Thursday, July 31, 2008

Doubly refreshing

I love to drink hot herbal tea, but in the summertime when one is being rigorous with the thermostat, it heats me up too much. So, I've been experimenting with icing some of my favorite tea flavors. Some kinds just don't have enough oomph to withstand the ice cubes, but one that is holding up nicely is one of my old standbys: peppermint. Just brew one cup of really strong peppermint tea (I let it seep for at least 15 minutes), then pour it over ice. Then add more ice because that first ice will melt pretty fast. Wait for it to get nice and cold and then sip away. Tasty! In fact, iced peppermint tea is currently my favorite non-alcoholic summertime drink.

And shit, I could probably put vodka in it if I wanted to...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I don't feel that boring, but apparently I am as I have nothing to say. Please enjoy this tantalizing photo of some Oatmeal Banana Cookies and coffee that I made this weekend while I work on finishing the very long book I'm reading so I'll have something to write about...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Boob McNutt

I can't stop looking at this picture from the always awesome Shorpy: The 100-Year-Old Photo Blog. Not one of the kids at this 1922 birthday party (with the possibility of "Ham Gravy") seems pleased with the personalized cartoon hats little Johnny's mom made for them. The ungrateful bastards! Full-size version is here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

War of the Worlds (1898)

I just finished my journey through The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (1898) courtesy of the daily bite-sized emails of DailyLit (which I love -- next up: Anne of Green Gables!). It is no secret that I love H. G. Wells, and The War of the Worlds continued his streak of exceeding my high expectations.

The War of the Worlds is such a popular novel that I felt like I already knew the whole story, even though I'd never read it, heard the radio version, or seen any of the movies. And yet, the original text contains plenty of surprises, enough science to keep it interesting, and a truly engaging story of human behavior. It's a fast read, and should be required reading for anyone interested in science fiction, war, outer space, or life as we know it.

And even if you don't want to read it, take some time to browse through this amazing collection of The War of the Worlds book covers and interior illustrations (like the one above by Edward Gorey) from the past 110 years.

[Oh, come on -- go read it right here! Or on Daily Lit! Or, you know, in book form.]

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hulking up

I never was a Hulkamaniac, and even when I was a kid and would watch wrestling, the Hulkster would kind of freak me out. The secret to why this coked-up, showboating greaseball became a role model (and marketing scheme) for kids is lost in the twisted mind of Vince McMahon. To top it all off, he is really a pretty boring wrestler. But the dude could talk:

This almost makes his excruciating 20 minute pose-down after he is disqualified and eliminated from the championship later in Wrestlemania IV worth it...

[And even if you don't like wrestling at all, just watch the video -- it's only two minutes long and takes the weirdest possible twist about one minute in. And the Hulk makes a great exit. It is worth it, I swear.]

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The House with a Clock in its Walls (1973)

A billion thanks to Choo who loaned me her copy of John Bellair's The House with a Clock in its Walls (1973). I hadn't read it since I was a kid and didn't even know I wanted to re-read it until I got another look at the wonderful Edward Gorey illustrations and stepped back into the town of New Zebedee, Michigan.

The book begins with ten-year-old Lewis Barnavelt riding a bus to meet his uncle and new guardian, Jonathan Barnavelt, after both of his parents were killed in a car crash. Lewis is an overweight kid who likes to read a lot and cries easily. He fits right in with his eccentric uncle and his neighbor and best friend, the elderly Florence Zimmermann. They play a lot of poker, stay up late, drink hot cocoa, and explore the large and mysterious house that Jonathan bought after the death of its previous owner, the creepy and evil wizard Isaac Izard and his wife Selenna. Everything is generally happy and fine for Lewis, but every night the house is plagued with worry over the mysterious and ominous ticking of a Doomsday clock in the walls.

Lewis soon notices enough magical occurrences around the house to learn that his uncle is a warlock, and friendly Florence is a good witch. After his unlikely friendship with local popular kid Tarby starts to sour, Lewis tries to win him back through a series of magical demonstrations that eventually lead them two of them into the local graveyard at midnight on Halloween with some scribbled notes on Necromancy. Eventually Lewis's actions bring a confrontation with the not-quite-dead-yet Izard's and their deadly clock.

This book is a fun and dark fantasy, and Lewis is the ultimate underdog. Anyone who liked Harry Potter or enjoys the work of Edward Gorey (whose illustrations are perfectly matched to Bellair's story), should check this one out.

[Also, I know I read Bellair's other two Lewis Barnavelt books (The Figure in the Shadows and The Letter, The Witch, and The Ring) when I was a kid but I had no idea that someone else continued the series in the 1990s by completing some of Bellair's unfinished manuscripts and then writing his own original books based on Bellair's characters). Has anyone read any of these?]

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Best name or worst name?

These signs were hung up all over my neighborhood last night:


Brown and black patches

Has name on collar:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Spirit of the Place (2008)

I received a copy of The Spirit of the Place by Samuel Shem (2008) through the truly great and wonderful LibraryThing Early Reviewers program (although the publisher was supposed to send it in March and only just sent it a week or so ago, so the book has actually been released already and this early review is not quite so early).

The Spirit of the Place is a solid novel about Orville Rose, a divorced doctor who has spent the last several years living as an expatriate in Europe and alternately working as a doctor for charity organizations and doctoring the wealthy at a series of spas. While on a vacation with his Italian girlfriend, Orvy receives a telegram that his mother has died, so he quickly returns to his hometown of Columbia, New York. Once there he learns about his mother's unusual will which leaves him half the estate, the family home and the car, but only if he lives in Columbia for one year and thirteen days -- otherwise everything goes to his sister. After a little indecision, he decides to stay, moves into his childhood home, and begins helping out the town doctor -- who also happens to be his good friend and the childhood mentor that got him interested in medicine.

All seems relatively normal until Orville begins getting letters from his deceased mother, starts seeing her ghost flying around town and talking to him, the horrible bully from his childhood is running for Congress and wants to make friends, and he gets involved with an intriguing young widow who also happens to be the town historian and the mother of a young son.

Shem's characters are deeply drawn and although Orville's story of forgiveness, self-reflection, and growing understanding of his home and family pretty much go where you think they will, the steps along the way and the people in the town are unique, interesting, and well-written. The best bits are the doctoring parts, and since Shem is a doctor himself they have an appealing realism to them. Definitely worth picking up...

Monday, July 14, 2008

This guy is old

Happy Birthday, Dr. M!



Saturday, July 12, 2008

Greek geek

I love yogurt. I eat it at least once a day, and sometimes twice. And yet, with all my yogurt eating, I'd never experienced the wonder of a bowl of Greek yogurt. Whoa. I want to eat this every day now -- it is creamier and thicker than regular yogurt, with an almost velvety texture. I tried this brand, the plain flavor, mixed with honey and some strawberries. This could possibly have been the best after-work snack I have ever had in my life. In fact, I would go have some more right now, but I ate the whole carton in a few days. I guess I could always try getting some whole milk and making my own....

[Tasty looking photo by abbyladybug, as I ate my yogurt too fast to photograph it.]

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Beast in View (1955)

I picked up this copy of Beast in View by Margaret Millar (1955) at a garage sale across the street from my apartment for a quarter -- mostly because it was a book for a quarter and it had a woman with a house-head on the cover. After reading it I'm extra glad that I also grabbed another Margaret Millar book from the box because this psychological thriller was an excellent read.

In Beast in View, the wealthy and reclusive Helen Clarvoe begins to receive threatening phone calls from a woman named Evelyn Merrick. Unable to turn to her estranged family, Helen calls Paul Blackshear, the attorney of her recently-deceased father who is now handling her investments, to investigate. Out of boredom Blackshear takes the job and slowly begins unraveling the story of a fractured family, past regrets, and personal demons. And then people start dying...

Millar draws complicated and interesting characters and makes this novel more than just your usual mystery/suspense fare. The final twist is satisfyingly hidden but once it's revealed the reader can see the trail of hints leading to the inevitable end.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


If you have never checked out the wondrous Pretty Good Things shop, or even if you just haven't checked it out lately, you must go and peruse Mary P.'s totally amazing new collection of tiny, artistic, and fashionable hats. I don't personally put many things on my head, but I wish I had a collection of mannequins around the apartment to display Le Teeny Beret, the Avian Giraffe Fascinator, and the sadly sold out (but totally adorable) Oh Deer Fascinator. Plus all the rest! Or maybe instead of mannequins all you guys could buy these hats and just hang around in my apartment? I would be endlessly fascinated and amused....

[Also: look how cute these hats are on a real head!]

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Annotated Wizard of Oz (2000)

The Centennial Edition of The Annotated Wizard of Oz story by L. Frank Baum, edited and with an introduction and notes by Michael Patrick Hearn (2000) is one of the best presents I've gotten recently. As you may remember, I spent much of last year reading a compilation of all 15 of Baum's Oz books, which I really enjoyed. The only sad part was that the single-volume edition of the books that I read didn't have any illustrations. The illustrations are particularly important for the first Oz book, The Wonderful World of Oz (1900) where the drawings by W. W. Denslow had a huge impact on the reception of the book and its success with children.

This centennial edition of the book reproduces the original text and illustrations of The Wonderful World of Oz with the original colors -- including a large section of full-color plates in the center of the book and dual-color drawings throughout that change colors as Dorothy and her friends travel through the land of Oz. In addition, there is a lengthy, nicely written, and thoroughly illustrated introduction that gives biographical information on Baum and Denslow, the history of their creative partnership, the popular reception of the first Oz book, and Baum's continued work with the Oz series.

The book itself is annotated by Hearn through a series of footnotes. These often interesting (although occasionally a little out in left field) notes include biographical information; connections between the original books and various movies, plays, and other artwork inspired by the Oz characters; critical receptions of the books; and the occasional nerdy highlighting of inconsistencies within or between different Oz stories. I found the majority of the annotations to be worthwhile and fun to read, although if you hadn't read the book before I would definitely give the original text a read-through before working through Hearn's digressions...

I love really nice books, and this book is physically just awesome -- it is big and heavy with thick paper, just like a children's fairy tale storybook. The illustrations and photographs are wonderful to look at, and make the book a joy to read.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Super Savory

I am a little in love with the Onion and Fontina Beer Batter Bread I made yesterday. It was way easy to make, and you just know that anything with a whole bottle of beer as one of the primary ingredients is going to be good. The recipe is here, go make some for yourself!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

My two favorite pointy costumes

See it in action here. I love how amused David Bowie is by his own feathers.

Watch some excellent Jushin Liger highlights here, but turn down the sound. When will wrestling fans learn?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


I have officially started my five-day weekend of relaxation and fun. Won't you join me?