Potter Returns

Harry had never even imagined such a strange and splendid place.

What makes a book or series worth re-reading? A good story, believable and likable characters, a unique world so strange and splendid it can’t be imagined – unless described by a brilliant storyteller. Harry Potter is one such series.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has a special magic. The shortest of the seven, it introduces Harry and his readers to a whole new world: a world of magic. Witches, wizards, a sport played on flying broomsticks, owl post, powerful potions, and more incredible yet believable things exist in this parallel world. In The Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry first learns of his family and his wizard identity.

Readers can share his awe as he learns that his new school has its own train that leaves from platform Nine and Three Quarters at Kings Cross Station. Somewhere between platforms nine and ten, he encounters the Weasley family, asks them for help finding the train, befriends Ron, and the rest, as they say, is history. Mythology? Legend? Wizardry? Ghostology?

I enjoy rereading The Sorcerer’s Stone because of JK Rowling’s genius. The settings are magically unique, but she describes them in a matter of fact tone so that we readers know this is only the beginning. When she describes the staircases at Hogwarts’ School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, all 142 of them: “…wide, sweeping ones; narrow, rickety ones; some that led somewhere different on a Friday…” it’s simply in a paragraph about Harry attempting to learn his way to his classes.

And the classes! No Intro to British Lit here. Harry takes History of Magic (taught by a ghost), Herbology, Charms, Transfiguration, Potions, and the cursed (literally, but we don’t know that until a later book) Defense Against the Dark Arts.

The “strange and splendid place” in the first line is the Great Hall as Harry sees it on his arrival at Hogwarts. In his limited upbringing by his neglectful Muggle (non-magical) relatives, he had never even dared imagine a world so wonderful.

Thankfully for all readers, JK Rowling did imagine such a strange and splendid place – a world nearby, yet far different from our everyday Muggle existance. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone stands on its own as a wonderful story and sets up the reading world for an adventure that begins – and ends, several books later – on Platform Nine and Three Quarters at Kings Cross Station.

This is an encore post. On a Saturday night in the cold Wisconsin winter, Chuck and I settled down on the couch to relax, and the first movie in the series came on TV. We enjoyed the details and reminisced about our own Potter-related memories. 

All This for a Stack of Books?

It’s not just any stack of books. In my family? Books fill and overflow the shelves until we have book piles – and that’s after I swap away quite a few and deposit a few more in neighborhood Little Free Libraries.

But I’m already getting off topic. La Petite called and asked if I could help her transport a bookshelf she would like to buy. I was going to be there anyway, coming to pick up Amigo after a weekend visit. Of course I said “Sure, why not?”

First: the bookshelf she wanted, a display model, flew off the store shelves before we arrived. It was gone. The store had the item in stock at full price, but La Petite wasn’t quite prepared to pay that much that day. That’s my girl: frugal to the end, even with a bookshelf.

But we had the van. And the shelves were unlikely to fit in her Saturn. Unlikely? Impossible .And the shelf unit was perfect, just perfect, for her apartment and the Big Art Books that needed a home. The shelf unit was a little more than she wanted to pay, but the Momvan was temporarily available, and it was Black Friday weekend, after all. She asked for a manager – nicely, of course.

The manager on duty offered her 20% off – close to $100 discount. We bought the shelves.

With a big box of ready-to-assemble bookshelf loaded into the Momvan, we realized we didn’t have a hand truck or dolly to help us maneuver this big, not too heavy but definitely awkward box from the parking lot to her apartment. We found a nearby Menard’s (doesn’t every strip have a nearby Menard’s?), bought a simple hand truck and a toy for the Toys for Tots box, and we were ready.

It wasn’t easy, and it was punctuated by repeated utterances in the category of “Mom, you’re pushing the wrong way,” but we got the Big Awkward Box to her door and then up to her second floor apartment. Luckily (for me, anyway), she didn’t want the shelves up in her loft bedroom.

And so, all was well with the world. Amigo and I hit the road with a few chips and sodas for a snack and the Green Bay Packers battling the New England Patriots on the radio. La Petite watched the game and put together her new set of shelves.

Home, sweet home.

Home, sweet home.

She’s baaack – an encore from Grandma Daisy

She couldn’t stay quiet for long. Grandma Daisy is back, just a few weeks before election day. This is an encore, but it didn’t need much modification to be current.

Fiddle-dee-dee. Tomorrow will be another day.

As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!

Big Brother is watching.  

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Wilbur didn’t want food, he wanted love.

I have created a monster!

 

Well, grandkids, all of these are lines from classic books. Let’s see how many you or your mother can identify. What? So few? What are they teaching these days — never mind.

Let’s look at the last one. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,  of course. Truth be told, though, young ones, this particular quote isn’t a direct quote from the novel. It’s kind of like crediting  Buzz Lightyear with “To infinity and beyond!” when he only said it twice in the first Toy Story movie.

The truth is that Shelley’s work inspired the phrase.  An English teacher I knew (they’re always handy when you need a good literature quote) mentioned that there is no exact quote in which Dr. Frankenstein says or another character says that he/you have created a monster–it’s more of a thematic draw from the overall text. Frankenstein warns the man who meets him at the end of his life how “dangerous is the acquisition of knowledge,” as a way of saying, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!” in keeping with the “created a monster” idea.

So, young ones, back to the upcoming election issues – like the state budget. Governor Talks-a-lot claimed to have innovative changes for our fair state’s education system. His changes consisted of a straining-at-the-seams budget for public schools and a significant increase in a program called Vouchers. Vouchers were grants, money, scholarships paid by the state for students to attend private schools. Private. Not public charters, not home-schooling, but private schools. Governor Walk-on-by ignored the evidence that current voucher schools in Milwaukee were not doing any better then their public counterparts down the road. In fact, if they measured success by the standardized tests of the day, voucher schools did a poorer job of educating their students.

Governor Walk-all-over-you decided that his “innovative education reform” would expand the voucher program into other middling to large-ish cities. Make it bigger. Spread the money around. Around the state, that is. One city, one school district at a time.

The Governor, despite his lack of scientific or educational background, had created a monster. He wanted to open up the private vouchers, damage the state’s education budget, and further gut public schools.

Governor Walkerstein was ready to create his monster. He didn’t have the wisdom of my English teacher friend to tell him that just because he could, didn’t mean he should.

Oh, young ones, it was a tough time to be a teacher. In fact, I could use a cup of coffee. Let’s take a break and talk about classic television. Have you ever seen WKRP in Cincinnati?

Plenty – locavores tell their story

I picked up Plenty: Eating locally on the 100 mile diet because it was mentioned in Low Impact Man. Plenty reminded me of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in the theme of the 100-mile diet, but the setting was quite different. Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon wrote Plenty Vancouver. Kingsolver lived and wrote in Appalachia.

I started to draw a comparison to my own location and climate, but Vancouver isn’t like Wisconsin. Vancouver is a temperate rainforest – lots of rain, only a little snow. Here in my locale, we have four clear seasons – or two, if you’re of the crowd that claims Winter and Road Construction.

But back to the story. I laughed out loud reading Plenty because of a parallel to my own life, blog, and locavore ambitions. Alisa and James had bought a large quantity of sweet corn – Wisconsinites also call it corn on the cob for the typical method of serving and eating this favorite. I, too, have been buying a huge bag of corn at its peak every August. Last year I had a hard time finding the time to prep it for freezing, and the final product just wasn’t as tasty as it could have been.  Alisa described a phone call to her mother asking advice on prepping corn. She found out… well, I’ll let her tell you.

“The sugar in corn starts to break down into starch within a few hours of being picked,” she said. “It doesn’t taste as good, and it loses nutritional value.” She was too polite to say the obvious – use it or lose it. She just started describing the process of blanching and freezing niblets. —Plenty; October.

I’d been thinking about corn and considering different ways of attacking this issue. The corn is inexpensive in August (Wisconsin’s corn ripens in late summer), so buying several dozen is a good investment. But here’s the dilemma: do I really have time to husk, blanch, and cut the kernels off the cob within hours of purchase? If I’m honest with myself (and I’m getting better about that), I have to say no. My solution, at least for the current summer, is this: I’ll buy a little extra from the market each week rather than five dozen ears all at once. It’ll cost me a few pence more, but I will be much more likely to get the corn prepped and in the freezer within a reasonable time frame. I handle peas and beans that way; why not corn?

The second laugh out loud moment came during the same corn chapter. It was 10:00 at night when Alisa realized they needed to prep the corn ASAP. Motivated (or mellowed) by a bottle of wine, they went at it. More than an hour into the task, Alisa remarked, “I feel like part of some apocalyptic cult.”

I blog about life, my life, and that includes a lot of gardening, canning, and otherwise preserving summer’s fresh bounty for the long winter months. Every now and then, I get comments or emails from so-called Doomsday Prepper groups. These are people who share my fascination with self-sufficiency, but for different reasons. Many Prepper groups expect the world as we know it to end soon and without warning. Their fears range from the massive changes due to global warming to a complete collapse of our government.

I’m not a doomsday type of person, but I do like to stock up with my own home made goodies now, while I have the chance. This stock-up process gives us good quality jams and pickles and more goodies in the pantry and locally grown vegetables in the freezer. We don’t do it to prepare for some mythical End of the World, but it does ease our winter grocery budget and bring a taste of summer to the table when there is snow on the ground.

Conclusion? I liked the book Plenty. I also enjoyed Low Impact Man and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. One other item all three had in common: the authors were already professional writers when they took on their experiments and chronicled the experiences. Maybe that’s why they were fun to read – and maybe that’s why I’m having trouble finding the time to finish my own manuscript. Ah, that’s another post. I’d better get back to shelling peas for tonight’s supper.

Bookstores and Book Spine Poetry

I’m spreading the word again: the word of book spine poetry. This time, it’s on the national blog from my employer. Please feel free (and feel encouraged) to share, like, pin, or simply enjoy the post. We had a good time making it.

Meanwhile, I picked up a book or two last night. Bookstores are dangerous. I have to stay focused. Walk in, walk out, and only buy what’s on my list. Do not stray from the center aisle. Don’t go near that sale table. Get what I need, then check out, and then leave.

I was doing rather well, I thought. Picked up the two books in the humor section, then headed to the children’s section and asked for the book by title and author. That led me quickly to the shelf with no danger of browsing on the way. Then I headed out to the registers, and I found this.

Read from left to right.

Read from left to right.

The cashier said she’d never set foot on the other side of the counter. She had no idea how much fun some other employee had setting this up.

Now, readers, I suppose you’re wondering. Did I make it? Did I get to the exit doors without buying something on impulse?

Almost.

I bought bookmarks.

 

Thanksgiving in April

Signs that I am a literary type —

Every time the nurses asked me the standard question, “What month is it?” I was tempted to say, “April is the cruelest month” instead of simply “April”. I did find myself saying, “Still April for a few more days!”

My dear darling husband “Chuck” suggested that pre-surgery, maybe I was like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. I had a brain, but it wasn’t running on all cylinders. Now that the carotid artery is unblocked, who knows what ideas might surface!

I spent one morning chatting with the nurse about our favorite authors.  It all started when she noticed I’d brought my Kindle with me. I recommended a book for her, and she recommended one for me.

The day nurse showed the tender spot on my abdomen to the night nurse and warned her that I was very, very sensitive there, but the pressure had gone down significantly since I moved onto the ward. I pointed toward the ceiling and told her, “See the footprints? Those are mine.” The pain was bad, folks. No way around it. Relief, however, was on the way.

Chuck and I shared a funny with the night nurse when she asked me to close my eyes and touch my nose. M*A*S*H fans to the end, we giggled a little about a recent episode when Blake was treating Radar and asked him to close his eyes and “…touch the old nose.” Radar, literal as always, closed his eyes and reached out to touch not his own nose, but the Lieutenant Colonel’s.

On a more serious note, people, I’m very thankful for many things. Most of all, I’m thankful that I didn’t know the extent of the blockage in my carotid artery until after the scan and surgery were completed. I freaked out a little (okay, I admit it, a lot) when I got the news. Now that it’s over, I can just feel relieved. Very, very relieved.

 

Decisions, decisions.

  • Should I make a single batch of banana bread or a double?
  • Double, of course. We have enough bananas. Do you even need to ask?

 

  • It’s raining outside. Can I accomplish any garden tasks in the rain?
  • No, silly. Get the laundry done and play in the kitchen, instead. Did I hear someone say banana bread?

 

  •  Big headline in the newspaper about a state level politician reaching his tipping point. What’s the book I’m currently reading?
  • The Tipping Point, of course. It’s on my table in the den.

 

  • “Mom, you have banana bread in the oven. Why are you making bread in the bread machine?”
  • Why not? That wasn’t a good enough answer, apparently. The real answer came from Chuck: “It’s raining outside, so Mom can’t work in the garden. She needs to use her energy in the kitchen instead.” ‘Tis true. Very true.

 

  • I had a message from the Clinic That Shall Not Be Named with a subject line How Are you Doing? and the name of my family doc listed as “from”. How am I doing?
  • Well, Clinic, I was misled for a moment and thought someone actually cared to follow up with me. But when a message is extremely generic and is signed “The Clinic Physicians”? Somehow, I don’t feel obligated to answer.
  • So, Daisy, what was this generic message from the Clinic That Shall Not Be Named?
  • Here’s the actual text:

Thank you for your recent visit. Because we care about you, please take a moment to tell us how you are doing. If you were prescribed any medications, please let us know how they are working or if you have any financial issues affording them.

Do you have any other questions since your last visit?

Thank you for your time.

 

  • How tacky can this clinic get?
  • Don’t answer that. I don’t want to know.