Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Five Favorites*: Christmas Gifts

Fair game, because the Vatican doesn't take down their creche until this Sunday.

1) Ikea Pots and Pans

My mom got these for the Bean, and he is seriously loving them. The quality is great. It doesn't say so on the package, but I'm pretty sure you could actually cook tiny meals with these. One of these is in our near future, because we need a place to store our burgeoning food toy collection (except I think I'll get one with a drawer to look more like an oven, and put real knobs on. And gas, because who wants to cook on electric?)

Downside (sort of): I need to knit him some more food toys, because he keeps asking me for bacon and eggs to cook. These were in his stocking, because how else are you going to flip your imaginary bacon?

2) Revereware Tea Kettle

And a pot for me! Technically a belated birthday present, but definitely a favorite. I had the exact same one, but second- or third-hand, with a broken whistle. In consequence of said broken whistle, I'd boiled it dry a couple of times, and started ending up with weird (hard-water buildup?) flakes in the bottom of my cup. And then the lid broke off entirely. Suffice it to say it was time. I'd forgotten how great a working whistle is, and the Bean loves it, too, because it sounds like a train.

3) Our own Mini Golf Course
Come spring, this will be an outside toy, but for now, it's winning the cabin fever awards, big time.

4) Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food

I'll write a better review when I'm finished, but I've been gobbling up (pun intended) this collection of essays by Wendell Berry. In the introduction, Michael Pollan writes that Wendell Berry was the solution to his "Thoreau problem", i.e., a desire to respect the wild so much that we fail at cultivation. In other words, he strikes the right balance between dominion and stewardship. If you read this, take note of the dates on the essays. The ideas hit so precisely upon modern food concerns that you won't believe how long ago many of them were written. Berry is a man who manages to be well ahead of his time, by synthesizing the ideas of the past.

5) Meals!

Is there anything better you could give a nine-months-pregnant woman than restaurant gift cards? I say no.

*Peanut was the real favorite Christmas gift, of course, but it seems unfair to the rest of the list to include him. :-)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

In Which We Learn of Sustaining Books

This Saturday is Winnie-the-Pooh Day, and the wonderful Kathryn marks it by writing on the books (longtime favorites in this house), and their Disneyfication.

Pooh ad absurdum. The fellow in the middle looks pleasant enough, I suppose. The one on the right looks like he wouldn't know a Thoughtful Spot if he stumbled right into it.
This passage, in particular, sums up my feelings beautifully:
I'm not meaning to hate on Mr. Disney. I have thousands of Disney-themed memories; but most of them have the same feeling as shooting bottle rockets or eating Skittles. Milne & Shepard remind me of discovering a secret crop of cat tails by a pond or drinking chicken noodle soup when I was sick. To put it in the words of Pooh Bear himself, the original is a "Sustaining Book."
Read the full article, which was well worth even my limited time, for thoughts on Christopher Robin as an aspirational figure, as well as some audiobook recommendations that I'll be looking into myself.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Three things to keep me sane

Did you know that newborns can projectile spit up? They totally can. And then they will immediately fall asleep and smile at you.

Pretty sure I cleaned up everything that can come out of a child this afternoon. This included a mess that necessitated undressing The Bean in the bathtub. This evening he walked up to me and said, quite pathetically, "No turn on shower, Mama." No kid, you were spared that horrible fate, but only because I thought of an empty squirt bottle at the last second. Not that that stopped you from turning the whole ordeal into a slippery wrestling match, and then tearfully begging me to put your extremely soiled soccer ball shirt back on when it was done.

It wasn't until quite a bit afterwards that I recalled this morning, when Bean was the one who almost brought me to tears. After breakfast, he climbed up, completely unsolicited, onto the bottom rung of my chair, so he could kiss Peanut's head and say, "I love you, baby."
Here for when I need a reminder that they really do like each other, deep down. :-)
It didn't stop me from requiring a glass of bourbon (Redemption Hi-Rye that my BIL kindly left/forgot here after Christmas) along with some Very Dark Chocolate this evening, but, thankfully, those weren't the only two things I had to keep me warm.

Monday, January 13, 2014

There's just no excuse for this one.

Julian Fellowes is the Joss Whedon of historical drama, because every time you like a character, you can rest assured that something horrific is about to happen to them.
How are you feeling, Matthew? Like a leaf on the wind, by any chance?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Favorite Authors: Brian Floca

Most of our new books come by way of recommendations from friends or blogs (Little Lamb Books has yielded some great favorites). Brian Floca, however, came into our home more or less by happenstance. At our library, the picture book section always has some books pulled out and displayed on top of the shelves. When I saw one called "The Racecar Alphabet," I figured on a cute bit of fluff to amuse a vehicle-obsessed two-year-old, and perhaps he'd learn a couple more letters along the way as a bonus. We got it home to find  it full of alliterations that roll deliciously off the tongue. (Find me something cuter than a toddler's version of "Instruments indicating speed" or "Veering, vying, vowing victory!") The ink-and-watercolor illustrations beg to be described as "lush," despite the mechanical subject manner. Honestly, it's hard to say whether the words or the pictures make his books more of a treasure.

It even inspired his Halloween costume. (Yes, my toddler's car is a Bugatti Type 35. What about it?)

For those who love a good story, there's "Locomotive" and "Moonshot". I'd say that these are for longer attention spans ("Locomotive" clocks in at 64 pages), but they're both so full of action and the same great literary style that The Bean has no trouble sitting through either (multiple times in a day when he can get away with it). The illustrations, are both technically accurate and beautiful in a way that reminds me of the best of architectural renderings. My pre-teen self would have spent hours trying to copy them. Honestly, if he sold prints, I would paper The Bean's room with them. I'll have to console us both with coloring sheets until then.

The design geek in me loves his use of fonts in these two volumes, too. "Locomotive" uses playbill-style text to emphasize the sounds of the train, and Bean loves to "read" along (he'll point right at the words and shout "Full Steam Ahead" when we get to this page). By contrast, "Moonshot," true to its era, is set almost entirely in varying styles of Helvetica.

While I've been reading these to The Bean, the historical and technical details, both in the stories themselves and in the extensive notes on the flyleaves make them a great read for anyone who has an interest in the subject matter. Honestly, I'm still trying to puzzle through the technical diagrams in "Locomotive"; external combustion is complicated.

I'd also be remiss if I neglected to mention "Lightship." It's humbler in scope (and length) than the two above, but with the same expressive prose style. (Something else these three have in common, in a detail boys will love: all three contain an aside about how exactly one uses the facilities on these modes of transport. We're potty training right now, and he loves to recite, "In space, it takes some skill to use the toilet!") It's rare to run across new children's books that I'd even deem worth the money to buy a new copy, but these exhibit such artistry that I'll gladly be adding all of them to our collection when our library renewals are up.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Sticks and Stones

Quoth The Bean: "Dere's a baby in da tummy!"

Um, not for almost two weeks now, kid. But your childlike honesty can't touch me today; I'm wearing real jeans (zipped AND buttoned, thankyouverymuch).