Thursday, July 31, 2008

Book review team of Bonnie and Cady

We do more together than read books, so I thought I'd share our recent swim date. My daughter snapped this photo when we were near the edge of the pool, so Cady's smiling sweetly at her mother. (Cady, the reviewer)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A picture-perfect tomato

Once upon a time in the tiny postage-stamp spot outside my apartment, I tried to make a garden. The root-bound ground, tempered over time by summer heat and winter freeze, had become impenetrable. I posted this BEFORE photo of my garden spot back in early May. (Click to enlarge it, if you want to see the things I describe.) Since I couldn't dig DOWN, I decided to build UP. See the three bags of deep dark dirt I bought? They are the first of maybe ten or twelve bags I spread in this spot. See the edgers behind the big planter? I used them along the sidewalks, allowing for a couple of inches of new soil. Who knew it takes LOTS of bags of dirt to cover such a tiny space? Not I. Next came the plants, some of which you can see in the photo above. That's a tomato plant in the middle of the big planter. I bought a few plants, and one of my neighbors gave me four left-over green plants that I put in front of the fence. But mostly I wanted to grow tomatoes.

So this is the saga of the tiny tomato. We bought five or six tomato plants, ONE of which grew tall and produced maybe half a dozen blossoms before a big storm knocked off all the blooms and it stalled, nevermore to grow anything. Then one of the tinier plants produced a single tomato. But it's a beaut! See? We first noticed it when it was about the size of the end of my thumb, a tiny perfect green tomato! Wow, we had a tomato!

Now for the "rest of the story," as Paul Harvey says. I was practically on my knees to get that amazing photo of our one and only tomato of the summer. It looks, well, somewhat anemic if viewed from a normal distance, as in this photo. See that red dot in the center of the photo? What, you can't see it? Click on the photo to enlarge it. Yes, that dot, the one that shows up only because I made sure the sidewalk set it off. Donna and I plan to make an occasion of eating this little thing, even though we'll get only half a bite each. And if you don't hear from me again, figure it poisoned me! I'm halfway serious. It has taken this poor little smaller-than-a-golf-ball-sized tomato all summer to grow this big. Because it is now the perfect color, we know it's time to pick it. Gotta go. The little one is waiting beside my Shh! I'm trying to read bookmark.


We picked it, we cut it, we sliced it wafer thin. And it ALMOST covered a cheese sandwich. I ate my half as part of the sandwich, but didn't get a lot of tomato taste because of the thinness of the slices. Donna watched me, saw that it didn't kill me outright, and daintily plucked her three slices off the bread, cheese, and mayo and ate the slices separately. She says the teensy tiny tomato had excellent taste.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Speaking of cats

This is a three-part post, all cat-related.

1 - cat on the package in today's mail

When I came back from the mailbox with this package in my arms, Donna asked if I'd seen what was on the bottom. No, I hadn't noticed it (yet), but here's the photo I took of the cartoon cat before I even opened the package. The return address featured only a P.O. Box number and a zip code (no name or town), and I had assumed it was another of the books I had agreed to review. It was actually from Dewey. I won The Year of Living Biblically that Dewey gave away after she reviewed it last week, and it arrived in today's mail. Dewey, I had no idea you were an artist! I am so impressed. Thanks for the book.

2 - Dickens is now Junie B.

Kiki, Sammy, and I decided the little dickens who moved in on Sunday could be described as "tiresome" or maybe "more energy than a dynamo" or even "make it stop"! The non-stop kitten drained us of our energy. Donna, who missed about nine hours a day of "fun with kitty" when she went to work, was off on Wednesday and finally realized we really cannot keep such an active kitten who took a walk in my oatmeal and likes to tackle the tails of elderly cats. So she departed with kitty on a journey to the brand-spanking-new animal adoption place nearby. Kiki was so relieved that she came and sat in my lap for close to 45 minutes, sighing and content. When Donna returned in about an hour, all three of us ... Kiki, Sammy, and I ... stared in disbelief as the kitty bounced out of Donna's arms and back into our lives! What happened? The new place takes only 30 adoptions a day, with the next possible date being August 5th, and asked Donna to "foster" the little one a few more weeks.

We did learn something, however. I had thought, upon examination, that the kitten was a girl; Donna was sure she saw a couple of things I had missed and said it was a boy. The adoption center confirmed he's a she. So the little dickens needed a new name. We were going for literary and tried every female name possible ... until Donna thought of Junie B. Unless you have youngsters in your life, you may not know about the Junie B. Jones books by Barbara Park, which even little boys enjoy. Junie B. is always into something, like in this "Sneaky Peeky Spy" story. Aha, just like our little dickens! And the amazing part is that the kitten likes "Junie B." and totally ignored "Dickens" when we said it. Maybe she was trying to tell us something.

3 - and the winner is ... Nucat

Nucat showed up with a 6-5 winning vote in the poll that's been in the sidebar. But on counting the comments in the post about the voting, there seems to be a tie.
Nucat ~ June, Wendy, Chris, Stephanie, Teddy Rose, and Beth
Yella Cat ~ Ellen, Colleen, Linda, Marylyn, Lisa, and Donna
and the winner is ALSO ... Yella Cat

Since Nucat got the most votes in the opinion poll, I'll let him go first. Sorry, Yella Cat, but your turn will come. Yes, I know Junie B. got in the header first, back when I thought she was Dickens, back when I thought she was actually reading in that photo above. It turns out that she is still young enough to need a picture book and wasn't really reading Jim the Boy that was open in front of her. She's an intelligent cat, though, even if she has been known to walk through oatmeal and overturn three full glasses of water. So maybe we'll have her reading before she finds a more permanent home with some energetic children who will be able to keep up with her.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What the dickens?

This cute-as-the-dickens kitten was hiding from the rain under my roommate's car when she went out yesterday morning. Needing to get to church to teach a children's Sunday school class, she brought him to me. What could I do? I left a cellphone message that I'd miss church with family, but would meet them for lunch afterwards. In the meantime, this little dickens was exploring his new digs (interesting word) and thus totally annoying the two elderly cats who live here: Sammy, who is 13, and Kiki, who is 8 years old. You should have heard the deep-throat growling and spitting that went on! Sammy hid under Donna's bed, snarling whenever the little fuzzball appeared on her radar, but Kiki defended her turf, actively growling her "ERRRRMMM-mmmmm" whenever the hyperactive youngster cavorted too near the corner where she had retreated.

Surprisingly, this tiny fellow wasn't taking any guff from the big cats and would hiss right back at them. Once, having run from Kiki's hissey fit of snarling and spitting, he jumped into the litter box in the laundry room and said what I can only translate as "nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-NYAH-nyah ... hisssss!" Then he pooped, covered it with sandy litter, and pranced right back into the living room where Kiki sat, quivering with righteous indignation that we humans had allowed this ... this ... strutting white ball of fluff into HER home.

I left the kitten closed up in the bathroom with a bowl of water and went out for lunch and an afternoon of swimming with my daughters and Cady and her mom's friend Laura. When I returned late in the day, Sammy was still under the bed and Kiki looked frazzled from listening to hours of "mew-mew-meow" emanating from the other side of that door. When I released the captive kitty, I found that everything on the counter had been knocked aside and dusty paw prints decorated the sink. (Had he first conquered any dust bunnies hiding behind the toilet bowl?)

To make a long story short(er), I must say it's been an interesting 24 hours. I was awakened at 7:30 this morning by the new cat (yes, this kitten does look like he could be related to Nucat, doesn't he?), who was ardently waging a battle against my elbow with his needle-sharp claws and teeth.

I have printed out these photos of the little dickens who has already captured our hearts and have added this caption: "Did you lose your friend? Found under car in parking lot on Sunday. To claim this cute-as-the-dickens feline, call Bonnie (phone number)." But I haven't yet taken his wanted poster to the mailboxes at the entrance to the apartment complex because I'm afraid someone will claim him.

By the way, can any of you figure out what we've named him? (Naming him means we've capitulated to the lure of his compelling cuteness and may have to keep him, right? I was afraid of that.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Vote for your favorite

About the time this blog was overrun by cats last year, two very different reading felines spent time in my header. Yella Cat, on the right, stayed until he heard that Dewey wanted to turn him into a lolcat. He went on to stardom in the lolcat world, and almost immediately Nucat, on the left, showed up (read the comments on Yella Cat's post). Nucat purred a lot when you readers praised his round, Charlie-Brown-shaped head, but one day he up and left without a word. Didn't even collect his last kitty-treat paycheck. Just left. I think he found something more exciting to do.

Can you believe that just yesterday they BOTH showed up again? Yes, really! And they both want the job back. I explained that I'm very happy with the panorama of Cape Town, South Africa, in the header up above. On the other hand, it's been there awhile and I'm thinking that maybe it's time for a change. But which cat shall I choose?

Please refer to the voting thingy in the sidebar and help me out, here. Should I give the header job to Nucat or Yella Cat? Or should I find another cat who can read? I've had several applicants during the past year. Then again, some of you may prefer my cat-less headers ... or even the urban raccoons I had there once.

One last request: Would you also comment here so I'll know your reasons for choosing one header or another? Thank you, thank you, and thank you, all.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

100 new classics

Jill of The Magic Lasso listed Entertainment Weekly's The New Classics: The 100 best reads from 1983 to 2008. Jill and a bunch of her readers listed the books, highlighting in RED those she had read and in BLUE those on her TBR pile. I like lists, so I'll play along.

1. The Road, Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

I've read twenty of these books, but there are some on the list I've never even heard of -- and that surprises me, as I not only read a lot, but also read ABOUT books a lot.

Don't you wonder how EW determined which books to include -- and also, the order? Are you puzzled by books missing from the list? Or by books that you don't think should be here at all?

Pick one or two books, whether on the list or not, and tell me why you think it SHOULD be on any list of 100 new classics.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Flight of the hooked-thumb bird

This paragraph by Goldendaze-Ginnie has inspired me to silliness:

I have another granddaughter who just turned six. She is a budding author. Her favorite thing is to create a story in both words and pictures. Her mind is so creative that it’s sometimes difficult to follow her logic, but that’s what makes it so enchanting. (Why can’t a hand fly into the sky, waving as it goes ... and leaving a trail of little hearts ?)

A flying hand? Hey, why not?

I can see it as a children's book,
and that trail of little hearts looks pink to me.

On the other hand (pun intended), I can image lots of other possibilities.

Turn both hands palm up. Now cross your wrists, palms still facing you. Your thumbs should be almost touching, so hook them together. Wiggle both sets of fingers in a "come hither" motion. Do you see the bird? Now let it fly!

Maybe instead of a children's book it could be a book for parents. "Very good," I would say beside a picture like this, "but now flip your hands so the palms are up."

Making hand-birds is a way to entertain a child who wants out of the grocery cart, for instance. Or to distract her at the doctor's office. Or as part of the entertainment on a long trip.

Oops! No turn your palms UPward, not OUTward.

(Some parents may find it hard to follow directions.)

Now, what else could go into a book like that?

Can you see the magic in your own hands?