Friday, February 29, 2008

Free Books

I have this new budget. It's called the You're Not Earning Any Money Rachel So Don't Even Think About Going Into Borders budget. It is surprisingly efficient.

But a girl has got to read, right? So I went to the library. I'm going to admit right now that I've always been a little snobbish towards the library. I like owning books. I like writing in books. And I like it when people borrow them and return them looking slightly more used - complete with dog eared pages and tear stains. You can't keep a library book. In fact, you have to get it back to them on time or else they charge you money. You can't write in it and when you really love a good book and your friends are over for book club and you're telling them about it and want to lend it to them you can't because you already gave it back to the library. You can see why my previous budget was the Pay Your Bills and Give the Rest to Borders budget.

And yet, being in the library the other day made me feel a little penitent about all those harsh feelings I've been holding onto. There are shelves and shelves of books that you can take for free. And you get a card that makes you feel like you're part of a club or something.*. And there are people all around. Upland people. I got the same feeling there that I get when I vote or go to a parade. Like, "Yeah! We're a community! Let's all read!" I wanted to high five someone.

Except that a high five would have been impossible that day because based on several recommendations, I checked out Atlas Shrugged and my arms were too busy going numb from the weight of it. That is one fatty book.

*I do wish that instead of a card they had a special library windbreaker with my name embroidered on the front. That would really feel club like.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

In the Cave with the Other Ne'er Do Wells

Lately I've been having the craziest dreams. Some scary, which is weird because I don't usually have nightmares, but most of them just weird. So weird that they wake me up at 4 am and won't let me go back to sleep because my brain won't shut off. And if I do go back to sleep I just keep having more. For instance, this morning I found myself sentenced to a home for wayward teens that was located in a cave. I don't know what I did to get me in there but it must have been pretty bad because my main duty was to wash the toilets. That was the one that woke me up at 4. And when I briefly made it back to sleep I dreamt that I was on Jeopardy and was getting every answer right. I have now added Long Term Jeopardy Contestant to my list of things I could do with my life.

It will be great to be BFF with Alex Trebeck (Watch for the triumphant return of that awesome mustache. You know you've missed it.) but it does not solve the problem of the 4 am wake up call from my subconscious. I've never been a late sleeper. I'm almost always awake by 7. But 4 is ridiculous.

That being said, I get so much more done in the morning when I do wake up at 4. I got everything done that I needed to do today by noon. Which gave me time to work on Liz W.'s stocking (I'm so close to being done. I just need to add some sparkles to it and your name. Do you want Liz or Elizabeth?) and a few other projects. And I listened to NPR* all afternoon (80!) which will no doubt help me in my Jeopardy quest. I'm going to smoke Ken Jenning's record.

*For all you local NPR listeners: When you hear Patt Morrison on the air do you picture what type of hat she's wearing? I do. I also picture what she looks like without one. I have a feeling she's hiding something from us. I hope it's a unicorn horn.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Martha wishes she were so well stocked

Here's a good questions: Exactly how many rubber spatulas is too many rubber spatulas? Because between the two of us, Katie and I have 18. Well, I'm estimating here. It's roughly about 18. Which, I think, may be too many. Is 10 whisks too many? How about 15 wooden spoons? Do you think that maybe we have too much stuff if we have to have a utensil jar just for spatulas and wooden spoons and a separate jar for whisks and half of a drawer devoted entirely to regular spatulas and slotted and non-slotted spoons? Not to mention the drawer full of kitchen gadgets (garlic presses, potato peelers, that sort of stuff).

What I'm getting at here is that Katie and I finally combined our kitchen stuff and if you need it, we got it. In triplicates. With more in storage.

I mostly blame Gina and Amanda for this. Why? Because at one point I was living with Amanda and Katie with Gina and then they each got married and moved out, leaving behind half of their kitchen stuff because who can remember what's yours and what's mine (True store: Amanda and I actually did rock paper scissors for one casserole dish that is now sitting in my cupboard) and also who wants to pack up the cruddy Tupperware? Answer: Apparently not Gina. I threw two trash bags of cruddy Tupperware away on Saturday.

The really funny thing about this is that Amanda and Gina aren't actually the big cookers in the group. Katie and I are. And yet, I think that we could safely say that half of the stuff in our kitchen wasn't purchased by either of us. This would not be such a problem if our kitchen wasn't slightly larger than a breadbox. Right now you can fit two people in there snugly but I think if we brought in one more wooden spoon we'd have to kick someone out. Katie is the better cook so I would volunteer myself.

Full Disclosure: I came in with three crock-pots. So I like a good roast.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Truman Madsen is ruining our bell curve!

A couple of friends have put up this little icon that tells what the reading level is for their blog. So I followed the link and was not too surprised to find out that mine was at a junior high level. As usual, I am putting my vast vocabulary to good use. That use being a rousing game of hide and go seek in my brain.

But I would like to report that my vocabulary will increase by about 10% tomorrow after I look up all the big words I heard tonight at the lecture given by Truman Madsen at the Claremont School of Theology. It was actually a very insightful look at the relationship between philosophy and Mormonism and the parts that I did understand, that would be the ones where he didn't reference the writings of some 2nd century philosopher, were wonderful. But I was pretty much the dumbest person there. Well, maybe the lady who was sitting up on the stage knitting a pink hat beat me on that, but not by much.

I bring up the pink hat knitter because it always seems to be those type of people who get called on during the question and answer section of things like this. People who ask questions like, "Can you talk to us about Satan and Jesus being brothers." Or "I once heard this story of a blah, blah, blah, blah, and blah, blah, blahbity blah and I was wondering if you had heard that story too?" Knights of Columbus lady. I just donated a kidney and harvested a new one in the time it took you to tell that story. I'm sure her follow up questions would have been whether he thought Adam and Eve had belly buttons and if so were they innies or outies. Sure, I had ridiculous questions running through my head, such as "Did you realized that when you quoted that one old dead philosopher guy as saying the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire that Mike Meyers used that in a SNL Linda Richmond sketch and that you probably would have gotten a laugh if you had said it with a Brooklyn accent and added, "Discuss," at the end?" But I'm smart enough to not raise my hand.

This is in no way contributing to my mansion in heaven so I'll stop now. But you get it, right?

One of the highlights of going to this lecture was that I saw a load of people whom* I hadn't seen in ages. The place was packed (the man sitting next to me noted that it was so even without a potluck.) and I felt like I was waving and smiling all night long. One of them was none other than James Appel (or, as he made us call him in our youth, Master James.) And I am to report to the Appels specifically and the World generally that James is now a smarty-pants and BFF with Truman Madsen, whose hand we shook and to whom* I may have said something along the lines of, "Uh, I really liked hearing about philosophy and junk."

*Notice the use of the word whom. I'm hoping to boost my blog reading level to high school. Go me!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

She was going for very subtle

Let's talk about Priscilla Presley's hair for sec. I was watching Good Morning America this morning and they had her on to talk about her upcoming appearance on Dancing with the Stars and my eyeballs melted right out of my head because her hair is a very subtle shade of Flaming Molten Lava with Atomic Death highlights. It looks like her hair dye is made primarily of melted cinnamon bears. I couldn't find a picture that does it justice so here's the link to the video. Put your protective eyewear on now.

And while we're on the subject, is anyone else noticing something wrong with her cheeks?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A few of you asked for it and now you all must suffer

Do you know that I don't have a Top 10? You will frequently hear me say, "Oh, that book is in my Top 10." I'm totally fooling you! It doesn't even exist. You can see why, right? It's simple math. Louise Rennison has written 8 books. Jane Austen has written 6. And suddenly I'm already 4 over and that's just two authors.

On to a few(ish) book recommendations. I should say that just like I don't have a Top 10, I also don't have a favorite book. I have books that I hug every now and then and have read multiple times, but how do you pick a favorite? Nope, I can't do it. So here are a few books that are in the running and if I were Head Librarian o' the Universe, instead of just the Queen, I would make everyone read:

First book to ever make me weep like a wee babe: The Outsiders. And it still does. A few years ago I was at the West Covina library picking up some tax forms and S.E. Hinton was there and I couldn't bring myself to get in line to meet her because I knew that I would probably start crying so I just stood there and stared at her for a few minutes and then walked away with a sigh. My heart too full for words.

Book that made me like American authors for realsies: East of Eden. I'm telling you, I did not think I would like it but I LOVED it. I should also add the Great Gatsby to this list.

The Greatest Book L.M. Montgomery Ever Wrote and that Every Woman Must Read Right Now: The Blue Castle. Period. End of Story. You can bake me brownies to say thank you when you're done.

Book that made me decide to be a plumber because who am I to even think about writing when perfection has already happened: Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Dilemma -- what do you do when you're almost to the end of the most perfectly written book you've ever read and your lunch break is over and you know that if you go home after work you will end up talking to your wonderful roommate and won't be able to finish it right away. You read the last 30 pages in the parking lot of your work and weep giant tears onto the last few pages. I swear that when he wrote the line, "at that moment, my heart was breaking," the sound of a thousand unicorns dying filled the air.

Books I read during the summer of 2005, or, as it will be titled in my autobiography, The Summer I Was Given a Hug and a Nice Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie from the Book Fairies: (in chronological order) Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go (Ishiguro), Harry Potter & the Half-blood Prince, Gilead (Marilyn Robinson), East of Eden, Cold Mountain (Charles Frazier), Life of Pi (Yann Martel), To Kill a Mockingbird. They could make a movie out of how perfect that summer was. I would like to play myself and Christian Bale to play my love interest.

Book that made me forgive Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities. I promise you, it is so much better than you remember from the 10th grade.

Book that as soon as I was finished I wanted to start all over again because it had my head spinning in a good way: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Books that you should not read while in the waiting room at Jiffy Lube because you will laugh out loud, but not a normal laugh, a really embarassing grandpa-laugh with the wheezing and the snorting and the bright red face: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and any of the Georgia books by Louise Rennison.

You know I love Jane Austen and shun all imitations, but here are two that have made it past my radar and I've really enjoyed: The Jane Austen Mysteries by Stephanie Barron (Start at the beginning!), and the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series by Pamela Aidan.

Authors I love, aside from the ones I've already mentioned: P.G. Wodehouse (he's all pip-pip and what ho and all that rot), Jasper Fford (if you love books you will love him. Very clever), Chaim Potok (If I ever convert to Judaism it will be all his fault), Joan Bauer (Hope was Here would actually be in my real Top 10 if such a thing existed)

Dear Rachel,
Knights of Columbus, woman!
Love, Every single person reading this who hasn't lapsed into a vegetative state by now.

Oh, alright. I have a very thorough annotated list if you really want it. And I'm actually serious. You can stop laughing.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I Owe You

Wow, you folks have really outdone yourselves. When I ask for something you really come through. Okay, what I need now is a job or $10,000 cash to jump start my felt stuffed animal business. Ready...go!

I LOVED reading through all of your book recommendations. Do you think there's a job out there that I can just sit and listen to people talk about the books they love or hate. Like a professional book club moderator or something? I promise to bring really good snacks. Anyone who has been to one of my book clubs knows this to be true.

For your enjoyment I will now break down your recommendations into several different categories:

(In my heart, I have italicized all of these titles, like a good girl, but it's just too exhausting to do it in reality. So just imagine it, okay.)

Books I've Already Read:
Pride & Prejudice (love); Persuasion (love); the Hitchhiker's Guide series (oh the laughing, love); The Kite Runner (Nearly drown in a pool of my own tears, love); The Chosen (Did you know that this is one of my all time faves? Have you read Davitas Harp? Do.); Les Miserables (love); A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (Very interesting. Love); Lord of the Rings (I wanted to take a nap after all that walking and tree poetry); Chronicles of Narnia (love); Great Gatsby (love); Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons (loved both, but Cold Mountain more.); Green Eggs and Ham (I would eat it on a train); The Princess Bride (wove).

Books I've Been Meaning to Read but Have Forgotten About Because I Have a Memory Like Unto a Goldfish:
The Brothers Karamazov; The Count of Monte Cristo (own it); Bel Canto (own it); Gone With the Wind; Crime & Punishment (Enough with the Russians already!); Cold Comfort Farm ("There'll be no butter in Hell!" Golly, I love this movie.); Atlas Shrugged; 1776; Three Cups of Tea.

Books That I Will Be Picking Up At the Library, Even Though I Probably Would Never Have Looked At Them Unless Someone Had Recommended Them, Which, Thankfully, You Have:
Coast Road; Wild Swans; Coming of Age in Mississippi; Guests of the Sheik; A Very Small Farm; Best American Short Stories 2007; Bound on Earth; The Spirit Catches You & You Fall Down; the Enders Shadow series (oh, and I have read Ender's Game so I'll be in the know); The Way West; Partly Cloudy Patriot; Manhunt; Me and Marley (Seriously, a dog book? Okay, if you say so.) The Wisdom of Crowds; World Without End; A Year in Provence; Debbie Macomber's non-smutty romance novels.

Books That I will Read Just To Get People to Stop Recommending them To Me But Will Probably Love and Will, When Pressed, Sheepishly Admit To It:
The Twilight series.

Books I Will Not be Reading Because It's Very Hard to Read When You're Hiding Under Your Covers With Your Eyes Shut Tight:
IT & The Stand

This is such a fun game! My next post will be my recommendations. Lucky ducks, you.

PS - Don't feel like you have to stop now. If you read a great book please let me know. And if you didn't get a chance to share your recommendations, there's still time! Don't be shy.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Dear Wealthy Benefactor, If you were looking for the perfect time to show up, this would be it. Love, Rachel

Here's a fun conversation I had yesterday:

Me: Hi dad
Dad: Hi
Me: I just quit my job
Dad: (blink,blink)
Me: (weep, weep)

And then we went out to dinner and saw Blast! at the Orange County Performing Arts Center because if anything was going to cheer me up it was a stage full of band geeks.

I really did quit. This is not me being funny. It's true. It's also a long story, full of me being unhappy and stressed for 6 months and knowing that I needed to do it but convincing myself that I should stick with it because that's what grown-ups do. They have good paying jobs with benefits. So I don't have benefits anymore. Or a paycheck. But this morning I woke up unemployed but happy, and I didn't freak out in the shower like I have almost every morning for the last month. And I went to sleep last night without a knot in my stomach. And all day today I've still felt like it was the right thing to do, even though I would almost rather give myself papercuts with cardboard boxes than go through the job search process.

So, does anyone know of any job opportunities? My skills are:

1.) Writing funny blog posts
2.) Making silly things out of felt including a.) stuffed birds and b.) stockings with b-list celebrities on them
3.) Drawing humorous versions of famous paintings for my own amusement

I can also type fast and answer phones and I handle being yelled at by really angry parents surprisingly well. In fact, yesterday, while I was trying hard not to chicken out of quitting I got a phone call from a parent who called me some rather nasty names and I thought to myself that it was very telling of the job that this was the most exciting part of it.

I've got a few plans, most of them leaning towards the creative - which may not ever really support me but will make me happy, and boy do I want to be happy. But I need something to pay the bills so if you hear of a job with a window let me know. And let's all pray that when I look back on this I can say it was the bravest thing I've ever done instead of the dumbest.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


Okay, I need book recommendations. I've started and stopped reading 4 books in the last month because they just weren't grabbing my attention and now I'm feeling like I'm out of options. Which is ridiculous because I probably have at least 15 books on my shelves that I have not read. But whatever. My problem with stopping books mid-way is that I feel like a failure. Like I just couldn't stick it out. Which is also ridiculous because I'm usually the type of reader who will read a really lousy book all the way to the end with the hopes that it will get better and it never does. I always end up throwing it across the room. (Fact: I really do throw them. It hurts me to do it but sometimes a bad book needs some tough love. On the flip side, I hug the books I love). And I can't bring myself to giving it away because I don't want anyone else to have to go through the same thing that I went through and I certainly can't throw it away because...well...because it's a BOOK. You can't throw books away just like you can't throw children away, even when they use cringe-worthy cliches like, "Outside the wind howl through the trees." (I'm looking at you Da Vinci Code.)(I did not throw the Da Vinci Code across the room. Admit it, it was a page turner. But near the end I was turning the pages more to be done with it than to find out what happened. I was getting a headache from rolling my eyes so much.)

This is a bit of an emergency because you see, I'm kind of grouchy when I don't have a book to read. I don't feel like myself. I'm all out of sorts without one. And I'm tired of doing the crossword puzzle at lunch. Please, someone save me!

So, I need to know
1.) What's your favorite book ever
2.) What was your favorite book you read last year
3.) Any other book recommendations you think I might like.

I want to hear from everyone and I want multiple suggestions. They can be from any genre. Generally I'm a novel girl but I'm kind of desperate for anything right now. I will even venture into the popular fiction section if you tell me to. So if you think that the Unauthorized Biography of Lassie was the best book ever written, I want to hear about it. I want my year to be filled entirely with books recommended to me.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I Voted

I’m going to wave my flag and say that I love to vote. I think it’s so much fun. I love to read over all the initiatives and mark my booklet up. I love going down to the polling place and getting my ballot and going into the booth and checking off all of my choices. And anything that gets me a sticker is pretty high up there in fun. I also love seeing all the people who are there. It feels like a neighborhood block party. A block party run by elderly people. Because it’s always the elderly who work the polls. The 80 year old in me is DYING to help out at a polling place.

Except that it would have to have excellent air flow because have you smelled some of those polling places? Knights of Columbus! Sometimes the conference room by my office is a polling place and everyone who works it looks as if they first got to vote when Polk was running. And because the building wasn’t originally intended for human inhabitants, the ventilation in it isn’t quite powerful enough to get rid of that assisted-living smell they bring with them. This will not stop me however, once the Wealthy Benefactor comes along and I’m a Woman of Elegant Leisure, from volunteering. I'll just bring a fan or something.