Posted in in the craft room, in the reading room, on the screen, these days

these days…

When I perused today’s to-do list earlier this morning, I found that I’d put “blog post” on there for today. I think I’d hoped to be ready to write an RIP post, but while I’ve watched several things I haven’t yet finished another RIP book. So as I was throwing together the ingredients for a second loaf of bread for tonight’s supper, I was debating with myself whether I should just skip blogging for today. Trouble was I was so busy arguing with myself that I forgot to pay attention to how many cups of flour I was putting in the bread machine pan. *sigh* If I had to say, I’m guessing there’s about a 50/50 chance this loaf will come out edible. Seems that after possibly bungling up tonight’s grilled cheese due to my scatterbrainedness and lack of simple decision-making skills, I really ought to just blog and have something to show for it.

So, what’s been going on in my mundane little life…

*Reading.

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I’m still working on The Secret History. Since I’ve been reading it for a couple weeks now, it might seem that I’m not terribly enthralled by it, but I assure you that’s not the case. It’s just that 1.) I’ve been reading other books for homeschooling, 2.) it’s a slow, meandering sort of read, 3.) it’s a fairly long book, and 4.) I’m just a pathetically slow reader.

In the meantime, I finished a reread of one non-fiction comic and read two novels. Economix: How Our Economy Works (And Doesn’t Work) in Words and Pictures by Michael Goodwin and Dan E. Burr is chock-full of so much excellent information that I just knew that I wanted to use it as our introductory book for our economics class. It was every bit as good the second time around, and I wholeheartedly recommend it, whether you’re interested in economics or not.

Next up was The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen. We’re using a sci-fi course from The Great Courses for our English requirement this year, and thus far (only a few lectures in), I’m pleased with it. The lectures are more broad than deep, but that works quite well for us, as I tend to love for us to go off exploring on our own. While the number of works the lecturer talks about are still skewed towards white male authors, I worried it would be far worse than it is. In the last lecture I listened to, he spoke of works by Connie Willis, Octavia Butler, Nicola Griffith, and Jane Yolen. And it was obvious that he spoke of works he truly enjoyed, and wasn’t just doing so to avoid criticism. I loved the way he also matter-of-factly included a children’s book in the lecture. Hmmm…seems like I’ve gone on a bit about this course, but I can’t tell you how relieved I’ve been as sci-fi seems to include so many sexist fans in its ranks. Let’s just hope the rest of the lecture series doesn’t let me down. And back to The Devil’s Arithmetic, well I’ll suffice it to say that I thought this middle grade novel about the Holocaust was excellent.

But the book that I most loved was Octavia Butler’s Kindred. Passionately loved. As in it’s moved to my list of all-time favorite books. To me it shines as an example of how fiction can make us feel and understand things in a way non-fiction often can’t. And this is not a criticism of non-fiction, of course. I adore non-fiction. But the way Octavia Butler made the reality of slavery so very palpable was just extraordinary. This is simply one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read.

*Making.

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I’ve worked a bit here and there on a number of projects the past couple of weeks, but the one I’ve focused most on is a sweater for Annie. And I’m happy to say that I’m close enough to finished that I feel confident in saying that it will make it under the Christmas tree this very year. 😉  I just have to finish the second sleeve (and if there’s enough yarn left, I may add a few rows on the body).

*Watching.

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Actually watched quite a lot lately. It goes along with Christmas gift making, after all. 😊 And I suppose they all qualify as RIP-appropriate. After reading Natalie’s review of Don’t Bother to Knock, I knew I just had to watch it. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. I seldom watch older movies, not because I don’t like them, but more because I just don’t know which to watch. So I was happy to have read Natalie’s review, and instead of saying anything more, I’ll just suggest you read her post.

Finished up Quantico, which I watched because Max told me I might like it. And I sort of did, but I didn’t love it. I sincerely doubt I’ll watch season 2. There were things I enjoyed a lot, such as the diverse female cast (though diversity among the male cast was more lacking) and the exploration of how people deal with feelings of personal guilt (though I would have loved for this to have been explored deeper). But there were also things that I didn’t enjoy so much, but I don’t want to be spoiler-y so I’ll just leave it at that.

Rich and I watched the first season of Between, and started the second season…but then we both sort of simultaneously voiced our opinions that life is far to short to watch TV shows we’re not enjoying. It’s sort of Lord of the Flies meets Under the Dome, with not-so-great acting (though I honestly know nothing about acting, so take my comment for what it’s worth) and plot points that are so unbelievable that they’re downright laughable. On the surface, it sounded like a show I would have loved…but well, you can’t win them all, can you?

And lastly (I think anyway), I watched Marcella. I really loved this show. I found Marcella a completely fascinating character. Her complexity in some ways reminded me of Annalise Keating from How to Get Away with Murder. Not that Marcella and Annalise have a ton in common, but more just the fact that we’re getting to see these characters as full-fledged human beings who don’t always fit that constricted little box that women are nearly always banished to if they want to found “likable.”

Okay, well, I thought I might talk about what was going on in my kitchen lately (not all that much exciting really) and in the organizing realm, but I feel like I’ve blathered on for long enough. More than long enough to check this off today’s to-do list.

(Edited: The bread? Completely inedible.)

Posted in an appreciative life, in the reading room, on the screen

the last few days in the RIP trenches…

ripeleven300I started what I thought was going to be book 2 for RIP, read 47 pages, and decided life was too short. So a DNF. Thing is, said book, The Murder Room, is pretty damn interesting. At least as far as I got. It’s a non-fiction book about the Vidocq Society, an elite group of detectives and forensics specialists who do pro bono work on solving cold cases. But for as interesting as I found it, there were a number of things that irked me. Lots of subtle sexism, a homophobic remark, and a smattering of other things that just rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe in a different mood, I could have overlooked some of it and just enjoyed the interesting stories, but it just wasn’t happening now. And I’m going to give the book away, so it won’t be happening any other day either. 😉  After all, I’ve no shortage of other books to read.

So then I started the second book that I’m predicting will be my second book, The Secret History, because yes, I’m one of the few people who have yet to read it. But I’m in good company, because Chris is also one of those few people, and we have decided to read it together. I’m thus far finding it slow going though, so I may end up sneaking in a comic or a short novel while still reading this…in which case this won’t end up being book 2 for RIP either. 😜

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Peril the First: still just 1/4.

I have made progress on another perilous quest, however. Go me! Yes, Rich and I devoured Stranger Things over the last couple of nights. I know we’re a little late jumping on this train, but this is a case of better late than never. Because yes, we both loved it! (A couple things annoyed me in the last episode, but we won’t go there because it would be spoiler-y. And they didn’t keep me from loving the show anyway.) But what did I like?

*The overwhelming nostalgic feeling of being transported right back to my high school days. My hometown was way, way, way smaller than the small town in the show, but still the feeling was just so totally nailed.

*Eleven. She owned my heart. ❤️

*Dustin and Mike and Lucas, and their whole dynamic.

*An okay level of creepiness for me. I actually would have loved to be scared a bit, but still it worked for me. And I don’t much like gore (though I did in my much younger days), and this hit the mark by not going overboard there.

*The not so subtle allusion to Firestarter, a book I positively loved way back when (and really need to reread).

*The way I got to have really interesting conversations with Eva about it.

You know, I probably could go on for quite a while with this list, but I’ll stop there and just say how very happy I am that RIP nudged me into finally watching it. RIP is oh-so-awesome that way, isn’t it?

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Also read my first short story (thanks to the RIP review site!), but think I’ll save that for another post.

Posted in on the screen

screen time…

Watched a few documentaries last week, each of which I liked for different reasons. (The placement of each in a category is somewhat random, as any of them could have been switched.)

65. Watch 100 documentaries.

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Playground, directed by Libby Spears, was a powerful film about sex trafficking in the United States. It was a mix of haunting personal stories and staggering statistics and thoughts from professionals within the system, all punctuated with beautiful, incongruous artwork by Yoshitoro Nara. It was painful to learn just how little our laws, our whole broken system in fact, do to protect these children. The hypocrisy of this nation who claims to care so much about its children, and yet literally throws them away by the thousands, is mind-boggling. This is a film that every adult in the United States should be compelled to watch.

(1/100)

 

83. Read, watch, listen to 100 true crime books, documentaries, podcasts, etc.

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The focus of the film, Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, isn’t on the murders Aileen Wuornos was convicted of. Filmmaker Nick Broomfield instead explores the people around Wuornos. And the story that emerges was profoundly sad. From nearly the moment that Wuornos was first suspected of committing these murders, there were people looking to make a buck off of her, looking to exploit her for their own selfish reasons, from the police to her lawyer to the woman who adopted Wuornos after her arrest. Broomfield does not try to excuse the behavior of Wuornos, to prove or disprove her guilt. He shares a completely different angle to the story.

 

life and crimes doris payne

In some aspects, The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne, felt like the lightest of these three films. But that ignores the circumstances of her life that led Doris Payne down the road she blazed. I found it impossible to resist the charm, the spunk, the fierce independence, the sheer audacity of this woman, now in her mid-80s. This isn’t to say that I approve of all her actions, but more to say that all of us are enormously complex people. And it’s good to be reminded often that everyone is more than just a label, be that label “jewel thief” or “mother” or “addict” or anything else under the sun.

(2/100)

Posted in at the writing desk, down the hatch, in the garden, in the kitchen, on the giving front, on the screen

and a complete hodgepodge of everything else…

30. Make 100 different kinds of soup.

I figure most of these will be made with Rich in mind, as he’s the big soup lover. But this one was purely for me. I tried this recipe on a Monday, the day he and Annie don’t get to come home for supper.

Creamy Broccoli Cheese Soup

1 quart veggie broth

1 cups skim milk

20 oz. package frozen broccoli cuts, thawed

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

1/4 tsp black pepper

7 oz. Velveeta, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 1/3 cups instant mashed potatoes

Combine broth, milk, broccoli, onion, pepper, and 1 cup water slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours (or low for 5 hours).

Whisk Velveeta into slow cooker until smooth. Sprinkle instant potatoes over soup and whisk to combine. Serve immediately.

I really enjoyed this soup, but have to say, it was much better as leftovers.

 

31. Bake 100 different kinds of muffins.

Forgot to take a picture, but these zucchini oatmeal muffins are probably my favorite muffins ever. Nothing fancy, just plain good. Been making them for decades.

Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup oatmeal

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

4 eggs

1 medium zucchini, shredded

3/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin tins. (18 muffins)

In a large bowl, combine first 7 ingredients.

In separate bowl, beat eggs. Add zucchini and oil. Pour over dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes.

Cool on wire rack.

 

I also tried a new muffin recipe. I thought I save the recipe to record here, but I can’t find it. Oops. They were called Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins, but to be honest, they weren’t nearly as good as they sound. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

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(2/100)

 

34. Drink 100 different wines or mixed drinks.

I’m not a big wine drinker, but on rare occasion do enjoy it with dinner. Casa Larga’s Petite Noir is a recent local discovery that both Rich and I enjoy quite a bit.IMG_8141

(2/100)

 

36. Support 100 different local businesses.

In the past few weeks, we’ve been to Bill Gray, a Rochester favorite, and Cam’s Pizzeria, our local New York style pizza joint, and Sticky Lips, which does surprisingly good Memphis-style bbq ribs according to Rich (personally I adore their meatless loaf).

(3/100)

 

38. Give away 100 boxes or bags of stuff to the library, charity shops, etc.

Another two boxes of books hauled off to the library. And two boxes and bag hauled off to the Goodwill drop-off.

(6/100)

 

52. Send 100 postcards.

So sad that I forgot to take a picture, but I sent off 3 more postcards: one to Jill, one to Chris, and one to David.

 

63. Watch 100 pre-2016 movies.

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This is actually a rewatch; we saw it many, many years ago, but I remembered very little of it. I’m not terribly picky about movies, and I enjoyed this well enough. Still it’s one we’ve no compunction about giving away now that we’ve watched it.

(5/100)

 

69. Plant 100 different things.

Bonny Bell tomatoes, jalapenos, and Maule’s red hot peppers started.

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(3/100)

Posted in on the screen

more action on the screen…

63. Watch 100 pre-2016 movies.

die harder

Okay, so we got a bit off-track from watching the movies we own to see which we can rid of. After watching Live Free or Die Hard the other night, Rich wanted to watch the others in the franchise. So he checked the library and found they had the second Die Hard 2 available. We’d actually seen this one before, but it had been a while so I really didn’t remember much. And yes, we enjoyed it…in a very non-cerebral sort of way. 😉

(4/100)

Posted in on the screen

more action on the screen…

63. Watch 100 pre-2016 movies.

bourne identity

Yep, another from the massive pile of DVDs Butch has given us over the last few years. We’ve been hoping that we’ll be able to cull a great number of them. (I WANT LESS STUFF IN THIS HOUSE!) But turns out that The Bourne Identity (2002) is another keeper. Rich and I both enjoyed it, and I’ve no doubt that Max would enjoy it as well. I don’t tend to think of these action sort of movies as my thing, but now I’m wondering if that isn’t an inaccurate assumption on my part.

(3/100)

Posted in on the screen

action and suspense…

63. Watch 100 pre-2106 movies.

Butch has given us oodles of used movies, both on VHS and on DVD. We’ve decided we really need to start watching them and deciding which ones we want to keep and which ones we want to give to the library sale. Last night we actually managed to get through two.

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First up was Gravity, from 2013. Neither Rich nor I was overly impressed. To me, it just seemed to drag. It’s not that we hated it, but I’m pretty sure once was enough. So this one will be donated.

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Next up was Live Free or Die Hard, from 2007. We’ll be keeping this one. What can I say–we have soft spot for John McClane. (We watch Die Hard every year at Christmas-time.)

(2/100)