Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

How to Make Applesauce


First, taste the apples to make sure that they're good.

Next, wash the apples. Yes, tasting should alway come before washing!

Check and see which apples still are dirty. Count them, if you want to.

Supervise the apple peeling. Try turning the crank a little but only with Mommy's help.

Tasting the cinnamon stick is essential to the best applesauce. Once you've tasted, add it to the pot.

Stir.

Let it cook for a while and ask Mommy to mash it up later.
(Note: I decided to add in the peels because the peeler I was using took off a lot of the flesh with it. I later had to fish them all out. And I forgot to take a picture of the final product.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Birthday videos

At my baby shower, a friend recommended taking a video of E. talking on her birthday every year. I forgot last year but here's this year. And yes, that is her dog's name that she says at the end.

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And here's her opening a gift. I really enjoy her excitement. Sorry about the background noise; we had the windows open and you can hear neighbors' music as well as some traffic. Aah, Bushwick on a summer day.


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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Time for some adorable sleep pictures

Someone still loves her big girl bed, though she has a lot more books on her "nightstand" than I do.

Yes, in the middle of the summer it's very important to keep your head warm.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I'm growing

Last summer, I was just getting into pigtails and was as big as the yellow dog.

This year, I'm almost as big as the pink bunny and I decide which type of pigtails or braids I want. But I still love dresses and I still have a great sandal tan!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Finished Vintage Mystery Challenge!

While I still have one more on my list, I am officially finished since I read a total of 16 vintage mysteries. Along the way, I learned a lot about myself as a mystery reader. I prefer mysteries that have well-developed characters, are not overly formulaic, and tell a good story. If I would enjoy the characters and story without the murder, that's usually a good sign. Sometimes a mystery is only interesting because you want to find out who did it or who else will die. I admit that I like those types occasionally, as a quick read while traveling, for example. But after reading so many mysteries by several different authors, I think I will be skipping the quick read types for a while! On the plus side, I have had my appetite whetted to read more of several new authors.

My final reviews in order read, with most recent last:

Detection Unlimited: Humorous, great characterization, witty detective--almost perfect! I do think Heyer made it a little too clear that there was going to be a murder on the day of the tennis matches because of the detail with which she described the location and everyone's movements. Other than that, I really enjoyed this "English countryside" murder mystery. Besides the cunning plot, I appreciated the allusions to the post-WWII situation: ration cards, sons lost, other sons reporting for military service, and the challenges of maintaining a country estate. Heyer also did an excellent job keeping all the characters/suspects distinct. I never found myself flipping back to figure out who was who again. Plus another reader had carefully written in the names of the residents near their houses on the map of the village on the first page.

Black Orchids and The Silent Speaker: This was my first foray into Nero Wolfe mysteries and I have to say, I enjoyed it! Nero Wolfe is a wealthy, overweight agoraphobic who loves orchids. He spends his days inside his Manhattan apartment, with set appointments to care for his orchids and takes occasional breaks for detecting, which is how he earns his money. The stories are narrated by Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's muscleman/detective/secretary who does most of his legwork for him. One of the introductions to the two (really three) mysteries, mentioned that he enjoyed the mood and humor of the stories and characters and read the novels for that, not so much for the mysteries themselves. I have to agree--both Black Orchids and The Silent Speaker contained well-plotted, intricate mysteries but I enjoyed watching Wolfe manipulate everyone around him and listening to Archie's attitude, as well as his apt summing up of other characters.

The Old Man in the Corner: Not really a novel--a series of very short mysteries told by an old man in a cafe to a young female reporter. The framing device was her listening to him recount the stories of and his deductions about infamous unsolved mysteries while he played with a string. He was supposed to be someone who annoyed her but that wasn't very convincing since neither character was developed well. Basically a series of puzzles, most of which depended on mistaken identity or hoaxes on the part of the criminal. Slightly interesting twist at the end with the old man's character but not that interesting overall and a slow read.

Singing in the Shrouds: I really enjoyed this mystery and agree with the book reviews that she's better than Agatha Christie. The story takes place on board a cruise ship and the detective, Inspector Alleyn is incognito as he hunts for a serial killer who may be on board. Of course, at the time they weren't called serial killers and the psychological profiles for serial killers weren't really developed like you'd see on a crime show today. I think that's part of what made it so interesting. Also, Alleyn writes up his "casebook" in a letter to his wife and indicates pretty early on that he has a good idea who the killer is, though he doesn't let us know until the end. Excellent setting and character development as well.

The Big Clock: Not entirely sure how I feel about this book. Is it really a mystery if you know who the murderer is? I suppose the mysterious part is watching the main character lead a manhunt for himself (the last one to see the murdered girl alive) on behalf of his boss who was the murderer. The characters were mostly unlikeable which bothers me but the twist on the nature of a mystery did make it more interesting. I was curious about why the police seemed to drop their investigation at the end.

Also, for the edition I read, I wish that the introduction hadn't given away the ending!


1. Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham
2. Busman's Honeymoon 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. The King is Dead by Ellery Queen (if it ever comes from the library)
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
14. The High Window by Raymond Chandler
15. The Lady in the Lake by Chandler
16. The Little Sister by Chandler
17. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

Monday, April 25, 2011

Roof Gardening Part 2


My gardening success/failure rate seems about on par with my homemade yogurt rate. I've made four batches of the latter and two were great and two were broken, slimy, and quick to spoil. I'm taking a break from that for a while and now trying to improve my garden.

Last week, I moved all the seedlings outside which seems to be my big mistake. The lettuce is thriving and I've had to thin it a bit. One tomato pot has some seedlings left, with several drooping or dead. The herbs are also kind of iffy. So, we reseeded the tomatoes in one pot, and I restarted some herbs and marigolds separately in yogurt containers. Just noticed the irony--I'm using up my yogurt containers for the garden instead of making new yogurt.

Lettuce in front and invisible herb sprouts behind. The thing on the side of the picture is the edge of the fire escape stairs from the apartment above us.
Tomato pot with a few sprouty looking things.

Unsuspecting mom leaves lettuce seeds in child's room during naptime. With the above result: a well-seeded chair.

Roof Gardening Part 1

We live on the second floor and our building continues out past our apartment on the first floor only. This gives us a bit of roof access through E's bedroom window. So, I decided to try a bit more gardening this year. Last year we grew tomatoes in a pot from a plant purchased at the green grocers.

Anyway, we bought some basil, thyme, rosemary, marigold, lettuce, and grape tomato seeds. We planted all of them on April 8th and put the lettuce directly outside. Everything else went on our kitchen shelves (see below). E. of course enjoyed all of this immensely, especially the scooping up and dumping in of dirt. At one point, she was digging in pots I had already seeded, which led to this often repeated (by her) comment, "Enough enough of dirt!"



She didn't actually like the feeling of dirt on her hands, so our after photo is relatively neat.

Here our seeds are all "sleeping."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Less Thrilling Mysteries

For whatever reason, my latest two mysteries were much less thrilling and interesting than past ones. I guess I shouldn't compare everyone to Chandler but these two at least didn't seem to stand alone as good writing but merely fit the bill as a "good read" in the mystery category.

The Case of the Gilded Fly was almost a three star but it was enjoyable and a quick read so I won't go that low. Too many literary allusions--like Lord Peter Wimsey on a really bad day. Especially since the book ends on a quote that's only alluded to and not spelled out at all. I tried hunting for the reference in the novel and also online but to no avail. Oh well, not that interested to know anyway, unfortunately. Other than that, I enjoyed the story. Kind of a locked room mystery. Not told from the perspective of the "detective", an Oxford literary scholar, but mostly from that of one of his former students who was one of the few with a solid alibi. I kind of liked it that detective was rather annoying to most people and had some personality flaws. It made him more amusing and took away from the excessive allusions.

The Cape Cod Mystery, however, I did call a three star. This is the first in the Asey Mayo series that I think all take place in Cape Cod. Asey Mayo is a handyman and is billed as a typical Cape Cod local, complete with odd speech patterns and incredible insight into human beings. That being said, I found it kind of boring. Too much conversation and not enough character development to help me keep track of who the various characters were. You know it's a bad sign when you have to remind yourself to take special note of who is speaking and stretch to remember if she's the young, pretty one or the older, overweight one. Mayo employed Miss Marple's technique of people reminding her of people she knew and their actions not straying from their type. This did make me wonder whether Agatha Christie stole this idea from Taylor but the characterization issues made this a little hard to buy. One point of interest was the historical details--the vacation house had electricity which was novel and a major point of the plot hinged on the bathing house and its key.

1. Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham
2. Busman's Honeymoon 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
14. The High Window by Raymond Chandler
15. The Lady in the Lake by Chandler
16. The Little Sister by Chandler
17. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A little mid-afternoon silliness


Her only comment was, "This is not your hat. It's Daddy's hat."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Unlikely pairing

I probably shouldn't have read a Charlie Chan mystery so shortly after having finished all my Raymond Chandler novels. It just didn't hold up nearly as well as it might have without Marlowe breathing down my neck. Plus, I'd read the essays and letters that were in my Chandler collection and he definitely was a snob about mysteries. I don't think he's ruined the genre for me but he did make me realize that some of the "greats" were really about puzzles and not true to life in the least.

Anyway, I never saw any of the Charlie Chan movies so now I might have to so that I fully understand them. Nevertheless, The Chinese Parrot was amusing. It was very funny and, though predictable, I enjoyed watching all the pieces fall into place. My 21st century self at first thought it was a bit racist but then I realized how often Charlie Chan was able to use his race to an advantage to find out more about the crime so I decided it wasn't. Also, Biggers clearly points out how racist some of the other characters are and does not praise them for it, so I suppose it was pretty advanced for the 1920s. At times I wondered if these novels were written with the hopes that they would become movies since there was almost too much dialogue.

Since Sergio pointed out to me that I had the cut-off date for the Vintage Mystery Challenge wrong, I can now include The Long Goodbye. It could be subtitled, "Marlowe Makes a Friend and Gets Used." Or, "How to Make a Gimlet the Right Way." But I did really like it, don't get me wrong. Lots of turns and confusion and a real love-interest this time, though he doesn't seem to find her that attractive at first, at least not compared to the beautiful woman he has to fight off in one scene. Lots of hidden identities too.

1. Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham
2. Busman's Honeymoon 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
14. The High Window by Raymond Chandler
15. The Lady in the Lake by Chandler
16. The Little Sister by Chandler
17. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
Half-way there!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Raymond Chandler obsession

Who knew that I would develop such a Raymond Chandler obsession through my reading for the Vintage Mystery Challenge? I tend to read British mysteries more often and I almost never read anything set in LA but here I am, still going. And I'll probably add extras on to my list, since I have the Library of America collection of his later novels checked out from the library right now.

Anyway, I enjoyed The Lady in the Lake because it took Marlowe out of the city a bit and had a more appealing member of law enforcement--Sheriff Jim Patton. He put up with Marlowe breaking into a suspect's house very well and didn't seem so bitter against private eyes. Maybe it had something to do with his age and his rural location. He even had a card on his car that said, "Voters, Attention! Keep Jim Patton Constable. He is too old to go to work." But he still proved to be a surprisingly good shot. Add to this the twisted plot that I thought I had an early insight into and then it seemed to be wrong but then turned out to be true but twisted way worse than I imagined--great stuff.

The Little Sister was a little tougher. Marlowe seems to have reached his low point in this novel--several times he says to himself, "You're not human tonight, Marlowe." He appears to be done with LA--he describes how he used to like it, before it became a "neon-lighted slum." Also, "Real cities have something else, some individual bony structure under the muck. Los Angeles has Hollywood--and hates it. It ought to consider itself damn lucky. Without Hollywood it would be a mail-order city. Everything in the catalogue you could get better somewhere else." I wonder what he would think of it today--is it just more of the same?

I found it interesting that the female character he seemed closest to in this novel wasn't the girl next door type this time but the hard, desperate, blonde movie star. One character even hinted that he was in love with her but it's so hard to tell with Marlowe--maybe that's why I keep reading more!


1. Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham
2. Busman's Honeymoon 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
14. The High Window by Raymond Chandler
15. The Lady in the Lake by Chandler
16. The Little Sister by Chandler
17. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler (won't count for challenge because written in 1953)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Big Girl Bed

This is the closest to napping E. has come recently. This bed is too fun for resting except at night time!


"I'm about to jump, Mommy! Take my picture quick!"
Doesn't Ariel look like she was caught in the act? I had just called her name, so here is proof that she does know her name, though she may deny it later.

A Room of Her Own

While she's had this room since we moved in in June, it's only recently that it's become fully hers. E. now loves to run in there, close the door and do her own thing. And I've finally organized things a bit more so she can do just that. So, here we go! When you enter, on your right is the kitchen, now with storage for all the food and accessories:

Above the kitchen are some cute framed posters from my mom's house that E. loves. Other artwork is visible in the big girl bed post.

In the center, is the glider/rocking chair, with the small closet and roof/fire escape/tomato growing space in view out the window. Oh, and yes, that is a mini-grocery cart in the corner near the growth chart. (Thanks Nonna & Pawpaw!)
In the left corner, is a skinny bookshelf with books for when she's older, art supplies, and our internet router!
Below that, and next to the chair, you can see the packed (both sides of the top are filled) bookshelf, my keyboard, the table and chairs from when I was little, the new animal bin (pink-spotted), and the foot of her new big girl bed. More of that in the next post! Please note that the bookshelf is usually half-empty with Curious George books especially spread all over the floor. My dad & step-mom get the credit for that obsession.

I just realized that I didn't take a picture of her dresser which is on the same wall as the door. Oh well, it's not that interesting. Hopefully, this gives those who haven't seen it in person an idea of what E's room looks like. While small, it is a great space for her and we're so grateful to have it!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ridiculousness

The other day after naptime, E. announced that her name was Giraffe. When I asked her, "Is your name GIraffe?", she answered, "Yah." She also answered, "Giraffe" to the question of what her name was.

Then yesterday at church she addressed a young woman she knows as Bunny Rabbit. Chelsea thought maybe E. had forgotten her name but then E. said, "Chelsea is Bunny Rabbit."

Today's ridiculous moment came when she was dumping out buttons from the button box. She announced that they were catnip and started rolling in them. When I asked what she was doing, she said, "Rolling up the catnip." So silly.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More Vintage Mysteries

Again I seem to be reading these two types of mysteries back to back--noblemen as detectives and noir crime novels. For this post, it's Margery Allingham's Sweet Danger and The High Window, another Raymond Chandler.

I have to admit I found the former really close to the edge of too dry in terms of wit and too subtle in terms of overall writing style. I think I had to restart it at least three times before I got into it. Perhaps that was due to the beginning that seemed a bit too much like Agatha Christie's later novels about all the mysterious forces and political currents which are trying to be spy novels but aren't really succeeding all that well. But after that, I enjoyed it much more. Campion is an interesting twist on the nobleman detective since he deliberately walks around with idiotic looks on his face to throw everyone off. I also enjoyed the mysterious kingdom of Averna and the hunt for the lost heirs--very fun

The High Window was sadder and somehow more unresolved than Farewell, My Lovely. Only some of the killers were brought to justice and not all the really evil characters got what was coming to them which was a bit disappointing. He made me laugh in the "reveal" scene because one of the "villains" made fun of the typical detective story: "Now you're going to tell me how it all happened and include some detail you've been holding back that makes it all clear."

I always end up hoping for Marlowe to have a relationship with the sweet girl in each story because I can see he cares for each of them and wants to protect them but I know in the back of my head that it won't happen. I read in the biographical notes that Chandler rewrote Double Indemnity for the screen based on someone else's writing. I wonder if he wrote part of Chinatown too because it definitely has that same noir LA feel. I realize that this is more a review of the mood of the novels than the plot but I can't help it. That's what sticks with me.
1. Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham
2. Busman's Honeymoon 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
14. The High Window by Raymond Chandler
15. The Lady in the Lake by Chandler
16. The Little Sister by Chandler

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vintage Mysteries #1 & 2

I've now read two out of my 16 for the Vintage Mystery Challenge.

Busman's Honeymoon I think I've read before when I was trying to read all the Dorothy Sayers I could find. It was a great read, humorous, entertaining and full of insight into married life as well as into murder. I especially liked how Sayers didn't end the novel with the solution of the crime but showed Lord Peter's full response to the trial and the execution of the criminal--he actually asked the murderer to forgive him and took responsibility for his family members. I enjoyed the quotations back and forth between Harriet Vane (now Wimsey) and Lord W. but I wondered if people really ever talked that way or if our society is too undereducated at this point. I could have done without all the French, however.

Farewell, My Lovely made the previous novel seem light and fluffy in comparison, though I think it did deal seriously with death, especially death in your own home. But Raymond Chandler's writing is the epitome of the noir murder mystery. Lots of gloom, alcohol, and dangerous dames. He's also very funny but very dry. I was left wondering with one of the women why Philip Marlowe does it--his private detection doesn't pay well, gets him knocked out several times, and usually doesn't seem to lead to actual justice for the crime, though it may change a few things for a short while.

1. Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham
2. Busman's Honeymoon 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
14. The High Window by Raymond Chandler
15.
16.

Everything's Coming Up Ducks

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Here E. is singing and jumping/dancing to a new favorite song from the library. The words are "5 little ducks went out to play, over the hills and far away. Mama Duck said, 'Quack quack quack quack,' but only 4 little ducks came back." And so on.


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A few days later, she made her first watercolor painting. Her comments, if you can't decipher them were:

"Don't fall off." She's telling herself to be careful on the chair.

"Wookit that big duck!" All the ducks had to be green, which is her new favorite.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Last Year's Blizzard

Check out the snowman--he was gone by the next day--destroyed, not melted.
Seems as if someone wasn't nearly as traumatized as I was by our recent blizzard experience of getting stuck overnight in our car. The very next day, she was happily exploring, testing out her new boots and sampling the freshly fallen flavor!





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