Friday, November 28, 2008

Twilight Movie Reviews

I'm busy falling all over myself with the hilarity of the movie reviews I've been reading today. Everyone has a review of Twilight out right now, and they ALL seem to miss the point. Okay, maybe not ALL of them, but such a significant portion as to be funny. Many of these people talk about how the movie sucks because it totally fails to be a horror movie. Um hello? Horror movie? Are we really so limited as to think that all movies with spooks have to be horror? Many of these reviewers even go so far as to suggest an alternative title with the proper amount of "thrills and chills."

The Slate reviewer admits that she could never actually make it through the book, but she thinks the movie is probably pretty much the same (well how exactly would you know that?). Another group slams the movie for being too complicated and subtle to appeal to children! Children?! Who said anything about taking kids? I wouldn't expect The Nieces to enjoy something like this, and I wouldn't try to make them.

It is almost as if some of the reviewers had already made up their minds to hate this movie before they actually went to the show. Afterwards, they cast around for some reason to throw out there to account for the negative review. I am strongly reminded of the Harry Potter haters who, when you pinned them down, admitted they’d never actually cracked a book!

Why do the self-appointed keepers of popular culture insist on dismissing and misinterpreting anything they deem immature? God forbid we should actually like something that is intended for YOUNG PEOPLE! Eww what an icky thought! That might harm our credibility as SERIOUS and GROWN UP people. Gah! What about trying to judge the thing based on its merits?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving 2008

I feel like I've already celebrated this holiday in a major way by not getting out of bed at 6am. I am EVER so thankful for sleeping in. Now I'm looking forward to a day of cooking with M, visiting with family and friends, and tucking into a delicious dinner. Whatever you're doing today, I hope it is equally warm and satisfying. Now go enjoy your seethed lobsters and boiled eels! Again, Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The First Thanksgiving Part 3

From all the bounty described by Edward Winslow, it seems likely that the colonists were able to pick and choose the menu for their Thanksgiving day feast. However, not all items on our modern table were available at the time (cranberries for example). In addition, tastes have changed a great deal over the years, and not everything that we enjoy was considered good food at the time. Historians believe that the actual menu in 1621 looked quite a bit like this:

Seethed [boiled] Lobster (not considered particularly ritzy at the time)

Roasted Goose

Boiled Turkey (boiled?! boiling meat was a very common cooking method)

Fricase of Coney

Pudding of Indian Corn Meal with dried Whortleberries (yeah, I'd never heard of them either)

Seethed Cod

Roasted Duck

Stewed Pumpkin (the open-faced pie was not a common cooking method of the time)

Roasted Venison with Mustard Sauce

Savory Pudding of Hominy (Hominy is corn that has been soaked in lye until the flavor is gone)

Fruit and Holland Cheese

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The First Thanksgiving Part 2

After explaining the reason for the Thanksgiving day feast, Edward Winslow went on to sing the praises of the colony in general. He may have been writing party for the benefit of the colonial investors back in the old world, but his beautiful description must have been for family and friends as well. In summing up the value and assets of a business, very few modern businessmen would have done as much. I particularly love the discussion of the roses:

Our bay is full of lobsters all the summer and affordeth variety of other fish; in September we can take a hogshead of eels in a night, with small labor, and can dig them out of their beds all the winter. We have mussels ... at our doors. Oysters we have none near, but we can have them brought by the Indians when we will; all the spring-time the earth sendeth forth naturally very good sallet herbs. Here are grapes, white and red, and very sweet and strong also. Strawberries, gooseberries, raspas, etc. Plums of tree sorts, with black and red, being almost as good as a damson; abundance of roses, white, red, and damask; single, but very sweet indeed… These things I thought good to let you understand, being the truth of things as near as I could experimentally take knowledge of, and that you might on our behalf give God thanks who hath dealt so favorably with us.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The First Thanksgiving Part 1

I've been doing a little research about the first Thanksgiving for a lesson I'm teaching, and I thought it might be fun to share a few details.

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated on December 12th, 1621 in Plymouth Colony. The reason for the feast was two-fold. The last of the colony's harvests had just come in, and for the first time, the often starving colonists felt that they had a bounty. The second reason was a visit from "King" Massasoit, an important leader of a nearby native tribe. A colonist named Edward Winslow reported on the feast:

Our corn [i.e. wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, .... Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

Friday, November 21, 2008


In honor of the season (and the fact that we need to consider how ridiculously over-privileged we are) my class is working on something we are calling The Thankful Project. Each kid is making a list of 100 things, big and small, for which they are thankful. We are comparing and contrasting our lists, and we are going to look at how many of the things we really appreciate are material goods. We are also going to create a list of things that a person living in poverty might include. In the end, the lists will be posted in the hallway, and the kids will take home a copy of their won list to share with family on Thanksgiving Day. If you would like to contribute a list of your own (it doesn't have to be even close to 100) I will include it in the lesson. Resist the urge to be facetious.

My List:

100 Big and Small Things for Which I Am Thankful
(in no particular order)

1. Hot Cocoa
2. A Great Book
3. Autumn Leaves
4. Spring Flowers
5. Blue Jeans
6. My Husband
7. Thai Food
8. The Right To Vote
9. A Great Movie
10. My Parents
11. Fresh Summer Tomatoes
12. Flannel PJ’s
13. Honey
14. The Symphony
15. My School
16. Great Friends
17. Sweet Crisp Apples
18. My Aunties
19. Singing
20. Cars
21. Newspapers
22. Horses
23. My Nieces
24. A Good Joke
25. Candy Corn
26. Fresh-Cut Grass
27. My Brothers
28. Christmas
29. My Garden
30. A Fire in the Fireplace
31. Word Games
32. Backyard BBQ
33. Sweet Tea
34. Hiking
35. Airplanes
36. Mt. Rainier
37. Pumpkins
38. Hammocks
39. Pets
40. Good Health
41. Snowflakes
42. Snow Days
43. My Music
44. Cooking
45. Clean Water
46. Sitting After a Long Day
47. My Computer
48. Forests
49. American Democracy
50. American Liberties
51. Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate
52. Stars
53. Soft Slippers
54. Friday Night
55. Ripe Peaches
56. Central Heating
57. Dinner with Friends
58. Sunshine, Sunshine, Sunshine
59. Camping
60. Grilled Cheese
61. Rivers
62. Shopping
63. Ducks
64. Friendly Email
65. Nature
66. Roses
67. Fireworks
68. Sunday Brunch
69. Ice Skating
70. Poetry
71. Olives
72. A Nice Hot Bath
73. Photographs
74. Safety
75. Baseball Games
76. Parties
77. The Dishwasher
78. The Washer and Dryer
79. Plays
80. Seattle
81. Basketball in the Park
82. Baking
83. The Pacific NW
84. Farmers’ Markets
85. Cozy Sweaters
86. Thunder
87. Lightening
88. Picnics
89. Ferries
90. Holidays
91. Jazz
92. Indian Food
93. Dancing
94. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
95. The Beach
96. Snowshoeing
97. Travel to Other Lands
98. Writing
99. Friendly Dogs
100. Sleeping

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Happy Birthday M!

A very warm and happy birthday to MY "dear and loving husband" who is definitely worth more than whole mines of gold.

To My Dear and Loving Husband

by Anne Bradstreet

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persever,
That when we live no more we may live ever.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stephenie Meyers' Twilight Series Part 2

Oh yes, the second reason I love Twilight? It's entirely selfish. These books are just plain fun to read! As I mentioned earlier, the characters are so well done, that you really do find yourself caring about them. I am also a sucker(har!) for a first person narrative story with excellent voice. Bella and Edward are the perfect star-crossed lovers, but they manage to be interesting long past the point of standard teen romance. Meyers also manages to confront some very serious themes, such as divorce, family connections, suicide and depression, and teenage alienation, all through the lens of this very unsual relationship.

In the end, I would recommend the first book in this series to nearly everyone (okay, to be fair, to nearly all women and older girls). For the adult reader, it takes just a couple days to finish the novel, and it is such a fun ride that you won't have time to worry about whether it represents highbrow or low. If you are still concered about looking silly being seen with the now famous cover, grab this for a plane ride, and tell everyone around you that your niece is making you read it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Stephenie Meyers' Twilight Series Part 1

There are so many reviews and so much discussion out there of the Twilight series, but I just had to get in my two cents in case you'd written them off as pap for the very young. Actually, you're not entirely wrong, there is something a little bit pap-ish about them. They are certainly not the highest form of literature ever to grace the shelves. However, the good qualities of these books far outweigh the bad, and I must confess that I love them for two reasons.

First, I am thankful to Stephenie Meyers for writing on a level that works for such a wide array of kids. Her situations and settings may sometimes be a touch simplistic, but her characters are so beautifully drawn that readers really start to care what happens to them. This is another wonderful phenomenon, like Harry Potter, where I am seeing huge numbers of kids being hooked into reading by these books. Many kids, both good readers and poor, are telling me that these were the first books they ever read where they stopped noticing how many pages or minutes went by.

One little girl told me that it used to take her two weeks to read a short (roughly 150 page) book. She wasn't so sure about reading Twilight because it is so long (498 pages), but she was actually able to read it over a long weekend. She only stopped reading when her eyes were starting to hurt. When we had our booktalk about her reading, it was clear that her quick read had not hurt her comprehension in the slightest. That's a pretty engaging book if you ask me. She's also gone on to read the other three monster books in this series.

Success like this is invaluable to a struggling reader. Looking at a shelf full of big books, and knowing that YOU actually read, understood, and even enjoyed them is a huge thing for many of my kids. Lest you worry, I am happy to report that when this girl finished with Edward and Bella, she went on to read other books and series. This to me is the whole point of YA literature. If a kid happens accross just the right book at just the right time, it can mean a lifelong change in attitude towards books and reading. The trick is to keep exposing kids to different kids of books in hopes of hitting on that magic one.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Men and Their Small Devices

What is it about men and small electronics? Women are constantly accused of being shopping crazy, but take a guy into an electronics department, and he becomes a demon. Scads of men lined up and waited for hours when a certain new uber phone was released. Newly available applications are rigorously reviewed, and some men even pay large sums for applications that add no practical value to the actual device (green glowy gem anyone?). What is so absorbing about staring at that tiny screen?

Many men appear to think about their devices almost constantly. They caress them, play with them under the table, worry about their health, buy cases and decorations for them, and some even have them engraved. Then there is the urge to compare. When two device-owning males get together, they immediately begin competing to see whose is more powerful. If social convention would allow it, I think men would be playing with their devices 24/7 and in all situations. It seems that if the device-loving man doesn't get some quality time with his "little friend" every day, he gets very grumpy indeed.

I'm sure you've had experience with all this. You may have heard stories about men like this, you may have met a man or two who fits the profile, or you may even have a man in your life who's fallen victim to the scourge of small device envy. Precious hours of your relationship/marriage may have been purloined by these tiny devils that hold such captivating power over our men.

What can be done? Not a whole heck of a lot in my experience. If you are lucky enough to have a device-free male, thank you lucky stars, and try to ensure that he stays away from those already infected. The spread of this crisis is rampant because there is nothing the device lover enjoys more than showing off his special tool.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Best Seattle Florist: Fena Floral

Fena Floral did our wedding a few months ago, and I was deeply impressed by their work. In fact, of all our wedding vendors, Fena was the most impressive. When I met with them, they did the perfect balancing act of helping me figure out exactly what I wanted without forcing their opinions on me. They did a wide variety of different items for me from the bridal bouquet to the alter decorations and the rose petals for the flower girls, and every single one of these items was better than I imagined. Added to all that is the fact that their bid for our wedding came in well under budget, and it was truly a great experience. I would absolutely recommend them to anyone who needs a florist.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Best Seattle DJ: Bamboo Beats

Originally, I didn't even want to have a DJ at our wedding. My experience with wedding DJ's usually went from the moderately cheesy to the downright embarrassing. However, my fiancé was determined, so a DJ we had to have. Fortunately for us, we ended up with the DJ services of Bamboo Beats. I was so pleasantly surprised by their work, that I had to let other people know about them.

The first thing you notice about the Dyckhoff's (yes, there are two of them) is that they really want to know about you and what kind of music/presentation you would like. Our wedding was fun and romantic, and they absolutely worked to create that feel in both the music and the announcements. They also did a great job of noticing the mood of the crowd and modifying the music to fit.

Last, but not least, the part where there are two of them was invaluable to our event. Having two people meant that one could actually play the music while the other helped keep people organized and made sure that everything ran smoothly. These DJ's even pitched in when they saw a need. From comforting flower girls to smoothing the aisle runner, they were very helpful all around. Bamboo beats doesn't just play the music, they also help your whole wedding to run more smoothly. Thanks very much to DJ Tecumseh and Johanna!

Best Seattle Caterer: Ravishing Radish

The backbone of our July '08 wedding was Ravishing Radish catering. This company was one I remembered from a wedding I attended years ago, and I was very pleased to find them still in business when our time came. While "Radish" may not be the bargain basement cheapest of the catering bunch, the little bit of extra cost is entirely worthwhile in my mind. They were very professional, helped us to choose exactly what we wanted, and they did a great job of actually managing our event on the "day of."

We found the quality of the food to be very good, and if you're still not sure about that, be sure to visit one of their tasting parties. We were also very pleased to discover that the Ravishing Radish chef was able and willing to create lovely vegetarian dishes for half our guests. Even better than the food, though, was the way Junko and the other servers managed our event. They were willing to help out with all sorts of tasks from arranging tables to positioning the cake and creating beautiful centerpieces. Having such well-rounded team meant that we did not have to worry so much about every little detail. I would highly recommend Ravishing Radish for any type of event.

Reviewing Wedding Vendors

I've been meaning to do this for the longest time!

When M and I were planning our wedding, I used a number of different methods for choosing our vendors. Firsthand recommendations were my favorite, but in the absence of those, I often did some web searching to see what strangers had to say. I found that some long-lived businesses with thousands of past customers still had no feedback either on Yelp, Citysearch, etc, or on a simple google search. I was very surprised by this, so I vowed to write a few for the best of our vendors. If you are a friend or family member who attended the wedding, the next few posts will be really boring, but it's all for the greater good (if you know what I mean).

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Obama Wasn't the Only One

While Barak Obama's victory was certainly the most exciting part about the election, there were a number of other positive results as well. Christine Gregoire is still governor of Washington. While I don't have any really wonderful associations with her, I don't find any faults with her work either. She certainly represents policy perspectives that are much more in line with my beliefs than those of Dino Rossi.

Also, in news that was nearly ignored by much of our state, Randy Dorn appears to have won the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction. I am really very excited about this victory. Like Obama, Dorn is taking charge at a time when it will be tough just to do business as normal. However, I'm really hoping he will make some progress on a few of the more annoying issues that face education in Washington State. Canning or reducing the WASL and the Pro Cert, for example, would actually be a way to SAVE money, and I think he should get to work on that one right away.

Thanks very much to those of you who supported Dorn!

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Good Day

The sky is like a heavy wool blanket, and the rain has been pouring down for two days now. Nevertheless, this is a very good day. Here are a few of the reasons in no particular order:

1. At school we all attended the Veterans Day assembly, and the kids actually sat and listened in polite silence for ALMOST the whole time.

2. We got to sing at the assembly.

3. It's Friday!

4. I get to go on a mini road trip with my Very Superior Husband (more on the VSH label later).

5. The autumn leaves are even more beautiful against the gray sky.

6. I get to have a lovely, sweet, steaming mug of tea this afternoon since I don't have to go to bed early (I know, this seems pitiful, but it means something to me.)

7. All the make-up wedding china arrived without a single broken piece.

8. Everybody in my family is gainfully employed.

9. I get to have dinner with my Aunties this weekend.

10. Pretty soon I won't have to hear Bush's awful voice or see his picture anymore.

11. Democrats control Congress!

12. Democrats control the Senate!

13. There's about to be a Democratic president in the White House!

14. The country cannot be quite a racist as I had feared.

15. The Nieces are coming along on the road trip!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Perfect Quote

My elder brother had this quote tagged to his messages yesterday, and I it is certainly worth repeating:

"Today we may say aloud before an awe-struck world: 'We are still masters of our fate. We are still captain of our souls." -Churchill

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama Wins!

And there was great rejoicing! That screaming you can hear in the background is millions of Democrats engaging in the the kind of jubilation that hasn't been seen in, hmm, maybe ever. This is truly a historic day when the United States of America is not just able, but very enthusiastic, about electing an African-American president. It took a situation as bad as the one we're in right now to get people to sit up and take notice, but notice they finally did.

A part of me has been living in the proverbial darkness for eight long years, and it feels unbelieveably good to come back out into the sunlight. Of course there will be challenges, of course he (and they) will make mistakes, of course the situation out there is absolutely grave, but at least we now have some chance of seeing positive outcomes. Republican leadership has literally run this country into the ground over the last eight years, and it is now time to try and repair the damage. Hopefully Barak Obama is feeling up to a challenge. Hooray!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote Now!

I know many readers are out of state and many more have already voted. However, if you're in Washington, and you still plan to vote at the polls today, you should get out there and do it now. My school is a polling place, and when I arrived at 6:45 this morning, it was a madhouse. In all the elections I've seen here (this is my third presidential) it's never been like this. The parking lots were overflowing, and people were parking on sidewalks and bus lanes.

However, those must have been the people rushing to make it to work. Right now, the voters are coming and going at a steady clip, but the lines are not bad at all. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that no one is waiting more than 15 or 20 minutes. Nevertheless, I plan to flee by 3pm to avoid the post-work rush. If you're thinking of leaving work at 5pm and heading down to the polls, be sure you bring your dinner and a book because this could get ugly.

The political science part of me is still happy to see this happen. Granted, it took both national and international calamity to get people to sit up and take notice, but still it's good to have so many voters involved. Perhaps if more lazy liberals had done something last time, we wouldn't be in this mess now. Happy voting!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Vote for Dorn

One last minutes election plea. I'm sure you've made up your own mind about most of the ballot you're likely to face tomorrow. However, there are often those odd offices where you might feel that there isn't very much information from which to decide. If this is the case with Superintendent of Public Instruction, please choose Randy Dorn as your candidate. The incumbent, Terry Bergeson, is responsible for a number of problems in Washington education, including the ever- expanding WASL test and the Professional Certification Program for teachers. Having firsthand experience with both, I am enthusiastically voting for Randy Dorn who promises to change both of these issues and a hundred others in our state.