Books read in October, 2017

Nary a “grownup book” in sight this month

Picture books: Stay: A girl, a dog, a bucket list
Middle grade: All’s Faire in Middle School
Young adult: Jane, Unlimited
Young nonfiction: How to be an elephant

Stay: A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List
Read for Librarian Book Group
For everyone who has had an old dog in their life.

I love you like a pig
Read for Librarian Book Group
Neither the writing, nor the art spoke to me in this book.

Sam Usher
Read for Librarian Book Group
It’s raining. Will Sam get to go outside?

Jaques Goldstyn
Read for Librarian Book Group
A boy in a town hangs out with a tree.

The Only Road
Alexandra Diaz
Read for Family Book Group
Just as gripping the second time around.

It All Comes Down to This
Karen English
Read for Librarian Book Group
Once you get past the forgettable title, you will find a nice little gem of a historical fiction book.  1960s Los Angeles is our setting, and Sophie is getting used to her new neighborhood. Her family is black, and there aren’t many other black kids in the neighborhood. It’s summer and  Sophie busies herself with writing a book, making a friend or two, keeping track of her sister’s antics and trying out for a play.  It’s not the most plot-driven novel, but it’s a good glimpse into a specific experience of the past.

All’s Faire in Middle School
Victoria Jameson
Read for Librarian Book Group
Renaissance Faires and middle school come together in this story of Impy (Imogene,) who has been home schooled by her parents.  They are active in the yearly Renaissance Faire, and it’s a second home for Imogene.

Jameson perfectly captures all of the middle school feelings.  Aside from that particular pot of angst, this book is also funny.

Swing it, Sunny
Holm & Holm
Read for Librarian Book Group
Accurately captures an awkward time, both in growing up, but also the everyday life of when one member of the family is going through some troubled times.

Jane, Unlimited
Kristen Cashore
There were many things to love about this book, which is currently in the running for best book of 2017.  First thing to love? The structure, which is a brilliant fun surprise once you figure out what is happening.  I loved that Jane, the main character, was a bit prickly and on the far side of likable. Books with maps in the the front?  Win!  Books set in huge mansions?  Win! Learning random stuff about umbrellas?  Win! Overall, a quality book from an author I already appreciate. (Graceling!)

ps:  You might not catch the excellent structure thing if you listen to this book, rather than read it.

That Inevitable Victorian Thing
E.K. Johnston.
Ah, E.K. Johnston, how your thought-process-turned-book delights me.  What if, instead of marrying her many children off to European princes and princesses, Queen Victoria had married them off to royal families within the empire?  In Johnston’s world this would have resulted in an incredibly diverse–and much stronger and peaceful–empire.

That past leads us to the nearby present and Canada, where Victoria-Margaret, heir to the throne, has gone incognito for her debut.  There are parties and new friends to make, and even some traveling to a summer house.

I loved this book for a few reasons.  It was such a fun premise.  E.K. Johnston is Canadian, and her books are so firmly Canadian, which is fun. I love future-set stories where the kids are all right.  I also watched the movie “The Reluctant Debutante” at an impressionable age, which made me very interested in the whole debutante thing. Plus, there’s a great and complex love story in these pages.
How to be an elephant
Katherine Ron
Read for Librarian Book Group
Very well done nonfiction text about elephants.  The drawings are beautiful and every kid will enjoy discovering what baby elephants eat.

Dazzle Ships
Read for Librarian Book Group
Random facts about history!  Score!  From World War I comes a story of an attempt to confuse enemy torpedoes by painting the ships in a crazy fashion.  The illustrations were not to my taste, but fit nicely with the period.

Thrift Food Plan report October 2017

It’s like the newspaper reads my blog! Here’s an article published about the amazing deals to be had at WinCo.
Well darn it, despite being careful all month, I did not meet my goal of my weekly groceries averaging out to be $37.50 (or lower).  In good news, my weekly food costs, were $43.02, which was a new low.  And they were lower than August and September by  $2.18 and $3.49 respectively.  I’m still spending less than the low-cost food plan.

In order to have met my goal, I would have had to shave $22.08 off my grocery bill.  One thing that may have got in the way was making two birthday cakes.  I had to buy honey from New Seasons, rather than WinCo, and that cost $10.00.  It would have been cheaper if I planned ahead.  Also, I bought bulk sliced almonds to decorate the outside of one cake and then nearly had a heart attack when I looked at the receipt and noticed they were $5.50.  I have both leftover honey, which will go to bread making, and almonds, which will be used for a meal this week.

I think the other thing that would help is if I wouldn’t cook from recipes so much, as that usually results in having to buy random things I wouldn’t usually purchase. But I find that without a recipe, my food becomes very bland, as I’m not well versed on improvising spices.

I have been substituting ingredients to ones I have on hand.   I have a delicious bean and cheese pie recipe that called for one can pinto beans and one can garbanzo beans.  I had on had two jars of frozen pinto beans, so I used them instead and the resulting dish was delicous.

On the last weekend of the month, I bought ingredients for “inside out stuffed pepper soup” which called for both ground beef and Italian sausage, plus a red bell pepper.  All of those ingredients are spendy.  I would have been better off sticking to a bean soup for this last weekend of shopping.  The previous week I had too much celery and I googled “celery and bean soup” which gave me this amazing recipe.  I marveled that an onion, celery, beans and salt could end up tasting that good.  Although, I had to buy white beans at Fred Meyer (more expensive) because I didn’t buy any on my monthly WinCo shopping trip.  They will be on the November WinCo shopping list.

On the plus side, I cooked 22 meals for Matt this month, which gives me a tidy $90.20 payment from him.

November will bring its own challenges with Thanksgiving, so I will think of ways to make that holiday affordable.  I see why employees used to get hams and turkeys as presents around the holidays.

John & Hank Green, on tour.

Thanks to Kelly, I got to experience John and Hank Green on John’s book tour for Turtles All the Way Down. (When you are a successful YouTuber with your brother, you BOTH go on book tour, even if only one of you wrote the book.)

Here’s John reading from the book.  When I read the book later, I realized he read from two different sections.
We had a visit from Hank disguised as Dr. Lawrence Turtleman. He taught us about tuataras, which are reptiles from New Zealand which are NOT lizards.  Unfortunately, Dr. Turtleman’s PowerPoint wasn’t working, so the good doctor did the PowerPoint from memory.  We had partially obstructed seats which gave us a view of the various people working backstage to try and get the PowerPoint to work.

Hank did some singing and we got our own personal Dear Hank and John Podcast (parts of which made it on the Dear Hank & John episode #114 that compiled this segment from several cities).  We finished the night with a lusty rendition of the Mountain Goats’ “This Year” as sung by the crowd, John, and played and sung by Hank.

Last time, when Matt and I saw John and Hank on book tour, they had a van.  Things have changed.

Here we are, fourth from the end.
It was a fun night. Thanks, Kelly.

New clothes drying rack!

Aside from the money that went to the Payoff! goal, I spent my birthday money on this fabulous clothes dryer.

I’ve re-committed to air drying my clothing since discovering Mr. Money Mustache. In the summer, this is low-key.  My outdoor rack is huge, and fits everything nicely. It very rarely rains in the summer, so I don’t have to plan around that.  But now we are not in the summer and are endlessly damp. It’s either raining, just finished raining, or is about to rain.

I already have indoor racks, but they aren’t quite enough for both sheets and clothing.  Enter this rack.  Underwear, socks, washcloths and small towels will go on this. Maybe some t-shirts too.  Then the longer things (pants, sheets, towels) can be hung on the wall-mounted racks.

I also love how compactly it folds.

We have someone in Japan to thank for this product.  Thanks random Japanese company.

Three sentence movie reviews: Professor Marston & the Wonder Women

There are so many things to say about this expertly acted and very interesting movie. However, I have only three sentences. Thus, I will tell you that the performances of Rebecca Hall* and Bella Heathcote are impeccable, and that Angela Robinson’s directing skills made for a superb movie.

Cost: free for me, (birthday “dinner”) some insane amount of money paid by Matt.
Where watched: Regal Fox Tower, with Matt.

*Looking over Rebecca Hall’s filmography, it seems she’s in a lot of quality flicks.  She might make a good candidate for an all-filmography project.

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Morris Marks House moved

This house used to sit near the corner of SW Main Street and SW 13th.  That location is very close to the First Unitarian Church, so I used to see it often, coming and going from and to church.  During that time, it seemed to go from minimally occupied, to unoccupied, and I crossed my fingers that it would survive as it has incredibly good bones.

As you may guess from this photo, it did!  It was moved to a grand location where it overlooks the cars exiting 405.  The Oregonian covered the move (because who doesn’t love a good house moving?) and you can read the September 30 story about the moving of the Morris Marks house by clicking this link.

I look forward to its restoration.

October 2017 Songs of the Month: Chris Stapleton; The Mountain Goats

Earlier in the month, I helped out with a retreat at Brasada Ranch.  One of the perks of that trip was that I got to rent a car and drive there myself.  I do love a good solo road trip.  I wasn’t as efficient at getting out of Portland as I wanted to be, so I didn’t properly prepare for my musical selections on the trip.  It was radio all the way.

And so I invented a game.  Once my known stations faded (which didn’t take much time at all, thanks to Mount Hood) I scanned until I found a song* and then I would stay with that station until it faded, or there was a commercial break. Then I would scan again and repeat the process.

*A song that wasn’t classical, smooth jazz or Christian.  (This is because I need words to focus on–thus no classical or smooth jazz.  And those words have to not supremely bug me, thus no Christian.)

This turned out to be quite a fun game that progressed in a predictable manner.  I heard a lot of country music.** I’m pretty sure I heard more country and top-40 music on that trip than I have heard in the last few years.  At one point, I came into a station where the DJ told me, “We’re in the middle of 10 songs of uninterrupted country music,” and I’m pretty sure by “the middle” she meant, “I’ve maybe played one song” because that was a very long stretch of uninterrupted music.

**And also unpredictably, when I got stuck on a reggae segment on the Bend public radio station. No commercials on public radio, so I had to wait for that station to fade.

It was interesting comparing the themes of the country music world. There was a lot of talking about how much they like the rural environment.  There was a ton more talk about god.  There was a goodly amount of flag waving.  I found myself charmed with Phil Vassar’s “Just Another Day in Paradise” which was a nice picture of real life.  (Looking at the video Phill Vassar is a very regular-looking guy.  Oh! Apparently this song is 15 or so years old)

I also enjoyed the parallels between top-40 and country music as when I head the Chainsmokers Honest, which is about how the guy isn’t so much into the relationship any more.  That paired nicely with a country song that I can’t find via googling. In it, the guy is singing to the current girlfriend/wife saying that he’s skipped town with a new girl who gets him in a way the current girlfriend/wife never did.  Unlike the Chainsmokers song, I didn’t care much for that one.

I also discovered this gem of a song called “Tennessee Whisky” which is nearly as old as I am.  (There’s so much music in the world!)  I’m pretty sure I heard the version by Chris Stapelton, who has a great voice. I also enjoy the lyric, “I stay stoned on your love all the time.”

At the end of the month (two days after this post was written, if these posts were written in real time) Kelly and I went to see John and Hank Green as part of John’s book tour for Turtles All the Way Down. They ended the show with the Mountain Goats, the band that John is a super fan of.  And 2017 does seem to be an appropriate year for the lyric, “I am going to make it through this year if it kills me.


Three sentence movie reviews: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

I’d been wanting to see this ever since the Next Picture Show paired it with This is Spinal Tap for their podcast. Having finally seen it, I can report that this movie is hilarious enough that I laughed aloud while watching it by myself.  The cameos are reason enough to watch this movie,* although the songs are a close second.

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home.**

*And I say this as a person who is fairly unaware of the modern pop music scene, and had only vaguly heard of many of the people in the cameos.  If I found them funny, someone with more knowledge will appreciate them even more.

**I floated this as a possible in-theater movie experience to Matt and he rejected it, saying it sounded dumb.  But when I put the movie on while he was in the room, he was quickly sucked in, laughing even harder than me, and only reluctantly left for an appointment. The next day he picked up where he stopped and watched the whole thing in one sitting–which is a rare thing.

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