somewhat bookish.

What I Read – March 2015 April 22, 2015

Filed under: Random Reading — cransell @ 9:08 pm

I read 5 books in March – 4 fiction, 1 non-fiction. 2 were on Kindle, 3 in print.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (2001).
I think I will eventually read everything Ann Patchett has written – I just love everything of hers that I’ve read so much. This had a bit of a slow start, but totally sucked me. She is just a beautiful writer and really knows how to create a world and populate it with great characters. Totally recommend.

Hush Hush: A Tess Monaghan Novel by Laura Lippman (2015).
I am a mystery series reader and I love me some Tess Monaghan. I was so excited for a new book to come out – it’s been years, and in an interesting coincidence, Tess is now the mother of a 3 year old in this book. If you like mystery series, especially those with strong female characters, I recommend this one – Baltimore Blues in the first in the series.

Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George (2015).
The third book in the Castle Glower series – the Castle itself (which has the ability to add/delete rooms as required) is less of a character in this book, which is a shame, but still totally enjoyable.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall (2011).
In the third books in the Penderwicks series, the three younger sisters go to Maine with their aunt for a few weeks. Lots of normal summer fun and a few adventures.

How I got to be perfect by Jean Kerr (1978).
My wife is totally in love with Jean Kerr. (She’s been dead for over a decade, so I’m not too jealous). I sometimes read a book aloud before we go to sleep. We’ve read a wide range of things, but right now humorous essays from the 1960s/1970s by writer/mothers are our jam. A few of the essays in this book had been in the one we read previously, but lots of good, new stuff too.


Charlie Bucket, January 12, 2003 – March 27, 2015 March 27, 2015

Filed under: Not About Books — cransell @ 4:16 pm
Tags: , ,

jami and charlie

I wasn’t there for your beginning, but you were there for ours. Mine and Jami’s that is. Even before I met you, I was told that you were “a package deal”. With the cute girl came a handsome hound. I’d never had a dog before and I was a little nervous, but we got along fine. You made it clear that Jami was Numero Uno, but I was an acceptable substitute in the walking and feeding, snuggling and treat giving departments.┬áJami was your person, and you, in turn, were her constant through all the change of her mid-20s to mid-30s. A pretty great package.

And so 8 years ago, my package deal moved across the country and into my, now our, studio apartment.

We bought a house because of you. Because you needed, deserved, a yard, an outdoor space that was yours. (It’s a nice house. So thanks for that).

I never thought I would be a dog person. But I became a Charlie person. Just like with a child, I felt responsible for you before I loved you. But love you, I did. First I loved your warm body at the foot of our bed (under the covers of course) keeping us warm on winter nights. Then I loved your head on my lap when we sat on the sofa. I loved going for long walks with you, before Frances was born. Remember those? Back with the cemetery allowed dog walking? So many long walks with you while talking on the phone.

That love only grew after Frances was born. Because she loved you so much it was infectious. She delighted in you. You were The Best. You got her appeal slowly – once she started eating and spilling solids she suddenly became much more interesting. But even when she wasn’t a free food source, when she was climbing on you, hugging and loving you a little bit aggressively, you were so very good with her.

Our house feels very empty without you.



What I Read: February March 25, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — cransell @ 1:17 pm

I read 9 books in February – mostly due to trying to catch up to the uncatchable mfred. Still I enjoyed trying, so thanks for the impetus! 8 of the books were fiction, one was non-fiction. 5 were on Kindle, 4 were in print.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (2007).

I read this book years ago, and loved it so much that I couldn’t resist snatching it up when it was a Kindle Daily Deal. Still really enjoyed it on rereading – can’t wait for Frances to enjoy it.

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka (2002).

Otsuka writes slim, beautiful books about the (not so beautiful) Japanese-American experience. This is the second I’ve read of hers and I would highly recommend her to anyone.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948).

Everyone loves this book. It was blurbed by J.K. Rowling in the copy I had! I did not love this book – perhaps I am just sick of YA books set in decrepit castles. But I’m glad to have finished it!

The Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton (2014).

I love a good mystery series (Good not meaning great writing, good just meaning entertaining). This is the 25th Agatha Raisin mystery and I think probably the last I’ll read. Just not that in to it anymore.

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George (2009).

This is a YA retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale. It took me a long time to get into it, but it finished strong.

Get Up!: Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It by James A. Levine (2014).

I got this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program and I wanted to like it. – I agree with the basic premise and was looking forward to reading the hard science and perhaps some strategies to reduce sedentariness in your own life. But this was written SO annoyingly: lots of useless filler, stupid quizzes, the petty use of nicknames such at Dr. Smallbrain and Professor Fartoobusy for individuals the author found unhelpful/didn’t like. I did enjoy the two chapters that had case studies on increasing nonexercise daily activity in the work place and in a school environment, but really this book could have just been an article, and I would have been much happier and got the same amount out of it.

The Bobbsey Twins in Washington by Laura Lee Hope (1919).

This is the book that made me realize I will not be encouraging Frances to read the Bobbsey Twins books. I loved them as a kid – but there was a lot of racially offensive content in this book and I can imagine it’s the same in the others. I had forgotten that the Bobbsey’s had a black cook whose speech is written in the most racist dialect. And as a bonus this particular book had a whole chapter on the “oriental” children the Bobbsey twins saw (in the audience) at a play. Luckily there are plenty of other good books out there!

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy (2014).

I loved, loved, loved this book. Just a fun family tale about four brothers and their two dads. I just wish there were more children’s books out there where kids had two dads or two moms, but that wasn’t the main plot point!

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (2007).

This book was not my thing. Most of the book takes place on a couple’s wedding night, and specifically the consummation of their marriage. So much awkward straight sex and feelings. Another book that was not my cup of tea.


Three Three Three: March March 24, 2015

Filed under: Motherhood — cransell @ 12:10 pm


What’s New: You got your first real haircut in over a year! I’d been trimming your bangs every few months, but now you have real, big girl STYLE! It looks wonderful.


Toddler Skills: Being a smart, observant kid. Your teachers at daycare are always commenting how well you listen and you just love to learn stuff. It makes my heart happy.


Moments to Remember:

When you want us to read you something, you say: “Talk it about it.” Not sure where this particular linguistic quirk comes from, perhaps you feel that there should be a different phrase for READING ALOUD, versus just plain reading. I expect it to disappear any day now, and I will miss it.

You have learned about pretending. That something can be make-believe. But you call it “tendering”. Here’s how that goes: Me: “Don’t put that mermaid tale in your mouth.” You: “I’m just tendering it’s my lollipop, Mama.”

After all your reading and learning about Dr. King the past few months, your Mommy thought you might like to see the MLK Memorial on the Mall. We had a nice family excursion and you liked the big statue – but asked me “Where is Rosa Parks?”

You are very interested in if folks have pets. Recently when a classmate came over for a playdate, we were talking about her family (parents covered, big brother, baby sister covered). You then asked if “She has animals?” I said: “I don’t know, we’ll have to ask when she comes over. Maybe she has a cat. Or maybe she has a dog?” And you said: “Or maybe she has a cow?” When I looked skeptical, you moved right on, “Or maybe sheep!”

We checked out the First Ladies dress exhibit at American History last weekend, which was a hit. I pointed out that Mrs. Cleveland’s first name was Frances, just like you. After we had looked at all the dresses, I asked you your favorite, and you said “MY dress with the flowers.” I’m sure Mrs. Cleveland would be pleased that you liked it so much!

Last night, your Mommy taught you how to play “Simon Says”. You said, “Simon Says, lay down”. And as we were all laying in a pile on the floor, you said “I love you guys”. There is NOTHING better than that. Day, made.


Likes: Chocolate milk. Playing monsters. Clothes, especially dresses. Playing dress-up. Baseball – you are getting excited for the start of the season. The Book With No Pictures (Related: saying Boo Boo Butt.) Nail polish – you have very beautiful toes at the moment. Lollipops.

Dislikes: Staying in bed at bedtime (You’ve figured out that now that you are in a toddler bed, you can get out, turn on your light and start playing or reading. The other night, we went in probably 10 times, and every time you were reading. “I just wanna read books, Mama.”). Naps (basically done at home).


Adventures: It’s been a pretty calm month. You’ve had a few playdates (always fun). You got to see your (second) cousins Jay and Laura and your great-aunt Karen and great-uncle Paul when they visited DC. Oh! And Mommy’s birthday was this past month – this was very exciting AND meant that you got to eat chocolate cake. Yum!

Birthday party.


Three Three Three: February February 22, 2015

Filed under: Motherhood — cransell @ 9:00 pm

What’s New: You are now a Big Girl Bed kid! You are really loving it and SO proud. Whenever someone comes over to the house, you immediately ask if they want to see it! This new freedom has meant the end of napping at home, something you had been resisting for a while (you still go to your room for “quiet time”). Since you aren’t napping, you go down like a ROCK at bedtime. So tired!


Toddler Skills: Your daycare has been doing lessons around Black History month, and it has been so awesome. You are really into it and come home telling us about George Washington Carver (“he’s a scientist”) and President Obama (“he gives speeches”). We’ve been getting you library books to support this and are just SO thrilled that you are showing an early interest in history.


Moments to Remember:

You’ve been talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. since the holiday last month, and one of the things you’ve told us about him is that “He got shot.” We’ve just said, yes, to this and moved on because we haven’t been really sure what that means to you. A few weeks later you had your 3 year doctor’s appointment and had to get an injection as part of your TB skin test. When Mommy was asking you about your visit later, you said that you got a shot “like Dr. King!”

Despite the fact that you have only been three for a little more than a month, you are constantly talking about how you are going to turn 4. And that you are going to have a Hello Kitty birthday party when you do. You seriously talk about this every day. Slow your roll, little one.


Likes: Sharks. Treats. Your big girl bed. Dr. King. President Obama (“He loves me.”). Eating snow “like Sven”. Cinderella. Charlie (and especially getting your picture taken with him). Dragons Love Tacos. Books about ballerinas. Taylor Swift. You are always saying you want to “shake it off”.


Dislikes: Being sick. It makes you super whiny and tantrum prone (which is completely reasonable).


Adventures: Grandma and Pop Pop came for a visit! We went to Baltimore to visit the Aquarium! (Other than that it’s been a string of mild colds with a brief stomach bug thrown in. Yay, Winter!)


What I Read: January 2015 February 12, 2015

Filed under: Random Reading — cransell @ 10:30 pm

My goal for January was to read 12 books – and I finished FIFTEEN (yes, I am proud). 10 were fiction, 5 non-fiction. 8 on the Kindle, 7 in print.

The Last Chinese Chef: A Novel by Nicole Mones (2007).
A novel about grief, romance, and Chinese food. Lots of lovely food descriptions, if that is your thing.

French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen Le Billon (2012).
Part common sense, good read. Part total guilt trip. Snacks for lyfe.

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (1983).
This was one of my favorite books as a girl and I cannot wait to introduce Frances to it. A fantasy novel about a girl who wants to become a knight, and so she hides her gender and heads off to the capital to train. That said, it doesn’t really hold up to adult reading. Probably best left to the tweens.

Siberiak: My Cold War Adventure on the River Ob by Jenny Jaeckel (2014).
A pretty straightforward look at the author’s exchange experience in the Soviet Union in 1988. Having been an exchange student myself (in Germany in 1995), I found it really nostalgic and relatable. My one complaint is that although the book is larger than the standard size, the writing is still very small, and was sometimes hard to read. I got this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer’s program.

Best Food Writing 2014 by Holly Hughes (2014).
The title explains it all. I love food writing, but this was not particularly memorable (a month later I remember two of the essays – one about the creator of the Cronut, and one about prison food).

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (2013).
I think I would read anything Patchett writes. This is a collection of essays, published over decades in various magazines, proving that at the end of the day, Patchett is just an excellent writer. Period.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry (2014).
When the Headmistress of a finishing school keels over at dinner, her charges decide to bury her and try to keep the school open. Sort of “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead”, but in Victorian England. An entertaining YA novel.

Station Eleven: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel (2014).
A beautiful, post-apocalyptic novel about the world after a pandemic. Haunting, gripping, but not creepy. Really good, highly recommend.

The Snake Has All the Lines by Jean Kerr (1960).
I have a soft spot for books from this era written by smart, funny professional writer mothers. Or maybe I’m just in awe of a woman who had 5, not grown boys and was a playwright! Jami is also super into Jean Kerr now!

Many Conditions of Love by Farahad Zama (2009).
The second book in the “Marriage Bureau of Rich People” series. A fun book in it’s own right, and also an interesting glimpse into life in India.

W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton (2013).
I like this series, but wasn’t crazy about this entry. Just meh for me.

Ruby Redfort Catch Your Death by Lauren Child (2015).
Another fun Ruby Redfort offering – having failed her survival challenge, 13-year-old Ruby is in danger of being kicked out of the secret spy agency, Spectrum. At the same time, there is something odd in Twinford – jewels disappearing, strange animal sightings, an evil SCENT plot. Lucky that Ruby is still on the case. I got this book through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013).
A romance novel with a male protagonist! That alone made it interesting. And then what a character – an Asperger’s having, brilliant geneticist trying to figure out love and romance. Enjoyable.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (2012).
It took me 8 months to read this one. Clearly well written, but just hard as a parent to read a story of a child torn between two families.

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher (2014).
A slim novel comprised of letters of recommendation by a professor of writing at a middling liberal arts college. Professor Fitger is sometimes funny, sometimes awkward, sometimes pompous, but it’s overall an amusing peak at academia.


THREE!!! January 27, 2015

Filed under: Motherhood — cransell @ 10:27 pm


What’s New: You are THREE! This is both totally mind-blowing and completely unsurprising. You SEEM three. You spell your name. Earlier this month you told us it was Dr. King’s birthday and that “He’s a preacher.” We are figuring out where you’ll go to preschool in the Fall. You’re BIG.

Toddler Skills: Your teachers are always commenting on how well you concentrate during lessons. Even when other kids get distracted, you stay laser focused. If there is stuff to learn, you want to learn it.


Moments to Remember:

You like to play Teacher: holding up puzzle pieces and asking us what color they are, or what that letter is. When we were at Grandma and Pop Pop’s you had us all do “circle time” and sing songs like you do in the mornings at daycare. I’m starting to see glimpses of my childhood in the games you play.

You are still small enough to snuggle. We can rock you in the Glider in your room and carry you to your crib. You like to crawl up on my lap sometimes if we are watching TV and cuddle. A big girl bed is not too far in your future, but I hope the cuddles continue for a long time.

After your bath with Mommy, you like to “hide” cuddled up in towels in the chair in your room as we search for Frances, waiting to pop your head out with a big smile to say “here I am.”

You can spell your first name, and you know your last name. But if we ask you to spell it, you say F-R-A-N-C-E-S. If it’s some part of your name, it must be spelled Frances!


Likes: Yoga. Dresses. Eating snow. Having your picture taken with Charlie (it’s really the only time you ask to have your picture taken, and we must do it a few times a week). Dragons Love Tacos. Dancing. Taylor Swift (we were dancing to the radio the other day and you told me you wanted to “Shake it Off, Mama”. Your new toys.


Dislikes: When the things you want don’t happen IMMEDIATELY. Saying “one minute” (usually) doesn’t fly with you.


Adventures: Your birthday is obviously the biggest adventure of January, but you and I also went on our first road trip together – to Grandma and Pop Pop for MLK Day weekend. You were a total trooper and it was great fun.




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