Friday, May 12, 2006


We are on what feels like day 300 of perpetual rain here. (Note: if I had wanted perpetual rain, I would have moved to the Northwest where you can counter your lousy mood with lots of fresh seafood.) Beneath the dripping sky is a very, very green world. We haven't been able to mow the lawn in about two weeks since the grass is too wet and Fiona suggested that we tie the larger clumps of grass into pony tails--a new look in landscaping.

On a more positive note, last Thursday my bookgroup got together for our green meal to discuss our green book, Wicked.

First the food, since good food and drink always loosens the tongue. (I am amazed when people tell me they have book groups where there isn't food or alcohol--Whhhaaaaa?)

We started off with Lea's cheesy warm artichoke dip.
Garlicy, gooey, yum, yum, more.
Then we moved to the table and had Jen's beautiful asparagus soup. Jen has long claimed that she can't cook which we now all realize was just a confidence issue. The soup was excellent--velvety, warm and comforting on a chilly damp day.
Then we loaded our plates with Sarah's spinach pasta with pesto, Marilyn's salad with avocado and asparagus and bread flecked with (green) rosemary.
And to wash it down, those of us not on powerful antibiotics (sigh) drank a good deal of wine (in a green bottle, of course).
Sarah, looking thoughtful. Drink up, Sarah!
For dessert I made a key lime pie with whipped cream. Ok, so key limes are yellow, but I didn't have the heart to add food coloring to it.

And now, the book. There were a number of expressions of frustration about the book. I think we all agreed that the first half, from childhood until Elphaba finishes college was very compelling and that after that the book lost focus. The second half didn't measure up to the promise of the first half, in part because the most interesting relationship in the book is between Elphaba and Galinda and Galinda hardly makes an appearance in the second half.

I can't understand why a good editor didn't advise Maguire to limit the story to the two witches in their college days. There were so many elements, particularly in the second half, that were undeveloped, as though the author was trying to examine way too many themes, many of which he would mention and then drop. It seems to me that the contemplation of the nature of good and evil is a complex enough topic to demand complete attention, without lots of side topics to distract the reader. This left us with lots of head scratching--what the heck was the Yackel character about? She kept popping up which makes one think her appearance must be significant, but why she was there was never clear. And all the dragon references (was Elphaba supposed to be part dragon somehow, even though the book implies she is the Wizard's daughter?) were pointing towards something, but exactly what, I can't say.

So on a global examination of the book, people enjoyed reading it, but were pretty frustrated with the decisions the author made. I think that some of the pleasure was on a paragraph level--even if it had nothing to do with the trajectory of the book, there are some ideas and emotions that are really well expressed. It is just a pity that they didn't serve the plot better. We found ourselves looking up favorite lines and picking through scenes, which makes for great conversation and once again, found that a flawed book (though not a horrible book like The News From Paraguay which everyone wanted to forget as soon as possible) can yield an excellent discussion.

Jen, in one of her moments of dry wit, drew our attention to the following sentence which is about Elphaba and her group of friends at college.

"Perhaps every accidental cluster of people has a short period of grace, in between the initial shyness and prejudice on the one hand and eventual repugnance and betrayal on the other." (p.146)

We all looked at each other. Our book group has been together now for almost 6 years--are we on the brink of repugnance and betrayal? Thank god, no! So we poured another glass of wine, ate some pie and relaxed into the comfort of each other's company.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I may have pneumonia but...

I finally went to the doctor yesterday after 13 days of low fever and 4 days of a cough so horrific that I though a piece of my lung would come flying out of my mouth at any moment. She said my lungs were "rattling" and I have pneumonia. But hey, severe coughs are terrific toners for any floppy abdominal muscles you may have! I may have pneumonia but I now also have abs of steel! And a husband who makes me sleep in one of the kids' beds until my cough stops sounding like a dog barking in his ear all night long. I have come to realize that Thomas the Tank engine sheets are about as soft as sandpaper. Never noticed that before!

To continue in this vein, I may have pneumonia but I managed to finish the back of the red sweater last night while watching Lost:
A vast field of red, guarded by the mandatory toy robot...

Yes, actual knitting content! I haven't looked too closely (because denial is a big word in my life) but I think that all the cables are twisting the correct direction. If they aren't well, this is the back of the sweater so at least I won't have to look at any goof ups. Whoever gets stuck standing behind me in a line can amuse themselves counting errors. When it came time to cast on for the front, I couldn't remember which size I was making because, despite the proliferation of many instruments of writing in this house, I neglected yet again to circle the size I decided on when I began. So I had to count across the stitches a few times until I was cross eyed. Seed stitch combined with Codeine does funny things to the brain.

Also, I may have pneumonia but I managed to squeeze the juice out of this pile of wee citrus today:
Now that's a lot of little limes.

My book group is meeting tonight. I may have pneumonia but I'll be damned if I miss a good book group meeting, even if my appetite is pretty pathetic and I can't drink with the antibiotics I'm taking. This month we read Wicked so we're having an all-green dinner in honor of Elphaba, the main character. I'm determined to remember to bring my camera tonight, so photos of the spread and some commentary on the book will appear tomorrow. Or the day after (after all, if you didn't hear me say it already, I have pneumonia so I may cut myself a rest day).

Monday, May 08, 2006

Corn People

In an attempt to appeal to my incredible picky eater son, we have been having food-theme days. I try not to bitch too much about my kid's general suspicion and dislike for most foods since I figure this is my cosmic payback for my regular sin of gluttony. But I also can't just stand by while he passes up the pleasures of many a fine kid-friendly food (I'm not crazy enough to, say, plan on having "Mackerel Day!") So I've had to get a little creative.

Last week we had Corn Day and the end result was that Ian discovered he loves corn on the cob! I know, corn is only barely a vegetable (actually it is a grass...) but we are working on versatility more than just nutrition. To get to this point required a good deal of extra work on my behalf.

First we had to dig through the house and find as many directly corn-based foods. (I'm reading The Omnivore's Dilemma right now and the first section describes how Americans are corn people since pretty much every meat and processed food we eat is dependent on some corn based product. But for the purpose of Corn Day, I thought we'd stick to the recognizable ones.) We found canned corn, corn chips, corn meal, crunchy dried corn, frozen corn and some fresh corn on the cob that he helped me pick out the day before at the store.

Since my picky eater is also a reluctant writer (though not a reluctant reader, thank god), we did some corn-themed writing practice. He wrote "Today is Corn Day" and other such relevant sentences. He drew a picture of some corn in a bowl. We sampled some corn products throughout the day, but the culmination (and great success) came at night.

We took our corn on the cob out on the deck to shuck it. The kids helped pull the husks and silk off of the cobs and then before attempting the eating portion of the evening, we made a Native American-style corn husk doll.
(Instructions here; one is supposed to used dried corn husks rather than fresh because by the next day our doll had dried a bit and was pretty loose limbed. But making the doll with the husks of the corn they just shucked themselves holds a pretty big appeal for the small people).

Here she is in the hands of the gentler child:
After Fiona got hold of her she lost a lot of her corn-silk hair and her arms were yanked from side to side until they were dramatically different lengths.
Doll dismemberment in progress...
I proposed to take the shucked corn inside and give it a quick boil to cook it. But the kids decided that before I cooked it they should see what it tastes like raw. Ian took a tentative little bite:
and declared it delicious! Fiona was much more energetic in her corn attack. Here she is getting some good leverage on the cob:
and here is the end of that bite:
I think she has a future in baseball if we practice on enough corn cobs.

Both were eating the raw corn so enthusiastically that I couldn't pry it out of their paws to cook it. And since it seemed like a waste to boil water for just my cob, we all sat outside and ate it raw. It was surprisingly good corn for this time of year--a little starchy due to the raw state, but very, very sweet. The next day we tried cooked corn on the cob and they liked that too.

Now I'm wracking my brains about what other food "themed" day (or days) we can come up with. I'm thinking that a pea week would be good--I've planted my peas in my garden and when they are close to being ready to pick we could do a week of pea themed activities. Since Ian is so into science, I thought we could read about Gregor Mendel's principles of genetics that he figured out with pea plants. Ian has already been asking about dominant and recessive traits (why he has blue eyes and Fiona has brown, for example) so this could appeal to him. We could also do some seed sprouting so he can watch the seed turn into a plant. Whether this will actually get him to eat a fresh pea is questionable, but I'm sure as hell hoping that making the food theme into more than just eating will help.

Now, anyone have ideas of things I can do with strawberries?