Letter to Santa

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Today was our first snow day — seriously?!? — which must mean it is winter, which means it is almost time for my birthday and Christmas, which means that elves in my life may be wondering what kind of a present they ought to put under the tree for me. I am honestly at a place in my life where I don’t need very much except time and money (like, house-buying money, not normal money) and did I mention time, but it is always fun to window shop and make Santa Lists. I’ve been working on this list for a while so it’s a little long and funny.

Sweet Little Things

  • The gift that keeps on giving would be snacks for lunches. I’m a big fan of Larabars, especially some flavors that are hard to find locally, like Pecan Pie and Dark Chocolate Turtle. I’d also love to try Coconut Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter and Jelly, and Cappuccino!
  • In the same vein, Keurig coffee pods are definitely well-appreciated. Some I’ve liked in the past include Donut Shop (regular and decaf), Green Mountain Half-Caff, Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate, Starbucks Blonde, and anything with “caramel” or “cinnamon” in the title. :) I would love to have a bunch of herbal teas, too — I’ve only had a few but really liked them. The latte/mocha ones don’t seem to work as well in a K-cup format for some reason — probably because they are trying to create milkiness without real milk.

Small-to-Medium Purchases

  • For the last couple of years I’ve wished I had some pretty lights or something for my bathroom for when I want to relax in the tub. I’ve been looking around and thought that  something like this Aurora Master ($14.97) had great potential. Plus, it can be moved around so H can enjoy it in his room, etc.! I also found the LED Color Changing Showerhead ($39.99)and thought that was pretty amazing, but not exactly right as it would only work with a shower. I’m not actually tied to either of these particular items; what I want is a small, preferably battery-operated lamp that gives off a soothing low light (could be colored, doesn’t have to be) so that I can turn off the main lights in the bathroom and have a relaxing bubble bath. An ideal light would be bright enough to read by if I wanted.
  • I may be the last person in my generation who wears a watch every day, but I do — I wear a Timex Weekender (I have a man-size one and a woman-size one) EVERY DAY, all day and all night. I love swapping out the bands to match my clothes but it drives me nuts that I don’t have a red watchband! I haven’t been able to find a standalone red band to match, but they do have one with the watch included ($36.00), which certainly wouldn’t make me sad or anything. (And how sweet is it in yellow and with flowers? I just wish they sold more standalone straps.)
  • Last year I got a pair of moccasins approximately like these and I would love a new pair. I wear them around the house almost year-round. I totally don’t need the expensive LL Bean ones, either — I’ve loved the ones I’ve had this year!
  • I know this sounds a little odd but one thing I would really like to have is a cast iron skillet big enough to fry potatoes in.
  • I would like to get a better iPhone case (an OtterBox) but they’ve been a little bit hard to find for my model. So I went to the website and guess what? You can DESIGN YOUR OWN. How fun is that? I love the idea of a Deep Water Blue with Citron, but there’s also a Purple with Orange (ha!) or a Teal with Pink or heck — all kinds of pretty color combinations.
  • I use MAC “Brun” eyeshadow as eyeliner and have been nursing my current pot of it for a few years now. (Link goes to some random store because I can’t link directly on the MAC site and the Amazon page has it costing almost twice as much!) I have a love affair with MAC eyeshadows and brushes but never buy them anymore because I just can’t justify spending $16 on an eyeshadow when I find something of a similar color for $3 at Walmart, but really, you kinda get what you pay for. While trying to find Brun I found myself intrigued by Ricepaper, Woodwinked (may be too dark), Naked Lunch, and All That Glitters. I haven’t allowed myself to walk into a MAC store in years! Haha!
  • I love new clothes but am having a hard time lately because my size has been fluctuating. I wasn’t sure what size (or shape!) I was after H was born… and then I gained some weight in the last year, and things that I thought were fitting have stopped fitting, so I honestly just don’t even know. I can usually wear a size L top. Pants are where it gets very tough; I don’t seem to reliably fit in any given size, so maybe I’d better just stick with maxi skirts! :) I love new pajamas, especially in the flannel pants category; I like a men’s large or a women’s XL in pajamas so that they aren’t binding. Always love good new socks and things like that, too.
  • I want to read Lock In and Skin Game and would be entirely happy with a used copy of either and/or both. I’m really not a big fan of paying full price for new hardcover books; I always buy used or wait for paperback. These just happen to be two that I’m pretty anxious to read. I would also like to have the mass-market (pocket-sized) PAPERBACK of Cold Days, because I am collecting the full series in paperback.

Bigger Ticket Items

  • A perpetual favorite gift for me is the gift of happy feet. The only problem with the kind of shoes I wear (every day) is that they cost too much, so I tend to get a pair every year or so and then wear them to pieces. I am sorely in need of a new BLACK pair of Teva Tirra sandals (size 9) — mine are officially falling apart after several years of hard use. They won’t make it to next summer. I also badly wish I had a pair in a bright pink (not the soft coral color) but they never seem to be in stock in my size. I know these may seem like weird mid-winter choices, but trust me, the moment it is warm enough I will wear them into the ground. I have a new pair of brown and a new-ish pair of red and would be pretty darn delighted with a pair in any color, but even though it isn’t very fun, I need the black ones.
  • I’m also in love with, and would get a lot of use out of, several Alegria styles this year. The saddle-colored Alegria Ella wedges immediately caught my eye; I have a pair of black Danskos in a similar style that I love to wear for dressier days, and these look like they are approximately the same shoe.
  • I would love to have the Alegria Bree oxford in any of the colors.
  • And if brown and black are too boring for you, aren’t these pewter and bronze pumps adorable? Not sure how often I’d have occasion to wear them, is the only sad thing.
  • A safer bet might be a pair of gray shoes, which is a hole in my rainbow of fun-colored footwear — like these cute penny loafers.
  • And then there are the Danskos. The cognac-colored Deidra is similar to the Alegria Ella but in a darker brown.
  • I squeee-ed a little bit when I saw the Dansko Rebel in teal and purple; colorful shoes are not the most practical thing in the entire universe, but I adore them and have a growing collection that “definitely needs” an infusion of teal and/or violet. Haha.
  • Another bigger thing would be  this chair, which I fell in love with while H was a babe-in-arms. I know he’d love to sit in it with me, and I sure hope to have future babes-in-arms to swing to sleep in it. Sadly, requires one of these and probably one of these. And, y’know, a place for it….
  • It may not seem very present-y but I’d also really like to get some new eyeglasses and I’d like to get our piano tuned up.

Oprah-Level Items

Should anyone be in a “you get a car! And you get a car!” mood this holiday season, I want a minivan. Yeah, yeah, I know. The Dodge Journey is really cute in orange. ;)

Miracle on 34th Street-Level Items

I want a down payment on a house. I haven’t found the right house yet though. I wish I could find a house with two stories above-ground, at least partially red brick exterior, gas fireplace, FENCED YARD FOR H (this is the #1 thing I want), and rooms with some architectural interest (maybe arched doorways, or alcove windows, or something). I like houses that look older but need a house that is newer because it turns out we’re not exactly handy around the house. I like trees. I want room for a family to grow; four bedrooms would be pretty cool, 2.5 baths would rock (especially if the master bath had a nice big tub), and I’m wishing for something in the 1,700+ sq ft range. I’m surprised at how many houses I look at online that just don’t stir my interest at all; I want to find something that feels like home.

Review: Mummies: The Newest, Coolest & Creepiest from Around the World

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Cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire.

I picked up Shelley Tanaka’s Mummies: The Newest, Coolest & Creepiest from Around the World because it was featured on a “spooky book” shelf and because it looked like a fun, quick read. I wasn’t expecting to get completely wrapped up (ha ha) in it, much less to be murmuring “Wow!” every time I turned a page.

Published in 2005, Mummies is a 48-page illustrated nonfiction book at an 8.2 grade level. It meets the reader right where we’d all start when opening such a book: “Mummies… Right away we think of the ancient Egyptians.” Tanaka immediately pivots, explaining the broader definition of mummies and sending us around the world from Egypt to Chile, where the earliest mummies were found.

This is a book about death and corpses, and it neither sensationalizes nor flinches away from this. In a straightforward manner that will appeal to any reader (but probably especially young guys) Tanaka explains how ancient Chinchorro people skinned and dismembered their dead before reconstructing the bodies with the aid of sticks, fur, feathers, and clay.

She explains how the Inca performed human sacrifice by immobilizing/killing and leaving their “most beautiful and healthy children” in mountaintop tombs, where they were frozen and preserved so perfectly that their blood — even their eyelashes! — are still in place centuries later.

Readers learn about peat bog mummies in Ireland, the Iceman of northern Italy, medieval mummies as far north as the Arctic Circle, 4,000-year-old mummies preserved by heat and sand in a Chinese desert, and of course the famous Egyptian mummies.

Tanaka also brings mummification into the contemporary world by telling about researchers who reproduced the Egyptian techniques on a man who left his remains to science, and about Buddhist monks who mummify themselves before dying! She also talks about famous political mummies Lenin, Mao, and Peron, and about the plastinated mummies currently touring the country with exhibitions like Body World and Bodies: The Exhibition.

Mummies is full of glossy, full-color pictures of mummies, coffins, artifacts, and corpses — including an actual-size photo of the shockingly well-preserved face of an eight-year-old girl, and a far number of skeletal remains. Somehow they didn’t strike me as especially disturbing or disgusting, although I’m sure the majority of adolescent readers will be delightedly grossed out. And if they’re anything like me, they’ll find themselves intrigued, wanting to learn more about non-Egyptian mummies, making surprising connections to history and cultural geography, and probably passing the book around to all of their buddies. I read several sections out loud to my husband and son* and can’t wait to feature this book more prominently in our library collection.

* My son (who at seventeen months old has relatively little prior knowledge of mummies) leaned forward and kissed the picture of an ancient bust of Tutankhamun seen above, then stole the book from me and spent several minutes intently flipping through the pages of desiccated ancient corpses. As recommendations go, that seems like a pretty solid one.

Work

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Mom has told me that she knows when I’m not liking something or when something isn’t going well because I just stop talking about it.

Work has been hard this year, so far. Adjustments, change, things like that. I guess no job is ever going to be a complete hayride, right?

I still am very happy to be where I am doing what I’m doing. There are just things that I miss. People. You know how it is. It is what it is.

Hit That

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I play percussion in a local community orchestra. Specifically, I usually play what is collectively called (after three adverbs) “mallet percussion”: things with keyboards and tuned notes, rather than the “battery” (things you, y’know, batter).

Most of my time is dedicated to the triangle (which is much harder than it looks), the chimes, the bells/glockenspiel, and the xylophone. For the uninitiated, these are chimes, this is what I mean by bells, and of course this is everyone’s favorite token X word.

(I wasn’t always a percussionist and, in fact, I’m not entirely sure I can call myself one with a perfectly straight face. I’m an accidental percussionist, by way of years of saxophoning and many more years of pianoing. Hence the mallets; I lack the chops for battery. Yes, it’s harder.)

The reason I tell you all this is to set up the sharing of a hilarious discovery. If you’ve ever spent time in a band room, you’ve probably seen The Posters. Ubiquitous, creased, oft-laminated souvenirs of a time when the director had energy and funds to attend music conferences. Perhaps (s)he even inherited them from a predecessor. They’re always outdated, featuring musicians who were “small world” famous years before.

And the musicians in them are always stiff, fussy looking folks in black tie — especially if they are mallet percussionists. Take, for instance, this lovely lady whose benign visage has popped up in several band rooms I’ve frequented:

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Sometimes they loosen up a little. Give us an action shot, looking away from the camera. Maybe even a look of distracted elation or concentration as they nail a particularly tricky lick:

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Both of these posters have been wilting on the wall of our orchestra’s rehearsal space for as long as I’ve been a member.

And then, this week, they were joined by a third.

A new mallet percussion poster.

Ah, but this is no Mona Lisa of the mallets, no earnest devotee of the keyboard. Here we have no bow tie, no artful black and white photography. All of these things are far too buttoned-up for this, the Casanova of the Marimba.

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Men only wish they could achieve the sheer suaveness of the popped-collar multimalleted alpha male. Women swoon at the sight of his erected music stand.

He stares into the eyes of the anonymous middle school percussionist. To some, he seems to say, “You will never be as hot as I am.” To others, he seems to promise things the average twelve-year-old has yet to imagine. He is… the most interesting percussionist alive.

And to the exhausted-to-the-point-of-giggles adult amateur percussionist, he whispers huskily, “You have GOT to blog about this.”

Review: Sci-Fi Chronicles: A Visual History of the Galaxy’s Greatest Science Fiction

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Editor Guy Haley opens this hefty volume with the sentences, “Science fiction is arguably the most exciting genre of entertainment. No other form of storytelling shapes our culture as much, or is as popular.” He’s certainly got a point, particularly when it comes to male readers (and watchers). Ask a room full of boys what sort of books they like, and you’re going to hear words like adventure, action, battles, and maybe more specific items like robots, time travel, lonely three-boobed green alien women. Obviously that’s not a universal preference, but ask a random guy and chances are you’re going to find he likes to read something that falls in the broad spectrum of science fiction.

The other thing that a lot of guy readers seem to enjoy is trivia — just ask my disintegrating copies of Guinness World Records and Ripleys Believe It or Not! annuals. The literary equivalent of a candy buffet is a fat book full of glossy color photographs and attractively arranged factoids, especially when the subject matter is something tasty like sports/games, gross stuff, or a beloved movie or TV series.

And so, Sci-Fi Chronicles: A Visual History of the Galaxy’s Greatest Science Fiction falls pretty tidily in the intersection of the school librarian’s Golden Venn Diagram:

Let’s start with the good stuff.

Sci-Fi Chronicles is impressively thick. At about 9″x7″, it’s no larger than your standard trade paperback, but it boasts 576 pages of thick, glossy paper. If you’re looking to become the local authority on all things science fiction (or at least look like it) this resource is going to catch your eye. Measured purely on quantity, there’s a lot of bang for your buck here.

Open this book to a random page, and you’ll likely find multiple color photographs or illustrations, a couple of columns of readable encyclopedia-style text (more friendly in tone than Wikipedia, but also less exhaustive) and — probably the neatest feature — color-coded timelines, subgenre headings, and a sort of “evolution of the text” that shows each of the editions/iterations of the story. The entry on Blade Runner, for example, starts with the book cover for the initial printing of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and progresses through the movie posters, video game packaging, and comic books. Your budding speculative fiction pedant will find hours and hours of interesting information here, in very attractive packaging.

Now for the less-good stuff.

I won’t waste more than a passing mention of the SF industry’s general grumpiness about the abbreviation “sci-fi,” nor of the title’s cutesy assumption that better speculative fiction isn’t being written elsewhere in the galaxy. These were stylistic choices that Firefly Books made for reasons of their own, and I, at least, am not pedantic enough to really care all that much. However, I see no way to avoid bringing up two significant flaws in this volume.

This is not the sort of book you read cover to cover, so as I sat down to review it I tried looking up random science fiction works to see how they were included. After all, if this is (as the back copy claims) “a definitive sci-fi guide for the 21st century… and beyond,” it ought to be — well, definitive, right?

I didn’t try to pick especially obscure pieces: The Man From Earth, Logan’s Run, The Postman, Sliders, Flight of the Navigator, Explorers, Zardoz, Starship Troopers. A fairly wide variety of science fiction classics, good and bad, commercial and otherwise. To the dismay both of myself and my indignant husband, only half of these had entries, and the other half weren’t even mentioned. What kind of “definitive” guide to science fiction neglects what is arguably the best movie of Paul Reuben’s and Sarah Jessica Parker’s careers? How could any visual history of science fiction leave out the glory of Sean Connery in long braid and red bondage wear?

Leaving aside Haley’s questionable criteria for selecting “the galaxy’s greatest science fiction,” I had a more seriously complaint. While Firefly Books clearly put a lot of energy into the graphic design for this book, it sacrificed attention to detail — specifically editing. The entry for Logan’s Run talks about the film’s “widespread appeal laying [sic] in a core concept…”. The Sliders page refers to a Professor Maximillian Jones, who doesn’t exist; it no doubt meant Professor Maximillian Arturo. It seemed that every page I flipped to had a grammatical or factual error — little stuff, but a darned shame in such an otherwise well-assembled volume. Heck, even the copy on the back cover commits the sin of repetitive word choice, boasting of “lavishly illustrated entries” on one line and “lavish photo features” only two lines down.

Ultimately, is this book actually “definitive”, “truly international,” “a must for all sci-fi fans,” or representative of “the galaxy’s greatest science fiction”? I’m skeptical.

But is it lavish? Yes. Fun? Interesting? Appealing? Yes, yes, and yes.

Does it have multiple pages of Doctor Who coverage for my rabid Whovians, a meaty section on Star Trek for my Trekkies (or Trekkers, since we’re being nitpicky), and a respectable amount of attention paid to the science fiction movies and shows contemporary young males are likely to have watched and enjoyed?

Yeah. Yeah, it does. So even if it’s sloppier than it should have been, and even if my household is offended by some of its blatant and inexcusable omissions and characterizations (my husband is still muttering under his breath about Logan’s Run being described as a minor work), I’m sure it will be well-liked by fans of science fiction and collectors of trivia.

[Cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire]

More Consignment Clothes

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Kate the consignment shopper strikes again!

First, if you remember, last time I was making fun of the crazy expensive baby pants people buy — well, I found myself a pair for $3!

corduroy pants

These pants, or similar ones of the same brand, are selling for $45 new, and this particular pair looks like it’s been worn about twice… goodness.

Here are some more:

moose overalls

adorable lined moose overalls

gray fleece jacket

gray fleece jacket

shearling lined flannel shirt

shearling lined flannel shirt

Children's Place dress shirt

Children’s Place dress shirt

thick orange sweater

heavy orange sweater

striped zip-up sweater

striped zip-up sweater

argyle cardigan

argyle cardigan

red hoodie with helpful kitty

red hoodie with helpful kitty

turquoise hoodie (I know it doesn't look like it)

turquoise hoodie (I know it doesn’t look like it)

orange REI fleece vest (pre-laundering)

orange REI fleece vest (pre-laundering)

black velvet dress vest

black velvet dress vest

d'Artagnan likes the monster booties

d’Artagnan likes the monster booties

Two kitties

Two kitties

 

There’s a cute dragon sweatshirt, too. I don’t have a clear idea of what H is going to be for Halloween, but we’ve got a couple of cute things to play with, anyway. :) He makes a very cute black kitty cat!

Dressing my Little Dude

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So, I guess there must be people out there who can pay $155 for a pair of pants that their infant son will outgrow in a matter of months, but I kind of hope I don’t know them, because seriously. Heck; I’m not going to spend $20 — or $12, on sale — for a baby sweater, not unless it’s a special occasion.

Fortunately, there are plenty of people out there who can and do buy more expensive clothes for their kids, because thanks to the magic of our throwaway society, those clothes end up in like-new condition at thrift stores and consignment shops, just waiting for people like me to come along and give them a second round of play.

Here are the highlights from today’s treasure hunt:

fleece lined orange flannel

blue & green flannel

blue & green flannel

blue and green sweater

blue and green sweater

zip-up fall sweater

zip-up fall sweater

moosic maker shirt

moosic maker shirt

fleece sweatshirt -- new with tags

fleece sweatshirt — new with tags

a bevy of sweater vests

a bevy of sweater vests

dragon play suit

dragon play suit

 

All of these were $2-$5 each. Can’t wait for the weather to cool down so we can break out the cute warm clothes!