Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Christmas

(Wash U Class of 1997 friends note the sweatshirts. Hope to see you at Reunion 2012!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Season

Project Christmas Hat is 6/10 complete. On a related note, all of my nails are broken and the skin on my fingertips is extremely dry.

Still to come: Project Christmas Candle, Project Christmas picture, Project Christmas Letter, Project Christmas Baking, Project Christmas Open House, and Project Christmas Presents. (Project Christmas House is relaxingly completed.)

Baby news, in case you're interested - and of course course you're interested! - Teddy is now 8 months old. 8 months! He's a confident sitter and is starting to get onto hands-and-knees to lunge forward. He'll be crawling before long! He is also beginning to wave. Today Paul asked Teddy, where's my mouth? Where's my nose? And Teddy reached out and touched the appropriate parts at the appropriate times. So cool. He's talking, too. By which I mean that he knows, gleefully, "Dadadadada!" for his father and "Ah-duh,ada,ada,ada" for his sister. Also, angrily, "Mamamamama!" for me and, occasionally, a cheerful "Hey!" for hi.

I love this kid. So glad we added a third.

(So are the girls. They're also nuts about Christmas. But now I need to catch some sleep; Teddy has a cold, is cutting 4 teeth at once, and will have me up before long!)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Hey! This here's Barrie Summy's monthly book review club.

For next month my book club is reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. And that was my choice. But there's another reader inside me, too. And that reader likes to read fun books that are quick and consumable and exciting and pulpy and fun. Also, did I mention, fun?

That reader discovered Harry Dresden a few years ago. What's not to love? In Jim Butcher's contemporary urban fantasy series, Chicago looks much as it does today. Except that, in the Yellow Pages, there's a single listing for a "Professional Wizard." That's Harry Dresden, and he's an old-school private investigator who solves problems with little help from modern technology (electronics don't do so well around magic).

The novels might start like classic noir detective stories but soon the missing artifact or other de rigueur case turns out to have an occult twist. To sum up the awesomeness here, so far we have:
1) Funny series novels set in Chicago
2) Classic mystery set-up
3) Magic.

What's not to love? That's harder to put my finger on. But I found that I don't want to read two Dresden novels back-to-back. Butcher's voice grates on me after that and little . . . flaws? stylistic choices? character idiosyncrasies? . . . in the writing begin to call attention to themselves and draw me out of the story.

So I read the books one-at-a-time, with space between, because I really like to enjoy each one. These stories have it all: wizards, magical politics, faeries, goblins, trolls, zombies, vampires, werewolves, angels, priests, fighting, battles, war, romance, you name it and it's probably somewhere in this world. As an added bonus, the main characters are geeks.

Another benefit to the slow-read approach is that I didn't catch up to the author for a long time.

But when I finished Ghost Story (Book 13, naturally) last week, I was stuck. The next novel isn't due until next summer! And only one per year after that! Alas.

If the above description captures your interest, let me underscore that/reassure you in two ways: Butcher's writing improves as the series progresses, and the novels are better than the short-lived Sci Fi Channel series loosely based on the books.

If you've tried just one or two of the novels but haven't gotten hooked, I'd recommend perseverance. I was shocked - shocked! - at what happened in Changes (Book 12). It sent me scrambling for Side Jobs, an anthology of short stories and a novelette set between various novels in the series, as well as a novella set immediately after Changes. Then I rushed right into Ghost Story, which left me hanging deliciously.

I'm looking forward to book 14 - and it's worth noting that the author does have a planned story arc for the entire series, including an ending - but I think the first 11 novels, fun as they were, were worth reading as prelude alone for all the changes in books 12 and 13.

Recommended light holiday reading.

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@Barrie Summy

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Weekly Menu

In December I like to eat out. A lot. I crave Mexican food, Italian food, Red Robin. I want warmth and comfort and calories. So I have to make sure that my frig is stocked with stuff I really want to eat at home or we'll be out every night.

As you may know, I make a(n almost) weekly menu and post it on the frig along with what's going on each day. Here's this week:

This was supposed to be a meat/wine/mushroom crockpot deal but due to timing ended up being a wine-free skillet hamburger stroganoff type of dish. With peas over egg noodles.

Lamb meatballs in a North African sauce over garlicy pearled couscous with glazed carrots.

Slow Cooker BBQ pork. There's a lot of Christmas prep going on here and I might wimp out and use a bottled sauce. Served on wheat buns with kosher dills, salad, and some sort of vegetable.

Paul and the girls will be out; Teddy and I will enjoy baked chicken breast. Possibly some yogurt and something in the vegetable family.

Leftovers, yo

Pizza and a movie night! Going frozen this week.

Well, I might just get my comfort food out this week, after all. :)