Monday, July 30, 2007

In a name

Many of you already know where I got the name for my blog, but for the rest of you...

This past winter I finally took E's suggestion and read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. This book is one of a small number of (non-fiction) books to change the way I think about the world. Pollan traces the food we eat back to the industrial farms it comes from and opens our eyes to what it is we're really consuming. He discusses the history of agribusiness, explains how corn has come to be in almost every processed food we buy in the grocery store, describes the life of a cow that is being raised to provide meat, and tells the disturbing tale of where our eggs come from. He isn't promoting stores like Whole Foods, rather, he is encouraging us to reaquaint ourselves with the food we put in our bodies and, if at all possible, to develop a relationship with the farmer who grows our fruits and vegetables.

Pollan's thesis made so much sense to me, but what could I do about it? I don't live in California or in another state or country with a long growing season. I live in a heavily populated state where one city flows into another. Where was I supposed to find these farmers? Where was I supposed to find grass fed beef? Or chickens that were free to roam and peck and eat grubs and grass?

It took a lot of work, but I did finally find a local farm to provide me with these things, and this past Saturday I drove the hour and a half to pick up my broilers. The farmer had offered to get them to me a different way, but I was interested in visiting the farm; I wanted to see the chickens and the cows for myself. Well, here is one of my future meals:


And another:


I'm thrilled that I've been able to track down a farmer who raises my food humanely. I know my chickens aren't packed a dozen into a tiny cage, I know the hens who lay my eggs aren't tortured to do so, I know my cows aren't standing knee deep in excrement. I know they don't need to be shot up with antibiotics.

I'm sorry this post has been a bit preachy, but please, read The Omnivore's Dilemma when you have the chance, or another book like it, and educate yourselves so you can make informed decisions at the grocery store.


I don't think the quiz worked so well this time...

Your Superpower Should Be Manipulating Electricity

You're highly reactive, energetic, and super charged.
If the occasion calls for it, you can go from 0 to 60 in a split second.
But you don't harness your energy unless you truly need to.
And because of this, people are often surprised by what you are capable of.

Why you would be a good superhero: You have the stamina to fight enemies for days

Your biggest problem as a superhero: As with your normal life, people would continue to underestimate you

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Post Harry Potter

For those of you who, unlike me, wanted to know more about what happens in Harry Potter land post Book 7 and its epilogue, look no further than this interview on MSNBC.

How to eat pie

You all may *think* you know how to eat pie. "Bibliophile," you'll say, "there's really nothing to it. You just take one bite, and then another, and then another, until there's nothing left on your plate!" "Ha!" I'll say. "This show's you really know nothing about how to eat pie."

No worries, I'm here to educate you.

Step 1: Get your hands on some really good pie. This is not as easy as you may think. I would have to say that 99.9% of the pie out there is what I would classify as Bad Pie. Bad Pie has many guises. The filling may be too sweet, the crust not delicate and flaky enough...Let's face it: Good Pie is not easy to make. I suggest you stay away from the store bought stuff (there's rarely anything good there), and either find a friend or family member who has real Pie Making Talent or practice yourself. I'm lucky enough to have a family member who falls into the former category, and several times a year makes pie. Last night, for my sister-in-law's birthday, he made her favorite (and my third favorite): sour cherry pie. Behold:


Step 2: Gaze lovingly at your pie. Please, don't rush past this important step. Remember, Good Pie is exceedingly hard to find, so cherish it while it's on the plate in front of you!

Step 3: If the slice in front of you has a lattice-top crust (as my slice does), delicately remove those pieces of the crust and set them aside.


Step 4: Eat the pie filling, reserving ALL PIE CRUST. I know how difficult this is to do, especially if you happen to know that the pie crust in front of you is top rate. If you find saving the crust for later to be too difficult for you, feel free to snack on the lattice crust as necessary, but reserve the bottom and edge crusts at all costs.


Step 5: Once all of the filling has been eaten, scrape the remaining filling goo from the remainder of the crust.


Step 6: Eat the crust, starting with the remaining lattice pieces, moving on to the bottom crust, and finishing, finally, with the best part: the edge crust.


Class dismissed.


Oh, and in case you're wondering, here is the order in which I like different pie flavors:
1. Pumpkin
1. Peach
3. Sour cherry
4. Everything else

Mug shot

I had been searching for this mug EVERYWHERE after C showed me her's almost a year ago. Behold, my latest prize:

I swear, coffee tastes better when it's drunk out of this mug.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Things to be happy about

1. The radio station in my home town with its "All A Cappella" programming on Saturday afternoons: "Rockapella, Five O' Clock Shadow, m-pact, Ball in the House, and college groups from all over the country."

2. Violent summer rainstorms. Specifically, being outside in them.

3. Buying chickens direct from the farmer who raises them (more on that tomorrow).

4. Cherry pie.

5. The thought that I'll be getting a puppy soon. Puppies!

Any additions?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Book pet peeves

As of late, I've had "opportunities" to think about some of my pet peeves as they relate to the books that I'm reading. Specifically, what makes me want to chuck a book across the room. So far I have two items on this list:

1. Books that seem to have more advertising in them than a big glossy magazine
2. Extraneous information, extraneous epilogues and leaving nothing to the imagination.

What really ticks you guys off?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Deathly Hallows

Time line of my yesterday afternoon
1:30 PM: Deathly Hallows arrives on my doorstep
2:15 PM: I begin Deathly Hallows
11:24 PM: I finish Deathly Hallows

While I'm not actually going to be discussing the plot of the book at all, as I'm sure there are at least a few of you that haven't begun or finished the book yet, I am listing things I really enjoyed about the book, so if you are worried that this list may ruin your Reading Experience, STOP READING THIS ENTRY.

No one is perfect. I know this seems a strange thing to like about a book, but I like my heroes flawed, dammit, and we see this not only with Harry but with Dumbledore. And it's their awareness of their own limitations, and their willingness to act accordingly, that really make them heroes.

The worst of humanity brings out the best of humanity, or, people are willing to sacrifice themselves for a truly worthy cause. There's nothing I need to add to that!

Neville comes into his own. In the seventh HP book we see Neville truly becoming a hero and a leader in his own right, and this is oh-so-gratifying.

And one thing that I didn't really like about the last book (the following paragraph is SPOILER HEAVY): the epilogue. In my opinion, this could have been left out to make a much stronger ending to the story. Do we really need to learn what happens 19 years in the future to know that everything Turns Out Alright? No. For the purposes of the narrative, we already knew that to be the case when everyone continued to fight despite thinking Harry had been killed, when Voldemort was finally killed, and when Harry was able to let two of the Hallows go.

In any case, Deathly Hallows has definitely been my favorite HP book. I'm so glad, too, because the last few, while enjoyable, have definitely been lacking something. And what better way to end a series than on a high note? I'm very curious to see what J. K. Rowling will do next.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bookus inhalerensii

I've been accumulating interesting things to tell you guys about, but haven't had the time, so you're all just going to get them in one unorganized heap.

1) Apparently my hero, David Attenborough, has an animal named after him (Zaglossus attenboroughi)! How neat is that? This creature is one of the four species of echidna that are still extant (though the one pictured at right is NOT the species named after Sir David). I first learned about echidnas from his Life of Mammals series, and thought they were one of the most interesting animals I had learned about in a very long time. Z. attenboroughi was recently in the news.

2) Scientists have finally succeeded in studying the legendary Congolese chimpanzees that apparently hunt large carnivores (leopards, lions, etc.). The population is deep in the jungle, very large and exhibits many unusual and unique behaviors.

3) Joss Whedon's rant against misogynism has resulted in a wonderful-sounding new project, mentioned here (subscription, or willingness to watch a 30 second advertisement, required).

4) Two nights ago I read (and actually loved) my first manga. I heard about it from Justine Larbalestier's blog, thought it sounded interesting, and decide to give it a shot. I have to say, it manages to be just about as romantic and compelling as I was led to believe. I'm not saying that I'm going to start reading a lot of this stuff, but I think I've grown a little. You know, as a person.

5) My upstairs neighbor just pounded across the floor to the beat of "fee-fie-foe-fum," at exactly the tempo you would use to get little kids to run away shrieking. Also, the only thing more annoying than hearing the same movie every night through my ceiling is, apparently, listening to a documentary through my ceiling. Whywhywhywhywhy?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Vacation detritus

I just picked up my mail from the post office and there were LITERALLY 20 lbs of it. Good thing I'm a super-fast Mail Sorter Througher (see how many exciting new things you all are learning about me?), and I dispatched with it all in about 2 minutes.

On a related note, I get a shocking amount of junk mail.

This is exciting, though: for the first time ever I've received a Chefwear catalog. Who the hell sold my name to them?! They have all sorts of bizzare pants. I think the same people who come up with nurses' scrub patterns come up with chef scrub patters. These things are seriously wacky! Maybe I can bring E back to comment on this phenomenon (she worked as a pastry chef in her previous life).

And I'll leave you all for now with my favorite sign from the trip. This one was spotted on the fence of the saddest looking zoo just outside Bar Harbor:

Best. Sign. Ever.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Quick author news

Scott Westerfeld has posted the first chapter of his upcoming book, Extras, here. For those of you who liked his Uglies trilogy, this book is getting my attention. I think it'll be a nice glimpse of the Uglies world post-Specials.

Also, Libba Bray wrote a hilarious piece on her live journal recently about *her* upcoming book, The Sweet Far Thing. Sounds to me like she's still having trouble finishing it up.

Days till next vacation: too many to count

Days on vacation: 15
Pictures taken: 1,444
Miles driven: 1,840
Books read: 5
Approximate number of different types of animals seen (that can be readily identified -- I'm not so good with birds): 35*


1. So, are you tired of eating seafood yet? No, no I'm not. In fact, I feel like I'm going through seafood withdrawal. Must! Eat! More! Seafood! Now!

2. Can you look back ont your pre-trip anxieties about not being able to find food and laugh? No, no I cannot. There were a few days where we had a hard time finding a restaurant or even a store that sold food. There are some seriously unpopulated areas of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia! I guess that isn't surprising given that there are more people in California than in the entire country of Canada. Let this be a lesson to you all: sometimes my craziness is prophetic AND well-founded.

3. What books did you manage to read? I'm so glad you asked. Here is the list. The ones I liked in particular are in bold. I'm also happy to say that Book and I were generally exhausted enough at the end of each day that I didn't get much reading done. I consider this evidence of a successful vacation.
  • Stardust, Neil Gaiman
  • Shadow and Claw, Gene Wolfe
  • Einstein: His Life and Universe, Walter Isaacson
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
  • Charlotte Sometimes, Penelope Farmer
4. Will you be writing about your vacation on this blog? Um? Maybe? I guess I'm not sure. Do you guys really want to hear about it? Probably not in a huge amount of detail, but maybe I'll give you the highlights from each day with an accompanying picture or two. Or seven. Did I mention how many pictures I took?

5. What didn't you get to do that you wish you had? It would have been nice to have time to go on a kayaking trip in the Bay of Fundy to see some of the 15 species of whale that are there this time of year, and it would have been nice to have more time for hiking in Nova Scotia. But that's why this was a whirl-wind, fact-finding tour of the Maritimes: now we know where we want to visit in the future and to see in more depth.

6. Wait, so you have to go to work tomorrow? *quiet sobbing*

I'll leave you all with something you may not know about me. I'm a giant!**

I'm a giant!

*Birds: turkey vulture, osprey, seagull, ducks, chickens, crow, bald eagle, loon, yellow warbler, crow, a heron of some kind, canada goose, double crested cormorant, white-winged scoter, scarf scoter, ruby-throated hummingbird
Sea creatures: starfish, muscles, snails, harbor seals, grey seals
Misc: squirrels, chipmunks, horeses, goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas, dogs, cats, deer, frogs, cows, porcupines

**And also that pictures of me from below are hugely unflattering. As are pictures of me from the front. And pictures of me from the side...

Monday, July 9, 2007

Baby Animals from Around the World

I just came across this gallery of baby animals from around the world, and I know that if The Bibliophile were here she'd be crooning over it.

Another thing I know is that she would be swooning over the weirdos, like this squirrel/rat/bunny looking thing, desperately trying to convince me that they are cute.

The reality is that I am set on tiger cubs as the cutest baby animals alive. Even though they likely will tear these baby chicks to pieces....and that's not so cute.

posted by EyreAffair

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Turkish street food

One of Mr. Food's favorite newly found authors, Orhan Pamuk, wrote a piece in the New Yorker this week (July 9 & 16) on page 48. "Forbidden Fare: When Street Food Came to Istanbul" is a nice personal history piece on the author's illicit street food forays as a boy in Istanbul. Check it out before it leaves the shelves! Or, go to your local library... (not that The Bibliophile would condone that, she uses libraries only under duress, she likes to own her books! Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

-- E of

Friday, July 6, 2007

As if we needed more ideas

The Bibliophile has this adorable little reader's journal where she keeps a list of everything she wants to read. It's amazing how long her list is, and she is constantly crossing things off.

As if everyone's "to read" list wasn't long enough, people have sent me these two links in the past week, so I thought I'd post them here:

The Amelia Bloomer Project: children's and YA lit with strong female characters

NPR Summer Books: all kinds of lists of recommended books

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Foodie lit

First off, I have to stop reading this book. Kafka's Soup is a riot -- recipes written in the style of, say, Jane Austen (Tarragon Eggs) or Marcel Proust (Tiramisu) -- but I got two books out of the library on my way home today and they're both due back in a week! Unlike the Bibliophile-an-obsessive-book-reader-with-lots-of-time-on-her-hands I don't have time to while away reading books all the time. I have a real job. Oh, and a second "real" freelance job. And a husband to feed. So... I need to get onto reading these: Kabul Beauty School and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. So forgive me for setting Kafka aside, a book I found (after months of searching) at Powells, the best bookstore ever. And, I went in person. And yes, the Bibliophile is jealous. She hasn't said as much but I know these things. Here's a picture from my visit, taken from the trolley stop across the street.

E of

Sunday, July 1, 2007

While the cat's away....

the mice a lot on her blog? Apparently E and I are really into this!

Since I'm a librarian, people are constantly assuming I read a lot. I do. At and for work.

But when it comes to reading actual books, I fail people's expectations. I have a disorder I like to call Book Narcolepsy. The second I break out a book, I get cozy and want to sleep. I rarely read more than 3 pages before passing out.

This is why it meant a lot to The Bibliophile when for her bday, I offered to buy two copies of any book she wanted and we'd read them together. She chose The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, which looked to me like the longest book ever. At 528 pages, I knew this would take FOREVER for me to read and I was right. I wouldnt let The Bibliophile even pick it up until I had 100 pages left, which was approximately 6 months after I started it. We both loved this book and highly recommend it.

Now she returned the favor for my birthday and, ever a glutton for punishment, I chose The Crimson Petal and the White. True to form, I have read 14 pages since I received it 3 weeks ago. At a whopping 894 pages, I'm not sure I'll finish it by the time it's The Bibliophile's bday again and we have to switch to her book!