Title: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – A Year of Food Life
Author: Barbara Kingsolver, with Stephen L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver
Other works: (by Barbara) The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, Small Wonder, The Lacuna, The Bean Trees, etc.
Recommended by: Book Club! I also find that Kingsolver’s work recommends more of itself to be read.
Genre: Non-fiction/Cooking/Poetry (because honestly, everything she writes is full of poetic gorgeousness)
Main Characters: Her family – she, her husband, and two daughters – and the FOOD.
Opinions: I adored this book, as I expected to. I had read a bunch of her fiction, as well as non-fiction essays; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has the added practical advice, recipes, and lots of horticulture that make it useful and educational, as well as just beautiful. I don’t remember all the opinions from the Book Club meeting, but it gets 4/5 on Goodreads.
A quotation I liked: “Human manners are wildly inconsistent; plenty of people have said so. But this one takes the cake: the manner in which we’re allowed to steal from future generations, while commanding them not to do that to us, and rolling our eyes at anyone who is tediously PC enough to point that out. The conspicious consumption of limited resources has yet to be accepted widely as a spirtual error, or even bad manners.”
What sticks with me: This book is not preachy, but it says a lot about sustainability and the realities of our food culture, especially in North America. It makes me think all the more often about where my food has come from, and whether I want to support the way it’s grown or exported. I also really really want to have dinner with the author.
Recommended to: Farmers, Gardeners, Foodies, Environmentalists, Poets, and people who don’t cook but want to start.
To sum up: Inspiring. Sometimes depressing, but mostly uplifting. Barbara’s writing is always full of compassion for humanity, and this book makes you feel like a friend in her warm kitchen.
Minnie could never have guessed that being lost at sea would result in a very special connection with a misunderstood sea “monster”. After all, he’s really just a creature looking for love, like you and me (but more scaly).
Sometimes, if an orphaned mini counting-bear comes along at the right point in a mama Bakugan-dragon’s life, she will take the cub and raise it as her own. This mother is seen grooming her cub as if he were her own Baku-spawn.
The green aliens came to Earth for a reason. It really is just a darn lovable place. Makes you want to give it a big smooch. (Canada especially.)
Happy New Year! Isn’t it nice to have a new start, after the year we’ve had?
Time for the semi-traditional New Year’s Questionnaire. This year, I’ve decided to take some liberties with it. That is to say, I deleted or modified the questions that were annoying me or seemed repetitive. No time for baloney in 2017!
What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
Me: Visited North Carolina, taught English, tried an Escape Room (with a team of smart/more experienced people) – and escaped!
Sean: Bought a minivan, subsequently inaugurated it by taking 15 hours in one day to drive two kids and four adults to North Carolina. And then 15 more hours to drive back a week later.
E: Went to the Hogwarts classes and Quidditch practice at the University, licked my own elbow, started Tae Kwon Do classes.
AB:Started school, said lots of French things, learned some Tae Kwon Do moves from my brother.
Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions?
Me: No. I did not at all get my 52 blog posts done, despite the scaled-down nature of the resolution. (I got to 32.) Sigh. I am disappointed. I also didn’t achieve what I set out to with my delayed NaBloPoMo strategy. Life is just too hectic, and although I know that writing is important for my brain and my spirit, so is getting sleep. And so is planning lessons and marking stuff. And so is reading stories to my kids. Et cetera. There are not enough hours to do ALL THE THINGS.
Sean: Not exactly. See Question #17.
E, A: We’re kids. We live in the moment.
3. Did anyone close to you die?
Me: A very dear family friend and member of our Friends’ Meeting.
Sean: Two wonderful step-grandparents.
E: So many of my baby teeth.
A: The loops on my rubber boots.
4. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
Me: My report cards done early.
Sean: Really good sleep.
E: A wooden sword. I might make one with all the boards I’ve been breaking in Tae Kwon Do.
A: I would like a unicorn that a princess can ride on!
5. What events from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why:
Me, Sean: Fires in Fort MacMurray, US Election results, deaths of David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Anton Yelchin, Gene Wilder, Charmian Carr, Leonard Cohen, Alan Thicke, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds.
Sean: Becoming a supervisor and initiating the overhaul of the tooling system at work.
E: Earning my yellow and orange belts in Tae Kwon Do and participating in my first tournament. And I really developed the skill of soccer this year.
A: Singing many songs in French, especially the one we did at the school concert (“La neige tombe”).
7. What was your biggest failure?
Me: Still not managing to finish unpacking by 2017. (Sadly, this is not a joke.)
Sean: Not losing weight.
E: I get mad at myself when I do things imperfectly.
A: I have no failings.
8. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Me: I suspect I’ve been suffering from plantar faciitis…
Sean: Toe broken by karma as I ran up the stairs chasing the kids, having just told them not to run up the stairs. And then there was that tiny metal chip that had to be surgically removed from my eyeball.
E: The usual viruses, and the usual grievous injuries about five times a day.
A: The time my brother scratched my hand that had already been scratched!
9. What was the best thing you bought?
Me: Poo-Pourri. Especially Vanilla Mint. Highly recommend. (And thanks for the tip, JP!)
Sean: OluKai flip flops.
E: I bought my smelly markers with my own money! I went to Staples with the six dollars plus tax in coins in a green container with a lid, and when we checked out I put it on the counter, and that’s how I proudly paid for my own markers. (This is Mummy’s description. Gosh, it was cute.)
A: I got five dollars from my Uncle Barry in North Carolina and I helped pay for my very own pink Automoblox.
10. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Me, Sean: Trump + supporters, ISIL, other terrorists and corrupt individuals… the usual.
E: Mummy and Daddy, when they make me do my homework.
A: Mummy and Daddy, when they make me use words and manners instead of just reading my mind.
11. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Me: The peaceful Standing Rock protesters, and the two thousand veterans who joined them.
Sean: Pope Francis’s, for his work with the poor and refusal to buy into the pomp of popehood.
E: Mine, when I broke my first board! (And then a whole bunch more.)
A: Mine, for many diaper-free dry nights!
12. What did you get really excited about?
Me: A beautiful white Christmas.
Sean: The US election – good excited… and then bad excited.
E: Screen time. There’s a lot less of it now that I’m in Grade 2.
A: I’m four. I have no need to examine my own behaviour.
15. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Me: Stressing out.
Sean: Eating out.
A: Walking to school. It’s such a long way. I think I still deserve my stroller.
16. How did you spend Christmas?
All: With people we love, all kinds of family. So very fortunate.
17. What is your resolution this year?
Me: Learn not to use the snooze button; use my massage benefits.
Sean: Be fit and productive.
Me, Sean: This year, we are keeping Bullet Journals! We shall thus become organized and effective, beyond all previous experience or expectations. (Sort of like a resolution.) We’ve already started. We are already getting a bit compulsive. I’m sure the Bullet Journal will get its own blog post one of these times.
E: Get my green belt; learn to skate. My mom would like me to resolve to whine less about my responsibilities. We’ll see about that.
A: Try a new dance class or maybe Tae Kwon Do. My mom would like me to resolve to cooperate in the mornings. We’ll see about that.
18. What was your favorite TV program?
Me: The Crown.
Sean: Luke Cage, Daredevil Season 2, The Crown.
E: Lego Ninjago.
A: Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig.
19. What was the best book you read?
Me: The Girl on the Train was basically un-put-down-able.
Sean: A Brief History of the Future and The Harrows of Spring.
E, A: We had the rest of the Harry Potter series read to us, and then all of Narnia, and now we’re on to Roald Dahl. We love them all!
20. What do you regret?
Me: Not being better organized, especially during April through June.
Sean: Spending money on junk food.
E: That time I missed most of gym period because I forgot my indoor shoes at home.
A: All the clothes that are too small for me.
21. What decision are you glad you made?
Me: To buy a mini-van.
Sean: To accept the supervisor position.
E: To ask for Diary of a Wimpy Kid for Christmas. (He has been devouring the series and was almost done book 7 as of Sunday night).
A: Changing my mind at the last minute to be Minnie Mouse for Halloween instead of Elsa again.
22. What was your favorite film of this year?
Sean: Captain America – Civil War.
23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
It’s been a busy month for most of us. And cold and snowy for many of us, at least in our area of Ontario.
I also know it’s a really hard month for people. Even for those who celebrate and love the holiday season, it’s hard. Keeping spirits up when there’s so much to do, when expectations are high (especially our own), through the emotional ups and downs of social occasions, anticipation and letdown, hopes and dreads.
I love this time of year, and I find it hard too. I love the music and the food and the family and friends. Gifts are fun too, especially when you get to give gifts to children.
But I still fight depressing thoughts. I worry that materialism and greed will take over my kids, despite our best efforts. I worry about the germs that spread scarily fast in winter. Especially when it’s really cold out, I worry about the people who don’t have someplace warm to be. I feel the emptiness when Christmas ends. And I struggle with the darkness. It makes me dwell on the things that are wrong in the world. It makes them seem overwhelming.
This has always been somewhat true for me. I remember the way it would feel on winter evenings when I was young… I would consciously turn on my warm yellow desk lamp and read an L.M. Montgomery book, to fend off the creeping knowledge that the world is dangerous and violent and dark and cold. I had to deliberately keep these thoughts at bay, even though I had very little actual experience with suffering. I can only imagine how hard it must be for people who don’t have loving families, who don’t feel safe, who spend their days hungry or in pain.
Right now, I’m hoping that you are okay, and have found some beauty in this month.
I hope you have spent time with people you love.
I hope you have also spent at least a little time just for you, doing what you love most.
I hope you felt awe in Nature, despite the darkness – a sunbeam when you really needed it, a bright star, a pink sunrise, the deep hush of a snowfall in progress.
I hope the shortening of nights has been a comfort, even though it’s hard to see.
I hope that if you were grieving, you did not feel alone.
I hope you deeply felt the support, purpose, creativity, and unity you needed.
I hope you’ve had a really good laugh.
I hope you saw – or were part of – generosity in action.
I hope your home was warm, and your candles burned bright.
I hope you’ve felt some true wonder lately.
And some joy.
Today is a beautiful snowy day. (And it’s packing snow, miracle of miracles!) Our tree is still up and smells sweet. Our kids are not completely healthy right now, but healthy enough to play. We have been blessed to visit with all family branches this month. There’s been singing, which is important to me. Also family games and jigsaw puzzles, which I love. Sean has actually had significant time off, which is a treat for all of us. I’m very grateful for all these things.
2016 has been a rough and upsetting year in many ways, but it’s almost done. We in this house are choosing to be optimistic about 2017.
Our family went to see Moana the day after I saw Fantastic Beasts, so it was a fully magical weekend for me, cinema-wise.
Some thoughts on Disney’s latest epic:
It’s a musical! I’d only seen trailer dialogue, so I didn’t realize this (even though I should have) until I was already watching it. Songs make me all happy.
The music is co-written by Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda (who got famous for Hamilton only after signing on). It had me teary-eyed from the first song. It’s powerful, full of drums and lavish harmonies.
The music is also apparently well-done in terms of authenticity, since Foa’i is a distinguished Samoan musician and he would know. (Also the whole team of composers immersed themselves in a Pacific music festival in New Zealand as part of the preparations.)
Related to that, and predictably, I also loved the dancing. Not just the exuberant “choreography” for the musical numbers, but the lilting, traditional Polynesian movements that seem to come right from the ocean, performed by certain characters seemingly by instinct. The dance isn’t a topic in the movie, it’s just part of the fabric of the life portrayed. As it should be.
The animation is just… indescribably beautiful. The scene at the beginning with baby Moana picking up shells… I could hardly bear it, with the shining colours and the living water and the perfectly-rendered toddler-walk. SO. TOTALLY. GORGEOUS.
I cried a few times. Maybe several. Mostly due to beauty.
Moana is a tough cookie. I liked her a lot. Described by producer Osnat Shurer as “kick-ass, feisty, [and] interesting.”
She is also NOT a princess, as she explains with meta-Disney-humour. (She is, however, already being lumped into the “Disney Princess” club by social media.)
I am grateful for her status in the Disney canon; that is to say, that she is one of an ever-expanding line of female heroines I’m glad for my daughter (and my son, for that matter) to emulate. I love that she’s going to succeed her father as chief, and no one makes any kind of deal about her being a female chief. (Sorry, I just spoiled it by getting excited about it being no big deal.)
I’m also grateful that she’s not white. Much as I appreciate the multidimensionality and strength of character in recent white heroines like Rapunzel, Merida, Elsa, Anna, and Riley (and even Judy Hopps, since even though she’s a rabbit, she’s got a distinctly Caucasian vibe going on), we’re a global society at this point. Time to represent – and properly.
As I watched, I did wonder often how the (non-white) peoples represented in the film would feel about it. I get that as a white viewer, I could potentially be enthralled by something someone else would find offensive. It made me happy to read afterwards that reception of this movie has been mostly really positive among Pacific Islanders, including those involved in the production, as well as other Indigenous people and other people of colour. Disney is gradually turning things around regarding cultural appropriation.
Moana, the character, is ridiculously beautiful, of course. But no more so than Auli’i Cravalho, who voiced her.
And that gal can sing!! Holy smokes. I think she nailed the whole part, actually, despite being the youngest Disney “princess” voice ever (did the work at age 14, movie released on her 16th birthday).
I couldn’t help adoring Grandma Tala’s character. The deep matriarchy in this film is so satisfying – especially when you compare it with all those movies where Mom dies (Bambi, Finding Nemo, Frozen) or is already somehow dead or gone when the movie starts (Snow White, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book, Lilo & Stitch, The Rescuers, Big Hero 6).
It also seemed significant to me that the animal sidekick Moana ends up bringing on the voyage is not the adorable tiny pig she has as a pet, but the bizarre-looking dumb-as-a-post chicken. Just another way to mix things up.
That chicken is voiced by Alan Tudyk (also known as Wash, as well as the Duke of Weaselton and a number of other Disney bit-part voices). We did not guess it was him.
Maui, the demigod, is well-played by (half-Samoan) Dwayne Johnson. More complex than he first appears, of course, with quirky moves that will apparently be familiar to fans of The Rock.
Dwayne can sing too! What! He was great. We were fully impressed.
The animation for Maui’s tattoos is hand-drawn, unlike most of the movie, which is CGI. And they are beautiful. That’s part of what makes the movie stunning: the Pacific-Island art. It’s woven throughout the movie’s imagery.
Sean and I enjoyed hearing Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords fame) voicing Tamatoa, the giant sparkly coconut crab/thief. Jemaine is great at weird+funny+sinister. (Did you know his mom is Maori?)
There were a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in the film, both for us and the kids. Some of them even overlapped.
21 b) I sure am glad I’m raising kids in the days where kids’ films are made with the parents in mind too. It’s very easy to watch them over and over. If I didn’t have kids, I’m sure I’d still watch them, and laugh and cry and feel my heart squeeze.
Speaking of the kids’ reactions, there were some scary moments. Four-year-old AB quailed a bit watching the lava monster, Te Ka. She held onto my arm, but she never wanted to hide her eyes and never opted for my lap. And there were no nightmares or anything. So – scary but not regrettable.
Although I’d say the main theme is the Belonging vs. Identity Quest thing (as it often is), to me the Sustainability message was also big. The unhappiness of Te Fiti (Mother Earth goddess with stolen heart) is a powerful message, but even more so is the “we only have this one island that provides for us and if it is ruined we are screwed” message. All of us have only got this one rock in space to live on (for now, at least) and we need to enact some healing before we kill ourselves off.
I only figured out what was going on at the end a few seconds before Moana did – didn’t see it coming at all. I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll just say that the dénouement was totally goose-bumpy and amazing… and yep, I shed tears.
To sum up: highly recommend to all humans, goddesses, demigods, chickens, piglets, and Oceans.
I teach a group of Grade 3 French Immersion students English for 40 minutes a week. They are mostly a very sweet and funny group. We’ve been working on poetry, including a poem with a template called “I Am.” The first two words of each line are given, and then they fill in the rest. The results are sometimes predictable, sometimes decidedly un-poetic, sometimes surprisingly insightful.
Here’s an example of one whole “I Am” poem, written by a (very bright) Grade 3 student:
I am brave and curious.
I wonder if I will ever change the world.
I hear babies crying.
I see my friends walking by.
I want to live and hope.
I am brave and curious.
I pretend I am my sister.
I feel sad sometimes.
I touch the air that we breathe.
I worry about my family.
I cry because of war.
I am brave and curious.
I understand the world we live in.
I say do not change.
I dream about life.
I try to change the world.
I hope for world peace.
I am brave and curious.
Pretty straightforward, but interesting and optimistic, no? I liked it. And here are some other lines that cropped up in various other kids’ poems:
I wonder if Santa is real.
I wonder if I will ever be an artist.
I wonder if I will ever be a mom.
I wonder if the pandas will be OK in China.
I wonder how wonderful my dog drawings are.
I wonder if I am as cute as a baby.
I wonder why Donald Trump won the election.
I hear the phoenix song.
I hear Santa breaking my house and sitting on my house.
I hear Hogwarts.
I hear a tiger roaring in the desert.
I see a leopard catching its prey in the tundra.
I see a kitten fly on my shoulder.
I want people to stop buying palm oil.
I want a credit card.
I pretend to have the cheese touch.
I pretend to ride on a black bear.
I feel proud to be Canadian.
I touch every cat that I have had in my life.
I touch the world flooding.
I touch a glass sphere with memories in it.
I worry that my stuffies will go away.
I worry about Donald Trump.
I worry that Donald Trump will kill me.
I worry about my parents being taken.
I worry I will touch a spider.
I worry about the sun exploding.
I worry that in a few years there will be no orangutans.
I cry because Santa didn’t bring me a present.
I cry about every cat that has passed away.
I understand how to make paper.
I understand bravery and love.
I understand that my iPad makes myself mad.
I understand that paper is made of trees.
I say I believe in Santa.
I say that Santa is real.
I say I believe in God.
I say I can do the armpit fart.
I dream I would meet God.
I dream that my cats will wear little elf costumes on Christmas.
I try to be the best that I can be.
I try not to eat tomatoes.
I hope for hot chocolate at Christmas.
I hope that I will stay young forever.
I hope I will meet Prince William.
I hope I get a red hockey puck.
I am… generous, brave, a youtuber, a lover of soccer-baseball, humorous, lovable, curious, funny, smart, creative, intelligent, part Dutch, super, cool, awesome, helpful, respectful, a cat lover, a small kitten and I can fly, active, nice, happy, and I like bubbles.
I felt privileged to read these. They are so honest, and so much more interesting than their “About Me” paragraphs in September. And there’s imagery there that amazes me. Some of their worries seem really deep and scary for Grade 3 – but I remember having similar grand worries at that age. (Some of them still apply.)
And it made me happy that the characteristics they named about themselves in the first and last line were, without exception, full of self-confidence.
As with the books… it’s been a while since I reviewed a movie too, huh? Might be rusty. Hence, the numbered list/crutch. Here goes! (No spoilers, I promise.)
J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them… Newt Scamander, young magizoologist, comes to New York City from England, sometime in the 1920s, just as a strange black shadow has been ripping apart NYC neighbourhoods… And what ensues? The hi-est kinds of jinks.
It’s just THRILLING to see a new movie from the wizarding world! (I’m sure there are those cynics saying “ahem, money grab,” but those of us who are fans have just been wishing in our hearts for more… and here it is!!)
I went to see it without worrying that it would suck, because Skye (fellow Level 5 fan) had already seen it, and came back with one of those grins that tells you it was not just good, but great.
It’s basically one happy nerd-treat after another, for folks who know their lore. Having read the books to my kids so recently, I had all the details in my mind of the significance of the Murtlap, Bowtruckles, Erumpent, etc.
Eddie Redmayne, as Newt, is great at being awkcute.
The movie is worth the ticket for the Niffler alone. Hilarious and adorable. HOW do they animate such attitude into a squat little animal with a duck bill? He could have his own movie: Fantastic Trinkets and Where I Found Them.
The Ministry in the states is called MACUSA – the Magical Congress of the United States of America. (I was picturing it “MACOUSA.”)
Katherine Waterston, who plays Tina, the MACUSA employee who kind of first befriends Newt, is great. I’d never seen her in anything but I enjoyed her acting.
She’s apparently British. I couldn’t tell.
Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler, is a fun character. A lot more multi-dimensional than he first appears.
I think they told Alison Sudol, who plays Tina’s sister Queenie, “Just channel Marilyn Monroe, witch version.”
The fantastic beasts are truly fantastic. When you meet them, it’s like going on this mesmerizing journey of imaginative glee with the creators.
There seems to me, at this moment in history, to be nothing CGI can’t accomplish.
It was cool, but slightly saddening as well, to hear the characters calling Seraphina Picquery “Madam President.” Sigh.
I think it’s possible that they let Eddie Redmayne improvise some bits where he’s communing with certain beasts. They were strange and wonderful, if a bit oddly-paced at times.
I did not find the plot predictable, which is always good – and it’s fun to watch a wizarding movie for which I have not read the book multiple times (or at all).
Skye and I nudged each other at the end, noting Newt’s yellow-and-black scarf: “He’s a Hufflepuff!” We keep an eye out for our peeps. (Because despite my identity crisis, I was a Hufflepuff first.)
Apparently, we can look forward to 4 more Fantastic Beasts movies! They sure set up the audience for more at the end. Needless to say, I AM IN FAVOUR.