Monday, July 15, 2019

How to Monday, Apricot edition

If your pee looks like this  . . . No, wait; it’s the lemon juice for nine pounds of apricots.^
Most Mondays I’m at work doing stuff that, I tell myself, makes a tiny bit of difference—for the good—in the lives of some people. If I’m feeling particularly self-important and what I’m working on is an avalanche guide or instructional climbing book, I can tell myself that it’s saving lives. But, let’s face it, that’s stretching things a bit and what it feels like much of the time is shifting a pile of papers from here to there, transferring the notes on one set of galleys to another so that a designer can make changes to pages and, eventually, a book will come out that I didn’t write or even edit, but just sort of shepherded along. You can see, perhaps, where there are a lot of Mondays I’d rather just stay home and that perhaps it doesn’t really matter if I do.*

This particular Monday I have stayed home, as has Scott, because it’s apricot season and that means time to replenish the world supply of homemade apricot preserves/jam/product. From start to finish it took us a little under three hours this time around** and while the water for sterilizing the jars took longer to boil than maybe we wanted, it all went pretty smoothly. We’ve ended up with seventeen jars (aka far more than we need) so we’ll have plenty to give away. They are, I insist, little jars of summer.

The highlights (or at least the bits for which there are photos):

Step one: find the recipe and notes from previous years.

Alternative step one: inventory and organize your jars, lids, fruit, etc.

Several steps further along, simmer the apricots, water, and sugar. Tip for those trying this at home: it would be a good idea to have the water in the canner also coming to a simmer at this stage even though it feels far too early.

If you've been wise enough to stock a Virgo***, he will likely be keeping things tidy for you.
A tidy work space is a safe workplace.****
 Waiting for the balance of jars to process
Jars have all pleasantly pinged (well, probably not that re-used jar that we'll be testing from shortly) and await their recycled labels.
Between Myrna's ancient operating system and the wonkiness of the iPad (with which the photos were taken) putting together this brief post has been quite the challenge, thus the higgledy-piggledy look of the thing. But the important news is that we have a supply of preserved apricots to tide us through what the future holds.

 ^Gin bottle photobombing this shot sadly contains tea.
*Books are important and life-changing and I'm glad that they exist.
**An advantage of jam- over book-making: it takes a fraction of the time. And tastes a lot better.
***Not available everywhere. Your results may vary.
****This photo is mostly about showing off the paint job in the kitchen.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Placeholder photo for pending Housiversary report

. . .  which, let’s be honest, may very likely never happen, given how neglected blahdeblah has been of late. But here’s a shot of the post-painted kitchen, the cabinet and trim painting having been this year’s Housiversary Project. It’s been a few weeks, but we remain gobsmacked.

Friday, June 7, 2019

2019 Book Bingo, Day 11

So maybe a daily or even weekly update on my book bingo process is a little too ambitious for me. If I'm being quite honest, I'll admit that even every ten days is likely a stretch, but this evening I finished Peculiar Ground, which I'm calling my "recommended by a bookseller" title, so I'm moved to update. Truth to tell, I think I asked about this title, which had a shelf reader at Magnolia's Bookstore, but the book that was truly recommended there was News of the World which I read too early in May for it to count for Book Bingo. I consider that too bad, as it was a truly excellent book. Peculiar Ground was fine enough for what it was, but I feel like it's sort of a style of book I may have outgrown, or--to be less condescending, perhaps--that just no longer fits me.

 The Wall Street Journal cover blurb compares Ms. Hughes-Hallett to A.S. Byatt. Earlier, I considered that a bit of a stretch, but on reflection, I suspect it's accurate. Last time I reread Possession I wasn't entirely blown away either. I found Peculiar Ground pretty easy to set aside (disqualifying it for the "couldn't put down" square); I just didn't care all that much about the people or their stories--in part, because there are a lot of characters, many of whom seem to share the same traits. Fortunately, there's a "Dramatis Personae" in the front, a feature I considered quite affected initially, but I found myself referring to it repeatedly, mumbling to myself, "Which one is Guy again? Who the hell is Fergus?" In the back there's a discussion with the author about whether it's a "country house novel," a genre with which I was unfamiliar. I sort of thought it was a book about a house which made me think of Visitation; a much shorter book that covers the same peculiar ground far more elegantly.

 Beth Jusino pointed out to me that the rules on the back of the bingo card say you can count any book read between May 14th and September 3rd so Slaves of Solitude makes the cut after all. That's the fiction square squandered early on, but I'm having my doubts about how many books I'm going to manage to get read this summer so I'm taking it. I'm also violating one of my own rules and using a work book to fill in "by an author from Mexico or Canada": Sharon Wood's Rising won't be published until October but, as it happens, I spent the last couple of days reading a set of pages for it so there I am, with three squares filled less than two weeks in. Go me. 

 Odds are I'll next turn to the one-word title category since T.F. Powys' Unclay has an inviting cover and has been sitting on the top of a bookstore day pile that has yet to be shifted. Fingers, as ever, crossed.

Monday, May 27, 2019

2019 Book Bingo, Day 1

It's Memorial Day which means that this year's Seattle Public Library/Seattle Arts & Lectures Summer Reading Bingo has kicked off. I toy with the idea of keeping track of my progress here; we'll see what I actually do.

I am falling behind pretty much immediately though I spent much of the day in an Adirondack chair in the backyard, reading. My book is The Slaves of Solitude which I started some time last week which means, I think, that I can't count it as a book bingo entry since I didn't start it on Memorial Day or later. And, aside from the fiction square, which I always like to save, it doesn't fit any category anyway. So I kick off book bingo season by reading a book that won't end up on my card. So it goes.

Honestly, I find a lot of these squares a challenge to fill--suggestions welcome!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Brief--or not so brief--update on reading of books recently purchased

I'm two books into last week's #SEABookstoreDay purchases and, somewhat surprisingly, they were both so very good. Maybe some might think that a discerning shopper shouldn't be surprised when she likes two of her purchases but, for the most part, I was buying blind, taking a lot of books to the register on faith.

News of the World was the first book I read and, sort of, the first book I purchased last Saturday. It was recommended by a bookseller at Magnolia's Bookstore where I uncharacteristically asked for a recommendation. I asked because the same bookseller had endorsed or recommended, I don't remember which, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep last year which fully lived up to its charming title. (It's the sort of title I'd pick up on my own, obviously, but I'm pretty sure it was the bookseller insisting that it was good that made me keep it in my hand.) I learned from her this year that the Goats and Sheep author, Joanna Cannon, has a new book out but they were no longer stocking the hardback and the paperback isn't out until later this summer. So I asked her what else she had liked and she picked up News of the World, explaining that it was an entirely different book but it evoked the same reaction in her as Goats and Sheep.

And she was right. It was a very different book, but with lovely strange language that I had to read slowly to understand. It was funny and exciting and heartstopping and sad and just lovely. I remember stopping to consider a nicely turned phrase more than once, one of which had to do with how scalping is wrong: "It is considered very impolite." Mark Twain is often quoted saying something about the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. If I was brighter, I'd be able to say why that "very" is so crucial to the scalping sentence. I can't, however, I just know that it's the "very" that makes that sentence so damned good. It is, of course, also coming after a very tense scene so the humor is helpful. There was also this: Great limbs overhead were alive with birds on their spring migration to the north, lately come up from Mexico; the quick and nervous robins, the low song a yellow oriole, painted buntings in their outrageous clown colors.

I'm not entirely sold on "clown colors," but the rest of it is so fine that I overlook that slight misstep.

 The second book of the stacks that I picked up was The Travellling Cat Chronicles which has a cat narrator which is almost always going to work for me. (I hastily note that I Am A Cat was a disappointment to avoid jinxing things.) This was a quick and lovely and charming story of a man and his cat, traveling around in Japan visiting his old friends as he attempts to find a new home for the cat, Nana, which turns out to be Japanese for "seven," and also as a mechanism to tell the story of the man's life. I will say only that I started crying twenty pages from the end of the book. It is a very sweet little story. The Financial Times blurb on the back notes, "It has the warmth, painterly touch, and tenderness of a Studio Ghibli film--and it is a delight to read." I could not agree more.

 So it's with some trepidation that I pick my next book. I feel like Louise Penny's Still Life, a mass market mystery, isn't too much of an investment one way or another so if it's not as good as the first two, I won't be too distressed. Still. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Independent Bookstore Day, Seattle, Year 5

Sadly, I can't remember what our first Independent Bookstore Day was; did we bike from store to store as long ago as 2015? But, of course, this is just the sort of question that justifies the existence of blahdeblahblah for with a little effort I can see that we did, indeed, bike the event in 2015. We made it to only four stores, but we visited Jennie Grant (and her goats) on the day. 

This year, alas, featured no goats, but we hit ten stores which is, I think, a new record for us. The numbers: ten stores, thirty purchased books (plus two free pretty-awful-awful looking ARCs), forty-one miles total, thirty of those by bike, an as-yet untoted up dollars spent.

Our first store, Arundel, was new this year--not just new to us, but new to the whole #SEABookstoreDay business. As I sort of thought, it's almost entirely used books, which made for a more interesting selection and less expensive visit (two books: Dorothy Sayers: The Complete Stories and The Great Fire. Total spent: $13.21)

Bessie and Bernardo outside Arundel Books, posing for the first of many photos of the day

It was pretty much immediately after we left Arundel that things started to go pear-shaped. The plan was to bike along the waterfront, but the bike lane seems to be a victim of the viaduct deconstruction and the crowds were insane. (Have I said we didn't get going particularly early? We did not.) We detoured up to Second Ave's bike lane only to discover more construction and more detours.
The sign for the day
And then we took some wrong turns getting to Magnolia, making the Arundel to Magnolia's Bookstore trip the longest leg of the day: nearly ten miles. But Magnolia was charming when we reached it and, as with last year, the trick was to limit my purchases there: Peculiar Ground and News of the World purchased for a total of $36.31.
Magnolia's Bookstore also had a lovely display of Molly Hashimoto's books in the front window
Last year we had just eaten at the cafe next to Queen Anne and thus had to give the Petit Pierre Bakery a miss; this year we skipped Queen Anne Book Company and thus welcomed a restorative coffee and pastry at this most excellent bakery.
Pop tart, blueberry tart, two fine short lattes

The advantage of traveling by bike: Crossing from Magnolia to Ballard via the Locks
At Secret Garden, I gave in to the inevitable and bought Salman Rushdie's The Golden House, now in paper, and a book I'd resisted in Magnolia, The Travelling Cat Chronicles. Total damage: $40.74.
Obligatory bikes with store signage shot
It was at this point that I suggested a bus up the hill (traditional since last year) and also that we go ahead and hit Phinney Books, just in case we didn't make it to the new Madison Books location. On the bus I struck up a conversation with a woman who was reviewing her passport. While I was impressed by anyone attempting the day by bus--she was only hitting the Seattle stores, but had made it to Fantagraphics--I was a bit disgusted when she proudly proclaimed she hadn't bought any books. 

Phinney is always further north than I expect, but it was an easy flattish 1.5 miles to get there. It was again packed and Scott handsold a copy of Lucky Per. I don't think he asked for a commission. Phinney is where I broke my two-book rule and came away with three: Innocence, The Slaves of Solitude, and The True Deceivers--the last one almost entirely because I was charmed by its cover.
A total of $50.48 changed hands. Ouch.
Not obvious in this shot, it had started to rain while we were in Phinney Books
The ride from Phinney to Book Larder felt like November with a cold hard rain pelting down on us. Scott, unfortunately, had not brought a waterproof coat and, at this stage I was wearing fingerless gloves. We were both feeling like cold drenched rats when we reached the packed-to-the-gills Book Larder. Unbeknownst to me, Scott quickly found and purchased M.F.K. Fisher's How to Cook a Wolf. I put back whatever frippery I'd finally settled on after I tasted the cheese/smoked paprika appetizer they were sampling and walked out with a crazy impulse buy of Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking. I hope I use it, having spent $44.04 on it.

This was the year I moved a lot of sidewalk signs to accommodate my photo
We worked our way over to Open Books, mostly on Wallingford backstreets and by the time we'd reached the poetry emporium, the sun was out again. Open Books was another packed shop and it took me a long time to find my treasures there: The Albertine Workout and Moo: A Novel. A welcome return to the world of under $20: $17.94 plus tax.

It wasn't easy getting this photo without people in it: they were literally coming in by the busload
Some more lovely residential streets in Wallingford kept us off busy 45th for much of the next (short) leg, but I still suggested a restorative pint at the Blue Moon Tavern on "Roethke Mews." Scott did not object.

It says something about our state that I didn't think to take a photo until the beers were mostly gone
The bikes through the (surprisingly clean) Blue Moon window: I am amused by the Zagat sticker.
But maybe they were rated for the high quality of their bathroom grafitti
Restoredish, and maybe a little tipsy, we continued on to University Bookstore, encountering more detours along the way, causing me to be cranky yet again. I even forgot to get raffle tickets when getting my passport stamped. Grrrrr. They are remodeling the store and all of fiction has been moved to the main floor once more. Upstairs was given over to a space for readings and people sampling food. I heard all about where Molly's gets its bread (Macrina) before finally taking a sample of a turkey sandwich. Not brilliant but it was good to give the beer something to chew on. I finally remembered/stumbled across the author that Karen Molenaar Terrell had recommended and also found a used copy of a Toni Morrison I'd looked at earlier: Still Life and God Help the Child set me back a modest $17.59--and I got a button for a 25 percent discount on small-business Saturday. Woo-hoo!

Bessie, Bernardo, and some photo bomber bikes outside UBS
By this point we'd admitted that we were abandoning the Great Circle Route and would not be ending things at the Seward Park Third Place so we biked north to Third Place Ravenna instead, another pretty easy, pretty pleasant ride--especially after we cut over from the main drags to some prettier neighborhood streets. Seattle is truly a gorgeous city this time of year. I impulse-bought because it had a charming cover and good shelf-reader tag Unclay and a cheap copy of Going to Meet the Man. Since I'd been so responsible with my books, I tossed in a couple of lip balms (mine having fallen apart back in Fremont) and postcard. Total damage thanks to irresponsible sideline purchasing: $36.54. I also forgot to get a photo here, possibly because Scott was starting to bonk. 

We rode down the luxuriously paved 25th to the Burke Gilman and continued our easy ride to the UW Lightrail Station where we boarded a southbound train. Scott was uncharacteristically sparky with the officious platform guy who told him not to block the (not-in-service) door with his bike, but eventually the train started moving without us getting tossed off. Scott opted to wait outside while I went in to Elliott Bay, so his final passport had one less stamp than mine. We'd deliberately chosen not to end at EBBC this year because we felt very second-class for not having full passports there last year. This time around the woman who stamped my card was very complimentary about us having biked. I still bought only one book: Dreyer's English for $27.53.
Amusingly, if you're me, I was chided by an EBBC person for staging this shot. Scott and I were both rebels by the time we were pushing the ten-hour mark.
We stopped at Central Market for lemons en route to Ada's, our last bookstore of the day. That slight detour had us riding along 16th East, another lovely residential street in a neighborhood neither of us frequent. We overshot Ada's a wee bit but backtracked. Since Ada's has a cafe, Scott opted to come in and have a coffee while I scoured the shelves for something to buy. I love Ada's, but it can be challenging. I'd resisted buying the new Ian McEwan all day, thinking that it was sci-fi-y enough that Ada's might be carrying it but no luck. I eventually went to my usual fallback: Atwood and YA: Oryx and Crake and Un Lun Dun came home with me in exchange for $30.83.

 Ada's sign was hella-heavy but I persevered.
 The ride back down the hill was lovely--and since there was 19-minute wait for the next train, we opted to coast all the way down to the bus stop downtown.

The Space Needle is so small here and you can barely see the mountains. It was gobsmacking in reality.
Who is that artist whose work frequently includes numbers and vehicles? This could be my homage to him.Or it's the final shot of the bikes from inside a bus. You decide.
Books, buttons, bookmarks, miscellanea

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Seattle Snowpocalypse, February 2019 edition

Snow! Lots of snow in Seattle! That means a lot of photos.
Gradka isn't so sure about this
We went for a walk this afternoon, to the Admiral district, in order to stock up on a few more provisions because, sadly, it turns out that I am the sort to worry about running out of things: milk and eggs, in this case, though we also picked up chocolate bars and cheap sparkling, just in case. Don't ask me in case of what. As we walked, the sun came out and there was blue sky, but on occasion gusts of wind would blow flurries of snow from the trees all about us.

We walked across Hiawatha Park, an Olmsted Brothers creation (of sorts):

And on the way home we came across a tree that had fallen under the weight of the snow, bringing down some power lines and pretty much destroying the telephone pole to which the wires were connected:

I don't know who this man is but I think he's mad to be standing where he is.
There were also less alarming sights:

One of my favorite streets in West Seattle; it feels so New Englandy

Not the largest snowmen we saw, but some of the cutest

And, of course, birds (mostly in the backyard):
Robin on the line: will you hold?
Cottonbelly looking particularly spherical
Male thumbprint waiting for a table to open up at the suet feeder
Taken from inside through two layers of glass for the vaseline on the lens effect
I snapped a few photos early this morning, while still too sleepy to figure out the correct settings for the conditions, but I sort of like this one anyway:
And to finish up the Gradka snow story:

She did not so much care for it

There is talk of more snow to come and we assume there will be no farmers market tomorrow. Perhaps we'll blow the dust off the sled and join the crowds on one of the local streets. Or maybe we'll stay inside and read our books like rational adults.