Friday, December 31, 2010

Medieval & Chunkster Challenge Wrap-Up

Way back in January and February, I signed up for the Tournament of Reading and the Chunkster challenge. I've since completed both but haven't posted until now--procrastination, I know. For the former, I signed up for the King level, or 9 books, including two from each category (history, historical fiction, literature from the Middle Ages). Along the way, I discovered/rediscovered Margaret Frazer's Dame Frevisse mysteries and Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael mysteries--tons more medieval fun!

History: A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman*
History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer (also my last chunkster)
Wow, this took me a long time! It was definitely enjoyable, just a bit of a slog, partly due to my own distractions. Anyway, I learned a ton about a time period that I realize now I knew very little about. A repeated and global theme seemed to be how loose nomadic tribes grew into nations with a shared history, language, and religion. Also, how those nations used or misused their varied religions for political ends. I have to admit that the Asian and South Asian sections were less interesting to me, perhaps because I found the names hard to keep track of, even within the chapter, let alone across chapters. Maybe I should reread those sections. I'm also curious as to how the author arrived at her definition of medieval as spanning the years from 312-1129.
The Discarded Image by C. S. Lewis (history/literary criticism)

Historical Fiction: Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset*
Morality Play by Barry Unsworth*
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi
Since I was reading this with a child I tutor, I wasn't quite in the full flow of the narrative. Nevertheless, it was an engaging book, with some predictability. I enjoyed the way the main character changed throughout the novel and I thought Avi did a good job conveying the medieval setting as well.
Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
An intriguing read, confusing at times in terms of genre--not sure if she wanted to be historical fiction or some sort of fantasy/supernatural thing, maybe a bit of both. I ended up feeling like I mostly liked the characters. A bit like Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" because they started gradually dying off. In some ways I'd like to read it again and pick up some more clues and make connections between events but I'm not sure it's a book to reread in terms of holding my interest. Excellent as far as historical detail goes, however.

Medieval Literature: The Book of Margery Kempe*
Dream Visions and Other Poems by Geoffrey Chaucer
I really enjoyed The Parliament of Fowls and The Legends of Good Women. The first was very humorous and the second was a nice defense of womanhood against courtly love and exploiting men. My edition also had critical essays and background sources. The sources were interesting and a few of the essays were but some of them really got on my nerves. Over all, I enjoyed reading the Middle English because it's pretty similar to modern English but different enough that it was like reading a foreign language at times--a fun challenge.

*already reviewed previously

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

100 Books in 2010

I've finished 100 books! It felt like it was going to be close in November when I had 20 more books to go in two months but I did it for a grand total of 34,777 pages, according to Goodreads! Some of my books were a bit of "filler" to get me to the end, probably because I read some big ones at the beginning of the year. The top genres (in order, though some books overlap) were: fiction, series, mystery, medieval, escapist, historical fiction, ya fiction, thriller, and audio.

1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
2. The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne
3. The Wreath by Sigrid Undset
4. The Wife by Sigrid Undset
5. The Book of Margery Kempe
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
7. Little Lady, Big Apple by Hester Browne
8. The Cross by Sigrid Undset
9. Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti
10. The Discarded Image by C. S. Lewis
11. Nothing is Quite Forgotten in Brooklyn by Alice Mattison
12. Washington Square by Henry James
13. An Offer You Can't Refuse by Jill Mansell
14. Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
15. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
16. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
17. Hot Water by P. G. Wodehouse
18. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
19. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
20. East Wind: West Wind by Pearl S. Buck
21. Millie's Fling by Jill Mansell
22. A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Tuchman
23. The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
24. My Life in France by Julia Child
25. Lives 2 by Plutarch
26. The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer
27. Morality Play by Barry Unsworth
28. Julie and Julia by Julie Powell
29. Perfect Timing by Jill Mansell
30. The Heretic's Apprentice by Ellis Peters
31. The Potter's Field by Ellis Peters
32. Dr. Thorne by Anthony Trollope
33. The Summer of the Danes by Ellis Peters
34. Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant
35. The Associate by John Grisham
36. Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi
37. Scientific Progress Goes "Boink" by Bill Watterson
38. Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie
39. The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie
40. Aunt Dimity, Vampire Hunter by Nancy Atherton
41. Zapped by Carol Higgins Clark
42. The Apostate's Tale by Margaret Frazer
43. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
44. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffnegger
45. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowlin
46. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
47. Three by Flannery O'Connor
48. The Maiden's Tale by Margaret Frazer
49. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
50. A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
51. Two Little Girls in Blue by Mary Higgins Clark
52. The Brethren by John Grisham
53. The Clicking of Cuthbert by P. G. Wodehouse
54. The Girl on the Boat by P. G. Wodehouse
55. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope
56. The Naming by Alison Croggon
57. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
58. So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger
59. The Reeve's Tale by Margaret Frazer
60. The Riddle by Alison Croggon
61. One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters
62. The Valley of Vision by Arthur G. Bennett
63. Runaway by Alice Munro
64. The Squire's Tale by Margaret Frazer
65. A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George
66. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
67. The Unvarnished New Testament by Andy Gaus
68. The Crow by Alison Croggon
69. The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
70. Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
71. Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
72. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
73. The Clerk's Tale by Margaret Frazer
74. The History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer
75. The Mating Season by P. G. Wodehouse
76. Summer Lightning by P. G. Wodehouse
77. The Singing by Alison Croggon
78. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
79. How to Really Love Your Angry Child by D. Ross Campbell
80. Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life by Richard Meryman
81. Payment in Blood by Elizabeth George
82. Monk's Hood by Ellis Peters
83. River Teeth by David James Duncan
84. The Bastard's Tale by Margaret Frazer
85. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
86. No Talking by Andrew Clements
87. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
88. Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic
89. The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro
90. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
91. Dream Visions and Other Poems by Geoffrey Chaucer
92. March by Geraldine Brooks
93. Miracles by C. S. Lewis
94. St. Peter's Fair by Ellis Peters
95. Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
96. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
97. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
98. Well-Schooled in Murder by Elizabeth George
99. Country Wives by Rebecca Shaw
100. America for Sale by Jerome R. Corsi

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Shakespeare for 2011

I guess I should officially sign up for the reading challenge I'm hosting for next year, huh? Anyway, I am going to read at the Henry V level which means one play a month for the whole year. I'll be reading a lot of history plays because I'm reading chronologically based on my Riverside Shakespeare. My plan is to read:

1. 1 Henry VI
2. 2 Henry VI
3. 3 Henry VI
4. Richard III
5. The Comedy of Errors
6. Titus Andronicus
7. The Taming of the Shrew
8. The Two Gentlemen of Verona
9. Love's Labor's Lost
10. King John
11. Richard II
12. Romeo and Juliet

That makes 6 histories, 4 comedies, and 2 tragedies. I've read Richard III and both tragedies but none of the comedies, though I've seen the Shrew as well as 10 Things I Hate About You. I hated Titus the first time I read it and didn't want to see the movie version so I'm a little wary of reading it again. I guess I'll either have a greater appreciation of the British royals or hate them all by the end of the year. We'll see.

Monday, November 29, 2010

New Reading Challenge for 2011

I realize that I haven't finished all of this year's challenges yet--I still have 10 books to go for the 100 books challenge, I'm on my last medieval book, and I have finished but haven't posted about the chunksters--but it's time to sign up for new ones for 2011.

So, the first one I'm signing up for is the Vintage Mystery Challenge. I've read a few of the authors listed but am interested in reading more. My particular challenge will be twofold--to read 16+ (Take 'Em to Trial level) and to find them all at the library! My list so far is:

1. Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham
2. something by Dorothy Sayers
3. The Chinese Parrot by Earl Derr Biggers
4. Detection Unlimited by Georgette Heyer
5. The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin
6. something by Ellery Queen
7. Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
8. Singing in the Shrouds by Ngaio Marsh
9. Black Orchids by Rex Stout
10. The Silent Speaker by Rex Stout
11. The Cape Cod Mystery by Phoebe Atwood Taylor
12. The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing
13. The Old Man in the Corner by Baroness Orczy

Thursday, November 25, 2010


This year I'm thankful for a new apartment (with all of its challenges) and silly songs. The silly singer is thankful for trains. Almost every night after I pray for her, she says, "Thank you God trains. Thank you God big train. Thank you God L train," and so forth.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Summer Project Roundup

The following two rugs have been worn-in for a while now but I finally got around to taking some pictures. I worked on them both this summer, doing the bathmat first. Since they are knit rag rugs, I also got to enjoy the cathartic exercise of ripping up old sheets!
This could have had some fringe but I ran out of sheet.
The cable on this was done with a chopstick for a cable needle. Pretty ridiculous but fun.
This one was made from two twin flannel sheets, so it's very soft for flopping on. E. has done a lot of lying on her stomach to look at things on this rug.
Close up view.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Last CSA Goodies: A Fall Still Life

Can it be over a week ago now that we collected our last bunch of vegetables? It was such a weekly ritual--going to the pickup site, seeing a three-year old friend, visiting the yarn store, and coming home with a heavy bag. This last time was probably the best because it was our turn to "babysit" the veggies and we brought home lots of extras. We still have almost as many sweet potatoes but we're down to only one pumpkin! My first project was to make the puree that was enjoyed below:
Notice how she's looking longingly at the bowl. My design had been to bake together and to have her do the dumping and some of the mixing. However, when I handed her the full cup of pumpkin, her gut instinct was to taste it so I did the dumping and she got her own bowl. Of course, had it been dinner time, the pumpkin would have been ignored. She did help mix after eating plenty of pumpkin and flour, though I had to keep removing little fingers from the bowl.

Those two little orange pumpkins in the first photo yielded this yogurt container's worth of puree which has become pumpkin muffins and pumpkin waffles and I still have two more cups in the fridge.

To continue the orange theme, I also made sweet potato gnocchi and a pumpkin and lentil salad with goat cheese and some of the CSA spinach which is not pictured. These items were rejected by my little baker at dinner, though she loves the pumpkin muffins.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Learning from the Munchkin

Well, the first thing I've been learning is that my shoes look best on her. And this is probably my favorite of her silly faces.

The second thing is that anything can become a song. She adds verses to The Wheels on the Bus like "the tiger on the bus goes rah, rah, rah." Then there's the drop it song, based, I think, on me saying "I'm gonna get you, I'm gonna get you." She sings, "I wanna drop it, I'm gonna drop it" usually about some object that she insisted on bringing in the stroller and I really don't want to lose like that library book last week.

She also taught me just today to look up at the sky more often. We were at a playground near R's Long Island studio and she was going on the slides. I climbed up the plastic "rock" wall to this giant slide and enjoyed that even though I exceeded the 5-12 age recommendation. When she saw me, she insisted that I slide next to her on the smaller double slide so I obeyed. At the bottom, I stood up to go somewhere else when I noticed that she had lain back down on the slide and was staring up at the sky. I copied her and was amazed at how calm and quiet everything felt. I wish I had taken a picture of the blue sky, the clouds, and the colorful leaves. Too often I think of the playground visits as boring or a chance for her to exercise and have fun while I have a semi-adult conversation with a parent I might know a little bit. But it can be a moment of worship. These moments seem like they are harder to find in Bushwick but that might not be the case.

Finally, E. has taught me that singing at the doctor's office is not only acceptable but soothing for both of us. A few weeks ago we spent way too long waiting to see the pediatrician and by the time we were finally out of the waiting room (though still waiting), I was really frustrated and feeling like a negligent mom for not bringing snacks or extra milk. E. was whining off and on but then she requested the "Bible song" aka "Jesus Loves Me" At first I said no, not being a real public singer but she asked again and I sang it a few times to her quietly. Somehow, she knew what we both needed to hear at that moment. We both were completely calm and collected by the time the doctor came in and the whole visit went well.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I've been having a lot of fun cooking up my CSA veggies recently and taking pictures of them. It all started with this penguin:

who was almost too cute to cut up into ratatouille:

which cooked down a ton and was very yummy!

Here's a cabbage and potato soup I made with yellow potatoes. It smelled delicious--bacon, caraway seeds, and cabbage sauteed together. But I think the recipe called for too much stock because it didn't taste nearly as mouthwateringly yummy as it smelled.

This pizza earned a great compliment. I was asked by the man of the house, "Why did you buy pizza?" My reply was, "Thank you." The sauce and the basil were from the CSA and a friend's garden. The dough was homemade but everything else came from the store. Gone in a day, of course.

Cranberry beans are so beautiful but mysterious. Where do the colors go when they cook? These went into a more flavorful cabbage and pork stew that was less photogenic, however, so not included.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Freak Storm

There was a brief and wild storm yesterday evening that did some major damage to the beautiful old trees in the park across the street. E. and I were looking out the window at the gathering storm, when suddenly I noticed that the trees were whipping around like hurricane shots on the news. I ran to check windows and found papers blowing around in the front room and lots of rain pouring in. I didn't see anything come down but R. saw a tree get uprooted almost in front of his car. Below are some shots I took of the park this morning, which oddly enough seems to be damaged mostly on three of the four sides. It's still closed right now and as a mom of a toddler, I'm sure hoping it's open as soon as possible.

Notice the roots sticking up out of the ground!

The playground is usually only a little bit green and the equipment visible.

Broken fences.

Oblivious! Her comment was, "Leaves. Sheep. Baa."

Saturday, September 04, 2010

100th Post--took long enough!

For my 100th post, I thought I'd do a little summer in review, starting with some fun dining moments. And, yes, contrary to evidence here, E. does wear full sets of clothing most of the time.

"Big box." This was soon to become a common refrain as we packed up 12 years worth of stuff!
Her own box was crucial to the packing process.
Our second big summer project! She's holding the portable potty, on the edge of our new kitchen. All photos from here on are in the new apartment.
This height chart was made by my Grandma Dot for me when I was E's age.
"Off to conquer in my pretty dress."

Note: these photos of "Daddy Cereal" make it look like she snuck some while he wasn't looking. This is a regular routine.
Post-bath baby is always my favorite photo genre.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Two More Chunksters & a Broken Resolution

I've recently realized that I missed June entirely on the blog but I do have moving & settling in to our Brooklyn apartment as a good excuse. So, here are two more chunkster book reviews which gets me closer to finishing my first reading challenge of the year.

Plutarch's Lives, volume 2:
I particularly enjoyed the lives of Caesar, Anthony, Pompey, and Brutus, as they gave multiple views on the events surrounding the Ides of March and beyond, though Plutarch definitely was not sympathetic to some of them. I could also see Shakespeare's plays more clearly--one member of my Great Conversation book group noted how he almost completely lifted his description of Cleopatra on her boat from Plutarch.

The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope (spoiler alert!)
This has definitely been my favorite Trollope book yet. He takes the typical story of two sisters' romances and turns it on its head. One is engaged right away and jilted and the other rejects the ideal suitor for a penniless one. Lily Dale in particular is great as is John Eames, for whom this is a coming of age story as well. I also liked how he didn't make Crosbie a flat character but made the jilting a temptation to him and then continues his storyline, rather than leaving him simply as a villain. The only negative thing is the edition(Nonsuch Publishing)--very poorly copyedited--unclear paragraphing in dialogue and typos galore.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Funny Words

Recently E. has been singing along to some of her favorite songs--Twinkle Twinkle Little Star; Holy, Holy, Holy; Baa Baa Black Sheep. She changes pitch and rhythm at the right points but her version of the words can be pretty funny. For example--people people little star or hoey hoey hoey (said very fast), yesshur.

Also, she likes to play "peekapoo" and she enjoyed sampling my chocolate chip keycoes.

She keeps me smiling, to say the least. Especially when she gets excited for yunch and says a big yes when I ask if I can eat her up for lunch.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Morality Play

I've recently finished reading another medieval book, Morality Play by Barry Unsworth. This brings me up to five--four more to go to be a King!

This was a great mystery and after having read A Distant Mirror, I could tell that it clearly fit into the 14th century with the 100 years war as background, as well as the Black Death. I especially liked how the main character struggled with the philosophical/theological implications of being a player rather than a priest. Also, I hadn't thought about how a play about a specific current event would be so different to medieval audiences who were used to plays from the Scriptures or from accepted moral stories. The implications of who gets to make meaning out of circumstances are huge.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Another Medieval Book/First Chunkster

I've (finally) finished reading A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Tuchman. Here's my review from Goodreads:

Tuchman disabused me of several misconceptions about the Middle Ages--most learned people thought the earth was round, noblewomen were more educated than noblemen, and chivalry was not all it was cracked up to be. In fact, she demonstrates how chivalry ultimately cost France autonomy and allowed the Turks to remain in Europe, leading to the fall of Constantinople. Also very interesting read for all the details of everyday life, though quite dismal at times.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

She Plays What She Knows or Imitation is the Finest Form of Flattery

So for a while now, E. has been imitating me in her play. First it was using the sponge to make the cabinets clean or rinsing her hands while I washed dishes. Then she moved on to "sorting" and "folding" socks and washcloths. Now, she loves to play sleep by lying down and saying "shhh." She also loves to push a doll stroller around the playground and spends several seconds moving the safety harness around before she says "oush" or "out." Oh and I almost forgot--her first imaginative play was pretend eating. But that's hardly a surprise, as it's one of her favorite activities. Most recently, she's started offering her sippy cup to her toys and to the cat. No one's taken her up on it yet, but I'm waiting for the day when she offers it to a real baby.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Glimpse of Summer

E. and I just returned from a lovely trip to visit R's family in New Orleans. The sun was bright every single day and I spent every naptime soaking in the sun and reading books. And here are just a few of the things E. enjoyed:

Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Book Reviews

Here are the books I've read in February, with brief reviews. I've skipped a few that I reviewed earlier in the month for the Tournament of Reading.
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Once again, a very satisfying, fun read, though sad, of course.
7. Little Lady, Big Apple by Hester Browne: This one was still fun but not quite as fun, for whatever reason. Plus it seemed way too name-droppy--all the tv shows and stores in NYC (Duane Reade, for crying out loud!). Maybe the other one was like that too and I didn't realize since I've never lived in London. And also, could there be just a little less talk about shopping?
8. The Cross by Sigrid Undset
9. Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti: It was funny and insightful at times but not that exciting/memorable. It does make me wonder what's up with my Scandinavian bent recently. I didn't even know it was Swedish until I got it home from the library.
10. The Discarded Image by C. S. Lewis
11. Nothing is Quite Forgotten in Brooklyn by Alice Mattison: Pretty interesting--about mothers and daughters and friendship. I mostly liked that it switched back and forth between two different years but sometimes the clues that we were in a different time felt a little forced. A little too much of dropping in the newspaper headlines, etc. But it was an interesting piecing together of family history.
12. Washington Square by Henry James: eptively simple and brief, this novel about an heiress and a fortune-hunter surpassed my expectations. James conveyed with feeling how difficult it was emotionally for Catherine to disobey her father and how much her father had underestimated her as a person.
13. An Offer You Can't Refuse by Jill Mansell: Fun, a quick read. Seems to fit into whatever mold there is for British chicklit--mentions TV shows, check. mentions movie stars, check. mentions shopping, check. funny and filled with Britishisms, check. Not that I won't read more by the same author when I'm next in the mood.
14. Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl: Great fun and it made me hungry! It was a nice peek into the restaurant world again, though I'm sure so much has changed. The Windows on the World chapter felt a little creepy. I'm sure she had to make a decision about whether or not to address 9/11 and since her memoir took place prior to 2001, it makes sense that she didn't say anything about it but it was one of the ghosts, like in the last chapter.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Toddler Lexicon

Can you match E's animal sounds to the correct animal? Answers will be at the bottom of the lexicon entries.
1. baa 2. riis riis 3. mehh 4. ruff ruff 5. rarrrr 6. cheep cheep
7. nee 8. ssss 9. boo

animals: snake, frog, sheep, goat, cow, chick, lion, dog, horse

Commonly used words, with her pronunciation if different in parantheses.

ball (baa)
bowl (bow)
box (bah)
call (caw)-refers to phone
car (caw)
clean (key)
cold (cole)
comb (coe)
da daa
dog (not sure but she says something close)
dressed (dess--as in let's get dressed)
eat (ee + baby sign--fingers to her mouth)
ear (EEuh)
go (emphatic g sound)
juice (deuce with lots of excitement & sometimes a dance)
kitty (key)
maa maa
Max (mask with deliberateness in the sounds) *from Max & Ruby but it was also supposed to be her name if she was a boy
mouth (meh)
neck (neh)
night night (nigh nigh)
nose (d'oh or doo)
shoe (doo)
teeth (tee)
that (dah with pointing)
tickle tickle tickle (ticka ticka ticka)
train (tai)
tree (tee)
yum (eyuh)

ashes ashes (more or less- means she wants Ring a Round a Rosy)
ee ha
ei ei (Old McDonald request)
gock ee

Animal answers: 1. sheep 2. frog 3. goat 4. dog 5. lion 6. chick 7. horse 8. snake 9. cow

I'm sure there are more words that I'm missing or that she's just now working on. So fun!

Walking Outside

E. did a little more walking in the last big snow. This time she was more interested at looking at things in the snow, including her mitten!
She's actually standing in a snowdrift in the street.
This was E's first trip to the playground after she started walking, in January. She spent most of the time walking in big circles.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

And yet one more reading challenge

I was just clicking through some things online and I found one more that I have to join. It's called the Chunkster Challenge--450 pages or more counts as a chunkster. And, since I'm already reading one (Plutarch) and have at least 2 more on my to be read shelves, I figured I'd join up. And I'll restrain myself a little bit and only sign up at the middle level: Do These Books Make My Butt Look Big? which signs me up for four chunksters this year. Unfortunately it started this month so Kristin Lavransdatter won't count. Oh well.

Now I'm a Peasant

I've finally read three medieval books (in any category--history, historical fiction, medieval writing) for the Tournament of Reading Book Challenge.

Here's my review of C. S. Lewis' The Discarded Image:

This is based on a lecture series that Lewis gave several times while a don at Oxford. It's a great introduction both to Medieval Literature and to the medieval worldview or "model" as he names it. There were so many interesting parts to this book--it's hard to summarize. He presents a different interpretation of the Great Chain of Being and the Ptolemaic view of the universe. The sun and the spheres revolved around the earth not because the earth was so important but because the earth was so humble and small--at the bottom and on the outside of this great dance. Throughout he looks at language and how writers of the time were tremendously influenced by all that they read, even when they misread things. He goes through the seven scholarly disciplines, the various types of souls, and the complexions of people. Complexions in this case meant more like characteristics or humours. One idea that I found particularly interesting was that because medieval artists lacked perspective, this was an issue in writing as well. For example, a giant might not be consistently the same size in relationship to a man, a barn, or a field. I'm excited to read more medieval literature now and then maybe I'll come back and reread this again--I'm sure there's so much that I've missed on the first go round.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Young Artist at Work

Strange Interests

Recently E. has developed two very strange interests, combined with a new word, "doo." No, it has nothing to do with dogs or any other animals. She loves to touch my elbow or my feet and say "doo" very happily. Sometimes she'll even rub her nose back and forth against my elbow. And the feet fascination gets even weirder--she'll grab onto them in the shower and squeal or if she sees them on the floor, she'll get down to their level and squish her face on them. My sister would not understand, but it looks like I've finally found someone who appreciates my (large) feet.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Almost a Peasant

Review of Kristen Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Overall this was an enjoyable, though long read. I guess a trilogy in one volume sort of guarantees that. Anyway, I preferred the first and third books (The Wreath and The Cross) to the second one (The Wife), probably because the second book seemed to zoom out a bit--years passed between chapters, etc. Also, there was more political detail in the second book that I didn't have a good handle on and I didn't feel like researching beyond the end notes.

Undset did a good job of setting the historical scene and keeping her characters within it while at the same time not making them inaccessible. For example, there was a great scene in the cloister dining hall in which Kristin was trying to daintily serve herself with three fingers and cut meat with her knife but ended up cutting her finger and shooting her portion onto the floor. I also loved the details about the clothes, dwelling places, and mystical creatures. The author managed to make this all seem real, not like a reenactment of any kind.

The central relationship between Kristin and her husband was also quite compelling. It seemed true to married life that because she'd had to forgive him for big things, she had trouble forgiving him for the smaller, daily sins.

I would highly recommend this book. It gave me an unprecedented view into family life in medieval Norway.

Monday, February 01, 2010

January Book Reviews/First Medieval Book Finished

1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: ** spoiler alert ** I think this was a 2nd or third reading for me. I've been gradually collecting the series in paperback and while I like a lot about this story, I still get annoyed with how whiny Harry is in this book. Especially since he doesn't seem so whiny/upset in the next one even though Sirius has died. But there are some really hilarious moments--especially Harry & Ron's conversation about Divination class--"Even if the tea leaves say 'Die, Ron, die' I'll still chuck them in the bin."
2. The Little Lady Agency: This was fun, page-turning, and just what I needed on a cold winter's day. It did feel a bit dated (when did men wear red jeans??) but it was nice to have a somewhat wholesome chicklit main character for once.
3. The Wreath by Sigrid Undset: I'll review this when I finish the trilogy
4. The Wife by Sigrid Undset: see above
5. The Book of Margery Kempe: At times Margery reminded me of pentecostals that I've known--very convinced that she has a true revelation from God and that everyone else should hear it. This was especially evident when she mentioned a few times that priests and other clergy responded "meekly" to her sobbing and screaming during church.

I also ended up feeling rather sorry for her husband and children (14, though maybe not all alive). She convinced him to agree to a "chaste" marriage and they lived apart until he was in his sixties and suffered a serious head injury at which point she returned to care for him. I'm sure that's not what he signed up for when he said his wedding vows!

I found some of her reflections helpful but overall I wondered if Christ would not have been better served in her daily, real life and loving of others than in her constant pilgrimages and "roaring" during worship services.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Baby in a box

Here's a little video of E. having fun in the box my new winter coat came in. At one point she had a ball, a small car, a toy dog, and a toy tiger in there with her. She'd pick one up, look at it, and then put it back in the same spot.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

One more reading challenge

Ok, I couldn't resist: 100 books in a year. And hey, I've already finished two, though both a little more on the fluffy side. I can't count Plutarch because I started him before January. I'm pretty sure I can do it, I just need to keep track. So, this and Goodreads will help me. . .

1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
2. The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne
3. The Wreath by Sigrid Undset (I'm reading the trilogy for my medieval book challenge and I'll count it here as three separate books as originally published even though my version has all three under the title Kristn Lavransdatter).
4. The Wife by Sigrid Undset
5. The Book of Margery Kempe
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
7. Little Lady, Big Apple by Hester Browne
8. The Cross by Sigrid Undset
9. Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti
10. The Discarded Image by C. S. Lewis
11. Nothing is Quite Forgotten in Brooklyn by Alice Mattison
12. Washington Square by Henry James
13. An Offer You Can't Refuse by Jill Mansell

Monday, January 04, 2010


Ok, so I think I've figured out why I always start major projects in January (such as getting back on track with my blog, reading all of Calvin's Institutes, cleaning my wooden furniture etc). It must be some latent New Year's resolutions in me that I don't write down. Anyway, I do want to write more--let's try for at least once a month, minimum.

I also just found out about these online reading challenges--how have I not known about them to this point?? Anyway, I'm signing up for a Medieval Reading Challenge and of course I'm going to jump in all the way at the King level. I think I'll start with some Chaucer that I got for Christmas last year. And I may even blog about it.

PS I know I need to post some E. Christmas pics and I will.