Wednesday, October 31, 2007

About Books

I've noticed that some people actually reach my blog through book searches. I thought perhaps it would be nice of me to link my reviews to my list of reads so I took the time to do that today. This is not to say that my reviews are golden and should be taken for gospel truth. In fact, I would love for someone to leave comments on posts where they disagree with my take on a novel! If you've read any of the books listed to the right, please feel free to leave your own comment, complaint or praise!

By the way, Into the Wild is coming out as a movie!! I really think it'll be a good one, even if I do wait for the DVD version!

Any book recommendations you might make for me? Let me know! I'm on the prowl for something good!

Grace at Low Tide - Beth Webb Hart

This book does not even warrant a detailed critique in my book (no pun intended). I didn't enjoy it. I didn't think the characters developed into anything, I didn't think there was any plot to speak of, I didn't think it had any sort of conflict or climax and therefore was lacking in resolution. It just kind of wandered along a meaningless path until it abruptly ended.

Not worth the time to even think about reading it.

House - Peretti and Dekker

I was introduced to Frank Peretti as an author back in college (thanks, Chris!) and LOVED his trilogy "This Present Darkness" and "Piercing the Darkness" and "Prophet". Last Spring I happened upon his books again, including one I bought for LM (which he thoroughly enjoyed as I recall, but I can't remember what book it was.) Recently, I stumbled across some novels he has written in collaboration with Ted Dekker and found two at my local library. I started with "House".

Boy am I glad I didn't spend money on this book.

It's a simple salvation plot drowning in unremarkable dialogue and a never-ending and never-riveting chase. Peretti and Dekker stage this novel in a mysteriously haunted house. The characters are unwittingly lulled into the home and then trapped there against demons real, imagined, external and internal. The house continually shifts and changes creating an ongoing maze for the characters within. The novel takes so much time explaining the changes (which were difficult for me to visually imagine anyway, so I started skipping those parts). There were few characters if any that seemed worth redeeming so it was difficult to even wish for their salvation (I know, I'm cruel).

The book was written so simply it felt insulting to an adult reader and yet the plot was certainly not for a child. I had intended to pass the book along to LM when I finished but it was an easy decision not to when all was said and done.

If the authors are trying to captivate a non-Christian audience and demonstrate the gift of salvation through their plot I would suspect they turned a lot of readers off long before they could even get to it. If they are assuming a Christian audience, then the plot was so transparent as to not be the driving force behind reading, and yet the dialogue and character development was so weak it was hard to tough it out through the end.

All this is to say I'm remarkably disappointed. I brought home "Saint" by the same two authors but now I have little desire to open it. I suspect there are a lot of people who do enjoy these novels, as there are several written by these two, so perhaps they get better. I still highly recommend Peretti's other novels, but would not suggest you add this one to your list.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Again

I have fallen asleep on the couch to Joe Buck's voice three nights this week but not tonight. Despite a cold (thanks, Kindergartners!) and a 5:30 alarm tomorrow, I'm not going to miss the final out of the 2007 World Series.

And just like that the Red Sox have won the Series!!

(Jenny, take a week or two off of laundry. You have my permission!)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Blessed

I no longer own a home. Our apartment is tiny, crammed with furniture and belongings and smells a bit like cat pee (not our cat). I have no full-time job. I spend most days in someone else's classroom learning the names of 24 students and doing my best to not only keep them in one piece but to educate them at least slightly during the time they are in my care. Our budget is tight, we don't eat out and we know where to find hot dogs and mac n' cheese on sale. I've had interviews but no job has really struck me as something I want to do for the next five years. I've had offers but after careful consideration, I've turned each one of them down.

And yet

I've never been so content. I've never felt such peace. I've never been quite so happy. I just feel content. I feel satisfied. I feel as though each and every day God will give me what I need and not more than I can handle. I am not anxious or worried or stressed.

Last week I sat down to calculate how many days I had subbed in the district and when that money will be in my pocket. The car needed two new tires badly and the brakes needed to be looked at. With the cold weather coming, I wanted to make sure we were safe on the roads. I was also looking ahead to Christmas and wanting to be sure I had a little extra for gifts for those that we love. On Friday an unexpected check arrived in the mail. It wasn't a huge amount, but it paid for the new tires and a little extra for me to start thinking about Christmas gifts. It was exactly what I needed and nothing more.

The church we've been attending is huge and yet on Wednesday evenings, each and every week, someone I don't know introduces themself to me and asks if there is any way they can help me while we get settled. On Sunday mornings now I am greeted by familiar faces and even a hug. This past Sunday my dad and second mom sat beside us in the pew, a special treat that means more than I can say.

I can look at the real estate in the area and know that one day in the not-so-distant future, we will have our pick of homes. We might have that fireplace we've always wanted, that garden out back, the sunroom for all my plants, a windowsill just perfect for Jonah.

I am looking into the requirements to convert my Illinois teaching certificate to a Michigan one, and I'm meeting with other school districts to perhaps find a comfortable home for subbing - maybe even secure something long term somewhere. I'm taking my time to follow my passions and my heart and I'm allowing God to lead me as I go.

I'm not sure why it ever took me so long to just let go and let God. But I'm ever so glad I did for I am truly blessed.

Amy and Jacob Fall 2007

Joy!

My dad will tell you I'm a bit stubborn and usually refuse when they try to help with travelling expenses or to buy me something for our home. This visit, however, when my dad offered to fill a void in our new Michigan lives, I readily welcomed the gift and thanked him profusely.




You just don't know how much you miss it until you don't have it.

Welcome our new microwave. More than ten weeks without popcorn is long enough. No more broken glass bowls on the stove because we tried to heat up a cup of sauce on the burner. No more setting LM's watch alarm to know when the next batch of cookies should come out of the oven. No more heating up the entire oven just to re-heat a pork chop. And did I mention the popcorn? Ahhh, now, this is the life!

Thanks Dad and Judy!!

Party

This weekend my folks came up from Tennessee to help us celebrate George's seventh birthday. We had a fantastic time (well, I did anyway, I don't know about everyone else!) My sister made the most awesome cake (with a little help from Judy). I'll admit, I was skeptical, but she exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds! Well done, Sis! George was sick on Friday - throwing up sick- but was much better on Saturday and had a great time with cousins and family from both sides.

Some highlights:
The Invitation.
George (aka Robby) had picked out a dragon cake
so I tried to stick with that theme for the invites.
The cake. I'm telling you, I was seriously impressed with my sis after this marvel!!

LM picked out a remote-control plane for George.
Now they can both fly RC stuff together!

"You're gonna shoot yer eye out!"
Best Gift Award goes to Papa and G'ma Judy for a BB gun.


George aimed at targets in the yard.

All the kids took turns trying out the new gun.



The Cousins. (Minus one who was home with bronchitis.)

First Things First

Before I can even begin to post about my weekend, I have to say

RED SOX ROCK!!!!


Those were some of the best games I have watched in years!!

Look out Colorado Rockies, your dream season ends here!!!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

8-1 Bottom of the Third

Jenny must be doing some serious laundry!

And now it's 10-1.

I hope she has a busy (and dirty) day planned for tomorrow so she'll have more wash to do tomorrow night!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hillary is Smarter Than Me

How smart are you?
Am-I-Dumb.com - Intelligence Test

I got 23 of 25 correct (my guess is I didn't get the distance ones right - no surprise there!)

And you?

His Magistrate

So I went to court. 8:30 am on a rainy Thursday morning.

As I read a book waiting for my turn, I heard the gentleman currently on the stand being cited for EXACTLY the same violation as me. Failure to Stop at a Stop Sign at the exact same intersection on the exact same day. I closed my book and listened thinking I might glean some valuable information from his case proceedings.

He was also cited for no proof of insurance and a seat belt violation. The judge asked if he had cleared up the proof of insurance. The gentleman said yes. He asked if the seat belt issue had been dealt with. The gentleman said yes. And before the judge could even ask how the gentleman pleaded in the accusation of failure to stop the officer says, "If he's taken care of both of those issues, I am unconcerned with his failure to stop" and the case was dismissed and no charges were filed and the gentleman in the blue shirt was free to go. Yippee! I thought.

And then a woman was called to the stand who had been pulled over for speeding on I-94. The judge said she was ticketed for going 65 in a 60. I thought, "Holy cats! A ticket for 5 miles over the speed limit? I'm doomed in this state!" The woman admitted guilt but requested leniency because she was a "good driver" and even had a letter from the State of Illinois stating as such. The judge pointed out that the radar gun actually recorded her going 78 in a 60 mph zone and that it was a construction zone (I was certain I could hear Music of Impending Doom playing in the background). He explained to her that the officer COULD have written her ticket for 18 over the speed limit, the most egregious of speeding violations. He COULD have written her ticket for between 11-17 over the speed limit, the Mama Bear of speeding violations, but no, he actually showed her a remarkable amount of leniency when he wrote the ticket for just 5 over. BUT THEN the judge goes on to say that he will take into account that the woman stated she was a "good driver" (he never looked at her document) and that she had driven quite a distance for a court hearing and so he changed her citation to going 75 in a 70 which is somehow a much less offense in Michigan (with only 2 points on her license instead of 3) blah, blah, blah. And I thought YIPPEEE this judge is awfully nice today. (Cause, seriously, if I lived in Illinois and got a speeding ticket in Michigan and the officer had already reduced it from 18 over IN A CONSTRUCTION ZONE to 5 over, I think I would have said a prayer of gratitude and gotten out of the state and never looked back.)

And then it was my turn. So they state, for the record, what my citation is for. And the judge asks me for my plea. And I tell him that I am not guilty of the citation. And so I'm sworn in.

At which point the officer goes into a five minute explanation of their little sting operation that got me ticketed in the first place (along with the gentleman in blue) and all the details of my violation and blah, blah, blah. And then the judge asks me if I have anything to say. And I say that I do and that I distinctly remember stopping because I had JUST MOVED THERE three days ago and had to CAREFULLY read the street signs and that even if I had wanted to turn the corner (more than 5 mph according to the officer) I would have hit the two cars who were immediately stopped in front of me. I did not point out that the officer did not ask for proof of insurance. I did not point out that I was, indeed, as I always am, wearing my seat belt. The judge suggests that perhaps I was paying so much attention to the street sign and the cars in front of me that I failed to stop. The judge then asks me if I'm now a permanent resident in the state of Michigan. I say yes. He says, "Then I suggest you get a Michigan Driver's License." I said, "I have one now." (but no, three days after my move to the state, I had not yet taken the time to get a new driver's license. I was too busy trying to SELL A FREAKING HOUSE IN PA.)

So the judge says that he'll change my citation because I'm new to the state. So what do I get? A reduction in the fine by $15 and instead of a "Failure To Stop" violation, I now have an "Impeding Traffic" violation. So, instead of going to fast through a stop, I was apparently going to slow for traffic.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I will try to be thankful that I don't have points on my license for this (I think, he mumbled the whole thing so I'm not certain) but still. I have to say, I'm a little miffed.

Next time, I'm wearing blue to court and I'm going to blow through the stop sign at 78 mph without my seat belt on and without any proof of insurance.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What I Did Not Do Today

Despite the fact that my dad and second mom are coming for a visit this weekend, today I did:

1. NOT clean the house from top to bottom, especially the bathrooms.
2. NOT load up two carts at the grocery store anticipating every need, whim, desire or want.
3. NOT give the car a bath, a much needed vacuum or a fresh squirt of Febreeze.
4. NOT give the dog a bath and the cat a stern talking to about how to be nice to guests.
5. NOT plan a list of might-do's, could-do's, want-to-do's or have-to-do's.

BECAUSE THEY ARE STAYING AT MY SISTER'S!!!

I can't explain how odd it is to have my family come for a visit and NOT stay with me. This is the first time in my life this has ever happened. They are coming for a few days. I told them to stay a week! Heck, stay two!!

Now, don't get me wrong, the house isn't unsanitary (really, Dad! It's okay to use the loo while you're here!) it's just that I'm not doing all that last minute cleaning, the extra sprucing up I normally do for guests! They won't be using my shower, won't be sleeping in my bed, won't even be eating at my table!

I think this might just be the Best.Visit.Ever. with my fam!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Note To Teachers

If you are a teacher, if you know a teacher, if your child has a teacher, if you were once taught by a teacher...

please be nice to your subs.

It is amazing to me the lack of information classroom teachers leave for me. It amazes me all the assumptions they hold on my behalf. It amazes me I even find my way to the end of the day sometimes. The following list is only a mere suggestion of what might be helpful information to a substitute teacher should you expect anything more than simple babysitting to occur. Although, from the way things have gone lately, I can only assume that what most subs do is little more than babysitting.

1. Is a seating chart or a list of names too much to ask for? Am I to simply telepathically know the name of the obnoxious child in row three?

2. Could you leave behind the schedule for the day? You know, perhaps knowing exactly WHEN lunch occurs (and even where in some cases) and WHEN exactly I need to pick them up again would be helpful. Likewise, just knowing when kids need to be on the bus would be equally important to know. I'll figure out how they get there and how they load and even what bus they ride on by myself. Just tell me when.

3. Could you leave twice as much work as you think we might get through in the allotted time? Just in case? Finishing early and having NO IDEA what else you might cover leaves me with time on my hands and kids ready to take over the world.

4. Perhaps some sort of a list of important phone numbers could be provided. It's handy to have that phone available right in the classroom, but if I have no idea that the office is actually extension 211, how will I ever actually get the help I need?

5. Tell me the name of one child (who is actually in class that day) that could be trusted to answer simple classroom questions. When assignments are complete, is there a "usual" location to put them? If you have indoor recess, can kids take books or games with them? Can children just take books to read off the shelves in the back or are those reserved for something else?

6. If you leave me a note (and thanks!) telling me to take the kids to the assembly, could you at least tell me if it's held in the gymnasium or in the cafeteria?

7. Perhaps it occurred to you to leave me with several rewards for a well-behaved class. Might you also leave me a few ideas as to what the students fear so I could utilize that information? Do I threaten (with intent) to call home, or send them to the office? Do I suggest they will stay in at lunch or have detention after school? What will hit home the fastest so I can stop wasting my time with threats they are unconcerned with?

8. Could you please let me teach? Don't pull in some para-professional who can't spell "seventy" to teach the math lesson. I can do it. Really. Really really.

9. If your classroom is in the mobile home parked in the parking lot, could SOMEONE provide me with a key to the room instead of just telling me to 'prop the door'? It only takes one little Kindergartener to open and then close the door when you are coming up to the door with 19 of his classmates to effectively lock you all out. In the rain. With no other adult in sight.

10. Above all else, could you PLEASE establish some general rules of respect and courtesy in your classroom on a day-to-day basis? Walking into a room that is completely unorganized, with no clear rules, with disrespect for each other as well as the regular teacher only leaves me, the sub, in a situation that is bad to start with and can only get worse.


Things I have witnessed in the last week:

1. A Kindergarten teacher's morning message to the kids read, "How do we use are hands everyday?" Um, 'ARE?' ARE you kidding me? (And no, despite my original hopes, it was not an intentional mistake for the kids to correct.)

2. A para-professional who repeatedly yelled at a Down's Syndrome child to stand at his desk because he allegedly was asleep at his desk. (She also yelled at him repeatedly to color, and then later to write his name over and over and over....he had no business being in the fourth grade room).

3. A teacher who asked students to give her their completed assignment at the end of the day and then yelled at the kids who got up out of their desk to go get the assignment they had put into the completed homework bin because she did not tell them to "get up out of their desks!"

4. A teacher so consumed with her cell phone call (about how her daughter's skirt was too short and she was going to have to take a different one for her to wear) that she did not acknowledge my presence in her classroom for TWENTY MINUTES despite the fact that I was standing right in front of her, in front of the class, without even knowing where to put my belongings.

I could go on and on, I just can't believe the state of some of these schools. I cannot believe how far behind academically some of these children are. I cannot get over the lack of respect at such young ages. I cannot believe that jeans and flip flops are acceptable teacher attire and are commonplace in the schools. Part of me wants to get my own classroom and try to help, and part of me is so scared of getting in and realizing I can't make a difference.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Things That Remind Me

pine needles
Garth (Hinder, Sugarland, Sarah, James Taylor, Diamond Rio, Daughtry...)
hikers and sneaks
fleece
sawdust
the turtle lamp
snowshoes
state parks
capital R's
compound miter saw
pellet stove
tea
scars
karate
red "Reading" trucks
boiled ham
Chow Me Fun
the intersection of 80 and 476
Gary Zukaw
picnic benches
A-frame houses
Habitat for Humanity
modular homes
wooden restaurant booths
Galveston
HDT
liriodendron tulipifera
silver earrings
Cornell
Colorado
Christmas tree stands
trying on jeans
Grotto's pizza
3 o'clock
holding hands that way
4th of July
"widgets"
reckon, turkey
clnstreams
Molson
Angel
blue flannel shirt
Wilkes-Barre
home fries
deer hunting
Home Depot
breathing

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Divisadero - Ondaatje

(It's a book review, Sis, you can skip this post!)

I picked up Divisadero at the library (along with several others I can't wait to get to) sight unseen. I will admit, I hated The English Patient, but I'm always willing to give an author a second chance.

Divisadero tells of unity and division. The violence that can tear a family apart in an instant. The underlying passion that burns forth in love as equally as hate, in fear as equally as security, of solitude as much as family.

The novel reads as two stories juxtaposed against each other, spanning across the years to tell of one tale. The characters are rich, complex, ordinary and yet remarkable. The landscape captivating, dramatic and yet every day simple. Two sisters and a brother, none related through blood, made family through desertion are divided for life from the violence affected by passion. As suggested by the title, their journeys are both divided and yet seem to overlook one another from afar; always relating back to what was before; intersecting later in ways real and imagined. Ondaatje also introduces us to a parallel story; tracing back the roots of an author and the moments of love and loss in his own life, his own writing.

There were times during this read that I felt the ever-familiar pang of "I'm not smart enough to get this book" but in the end I could see the parallels, and see how it all tied together. I felt at a loss for some of the characters that to me, were left without explanation, without resolve. I wanted more of them and less of the other.

And in all the pages, while they carried such a theme of connectedness and division, of separation and of unity, I still felt as though the novel was missing some sort of real 'kick'. Perhaps I just missed the literary punch.

A good read, all in all. Incredible descriptions and characters rich in true realistic human nature.

Dinner is Served

I was sitting on the couch finishing a novel (reading one. Heavens, you didn't think I wrote one that fast, did ya?) when LM greeted me holding a pizza pan and a paper. He said, "Welcome to Chez LM! Here's a menu. Can I get you anything to drink?" I stared at him in stunned silence until I remembered this is KICK'N. It is the first time EVER that he's remembered it's his night to cook without me reminding him. I'll have to find a way to scan in the menu for you to see. It's just too cute. (for the record, I ordered a glass of the house wine and a house salad for starters. My options for entrees include: "spageti, spocketti, spaygetti, spegetti, shpecketti and spogotti". My waiter has a delightfully mischievous grin; I think I'll leave a good tip!

Wherever you are, I hope you're enjoying such a fine meal as I am tonight!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Realization

So I was browsing through blogs tonight, hoping that Newly or maybe Katrina had posted. But no. I was delighted to read SP- she tickles my funny bone, that girl - and Jenny, too, but somewhere along the way (it was only a moment ago and already I can't remember where I saw it) I saw something out of the corner of my eye on a blog, something like NaNoBlo.....

Wait.

Today is October 8th. 30 days hath September, April, June and November....that means 31 minus 8, that's 3 carry the... OH MY GOSH NANOWRIMO IS TWENTY THREE DAYS AWAY.

Holy.Mighty.Crap.

In 23 days I have to start another 50,000 word novel that I have to finish 30 days later.

I am most certainly not ready for this.

It seems like a cop-out to do a Part II of last year's novel. I should really challenge myself and write something more significant than an anecdotal children's book.

But then that begs the question, what exactly SHOULD I write about?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Corporate Delivery

A package arrived today. It was for LM's Corporation. Enclosed was a letter that read:



Dear Mr. LM:



Enclosed please find an assortment of office supplies. A corporate sponsor, the Tennessee Grandparent Corporation, has provided these items. Hopefully these products will assist you in your business endeavors in the Michigan area.



In the event you find any of these products unsatisfactory or in duplication of items presently utilized by your business, please forward said items to our local representative, Ms. Eliza Jane, who is in possession of the receipt needed for an exchange at your local Staples establishment.



Please let us know in writing if there are additional needed items, which might be provided by our corporation. Our business' goal is to assist you in ways that increase the probability of success of your office/business and that may actually bring a smile to the face of your CEO. In short, we are in the business of smiles creations. Our motto is, "If you are happy, they we are happy."



Please keep us apprised of your entrepreneurial adventure and know that we are but an e-mail or phone call away from providing solutions to many of your business needs.



Sincerely,



Papa and Grandma



CEO and CFO of the Tennessee Grandparent Corporation

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Sub

They say substitute teaching is like riding a bike, even if you haven't done it in a dozen years your back will ache and you'll still feel like you were kicked in the butt. Or maybe I just say that.

It's been a dozen years since I last set foot in a classroom. More than that since any student refered to me by my maiden name. So many things about my day felt so very good and right and so many things felt so remarkably different.

First of all, I was supposed to sub first grade for a half day. I thought that'd be a great way to stick my toes back in the water and get my confidence up. Turns out there was a miscommunication between the school secretary and the sub caller and the half day is actually tomorrow. But! (said the school secretary with glee) we could still use you for today!! Um, for what? Well, for another first grade as it turns out so I allowed myself to say yes of course and I wandered down the hall to the classroom where God granted me a remarkable miracle, I was blessed not only with a student teacher but with an all-day intern, too!!! (and the angels above sang Hallelujah!)

So, while my day was really really easy, I have to say I learned a lot. Like how to pronounce:
Namontea, RayShawn (as opposed to Rae' Sean), Ayonna, Kashyah, Quay 'van, Neahana, Keyth and Adonnis. I tried (in vain) to teach several of the kids how to spell 'that' (a difficulty when they don't hear a 'th' sound at all at the beginning of that word). I translated ebonics into sentences like "she has sand on her pants" which took me no less than five times to hear before I understood. I watched children traverse all matters of moods over the day as their blood sugar soared and plummeted. I listened to a beautiful little seven year old say "dammit" to her math assignment. I heard the student teacher say outloud and in front of the whole class during group reading, "jEsUs!" (this was the same woman who gave the kids an entire lecture on how to handle and check out books at the 'libary' (notice the missing R).

It was, perhaps, the easiest day of subbing I will ever have and yet, somehow the most difficult on my heart. To have a child flinch and pull away when you put your hand on their shoulder and compliment them on their work is not something I've ever experienced before. But I'll be more careful tomorrow. To have a child talk and talk and talk and talk and hold my hand and hug me and talk and talk and talk and I know that they just need attention and love.

So, I'll go back tomorrow. Just for a half day. And I'll try on a whole new classroom of names without the help of two student teachers. And in the afternoon I'll have a phone interview for a job at a local college and I'll wonder, in between, if any of these kids will ever have the chance to even dream of college. I hope so. I hope that's what the Kalamazoo Promise brings, is the hope of college to all these kids who currently go to school and get free breakfast and free lunch. I hope.

I hope they hope, too.

Monday, October 01, 2007

You Might Think I've Done This Before

Step One: Get boxes of empty applesauce jars located and unpacked. Reminisce about how long it's been since you've used ALL the jars you have.

Step Two: Buy new lids. Buy more new lids. Buy a few extra just to err on the optimistic side that you're going to get your hands on your apples this year.

Step Three: Visit the orchard with friends. No Ida Reds, so you pick a few Empires and Golden Supremes and go home and can two and a half jars. Vow to not can any more unless they are Honeycrisp or Ida Reds.

Step Four: Watch for Ida Reds. Hope for Ida Reds. Pray for Ida Reds (since Honeycrisps are either gone or way too costly.)

Step Five: Sing a song of thanksgiving as you pick bag after glorious bag of Ida Reds at a beautiful Michigan orchard.

Step Six: Pick a few more, just in case. Wonder how many apples you need to have enough applesauce for a year. Pick a few more just in case. Pick a few Empires just to try. Pick a few more. Pick a few more.

Step Seven: Stand agast at the check out stand when she announces you've picked 145 pounds of apples. Thank goodness they are cheap at the orchard! (Silently wonder if you left your mind in PA.)

Step Eight, Nine, Ten, Thirty-six, Fifty-eight: peel (by hand) every apple. Cube and cook with special Top Secret Recipe, can 3-4 jars per cooked batch. When cool, start stacking jars in the closet. Start to wonder if you'll ever eat anything BUT applesauce.

Step, Well, Whatever We're On Now: Put the last batch of apples in the pot, process the last needed batch of strawberries to be added later, wash the last remaining jars and stand and wonder how on earth did you come out with EXACTLY the right amount of apples for EXACTLY the amount of jars you have from five years ago.

Now, applesauce anyone?

Girl in Hyacinth Blue - Vreeland

My second mom recommended this book to me awhile ago and I was fortunate enough to find it at the library when I picked up Sparks' latest.

Girl in Hyacinth Blue traces the path of a painting as it passes from hand to hand, touching lives as it goes. Each chapter reads like a short story in and of itself, with a unique narrator adding to the understanding, perspectives and dimensions of the painting. Vreeland takes us through the lifespan of the painting back even to the origins and the subject herself.

Art History was one of my favorite classes in college. You wouldn't know it now, as I'm not all that fond of museums and I find many pieces of art to be too artistic for me to understand, but it was because of the passion of the professor that I enjoyed my college requirement so much and it is with a similar passion that Vreeland spins this tale for us as we all fall in love with the mysterious painting.

This book is a unique read. I enjoyed seeing how a simple painting of a simple girl wearing a simple expression could affect so many people in so many ways. I loved how it changed people and how it changed their lives; of the people that would forsake everything else just to keep the painting for the joy it brought to them. Of how people could relate so intensely to the girl they knew so little about. I truly found myself swept away.

I highly recommend this read - my step mom and I read many of the same books so I had no doubt her recommendation would prove to be a good one and I highly second the suggestion.