Thursday, April 30, 2009

Isn't this WILD?

So, I decided to make a foray into backyard foraging. We're growing quite a crop of dandelions in our yard, and I knew TK was going to mow 'em all down last night. So, the boys and I headed out to pick dandelion leaves.

I researched a little online and saw the young, small leaves are generally less bitter, so that's what we picked. We got about half a colander full before we all lost interest.

I popped 'em in some salted boiling water for about 8 minutes while frying some bacon. Then I drained the dandelion greens and transferred them to the pan with the bacon grease, along with some minced garlic. Snipped in a few chives from the garden, sauteed it all for a few minutes, then topped it with crumbled bacon.

My overall assessment: kind of bitter, but certainly edible. And kind of fun that it's just a weed growing in the yard!

I do have to say, though, that I'm more excited for the wild blackberries we have growing in a brambly mess in the backyard. Foraging those blackberries are worth braving the thorns!

Anything worth foraging in your backyard?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I just want to bang on these drums all day

We had a speaker come in to our most recent Mother of Twins club meeting to talk about reentering the workforce and work/life balance. She was a really good speaker, and very interesting, but I didn't get the answer to what I was really looking for. So maybe someone here will know.

I used to work in accounting, in a pretty high-stress position, responsible for financials and closes and supervising the accounting staff. It was a lot of hours, and the kind of job that was difficult to leave at the office.

When I do return to work, I'll probably return to accounting. My problem, aside from the obvious HUGE time gap in employment, is that I want to return to a much lower position. How do you make that sound okay? I mean, I obviously can't go in and tell the truth, that I want a job where I can work my 8 hours and leave and not get stressed if I have to miss a day because my kids are sick or I want to go on vacation. You know, a job I don't care too much about.

I'm not good at all that office politics crap.

This reminds me of my very first job interview. I was 14 years old, and Burger King was hiring. Because I was so young, I couldn't work at the counter, and certainly not on the grills. So I was interviewing to be the person who cleaned up tables and swept and emptied garbage. The guy interviewing me asked why I thought I'd be qualified for the position. I looked at him like he was crazy, and responded, "how could I *not* be qualified?"

I didn't get the job, you may be surprised to hear, sealing my fate of working as a carny through high school rather than a grill-jockey.

Which brings me back to my more current situation. I mean, obviously I'll stress the whole "think of all the experience I could bring to your company at a bargain price!" But if an interviewer ever asked, "but why would *you* want to accept a position below your previous experience", I'd be hard-pressed not to say something goofy.

Not a pressing issue. I'll probably stay home with the newest little guy until he's at least a year old. Just something I've been thinking about. And preemptively laughing at myself about. Because I know, no matter what, I'll make a fool of myself. I guess it's just as well, though, to get matched with a company that appreciates my insanity. I've not blogged much about my previous work experience, but my very best job ever was working at a company where I was, by far, the least zany person. It was a little slice of heaven to be surrounded by other misfits and oddballs all day. (Is anyone surprised to hear it was a dotcom I was working for? Awesomely insane!)


It's over 90 degrees in Boston today. This weather can bite me. It's April, for goodness sake! I was still hoping for one last snow flurry to tide me over until next winter. I think I have the opposite of seasonal affective disorder. Too much sun and heat makes me depressed.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Guess who called me?

The other day, the phone rang. It was the Red Cross letting me know about a blood drive. When I got off the phone, B-man asked who it was. I explained it was someone calling to see if I would give them some blood.

Excitedly, B-man asked, "Was it a VAMPIRE?"

Thursday, April 23, 2009

And now it's all paying off!

So, as you regular blog readers have probably noticed, I like to let my kids "help" me cook. Sometimes it seems crazy...everything takes twice as long and is quadruple as messy. Nothing ends up turning out exactly as intended, and the days of perfect presentation are long in the past. And sometimes, when the stars align, we have catastrophic misadventures that result in the ruination of well-loved and much missed appliances.

But then, something happens that makes all that extra work worthwhile.

Last night the boys wanted to husk corn for me*. I knew it would take them forever, and it would be a mess. It was raining, so I couldn't take them outside, so I knew out entire kitchen would be covered in corn silk, requiring a far longer cleanup than if I just husked the corn myself. But, it's been many months since they got to husk corn, and hey, I've somehow convinced them the chore of husking corn is actually great fun. So I let them go at it.

After a few minutes, I heard from B-man, "Mommy! There's a big WORM on this corn!"

Yep, he came across the dreaded corn worm. The very reason why I will *never* switch to organic corn. I peeked at it enough to verify that yes, it was an absolutely disgusting worm, then calmly asked him to throw the ear of corn away.

So, 3 years of having kitchen helpers? 3 years of fights about who gets to shake the spices in first? 3 years of over- or under-salting every dish? 3 years of cleanups that take twice as long as the actual cooking? The destruction of my blender? Every minute of it worth it when I didn't have to be the one who found the corn worm!


*As an aside, at our local (giant) farmstand, they had fresh corn trucked in from Florida. Usually, it's so not worth buying anything but local corn as it's always a disappointment. But N-man LOVES corn (in fact, he ended up eating three ears last night!), so when I saw it, or more precisely, when HE saw it, we bought some. It ended up being really good! I mean, no local fresh summer corn, but way better than the frozen stuff we've been eating all winter.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

High on my list of "things I wouldn't do unless being chased"

Yesterday we went to watch the Boston Marathon. Despite the fact that we've lived in the Boston area for almost eight years now, we've never been to the Marathon. We've never been to a Red Sox game, either, though. I suspect we're failing miserably at integrating into the Boston culture.

Anyway, it was very exciting because my cousin qualified for the race this year. So we went to cheer him on. Things I learned in this, my first marathon:

1) Traffic is horrific anywhere near the race route. We've always steered well clear of the race area in previous years. It took us almost twice as long to get to the race as we thought it would. In fact, we got there just after the press trucks drove by.

2) Ten gazillion people watch the marathon. If you're not there early, you're not getting a good viewing area. At least not without walking far further than would be recommended with three year old twins. Arriving when the press trucks are going by is not "there early".

3) A crap load of people run this race. When I think "marathon", I think oh, 10 or 12 insane people. Turns out it's a giant convention of insane people. Okay, fine, I knew a lot of people run the Boston Marathon. It's just hard to imagine the sheer volume of runners that go by. I've watched a number of other races in my day, and I've never seen anything like this.

4) My facial recognition abilities are completely worthless. Not only was my cousin running, but so was my neighbor from when I was growing up. Did I see either of them go by? Nope! And I know they both did, as they both finished the race. In my defense, though, there were just huge constant packs of runners, and you couldn't really see anyone running toward the other side of the street. Perhaps it's because we were watching at about mile ten. Maybe things spread out further toward the finish line?

5) Because the cheering sections along the road were so crowded, you couldn't really look ahead at who was coming as ridiculously tall people were next to us, blocking our view of the upcoming racers. Watching people run by directly in front of you for an hour or so actually makes me kind of motion sick.

6) It's tiring to cheer for an hour. Yes, I just complained about how one hour of cheering (and watching insane people run) tired me out. Clearly actually running 26 miles would not be something I'd be up for.

7) Despite the fact that I believe marathon runners are probably certifiable, I was kind of touched and amazed at these insane people who get out there and run, either to raise money for a cause (it was nice to see so many people wearing shirts for the charities they were running for), or just to prove that they could do it. So congrats to all you marathon runners. I'm impressed!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Now I need your help!

You hear about it happening to other people, but you never think it'll happen to you. But it's true...I just took the very last "to-read" book off my shelf! Gasp! That means I have NOTHING lined up to read!

Ahhhhhh! Help!

Here's where you come in: it's time to turn the tables. I gave book recommendations, now I need some good recommendations from you.

Some of my favorite books/authors: Kurt Vonnegut (especially Bluebeard and Cat's Cradle), Margaret Atwood (especially The Blind Assassin), Orson Scott Card (especially Ender's Game), George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, Neil Gaiman (especially the Sandman comics and American Gods), Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.

I also really enjoy non-fiction, especially if it's a memoir or an odd topic, and love to read YA fiction.

Some books/types of books I dislike: My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult (the worst book I've ever had the misfortune to have wasted my time reading), Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer, the Thomas Covenant series by Stephen Donaldson, most chick-lit, anything with really unlikable and unredeemed main characters. I'm also not a big fan of mystery series (though I love the Stephanie Plum mysteries) or thrillers (though I am willing to read them, I'm just usually disappointed).

So tell me what you think I'd like. I know a couple of you have mentioned The Poisonwood Bible, so I think I'll take a look for that at the library. What else should I try?

Thanks for helping me in my time of need ;)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Haven't you always wanted a monkey?

Random weird happening in the house of cards:

N-man came into our room in the middle of the night, woke me up, said "here, Mommy, this is for you", and gave me his stuffed monkey. Then went back to sleep.

I would have thought this was some weird pregnancy-induced hallucinatory dream* except sure enough, I woke up in the morning with his monkey.


*Why doesn't anyone warn you that you'll have completely vivid and believable dreams while pregnant, and you'll wake up thinking things like, "wait, am I attending a private boarding high school? How old am I again?" or "Whoa, we totally should have planned that trip to Disney better as it was really confusing trying to find where to buy tickets at the gate."

For the record, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an attendee of a private high school. Nor have we planned a trip to Disney. And yet I woke up twice this week, convinced of the validity of these "memories".

Monday, April 13, 2009

Book Recommendations, Part 4

Okay, finishing these up. There's still time, though! If you'd like to get your own personalized book recommendations, head here!

Sotoriffic Twins reports some books she has enjoyed include: Anything by Amy Tan, Life of Pi, Catcher in the Rye, Memoirs of a Geisha, A Separate Peace, Guns, Germs and Steel, and Omnivore's Dilemma. She doesn't like Hemingway (hey, join the club!), and isn't usually a fan of biographies.

Sotoriffic Twins was worried I might look down on her taste in books. First, I wouldn't ever look down on anyone's taste in reading, as I am the first to admit my own tastes run long on crap, short on lit. Second, it turns out that we have very similar taste in books, anyway. I, too, love Amy Tan (in fact, just read one of her books), and Omnivore's Dilemma is another of my favorites.

So what do I recommend? Hmmm. I'm trying to not repeat recommendations, but if you enjoyed the aspects of Chinese culture in Amy Tan's work, you may like Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I just ADORED this book!

Another novel with a historical setting is Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. It takes place in America during the Great Depression and focuses on life in the circus. An interesting story, and I really loved the ending.

How about Sarah by Orson Scott Card or The Red Tent by Anita Diamant? Both are novelized expansions of stories from the Bible. Sarah tells a story of Sarah (duh!), the wife of Abraham. The Red Tent is the story of Dinah, the daughter of Leah and Jacob. I thought both were very strong and interesting! I'm not big into religion (though I'm not opposed to it, I'm just letting you know it's not a topic of particular interest to me). Yet I still found both of these books to be incredibly and surpisingly amazing.


And the very last set of recommendations is for Donna at Life with Amelia. Her favorite books include: The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton, The Sweet Hearafter by Russell Banks, Lamb by Christopher Moore, My Sister's Keeper (which I won't hold against you :) by Jodi Picoult, and The Historian.

I haven't read The Book of Ruth, but something about the description reminded me of The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. I'm not sure why, it's not all that similar, but there you go. The book is a memoir of the author's crazy childhood, raised by two odd (neglectful? Alcoholic? Mentally Ill?) parents in varying degrees of poverty. It's not at all a "poor me" memoir, though, and was very interesting.

If you haven't read it yet, I really enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, and thought it sounded like something you might like, too. It's a pretty popular book, though, so I'll guess you've probably read it already.

If you're at all interested in "women in trouble" thrillers, I found See Jane Run by Joy Fielding to be especially good. Truthfully, I'm usually annoyed by this type of book, but I found See Jane Run to be difficult to put down. I've even reread this book, something I rarely do with thrillers, because just how thrilling can it be once you know the ending?

Lastly, how about The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. It tells the story of a man who is unstuck in time. He zaps back and forth to different parts of his life, instead of living linearly. It was extremely well done, in my opinion!


So that's it! Unless anyone else asks for recommendations, I think I've covered everyone now. Please tell me if I missed anyone, though! It took me longer than expected to get these all written, since I've been laid low by the endless plague-cold, but this was so fun. Thank you all for playing along. I'd love to hear feedback if you read any of the books I recommended. I know, some were a bit off-the-wall, as I free-associated my way to some ideas (oh, you like a book title that starts with "The"? I know a great book title that starts with "The"!). But I hope there were some winners in there!

Easter stories

Heard in the Card house yesterday: "What does a Peep taste like?"

The remarkable thing about that comment was that it wasn't asked by one of the children, but by TK. How do you make it to your mid-30's without ever having Peeps? Don't worry, I made sure he tried a Peep. Final call: Eh. I agree with that assessment, which is why we've never had Peeps in the house any previous Easter.


Earlier in the week, the boys' preschool class had discussed what they hoped to get in their Easter baskets. B-man came home so excited about it! He actually didn't know what he hoped to get, but was amused to report that one of the boys in the class "wants an EYE-POD!" B-man kept saying it like that, with the I part really drawn out. Then he'd crack up like it was the funniest thing ever. I finally asked him after the fourth or fifth time he told the story if he even knew what an ipod is. We don't have one! He thought for a minute, then admitted he didn't. I'm guessing the teachers must have cracked up at this little 4 year old who hopes for an ipod for Easter. Hey, that would have been nice. I would have liked an ipod, too! The Apple Easter Bunny didn't make a stop at our house, though.


We had a candy-free Easter (well, except the Peeps I bought for dessert) since it's so hard to find nut-free chocolate or jelly beans. It went over pretty well, I thought. But for the Easter eggs we hid, I was a little sad not to put those foil chocolate eggs inside. Instead, we put coins in each one. N-man loves change. Putting money in his piggy bank is one of his favorite things to do. Every time he found an egg, he'd run over to us and tell us excitedly, with a huge smile, "there's money in this one, too!" It was excellent, and so fun. Made me feel just fine about not having little treats in the eggs.


Hope you all had a nice weekend!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

You Gotta Protect the Noggin!

N-man, unfortunately, has inherited my coordination. Or more precisely, my complete lack of coordination. He's even improved upon my clumsiness, if that's possible. You know how in Twilight you go mad with the endless descriptions of Bella's clumsiness? Yeah, well multiply that by 100 and you've got N-man. He's always tripping or bumping or falling.

So last night right before dinner, he fell off the back of the couch, onto a tile floor.

This is not the first time this has happened.

While the kids are already 3.5, we only just took all the zillions of foam pads off the floors, and that was only because we had to make the house look nice to show it. It was really too soon, though, to un-pad the joint.

He screamed and cried, and calmed down while I held him. And fell asleep.

Darn it. Concussion sign number 1. With N-man as your child, believe me, you have concussion signs memorized.

But, having been through all this before, I know not to even start to worry yet. It's surprisingly common for kids to fall asleep after a head bump, and not cause for big concern. As long as you can wake them up. I poked him a bit, and he peeked open his little eyes. He seemed reluctant to wake up, so I broke out the big guns: "N-man, do you want an Oreo?" His eyes flew open and an excited "YES!" was given. He walked over, had his Oreo, and then just sat quietly on the couch until dinner time. If anyone knows the second major sign of a concussion, you'll know right now that an Oreo was a bad, bad idea. But we'll get there.

We started dinner, and N-man didn't want to eat anything. He just curled up in my arms. About halfway through dinner, he started to complain his head was hurting. Poor babe! TK got him some Tylenol. N-man started crying, I started worrying, then N-man threw up. All over ME! Oreo vomit, too, so it was grossly black and crumby. Ack! First, yuck. But second and more importantly, we can now check off "concussion sign number 2". Now it's time to worry.

I rip my clothes off, TK cleans up N-man, and I call the pedi's office. Yep, they're calling ahead to the ER, off we go.

N-man wants me to go, but I know that since I'm pregnant, I'm not going to be able to go in with him if he needs any x-rays done. B-man doesn't want to be left home without N-man. We bundle up the whole family.

By the time we got to the ER, N-man was acting completely fine. I mean, if I hadn't seen him fall and watched him the past hour, I never would have believed he bumped his head. He said nothing was hurting. But no way am I going home without him being checked!

We saw a triage nurse. When she asked N-man how he was feeling, he insisted "I feel PERFECT!" He really didn't want to be in the ER.

So we waited for about an hour before getting taken back to a room, and maybe a half hour in the room before seeing a doctor. Hey, I'm fine with that. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'd much rather be the least important case in the ER than the case that needs to be seen ASAP!

The doctor agrees that N-man seems fine, but since he'd vomited, she wanted to keep him a few hours for observation. It was after 8 pm by then, but okay. So we just stayed in the ER for a few hours. The local ER is actually pretty nice and has a reasonably good pediatric section. Books, a few toys, and once you're in a room, there's a DVD player and a long list of kids DVDs you can borrow. We watched Aladdin, then approximately 97 hours of The "Best" of Thomas the Train. Okay, fine, it wasn't 97 hours. It just felt like 97 hours. And I added the quotes around "Best". I just have to say, though, that if that was the best, then the worst of Thomas must have been banned by the Geneva Convention as a form of torture.

Can you tell Thomas isn't my favorite? I can take an episode or two. They're thankfully short. But watching 1,000 episodes in a row far exceeds my tolerance level. Oh, did I mention that while they were long on kids entertainment, there was really nothing for parents besides an old issue of Parents Magazine that I'd already read? And I forgot to bring a book to read? (That's how you can tell how worried I was about N-man. I never go anywhere without a book!)

But we all made it. N-man continued to be just fine. Neither TK nor I went insane from Thomas. And B-man and N-man ended up having a great time, getting to stay up late and watch TV and eat ice pops. The boys were home and tucked into bed, snoozing, by 10:30 last night.

So that was our adventure. All's well that end's well, but I swear, that kid is going to give me grey hairs with all the falling on his head he does. Am I allowed to make him wear his bike helmet around the house?


One more quick N-man story from the ER adventure. He's so suspicious of everyone. When the lady in admissions wanted to put the ID bracelet on his arm, he wouldn't let her. She explained that he needed to wear it so everyone would know who he was.

With his arms still held firmly at his side, he said calmly, and with much authority and a tinge of disdain, "But I'm N-man!" There was very much a VIP tone in his voice, as if to say "those peons might need identification, but EVERYONE should know who I am!" We all burst out laughing!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It's a...., plus silly stories

We had our Level II ultrasound yesterday and we're expecting another BOY! Boy oh boy oh boy, I'm so excited to have a house full of little guys! I think I'm biased as N-man and B-man are so awesome that I can't imagine not wanting another little boy. I'm sure a girl would have been fine, too, though I would have been far more scared. I feel a little badly as TK always wanted a girl, but oh well, he's happy with a boy, too. And we're done after this little guy! So three boys it is (and I've never even seen the TV show My Three Sons!)


B-man is the only one in the house disappointed with the little brother situation. When I told him, he said, "but I want a little SISTER!" I explained we don't get to pick, and he said that he wants FOUR kids in the family. Keep wishing, big guy!


Unrelated to the new little guy, N-man told us the other night that he wants a dog. TK explained that he's allergic to dogs. N-man then said, completely unconcerned, "Daddy, can you leave?" We cracked up! TK asked where he should live instead, and N-man said he should just stay at work. Hmmm, it's not much of a confidence builder if your kid ranks you right below getting a dog!


In another unrelated story, TK got N-man dressed the other morning, and put him in a pair of truck underwear. Now, most of the boys' undies are communal, but they each have one set Grandma and Grandpa got them that is THEIRS. N-man has doggies, B-man has trucks. Well, obviously N-man wasn't paying attention when TK put on his undies that morning!

The boys went to school, and when they came home, N-man had to use the bathroom. He was sitting on the potty, when all of a sudden, B-man runs in, horrified. "Are those MY truck undies?" he asked indignantly.

N-man looked down, and just as horrified, ripped the clothes off his body to get the offending B-man underwear off.

So I told him I'd run upstairs to get him a different pair of undies. I ran up, got new ones, and when I got back down, B-man was naked, pulling on the truck undies N-man had worn all morning. I don't know why, but that simultaneously cracked me up and grossed me out.


More book recs coming soon! Just had to get all this random randomness out!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Book recommendations, Part 3

Once again, continuing with book recommendations. If you missed out, feel free to head here and leave me a comment to get your very own personalized recommendations :)

Jungletwins has thrown me for a loop and reported she enjoyed 5 books I've never read: The Shell Collector, The Namesake, Recipes for a Perfect Marriage, The Poisonwood Bible, and A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. Hmm, that's trouble! I figured I would have read at least one book that everyone said was a favorite!

Okay, I checked these out on Amazon to get a better idea. First, I'd recommend Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. It's a collection of short stories. They're all stories about grown children of immigrants to the US. I liked many of these stories, but honestly didn't love them.

Less well-known is China Dog and Other Tales from a Chinese Laundry by Judy Fong Bates. Similarly, it is a collection of short stories about the immigrant experience, in this book from China to Canada. There were some really great stories in this collection, and the only one I didn't like was the title story. My only complaint with this collection is that it becomes somewhat repetitive. I did enjoy it more than Unaccustomed Earth, though Jhumpa Lahiri certainly gets more positive reviews so this might just be my own personal preference.

Not to get stuck on China, but the third (and fourth) recommendations I'm going to give to you are Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, or Peony in Love also by Lisa See. I like Snow Flower better, but if you've already read it, check out the other.


In direct opposition to jungletwins, Caitlin has very similar tastes to me! Yay! Her favorites are:

The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede
Larklight by Phillip Reeve
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

She hates:

The Twilight series (with a fierce and bloody passion!!!)
Pirates! by Celia Rees
Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Caitlin, throw My Sister's Ridiculous Badly Written Keeper on that list, and we'll be book-hating best friends!

Hmm, I'm going the fable/fairy tale/stories retelling route for you! You might enjoy the Fables collection of graphic novels I recommended to Ronnica here. Or, maybe try the Sandman graphic novels by Neil Gaiman. I completely love these books, which pull from various mythologies and other sources for story ideas. LOVE these, though they are darker than the Fables books.

If you've missed it, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is a classic for a reason. It's a retelling of the Arthur legend from the point of view of the women involved. Very well done!

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (and the rest of the Thursday Next series) is very good. In these novels, it's possible for people, under certain circumstances, to travel between the "real" world and "book" worlds. Thursday Next, the main character, is a literary detective, trying to prevent changes to important works of literature. Funny and wonderful!

Lastly, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling edited a series of short story collections based on fairy tales. I've read a number of them, and they've been pretty strong in general. Snow White, Blood Red is the title of one of the collections, though there are others. Looks like it's out of print, but readily available on amazon used.


So how'd I do? Having so much fun with these!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Meat with a side of meat, and back to the house hunt

I'm not big into the "oh men, are sooo different than women" thing. Except sometimes they are.

Like when they grill.

I wasn't feeling well this weekend, and it was beautiful out, so TK said he'd grill. Perfect. He even took the kids to the grocery store to buy something. Here's what he got: lamb kabobs, teriyaki chicken, and hot dogs.

What? Have I ever made meatloaf with a side of chicken cordon bleu and some pork chops?

And it's not just TK. I've never met a guy who grilled who didn't do this. It makes me giggle. And it makes me glad I'm not a vegetarian, or else I'd never eat when he grills!


We went to some open houses yesterday, checking out some towns we haven't looked at much. It was funny, because the three towns we looked in really spanned the total picture of available housing. We really have to decide what we're looking for!

First, we went to the town "next door". It's very similar to where we live now, but with slightly better schools, and slightly higher home prices. Otherwise, it's very similar to where we live now, and could we certainly afford to upgrade to a nothing-special, nothing-terrible 4 bedroom house. The commute for TK would be similar to what it is now, and the traffic congestion, medium sized lots, and convenience to shopping would be quite similar to what we have now.

Then, we went to one of the upscale, hoity-toity towns very close to where TK works. When we first looked at houses seven years ago, we couldn't afford anything in these towns close to TK's office. Now, we can. But, we'd essentially have to downsize from our current house, facing all the same problems we have now with lack of storage space, plus we'd have to give up our nice kitchen. We also can't afford the "neighborhood" areas in these towns, so we'd be on busier roads. On the plus side, great schools, and extreme convenience of location. However, I think we're about ready to throw in the towel on these towns. While I think good schools are important, I don't think it's worth paying *that* much more for a house, or for giving up things like closet space or a nice yard.

Last, we went to a "way the heck out there" town, further than any other town we've looked at, and at least a 45 minute commute for TK. I believe the directions to get there were "go to the middle of nowhere, make a left, and keep driving". We LOVED it out was so beautiful and idyllic. And the house! First, it was $25k less than any of the other houses we saw. And, it was literally TWICE as big as the house in the hoity-toity neighborhood, with a lot nearly three times as large. In fact, the house was really too big. It was in a beautiful neighborhood, with good schools. I think it was really too far away, though. And there's not much out that way. But boy, what an eye-opener! TK has plenty of co-workers who live out that far (and even farther!), but I just don't know if it's worth it for us.

It's hard, because I think we want to live in the country, but we're close enough to Boston that really, our only choices are degrees of suburb-ness. The less typical suburban setting we get, the further the commute is for TK. And a long commute is a total quality-of-life killer (not to mention the cringe-worthy environmental impact!) Who knows. I guess we'll just keep looking in a variety of areas, and wherever we find a house we like that happens to coincide with when our own house sells, I guess that's where we're meant to live!

What's most important to you in choosing an area to live?


More book recs coming soon!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Book recommendations, Part 2

Once again, continuing with book recommendations. If you missed out, feel free to head here and leave me a comment to get your very own personalized recommendations :)

Luckygirl reports she hated She's Come Undone and The Kiterunner and anything by Jon Krakauer, while she loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Parenting Inc and Blue Like Jazz. Luckygirl, you've now mentioned two of my favorite books I loved as a child/young adult: The Secret Garden and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Because of this, I'm spurred to give you some YA-themed recommendations this time. First, how about something by Jerry Spinelli? I'm going to go with Stargirl, partially because it reminds me of your "luckygirl" moniker, but also because it's my favorite by him. It tells the story of the new girl at a high school, a wonderfully non-conforming character. It's told from the point of view of the boy who falls for her, and gets dragged along for the ride as she travels blindly through high school adoration to shunning.

Second, how about Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse? I know, I'm being so daring, recommending a Newberry award winner. Of course it's good! But this is certainly a book I would have skipped if it hadn't been assigned in a Children's Lit course I took as it just doesn't sound that interesting. It's set during the Great Depression, in the Dust Bowl. The narrator is a teenaged girl, who is having a difficult life (mom recently died, she was injured, dad is detached, etc). Oh, and it's told in free verse form. See what I mean? At least to me, there's not much about this book that sounds great. And yet it is great. The writing is very spare and tight, and perfectly fits the mood of the book. There's a thread of hope through the book that keeps it from being completely depressing.

Last recommendation: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Okay, this book is SAD. I probably cried through about 50% of it. The main character is a high school girl who has become a complete outcast after calling the cops on an end-of-the-summer party. Her friends abandon her, and she finds it harder and harder to talk, becoming effectively mute as she tries to disappear into herself. One tip: please don't read the Publisher Weekly review on Amazon if you decide to check this out. I think it gives away far too much of the book, including the ending. While it's a fairly predictable ending, I still can't believe their review gives it away!

Oh, and bonus recommendation although once again I'm going to guess you've read it already: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.


Nancy, I know what you read, and you shouldn't be embarrassed! Reading is what you like! Plus, I know for a fact that you have awesome taste in YA lit and probably could have done a much better job than me with YA book recs!

I'm giving you an unasked for bonus rec: Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series. The first book in the series is Dead Until Dark, and starts the story of Sookie Stackhouse, a small-town barmaid who happens to be a mind-reader. It's not a gift, but more of a curse as she hears many things she'd prefer not to know. When a vampire walks into the bar, she discovers she can't read his mind, making him unbelievably enticing to her. Thus begins her entry into the world of vampires and other supernatural creatures. Each novel tends to revolve around a central mystery that Sookie has to solve. I know you're not opposed to fantasy (though it may not be your genre of choice), and I know you're not opposed to a little bit of fun trashiness (which these books certainly have...I'd categorize these as a fantasy/romance/mystery mix). This is the series that the HBO show True Blood is based on. Let me know if you're interested...I could loan this to you!


Dana, you're a total stinker, teasing that you loved My Sister's Keeper, my most-hated book of all time. Ick! Okay, for real, Dana said she liked: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Julia Child: My Life in France, and Widow for a year by John Irving. She disliked: The Other Bolyn Girl by Philipia Gregory, and The Whole World Over by Julia Glass.

I don't know, Dana, for some reason I'm having trouble getting a hold on what to recommend to you. Take a look at these and let me know if they sound interesting or if I missed the mark by a mile!

First, Empire Falls by Richard Russo. I enjoyed this tale of a town on the decline, and loved the varied, quirky-without-being-overly-quirky characters. An engagingly written novel, and I found it to be a fast read. It won the Pulitzer, so once again, this isn't the most daring recommendation ever. Also, while I certainly enjoyed this book, I must admit it's not on my "greatest books of all time" list. I just thought it sounded like something you might enjoy, and it was a really good book!

This next recommendation does make my "greatest books of all time" list: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. I'm completely in love with Chabon's absolutely shines in this novel. It tells the story of Sam Clay, a young New York Jew, and his cousin, Joseph Kavalier, who comes to America to escape Nazi-occupied Europe. The two of them create a sucessful comic book, and the story follows many years of their lives.

And, here's my off-the-wall suggestion for you. I'm guessing you've read some Vonnegut, which you either loved, or didn't love. So I'll refrain from recommending his mainstream fiction (though I can't resist a shout-out for Cat's Cradle and Bluebeard). What I'm actually going to recommend to you is God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian. This is a very short book, comprised of very short chapters that were originally produced as radio shorts for NPR. In this book, Vonnegut becomes a reporter on the afterlife, as each piece begins with him allowing Dr. Kevorkian to kill him in order for him to interview someone who is dead, then revive him to report back. This book gets mixed reviews, but I found it to be hilarious. Vonnegut's acerbic wit and succinct writing style are here in full-force. Only caveat: it is an extremely short can read the whole thing in under an hour, so it might not be worth the price (though I've reread it a number of times, so I'm glad I coughed up the $10 for it). I just checked, and unfortunately, I moved this book to storage or I'd just let you borrow it :( I'm double depressed, because now I want to reread it!


Okay, there's part 2. More to come...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Book Recommendations, Part 1

Oh! This is so fun! Thanks all of you for "playing". And if anyone missed it, head over here, leave a comment, and I'll recommend books just for you!

Let me just get this out of the way first. There's one book that I'd recommend to almost anyone: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. A lot of people miss out on this book, because it's sci-fi and they think they won't like sci-fi. However, I've recommended this to tons of people, most of them rarely read sci-fi, and everyone has at least liked it; most have loved it. The premise of this book (and yes, I know it sounds kind of stupid, especially if you're not a sci-fi reader) is that Earth has been attacked by aliens. The planet pulled together, managed to defeat the aliens, but are expecting a future contingency of aliens to come and finish the job. So, a training camp has been established, to train the best and brightest of the children from the time they are very young to be perfectly equipped to fight the aliens. Ender, the title character, is a young boy conscripted for the army, one of the most promising children. I can't even tell you how wonderfully amazing this book is. It's very well-written, for starters, which is always a plus. You really feel connected to these children and get so drawn into the story. It's not an us vs. the aliens story, but rather a story of childhood and adulthood, a story of loneliness and connection, a story of truth and lies. I just love it, and recommend it to everyone, regardless of what books you normally enjoy.

As an aside, Ender's Game is part of a much larger series, but the book entirely stands on its own. In fact, while I enjoyed most of the rest of the series, I wouldn't universally recommend them as I do Ender's Game. So don't let the fact that it's a series scare you off. It's really a wildly successful stand-alone novel that supports a series.

Okay, here are some of your personalized recommendations:

LauraC and I have nearly the exact same taste in books. In fact, Laura, I saw you mentioned Spook on your blog...I forgot about that but meant to put it on my "to read when it's out in paperback" list when it originally came out! Thank you for reminding me! I know you said you don't need any book recs (heck, you've probably read everything I have!), but I'm giving you a freebie: have you read anything by Sarah Vowell? I've only read Assassination Vacation, which is about her traveling around visiting sites associated with assassinations of US Presidents. If you've missed her, check her out. If you've read her, tell me what I should read next!

Ronnica has enjoyed Ender's Game, The Life of Pi, and Atlas Shrugged. She also reviews books on The Book Nook, so I have an idea of what she likes. Of course, she's extremely well-read, which makes things more difficult! So Ronnica, I'm going a bit off-the-wall for you, since I know you're willing to try things outside your comfort zone. The first thing I'm going to suggest is a graphic novel: Fables by Bill Willingham, et. al. The first graphic novel collection is titled Legends in Exile. The premise of the series is that the characters from fables and fairy tales are real. They used to live in their own "worlds", but were forced to flee from their homes and now they have to live in exile, in our world, hiding their true identities. The first collection is a mystery. Rose Red is missing, and her apartment is covered in blood. Snow White, her sister and the current effective ruler of Fabletown, and the sheriff B. B. Wolf (yep, B. B. as in Big Bad, though don't worry, he's reformed. And a man, not wolf) try to solve the mystery. This is definitely an adult book, though by adult I don't mean erotica, I just mean adult themes, including violence and sex (though not gratuitous or graphic or anything). I just didn't want you going into this thinking it was a story for children or simply a retelling/mishmash of fairy tales.

The other book I'm going to recommend to you is non-fiction, Sala's Gift: My Mother's Holocaust Story by Ann Kirschner. The story is based on letters written and received by Sala, the author's mother, during her five years in a Nazi forced labor camp. It's very well-researched and engagingly written. Also, while horrific simply due to the subject matter, it escapes being just a Nazi=Evil tale (I mean, of course that aspect is there!), but focuses more on the individuals who are often combinations of good and bad, mistakes and warts as well as bravery and love. Very good!


Okay, I'm posting installment one of these book recommendations so this post doesn't get too long. Oh yeah, and I'm sick so moving slowly, though it's such a wonderful distraction when I'm feeling well enough :)

I'll be back, working my way down the list soon!


Random unrelated thought: When TK got home tonight, I just went up to bed. N-man eventually came up to keep me company (I gave permission...don't worry! TK didn't just let a kid bug me while I was feeling sick!) Here's the conversation we had:

N-man: When I'm [my cousin's] age, my teeth will fall out?

Me: That's right. Your baby teeth will start to fall out and then you'll get your grown up teeth.

N-man: I'm going to close my mouth so my teeth don't fall out.

Me: Hmmm, I don't think that will work. Plus, it doesn't hurt for your teeth to fall out, and it's exciting to get your big teeth!

N-man: Okay. And then the tooth fairy will come and give me a present?

Me: Yep.

N-man: I wonder what color the ribbon will be.

Me: .....

N-man: On the present. I wonder what color ribbon it will have.

Me: ......

N-man: I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Isn't that totally random? He completely cracks me up with the way his brain works!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

WhatACard book recommendation service

Okay, I had so much fun the other day making book recommendations for Luckygirl. If there are two things I love, it's reading books and bossing people around. Giving book recommendations combines both perfectly!

So here's the deal: leave me a comment with 4 or 5 of your favorite books or authors. You can also include a couple books you hated as well, if you'd like. Or not. Then I'll give you some recommendations. We're all winners, you know, unless I recommend books you hate ;)


Our bloggers night out was a lot of fun. We are all big talkers, so there was nary a silence in the nearly 3 hours we were there. I know, shocking that people who feel compelled to blog constantly have a lot to say, right? Nancy at The Zimmer Zoo has photographic evidence up. And yes, Laura, even of me!


We lost the house we wanted to buy. Someone else put in an offer, and we couldn't match their closing date since our house hasn't sold. So it's back to the drawing board for us on the house search. Of course, the first step is STILL that our house has to sell. Ugh, this isn't any fun!


Alrighty, that's it. So get those comments in if you want some book recs!