Tuesday, January 13, 2009

BTA: Day Two

I think this the first party where the kids getting presents has had such a serious effect on our time over the next few days.

Ziad has been doing a jigsaw puzzle on and off since Sunday night. Maya has been engrossed in learning the ropes with her Webkinz froggy. If I'd really understood how time-consuming it would be, I'm not sure I would have been so "Well, OK," when her friends mom asked if it would be an acceptable present.

I remember when they used to make little electronic Tamagachi that kids would carry around with them. There was a big flap about kids taking them to school. Anyone else remember them? These little virtual Webkinz are in some ways much worse, being as they need feeding and exercising and that you have to earn the money to buy the food by playing online games.

Foodwise, we're still plowing through the leftovers. Macaroni and cheese, chicken and rice, blah, blah, blah .... Most of the cake is in the freezer now, just a few pieces wrapped up for desert tomorrow.

Housewise, we had another busy day (even without the Webkinz) so not much housework got done. All dishes, glasses, pots, pans, etc. are now washed and put away. When I woke up this morning I planned to get the garage car-ready, but I went downstairs to find that the garage fairy had been busy during the night. All the tables returned to their places, all the blankets folded and put away, and the floor swept to boot. I love the garage fairy.

A few more school-related items have found their way to the school table, but I am still staring at three stacks of paper and stuff that need to be sorted and returned to their proper locations. Until that happens, though, my kitchen is looking pretty good. Things could be worse.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Blogging the Aftermath: Day One

Here is a series I am beginning for my own enlightenment and edification. Having turned my house upside down and maybe even inside out, in order to accommodate a large group of children and their families, I am now faced with the prospect of returning things to normal. This is not a one-day process, and in fact some stuff that got thrown into distant corners of the house will probably remain there indefinitely (a good sign, I suppose, that I could even throw it away (gasp!)with few negative repercussions (not going to happen)) and actually, some of the furniture that got moved around actually works better for me in its new location.


On the food front, here is our menu for the day:

Ziad and Maya had macaroni and cheese. I had chicken and potatoes. When Maya asked if that was all the macaroni and cheese that was left, I had to tell her, "No, that was all the macaroni and cheese I couldn't fit in the refrigerator." They will probably be eating it for breakfast all week.

Ziad and Maya had leftover rice and meatballs. I had chicken and potatoes. And leftover salad. I've been wondering whether there is someway to make broth out of leftover salad. Although I'm experimental by nature, for some reason I'm not willing to actually try this.

Well, we haven't had dinner yet, but I know what's on the menu. Leftover beans. Yumm. Really.

This morning I finished almost all of the dishes that I was in no condition to wash last night. We have cleaned all the stuff off the floor of the dining room and vacuumed it.

We have also decided that keeping the dining room table pushed up against the French windows is a good idea for now, since the dining room table is actually the school table. It turns out that three dining room chairs fit beautifully side by side along its length, and since the table is now up against a window we can look out over the valley when we need to pause and think.

Maya cleaned up all the costumes from her playhouse downstairs. We decided to put them into a suitcase, thereby emptying up the large drawer in her room where we had been keeping them up to now. So now she will move all her clothes out of Ziad's room, where they had been sharing a chest of drawers, which will make life much easier during Ziad's fits of temper when he decides that she is absolutely positively not allowed in his room ever. That floor, still festooned with the random pink feather, remains to be vacuumed.

We had to leave at 11 to get to guitar lessons in Santa Cruz. When we got home at 3:30 all of us were starving and exhausted. Piano practice and Latin are still on the agenda for today, so I don't know how much more energy we'll have for setting things to rights.

I am staring right now at a pile of periodicals and papers that was on the kitchen table that is going to have to at least be looked at, and some of them returned, no matter how much I like having the kitchen table empty. There are also several bags of school supplies in a corner in the dining room that need to be put out again, because we actually do use them. The garage has three tables with chess sets and assorted games that are going to need to be put away before we can park there again.

More tomorrow.

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Scenes from a party

Neither Ziad nor Maya got a birthday party this year. There are lots of little reasons, and maybe even a big one, but those are not the point here. The point is, they never stopped thinking that was eventually going to be a birthday party, or anyway some kind of party, and even a party that they shared would be just fine. They just never gave up.

So we decided to have a Thank-you-for-inviting-me-to-your-party party. In other words, a party consisting of everyone who had invited them to a birthday party during the year. This turned out to be hard to distinguish from an actual birthday party, because everyone brought presents anyway.

They had a blast.

And for posterity, I am recording my three favorite memories of the afternoon:

Little girls literally everywhere, running hither and yon, all with colored silk scarves on their heads.

A debonair young man of eleven holding out his plate to be served, saying, "Ziad recommends the marble cake."

Ziad and his friend Emily on their stomachs under the dining room table, heads and shoulders poking out, folding origami.

It turns out that when you don't plan activities or entertainment for kids they are more than capable of filling the void on their own. Our house was a veritable beehive of activity for several hours. I realize that I am the very definition of an introvert, but I loved having all that happy energy around.

I proved my true introvert nature after the party, though, because once I sat down on the couch after most everyone had left, I couldn't get back up again.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Truth in mapping

These maps have shown up on quite a few web sites this week.

SOURCE: London Times, 5 May 2006, titled, Truth in Mapping

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Crying and Shooting

This piece from The Guardian is worth reading.

The resort to brute military force is accompanied, as always, by the shrill rhetoric of victimhood and a farrago of self-pity overlaid with self-righteousness. In Hebrew this is known as the syndrome of bokhim ve-yorim, "crying and shooting".

About the author:

Oxford professor of international relations Avi Shlaim served in the Israeli army and has never questioned the state's legitimacy. But its merciless assault on Gaza has led him to devastating conclusions

His conclusion:

This brief review of Israel's record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders". A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism - the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel's real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination. It keeps compounding the mistakes of the past with new and more disastrous ones. Politicians, like everyone else, are of course free to repeat the lies and mistakes of the past. But it is not mandatory to do so.

M. LeBlanc's piece in Bitch, Ph.D. is also very interesting. Both authors present a clear view of why it is possible for both Hamas and the state of Israel to be wrong. Opposing Israel's actions is not supporting Hamas.

Friday, January 09, 2009

I never knew Jon Stewart was anti-Semitic

I've seen a lot of laments on the internet lately about those know-nothing liberals who don't realize that Israel has every right to obliterate the Palestinian people while defending themselves against Hamas. So I would ask you to observe how many notable Democrats this clip shows, voicing their unconditional support for Israel's role in this bloodbath.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

More intolerance toward innocent bystanders

I used to work in a grocery store. I used to bag groceries. Consequently, I CARE about how groceries are bagged. When I see superior bagging techniques I applaud them, and put them into use if I ever have cause to bag my own groceries. Laying a half-gallon milk carton sideways in the bottom of a bag, for example. This, in my opinion, brilliant, even though I didn't think of it myself. Also, even though individual eggs are delicate, egg cartons do a good job of protecting them. Putting them at the top of the bag just increases the risk they will fall out and break. They're safer at the bottom, as long as you're not putting something extra heavy, like several large cans of tomatoes, on top of them.

The downside, of course, is that incompetent bagging irritates me. And here is the one that tops the charts for me, aggravation-wise. It is the bagger who should be able to clearly see that all the groceries are not going to fit into one bag, but still continues to fill up the first bag as full as they can, then opens up another full-size bag into which they delicately place a carton of eggs and a bag of frozen peas. And then I'm supposed to walk out into the night with these wildly imbalanced bags. It's hard on me figuring out how to carry them properly, and then the overloaded one is virtually guaranteed to tip over in the car.

When this happened tonight, I asked the bagger to please balance out the bags a little. Judging by the look he gave me, my voice was a little sharper than I intended it to be. I tried to make up for it by thanking him again as nicely as I could, but the damage was done.

I also don't like the people at Safeway whose idea of bagging is one item per double plastic bag (sloppy, inefficient, and lazy, or so it seems to me). Fortunately I don't shop there enough to make an issue out of it.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Drowning my sorrows in Dickens

I am not happy about the state of our book club. No, I am not happy at all. So I am turning to my old standby, English literature; to be precise, The Old Curiosity Shop, by Dickens.

I chose this book because it is mentioned in Little Women, and to my surprise it is, in many ways, a hoot. The overarching plot, of a young girl whose life is ruined by her gambling grandfather, is rife with pathos, but for all that, this book is really funny. I never really thought of Dickens in this light before.

There are many interesting characters, some unremittingly vile, some more complex, and some, or course, as good as the day is long. The introduction seems to imply that the heroine, little Nell, is on the insipid side, but I am having none of that. She reminds me of Maya, actually, in the excessive sweetness of her nature and her desire to protect and serve others, as well as her vivid imagination that makes her more anxious sometimes than perhaps she needs to be.

The story itself eventually revolves around a character whose very name indicates movement: Richard Swiveller. Originally seeming to be dissolute and disreputable, by the end of the book he is shown to be a good-hearted, although clearly weak-willed, man who ultimately is the cause of much good in many lives. And he is the subject of my favorite passage in the book:

... he decided to pick a quarrel with Miss Wackles without delay, and casting about for a pretext, determined in favor of groundless jealousy. Having made up his mind on the important point, he circulated the glass (from his right hand to his left, and back again) pretty freely, to enable him to act his part with the greater discretion, and then, after making some slight improvements in his toilet, bent his steps towards the spot hallowed by the fair object of his meditations.

This spot was at Chelsea, for there Miss Sophia Wackles resided with her widowed mother and two sisters, where she maintained a very small day-school for young ladies or proportionate dimension ...

To this Ladies' Seminary, then, Richard Swiveller hied, with designs obnoxious to the peace of the fair Sophia ...

(Glass in this case means mirror, a hand-held mirror to be precise, just in case it's not obvious from the context.)

Designs obnoxious to the peace of the fair Sophia. Yes, I love it.

I also like the passage where the villain intimidates his wife and mother-in-law by the way he eats breakfast:

..he ate hard eggs, shell and all, devoured gigantic prawns with the heads and tails on, chewed tobacco and water-cresses at the same time and with extraordinary greediness, drank boiling tea without winking, bit his fork and spoon till they bent again, and in short performed so many horrifying and uncommon acts that the women were nearly frightened out of their wits and began to doubt if he were really a human creature.

I love this book, and I didn't expect to at all, since as far as I know it's not regarded as one of Dickens' major works.

Next I will be reading the Palliser Novels, by Anthony Trollope, and sometime soon re-reading Pride and Prejudice.

It's a lonely undertaking, but what's a reader to do?

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Lark Ascending

Here is a link where you can listen to The Lark Ascending, if you have a spare 15 minutes or so. I love this piece. I don't remember any more how old I was when I first heard it -- I bought the album because I liked the cover art, and when I went home and played this track, I just listened to it over and over. I never even listened to the rest of the music.

Now my older sister, who is a violinist, will be performing this piece in the spring. I am so happy for her. She has a piano accompaniment, which I am trying to learn, but it is so difficult. Right now I can stumble through the first few measures in pathetic slow motion. If I had unlimited quantities of time I could probably eventually play it decently, but what mom has that kind of time? Still I'm really happy to have the chance to experience the music from the inside. It's playing now, and I hear it in a completely different way, imagining the notes I have on paper and comparing them to what the different instruments are playing.

And now the words every parent knows their child will say one day: I'm so glad my parents gave me piano lessons when I was young. Even though I rarely make use of the musical education I received, it's an enormous gift that has enriched my life immeasurably. I'm truly grateful.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

A new guitar teacher

Mesut Ozgen

Photo by Paul Schraub

They start lessons on Monday. I'm looking forward to this.


Saturday, January 03, 2009

Maya's Christmas

This year Maya got a china teacup in a box that said Royal Albert.

She got a penguin from the Aquarium.

She got an owl that I knit from a pattern in Charmed Knits. (thanks, Vivian)

She named the penguin Albert. She named the owl Owlbert. They go everywhere together with the bunny I made for her last year. His name is Harry, because he's a magic bunny.

I don't know what Ziad's bunny and owl are named.


Friday, January 02, 2009

Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt died on Christmas day, 2008. As a child, I had a single of hers, Lazy Afternoon, that I used to play over and over again. It was all the only song of hers I knew, and I loved it.

Looking over her presence on the internet, songs like that get short shrift. Everyone seems very taken with her material girl sex kitten persona, and there's certainly no shortage of material to justify that.

In many of the clips on You Tube, her personality almost overwhelms the material.

That's one reason I like this clip, which is quieter and more reflective.

And this one, which shows again what a wonderful vocalist she was.

And because there are no clips that I can find, here are the lyrics to Lazy Afternoon.

It's a lazy afternoon
And the beetle bugs are zooming
And the tulip trees are blooming
And there's not another human in view,
But us two

It's a lazy afternoon
And the farmer leaves his reaping
And the meadow cows are sleeping
And the speckled trouts stop leaping up stream
As we dream

A far pink cloud hangs over the hill
Unfolding like a rose
If you hold my hand and sit real still,
You can hear the grass as it grows

It's a hazy afternoon
And I know a place that's quiet, 'cept for daisies running riot
And there's no one passing by it to see
Come spend this lazy afternoon with me

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Two menus and three jigsaw puzzles

Christmas Eve:
Homemade clam chowder
Crab Louis
French Bread
Acacia Chardonnay

New Year's Eve:
Penne with parmesan cheese
Ribeye steak
Sauteed spinach with tomato and feta cheese
Roast vegetables
French Bread
Mondavi Cabernet
Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs

And in between -- puzzle week!

Puzzle One

This puzzle is so much fun to put together.

Puzzle Two

This puzzle was very easy.

Puzzle Three

This puzzle is so hard! We've done it every year for maybe five years now, and there are still pieces that trick us or are fiendishly hard to identify. When it's all put together, though, we love it.