Dec 282010

and I’m really enjoying the quiet time we’re having.

I also know that I haven’t written an update on my year of happiness in months, and yes, I will wrap it up eventually. I also didn’t write my yearly “List of books I’ve read” yet, and I don’t know if I will but then you can go to librarything and look up my “books read in 2010″-list.

Christmas was very nice this year, with most of the traditional elements:


the food


the tree (a bigger one this year)


the angels my mother gave us.

I hope you have a quiet time as well.

Mar 242010

My very dear friend Winterkatze has made herself a little meme titled “Buch & Brot” that I liked so much, I just had to do it. I’m translating a bit freely because I feel lazy today.

  1. Do you read while you cook?
    Sometimes. Of course you can’t do it when you do “real cooking” but when you’re waiting for your frozen pizza, of course I do. Also, these days I’m trying to behave like a grown-up, and so I actually clean the kitchen when I have a short lull in cooking.
    When I was still living with my parents I did it all the time. My mother said that she had never before heard of someone doing this. Since this is a question in a meme, I guess I’m not the only one. (But then Winterkatze and I go way, way back.)
  2. Do you read while you eat?
    Yep. I don’t when we’re having family meals, and I don’t usually read when eating breakfast but every meal I eat alone or maybe with my son – I read.
  3. Do you like novels with a lot of cooking and eating in them?
    I do like Diane Mott Davidson’s detective novels. Other than that I haven’t read anything like that. Since I mostly read genre fiction with only a minimal amount of description … I guess I don’t actually look for books with food in them.
  4. Have you ever tried a recipe out of a novel?
    Again there’s Diane Mott Davidson. Her “what-to-do-with-all-the-egg-yolks”-bread has been a staple in our house at Christmas time. It’s even better nowadays because I can get real cranberries to make it. When I first tried it there was no place here where I could get creanberries, and a friend actually brought me some from the US.
  5. Do you collect cookbooks? And can you guess how many you’ve got?
    I don’t collect cookbooks anymore but since my husband likes cooking very much there was a time when he got cookbooks right and left. We have three quarters of a bookshelf full of them, but that’s only because we threw out every book we weren’t using on a regular basis. The one thing that’s still missing is a good one about Chinese cooking. The ones we use the most are the Bavarian cookbook which has all the regular things in it, like pancakes, how to roast beef, and that’s where I’ll go first when dealing with things I don’t do often, and the Indian cookbook.
  6. What do you like better – cooking or baking?W
    Not sure. I do very little of both. I used to prefer baking because I associated cooking with everyday drudgery, and baking was for special days only. What I really like about baking is that the final step is so neat. You pop that thing in the oven, clean everything up, and then you have your nice cake in your clean kitchen. When you’re done with cooking you have this mess of dirty pots, spoons, and splotches to clean.
  7. What kind of cooking do you prefer (Italian, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Mexican, others)?
    When I’m cooking myself I mostly do traditional German dishes because those are the things I do better than my husband. When eating (and cooking) I like things best that are like stew. Everything is on the plate at the same time, and mixed. So I like Chinese food, German stews, soup, I also like Indian, Thai and Mexican food but not as spicy as my husband prepares it.
    Having said that I also have a fondness for the meat with veggies and potatoes thing. I guess I just love to eat, and I’m not picky. When cooking I don’t usually do the fancy, my cooking is quite plain.
  8. Are you someone who always snacks or drinks while reading?
    Definitely not. Not anymore. My idea of heaven used to be sitting in bed reading while eating potato chips and drinking beer. Fortunately I weaned myself from that habit, and I have a “only eating at meals”-policy. My teapot never leaves my side though so I’m drinking all the time, whatever I do.
  9. Is there something else you want to tell about “books and food”?
    Well, it was definitely interesting how many of Winterkatze’s bookish readers also feel very strongly about food.

Now it’s your turn, dear readers, what about your reading, cooking, and eating habits?

Dec 082009

A friend of mine has recently started writing a blog about books and cats (in German). I’m always mightily impressed by her list of unread books. Now, don’t get it wrong, it’s not that she’s only reading for pleasure, she also gets send books to review, so in the end she has enough books on her list to justify sorting it. Me, on the other hand, I only read for pleasure so my pile is much lower than hers. Meet exhibit A (Note that German titles are printed the other way around than English ones. I’m finding this annoying. And no, I won’t place the German books face down, no way.):


But then it occurred to me that if my pile of unread books is really that low, why is it that every flat surface of the house is littered with books? And why do I never finish reading anything? And why does it take months for me to finish a book, even one that I borrowed? And why am I running out of bookmarks? Well, meet my PPUB, my Pile of Partially Unread Books:


(After taking this picture I found another one innocently hiding on a shelf. And then, after writing most of this post I found yet another one in a pile of knitting books sitting on the floor plus at least two unread knitting books.) I used to have a shelf dedicated to unread books, and I used to have only one or two books in progress. Now there is this pile on my desk, and the pile in the kitchen, plus the extra shelf in the kitchen. (What, you don’t have a shelf in the kitchen for books that you are currently reading? How odd.)

So, first to the unread books. There is from top to bottom (The links go to librarything, this post took ages to write because my nifty little Amazon helper plugin isn’t working. Otherwise there would have been pictures as well.):

  1. Odd and the Frost Giants – well, it’s by Neil Gaiman that’s reason enough for me to want to read it. It’ll probably get read very soon. It’s also a very short book.
  2. The Lake of Dead Languages – I think that Meno recommended this. Several years ago. It has been sitting around since then and I just didn’t feel like reading it.
  3. Until I Find You – I bought this because I used to eagerly await every new John Irving novel. Then I read the first paragraph and since then haven’t felt compelled to really start it. Especially since a friend told me she didn’t like it.
  4. Buddhism for Mothers of Schoolchildren – Received this two days ago. I have shown restrain and not started reading it, despite wanting to.
  5. Mein Urgroßvater und ich – This is a book I used to love as a teenager. There was some talk about it in the German blogosphere a couple of weeks (or months) ago, and I decided to buy it. It will be great to read with my son but not now. I’d like to reread it on my own, though.
  6. Green Lantern 47 – what to say, I have a subscription to Green Lantern comics. It will take all of 15 minutes to read it but my problem is that I can’t have my comics lying around where my son can see them because he gets scared very easily. (That’s a topic for another post, by the way.) So “Blackest Night” with pictures of people fighting and zombie-like aliens, well, I better keep that in my room which means I never read it because in my room I only read stuff on the computer. I’ll find the fifteen minutes eventually, though.
  7. Respect the Spindle – When I heard that Abby Franquemont wrote a book I absolutely had to have it. This one is likely to be read first. (And it’s a great conversation piece. I have showed three students how one makes yarn on a spindle because the book has been lying around on my desk. That means I showed them how I make it, they didn’t want to learn themselves, but still.)
  8. The Craftsman – it did sound interesting when Jo wrote about it on her blog. It was a birthday present from my parents.

My problem is the pile of books that I started but never finished. The problem is similar to having a lot of UFOs (that’s UnFinished Objects in this case) in knitting. You get all excited and start something new, and you do this so often that you never get around to actually finish anything. As for my knitting UFOs I sat down in October and finished almost all of those things whether I felt like it or not, and now I’m down to very few works in progress and feel much better for it. I have this gnawing feeling that it might be time to try something like this for books. I buy a new book, I get all excited, I start reading it, and then it gets stuck in a pile or two and another, newer book sits on top of it. Part of the problem is that books are so stackable. My pile of partially unread books contains (again from top to bottom, well almost I forgot some the first time):

  1. Off the Page – recommended by Jo again. I love books about writing, and I thought this one would be great. It is so far, I took it with me on a trip in May, read one or two chapters and never got around to it again.
  2. A New Earth – recommended to me by Christine Kane years ago. First my husband read it and since then it has been sitting here because it requires me to actually think while reading. That requires specific reading arrangements.
  3. The Power of Now – I thought I’d start at the beginning, and read this before “A New Earth”. There is a bookmark somewhere in it, I guess.
  4. Anger – I got this for my husband and after reading it he thought it might be a good idea for me to read it too. And it is. But – the thinking again.
  5. Schulz and Peanuts – I read an official Charles Schulz-biography some years ago, and enjoyed it very much. I have been loving the Peanuts ever since my father brought home six volumes of collected Peanuts strips from Canada. I learned English reading these. (My English teachers were quite baffled by my unusual vocabulary.) Oh, and this one was given to me by my sister. I think for Christmas – last year, I hope.
  6. Zum Buddha werden in 5 Wochen – this was a bit of a joke. I expected to read it through in about two days. That has been month ago. Oh, and the title translates as “Become a Buddha in five weeks”
  7. Use of Weapons – a friend brought this because she thought I would like it, and she is right. I’m dragging my feet though because I resent the “look I’m making this suspenseful in a clever way by mixing the timeline all up, and now you can guess what’s when”-strategy of this book. Of course, if I had read this in my usual state before becoming a mother I wouldn’t even have noticed the cleverness because I would have read it fast enough to not be bothered by this. I’d have raced through the book, and at the end all the pieces would have fallen into place. Like I didn’t realize that “Pulp Fiction” isn’t told in chronological order until my husband asked where the two people from the beginning went. (He meant the couple who robbed the diner.) In my head everything had unfolded in perfect and timely order.
  8. Fatal Revenant – I’m having a bit of a problem not only with fiction these days but especially with epic fantasy. I love, love, love Stephen R. Donaldson and especially the Thomas Covenant books but I’ve been reading this for ages because it’s not exactly an easy read, and – well – I have to look up names all the time which is the thing that happens when you go for weeks without reading it and then want to come back, and then I’m not always in the mood for something that moves rather slowly. I’m sure it is me, again, because I read the first six books of this in no time flat.
  9. The Wisdom of Menopause – I bought this for obvious reasons after my last visit to my ob/gyn. I’m actually reading it at the moment, and it’s getting a bit better since I gave myself permission not to read every single word of it. I am allowed to skip parts that don’t interest or concern me.
  10. Lick the Sugar Habit – this was recommended by Mel, and it is an excellent book. Probably. Only it has been hanging around the house for too long already. And somehow I’m not that thrilled to read about all the ways sugar wrecks havoc with my metabolism. And to be frank, the message is: “Sugar is bad, avoid it.” Maybe I won’t finish this one.
  11. The Mindful Way through Depression – I have written about this before. It is an excellent book, and the only reason I’m that keen to finish is that I no longer think that I am depressed. On the other hand mindfulness helps with several things, not the least life as a whole so maybe it’s time to read this already.
  12. Inside Songwriting – I’m always reading books about writing and writers and then sometimes I hope for more books about songwriting. This was recommended by Vikki on her blog. I saw her post about it and immediately bought it. I took it with me to a writer’s group meeting two months ago, felt incredibly inspired and then sat it down on top of a pile on my desk. I keep moving it to the top of that pile because a) it’s a pretty color, and b) it looks better to my students than having Green Lantern comics sitting there.
  13. Batman – Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? – What can I say, it’s by Neil Gaiman. And I did read the beginning but then my usual “comic problem” kicked in, I can’t have this sitting around where my son or my students can see it. So I basically had to stuff it in a drawer. Or at the bottom of the pile of unread books. It’s nice and big …
  14. Head First HTML– I bought that back in the day when I got serious about blogging, I think it was just before going from blogger to wordpress. It’s not exactly light reading material, more of a course. I did quite well doing the homework for a couple of weeks, and now I’m at the part where I should start learning CSS. With a wordpress blog, and being unhappy about the layout hereabouts it would be a very good idea to learn CSS but then – there would be the thinking again.
  15. Handbuch Buddhismus – a book that my husband gave me for my birthday years ago when I started being interested in buddhism, I am not sure if I like it or not, it is very German, a bit dry and academic, and I never can remember anything (that’s not the book’s fault, it’s me I have read numerous books about buddhism by now and all the names and dates and crucial facts keep slipping out of my mind.

Seems reasonable, doesn’t it? In fact there are more partially unread books in my possession but those are the ones that I have made peace with never really finishing. The books you see here are the one that I still think I will get around to read anytime soon. So what to do? I won’t burn the books and I won’t throw them away. They really do interest me. I think I will organize the books, I already cleared the “unread books” shelf (well, part of a shelf) and now it actually holds unread books only. I will keep one fiction and one non-fiction book in the kitchen, and find a nice clear spot on the floor for the rest, I think. Oh, and please remind me not to buy any more books on Buddhism for me.

Jul 252008

When I was a child and spending all my allowance on comic books and candy there weren’t any comic books for adults. And if there had been any there certainly weren’t any in the town I grew up in.

I thought about this yesterday when a student of mine told me about the reading night they are having at elementary school. All the students come to the school in the evening, loaded with sleeping bags, food, and books. They spend the night and have breakfast together. We didn’t have reading night either when I was a child but then nobody would have wanted me to read even more than I did. (I regularly set my alarm for 5.30 in the morning and read until I had to get up at 7.00. Until a neighbor told my mother that my light was on every morning. After that I read by natural light. Guess why I’m wearing these glasses nowadays…) It was more like, “Put down your book, go out and play. The sun is shining!” I still hear that a lot, I wonder why.

That student of mine talked about the books he planned on taking, namely a few Donald Duck books. I find that that and Mickey Mouse are the books everybody thinks of as comic books. If somebody is really sophisticated he might even have heard about Asterix. Wile for me there is a) DC super hero comics, the comics of my youth (in addition to Donald Duck and Asterix of course, and the Peanuts that my father brought from Canada from which I learned English), and b) graphic novels with all kinds of authors and stories.

When my student told me about his choice of reading material I marveled at a teacher who counts comic books as reading because I will never forget my teacher in 9th grade who told us to bring in comics, and then, when I unearthed my 2 kilo (that’s almost 5 lbs.) stack of – of course – all different comic books, fully prepared to give a full, detailed report and each and any of them, their pros and cons, and different levels of complexity or lack thereof, he wiped it all away with a “This is all trivial and not for people who read real books.” I’ll probably never forgive him, or maybe I should because he’s the one missing out. And, only for the record, I was the one who had done all the required reading for all classes before it was required by just browsing through the very small town library and reading everything that struck my fancy. From Sophocles and Aristophanes to Philipp K. Dick.

So, yesterday I took my student over to the bookcase where my comics and graphic novels live and showed him what I have. (That bookcase was the one that had another student exclaiming, “Have you read all these books????” which left me quite confused because she was looking at the comics and magazines and self-help books while the real books live in another room in three bookcases of their own. And of course there still are boxed up books in the attic. And if I owned every book that I ever read we’d either need a really big house or we’d suffocate in here under an avalanche of books.) My student (the one who was looking at my comics) was fascinated. And then, after showing him Flash, and Green Lantern, and a bit of Batman, and such I found myself saying, “That is a really good Batman comic but it’s not for children.” “Oh, you should be at least a teenager to read this.” over and over. (I better say here that I don’t own any x-rated graphic whatevers, they just aren’t suitable for an 8-year-old.)

He tried to convince me to lend him some but I won’t. And now I’m wondering how the tale of these comics will sound to his parents and peers, and how it must feel to be introduced to the possibility of graphic novels by your piano teacher.