Category Archives: Up to Stuff

recently read


The Invisible Bridge
On the one hand, this is the story of the author’s grandparents, Hungarian Jews during the holocaust. How can you criticize?
On the other hand, it’s an overwrought romance followed by tedious suffering-through-war times.

The Husband’s Secret
Entertaining, easy read. Fluff, but on the good end of fluff. Same author as What Alice Forgot.

A Natural History of Dragons
I thought that I would love this, but I sort of didn’t. It was more of a mystery than it was a fantasy, with dragons. And the narrator was a bit heavy-handed in her explaining to me just how smart and forward thinking she was. Halfway through it, I started regretting my rec to LZ, but apparently, she liked it!


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recently read

20140524-094227-34947234.jpgThe Luminaries was on every list of the books you should be reading, so I wanted to read it. Real bad. So bad that I waited for my turn to get it at the library for months and months.

But I got it, and let many other books fall by the wayside while I chugged through this 830 page beast.

For a while, I thought that I hated it. But I stubbornly persisted until I was actually curious. The basic premise is a mystery and it did its basic job of intriguing me with it’s fancy “who done it” plot. But it was so fancy that I don’t think I ever really understood. I had the sense that something very clever had happened and I just couldn’t quite ferret it out.

Similarly, I had a nagging feeling that all of the astrology references and the chapter structure were also supposed to be telling me something clever, but I was too busy calculating my library late fees to get it.

And while I’m pretty confident that the villain was responsible, I still don’t know how the one guy got murdered and the lady got passed out in the random nowhere place.  But it was very complicated and I’m sure the author lady was very smart in thinking it all up.

Just not so smart that it could be clearly conveyed to this dogged reader.

’til the next one…


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Recently Read

stack of booksIn the midst of pre-wedding lunacy, I stopped having the bandwidth for anything. But then I got married, immediately stopped thinking about getting married, and I tumbled through a bunch of books.

The Cove, by Ron Rash: In the tradition of Heaven and Winter’s Bone, this book is about back woods Appalachia people, albeit set in World War I times. Laurel has got some sort of birthmark and she lives up on a part of the mountain that is shady, so neighboring mountain hicks think she is a witch. She finds a mute man in the woods and he doesn’t think she’s a witch, so she gets friendly. Good ole boys get rage-y and tragedy ensues.

Among Others, by Jo Walton:  A cross between a Flavia de Luce novel and What a Girl Wants, that movie with Colin Firth and Amanda Bynes. Told diary-style by the protagonist, who (unlike Laurel above) IS a witch. A teenage witch! She doesn’t really do anything witch-y, though. In fact, she is adamant about not using magic. But she does see fairies in the woods. Mostly, the book is about how she likes to read a lot of science fiction and fantasy novels.

The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman: A novel that’s really a collection of short stories. Stories about the various people who work for a newspaper in Rome during a several-decade time period. The pieces aren’t really tied up into some neat inter-connected package like you might expect. But each little tale is so piquant in its illustration of some emotional exchange or experience, that I think this was, in the end, quite good.

The Lifeboat, by Charlotte Rogan:  A big passenger ship sinks in 1914 (2 years after the Titanic) and some of the people get in lifeboats. The book opens with Grace on trial for her life for something that happened while she was on a lifeboat with 39 other people for 3 weeks. What follows is an account of her experience on the lifeboat with the other survivors who suffer and power-struggle, while she reflects on her path to marriage-trap Henry, who she’s JUST married about two seconds ago and who is super rich, but no one knows she has married!

Big Machaine, by Victor LaValle:  For such a seemingly juicy plot, this was a bit of a slog to get through. There’s a supernatural element that seemed superfluous to the better parts of the book – the story of Ricky Rice, growing up in a strange religious cult, becoming a heroin addict, mysteriously being invited to Vermont to work as a oblivious researcher on a team of other societally-rejected black folk.

The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey:  Fairy tale-esque and as such, rather predictable. But very engaging and nice to read. A girl appears in the place of a snowman made by an elderly couple who lives miles away from anyone else. She disappears in the summer and reappears every year once the snow falls. Incredibly beautiful descriptions of winter homesteading life in Alaska.

Up next – Telegraph Avenue and The Golem and the Jinni. Anything else I should add to the queue?



Filed under Book crave, entertain me: reading & watching


many, many moons ago, the david and i took a class at workshop on using tools.
tools =
hand saw (dislike a lot)
electric jigsaw (hurray!)
power drill (makes a loud and scary noise)
hammer (we’ve met before)


we each made a tool box.


and because of all the books and the absence of tools, there are now books in the tool boxes.


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recently read


These are the two books I’ve managed to read as of late:  The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani and NW by Zadie Smith.

(I blame Candy Crush for this dearth of reading.  Such a wretched little game, but I can not stop.  It is infringing on my more worthwhile past times!)

So, The Shoemaker’s Wife was a very pleasant and engaging read.  I was invested enough in the characters that I had some moments of eye seeping at the end when the author decided it was time to manipulate my heartstrings thusly.
It’s about two teenagers in Italy who meet when they’re 15 years old in their tiny village.  They are obviously supposed to then be in love, but events transpire, separating them.  Lo!  We meet again in NYC!  Obviously, let’s be in love.  Missed opportunity and missed communication.  We shall keep one another squirreled away in some deep dark place of secret pining, but let’s carry on about our business of being hard working WWI era immigrants, yes?  Yes!  Finally, over a decade after our first meeting, we will cross paths again and make our merry way.  Things continue merrily, more and less, the end.

And NW?  This was not an easy read.  It wasn’t particularly dense, though, so once I committed to a read-it-up-rodeo, I did get through the last 200+ pages pretty quickly.
I’ve never read a Zadie Smith novel before, always anticipating that they’d be too smart and meaty for me to really enjoy.  And as I’d expected, I didn’t particularly enjoy this book.  Although, I feel like I appreciate it more now that I’ve finished and read some of the reviews of the book.  I need someone else to tell me what was interesting to then feel interested.
This was (mostly) about two women who grow up in a poor neighbor of London and live in a tower block.  They grow up and escape their background to varying degrees, but their background continues to impact them, their outlooks, and identities to varying degrees.
They are best friends and then not friends and then acquaintance-friends who are still in touch because of their long-lived status as bffs. Along the way, there are confused feelings about having or not having children, about marriage, and their families (who still live in the projects.)  As the reader, along the way, you are supposed to be intrigued by the dialogue, London jargon and slang, and strange structure of the book.

all for now.


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Recently read


I recently read some books.  And had a torrid affair with the Beautiful Creatures young adult trilogy (which I surreptitiously read ebook style).

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – vaguely amusing. reminded me a bit of Bridget Jones, but from a man point of view.  Characters were rather unbelievable in their portrayal of one archetype or another, but some were still likable.
Shrug.  Maybe see the movie instead?

The Family Fang – oh, what a weird book.  About a family of performance artists.  The parents were masters of their craft – doing destructive and crazy things in public just to see and record the reactions of passers-by.  Once they had kids, they started using them in the act and the kids grow up without learning how to engage in any normal sort of way.  The “art” is intended to make other people uncomfortable and that’s how reading the book largely made me feel.

The Magician’s Assistant – I remember reading and loving Bel Canto (also written by Ann Patchett) many years ago, so I had high expectations for this one.  I liked this book alright, but didn’t love it.  Sabine is in love with her gay friend, Parsifal the magician.  After Parsifal’s main man friend dies, he marries Sabine (because why not?) and then he dies.  His family, which he had told her had died in a car crash in his youth, is actually alive and living in South Dakota and seeks her out to get reacquainted with their lost son through her.
I couldn’t get behind the premise of the story and was left befuddled by the outcome, but it was written in a beautiful, dream-like way, making it an easy and engaging read.


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craftcation, all i ever wanted

Something wonderful happened.

After going to ALT summit in January, I had an internal hissyfit about not doing any of the things that I admire in other people and wanting to learn to do more stuff.  As a random start to rectify this, I signed myself up for a sewing class at workshop sf.  It turns out that the lady teaching the class had also gone to ALT, so we had a little connecting over that.  And then she told me that she and her business partner organize this event called Craftcation, a mythical creature I had just learned about from someone else at ALT.  It’s a multi-day conference full of crafting and making stuff.  The sewing teacher, Nicole, told me I should go.  I was noncommital and daunted by my inadequacies.
And then, a few days later over email, she suggested that Blurb should go, to scope it out as an option for sponsorship in 2014.  One can do anything, wearing a ninja cloak of sponsorship!

The stars aligned:  my marketing department said that there was no budget to send me, but try to keep the costs down and they’d send me.  My boss, who’s under no obligation to let me do marketing things, but also happens to be into craftiness herself, said that I could go (missing two days in the office) if I took some time to do some user research about the crafters as a potential book-making segment.

And so.








I loved it so hard. There was no posturing or jockeying for position. Costume changes were minimal. There were classes about how to try and make money, but to make money because you created something, not because you have followers. The food was beautiful and wholesome, like a meal you would have with your favorite foodie friends. The attendees were friendly and genuine and interested and talented.

I fully intend to go again next year. In fact, I would go again this weekend, if I could.
Instead, I will try to give myself some time to learn new things and the wiggle room to be less than stellar while I do.

So yay for all of that and then some.

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Filed under trips travel and vagabonding, Up to Stuff

football happened

I could probably recount every football game I’ve ever watched and bore myself silly doing it.  I went to a few games in high school and college, but shrug.  I went to a pro game last year.  There was a rainbow and I took a neat photo with a faux tilt-shift effect of the little players on the field.  Such is the level of my interest in the playing of the game.

And yet, it was a weekend rife with the stuff.

On Saturday, we watched the Oscar-winning documentary film, Undefeated, about a Memphis high school team with a chance to be winners after decades of suckitude.   Amy posted about it last week and as she is a benchmark of fantastic in my ledger, I wanted to give it a go.  It was crazy compelling and interesting to see this underdog storyline with the motivational coach without all of the spit and polish that you’d see in a regular movie version.  The David and I both got really wrapped up in it.

And then, as if that wasn’t enough footballism, we went to a Super Bowl party on Sunday.  I’ve done that once before and had been promised that people don’t really watch the game; it’s just a party.  But that dude was just trying to woo my Jessica and that promise was a lie.  People watch the Super Bowl and they don’t stop until it is over.

I don’t know if it was because there was a San Francisco team involved or because we were plopped on a couch front and center, but I actually really got in to yesterday’s game.  I did some hooting and some hollering and was quite disappointed that the 49’ers didn’t win after all that hopeful comebacking.

I think I actually liked it.  I feel weird now.

Also, I totally want to buy a farmer.


Filed under Big screen, little screen, Up to Stuff

sometimes i invite you to stuff

popup tree invitationHere is an invitation I made with my mom and sister-in-law while I was trapped in Boston during Hurricane Sandy.

I co-hosted a baby shower for my very best friend and since I don’t have sisters or other very best friends, I wanted to put some elbow grease into it.

In fact, it was so special of an event, I wanted to borrow some other people’s elbow grease, as well.  My mom wrote all of the messaging and addressed the envelopes, Nicole helped me assemble all of the pieces together, and Caroline made the die-cut trees for me and then FedExed them from Florida.





Filed under Family, Friends and other Humans, Up to Stuff

a walk in the woods

Oh, the camping outing this past weekend was wonderful!

We went to Big Basin last year, and loved it so much, I suggested we make reservations again this year and call it a birthday outing for David (whose birthday is tomorrow).  It’s definitely a cozy thing to do as a couple, but the idea of having a group around the fire also seemed really fun.  So we booked 2 cabins and The David invited some folks and it all panned out pretty wonderfully.

There’s a 12 mile hike out to the beach that we had wanted to do last year and which, surprisingly, pretty much everyone was game to do.  Only Steph and Mike stayed behind, worried that their woofer, Coco, wouldn’t make it the whole way.

The park is home to the largest continuous old growth redwoods south of San Francisco, which is my kind of park.  Redwood forests are so shady and cool, with a refreshing, slightly damp, kind of air.  Occasionally, you get dapple-y bits of sunlight or beams shining through the trees.

Almond butter and jelly sandwiches and jerky and carrots in the woods are fantastic.  Also, sitting on a log, after you’ve hoofed it for a gabillion miles is pretty excellent.

We saw a bunch of deer in the woods.  Also, banana slugs.  I will not out the person who screamed like a girl in horror each time I pointed out one of those yellow monster-creatures.
There wasn’t much uphill slogging, so although it was long, it wasn’t as arduous of a trek as we might have feared, and definitely a really lovely way to have spent the day.
And then drinking wine and beers around a fire, bundled up against the cold, cooking sausages and hamburgers, making s’mores, and laughing into the night… it’s definitely the right kind of way to spend some days.


Filed under Family, Friends and other Humans, Up to Stuff