Thursday, July 6, 2017

Whichwood, by Tahereh Mafi

For my first ARC, I read this one -- Whichwood, by Tahereh Mafi. It's actually a "young readers" book, sort of the stage before YA, and I have to say I'm pretty surprised by that. It's also a sequel to the book Furthermore, which I now find I must locate to read.

To our story: Laylee is 13, and stricken with a magical disease because her mother (the most beautiful woman in their land) died and her father went a little (ok, a lot) bonkers and the family business has fallen squarely on her youthful shoulders. The family business of corpse washing/burial, that is. Laylee and her family are mordeshoors, people whose magic allows them to scrub both body and souls of the dead in preparation of their moving on to the afterlife. The first section of the book is a grim accounting of her daily life, which sounds rather....mucky, if you want the truth. There's lots of rather sticky description of mouldering corpses and mud and the snowy weather, and it's all written so clearly and well you can practically smell it. This is the primary reason I am surprised by the age group -- there are no punches pulled when describing rotting bodies, and while I know youngin's are more resilient than your standard grade adult (it's all that baggage we carry; it makes us fragile), but still. And it's helpful that the author uses little comments as her section titles warning the reader that the tale is about to get rough, as bugs are a major part of the tale (one of the later primary characters is a spider) and there are some...ugh. I don't want to spoiler anything, but the way the bugs get around is...nasty. To me. Maybe not to a 10 year old, I have no clue.

Just...there are bugs. It's gross. Some kids will love that, but if you've got a sensitive one (or are sensitive yourself), it may disturb you. Just a bit.

Anyway, when I say, "and it all goes downhill from the beginning", please understand I mean "for our heroine", not the book. The writing is lively and vibrant, and for a book written and aimed at 10-14 year olds, it's pretty adult in terms of themes and messages. There were times when I, even as an adult who knows how these things go, had no idea how anyone could possibly get out of the situation that arises with health and sanity intact. That's...rather pleasant, to be honest. I'm so very rarely surprised by a book anymore, and almost never by one that is aimed at younger readers.

It comes out November 14th through Dutton Children's Books, a division of Penguin. The version I have read is the uncorrected galley, and the cover art may very well change between here and there, but I'm really optimistic that it will remain every bit as entertaining in finished form as it is in it's 'just learned to walk' format.

I recommend this book -- and all her books, really. Mafi has an engaging voice and personable style that gives the impression that you've just sat down with her and she's telling you a story. It's quite pleasant for the reader, even as she tortures her characters with unique, character building traumas. And love.

Saturday, July 1, 2017


I had to go away for a long while, regroup. Rethink my place in the world. And realized that, without a journal to keep me oriented, I tend to forget things like "order in which things happened" and "where is that recipe that I liked?"

I can't keep this as a straight-up yarn blog anymore, mostly because I am so much more. I like a place to keep my recipe innovations, and a place to keep my book lists, and a place to whine about my shoes. I still knit, but it's not my primary mode of self-expression anymore. Hell, my stash is so large that if I quit knitting now, my mom would probably murder me.

So I'm making this an everything and nothing spot, a place to dump the contents of my mind when they come up. I think that will work best for me, to be honest. I need to start keeping track of myself again, if only so I have notes on what I was thinking two weeks ago.

Yeah, it's sort of like that.

To catch everyone up: We still have two cats (Yoda and Ebony), and Rex the WonderPibble. I still share a house with both of my parents and a brother I waver between wanting to shove under a bus and wanting to give a medal. I had a severe bout of mononeucleosis (sorry, I have no idea what they call that in Europe -- uhhh, Epstein Barr?) that left me super wiped out for the better part of six months, that I'm always on the cusp of relapsing into. I just attended the American Library Association Conference in Chicago and brought home more perfect-bound bundles of printed paper to drop on top of my already precariously stacked To Be Read pile. And I'm in the middle of knitting Nieceling a pretty thing for her wedding (can it be? The little piglet that bruised my ribs the very first time I held her is already getting hitched up? I'm not crying, you're crying!)

You could say I've been busy.

But that's no excuse for ignoring my journaling! How the heck will I be able to track my life's milestones without a list somewhere! So I've dusted this off and am starting anew.

To begin: My To Be Read list. It's huge, it's papery, and I better get cracking on it or the advance reader's copies I have will be still waiting until everyone's read and resold their publisher copies at a used bookstore. I'll have to talk about the first book I've started: Whichwood, a YA novel by Tahereh Mafi. It doesn't come out until November, and I tucked into it the day I picked it up at ALA.

You will be hearing more about it!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I had my Reiki done today.

I finally got to the end of a rope today. I've had month-long migraines for the last three months, with significant abdominal components. They're...unpleasant, and they linger, and after two weeks of feeling like a giant is squeezing you like a tube of toothpaste and just not wanting to eat or breathe or move or live, you get desperate.

I got new medications from my doctor -- hopefully, they will address the root cause of these migraines, but we have a whole 'nother month to see how that plays out. In the meantime, there have been some lingering after-effects (as usual for migraines), including body pain. And my new meds are having a really irritating side effect, in that they exacerbate my bruxism, and leave my face in a more-or-less permanent cramp. Yay. But still, cramps or giant's dental hygiene? I'll take the cramp, thank you.

My father has a visiting nurse who also does reiki. He's recommended it for my mom, for pain relief on her knee. I There's a local place, it's $40 for half an hour, if nothing else, it's half and hour of bingly-bong massage music and low lighting. And the shop smells like sandalwood and patchouli, scents which I find very soothing. I can forgive that expense.

So in the interests of science, here is my lab report.

Reiki for Surly Knitter

Introduction: Reiki is a Japanese energy work method that practitioners claim offers health benefits. Does it really work, or is that a load of crap? That was the purpose of this study, to report the outcome of a reiki session on someone who was desperate for pain relief.

This researcher's hypothesis is that there will be some relief, based on the fact that the subject is both desperate and highly suggestible. 

Materials and Methods: The study pool consisted of one (1) female, 42 years of age, caught in the throes of the serotonin shakes. She reports a face cramp, moderate to severe, impacting her ability to sleep and chew. The cramp is affecting the muscles in her cheek, forehead, down her throat and to her shoulder. 

A reiki appointment was obtained with a practitioner, female, age unknown, working out of a shop front location. Practitioner lists herself as "Certified Usui Reiki Master Teacher" in promotional materials. Study subject is familiar with the practitioner on an acquaintance level.

At the appointment, the subject removed her shoes and lay on an uncomfortable massage table with knee bolster, covered with a sheet for warmth. The practitioner proceeded to supply 30 minutes of reiki -- involving hands cupped around the head and neck of the subject. 

Results:  The subject reported an unusual wave-like sensation running up and down her limbs during the portion of reiki with hands around her ears. After a bit, her toes began tingling, but not in a painful way. Upon standing, subject reported feeling 'empty'. After a few moments, and some time to ponder, subject states the sensation is similar to "growing two inches, and losing 20 pounds". Subject reports she realized that the after-effects of her previous abdominal migraine (tiredness, heaviness in the abdomen) had vanished during the session. An hour and a half post-appointment, subject still reports feeling lighter than before and having significantly less joint pain than before, additionally, her lower back has relaxed to the point she can touch the floor with her palms again, something she has not been able to do for months. Her jaw, however, still hurts and is tight.

Conclusion: Reiki worked for this subject in unexpected ways. Her jaw, the primary reason for the appointment, was mainly unaffected, although muscles in her neck and shoulder have relaxed slightly. The most marked change was the feeling of lightness and of having grown. Her abdominal cavity no longer feels bloated or tense.

Reiki worked, for this subject. What that means for other subjects at large is unknown.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Well, that sucked.

We had a bereavement today. Bacardi, one of our basement cats (literally, they're both black and they both stay in the basement) passed away after a brief illness. He didn't suffer, and from his body posture, I'm guessing he simply fell over on his way to the litter box. But it became my job to play kitty coroner and take him off to the vet for cremation. It's a creepy basement anyway, but... There's something horrid about picking up the body of someone you'd just been petting and making nice with the night before.

We cleaned out some of the basement this evening, and spent some time with Ebony (who, oddly enough, doesn't seem the least little bit upset at suddenly having a massive basement, two food dishes and three bags of treats all to his onesies -- I'm becoming slightly suspicious of him, to be honest).

Then I finished off my wine. It was a big glass. And had some of Paula Deen's Oooey Gooey Butter Cake (horrible politics from that one, but I love what she can do to a stick of butter). Mom made it for me while I was at work, along with spaghetti and meat sauce, which is my favorite. I'd like to think it was a 'thank you for dealing with something I haven't got the spoons to handle', but I'm pretty sure it was just because I had to pay for the cremation.

I told them to keep his ashes and sprinkle them on the pet cemetery -- he was feral; I'm pretty sure the last thing he'd want is to be brought back here.

So, these are my feelz today:

I am done with this day, possibly even this week. I'm going upstairs to cuddle with my Yoda, maybe watch some Star Wars (alien war zones; fabulous places to be in times of stress) and fall asleep early.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Yeah, sorry.

It's been a very long time since I last posted. Let's just's been an adventure.

I realized a few weeks ago, however, that I enjoyed keeping my blog. It's a place to keep my records. I can't even tell you how helpful it is to have a digital resource where my work start date is posted. I always seem to forget what year I started working there full-time.

Long story short, I spent a lot of time watching the new Star Wars movie in the time I've been away. It tells you something when you'd rather spend $10 (minimum) and two and a half hours in the middle of an alien war zone rather than your own life, if you know what I mean. And then some more shit happened. It sucked -- and I spent more time yet in the Star Wars 'verse (thank you, Mr. Wendig, for that excellent novel, and I may be hyperventilating due to the sequel coming out in two months, nonononononono I need that book noooooow). And then more shit happened, and then I ended up in hospital on morphine, and then I got out and the bills are outrageous. Thank God I changed my insurance from high deductible last year, is all I've got to say about it.

And now you're all caught up.

Fear not, though, I've been knitting and cooking through it all. Most of it - the hospital part was a little less on the cooking/eating bits - anyway. And I find that I want to start knitting more. And cooking more. And I'm hella poor. No, really. I'm an American, working class woman. Spend one night in an emergency room and you will discover how poor you can get. End up going back for subsequent imaging tests and get prescribed drugs...uh, yeah. I'll be paying this off for a while. I have nothing better to do with myself (that I can afford, anyway) than blog, knit and cook dinner. Aren't you lucky?

My purpose in starting this blog up again today (and I do have one) is that I've made up a recipe for myself and I want to keep it somewhere safe. I actually innovated a recipe! And it was awesome! So awesome, in fact, that I have no pictures - I finished it, took one bite and sucked it down like new plumbing. Oh, my word, it was fabulous. If I do say so myself (and I do).

I was watching Dinner at Tiffani's today, and she made a version of poutine called "Disco Fries". I found myself thinking, Self, you neglected to eat poutine when you were in Canada, oh, so long ago. This was bad. And then I started wanting poutine, even though I've never had it. However, even her recipe is problematical for me in terms of ingredients - well, Lea & Perrins' claims their Worcestershire Sauce has no soy, but I don't trust anyone anymore, so I'm not going to make her recipe, per se. And all day long my longing for gravy coated fries just got stronger and stronger and stronger. I made a stop at the grocery and then made this:

My Lazy Girl Pretend Poutine

1 bag freezer fries (heavy crinkle cuts, please)
1 cup beef broth
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
1/8 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
shake of onion powder (about the same amount as cumin)
Cheese -- roughly a half cup, but please yourself, both in type and amount -- I used Gruyere. 
Salt and pepper

Bake half of the bag of fries (supposedly, this is one serving - ok, ok, it's one serving if you're me) until crispy, then salt and set aside -- you will want the extra salt, and you will want these fries crisp before you doctor them.

Make your gravy:
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan, and once it's melted make a pale roux with the flour (that just means you mix it in and let it cook, but don't let it get dark -- I only went a light tan with my roux). Pour in half the broth and cook until it comes together in a thick paste. Toss in most of the cheese and melt, almost as if you're making a bechemel sauce, but without the milk. Once the cheese melts, add your spices (and a tiny bit more salt, and pepper to taste.) Stir it up, and then carefully add in the second half of the beef broth. Whisk to keep it smooth.

Put your fries in a bowl, pour a healthy dose of gravy on and then top with the rest of the cheese. You'll have some of your gravy left over, just save it up.


I can't speak for your experience with my lazy poutine, but putting the cheese in the gravy gives it extra body and makes it soooooooo good.

I ate my dinner, had some sugar cookie dough and now am contemplating going to the laundry to wash my clothes. If I can move. I may have a gravy hangover.

But rest assured, I will take some pictures of my new knitting projects and the designs I'm working on, and be back soon. I'm going to try and blog at least once a week. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Oh, Gods, tonight's dinner is *spectacular*!!!

I've already told you that I had the summer and year from hell, right? I'm recovering from several months of lots of issues and stress and a nervous exhaustion that is particularly odious. I feel like I need a month or two at a warm seaside resort or something equally Victorian like that.

I decided to make myself a nice dinner, snuggle with my puppers and watch The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I. So I considered the ingredients at home, stopped at the grocery for extras and a bottle of wine (and a small cheesecake), and went to town.

Chicken based Italian sausage (mild), baby spinach, chicken broth, and onion, and some items not pictured: some leftover potatoes from the pantry, some cheese, garlic, cream, salt and pepper. The wine is for drinking during dinner.


Bacon on top, too. I'm finishing up my second bowl.I can't wait for the cheesecake.

And you know? I do feel better.

Now, to gather Rex and head off to Panem before I make plans to see the second half of the movie this weekend. Hopefully, it'll help me recover some strength before the crazy of the next holiday.

And a nap. We have to take a nap. Naps are good for you, too.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

I got my write on!

It sucked. But it felt soooo goood.

I may even write some more of it. Or maybe something else. Who knows? But it felt good to get some quiet time in a noisy coffee shop and write some words.

If only I could get some knitting done, I'd feel a good deal less creatively constipated.

It's possible that there may be some new yarn in my future, so maybe I'll get an impetus to knit again, too. It's the dark time of the year, though, so that may be retarding my ability to feel creative in any real way. I just have to push through, I guess.

If only it weren't so hard.