Ants and Fines

Dear Kristen,

Ooooh, the symphony is lovely.

And Christmas music is lovely.  Tell Charles sneaking in a Christmas song now and then is good for the heart.  I keep The Carpenters “Merry Christmas Darling” on my iPod and phone all year long.  When I need a fix – I take advantage of my hidden stash.

You know what isn’t lovely? Ants.

We have ants.  They showed up at the beginning of the week in the kitchen. Verdict: these are a band of rouge ants.  Unlike your normal ants who follow a specified line of attack (and each other), these ants have no distinguishable method or pattern.  There’s one here by the dishwasher, two by the stove, and one in the sink.  There’s never a bunch, only a few. Which means….


So efforts to remove my harmless but annoying enemies are proving fruitless.


My second dilemma of the week is that I cannot read fast enough.  This is strange for me, but there you have it. I am reading a library book that is due today.  I have two hundred pages left.  And things to do. And a toddler.

There is no finishing it on time.  I contemplated returning it without finishing to not have to pay a fine.  I haven’t paid a fine in years, maybe even decades.  But I like it too much.  It’s interesting and I’m not in a place where stopping it to then pick it up again in a week or more is a good idea.  I would be worrying about the characters the entire time!


So there you have it.  I’m accruing a fine.  For The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.


Change of Key

Dear Erin,

Thanks for the list. I very strongly remember you liking “Goodnight Moon” when you were little. Of course, I was too old for it by the time it made its way into our household, and I also remember that the strange, saturated colors were somewhat off-putting to me. Now I realize they’re meant to be dream-like, but then it just read as weird to this six-year-old. But I will definitely add these to the bookshelf for a couple years down the road.

This morning I realized that I am transitioning into my fall / winter music listening habits. When it’s hot, pretty much all I listen to is classic rock and country music. Both make me think of driving down Florida backroads to camp or the water park or college with the windows down and the music turned up, sweating plenty, but with bare feet and a fast-warming Coke to drink. One of my favorite visions of summer.

But when the year turns, I switch over almost entirely to classical, with some mid-century jazz in the evenings and Christmas music starting in November. Well, to the extent that I can control it: Charles will switch over to Christmas music in earnest any day now. But for me, the cooler weather is the season of Vivaldi and Bach and the rest of them (but especially the earlier masters). I haven’t figured out definitely why this is, although I have some ideas.

The most likely is that this is the beginning of symphony season, which I’ve enjoyed since I was, what? 4? I remember going to the Pops in the Florida Theatre, falling asleep 2/3 of the way through, and then coming out onto the chilly street afterward and being allowed to wear Geema or Grandma’s mink stole, which was lovely and warm and soft. It was January, and bitter, when I was in Vienna for three weeks and went to performance after performance: chamber music, oratorio, opera, symphony, chorale. No fur on that occasion, just the wish that I had chosen warmth over aesthetics in footwear. Fell asleep in a couple of those as well, actually.

Yesterday we got a brochure with the lineup for the local symphony, and almost everything looks good. What with that, and San Francisco’s cultural offerings right up the road, I think it’s time to do a little planning. We’ve skipped this kind of thing the last couple years, but it’s time to start up again. And in the meantime, there’s always the classical stations on the radio.


Updated Top Five

Dear Kristen,

Your knitting is always beautiful!  I’m a particular fan of that color scheme – it feels very Kristen-like.  As is the podcast suggestion…which I’ve bought into.  I’ve downloaded the first few to listen to when clothes need folding and Munchkin is sleeping.  Its hard to dance to Alfred the Great’s bio – which is currently one of her favorite activities.

Her favorite activities and foods are constantly changing which keeps life interesting – which is a tame way of saying that I’m always on my toes!  Though her love for dancing and pretzels is fairly new, her love of reading discussed here continues in full force.

Now that she’s a little older, we let her pick out the story for bedtime and she’s been favoring five for the past few weeks.

IMG_0506 edit

  1. Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton – Munchkin refers to this as “Hat Book” and enjoys covering her mouth in astonishment every time the turkey makes an “oops!”  She then precedes to laugh merrily at herself.
  2. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown – This is the “googite” book and a classic.  It was one of my favorites, too.
  3. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey – This was a gift from some dear friends and Munchkin loves it.  She refers to it with something that sounds close to “strawberry” but not exactly that.  But there’s always at least one “yummy!” during the reading.
  4. The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle – This has become a very interactive book.  On every page is a different farm animal that introduces themselves with their typical animal “noise.”  Munchkin supplies those EVERY time.  Then she wants to sing the nursery rhyme “Itsy Bitsy Spider” when we’re done.
  5. Down by the Cool of the Pool by Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees – This is the “frog book,” though if I’m honest, frog doesn’t always come out of Munchkin’s mouth very accurately.  My theory as to why this is a favorite is because the animals are dancing and because she gets to say “Whee!!” as loud as possible.

So there you have it!  Her newest favorites in the literary world!  Now if I could only get her to love Jane Austen….


Second Time’s the Charm

Dear Erin,

You may think, what with all this podcast listening, and the fact that it’s been summer and all, that I haven’t been keeping up with the knitting Joneses. Well, production has slackened off somewhat in the past few months; as any knitter will tell you, it’s hard to be enthusiastic for a craft made of wool when you have sweaty hands. But I haven’t entirely dropped it. Here’s what’s on my needles right now.



It’s a very popular pattern over on Ravelry (or was for about a year before I started it; I’m generally late to the popularity parties), and I bought the yarn for it back in February. It doesn’t even take that long to knit. But this is as far as I’ve gotten.

That’s probably because this is my second time through. I knit the whole thing once, bound it off, finished it up … and then didn’t like it. Once I researched the pattern, I found out that a number of other people had the same problem, which they had solved with a very simple modification. So … live with it, or knit it again …

Knitting it again, I find that I’m much happier, and excited to have this piece in my wardrobe before it does get cool around here.

Podcast Obsession

Dear Erin,

Aw, she looks like she’s having a fantastic time! The past few days have been more fall-like, and I hope it will last. I’m putting off that first (and likely only) pumpkin spice latte for the perfect moment: gray, cool, and breezy.

Reading continues apace. Since I’m currently full up on fiction, I’ve moved on to a book-length essay, Why Poetry MattersThe jury is still out; the first two chapters were off-putting. However, I’m not done yet. It might turn around.

When I’m actually being productive these days (as opposed to reading, writing, or studying, all of which can be argued to be productive but don’t result in clean socks), I am, as always, devouring podcasts. And I have a new favorite: the Rex Factor Podcast.

Rex Factor Logo

Rex Factor Logo

It’s a lively conversation between British friends Graham and Ali, and each episode concentrates on a king or queen of England. They’ve been moving chronologically from Alfred the Great up to Elizabeth II. Graham brings the erudition and Ali the commentary. Besides biography, they “review” each monarch on several characteristics, beginning with “battleyness” and ending with a final vote on whether the person has the “Rex Factor,” which is entirely subjective but seems to be a kind of glamor mixed with effectiveness.

I binge listen to them in dynasties, so, having started with Alfred the Great about three weeks ago, I’m already up to George III. I know it’s not really your preferred area of history, but if you’re looking for something different delivered in a well-researched and entertaining manner, you might check these out sometime.