The one good thing about Halloween

I hate Halloween. Orange and black are ugly colors. Costumes are expensive, uncomfortable to wear, and they (mostly) look stupid. All that sugar makes my kids unrecognizable. And what good is a holiday if it doesn't involve a great big festive meal with extended family?

Halloween has one redeeming thing. I hope you already know how to do this, but just in case, here's the recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds à la Bookworm:

1. When you're scooping out the insides of your jack-o-lantern, separate the seeds out. You might want to rinse them, but don't get too fanatic about it. Little bits of pumpkin left clinging to the seeds will come out crispy and delicious. Also, if you're not going to roast them right away, just put them in a bowl of water. They'll be fine on the kitchen counter for a few hours.

2. Liberally oil a cookie sheet or two, depending on how many seeds. Spread the seeds in a single layer on the sheet. Salt according to taste. (My taste: lots and lots, and preferably kosher.)

3. Bake at very low heat (250° F) for 45 minutes or so.

4. Eat while still hot.

And don't forget, you can do this with the seeds from any type of winter squash. Yum!

It's been a while

since I posted a cute kid photo. Here's little Imelda Marcos. And in case you're wondering what's on his mind these days you can read about it here.


Sad monster

I read the first story in the A.S. Byatt book. "The Thing in the Forest," it's called. The Thing turns out to be (this isn't a spoiler) essentially the Questing Beast out of Arthurian legend.

Do you remember the Questing Beast? In The Once and Future King there's an episode where King Pellinore (I think that's who it was) takes a break from the chase. The Beast gets lonely and comes looking for him, to get him to resume the chase.

The image of a lonely monster is so powerful. I think of the original Frankenstein, or even more pathetic, the short story by Ray Bradbury about a Loch Ness-type monster, the only one left of its kind, who mistakenly responds to a fog horn thinking it's a mating call.

Byatt doesn't talk about the monster's feelings in the story; it's all about these two little girls who see the monster, and how these girls' lives are forever altered because of it. I wish she had. I would have liked a little something from the monster's point of view.

Something literary

I've been thinking about A.S. Byatt recently. First, because Laura read Possession recently, and second, because at dinner the other day we had a great conversation with the kids about how best to phrase your wishes when you free a genie.

I didn't like Possession when I read it several years ago. I found it so . . . cold. I didn't care about any of the characters. I never felt engaged in it, never lost myself in it. I wondered if perhaps the author wrote it merely as a technical exercise.

On the other hand, I adored The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye. It's a collection of fabulous short stories (and I mean fabulous in the original sense: resembling fables). They truly are fairy tales for grownups, and they're luscious. Especially the wishes.

I didn't expect to like Djinn as much as I did. Aside from the fact that I didn't like Possession, I generally don't enjoy short stories as much as big, meaty novels. (Science fiction is a huge exception, but that's a subject for another post.) Why? What's the problem with short stories?

I have a theory. One of the problems I have with short stories, I think, is that unless it's the last story in the book, I don't know when it's going to end. With a novel, whether I think about it or not, I sense its overall structure by the size of the book, by the thickness of the stack of remaining pages. I know when I'm halfway through or almost there. When I watch a movie, I like to know in advance how long it is, and I often find myself checking the time not because I'm bored but because I need to know "where I am" in the story. Is this just because I'm an INTJ, or do you feel that way too?

Back to A.S. Byatt. Since I had equally strong but opposite feelings about the two I read, I thought I ought to give her one more try. I found her Little Black Book of Stories at the library the other day, and I'm giving it a try. I'm still in the middle of the first story, but so far so good. I'll report back when I've finished it.

Have you seen this?

I just spent twenty fascinated, horrified minutes perusing this site.

Giggle giggle

I found this at Purple Puzzle Place. Google your own name (real or username) plus the word needs, all in quotation marks. Here are some of the hits I got when I Googled "Julie needs".

Julie needs to work on her parenting.

Julie needs a team of committed people to pray for her.

Julie needs some real hands-on comforting as the anniversary of that first killing spree is drawing near.

Julie needs 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily.

Julie needs a kidney transplant (not so funny!).

Julie needs to show off her womanly frame.

Julie needs a diversion.

Julie needs to be taught a lesson.

Julie needs something special like a trip to the bathroom.

What obsolete skill are you?

I found this at Sylvia's.


You are "programming in QBASIC." This programming language (of which the acronym stands for "Quick Beginners' All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code"), which is so primitive that it cannot easily be used for any purpose involving the Internet nor even sound, was current more than a decade ago.

You are independent, in a good way. When something which you need cannot be found, you make it yourself. In writing and in talking with people, you value clarity and precision; your friends may not realize how important that is. When necessary, you are prepared to be a mediator in conflicts between your friends. You are very rational, and you think of things in terms of logic and common sense. Unfortunately, your emotionally unstable friends may be put off by your devotion to logic; they may even accuse you of pedantry and insensitivity. Your problem is that programming in QBASIC has been obsolete for a long time.

What obsolete skill are you?
brought to you by Quizilla


I have more than half a mind to switch to some other blogging platform. Recommendations, anyone? I've recreated my template, and yes, this time I will back it up. Jeez.

So anyway, two different people tagged me with the same meme: list five of your idiosyncrasies. Ok. Here goes.

1. I went to law school. (Ha ha, that was supposed to be funny.)

2. I can happily eat an entire jar of olives, including drinking the juice, in one sitting. However, I prefer the super-salty, slightly bitter, oil-cured ones: the only reason for shopping at Whole Foods.

3. I have a crush on the entire country of Canada.

4. I play Dungeons & Dragons with my family.

5. I have spent many pleasant hours practicing writing with my non-preferred hand.

All right, I hereby tag doulicia for this one, heh heh, along with anyone else who would like to be tagged.


Not only has it been forever since I checked in with the blogosphere, but apparently it's been forever since the blogosphere (Blogger, I mean) has checked in with me. I just now discovered that during the time that I had no template I also received no notification of any comments that were left in the last week. They all flooded my in-box just now. I will respond as soon as I can.


I feel like it's been forever since I last checked in with the blogosphere. I feel out of the loop and honestly, I wish no one would ever post more than twice a week. It's so hard to catch up.

Not only that, but Blogger ate my beautiful template, so as a quick-fix I installed one made by somebody else (gulp!). I don't even have anything to say, except that I've been really busy and will continue to be really busy for the next few days. So I guess I'll just treat y'all to some random thoughts.

* * *

Why is the d**n dog shedding so much right now? Aren't they supposed to do that in the spring? You would not believe how disgusting my house is. And if it's so disgusting that even I am disgusted, that is indeed disgusting. I have a very high tolerance for filth and grime. I learned it from my mom, whose non-housekeeping footsteps I've faithfully followed. (Though, INTJ that I am, my filthy house is extremely well-organized.)

* * *

And while we're on the topic of animals, guess what's outside by our back porch? (Hint: we have two cats who both go outside.) Yep, the hind legs and tail of a chipmunk -- in one piece.

* * *

And a cute kid anecdote. Lena's backpack bit the dust so we picked out a new one this afternoon:

Lena: Mom, will my new backpack last longer than the old one?

Me: Probably not.

Lena: How do you know?

Me: Well, it's pretty cheaply made. [Purchased at Meijer on sale for $9.99. Pink. My Little Pony.]

Lena: How do you know?

Me: Oh, I can just tell.

Lena: How can you tell?

Me: [launches into a boring description involving cheap fabric, style, place of purchase, etc.]

Lena: [triumphantly] It's a mother's instinct!

* * *

Tonight I'm going to the library to hear Elizabeth Kostova talk about The Historian. I can hardly wait!

In a few days my current project will be all over and then I'll be at leisure to reinstall my template and blogroll and post a report on Ms. Kostova.

I tried it, and by gum, it works.

That's the 5th sentence of my 23rd post: the 23.5 meme, brought to you by Sylvia, my blogodoppelgänger. My 23rd post was about raw cookie dough, and the thing that works (by gum!) is substituting soy flour for eggs.

This is entirely apropos of this totally stupid book I'm reading right now, French Women Don't Get Fat. Like I'm really gonna whip up an asparagus flan or a celery root rémoulade to serve my kids for dinner. Like I'm really gonna start sitting down to eat breakfast. You know, breakfast on fine china with a fresh white linen napkin. I haven't eaten breakfast sitting down in years.

Actually, the book's premise makes a lot of sense. Eat delicious, fresh, flavorful, homemade food. Whatever you want. You won't mind the smaller portions because the food tastes so interesting. You'll be satisfied with less.

But the book is totally annoying. Not just because it prescribes a totally unrealistic lifestyle (at least, for me) but because of the way it's written. For one thing, it's unnecessarily full of French phrases, such as: "I still needed to me remuer (move my butt)." What's the point of that? To remind us she's French? The whole book is about French women. We already know she's French.

Which brings me to my second criticism. Apparently all French women are alike. And all French women are incredible. Did you know that "[j]ust as French women have an uncanny knack for using the same scarf to create a different effect by draping it over the head, neck, shoulders, or waist, in the kitchen they master a few basic preparations and leave the rest to improvisation . . . " Yadda, yadda. Or how about this? "French women live on budgets, too, but they also understand the value of quality over quantity." Well, excuuuuuuuuse me!

Think I'll go whip up a batch of cookie dough.


Last night I dreamed I was visiting Interlochen. Ah, Interlochen, land of the stately pines!

If you click on the link you'll see the web page about Interlochen Arts Camp. They've made a lot of changes since I was a camper there. Back in my day (25 years ago!) it was called National Music Camp, there was just one eight-week session (not nearly long enough), the uniform was strictly enforced, and there was still a Gilbert & Sullivan in the sixth week.

I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that Interlochen was what kept me from ending up like Holden Caulfield. Do you know what? At Interlochen it was cool to be smart and talented! I don't know how to say this without sounding immodest, but if at age 13 you were called "brain" and "teacher's pet" and felt vaguely embarrassed about being first chair in band, you can imagine how it felt to be surrounded by brains and teachers' pets and first chairs.

ANYWAY, (and here's the real point of this post) in my dream last night I was visiting Interlochen. I dreamed that they had added a rock 'n roll program and Pete Townshend was giving a master class. I snuck in to watch and made actual eye contact with Pete before I got kicked out because I wasn't registered for the class. All during this incident I was thinking how amazing it was that I was seeing Pete Townshend in the flesh and I couldn't wait to blog about it. Yes, that's right. In my dream, while it was happening, I couldn't wait to blog about it!

When I woke up I immediately thought of Fred's hilarious post about blogging addiction. This anecdote demonstrates two more symptoms: 1) thinking about blogging about an event while the event is occurring; and 2) dreaming about my blog.

Anyone else dream about their blog?

A banned book

Well, I really wanted to read a banned book, but it was late at night and the library was closed. So I had to look around the house to find a banned book that we already owned. Besides Captain Underpants, that is. Finally I found one: Catcher in the Rye. So here I am, rereading it for the first time since, what, tenth grade English.

The book I'm reading has one thing going for it, for sure. My copy is a hardcover Modern Library Edition, with the original dust jacket from 1951. I just love those old Modern Library books. Despite being hardcover, they open so flat. The paper feels lovely: smooth and substantial. The font, whatever it is, is so easy to read, and the perfect size. The margins aren't really wide enough, but that's okay because it opens so flat. All in all, pure joy to hold in your hands.

* * *
My parents have friends whose daughter is about seven or eight years older than me. When I was a kid I adored this older girl like you wouldn't believe. She was absolutely mesmerizing as well as hilarious, and really good with young kids. She would have made a fabulous elementary school teacher. When she was a freshman at U of M she invited the pre-teen Bookworm to spend the night in her dorm. I think it was little sisters' weekend or something, and why she invited me rather than her little sister I don't recall. Anyway, I got to spend the night in the dorm -- Pure Heaven -- and what I remember so vividly is her asking me if I'd ever read Catcher in the Rye. I'd never even heard of it, so she read the first chapter out loud to me. Read it out loud! Read it to me while I was lying in my sleeping bag on her dorm room floor. I do not usually like to be read to; I'd rather read it to myself, thanks. But when Cool Older Girl was doing the reading, well, that was a whole nother story and I listened avidly. I didn't think it was quite as great as she obviously thought it was, but I did finish it when I got home. (Strangely enough, my parents had this lovely Modern Library edition . . . )

* * *
When I was in college I went through a Franny and Zooey phase. I bet I'm not the only one out there who, at age 19 or thereabouts, thought it was the greatest novel ever written. I bet I'm not even the only one out there who emulated Zooey by taping bits of Sappho and Epictetus onto my wall. Here's a Sappho fragment that's still very dear to my heart, though Franny & Zooey is long gone:

We shall enjoy it

As for him who finds fault,
May silliness
and sorrow take him!

I'm sure Cool Older Girl, who's now a psychotherapist and the mother of two young children, isn't a big fan of Catcher in the Rye any more, either.

* * *
On the other hand, as precious and sophomoric as Catcher seems to me now, the banned aspect is giving me food for thought. I'm surprised at how much Holden talks about sex. My recollection of the book was that it had a bunch of goddams sprinkled liberally throughout, and towards the end you come across the f-word a couple of times. But now I'm finding all this stuff about knockers and flitty guys and going all the way. Now isn't that interesting? I didn't remember any of that! I'm sure that's because -- whooosh! -- it went straight over my head when I read it back then. Straight over my goddam head.