Friday, February 25, 2011

Just finished The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, the second in the Flavia de Luce mystery series, by Alan Bradley. It's interesting, I tried to read the first one, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, a few years ago, and couldn't get into it. Then the third one, A Red Herring Without Mustard, came out recently and pulled me in right away. The beginning was arresting: Flavia goes to a Gypsy's tent to get her fortune told, and it's suitably ominous; then the tent bursts into flames. So having finished the third, I went back and read the first two, and now I'm a bit in mourning that they're over. Flavia, at 11, is a cross between Harriet the Spy and Lemony Snicket: sardonic and brilliant. She also reminds me of Janie from Harriet the Spy, because they both love chemistry.

Monday, February 21, 2011

French Milk

I just finished such a great book - French Milk. It took me a few pages to get into - the mix of traditional narrative and sketches took some getting used to. But the author's enthusiasm was infectious. It's the story of the 6 weeks she spent in Paris with her mother, as a 22nd birthday present, and this is her illustrated journal. It made me want to go back to Paris. I haven't been since 1996, on a student budget, and all I really remember is the Louvre (which was fantastic).

Friday, February 18, 2011

Gratitude list

I haven't done one of these in a here goes.

My friend TN, from college. A gentle soul and excellent listener.
My friend B, also from college. A free-spirited artist.
The full moon. There is one tonight, and there was also one when I was born. (I learned this in my astrology phase; when you look up your moon sign, you also find out the phase the moon was in.)
Magic. Not the magician kind, but life's capacity to delight and surprise.
New York City. It has its flaws, but has a special energy all its own.
Cupcakes! I don't have one every day, but I love 'em. And the city has enough cupcakeries to provide lots of variety.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The little things

It's amazing how small things can make a difference. For the past few days, I've been on a quest for the perfect pair of sneakers. Finally, I realized that I was in denial about my foot width. My feet have gotten wider and there's just no getting round it. So I'm wearing a pair of wide New Balance shoes, and my feet are happy.

Another good thing is the spectacular weather. The sun showed its almost-forgotten face and the snow seems to be behind us (although there is a rumor of a dusting next week, which I will just choose to ignore).

The decision letters from E's preschool will be mailed on March 1st. I think he will get into at least one. If not, we will come up with creative solutions. The main benefit of getting into preschool is that we wouldn't have to go through this rigmarole again for kindergarten. But, whatever. We'll survive.

And I'm reading a very good book, The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. It's about the three daughters of a Shakespeare scholar, and the meaning of "weird" is taken from Macbeth - slightly supernatural, linked to the notion of fate. Each sister is struggling with her destiny in some way. It's interesting.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Philly pictures

As requested, here are the pictures from my Philly trip.

This was a street near our hotel...I thought it looked rather French.

This red taxi surprised me...every cab is yellow in New York.

E at Little Pete's Diner with his new stacking, numbered cups (a gift from the hotel). He loves chanting the numbers and making towers...not sure why he looks so serious.

The museum! As you can see, the stairs are no joke.

Buddha, viewed from the side.

A Monet I've never seen before.

A Monet I've seen before. Pretty, isn't it?

A statue of an elephant and its child at the Philadelphia Zoo (which is apparently the oldest zoo in the country).

A tiger taking a nap. Just like a big, fluffy kitten.

A peacock, strolling freely through the grounds. It did sport a white tag on its ankle.

A polar bear heading toward an apple. He's about to eat it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

City of brotherly love

So D and I decided to come to Philly this morning and leave tomorrow afternoon. We planned the trip a while ago and it turned out we couldn't cancel it without paying the full price for the hotel. I am glad we went through with it, because I am mostly feeling better, and it's really cool to be in a new place. We've spent some time in the suburbs of Philly, but never in the city proper, which is much nicer.

After we got here, we went to Little Pete's Diner for lunch. It was basic but enjoyable. Then we went to the Philly art museum which definitely exceeded my expectations. I think we are the only people who have ever walked there. The sidewalk actually ended en route so we were walking in the breakdown lane. It wasn't a real highway, but still. E was on D's shoulders. Then we had to walk up the famous Rocky steps (D estimated that there were 99 of them). So we definitely got our exercise for the day.

I liked how the museum was a little more relaxed than the Met. People smiled at our little puffin running around. He stared at the Hindu statue of Ganesh and said "Oooh!" when he saw a two-headed lion nearby. He wasn't so interested in the Impressionists, but I thought they were lovely. I took a picture of a Monet I hadn't seen before and one that I had. If I remember later, I'll put some pictures up.

Then for dinner, we were planning to go someplace casual, maybe Mexican, but everywhere was booked up because it's Valentine's Day weekend. So we went to Smith & Wollensky, which happened to have a spot, and was convenient. I always forget that steakhouses have great vegetarian sides. This place was no exception. I had a delicious chopped salad and then we shared some truffled macaroni and cheese and broccoli florets. The mac and cheese was divine. Tomorrow we are going to try to go to the zoo, after some challah French toast.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hazy shade of winter

So E and I are sick at the same time. Serves us right for being social :( We took him to a birthday party on Saturday, and I accompanied him to a music class on Monday. Both occasions were chock-full of sick little kids. At the music class, one child went up to the guitarist and fiddled with the knobs on her guitar. The guitarist sang, "Please don't do that, it will make my guitar sound funny; oh well, too late." I found out that she is an opera singer. She doesn't have an imposing presence, though; very down-to-earth and sweet.

I'm finishing up The Swan Thieves and I'm a little sad about it. It was a nice, long book to get immersed in. The rest of the books in my pile are: Drinking Closer to Home by Jessica Anya Blau, The Red Garden (Alice Hoffman's newest), and The God of the Hive (the most recent entry in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series).

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

So E has decided that he doesn't like the stroller anymore. This means we have to walk super slowly everywhere we go (though it is very cute to watch him walk), and I have to restrain him from crossing the street when we don't have the light. He doesn't seem to like limits of any kind.

I wouldn't mind going so slowly if it weren't so cold. Is it spring yet?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A lark

So I just took the Jeopardy online test, for fun. My mom took it too. She recommended it to me - she has always said I am good at it when we watch together. There were 50 questions on the online quiz. I think I got all the literature ones. I found myself guessing on some of the other categories. One clue was, "The order of Leopold is the highest honor in this country." I guessed Austria. My favorite clue: "A deluge of borzois and tabbies." Raining cats and dogs :)

I'm reading The Swan Thieves and enjoying it very much. This comes as a surprise because I could not get into The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova's previous novel) AT ALL. On the other hand, I guess it's not a surprise because I do find art more interesting than vampires.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

So the last of E's playdates was today. It will be interesting to see what happens. Each playdate was very different. The first one was actually called a "family meeting" and just involved us walking through the school with E and the head of admissions, then meeting the director of the school.

The second one was a "stress playdate," where the head of admissions and some other stone-faced woman frowned and took notes the whole time as the children were basically expected to perform like show ponies.

The third one (today) was somewhere in between; there seemed to be some observation and assessment, with the director commenting on how quickly E completed his puzzles. It seems like E is smart, but not a joiner. He does his own thing and does it fast and well, but doesn't seem terribly interested in following the crowd. It didn't seem to bother this director. At school #2, they really like lemmings, I think.

Anyway, it's over. And I for one am very grateful.