Wednesday, January 27, 2010

And Now--For Something Different

Or at least someone different. This is Avram, and I am performing one of those silly post high-jacks. I regret the silliness of my actions, but clearly not enough to refrain from posting. C'est la vie.

I have stolen this 'blog for the purpose of praising my wife--who has caught another of her atomic death colds, and so has not quite felt up to posting. This is why the post on sugar has retained its pride of place on the first page of her 'blog for so long. Not that she loves to talk about her eating habits so much, but rather that she has not felt up to talking about much of anything lately. This is a sad state of affairs, but one which I am unable to help her with. I do what I can, but even superheroes are powerless against the ravages of disease.

So, to give you, the gentle readers of my beloved wife's 'blog, something to read, I have, without her knowledge, borrowed this 'blog for a moment (a regrettably brief moment, as I still have homework yet to do), in order to mention how much I am grateful for my wife. I do not to tell you of how wonderful she is, for you get to read her words, which is almost as good as talking with her. Not as good, but still, a pretty close second. I appreciate Thora in particular for her concern for her family, and at the same time for my scholarship. She continuously attempts to push me to further academic heights. I would not be where I am today, without her ready assistance and support (and sometimes prodding).

I haven't time to speak to more of her myriad virtues, as I have much to do this week and today, but suffice that I love her.


Friday, January 22, 2010

What, more discussion of Sugar? Doesn't Thora have a life?

A couple of notes - I was just going to write a long comment, bet then I just decided to go with a post format instead.

First, Jami and Jen, thanks for your immediate kind feedback. Don't worry about feeling guilty. There are so many blog comments that I really meant to write, even had the window up to do so, and then just....never wrote.
Sarah, it's true, I would never last through Lent - and I think I've just convinced myself I shall never try. Angela - I didn't just fall off of the wagon because of the lack of comments. I actually had been feeling dis-satisfied with the whole fast for several days, and I suppose I hoped that some positive, "You can do it!" comments would make me feel like it was worth finishing out the month. I do feel better, but not from eating (or not eating) sugar as much as not having to worry about it. Camilla - I would do it again, but I think my personal limit is two weeks. That's enough time to detox, and feel Christmas sugar overload cured, without feeling unnecessarily deprived.

And to everyone, the chocolate chip cookies were good, although not perfect, because Avram went to buy me chocolate chips (since we had none in the house), and the store was closed since it was after nine, so he just went to CVS and came home with milk. At this point I could have given up, but I had already sifted the flour and put in baking soda and salt, so there was no turning back. So I chopped up two ounces of semi-sweet chocolate baking squares I had, and cannibalized half a package of my Andes mints for the remaining chocolate needs. So, they weren't perfect cookies, but they were good, and I now know that I have never missed out by not buying the Andes mints baking bags.

But, even with the mishap, I did not regret eating the cookies. For about a week I had begun reading dessert blogs, and the dessert sections of our cookbooks, and drooling over all of the selections. I really do enjoy making desserts - the challenge of trying new recipes, of learning new techniques, of feeling my baking skills stretched. Plus of course eating the creations. I found that I was missing that whole aspect as much as sugar itself. Since making the cookies I haven't even had one bite of Andes mints (well, besides what was in the cookies themselves). I wasn't really addicted to sugar before hand, and I don't feel like going out and binging on sugar before. And now with eating sugar again, I haven't even had all the time, even with the chocolate chip cookies hanging out in our house.

I guess I realized that I would rather just eat sugar in moderation rather than go off of it wholesale, because then I feel deprived in my life, and then I start focusing on it unduly. I guess (should I ever diet) that I should never follow one of those diets where you cut out all fat, or all sugar, or something, because it makes me focus on what I can't have, and not on what I am eating.

I've never liked binding myself to silly oaths, promises, etc. just for the sake of the oath itself. I don't feel like my "honor" is at stake if I change my mind mid month and decide that I didn't want to do it anymore anyway. Of course, for serious things (all religious oaths, etc.) I consider myself bound forever. For things like, "I won't eat sugar for a whole month" turning more into, "I won't eat sugar for 19 days, because then I'll be sick of the whole process, and just want to bake a dessert already, and stop looking at dessert cookbooks, and we'll call it good, " - I feel fine about leaving that behind once it ceases to help me, and rather I feel bound by it. More like, a guideline. Now, if were something important, like I was diabetic, and not supposed to eat too many carbohydrates, then I think I could have the self control to not do so. One thing I realized with not eating sugar is that I could be in social situations, where people around me were eating sugar, and not do so myself, and it was doable. I didn't even really miss the sugar, and more just had to fight the mentality of not celebrating reciprocity with the group.

Also, in the end I realized that I just like trying to be moderate more than extreme. Ok, so now I've blabbed on and on about this topic - I just wanted to try and be a little more clear on the subject.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Two Sentences

Since nobody commented on my last post, and because of everyone who was doing it, I was the only one who had never fallen off of the wagon, and most of all, since I hadn't eaten any sugar in 19 days, and I was bored of it, yesterday Avram and I made chocolate chip cookies, and they were yummy. The End.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sugar Fast

For the month of January for the last couple of years my sister Camilla has done a sugar fast with whomever will join her. This year, feeling the effects of a two week Christmas vacation that included cookies, ice-cream, donuts, and candy, candy, candy, every day of those two weeks, I agreed to join her. I even got Avram to do it with me, since I told him I couldn't do it alone, and I needed his peer support.

I'm not really on a sugar fast, where I avoid all refined sugar in every product, including bread and condiments. I'm more on a sweets and candy fast. I still have jam on sandwiches, and have even on a couple of occasions had maple syrup on pancakes. Since I set out knowing that I did not intend on giving up raspberry jam and maple syrup, I don't feel guilty for all of the sideways sugar I'm imbibing.

However, just abstaining from official sugary foods has been enough for me. I don't consider myself as having a huge sweet tooth - we do not routinely buy candy or chocolates, and only have it in the house for holidays like Halloween or Easter. I do like making desserts, and for the past year have been slowly working on improving my dessert repertoire, since traditionally I have embrace cooking for its savory aspects more than its sweet ones. I find myself as the days pass, and I'm on day eighteen of the fast (I started one day late, since that's when we went home from Christmas Vacation), I long more and more for really yummy desserts. Tender cakes with a fine crumb and a fluffy frosting. Dense, chocolately brownies offset by a light chocolate frosting. Warm chocolate chip cookies with the chocolate chips still gooey. These are the building blocks for daydreams, my phantasmagorical castles (fashioned after the style of Candyland and Hansel and Gretal) in the sky.

Despite my inner longings for sweets, I have been a fortress of self control on the outside. Whether in public occasions, where there was birthday cake or cookies for the taking, or at home, where in the top shelf of my kitchen cupboard I have hidden away two almost full packages of Andes mints - Christmas spoil - that I had been saving until I was home again, I have stood firm. Mostly because I have realized that as nice as the chocolate frosted cake smelt, it was only a box cake, with store bought frosting. Yummy, to be sure, but as Mr. Darcy says, "[The dessert] is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me." The cookies were snickerdoodles and chocolate with white chocolate chips - good, but Mr. Darcy came swimming into my mind again. (Which makes me think of his impromptu swim on his estate in the A&E Pride and Prejudice movie, which in turn has nothing in common with this post except for the drool factor induced by both Mr. Darcy and sugar.) I feel the same way about the Andes mints just feet below where I sit writing.

Not that there was anything wrong with these desserts, and if I weren't trying to detox from eating candy like it was about to be outlawed I would have enjoyed them with no qualms whatsoever. I just realized that if I was going to fall off the wagon and break my own commitment, it had better be for something like homemade cheesecake with chocolate sauce and raspberries, or a molten chocolate lava cake with whipped cream (not that I've ever actually had one, but I am 100% sure I would love one if I did). The picture of the homemade cheesecake is me, nine months pregnant with Lydia, in our old Provo Apartment. Good times.

In a Man for All Seasons Sir Thomas More says, "...It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world... but for Wales?" Avram and I always use this phrase, and here I think, "it profits me nothing to break my agreement for all the homemade cheesecakes...but for cheap, store-bought chocolate?" Apparently no sugar brings out the movie quoting side of myself.

I'm not doing this to lose weight (hah! I'm pregnant. I've been gaining weight steadily this month), nor to adopt a lifelong stance against processed sugar. I'm already planning to make a delicious dessert on February First to celebrate a return to the sweetened world. I may even eat desserts when I go to an overnight Women's Retreat a sister from my ward is doing this coming weekend, since I've been planning on going and eating them most of January. This way it doesn't count as an impulse, weak-willed moment, but rather a planned digression from the norm.

The whole purpose of the fast, to reduce the amount of sugar I am used to eating, has certainly succeeded. I had a bite of a graham cracker that Elisheva was eating several days ago, and it tasted like a cookie. I think next year I'll do it again, but reduce the time to two weeks, since I feel sufficiently detoxed now, but still want to finish out the month just to prove I can.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Now I'm Hungry for Watermelon, But I Won't Be Stereotypical and Make Avram Go and Buy it Offseason

Sometimes in the depths of Winter, I like to remember that there really is more to life than snow boots, chapped hands, and old apples.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

All my creative brainwaves

Aww, thanks for all the comments, ladies. I do already have a lot of yarn, and I know how to knit. So that would be a good thing to restart. It's nice to know I'm not the only one with this problem sometimes. I also love your idea, Jen, of doing a book group. But they sound so daunting to start up - I wish I lived in the same time zone as you, and could just come to yours. Ditto on the play group.

I must have been on Aleatha's brainwave, because I already had the pictures for another food post, and just went and wrote out the 'recipe.' Go and check out an Easy Chicken Dinner.

I was going to post more, but doing the chicken post took all my creative brainwaves out of me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Break on Through to the Other {Clean and Organized} Side

I've spent the month of January thus far cleaning and organizing our house. We traded bedrooms with our girls, so they now have the large room, and we have the small one. I love having a smaller room - I suppose I am backwards in this way. But now we are next to the bathroom, which is nice for early Morning showers (Avram) or middle of the night toilet runs (pregnant Thora). Before Elisheva would often wake up if we even went into the bathroom to brush our teeth - which made for difficult hygiene. Now my teeth are thankful for the ease with which I can brush them. Also, the girls' amount of toys and stuff far outweigh our own needs, and so they finally have proper room to play in. Someday I dream of having a separate toy room for all of my children, and then just stacking them up in bunks for sleeping, but that day will have to wait. Until then it's nice to know they at least have room for playing - before the toys were so scrunched up that they never really played with them, and if Lydia did pull something out, the room immediately felt messy from the extra junk moving around. I'll take pictures after I've completed the transformation (all that is really left are hanging the pictures).

The New Year and New Decade, not to mention the below freezing weather and snow, have inspired me to completely overhaul my house. Oh, yeah, and our "little" mice problem has been a motivating factor as well. I've never had such an ease of keeping our kitchen cleaned up after every meal - the thought of little mice yuckiness touching any dirt, or being happy by any crumbs makes me feel like the kitchen is practically cleaning itself, and I'm just along for the ride. We have mice - sad but true. I'd blog about it, but I think it would depress me, and gross you out. So I won't. We've killed four so far, in the last month, and finally yesterday our Management said that they would call mice exterminators. Let us hope that they are true and prompt to their word, and that we will soon enjoy our house with our family alone, and none others sharing it.

Moving back on topic, in the terminology of Flylady, my house is now 100% free of hotspots in any room. Hotspots are areas that attract clutter or mess. Stuff like a convenient shelf (or desktop, in my case) at the front of your house that gathers the random mail, important papers, junk, things that need to be sorted/filed/dealt with. I was going to take pictures of this as well, but by the time I got my camera out, it was dark outside, and I didn't want gloomy shots. And I've organized my linen closet, electronics drawer and random junk drawer, the shelves of our bookcases that always attract things we want to keep out of reach of the girls, and even the games shelf. See, I have to put this out on the Internet so that I can feel special, because no one thus far in my entire life has spontaneously opened my electronics drawer (kept in my upstairs hallway), and exclaimed over how well I have pared down on the random ear buds that went to nothing, and how they see no sign of the outdated and outmoded technological gadgets we had lying around, waiting for the resurrection to give them new meaning to their life. In a nutshell, my blog validates me, and my activities.

All I really have left to conquer is the two desk drawers, one more random drawer, and the walk in closet (which I am thinking of of magically transporting to another dimension, so I don't have to deal with it. It is the last holdout of random junk I don't know where else to put/what else to do with it.) Then my house will be completely and finally beautified. Oh, sure, I could clean out the inside of my fridge, or organize my food cupboards, but let us not be ridiculous.

As I've face down the end of my daily activities, except for maintaining this state of cleanliness, which never completely happens, I have been faced with a stolid truth. When my house is completely and utterly clean, I don't know what to do with myself. I do not mean to imply that I am someone who glories in cleaning, and whose hobbies are accomplished via Comet, Lysol, and a Vacuum. Rather, I am such a lagging housekeeper that when I finally do not have nagging responsibilities to accomplish around the house, that really should have been done yesterday, if not last month, I don't know what to do without that sense of vague guilt. Thus far, I usually pick up some good, or fluffy, books, and read until my house falls apart again. A falling apart house puts me right back into my comfort zone, and I once again know where my place resides in the universe - the grubby corner, next to a large bookcase.

As I approach this parabola of cleanliness that turns back into what I usually call "home sweet mess" I'd like to break out of my inexorable mathematical equation of a life, and actually maintain a clean home. I was thinking, perhaps I need a new hobby - one to do in the afternoons while Elisheva is sleeping. Perhaps I need more places to go during the week - currently we leave the house only when necessity calls (Lydia's playschool and grocery shopping at the same time, usually), although I remind myself that could be a function of the season, and not just my laziness. I used to attend the Library story time, and I'd like to incorporate that back into my life again.

I know that once I have three children, I'll be quite happy, at least for the first little while, in spending all my time not feeling completely overwhelmed. Until then though, what can I spend my free time on? Lydia thinks it should be playing Peggle with her through all hours of the day, but I am fairly certain there must be better past-times out there.

I suppose I'm not completely asking for advice (although any offered is welcome), since I am in a state where I am already vetoing anything I think of. Part of the difficulty is I need to think of something that is 100% free. And more than just reading, because as much as I love to read, we have already seen that this leads (in and of itself) back to mess. What do all the other stay at home moms out there do with their time? I was going to say free time, but I realize that most people would laugh at the idea of having free time every day. I do read blogs, but I feel that I can only do this so long every day before I feel that I ought to be doing something else. Yes, yes, I could write blog posts. If Lydia stopped climbing over me, while we played princesses (and I read on the Internet). We don't have T.V. hooked up. I do already spend time with Lydia every day on writing. She can now read four words: zoo, no, cat, dog.

Am I the only one who feels like they have extra time on their hands that could be used for self improvement? Should I just play with my kids more? And does anyone have any oil paints and canvases they want to get rid of, because I've always wanted to try painting?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Books I read in 2009

In order to form a more perfect blog layout, I'd like to clear the reading list for 2009, so I can begin anew on 2010. (What is it with me and book lists for these two last posts?) This is the first time in my life I've ever listed every book I've read. In fact, in third grade I got a D in English because we were supposed to list every book we read, and I didn't. Bad Thora. So now I am redeeming myself, but don't worry, I don't expect any of you to read this list - making a blog post is just a convenient way of recording the list down for my posterity, who also won't care.

Way post edit - so I just realized that Oh, Pioneers isn't on this list, yet I know I read it recently. So consider it added.

(This is supposed to be up here, but I didn't realize it until I was up to February, and no way was I going to re number the whole list: Alcatraz and the Knights of Crystallia, Brandon Sanderson, listed at number 92).
1. Unseen Academicals, Terry Pratchett
2. The House of Many Ways, Dianna Wynne Jones
3. The Year of the Griffin, Dianna Wynne Jones
4. The Dark Lord of Derkholm, Dianna Wynne Jones
5. The World of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Teresa Patterson


6. The Gathering Storm, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
7. Belgarath the Sorceror, by David and Leigh Eddings
8, 9, 10, 11. Books 1, 3, 4, and 5, in the Belgariad, by David Eddings
12. Fantasyland, Dianna Wynne Jones
13.The Sapphire Rose, David Eddings
14. The Ruby Knight, David Eddings
15. The Diamond Throne, David Eddings
16. A Darkness at Sethanor, Raymon Feist
17. Silverthorn, Raymond Feist
18. Anne of the Island, Lucy Maud Montgomery
19. The Linnet Bird, Linda Holeman Crown
20. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimon
21. The Magic of Recluce, L.E. Modesitt
22. Raney, Clyde Edgerton
23. Three Sisters, Anton Chekhov
24. The Mark of Zorro, Johnston McCulley
25. Cherry Orchard, Anton Chekhov


26. Magician: Master, Raymond E. Feist
27. Magician: Apprentice, Raymond E. Feist
28. Four short stories by Flannery O'Connor
29. Tuck, Stephen Lawhead
30. Scarlet, Stephen Lawhead
31. Hood, Stephen Lawhead
32. The Princess Bride, William Goldman
33. Confessions of a Part Time Sorceress, Shelly Mazzanoble
34. Gulliver's Travels, Jonathon Swift
35. Major Barbara, Bernard Shaw


36. Across the Wall, Garth Nix
37. The Ponder Heart, Eudora Welty
38. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
39. Meeting Amazing Grace, The Lundbergs


40. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle
41. Human Diversity, Richard Lewontin
42. The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse
43. Delta Wedding, Eudora Welty
44. Sunshine, Robin McKinley
45. Chalice, Robin McKinley
46. The Blue Sword, Robin McKinley


47. Wyrd Sisters, Terry Pratchett
48. The Soul of a New Machine, Tracy Kidder
49. The Knot in the Grain, Robin McKinley
50. The Door in the Hedge, Robin McKinley
51. The Waste Land, by T.S. Eliot
52. Adam Bede, by George Eliot
53. 101 Living Rooms
54. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
55. Jo's Boys, L.M. Alcott
56. Little Men, L.M. Alcott


57. Sanditon, by Jane Austen and "Another Lady"
58. Oh, Pioneers! by Willa Cather
59. Avalon, by Stephan Lawhead
60. Rose of the Prophet, volume III, by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman
61. Rose of the Prophet, volume II, by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman
62. A Sister's Test, by Wanda Brunstetter
63. A Sister's Hope, by Wanda Brunstetter
64. These Happy Golden Years, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
65. Little Town on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
66. The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
67. By the Shores of Silver Lake, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
68. The Little House on the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
69. The Rose of the Prophet, by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman
70. The Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
71. Miss Delacourte Speaks Her Mind, by Heidi Ashworth
72. Posession, by A.S. Byatt


73. On Fortune's Wheel, by Cynthia Voight
74 - 79. The Seventh Tower, volumes 1-6, by Garth Nix
80. Abhorsen, by Garth Nix
81. Lirael, by Garth Nix
82. Sabriel, by Garth Nix
83. Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen
84. Making Money, by Terry Pratchett
85. Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen


86. Rachel & Leah, by Orson Scott Card
87. Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones, by Brandon Sanderson
88. Remind Me Again Why I Need A Man, by Claudia Carroll
89. The Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey
90. Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan
91. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, by Brandon Sanderson
92. Alcatraz and the Knights of Crystallia, Brandon Sanderson
93. The White Dragon, by Anne McCaffrey
94. Dragonquest, by Anne McCaffrey
95. Country Living, Your House, Your Home, by Randy Florke
96. English Country Cottages, by Sally Griffiths
97. The Undomestic Goddess, by Sophia Kinsella
98. The Organized Home, by Randall Koll
99. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
100. Another Day, Another Dungeon, by Greg Kostikyan
101. Dragonsinger, by Anne McCaffrey


102. Golden Arches East, edited by James Watson
103. The Prisoner of Zenda, by Anthony Hope
104. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
105. Midnight Sun (half finished), by Stephenie Meyer
106. Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer
107. Eclipse, by Stephenie Meyer
108. New Moon, by Stephenie Meyer

What do we learn from this list? I read a lot. But also, I read a lot of fluffy fantasy. If I distilled this list down to books I would wholeheartedly recommend for an excellent reading experience and/or importance in history or world thought, the list would be a lot shorter. I was thinking to myself how I feel like I didn't really do much this last year, beyond the day to day grind. I've really felt that I didn't complete much of lasting importance, besides the normal child raising. Well, maybe the fact that I've read a book on average every 3.37 days, and perhaps this explains something. But really, I'll go weeks without reading a book. The last book I read was back in the beginning of December. Which means I really go in spurts, reading books every day for a week, and then not reading for a month, and such like.

I did like keeping a list. Sometimes I would think about the dumb book I was reading, and realizing that it had to go on the list after I finished it, which I think helped improve my reading choices. And I did accomplish one of my 2009 goals, to read more non fiction (hey, for me the few non-fiction on there is reading more. I'm really bad at non-fiction).

When Saw we Thee a Stranger?

Often I go through life in a little bubble, composed of me, and whatever family is with me. I see and interact with others - cashiers, store clerks, other cars on the road, but everyone else is the 'other,' in little bubble worlds of their own. Today, through an act of charity and random act of kindness, I suddenly felt connected to another.

Elisheva and I went grocery shopping while Lydia went to her weekly playschool. This week, because of tight finances, we only had our WIC vouchers, and whatever Christmas cash we had been given to shop with. Avram did in fact gain residency in Ohio, so we have in state tuition. The class he is also gained its 60 students, so he also had a job (even if at half his previous stipend), and half his tuition was paid. Unfortunately, as we found out late last week, this did not include a subsidy on our Health Insurance, and so our Insurance for the family jumped from a $100 a month to $500 - more than we pay in rent. Plus the lump sum amount for the whole quarter was due this last Monday, along with our half of the tuition and other various fees, or we faced steep late fees that would keep getting steeper. (And no, we can't un-sign up for the Insurance - we have to have it for the rest of the school year).

We had thought we'd have a couple weeks to work out tuition, and so Monday found us scrambling around to find a way to come up with almost $4,000. Avram signed up for the extended payment plan for tuition, halving the amount due on Monday. Then they also applied the portion of the Hugh Nibley Fellowship that came into the University that same day, which took care of over another thousand. That left us with another $1381 we had to pay that day. By scraping together every last scrap of money in our checking and two savings accounts, we covered the amount, saving us from late fees. Yay! But that also left us with no grocery money, or other money for anything until the Student Loans came through that Avram applied for on Monday as well. (Which when we get our tax refund, we'll be able to pay off all the student loans, so we won't even go into debt. Yay!)

Meanwhile, that leaves us with Christmas money (from various Christmas cards) left for groceries and other expendables until the loans gets processed. Not a huge deal - all of our bill sare paid that are due until near the end of the month. However, we did decide to use a lot of our WIC vouchers now, so we could spend as little as possible (yes, we use WIC. We've used it since last August - I fought getting on it, because I liked being completely independent from any financial aid from anyone, but when we were getting Elisheva vaccinated at the State Health Clinic, the WIC people were so excited for us to get WIC that I caved in. It's been very nice - after Elisheva turned one I was surprised by how much our food bill increased.)

As I went through the grocery line, the cashier was quite flustered by all of the many vouchers I had, and how the various food items worked with them. Then she was replaced by another cashier who couldn't get the cash register to work right with one of the vouchers. Finally she found a supervisor, who finished the transaction. Meanwhile, as the twenty or so minutes passed with all this, three people pile up in line behind Elisheva and I. I felt so bad that we were taking so long, but they all were very patient, including the woman directly behind me, and the medic behind her. He even got called away on a call, and had to leave his groceries, but people were still not glaring at me.

Finally, the WIC transactions finished, and my own groceries rang up to about $20. I went to get my cash, and the women behind me, who had been there for as long as I had, asked me if she could pay for my groceries for me. It wasn't much money from her end, and as I thanked her profusely I know she'll never know just what it meant to me. But today, for our family, it was a lot. I teared up, and didn't share our life story with her, but I thought about how usually we have enough for our groceries. But this week, until we get the loans processed, we didn't, and how much even that small amount of money, not to mention the gracious giving from a stranger, meant to me.

Someday, I'd like to pay that on. Not just paying for a hassled mother's groceries, but waiting in line for almost a half an hour for the privilige of doing so - and still be gracious about it. I love having the tender mercies of the Lord in my life. Avram got residency, Avram got the T.A. job, and now we have the kindness of a stranger to help sustain us. I have a lot to be thankful for.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

You can just start calling me the Literary "Snopes"

So I just looked at a list that my friend got as a meme and posted on Facebook, about the top 100 books that says, "The BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?"

She was suspicious of the list, but went through and marked it anyway. This was the list:
1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 1984 - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini -
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno - Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Ok, so for those of you who don't space out at large lists, did you notice some oddities in there, like that the Complete Works of Shakespeare is number 14, and that Hamlet is number 98? Not to mention the odd conglomeration of pop current books with heavy duty classics. The BBC really thinks that most people haven't read at least six pop novels in their life, plus a few classics from their school years?

So I put on my detective duty lenses, and went and....searched the Internet. But not before I first figured out that I had read 52 of the books listed. It may be a bogus list, but I don't mind crossing stuff off anyway!

After putting in, "BBC 100 books" (Sherlock Holmes has been calling, and asking me to share my Obsessive Compulsive abilities to notice tiny details to lead me to solve crimes, but I can't share this much talent all at once), first up on the list was this highly legitimate website, which for those who cannot be bothered to go there, is from the BBC itself, and not from another meme.

According to their own press, "In April 2003 the BBC's Big Read began the search for the nation's best-loved novel, and we asked you to nominate your favourite books."

The resulting 100 books are (Now, notice the major differences. If you don't, don't worry, I'll point out a few after I list the list. Feel free to point out more in comments).

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

What do we notice? The real, legitimate origin of the Meme list was merely a popularity poll of the British Public, whereas the Memed list was trying to make some claim about how ill read people are, and so tried to both Americanize the list (so you can feel better than the average Joe, who hasn't even read 6) while also adding a lot of extra dusty tomes to make the list look more "legitimate." Because all of the English majors I know out there have read the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Including Troilus and Cressida. And all three parts of Henry the VI (I'm looking at you, Matt. Do not disappoint me). Not to mention that most people don't read the Bible all the way through, even if they're religious. Also they cut out ALL of the Terry Pratchett, which should be a crime in and of itself - especially when inserting Dan Brown in his place. Roald Dahl also got cut down to just one book - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

For an interesting table of the replaced books (which was 37 in number), check out this blog post at Purple Car. I guess whoever made the Meme list didn't like fantasy, since all the popular fantasy was taken off (except for the super popular, like Tolkien, Harry Potter, Dark Materials) and replaced with American pop novels.

Guess how I made out on the real list? Still 52. Maybe I'll stick to the first list, since most of you, apparently, have only read 6 items on the list. Or maybe since I've read 52 very popular British Books, I can be honorarily British.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

To My Mother: Thanks

The girls loved their Christmas PJs! (Pink works wonders on three year olds). Also, there is a lot of other Christmas stories I'd love to share, but our camera died again. This time I think for the final time, so I have to wait until Avram's parents email us a CD of Christmas photos, and without cute pictures, I just don't have the heart to write about Christmas. I don't know how our pioneer fore-bearers managed their blogs, without any pictures to post. That must be why we venerate them so.