Friday, August 26, 2011

Bittersweet On A Stick

Fairchild the Minnesota State Fair Mascot

It's time for the Great Minnesota Get Together.  The Minnesota State Fair.  We go every year, and it's always a nice farewell to summer.  The State Fair means summer is pretty much over, and fall is just around the corner.  Say good-bye to the lazy hot humid days and hello to the crisp early mornings at the bus stop.  But first one last summer-fun event!

 For a couple weeks the kids have been planning the rides they'll ride and the food they'll eat.  Everyone seems to have their favorites.  But the #1 must-have is the ice cream from the Dairy building. Or the stuffed olives on a stick. Or the corn on the cob. Or the bucket of Sweet Martha's cookies, or. . .

Fried Cheese Curds

cheese curds.  Yep, definitely the cheese curds.  That's the must have.  Although everything else mentioned above is a must have.  So, I guess we've got a few favorites.  We always do a little research before we go to see what is new at the fair, or the stuff we haven't tried yet.  I've heard good things about the bacon on a stick and it's on our list this year.  One new food we'll be trying is the Minneapple Pie--apple pie on a stick.  Since it's by the Dairy Building's must-have ice cream, it's kind of a no-brainer.  That, and I do love pie.  We're going on Monday, so we may hear about things to add to the list. 

It's a lot of walking.  Good thing, with the list of must have foods that are fried.  My mom always wears her pedometer when they go.  I'm thinking I might wear mine this year.  If I can find it.  I probably should have started my training already.  I know we walk miles and miles, but I never feel too sore the next day.  I suppose that's because it isn't marathon walking but leisurely strolling with lots of stops to look at exhibits and pick up your next fried delicacy on a stick.

The more I look at pictures, the more excited I am.  WCCO has a whole hour at the fair at 4:00 pm.  If I weren't here at work at that time, I'd be home watching it. 

There are a few people we know that are going the same day we are.  There are probably a few people we know that we'll run into unexpectedly.  It's always kind of fun to see people you know amidst the thousands of people at the fair.  I come from a very large extended family, and have run into relatives in the past.  One year we ran into the woman who delivers the newspapers in town.  Seems that when we meet other people we know, the conversation is about what we've seen and what we've eaten.  I think I should probably bring along a little notebook to keep track of all the food we digest over the course of the day.  We go every year, so I could use it over and over.  Then maybe we'd have a better idea who got to experience the fried fruit on a stick whatever year that was.

And the rides.  The kids love them.  I like it when I have to ride along with one of them.  Rides are much more fun with a kid who is excited.  Bumper boats, tilt-a-whirl, Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, "that thing that Mom and I went on last year", it'll be interesting to see which rides they pick.  They usually only get two rides each.  It's not like those tickets are free. 

The girls have been discussing all there is to see.  They like walking through the Agriculture-Horticulture building and seeing all the sights in there.  Flower arrangements, seed art, scarecrows, and the bee exhibit.  You can also get a cool, crisp apple, apple juice or apple popsicle.  (Food is a major part of the day, obviously.)  The kids enjoy walking through the barns.  Pet the biggest pig, see them milking the cows, watch them shearing sheep.  A couple years ago our daughter Maeve; then two, had the most fun in the poultry barn.  I love walking through that barn, it reminds me of my chicken loving Great Grandma Mamie.  (The summer before she died, she and I perused a chicken catalog and she would exclaim over the various breeds--how crazy some of them looked.)  I may not want to raise chickens of my own, but they're fun to look at.

The DNR building, and their big pond of native fish is always a hit.  They usually have some sort of litter sculpture that has look and find activity page to go along with it.  We sit down to watch the news live in the evening.  The Creative Activities & Annex is right up there by Machinery Hill.  I don't care much to look at tractors, and my husband doesn't care much to look at what people have knit, sewn, or crafted.  Divide and conquer.  We let the kids go with whoever they want to go with.  I used to get to go by myself, but the kids are older now and much less interested in the farm machinery than they used to be.  We go through the 4-H building and see what some talented kids are showcasing.  I go through the Fine Arts building while the rest of the family sees something on the stage at Baldwin Park, although this year I may have a few kids along with me.  By this time we're getting to the end of the day, and everyone is getting tired.  It's a good time to sit down for awhile. 

On our way out, we swing by Sweet Martha's Cookies and pick up a bucket of cookies, then we head over to all the milk you can drink for $1.00--talk about divine.  Walk back to the car, and these weary travelers head home. 


Summer is about over, but it goes out with one of the highlights of the season.  I couldn't possibly hit all of them with this blog post, there's so much to see (and eat).  We look forward to going, and at the same time regret that those slow sultry days of summer are coming to a close. 

Bittersweet on a stick, indeed.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

housework vs. a good book

There's nothing to match curling up with a good book when there's a repair job to be done around the house. ~Joe Ryan

I wish I liked cleaning better than I do.  I hate housework.  I love a clean home, I just don't want to be the one to do it.  Unfortunately, working off of library wages means I can't afford a maid.  I only work a couple days a week anyway, so it's not like I don't have time to clean my house, I'd just rather do other things.  With kids and their accessories (toys, books, crayons, etc.) living in my house, it means mopping the floor is a bit more involved.  Right, right; I've heard it before, eventually the children move away and you miss their junk scattered all over the house.  I look forward to that day.  I may regret saying that in a few years, but for now. . .

I got an Ipod for Christmas.  I haven't used it for much other than Sudoku, to be perfectly honest.  I have some of my CDs (okay, 1/2 of them are kids music) downloaded to it, but I rarely listen to it.  Last week I finally downloaded a book that I really wanted to listen to.  (Okay, it was a book club book that I didn't want to read while trying to finish Pillars of the Earth.)  I finally set myself up to listen to it yesterday.  Oh My Stars, by Lorna Landvik was the book.  I had read it several years ago, but really didn't remember much about it.  Yes, I could have read it a lot faster than it was read to me, but I wouldn't have gotten nearly as much done. 

The master bath is now spic and span, like it hasn't been for months.  I sorted through some bins of clothing, and found some stuff to pass along to other girls in the family.  The basement shows remarkable improvement.  You can actually walk from the bottom of the stairs to the ironing board without traversing an obstacle course.  The kitchen got cleaned.  (And it was well before midnight!!)   I don't think I even thought about how much I hate cleaning while I was doing it.  Hunh.  Who knew I'd be able to get so much done while being entertained.  All right, our library board president has been doing this for years--I don't know why I didn't listen to her words of wisdom sooner.

Listening to a book is a bit different than reading it for yourself.  I didn't have to pause every time I came across the leading man's name to think about how it sounded.  Kjel: pause before you get to it, pronounce it SHELL and move on.  Someone at book club mentioned they had to do that, and I didn't.  Of course, I didn't completely finish listening.  I have now spent some time going back and forth between listening and reading, and have found that I have to do the same thing when I come across that name while reading.   The way people talk isn't left up to your interpretation, but someone else's.  You know that when Berit asks her mother, "Why don't I help you out in here?" it's because she's been lovingly asked to leave the room and she's trying to save face.  Many years ago, I listened to Frank McCourt reading his book Angela's Ashes.  I thought at the time that the book would be awfully depressing, but listening to the author read his own story shed humor on it, where you might not have read it in the printed word.  There's a different feel listening to someone reading a book than reading it yourself.  Not bad, just different.

So, I'm a convert.  I will now regularly download books and clean my house.  Probably.

If the shelves are dusty and the pots don't shine,
it's because I have better things to do with my time.
~Author Unknown

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Don't mention the book?

In literature, as in love, we are astonished at the choice made by other people.
-Andre Maurois

If you're a Facebook junkie; like me, you may have seen the postings for National Book Week.  Here are the directions:

It's National Book Week. The rules: Grab the closest book to you. Go to page 56. Copy the 5th sentence as your status. Don't mention the book. Post these rules as part of your status.

Nuts, you can't mention the book??  What kind of Book Week is that?  How am I supposed to get an idea for what might be a good read?  How does it help me not to know the name of the book you're quoting?  How does it celebrate reading to not give the name of the book you've got closest to you?  Does the author get any credit for the line he/she wrote?  I object. 

No, this book week isn't in any way affiliated with the American Library Association.  It's a Facebook thing.  The ALA has Banned Books Week from September 24th-October 1st this year.  They have Teen Read Week from October 16th-22nd.  National Library Week is April 8th-14th, 2012.  Library Card Sign-Up month is September (next month!!).

I wonder where this Book Week came from.  I can't figure it out.  Who thought of it?  Why?  What was the intent?  Why page 56?  Why the 5th complete sentence?  Why not page 43, and the 8th complete sentence?  Why not just give the title of the book that's closest to you and answer whether you're reading it, or if it's just been hanging around.  How about, pick up the book closest to you and tell us what that book means to you.  (i.e. It's just some fluff to help me forget about life, I'm hoping to learn something from this book, I only have kid's books next to me--Sandra Boynton's board books aren't numbered.)

So, I typed "national book week" into the search area of Facebook.  It found a few different pages.  The only one that had any information beyond the directions pointed me to The Children's Book Council of Australia.  This year's Children's Book Week marks the 66th annual event.  And, it's this year: August 20th-August 26th.  Hmmmm.  The theme is One World, Many Stories.  That sounds a bit familiar.  So, I'm still not sure how Facebook got a National Book Week from Australia, a couple weeks early.  Ahhhh, but people are sheep. 

I guess I'm a bit of a rule breaker.  The last time this thing came around (and I questioned it this time mainly because it felt like it hadn't been that long since I had done it.) I just searched through my profile, and found that I did this on February 24th, 2011.  Then, the directions were:

Game rules: Grab the book closest to you right now. Open to page 56 and choose the 5th sentence. Publish it as your status and write the rules as a comment. Don't choose the book you like the most or think will make you look cool, just the ...closest.

Okay, so in February it was just a game.  Now it's an event.  Same page, same sentence.  I didn't pick the closest then, which was a 1929 copy of The Complete Home Landscape by Arthur Jennings but instead picked the book I was currently reading.  And of course, I let all my friends know the name of the book and the author.  (That wasn't verboten in February.) 

I want everyone to mention the book.  I also want them to mention the author.  I think the author should get some credit.  I think I should be able to read the book you're reading if page 56, sentence 5 appeals to me.  Pick whatever book you want.  Search through all of your close books to find the best fifth sentence on page 56.

Of all the books I have close to me, the best fifth sentence on page 56 comes from the book Cabins of Minnesota by Bill Holm with photographs by Doug Ohman. 

"The north wind howled in through the rattly windows, and honey from the bees trapped in the walls oozed out between loose cracks."

Now there's a sentence that makes you want to read the rest of the book.  Page 56, sentence 5 should make you want to read sentence 6, 7, 8, and beyond. So, go. Go beyond. Break the rules, mention the book.

"Tell me what you read and I'll tell you who you are" is true enough, but I'd know you better if you told me what you reread.  ~François Mauriac

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

That book will build some muscle.

It is necessary to relax your muscles when you can. Relaxing your brain is fatal.
Stirling Moss

I brought three books with me on vacation.  I left the heaviest one for last.  I suppose I was kind of hoping I wouldn't get to it, and could put off reading it for awhile longer.  And by "for awhile longer", I mean until I had worked up some bigger arm muscles.  The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett is the heaviest book I've ever read.  Or at least it feels like it is.

So, I thought I'd take a little look back on the heavy tomes I've read in the past.  And here they are starting with the shortest of the long books that I remember:

Children of the Earth Series by Jean Auel: the first five books I read average in at 584 pages.  The Clan of the Cave Bear (#1) was the shortest at 495 pages.  Each continuing book got longer.  I really enjoyed the books.  I haven't read the latest in the series which just came out this summer, but eventually. . .I might.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy had considerably less pages than I remembered.  Only 736, but it felt like it must have been thousands.  I read a complete and unabridged version.  It was brutal.  And, I was reading it for my own pleasure (of which there was very little.)  But, I got through it.  Others may love this book, but I didn't.  Maybe the abridged version is better.  I've got Tolstoy's War and Peace in my "to read" pile, here's hoping that's better.

The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon averaged 902 pages with the 5 books I read in the series.  Action/adventure/romance/and a smidgy bit of sci-fi with the main character traveling back in time via Stonehenge.  (Or maybe not--but for me, time travel=science fiction.)  For as long as these books are, they didn't take long to read.  Maybe because I didn't get anything else done until I was finished with them.  Lots of reading into the wee hours with them.  If you want an escape book, check them out.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett: this book weighs in at over 3lbs.  It's not the longest book I've ever read at 973 pages, just the heaviest.  Pretty much everyone who has ever read it places it in on their favorites list.  I don't know why I was so hesitant to start.  Maybe because it's so darn heavy.  Not exactly light reading.  Literally or figuratively.  I'm all of 144 pages into it, and I can see that tonight is going to be another late night of reading, just like last night, and probably the next few nights. It sucks you right in at the begining, and I'm glad it's going to take awhile to let go.

Maia by Richard Adams was the first over 1000 page book I ever read.  1062 pages that I tore through in less than a week.  I was in my late teens and had finished Watership Down by the same author and moved on to some of his other books.  Maia may not be the book for your average teen reader.  For one thing, it's about a concubine.  Yeah, I didn't know what a concubine was until I got into the book.  If you don't know either, pull up the dictionary.  I read it more than once.  And thinking back on it now, I'd like to read it again.  Maybe once winter starts to set in.

And the longest book I ever read:  drum roll:  Sacajawea by Anna Lee Waldo gets top honor with 1408 pages.  About the woman who helps Lewis and Clark; and what happens before, during, and after that expedition.  A great read.  If you like historical fiction, this would be the book for you. 

And those are the books that first came to mind.  I suppose it's more of a list of best and worst. (Anna Karenina being the only worst on the list.)  I took a stroll around the library and came up with a few other long books that I've read.  But they were neither super great nor super bad--so I'm not going to change my list. 

Like age, number of pages is just a number.  There may be a lot of them, but that's doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the book, or how much you'll enjoy it.  Only one way to find out.  Jump in and read for awhile.  In this modern era of instant gratification, it's a bit off putting to think about reading a lengthy book.  At least it is for me, but maybe I'm just out of practice.  This book is a nice reminder of how good it is to soak in a storyline for an extended length of time.   Maybe I won't be so hesitant to start the next big book. 

I know there are other long books I haven't read yet and want to read.  The last three Harry Potter books, Lonesome Dove, War and Peace, Gone with the Wind, and of course--World Without End by Ken Follett.  But first I need to finish The Pillars of the Earth.  I think I'll work on that right now!