Currently reading

There’s a large stack of books next to my favorite chair, waiting to be read.  Most are for upcoming book groups, but I’m also starting to accumulate some “fun reading” books in anticipation of the June break from book groups (and then the August and September break from book groups, which allows me a lot of time to read other things!).

Here are the books that are piled next to me:

  • The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (5th grade book group)
  • Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (6th grade book group)
  • The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan (Teen book group)
  • The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown (Teen book group)
  • Years of Dust by Albert Marrin (Teen book group)
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
  • The Outcasts by John Flanagan
  • Marmee & Louisa by Eve LaPlante
  • My Heart is Boundless edited by Eve LaPlante
  • The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie
  • Curtain by Agatha Christie
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  • And assorted magazines, long neglected by me:  The Atlantic, many New Yorkers, and Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country.

Any other must-read suggestions for me for my upcoming season of fun reading?


Pippa 1997? - 2014
1997? – 2014

Four weeks ago today, we had to put our beloved, but elderly and infirm, Pippa to sleep.  My life has been a bit crazy lately, and so I feel like I haven’t really mourned her yet.

But this morning I got up after having slept a bit late, and thought to myself how lovely it would be on this day off to make a pot of tea and snuggle on the sofa with Pippa and our favorite “magic blanket.”  And it hit me like a ton of bricks that Pippa isn’t here anymore.

She was a wonderful girl: smart, affectionate, kind, tolerant, dignified, and an incredible (if reluctant) role model to Moses, Millie, and Moxie.  I miss you, Pippa.


Some changes here

I have recently upgraded to a new theme for this blog, and there are two changes to be noted:

I consciously changed the comment settings so that readers can only comment on posts that have been published in the last fourteen days.

And, I have noticed that this new theme has a habit of splitting words at odd points to justify text.  For instance, in one past post, the word August was split this way:  Au  gust, with no hyphen after the Au.  When I have more free time on my hands, I will try to figure out how to fix this (if it can be fixed), but for now please know that it is the software and not I who is splitting words oddly.

I hope you enjoy this new theme as much as I do, though!  I especially like the random rotation of header photos when you click on one of the pages.  The photos are:  Moses as a wee little sprite of 6 weeks; crocus in our yard; and the odd duck that we saw a summer or two ago when kayaking on the Concord River.


The other night I had the weirdest dream…a library dream, of course.

I dreamt that a library patron called the children’s room and asked me to pull a large selection of DVDS – chosen according to some odd guidelines dictated to me over the phone – and then, once I’d pulled everything for her, that I deliver them to her house.

So I pulled  a large stack of what were now CDs (who knows why it switched from DVDS), and proceeded to open each CD case and take all the CDs out.  As each disk came out of its case, it turned into an ordinary green pea.  Logically, I put all of the peas into a bowl, then went to eat dinner with my family.  I might even have eaten a couple of the peas/CDs…that part is a little fuzzy.

A few minutes into eating dinner, my mother turned to me and said, “Don’t you need to deliver those CDs to that lady?”  Panic set in, and I rushed over to the bowl of peas and realized that before I could deliver anything, I needed to get the peas back into the CD cases.  But the peas were just green garden peas, and weren’t labelled like the CDs had been, so how was I to know which pea went into which case?

I contemplated eating the peas to figure out what they each were, but realized that would be counterproductive, so then I thought about gently tasting each one to determine what music was on each.  And I considered just jamming random peas into CD cases and delivering them that way.

When I woke up from this very very long dream, I still hadn’t figured out a solution.  Somewhere in my dream world, there are still green peas that need to be converted back into CDs and put into their cases and delivered to an imaginary library patron…


I wish I knew.  Things here in blog-land have been a little under assault lately, and hopefully are now fixed.  Many thanks to D. of my hosting service, and to my brother for his sage advice; I’ve done everything that I know how to do, and with luck, there will be no more troubles.

Yes, this post is a little vague, but that is intentional.  🙂  I’m actually running my own sort of test to see if blog-land is happy again.

Kittens and Computers

One thing I’ve learned over the last few months is that three kittens don’t coexist very happily with a laptop computer – between the jostling to share my lap and the temptation to chew the power cord – and, as a consequence, my poor blog has been gathering virtual dust.

But yesterday I upgraded to WordPress 3.8.1, which promised to be compatible with mobile devices.  So here I am, with eleven pound eight month old Moses in my lap, typing this entry on my iPod Touch…which is proving to be one of my more frustrating experiences of recent months.  Give me a real keyboard over a delay-ridden tiny virtual keyboard any day!  Blech!

At least Moses is happy, and now you all know I’m still here, in Kitten Land.

Currently reading

In the last few months, I’ve read a lot of Agatha Christie mysteries – and I do mean a lot – in addition to my usual book group books.  I’m cooling down a wee bit on the Agatha Christie books now, partly because I have less time available for “fun” reading now that book groups are in full swing again (each group met only once over the summer, and not at all in September, which was a lovely gift of “fun” reading time for me) and partly because I seem to have exhausted the supply of Christie books at our two local bookstores.

This weekend I need to read The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for next Tuesday’s Teen Book Group meeting; I have great memories of reading the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was in highschool, and am looking forward to an adult re-reading of The Hound of the Baskervilles.  This reading of it will be tinged by laundry soap and dryer lint, since I need to spend a couple of hours at the laundromat today washing our comforter, but hopefully that won’t wreak the book for me.

I’m also reading The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda, a book which has happily surprised me.  I really only brought it home to read because the reviews written about the book have a wide range of reading levels – from 4th grade and up to 8th grade and up – and thus placement of the book in the library is difficult.  I placed it in our advanced reader section, which is for grades 5 & 6 and up, but now the book’s sequel is about to be published, with similarly divergent age recommendations in the reviews, so it was time for me to read the book myself and thus make a totally informed decision about placement.  It turns out that the book is well-written, engaging, full of action (which kids today demand above all else), and also gently educational as it introduces Indian mythology and culture.  I like the book enough that I may even choose it for a book group…hmmmm…

Other books in my to-be-read pile right now:

  • Atlantis Rising by T.A. Barron
  • The Outcasts by John Flanagan
  • The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan
  • Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass
  • Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus
  • The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion
  • Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
  • Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie

And I’ve officially given up on the Megan Whalen Turner series that begins with The Thief.  I loved the first book, hated the second, and am luke-warm on the third at the half-way point.  Frankly, the character of Eugenides got on my nerves early in the second book, and it’s tough to finish a series when the main character drives you nuts.  I’ll be taking the whole series to the used book store soon, just to get it out of my house.

On that note, time to get to the laundromat and start reading The Hound of the Baskervilles

Stuffed Animal Sleepover

I first heard about libraries doing “stuffed animal sleepovers” a couple of years ago when one of my favorite library patrons told me about a library on the Cape that had done one.  And then the children’s librarian listserve started to be abuzz with librarians posting about their sleepovers.  And then a librarian posted a request for advice on how to run one, and later posted a compilation of all the advice that she had gotten.  Now I had no excuse: this compilation was virtually a guide on to how to run a stuffed animal sleepover.  It was time for me to schedule one.

But first, what is a stuffed animal sleepover?  Kids drop off their stuffed animals at the library, and after the library is closed, the stuffed animals have a grand old party together as they explore the library.  Some librarians make videos, other librarians print out photos of each stuffed animal to give to each child at animal pickup time, and other librarians take a ton of photos and post them on Facebook (the option I chose).  Basically, it would be tough to have a “real” sleepover at the library for real kids, so this is a fun option that carries no liability issues but still gets kids jazzed about the library.

Last night was the big night, and I am so glad that I chose a Friday night.  The library closes at two o’clock on Fridays, so I knew I would have plenty of time to take photos and then post them on Facebook and Google+.  I figured it would take me two or three hours…but I was wrong.  I finished posting the photos at eight-fifteen, and for that six and a quarter hours I was running around like a crazy woman.  At one point I was wheeling the book cart loaded with stuffed animals along the window-lined hallway on the top floor of the building, and as I looked out at the dark parking lot I thought that anyone out there in their car would probably think this was pretty funny:  a frazzled looking librarian pushing a cart of animals full-tilt along the hallway to the large program room.

Despite taking way longer than planned, I had a lot of fun posing the animals, taking their photos, and then writing captions for each photo (eighty-two or so altogether) as I posted them on Facebook.  Part of the set-up was that Pepper B. Collie, the storytime puppet, was taking the photos, since the librarians had all left for the day.  S. took a photo of three of us librarians standing outside the building waving goodbye to the animals (who were lined up on the window sill looking out).  So I had to be careful that I didn’t show in any of the photos (there are a lot of windows in the building that could catch my reflection), and when writing the captions I tried to write them in the voice of Pepper and the other animals.

Before the sleepover, Jennifer did a lot of brainstorming about places and ways to pose the animals, and yesterday morning I took her list, added some ideas of my own, and then typed up a two page bulleted list of locations, organized by area of the library.  This helped me to be much more efficient and ensured that I wouldn’t forget any of the best ideas.  Some of the ideas (I wanted a photo of the animals looking out the window at the sunset) were time sensitive, some were not; so in addition to areas of the library, I did have to keep the time sensitive ideas in mind as the evening progressed.

And it all worked out, especially since Jim was willing to bring a fresh hot pizza to the library rather than me taking the time to run out and get the pizza.  After posing the stuffed animals with the pizza, Jim and I took ten minutes to eat our pizza dinner, and then we set up the animals for the final pose:  dancing under a disco ball (definitely a two person pose – Jim shone a flashlight on the disco ball and held the disco ball out on a ruler while I took photos).  Then we cleaned up and headed home, where I uploaded and captioned the photos.

If you’d like to see the photos, the best ones are on Facebook (I was too burnt out by eight- fifteen to put captions on the Google+ photos):

R.I.P. Pew

Like his namesake from Treasure Island, our feral feline friend Pew was struck and killed today, not by a stagecoach, but by a car.

Pew showed up in the midst of trapping Mommy Cat and the five kittens this past summer.  I first saw him jammed into a kitten trap – he, an adult cat, had managed to stuff his whole body into the tiny kitten trap in order to get the sardines that we used as bait.  At that time I had assumed he was someone’s pet, but as the summer went on it became clear that Pew did not have a home, and he became more and more dependent on the food I put out on our deck.

Jim named this all black cat Pew because he was so sad: tongue lolling out constantly, a cataract in his left eye which made the eye all milky white, and a scruffy coat.  Annette, the cat trapper, guessed that Pew was “a hundred years old” (she probably meant in cat years), and she also surmised that he didn’t have a tooth in his head, which would explain why his tongue always lolled out, hanging an inch or two down from his mouth.  If you know Treasure Island, you’ll know that the literary Pew was a blind beggar, a tragic figure who met his end under hooves and stagecoach wheels.

Yesterday morning I got a good look at Pew – my last view of him alive, as it turned out – and he was looking a bit worse than usual.  His good eye was all runny and yucky looking, and he was particularly hungry, snarfing down all the canned Friskies and a lot of the dry kibbles that I put out for him.  Yesterday I thought, once again, that it would be a miracle if Pew could make it through the winter.  I’ve been worrying about how to best help him keep fed and warm, especially since he long ago proved to be more feral than stray: skittish and unwilling to come near me, though very willing to eat the three plus cans of food and also dry food that I put out for him each day.

And then there is today.  Jim and I were going to head to Concord to have lunch at Helen’s, and I had just finished getting ready when I stepped into the kitchen and noticed the food in the bowl on the deck was gone.  “Who came and ate?” I asked Jim, since it could be either Pew or Mommy Cat.  “It was Pew,” Jim replied, “He was just here eating.”

As Jim stood in our foyer putting his jacket on, he saw Pew in our driveway, heading towards the street.  Not many seconds later we were about to get into our car when Jim looked across the street and said, “Is that a cat?”  It was.  It was Pew, his body twitching its final twitches just on the side of the road, a smear of blood extending from the middle of the road to the side of his poor mangled head.  We hadn’t heard brakes, or a car horn, and there certainly wasn’t a car stopped in guilty horror to examine the poor cat that it had just hit.   Just Pew, dying.

We both went over and stood by Pew as he died, trying to decide what to do next.  Pew died quickly, probably a much more merciful death than if he had died of cold and hunger over the harshness of winter.  He had been hit mostly on the left side of his head, the side with the bad eye, so hopefully he never knew what hit him.  And he died with a full tummy, probably looking forward to a nice nap in the sun.  As he left us, I told Pew that he was a good cat, and gave him my love.

Jim got first one, then another shovel, and together we slid Pew off the edge of the road and under the bushes a few feet in from the road.  Jim called the police department, and a very rude police officer said that he would let the highway department know and that they would take care of Pew’s body.  Perhaps we should have buried Pew in our yard, but let’s just say that Pew’s mercifully quick death left more than a bit of a mess, and we’re not up to taking care of his remains.  [Update: the highway department never came, so on Monday Jim buried Pew in our back yard, at the spot where we first saw him last summer. We both feel better knowing that Pew is home, cared for, and not dealt with as random roadkill by strangers.]

Rest in peace, poor dear Pew.  I’m glad we could keep your belly full for your last few months; I’m sorry we couldn’t do more to make your life safe and easy.

And to the callous idiot who hit Pew and didn’t even have the decency to stop and see if Pew needed help:  a pox upon you.  You were driving too fast, you didn’t even hit the brakes, and you didn’t care.  You do know that a black cat crossed your path today, and that you killed that cat, don’t you?  That can’t be good for you.

Reflections on children, literature, libraries, and life…and cats.