Posts Tagged With: Vacation

Ceiling Fan Magic

This family just went on Vacation for the first time.  My Mother-In-Law had reserved a time share for a weekend up in Big Bear, but then ended up not being able to use it.  She offered it to us instead. And it was mostly a good time although VERY stressful.  The packing list alone, man… Also, Asher didn’t know what to think of it and refused to adhere to any kind of regular schedule while up there.  I worried.  Incessantly (he’s fine, of course.  He’s even sleeping soundly).

But we had good times amidst all my superfluous woe.  It was beautiful up there. And the weather was not a million degrees too hot to go outside.  We hiked, we swam, we enjoyed awesome Nepalese food at the Himalaya Restaurant, we strolled by the lake.

Asher didn’t care about any of that.  His favorite was the new and fancy suite to run around in.  New rooms with funky flooring!  Vertical blinds!  Oh, the remotes! And then there was his one true love, the ceiling fan.

I noticed it one morning when I had pulled him into bed with us.  He stood on the white comforter, one hand bracing himself steady on my hip, and gestured to the fan.  He stared at it, and his hands twirled.  His fingers extended out and then in again as he gestured, pulling his arm back, pushing his arm forward.

It looked for anything like he was performing magic on the fan.

So here is the question: what WOULD an eight-month-old want to summon from inside of a fan?  Or is he just trying to keep it running with his magic fingers?  He did this several times throughout the trip, too.  It wasn’t a fluke.

I don’t know, man.  I may be waiting for an owl to fly in my window in a few years with an epistle from Hogwarts.

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Just Birthday Things

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I feel like I have not had a break in ages, although all the things I’m not getting a break from are fun and/or relaxing.  My birthday adventure turned out to be a trip to Big Bear (!!!).  It was hot up there, but not nearly as hot as it was in Redlands (which reached 103, I believe).  SUCH a good idea.  Brian and I wore ourselves out hiking in the morning, and then decided that we did not want to venture out for dinner.  Instead, I cooked ribs and artichokes on the grill in our little condo, and they turned out AMAZING.  Brian made me a Funfetti cake, which is my favorite, and we rented a movie.  On day 2, we visited the Big Bear Museum – best thing EVER! – and then loafed around until it was probably time to come home and get ready for the week.

I am now frantically trying to get all the laundry done before I have to pack for Massachusetts.  I ran all the errands for Dramamine and gum last night, the turmeric cooking stain has come out of my white pants, and I have an official packing list.  So I’m feeling pretty accomplished.  I mostly just have to put things in suitcases at this point.  We’re going to take the train into LAX on Friday morning, which will make our trip out an epic journey.  But by some miracle, our flight is direct.  Crazy, right?

I am so thrilled to be going.  I don’t get to see that side of the family nearly enough.  Plus Plimoth Plantation.  My love for that place is embarrassing in its effulgence, so I try to keep it cool.  Which, of course, never works.

I am excited for a fairly free weekend upon returning, too.  At Brian’s grandfather’s 90th birthday, a cousin of his brought a large manila envelope filled with canning books.

“Does anyone can?” she asked.

“Casey does!” said Brian.

I tried to protest that, because I wasn’t officially a blood member of the family, if anyone else wanted them they had first dibs.  But it seemed no one else did.  When I opened the envelope later, it was this treasure trove of amazingness.  There are instructions from the 1970s on how to make a home fruit dryer.  There is a cookbook from the 1950s that is full of how to can meats and vegetables, complete with revolting recipes in the back telling you what to do with all that canned meat.  There are clippings from the newspaper with recipes for lye soaps.  But my favorite is the cookbook from the 1940s.  It extolls the virtues of canning for Victory (yes, with a capital V), and informs you that the wide-mouth jars best for fruit preparations are unavailable in wartime, but that you should look out for them afterward.

Minted pears, fruit leather, chutneys made from oranges and pineapple, tomato sauce, chicken soup, olives… it’s all in there.  Anything you can think of wanting, and several things you never would have thought of but must have immediately.  I got SO excited.

The only problem? I didn’t really have the equipment.  The pot I have is smallish, fine for ½ pint jars, but no good for the big ones.  The water wouldn’t cover them all the way.  I also didn’t own a jar lifter to grab them out of the boiling water.  I sighed, and figured I would buy a jar lifter and some small jars and see what I could do with what I had.

Brian fixed all of that with my birthday gift.  I now have ALL THE THINGS, a nice big pot with a rack that fits perfectly in the bottom, a small spatula with a ruler on the end so I can measure headspace easily, a magnetic lid placer, a lid tightener, a jar lifter, a super wide mouthed funnel… even extra jars.  There is nothing I’m wanting.  There will be no “making due,” because I have it all.

The only problem I see now is what to do with all the copious quarts of yummy things I’m going to have in jars around the house.  That is, however, a problem I’m willing to tackle.  With a spoon.

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A Very Gothic Vacation

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It is a scant 4 weeks away from the summer vacation I’m taking this year.  It’s just for 4 days, but that’s still a miracle considering I started this job less than 6 months ago and I really thought I wasn’t going to get to go anywhere this year.  Everything was approved this week at work, though.  I really CAN go!

Vacation means vacation reads, which I’m already thinking about.  I’ll be gone for about 5 days, which means 5 books with a couple to spare maybe, if things get interesting.  I like to have themes for vacation, because I find that it makes books inseparable from the landscape.  I’ll never forget reading Tolkien in Yosemite, or Always Coming Home while road-tripping up the California coast, Jonathan Livingston Seagull at my aunt’s beach house, or Jane Austen in my other aunt’s house on the river.

I’ve decided I’m going for gothic fantasy on this one.  There’s a lot of that genre I want to read, by authors I love, and I hate to read books that consume me when I’m not able to devote time to them.   Vacation is the perfect time for that.  I’m going to Massachusetts with a visit to Plimoth Plantation planned.  You might think I should go straight to Phillbrick’s stuff and get all the pilgrim I can out of the vacation.  But Massachusetts is also the home of Salem…  Gothic horror is totally legit, I think.

What am I planning to read?  Here goes:

  • Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray: 2nd of the Diviner books, in which Evie O’Neil is now a famous seer, but can she and her friends stop the crazy sleeping sickness that’s plaguing the slums of New York?
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black: I have no idea what this is about save that there’s some sort of beast in the forest that the main character was told to stay away from. And it’s Holly Black.  That’s all I really need to know.
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: A girl named Blue hooks up with 3 boys from a local prep school who are looking for a dead Welch king. Tumblr can’t get enough of it, so I’m taking their advice.
  • The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters: Victorian mesmerist gives the main character supernatural powers.   I saw this at my local indie shop and have been wondering about it ever since.
  • Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell: An old lady opposes the building of a big box store on the town border because it will literally unleash hell if the town’s borders are breached. It’s a novel, so…
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness: Descendant of first witch to ever be murdered in Salem accidentally comes across a book in a library that makes her run to a vampire for help. Sounds like just the kind of smut I love.

The Back Ups:

  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Valiant by Holly Black
  • Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter

That will more than do me for the trip.  I sort of consider all of the Maggie Stiefvater books of the same thing since they’re all the same series.  Whether I move on to Holly and Angela or not depends on how infatuated I am with Maggie’s stuff.  Tumblr loves those Raven Boys, but Tumblr is sometimes wrong (I know, I said it).

I’ll report back in a few weeks on the stuff I ACTUALLY read.  Much thanks to TOR for their recommendations, and also to The Book Seer (and my sister, for sending the link to me).

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Maine vs California, and Some Pictures

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I am back from Maine.  It has been almost five years since Brian and I have been together, and it was lovely to have a partner in crime.  It’s always so funny coming home again, though.  I fly into Boston and am deposited into a whole different world, and then I fly out again and am deposited in my own life in California.  There is no transition, and no in-between.  Just one dichotomy and then the other

Maine was gorgeously green this time.  The humidity clung to us, but there was a light breeze most times that if you could catch it would blow the mugginess away.  The mosquitos bit, but I did not get munched by a green-headed fly even once.  That is a victory.  We hiked on forest trails that suddenly rounded a bend and became a secluded bay; trees and calm waters stretching as far as you could see.  Maine is a place to eat your weight in halibut and lobster, watch the fisherman chug through the Gut on their boats, and watch the brilliant stars in the sky.  Life trickles by like a stream.

Back in California, I went to work on Monday morning in a dry heat.  The drought has made things so brown out here.  I raced freight trains to work in a sea of concrete and other cars, and then I went into my air conditioned building and froze. I came home to a cuddly black cat in the window, dinner made from my home-grown tomatoes, and a very handsome husband burning sweet incense in the back room (for his weekly meditation).  The streetlights are so bright they drown out all but the most persistent constellations.  My four-poster bed is the perfect combination of soft and firm.

I will be back to some semblance of a regular blogging schedule ASAP, but I have had to play massive amounts of catch-up at work (to the point where all I want to do at the end of the day is collapse).  In lieu of a full post, please accept this collection of photos from the trip.  Bookishness will recommence next week.  And incidentally, if you are ever in Damariscotta, their bookshop is full of wonderful.  They don’t have the biggest inventory, but they have everything I’ve been drooling over online for months (Laura Ingalls Wilder autobiography, anyone?), and local stuff that is hard to find (Maine historical atlases).  I wanted to stay for months and spend a fortune.  You should go.

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Summer Vacation Reads

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It’s summer, and I have been thinking about vacation.  I just got back from a lovely weekend in Oceanside, and it looks like I’ll have another trip on the horizon to Maine.  The all-important decision, of course, is what to bring to read.  I have found that by practicing careful vacation reading curation, I am left with books I’m unable to separate from the landscape.  It’s a lovely thing to have happen.

So in that spirit, I thought I’d make some recommendations.

It’s a bit of a mish-mosh, these lists.  They’re to my taste and to my whims as they stand today.  I tend to agonize over what I’m reading and pick a theme, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with where I’m traveling.  My first trip to Yosemite was steeped in Tolkien.  The Ross Lake adventure was mostly dystopia amid stark mountains and placid, cold waters.  I spent a bit of the summer in Maine at my Aunt’s house by the river, in a sunny room full of antiques, reading Jane Austen.  But if I had to pick on place alone, these are what I would recommend in this moment, depending on where you’re traveling.  It’s a little bit of heartbreak, some silly, a heap of amazing prose, and a pinch of magic to round it all out.

I also want to say that in reviewing this lists, there is not nearly enough Rainbow Rowell, nor Diana Wynne Jones here.  They didn’t seem to fit into categories very well, but you can’t go wrong in reading ANYTHING by these two.  I especially recommend starting with Dogsbody, Fire and Hemlock, or Howl’s Moving Castle with Jones though.  She has so many, it’s hard to weed-through.  Rowell’s backlist is still fairly manageable.

Happy adventuring, and happy reading!

The Beach:

  • Colony, by Anne Rivers Siddons: four generations of family secrets and betrayal on the shores of a summer colony in Maine; and the strength of the women who keep the colony intact.
  • The Moonspinners, by Mary Stewart: While on vacation in a remote part of Crete, Nicola runs into two travelers who have witnessed a murder and are being hunted by a man from the local village.
  • Lake Woebegone, Summer 1956: A coming of age novel about Gary, self-described tree toad, who writes stories about talking dogs and is somewhat obsessed with his bad-girl cousin Kate.
  • Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray: If you mashed up Lord of the Flies with the Miss America pageant, and then added a smidge of reality TV, you might get this novel.
  • The Summer I Turned Pretty, by Jenny Han: Belly is used to tagging after the boys all summer long at the beach house her mother’s best friend owns.  But now they’re all older, everything has changed, and the boys are running after Belly.  And the adults are hiding something life-changing.

Camping:

  • The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien: Bilbo is very surprised when twelve dwarves show up on his doorstep and sweep him off on an adventure containing elves, wizards, a dragon, talking ravens, and a very strange ring.
  • Always Coming Home, by Ursula K. LeGuin: An ethnography of a matriarchal culture in California that exists after the nuclear apocalypse. Weird and interesting, and just beautiful.
  • Watership Down, by Richard Adams:  Because of Fiver’s presentments of doom and destruction, a group of rabbits go on an epic journey to find a new home.
  • Chalice, by Robin McKinley: With the Demesne ravaged by misuse, and a new Master who is part fire-demon, Marisol must attempt to hold the land together with her hives of bees and her chalice, or lose everything to the men who seek to usurp them.
  • Plain Tales from the Hills, by Rudyard Kipling: A collection of short stories featuring soldiers and others in India.  Usually of the heartbreaking sort.

The City:

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith: Francie grows in Victorian New York, struggling against gender roles and poverty to become the woman she needs to become.
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot: The strange and sometimes terrifying story of a woman whose cancer cells are used in almost all stem cell research, yet her poverty-stricken family cannot afford health insurance.
  • Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott: A tale of Miss Tribulation Periwinkle and her time as a nurse in Washington during the Civil War.
  • Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins: Isla has a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh.  When they both end up friendless at the American School in Paris, it looks like something might blossom – during senior year.  Just in time for them to have to part.
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris: A hilarious collection of essays, including his life as an artist in New York, and the time he spent in France.

Road Trip:

  • Paper Towns, by John Green: Pretty, perfect Margo Roth Spiegelman climbs through Qs window one night and they go on a spree of pranking.  But then she disappears, and it looks like she’s left him clues to find her.
  • Candy Freak, by Steve Almond: About one man’s search through the candy factories of America and abroad in an effort to sate his sweet tooth, or perhaps just to ferret out the other Candy Freaks.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: Richard runs into a woman bleeding on the pavement one night, and finds he must help her.  He wakes up to discover that he no longer belongs to London.  He belongs to a strange world called London Below; and he must go on a perilous journey to restore the status-quo.
  • Forever Liesl by Charmian Carr: a lovely memoir not only of the making of a Hollywood starlet, but of the movie The Sound of Music and of the lives it touched across the globe.
  • Travels with Charlie In Search of America, by John Steinbeck:  Steinbeck travels America in the 1960s, with nothing but his trailer and his poodle, Charlie.  This is his beautifully written memoir of the people and attitudes he encountered along the way.
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An Explanation of Beach Smut

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I talk about Beach Smut on the blog sometimes, and it dawns on me that this is a term much like “Space Chicken” – my family uses it and everyone else has no idea at all what we mean.  (Space Chicken, by the way, is a supermarket rotisserie chicken in a plastic dome.  All ready to go into space in its own little ship).  But Beach Smut is an important thing to know about.

To qualify as Beach Smut, a novel can have no redeeming informational value.  It has to be for fun only.  No thoughts or deep meanings required.  Only feels.  If you’d never tell your English teacher about the book, but you’re LOVING it anyway, you’re probably reading Beach Smut.  In short, this is a genre that’s perfect for when you’re sitting and sunning yourself on the beach.  It’s vacation if you’re sunning yourself on the beach.  No high thoughts, morals, or meanings allowed.

I consider Twilight to be the pinnacle of the Beach Smut genre, although there are others just as good.  It’s a quick read, a little salacious, with plenty of Vampire/Werewolf drama.  It’s easy to identify with Bella, and it’s hard to take seriously.  There are four whole books, so you don’t even have to think hard about what you’re reading next.  Perfect.  Dive right in.  Others that qualify are Kiera Cass’ Selection series, any Anne McCaffrey novel, and things labeled “Aunt Dimity.”  I’m sure you can think of a host of others.

We all read them.  And their quality has to be judged differently from that of more serious books, because the aim of the author is different in writing them.  You can’t fault Twilight for not being The Fault In Our Stars.  It isn’t fair to either book, and it isn’t fair to either author.  They’re a totally different thing and they each have a valid place in the world.

So there you have it.  And when I rave of the Beach Smut merits of a particular book, you will know what I mean.

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Back, plus Maine Pics

I should have updated, and I’m very sorry I haven’t. Vacation is wonderful, but the coming back from vacation is a swamp full of things that are undone. The living room is a travesty of dishes, and I’m not really sure what happened in the bedroom. Laundry monster, perhaps? Not to mention the pile of things at work.

 

Anyway, this is mostly to say that Maine was lovely. I was told I missed the best of the color, but it was still pretty spectacular. You should take a gander. Back to real posts soon, I promise.

 

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Of Vacations

In the last two weeks I finished two jobs, went on vacation, helped engineer a wedding, and then started a new job.  Which is basically to say that this is a cheater post.  Please enjoy these photos of Monterey until I can get it together and return you to regular programming.

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