Archive for March, 2010

March 28, 2010

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

“After a delay in securing their usual Cape Cod vacation rental, a widowed father and his four precocious daughters settle for a month in the guest house on Arundel, a gorgeous estate in the Berkshires. Each of the Penderwick sisters is distinct, equipped with her own narrative perspective and set of quirky habits, but the story is driven by the girls’ interactions with their snooty hostess Mrs. Tifton and her suffering son, Jeffrey. The Penderwicks establishes a certain kitschy self-awareness even before the novel begins, with both its clause-filled subtitle and the retro gray-scale silhouettes that decorate each descriptive chapter title. Birdsall paints Arundel similarly with lyrical hyperboles – describing the cottage in one instance as “the creamiest, butteriest yellow the Penderwicks had ever seen,” and “all a cottage is supposed to be” – creating a sense of wonder and nostalgia about her prose that may appeal to adults who recall fondly the pastoral landscapes of The Secret Garden or Anne of Green Gables. But when coupled with a predictable, episodic plot – tension peaks with a stand-off between 4-year-old Batty Penderwick and a potentially vicious bull – the dreamy tone of the narrative seems affected and mismatched. However, elementary-aged readers are likely to respond to the realistic rendering of the characters, who rarely behave in a manner that would befit their idealized surroundings, root for Jeffrey’s escape from his quintessentially parental mother, and enjoy spending a summer vacation with the endearingly eccentric, tightly-knit Penderwicks.”


I always thought that reviewing books could be something of a lovely, fun job quite suited for my interests and habits. When I started to write book reviews online, I thought it would be a lovely, fun job almost suite for my interests and habits, but would probably require a lot of practice.

However, after modeling a review after the style preferred by those professional review publications I thought would be so lovely to work at, I am not so sure. Those were some painful 250 words, right there, and without much to show for it.

So I should probably rethink my career goals.

I successfully dyed my own hair on Friday night. Maybe it’s impossible to mess up when you pick a shade one tiny step lighter than your own color, but I can stop counting gray hairs again… and return to counting forehead wrinkles. And counting the 40 dollars I saved by Doin’-It-Myself.


Professional money-saver?

Then again, I dropped bucks on 2 separate fancy-coffee drinks, a gourmet (delicious) sandwich, a bottle of wine and crunchy things, new headphones (to replace the pair I bought last week for 5 dollars that suck), 2 cupcakes at Sweet, and 50 dollars on a new phone.

Professional forehead gazing wrinkle-counter?

I’m running out of ideas here. Might have to stop kidding myself and just be a flippin’ librarian already.

March 25, 2010

old granny

Ever since my quarter-of-a-century birthday, I’ve been aging quickly.

Creaky old legs. Difficulty hefting myself out of bed. Gray highlights returning.

This morning, I got to school early, but didn’t have any urgent schoolwork to attend to. An hour was mine. Doubleshot and a book, I decided, in the sunny chair by the window.

I made it thirty minutes before my mind wandered. My family is visiting in a few weeks. Would they want to come see my school? “This is Java City,” I would say, pointing at the coffee shop in the middle of the common area. “But don’t buy coffee there because of severe barista incompetence.”A college tour, which would be silly because I’m 25 now. But maybe Caroline might like to see the college. What if Caroline came to Simmons? I don’t know if she would like it. It’s all girls, and the curriculum is pretty specialized…

At this point, I shot out of my chair and ran up the three flights of stairs to my office.

My little sister will be 17 this year (HORROR) and then she will be a senior in high school and then she will be going to college and OH MY GOD I AM SO OLD AND I HAVE NOTHING PLANNED! NOTHING! I NEED TO GO PLAN!

Seriously. My sister is going to be 17.

Look at her!

She has a Blackberry! She has a boyfriend! She has a handful of rambunctious friends who live at each other’s houses and drive each other around in their cars because they can drive! She’s taking AP classes and the ACT and it’s almost time for SENIOR PICTURES and then she’s going to GRADUATE AND GO TO COLLEGE AND I HAVE DONE NOTHING! WHAT HAPPENED HERE?


My aching back. My creaking knees. I need to buy a box of hair dye and start planning again, because I’m sure not getting any younger.

March 24, 2010

when time escapes

Somehow, I escaped that HUGE PICTUREBOOK PROJECT with most of my sanity intact.

Three weeks later, however, I’ve sent myself into that academic tizzy I successfully staved off. It just seems strange that I can do 50 papers and maintain myself, but a few blow-off assignments and a five page paper trip me up.

Anyway, I haven’t had much time to sit and think of anything worth saying.

So I’ll just share with you a piece of musical mystery and magnificence.


And if you have any strategies for convincing Lance to play this for his elementary students, let me know

March 23, 2010

kiss kiss

Working my way through Gilmore Girls, because nobody wants to check them out at the library anymore, and because I’ve seen them so many times I can tune in and out while I do my homework.

I’ve always been a Dean girl.

Probably because all of my high school relationships were pretty Rory/Dean.

Heck, all my relationships.

But this time around?

It’s all about Jess.

I guess I’ve had a change of heart.

I’m even learning to forgive the hair…

March 19, 2010

this weekend

Here’s what I’ll be up to:

  • Going to the bank to deposit this mass amount of money I’ve suddenly come into. Must. Get. Rid. Of. Checks. BEFORE I LOSE THEM!
  • Being an earlybird at this garage sale in Somerville. Too bad a certain somebody isn’t loaded like me! Actually, that’s probably a good thing, since our apartment is already overrun by trumpets, pianos, and other musical detritus.

Some Havaianas

Some jeans that are as hot as these, my old jeans, that seem to have been discontinued in the 2+ years since I bought them.

A cell phone. The time has come.

And a bra.

I’ll leave that one to your imagination.

Oh, and a pair of headphones.

And remind me to tell you about the dress I ordered from Shabby Apple.

  • Some or all of the following homework: writing a book review and a paper about my book review, doing a really long Reference Question Set, writing a paper about another picture from ANOTHER picturebook. Which I just realized I forgot to procure. So add a library visit somewhere in this mess.

  • Scholarship brunch at mah school. You wanna feed me in honor of the fact that you threw a few $$ my way? Oh, okay, fine.
  • Some or all of the rest of that homework.

  • A Sunday night margarita at the Cactus Club with some ChLit folks. Drinking? On a Sunday night? It feels so wrong…
  • Laundry
  • Grocery shopping
  • Cleaning the apartment
  • Remembering to feed the cat
  • Frolicking in this weekend weather forecast

Oh, and I think I might need a belated birthday cupcake

March 18, 2010

previous life

I used to live across the street from this church.

In the winter, we would sled down, and my dad told me that if I was going too fast I should roll off before my sled ran into the road.

In the summer, we’d rollerskate up and down the drive. It was really steep. Falling was likely and completely terrifying.

In middle school I found out most of my classmates were Catholic and attended some Tuesday night class for 12-year-old Catholic kids, and I was extremely jealous. Secret social things were going on every Tuesday night practically under my nose.

My church worshiped in a school cafeteria and my Sunday School class consisted of me, a surly adolescent male with little taste for Christianity

and my DAD.

I sat on that stone wall. I walked past on my way to school. Once, my dad made us stop sledding because a funeral procession started pulling into the driveway. We always cut through the property to walk to the park.

And then I moved away.

March 16, 2010

grown up things

1. Cash for the Merchandise

I just signed up for my second credit card.

I know, everyone just gasped and shook their fingers at the computer screen. I know my boyfriend did. I know Dave Ramsey did. Because Dave Ramsey definitely reads my blog.

Why does everyone jump to conclusions? Are 20-somethings, as a whole, REALLY all that irresponsible with money that anytime I mention the word “credit,” even people who KNOW me and my tightwad ways gasp and shake their fingers and try to talk me out of it? I didn’t apply for a credit card until a year out of college, when I was working and knew I could potentially pay for it. I applied for a Spirit Air Mastercard so I could get cheap flights. I was denied, since I had no credit history, but I was approved for a Capital One card, which I’ve had for two years now and have yet to pay a single cent of interest on. I never put more money on my card then I know I will be able to pay off. Some months, I don’t use it at all. My limit was raised once, but I laughed, because I knew I would never charge up the old limit because it was too much money.

But y’all are making me nervous. I got approved for that Spirit Air Mastercard that I wanted, but there’s this stigma about it the pretty shiny white plastic. I don’t want to touch it. It might bite me.

What ever happened to building good credit? Is that irrelevant, now that we have all sunk ourselves so far into debt, just the fact that you have an okay credit score is good enough? When I want to buy a car, or a house, am I going to be able to? According to Dave Ramsey, I should by a car in full. I don’t know about a house. Dave Ramsey says you should pay down your debt as quickly as possible, including your mortgage, but what does he say about acquiring one? Nothing. What does he say about paying off your student loans? “Well, you should have applied for more scholarships.” Thanks, Dave.

The financial climate I’m getting from my friends, neighbors, and pop-culture is that we have all messed things up really badly, so let’s talk about how to get out.

What about those who are just starting? Those of us who, I guess miraculously, made it to 25 with nothing on our backs but student loans?

2. Text Nation

In July of 2009, I dropped my purse in the commuter parking lot in Marshall, Michigan. I was juggling bags-o-swag from visiting the ALA exhibits in Chicago, and I didn’t notice when I lost that one important little pouch. This story gets weird here, but basically, someone saw it lying lonely in the parking lot and got a hold of my mother before we left the city. I may or may not have been breaking into my library after 11 pm to steal Guitar Hero when this phone call was recieved.

Anyway, long story short, I got my purse back, but when I opened my cellular telephone, it became apparent that I not only left the poor thing behind, but ran it over with my mother’s PT Cruiser.

I’ve never had texting on my plan, but I would send/receive 5-10 texts a month, when it was the more optimal way to communicate. But now, I can neither send a coherent text message nor understand those sent to me. Heck, I can’t even tell who the text is from, actually. I have to use barely visible context clues. “Does that say octopus? Who would send me a text about an octopus? Probably Frank… but maybe Betsy.”

“Get a new phone!” everyone says. And yes, my contract has been up since LAST March. So I can get a new phone. A number of things got in the way.

  • March 2009 – July 2009: I was getting ready to move, and hesitant to drop a few hundred dollars that I might need to move
  • August 2009 – November 2009: Money was still touch and go, paychecks unsteady, savings insufficient to stave off feelings of panic
  • December 2009 – January 2010: Oh snap, I have to buy CHRISTMAS presents??!! And then be totally broke for a month afterward? Oy vey, being a grown up is not so fun.

Only now, in this February/March period of time, a full calendar year after my contract with Sprint has ended, it’s conceivable that I could get a new phone. And with my tax returns starting to trickle in, I’m thinking it’s time. But now I’m struck with indecision.

Option #1: Get a phone like the one I have, which cost me 50 bucks at the time, but would now probably run me between free and 30. Keep bill low, continue to live a text-free existence.

I’m actually, philosophically cool with this choice. I’ve never been a Phone Person. To my friends’ annoyance, I don’t text, I don’t always answer, I *usually* return calls, but not always, and often I leave my phone in the car/coat pocket/boyfriend’s house/freezer and not notice for 6 hours… or 6 days.

Is there something WRONG with this lifestyle? Am I missing out on some fundamental human, social experience because I don’t pay for text messaging?

Option #2: Get a phone like the one I have, add texts. My bill would probably go up by 5 dollars, if that.

I could submit. I might have more friends if I texted, and I don’t even think I’m joking. It’s the new casual-communication method, and since I’m new to town, I don’t have many friends who are beyond that sphere of Casual Communication, and since I don’t text, I’m probably just That Girl From Some Other Planet With That Blog.

Again, I’m philosophically cool with being Other Planet Girl.

But friends are fun, nice things to have, and good for your well-being and your career.

So maybe I should bite the bullet.

Option #3: Get a super fancy phone, add texts and internet. In for an inch, in for a mile?

So let’s say I take option #2, get totally into texting and become a Phone Girl. Now, I love my phone and want my phone to be my best friend forever. However, since I was cheap, my phone is also a piece of crap, so the extended time spent fiddling with it because irksome. What if I want something shinier? Something even MORE useful? Something, dare I say, “smart?”

Two years is a long time to wait for another contract to end – those fancy phones will run you 200-400 dollars full price.

There’s also the jealousy factor here. Every person in the world has an iPhone/Blackberry/whatever, but what really gets me is my STUPID SISTERS. Betsy just bought a Hero. Caroline’s had a Blackberry since her 14th birthday. Dorothy has something with a touch screen, and I’ve had the same phone since she was 11.

But the plans are OUTRAGEOUS, especially when adding a line for Lance might be an necessity in a few months when his own plan is up. 80 dollars a month, minimum, just to HAVE the phone. That would be doubling my cell phone bill. Who in the world can justify that? Am I the only person on the planet with a tight budget? Who, when adding 30-40 dollars a month to a cell phone bill would, essentially, be subtracting that money from my savings account or my meager monthly “spending” stipend?

How does anyone pay for these cell phone bills?

Credit cards. Right?

March 14, 2010

dry ground

image via Daniel Y. Go

It rained yesterday. Lance’s mom had a big-fat-travel-fail, and her weekend visit was greatly impeded. I spent most of the day zipping back and forth across the state of Massachusetts in Lance’s car.

We finally bought a GPS.

It rained today. We had delicious brunch with some Sarahs and a Ben. We stood outside in the rain. And then we spent most of the day zipping back and forth around the Boston area in Lance’s car, visiting witch museums, trolling around gigantic Whole Foods marketplaces.

Tomorrow? I will hang out with Lance’s mommy, and at the end of the day, I’ll be back to school.

Spring break over.

And my tongue hurts!

Does anyone else have chronic tongue pain?


And it will be raining.

Oh yes, it will be raining.

March 10, 2010

quarter life

I am 25 today.

I feel old.

Exciting birthday things I did today:

  • Ran/walked around the park across the street from my apartment
  • Went to the library to check out movies
  • Spent 8 dollars at the 7-11, buying a Nantucket Nectar, a bag of Pirate’s Booty, and a new flavor of Rockstar
  • Ate a lot of chocolate covered fruits (<3 my Michigan friends)
  • Cleaned my kitchen
  • Watched two of my favorite movies – The Business of Being Born and The Family Stone
  • Opened a package from my parents
  • Worked on my reference assignment
  • Shaved my legs
  • Made a broccoli, rice and cheese casserole for myself.

It’s Hell Week for the boyfriend and all his little theatrical kiddies. I am a birthday widow on Spring Break.

This is my first birthday away from my family in 25 years.

It was okay though, to be alone. There were lots of little birthday surprises. And I’m feeling pretty old. I don’t know if I want anyone to remind me of how old I am by celebrating.

Gosh. Just that last sentence made me feel even older.

25, huh?


March 9, 2010

my sweet peach

My family never owned housecats when I was growing up, only a few, well-chosen canine companions.

So I never had the opportunity to learn that I am a full-fledged Cat Person, until now.

This past November, I was dinking around on Facebook and spotted a strange status update. A friend of ours from Michigan – Lance’s best friend’s girlfriend, to be annoyingly specific – posted something like “I woke up and there were kittens on my floor.” Surprise! Adam and Verna’s cat Didn’t Know She Was Pregnant! Or at least Adam and Verna didn’t know their cat was pregnant. Apparently Adam let Mama out and they thought she’d run away for good, but it turns out she just wanted to get lucky.

ANYWAY! So a friend had a bunch of kittens to give away, and Lance had been talking KITTENKITTENKITTEN since we started browsing Craigslist apartments in May. Lance had cats. He liked cats. I was scared of cats, and I really wanted a dresser and a TV stand before I got an animal.

But it was a free cat.

And it was orange.

I told Lance that I only wanted an orange cat.

So when we trekked home to Michigan for Christmas, Lance fetched our kitten. She was about six weeks old.

She stayed with me for a few days and then drove back to Boston with Lance. When I returned, we named her Peach.

And I love her.

She was so small when we got her, but now she’s almost a real cat. Her fur has just started to lose that kitten fluff, and every day she can jump onto something new, something higher.

She has a really lovely disposition – although I don’t have much to compare it too. She’s very playful, but easily distracted by toys if she’s being annoying. When she’s tired, she’ll crawl up onto your chest or lap and go to sleep. She meows a lot – when we come home, when she wakes up, when she’s walking around in the other rooms of the apartment, alone.

And she purrs. She purrs REALLY loud.

We just started letting her stay out of the kennel at nighttime. It took us awhile to figure it out – either she wanted to jump on our faces or meow at the bedroom door – and the first few nights were fairly sleepless, but we found the secret. Ever since we came home, Peach has loved this blanket Lance’s mom gave us as a Christmas present. Specifically, she loved to suck on the wool backing, and would do it until she fell asleep. A cat pacifier, if you will.

So we moved the blanket to our bed. Now we all sleep together.

And I love having her around the house, doing cute little cat things. Being silly. Her favorite toy is this Beanie Baby snail with a little rolling jingle ball tied to its neck. Peach picks her up and carries her from room to room, and then she bites its poor neck repeatedly. Last week, she wanted to watch me put on my makeup in the bathroom and accidentally jumped into the toilet. She loves plastic bags and cardboard boxes and running into cabinets and closets when we open doors.

Her new favorite hangout is in the bathtub.

When she sits on my laptop keyboard, I take it as a sign that I should get the heck off of it.

And most of my favorite hobbies (reading, drinking a glass of wine, watching a movie or talking to my Lance) are just better with a warm little peachy peach asleep in your lap.

I love my kitty.