Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Girls of No Return

Sunrise was at 7:14, sunset will be at 4:33, just after my afternoon break. Dark yesterday at 5.

Pretty day out there. Blue skies, orange trees, sun's up, rooftops are all frosty, and D had to wear his gloves for his bus ride to work. It's cold and I covered the daphne last night. I walked to the car after working out and it felt like my whole body was in the middle of a peppermint patty, the air tingled around me!

I'm making minestrone soup this morning with chard and cannellini beans and a sprig of rosemary from the back yard. The tomato soup was a hit although D would have liked shrimp or prawns in his. I just can't do that. The colors would be awful together and that bothers me! I don't mind prawns and I don't mind tomato soup, but I can't do them all mixed up in one pot. Sorry, D.

Just finished a really great book called The Girls of No Return, by Erin Saldin. It's about a group of girls sent to a wilderness school, a school where girls who have nowhere else to go after violence or troubles at home and school. Lida is unable to talk about why she is there, her Thing is a secret, maybe even a secret to her, but this year is supposed to test her physically and emotionally, to allow her to come to grips with why she is having the trouble she is. At The Alice Marshall School in the middle of a wilderness area, she meets Boone (rumors abound about her and her crimes), Jules (who is oddly happy to be there), and Gia, a glamor girl with more secrets than anyone and the ability to attract the neediest girls to her.

Boone, Lida and Gia form a triangle with Lida at the apex. Boone and Gia really dislike each other and Lida is torn having to choose between what could be a rocky friendship with Boone and her attraction to Gia and her glamorous life.
When things come to a violent confrontation between the three of them, Lida finally has to decide what her role in her own life is going to be.

I love the location of the book, deep in the middle of a wilderness area, so the girls had nowhere to go and had only a small community of other women to be with. They are given the skills to live in the woods, mapping skills, hiking, learning the local flora and fauna, and even the girls who are fully made up every day learn how to tell north from south. I really appreciate having a book about girls who learn outdoor survival skills, about young women who are strong and combative. It's good to know that there's a book out there about girls who know they can survive on their own, make their own decisions, and live with the decisions they make. Ages 14 and up. (Scholastic Books. Available February 2012. $17.99.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A nice way to spend the day...

Sunrise was at 7:11, sunset will be at 4:35.

Not raining but the air is really wet. It's been gray all day except right at sunset when a blaze of wet yellow light slipped under the bank of clouds over Beacon Hill and lit up the air. Glorious for just a moment.

I had today off and spent it filling the compost bin with wild clematis, dead blackberries and fallen leaves. I'm covered in mud, cuts and pokes, and I broke a vessel in the fat of my thumb-it itches like crazy and my fingertip tingle with pain. Cleaned out the drains, swept the sidewalks and raked up all the leaves in the gutters.

And then I made tomato soup! We'll have tomato soup and tuna sandwiches for dinner tonight, had homemade mac and cheese and broccoli during the Duck game (an appropriately yellow and green dinner. Go, Ducks!) last night...I am thoroughly enjoying making soup - minestrone up next on Tuesday!

Still reading Believing in the Lie, by Elizabeth George, it's really good, and made a bracelet to match the necklace I put together for my sister's birthday. It's been an artful weekend!

(This photo's a little blurry but the jewelry is filled with pearls, little pale green, amber, purple glass beads, some amethyst and black beads. It looks very much like a beach scene to me, all sand and ocean and grass colors. We grew up on the Oregon coast and it was so much fun to build something using all these great colors from my favorite place on earth! The colors will look really nice on her, too.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mmm...Cake, Booksellers, Marie Lu and Legend

Sometimes the hot flashes are worth it: Flourless chocolate cake with whipped creme and toffee bits and a lovely red wine to go with it.

After a long day at work and then booktalking the season's best books, in our humble opinion, Jane and I got everything cleaned up and put away and then I hurried down to Wild Ginger - got there just in time to have a slice of cake and a glass of wine and a bit of talk with some of the best booksellers around. Nothing better than getting together with other people who like to talk about books while drinking a little wine unless it's doing all of that while meeting the person who's written a book you really, really like!

Marie Lu is a new author and her book, Legend, is a great read.

June and Day are the best at what they do. Day is a master criminal and June is the best mind the military has. They live on opposite sides of the Republic’s social spheres, June is one of the elites and Day lives in the slums trying to keep his family and friends alive. They’d never have any reason to cross paths except that June’s brother is killed and Day is wanted for the crime. As June and Day’s paths cross and start to run in tandem, they begin to realize what secrets really brought them together and what the government will do to keep those secrets secret.

Man, this was a good book: absolutely riveting, fast-paced, a little romantic, and a well-developed world.

If you’d like to read more about this book, here is the post from when I first discovered Legend: http://notesfromthebedsidetable.blogspot.com/search?q=legend.

Ages 12 and up. (Penguin. Available November 10, 2011. Hardcover. $17.99.)

Fall! Time for Soup and Books

Sunrise was at 7:08, sunset will be at 4:38.

My favorite kind of day! Warm, windy and gray - I love windy days especially when they are warm ones. Nothing like watching the trees bounce and the leaves roll.

I just went out and stood on the sidewalk to look at the maple, the neighbors were out walking their dog, and the leaves were coming off in a hurry! Circling in the wind, the leaves floating off into the street, the helicopter seeds twirling to the ground, a very autumnal scene.

It might very well be the end of the leaves and all the color, once they're gone we'll be into the grays and greens and browns of true November. The beautiful orange leaved trees across the way are completely bare now, but there is a brilliant red one that has JUST turned so we'll be enjoying that for the next little while.

Went out with the sisters-in-law for lunch with Dennis, a congratulatory lunch, as he passed the Google test with flying colors! Go, Dennis! It was getting dark by the time we headed home and the rain was just starting.

Gidget and I (G is the cat) were sitting in the warm dining room, watching the HGTV channel when she did that scary cat thing where she sits straight up and stares off at something outside, ears so far forward they almost separate from her head. So I sit still, listening hard for whatever it is she hears: a tick tick tick like leaking water from a ceiling. I got up and looked around but didn't see anything. Tick tick tick... I opened the front door to see what was happening and hail was coming down in sheets! It was bouncing and rolling off the rooftop so hard, pinging and popping into all the metal bits and chimes on the porch turning everything on the porch and in the yard into an instrument. Amazing, beebee sized hail everywhere.

It's a good day for soup and sandwiches and the new Detective Lynley novel from Elizabeth George, Believing the Lie, available in January from Dutton.

Look! A little bit of color in the corners of the yard and fence! Grasses in red and green, succulents in lime green starting to cascade over the wall, competition for best greens with the moss.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Heading Down Memory Lane

Sunrise was at 7:05, sunset will be at 4:40. It's dark so early. The outdoor lights come on at about 4. I was on author visits yesterday and when I got back to the store the light was at that very low, pre-sunset yellow that comes only at this time of year. It was beautiful and smelled like walked on and crushed leaves - dusty and spicy. Today? COLD, WET, GRAY!

It frosted up a couple of days ago and the car windows were swirled in crystals shaped like ferns. just a fingertip's touch to the center of the glass and it melted away. I had to cover the daphne, severely damaged after a last, late frost in February, to keep it safe. It may reach into the 60s tomorrow - we've been see-sawing between clear & sunny and cloudy & rainy every other day this last couple of weeks. The trees sure are beautiful, though. I've noticed that the trees up at the store, the ones that ring the parking lot, are all in various stages of color and change. There's one tree next to a light pole, one that is on all night, that is still pretty green. The leaves on the off-side of that particular tree are turning but the light must give off enough heat to slow the change in those underneath the lamp.

It's so cool to watch the maple out the kitchen window shut down for the winter. Its leaves are outlined in yellow, mostly still green toward the stem, and they will become all yellow and then a leathery brown as the sap makes its way back toward the trunk. The leaves that are less protected by the house are much more yellow and brown , already dropping and collecting around the storm drains.

I've been spending my Tuesday and Wednesday mornings making soup and rice. There's something about this weather that says "Nest!" So, I get up early and while D gets ready for work, I see what's in the fridge and pantry. Today, we have a vegetable-bean soup in the slow cooker and a pot of rice for combining with other things later.

The soup is really pretty, lots of different beans and colors, carrots, celery, onion, bay leaf, and vegetable broth, and we'll have it with a drying out loaf of rosemary bread. Mmmm. Of course, there will be the addition of a little butter for the bread, maybe some parmesan sprinkled over the soup.

I've been purging closets and drawers, bookshelves, baskets, whole rooms of things getting a second look, the trunk of the Jeep full as we head to Goodwill with donations. I have come across forgotten photos from high school (oh, my old boyfriends...) and letters from my grandmothers, chatty little things about the ducks along the stream and the weather and horses. That must be where the fascination about the weather came from!

These letters always put me right next to those women, standing in Grandma Pearl's kitchen in Brookings, looking out to the backyard stream where she fed the ducks and got some peace from my grandfather. Making tuna fish sandwiches and talking about boys and the future. And in Grandma Vi's kitchen, sitting on the flour bins (the most uncomfortable seats EVER, even with the little round pillows as toppers) looking out at the barn, the horses cropping the pasture ever shorter, her tomatoes and grapes ripening up for the summer (this side of the family had a creek, not a stream).

Those flour bin seats were such clever storage. They were wooden, circular bins, maybe a foot across and about 3 feet high. If you pulled the pillow off the bin, you could see that there was a lid with a ring for pulling attached to it and if you could pull off the lid, there would be sugar in one, flour in the other, whatever was bought in bulk and needed to be in the kitchen would be stored in these bins. I can still, after all these years, feel in the palms of my hands the way the lids resisted coming off (the ring would tear up your fingers, so you had to use your palms) eventually sliding up and popping off leaving you stumbling and a whoosh of flour following along.

(In the photo, behind Keeli and Bo, you can see a slice of the bins.)

They were amazingly heavy when full and the kids (there were 6 of us cousins) had to put our shoulders to them to move them. The lids were really tight and we could NOT get them off. Good thing because the chance of spillage was pretty high. We'd get taken by surprise whenever there was a holiday, coming into the kitchen, expecting the bins to be heavy and they'd fly under the the table attached to the wall under the long windows and one of the adults in the other room would yell, "Hey! What're you kids doing in there? Knock it off!"

The round pillows attached to the tops were supposed to make them more comfortable- they were blue, plastic, foam-filled pillows that fit right into the little rim around the bin lids. Sitting on them when you're a kid, the rim eventually eats into the backs of your thighs, your legs dangling over, the weight of your feet causing the rim to bite deeper and deeper until you can't stand it anymore and you have to jump off and run out, the little foam pillow re-filling with air and a sigh.

The adults never sat on the bins, the kitchen would fill with adults tucked into the corners and doorways, shifting from foot to foot rather than take a chance on the bins. G'ma and G'pa had those diner chairs with the plastic seat and backs, with the s-shaped chrome frames, placed at both ends of the table where they sat. I don't think I ever saw them sit on the bins, either, and if a kid sat in Grandpa's chair, that child was scatted off as soon as he came into the room. If you were willing to wait until he got settled, sometimes he'd let you sit on his lap and get warm, wrapping your hands around his coffee cup.

This was going to be a post about the books I've unearthed in all of this cleaning but the memories of the small things that make up your life are so very compelling to turn over and review. Those seats and the grandmothers' kitchens are obviously close to the surface of my mind right now. Maybe it's because I'm the oldest child in this family, and, except for my Aunt Peggy, I am now the oldest in this particular family chain- that's a weird thing to know, that you are now, almost (and I'm willing to wait a really long time for the title), the family elder.

I have no kids, no expectations for having them, so no one to directly pass these memories to. My family all live in another state and I don't reach out to the little kids like I probably should, bringing them the few memories I have that their parents might also share. So, maybe, with the dying of the season, wanting to fill the larder and feed the birds, this investigation of memory is another way of nesting, surrounding myself with family and home and remembrances of snorting laughter and coughing sobs, sharing a bath with 5 other tiny people who, now grown, will take you in at any time, remembering that where I came from forms who I am.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Emily Jenkins/E. Lockhart

Sunrise was at 7:56, sunset was at 5:49.

The clouds look like illustrations out of a children's Bible. They are fluffy, rounded, lit from behind and glowing along the edges. The sun is setting behind Beacon Hill and still shining through the dining room windows. There will come a time, not too long, now, when the sun won't come through to the inside of the house, except for the bedroom; it will be too far south and too low to to come above the trees and the house behind us. Only when it starts to slip behind Beacon Hill will there be enough open space to shine through. It reminds me of a lariat, sliding over the hips of the earth and pooling at the feet, Argentina and Chile kicking it loose to catch on the toes of Antarctica.

This was my breakfast the other day, just before the Emily Jenkins/E. Lockhart events. Aren't those eggs just absolutely exquisite? The yolks of the blue eggs were the exact color of a Crayola orange-yellow crayon and they clung to the edge of the bowl when I whisked them. I kept thinking of all the insects and leftover veggies my fellow employee Chris' hens were fed that would give those eggs that color. They must be very happy girls!

We took Emily to Madrona in Edmonds to speak to 2nd-4th grades about her Toys Go Out books, illustrated by Paul Zelinsky, and then took to her alma mater, Lakeside, to talk about how she got to where she is now and why she writes what she does.

Those little kids were so attentive and they had really great questions for Emily. The school has an interpreter and the big boys, the fifth graders, are AV gods. They had Emily miked, the computers loaded, the projector aimed....and when Emily's handless microphone went kablooey, they had it turned off, the handheld set up and handed to her in seconds. They were the heroes of the day.

The teenagers at Lakeside weren't as well prepared as the younger ones.

It was an interesting discussion, though, so cool to hear E. talk about where her ideas come from and about her life as an author in New York. I loved hearing how she used her experiences as a social pariah at her first high school and her move up the social ladder at her second (Lakeside) to inspire her Ruby Oliver novels. She talked about her friends getting together for a beer every so often, many of them people whose books we love, like David Levithan and Scott Westerfeld.

Here she is in a room off the library at Lakeside, filling the group in about her days as an author. It had been a very long day by this time and only getting longer. Up at 3:45 am, or so, to catch a plane to Seattle for her first event at 10:45, lunch at 12:00, event from 1-3, then off to sign books at various bookstores before an evening event with Secret Garden's teen book club run by our friend, Liz Gallagher. Our Random House rep, Deanna, joined her for lunch at Lakeside (Random publishes the Ruby Oliver books). It was a very busy day, not nearly as glamorous as her real life, and she really should have stock in Starbucks.