Category Archives: books

Laundromat Rules

ETwice a year I bundle up all my bedding – allergy covers, dust ruffle, sheets, comforter and pillows – then I head on down to the laundromat. I could do all this laundry at home but I’d rather get it all done in an hour or instead of running up and down the basement steps all day long.

Since I’ve been schlepping down there for almost 20 years, I’ve realized that there are some rules involved in the laundromat.

  1. Early is better. Even if I go at 6 a.m. there is usually someone else there at opening. By 9 a.m. it’s starting to get hopping. I’ve driven by later at night and it’s mostly empty.
  2. Leave at least one machine open between you and the next person. Unless all the other machines full, then you have to squeeze in between others.
  3. After you have your washers going, don’t stay. Either doze in your car out in the parking lot (with your dog perhaps) or go run another errand.
  4. But time your nap or your errands. If the machines are all full and people are waiting, you’ll find your wet laundry sitting on a table. (This also applies to still damp laundry in the driers.)
  5. Take finished laundry out to your vehicle as it gets dry – don’t wait until everything is done to start your departure.
  6. Don’t look others in the eyes, don’t engage in small talk, don’t’ smile.

I follow most of the rules, although I’ve never taken anybody else’s laundry out of a washer or dryer. I do try to look at others and smile, but it doesn’t do much good, as nobody else looks up.  And I don’t sit in my car either – something to drink, maybe a donut and a book and I’m good for the time I’m there.

When do you make your own rules?

Alas, Poor Yorick

Went to Hamlet tonight at the Park Square Theatre. It wasn’t very full so the theatre manager invited everyone to “upgrade” their seat for free – we ended up sitting center stage, fourth row.  It was a very good performance with intriguing casting (Horatio and Polonius were female) and a fascinating set.  It was set in more modern times and although the final scene was done with the traditional rapiers, when Hamlet kills Polonius in Act 3, he uses a gun. The only disconcerting part of the evening was that the director re-arranged a few scenes (and cut Rosencrantz and Guildenstern).  Not a big issue but for someone who knows the play well, moving some of the speeches around is noticeable to say the least.  Anyway, I would highly recommend it.

What was the last thing you saw in a theatre (play, movie, musical, sing-a-long)?

Birthday Boy!

Today is the birthday of our dear leader Dale!

We’ve talked here over the years of the gift that Dale has given us by starting the blog and setting a tone that we all appreciate.  Now let’s make a list of what gifts we would like to give Dale.

Here’s a poem for Dale’s birthday – although not quite up to the standards of Poet Laureate Tyler Schuyler Wyler.

You’re honest,
decent, lovable,
and truly are first rate.
You’re charming,
and clearly pretty great…

You’re dignified,
gracious, sweet,
and kind.
You’ve got a lot
of talent
and a wit that’s
hard to find.

You’re cleaver, cool,
and clean up really nice.
You’re worldly wise,
and wonderful
and full of good advice.

You’re fun
and entertaining,
not to mention
very smart.
You’re altogether awesome
and you’ve got a lot of heart!

What gift would you give Dale?

What’s Up, Doc?

OK, so I missed International Rabbit Day by a few of Earth’s rotations. I discovered this when opening Saturday’s… Saturday’s  Who knew?

The following paragraph is from Wiki Wiki :  “Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha, found in several parts of the world. There are eight different genera in the family classified as rabbits, including the European rabbit, cottontail rabbits, and the Amami rabbit. There are many other species of rabbit, and these, along with pikas and hares, make up the order Lagomorpha. The male is called a buck and the female is a doe; a young rabbit is a kitten or kit.”

I got curious about the long-eared jumpers when I lived on the California coast, next to a vacant bunny-populated lot… loved watching them chase each other and jump in the air. I read half of The Secret Life of Rabbits by R.M. Lockley in the mid-70s (before leaving it on a plane); collected rabbit tchotchkes for a while; and still receive occasional rabbit gifts, most recently some beautiful note cards.

Some of my favorite rabbits are from children’s books – Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit books, of course, and Dubose Heywood’s The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. But even adult lit has come up with good rabbit tales – Watership Down lingo Watership Down lingo has stayed with me for decades – silflay, hruduru… and I loved the characters’ names – Bigwig, Fiver, Efrafa, Cowslip…

Take a gander at more of these rabbits in literature

Do you have any rabbit stories?

What’s your favorite literary animal?

Spoiler Alert

500 pages. Book discussion is Saturday so I thought I’d dig in tonight.  After two hours I realized I might finish it before I went to bed.  You know how this ends.  It’s midnight, I’m turning out lights and suddenly remembering I haven’t check on a blog bit for tomorrow!

What’s the last book you stayed up to finish?

Tomato Land

It’s all your fault that I have too many tomatoes. Six years ago I read Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook, based on somebody’s recommendation on the trail.  That made me want to grow my own tomatoes in the worst way.  That led me to straw bales which had led me to today; tomatoes are taking over my kitchen!

This past weekend I tried to make a dent. First I made salsa for the freezer (2 jars):

  • 4 cups diced, fresh tomatoes (Roma) – I didn’t peel them because I used an immersion blender after the salsa cooked down
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 chopped loco peppers – didn’t seed them so I could keep the heat
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2-1 Tbs. cayenne pepper
  • 4 Tbs. chopped cilantro

That didn’t make a big enough dent so then I made Tomato Veggie soup in the slow cooker:

  • 3 cups diced tomatoes – again left the skins on
  • 2 cup water
  • 1 ½ cupsw green beans, cut into bit-sizes
  • 1 cup diced potato
  • 1 cup diced turnit
  • 1 cup chopped cabbage
  • 4 Tbs. cooked onion (sautéed w/ the garlic)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ green pepper, diced
  • 2 bouillon cubes (I used vegetarian cubes)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Everything into the slow cooker, on low for about 8 hours.

Then today I came home and found another batch of ripe tomatoes on my vines. Help!

What do you like to do with excess garden produce?

Its Own Magazine

Turns out the Mississippi River has its own magazine. I have finally finished reading my latest issue of Big River, which covers news of the Mississippi River from Minneapolis, MN, down to Muscatine, Iowa. Its byline is “Covering the heart of the Driftless Area for 24 years,” although there is usually some news about the Twin Cities. (The Driftless area includes Hastings and Red Wing, as well as La Crosse and Prairie du Chien in Wisconsin, Dubuque and the Quad Cities in Iowa, Galena in Illinois.) It is published six times a year here in Winona.

I devour this magazine. First I read all the Big River News segments, which give updates on everything from the Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone to a new plastic pollution problem:  tiny plastic particles from people’s microfiber jackets. Besides environmental issues, these paragraphs cover items like a new bike rental system in Clinton, IA, and an expansion of the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. My favorite tells of a new happy hour in St. Paul – the Kellogg Park Craft Beer Overlook: 3 to 6 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays till mid-October. This September-October issue also has a special sidebar detailing and picturing which ditch weeds to NOT PICK because some part of them is poisonous (poison hemlock, giant hogweed, wild parsnip, and cow parsnip).

Feature articles range from “A Tale of Two Neighborhoods”, about North Mpls. and Northeast Mpls, to a short two-pager on kestrels. For the exploring traveler, an article details sights and places between La Crosse, WI to Winona, MN. Restaurant and book reviews are regular features, as are lots of glossy ads – I don’t mind because they are for things and places that interest me.

I just checked, and Big River is available at Minneapolis’ Central Library, but only for “in-house” use. I’ll bring some back copies next time I get to BBC (Blevins Book Club – see top left of this “page”, under Blogroll).

What river, anywhere in the world, would you like to explore?

What Were We Thinking

We have lived in our house for 29 years. During that time we reared two children, and coped with two Welsh Terriers, one Fox Terrier, and 4 cats.  It is a modest, ranch style house of about 1200 square feet with an attached garage. The basement is finished.

Over the years we have upgraded the kitchen and done some cosmetic flooring changes.  We made the house and yard functional for our needs without much thought about the future. Well, the future is upon us, and I feel daunted by the things we need to undo and change in order to sell the house when I retire in 4 years. My main thought as I survey the house and property is “What were we thinking?”

The terriers dig up and consume the asparagus? Put a fence with steel posts and hog panels around the asparagus bed. Who cares if it disturbs the flow of the yard space and makes the back yard ugly.  Don’t worry how you will remove the posts and haul away the hog panels when it is time to dismantle the fence.

Need more garden space? Just dig up the front yard and grow veggies there. Who cares that no one else in the region will appreciate that scheme and will want a grass covered front yard to mow.

Need book space? Just attach brackets and shelving to an entire wall in the basement family room.  Then fill all the shelves with books. Don’t worry one bit about what you will do with all the books, or the damage to the walls when the brackets are taken down.

Closet doors in the entry way don’t slide well and get the way when you want to access things stored there? Don’t hire a carpenter. Just remove the doors and store them in the furnace room for 20 years. During that time, cannibalize the door slider hardware from them to repair other closet doors. Now, figure out how to put the entry way closet doors back on and find replacement parts for the missing hardware.

I figure we are looking at remodels of two bathrooms, wall repair and new carpets in the basement, lots of yard restoration, and the help of a patient carpenter who can just bite his tongue and not judge. I am glad we have several years to put things to rights.

What have you done, or what trends have you followed, that made you say “What was I thinking?”

Wandering Thoughts

I heard Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition last night, and a convoluted trail of thoughts led me to Baba Yaga,  Jack and Jill magazine, Lloyd Alexander, and the first time I tried to buy a book by myself.

My mother subscribed to Jack and Jill magazine for me when I was a child in the 1960’s.  I was fascinated by the stories in the magazine about Baba Yaga, the Russian witch who flew around in a mortar and pestle, and who lived in a hut on chicken legs. Mussorgsky portrays the witch sailing fiendishly through the air in her mortar, and  the hut walking around just like I imagine such a hut to walk.

There was no book store in my home town, and Sioux Falls didn’t get one until I was a teenager.  My mom always let me buy books at school from Scholastic, Services and I took out as many books as I was allowed  from the public and school libraries.  I discovered a wonderful book series by Lloyd Alexander called The Prydain Chronicles one summer in the public library when I was in Grade 4. The stories are based on Welsh myth, and I was disappointed to find that the library was missing one book in the series.  The librarian told  me that she had no intention purchasing  it, either.  Without telling my mom, I found the name and address of the publisher (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston) from inside one of the books in the series that the library had, hand wrote a letter in my horrible handwriting asking about the price of the book, addressed and stamped the envelope, and mailed it off.  A couple of weeks later I received a very nice reply kindly letting me know the price, which was more money than I had at the time, and thanking me for my inquiry.  I dropped my search, and finally found the missing book a couple of years later in the book store that opened up in the first mall in Sioux Falls.

My love for Jack and Jill magazine prompted me to subscribe to it as well as Cricket magazine  for my son and daughter. We found Baba Yaga stories in Cricket, too.  Imagine my delight when I saw that Lloyd Alexander was one of the editors of Cricket. Both children loved The Prydain Chronicles, as well as other stories by Lloyd Alexander. Funny where listening to Mussorgsky will take you.

What magazines did your family subscribe to?

Shelf Life

As most of you know, my library account and I are in a special relationship. I try to keep the number of books I have checked out at any given time to under 20. I’m usually at my max allowed on my waiting list. I know my 16-digit library number by heart, my library card is on a cell phone app so I don’t need a separate card and of course I know all the hours that my local library is open.

I only buy about five books a year so that means I usually try every avenue to find a book when it comes to my attention. In addition to my regular account I also have an active interlibrary loan account. I even have the phone number of the gal who runs the ILL section of the Hennepin County system and have unbelievably talked her into extending the 3-week only loan allowance for an interlibrary selection.  Twice.

Obsessive is probably the word that is popping into most of your minds right now, but the library and I are very happy together.

Last week I picked up two ILL books that had come in and as I looked them over I realized that one had not been checked out since 1999 and the other hadn’t been checked out since 1988. For some reason this makes me very happy – I like to think I’m giving these books a little vacation from their regular shelf life.

What book would you like to go on vacation with?