Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tea & Tea Drinking- Claire Masset

This is a small, slim volume that enterains and educates at the same time. Gail Carriger, one of my favorite authors, mentioned it as a potential stocking stuffer in a pre-Christmas blog post, so of course I had to go hunt it down and get a copy for myself. It gives the reader a basic overview of how tea became the premier drink in Britain, a brief account of how it's grown/harvested, and the way it became available to all classes, not just the rich.

Not only was it a quick and enjoyable read, I discovered that the Shire Library series has numerous other books that I think might be worth checking out. I bought the ones on Chocolate & Department Stores, as well as putting several other on request at my local library. Many thanks to Gail for leading me to these books, as well as for being an awesome writer herself!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Musings- Manners? We don't need no stinking manners.....

Do manners count for anything in this modern world of ours? It certainly doesn't seem like it. Now, while I can never proclaim myself to be a paragon of virtue, I do like to think of myself as a generally well-mannered person. Yes, I have an explosive temper and have been known to make sailors blush at the drop of a hat, but I also know and understand how to behave in polite society. The problem is, polite society no longer seems to exist.

I was raised to say please and thank you, yes ma'am/sir, and no ma'am/sir. I was also told not to address adults/elders simply by first name, it was always with an honorific of some sort. Aunt Julie, Mrs. Harvey, Mr. Davis, Uncle Larry, or in some cases where a woman wasn't a relative, but too close to be entirely formal with, Miss Your-name-here. I also confess to holding doors for the elderly, saying excuse me when trying to pass someone in a close space (even if they're the one who should be saying it) or if I'm interrupting a conversation, and offering assistance to someone struggling with packages/doors/etc. I also try not to cut in front of people who are obviously waiting in line for something. This is one of my biggest pet peeves- I wait in line for 15 minutes only to have some self-important fathead walk up to the counter in front of me? I don't think so. I will tell someone where to go in a heartbeat...politely, of course....at least the first time. It gets ugly when I have to repeat myself. Most people will hang their heads, possibly apologize, and scurry to the back of the line. Once in a while you get that jackass who says something like "Well, I'm in a hurry." Do you think I'm standing here for fun? I might need to be somewhere else too, but I still waited my turn.
One friend told me it was because I was raised in the South. (I'm from North Carolina) While Southerners do seem to gravitate a little more to the polite side, I must point out that my mother is from the Midwest (Iowa) and was not about to have me running amok. HER mother taught her how to behave and she expected no less from me.

So why do so many people ignore these little niceties now? When did they stop becoming a second nature? I am constantly saddened and amazed at the reactions I get in grocery stores when I say thank you to the person who bagged my groceries if I've given up on trying to use the U-scan. One lady stared at me blankly for a moment and then offered me a tentative "You're welcome?" Or at the $tarbuck$ closest to my office- it's near the university and the children that work there are always amused when I order. I've heard, on more than one occasion, "Hey, it's the please & thank you lady!" On the other hand, my general politeness to them has earned me more than one upsized or free drink. Come to think of it, I don't get being rude to anyone in food service. Why would you antagonize someone who will be handling your food/drink?

Some of my friends have children and don't seem to care how they speak to other adults. (Just for the record, most of them do and I've witnessed more than one "apologize to that person for your behavior right now!" moment) I've been part of conversations that were frequently interrupted for  "Want gummi bears now!" or "I'm bored, whatcha talking bout in here?" Being told that my opinion on something is stupid by a 14 year old was a moment that totally reinforced my desire to never have children. One of the guilty parents told me that she has to pick her battles and she doesn't think manners are relevant enough to fight over. Really?

Personally, I think that society's dependence on computers is partly to blame. (Yes, I do see the irony here) Go on just about any blog, visit a chat room, and you will find people being rude and argumentative. Something as innocuous as "The sky is a pretty shade of blue today" can trigger more hostility and obnoxious reactions than anything I've ever seen. People will say things online that they would never dream of saying in a face to face conversation, mostly because they feel invincible in their relative anonymity. (We'll save my rants about the decline of spelling and grammar for another post) I try not to post anything that I wouldn't be willing to say to someone's face.

I could carry on on this subject, but I feel my blood pressure starting to rise. So rather than get myself out of sorts, I'm going to go have some chocolate and settle down for a bit. What are your thoughts on manners in the modern world?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Simon's Cat in Kitten Chaos

Simon's Cat: In Kitten Chaos (Simon's Cat 3)

Like me, you may have first encountered Simon's Cat on YouTube. If you are owned by a cat, you found those clips to be hysterical, and a fairly accurate reflection of life with a cat. The books followed, and I have to say I loved the first, but wasn't too crazy about the second one. Then I saw a listing for this one on Amazon. Something told me I wasn't going to be able to wait the 6 or so months before the print version would be out here in the US, so I broke down and bought it for my Kindle...and proceeded to laugh until I cried. Having watched my older cats adapt as younger ones joined our family, I can tell you that Simon got it bang on. I've been told that there are animated clips for this saga up, so now I'm off to YouTube to find them and laugh some more!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Musings- Why it is not a good idea to piss off psychotic women in parking lots

This incident occurred last year, but I think enough time has elapsed that it's safe for me to post it on my blog. From an email I sent my friends after the incident:

 I stopped at the Thornton's just of the expressway on my way to Mom's. It only has one pump island with the flex fuel- somebody was on one side, so I started to pull around to the other side. As I was doing that, some jackass in a white Chevy with Oklahoma plates cut me off and took the pump. Not only that, but he decided to flip me off and yell a few obscenities at me on his way into the store.

Now, y'all know me. I am NOT a peaceful live-and-let-live kind of person. I AM a vindictive, spiteful, fuck-with-me-and-you'll-be-sorry kind of person. The other car pulled away, so I backed around and got the the free pump. Mr Special comes out of the convenience store and proceeds to talk more shit to me while we're both pumping gas.

What a shame that I took a picture of the back of his car (showing his license plate, make and model) while he was in the store. Even more of a shame that he decided it would be fun to cut me off again when pulling out of the parking lot, waving his middle finger and screaming more nonsense at me. (no, thanks, pal. I wouldn't suck yours if it was the last form of sustenance on the planet) The biggest shame of all is that I got a strong whiff of marijuana when he opened his car door. And since he was kind enough to pull out onto the expressway ahead of me, I was able to tell the nice lady at dispatch which way the possibly under-the-influence driver was heading and what mile marker we were passing and give her a detailed description of the car with the plate number. He was pulled over less than a mile later by a very unamused friend of mine who just called to tell me that not only did Mr Special fail the field sobriety test, he had about a pound of marijuana, some Opana tablets (it's a painkiller for those who might not be familiar with it) several syringes, and something that looked like heroin. Ooopsie. I hope beating me to that gas pump was worth the night he'll be spending in jail and the legal fees he's going to incur.

And that my darlings, is why you should always be nice to people in the parking lot at a gas station. Or have enough sense to leave your drugs elsewhere if you MUST be a total jackhole.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Study in Sherlock

A Study in Sherlock: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon

I believe it was my mother who got me started reading Sherlock Holmes. I checked out as many of Conan Doyle's books as I could carry home from the library. LOVED him, despite his flaws. (Cocaine? Bad, Sherlock!) As a result of my addiction, I have also read way too many Holmesian pastiches. As with other mythic characters (King Arthur, vampires, and werewolves come to mind), there are lots of good, well written stories/novels out there. There is also a LOT of sheer, deplorable DRECK. (Sherlock in Love by Sena Jeter Naslund- mercifully out of print and one of the many reasons I loathe the woman- is a prime example. If you haven't read it, do yourself a favor and don't)

Just when I was ready to throw in the towel, Mom struck again. This time it was The Beekeeper's Apprentice, by Laurie R King. What an amazing read! (Come to think of it, I should post a review for that one) I love Ms King's explorations of Mary Russell and her quirky relationship with the great detective. So, seeing that she was part of this collection, I decided to give it a go. I'm so glad I did. The stories themselves vary in content. Some authors chose to feature Sherlock himself, others alluded to him. Some were set in the past, some in the present. I can honestly say I liked almost every story in this book, and it's given me a few new authors to try. The only story I didn't care for was the rather lengthy comic/graphic novelette one. I'm just not that into that style and it may be a good story- I just couldn't get into it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Musings- It's the end of the world as we know it...

After roughly a year of Poetry Monday, I've decided to try something new. Welcome to a weekly look inside my twisted brain....

So, there's been a lot of discussion about how the world is going to end in December of this year. People all over the planet are reportedly spending thousands of dollars for reserved spots in 'survival bunkers' or planning suicide to escape the horrors of Armageddon. The suicides? Well, if you're that convinced it's going to happen, why wait? *Please note, I am not suggesting that anyone go out and kill themselves* But if you're seriously that concerned, you'd just do it, not wait to see what's gonig to happen. So I don't quite buy that 'escape' plan.

And as far as the people who plan to barricade themselves in bunkers go? Um, call me crazy, but what are you going to do if the world does end? There you'll be, safe & snug in your little bunker...until the food, water, and air run out. Then what? If the world above/around you is uninhabitable, you're screwed. Do you drink your own urine, contemplate cannabalism, and kill the old/weak to save air for the others? *Again, NOT suggesting any of these as viable options*

I don't have the money to waste on a bunker. Even if I did, I wouldn't. Because if I had that kind of money, I'd be buying my own space shuttle, loading up with supplies, and hoping to find another inhabitable planet before everything ran out. Frankly, I like the idea of floating amiably in space with my cats, books, stitching, choclate, and caffeine. Well, that is, I like the idea until I think of the thought of zero-G toilets. And not being able to have a proper bath...or cook...and imagining what kind of litter box area....hmmm, maybe I should leave the little fuzzy suckers to fend for themselves......

Nah. I'll just take my chances that we'll all live to see another day after December 21st. I could never leave my beloved cats behind, and unless I could come up with the money to take my closest friends/family members/crush of the moment, I wouldn't have anyone to interact with. Despite my fondness for solitude, I do like knowing that my loved ones are there if I need them. How could I leave them behind?

Anyway, those are my thoughts for this week. Feel free to tell me how you feel about the end of the world!

*yes, I am humming that R.E.M. song as I type this. You're welcome for the earworm now burrowing into your brain.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Made In France- Sweet Treats In Cross Stitch

Made in France Sweet Treats/Cross Stitch

I saw this book in one of the British cross stitch magazines that I read and spent most of the last year dying for a copy. I  broke down and ordered myself one after Christmas and it finally came. I'm glad I didn't pay full price for it- the stitch designs themselves are adorable and look fairly simple, and the illustrations are beautiful. The problems I have with the book are as follows:

A: somewhat odd layout. First, you have to flip through 30 or so pages of pictures of finished designs. Again, they're lovely, and I'd adopt the little girl used in many of the shots in a heartbeat if she's as sweet as she looks, but I don't know that I'd start the book that way if I were packaging it.

B: The middle section is instructions on how to make/finish the projects as illustrated in the first section. Not a bad idea, but when the instructions for making a pennant say things like "Make a pennant. Patch your stitched design onto it," I don't find that to be helpful. More like VERY annoying.

C: The patterns finally make an appearance, 50 or so pages into the book! They look simple, nothing too complex, and then you look at the color chart on the side of each page. Most stitchers know how to match the symbols to the color palette given. The problem is when you have symbols with no corresponding color, which I noticed on several of them. Luckily I'm smart enough (I think!) to pick out shades that will work when I try to do those patterns, but it IS annoying.

All in all, it's a nice book- just buy yourself a used copy if you can find one, because it is NOT worth the $32 list price!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sweet Revenge- Andrea Penrose

Product Details

Well! I read this in one delighted sitting. Combine several of my favorites- in this case, the Regency era, chocolate, and a thumping good mystery with an unconvetional heroine and a broody dark hero- and watch me be entertained! Arianna is a former young lady of Quality, living under an assumed name, disguised as a male French chef. Someone poisons one of her dishes at a party and nearly kills the Prince Regent. Saybrook is drafted to find the attempted murderer- and discovers Arianna's secret, well, one of her secrets, in the process. An attempt on her life makes them unlikely allies who now have to work together to find out not only who tried to kill the Prince, but who caused Arianna's father to lose his place in society and what exactly they hope to gain. The give-and-take battle of wills between them is entertaining, and the ending is not totally unexpected, but still satisfying.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Poetry Monday

New-Year’s Eve And New-Year’s Day

GOOD bye, Old Year!

And with thee take

Thanks for the gifts to every land

Thou broughtest in thy bounteous hand,

And all that thou hast taught to hearts thy lingering steps forsake.

Good bye, Old Year!

The Past awaiteth thee,

Who ruleth in her power alone

The kingdom of Oblivion.

Silent she sits in ebon chair;

Falling mists of dusky hair

Veil her dark eyes' glorious shine,

Full of wise help, and truth divine.

Silent, unless a fitful sound,

As from some cavern underground,

Steal from her lips; the company

Of ancient Years that round her be,

Then chanting, one by one, give tongue

To old experience in their song.

Good bye, Old Year!

Thou goest forth alone,

As we shall do: thy pages gay,

Seasons and months who round thee play,

Attend thee to Earth's farthest verge, then back! to greet thy son.

Hail, New-born Year!

Cradled in morning clouds

Golden and white. I cannot see

Thy face--'tis wrapp'd in mystery;

But Spring for thee is painting flowers,

And Summer decks her woven bowers;

Rich Autumn's sheaves will soon be reap'd,

With store of fruits in sunbeams steep'd,

And one by one with gentle hand folds back thy sunlit shrouds.

Hail, New-born Year!

Shining and beautiful.

Thou wilt step forth in plenitude

Of youth and its rejoicing mood.

Last child of the half-century,

And time of coming victory

Over the spirits of night and sin,

Whose howlings of defeat begin:

Thou bringest hope, and labour bless'd

In visions of successful rest,

Bringest great thoughts, and actions wrought

In fire upon that forge of thought,

And with the soul of earnestness I think thy youths are full.

Hail, New-born Year!

My utterance is too weak

To tell of all I think thou bringest,

To echo back the song thou singest;

But the very winds of Heaven, for those who listen to them, speak.

Bessie Rayner Parkes