International Beverage, I Think

A while back, my husband ordered a box of Korean ramen. Mixed among the packages of ramen were these things:

Mystery Packages

Aside from the name (Maxim), the only English words on the packaging were “easy cut” and “other,” none of which was helpful for figuring out what was inside. They looked like packages of instant coffee, though, and we assumed that’s what they were. After receiving a book from France today, I was in the mood for an international beverage, so I finally opened one of them up and poured the contents into a coffee cup. I added hot water to the cup, and voila!

Sure looks like coffee.

I took a cautious first sip. It was boiling hot, and I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect. I mean, we hope that Korean-ramen sellers don’t have a sick sense of humor, but for all we knew, those were packages of plant fertilizer. It tasted just like coffee with sugar and creamer, though. To be honest, I had been hoping for something a little more exciting–some unexpected flavor, strange yet delicious and non-fertilizery–but even ordinary hot coffee is a nice thing to drink on a cool, fall-like day such as this. Quel plaisir.

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International Mail

I got some international mail today!

Magicien: L’Apprenti by Raymond Feist
I have read this book in English dozens of times. I’ve found that I can read Harry Potter relatively easily in French because I know the story so well. I’m hoping the same will be true for this book.
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Step on a Crack . . .

My back has been hurting for a week now, which raises an important question: did one of the kids step on a crack and break their mother’s back? It’s certainly possible. But these kids, I tell you, they would not be content merely to have broken my back, as a learned today when they created a whole new set of rhymes.

Step on a bean,
eat your mother's spleen.
Step on a hose,
break your mother's nose.
Step on a rose,
break your mother's toes.
Step on a chair,
burn off your mother's hair.

Anyone who says that kids are sweet clearly doesn’t know a thing about kids!

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So Many Books, So Little Time

A couple of months ago the kids asked me to add up my reading tallies for each year since I started blogging. They were curious about how much I’d read. It turns out that I had read over 675 books over the last 15-16 years. That’s not nearly as many as I wish I’d read. Still, it comes out to an average of about 42 books per year, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Related: yesterday I ran across an article about how many books a person is likely to read before they die. Ordinarily I’d be unsure where I’d end up on the spectrum between “average” and “super reader,” but thanks to the kids, I have a pretty good idea. Given my average of 42 books per year, if I live to by 86, I can expect to read another 1,512 books, which is slightly less than a “voracious reader,” but a lot more than an “average reader.”

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My computer refused to print a document the other day, so I restarted my computer, which is something that I don’t do terribly often. When it booted back up, Firefox updated itself, and suddenly everything in the browser–all my settings, passwords, bookmarks, etc.–was gone. Just gone. No idea why.

This has never happened before, and it’s been inconvenient, to say the least. I don’t always write down passwords, and even when I do, that doesn’t mean they’re easy to find. It took me a while just to find the password for this blog!

What’s really sad is all my lost bookmarks. Years and years of bookmarks. From the bill-paying websites (so necessary!) to the oodles of great-sounding recipes and interesting articles (so promising!), it’s all gone.

But this loss is also liberating. Everything in the browser is fresh again. I am motivated to change the settings to what’s ideal for me, rather than “the way it’s always been.” And every bookmark that I wasn’t using was like a little unfinished task. Now they are all gone, so it’s not my fault that I’m not using them. I am guiltless. I am free.

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Reading Report: End of August 2022

  • I finished In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. It was a fast read. The main character is Leonora, aka Lee, Leo, and Nora. When she gets an invite to a hen party from her one-time best friend, she’s totally shocked, because she hasn’t spoken to that friend in so long, due to something that hurt Nora so deeply that she walked away from her hometown and never looked back. But something compels her to say yes, and she, along with a mutual friend, Nina, heads up to the house where the 2-day event is being held. But things are strange up there in the woods. There’s no cell reception, and then the landline dies, leaving them isolated, setting up the perfect situation for a murder. Told in two time frames–after the murder, when Nora’s in the hospital and struggling to remember what happened, and during the hen party leading up to the murder–the author manages to stretch out the suspense without irritating the reader (or, at least this reader) too much. I’m not sure I entirely bought the reason behind the murder, the main character’s reasons for being so hush-hush about her teen years, or the way she behaved at the end, which is why I gave the book a slightly reduced grade (A-), but I enjoyed the suspense immensely.
  • I finished Henry Huggins by Beverly Clearly. It is a collection of stories about a boy named Henry Huggins who lives on Klickitat Street in Portland, Oregon. It starts with a story about how he acquired his dog, Ribsy. It is in many ways like Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, but IMHO more charming. I really got a kick out of it.
  • Steadily working my way through the Top 100 Children’s Books, I also finished The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi and All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor.
  • Just for ha-has, I also reread the first Fablehaven book by Brandon Mull, and I’m still amazed at how much fun it is to read.
  • I finished the rest of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, including Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, a book that once killed my reading mojo. That particular book is a necessary bridge between Book 4 and Book 6, but it is definitely my least favorite of the series. It is the longest, too, of course. I also happened to notice that the words “panted” and “panting” appear far more often than seems advisable (they shows up quite often in the following books, too!). Couldn’t the characters have been breathing heavily, breathing fast but shallowly, gasping, or perhaps out of breath instead? Anyway, I don’t mind the story so much. It’s pretty good. It’s just so angry and very, very long. I got through it, though, and enjoyed finishing the series once again. As usual, finishing the last book left me feeling somewhat bereft, because I wanted to continue to reading about the characters, but the end is the end is the end. ๐Ÿ™
  • BTW, it is an interesting thing to read through the whole HP series now that everyone is so mad at J.K. A close reading provides a lot of fodder to use against her (wizards aren’t really so nice, are they? OMG, the casual abuse of animals alone….), but I still love the series, and I intend to keep on loving it.
  • Currently reading: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott, Love that Dog by Sharon Creech, and How Civil Wars Start by Barbara F. Walter.
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Reading Report: July’s End

Finished: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling, plus Hatchet by Gary Paulson. In Hatchet, 13-year-old Brian Robeson is traveling by single-engine plane to visit his dad, who has recently divorced from his mother. The pilot has a heart attack midflight and Brian doesn’t know how to fly the plane. The plane ultimately crashes, and Brian is stranded alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but the clothes on his back and the hatchet, given to him by his mom just before he left, attached to his belt. It’s fascinating to watch Brian learn to build his own shelter and hunt for food while contending with wild animals and the elements.

Abandoned: Flush by Carl Hiaasen. I wasn’t enjoying this book about a boy whose father is in jail for sinking a casino boat suspected of dumping raw sewing into the ocean. Florida life, at least as presented in this particular novel, is too seedy for my tastes.

Currently Reading: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume, In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. I’m getting the oddest sense of deja vu from the Ware book. I’m certain I did not read the book previously, and I have no idea what is triggering the sense of familiarity. Technically I haven’t started Order of the Phoenix yet. That’s because of Livia. She started reading the Harry Potter series after I did. She caught up with me at the The Goblet of Fire, so I broke from Goblet for a couple of days and let her have the book. She has now moved on to Order of the Phoenix. I’ll have to wait until she’s done with it, but I doubt I’ll have to wait long.

P.S. After many, many readings, my copies of the HP books are starting to break down. The third book is in terrible shape, with multiple spine breaks and pages soon to fall out. The fourth book is also broken along the spine, no wonder given its size. I will have to look into buying replacement copies of these two books, and possibly the whole set.

Like many readers, I’m not sure I want to give Rowling any more money. Her books are, for the most part, great. And I can’t thank her enough for what she’s done for children’s literature. However, her personal opinions on certain subjects are hurtful, and she does, alas, insist on sharing them in a very public space. I’m not sure what duty an author owes to their readers. Are they obligated to keep their opinions to themselves, however hurtful those opinions may be? Surely not. And yet, her megaphone is huge, and given that it’s pointed directly toward children, she ought to be particularly careful how she uses it. The world might be a slightly better, more inclusive place, had she simply chosen not to use it as she has. In any event, I think it’s fair to say that she has enough money. So, I will probably look for used copies rather than new.

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Reading Report: Mid-July 2022

Currently reading: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling and Hatchet by Gary Paulson

Recently finished: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling and Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

We are close to the midpoint of the year, and having read 26 books so far, I think that I may be able to hit my annual goal of 52 by the end of 2022. If I do manage to hit 52, it will be because of all the kiddie lit. I decided it was long past time that I finished the Top 100 Children’s Books, especially since I had so many of the books on hand. So I recently knocked a slew of them off the list, including not just Swallows and Amazons, but also Number the Stars, Bridge to Terabithia, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. They were all excellent.

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No to Scanning, Yes to Swimming

  • Back in June I had an appointment to get an MRI of my brain. I canceled it after I found out how much it would cost. I have spent a lot of money on medical tests over the years, most of it wasted. The likelihood of my having a pituitary adenoma is not high enough to justify the $1,800 price tag.
  • We went to Great Wolf Lodge for two days last week. Having had Covid recently, we felt relatively safe doing so (yes, reinfection is possible, especially with the latest variants, but we figured our immunity was still probably pretty good). We had a great time while we were there. Regrettably, Livia came down with a cold soon afterward. <sigh>
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SITY: Striped Wintergreen

On Friday I took a quick hike into the wooded area of my property so that I could check on the rattlesnake plantain. There were no flowers yet but also no withered flower stalks, so I don’t think I’ve missed its bloom time. I’ll just have to go back again in a couple of weeks.

But, I was just in time to catch the striped wintergreen (a.k.a. spotted wintergreen) in bloom.

Striped Wintergreen from Above
Striped Wintergreen from Below
Close-Up of a Striped Wintergreen Flower
The flowers have a lovely scent unlike anything I’ve smelled before.
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