Tuesday, December 31, 2013

When Tomorrow Comes, Eat Carrots

Happy Random Passage of Time Holiday.   Just in case you made a New Year's resolution to eat more carrots, here are some helpful rhymes to inspire you.

At the Poetry Table, Younger Daughter wrote a limerickish ode to The Carrot. 

Carrot Limerick

A carrot grows in the ground,
And its meaning is not profound,
But it’s so very crunchy
And deliciously munchy
You’d always like one to be found.

This is not the only time our family has written hagiographically of the carrot.  Here are the results of a writing challenge in March 2012.  Please keep in mind that writing challenges are unpolished, and therefore the rhyme or meter may be a bit raw.  But raw is okay with carrots.

Challenge: Write a song about a carrot. 

Writer 1 wrote:

People, Look West
(to the tune of “People Look East,” a hymn)

Oh, Carrot, you are fine and green,
But only on your leafy sheen;
Beneath that you are bright and orange
And now I will eat you so I can flourish.

People look west and sing today.
Love the carrots are on the way!

I’ll chop you up and make some stew,
Or maybe I’ll just eat you
Raw without dressing, or maybe
I’ll put you in a chicken with gravy.

People look west and sing today.
Love the carrots are on the way!

Best choice of all is salad bowl,
Lettuce, carrots, I’m on a roll;
Celery, too, all put together,
Ready to eat it in all kinds of weather.

People look west and sing today.
Love the carrots are on the way!

Writer 2 wrote:
The regal, rootful carrot
Is a vegetable sublime.
Its orange root is tasty;
We’ll eat it anytime!

A carrot can be eaten
If washed and yet left raw
Or if you like, you cook it,
So it’s easier on your jaw.

It can be used in salads
Or Tsimmes (it’s Jewish)
But in a cake’s our favorite.
The carrot is delish.

Writer 3 wrote:

 (To the tune “Do You Hear the People Sing” from the musical “Les Miserables”)
Do you see the carrots grow
Sprouting their vitamin-rich roots
Careful when you walk around outside
Don’t crush them with your boots
Do you smell the healthy air
Say do you heard the kettle drums
We will be eating carrot soup
When tomorrow comes!

Will you help me till the soil
Who will stay strong and stand with me
We don’t want them all to spoil
For we want carrots to be
As orangey orange as carrots could possibly be

Do you see the carrots grow
Sprouting their vitamin-rich roots
Careful when you walk around outside
Don’t crush them with your boots
Do you smell the healthy air
Say do you heard the kettle drums
We will be eating carrot soup
When tomorrow comes!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Meritorious Non-fiction

Right now Susan Cain’s book Quiet is just $2.99 for the Kindle version on Amazon.  So is Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  Amazon is not paying me to say this. 

I wish brick and mortar bookstores were doing better, but as someone who has been banned by my husband from buying and keeping any more books in the house, the library is next best and the Kindle is third best.

Here are some non-fiction books I read this year and enjoyed.

Category: History
In the Garden of Beasts : love, terror, and an American family in Hitler's Berlin
by Erik Larson. This is about the American ambassador who was posted to Berlin at the time of Hitler’s rise to power. It’s about real people being ambivalent or daring or foolish in the face of historical events.  I really read it at the end of last year, so I don’t remember the details, but it was a gripping read.

Category: Memoirs
My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor
Hooray for the women overachievers of the world!  Sonia tells how she made it to the Supreme Court.

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
Another story of someone who has come pretty far.

The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon
Filled with the irony that comes from living in Eastern Europe, and then inescapable sadness.  Good writing.

Torn : rescuing the Gospel from the gays-vs.-Christians debate, by Justin Lee.  It’s kind of a memoir, but really was written to make a larger point about that debate.

The Mighty Queens of Freeville : a mother, a daughter, and the town that raised them
by Amy Dickinson.  The subtitle is exactly what this book is about.  Enjoyable reading.

Spellbound : Growing Up in God's Country, by David W. McKain.
A memoir of growing up in Central Pennsylvania.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, by Frederick Douglass.  A powerful tale.  Just how he taught himself to read is amazing and ingenious.

Category: Bibley stuff
A year of Biblical Womanhood, by Rachel Held Evans
What happens when a woman tries to follow to the letter what it says in the Bible about how women should live.  It is by turns amusing, tongue-in-cheek, poignant and always perceptive.

How to read the Bible for all its worth, by Gordon D. Fee.
It was helpful to read this in preparation for leading a Bible study.

Exodus, by the writer(s) of the Torah. 
We covered the first 14 chapters in our study.  Almost everything else in the Bible refers to this epic event.  Try to get that movie, and the image of Charlton Heston, out of your head before reading it.

Category: Other stuff
Quiet : the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking, by Susan Cain. 
It’s a relief to have a book that explains how people like me live in and interpret the world.

Blindspot : hidden biases of good people, by Mahzarin R. Banaji.
Why it is practically impossible to fully eliminate prejudice.

* * * * * *

Do you have anything good (non-fiction or fiction) waiting on your nightstand? 

Happy reading in 2014!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Meritorious Fiction

I took a silly on-line quiz, which told me that the literary character I am most like is Mma Ramotswe, of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.   I think highly of Mma Ramotswe, but I could never be her.  I cannot drive a tiny white van, nor can I solve mysteries, except when it comes to finding the ketchup in the fridge.

I am not going to give you the link to the quiz, because it lumps together “introverted” with “stubborn and inflexible” which is not acceptable to me.  But it leads me to think I could post about the fiction I most enjoyed reading in 2013.  Many of these are books I read to complete my Summer Reading Merit Badge.

Category: My favorite
My favorite book this year was Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmund Rostand (translated into English by Lowell Bair).  It was my favorite not only because it is ridiculous and clever, but also because Younger Daughter and I read it together.  Since it is a play, it works well to read it out loud.  In fact, if we hadn’t been reading it together, I wouldn’t have read it on my own.  YD ended up memorizing one of Cyrano’s speeches and used it to audition for the fall play.

Category: Hard to Categorize
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
A remarkable book.  Is it a coming-of-age novel?  A portrait of insanity?   A historical novel?  It’s hard to say, but the writing is superb.  There are some very funny scenes, and some very violent scenes.

The Commissariat of Enlightenment by Ken Kalfus.  This is a very well written and very, dark book, about a specific time in history, but it does not come across as a traditional historical novel.  The despair and dissembling that began the Soviet era pervades the whole book.  I am amazed that I was able to finish it, because I usually cannot make it through such a bleak landscape, but the good writing spurred me on to the end. 

Category: Books which include the drinking of tea
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith
Another Mma Ramotswe book.  It is good to know that in some books there is always time for a cup of tea.

I really loved reading Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson – I found it to be amusing.  All the tea drinking is, well, very British.  As a tea drinker, I appreciated the prominence of tea in this book.

Category: Books by or about Dorothy Parker
Dorothy Parker stories by Dorothy Parker
Man, she was snarky!

Farewell, Dorothy Parker by Ellen Meister
In this book Dorothy Parker comes alive!  Sort of!  And saves the day!  Quite enjoyable.

Category: Ladies Looking for Love
Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, by Winifred Watson
Shenanigans while finding true love in British night clubs.  No relation to the above mentioned Major Pettigrew. 

Emma by Jane Austen
A childish and bossy protagonist tries to make love matches for other people, with disastrous effect. 

The Dearly Departed  by Elinor Lipman
A young woman returns to the small town where she grew up, to find some surprises.  Quite entertaining, I thought, and kind of Austen-esque.

We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg
A fascinating and amusing story of a girl whose single mother raises her in spite of being paralyzed by polio.  Features an appearance by Elvis.

Category: Mysteries Silly and Serious
Rumpole on Trial by John Mortimer
I always love me some Rumpole.

Quaker Silence by Irene Allen
A Quaker sleuth?   Yup.

Nine Tailors : changes rung on an old theme in two short touches and two full peals
by Dorothy L. Sayers
I remember a fine BBC TV series way back when, featuring Lord Peter Wimsey.  I’ve read two of her mysteries in the past year, and liked them, although I was disappointed to discover some tendency toward anti-semitism in her writing.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Snow Angel

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years

Comes round the age of gold.
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

May we each find a way to give back some of the angels' song of peace and good will.
Two hearts intertwined (origami)
Peace and love to you this Christmas.
Peace, and a Christmas message from Foghorn Leghorn

Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Home Tour

Thanks to Jen on the Edge for inviting us to participate in the Holiday Home Tour.  This is my first time, so I'm a bit nervous.  Here goes...

Welcome to the Common Household holiday tour.  As you come down the front walk, you will see our stunning lopsided light display, which consists of one net of blue lights, one string of white lights, and our wood gingerbread man, home-crafted by my husband's colleague.  Since I am the only one in the household with the interest and energy for putting up lights, this is the light display we get.  It is now too cold and snowy to put out any more lights.

But do not be so dazzled that you miss the tree limb hanging low over the front walk.  The Tree Man never came last week, claiming it was too cold for his truck to start (!).   If you are tall, watch your noggin.

His smile looks a bit lopsided (just like
 this year's lights) because one piece
of his smile fell off. Nevertheless, he has
withstood the winter elements quite well.

Now that you are in out of the cold, please, come in the living room and take a close look at our Advent/Hanukkah paper chain.

We have used this in lieu of an Advent calendar since around 2003, saving the chain from the previous year and adding to it each year.  I am guessing that the chain is currently about 60 feet long.

It currently reaches about 2/3 of the way around the living room.

To make the links, we use scraps of wrapping paper.  On the plain side, we write various family activities, such as "Eat potato latkes" or "Read the Christmas story in Luke" or "give a gift to someone" or "pray to God."  During Hanukkah and Advent, after we do one of those activities, we add that link to the chain. 
This is the first year we get to add the link that
 says "make a gingerbread house."
This year I decided to also put up some of our origami ornaments.  Several years ago, my son was making new origami every day.  I decided to sew a loop of thread in some of his creations so that I could hang them up.  Since we don't usually have a Christmas tree, I just hang the ornaments from the curtains.

He made stars with various numbers of points and in various colors.  Each star is made out of one piece of paper, folded, but never cut or taped or glued.

My favorites, among his origami creations, were the geometric shapes.  These were often made out of several pieces of paper, but still only folded, not cut or glued.  I did apply some glue to the outside so that they would stay together when they were hanging.

Let's move into the dining room, and take a look at what's on the table - from right to left, a gingerbread house, gingerbread sleigh, and gingerbread lab equipment.  There are a few more photos of these at my previous post.

I also love Christmas and Hanukkah cards, and put them out, unless we need to actually use the dining room table for, say, dining.

And now our holiday home tour will take a step, not into another room, but back in time, to the end of November, when we celebrated Hanukkah.  This means getting out our hanukkiah (menorah), our felt hanukkiah, and some dreidels.

And that is the end of the Common Household holiday home tour.  To see the rest of the tour, go here.  To read my hope for this Christmas holiday, go here.  Merry Christmas!