it all ends better than Lucky could have imagined.

When I logged the book in my Goodreads account I was informed that it is the first book in the Hard Pan trilogy.  I requested them from the library.  I'm curious to see how it all turns out for Lucky, Brigitte, Miles, Short Sammy, and all the rest of the Hard Pan folks.
Johnny always gets what she wants for Christmas:  paper and boxes.  
2008 - Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz 
I inadvertently read this book twice for this project--just recently and back in November.  Going off memory alone I thought it was up next in the roster, but I'd confused it with A Visit To William Blake's Inn and failed to notice until I went to write my review.  Aside from the fact they're poems and heavy on the old-fashioned illustrations they're not really that similar, but...  I am actually happy about this mix-up though because Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! is a great book.  One of my favorite Newbery books thus far.  The illustrations are based on an illuminated manuscript and are quite charming.  There is a map of the village in the front and before reading the monologue I'd locate the speaker on the map.  The text is a series of monologues intended to give the reader a glimpse into the interconnected workings of a Medieval village--from the lowly beggar scamming a meager existence to the Lord's nephew hunting a wild boar to prove his manhood with all sort of stops along the way.  Many of the poems are related in a way that I thoroughly enjoyed--making brief mention of characters who'd already had their chance to speak.  Interspersed between the monologues were short essays offering further explanation about medieval life--the art of falconry, relations between Jews and Christians, the three field system, and so on.  There were also helpful historical tidbits in the footnotes which accompanied each monologue.  The poem where the Jewish boy and the Christian girl find common ground skipping stones together was brilliantly written--I immediately turned around and read it again; it was that good.  The whole book was lovely though--informative, entertaining, and beautifully illustrated.  In November when I read it out of order I knew I'd have no objection to reading it in entirety once again when I actually hit the 2000s.  A "happy accident" as Bob Ross would say.
For years I've joked about wanting one of the "baby kegs" I'd seen in the shops and so Matt got me one for Christmas.  I kept calling it my"keg baby" and loved to cradle it, as pictured.  It was 1.3 liters, I think, and was, coincidentally, from a brewery I visited when in Europe.  This was how we celebrated New Year's Eve.  It was just as fun as I'd hoped all these years.
2009 - The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
I'd read this book back in 2017 and remembered liking it a lot.  I gave it a four-star rating then.  I bumped it up to a five-star this time though.  It is a really cool story.  A tiny bit spooky, incredibly imaginative, and just...really cool.

Nobody Owens--Bod--is "the living boy" who resides in a sprawling and ancient hilltop cemetery.  He inadvertently escaped an assassination attempt that killed his parents and sister and tottered into the graveyard up the hill from his house.  The ghosts--especially the couple that would become his new parents--refused to let him be killed when they see the assassin, The Man Jack, attempting to finish the horrific deed.  Eventually the ghosts hold a council and agree to give Bod "the freedom of the graveyard."

By and large Bod is happy growing up in the graveyard.  He has his ghostly new parents--Mr and Mrs. Owens--and a guardian who is neither living nor dead--Silas.  The spectral residents of the cemetery teach him history, reading, writing, medicine, and so much more:  how to Fade from sight, how to move through slabs of marble and locked doors, how to see at night.

Things get more complicated as Bod matures.  He can't understand why everyone is so fixated on keeping him "safe," or why he isn't allowed out of the graveyard into the living world.  He meets a young girl, Scarlett, as she explores the graveyard (which is also a nature preserve) and develops his first friendship with a living person.  Her family assumes that Bod is an imaginary friend.  She moves away, but moves back again toward the end of the book.  Then Silas starts to disappear for weeks at a time without explanation, leaving Bod in the care of another being who is neither-living-nor dead called Miss Lupescu.  Bod starts to feel really put upon and begins to push his boundaries.  This is how he meets the witch buried in unconsecrated ground at the edge of the cemetery.  Meeting her leads him to leave the safety of the graveyard which is when he finds out about The Man Jack.

Eventually he must use his knowledge of the cemetery to save Scarlett and himself, not to mention defeat a small mob of bad guys known as The Jacks of All Trade, of which The Man Jack is but one member.  Bod learns that he has been prophesied to defeat the Jacks and bring about an end to their evil order.  This is why they were after him when he was just a baby. 

As the book draws to a close Bod realizes that as he matures to manhood he is losing his ability to Fade and move through the crypt walls, etc.   He is losing the freedom of the graveyard.  Silas and his parents explain to him that he must leave the graveyard and go out into the world--that everyone in the graveyard has already had their own life, however long or short it might have been, and that Bod has to do the same.

This is a book that I sure wished had a sequel!  If there was one I'd read it in a heartbeat!  It seemed like the ending was just another beginning.  I suppose that's saying something in its own right.
We got a Party Light for Christmas from Matt's brother.  It's pretty fun, I gotta say.  
And with that, I'm on to my last decade of Newbery books!  Woohoo!

For more on my Read-Every-Newbery-Winner project see the decade specific posts: 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s.

Monday, February 17, 2020

A Harry Potter Compare and Contrast - American English and UK English

Last year I went off the Harry Potter deep-end.  I basically read or listened to the series non-stop all year long.  Like, six times or something.  I'd finish one book and immediately start the next.  I'd hit the end of the series and gleefully start it over again at the beginning.  I find it to be such a lovely, imaginative world populated with complex and heartfelt characters overlaid with the compelling eternal drama of good versus evil.  I love it.  Obviously.

Just the books though.  The movies are...alright...pretty good even, but it is the books that I can't get enough of.
I actually read them too many times last year though, I think, hence my nearly singular reading goal this year:  Give Harry Potter some space.  I would find myself comparing near every situation with "Oh, that's like in Harry Potter when..."  Plus, there are minute flaws and inconsistencies that I only gleaned after excessive familiarity from overreading.  Like, how Fred and George never saw the supposedly dead Peter Pettigrew on the Marauders Map in all the years they had it and Peter was Percy's pet.  Or why Harry's dad comes out first when Harry and Voldemort's wands are linked with the Priori Incantatem spell when James clearly died before that's backwards.  Or whether or not one needs a wand to transform into their animagi familiar because most people don't, but Peter did.  And so on.  Nothing major, just little inconsistencies in how the magic works mostly.  [Matt says:  How do you know how magic works, Beth?  And I suppose he has a point.  If magic is a skill they're strengthening and honing at school perhaps, at least in the latter example provided, that is an explanation.  It can't explain away the reversed parents thing though, so...]
Realizing that I was being obscene by reading the same seven books over and over I thought I could make it into a sort of project to justify it.  One of my "book reports" as Matt calls them--comparing any differences between the UK editions of the book and the American editions.  I borrowed three of the books in their UK editions from my friend Dee Ann who bought them on a trip to England.  I also borrowed one UK audiobook, read by Stephen Fry instead of Jim Dale, through interlibrary loan.  The latter was an interesting comparison in and of itself.

I love Harry Potter and am a bit of an Anglophile.  It was a match made in heaven.  Plus, it gave me the opportunity to produce this book report.  [Hahaha!]
Since I love language, I was particularly keen to contrast the British English and the American English.  I was curious to see how the publishers/editors might tweak things to make it more comprehensible to an American reader while retaining some authentic British flavor.  This was prompted by the use of the word "pudding" in both UK and American editions.  I've come to understand that "pudding" in England can mean basically any ol' desert.  In America, "pudding" is just one particular kind of dessert.  We would never call a chocolate cake pudding, but that is exactly what happens in Harry Potter.  I thought it was weird that the editors would leave in something like that when they clearly changed other easily confused words, like "jumpers" (which means sweaters in England and an overall style dress in America), to a more American form.  I thought I'd find out more.  [Matt says:  Couldn't you just google that?  I mean, there has to be some other Harry Potter dork out there who has already done this.  My reply:  What would be the fun in THAT?!??!]
I took notes as I read three of the UK editions--The Philosopher's Stone, The Chamber of Secrets, and The Prisoner of Azkaban.  I petered out for The Goblet of Fire, though it was no less enjoyable for the lack of notes.   It was tricky to take notes while sitting in the bathtub listening to the American version (at double speed!) while reading along with print UK book carefully in hand, but that didn't stop me.  True story.

The format below is :       British Version - American Version. [Plus some thoughts or additional notes about it.]
  • Getting up at cockcrow - Getting up at dawn
  • Defence - Defense
    [As with the word "grey," I occasionally slip into the British spelling of this word.  I can remember getting dinged on a paper in grade school because I'd "misspelled" the word grey.  I'm not sure how long I've been intermittently using defence.]
  • Colour - Color
  • Favored - Favoured 
  • Fulfil - Fulfill
  • Class timetable - Class schedule
  • Have a go on the Firebolt - Have a ride on the Firebolt
    [This one is inconsistently edited out of the books.  Sometimes they stick with "have a go" in both versions.  Sometimes they Americanize the phrase like this.]
  • ...feeling happier than he had done in ages - ...feeling happier than he had in ages
    [There were a bunch of examples like this--"had done" in England, just plain old "had" in American.  This is something I've noted in other British books.  I find it an interesting linguistic bit of formality.]
  • Get out of it! - Get out of here!
  • Put paid to - Got the better of
  • Draught - Draft
    [Confession:  I know I've seen the word "draught" before--I've been to a brewery in Missoula called Draught Works for heaven's sakes--but I guess I didn't realize how it was pronounced, that is to say, the same way we say "draft."  It was a word I'd read, but never heard aloud, I guess.  Or if I did, I failed to make the connection.  I also didn't realize it wasn't a beverage term and could be used for a room with a draft, too.]
  • Pyjamas - Pajamas
  • Sacked - Fired
  • Post - Mail
  • Jumper - Sweater
    [This one is inconsistently edited in the books.  Most of the time it jumper was Americanized to sweater, but not 100%.]
  • Weedy - Feeble
    [I'd never heard weedy used in this sense, but I love it.]
  • Waistcoat - Vest
  • Notice board - Bulletin board
  • Dressing room - Locker room
  • Won't take any rubbish - Won't take any crap
    [I have to feel the British have outclassed us here.]
  • Forwards - Forward
  • Downwards - Downward
  • Towards - Toward
  • Backwards - Backward 
    [I don't say forwards, but I DO say backwards.  Not always though.  I asked several other folks and I'm not alone.  So that was interesting.  I read some articles that indicated that, especially in Britain, the inclusion/exclusion of the S depends on what part of speech the word is being used as.  As an adverb, say, or as an adjective, etc. So now I am going to have to pay attention as it comes up in my reading or conversation.]
  • Scarpered - Scampered
  • Why did he scarper - Why did he run
    [Scarper is a great word.  It almost strikes me as an onomatopoeia.]
  • Quidditch pitch - Quidditch field
  • Good on you - Good for you
  • Lift - Elevator
  • Lunch trolly - Lunch cart
    [The luggage trolly is still called a trolly in both versions of the book.  Only the lunch trolly is Americanized to cart.]
  • She hasn't revised - She hasn't studied
  • Revising hard - Studying hard
    [I like the idea of revising one's knowledge rather than just studying.  The latter seems more rote, the former more ongoing and exploratory.]
  • Torch - Flashlight
  • Newsreader - Reporter
  • A fair few - Quite a few
    [I assume people like me are the reason this was changed for the American edition.  I'd read "a fair few" and think not-very-many.  This is, of course, the exact opposite of the intended meaning.]
  • Bollards - Waste baskets
  • Phone boxes - Phone booths
  • Chips - Fries
  • Its brilliant - Its great
    [I purposefully adopted a more British use of the word brilliant within the past couple years.  Not excessively or anything, but I think it is a superb synonym for great.  A brilliant idea.  A brilliant evening with friends. Doing a brilliant job.  And so on.]
  • Slight jolt in the stomach - Slight lurch in the stomach
  • Close to - Close up [This one is inconsistently Americanized.]  
  • ...tea with me this afternoon 'round six - ...tea with me this evening 'round six 
    [At what point does afternoon end and evening begin?  Apparently the idea differs between the UK and America.  Again, I assume this was changed for readers like me who would most certainly consider 6pm to be evening.  If pressed I'd say afternoon and evening meet somewhere around 4:30pm.  I'd say 4pm in the afternoon, but 5pm in the evening.]
  • Nor do I - Neither do I
  • Windscreen - Windshield
  • Boot - Trunk
  • Bonnet - Hood
    [I knew that the trunk of the car was the boot in England, but I did not know their term for the hood of the car--the bonnet.  I like that in both countries the term is an old-fashioned piece of headwear.]  
  • Headlamps - Headlights
  • Wing mirrors - Side-view mirrors
  • Motorway - Highway
  • Father Christmas - Santa Claus
    [There was at least one instance where this was not changed for the American books]
  • A mad urge - A crazy urge
  • Next moment - in a moment
  • ...the washing-up in the sink - ...the dirty dishes in the sink 
    [Again, I think we've been outclassed.]
  • Amongst - Among
  • Leapt - Leaped
  • Leant - Leaned
    [Ending words with a -t instead of an -ed lead to some interesting discussion with Matt.  While Americans by and large seem to favor the -ed ending, there are certain instances where it feels all wrong.  I would never say leant, but I would absolutely say leapt.  Language is whack.]
  • For ever - Forever
  • Favoured before all others - Favored above all others
  • Withdrawn into the folds of the black material - Withdrawn into the folds of its black cloak 
    [I have no idea why this one was changed between the UK and American editions.  Maybe just for clarity rather than a language difference.  I am really not sure.]
  • Drawing its rattly breath - Drawing its breath
    [I again have no idea why this one was changed.]
  • Only lowers its hood to - Lowers its hood only to
    [And again, I'm not sure why this one was all flipped around, unless it was just for increased clarity for all readers.  Neither strikes me as uniquely British or American.]
  • A spot of - A bit of
  • Haring out - Racing out
  • Queue - Line [This one is very inconsistently Americanized.]  
  • Good job, too - Good thing, too
  • Pudding - Dessert
    [This one is very inconsistent.  Typically pudding is used in both American and UK versions, but not always.  Occasionally the American books sub in the word dessert.]
I will also add that the Quaffle is described in both UK and American books as being about "the size of a football."  Of course, that brings to mind very different things for a UK reader versus and American one.
It is my assessment that the books got increasingly left intact as the series went along.  The word "queue" was always changed to "line" in The Chamber of Secrets, but by The Deathly Hallows they'd leave "queue" in.  I'm not sure if this reflects a shorter turn around time in the publication cycle as the series became such a phenom.  Perhaps the publishers wanted to release the American edition more quickly and editing for anything but obvious spelling differences (defence, colour, favourite, etc) was sidelined. Or perhaps the editors were leaving in more British language style as part of the increasing maturity of the writing.  The books do mature right along with the characters within--as did the readers, presumably.
Johnny LOVES her toys.  A lot.  The Drug Fish (a catnip infused soft toy) is her favorite.
Photos from July 2019 - February 2020.
This was a superbly fun little project for me.  I got to have my Harry Potter reading bender, a linguistic dork out, AND I learned new stuff, too.  Slamdunk!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Stroytime: The Spider with the Magic Flute

There is a Cat Stevens album called Buddha and the Chocolate Box.  Matt and I were examining the album art one Saturday back in April 2013 as the record spun on the turntable.  We decided to each draft our own story, or captions, for the comic book style scenes on the back of the album.

[Sidebar: That is one of the things records have going over CDs, if you ask me, a considerably larger art space on the cover.]

I recently came across these Buddha stories--pasted into an old journal--as I swapped out my 2019 journal/datebook for the fresh, new 2020 model.  I can remember how much we laughed as we read the other's story.  It made me happy all over to read them again.

I think it does a body good to be silly and creative for no real reason.   Fortunately, Matt also subscribes to this philosophy.

Below are our Buddha and the Chocolate Box tales.
When Buddha was a boy he set out on a great journey to find his destiny.  Along the way he happen upon a giant black spider playing a magical flute in the path.  The spider played an enchanting melody that captivated the Buddha.  It cleared his mind and he felt great calm and peace.  Suddenly visions came to his mind of a beautiful paper box which had been painted with bright designs.  He opened it and saw small gold objects inside.  Unwrapping one he could smell the delicious scent of fresh, rich chocolate and gasped to realize it was a likeness of himself.  The Buddha's mind cleared again and he was quite dismayed at this vision.  He left the enchanting spider and pondered, as he walked, the meaning of all of this.  [This is my version.]
One day Buddha was hiking across the valley beyond the mountains.  He came upon a piccolo playing spider.  The spider said "I'll play and you should relax and meditate."  So Buddha thought "Great idea" and began to meditate.  His mind became empty and then filled with a box of chocolate.  He open the box, reaching inside, and took out a gold wrapped chocolate.  He unwrapped it, anticipating enjoyment.  And found a chocolate version of himself.  "Eat myself!!  What does it mean?  What should I do?  That spider plays weird meditation piccolo.  I wish he would quit following me."  [Matt's version]
I'm so tickled that the sentence "That spider plays weird meditation piccolo," exists in the world.  It slays me.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Thousand New Birds

Matt and I made a slight detour for a daytrip to Yellowstone a little over a week ago.  It wasn't that far out of the way so... why not?
Waxwings against a grey January sky.
Less than five minutes into our river stroll it was already more than worth it.  We almost immediately encountered a new bird--the Bohemian Waxwing!  And by that, I mean we encountered about 1,000 of them.

It was utterly delightful.  They were so thick in the trees I couldn't help but think of an apple tree laden with fruit.   A bountiful harvest!  Heavy with birds!  The boughs were a flutter with wings.  Their little heads peaked out everywhere.
In addition to coating the trees there was a steady cascade of birds down to the river's edge for a drink or a dunk--and back up to the tree again.  Matt and I stood under the trees in amazement at their constant activity.
The rocks are hopping with birds.  It was quite the bathing/drinking hot spot.
Eventually they took to the air, basically en mass, swooping and soaring off into the horizon.  It was stunning watching them shift through space as seemingly a single entity.

I love birds.  They're so neat.
Cedar Waxwings, cousin to the Bohemian Waxwing, are seasonal guests around our place.  Our nextdoor neighbors have a Mountain Ash tree which draws the birds to us each fall with its clumps of bright orange berries.  Range maps tell me it is entirely possibly for us to see both varieties in town, but we never have.  I will have to look more closely next year.  They make mixed flocks.  Perhaps I've just overlooked a few Bohemians amidst the mob of Cedars.

Both types have a super cool tail, tipped in yellow.  I always think it looks like they dunked the their tails into a tray of paint.  The Bohemians have some added red highlights to make them even flashier.  The red is actually what initially made me aware these weren't our average Cedar Waxwings flocking about.  They both sport a pretty sharp looking bandit mask.

Let's say it again, just because:  I love birds.  They're so neat.
The Bohemian Waxwing becomes number 194 on my life list.
Part of the flock is visible just above the treeline, near center frame, with the Gardner River and Matt in the foreground.  
Sometimes sightings are so brief and limited, just a little taste of things to come.  This first encounter was more like an all you can eat buffet.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Books Read (and Listened to) in 2019 + Movies, too

I read books every day, even if it is just a few minutes before bed.   Usually quite a bit more though.  During my recent holiday break I easily read for a few hours every day.  I always have a book going, but more often I am reading several simultaneously.  I don't find it tricky as long as the plots don't overlap much.  Say, only one story with wizards or queens or talking rodents at a time.
The Bookish Squirrel reading up in the garlic patch.  May 2019 
Over the span of 2019 I read 130 books.  Looking back I am pleased with the lot.  They were a solid assortment of kid's books, YA books, adult books, audiobooks, print books, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and prose.
One thing I am celebrating this year is that I didn't read any truly bad books.  None earned a one-star rating from me.  A first!  I'm quite pleased with that.  That's two years in a row that I've improved the quality of my reading choices.  Hooray!  Quality over quantity!  [Or both, at least.]

Interestingly, one of my lowest rated book--Speranza's Sweater which I gave two stars--was the highest rated overall by other Goodreaders of my 2019 titles.  This just goes to show that just because something is popular with the masses doesn't mean it will be popular with me.

Among the books I read last year, the first Harry Potter is still the most popular by total Goodreads count.  At almost 6.5 million people, there were almost a million new readers during 2019 though.  I think that is pretty dang impressive.  I mean The Sorcerer's Stone was published more than twenty years ago!

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Harry Potter is a force.  More on that to come, actually...
As always, it was tricky to pin down my favorite reads for the year, but here goes:

Top Ten Reads of 2019, in no particular order.
  • The Hero and the Crown (Robin McKinley)
  • Naked (David Sedaris)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale duet (Margaret Atwood)
  • Caffeinated:  How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts, and Hooks Us (Murray Carpenter)
  • Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling)
  • Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton)
  • Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors (Arnold, Graesch, Ragazzini, & Ochs)
  • A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (Bill Bryson)
  • Cat’s Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut)
  • The Giver (Lois Lowry)

It was so tough to pick my top ten, actually, that I ended up with an almost equally long list of Honorable Mentions:  
  • Maniac Magee
  • Double! Not Half
  • Bud, Not Buddy
  • Lincoln: A Photobiography (Russell Freedman)
  • O, Pioneers!
  • The Secret Life of Bees
  • and basically everything by David Sedaris, especially in audiobook form since he reads his own books.

If I had to pick a least favorite it would probably be Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  I found that book...let's say...challenging.  But even it was still "okay."
During 2019 I rediscovered how much I love baths--and reading in the bath.  September 2019
2019 Annual Stats
Number of young adult or children's books:44
Number of adult books:24
Number of audiobooks (both adult and YA/children):61
129 Total Books (compared with 128 total books for 2018)

There were books I read more than once during the year (namely Harry Potter and David Sedaris) so it is only 105 unique book titles.

Reading Jurassic Park with Ginger.   January 2019
I will carry on with a few reading objectives this year.
  • Read all the Newbery Award Winners:  I am going to complete this project in 2020.  I am currently on the 2006 winner.  Even if I stick to my six-months-per-decade speed I will wrap it up this year.  Of course, the Newbery continues to be awarded annually so the project will never really end.
  • Read 50 Books Set in 50 States:  This is something Hannah and I started in 2018.  I have 14 states left to go.  I could probably knock that out this year, too, but odds are...I'll get distracted.  It is a sort of, oh, passive challenge, if you will.  I read whatever I want and then see how they fit in after the fact.  That wasn't how I started out though.  I thought I could use it as a way of reading books I'd always meant to, but never had.  That isn't exactly how it is working out in practice though.
While I hope to focus on more non-fiction reading this year, I really only set one true goal for 2020. 
  • Give Harry Potter some space.  It is no secret that I love the Harry Potter series.  They've made my top ten lists the last three years running.  Basically, the rule is that if I read the HP series that makes the list.  This year though...I went off the deep end.  Even I know that.  For months on end I had the HP audiobooks going in a constant loop during my free time.  I borrowed copies of the UK editions and read them to compare and contrast the UK and American English used throughout.  For the Prisoner of Azkaban I sat in the bathtub listening to the American audiobooks at double speed while reading the UK print book simultaneously.  I read an astonishing, obsessive amount of Harry Potter last year.  I read each of the original heptology four times through, a couple even five times.  Basically:  Harry Potter made me lose my mind.  I don't want this to happen again this year.  I think I need to give Harry Potter a little space.  At least the main canon of books.
I did a massive weeding project in 2019 and reduced our book collection to what you see here (plus cookbooks which are in the kitchen).  August 2019.
Below is the full record of the books that I read in 2018, listed in reverse order with the most recent at the top of the list.
  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames (David Sedaris)*
  • David Sedaris: Live for Your Listening Pleasure (David Sedaris)*
  • Naked (David Sedaris)
  • The Polar Express (Chris Van Allsburg)
  • My First Picture Book of Christmas Carols (Rand McNally, publisher)
  • 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (Clement C. Moore)
  • The Night Before Christmas (David Ercolini & Clement C. Moore)
  • Crispin: The Cross of Lead (Avi)
  • Holidays on Ice (David Sedaris)*
  • Families Change: A Book for Children Experiencing Termination of Parental Rights (Julie Nelson & Mary Gallagher)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)*
  • The Night Before Christmas (Clement C. Moore)
  • The Night Before Christmas (Charles Santore & Clement C. Moore)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Take Joy! The Tasha Tudor Christmas Book (Tasha Tudor)
  • The Mouse Before Christmas (Michael Garland)
  • A Single Shard (Linda Sue Park)*
  • A Year Down Yonder (Richard Peck)*
  • The Familiars (Adam Jay Epsetin & Andrew Jacobson)*
  • The Poppy War (R.F. Kuang)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling)*
  • A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (Bill Bryson)
  • Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Thunder Boy Jr. (Sherman Alexie & Yuyi Morales)
  • The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues (Patrick Lencioni)
  • The 28 Day Alcohol-Free Challenge: Sleep Better, Lose Weight, Boost Energy, Beat Anxiety (Andy Ramage & Ruari Fairbairns)
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)*
  • The Testaments (Margaret Atwood)
  • Soar, Elinor! (Tami Lewis Brown & Francois Roca)
  • At Night (Jonathan Bean)
  • Bud, Not Buddy (Christopher Paul Curtis)*
  • The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
  • My Beautiful Birds (Suzanne Del Rizzo)
  • Robopocalypse (Daniel H. Wilson)*
  • The Tao of Pooh (Benjamin Hoff)
  • The Firefighters' Busy Day (Richard Scarry)
  • Holes (Louis Sachar)
  • Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn (Kenard Pak
  • Earth-Blood & Star-Shine (Lowell Jaeger)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters (Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis)
  • Out of the Dust (Karen Hesse)
  • This Day in June (Gayle Pitman & Kristyna Litten)
  • A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo (Jill Twiss & E.G. Keller)
  • The View from Saturday (E.L. Konigsburg)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - UK ed. (J.K. Rowling)*
  • The Midwife's Apprentice (Karen Cushman)
  • Quidditch Through the Ages (Kennilworthy Whisp & J.K. Rowling)
  • The Wolves of Currumpaw (William Grill)
  • Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons: Opinions (Kurt Vonnegut)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Song of the Lark (Willa Cather)
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Read the Book, Lemmings! (Ame Dyckman & Zachariah OHora)
  • Prison Paws: Max's Story (Donna Cochran & Robert Rath)
  • Birds of Every Color (Sneed B. Collard III)
  • Double! Not Half (Rodney Gottula)
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends (Shel Silverstein)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling)*
  • The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Caffeinated:  How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts, and Hooks Us (Murray Carpenter)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)*
  • The Book of the Dead and Elysian Fields (A. Gaddis & G. Seif)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Calypso (David Sedaris)*
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling)*
  • The First Four Years (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling)*
  • These Happy Golden Years (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
  • Men Explain Things to Me (Rebecca Solnit)
  • Walk Two Moon (Sharon Creech)
  • Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast (Robin McKinley)
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Little Town on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling)
  • The Giver (Lois Lowry)
  • The Little Book of Lykke: The Danish Search for the World's Happiest People (Meik Wiking)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)
  • The Sleeper and the Spindle (Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell)
  • Blizzard!: The Storm That Changed America (Jim Murphy)*
  • Missing May (Cynthia Rylant)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling)*
  • The Long Winter (Laura Ingalls Wilder)*
  • Theft By Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 (David Sedaris)
  • Shiloh (Phyllis Reynolds Naylor)
  • Holidays on Ice (David Sedaris)*
  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames (David Sedaris)*
  • Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown (Charles M. Schulz)
  • A Smurf in the Air (Peyo)
  • Finding Lincoln  (Ann Malaspina & Colin Bootman)
  • Speranza's Sweater (Marcy Pusey & Beatriz Mello)
  • Maniac Magee (Jerry Spenelli)*
  • Number the Stars (Lois Lowry)
  • Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices (Paul Fleischman)
  • By the Shores of Silver Lake (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Lincoln: A Photobiography (Russell Freedman)
  • Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (David Sedaris)*
  • Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (David Sedaris)*
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling)*
  • You're Only Old Once!: A Book for Obsolete Children (Dr. Seuss)
  • Little House on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
  • And That's Why She's My Mama (Tiarra Nazario)
  • Farmer Boy (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
  • Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls (David Sedaris)*
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Little House in the Big Woods (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
  • The Whipping Boy (Sid Fleischman)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall (Patricia MacLachlan)
  • The Hero and the Crown (Robin McKinley)
  • Woolly Different (Rayne Reynolds & Edward Tanzosh)
  • Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors (Arnold, Graesch, Ragazzini, & Ochs)
  • There's a Wocket in my Pocket (Dr. Seuss)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling)*
  • The Spice Alphabet: Herbs, Spices, and Other Natural Flavors (Jerry Pallotta & Leslie Evans)
  • The Lost World (Michael Crichton)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)*
  • Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling)*
  • O, Pioneers! (Willa Cather)
  • The Wife Between Us (Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen)*
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (Hunter S. Thompson)
My Prof. Trelawny props for the Harry Potter Ball on campus.  February 2019.
I ended up watching 33 movies this year, listed below.  That's a lot!  Four more than last year...which I also thought was a lot.  Once again, those gall dang Harry Potter movies are a major contributor, being almost 1/3 of the list right there.  I finally watched Back to the Future (and its sequels).  This was one of those movies (like Goonies) that has a tendency to make people goggle at me when I report that I'd never seen it.  They were pretty entertaining, too, especially the first and third ones.  Maybe this year I'll finally get around to Goonies.
  • Jumanji: The Next Level
  • Men in Black: International
  • Aladdin (the new one)
  • Hocus Pocus
  • Back to the Future III
  • Back to the Future II
  • Clue
  • Back to the Future
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
  • Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince
  • Toy Story 4
  • Toy Story 3
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Toy Story 2
  • Toy Story
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Yes, I watched it twice.)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  • 50/50
  • Clue
  • Idiocracy
  • Isle of Dogs
  • Jurassic World
  • The Secret Life of Pets
  • The Lego Movie
  • The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
  • The Lost World: Jurassic Park
  • Jurassic Park
  • Mulan  (Yes, I watched it was an accident.  Don't ask.)
  • Mulan
This photo looks remarkably like one I could have taken this week rather than a year ago.  Reading with Ginger on my lap make a good thing even better.  January 2019.