Sunday, December 30, 2007

New music discovery

New music discovery of the day: The 1900s (Thanks Matt!). I am completely in love with the song "When I Say Go." I can't download the full album from emusic 'till my downloads reset for January, but if the rest of the album is anywhere near as good as this song and the others on their Myspace page, it'll be getting an honorable mention on my albums-of-the-year list.

http://www.myspace.com/1900s


They're playing in New York next week, with Belle and Sebastian. How much would I love to be at that show? A whole, whole lot. That's how much.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Go see it!

The past few months I've started going to the movies quite frequently, after a long time of mostly boycotting -- 8+ bucks for a ticket is just ridiculous! Especially when so much of what was out there was just pure crap. But anyway, I've ended the boycott, and I've actually seen some really great stuff lately.

First, everyone must go see Juno immediately. Are you listening? Immediately! Definitely the best movie I've seen all year. Had me laughing pretty much straight through, which is rare. It seems like most comedies that make it to the theatre are fat-guy-falling-down humor, which just doesn't do it for me. This one was smart as hell, though, with just the right amount of seriousness. Every actor blew me away -- even Ms. dimples-the-size-of-the-Grand-Canyon, Jennifer Garner, who I normally find to be rather annoying Also, the music was spot-on. I've already gotten the soundtrack. In fact, I'm listening to it right now. I'd forgotten about Sonic Youth's amazing cover of the Carpenters' Superstar until it showed up in this movie!

Also saw Across the Universe over the Christmas holiday. It's a musical using all Beatles music. I thought that Jim Sturgess, who played the male lead, was fabulous. I really believed him when he was singing -- it felt like I was seeing inside his head, not like I was just listening to someone sing a song about their feelings. He hasn't been in much major stuff yet, but if the universe is just, he's going to make it big. Evan Rachel Wood, the female lead, was just . . . eh. She was better as an effed up teenager a few years ago in thirteen. And everytime I see her all I can think is that she's dating Marilyn Manson. Ewww. The thing I really liked about this movie was that it made songs that I've heard a million times sound completely new and fresh. I mean, when I first discovered the Beatles sometime in high school, I must have listened to Hey Jude on repeat dozens and dozens of times. But hearing it again in this movie was like hearing it for the first time -- I never really thought of it as a call-to-action. In the movie, though, it's totally the song which underlays the main character's decision to make this huge change in his life and go back after the woman he loves.

Then, I rented a couple flicks that I also really enjoyed: Hard Candy and Once. Hard Candy also stars Ellen Page, from Juno, and holy cow is she intense in the role. I usually don't sit still for movies at home -- I sort of half watch them while I futz around and clean and stuff. But once I started this movie, I was completely riveted. It's an indie film. The premise is that this 14 year old meets a 30 year old man on the internet and they meet. At first it seems like he's taking advantage of her, but then she turns the tables on him and I literally could NOT take my eyes off the screen.

Once was also really fabulous and unexpected. So sweet and romantic and unexpected. It was also a musical, sort of, but not at all in the usual way of the stars breaking into spontaneous song instead of speaking. Instead, the songs were much more integrated, since it was a love story of two musicians meeting. I haven't bought a video in ages, but I liked this one enough that I think I might go out and buy a copy. I could definitely see myself watching this one again and again. Also fabulous music -- Glen Hansard from The Frames is the lead in the movie, and the songs are all by him and the female lead, Marketa Iglova, a classical Czech pianist who has also done some performing with The Frames.


Also seen recently:

The Golden Compass. Nicole Kidman and the little girl who played Lyra were both really great. I liked it. My companion did not -- she'd read the book recently and it was quite different.

Blade Runner: The Directors Cut. Honestly, I just don't get this one. I went to see the re-release at the theatre because people talk about what a classic sci-fi flick this is. I mostly found it confusing and wow do the special effects look low-tech compared to what we're now used to.

Knocked Up. This one I rented, since I missed it in the theatre. It was fine. Funny enough, I guess. Didn't blow me away, though. A little too sappy perfect-ending. I found the whole premise difficult to believe -- WHY would Katherine Heigl's character decide to have the baby and then on top of that decide to have the schmuck-y father be a part of the whole thing? So not realistic in today's world.

Into the Wild. Liked this one more than I thought I would. I found the main character much more likeable in the film than he was in the book. Totally over-romanticized, though.

Atonement. Really enjoyed this book, and I liked the movie, too. Keira Knightly was typically strong and the male lead was even better. Can't remember his name at the moment. James McAvoy, I think. Just like with the book, I wasn't big on the ending. The visuals were lovely, though. (EDT: I just looked James McAvoy up on IMDB and it is him. And I figured out why I felt like I recognized him -- he was Mr. Tumnus in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Some sunshine on a gloomy day

It's a gloomy, rainy California winter day here, but this picture of a zinnia (?) from last summer brought some sunshine into my afternoon.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Best of 2007

I can't believe it's almost the end of the year already! In honor of the new year (and of me having internet at home again!), here are my top picks for the year:


Top Ten Albums of 2007:

I'm not usually really into listening to full albums. I'm more of a fall-in-love with individual songs kind of girl. But here are the full albums that I've listened to over and over again this year.



Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter

Not my favorite Josh Ritter album, but really great. It's more upbeat than a lot of his earlier stuff, which is fun. I don't think the lyrics on this album live up to his potential, but they're still good.


Pelle Carlberg – In a Nutshell


I might be a little premature in including this one, since I just discovered it a week ago, but it's been on constant rotation on my ipod ever since. Reminds me of Belle and Sebastian. Cheerful sounding, but with darker lyrics at times. His sense of humor also just cracks me up. Best song -- Middle Class Kid. Best Lyrics -- I love you, you imbecile. I think I want to have that song played at my wedding someday. Choice lyrics "I love the way you talk, I love the way you stalk me with your mobile phone. I love the way you smile, the way you're juvenile . . . " It's actually a very cute little song about loving someone in spite (or even because) their flaws.


The New Pornographers -- Challengers

Putting the New Pornographers on the CD player always makes me happy. What else can I really say about them?


Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Okay, so the title is dumb, but the music is classic Spoon. It really gets my blood pumping. Great for listening to in the car at full blast.


Okkervil River – The Stage Names

How can you not love a band that, in the middle of a song about the suicide of a famous poet, breaks into a cover of the Beach Boys' Sloop John B so melancholy you almost don't recognize it.


Bishop Allen – The Broken String

LOVE them. Fun, funny, cheerful. Great lyrics. The version of The News from Your Bed on this album is not as great as the original on last year's LP, but it's still one of my favorite songs of the year. And Rain has become one of my favorite songs to listen to on my way to work in the mornings. Best line -- "If things are every gonna get any better, they've got to get worse for a while."


Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Some Loud Thunder

When I first got this album, I blasted it on the stereo for house cleaning and it was exactly perfect. I'm sure my landlord got tired of hearing it come through the walls. The song "Underwater you and me" is near the top of my favorite songs of the year, too.


Beruit – Postcards from Italy

Hard to even describe. It's like punk meets Polka. Just listen to it. Favorite song -- Elephant Gun


Rilo Kiley -- More Adventurous

Okay, so this one didn't actually come out in 2007, but it wins the award for CD most often in my car CD player this year, and I DID only discover it in March, so it's a 2007 album for me. Unfortunately, the album of theirs that did come out this year is not so good. I haven't been able to get into it at all.


_________________________________________________________________


Top Reads of 2007


These are not actually all books that came out this year, but they're books that I've read for the first time this year and really enjoyed. Most of them I've already written about on this Blog, so I'll skip the descriptions.


Kate Moses – Wintering
Jonathan Lethem – Motherless Brooklyn
Marcus Zuzak – The Book Thief
JK Rowling – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Gail Tsukiyama – The Samurai’s Garden
Mary Doria Russell -- The Sparrow
Elizabeth Gilbert -- Eat, Pray, Love
Ted Kooser -- Delight and Shadows (Poetry)


I'm not going to do a top movies list. I've seen some pretty good movies this year, but not enough to really do a full list, I think. And, really, I just don't get quite as excited about movies as I do about books and music. :-)

Friday, December 14, 2007

A rare occurance


It's rare for me to get a decent shot of either of the cats. Scout usually just tries to eat the camera and Violet hides pretty much as soon as I even think about pulling out the camera. (Kind of like some people I know, actually :-) Plus, their eyes always catch the flash oddly and look all demented-like. Which, come to think of it, is pretty fitting for their personalities. Anyway, I got this picture of Vi being all cute and cuddly a couple weeks ago and I thought I'd share. Enjoy the picture, mom. Vi is the closest thing you're getting to a grandbaby from me for at least a few more years!


What I've been Watching Lately

Since I haven't been reading much for the past week or so, I thought I'd write a little post about what I have been doing. My brain's been a little too full with work stress and other stuff, so I've been watching downloaded TV shows, instead. And I now have a new TV obsession -- Pushing Daisies. It's new this season on ABC, but produced by the same guy who did Wonderfalls a few years ago. That show only lasted a few episodes, and I was sad, sad, sad when it got cancelled. But PD has the same quirky, reality-meets-fantasy blend. I don't much go for sitcoms, so it's rare that TV makes me laugh so hard it hurts. This show does so constantly.

So the premise is that the main character, Ned can bring people back to life just by touching them. But once he brings someone back to life, if he touches them a second time, they die again, for good. And if he doesn't, within a minute, re-deadify (yep, that's a word. Really) the person he's brought back to life , someone else dies in their place. Sounds a bit silly, right? That's totally what I thought. But the show is done in this perfect, magical-realism kind of way that just gets in your head. It's whimsical, full of dry humor, the sets are all candy-colored Alice in Wonderland fancy, and the casting is dead on. Kristin Chenowith as Olive is freakin' hysterical and I have a I-want-her-to-be-my-best-friend crush on the character of Chuck (Charlotte), the childhood sweetheart that Ned brings back to life and keeps alive. In fact, pretty much every actor and character is fantastic. And it's gotten nominated for 3 Golden Globes now, so if you care about that stuff, there it is.

I've now watched every episode that's come out of the show, and there aren't any more till the writer's strike ends. In fact, this is the only show that has made me give a hoot about the writer's strike at all. Now that I've seen all the episodes, I guess I'm going to have to go back to reading :-)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Neahkahnie Mountain

Over the weekend, Dan and I went hiking on Neakahnie Mountain, near Manzanita, OR. Neah-Kah-Nie means "The place of the supreme diety," which gives it a mysterious feel in my head. And it felt sort of eerie climbing up, too. We were there on a crazy misty day, just a couple days after all the wild storms that hit the west coast last week, and we were the only ones on the trails. Everything was muffled and foggy, and we had to climb basically through the branches of some trees that had fallen across the trail and hadn't yet been cleared. The mountain is about 1600 feet above the beach. Even in the mist, it was still pretty spectacular. As we sat on the top of the mountain eating our lunch, the clouds would occasionally thin ever-so-slightly. When they did, we could just see the scallopped edge of the waves on the beach far below. I imagine on a clear day the view is mind-blowing. None of my pictures really turned out all that well. They're all either oddly bright blue or washed-out grey. I like this one, though -- Dan on the top of the mountain, which you get to by scrambling, billy-goat-like, up a slope of jagged rocks.




So freakin' cute!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Eerie forest

Taken in the woods somewhere near Manzanita, OR. My camera must have been set on some odd setting -- It was really, really misty up in the mountains, but I don't remember the air looking so blue. Still, it's a happy accident -- the photo totally captures that eerie hiking-in-the-fog feeling. :-)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Klickitat Street, here I come

This time tomorrow, I'll be in Portland. Hurray! In honor of the trip, here's a picture from the last time I was there. Those of you who were Beverly Cleary fans as a kid may remember that Ramona Quimby lived on Klickitat St. Imagine my delight when I was in Portland last year and discovered that it's a REAL STREET! Yes, I'm a good geek. Didn't you read the title of this blog? :-)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Reading Update 12-3

Over the weekend I finished a couple books:

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

This book wasn't bad, exactly, but I don't really get how it won a Printz award and the Guardian Children's Fiction prize. I found the narrator to be pretty damn annoying -- kind of like a Holden Caulfield wannabe. The premise is interesting -- bratty anorexic 15-year-old New Yorker is sent to live with cousins in near-future England. War breaks out, England is raided, and the story takes it from there as the narrator has to cope with her world being turned upside down. I don't know . . . the execution just didn't speak to me. And I though the way the whole anorexia thing was handled was just stupid -- it felt too tangential, like it was supposed to be this big, important thing, but it didn't really fit in with the rest of the story very well for me.


Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem.

I've been meaning to read this one for a while now. Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude has my favorite first page ever, so I was pre-disposed to like another book of his. This one has a premise that sounds ridiculous (The main character is a Tourrette's-afflicted small-time gangster investigating the death of his mob boss / father figure), but Lethem handles it incredibly skillfully. The book could have devolved into cheap laughs and gimmicks, but Lethem never treats his main character like he's laughable. Basically, he makes this ridiculous premise completely ordinary and heartbreaking all at the same time. I really enjoyed this one. It might even be one of my top reads of the year.

Big-ass tree

This picture of me was also taken on Thanksgiving, hiking in Muir Woods. As you can see in the photo, this redwood is absolutely massive. The thing that is a little harder to see is that the hole in it's belly goes straight through to the other side. Kind of like those old sequoias and redwoods that they used to make tunnels through for cars, only not quite so big. Photo taken by my friend Kathryn.
It has turned December-gloomy the past few days here in the Bay area, and I already miss the sun. No rain yet, though.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Leaves in Water


This picture was taken on Thanskgiving Day, hiking at Muir Woods. I love the fact that it was 65 degrees and sunny here on Thanksgiving, and that I spent my second Thanksgiving in a row hiking on Mt. Tam. However, this is just about the closes I've gotten to any fall color here, and that I don't love. Even though some of the trees here do turn colors, it's nothing like the spectacular show I grew up with.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Banana Slug

This is a banana slug. Like mushrooms, they are everywhere when you go hiking this time of year. I tried to include some clover in the picture for scale. These guys are a solid 4-6 inches long and I didn't adjust the color on this image at all -- that is their god-given color, in all of it's neon yellow glory. A word of warning, do NOT accidentally step on a banana slug while you are hiking. It will take you the rest of the hike to rid your shoe of the even-more-neon-yellow-and-disgusting goo that resides inside the slug. Ick.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sky over Point Reyes


Taken yesterday evening from Sky Camp in Point Reyes National Seashore. Still haven't managed to camp at Sky Camp, but it does lie right along one of my favorite hiking trails.

Reading Update

Over the weekend, I finished Midnight is a Place by Joan Aiken. What a great little kids book! It's dark, in that very British, Lemony Snicket way. (In fact, I'd be shocked if the guy who wrote the Lemony Snicket books wasn't a big Aiken fan.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Reading Update

Just finished Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. It's a young adult novel that reminded me a bit of Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower. A good read -- I actually didn't want ot put it down yesterday morning when I had to head out the door for hiking and then Thanksgiving dinner (yum). Currently in the middle of Midnight is a Place by Joan Aiken and

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Perfect Reflection


Looking up

Standing in the middle of a cluster of redwoods at Jack London State Park out in Sonoma. I love the way they grow up in rings like this.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mushroom forest

This time of year, mushrooms pretty much take over the world in northern California. As the air gets damper, they spring seemingly out of nowhere, everywhere you look. Hiking in Point Reyes yesterday, I took dozens of pictures of mushrooms. Everything from this colony of miniature mushrooms to otherworldly pictures of the undersides of some massive red mushroom I don't know the name of. Last winter I saw dozens of mushroom hunters searching for edible mushrooms in the underbrush. I think I'll leave that to the experts, though -- I can't even seem to figure out what the little guys above are called from the perfectly good pictures I've found online. :-)

Hiking in the Fog

Old Pine Trail, Point Reyes -- November 18, 2007.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Flytrap


One last post for today. This photo was taken at the Chomp exhibit at the San Francisco Conservatory in Golden Gate Park this past summer. Aren't the colors of this flytrap lovely? Carniverous plants = way cool, if you ask me.

Reading Update

Just finished reading Lamb by Christopher Moore. SO funny. Must go pick up some of his other books.

'shrooms


Monday, November 12, 2007

Garden Bounty

This picture was taken in July. Now that we're nearly at Thanksgiving, and the garden's looking pretty bare, I'm missing the fresh strawberries and everything else. The winter crops are in, though, so soon I'll have Swiss Chard, Cabbage, lettuce, and other yummy stuff again.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Vernal Falls Stairs, Yosemite

This picture was taken in May, on the stone steps that lead up to the top of Vernal Falls at Yosemite. The mist from the waterfall was so thick, it was like being caught in a rainstorm. You can see how heavy the falls were in this picture -- they're the white mass to the right of the person at the left edge of the frame. By the time we got to the top of the falls, we were absolutely drenched. And it wasn't even an especially wet winter or spring. I was there again 3 months later, and the steps were bone dry. Here's a picture of the waterfall from then. Quite a difference, eh?




Thursday, November 8, 2007

Clouds, Hilo, September 2007


So the sky in Hawaii -- Seriously amazing. I don't know if it's that the atmosphere is cleaner, or if it has something to do with being on an island, or the reflection of the ocean or what, but the sky is like 5 shades bluer than here, and the clouds were constantly blowing me away. Look at the way the sunlight is coming through these clouds. This image is completely undoctored, just taken with the normal settings on my cameral. It almost looks like a reflection, rather than the real thing. I took endless cloud pictures while I was there, so I'm sure I'll post more at some point.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Light through leaves

Hawaii Botanical Gardens, September 2007

Monday, November 5, 2007

Reading update 11/5/07

Over the weekend, I reread The Time Traveller's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. I haven't been able to get absorbed into any book I've picked up for the last couple weeks, so it was nice to go back to an old favorite, which I was probably reading for the fourth or fifth time. And it makes me bawl every single time. In fact, my eyes were still a little itchy and red when I got to work this morning. Also realized that the first time I read it must have been when I was in Chicago in 2004, before I officially moved there, training for my job teaching reading classes -- Scattered throughout the pages are the marks I used to figured out my reading speed as I practiced the speed reading skills I was going to be teaching. Hard to believe that I'm going into my fourth year at this job - it's the longest I've been with a company since Sam Goody.

Oh yeah, I'm also trying to do that blog-every-day-in-November thing, but it's a challenge when I don't have internet access at home. I think I'll have to cheat and just post an extra post or two on Mondays or Fridays :-)

Palm Reflection, Hilo 9-07


Thursday, October 25, 2007

End of Trail

Volcano National Park, September 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Flippers, Captain Cook Monument, Hawaii


Note to self: What I've read for the past couple months

No one will care about this post other than me, but I want to get these books jotted down before I completely forget I've read half of them. Otherwise, I'll totally check them out of the library all over again, only to realize three pages in that there's a good reason the book feels so familiar. Plus, since I didn't write it down, I have no idea what I read all summer. This is my list since about the beginning of September.

Brian Selznick -- The Invention of Hugo Cabret. (Creative idea, lovely black and white illustrations, not as well-written as it could have been).

Maria Doria Russell -- A Thread of Grace, Children of God (Neither was anywhere near as good as The Sparrow, though CoG is a sequel)

JRR Tolkien -- The Fellowship of the Ring. (For the umpteenth time, getting ready to write lesson plans on it for work).

Robert Ludlum -- The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy (Read them because I really enjoyed the first and third movies. The books are not as good, and I couldn't even finish the second one)

Keith Donohue -- The Stolen Child

Lois Anne Yamanaka -- Blu's Hanging (Recommended by this couple staying at the bed and breakfast with me while I was in Hawaii -- she's a local Hawaiian author)

Michael Ondaatje -- In the Skin of the Lion

Jeremy Iverson -- High School Confidential

Markus Zusak -- The Book Thief (Amazing! Best book I've read in years)

John Clinch -- Finn (the story of Huck Finn's father. Interesting. Pretty depressing)

Michael Ondaatje -- Divisadero (Nowhere near as good as The English Patient, but still quite lovely)

Cormac McCarthy -- The Road (In typical McCarthy style, really dark and emotionally difficult to read, but so well-written.)

Arthur Phillips -- The Egyptologist (The reviewers of this one must be dolts -- the "shocking" ending was SO predictable! I basically skimmed the second half of the book. I've been wanting to pick up Phillips' first novel, Prague, but after this book, I'm not so sure).

EDT on 10-25. Forgot one: Heat by Bill Buford. (The first third reads like a hero-worshipping tribute to Mario Batalli. I mostly skimmed the final third -- not nearly as good as, say, Anthony Bourdain, if you're into the whole behind-the-scenes-in-the-restaurant-industry thing).

Friday, August 31, 2007

Hi Matt

Look, a post. These pictures are from March in Santa Cruz. THAT'S how far behind I am!


So in Santa Cruz, there's this lighthouse that's been converted into a surfing museum. It's on a cliff, up above the ocean, and it's surrounded by benches that have placards that pay tribute to surfers who have gone to the great ocean in the sky, often in surfing accidents.

That doesn't seem to faze these guys, though.



This is a surfer standing on the top of a very high cliff -- 2 or 3 stories tall, I'd guess. He's checking out the waves, which are BIG.



This is that same guy about 20 seconds later. Yes, he's mid-air.



And about 30 seconds after that. Do you see what a MONSTER that wave is?


He survived, though, and here he is climbing back out of the water to do it all over again. Even the way OUT of the water looks scary as heck to me!

And finally, this is a kid (seriously -- he looked about 15) who thought he had the guts to do this. He's got his feet down on a tiny little ledge down below. He sat there for about a minute, thinking about it, then climbed right back up! I think that's a little closer to my style :-)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

farm living is the life for me . . .

Hey Mike, what's that on your car?


Is it a cat? Wait, no . . .


It's an Araucana Chicken. Of course. What now?


Careful. . . careful. . . almost there . . .




Oh Crap!

There are many many things I like about living on the farm, but nothing has made me laugh as hard as this pretty much since I moved here. Especially the look on Mike's face in the last picture.

I suspect the chicken was trying to get away from the dog, who has been terrorizing them all afternoon. The dogs around here are great with the sheep, but not quite so much with the chickens

Friday, April 13, 2007

What I've Been Reading 4/13/07

I can't even begin to talk here about the hectic-ness that has been my life the past couple weeks. Suffice it to say that someone else's shit hit the fan at work and I've been busy dealing with the fallout.

So. . . Not much reading lately, but a couple of really excellent books to mention:

Nancy Farmer: The House of the Scorpion

Picked this one up last month when I was in Portland (darn it -- still haven't posted those pics!), from the remainders bin at Powells. It's young adult lit, and has won a ton of awards and rave reviews, for good reason. I read the whole book in less than a day and it was truly fabulous. The premise: It's some unspecified time in the future. Human cloning is a reality and to the South of the United States is a country called Opium, which exists, as you can guess from the name, purely to produce drugs. The main character is Matt, a young boy who learns fairly early into the book that he is a clone of the biggest of all of the drug lords. I don't want to give anything away, but suffice it to say, Matt lives a pretty screwed-up life at the hands of the drug lord and his cronies, but eventually escapes from it all. Really interesting book. Parts of it reminded me of Louis Sacchar's Holes, and other parts reminded me of dystopic writers like Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid's Tale or Ray Bradbury. Good stuff. I'll definitely be recommending it to middle school and high school students.

Elizabeth Gilbert: Eat, Pray, Love

I wasn't so sure how I'd feel about this one, not being an especially religious type, and also not having much patience for sappy self-help crap. This book turned out to be quite a lovely read, though. It's a memoir and the basic story is that Gilbert goes through a bone-crushing divorce and then the devastating end of the affair she used to shield herself from the divorce. In search of something, well, not so sucky, she decides to live abroad for a year in 3 different places: Italy (where she eats like crazy and learns to speak Italian), India (where she lives on an Ashram and meditates a lot) and Indonesia (Where she studies with a medicine man and, unexpectedly, falls in love again). This book had the real potential to become sappy, and there are certainly moments where it walks the line. But Gilbert is also pretty darn irreverant and FUNNY, to boot, so she tends to stay just this side of the line. I liked a lot of things about the book, but I think what struck me the most was Gilbert's capacity for self-forgiveness, and her lack of fear at showing that side of herself to the world. I've already recommended the book to a friend who's going through a tough break up. I kept thinking of her as I was reading -- I think there's a lot that will speak to her in this book.

And, really, that's about it for my reading for the past couple of weeks, unless you want to include countless documents at work.

Santa Cruz pics in the next post, I swear.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Oysters!






On the way home from hiking at Point Reyes yesterday, we stopped off at Hog Island Oyster Company on Highway One in Marshall for some oysters. We were totally disappointed when we pulled up and they looked closed. Turns out, they were, but the lovely young ladies that work there were still cleaning up and hadn't closed out the cash register yet. They took pity on our poor oyster-deprived souls and hooked us up.


I've never actually had oysters at home before, but we had fun learning how to open them, aided by an "oyster knife" from the general store in Tomales. Thankfully, the knife wasn't actually sharp. Otherwise, I think we would have had some blood with our oysters -- the damn things are hard to get open! Here's a pic of M. fighting with one of them.

You have to sort of wiggle the knife, which looks like a letter opener only not so sharp, into the hinge end of the oyster. Once it pops open at that edge, you twist the knife around to open the shell all the way. See below.



But, ohh, is the hard work worth it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What I'm Reading 3/21

Things are still hectic at work, so my reading continues to be relatively light. This week, I read a couple young adult books and that's about it. I've also started Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, but I'm not through it yet.

William Steig -- Abel's Island
William Steig was an author I remember really enjoying as a kid. He had this great picture book called Sylvester and the Magic Pebble that was quite lovely. In any case, Abel's Island is a chapter book and it was an enjoyable little read. Slightly odd in terms of the language -- emotionally it's about right for third or fourth graders, but the language would be difficult for a lot of adults I know. I think it's probably a better read-aloud book for kids than one they'd read independently. I DO really love authors who don't talk down to kids, though. Actually, I guess I would really have enjoyed independently reading this book as a kid -- I would have been excited to go look up all the words I didn't know and figure them out. :-)

Ian McEwan -- The Daydreamer

Another young adult book, written by an author who normally writes adult literature. I really enjoyed McEwan's Atonement, and The Daydreamer was not a disappointment. Peter, the main character, is a boy who often gets lost in the world of his fantasies with poignant results. It's a quiet book, a bit dreamy, very well written. Again, I like it because it doesn't talk down to kids in any way. I think I read somewhere that McEwan wanted to write a book for adults that kids would love, too, and he's done a great job here.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tomales Bakery

This morning I woke up and realized that I had no milk in the house for my coffee. As much as I may try to deny it, I'm afraid I actually DO need coffee in the morning. I didn't have any yesterday, and I was wiped out and headachey by mid-afternoon. But I CAN'T drink my coffee without milk. At work, I actually water it down and then add milk. (Though, it should be said, the coffee at work is labelled "strong" and "not so strong" and I'm pretty sure that "decaf" is a four letter word around there).

Anyway, what that meant this morning was that I had to go out for either coffee or milk. I'm a solid 12 miles from the nearest grocery store, so I took the go out for coffee option, and went into the town of Tomales, which is only a few miles from my house. There's not a whole lot to Tomales: A general store, a coffee shop, a sandwich shop, a cute little hotel that usually doesn't even have anyone at the front desk (you get a key code to get in and out), and a teeny tiny park with swings and pine trees that shed cones as big as my head. That's about it, and I love it.


In any case, Tomales Bakery = AWESOME. I can't believe I've lived here for 2 months and haven't made it in till today. This may become my new Sunday ritual. It's this teeny-tiny little shop that smells like heaven. You can barely fit 3 people inside. Anyway, I got there nice and early, so it wasn't packed yet, and I had my pick of the pastries. (supposedly they sell out of almost everything by 11am most days). I had a humongous pecan roll that was absolutely delicious and perhaps the best coffee I've ever had. Just plain old coffee, but I doctored it up with a bit of organic brown sugar and some Strauss Family Creamery half and half, and it was absolutely delicious. Strauss milk is fabulous. Unfortunately, it's also VERY expensive. A half-gallon glass bottle of it costs around 5 bucks (including a dollar bottle deposit, but still). I've bought it a couple times, and even the skim tastes super-rich and fresh. But, really, I can't justify spending that kind of money on milk most of the time.

Other advantages to Tomales Bakery:

1. You get to pour your own coffee, which is good for me because I like to make mine about 1/3 caffeinated and 2/3 decaf.

2. It has these lovely wooden chairs outside where you can sit and drink your coffee and read the paper

3. If you go early in the morning, it isn't yet overrun with bikers and tourists, so you can watch the locals chat outside the post office, pet the dogs that wander around, and just breathe the lovely air and enjoy the quiet.

4. They're cheap! My coffee and cinnamon roll was only 3.50 total. And their loaves of fresh-made bread are about half the price of all the other local bakeries I've seen.

5. They'll call you to let you know when you've stupidly forgotten your wallet on their counter and not make fun of you at all when you go back to retrieve it. :-)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sonoma Coast Park and Armstrong Woods

Last Sunday, I went to Armstrong Woods for the first time. I hadn't really intended to end up there. I had to work all morning and by 1pm, it was such a beautiful sunny day, I just had to get out of the house. So I drove north up Highway One, figuring I'd just stop wherever looked interesting.

I stopped first at Goat Rock beach in Sonoma Coast State Park, hoping to see the Harbor Seals that apparently come ashore there this time of year to have their babies. Unfortunately, they haven't arrived yet for the year. This is the sign that greets you as you enter the beach.






I don't know if you can read the sign, but it says "This is one of the most deadly beaches in California." Reassuring, eh? Apparently these massive "sleeper waves" occasionally come out of nowhere and snatch unsuspecting tourists off the beach and suck them out to an untimely demise in the sea. Fun.






This sign is at one of the parking areas up above the beach. Sadly, this forces me to admit that my mom was right. (Did you hear that, Carol? You. Were. Right.) She's been warning me about mountain lions for months, telling me about how a mountain lion ate off a woman's face while she was hiking and so on. I really thought she was just being overly paranoid and trying to stop me from hiking alone. But, then, look at the pretty picture. I mean, it's not going to stop me from hiking, mountain lions or no. I'm pretty sure that the reason things like mountain lion attacks make such a big splash on the news is because they're so darn rare. Still, I wouldn't like to run into one of these beasties out on the trail.


In any case, after seeing neither harbor seals nor mountain lions (or goats, for that matter) at Goat Rock, I continued up highway 1 for a couple more miles, then decided to cut across 116 through the Russian River Valley and circle home that way. I have to say, the drive along the river there is nearly as pretty as the shore. And I totally want to live in one of the cute little houses perched up in the trees in all the little towns along the Russian River. Too far from work, I'm afraid, but maybe someday when I'm allowed to telecommute. Eventually, I ended up in Guerneville, and when I saw the sign for Armstrong Woods, I couldn't resist, since several people had recommended the hiking there.

I wasn't disappointed. Armstrong Woods, for those of you who don't know, is a state preserve that is chock full of massive Redwoods. What I'll say about it is this, for the trees, it's just as lovely as Muir Woods, with less than a tenth of the crowds (no tour buses!!!). The views if you hike up into the hills above Muir Woods are much better, but the lack of crowds is such a big draw, I think I'd probably rather come to Armstrong. Though I don't think I would hike alone here, again. Not enough hikers for me to feel safe. If I fell and sprained an ankle or something, it could be ages before someone came along and saw me.


In any case, It was fairly late in the day by the time I got there, so I only hiked a couple miles, up a ridge and then back down into the Redwood grove. It was also a bit of a gloomy day, so I don't have many good pictures. Here's one of something that blew me away, though:



The height and diameter of the tree are amazing enough, but the thing that really gets me is the age of the tree. How is it possible that something that is 1300 years old can even still be alive? How can something have been in the same place for 13 centuries and not have been disturbed? It's shocking, and wonderful. Makes me feel pretty insignificant, actually. And the tree is healthy, too. If stupid humans don't screw it up, it could live for hundreds of years longer. wow.

Anyway, today is the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market for the first time, and probably the SF MOMA. I've been told it's actually kind of disappointing if you've been to the art museums in DC, NY, etc. But I'm going to give it a try, anyway.