Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Monday, December 31, 2012

On the Bookshelf—Review of When Ruby Tried to Grow Candy

When Ruby Tried to Grow Candy by Valorie Fisher

"Why are teacups hanging on your tree?" Ruby asked.
"My teacups aren't hanging, they're growing," Miss Wysterious snarled.
"You grew a teacup?" asked Ruby. "How?"
"The usual way—with water, sunshine, and the occasional chitchat."

This picture book is absolutely delightful!  Ruby accidentally bounces her ball over the fence into the neighbor's yard, and she follows it into a garden where buttons and shoes are the produce. Miss Wysterious, the fierce gardener, suggests Ruby grow candy, and though Ruby is skeptical, Ruby plants lemon drops and toffees and waters them everyday. As Miss Wysterious says, "If you're in doubt, nothing will sprout."

Quirky and lovable characters, imaginative plot, gorgeous multi-media pictures, and a good dash of wit.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On the Bookshelf—Review of The Christmas Wedding

This morning I finished reading The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo. Widowed for three years, Gaby Summerhill announces she's going to get married on Christmas. She wants all four of her children and their families to come to the wedding. The catch? She's not saying who the groom is. She's not even telling the three eligible bachelors who she's chosen. The book follows Gaby, her three daughters, and her son as they deal with dysfunctional families, sexist bosses, cancer, and car accidents. Will they all make it alive and in one piece to the wedding? And who in the world is Gaby going to marry?

This was my first ever Patterson book. I don't think I'll be trying another. It was OK. Many of the characters were two-dimensional; they just didn't come to life. The chapter breaks were annoyingly and unnecessarily frequent. The narrative was sometimes dumbed down or redundant. For instance, every time a certain character said something funny, the narrator would then say, "That guy's such a joker." If the book weren't so short and quick to read (I read it in two sittings) I probably would have decided it wasn't worth the time and effort.

Still, the book had it's funny moments and it's heart-warming moments, and the characters were likeable. For a fluffy holiday book to be read on a leisurely morning over a cup of coffee while watching the snow out the window, it was fun.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

How Do You See Jujubes and Aspirins?

Over the years, I've tried a number of formats and a number of subjects for this blog. Originally it was a place to post poetry. Then it shifted to being about all things bookish. While I was in Spain in 2011 it was a way to keep my family and friends in the know as well as a place for me to express my experiences. In March, while lying sick in bed with the mumps, I had the idea to expand my content to include cooking and the outdoors. I've tried Gardening Wednesdays and Food Fridays, now I'm doing On the Bookshelf and In the Kitchen and In the Garden and The Great Outdoors. In September I added Manifesto Mondays, and I still sometimes do Sundry Sundays.

I see this blog as a work in progress. Imagine construction zone signs all over J&A. I've been thinking about the essence of Jujubes and Aspirins, what my goal for the blog is, who is my ideal readership. Some days I see Jujubes and Aspirins as a setting for my evolving writing career. Some days I see it as a sort of indie Martha Stewart Living, with articles on traveling and gardening and vegan cooking. Some days it's just a place for me to play with words and express myself.

How do you see Jujubes and Aspirins?

I want to know what my readers thinks of all this. Most of you are silent lurkers, but I know I've got some readers out there. What do you think of my content? Are there subjects you prefer, types of posts you like best? What do you think of format and organization? And if you're one of those people who've told me Blogger won't let them comment, you can send an email or respond on Twitter. I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

On the Bookshelf—Harlequin Romance

A friend told me that on the Harlequin website you can find exact guidelines for how to write a romance novel.

If you don't know, Harlequin is the most prolific publisher of romance novels, especially known for those serials you find in the grocery store.

Today I decided to check out Harlequin's writing guidelines—and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found:

  • Know and respect your readers—choose the most recent novels and read widely across the romance market. Then target the series/genre that excites you and suits your voice.
  • Innovate, don't imitate! There is no formula—only a format, as with all genre fiction, which allows room for creative expression, unique writing voices and memorable characters. So throw those clichés out the window!
    I ♥ my characters: At the heart of all great romances are two strong, appealing, sympathetic and three-dimensional characters.

This is writing advice anyone would do well to heed.

On the Bookshelf—Review of Fablehaven

Brandon Mull
Middlegrade fiction, fantasy

I've just finished reading the fifth and final book in the Fablehaven series. I loved the enchanting and colorful world of Fablehaven, and I'm sad to see it end, but I look forward to reading the series again some years down the road.

When I think of the first book in the series, I think of a lush fragrant garden, the heat of summer, a green and verdant forest, and the richest most delicious hot chocolate.

A sister and brother—Kendra, 13, and Seth, 11—must stay with their grandparents for a few weeks. They don't look forward to this tedious visit. Grandpa Sorenson lives on some sort of nature preserve, but he won't let the kids stray beyond the yard into the forest. Grandma Sorenson is mysteriously absent. There are some odd things about this place—like what's in that ginormous barn, and why do they put pans of milk out in the garden?

What Kendra and Seth will discover is that this isn't a normal nature preserve. It's a refuge for magical creatures: fairies, golems, satyrs, trolls. But Fablehaven isn't home to just the beautiful and wondrous—it is also home to dangerous beasts and dark magic. And if Kendra and Seth aren't careful, they just might release a powerful evil, and the two siblings will have to save their family and Fablehaven—and maybe the world.

The more of Fablehaven I read, the more I thought of it as a new Harry Potter. There's a secret magical world. Our protagonists run into magical creatures and beasts, learn about potions and magical objects, meet a host of intriguing adults who inhabit this magical world and have a wide range of interesting talents, some of whom may be traitors and spies. There are even a couple satyrs to provide the comic relief and humorous antics of the Weasley twins. But it's not just this fantasy basis that makes me think of Harry Potter, it's also the pacing of the plot, the level of suspense, the quest for objects like the sorcerer's stone or having to work through magical mazes à la the Goblet of Fire.

But Fablehaven isn't just a Harry Potter knock-off, it's its own unique entity. I even think it improves upon Harry Potter in some ways, explains plotholes that annoyed the hell out of me in Rowling's work.

And instead of the patriarchal chosen one for a protagonist, we've got a refreshingly female protagonist in Kendra; she's not even the masculine Katniss Everdeen.

In the first Fablehaven, Kendra is fairly solidly the protagonist, with her brother Seth as a sort of uppity sidekick. But the further into the series we get the more the brother and sister become dual protagonists, and I love this balance. I loved watching Seth develop. At first he's just a courageous and curious youth lacking caution and common sense (good god, that sentence was alliterative!). Slowly he must learn how to distinguish from taking risks for the good of the cause and taking risks just for the thrill, slowly he must learn responsibility. Kendra, on the other hand, must find her courage and discover her own inner resources.

Make yourself a cup of rich hot chocolate, and curl up with this engrossing and enchanting series.

Friday, November 30, 2012

In the Kitchen—Freezing Dairy

As mentioned in my recent Menu post, I'm carefully monitoring what I eat, eating healthy and mostly vegan/vegetarian for the majority of my meals, but two times a week I get a treat meal where I can eat whatever I want. This brings up the question of what to do with leftovers from the treat meals. If I bake a cake for dessert on one of these treat meals (like last night when we had champagne and pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting to celebrate my gentleman getting his masters degree), what do I do after eating a slice or two? If I buy a chunk of cheese to make enchiladas for a treat meal (like I'm doing tonight) what do I do with any cheese I don't use immediately?

So today I am researching freezing. I've already thrown my Thanksgiving cranberry sauce in the freezer to use in sandwiches at future treat meals (freezable containers for Thanksgiving leftovers were the only thing I bought on Black Friday), and I'm planning on cutting the pumpkin cake into individual servings to put in the freezer. But what about other things, like that block of cheese?

Yes, cheese can be frozen, but it will change the texture. If you're going to be cooking or melting the cheese (pizza or quesadillas anyone?) the change of texture won't be that noticeable. Putting thawed cheese on a plate with some fruit, probably not a good idea. Also, the fancier the cheese, the less you should be freezing it. But as Andrea at Forkable says, it's better to freeze fancy cheese for later than to simply toss it.

Same thing with cream cheese. Freezing will change the texture, so you won't want to spread that thawed cream cheese on a bagel. But using it in a hot dip? Go ahead.

OK, so how about sour cream? I do love sour cream on a burrito or on potatoes with salsa. Freezing sour cream gives it the texture of cottage cheese. So follow the same advice as with the other dairy: use it in cooked foods. Sad day, maybe I'll try cottage cheese-like sour cream on a burrito anyway.

Colleen Rush at The Nest gives an explanation to what happens to cheese in the freezer, and it sounds like it applies to most dairy products:

Because of the moisture content or vein-y, open texture of most cheeses, ice crystals develop inside as cheese freezes. (Hey, that rhymes!) The ice “breaks” the curds in the cheese apart, which alters the texture of the cheese from creamy and smooth to crumbly or grainy when it thaws.

With all things frozen, make sure to date the foods and use them within six months of freezing. Also make sure to wrap your cheese up air-tight.

For more info on freezing cheese, see here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Manifesto Monday—A Surrealist Writing Exercise

My, it has also been a long time since I did Manifesto Monday! You may put down the lack of posts to me furiously working on a story.

I studied surrealism somewhat as an undergrad, but recently when discussing my thesis with my major professor, she suggested I look into surrealist literature, because some of my stories border on surrealism (upon hearing this, I thought back upon Breton's Nadja*, a novel I enjoyed, but whether my writing bears any similarity I can't say). So today's manifesto is an excerpt from the 1924 Le Manifeste du Surréalisme by André Breton. The excerpt describes a surrealist writing exercise. For the entire manifesto, go here.

Written Surrealist composition


first and last draft

After you have settled yourself in a place as favorable as possible to the concentration of your mind upon itself, have writing materials brought to you. Put yourself in as passive, or receptive, a state of mind as you can. Forget about your genius, your talents, and the talents of everyone else. Keep reminding yourself that literature is one of the saddest roads that leads to everything. Write quickly, without any preconceived subject, fast enough so that you will not remember what you're writing and be tempted to reread what you have written. The first sentence will come spontaneously, so compelling is the truth that with every passing second there is a sentence unknown to our consciousness which is only crying out to be heard. It is somewhat of a problem to form an opinion about the next sentence; it doubtless partakes both of our conscious activity and of the other, if one agrees that the fact of having written the first entails a minimum of perception. This should be of no importance to you, however; to a large extent, this is what is most interesting and intriguing about the Surrealist game. The fact still remains that punctuation no doubt resists the absolute continuity of the flow with which we are concerned, although it may seem as necessary as the arrangement of knots in a vibrating cord. Go on as long as you like. Put your trust in the inexhaustible nature of the murmur. If silence threatens to settle in if you should ever happen to make a mistake -- a mistake, perhaps due to carelessness -- break off without hesitation with an overly clear line. Following a word the origin of which seems suspicious to you, place any letter whatsoever, the letter "l" for example, always the letter "l," and bring the arbitrary back by making this letter the first of the following word.

*I think about Nadja occasionally, always of those gloves. "I don't know what there can have been, at that moment, so terribly, so marvelously decisive for me in the thought of that glove leaving that hand forever." When I lived at Lavender Corner in Bellingham with Katie, we had a painting of orange gloves beside a Tiffany lamp, and I thought of this as the Nadja painting. I miss that painting.

In the Kitchen—Menu

Wow, it's been a while since I posted a menu, unless you count Thanksgiving.

What I'm doing right now food-wise is that the majority of my meals I eat really healthy and monitor my food to make sure I'm getting the right proportion of protein to veggies to grains. Then for two meals a week I can eat whatever I want.*

So here's what I'm eating this week:

Oatmeal with spices and maybe a little honey
Eggs scrambled with spinach and garlic, topped with salsa

Curried carrot soup with pistachios (recipe in Vegetarian Times October 2012)

Black bean enchiladas with avocado
Basil Coconut Curry

Smoothies made of frozen berries, unsweetened soy yogurt, whey**, spinach, bananas, and flax seed

Daily treats
Red wine
Dark chocolate

Treat meals for the week
Brunch: Fried eggs, bacon, French toast made with apple cinnamon sourdough. Had this yesterday with the gentleman. And it was more like a late lunch than brunch—I'd already eaten breakfast, been to work, and come back by the time we had it. But it was delicious; I haven't cooked myself bacon in literally decades; it was a rare luxury.
Dinner: Enchiladas Verdes (involves spinach in a creamy cheesy sauce). Pumpkin bars.

*Except that the dairy still has to be organic and the meat has to be free range, etc.
**Pairing soy yogurt with whey sounds weird, but I have my nutritional reasons. Ask in comments if you're curious.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

In the Kitchen—Thanksgiving

The plan? A low-key Thanksgiving in Moscow, just me and the gentleman. The actuality? Hectic cooking, a butt-load of dirty dishes, a whole lotta food, punctuated with dancing, merriment, and Doctor Who.

Here's how it began:

Me: "So Gentleman, what should we have for our two-person Thanksgiving? Besides pumpkin pie, of course."
The Gentleman: "Mashed potatoes. And cranberry sauce. And stuffing."
Me: "OK, that means we'll also need gravy, something with protein we can put the cranberry sauce on, and something green or vegetably."

Now picture me sitting on the living room floor with ten November issues of Martha Stewart Living and Vegetarian Times spread out around me, plus a couple cookbooks. I considered getting some free-range turkey, but me and the gentleman aren't big meat eaters so it didn't seem necessary. As for cranberry sauce, I was clueless. I'd eaten cranberry sauce maybe once in my lifetime, and that was on accident.*

Here's the official menu settled upon:

Hard apple cider
Red wine
Huckleberry mead (It's becoming a tradition to buy the local Camas Prairie Winery stuff on special occasions.)

Mashed potatoes (A mix of red potatoes and a sweet potato.)

Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy (Recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance. Good, but next time I'll use less nutritional yeast than the recipe calls for.)

Green bean bundles (Recipe in the November 2012 Vegetarian Times.)

Stuffing (A family recipe from the gentleman, tweaked a little for our vegetarian sensibilities. Easily the best part of the meal.)

Cranberry Sauce with Hard Cider and Mustard (Recipe in the November 2011 Vegetarian Times. It was easy to make; I just threw all the ingredients in a pot and let them simmer while I cooked everything else. So, practically the first time cranberry sauce has passed my lips, what did I think? Delicious. I look forward to eating the leftover stuff on sandwiches, maybe even with turkey!)

Tofu (I had planned on making pumpkin-seed crusted tofu from Vegan with a Vengeance, but this was the last item I cooked and I was feeling pretty harried, so I went with the quickest and easiest method of cooking: throw it in a pan with olive oil. I probably would have skipped the tofu at this point if we hadn't needed something to put the cranberry sauce on.)

Pumpkin pie with almond crust (A tasty, easy-to-make, gluten-free crust from the November 2012 Vegetarian Times. I just don't think the cooking time for the crust coordinated with the cooking time for the filling, even if the recipe implied this crust could be used with a variety of fillings.)

What did you have for Thanksgiving?

*I though it was jam and spread it on a roll. I came to regret my confusion.

On the Bookshelf—An Interview with Nora Roberts

I'm going to be Nora Roberts when I grow up.

Above is an interview with Nora Roberts done by CBS a couple months ago. In this interview we get to see Boonsboro, the town and inn where Roberts lives and based her recent trilogy on, including The Perfect Hope, published a couple weeks ago.

An excerpt from the interview:

[Roberts is] one of the top-selling authors in the world, with more than 400 million books in print and legions of devoted fans who can't seem to get enough of her strong, independent heroines. 

"They always seem to have an interesting career," said Britteny Devicq. "They can take care of themselves or they get through adversity."

In fact, Roberts is credited with being one of the first romance writers to steer away from young, helpless and hapless women. "Yeah, an orphan virgin raised by an aunt and was a secretary of the hero who's the richest man in the free world, which can be a really fun story - what's wrong with that?" Roberts said. "But you don't want to tell that every time."

Monday, November 12, 2012

On the Bookshelf—How do I love Nora Roberts? Let me count the ways.

The chance to make a life together...Love, a home, a family that comes from me and the man I love. And, of course, I want my job, good muscle tone, and a fabulous collection of shoes.
—from The Perfect Hope by Nora Roberts

Just finished the newest Nora Roberts book, The Perfect Hope, last in the Inn Boonsboro Trilogy. I love Nora Roberts books. Sometimes Roberts isn't as elegant and discerning on a syntax and diction level as I'd like, but she's got some lovely passages. Her books are about strong women in fulfilling careers, with faithful friends and loving family, finding a man you're passionate about to make a life with. As Kate Nagy has said about a Nora Roberts book, it's about "happy, pleasant people being pleasantly happy with one another." Of course, there's conflict, there's always an evil ex-boyfriend to deal with or a lover's quarrel to overcome, sometimes a ghost in the attic you need to help find peace. But overall, the Nora Roberts novel is a world I love to live in, one that is inspiring and touching and can be strived for off the page, in my own life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In the Kitchen—Gearing Up For Cold Season

One sits hoping that in the world outside it is raining or snowing, hoping almost for a catastrophic deluge to add the romance of being in winter quarters to the comfort of a snug retreat.
—Marcel Proust, from Swann's Way

Winter approacheth. I've been thinking about making soups and stocking the freezer with them so that in cold season I'm sure to have something nourishing to eat. Last March when I had the mumps, I had been fortunate enough to make a big pot of borscht just before I got sick. That borscht got me through when I could barely swallow. Though I did start turning purple. I'm also thinking about making pesto—just some basil, garlic, olive oil, and lemon—and sticking that in the freezer too, to drizzle over soups to get a jolt of immune-boosting garlic.

I've stocked the pantry with tea: echinacea tea, but also cinnamon and ginger, wonderfully warming in these cold months. Keep honey and lemon on hand, and you're prepared for sore throats. Check your stock of rum and whiskey—because when you're feeling fit as a fiddle, that honey and lemon and spiced tea can so easily be turned into hot toddies to get you through wet and chilly nights.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

In the Garden

Between the new growth of grass and the birds clicking and singing in the trees, this morning you could think it's spring.

Monday, October 29, 2012

On the Bookshelf—Review of The Casual Vacancy

I just read J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy over the weekend, and I'm raring to review it so no Monday Manifesto today.

It would be easy to spend this post comparing The Casual Vacancy to Harry Potter, but I'll try not to. I'll just say three things:

1. Rowling has, thankfully, cleaned up her adverb use since HP.
2. It's a bit disconcerting at first to hear our beloved author of children's books use certain terms referring to female genitalia.
3. This is in no way the sort of book that includes a wise old man spouting about how love is the greatest magic.

Now we've got that out of the way, on to the review!

The mistake ninety-nine percent of humanity made, as far as Fats could see, were being ashamed of what they were, lying about it, trying to be somebody else. Honesty was Fats' currency, his weapon and defense. It frightened people when you were honest; it shocked them. Other people, Fats had discovered, were mired in embarrassment and pretense, terrified that their truths might leak out, but Fats was attracted by rawness, by everything that was ugly but honest, by the dirty things about which the likes of his father felt humiliated and disgusted. Fats thought a lot about messiahs and pariahs; about men labeled mad or criminal; noble misfits shunned by the sleepy masses.
—from The Casual Vacancy

This is not the sort of book I'm normally drawn to (contemporary fiction, realistic fiction, politics), not the sort I normally pick up off the shelf and say "this sounds intriguing." The dull-as-rocks flap copy doesn't help either: "A big novel about a small town..." But I am so glad I read this book.

The basic plot is this: When Barry Fairbrother dies, different factions vie to put someone in his spot on the council. But this plot is merely a canvas on which to spin out the lives of the characters: failing marriages, abusive fathers, midlife crises, school bullies, heartbreak, addiction, dirty secrets. The young striving to overcome the faults of their parents but with plenty of faults of their own, their parents plodding through life, just trying to hold it together.

The book doesn't have a protagonist or clear antagonist, just a large rotating cast of characters. Every single character is so complex, so well drawn, each a mix of likable, sympathetic, flawed, mean. Howard Mollison is manipulative and uncharitable, but he's jovial and so endearing in his deerstalker cap working at his delicatessen. Sixteen-year-old Fats is intelligent and confident but also very cruel as he searches for a naive sense of authenticity. Krystal Weedon isn't just the vulgar and savage daughter of a heroin addict, she's funny and brave, can lead her rowing team to victory, and loves and cares for her younger brother. Even the dead Barry Fairbrother, who could easily be idealized post-mortem, is not perfect.

And it's all held together with razor wit, sharp insight, and beautiful precise language.

Well done, Rowling, well done.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sundry Sunday—Webcomics

If you've read my blog long enough, you know I love Kate Beaton and her webcomics. She doesn't post very often now she's doing tours and making books and who-knows-what, but the two quizzes she posted recently are hilarious. Here is part of the Queen Elizabeth Quiz:

6. Let us have black teeth because:
-It makes the smallpox scars less the first thing that people notice
-It's fashionable, unlike scurvy, which is disgusting
-More sweeties please

Here is her first set of quizzes and the Halloween quiz.

A great webcomic I just discovered this week is called Leftover Soup by Tailsteak. This is a comic with a storyline. The cast of characters include a gameboard-making chef savant, a D&D playing computer technician, and my favorite, a polyamorous vegan with the sense of a humor of a 12-year-old boy (despite being a 24-year-old woman). The comics aren't afraid to approach serious topics, to discuss religion and morals and whatnot, but every post ends with a punchline. You can find the first Leftover Soup comic here.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

On the Bookshelf—Four Halloween Storybooks

Here are four storybooks to get you and your kids in the mood for Halloween.

Humbug Witch by Lorna Balian. This book from 1965 is about a witch who can't seem to do anything right—she can't cackle, or fly on a broom, or make magic potions.

Cute pictures and an amusing story with a surprise ending. The witch's giant head started to creep me out by the end of the story—she reminds me of a villain in a Studio Ghibli film.

Old Devil Wind by Bill Martin Jr, illustrated by Barry Root. One dark and stormy night, a ghost starts wailing, a candle starts flickering, and the wind begins to blow...and blow...and blow...

Dark ambient illustrations. Repetition in the text will make this a fun read-aloud with little kids. I love the logic of this book: "Stool, why do you thump?"..."It is a dark and stormy night. Ghost wails and so I thump."

Dorrie and the Haunted House by Patricia Coombs. This is actually part of a series, but I've been having a little trouble getting a hold of the others. Dorrie is a little witch with mismatched socks who lives in a house with a tall, tall tower. When the witch and wizard community gets in a pickle—the Blue Ruby is stolen by bandits—the Big Witch tells Dorrie she can't help and needs to stay out of the way of the grown-ups. But when Dorrie wanders into a ghost-filled house, a surprise is waiting for her that might just change the Big Witch's mind. Fun pictures, an endearing protagonist, and an imaginative world. I'd love to join Dorrie at the end of the book for ghost stories and pancakes with purple syrup.

Los Gatos Black on Halloween by Marisa Montes, illustrated by Yuyi Morales. On el día de los muertos, the monsters come out. Los gatos hiss, las brujas fly, las tumbas open. But by the end of the night the monsters will meet the scariest thing of all.

Fun rhyming text studded with Spanish is paired with gorgeous, lively pictures in rich colors.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In the Garden—Bulb Planting

I planted nine snowdrops, four pink impression tulips, six tulips simply called "pink and black," four Easter bonnet daffodils, four Peter Stuyvesant* hyacinths, and one iris. Last year I planted my tulips and daffodils in rows; this year I clustered them in groups of three. You're supposed to plant bulbs to a depth roughly three times their height. At the bottom of each hole I mixed organic bulb fertilizer with loose soil. Once buried, I layered on compost, then gave them a good dousing of water. The leftover compost I sprinkled over my strawberries and last year's bulbs.

I'll cover the entire garden in dead leaves soon, but the garden doesn't look ready to sleep yet. Tomatoes are still ripening on the vine, all my tomatoes and the pepper plant are flowering as if they haven't noticed the freezing temperatures at night, and a creeper that looked dead during the hot months has turned green and started flowering again.

Also, it snowed today.

Also, here are pictures of my sunflower and mums:

*Fun fact! Peter Stuyvesant was the Dutch Director-General of New Netherland from 1647 to 1664, whereupon New Netherland became New York.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Manifesto Monday—To Libertines

The Marquis de Sade's introduction to his Philosophy in the Bedroom isn't exactly a manifesto, and while I wouldn't advise exactly emulating the characters in his work, I love the gusto of the writing, and the sentiment.

from Philosophy in the Bedroom by Marquis de Sade

To Libertines

of all ages, and of every sex, and of every inclination; it it you to whom I dedicate this work. Your passions, which the cold and dreary moralists tell you to fear, are nothing more than the means by which Nature seeks to exhort you to do Her work; surrender to these passions, therefore, and let the principles enumerated herein nourish you.

Lewd women: emulate the voluptuous Saint-Ange; submit yourself to pleasure's divine laws and ignore all which contradict them.

Young virgins: emulate the fiery Eugénie, throw off the restraints of your ridiculous religion, spurn the precepts of your idiotic parents; yield, instead, to the laws of Nature which logic describes, and to the arms of those who would be your lovers.

Lascivious men: follow the crafty Domancé; acknowledge no government save that of your desires, no limits save those of your imagination; and learn from him that it is only in exploring and expanding the sphere of your tastes and whims that you will find true pleasure.

To all: let us realize that we have been cast into this woeful life without our consent and have been assailed from the dawn of consciousness with the sophistries of those who would gain from our confusion; if we would snatch a brief moment of pleasure—if we would plant an occasional rose along life's rocky path—we must sacrifice everything to the demands of our senses; this is the lesson of the Bedroom Philosophers....

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Great Outdoors—Kamiak Butte

A bit of the view from Kamiak Butte, Moscow Mountain on the left.

About 45 minutes northwest of Moscow, Idaho is a nice little hiking and camping area in Washington called Kamiak Butte, named after Chief Kamiakan of the Yakama tribe. What is now just a forested high point among farmland was once both sea and mountaing: The glittering reddish rocks of the butte were once an ancient seabed, and later the butte was part of a mountain range, until it was covered by a tertiary lava flow of basalt.

 A short hike, it's a somewhat steep 1/2 mile or so to the ridge. You can wander around on the ridge, sit on a bench of rock enjoying the view. The elevation here is 3,641 feet, the second highest point in Whitman County. You can see for miles all over the Palouse, from Moscow Mountain to the town marked by the Kibbie Dome to Pullman and even farther, making you realize just how close to each other are Moscow and Pullman. From this height, the Palouse hills are mere dips and swells, a mosaic of shadow and sunlight. A tiny truck drives down the highway that brought you here, and over there you spot a tractor moving.

In June, Kamiak Butte boasts birdsong and lots of wildflowers, a lovely hike. In October, it's fierce sunshine and chill air, silent but for one frog croaking. After leisurely enjoying the ridge, loop back down on a moist shadowed trail, invisible spiderwebs catching on your chin, and every once in a while Palouse farmland peaks through the evergreens, golden and luminous in the almost-setting sunshine. Before you leave, down by the parking lot take a quick swing on the swingset and slide down one of the slides.

If you'd like more information on visiting Kamiak Butte, go here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On the Bookshelf—Review of the Chemical Garden Trilogy


Wither, first book in the Chemical Garden Trilogy, by Lauren DeStefano
Young Adult
Post-apocalyptic, Dystopian

On Saturday I read Fever, the second of the Chemical Garden Trilogy, in a single day, lying in bed listening to the wind in the autumn trees, eating chocolate. I think I read the first book, Wither, in a similarly short time in August. And now I'm anxiously awaiting February 12 when the third book, Sever, is published.

Imagine a time in the future: Scientists and doctors have found a way to fix genetic defects in babies. A generation of healthy, long-lived individuals is born. They in turn have children, but when this new generation matures, the women die at 20 and the men at 25. Every successive generation dies in their early twenties. Scientists can't figure out what's wrong.

Now there are only that first super generation, in their sixties and seventies, and the newer generations, all under 25. Orphanages train children to do the tasks adults normally would. To ensure the species survives, birth control has been outlawed, men take multiple wives, and girls become brides as young as 13. Some of these girls come from bride schools, girls who yearn to become the bride of a wealthy man. But many are forcefully wed, kidnapped off the street and sold to the highest bidder. Those who are not chosen are shot and left in the gutter.

This is the story of Rhine. Sixteen, an orphan, she is stolen from her twin brother and chosen as one of three brides by a young man named Linden. She enters a world of wealth and privilege with her sister-wives, but she knows she is little better than a slave. All she wants is to escape and return to her brother, the only family she has left. While plotting her escape, will she slowly succumb to the luxury that surrounds her? Will her old life become but a dream, as she is lulled into complacency by good food, maids at her beck and call, fancy parties? Will she forget that the shy but endearing Linden is both husband and captor?

But worse than all that is the looming threat of Linden's father, a doctor bent on curing his son's short life expectancy at any cost, a puppet master pulling strings in the background, enacting who knows what horrible experiments, hiding secrets in the basement.

And still, Rhine's life is ticking away. Just four years until she reaches twenty, just four years until she faces death, if she survives that long.

A post-apocalyptic YA, I feel The Chemical Garden Trilogy is a more feminine Hunger Games. It is better written than most YA, the prose elegant and contemplative and colorful. Rhine is intelligent and full of verve, just as a heroine should be. I love the bond that slowly grows between her and her (sometimes mysterious, sometimes annoying) sister-wives. Housemaster Vaughn, Rhine's mad scientist father-in-law, is seriously creepy. Oh yeah, and one of the servants is an attractive and sympathetic young man Rhine would like to get to know.

The second book of the trilogy is just as good as the first, at times colorful and haunting, at others frightening and disturbing. I found myself becoming nostalgic along with Rhine for situations in the first book (can't give more detail than that, spoilers!).

If you enjoy YA, The Chemical Garden Trilogy is well worth your time.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Manifesto Monday—Thirty-two Statements About Writing Poetry

Is it Monday? I think it's Monday. In the hope it's Monday, here's a manifesto.

"Thirty-two Statements About Writing Poetry"
Marvin Bell

1. Every poet is an experimentalist.
2. Learning to write is a simple process: read something, then write something; read something else, then write something else. And show in your writing what you have read.
3. There is no one way to write and no right way to write.
4. The good stuff and the bad stuff are all part of the stuff. No good stuff without bad stuff.
5. Learn the rules, break the rules, make up new rules, break the new rules.
6. You do not learn from work like yours as much as you learn from work unlike yours.
7. Originality is a new amalgam of influences.
8. Try to write poems at least one person in the room will hate.
9. The I in the poem is not you but someone who knows a lot about you.
10. Autobiography rots.
11. A poem listens to itself as it goes.
12. It’s not what one begins with that matters; it’s the quality of attention paid to it thereafter.
13. Language is subjective and relative, but it also overlaps; get on with it.
14. Every free verse writer must reinvent free verse.
15. Prose is prose because of what it includes; poetry is poetry because of what it leaves out.
16. A short poem need not be small.
17. Rhyme and meter, too, can be experimental.
18. Poetry has content but is not strictly about its contents. A poem containing a tree may not be about a tree.
19. You need nothing more to write poems than bits of string and thread and some dust from under the bed. 20. At heart, poetic beauty is tautological: it defines its terms and exhausts them
21. The penalty for education is self-consciousness. But it is too late for ignorance.
22. What they say “there are no words for”–that’s what poetry is for. Poetry uses words to go beyond words.
23. One does not learn by having a teacher do the work.
24. The dictionary is beautiful; for some poets, it’s enough.
25. Writing poetry is its own reward and needs no certification. Poetry, like water, seeks its own level.
26. A finished poem is also the draft of a later poem.
27. A poet sees the differences between his or her poems but a reader sees the similarities.
28. Poetry is a manifestation of more important things. On the one hand, it’s poetry! On the other, it’s just poetry.
29. Viewed in perspective, Parnassus is a very short mountain.
30. A good workshop continually signals that we are all in this together, teacher too.
31. This Depression Era jingle could be about writing poetry: Use it up / wear it out / make it do / or do without.
32. Art is a way of life, not a career.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

In the Garden—Autumn

I love autumn. I think the transition seasons—spring and autumn—are my favorites. Autumn blew in one evening a couple weeks ago, with dark winds that made me think of tornadoes.

When I first feel autumn in the air, the whole world seems different and wonderful; that crisp air has an ambiance aided by layers of memory. There's nostalgia for autumn in Bellingham: walking down S. College Drive with Katie, wind buffeting us backwards, the rows of trees with their changing leaves; a pot of mulled apple cider on the stove of Lavender Corner and pumpkin muffins in the oven, warm spices in the air; listening to the Hazards of Love while it storms outside. But there's also memories from first moving to Idaho, the little joys autumn would bring me that punctuated my loneliness as I slowly settled in: the vibrancy of fall sunshine, different in Idaho than on my side of the mountains; listening to a Halloween station on Pandora while painting a giant Miller Lite can for a costume exchange; carving a pumpkin, sticking a glow stick in it, and putting it in front of my apartment to lure in trick-or-treaters, my first residence that was accessible to costumed children*; making mummy dogs for the first time.

Right now fall is at its best—the reds of the leaves contrasting so beautifully with the green still on trees. This is what I call Mabon season, or sometimes Mabon moving into Samhain—we can break out cozy scarves and cardigans, the leaves are a gorgeous rainbow echoed by yellow and russet mums in planters, but there are still petunias overflowing from pots and the farmer's market is still full of apples and pears and sweet corn and jewels of concord grapes, and we can still relish the last of the plums.

One of my strawberry plants in my garden is valiantly flowering, hoping to lure in a bee. My sunflower is blooming like there's no tomorrow. Despite the leaves of my tomato seeming to rot on the stem from the cold, tomatoes are still turning orange on its vines. My other two tomatoes, barely holding on all summer, had finally started flowering in September, giving me last-minute hope, just before the cold snap came and ruined it all. I bought a pot of russet mums, and they cheer up my doorstep something wonderful. This late in my Idaho career, I'm only putting energy into perennials I can take back to Washington with me, these chrysanthemums and my flower bulbs included.

I'll plant more bulbs soon, a few tulips as well as some snow drops and an iris I bought at the Lentil Festival. I'll check the stores for dark purple hyacinths I can pair with bright daffodils, and then all spring I can giggle to myself and make Homer allusions and toss my hair. I've been debating whether it's better to plant bulbs in a waning moon or waxing moon, and finally decided on waxing. Clear nights lately have displayed a lovely crescent moon (reminding me of someone who once called the crescent moon God's fingernail), and after Monday's new moon I'll get those bulbs in the ground.

The end of October will be a good time to dig grass and weeds out of the stepping stones around my house, and then tuck my bulbs in with a layer of compost and leaves before the cold of winter.

What's your favorite part of autumn?

*No trick-or-treaters came.

Friday, October 12, 2012

On the Bookshelf—Two Adorable Children's Books

Need a dose of cute? Try these books:

Panda and Polar Bear by Matthew J. Baek

Little Polar Bear lives on top of an icy cliff. One day he falls down the cliff and discovers himself in a warm green world he never knew about. He soon makes a friend, a little panda bear, and the two of them play games and have fun. But Polar Bear misses his family. Can he and Panda find a way for him to get back home? What will happen to the two new friends?

The two bears, inventing games and having fun, are just like two real kids. The illustrations are lovely, the bears adorable. And there's a surprise at the end of this story about two different worlds interacting.

Bears on Chairs by Shirley Parenteau, illustrated by David Walker

Possibly the most adorable book ever. Four stuffed bears (Calico Bear, Fuzzy Bear, Yellow Bear, and Floppy Bear) find four chairs that fit them perfectly. But what happens when Big Brown Bear comes? What if Big Brown Bear wants to sit down? Told in fun rhyme and illustrated in pretty pastels, this story will teach your child the joys of sharing. But who cares about moral lessons for children when you can look at pictures of the cutest cuddliest bears ever?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday Manifesto—If You Want to Write

I'm about to work on a story I have due this week, and to get me in the spirit I just re-read the first chapter of Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write, published in 1938. The book is more of a writing manifesto then a book of technical help. It's lively and passionate and funny. Whether you write or paint or sing or bake cakes, whatever it is you do, Ueland can tell you a thing or two about doing it with gusto.

from If You Want to Write

I have been writing a long time and have learned some things, not only from my own long hard work, but from a writing class I had for three years. In this class were all kinds of people: prosperous and poor, stenographers, housewives, salesmen, cultivated people and little servant girls who had never been to high school, timid people and bold ones, slow and quick ones.

This is what I learned: that everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.

Everybody is talented because everybody who is human has something to express. Try not expressing anything for twenty-four hours and see what happens. You will nearly burst. You will want to write a long letter or draw a picture or sing, or make a dress or a garden. Religious men used to go into the wilderness and impose silence on themselves, but it was so that they would talk to God and nobody else. But they express something: that is to say they had thoughts welling up in them and the thoughts went out to someone, whether silently or aloud.

Writing or painting is putting these thoughts on paper. Music is singing them. That is all there is to it.

Everybody is original, if he tells the truth, if he speaks from himself. But it must be from his true self and not from the self he thinks he should be. Jennings at Johns Hopkins, who knows more about heredity and the genes and chromosomes than any man in the world, says that no individual is exactly like any other individual, that no two identical persons have ever existed. Consequently, if you speak or write from yourself you cannot help being original.

So remember these two things: you are talented and you are original. Be sure of that. I say this because self-trust is one of the very most important things in writing.


You must practice not perfunctorily, but with all your intelligence and love... A great musician once told me that one should never play a single note without hearing it, feeling that it is true, thinking it beautiful.

And so now you will begin to work at your writing. Remember these things. Work with all your intelligence and love. Work freely and rollickingly as though they were talking to a friend who loves you. Mentally (at least three or four times a day) thumb your nose at all know-it-alls, jeerers, critics, doubters.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sundry Sunday—Alex Day, Psy, and John Green

Here are three videos and a quote I've been digging this week.

  • This music video by Alex Day is awesomely geeky. The bits in front of the spinning color background crack me up. After watching the video a couple times, I found myself singing it to myself.

  • Technically, I've been digging this Psy video for two months. And chances are you've already seen it, since it's become hugely popular. But in case you haven't seen it. Any time the gentleman and I hang out, there is a good chance one of us will start singing "Heeeeeeeeey sexy lady..." or start riding an imaginary horse. We've even discussed being the two guys in the elevator for Halloween; that guy in the elevator is just so happy, and wonderful, and he makes me so happy.

  • And finally, a couple things from John Green. By now, you probably know I adore John Green. He is funny and insightful and so very smart. Here's a recent video about what to do with your life: 

  • And here's a quote:

You can buy the poster with the quote here.

What are you digging this week?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Manifesto Monday—Pigeon Manifesto

Welcome to Jujubes and Aspirins' new tradition of Manifesto Monday! If you wondered why last week there was no manifesto, it is because I haven't had internet and only posted on the days I had time to visit a computer lab.

This week's manifesto is an excerpt from Michelle Tea's poem "Pigeon Manifesto." You can read the entire poem here.

from "Pigeon Manifesto"
Michelle Tea

The revolution will not begin in your backyard because you do
not have a backyard...

The revolution will begin at your curb, in the shallow pool of
shade that is your gutter. The revolution will begin with the
pigeon bobbing hungry in the street—it is now your job to love
her. It is now your job to not avert your eyes from her feet, your
job to seek out and find the one pigeon foot that is blobbed in
a chemical melt, a pink-orange glob, a wad of bubble gum. The
pigeon splashed in a pool of chemicals laid out to kill it because
so many of the people hate the pigeons. This is now why you
must love them. We must love the nature that does not make it
onto the Discovery Channel, onto Animal Planet. We must love
the nature that crawls up to our doorstep like sparechangers
and scares us with the thickness of their feathers, their mutant
feet and orange eyes. Someone could have made dinner with the
rice on the corner but instead they sprinkled it on the curb with
the hope that hungry pigeons ate it, and that the grain would
expand in their stomachs, tearing them open, felling them in
the street, plump and feathered and dead in the gutter. I think
perhaps this does not even work, because I watch the pigeons
peck at the rice and fly off on grey wings. I hardly ever see
them dead in spite of how many people try to kill them.

Pigeons are doves. They are rock doves...
...What you might not know is when you call a pigeon a
rat with wings you have given it a compliment. The only thing
a rat lacks is a pair of wings to lift them, so you have named the
pigeon perfect. When you say to me I hate pigeons I want to
ask you who else you hate.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In the Kitchen—Cowgirl Pizza

A vegan version of cowboy pizza. This recipe does not include a pizza crust recipe, because I have yet to find a truly good crust recipe and luckily the co-op sells a pre-made whole-grain crust. If you have a good pizza crust recipe, feel free to use it, and please share. J

Cowgirl Pizza

1 large pizza crust
½ c pizza sauce (see recipe below)
½ package of Daiya mozzarella-style shreds
1 Italian Field Roast
1 mushroom, halved and sliced
8 black olives, halved
¼ c. chopped red onion
2 T. chopped picked jalapeno
1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. Put crust on baking sheet. Smear pizza sauce on crust. Sprinkle on most of the Daiya cheese.  Evenly distribute toppings over pizza, then sprinkle on the last of the Daiya cheese.
3. Pop in the oven; cook ten minutes or until crust is golden brown, cheese is melty, and toppings are cooked.

Pizza Sauce

This make more than is required for a single pizza, but I like to stick the extra in the freezer for future pizzas or whenever I need a quick pasta sauce.
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T apple juice concentrate
¼ t each of garlic powder, basil, and oregano
salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together. I like to put them in a jar and give them a good shake.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Great Outdoors—Idler’s Rest Part 2

A week ago I returned to Idler’s Rest for a hike. As I drove out on Mountain View Road, I sang along to Beethoven’s “little symphony in F” on the radio and noticed the leaves on the trees turning. This was the first time I’d noticed the leaves changing color here in Idaho this year; I remembered the brown leaves in Portland from the week before, and thought about how many of the leaves in Idaho in autumn become a luminous yellow I’ve never seen on the west coast.

Once at Idler’s Rest, I turned toward the orchard section, and soon found a tree which to my delight held tiny vermillion plums. I hadn’t known Idler’s Rest had plum trees. I circled the tree, trying to find a way to grab the fruit from the high branches, noticing multiple mounds of bear poop on the ground pocked with plum stones. I then spotted slighty larger yellow plums, not yet ripe, and further on, a tree with puplish plums in one long swath of a branch. I stood on fallen trunks, reaching and jumping, but still couldn’t get to the plums. One plum, the diameter of a quarter, fell to the ground, like the tree was teasing me. The plum was perfectly sweet, warm from the sun. I grabbed a forked branch, stood on a log, and by hitting and shaking the branches out of my reach with the stick was able to drop many plums to the ground. I gathered the fruit off the ground in a bag I had been smart enough to bring (thinking of apples), and continued on my way.

I next came to a tree that was covered in tiny dimpled red plums; they looked like cherries. These ones were low enough to pick, and confused, I bit in to one, to find tart yellow plum flesh. A chipmunk sat in a branch just barely out of my reach above me, watching as I gathered plums. These tart ones could go in a crisp, I thought.

Singing the Playground hum to alert bears of my presence, I moved out of the trees and into the grassy section of Idler’s Rest. Finally I found one of the apple trees. The apples were yellow-green with a blush of red, but full of holes, misshapen, with big black spots. Thinking of apple butter, I climbed up into the tree sticking apples in my pockets. I found one apple in good condition, and bit into it. It was just the right amount of sweet and tart. I ate it, looking out over the grassy fields, listening to crickets and feeling the afternoon heat, then finished gathering apples and moved on.

Two silhouettes of horses stood behind a fence at the edge of Idler’s Rest. In front of that was a dense copse of trees featuring oblong purple plums, similar to Italian prunes. But they were too sour, and I let them stay, wondering if they’d sweeten before the cold came.

My bag full of fruit, I proceeded to the forested section of Idler’s Rest to finish my hike, thinking of Mabon, joyful at my scavenged harvest.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

In the Kitchen—Greek Scramble

Right now I'm loving Greek Scramble for breakfast. Creamy and salty and tangy, with a bit of citrus and sweet from lemon zest and tomatoes. I use small orange tomatoes from my garden. With a watermelon smoothie* and a slice of garlic bread**, this is a satisfying summer breakfast (yes, it is still summer!). This makes breakfast for one, but is easily doubled.


1 t olive oil
2 eggs
1 t lemon zest
4 kalamata olives, halved
4 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
about a square inch of feta, preferably goat feta
1 T chopped parsley

1. Heat a small frying pan on medium. Add olive oil.
2. Crack eggs into a small bowl. Add about a teaspoon of water and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk. Add remaining ingredients, crumbling in cheese. Stir.
3. Pour egg business into pan. Stir and flip until eggs are cooked to your liking. Should just take a minute or two.
4. Enjoy!

*Watermelon smoothies are apparently popular in Greece. They are super simple: just put watermelon in the blender.

**A quick way to make garlic bread: toast whatever bread you have on hand, spread with butter or margarine, spread with crushed garlic. You can buy crushed garlic in a jar, and it is basically a delicious sweet paste.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Manifesto Monday—Jack Kerouac

I have been thinking about manifestos lately, and when I found one by Jack Kerouac in the Playground last week, it came to me that I should have Manifesto Monday here on Jujubes and Aspirins. I've read a number of writing manifestos, as well as art manifestos, and even made my own.

There's Havi's Declaration of Independence/Dammit List. Cake is a breakfast food, dammit. There can be culinary manifestos. Blog manifestos. Life manifestos.

So I hope these manifestos get you thinking about your own personal philosophy, whether it's a writing philosophy or gardening philosophy or general life philosophy. And if you write a manifesto, or have a Dammit statement, maybe you'd like to share in the comments. Maybe I'll redo my writing manifesto and bring it into the present. But for today, here's Kerouac.

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You’re a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sundry Sunday—Vlog of Nehalem Bay State Park

A week ago I drove to Oregon for a Rally (Rally!). But before Rallying in Portland, I spent a night camping in Nehalem Bay State Park. It was a little over a year ago that I arrived at the Atlantic Ocean after a pilgrimage across Spain, and I've decided that once a year I need to ceremoniously dunk myself in the ocean. 

Ever since Rhiannon was in Tajikistan some years ago, I've been making vlogs for my best friends in order to keep in touch, sort of video postcards. So here is the first of two videos about my "pilgrimage" to Oregon.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

On the Bookshelf—Review of Drink Slay Love

Drink Slay Love by Sarah Beth Durst
Young Adult

Just out today, Drink Slay Love answers that question we've all been wondering: What happens when a unicorn stabs a vampire?

Teen Pearl has always been a vampire, born into a violent and proud family of bloodsuckers. But after an encounter with a unicorn (her family doesn't believe her, by the way, because of course unicorns don't exist) strange things begin to happen. Pearl can go out in the sun.

Keen to utilize Pearl's new talent, her family sends her on a secret mission to infiltrate a human high school, to lure as many young humans as she can to be a feast for the vampire king at the upcoming Fealty Ceremony hosted by Pearl's family.

But other things are happening to Pearl besides a sudden partiality to sunlight. She's beginning to feel emotions, like empathy, having thoughts and feelings no self-respecting vampire has. Could Pearl be developing a soul?

This novel has elements of Stephanie Meyer, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, and Carrie Jones, with occasional ironic self-awareness at the vampire genre. The dialogue is funny, even sometimes hinting at John Green in style and wittiness. Two side characters, a pair of nerdy high schoolers who fancy themselves vampire slayers, steal the show in my opinion, though Pearl underestimates them as amiable idiots, sometimes referring to them as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, sometimes Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. The unicorn character is a pleasant ironic twist.

Still, this novel sometimes goes over the top trying to be witty, and in the wide array of paranormal teen novels with a bit of romance, doesn't do much to stand out or push the limits of the genre. If you are a vampire-lovin' teen, definitely read this book. If you enjoy paranormal YA, you'll probably enjoy this book as well. If you're anybody else, your life won't be the worse for having missed this book.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

In the Garden—Autumn Spinach

Woke up at 5:45, sun not yet risen. Getting ready for a week in Oregon, beginning with a night camping at Nehalem Bay. Bustling about, drinking tea, putting last-minute items in my bag, writing a blog post for next week, making watermelon quinoa and salsa for camping*, washing dishes. And planting spinach.

Quickly, after the sun has risen, pressing seeds 1/2 inch deep into bare patches of dirt around my strawberries, sunflower, tomatoes. I'm taking advantage of the cooler late summer/early fall weather to get in one last crop.

*I've made two batches of watermelon quinoa, two batches of watermelon salsa, one watermelon smoothie, and brought slices to a potluck. But my watermelon is still not finished. So this morning I deseeded the rest of it and put a big bag in the freezer to use in future smoothies. And this was the smallest watermelon at the farmer's market!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

In the Kitchen—Hemingway Feast

Although this week is extremely busy—the Hemingway Festival and getting ready for a week-long trip to Oregon on top of my usual day job and grad work—this morning I am happy. The sun is warm and bright; I pick tomatoes; I reserve a campsite on the Pacific Ocean for Saturday night; and I make myself a delicious breakfast. I start with banana mousse I made a few days ago, a vegan sugar-free recipe I'm working on. Then coffee, strong, with just a hint of oat milk. And what my gentleman friend calls a college omelette—vegetables scrambled in with the eggs. Eggs, lemon zest, small sweet orange tomatoes from my garden, parsley, kalamata olives, local goat-milk feta.

As I eat my omelette, in turns light and citrusy, tangy, creamy, I think over the Hemingway Feast I waited tables at last night. My grad program puts on the Hemingway Festival every year. I've served at the last three feasts—one of the festival events—each eight courses of incredible food. I love being in the kitchen watching the chefs—Nick from the Black Cypress or Eric from Gnosh—watching as the chop and garnish, smiling to myself as they yell and swear in the heat and stress of the night, sometimes asking about ingredients or helping add a garnish, planning to try my hand at the food when I get home. As I sip my coffee this morning, I think about Eric's butternut squash mousse on plantain chips from last year's. I compare last's year's quail with this year. I remember last year's cigar-infused custard for dessert, then this year's citrus snow with blackberries and elderberries, just the right amount of sweet and tart, the perfect light dessert after such a large rich meal.

I try to remember what we had at my first feast in 2010, but all I remember is the cinnamon-maple-cayenne yams which I've since made at home many times, and how I snuck a bite of bone marrow off the plate of the festival director in order to satisfy my life goal of literally sucking the marrow out of life.

The theme of this year's feast was scavenging in the wilderness, a hunting trip a la Hemingway. You stumble upon an orchard, and so the first course is wild plums with edible flowers and a coarse-mustard vinaigrette. You fish in the river and catch a salmon. You shoot a quail, and so one of the courses is quail stuffed with farroto, a risotto made from the local red wheat berry farro. We started each coarse by dropping a scroll on a table, with a quote from Hemingway that hinted at the food to come. I remember how excited everyone was when we dropped a scroll with the famous quote from "Big Two-Hearted River", where the main character eats spaghetti mixed with a can of beans, and then we brought out bowls of pasta fagioli.

I think of how for the final course last night we dropped platter after platter of buffalo on the tables—onion-braised buffalo shank, bone marrow, ribs, buffalo tartar with pickled chive blossoms. I think of how I leaned toward a table of guests and said, "Imagine you're Hemingway, and you've just shot a buffalo, hit the jackpot, and now you've got this entire buffalo to eat, bones and meat and all." I remember standing around the counter in the kitchen, all us servers and cooks eating buffalo with our fingers, picking caramelized onions out of a pan. I remember how we all toasted to a successful night by drinking tequila out of silver egg cups and gravy bowls.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

In the Kitchen—Watermelon Quinoa Salad

A week ago I bought the smallest watermelon I could find at the farmer's market. It was about twenty pounds. So now the daunting task of using the whole fruit before it goes bad. I'm experimenting with watermelon salsa recipes; I brought slices of it to a potluck; I'll probably try making a simple smoothie I hear is popular in Greece: tossing watermelon in a food processor or blender, blending, then serving on the rocks with a mint garnish.

I have also made a dish inspired by tabbouleh, a watermelon and quinoa salad. The watermelon adds a light sweetness; the lemon gives a wonderful citrus zip. As opposed to traditional tabbouleh, this salad is both gluten and wheat free and more friendly to those who are lactose intolerant, since it uses goat cheese rather than cow's milk.

Watermelon Quinoa Salad

1 c. water
1/2 c. quinoa
1 1/2 c. watermelon
2/3 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 green onions, thinly sliced on the bias
1 T. plus 1 t. olive oil
2 t. finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 T. fresh lemon juice
2 ounces chevre
1/4 t. salt

1. Rinse the quinoa. Put quinoa and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn burner to lowest heat. Cover and cook 15 minutes. Once cooked, let cool.
2. Toss all ingredients minus chevre in a bowl. Crumble the chevre and gently fold in.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In the Garden—Sunflower

My one sunflower that survived the cat attack is flourishing beautifully.

It's got four flowers, with more on the way. For a while there was only one flower (now the largest) and it faced the wall so we couldn't really see it. But now there's joyful color in every direction.

Monday, August 20, 2012

In the Kitchen—Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

This is my take on grilled cheese and tomato soup. I wanted to have comfort food as part of a well-rounded nourishing meal. I include below my recipe for honey mustard dressing as well as vegan alternatives.

Grilled cheese sandwich. I used onion and chive cheddar from a Montana biodynamic dairy farm. Added a little fig jam (all-fruit jam from St. Dalfour); thanks to Katie for the tip. Sprouted whole-grain bread. Vegan? Daiya cheese is pretty good, and melts well.

Sweet potato fries. Or, as like to call them, yams. Toss with olive oil, sea salt, and cracked black pepper, put in the oven at 400 F, flip after ten minutes, remove when you deem them sufficiently crunchy.

"Chicken" salad. Boca's vegan chick'n patties cut into bite-sized pieces. Sliced green onions. A mix of spring greens and baby spinach. Honey mustard dressing: 1/4 c. cider vinegar, 1/4 c. dijon mustard, 1/4 c. honey, a cup or so of olive oil. Stick ingredients in a peanut butter jar and shake well. Vegan? Use any dressing you choose, or simply sprinkle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Tomato soup. Recipe in Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook (12th edition). Substituting vegetable bouillon for chicken bouillon, this soup is almost 100% fruits and veggies, way healthier than the Campbell's alternative. Fairly easy to make; you should probably double the recipe if serving for a lot of people or you want to make sure to have leftovers.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Great Outdoors—Idler's Rest

My goal for the summer, or as long as the weather is decent, is to go on one hike a week. A week or two ago my gentleman and I set off for a bit of land at the base of Moscow Mountain called Idler's Rest.

The Northwest side of Idler's Rest winds underneath trees and through meadows, as the forest slowly reclaims old farmland.

On one side of the road Idler's Rest is a section of interweaving trails through forest, and on the other side it's a trail or two through meadow and orchard. This path on the Northwest side of Idler's Rest winds through brush and tree, then through an old apple orchard. Early settlers grew apples to make into cider, but now, abandoned, the trees grow as they wish, the woods slowly growing in around them. In early August, little green apples covered the trees, sometimes dangling in our path like ornaments, sometimes making a canopy above us in dappled shades of green. The gentleman and I hope to go back when the apples are ripe and collect some to make our own cider.

The southeast section of Idler's Rest follows Paradise Creek, almost dry this time of year. Trails intertwine beneath cedar trees, over fallen logs, up hill and down. When we went, a number of young children, maybe 5 years old, were on field trip, and their laughter echoed through the forest. We came upon a group of children with a guardian, and an outgoing youngster exclaimed to us that they had found a bear's footprint. Running into another group, a little boy hunched his back and made claws of his fingers, telling a little girl they were going to find a bear. 

We headed uphill, occasionally finding a bench beside the path, stopping to look at the domed spiderwebs that were prevalent. We backtracked, crisscrossed, and then came out on a golden hillside of long grasses, private farmland bordering Idler's Rest. A baby bird rustled in the grasses in front of us, and we stepped back to watch its fellows swoop around it, us wondering if it had fallen from its nest. As we hiked back to the car, we found a plaque on a boulder saying that the site was dedicated to Jim Manis, who'd died in 1974 at only 19 years old, who had loved the outdoors. We surmised that he had died in the war, but research since then has revealed Jim Manis was actually a student who'd died in a car crash.

Idler's Rest is not a difficult nor a long hike, but a pleasant place to spend a couple hours, with just enough uphill to make you feel like you're getting a work-out. For more information, go here and here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Blog Under Construction

Having posts based on days (Literary Lunes, Gardening Wednesdays, Food Fridays) worked for a while, but I got out of the habit of posting three times a week. I don't think I've yet found the ideal format and content for this blog. So I'm going to be trying different things, and I hope you'll stick with me as I do.

Just wanted to let you know this is a BLOG UNDER CONSTRUCTION.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

On the Bookshelf—Two Summer Reads

Here are two books I've read recently, a new release and a classic, both perfectly suited for summer enjoyment.

Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand. This didn't seem like my type of book, but when we got an ARC at work I cracked it open. It was worth it.

Disaster hits Nantucket on graduation night when four high schoolers get in a car accident. One is killed, another in a coma, and the two others, along with their families and the rest of the Nantucket community, must deal with the aftermath.

Demeter was one of the survivors of the car crash. That night she had told Penny a secret that sent Penny into the rage that crashed the car and killed her. Demeter holds the secret close and spends the summer succumbing to alcoholism.

Jake was one of the survivors, as well. He was Penny's boyfriend, and just as he has to deal with his girlfriend's death his dad whisks him to Australia under the pretense of helping Jake deal. But maybe it's a last-ditch effort for Jake's father, Jordan, to save his own marriage to an unhappy Australian woman.

Or maybe Jordan is running away from Penny's mother. The mother who has to deal with one child dead and one in a coma, the woman Jordan has been having an affair with.

This captivating page-turner weaves together the stories and perspectives of multiple people in the Nantucket community as they deal with tragedy, try to figure out why Penny crashed the car, and eventually come to terms with their new lives.

Before Lunch by Angela Thirkell. Angela Thirkell began writing in the 1920s, and while she has been likened to Jane Austen and Agatha Christie, she is somewhat obscure and her books can be hard to get ahold of. But get ahold of one you should!

Before Lunch opens with Mr. Middleton, an eccentric and endearingly unaware sort (not unlike Mr. Woodhouse) who knows nothing more satisfying than a farm cart pulled by "a benevolent monster with long hairy trousers and a shining coat," a farm cart "emblazoned with one's own name." Mr. Middleton soon learns that the Stonors, his sister and her two grown-up step-children, are coming to stay for the summer. "All he knew about the young Stonors was that the son was delicate and the daughter, as he shudderingly remembered her, not delicate at all, and at the moment both states of health seemed to him equally repulsive."

The arrival of the Stonors—the robust and brash Daphne, the sickly composer Denis—ushers in a summer of dinner parties and town meetings, a host of quirky characters, falling in love, and inadvisable engagements. One of the things that makes this novel really good is not that it has a happily-ever-after everyone-hooks-up-with-the-right-person sort of ending, but because it contains both expected lightheartedness and unexpected melancholy, to produce an amusing and pleasant, yet bittersweet, story.