Every Freaking Penny

I think I made a wise investment decision last week - I used $200 from my dwindling ICBC settlement to buy this:

an Italian pizza oven.

There is an element in the lid of the oven, and a pizza stone set into the base. You preheat it for ten minutes while rolling your dough

and adding your toppings

then you use the wooden paddles to lift the pizza onto the stone and close the lid.

FOUR MINUTES LATER it's lunchtime.

Mr HalfSoledBoots thinks - and I'm sure others would agree - that I'm insane for spending two hundred dollars on this but I assure you, it was worth it. Blazing hot, perfectly cooked, the crust crispy and thin, the flavours intense...(and as an added bonus, it uses much less power than the conventional oven, heats hotter, and cooks quicker). I'm going to have fun with this appliance.

There's a pub nearby that sells an insanely good pizza with pesto, chicken breast and feta, and I think I'll try that next, maybe with some artichoke hearts. But I'm interested in other combinations that might not occur to me (as you can see above, I opted for The Usual on my first trial), so if you have a favourite pizza, let me know what it is.

Nursery, again; Hawaii, again

Today was our every-other-Sunday to lead the 3- and 4-year-olds in Nursery. It was great! The past couple times, I've been really nervous and uncomfortable, but today was just the best! The kids were fun and really good, and I felt way more comfortable playing with them and knowing how to talk to them. Except when I asked one little girl to read a pop-up book to another little girl and me -- she looked at the book, then looked at me and said, "But I don't know how to read!" Oops.

I was just so excited about having a good day in there, because I've worried about not being good with kids. Everyone has said, "Oh, they always put the newlyweds in there and it ends up being like birth control." But actually, these kids are like the opposite, whatever that is! I kind of want a 4-year-old! Skip the whole baby thing!

Lately I've been kind of ... I don't know the word for it -- anxious? Bratty? And I realized something that helps is to pretty much only listen to classical music when I'm in the car. Before, I listened to harder things, and I think that, combined with a touch of road rage, has been making me an unpleasant person, especially when I'm driving. Sometimes I have to remind myself, "That's a child of God in that car," or more effectively, "What if that's the Bishop in that other car?" Is that bad??!

I'm excited and sad to go on a weeklong vacation on Wednesday. I'm looking forward to it because I'll be going to one of my favorite places, Hawaii (!!!), but I'm sad to leave Neil! I wish he could go with me :( When I got my ticket it seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I am being pathetically dependent. Maybe we went a week without seeing each other when we first started dating, since we lived an hour apart, but I don't think we've been separated for more than a few days since we started seriously dating, and I've seen him every day since we got married. I'm really looking forward to having fun with the Robertsons (Jr. and Sr.), just chilling and getting my tan on, but it would all be infinitely more fun with Neil there. Plus, he'll be going up to NYC while I'm gone, and I wish I could go there, too. I'm so selfish! I've learned my lesson -- no more separate vacations!

I guess this trip will be like when I was in Hawaii two trips ago, Dec. 2006, to run the Honolulu Marathon. I went on my first date with Neil Nov. 14 and I really liked him, but I didn't know where it was going to go. The trip was kind of like a make-or-break thing: If we kept in touch while I was gone, we'd probably date some more, but if we didn't talk for that whole week, things would probably cool off, possibly irreversibly. Luckily, he txted and called pretty much every day, and I was quite impressed by that. He really cared about me and not just when I was nearby! It was so cute and thoughtful. Soooo let's hope he's just as good about keeping in touch now that he's "got" me :)

Holy Moley!

Sometimes I really do want to post, but there's nothing to say. I asked Neil for a topic, and he suggested:

1) His quills (spiky shoulder hairs).
2) Yesterday's Washington, D.C., gun ban law that was reversed by the Supreme Court. (The best sign held by a supporter, which was in the main photo on the Nation/World News page I designed at work yesterday: "If guns kill people ... do pens misspell words?")
3) Obama. Or maybe that was my idea.

None of these is really something upon which I care to elaborate here. I do like plucking and Obama; not so sure about the whole gun thing.

I need to teach Neil how to whistle, and he needs to do a backflip for me. These were things we promised would transpire during the honeymoon, and they never did! Neil is also bitter that I didn't remove his moles, which was also something I promised him I would do, which is the only thing I've totally went against my word on with him.

He always reminds me that a CERTAIN family member of his has moles, and this family member's devoted wife removes them via the following method:

- Locate mole
- Tie dental floss tightly around base of mole
- Allow mole to die a slow, horrible, constricted death whereon it shrivels up and eventually falls off -- basically killing the mole.

That's sick, if you ask me. I promised I would do it, but I think I said that just so he wouldn't do it himself. The truth is, I like his moles. They're cute and not at all nasty or unsightly. He had one surgically removed from his neck shortly after I met him. Then he killed one of his moles in the above-mentioned way shortly before we got married. Sick. He wants me to get a couple hard-to-reach ones on his back. I think it's really gross and sad to kill them. He says I lied. I say it was to protect the moles. I'm just afraid he's going to cut them off himself. Is it an urban legend that you can't stop the bleeding from a mole?

Counter canter conundrum

Sunday afternoon as I was schooling a couple shallow counter-canter loops in each direction, Willow volunteered a lovely, balanced flying change from right to left at X. I cantered in the new lead for three strides, halted, gave her many pats, and let her walk on a long rein for a bit. It was her first flying change where she didn't leap three feet into the air.

The second-level conundrum: how hard to school the counter canter? Of course, we all know you never punish a flying change, no matter what the circumstances, but the question is how much do you reward it when you're trying to confirm the counter canter? I'm of the school of thought that says: reward like crazy. Unfortunately, most people in this school of thought already have their bronze medals :) I, on the other hand, still have to slog through second level before getting to the fun stuff.

I've read advice that says, just school counter canter and flying changes concurrently! Easier said than done, IMO. Second-level counter canter is pretty darn challenging for the horse, and once they discover--hey, I can just switch!--it's hard to unbake the cake.

This conundrum falls into the category of "good problem to have." If nothing else, it's a sign that Willow's balance in the canter has, indeed, improved. I do wish there was some way to provide an allowance for accidental changes during second level.

I'm currently sitting in the Denver airport waiting to board my plane to Bismarck, North Dakota. It turns out my brother is bringing along the whole clan to the funeral, so I'm going to get to meet my six-month-old niece, Chloe, for the first time tomorrow. I'll also get to see how much my two-and-a-half-year-old niece, Julia, has changed since last Labor Day.

After the funeral, I'm off to San Antonio for a conference, and then I'm hanging out with former clinician Wolfgang, his wife Suzanne, and friend Ted (whom Willow dumped in February) for a few days. Ted said I could get on his part-draft gelding Sterling. Perhaps Sterling will dump me in revenge.

Now You Show Me Yours

On Monday I opened up the mailbox to find this:

It is a beautiful present from my lovely uncles Joe and Dave, who are always so kind to me. They mean me to write, come hell or high water, or children clamouring around me.

To make a good start, I christened this journal with a list of my favourite words. Obviously, this list is a mutable thing - constantly in flux and never fixed.

This particular list was swimming around in my head as I woke up one morning last week: fully formed, as if from the mind of Zeus. I'm afraid I lost half of them by the time I got them written down, but here are those that remained. All are there simply because I like the sound of them...not necessarily what they represent.












Leave your favourite-word list in the comments. Could be favourites for any reason - that you like what they stand for, like how they make you feel, or you just plain think they're euphonic. (Oooh, euphonic! Must add that one.)

Falling Street Lamps and Geckos

I had the weirdest day last Tuesday. Odd things happened. Neil forgot his work ID, which is highly unusual, so I brought it to him. After leaving his office, I drove through Crystal City, down Jefferson Davis Highway, for you locals. Right after the intersection of Jeff Davis and 20th St., in front of the Radisson, and RIGHT in front of my car, a street lamp fell over and crashed onto the road! It was one of the craziest things I've ever seen, right up there with the UFO. And it wasn't like there was a car or two in front of me; it fell RIGHT in front of MY car! It was just like "TIMBER!" and fell. After it fell, it was laying perpendicular to the road, completely blocking traffic, and it's a very busy street. Luckily, the Radisson has a circular drive that created a detour. I pulled in there and called 911. The Radisson porters put some cones in front of the street lamp. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to wait for the police, but I doubted they needed to talk to me at the scene.
I stayed until a firetruck came. A utility guy was there, too, and I heard him tell the firemen this is the second street lamp on Jeff Davis to have fallen in the past month! Dangerous! They just rust out at the bottom and fall. I figured it was time for me to continue to my next errand, which was to purchase a gecko.

PetSmart didn't have any, so I went to PetCo. They had one "House Gecko" left. Perfect. And he only cost $5.99. We don't want a pet -- this gecko has a job: This is so, so nasty, but we've seen a few roaches in the apartment. It's weird -- we didn't have any during the winter, and it's just been in the past few weeks, since it's gotten warm, that they've infiltrated our fortress.

In Hawaii, we had geckos roaming in the house that ate the bugs. So that's what this little guy's job is. His tail is growing back and is just a nub, so I call him Nubbins.
If you didn't know, now you know: Geckos are chameleon; they can change color with their mood or environment.

I brought Nubbins home and released him beside the AeroGarden. Hopefully he noticed the little dish of water I set out for him and he'll be able to find it again. He was behind the dresser for a couple days, but now I don't know where he went. Yesterday he came out from behind a picture when he saw his new gecko friend I got at another PetCo a few days later! His friend is a little bit bigger and has a long tail and no name. He is hiding behind a mirror on the wall, but he ventures out in the evening across the wall near the ceiling and even across the ceiling. They're both pretty much nocturnal. I just hope they're doing their job at night.

Goodbye, Grandma R.

My Grandma R. passed away yesterday afternoon at the age of almost 92. Her health had been failing for two months, during which she wasn't very responsive, so the sad event is tempered by relief that she didn't linger in twilight for months and months. She was my last living grandparent.

Grandma R. was a great lady. She was tough as nails but had a great sense of humor. She was a farmer's wife--not an easy thing to be--but she managed all the hard work and never complained. Having lived through the Great Depression, she knew what really tough times were.

On a couple different occasions as a child, I spent part of my summer vacation with her and grandpa on their North Dakota farm. They had a little gray pony named Sparky, so these visits were pretty awesome. Grandma R. was an excellent cook, and always served up a huge farmer's "dinner" at lunchtime, consisting of wonderful stuff like fried chicken, creamed peas with real cream, lefse, and strawberry-rhubarb pie. It's a good thing I had a fast metabolism as a child.

I'm off to North Dakota on Wednesday for the funeral on Friday. North Dakota in late June is absolutely gorgeous, and I'm looking forward to seeing family members I haven't seen in years. Funerals are for the living, so they say.

Out standing in her field

I had a call from the assistant trainer at the barn tonight, letting me know that Willow's leather halter had broken and fallen off in turnout, and nobody could catch her to put another halter on and bring her in. She always wears a leather halter in turnout for just this reason. She's fine with anyone clipping a lead under her chin, but trying to put a halter on her in the pasture is pretty futile for anyone but me (that darn ear phobia!).

So I threw on my breeches and hurried out to the barn. I grabbed an extra halter and headed out to the pasture. Willow happily trotted over to me and let me put the halter on. I have to admit, I find this very sweet. I popped her in the cross ties because I planned to ride, but in picking her hooves I discovered a small gouge just above the coronet band on her right front. Eek. Perfect for causing an abscess. I doctored it up and said a prayer. We'll see how it looks tomorrow.

Remember my rant about the Cindy Sydnor article advising us all to stop being poor if we want to get good at dressage? It's still generating letters to Dressage Today. In the latest issue a woman writes to agree with Sydnor's advice to forego a fancy car, noting "I deliberately chose not to get a Mercedes because I am saving for an upper-level dressage horse." I had to wipe a tear away, thinking of this poor, Mercedes-less woman. Then I got in my eleven-year-old Honda and drove to work.

I know, I know -- I chose a rich person's sport, and I need to get over it.

Everybody's Doing a Better Job Than I Am.

Today it's my sister who has poked me in the eye and made me cry. She has written such a beautiful post about the strength of women. Here is an excerpt for you.

Whatever it is that your daughter excels in, encourage her. One day, maybe I'll hear your daughter playing the piano at the Chan Center in Vancouver. Maybe she'll perform my hip replacement surgery, 50 years down the road. Maybe I'll totter over to her veterinary clinic with my sick Teacup Poodle. (Okay, maybe not that one.) Perhaps we will watch her dive, or sprint, or win the long jump during the 2020 Olympic Games. Maybe your daughter will grow up and teach my grandchildren grade 7 Socials. Maybe she'll be the one who offers me her seat on the bus.

My hope for my daughters is that whatever they turn out to be -- a dentist, a hairdresser, a tree planter, an obstetrician, a stay-at-home mother -- whatever it is, that they will love what they do, and do it well.

Thanks Gwen.

But the climate is lovely.

I like living here on the Pacific coast. I'm rather fond of the enormous trees, the long stretches of forest between towns, the charming ferry system that is so integrated into our lifestyle.

Of course, there are a few drawbacks, too...you get your giant banana slugs, your prehistorically-sized spiders, and you spend a lot of money on umbrellas and absorbent doormats.

Not to mention the disembodied PARTS that keep WASHING UP ON THE BEACHES.

A momentous occasion

My double bridle arrived today (a Theo Sommer on closeout at Dressage Extensions), so I took it along to the barn tonight for a preliminary fitting. My first time introducing the double bridle, and my first time attempting to fit one from scratch! It was a big night!

I rummaged through the drawer of extra bits in the tack room until I found a simple loose-ring bradoon that looked to be about a quarter-inch wider than my snaffle. Then I found a low-port curb bit with curb chain attached. I attached the two bits to the bridle, and then hung it side-by-side with my snaffle bridle. I adjusted the bridle so the bradoon appeared to hang even with the snaffle bit on the other bridle. I adjusted the curb bit to the highest hole, but I could tell it was still going to be too low in Willow's mouth. I need to seek out a leather punch tomorrow night. I decided to try the bridle sans reins for my first attempt.

All this time Willow was dozing in the cross ties (I think she would happily stand in cross ties for, possibly, weeks at a time). I unsnapped the cross ties and moved the halter down her neck. Then I carefully balanced the bradoon bit on top of the curb and asked Willow to open her mouth, wondering if the clanking metal would bother her at all. Nope. She let me bridle her like she's been in the double for years. (Thank goodness her ear phobia is a thing of the past).

The curb was obviously too low in her mouth, but the bradoon hung just about right. I attached the curb chain, and Willow went right to messing with the bits, chomping them and shoving them around with her tongue. I gave her some sugar and she started to drip saliva everywhere (Rocky the barn dog loves sugary horse saliva. Eesh.) I let Willow get used to the feel of the bridle for five minutes, then took it off. No big deal. Hurray! Once I get a couple more holes punched so the curb can ride higher, I'll attach the reins and start lungeing her in the bridle once a week. I eventually need to buy my own bits, too, but I hope I can continue to borrow these for awhile.

After that mini-triumph, I rode as usual in the snaffle. I really feel like things are clicking these days. We're down to solid 15-meter canter circles. Next stop, 12 meters. I'm able to do counter-canter approaching what's asked for at second level. Tonight my only frustration was simple change through trot, right to left. When I asked for the left lead, Willow said, "How about a trot extension instead?" Three times in a row. On the third try, I got a little irritated and replied, "Trot extension? OK! Three times around the arena!" Willow was huffing and puffing after that. I let her walk for a bit and tried the simple change again. Bingo. Willow's no dummy.


Somebody does WIP it Wednesday....maybe Jo? Anyway, here are some WIPs (WIP = Work in Progress).

The centre of the Cap Shawl is almost complete. The rounds are now 738 stitches long so one round takes a fair bit of time, especially now that I've got these six purl rows to do. Purling doesn't feel any slower to me, but when I look at the clock I can tell it is. It takes me almost half an hour to do a round on this, at the moment.

Lace in progress is pretty boring stuff to look at, which is why I've spared you too many progress shots. There you have it, though: round 170 of 172. Feels like these next 2.5 rounds will take for-freaking-ever. (Aside: thank you Megan for formally introducing me, all those years ago, to the concept of the expletive infixation. It has validated all kinds of linguistic outrage for me. By the way if you have the time, do read that entire article - it's hilarious.)

And as promised I am showing you a picture of Charlotte's stocking. It was kind of a knit-centric week (trying oh, so hard, to get that stupid Cap Shawl done) so I didn't do much......if it sounds like an excuse, it is.

Last week:

This week:

Is it enough, O most enlightened reader? Or does the sun appear dark in your eyes because of my slack-freaking-assedness? I know which one I'd choose.

I'll do better next week, I promise.

Here's the peony, in full blowsy bloom. This is one decadent plant: between its scent, its glorious plumage, its syrupy buds, and its almost instant progress from bloom to decay, it is the Roman Dinner Party of the perennial world.

And that's all we have time for today. Catch you on the flip side, my fan-f*cking-tastic darlings.


jumbled up all here and there
bits of stuff are everywhere
furrowed brow as fingers do
magic with some glitter glue
push aside the towels and sit
just ten minutes while I knit
buttered scone and cup of tea
children snuggling with me
sometimes there's a bit of mess
but mostly...
mostly happiness

-Copyright 2008, me

It's Messy Tuesday and here is my longsuffering coffee table.

And here is a lovely, lovely post which is perfect for the day on which we look around at the things we Have to do, and decide instead to do the things we Want to do. Kristine is an occasional commenter here at HalfSoled Boots - I met her on Ravelry. She has lovely little baby and a busy life with family, home, work and craft, and she still finds time to blog. This short little post is a verbal snapshot of a warm afternoon with mothers and daughters and potting soil, and a few lines of inspired prose. It's just beautiful, and well worth your time to read. Enjoy.

Plunge Right In

Erudite Mondays at HalfSoled Boots
Volume 4, Number 2

Laurent Ballista and Pierre Descamp

I saw the girls reading this (again) the other day, so I thought I'd peer over their shoulders and give you a little glimpse of this amazing book.

As a homeschooling mum I am always on the lookout for interesting resources. I don't really believe in limiting a child by their age level - that is, not giving them a book just because it is above their current comprehension or reading level. Content - that's another matter. I wouldn't hand Charlotte The Catcher in the Rye, for instance, or Dracula.

My kids have been glued to this book ever since it arrived, and they still haven't discovered everything in it. It's not directed to children, so the text is advanced and there is no attempt to make the science easier for young readers. This makes it a good challenge for the kids, and also means they get worn out fairly soon while reading it...there's a lot of information for a young mind to sort through.

The volume is over-sized, as a coffee-table book should be. The photographs are stunning - you can really count on National Geographic, can't you?

The coolest thing about this book are the photo captions. These contain the name of the animal, the location they were photographed, and the actual size. It's amazing to see some intimidating spiny crab with huge jaws, and then to read that the actual size is 5/8".

If you want to be smarter, read this book. Here is the chapter list:

The Ocean - That Great Unknown
The Undersea Prairies
The Polar Oceans
The Undersea Plains
The Undersea Forests
The Undersea Mountains
The Oases of the Open Ocean
The Coral Reefs
The Law of the Strongest
Adapting to Their Environment
The Love Life of Marine Animals
Living Together
The Indispensable Oceans

There is a heavy focus on sustainability in the face of the human population explosion, and the effects of human consumption on the world's ocean ecosystems. It doesn't hit you over the head, though - it shows you the breathtaking photos, tells you about symbiosis, describes the changing chemistry of water. You can't help but reach your own conclusions.

Every so often there is a two-page spread of text entitled "The Expert's Opinion", on such subjects as "Arctic Ecosystems", "Sustainable Fishing: The Great Challenge", "Coral Reefs: A Precious Asset in Peril", or "Tourism and Marine Biodiversity".

If you get a chance to look through this book, take it. It's a beautiful and challenging volume - in a jaded world there is still an entirely different, strange and wonderful planet to discover.

HalfSoledBoots Highly Specialised Book Rating System
Planet Ocean gets

Reread - Constantly
Given to Others - I won't let it out of my house but I push it on everyone who comes here
Bookplate - Yes


"Hurry Up and Wait"

Well, I got a letter from the State Department yesterday.
The good news: I passed the final review.

The annoying news: My name has been added to a list of candidates to start anywhere between now and 18 mos. from now.

I am really excited to start this job, so I hope I get called up sooner than later.

In other news, we had our second day of leading nursery today. The kids sang the "Daddy" song in Sacrament, which was very cute. They were really fun during nursery, but it took me a little while to warm up to them and vice versa. I just don't know how to "get in there" and join what they're doing when I first come in. I feel idiotic trying to talk to them in a chipper, high voice about whatever they're doing. One of the moms was there for a little while and she probably wondered why I was even there. I did, too. But it got better.

In news news, I have only worked two Fridays in the past 6 mos. (I love my schedule -- except that it means I work Sundays) and one of them was last Fri. 6/13. At work, we're all tuned to CNN, so I heard the news break about Tim Russert's passing.
I never watched "Meet the Press," but he was definitely recognizable from the commentary and correspondence he provides on other programs. This was one of those things I wished could be taken back. From my limited knowledge, he definitely is an irreplaceable figure, and was a really great, smart individual.

In old news, I'm always a little startled when I see this infomercial guy on TV:
Because he looks alarmingly like my old boss:

Well-meaning but Misguided

Making my garden rounds this morning I saw this poor old thing, hanging off a chive from one lifeless leg. At least he died happy.

And the deer have been around, as my beloved Northern Spy apple tree and my dwarf sumac can attest.

Now, you know I am careless about the inside of my house, but I am vigilant about untidiness in the garden. I weed like a crazed woman, hunting the beds for any sign, no matter how teeny, of an aggressive intruder. When I see a little sprout starting, I ruthlessly jerk it from its nurturing soil and toss it, roots-up, onto the concrete driveway in the blistering sun. Once it's dead and dried and wilted past saving, it goes into a garbage bin to be taken to the curb on "Yard Waste" day. I have no mercy. I am grim-faced and methodical.

I am a weeding Nazi.

I've lived here for four years and each year I struggle with this one particular weed, which keeps coming back behind my front bed. It's got kind of a furry, floppy, large leaf and it is pretty hard to get rid of. It must grow from root fragments or something.

Well, this year I did my first weeding day a little earlier than usual. I pulled out all the mystery weeds I could find. A month or so later, I noticed that two more of them had started up after I left, and were at a good distance from the edge of the bed. Hard to reach. I felt a fury and a hatred rise up within me, but I also felt something else - defeated. Demoralised. Woebegone.

I kept meaning to get out the long-handled cultivator and chop out those weeds, but got a little distracted keeping up with the perennial beds (and keeping Piper from uprooting and devouring them) and forgot about them.

Yesterday I went out to spend the afternoon in the front garden. I had to edge the front bed, tie up the peonies, deadhead the bachelor buttons, pull out the recurrent buttercup that is the scourge of my life and threatens to choke out the shrubbery, and weed the corner heather. I cleared out a meter-high collection of buttercup and stinky (but beautiful) pink weeds whose leaves look a little like bleeding heart. I stood back to admire my work, and that's when I saw them. Saw the weeds I have been pulling out for four years in an attempt to keep my front perennial bed beautiful and tidy.

While mourning the fact that I don't have enough money to buy any more lovely perennials to beautify my flower garden.

And here are the weeds.

And now I think I shall take up stamp collecting instead.

The incredible lightness of Willow

I had a lovely ride on Willow tonight. She was giving me a light but totally connected feeling through the bridle. I hope that's a sign that my focus on getting her to lighten her forehand is starting to show some results. We worked on canter lengthenings, and toward the end I was starting to be able to collect her using mainly my seat to half halt. That's a big change from the giant, galumphing, heavy canter of six months ago. Sitting trot felt nice and light as well, and we had two huge lengthenings with that cool slow-motion feeling. All we've got left for solid second level are walk-canter transitions, ten-meter canter circles, and more work on counter canter.

A frisky cat scared Willow into a flying change tonight.

So, a month ago I ordered a double bridle from Dressage Extensions. I got an email saying the bridle was on backorder. Today I emailed to get an ETA on the backorder. Three more months, I was told. (Dressage Extensions, I love you, but four months on a backorder sucks.) I cancelled the order and am now trying to decide how much more I can afford to spend.

Who Says There's No Money To Be Made In Journalism?

Well, at least there is at the top.

The VIP "Reserved Parking" spots where I work -- Gannett/USA TODAY headquarters.
L-R: Mercedes, Aston Martin, Porsche.

I've got some catching up to do.

I decided to do one of these book meme things instead of actually writing a post. YEAH BABY.

I wasn't tagged, but thanks Tara for the idea.

These are the 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing’s users. I've read the bold ones, underlined the ones I've started but not finished, and italicised the ones I plan to read.

Also I should note that I have never before been so tempted to lie in a meme.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Anna Karenina

Crime and Punishment


One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wuthering Heights

The Silmarillion

Life of Pi: a novel

The Name of the Rose

Don Quixote

Moby Dick


Madame Bovary

The Odyssey

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Eyre

The Tale of Two Cities

The Brothers Karamazov

Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies

War and Peace

Vanity Fair

The Time Traveler’s Wife

The Iliad


The Blind Assassin

The Kite Runner

Mrs. Dalloway

Great Expectations

American Gods

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Atlas Shrugged

Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books

Memoirs of a Geisha



Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the West

The Canterbury Tales

The Historian: a novel

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Love in the Time of Cholera

Brave New World

The Fountainhead

Foucault’s Pendulum



The Count of Monte Cristo


A Clockwork Orange

Anansi Boys

The Once and Future King

The Grapes of Wrath

The Poisonwood Bible: a novel


Angels & Demons

The Inferno (and Purgatory and Paradise)

The Satanic Verses

Sense and Sensibility

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Mansfield Park

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

To the Lighthouse

Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Oliver Twist

Gulliver’s Travels

Les Misérables

The Corrections

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time


The Prince

The Sound and the Fury

Angela’s Ashes : a memoir

The God of Small Things

A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present



A Confederacy of Dunces

A Short History of Nearly Everything


The Unbearable Lightness of Being



The Scarlet Letter

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

The Mists of Avalon

Oryx and Crake : a novel

Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed

Cloud Atlas

The Confusion



Northanger Abbey

The Catcher in the Rye

On the Road

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values

The Aeneid

Watership Down

Gravity’s Rainbow

The Hobbit

In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences

White Teeth

Treasure Island

David Copperfield

The Three Musketeers

Sting, Stang, Stung

More on this fuzzy fellow later. Click to embiggen.

My sister has been asking what Piper looks like now, at the age of four months. He's gotten a lot taller:

but mostly he has become kind of a handful. You know how puppies chew, right? Well, Piper doesn't chew so much as he eats. The other day he was lying beside me in the living room when i heard a funny swallowing sound. Sticking out of his muzzle were 2 inches of a 12 inch collar. I had taken it off him earlier and put it in my cardy pocket, and he pulled it out and swallowed most of it before I caught him.

Dealing with that was disgusting, really (kind of foamy-slimy), but the larger issue is that we have to be awfully vigilant about this dog. Stupid animal has a death wish.

Our house has also become home to another kind of pet: honeybees have set up a hive in our crawl space, between the floor and the insulation. I first noticed them coming and going out their front door, a gap in one of the wall vents to the outside...

We have called the local beekeepers' association, and they gave us the names of five beekeepers who would probably love to come and collect the hive. I don't know how long it will take but the bees are not bothering us - I quite like having them there actually.

However, on Saturday Emily fell down into a patch of clover in the front yard (our lawn is about 70% clover now) directly on top of a bee. She got a bad sting in her leg, which got red and hot very quickly. Within a few minutes she had an alarming network of welts all over her calf.

My mother is anaphylactic and carries an Epi Pen for bee stings, and I was a bit concerned about it as Emily has never been stung before. I had homeopathic Apis in the house, so I gave her three of them within ten minutes of the sting. The welts disappeared completely, and by the next morning all that was left was a tiny little stinger hole.

So I'm definitely keeping that remedy in the house. It's part of my growing Family Kit. So far I keep Arnica (for trauma, bruising), Apis (for stings and bites), Aconite (for panic), Influenzinum (flu), Hepar Sulph (for earaches, congestion and infections) and Ignatia (for worry and stress).

The last thing I wanted to show you is Charlotte's Christmas stocking. Remember this?

I have picked it up again, realising uneasily that it is halfway to Christmas and I've barely touched it. I really need to get it done this year, but at this rate I might not make it. I'll have to sacrifice some knitting to the cause, eventually, but I'd like to finish the Cap Shawl first.

Maybe I'll show you guys a picture of this thing every week, and if there isn't enough progress you can set up a hue and cry in the comments to get me going.

Now I'm off to clean up that coffee table...it's moved to the top of my priority list because I want to knit for a while and I need a place to set my teacup.

Growth - with photos.

Origami beads, strung with Czech glass (and yes, the odd plastic) for a friend.

Cap Shawl update - I'm on round 153 of 163. Once the main body is finished, I shall have the pleasure of knitting the attached border.

Stripey socks news: a disaster befell me while I was riding to knitting a few weeks ago. Due to a combination of careless sock-stowage and winds generated by incredible, super-human speeds, my sock-in-progress, along with its Addi Turbo, got sucked into the pedal thingy. Like, the place where the pedal is attached to the bike. The entire shooting match was wrapped so tightly around the pedal thingy (help me out here, Lizbon) that I had to cut the yarn free, and now my Addi Turbo is permanently kinked in several places. Dirty grease is immovably ground into the leg of the sock. And I have lost my mojo.

But look how good my dinner was.

Baby Yukon Golds, olive oil, butter, rosemary from my garden, Maldon salt and cracked pepper.

Pink hardy geraniums, and my first ever stargazer (I think that's what it is).

Chives, a very pretty plant that also provides highly popular bee and butterfly habitat. These are unbelievably hardy, fast growing, and you can cut them down after their first bloom to get a second one later in the summer. Hummingbirds love them too.

And with all this stitching, knitting, cooking and weeding, some things are bound to take a backseat.

(Hi, knititch!)

Reader Meets Herself

Erudite Mondays at HalfSoled Boots
Volume 4 Number 1

Ali Smith

Let me tell you about when I was a girl, my grandfather says.

I knew from page one that this book would be getting as many points as I could give it. The first line of Girl Meets Boy slapped me right in the face...and stayed slapping me until I turned the very last page.

This is the second volume I have read from the Canongate Myth Series, which I had feared would consistently disappoint. Remember The Penelopiad? Well, Girl Meets Boy did not, in fact, disappoint. It clobbered me. It busted my cogs. It blew me out of the water and left me perched precariously on a tiny rock, shaking with adrenaline, my linen tunic soaked and seaweed in my hair.

I was small, our grandfather says, I was nineteen, but I could pass for twelve or thirteen. And I looked a bit like a boy.

Yeah, Midge says, cause you were one.

You may have heard Ovid's tale, from the Metamorphoses, of Iphis and Ianthe. Iphis' mother dressed her as a boy to prevent her dynastic father murdering her because of her sex. Raised as a boy, Iphis falls in love with the beautiful Ianthe. On the eve of their wedding, Iphis and her mother beseech Isis' intervention. Isis transforms Iphis into a man, the wedding is a success, and they live happily ever after.

Midge, my sweet fierce cynical heart, our grandfather says. You're going to have to learn the kind of hope that makes things history. Otherwise there'll be no good hope for your own grand truths and no good truths for your own grandchildren.

My name's Imogen, Midge says and gets down off his knee.

This retelling does interesting things with the original myth, but that's not the best part of the book. The best part is this: characters in Girl Meets Boy transcend and challenge their gender repeatedly - sometimes subtly, sometimes obviously. Nearing the end of the book, gender as an identity ceased to have meaning. The girlness of boys, and the boyness of girls, made it irrelevant.

Way back in the Celtic tribes, our grandmother says, women had the franchise. You always have to fight to get the thing you've lost.

There is only one thing in this book that I wish had been handled differently. The heroine's sister, Midge, is appalled by her sister's emerging sexual identity. I wish that the author hadn't endowed Midge with quite so many hangups, issues, and baggage. I think the reader is meant to feel a certain way about her - namely, that she is tiresome, ignorant, selfish and narrow-minded, and that her homophobia is all of a piece with the rest. It's all too easy to see that she is going to be the fly in the ointment: she is exercise-obsessed, bulimic, repressed, success-crazy, and intolerably superior. I would have liked the resident homophobe, who is obviously headed for an enlightenment, to be less typecast.

He was the most beautiful boy I had ever seen in my life.

But he looked really like a girl.

She was the most beautiful boy I had ever seen in my life.

I won't pretend everyone will love this book. The fact that I love it only proves that few others of my acquaintance will. But, if you think you can handle the feeling of being upended and shaken until your culture falls out, and feeling your mind expand to consider new ideas, by all means seek out Girl Meets Boy.

One last quote, from the opening page before the book begins:

It is the mark of a narrow world that it mistrusts the undefined.
-Joseph Roth


(HalfSoledBoots Highly Specialised Book Rating System [see what I did there?])
Girl Meets Boy gets:

Reread? Hell, yes.
Given as a Gift to Others? Yes. Carefully.
Bookplate? Yes because if this book walks I'll have to shell out for another one. Or two, just in case.


Of Boston, Brazil and B-Boys

Brazil vs. Venezuela
Boston, Mass.
Oh, no she di'int! Yes, she did. The Brazil fans were ka-razy. This was the most alarming show of support I saw. The thought process: Is it totally rude to take a picture of this woman? No, if you're wearing something like that, you're begging for attention! And I not-so-discreetly snapped away.

Neil and I drove up to Boston this weekend to visit my friend Mwashonga. We had a great time on our whirlwind tour. Mwashonga is a huge soccer fan, and one of his girl friends works for Harvard, through which she gets cheap tix to sporting events. She got us $60, 10th-row tickets to the Brazil vs. Venezuela game at the Patriots' stadium. It was our first pro soccer match, and it was awesome!

There were 58,000 people in attendance; a sea of green and yellow. Which made it all the more ironic Brazil lost, 2-0! The game was awesome, but even more exciting were the fights! There were about 3 of them in our section alone, with a couple fan ejections. On the field, unfortunately, two players got carried off on stretchers -- it's a rough game. There was also a half-naked (top half, fortunately) "streaker" who ran out and hugged one of Brazil's usually amazing players, Robinho, before security threw him to the ground and escorted him, handcuffed, off the field. Soccer has trumped basketball in my opinion as the ultimate spectator sport!

Saturday we toured around the city, and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Do you remember the book "Make Way for Ducklings"?
I never realized it is set in Boston. I bought the book for posterity and got our picture in front of Duck Island. In the Quincy Market square, we happened upon a breakdancing crew that was drawing a huge crowd. We made our way to an opening where we could see them, and crazy enough, it was a crew we have seen now in 3 cities! We first saw them last summer in L.A. at the World Hip Hop Championships. Then we saw them this spring in VA at the Circles 9 battle, "one of the largest hip hop charity events on the East Coast." They hail from Boston, so I feel like we're stalking them, but they are pretty amazing!
This is some of them in-between amazing breaking.

The whole way up, I was craving a lobster roll. I'd heard about them, and knew they're available in Maine, but hoped I could get one in Mass., too. I was obsessed! I like to experience new places through my stomach, so I got one for lunch and felt I could go home having experienced New England to the, um, fullest.
I also saw a shop selling popcorn. Shout out to my uncle Dale and cousin Thomas.
Sorry if you guys had plans to open an eponymous popcorn shop.

I'm a pretty wild driver, so I never thought I'd say this, but drivers in Boston are the worst I've ever seen in my entire life. It's not that they drive crazy or fast -- I do that, but other than speed, a cop would be hard-pressed to actually cite me. It's the utter lawlessness with which Bostonians drive. Pulling out into oncoming traffic? No problem. Cutting other cars off? Hey, it's a free-for-all. Using a turn signal? Never heard of it. Picking a lane? Two is better than one. Terrible, terrible stuff. I was completely dumbfounded by the abundance of this:
Driving on the shoulder!!!! And everybody was doin' it! I was appalled and flabbergasted and every other thing like that, all at once. Until I saw roadsigns that said something to the effect of it being OK to drive on the shoulder in certain areas. Still, totally weird! No wonder they drive like maniacs, with state-sanctioned crazy driving!