I know, I haven't posted here in an age and a half. But I recently made a simple change in my life that is so awesome I need to share it and you seem like the audience most likely to Get It.

I have two particular and unrelated problems in my life that I have SOLVED with one solution. I bet some of you have the same problems.

1: I am unable to make myself keep the kitchen clean enough to suit my preferences.
2: I repeat a cycle over and over. 1. Boil water for tea. 2. Forget that I have set water to boil. 3. Boil water away, sometimes damaging pot. 4. Set new water to boil... Or it might go like this: 1. Boil water for tea. 2. Pour water over teabag. 3. Internet forever. 4. Feel desire for tea. 5. Remember that I started making tea a really long time ago and realize I now have too-strong cold or luke-warm tea. 6. Make more tea...

Either of these scenarios can be repeated up to three times in a single incident.

Or sometimes they are combined: I forget the boiling water, set it to boil again, successfully make tea, then forget about it.

This has resulted in a couple of ruined tea kettles, smoke alarms going off and waking me from the deep sleep I fell into after finding that I was not, perhaps, as wide awake after working the night shift as I'd thought when I started making tea, and innumerable wasted tea bags.


When I am making tea, the ONLY THING I am allowed to do at the same time is clean the kitchen. This might be washing a couple of dishes or putting away dry ones or wiping a counter or sorting the refrigerator or sweeping.

Since I instituted this policy a couple of weeks ago--well, I would like to say that none of the problems listed in #2 has occurred. But I CAN say that the only times I have boiled away all the water or forgotten my tea is when I talked myself into being allowed to do something other than clean the kitchen.

My kitchen is SO much cleaner and nicer to work in.

I can't wait to see how spotless it's going to be as we make our way toward the season during which I'm likely to consume six or seven cups of tea in one day.

In Which I am Interviewed by Becki

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me!"

2. I will respond by asking you five questions. I get to pick the questions.

3. You will post the answers to the questions (and the questions themselves) on your blog or journal.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. And thus the endless cycle of the meme goes on and on and on and on ...

1. If you could magically change careers overnight, would you pick something different? Why?
This is a good question.  I am a Born Nurse, have always wanted to be a nurse, and it's still what I want to do... but if it meant I had a good, steady, enjoyable job right now?  Maybe.  There was a brief time in college when my heart desired a job writing for Entertainment Weekly, which still sounds great in the abstract.  Or I could be an art history professor, especially if my doctorate had been completed magically overnight too--I'm sure there are parts of that that would be fun.  Or I could be paid a living wage to tell people what they should read and then discuss it with them afterward, but I should probably keep this in the realm of semi-reality.  Wait, that's an English professor.  Okay, sure.  As long as I didn't have to teach the freshman survey courses.

2. If you wrote a book, what would it be about?
I would love to be able to write the quintessential summer camp book.  Or if so many people hadn't already written this book, I would write about my Summer in Tuscany.

3. What is your least favorite thing?

4. Do you like to travel?
More than almost anything.  Possibly more than anything.

5. What's your latest favorite cookie recipe?
I no longer have a reason to bake cookies, so I guess it would still be the raisin crisscross cookies I posted a recipe for a while back.
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I didn't get to see all of the Oscar telecast, but what I did see really annoyed me.  For those of you who didn't see...

During the big montage of everyone-who-died-this-year, they had Queen Latifah singing on stage--which was fine, she sounded great--but instead of showing the montage itself like they always do, they filmed the screen that was showing the montage, so lots of the time it was too far away to really see, and then they kept swooping around so it was hard to read the names and I got seasick when I tried.

The acting awards (I didn't get to see the supportings, but I understand the same thing happened there)--instead of showing clips of the people, you know, acting in their roles, they had previous winners telling the nominees how great they were.  The speeches were kind of nice--Anne Hathaway in tears as Shirley MacLaine praised her was one of the highlights for me--but I really wanted to see the clips.  Every year when I see clips of movies I haven't seen, I decide I want to see them.  

They did show clips for the Best Picture nominees, but instead of straight clips, they interspersed them with clips from older movies that supposedly had the same theme.  This was bizarre, and confusing, and hard to describe.  I'd seen three of the movies (Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, The Reader), but even those ones, it was hard at times to tell which scenes were from the movie and which weren't; the ones I hadn't seen, I was totally lost.  I can't imagine who thought this was a good idea.

I need to find a clip of the opening monologue to watch, because it looks good.  And there were some great moments--besides Anne Hathaway, there was Kate Winslet asking her dad to whistle so she knew where to wave, and all the men in Indian-style formal wear, and the little kids from Slumdog who must have been incredibly overwhelmed (two of the three really do live in the slums of India).  I usually have one award I have strong feelings about, and this year it was that I thought Sean Penn should win Best Actor for Milk.  Actually, I thought everyone thought that, but I just heard his win referred to as "the one upset of the night" on The Today Show.  Apparently Mickey Rourke was supposed to win.
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I should just sign off listservs that only serve to aggravate me, right?  I mean, it's a bit silly to think that I have a duty to educate the ignorant and horrible people on the listserv, not least because they seem to take such pride in their ignorance.

I should sign off and never look back.

Hasta la vista, Girl Scout Controversies.
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Hi, all!  I don't really want to post about job-search stuff, but I'm back from Portland.

I have a new post at that might interest many of you, especially because it is a poll-type post, and I always get lots of responses to those here, no matter what the subject.

The question is about whether you read any books when you were kids that warped you for life...

So please, click over and answer!
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HELP--And, On a Cookier Note

Okay, first: I decided I'd better buy a new job interview outfit before I go to Portland (so, like, this afternoon or tomorrow).  Just to recap, I've lost quite a bit of weight since I bought my previous interview clothes, and they were really too big when I wore them to a job fair in December, and they'll be even more too-big now.  I was going to put off buying more because they, too, will be obsolete pretty soon--but I think I'll be happier with clothes that fit, even if I'm still slopping around in big jeans and shirts most of the time.  (I was going to poll you all to see if I should do this, but decided you'd probably all say Yes, If You Can Afford It.)

I have zero fashion sense.  I was thinking of just going to Macy's and asking for help.  If I do that, I can set a price limit, right?  I'm afraid it'll be so ridiculously low that they'd laugh, but I really don't like to spend a lot of money on clothes.  Oh, my goodness, I don't even know what section of the store I'm supposed to shop in anymore.  Do Macy's saleswomen have fashion sense, or are they just ordinary people who know how to work the register?  Is Macy's the right place to go, or should I go to some smaller store?  I don't think there's anything really local-local that will have the range of styles and sizes I feel like I'm going to need if I want to find something... Can you tell this is stressing me out?  (And not many things do, seriously.)  Please tell me what to buy, and where and how to buy it.  (I don't need a suit, by the way, just something on the more-formal side of business casual.)

Yesterday I made some great cookies.  Nicole takes a lunch to school every day, and one of the ways I "contribute to the household" is by baking bread and cookies for additional nutrition and deliciousness, and decreased cost.  I've never enjoyed baking cookies, because I want to stop after I bake one pan-full; but with most cookies, you just have to KEEP ON BAKING, when you'd rather be sitting down with a warm cookie and a cup of tea and your book.  So most of the time I like to make bar cookies, which really are done with one pan-full.

I felt like being creative yesterday, though, so I perused my beloved vintage-reproduction Betty Crocker Cooky Book.  I LOVE this book, which is full of delicious pictures and almost-as-delicious glimpses at a long-vanished way of life.  (An example: Lemon Crinkles From Mrs. Alfred T Neilsen of Council Bluffs, Iowa, who prefers simple and easy recipes that leave her time for her hobby of making hats.)

I got these from a chapter called FAMILY FAVORITES and a section called Lunchbox Cookies:

Millions of lunches go off to school and work each day in boxes, pails, and paper bags.  And many of these lunches contain cookies--to sweeten the day and provide quick energy for the afternoon ahead.

The ideal lunchbox cooky is appetizing in appearance, flavorful, and satisfying.  Always pack cookies in pairs--one for lunch and one to share.  Sometimes tuck in a third for an afternoon snack.  And, of course, a cooky that's good in a lunchbox is just as delicious eaten for lunch or snacks at home.

I don't usually like raisins at all, especially in cookies, but for some reason my eyes lighted on Raisin Crisscross Cookies.  ("Nourishing and cheap!" is probably what I thought.)  Nicole likes raisins, although I found out later she doesn't usually like them in cookies.  But actually, we both really, really liked these cookies.  The raisins aren't cloying and go well with the citrus flavor.  So even if you think you don't like raisins in cookies, maybe you will like these.

Delicious lemon-flavored raisin cookies... children love them!

1/2 c shortening (part butter or margarine)--I used all butter
3/4 c sugar--I used brown, because we're out of white, apparently
1 egg
1/2 tsp lemon extract--I used most of the zest of one orange, instead, and I'm pretty sure it's better than lemon extract would have been
1 3/4 c Gold Medal flour--I used one cup white, 3/4 c whole wheat, and it was great.
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 tsp soda--I'm sure you could use baking powder instead of those two
1/4 tsp salt
1 c raisins--I used golden raisins, which I find less sticky and sweet

Heat oven to 400.  Mix thoroughly shortening, sugar, egg, and extract.  Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting.  Blend flour, cream of tartar, soda, and salt.  Stir into shortening mixture.  (Dough is quite stiff--I sort of kneaded it.)  Mix in raisins (or knead them in).  Roll in 1" balls.  Place about 3" apart on ungreased baking sheet.  Flatten with fork dipped in flour (I used sugar), making a crisscross pattern.  Bake 8 to 10 min.  Makes about 3 doz. cookies

Seriously, these are some of the more satisfying cookies I've made.  And they ARE nourishing--sort of--and cheap.  I liked them so much I had to SHARE THEM WITH ALL OF YOU.





Awards have been announced!  And just in time for me to make it to jury duty (I've never been glad I lived so close to the courthouse before, except for the time I got to watch a man trying to stage a jailbreak, WITHOUT PANTS), which is where I am now, with a slow wireless connection.  You can read my MINUTE BY MINUTE responses at six boxes.  Sorry for the lack of context, for those of you who aren't in this fandom; I'll write a more coherent post there another time.
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I decided that I do want to start a books-only blog, um, mostly so I can have a nice big non-LJ platform for my deep thoughts.  I hope any of you who read this for book stuff will follow me over there.  And I'm hoping that my sisters might be interested in posting their occasional book-related thoughts and reviews; I'm going to add them as authors if they give me permission.  It is called Six Boxes of Books.  I thought of that on my bike today.  Who can identify the source?

And it seems like a good idea to make this my first post over there, so it will be cross-posted, and will have some information/thoughts repeated from previous LJ entries.

ALA awards will be announced Monday morning, starting at 6:45 am Pacific time.  (I'm relieved to discover that my jury duty shouldn't interfere with either finding out what the awards are the minute they're announced, or with blogging about it afterward, because the courthouse is wifi-enabled for bored jurors.)

I started out trying to read as many Newbery possibilities as possible; then started working on the Printz; and at the eleventh hour, became interested in the Caldecott.  

I'm more invested in the outcome of this award than any of the others, and I've read more of the possibilities, too.  I'm not sure how many, but I'd say it's probably around 40.  I've read 27 of the 38 suggestions on the Goodreads "2009 Newbery Contenders" poll.  My preferences first:

The Porcupine Year (Louise Erdrich).  I was relieved and happy when I read this book, because it was the first possibility I'd read that I could really get behind.  This is distinguished, sophisticated writing, but highly readable.  I actually enjoyed it all the way through, even the very sad parts, which left me with a feeling of strength instead of despair.  At the mock Newbery I attended, this was chosen as the winner, and hardly anyone had any criticism to speak of.  Nina pointed out that the voice in this book isn't as strong as in some of the other offerings, which I think is true; but this has more to offer than a terrific voice.  There's a clear plot arc, character development, delineation of a setting--all the elements of a solid award winner.  

Brooklyn Bridge (Karen Hesse).  This one hasn't been getting much attention, which is sort of surprising since the author already won a Newbery, for Out of the Dust.  This is a coming-of-age story about a Jewish boy in early-20th-century Brooklyn, but it never has the ponderous feel that many coming-of-age stories do; it has humor and movement and a plot that's interesting.  The setting is well-realized.  Not everyone likes the vignettes between chapters that tell something about the life of Brooklyn street children, but I thought they added a lot to the book, and deepened the picture of what life was like in that time and place.

Masterpiece (Elise Broach).  This is getting a last-minute swell of support, but as of now I'm the only one who's voted for it on Goodreads; when I added it to the list I did so hesitantly, sort of afraid that people would laugh.  This isn't a particularly deep book, and some of it is derivative (this is about beetles, but it has similarities to The Borrowers and Stuart Little).  But it has all the elements of a really good book for middle-grade readers.  It's clear and easy to understand; it has jokes that aren't too hard to get, but are still actually funny; it will make kids think without frustrating them.  If it weren't for a completely superfluous section (the infamous turtle tank chapters), I'd probably support this even more.

The Underneath (Kathi Appelt).  I think the writing, the actual poetry of the words on the page, is terrific.  I'm less convinced on the plot, and I thought it got manipulative toward the end--I thought "this author is trying to make me feel as bad as possible", which wasn't pleasant.  I didn't buy the ending at all.  Yet I can't ignore the power of the words, and would be happy if this got an Honor.

Greetings From Nowhere (Barbara O'Connor).  This is the first book I heard any buzz about, early in the year, but it seemed to die out after awhile.  I found this very well-written, and it felt more true-to-life and honest than many problem novels; it was also more optimistic.  This is an enjoyable book, real but a little gentle.

It's hard, frankly, to imagine anything other than The Porcupine Year winning, because I think so strongly that it's the best of the lot.  And so I think it has a shot.  But it sounds like Chains (Laurie Halse Anderson) is a big favorite; I didn't think it was particularly strong.  Leaving behind issues related to race, I thought it had one of the flattest voices of any of the books, and a plot that took a really long time to get anywhere.  I won't be pleased if Chains takes the gold, but I think it might.

Medal: Chains or Porcupine Year
Honors: The Underneath, Masterpiece, maybe Savvy (Ingrid Law) and Alvin Ho (Lenore Look).

The only book that I will really scream about, if it should win, is Diamond Willow (Helen Frost).  Wait, and The Willoughbys (Lois Lowry).

And, of course, there's the distinct possibility that the winner will be something I haven't given serious consideration (Shooting the Moon?  Keeping Score?) or even SOMETHING I HAVEN'T READ.

Printz and Caldecott speculation is forthcoming, on Six Boxes.

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The most amazing thing happened to me this morning:

It is a rainy, "cold", blustery day in Sacramento.  But I was walking to this sort of mall that's here in downtown, several blocks away.  (I say "sort of" because it's... hard to explain.  It has mall-type stores, and so on, but it has nice open space--really open, providing actual fresh air--and it doesn't give me the horrible "GET ME OUT OF HERE" feeling that I get at other malls, even though I still don't really like going there.)  I was chasing a few more Caldecott possibles.  Although there are three nice used bookstores near my apartment, new bookstores are harder to get to, except for the small one in the mall.

So I'm walking through the rain and the cold, and feeling generally miserable, when I finally get to the entrance of the mall, relieved to be out of the rain but still cold and wet, when I hear the words...

"Would you like some oatmeal?"

I was in front of a Jamba Juice, and there was a sample-lady at the door with a tray full of steaming oatmeal, which I guess is their newest offering.  She handed me a generous cup full of hot, creamy oatmeal, rich with brown sugar and blueberries.

It was like magic.  Like a fairy tale.
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Bowing to public pressure, I've been concentrating on Caldecott and Printz possibles this week.  And I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that


as both literature and art.



That is all.

Am dying to post my ALA award predictions, and I'm almost there, but I can't in good conscience until I finish up with the last few books I already have.  Everyone ELSE is posting THEIRS, and I want to do it, too.

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