Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bad news cycle.

Catching up on the news post-weekend is depressing stuff. Anne Hathaway survived on dried oatmeal cakes to lose 25 lbs for Les Misérables? Worst.  Petraeus carrying on an affair like a n00b?  So dumb.  The fiscal cliff? Depressing.  The on-going miasma of misinformation surrounding teacher negotiations in Ontario? Grim.    The spate of sexual assaults in the GTA? Appalling.

I got into a Twitter convo with L'Armi about the Petraeus thing.  He's all like, "who cares if he had an affair?" and I'm like, yeah, I get that.  I certainly never care who is panking who and when.  That's private business, yo.  What I do have problems with are people who carry a great deal of responsibility acting like n00bs.  In this case, they were both giant dum-dums about it.  It's like Adam Giambrone with the affair that cost him his mayoral candidacy.

Dr. Rei and Hanbo hangs last night meant that we had several depressing conversations about microfinance, charity work, the province, cronyism, and how to solve everything, punctuated by interruptions from the Big Yam screaming and doing the thing he does when people come over, which is to run from couch to couch and slam himself face down, while yelling, "HUPPAH!" (or something like it.)  We had dinner courtesy of the Burger's Priest and it was a nice end to what had been a little bit of a trying day with a sick Big Yam.  There was lots of whining and indecisiveness and clinging to my pants' legs (I hate hate hate the feel of hands tugging on my pants' legs!) resulting in me finally throwing up my hands and deciding that 2 episodes of My Big Big Friend is what the doctor ordered, followed by a long, cozy couch nap for the two of us.  I did manage to get a few things done - laundry (I'm engaged in the fruitless and self-defeating pursuit of a house of empty hampers), fig pinwheel cookies, Mona's Mother's Mother's Favorite cookies, some knitting, a curried acorn squash soup for tomorrow and...

...a completed Advent Calendar!  Here it is, after the first of what will probably be many, many trips to the iron, hanging on our downstairs bannister.  Ta-da!  In my folly, I opted for linen, so it has beautiful drape but will wrinkle if you look at it funny.  I stencilled the numbers on the pockets with a Marta Stewart-by-way-of-Michael's typewriter stencil kit and black acrylic paint, and then sewed the pockets and the velcro straps with red thread.  It wasn't the hardest project, but not the easiest, especially since I was doing everything off an Excel spreadsheet-for-graph-paper and crayon-on-sketchpad schematic.  But it's done and it's ready to go for December 1st and I am happy about it.  It will have pride of place alongside my other holiday crafts like the GIANT QUILTED TREE SKIRT OF DOOM.

Here is a shot of my chocolate babka.  As you know, I am a dyed-in-the-wool believer in the culinary and restorative wisdom of Jewish grandmothers, and I'm considering adding chocolate babka, toasted and buttered with salted butter, to my arsenal of sickness or sucky baby fighters.  Let me tell you: there is no better snack in the world than toasted, buttered, babka.  Sweet, rich, tender dough folded around layers of bittersweet chocolate.  This recipe has been my go-to, but I'm dying to have a crack at this one.  A freezer full of babka is good insurance, I think, for most if not all of life's ills.

On Saturday we went to R & R's baby shower, which was held at the Mandarin.  Smartest move, ever.  Best shower location, ever.  I haven't been to a Mandarin in about 20 years.  It's like I never left.  So, so good!!!  I had the misfortune to sit next to a female body builder.  I'll let you guess whose plate belongs to who up there.  

Sunday night we had our 11 year (!!!!!) anniversary dinner at Guu Saka bar and brought along my sis and outlaw bro for the ride (outlaw bro has never been to Guu).  For the record: I had made us reservations at Woodlot, less you accuse me of never wanting to eat at a non-Guu establishment.  

 Friday night's dinner - latkes, panko-breaded chicken thighs with sweet chili dipping sauce, and sauteed sprouts.

Tonight for dinner we had spaghetti with a spicy shrimp scampi sauce and a salad of baby dancine lettuce, radicchio, and roasted beets tossed with buttermilk chive dressing jumped up with fresh grated horseradish.

I spent about 2 hours tonight putting up that shelf up there and my $10 junk store mirror.  THAT MIRROR ONLY COST TEN DOLLARS, Y'ALL (that was a Tami Taylor "y'all" in case you were wondering).  BEST!  I'm sooo happy and all the mucking around with drills and masonry bits and anchors and Tapscon screws was worth it.  I'm not 100% happy with the vignette but that will be a work in progress.  In the meantime: landing strip happiness!!!

I have been reading up a storm lately.  Rebel Angels is the follow up to Libba Bray's New York Times' Bestselling, A Great and Terrible Beauty, which I read ages ago.  At the time, I found it a good enough read but wasn't compelled to follow through.  I'm still on the fence about it.  I like it enough and it is deliciously creepy with it's Victorian setting and covens of witches and the like, but I'm not completely on board with the protagonist and her coterie of friends.  I think that's my problem though.  It's almost like I want the protagonist to smarten up and make the same decisions I would, but that's impossible and unrealistic and while it might be personally validating, doesn't necessarily make for good fiction.  I recommended it heartily to Dr. Rei because she loves 3 things that are well represented in this series: boarding schools, Victorian-era England, and magic/witches.  We'll see how she reports back.

Next up was The Age of Miracles.  This novel has been getting good buzz and good reviews.  It's told from the perspective of a 12 year old girl living in California with her parents.  One day, scientists start to notice that the world is spinning slower on its axis, making days and nights longer and longer.  The book chronicles the first year or so after the "slowing" and the impact this has on the girl, her parents, her community, and the world at large.  The voice of the narrator is perfect - talk about food shortages and the sleep deprivation and blistering UV sun from 72 hour "days" is told with the particularly flat, matter-of-fact, incapable-of-understanding-the-magnitude detachment of a 12 year old.  What is also good about this book is how it shows how rather than dissolving into instant chaos and looting and rioting, the world continues on - there are  boys to crush after and bus stop indignities to endure, yet.  There are the fractures in her parents marriage that either existed before unseen or were brought about by the slowing.  There are the social and economic effects on countries and cities that happen slowly.  And there is the great unknown of the future - the questions that are always with us but are usually kept at bay by our blissful ignorance of the tenuousness of it all, our faith that tomorrow will be like today.  Again, I didn't love this, but being the doomsday prepper/apocalypse obsessed nutjob that I am, it did give me SOMETHING NEW TO WORRY ABOUT.  I contemplated tweeting Neil deGrasse Tyson to find out how likely a similar scenario would be in real life.  I still might.  Again, the detached voice of the narrator made it difficult to feel connected to the text and to her. I'm starting to realize that I like idealized teen narrators.  I want you to be exceptional!!!  

I most recently finished Nell Freudenberger's The Newlyweds.  Another much-lauded recent hardcover.  From Bangladesh, Amina and her doting, complicated parents pin their hopes for their future on the marriage she has arranged with George in Rochester, who she meets on an online dating site geared towards east Asians and their North American suitors.  This is a sweet, quiet little story about two people moving across nations to be together and carrying with them the baggage, desires, and secrets of two people moving across the world to be together.  The title is so deliciously deliberate.  Who are we when we choose to marry another? Is the leap of faith between two high school sweethearts really any different than an online marriage between a Deshi Muslim woman and her engineer husband-to-be?  The writing is top notch - it is evocative without being showy, plain and still but revealing and imminently readable.  I loved the tone that Freudenberger struck and her astute eye for the details - both in Rochester (and how thrilling it was to hear reference to places in the Rochester area that I knew and had even stepped foot in!) and in Bangladesh.  At it's heart, this is a love story, though an unexpected one.  It's also about faith and hope and the disconnection between the developed and developing worlds, who are at once so very far apart and not so different after all.  I quite liked this novel and would recommend it.


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