Sunday, April 27, 2008

Past due update

First, many pardons for not posting for a while. I think I explained earlier that April tends to be a busy month for me, since there are work events. Well, the big one (Night of Notables) is over, and I had a blast. Right before that, there was doubt that I'd even be there, as I was quite ill, but fortunately recovered in time for the events & had a great time talking to all the authors who were there.

More great news : my mother came up to help me with a project that I was quite frankly well over-my-head with, and we're going to be able to complete it successfully. I'm looking forward to seeing the end results. Yay for Moms!

While out ill, you'd think I could've been reading, but without a TBR stack (To-Be-Read) right here, that wasn't possible and I wasn't focusing well anyway. But I did get a chance to reaffirm my liking for the TV show, Without a Trace. Fascinating storylines.

More tomorrow, I hope, as I will be cooking again!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

uploading photos & powells books blog

Yesterday, Blogger wouldn't let me upload any photos, so I want to make sure I upload one today. Oddly enough, Comcast had several channels that decided to blank out randomly throughout the evening too, so something must've been in the air. High winds or something? Here's a photo of Annie that I like. Doesn't she look cozy? Sometimes when I see pictures like this, I have a hard time remembering that the rescue people who had her called her Lovely. I know she is lovely, but to me, she's always Annie. She named herself the day I got her & has always responded and come to me when I call out Annie.

Reading's blog today, I found out that they have a pair of baby shoe bookends, which were apparently planted in Powells by a couple (brother & sister) who found the baby shoe bookends while cleaning out their grandmother's house. They decided they wanted to put them some place where the bookends would be on display forever, and they picked Powells for that. Even more interestingly, someone planted a rubber ducky in the store too, which is... visible. Not sure what that means, but when I go to Powells, I'll make sure I look for it. I hope I find it. Apparently if you do find it, you can't tell anyone, but if I find it, I'll take a picture of it, just for memory's sake.

Just so I have a record and an inspiration/impetus to keep spring cleaning, I managed to clean up my jewelry racks of earrings. Am actually managing to let go of some things that I will never wear for various reasons & even let go of some singleton earrings, including one from small computer parts. That one I know I'll never see again, because I lost the other earring on the streets of Chicago. I know it is a very small step in spring cleaning, but it is a start, right?

Friday the 18th post

Just wanted to put an update from yesterday here. I read the final book in the Shadow Children series by Haddix, Among the Free. Good ending, and a hopeful one. Also finished Trouble by Gary Schmidt, and it was well worth reading. The protagonist & his brother talk about climbing Katahdin and well.. do they? Read the book & find out!

Also wanted to mention here a book I read last year, called Unto the Daughters : The Legacy of an Honor Killing in a Sicilian-American Family by Karen Tintori. What a remarkable book. When I tell people the synopsis of the plot, the first thing they always ask is, "This is fiction, isn't it?" and sadly enough, it is not. I prize this book as much for its record of cultural history, record of an immigrant family, and the ties that home, homeland, and culture can have on people. Karen Tintori gives such a beautiful picture of what made Frances (her great-aunt) who she was, and why omerta had such a hold on the family.

Unto the Daughters is also a very interesting illustration of the 'dangers' of doing family research & genealogical research. Sometimes you do find out things that aren't so wonderful about your family.... but they're still your family & they still are a part of you. It is hard to put into words how much this book means to me, and how fascinating it is, but I do highly recommend it. It is hard to read in parts, because it is real and the events happened to real people. The sorrow over some of the events is very clear, but so is the peace that comes from knowing & understanding some of the twists in the family bonds.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Earthquakes in the Midwest

Just thought I'd mention that there was some news about an earthquake in Illinois this morning, around five a.m. EST, four a.m. CT. I actually felt it this morning, but assumed it was my cat pawing the side of the bed for fun. Oddly enough, a friend & coworker (Hi Kate!) also blamed her cat for the earthquake.

Dear Sweet Annie had nothing to do with the earthquake, I think. I hope. I'll see if I can find a picture for a future post that has her eyes open.

Since it is allergy season (and more books of course)

Here's a new study from University of Michigan, which talks about some things people can do, which doesn't involve medication but can help a lot with sinus problems. And yes, it does sound dreadful, but it really isn't. I use Neilmed's Sinus Rinse, and since the packets are pre-measured for you, you don't have to worry about using too much sea salt or not enough.

Onward to more pleasant things: I am finishing up Margaret Peterson Haddix's books, her series on The Shadow Children. Yesterday, I read Among the Betrayed, Among the Barons, Among the Brave, and Among the Enemy. I have the last book all ready to go... and am delaying because once I've read it, the series is over. Remarkable writing, engrossing plot, and a series that really hooks the reader into it. You find yourself caring about the people and you find yourself wondering if those events could happen here. Lee Grant/Luke Garner is written up in the blurbs to each book as though he's the primary character in each one. He does play a starring role in several of the books, but other characters come to the fore & play a primary role in the others. I love it when authors do this, because you begin to get a fuller picture of the community & the society, rather than just seeing it all through the eyes of a single character.

I have some other Haddix books to read (stand alones) and am looking forward to reading them. Will also be trying to do some spring cleaning this weekend. Amazing what odd things you find & you wonder, "Why on earth did I ever keep this?"

More later,


Sunday, April 13, 2008

All my books this April 13th, 2008

Picked up a bunch of books at B&N this past weekend & of course, dived right in & started reading. I'm still reading Trouble by Gary Schmidt, and haven't finished yet. But I will, soon.

The other books have all been just great: Among the Impostors and Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix. The people over in Books & Writers forum mentioned this writer & they were exactly right, her work is fabulous. Basically, they're set in a time when people are living under a totalitarian government, and having more than two children is absolutely forbidden. Farmers' work & lives are controlled to the hilt, and everyone is poor, desperate, and working very hard to survive. This story about the third children is amazing, as she builds this fascinating world of survival. I've always liked survival stories & I think that's part of the reason why I like these so well. Highly recommended. I plan to read the rest in this series very soon.

Then, Eggs by Jerry Spinelli, in which two wounded children find each other. It starts out with an Easter Egg hunt. The boy has lost hist mother (said on the first page) and the story itself is very much the story of the two children who find each other, make unlikely friends and somehow, someway, manage to find healing. They're both cranky children and unbelievably funny at times. I love Jerry Spinelli's ability to mix pathos with humor and fun. I also love that it starts with an Easter Egg hunt. Too cool!

Charlaine Harris writes several series & this one is from her Sookie Stackhouse series. Some of my favorite authors are those that can blend several genres & this one is a blend between mystery, romance, fantasy, and is really terrific. I tend not to like vampire stories, but this one works for me, mostly because Sookie is able to take care of herself around them. This one takes Sookie to Lake Michigan, on the shores of the City of Chicago. Really fun to hear the Southerner's viewpoint on the Northerners!

Trouble by Gary Schmidt : which I haven't finished yet. It starts out with a main character, who is the youngest of three children. His oldest brother is badly hurt in an accident, and everything changes in the family. His father is having trouble dealing with the situation, and the main character is not used to seeing his father like this. Life is going on... but not all is well.

I think what I like best about Schmidt is his ability to mix a little bit of history into his story. He's able to give you the sense of the time & place, what happened, why people thought the way they did, without making you feel like you're sitting through an history lecture. There's always a bit of a mystery... why are people behaving the way they are? What makes them chose the course of action they chose to take, which can be destructive or a humbling brand of goodness? If you haven't tried Gary Schmidt's work yet, do, because they have all been well done & are all set in different time periods.

I have to go grocery shopping now, which will bring in the cooking part of this blog nicely. But it isn't anything too exciting or innovative, just salad stuffs. I may try to recreate the Thai salad I had at a local restaurant the other day. Speaking of which, the waitress there asked me about my Sookie Stackhouse book & seemed really interested in it. I like it when the waitpeople ask me about my books, although sometimes I'm embarrassed by what I'm reading. I'm working on it, though! Not much to be embarrassed about really, except that sometimes people aren't accustomed to adults reading juveniles. I refuse to be pigeonholed & told I can't read something just because of my age, however. Reading Power! Reading Rights! Fight on!

resuts from the Tracking test : spring 2008

All went well, although it was a very tiring day. Ann was the navigator for me & a splendid one. Without her, I would've wound up hopelessly lost in the backroads of Laingsburgh. We got to all our tracks & did our part with no problems whatsoever. Tiring weekend, but well worth it.

Still no pictures of today's event. I was just too busy. But I'll share the successful TDX pass from several years ago, in the fall test that the dog club hosts every year.

Here is a copy of the report I posted to the club's email list & to the tracking dog listserves.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Those who know me well, know what I mean when I say it was a great
weekend for tracking. Dogs seem to love this coolish, rainy weather.
The humans did their best to stay dry & I think were mostly
successful, except maybe for a few wet feet. Rubber boots came in
handy this weekend!

Judges were: Deb Huff and Sharon Smith for the TD, and Sharon Smith &
Terry Smith for the TDX. Jilliane Job was the Test Secretary. Judy
Andreas did hospitality and Dick Hemer was the judges' driver this
weekend. Headquarters were Victor Township Hall, on Alward Road in
Laingsburg, Michigan.

Three passes & one fail for the TD, no passes for the TDX.

Passing dogs for the T were:

Standard Poodle: Colando's Compay Segundo owned by James P. Colando
and Shirley Robertson, MD
German Shepherd Dog: Alta-Tolhaus Par Four owned by Laura Green (Battle Creek)
English Springer Spaniel: Mystic's Curtain Call, CGC owned by Paul and
Beth Lange

Failing was a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, and the judge said that
this dog got within ten yards of the last corner & hence 70 yards or
so to the glove, so this was a very near miss & a fine performance up
to that point. The judge cited increasing winds & swirling currents.

For the TDX: failing dogs were a GSD, Maltese, and a Labrador
Retriever. We had one pull from the test, a Beagle.

I did not have a chance to observe any tracks except the final two,
because Ann & I laid the cross tracks for all four of the TDX tracks.
What I can tell you is that the weather was blustery, we had snow
overnight and a little this morning (very transient, and the wind did
pick up & get quite icy. On the previous day, the day of plotting, it
drizzled most of the day, and the fields were quite squelchy in parts.
However, they were very nice fields, nice cover, and it was a good
day. It is always a good day when you go tracking, even when it snows
in April!

The following are the trackers for the TD portion:

Mark Johnson
Jean Fierke
Tom Ford
and Melissa Bloomfield . Irene Brett served as the TD chief tracklayer.

The TDX people: Doug Heym, Marty Siegrist, and Mary Wolowiec. Marty
Siegrist served as the chief tracklayer for the TDX. Anne Kuschel and
Kim Laird were the cross trackers for all four tracks.

The next opportunity for joining in the fun is May 11-12, for our VST,
Variable Surface Tracking. After this past weekend, I think the chief
advantage of this urban style tracking is that you do not have to wear
big rubber boots or worry about walking through ponds, and two, you
don't have to worry about horse, deer, rabbit, or goose manure quite
as much! ;) The VST will be on MSU's grounds, if I recall rightly, so
do come out & watch, as the VST is always interesting & the company is

Saturday, April 12, 2008

tracking day

This weekend is the weekend for the dog club's tracking trials. I have pictures from the October tracking trials two years ago (2006) and will post those. Tracking weekends are fun, and I always try to make sure I don't have anything else scheduled. The blessings include being outside no matter what the weather (and realizing that being a little bit cold or having a little rain on you won't kill you), all the good exercise, socializing with people you don't see very often, and the bliss of watching people pass.

For those who haven't seen or heard about tracking, it is pretty simple : a person goes out & walks in a predetermined pattern across a field or sets of fields/woods/roads, etc. and drops articles (socks, gloves, belts, hats, bandannas (spell check just suggested I put down bananas, but unfortunately, food items are not allowed), on the track. Then a dog and its handler/owner try to find the articles & find the ending article. If they do, they get a title, much excitement & celebration, and usually a trophy of some kind.

The weather today is great for tracking (in terms of having dogs pass) because it is cool & rainy. I've noticed before that when we have rain the day of plotting our tracks, and rain at night, we normally have a very good pass rate. Here's hoping!

I will try to get some better pictures tomorrow. Today was too hectic to try to take pictures, especially with the rain and trying to manage the tracking maps I was drawing, plus running through muddy swampy fields.

And yes, I do find all this tremendous fun. I did miss my little buddy riding shot gun, and thought about her often today. She never liked being left in the car, and I've looked back more than once to see a friend pushing Bridie back into the car, because she was half way out. She'd managed to pull the window down a bit & as spaniels do, was climbing out to get to mom. Nothing (except death) could ever have separated her from me. Good memories, always.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

For the CSI buffs among us

This book is the second by Tobin T. Buhk and Stephen D. Cohle, MD. The title is Skeletons in the closet : stories from the county morgue, and it is published by Prometheus Books. If you ever wanted to know whether the CSI television shows are realistic or not, read this book and the first one too, by the authors above.

Well written, fascinating, and a good explanation of the science of figuring out what happened to the bodies, why sometimes you can't tell whether the method of death was natural or foul. It also explains how they figure things out; such as with the Rainbow Farm shootings, in which two men died. Did they threaten the police officers or not, and was the killing justifiable due to the threat? It is all explained in the book, so read the book to find out! I was also particularly interested in the finding of a woman's body in Pigeon Lake. The science used there to find out where she came from & who she was is very interesting.

What's really neat about this particular book is that they show you the inside story on some of the more notorious crimes in Michigan, as well as talking about some of the more obscure ones. I will admit that if you're squeamish or don't like reading about autopsies, you probably will not like this book. I did have to turn over a few pages because I couldn't read them. The photographs in the middle of the book, while not of the actual victims in the book, are a bit disturbing. Some of the photos are of the landscape, rather than of the bodies themselves & those were interesting. Well worth seeking out & if you have a chance to hear the authors speak, do take advantage of it.

Angie Sage's Queste

If you haven't experienced this juvenile fantasy series, do give it a try. I read the first one, Magyk a few years ago & have looked for Angie Sage's writing ever since.

Queste is the third book in the series, and the full title is Septimus Heap, Book 4 : Queste. First off, I love the main character, Septimus Heap. He's humble, but fun, he's not arrogant, but he is knowledgeable, interesting, full of great insight into the world & the people around him. Just a good kid, really. In Queste, Septimus has a bundle of concerns to deal with. One is, what to do with a character from Physik; two, what to do with the problem of someone trying to ill-wish him, and last but not least, how to retrieve two people who are lost in time.

I can't say too much more, lest I ruin the book for someone else, but I did want to mention that there's a marvelous character in here from the Manuscriptorium (library), who actually functions as a book & paper conservator. The character is fun, marvelous, and a real surprise. Loved everything about this book.... do read it.

Friday, April 04, 2008

For Jane : the entrees

Dear Jane, since you asked about the entrees (and thanks for saying it sounds good!) :

My sister reports that she will be making the following for the reunion :

"3 soups, plus a lasagna for Friday night. Tonight I'll soke some salmon, for at least one meal, as well as for salmon spread and smoked salmon chowder. I also have one batch of biscotti made with plans to make some more tonight... I will also make some foods that are particularly "kid friendly" for the boys. Maybe some homemade macaroni and cheese and chocolate chip cookies."

Between the two of us, we should have the reunion food covered... I guess we'll find out! Someone else is bringing the bread, from Great Harvest, of course.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

way too busy, but also lots of fun

Am helping cook for the family reunion this coming weekend. Didn't want all of you out there to think I'd forgotten you!

Last night, Austrian Raspberry Shortbread (and several of my coworkers want a piece, so I'm taking it to work for them), Korova (World Peace) Cookies, plus I picked up the ingredients for the other dishes.

Tonight : seasoned Oyster Crackers (will post recipe later), poppy seed bread (again, later), the morning glory muffin mix from Williams & Sonoma (using my brand new silicone muffin cups.. they're wonderful!) , tapioca pudding.

Tomorrow's plans are for me to do the preliminary work on the artichoke gratinata & the "World's Greatest Green Bean Casserole", pack the car, and then head for home. I'll work a few hrs at work first though.

So far, the family reunion will include family from New Mexico, Ohio, California, South Dakota, and one other state... of course, Michigan! I think 21 people are coming, which probably means the Colorado people aren't coming. Rats. But we'll certainly have a full house & I hope the food helps out. Sis is doing the entrees.

Still reading Jane Austen's letters. She's as charming in her letters but with more biting wit, as in her novels.