Every Little Thing You Do is Magic

["Danza Folklorica"- Frederico Fuentes]

I’m a realistic person to a fault, at times. As a child cartoons irritated me because animals don’t in fact talk and children do age over time (those damn effing babies on the Rugrats). As an adult my realistic tendencies have been a blessing and a curse. My savings account has a decent cushion in it because I have a realistic perception of the economy and life’s abilities to throw financial curve balls. I try to set realistic plans in terms of the students I teach and what I expect of others. My tendency for realism calls for contingency plans and Plan Bs (and Cs and Ds). I am a prepared woman. Unfortunately, realism tends to prevent optimism and often leads to irrationality (my poor husband), but that’s another post for another day.

Given my inclination for what is real, it’s a wonder that I’ve developed such a love for magical realism. For those of you who haven’t been in my English class this week or who need to brush up on your literary terms, magical realism refers to a realistic story that is interspersed with occasional magical elements that are generally accepted by the characters as being normal (using the term to define the term- tsk tsk). Magical realism is a genre that requires readers to merge, and acknowledge, the two realities within a text, temporarily suspending belief. I’ll spare you the rest of the lecture and the quotes from all the professors I forced upon my students, but if you’re interested I do have a PowerPoint and the clip from Pushing Daisies that we watched today… Anyway, magical realism allows anything from simple mind reading to telekinesis to paranormal activity to occur in an otherwise “normal” story.  


I’ll admit, for loving the genre so much I haven’t read nearly enough of its books. Right now we’re reading Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in class, but I’ve also read his most famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits was the first magical realism novel I read, back in high school, and since then I’ve read a few more of Allende’s works. Toni Morrison’s books incorporate magical realism, as does Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. I’m also a huge fan of Carlos Ruiz Zafon, who I am going to see read in a few weeks. While this is definitely not a comprehensive sampling, it has been enough to make me realize how much I enjoy reading these books.

I think my appreciation comes from the fact that in order to pull off magical realism an author has to be quite talented. Enough layers and details have to be established in the realistic portion of the text to support the magical elements, a surely difficult task. An author has to create a careful balance that ensures the right amount of whimsy without crossing the line into cheesiness. While not a book, the perfect example of this is the “so-good-it’s-bad” Sarah Michelle Gellar movie Simply Irresistible, where she takes cooking advice from a magical talking crab. A good writer makes their audience recognize and accept the magical elements of the story, allowing them to seamlessly merge into the ones that are realistic.

Back to the term whimsy. Not counting Harry Potter, I don’t generally care for the fantasy genre, or novels that center around magic, but there is something about the whimsical that attracts me. To me whimsical is the movie Amelie, it’s the tree that grows inside Skylight bookstore, it’s little kids dressed up running around their backyards with homemade capes and puppets (for the five kids left in the world that aren’t glued to an imagination-robbing device for hours a day). It’s a feeling that gives you the notion of unusual possibilities existing in this world that can often seem mundane and cynical. Magical realism may not always be pretty or positive, but it opens tiny little trap doors that allow you to escape from the ordinary. And then the door closes and you’re back to reality- and so on and so forth. 

Professor Luis Leal does describes the genre best when he says, "If you can explain it, then it's not magical realism."

A Rant Before Bedtime


I'm Googling a little obsessively lately and it's occurred to me that information, both correct and incorrect, is just too readily available on the Internet. This isn't the first time I've had this thought, it's just resonating today. We don't have to work for information anymore, we don't have to talk to anyone, we don't have to go anywhere. Just today I managed to find some herbal remedies for a medical condition I've diagnosed myself with, selected a new camera to buy for yearbook, decide on a new recipe for dinner, start a web page program for my students, check if Barnes and Nobles carries a book at the store so I can look at it before I order it on Amazon, and see what my electric bill is so far this month (don't ask). I'm not kidding- all between the hours of five and seven.

It's just too much. There aren't any surprises anymore, the concept of mystery and wondering becomes completely irrelevant at the press of a button. Our experts have turned into faceless beings that claim sufficient knowledge- instead of making the time to create a connection we ask the source that's open and all too ready to help, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all for the low price of an internet connection. 

Once upon a time, back when I was twelve, I was doing a project on the Hetch-Hetchy project in Northern California for science and had to request past newspapers from the circulation desk at the public library.They went downstairs to the archive and brought back bundles of newsprint.

Once upon a time, back when I was ten and wanting to figure out when my favorite used bookstore, Yesterday's Books, opened on a Saturday morning I had to pull out the phone book, look up the number, and call for the information.

Once upon a time, back when I was seven, I had to do a report on astronaut Sally Ride. I went to the library and looked up the information in a card catalog, jotting down the call numbers for the relevant books with tiny pencils on scratch paper thoughtfully cut into small squares by librarians. 

Once upon a time, when I was six, I accidentally said the "N-word" because I was looking up different locations on a globe, learning how to use latitude and longitude. Unfortunately, there was a little African American boy in the group and the whole situation ended up with me crying. Wait to set me up for failure, Niger.

Bottom line- we used to have to work for our information. There was a sense of satisfaction that was gained after a long afternoon in the library with notes scribbled in my Trapper Keeper (what what) and fresh copies made from the machine I pumped dimes into (there is nothing more adult-like to a middle schooler than using a copier without an adult). I don't feel that way after hours spent at my dining room table with my bleary eyes glued to my computer's screen.

Side note: Did you know that card catalogs are now nifty DIY sort of projects that upcyclers love to distress and put in their homes? They use the drawers for their kid's crap or their office supplies. Would I balk at having one in my front room? Hell no (in fact I kind of want one now...), but you can bet one drawer would have some actual cards in it. 


But, on the other hand, this whole "information at your fingertips" monster is terribly efficient. The things I was able to do this afternoon would have taken me several hours worth of phone calls and appointments if I hadn't had the ability to look them up on the Internet. I'm a busy woman and there are only so many hours in a day. I've got shit to do. Lots and lots of shit. 

But, back to the other hand, the romance is gone. This whole technological revolution is like an old, boring marriage- we've been together awhile and I'm becoming nostalgic for the days prior to we vowed to stick together forever. Technology gives me what I want but doesn't challenge me- we don't fight anymore, we don't try anything new. Every night all we do is Google with the lights off.

I could start making massive parallels to our society, and how this is indicative of a larger epidemic- the laziness that is today's people. But I won't. This diatribe is nothing new, we've heard this song before. And I'll be honest- while I'm sitting here pining away for the days of yesteryear I know very well that I'm not going to change. I'll check Facebook when I'm done typing this, peek at my email, and glance at the weather so I know what to wear tomorrow. I'll continue lusting after the iPhone 5 and and iPad, and will forever use technology as a way to communicate. Despite all this I can still think it's sad. Maybe Siri will know what to do. 

Salman Rushdie

[new trend: take your own shitty pictures so that you don't have to cite]
Today I was lucky enough to get to attend the Salman Rushdie event in Santa Monica with two of my friends. I'd say "reading," but he, like Junot Diaz from last week, didn't actually read from his newest book, the memoir Joseph Anton. Live Talks LA hosted the event in conjunction with a filming they were doing with bio.com, which was great because it meant a pretty tiny audience (maybe less than 100 people). To make things even better, it was at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, which is a train station turned art gallery (I've got to go back to just visit the art one of these days).

NPR's Karen Grigsby Gates led Rushdie's discussion of the  nine years he spent in hiding as a result of a "fatwa" (we learned this word has nothing to do with death, but just basically means "edict") calling for his death from Islamic leader Ayatolla Khomeini. Long story short- Rushdie pissed off the wrong people with his novel The Satanic Verses and it's depiction of Mohammad, so people wanted him dead. He spent some time talking about how the British literary community stood by him and kept his location a secret (which changed frequently). Eventually he ended up spending more and more time in the United States. Rushdie also touched on his feud with John le Carre, which was something I totally missed, given the fact I was in middle school when it happened- the literary drama sounds like something I need to read up on, though. There was really very little discussion of the act of writing, but instead his experiences as someone who had to temporarily assume a new identity. It was fascinating.

Rushdie was a bit different from how I thought he'd be- I imagined him more serious, maybe slightly pompous (but rightfully so, give then fact he's an effing Knight), and a bit proper. In reality he seemed very nice and humble, had a sense of humor, and dropped a few four-letter words.

Things he did not talk about: Atheism, if Padma Lakshmi can actually cook, how many wives he plans on having before he dies, his upcoming movie

Finding Readings

It's not secret that I'm a sucker for author readings- 60 miles into LA on a work night for a 7:30 event? Sure, no problem. There's something about being surrounded by intelligent, literary people while listening to someone who writes the books I love that makes the inconvenience totally worth it. I've never been to a bad one before, nor have I ever regretted the inevitable drowsiness I encounter the next day. And now that I'm slowly getting friends to join me it's even better. A lot of people ask how I find out about them, so I thought I'd jot down a few tips:

Check out the more popular independent bookstores in the major cities or college towns near you In Southern California I frequently check the even calendars for Book Soup, Skylight Bookstore, and recently The Last Book Store.


Get to know different museums cultural groups The Skirball Center (run through the Jewish community) is a great resource in Los Angeles, hosting both Jewish and non-Jewish authors. I know different Latino societies will also promote author readings as well and The Hammer Museum in Westwood recently hosted Michael Chabon (on the same damn night as Junot Diaz).

Check out colleges and universities Being in Southern California there are many, many options in terms of higher education and often writers will stop by for readings. I know Sandra Cisneros was at UC Riverside last year and Margaret Atwood and David Sedaris stop by UCLA on occasion.

Check out your public library's website The Los Angeles Public Library has the amazing ALOUD program which brings authors big and small, global and local, to their stage. Most events are free, but the ones that cost are usually less than twenty (and you know the funds are going to a great cause).


Look into public radio and different performing arts groups During the last year or two I've discovered the Writer's Bloc and LA Live Talks, both non-profit organizations that bring authors like Salman Rushdie, Ann Patchett, Nick Hornby, and Junot Diaz to town. 


Visit author websites Most authors will go on some sort of book tour near the time they're scheduled to have a book come out- check out their websites! They usually have event pages that link you to the venue near your city where you can buy tickets. I found Writer's Bloc through Junot Diaz's website! 

Look at your newspapers calendar in the arts section The LA Times generally posts events, although usually only for larger named writers and sometimes only the week before. But, it's better than nothing! 

Join mailing lists I've managed to join enough mailing lists that I'm now at the point where I get advanced notification on a lot of the readings I'm interested in. Sometimes priority registration is offered to people who have gone to past events. 

I've been madly going to all my favorite sites looking for readings to go to this fall. I went to Junot Diaz last week, am going to Salman Rushdie on Sunday, and then have Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Nick Hornby coming up. Fingers crossed a few more folks come to town before the end of the year (since four of our current best aren't enough)!

Sometimes Shorter is Better


For a long time I was opposed to anything shorter than a novel- the full length of a novel somehow legitimized the act of reading for me. Short stories and novellas were for authors that didn't have the attention spans or dedication to write an entire book. 


And then in the last few years I've become older and wiser. I've realized how much effort has to go into crafting a shorter story- trying to develop characters and some sort of plot in a limited space is incredibly challenging. I, of all people, have to appreciate a person's ability to be concise, given my penchant for wordiness. When an author is dealing with several hundred pages they have time. They have space. They have the ability to endlessly connect and weave. Short stories and novellas don't offer this luxury. In anywhere from one page to, say, 175 pages (there are so many different opinions regarding the upper end of what a novella is), a writer has to craft some sort of message that resonates with the reader. It would be like asking a musical group to create a song that lasts for thirty seconds instead of three minutes; it can be done, just not easily.

In terms of marketability, these texts are a bit of a gamble. Short story collections don't sell well and aren't as often picked up by publishers (how many first time novelists get their big breaks from short story collections these days?). And my personal opinion on novellas is that they pose a challenge in terms of sales price- the consumer expects a lower cost since they're shorter, but publishers aren't as inclined to reduce it significantly (maybe a few bucks). 

I'm currently teaching the novella Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez with my students and have realized that this is the answer for reluctant readers. There are so many good novellas out there, and it's so much less intimidating to a student (and even adults) to start a 120 page book, as opposed to a 400 page one. In terms of teaching, most of the kids have actually read the books because it can be done in just a few hours (and because it has strong sexual and violent undertones). And now, because they've been able to handle this small dose of Marquez, and feel successful for finishing it, they're signing up to read One Hundred Years of Solitude for their outside reading.

Once I started thinking about it, and examining my bookshelves, I've read quite a few novellas. Shopgirl by Steven Martin, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol, and Night by Elie Wiesel, just to name a few (for a great list check out this one on Goodreads). Personally, I've started to use novellas and short stories as ways to ease into, or out of, longer, more dense texts. Sometimes it's hard to move from one long, intense novel right into another. I've also found that they're great when traveling, since I never seem to have extended periods of time to sit and concentrate, whether on the plane or in a hotel. 

In conclusion, novellas and short stories are definitely worth investing some time into.*

*This is me simultaneously not knowing how to end this post and feeling the need to express my frustration towards teachers and students who use the phrase "in conclusion" (just conclude, for crap's sake- don't tell me you're going to do it! Would you tell someone you were about to punch someone in the face? No! You'd just make a fist and knock the douchebag out).

Top Ten Tuesday- Meet 'n Greet

The Broke and the Bookish asks us to list our top ten "bookish" people we'd like to meet. I have no fight in me tonight to use this as an angle to punch bad writers like Nicholas Sparks, Stephanie Meyers, and EL James  in the face, so I'll be quick:


1. Jeffrey Eugenides- The man is brilliant and his own vest had a Twitter handle. 

2. JK Rowling: I'd like to ask her if she's scared that her adult novel is going to fail. I'd also like to peak into her house (whaaaaaat, you keep your kids under the stairs?).

3. Toni Morrison: Here's the deal- she's not even my favorite writer (I don't dislike her, though), but her position in contemporary literature is epic. The woman will be taught for forever.

4. Marish Pessl- I'd love to ask her when the hell her next novel is coming out and why the hell it's been pushed back. Get with the program and make me happy.  
Politicians Turned Authors:

5. Hilary Clinton: Total girl crush. I haven't read her autobiography (that she supposedly wrote by hand) and may not, since a lot has changed since then. I'm hoping in ten years we get an updated version.

6. President Clinton: I can't help it- I love him. Not like Monica Lewinsky love, but on a "thank you for a pretty decent eight years" love.

7. President Obama: He's incredibly articulate- I'm thinking it will carry over into his writing. And now I'll stop before we get all political (or at least more so than listing three Democrats in a list of people I'd like to meet).

8. A Bookstore Buyer: I'd love to hear why they make the decisions they make in regards to inventory.

9. A Top-Notch Literary Agent: It would be great to pick their brain in case I ever get my ass in gear and write something that doesn't make me want to curl up in the oven and shut the door. 

10. A Teacher from the Iowa' Writers Workshop: The place fascinates me.


Books on Your Back- Team Not Crappy

While our team is smart and has good strategy, unfortunately I don't think we're winning. 

Via Etsy- Melly Mo Shop, $15

Speaking of teams and sports I'm a happy little athletic supporter these days (ba-da-da-dum). My Giants are killing in the NL, my Bruins have won two weeks in a row, and the only football team I even remotely identify with, the 49ers, are doing pretty well too. Go sports.

I've Got the Golden Ticket- Salman Rushdie

This is what happens when you go to enough events- you finally get put on the "special" mailing list. Hell yes, I'm going. Hell yes, I feel special. And hell yes I'm going to make sure I don't look like a homeless person that day in case I end up on tape.

Junot Diaz Reading

[Crappy Instagram picture]
Last night I once again made the 60 mile drive out to LA to see an author talk- this time Junot Diaz, author of Drown, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and his most recent collection, This is How You Lose Her. Luckily enough a friend joined me, so tackling the Art Walk traffic wasn’t too terrible. The event was put on by new-to-me Writers Bloc (they’re fall programs are amazing- Martin Amis is being interviewed by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner next week, and then later in October Nick Hornby will working with them) at the Los Angeles Theater Center. The place ended up being packed- they actually started thirty minutes late in order to accommodate the crowd. The delay was worth it- Diaz is one of the most articulate, intellectual, culturally aware (and profane) authors I’ve ever listened to.

Since he was obviously there to promote his new collection of short stories, I found it odd that he didn’t actually read from them. Honestly, I liked this- I don’t really feel the need to hear someone read a book I’ve either already read or have never even opened. I much rather hear what the person has to say and observe his interactions with the moderator and audience. Speaking of the moderator, Christian Lander, author of Stuff White People Like, kept the night moving, serving as a sharp contrast to the racially-charged Dominican writer.

A great deal of the night was dedicated to the discussion of race- Diaz is extremely informed and involved in the Dominican community. He claims that he is a part of a “disappearing” race- he feels that while Latino numbers are increasing in the United States they are still not being heard socially or politically. He brought up some valid points, claiming that if all of the white people were “voted off the island” this idea of “white supremacy” would still exist- a new hierarchy would form and minority groups would still be plagued by the troubles they experience. His perception of race, despite that fact that he was definitely pointing out the flaws of my people, were realistic- he doesn’t expect a drastic, immediate revolution any time soon. Part of the problem, he claims, is that white people aren’t afraid of minorities, like they were in 1960s with African Americans and the Civil Rights movement. There are problems that need to be fixed, and Diaz seemed hopeful that younger generations would help bring about change.

Diaz also spoke about his life as a writer and his three works, especially during the Q & A portion of the evening. He covered the basics like masculinity and race in his books, as well as obstacles his characters face growing up. He spoke on the actual act of writing- it has taken him over a decade to write each of his novels, something that is evident in the careful crafting of both the characters and plot. I think something that I greatly appreciated, and have been struggling to get through to my students, is his brief discussion on how readers need to interact with the text. Reading literature should not be done in the same way you read the back of the cereal box or an article on who Blake Lively married last weekend (they are going to have the ugliest babies, by the way). Reading is a conversation between the author and the reader with plenty of room for interpretation. He also provided several titles of Latin American works to read- we’ll see if this white girl can decipher the titles.

I’ll end with my favorite quote of the night: “Talking about art is like kissing- you rather fucking do it.”

Top Ten Tuesday- Open Your Eyes

The Broke and the Bookish ask us to list the top ten books that make us "think about the world/people/life." Oh yes, let's do this.

By the way, if you're easily defensive you may not want to proceed.

1. Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James
I'm thinking...
- the world likes to read poorly written books
- people need to stop repressing their sexuality and embrace it- stop reading this and go get some (responsibly)!

2. Twilight by Stephanie Meyers
I'm thinking...
- the world likes to read poorly written books
- the world should be prepared if we are in fact attacked by vampires
- that my whole life I have been confused about the whole "vampires not being allowed to go out light" issues (can they or can't they, dammit?)

3. Harry Potter by JK Rowling
I'm thinking...
- people are obsessed with magic because we love the idea of fixing things we can't control
- Some of us may be in need of a father figure (ahem, Dumbledore)

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I'm thinking...
- we all fantasize about killing people
- people are suckers for quick stories with little character depth

5. The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks
I'm thinking...
- the world appreciates writers that can churn out books faster than I go through a pair of contacts
- people are suckers for saps

Okay, I can't do this anymore. A few legit ones:

6. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
I'm thinking...
- I have no idea what I would do if I had lost everyone and everything
- the Mormons may be onto something with their massive overstocking of canned goods...

7. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
I'm thinking...
- I'm to this day happy that I stopped eating meat
- people need to be aware of where their food comes- ignorance is not bliss

8. Antibiotic Resistance by Karl Drlica
I'm thinking...
- most people on this planet will be wiped out by a massive super-bug due to antibiotic overuse
- I will not be included in said super-bug wipe out because I use antibiotics maybe once every two years. Booyah. See you in the afterlife

9. Maybe Baby edited by Lori Leibobich
I'm thinking...
- it's interesting to hear different perspectives on whether or not people decide to have children
- women my age take their fertility for granted

10. Crime and Punishment by Fydor Dostoyevskiy
I'm thinking... 
- we're all affected by guilt in different ways
- people often decide a book we read in high school is our favorite and need to spend some time rereading it

Bookish Thoughts

1. There are two movies coming out based on novels I truly love and both author's are signing off on the adaptations. David Mitchell is supporting Cloud Atlas, and Salman Rushdie wrote the screenplay, produced, and did voice-over for Midnight's Children.

The New Yorker ran a piece recently by Alexander Hemon, who interviewed the Wachowski's on their process of converting the complexity of Cloud Atlas into a screenplay. I have to say, after reading the article I actually kinda sorta felt that they truly cared about the novel and Mitchell's opinion. I suppose if they don't Matrix-ify the thing (and I can get over stupid Halle Berry playing someone I thought was Mexican) I might like it. Nonetheless I know I'll be seeing it since my husband is an even bigger Mitchell fan that I am. 

2. Last night I found something that may possibly be incredibly awesome- it's called Building Stories by Chris Ware. It's labeled as a graphic novel, but it's more than that- it's a box full of blueprints, pamphlets, cards, and other paper goods that tell the story of a group of people that live in an apartment building. I think part of the reason I'm so drawn to it is because of this idea of this evolution that's slowly coming along in print- people are finding new ways to innovate the medium without going digital. It's a little pricy at $29.93 (on Amazon; regularly $50), but I be no means think it's a rip off.

3. The number of books (and hopefully readings) on deck for this fall continues to blow my mind every single day. Zadie Smith, Junot Diaz, John Banville, Barbara Kingsolver, JK Rowling, TC Boyle, Michael Chabon, and Ian McEwan, just to name a few. I'm going to try to be patient and hold off to put some of them on my Christmas List, especially since I probably won't be reading them for months, but I don't know if I can. I'm going to pick Diaz's new one up this week so I can try to get through it before I attend his reading on Thursday night. While the sheer volume and time needed to read them all scares me a little, the fact that all these amazing authors are releasing this season just seems like a giant "fuck you" to all these less-than stellar authors who have swept the headlines this year. Take that, EL James. 

4. I've been loving seeing the books my students are reading for outside reading these past few weeks (or pretending to read, anyway). I had a student told me how much he's enjoying A Farewell to Arms and another already finish her first book.

5. I'm so ridiculously sick of Antigone- we're wrapping it up in a few days and moving on to A Chronicle of  Death Foretold, a book I'm extremely excited to reread and teach. I remember liking it when assigned it the summer between eighth and ninth grade. I was a a little taken aback when the reader learns that the sheets containing the evidence of stolen virginity are flown outside after wedding nights- we were going to talk about these things in class??? High school was going to be awesome! Little did I know the next year we'd read a book that has a lady having sex with a donkey in it (good old Allende... gotta love the South Americans). 

6. I'm reading two books right now, plus listening to a third and teaching a fourth. This is a huge change for my usual monogamous reading habits- I'm not sure if I like it. I started reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver but started craving some fiction (yes, I realize how nerdy that makes me sound), so I started The Woman Who Walks Into Doors by Roddy Doyle. Meanwhile I'm listening to A Prayer for Owen Meanie (which I've read before) and working with Antigone at work. They're all quite different, so it works for now.

Because I Need Another Hobby

Sometimes I get these random ideas that are just barely inside or outside my scope of ability and become really fixated on them. You know, like going to Italy, running half marathons, skydiving, climbing Half Dome twice, getting a new puppy the day I decided I wanted one, and trapezing. I just do things.

Well, it's happened again, but this time with something, dare I say, crafty. Augh. I hate the word. Crafty. Unless you're using it to describe me in a mischievous manner, I really would prefer the label not being attached to me whatsoever. Not that there's anything wrong with it- some people can do wonders with hot glue guns, colored paper, and that little machine that cuts out shapes. Personally, cruising the Michael's aisles and contemplating the differences between [insert crafty items I know nothing about here] is just not something I have the patience for. 


I've decided in the last two or so weeks that I want to start making quilts. Why? After some careful psychoanalysis I think that it's a combination of wanting to produce something useful, a desire for something kind of monotonous yet attention grabbing, and the nostalgic connection to my youth when I started (but never finished) many blankets.  

So, naturally, I bought a book:

You can learn how to do anything if you read about it, right? Unfortunately, the machine itself came with a pretty crappy instruction book so I had to call my master-sewer mom several times for help setting it up (it got down to me texting her pictures of the huge mess that resulted in my first attempt at threading the machine failing). Anyway, the book, Your First Quilt Book, by Carol Doak, has gotten rave reviews, so I bought it used from someone far more knowledgeable than me who no longer needed it. I know how to do the basics, believe it or not, I just really need some help on the finishing, especially when I decide tying off the squares or the ever-popular "stitch in the ditch" techniques are too easy (so in like three years). My progress right now is limited- I cut out the squares and sewed together two rows. Aaaand then I quit to go swimming. So in approximately three months when I finish the first quilt I'll be sure to let you know. And you can bet your damn ass I'm trying to come up with some sort of ambitious, over-my-head, book quilt (although this Scrabble one is pretty kick ass).

Next up: cycling the 72-miles around Lake Tahoe (I haven't ridden a bike in over ten years and have exactly 4 slightly irrational fears preventing me from buying one)