Yes, I survived Germany and the flu

…but re-entry, as they say, has been a bitch.

Well, not really, but we caught the flu when we were overseas and I’ve been a little run-down ever since, and just haven’t felt like updating the blog. But, just a little note to say I survived. I’ll post photos and a recap soon. It was a wonderful trip, even though we spent about half of it sick in bed with the flu, which did entail some amusing German-pharmacy adventures, and lots of hot tea, but we had a great time anyway.

And I did get to read a lot — which is good, because my book was The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (with about 1300+ pages) which took me roughly three forevers to finish and which I’m going to blame for the fact that my book count for last year was SO LOW (I swear I’m missing a couple of books from the list…I counted Third Reich for last year although technically I didn’t finish it until mid-January). This year I vow to do better — I’m hoping for 52, averaging one a week. I’m already behind (due to Adolf Hitler) so I’d better get cracking. I’d like to re-read all of the Little House books this year so that’ll help…

Some other thoughts for the new year:

  1. Move more. Walk at lunch at work, do some walking after work, bike rides on the weekend. Poor creaky body needs more exercise.
  2. Read more. See above. I moved my laptop away from my favorite spot in the living room so now instead of reaching for the computer, I reach for my book. That will help. Bad habits, and all that.
  3. Make more art. I have a nice WIP nearly finished, will hopefully show that soon too.
  4. Get married. Wait, what? Yes! It’s true! It’s a lovely story with an even lovelier ending (and a wonderful new beginning). I’m very happy, very blessed, and extremely lucky. I count my blessings every day — I take none of this amazing happiness for granted.

That’s good enough, right? Sounds like a good year.

Photos and more details to come.

 

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Off to the land of Christmas and beer

We are off to Belgium/Germany/Austria tomorrow! I am so excited. Our itinerary goes something like this:

1. Belgium. Here we will tour Brussels and Bruges (second time for me, I loved it so much the first time). We will have much beer and look at much surrealist and Art Nouveau. Then we hop a plane to…

2. Berlin. Here we will witness the fall of the wall, eat currywurst, see funky grafitti and modern art, and try our hand at extremely faulty German. Then we catch a train to…

3. Rothenburg ob der Tauber: to absorb all the adorable Christmas-land medieval beauty that we can in two days and one night, and then back on the train to…

4. Munich! Where we will balance light and dark by visiting both the Hofbrauhaus and Dachau on the same day, inspect the BMW museum, hopefully visit castles (my first castles ever!) and take a side trip to…

5. Salzburg, to see the birthplace of Mozart and try both Linzer and Sacher tortes.

Then home, exhausted, happy, and probably 10 pounds heavier. I cannot wait!!

Reporting in on Kindle Paperwhite: I love it. It was worth the upgrade. I love the backlight and the touch screen is much easier to use, and it’s only the tiniest bit heavier than the other one. I also like that all it is, is an e-reader. We have an iPad as well which will function as portable computer/video player/internet hub/second e-reader, but I’m happy with my little Paperwhite. Definitely worth the upgrade.

I’ll be back in a couple weeks (!!) with photos and more. Happy Holidays to everyone, thank you all for your friendship and love. Right back at you!

Book: The Demonologist

The Demonologist (by Gerald Brittle) focuses on the work of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the duo who helped investigate the Amityville Horror house. I’m not sure where I heard about this book, but I’m kind of a fan of The Exorcist and demon-horror genre, so I thought I would check it out.

It was three things:

  • Poorly written
  • Sensational (lots of exclamation points!!!!)
  • and ultimately, terrifying

Claiming to be 100% true (!!!), the book is written in faux-journalistic style, sometimes feeling a little bit like a true-believer fan writing up a review of a favorite artist. However, that didn’t stop the actual content from being really pretty horrifying.

The two things I remember most are the story of Annabelle, the possessed Raggedy Ann doll (I should mention here that I have my own Raggedy Ann doll, made by my mother, definitely NOT possessed… I hope…). I have a thing about animated non-living things, ESPECIALLY dolls, dummies, figurines… I think I would lose my mind if a doll started moving around the house of its own accord (being in a different place every day) or started leaving notes around the house. I would completely freak out. So that’s a pretty good story.

The other thing that was really scary was the extended descriptions of what happens when your home becomes infested with a demon (or multiple demons). Apparently there are three stages: Infestation, Oppression, and Possession. Each stage was described with multiple “true examples” and quotes from tape recordings of Ed and Lorraine speaking with the “demons.” I found these to be terribly unsettling in their utter bizarreness.

Lesson learned: do not play with Ouija boards, do not attempt black magic conjuring spells (even those from a novelty book) and do not focus on demons. Wait… don’t focus on demons? THEN WHY DID YOU WRITE THIS BOOK?!?! I’ve been focusing on demons for the past week or so! I am doomed.

A funny story: The other night, after reading this terrible book and becoming completely freaked out, I turned out the light and tried to go to sleep. As I listened to the little scritches and scratches that inevitably happen when the branches scrape against the house, and heard the dogs barking in the distance, I couldn’t get the list of “demon infestation” symptoms out of my mind: “Scratchings, knockings, rappings, animal sounds, sounds of furniture being moved, telephones ringing with no one on the other end, doorbells ringing with no one at the door…” etc. So I was trying not to match up the things I was hearing with the list of symptoms (“Just because there’s scratching doesn’t mean it’s a demon. Just because the dog is barking doesn’t mean it’s a demon) when all of a sudden, THE PHONE RINGS. At 10:30 pm. I am absolutely petrified and cannot get up to answer the phone, becuase I am SURE there will be nothing on the other end except clicks and silence, perhaps a low inhuman moan… so I lay there in bed, trying so hard not to wake up my sweetie next to me… “Don’t wake him up for this, don’t wake him up for this…” and eventually I calmed down and went to sleep. Surprisingly, I did not have nightmares, but I was awfully glad to finish this book last night.

It’s poorly written and its claim to truth is somewhat questionable of course, but it was damn scary and really kind of disturbing. A great RIP read if you want something to really get you thinking those October thoughts!!

What now, little blog?

Poor little blog, all alone. I was thinking of abandoning it altogether, and pretty much have, actually… but then I started looking through some of the old posts, and my old old blogs, and I realized that it’s a valuable record of a lot of really hard, and also really good, times. I have kept journals of some sort all my life, in various formats, sometimes journalling more than others. Blogging has been a journal of a sort of many many years and I don’t particularly want to let it go. But clearly it has to change for me. My life has changed. My available time has changed. My focus has changed. These are good things, but change is always difficult and takes time to settle into ‘new normal.’

Part of the reason why I haven’t wanted to blog is because my new life is so much… well, frankly, it’s a really good life right now. I didn’t want certain people stumbling upon this blog and feeling worse than perhaps they already did. However, it’s time to stop censoring myself, and to let some of those last vestiges of fear go. The truth is that being emotionally abused is a bad thing, and it takes a long time to recover from that. People can be wonderful people with many amazing beautiful qualities and still inflict terrible damage on the loved ones around them, and often they don’t even realize they are doing it. Yet the damage is done. It’s been almost two years since the breakup and I can see things more clearly now. I’m so much healthier in so many ways. I’m so much happier. There are many things I’m sad and sorry about. However, I am so grateful that I get a second chance to have a real life. Life is so complicated. Was my life before ‘real’? It was, but it was also so skewed and so far from ‘normal’ in so many ways… my life now feels like my ‘real’ life. At the very least, it is the life I want to be living, not just the life I am gritting my teeth and getting through. 

So I’ve been censoring, and that means I haven’t been writing as much. The truth is that my current (last, final, best) sweetie is someone I’ve known a very very long time and he means the absolute world to me. He is as much a part of me as my family is. I’ve known him for almost 20 years, and we’ve been through so much together and apart. I’m incredibly grateful to have him back in my life. It’s the best thing ever. 

It’s also very distracting. I’ve been doing house things (like painting the bathroom!) and gardening, but because I’m also doing things like watching baseball and going out and having a good time in the world, I’m not sitting on my couch reading, or writing, or killing time. I have very little ‘time to kill.’ This is good, but also leaves little time for things like journalling or blogging. After the past year+ of getting back into the swing of things together, we are now crafting some time to take care of things like meditation, reading, writing, blogging. I hope to use some of this time to blog, maybe weekly. Weekly would be good. I’m also writing in my paper journal as well. Blogging has taught me that things ought to be recorded one way or another. 

So what will this blog be now? Well, less focus on books, which is sad, but I’m just not reading like I used to (see above comments of no time). I still love it, and I’m still getting through some big chunksters, but it takes me longer. I’ll talk about what I’m reading and try to record it on my books page, but I probably won’t do big reviews unless the book really warrants it. 

I will try to include photos when they are called for, but this won’t be a photography blog. I just don’t have time to process and sort everything, and it’s an impediment to me posting. So I’m not going to put that pressure on myself.

Instead, I will write about what I’m doing, what we’re doing, how I think/feel about those things, and general thoughts. 

If you want to keep reading, I’d love to have you. If not, it will be just for me, and that’s just fine too. 

I miss blogging, and I don’t want it to be work. I want to be able to write what I want to write and not worry about it. I think there just got to be too much pressure (self-imposed, of course) smacked right up against Not Enough Time. Remove the pressure and make the time = more posts. 

If there’s anyone still reading, thank you. So many of you helped me through some really bad times. Now, let’s enjoy some good times!

A bathroom paint fix. And a few other things.

Turns out the solution to my paint problem was right in front of my eyes… literally. I realized that the extremely neutral off-white that’s painted throughout the house would be perfect in the bathroom (why did it take me almost three years to realize this?). I also happened to have a full gallon of semi-gloss of this shade (I don’t know the name of it — I need to take it to the paint shop and find out what it is) in the garage, ready to go. So this morning, I abruptly decided to re-paint the walls. I left the ceiling and skylight shaft the bright white, which make the project easier. It looks so much better now. ImageImage

Next up: replace the ugly sink fixtures with something shiny and pretty, put in shelves instead of the hutch, and I think that’s about it. Then this bathroom will be “done enough” for the time being and I can stop thinking about it. Next up: master bathroom!

What else have I been up to? I finally went to Yosemite. Loved it. Went with best friend and her kids. It was truly stunning. I can’t wait to go back. So sad to hear about the huge fire raging there right now. 

ImageBeen reading too, but not as much as I’d like. Life getting in the way and all that. I’m currently reading A Discovery of Witches, which is kind of silly but just what I’m in the mood for right now. Up next is The Snow Child which I expect to be amazing. I can’t wait to read it. Other recent reads include The Ocean At The End Of The Lane and Hallucinations. Both excellent. 

We went camping. It was really nice to get away for the weekend. The boy looks incredibly bored in this photo but actually he had a great time as well. We went swimming in the river, made s’mores, stayed up late talking ’round the fire… it was perfect. I don’t know if we’ll get a chance to go again this year or not, but we are already thinking of where to go next year. Image

The garden is doing well too! I got all these peppers all at once. We roasted them on the grill with a balsamic vinaigrette and they were seriously amazing. (there are some cukes and tomatoes in the basket as well)

ImageAnd summer continues to go by… it’s been a good one. I haven’t blogged much lately. Too busy living. I don’t know what will become of this space — maybe just periodic updates like this one, for the sake of posterity. Maybe I’ll come back to it later when I have more things to say. I just don’t seem to have time for it right now, which is okay. I’d rather be gardening or camping or painting or cooking or hiking anyway, right?

And in case you’re wondering, Thomas is doing well too. The cutie. 

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Lately, plus Barney Frank; plus thoughts on blogging

I don’t even know what I’ve been doing lately. 

Did I catch up after the most recent trip to Florida? That was a few weeks ago. Then I flew up to Oregon for my grandmother’s 90th birthday party. In between and all around that, I’ve been trying to catch up in the yard/garden, maintain some kind of book-reading habit, stay somewhat focused at work, and going on bike rides. It’s been good. And busy. I’m ready to stop traveling so much for awhile. Blogging has fallen off by the wayside (sorry!) and I’m really not reading as much as I’d like, although I do make it through a few pages a night. 

I’m thinking of re-reading all the Little House books, which seems like a nice way to start the summer. I want to do more relaxed reading. I’m sure I have a book club book to read as well, but I have no idea what book we are reading this month, hmmm… Oh wait, here it is. On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan.

My head feels very scattered and distracted these days. So many things going on all at once, with so much travel. Work is busy and feels overwhelming, and although really everything is fine, I feel “off” somehow and need a break. We are going to try and do a lot of nothing this weekend.

However, before “nothing” is always “something” and last night we went to go see Barney Frank speak. He was hilarious, and also is a terrible mumbler, so what I could decipher was very witty and funny and interesting, and the rest of it I’m sure was, but I’ll never know for sure since I couldn’t understand him. Here is a really bad photo (I was quite a ways away)Image

It was a fun event and he was full of juicy Washington gossip and stories. We also went and saw Mark Bittman last week, which was also really wonderful. We joined The Commonwealth Club and are making use of our membership already!

I am having a hard time remembering to blog, which I think is a good thing ultimately. For so long, it was my way of reaching out into the world as my world became smaller and smaller, and I went more and more internal as I struggled to manage what was quickly becoming unmanagable. I turned to books and photography and writing to get me through the rough spots, to give me something positive to focus on, and as a way of translating my life into something that was interesting, positive, engaging and beautiful. So much of my life was really not any of those things, for a long time, and blogging helped me view things through a different lens. For that, I am really, really grateful.

Now, things are very different. I can live out in the world, traveling and doing things, and I don’t have to focus intensely on the one or two positive things — so many things are positive. This is wonderful, but I’m so busy living, I’m not taking the time to document. Which is okay and appropriate and good. I miss blogging, but honestly when I get home, I don’t want to sit and look at the computer very much anymore. I have gardening to do, cooking all sorts of things, someone who wants to talk about varied subjects, bicycle rides to take, after-work events to go to, movies to watch — a real life. It’s amazing and I love it. The computer is where it needs to be — there when I need it, but not a real focus.

It’s interesting to watch the cycles life takes, isn’t it? Sometimes, for a long time, you have to live one way, and then something happens and suddenly you are doing something else. 

Catching Up (AGAIN!): Garden, Art, Books

I swear, where does the time go? I’m busy and happy — that’s where it goes. Anyway, a little catching up:

Gardening/yard:

The yard looks so lush and pretty right now (if a bit overgrown).

ImageLittle birds come by to say hello:Image

The front porch looks cheerful as well:

ImageI am so ready to plant veggies! I’ve already planted a row of chard and a row of kale, and I just put in some cilantro and basil seeds today. I’m waiting to see what the temps will do this week; maybe this weekend will be time to get peppers and tomatoes. I’ll wait until later in April for cucumbers, butternut squash and the pumpkin I hope to plant. I’d like to make a small raised bed for lettuce too, in a shadier part of the yard. Maybe this weekend. I took my thyme out of their pots and replanted them around the yard. I’m trying to put pretty edibles throughout the yard. I need to repot my sage; it is HUGE and totally outgrowing the little pot it’s in. It’s about ready to flower as well. Spring is so exciting!

Art: Violet Owl

We moved around stuff in the house and now the “art room” is now the “studio” and is finally ready for projects! I drew this little owl to replace a faded print in the bathroom. She’s so sweet; I love her. 

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Books:

I read my book club book, Animal Factory. Go, me! This time, we branched out into prison lit! It was pretty good, kinda gritty. It was set in the 70s, at San Quentin. This was kind of interesting because I used to work about two miles from San Quentin prison; the prison is set in the rather charming San Quentin Village, with amazing views of the San Francisco Bay, a nice little beach, and adorable little houses. It’s a bit strange. The post office was nice and not busy; I would often mail my holiday packages from that post office to avoid lines. Just a sweet little village… and then, at the end of the road… a giant prison. 

It was also interesting because recently Tammie and I went to Alcatraz, and that prison is/was similar to San Quentin in the weather, the views (or lack thereof, even though it’s set in incredible natural beauty), the proximity to a city full of everything freedom brings. So I had a hard time remembering this was set at San Quentin and not Alcatraz.

The other book I just finished was Trader, by Charles de Lint (oh, how I love you, Charles de Lint). I found a paperback version at a thrift store and I’ve been meaning to read this one for ages. I do love his writing so much. He writes amazing female characters, and weaves in life-philosophy stuff without seeming preachy. And of course his brand of urban fantasy is so charming, welcoming, believable (and slightly edgy, which is welcome). It wasn’t my favorite of his, but it was a good Newford book and reminded me how much I love his writing. I may have to re-read The Little Country soon; that was my first de Lint and it’s been about fifteen years…

Now I’m reading The Season of the Witch,  written by Salon’s founder David Talbot. I’m not that far into it but so far it’s really good. It’s about San Francisco from the 60s through the 80s, such a time of incredible change for the city. 

What else has been going on? I went up to Oregon for my dad’s wedding, but didn’t take any photos — too busy having fun! We have to go back to Florida to clean out the sweetie’s mom’s apartment; she just moved to assisted living and her house needs to be clean by the end of April. So we’re headed back there. Erin is coming in two weeks and we’re going to Harbin Hot Springs for a night. I can’t wait… so relaxing and much needed right now. Everything is going pretty well — work is crazy, I’m travelling way too much which is such a change for me, but it’s all good. I’m very happy. I’ll try to blog a little more, but things have been so busy… 

Thanks for checking in!

 

What?!

How is it already March 13th?

Life has sped up considerably. I think about blogging often, but things are moving at a fast pace and I rarely have time to sit at the computer anymore. This is good, I think. At least, it’s different, and as Phil said in Groundhog Day, “Anything good is different.” (please note: that’s not true in all cases…)

The family stuff continues with my partner, and that’s taking up a lot of energy and thought. We may have to travel to Florida again soon to help with some stuff there. As well, work is crazy busy and by the time I get home, I am just wanting to watch a movie or read a book and then go to bed. 

However, on that note, I’ve started going for a mile a day — mostly running, some walking. My best friend Erin got me started; she did a whole month of running a mile a day, and it was very inspiring. I haven’t run much since I hurt my knee training for a marathon about 10 years ago (I ran the marathon, but at the expense of my knee), but a mile seemed do-able. And, surprise surprise, it is! I’ve been able to run the entire mile (slowly) most days. On the days when I can’t for some reason (no time between work and after-work activity, for instance) or when getting myself out the door seems like it will take a minor miracle so I’m lucky to even make it to the sidewalk, I walk the mile. Don’t even have to change out of work clothes to walk a mile, and that makes a HUGE difference.

By Day Three, my legs were killing me. By Day Six, they felt better, and now, at Day Thirteen, it feels like old times. Mind you, I am not a fast runner. I never have been. But it’s fun to be able to jog a couple of miles. Or, you know… ONE.

So that’s something positive. 

I’ve also been cooking more. Now that I’m not just cooking for myself, I’m finding inspiration to try recipes and make actual meals. That’s fun too, although again: less time at the computer. Which I do think is a better trend, overall. I spend most of the day on the computer at work and it’s good to have a break. 

And it’s gardening time here in the Bay Area… I have some big plans, including making plans to take out the front lawn. I’ll definitely post about gardening stuff. 

I will try to post at least once a week… I like staying in touch with ya’ll and having this blog as a record of what’s going on. Lately, too much has been going on. But that’s okay. 

In book news: I finished Shogun — I will write a review soon! It was awesome. 

where have you been?!

It started off so innocently. A trip to Nashville to see my sweetie’s father and stepmother on Valentine’s Day.

However, when we were changing planes in San Diego, we got a call that his mother (living in Florida) had had a major stroke. This wasn’t her first; she’s had several over the years, so we were very worried. We had to board the plane not knowing if she was still with us or not. Thankfully once we got to Nashville, we found out that she was in ICU and doing a little better. We decided to take it step by step and slowly figure out our plan. Eventually we decided that since she had a lot of family there already attending to her, we’d stay a few days in Nashville as planned, and then continue down to Florida to see her, once she was able to speak a little better and remember that we’d been there.

The next day, we went for a Segway tour with his dad and stepmom through Nashville, which was really fun and very interesting all the way up until the last five minutes, when his stepmom had a mishap with the Segway and was down on the ground. So… a few hours of urgent-care doctors and x-rays and his dad dropped us off at home and took his wife to the hospital, where it was determined that… she broke her ankle and needed surgery the next day.  So she stayed the night in the hospital and we all stayed up with dad and uncle, telling stories and laughing, which was much-needed.

The next day we started making our plans to travel to Florida… when we got a call that one of his aunts, who also lived in Florida, had passed away that morning.

So now we had a major illness, a major injury, and a death.

Thankfully the Rule of Three held, and the rest of the trip, though exhausting and emotionally draining, went pretty well. We drove to Florida and saw his mom (who thankfully has started to recover, although we’re still not sure the extent of the stroke). Had some business to take care of at her house, plus family was coming in to attend the funeral, which sadly we had to miss.

So it was kind of… a whirlwind. And not relaxing. But we got to see a lot of family and be there for his mom (and stepmom) when they needed us, and we’ll probably need to go back in a few weeks or months to help with whatever transition is in the future.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Our four-day trip turned into nine, and we are completely exhausted, but at least we are finally home and I can DO SOME LAUNDRY. Ugh.

Book: Made By Hand

made by hand

I got this last summer during one of my few lapses into book-buying… after going 2-3 years without any serious book-buying urges, I’ve started collecting again. Mostly used books, as I come across them (my kryponite — I am powerless in the face of cheap used books!), but I had a gift certificate to Powells.com and this one called to me. I thought it was going to be something other than it was. It was pretty good, but I had a few problems with it.

I don’t read BoingBoing.net, but this is written by Mark Frauenfelder, who is the founder of BoingBoing, and has a long history of being an editor of influential tech-y magazines such as Wired. He is currently editor at Make Magazine, which I do enjoy (although I don’t buy it). I was kind of surprised to learn that the editor of Make Magazine did not start out as a DIY-type. Instead, he started learning about it late in the game and has only started doing DIY projects since the mid-to-late-2000s. But before he started making his own kombucha and building chicken coops, he and his wife ditched their Los Angeles life and moved, with their small children, to the remote tropical island of Rarotonga in the South Pacific, to start life again free from the constraints and wired-ness of modern life. And there begins my problem with this book (and with many of these current memoir-esque books so popular right now).

He and his wife are both writers and editors and can do their jobs long-distance, which is great. So they can, theoretically, move anywhere they like. However, it just grates that they decided that moving to a tropical island was the best way to unplug. It’s called pulling a geographical. I get it — I do! I’d love to do that — in theory. But it just feels like more of the same: privileged white people who have too much money deciding that this fancy world they’ve helped create is just not for them anymore, so they decide to go native. And, of course, are defeated by the realities of “going native” — disease, hardship, and, ironically, the lack of technology. So they move back to the states after six months, to try and make the best of — sigh, the hardship of it — homesteading on their half-acre of land (plus a modern house) in Los Angeles. Gosh, do you think it’s possible to have a more meaningful life right where you are?

I’m giving this book a hard time, and I did enjoy most of it, although it rubbed me the wrong way in places. The author details his explorations in the world of DIY: beekeeping, chicken-husbandry, tutoring his own kid, making stuff from scratch, fermentation, etc. It’s all very trendy and nice and some of it was informative and inspiring. And, expensive. For every project, he heads right to Home Depot and buys all the stuff he needs. He buys kits. He buys books. He travels to visit experts. He does not NEED to DIY. He chooses to. He could Hire An Expert (HAP). But he wants to learn and have fun doing it himself — which is admirable. I guess what kind of got on my nerves was the fact that he does not balk at multiple trips to Home Depot or the cost of kits, etc. It’s fun for him — it’s not a necessity. He does do quite a bit of foraging and re-use — okay. I’ll give him that. It’s just… well, I think you know what I mean. Although I think it’s great, it’s a little annoying that he clearly has a choice (as opposed to most of the people he interviews — they make do, make it themselves, and salvage objects out of necessity — which I don’t know why this feels more authentic to me, but it does — and who cares about authenticity when it comes to DIY?  — but still my uncomfortableness remains).

Clearly I have conflicting feelings about the whole modern DIY movement anyway. On the one hand — yay! I think it’s great that people are learning to do things themselves. I think it’s awesome that people are keeping bees and chickens, and that there is a market for items which are fixable — not just replaceable. On the other hand, the trendiness of it, the highly-paid white folks who can afford to make plenty of mistakes and (ironically) buy all the equipment they need — this grates.

Some of this comes from my own righteous sense of “I was here first” — I am not the most DIY person out there, but I do many things by myself from scratch and salvage without even thinking about it, because that is how I was raised. My dad is brilliant at fixing everything and I try to learn everything I can from him — wiring, gardening, fixing stuff of all kinds. My mom is very creative and taught me to cook, sew, preserve, fix household items and clothing, and taught me how to love thrifting. So it kind of comes naturally to me (and, I assume, lots of kids brought up in small towns with parents who didn’t have much money) — the privilege of being able to choose was not an option. So instead, I suppose, I have the privilege choosing of doing it myself — because I have the knowledge.

This is all kind of confusing.

I could also have been influenced by the most recent issue of Sunset magazine, which I found to be incredibly pretentious. Sunset has been shifting more and more away from DIY and How-To, to Lifestyle and Home Trends for the past 5-10 years, and the usefulness of the magazine has declined greatly. This month took the cake. There was a big 3-page article on a family (rich, of course, living in a big house in San Francisco) who decided to radically unplug. No modern conveniences for them! Oh, well, except for nice things like toilets and bathtubs and nice countertops. They do not own a coffeemaker — they have stovetop espresso maker instead! (what is the big difference? really.) No web, so they have to read — gasp! Paper newspapers and real books! No digital readouts on appliances! A manual orange juicer! they make bread — wait for it — by hand! From their own home-ground flour! In their bright naturally-lit large-windowed kitchen with modern appliances (as long as they don’t have those ugly LED lights!) and marble countertops. Sigh. You can read all about it here and here.

The next article was a first-person of going vegan for three days. CAN SHE DO IT!? Apparently not. She was foiled by cheese and wine. She made it two and a half days, but wouldn’t you know it? She felt so much healthier and lighter! So virtuous! And hungry! Did I mention hungry? Light-headed almost! People. Eating vegan is not that difficult. I’m not a vegan, but plenty of days I inadvertently eat vegan. It’s not that hard.

I’m not sure why the juxtaposition of these two articles grated so hard — something about the supposed austere superiority of the one (no gauche red LED lights! grind your own flour!) against the supposed difficulty of an “austere” diet like veganism… it’s a luxury to choose any of these things. Period.

I’m not articulating this well. But you can see that perhaps I was primed to be annoyed by the tossing around of dollars in the supposed DIY handbook.

Anyway, back to the book. After all my grumping, I agree with the author of Made By Hand — so much of the time, it’s way more fun, more engaging, more meaningful to make it or do it yourself. I don’t really want to keep bees, but I’m glad lots of other people do. I would love to have chickens, but I’ve decided that we have too many predators (there is a chapter about chicken-keeping in the book that helped cement this decision for me). But I do love making stuff — all kinds of stuff — on my own. I love building things from salvage. I like preserving stuff from the garden. I cook from scratch almost daily. It’s fun, it keeps my brain working, and I feel more attached to my things, to my home.

Was it a good book? It was okay. However, if you’re new to DIY, I suppose it would be inspiring. It was a fun, fast read, although I ended up with my (chicken?) feathers ruffled.

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As a side note, I found a nice resource for some reading suggestion lists: UC Berkeley has some good suggestions on their Summer Reading Lists page. Next up for me is my book club book, The Elephant Keeper’s Children by Peter Hoeg, and then I think I have two or three others I should get out of the way, but then I’m sort of tempted by a big huge read like Shogun or maybe I should start Anna K. Hmm… so many choices. I am excited to start reading in earnest again.