Time for another round of Darwin’s Immediate Book Meme! The Darwins (who are not responsible for the terrible image at the top. I’m responsible for it. I alone) say:
There are plenty of memes that want to know all about your book history and your all-time greats and your grand ambitions, but let’s focus on something more revealing: the books you’re actually reading now, or just read, or are about to read. Let’s call it The Immediate Book Meme.
This is one of the books I agreed to read in our almost-successful summer book swap. It’s a dystopian YA novel (I know. WHERE DID I EVER FIND SUCH A THING?). The author’s vocabulary has an oddly stunted, juvenile quality to it, but the way the story unfolds is pretty skillful, and the plot is a pretty good adventure. The action takes place in Opium, a country that runs between the US and the former Mexico, where super-wealthy drug lords control the lives of everyone else, even putting brain implants on some, to make them pliant, witless slaves, and making clones of themselves to use as ever-ready organ donors. But . . . dun dun dun . . . one clone is different. Not bad at all, and unexpectedly Catholic in its ideas and also explicitly in the plot, in places.
I’m also in the middle — well, “middle,” but really about 3/4 of an inch in, and the thing is about seven inches thick — of War and Peace.
In a reverse from last time I read this book, I’m finding the “war” part much more compelling than the “peace” part; and I’m finding Tolstoy much snippier than I may be able to handle for the whole seven inches.
Nothing at the moment, sadly. We’re still adjusting to the school schedule, and we’re doing well if we get to bed half an hour later than we meant to, so read-alouds aren’t happening now. I’d like to read Out Of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis
to the middle and older kids, and probably a Narnia book to the younger kids.
Here’s a book I avoided my whole life, because something something Oprah something, bestseller ptui ptui. You know: Lit major reasons. Well, my older girls assigned it to me, and it’s great. It’s great! It’s miraculously light on agenda and heavy on well-conceived characters, searingly memorable scenes, and a beautiful melancholy that stays with you (because you needed that). Each chapter could stand alone as a well-crafted short story. It’s not Dostoevsky, but it’s worth your time.
Another Summer Reading Swap assignment, and what a slog. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever read, but, on the other hand, it stinks.It’s written by someone who enjoys reading quirky, fascinating, fantastical story about scrappy kids solving mysteries. There’s a good story in there, but it needs to be edited, and then that editor needs to quit because she wanted to be with her boyfriend in Scottsdale, and then another editor needs to take over, rename the publishing house, cut about 40% out of this particular novel and replace it with something that makes some sense, and then buy everyone new office chairs.
My chapter deals with the word “embrace,” and while I did regretfully excise the passage where I compare Francis to the Sta Puft Marshmallow Man, I attempt to answer the thorny question: Does our pope really think huggy togetherness is an adequate substitute for orthodoxy? I try to answer the question sincerely, based on his writing and his actions, and from the perspective of someone who is sometimes frustrated by his approach.
This book has an impressive line-up of fifty illustrious contributors who each
explore the Pope’s use of words like joy, clericalism, money, family, and tears. Together, they reveal what Francis’s use of these words says about him, his ministry and priorities, and their significance to the church, the world, and the lives of individual Christians. The entire collection is introduced by a foreword by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians worldwide, and a preface by one of Francis’s closest advisors, Cardinal Seán O’Malley.
Here’s a full list of the chapter themes and contributors:
Volume foreword Patriarch Bartholomew
Volume preface Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap
Baptism Cardinal Donald Wuerl
Benedict XVI David Gibson
Capitalism Bishop Robert McElroy
Careerism Cardinal Joseph Tobin, C.Ss.R.
Church Elizabeth Bruenig
Clerical abuse Francis Sullivan
Clericalism Archbishop Paul-André Durocher
Collegiality Archbishop Mark Coleridge
Conscience Austen Ivereigh
Creation Orthodox Fr. John Chryssavgis
Curia Massimo Faggioli
Dialogue Archbishop Roberto González Nieves, OFM
Dignity Tina Beattie
Discernment Fr. James Martin, SJ
Devil/Satan Greg Hillis
Ecumenism Nontando Hadebe
Embrace Simcha Fisher
Encounter/Encuentro Archbishop Victor Fernández
Episcopal Accountability Katie Grimes
Family Julie Hanlon Rubio
Field Hospital Cardinal Blase Cupich
Flesh Msgr. Dario Viganò
Gossip Kaya Oakes
Grandparents Bill Dodds
Hacer lio Fr. Manuel Dorantes
Hope Natalia Imperatori-Lee
Immigrant Sr. Norma Seni Pimentel, MJ
Indifference Sr. Carmen Sammut, MSOLA
Jesus Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, SJ
Joy Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, OP
Judgment Michael O’Loughlin
Justice Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS
Leadership Kerry Robinson
Legalism Sr. Teresa Forcades i Vila, OSB
Martyrdom Bishop Borys Gudziak
Mercy Archbishop Donald Bolen
Miracles John Thavis
Money Andrea Tornielli
Periphery Carolyn Woo
Prayer Bishop Daniel Flores
Reform Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, SDB
Refugee Rhonda Miska
Second Vatican Council Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
Service Phyllis Zagano
Sheep Archbishop Justin Welby
Sourpuss Fr James Corkery, SJ
St. Francis Fr. Michael Perry, OFM
Tears Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle
Throwaway culture Sr. Pat Farrell, OSF
Worldliness Mollie Wilson O’Reilly
Women Astrid Gajiwala
Youth Jordan Denari Duffner
Speaking of books, have I mentioned lately that I have a book of my own, and that I’ve contributed chapters to two other books besides A Pope Francis Lexicon? Here they are:
Some of the most popular chapters have proven to be “The Golden Box,” which deals with how our decisions work with God’s will, in matters of family planning and in general; and “Groping Toward Chastity,” a title which, if there were any justice in the world, would have won me a Nobel Prize in literature.
My chapter, “Mirrors Around a Flame,” explores the idea that children are a gift. This book kind of got lost in the shuffle while there were some logistical issues, but it includes many excellent essays, including Jenny Uebbing’s great chapter on NFP.
As always, the links above are Amazon Associate links. If you buy these books using the links I provide (or if you buy anything on Amazon after getting to the site through one of my links), I earn a small percentage of each sale. Anytime you shop on Amazon, please consider using my link!
Sometimes people tell me they’re not sure if it’s “working” or not. Thanks for asking! It should look like a normal Amazon page when you click through. If you look up in the URL or address box at the top of the screen, it should have a long string of letters and symbols after Amazon.com, including “ihavtositdo03-20” somewhere in there. That’s me! Here’s a sample of what it will look like when you shop on Amazon using my link:
I also now have accounts with Amazon Canada and Amazon UK, hooray! Thanks so much. I know it’s one more thing to think about.
No, literally. The cashier at Aldi had a dream about me. (I turn up there three times a week, each time with a different child, and I fill two carts on Saturdays.) This is what happens when you come to Represent Something to strangers. I told her I would try to behave myself next time I haunted her subconscious, and then I gathered up my cut rate hummus and sauntered away. Then I came back to get my quarter.
SATURDAY Muffaletta sandwiches, fries
Muffaletta sandwiches are something I’ve wanted to try forever. And very good they were, muffaletta sandwiches! I guess this sandwich originates from the Italian quarter of New Orleans or something (how many quarters does that place have, anyway), and “muffaletta” can refer either to the special bread, or to the sandwich itself.
Our version was made of ciabatta rolls with olive salad, sweet capicola, prosciutto, ham, and provolone. The olive salad was made of a jar each of green and black olives, about a quarter of a cup of capers, and a jar of giardiniera salad (pickled carrots, hot peppers, cauliflower, and little onions), drained and chopped up together.
I wish I had gotten a pic of just the olive salad, because it was awfully festive-looking.
You’re supposed to toast the bread, or wrap the sandwich in foil and bake the whole thing, but we were starving, so we just wolfed it down.
It was a little pricey because I went to an Actual Deli for the meat, but a nice treat. I also think recipe pages are a little bit insane when they show how much meat goes on a sandwich. It’s always, like, seven-and-a-half solid inches of ham, and then you start in with the cheese. I like sandwiches, but I like having the use of my legs after dinner, too.
Birthday! Our newest ten-year-old requested meatless lasagna. Lasagna is my least favorite thing to make. It’s just such a pain in the neck, and I burn my fingers and wreck the whole kitchen. But it was good, if sloppy and soupy. I just used the basic recipe on the side of the noodle box.
I added basil from the garden to the ricotta for the very first harvest this year. Our growing season is so ridiculously short, and it’s been a very cool summer, so there’s not much to show. Also, string beans don’t scream and hang onto my pants legs, so I tend to forget I have a garden.
Not that you asked, but we have tomatoes, basil, cabbage, jalapeno, eggplant, string beans, rainbow carrots, pumpkins, and broccoli. And a lot of weeds. And not enough watering. Thank goodness for rain.
My window boxes turned out a little scruffy this year, too.
That hemp liner looks like I feel. Aieeee!
But check out these weird tomatoes! They’re supposed to be dark like that.
They’re less blurry in real life. Anyway, no varmints have been eating the garden this year, except for bugs. I made a fence out of an upside-down trampoline frame (we had an extra, okay? I don’t want to talk about it), chicken wire, and some zip ties. Woodchucks are supposed to be able to dig under fences, but I guess ours isn’t that ambitious.
MONDAY English muffin pizzas
Wherever I was, I wasn’t home for supper. One of the kids made pizzas. There were two (as in two halves) left over when I got back, so I inhaled them, and then I ate all the leftover ice cream. And justice was restored to the world.
TUESDAY Pulled pork, risotto, peas
It was murderously hot and humid, so I set the slow cooker to work making pulled pork in the steambath kitchen, and brought the Instant Pot (affiliate link) into the air conditioned dining room to make the risotto. The peas, we just ate frozen, which my kids prefer.
The pulled pork had a good flavor, but I started it too late, so it was kind of tough. I put a half pork loin into the pot with a can of beer, plenty of salt, pepper, and chili powder, about six sliced garlic cloves, and a quartered onion. It tasted as good as it smelled, which is not always a given!
I used this recipe for the risotto, minus the squash. I tripled it and lost track of how many cups of broth, so it was a little dry, but still tasty. Not a meal worth taking a picture of, though.
WEDNESDAY Roasted kielbasa, cabbage, and potato with mustard vinaigrette
A very fine summer meal, great with cheap beer, magnificent after going for a run in the evening, swimming in the pond in the rain with your husband, and then eating a late dinner while watching TV. It’s like Platonic ideal of a hot dog with sauerkraut and fries. I used three packages of kielbasa (I think they are 14 oz. each), about six pounds of small potatoes, and a large cabbage, and I made a quadruple recipe of the dressing.
The color’s off in this picture. It’s prettier in real life, and looks less like an illustration from a cheap textbook covering the post-war years of Cabbagopolis.
Or, as I see it, almost enough garlic bread for me.
THURSDAY Chicken burgers, chips
I had string beans, but they went bad. Soon, soon, we will have string beans from the garden! Well, in a few weeks. Stupid slow garden.
FRIDAY Day trip! We’re headed out and will probably grab pizza somewhere.
Oh, Amazon announcement! I now have Amazon Associate accounts that will work for Canada and the UK! For Canada: Amazon.ca and for the UK: Amazon.co.uk.
I’d be so grateful if you’d bookmark these pages and use them anytime you shop on Amazon. This makes up a significant part of our income. Thank you!
As you read this, we’re on our second day of camping. One game we’re bringing with us (because we camp in yurts. Yurt with tables. Daily life is rustic enough without getting tents involved, thanks) is Mysterium (Amazon Associates link), which my 15-year-old son got for his birthday.
But first: It’s Amazon Prime Day! If you’re scooping up some deals on Amazon today or any day, please please consider using my link! (My link is also always at the top of my home page, and on my Facebook page.) I make a commission from sales made through my link, and this makes up a significant part of my family’s income.
I also earn a bounty if you sign up for Amazon Prime. You can get a free 30-day trial, which gives you access to free, fast shipping on many items, special prices on many items (especially today!), free streaming of many excellent (and many terrible) movies and shows, free music streaming and photo storage, free Kindle books, savings on subscriptions, and a ton of other stuff — pretty much everything you could possibly need in life except for love, sex, God, and gin. And warm bread.
It’s a little pricey, but tons of fun, beautifully designed, and sturdy. It’s sort of like Clue, in that you have to make educated guesses about murder suspects, the crime scene, and the weapon — except in Mysterium, you’re helping the dead victim remember who his murderer is. You get clues from a ghost, who can’t remember much about his own murder, and who can only communicate with you for a short time (there is a sand timer involved, and each round moves a clock ahead an hour until your time is up).
The ghost (who sets the game up ahead of time, and who controls the play, sort of like a dungeonmaster) can’t speak except in knocks, so he deals out “vision cards” to the players, who act as mediums, cooperating to solve the mystery.
The catch is, these vision cards are deliberately baffling and subjective, and the players must use their imagination and intuition to figure out which information is important and which is just atmospheric red herrings.
They can also agree or disagree (using “clairvoyance tokens”) with the other players’ guesses, and they advance in play if they agree with guesses that turn out correct.
It’s a cooperative game, all-win or all-lose.
If all the mediums correctly guess the correct suspects, location, and weapon before time runs out, they all advance to the climactic final round. If not, the ghost despairs and fades away without revealing the final clues to his murder.
The game itself is gorgeous, very artfully crafted with clever and entertaining details. (These rather blurry photos don’t convey all the detail and vividness of the actual game components, which are printed on thick, glossy board.)
The pawns are crystal balls, and the play surface, a spectral mansion, is constructed in bits as the play proceeds. A skilled “ghost” can add to the thrills and suspense by hamming it up and adding drama and tension to the play
(for instance, by cawing eerily as he removes the cardboard crows that perch on the wall to signify vision cards that must be discarded).
Since the vision cards are intentionally dreamlike and subjective, you can replay the game many times in different ways
(and, of course, there are expansion packs). You can even download an app which plays unnerving background music to the game, to increase the sense of urgency and unease.
(For the nervous parent: The game deals with ghosts and creepy things, but it’s not occult or demonic, just spooky. Sensitive children might be frightened by the spookiness, but it doesn’t actually show gore or death. It’s more like Edward Gorey meets surrealism.)
You can play with two to seven players. We played last night with two adults and kids ages 16, 15, 12, 10, and 8. You could easily allow a younger child to play as your partner and help you figure out visions — which might even be actually helpful, since overthinking can be an impediment.
The game took about an hour from start to finish, including setup time. It would make a good party game, because players can get the hang of it pretty quickly, as long as one person is already familiar with the rules and is motivated to do the prep work as the ghost. I, frankly, would not be able to juggle enough ideas at one time to be an effective ghost, but some of my kids are great in this role.
And now another reminder that today is Amazon Prime Day.Do use my link! Thanks so much!
Easter is April 14th 16th. I know, because I have Googled it eleven times in the last week people on Facebook told me so after I got it wrong after Googling it eleven times. That means if you have Amazon Prime, you can still order a nice Easter book for your kids, and it will get here in time.
“The story opens with three trees on a hilltop; one longs to be made into a dazzling treasure chest for diamonds and gold, the second wants to be a mighty sailing ship that would carry kings across the ocean, and the third simply wants to remain on the hilltop to grow so tall that when people see her, they will think of heaven. As woodcutters fell each tree, we find that although at first they cannot understand why their dreams weren’t fulfilled in the way they wanted, God used them for much greater purposes than they could ever dream.”
Wildsmith’s own passion for the story of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection is unmistakable in his glorious, metallic-gold-hued illustrations, which tell the story more vividly than words ever could. In fact, to his credit, Wildsmith adapts the story of Jesus’s last days in as simple and straightforward a manner as possible, allowing young readers to glean the substance from the paintings, symbolism, and, most likely, discussion with grownups who may be reading along.
The donkey’s-eye-view of the events allows a slightly different perspective from the standard, without being overly intrusive as a literary device. Lush jewel tones capture the richness of the narrative, and mesh in a strangely beautiful way with the simple paintings of Jesus, the angels, Mary Magdalene, and others in the biblical cast of characters. The Easter Story will make a gorgeous addition to any Easter basket. (Ages 5 and older)
So difficult to choose just one or two by Maïte Roche. I can’t find a reasonably priced edition of My First Pictures of Easter, which I recommend heartily, so keep an eye out! It’s a treasure.
You will also love MY FIRST PICTURES OF JESUS, a sturdy little board book with captivating illustrations for little ones to pore over. This book is arranged with lots of pictures and only a few words, to inspire your own conversations with kids.
Another lovely offering from Roche: MY FIRST PRAYERS WITH MARY. Here’s one of my favorite illustrations from this book: Mary teaching baby Jesus to walk
It includes several short, simple prayers to Mary, with large, bright pictures of Mary, Jesus, and Joseph, accompanied by smaller pictures of modern children on the facing pages. The faces are very inviting.
A departure from dePaola’s familiar Renaissance-inspired, style:
From the reviews:
“This joyous book sings thanks and praise for everything in land, sea, and sky-from the sun and moon to plants and animals to all people, young and old. Beloved author-illustrator Tomie dePaola captures the beauty of God’s creation in his folk art-style illustrations. With text inspired by Old Testament Scripture and artwork fashioned after the beautiful embroideries and designs of the Otomi people from the mountain villages around San Pablito, in Puebla, Mexico, this is a wonderful celebration for all to share.”
Illustrations in the style of my man Bruegel! This is on my wish list. From the reviews:
“[A] young donkey named Bethlehem and the interaction he has with Jesus beginning the Messiah’s birth and proceeding through the flight into Egypt, the baptism by John, the wedding feast at Cana, the events of the Last Supper, and finally with the Jesus’ crucifixion at the hands of the Roman authorities.” Christ appears somewhere on each page.
I was skeptical, and boy do I want to be careful showing my kids any moving, speaking representation of Christ. This is not perfect, but it’s good, and powerful. Hope to rewatch soon and provide a more detailed review.
Maybe you’re wondering what is the big deal about the Instant Pot. Is it really so great? Why does everyone go so cuckoo over it? Should I be worried that my spouse has bought a pair of spotless doves and is sharpening a knife?
And why does Simcha insist on making these embarrassingly chimpy images with very primitive software and a crying toddler on her lap?
I have the answer. To the first question, not the second.
It’s because of risotto.
Risotto, risotto, risotto. I love risotto with my whole heart, but it is a pain in the neck to make. Hovering over the pan, stirring, adding in a little broth, stirring, waiting, simmering, waiting, stirring, adding some more broth, stirring, waiting, and it smells divine, but your entire life is passing you by while you wait for it to be done.
In the Instant Pot, it’s easy. Truly easy, and fast. And it tastes just as good as the difficult kind. This, in itself, is a reason to own an Instant Pot. All the other stuff is bonus. Now you know!
I’m gonna come right out and tell you: we rely on Amazon for our car payments. My husband has a 1.3-hour commute, and absolutely needs a reliable car. So! Please use my links, so my husband doesn’t have to drive to work in the Instant Pot. It’s good, but it’s not that good.
And now, back to risotto.
Last Friday, we had tuna fish patties and butternut squash risotto. I used this butternut squash risotto recipe from Good Housekeeping. I used onions instead of shallots, ground sage instead of fresh, and regular old white rice instead of arborio. It was fabulous. Creamy but not mushy and packed with flavor. Amazing.
I spent a good half hour wandering around the house, taking people by the shoulders, holding them with my glittering eye and quothing at them, “Do you even realize the possibilities?” Risotto with fresh tomatoes. Risotto with bacon. Risotto with scallops or garlicky shrimp. Risotto with asparagus and gorgonzola. Risotto with lemon, mint, and peas. Risotto with hazelnuts. Risotto with saffron and fennel. I don’t even know what fennel is! But I will!
The other reason for having an Instant Pot is because venting the steam is fun. Some days, it is the most fun you will have all day.
SATURDAY Hamburgers, chips
Cousins over again. They responded very positively, with shrieking, to the idea of hamburgers and chips. So let it be written; so let it be done. I had planned sweet peppers and hummus, but there were just too many runny noses and double dippers in the population, so, in the interest of good health, we skipped the veg.
SUNDAY Chicken cutlets with basil; mushroom risotto; salad
Farewell to cousins and hello to my parents. Here is my niece with one of her favorite playthings: My father’s beard.
Damien made one of his absolute most magnificent dishes, the late lamented Deadspin’s chicken cutlets. You pound the chicken flat, bread it (Damien used panko crumbs), fry it (Damien used olive oil and butter), then top it with a fresh basil leaf and a slice of cheese (Damien used mozzarella, but provolone is great, too), and ladle some homemade tomato sauce over that.
This meal makes me go absolutely insane. It’s so good, you can’t imagine. As I ate it, I thought of starving people in the third world and then thought, “TOO BAD.” With these chicken cutlets, you could — dare I say it? Rule the world.
Also, I had some mushroom left over from last week, when I accidentally didn’t make soup. So I went with this mushroom risotto recipe from This Old Gal. This Old Gal discourages using plain old regular mushrooms, but I did it anyway, and it was good. I didn’t have fennel or parsley, so I went with sage again, and really peppered it up. Completely delicious.
MONDAY Leftovers with spaghetti
Damien had made 38 chicken cutlets, so we put the leftovers in a pan, spread the rest of the sauce over it, added a layer of sliced cheese, and warmed it up in the oven, then served it on spaghetti.
There was no leftover risotto because I devoured it for lunch.
I feel like there was salad.
TUESDAY Korean beef bowl; rice; steambed broccoli and cauliflower
I just noticed that I wrote “steambed” instead of “steamed,” but I think the “b” expresses how lightly I didn’t steam them.
It’s so easy, and it’s just spicy enough to be warming and comforting, without assailing your mouth. Wonderful use for ground beef. Also a wonderful use for immortal zombie scallions, if you happen to have any haunting your kitchen.
Oh, I thought of another advantage for the Instant Pot. InstantPot.com has plenty of useful, simple recipes, like the rice one above. It also has a slew of completely bonkers recipes that were apparently written by a malicious robot who flunked out of ESL. Here is one of my current favorites: Beer Potato Fish!
“The Beer Potato Fish would be a challenge for a non-professional cooker,” it muses, shaking its head in empathy for the old, dark days so tragically rife with amateurish attempts at beer potato fish, “But it is now a different story with Instant Pot Programmable Pressure Cooker.”
It calls for a pound of fish, some oyster flavored sauce, a cup of beer, and a tablespoon of rock candy. Doesn’t that sound tasty? It also instructs you to push the fish button, which does not exist. I suppose someone is making money off this in some way, and I kind of feel like they deserve it.
The Instant Pot had acquitted itself so well this week, I thought maybe I’d try one of the many, many pork rib recipes that are available. But then I remembered that I could also sit on the couch and tell my son how to some pork ribs in a 450 oven on a roasting rack with a little salt and pepper, and I knew they would be scrumptious. And so I did, and so they were.
If there’s a better way to prepare pork ribs, I just don’t care.
I also considered making Instant Pot mashed potatoes, but the recipes all looked more complicated than stovetop recipes. So I just went ahead and boiled them in a non-instant pot and mashed them. I left the skin on, which I almost never do. To me, this adds excitement and piquancy. To others, it’s like hanging around with that weirdo who keeps on harping on the idea that, in many regions, apple cores, corn cobs, and chicken bones are considered a delicacy.
The vegetables were that good old supermarket blend of frozen peas, carrots, corn, string beans, and lima beans. This makes me feel six years old, in a good way.
THURSDAY English muffin pizzas
Since our bishop has given us a St. Patrick’s Day dispensation to eat meat on Friday, we did our meatless meal on Thursday. Except I forgot, and had leftover Korean beef bowl for lunch. For my penance, I had massive heartburn all night, and dreamt I was endlessly editing and re-editing a blog post about best and worst dresses of the Oscars; only I had to do it on taped-together paper with sidewalk chalk and then take photos of it with a Kodak disc film camera.
So, I am all caught up on Lent.
FRIDAY Corned beef boiled dinner; Dublin coddle
So, St. Patrick is, like, the second-tier patron of our regional arch-diacistry, or something; and my husband is tremendously Irish, so we prayerfully discerned that have no choice but to eat three different kinds of meat today.
The kids love boiled dinner, so I’ll be cooking up some corned beef with red potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and adorable little onions, and serving it with gobs of mustard, as St. Patrick himself did. It’s how he drove the snakes away.
A little housekeeping today. Ha ha, no, not in my actual house. That’s crazy talk. Just blog housekeeping.
LINGERING SERVER ERRORS A little over a week ago, I switched to a self-hosted (well, brother-hosted) server, to gain more control over this site. In the process, whacky things happened, and not everyone could access my blog. If you’re still having trouble getting to the site, please add a “www” before simchafisher.com, or if there is an https in the URL, try taking out the “s.” These issues should be just about ironed out, but it may take another day or so. You may need to update your bookmark. Sorry about that! Thanks so much for your patience. The internet is tubes. The internet is tubes.
EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS I seem to have lost all my email subscribers in the migration. Boooo! If you want to get an email every time I post, you will have to resubscribe, using the form on the right sidebar. I miss you! I want you back!
PODCAST The weekly podcast continues apace, whatever that means. Starting yesterday, I’ve switched from Soundbutt to an integrated WordPress media player, so you can listen right from this site, and you can now download the podcast to hear later. The podcast is open to lovely subscribers who have pledged their support through Patreon, which is how I’m currently funding this blog. It’s fun! You should come along!
FEED The feed is a mess. Just a mess. It is on my list!
OTHER WAYS TO KEEP IN TOUCH Every post I write goes on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Tumblr, so you can follow all my nonsense in any of those spots. I have a personal Facebook page, where I post photos and all the silly stuff one posts on social media, as well as all my blog post. My personal page is maxed out on friend requests, but you can still “follow” me. I also have a professional page, which only shows blogs posts, which you can “follow” and “like” to keep updated.
EMAIL I am approximately seventy-three years behind in my emails. I am sorry. I read everything I get, and if you asked for prayer, I definitely prayed. I am working my way through the backlog. Please don’t take it personally! If it’s urgent, it couldn’t hurt to email again.
SPEAKING I am still scheduling speaking engagements for 2017! Shoot me an email at simchafisher[at]gmail[dot]com and let’s make some plans. For you, I’ll even wear heels. Here are a few popular recent talks:
YourFamily Is an Icon How your family as it is right now is an icon, a beautiful and powerful evangelical tool to bring people closer to God, because of its imperfections, not despite them.
Beautiful Stranger: Making Contact with the Mother of God One terrible year, I was forced to get past my silly ideas about Mary and finally get to know her — and let her help me.
Swimming in the Dark: Spreading the Good News When You’re Feeling So Bad Pope Francis has made it clear that evangelization is an obligation, not an option. But what if we’re not feeling joyful right now? Do we still have to put ourselves out there?
AMAZON As long as I’m mentioning All The Things, have I reminded you lately that you can help my family out a ton by using my link when you shop on Amazon? I’ll have a sidebar button soon. In the meantime, please consider bookmarking this as your Amazon page. It will be exactly the same shopping experience as usual for you, but I will earn a percentage of every sale. This helps us pay very important bills! Thanks!
NO END OF STILTON CHEESE 10 PRINT “STILTON CHEESE”
20 GOTO 10
Here, now, is the B list: shows my kids enjoy, which don’t make my gnash my teeth with guilt. But I won’t sit and watch it, not with both eyeballs. So my reviews may be a slightly on the useless side, since I haven’t exactly seen them.
As with the A-listers, these are all either on Netflix Streaming or Amazon Prime Streaming.
Masha’s Tales (Netflix)
This seems to be a Russian show dubbed into English, and it’s a spinoff from a show called Masha and the Bear, which we haven’t seen.
I think it’s a sort of fractured fairy tales thing, with a nutty little girl narrating the action. I like it because the narrator is an actual little girl, who occasionally endearingly stumbles over words, but who is very naturally dramatic and witty in her delivery. The music is often taken from great classical composers, too, so that’s excellent. It’s somewhat frenetic, but not too loud or obnoxious.
Wonder Pets (Amazon)
Popular for a reason. Whoever came up with the concept (I heard it was opera lovers) really was brilliant. Three kid animals who go on adventures all over the world in their homemade Flyboat to save baby animals in danger, and they sing lots of songs (and recitatives) along the way. This show is really quite dear to me, even if I won’t quite sit and watch it myself. One time, one of the kids asked the toddler what a sheep says, and she said, “Oh sheepy-hoo?”
They’ve locked down all the clips online, so this video is a clip of the game, not the actual show. Gives you the general idea:
It’s mildly witty and sweet, not screamy, not sassy, and the “photo-puppetry” animation, which imitates a child’s scissor-and-paste job, does not induce seizures. Lots of songs I don’t mind having in my head. I also enjoy the real kid voices, not supertrained America’s Kidz Got Singing-type voices.
This one violates a bunch of my “standards,” such as they are. I guess there are some animals and maybe some vegetables who go down in a submarine and have adventures, and also learn about the ocean? I am not sure. The animation is a big nothingburger, and I none of the characters seems especially interesting. I think they may learn a thing or two about the ocean.
However, for reasons I can’t explain, I LOVE the “Creature Report” song.
Creature report!!! I sing it to myself all the time. It’s just a good song!
Avatar: The Last Airbender (Amazon)
When a bunch of my kids requested handmade costumes of these characters for Halloween, I thought I was really gonna have to watch it, but I just fumbled through. It’s one of those shows that is just completely exhausting to me. First there is some teen drama and moping, and a few wisecracks and martial arts and sad parts, and then, in almost every episode, there is some version of a mystical volcano of light exploding and turning the mountain inside out, which triggers a lava of sound which causes the air to vibrate until it rains fire which makes everybody’s eyeballs turn into mirrors and unlocks the key to the mystery of the giant doors of ultimate power; and then, things start to get cuh-razy. Or so it seems to me. Here is a clip I chose at random:
All of my kids love this show (they are ages 18 to almost 2). I hear them laughing their heads off, and getting all somber together, gasping and shouting at the exciting parts. So, that’s why I let them watch it.
I like how Martha is a smart dog who can talk and make jokes, but then Skits is just a regular old dumb dog.
Word Girl (Netflix)
The kids haven’t actually seen this show in a while, but I always tolerated it very well. It has some funny side characters, like Lady Redundant Woman and Sid the Evil Sandwich-Making Guy.
Someone put some effort into this one. It’s very PBS.
Barbie: Life In the Dreamhouse (Netflix)
I come pretty close to actually watching this show, which is genuinely entertaining. Barbie, Ken and their friends and frenemies go about their busy life, going on plastic camping trips, solving fashion and friendship problems, and throwing parties. The humor comes in because they are actual dolls, and they know it, so there’s no end of jokes about their articulated joints, their ability to make bake by flipping a stovetop over, Barbie’s agelessness and inexplicable number of careers, etc.
There are lots of references to other movies, and it’s very silly, but devoid of sexiness. My only objection to this show is that, being about Barbie and her friends, it is screeeeeeamy. Someone is always screaming or squealing or shrieking. It makes sense for the plot, but I can only deal with hearing a few episodes at a time.
I’m reluctantly including My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (Netflix) for that reason. They did actually bother to write it, and the messages of cooperation, flexibility, teamwork, and friendship are perfectly fine. Some of the plots are witty or bizarre, with funny cameos and unexpected subplots. Here’s one of the songs from one of my kids’ favorite episodes:
But the screeeeeeaming, squeeeeeeealing, and shrieeeeeeeeking. Yikes. This one gets limited play time.
Teen Titans (oops, it turns out this isn’t available for free streaming after all!)
This show is so dang stupid. I don’t know what the appeal is; but, like Avatar, my kids all love it and get along when they’re watching it (and occasionally ask for Halloween costumes based on it), so I don’t object.
It is a flashy, silly “band of superheroes” cartoon of some kind, and some of the characters have emotional problems. One is purple and sad, and one is goofy and green. The theme song gets stuck in my head for this one, too, but I’m less thrilled about that. Sometimes the theme song is in Japanese, I guess.
The Adventure of Tintin (Amazon) If you like the Tintin books by Hergé — and, oh, we do — there is no reason on heaven or earth that you would dislike these cartoons,
except that they have this marvellous Canadian veneer of dullness that helps you just zo-o-o-o-o-o-o-one out. Wooah! Wooah!
Welp, that’s my list. Hope you were able to get something done while you read it with one eyeball. What do you tolerate at your house?
Remember back in the old days, when bloggers used to help each other out? Mrs. Darwin Catholic is still pulling her weight. Check out her immediate book meme, which, rather than getting you to cast your mind back over influential books in your past, asks questions about “the books you’re actually reading now, or just read, or are about to read.” Excellent idea! Here’s mine:
1. What book are you reading now?
This is going to be the biggest category. I’m currently insulating the space between my bed and wall with countless books I’m in the middle of. Here are a few:
This is a pure comfort read, because I’ve read this book probably a dozen times. Completely fascinating account of a fictional bourgeois family as it slowly declines over the courts of four generations, published in Germany in 1901. The characters are so real, but the times are so different. Here is Tony, who has arrived in hysterics at her parents’ house, after fleeing from her second husband, Herr Permaneder:
She sprang up. She made two steps backward and feverishly dried her eyes. “A moment, Mamma!” He forgot what he owed to me and to our name? He never knew it, from the very beginning! A man that quietly sit down with his wife’s dowry–a man without ambition or energy or will-power! A man that was some kind of thick soup made out of hops in his veins instead of blood–I verily believe he has! And to let himself down to such common doing as this with Babette–and when I reproached him with his good-for-nothingness, to answer with a word that–a-word–”
And, arrived once more at the word, the word she would not repeat, quite suddenly she took a step forward and said, in a completely altered, a quieter, milder, interested tone: “How perfectly sweet! Where did you get that, Mamma?” She mentioned with her chin toward a little receptacle, an charming basket-work stand woven out of reeds and decorated with ribbon bow, in which the Frau Consul kept her fancy-work.
“I bought it, some time ago,” answered the old lady. “I needed it.”
“Very smart, “Tony said, looking at it with her head on one side.
Harry Potter and the blah blah blah
I picked this up because it was a book, and my lord, it is dull. I read it through several years ago to make sure there was nothing dangerous for the kids, as reported. There wasn’t but my land, such tedious writing, and the inconsistencies in how magic works is just maddening. I wish I hadn’t let my kids read these books, because they are dumb. A dumb book is fine, but they read these books over and over and over again. I hate that this level of writing is sinking into their brains.
Somehow I’ve never read much Steinbeck. The writing is just. . . crystalline. I’ve only just started it, and the little boy has only just gotten the pony. I FEEL LIKE SOMETHING BAD IS COMING AND IT’S PREEMPTIVELY BREAKING MY HEART. Don’t tell me!
It’s a chatty and gargantuan Victorian novel of courtship, corruption, dissolution, greed, lovers, and sissy boys. I was enjoying the book for its own sake; but about halfway through, I realized that Augustus Melmotte sounded awfully familiar. He’s a blustering financial giant with glitzy, vulgar tastes and a murky past, who bulldozes his way to the top of society because he acts so rich that everyone assumes he really is rich—and so they’re willing to lend him even more money. Eventually, his wealth becomes so impressive that he decides to run for public office. ALL THE SIGHS. There are also love triangles and pleasantly despicable side characters, dissolute rats ripe for comeuppance, and almost-heroes you want to shake and make them get their act together. I have a few hundred pages to go, and I honestly have no idea what is going to happen.
This is the third book in the series that begins with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, but you can enjoy the books independently. I love Joan Aiken with all my heart. If all children’s and YA authors took such pains with dialogue and had such respect for the reader, we wouldn’t be in such a pickle today. Dido Twite is one of the most appealing characters I’ve ever met in a book.
2. What book did you just finish?
Nothing. I finish nothing. I stink.
3. What do you plan to read next?
Ahem, I am super about to start Come As You Are, by Emily Nagoski, which is, look, just pick it up yourself. Okay, fine, it’s about “The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life.” Everybody has a hobby, and mine just happens to be . . . surprising new science. A bunch of my friends read this book and said it was great. I’m just looking for an opportunity to whip it out in a manner designed to maximize humiliation for my children. What I’m trying to say is, people need to stop complaining about the cover of my book.
I haven’t read a ton of marriage books, but this one is pretty good and reasonable and practical. There is a bit too much bragging about how much research he’s done and how effective his advice is, but you can skim.
I’ve actually read this before, maybe twenty years ago, but I got bogged down trying to keep track of all the characters and insane plot details. This time, I’m not going to sweat it, and I’ll just enjoy what I can manage.
6. What is your current reading trend?
Headlines on Facebook. If I were a real adult, I’d cut down now, but I’m waiting for Lent. I guess I’m reading fiction, as usual, and have a yen for uncluttered forms of expression.
I’m reading this to the five-year-old, and oh, she loves it. We made our way through the first two books (My Father’s Dragon and Elmer and the Dragon) pretty quick, and this is the last one (we have a volume with all three books in it, including the original illustrations, which are indispensable). The first is by far the best, but the other two are also very charming. It’s just enough action and danger to keep the little ones wide-eyed, but everything turns out exceedingly well for everyone. The chapters are very short, so you can read two chapters a night in less than ten minutes. An excellent first chapter book.
Bought over Christmas vacation in hopes of easing the older kids back into the habit of being read to. It is so dang stupid. I enjoyed the part where the immensely virile and impressive Pirate King “paused for a moment to pull a great white shark from behind his throne and punch it in half with a fist.” I do have to skim ahead a bit and occasionally skip over a naughty line or two. Silly stuff, just for fun.
Wow, I guess that’s about it. I need to shape up.
Here’s a list without my answers, if you want to cut and paste and answer on your own blog or FB or whatever. Always interested in hearing what you’re reading, especially if you give us some hints about what it’s about and why you like it or don’t!
1. What book are you reading now?
2. What book did you just finish?
3. What do you plan to read next?
4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?
5. What book do you keep meaning to start? 6. What is your current reading trend?
[and my own question:] 7. What are you reading out loud?
While we’re at it, here’s a reminder that I am an Amazon Affiliate, which means that any time you get to Amazon through one of my links (above), I’ll make a little money any time you go on to buy something. Here is my general Amazon Link. If you shop at Amazon, please consider bookmarking my link and using it any time you buy something! This makes up a significant part of my family’s income, and I appreciate it very much! Thanks.
Not really a dog person but we thought we’d give it a try… By Simcha Fisher on December 26, 2014 Color: Brindle verified purchase
Had this product for a day now. Seems great! Highly recommended. Came with crate, shots, ear cleaner, and food dishes. There was a bit of an odor when we unpacked it, but I’m sure that will dissipate over time. Very attractive, almost noble-looking.
Edit: I just had to come back and update this review. We’ve had this product for a month now, and while it still gets daily use, and the kids really enjoy it, we suspect that there are some manufacturing defects. It was advertised as a security dog, but it also barks hysterically at things like rain, grass, clouds, Nina Totenberg, and nothing. Especially nothing. I cannot find a factory reset button anywhere.
The batteries have a very short life. It runs around at full power for just a few minutes and then appears completely depleted, and takes forever to recharge.
This is especially frustrating as it takes up so much space, and often requires powering up right in the middle of the house. It also sometimes seems to “crash” in the middle of operations, for instance, while eating a sweater.
Did I miss that it is somehow solar powered? It seems to require frequent sunbaths. Also extremely noisy while recharging. Cannot find factory reset button.
Also, the smell has, if anything, intensified. At least we’ve stopped blaming my son. It is like a tire fire.
Edit #2: So much for the mailman. We had to talk the post office out of suing us, and now we have to go pick up mail every day. On the up side, the Jehovah’s Witnesses chalked a giant warning hoboglyph on our walkway, and they haven’t been back; so on balance, that’s a win.
Edit #3: The longer we have this product, the more I’m convinced there was some kind of error at the warehouse. I think we actually got parts for three different dogs, and they accidentally got put together in one box. The skull is ridiculously out of proportion to the rest of the body, but the “brain” component does not seem to be similarly large.
There is also way too much skin in the face area, causing constant oral leakage. It doesn’t affect performance, but it is not aesthetically pleasing, to say the least.
Seems to have been manufactured with top quality materials, but is still somehow fragile on the inside, requiring constant emotional maintenance.
Also, it steals carrots.
Also, its spacial awareness does not seem to be properly calibrated, and it is constantly trying to wedge itself into places that are physically too small for it to inhabit
including laps. We sometimes see the dining room table walking around apparently under its own power, only to discover that the dog has again gotten stuck under it.
However, it cowers before the toddler (and has done so ever since she was born)
and puts up with the most outrageous tyrannical behavior from her, even though it could swallow her in one mouthful.
It actually seems to thrive on being pushed around by her, so I can’t really complain. Is a willing participant in . . . just about anything.
Is also willing to share lollipops.
And can subsist on nothing but kibble and toddler affection for days at a time.
Caveat: Brain still does not seem to have increased in size commensurate with rest of unit over the years we’ve owned this product.