Friday, 13 December 2013

Dietary variety and "The Importance of Being Earnest"

So be honest, are you getting enough fibre in your diet?
Have you been eating your fruits and vegetables?
How about when it comes to your choice in books?
Have you been reading the same genre over and over?
Are you mentally constipated???


Visual aside, the reason why the open genre book club I participate in functions the way it does is because humans are creatures of habit.  If I wasn't forced to read a different genre every month, you know that I would simply gorge myself at the buffet of teen literature.  Which is the sugary, over-processed dessert of the book world.  It's a tub of Cool Whip.  So every once in a while we have to select a genre which is more like eating a big bowl of bran flakes.

You know, for the sake of dietary variety.

For November/December's iteration of the book club, we read plays.  Literary health food.  (Unless you're talking about the inedible pablum that is Arthur Miller.  Which we are not.)  In my case we are talking about The Importance of Being Earnest by the late, great, and faaaaabulous Oscar Wilde.

All hail Oscar, king of the Dandies!

The problem here however is that I haven't had to analyze a play since high school.  It is a genre that I really don't read very often.  So I will have to be brief...

The Importance of Being Earnest is highly quotable and undeniably the work of Oscar Wilde.  If you have read any of his other works or are even familiar with some of his quotes, Earnest is instantly identifiable as being one of his.  His witty phrases and jokes are a delight, the short 75-page play is a quick read with a rapid storyline filled with hilarious banter.  I have never seen this play performed, but I would very much like to and I think it would be even more enjoyable if I was able to watch it rather than read it.

This is my major sticking point with plays of any kind I suppose: they just aren't meant to be sat down and read.  They are meant to be seen, it is the purpose for which they were created.

So as far as genres go, I probably won't be adopting plays as a regular part of my reading diet.  But as far as Oscar Wilde goes, I absolutely love his work and will continue to adore it in all its forms.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Dashing through the duds: picking definitive versions of classic Christmas songs

As most of my friends and family know, I have a bit of an addiction to and major listening habit when it comes to Christmas music.  I have difficulty restraining myself and waiting until the culturally acceptable 1st of December (or at the very least until after American Thanksgiving) to turn on the Christmas tunes and spend most of my spare time rocking around the Christmas tree.

I have literally hundreds of Christmas songs in my collection.  I have classic Christmas standards, secular hits, Christian classics, and a smattering of the overtly strange and rare.  And one thing that I have noticed during my extensive collecting and listening is that there are some songs that appear on pretty much every Christmas album ever made.  I'm talking about your "Silent Nights" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeers" and "Jingle Bells" that have been done to death by every single artist who pretty much ever recorded a Christmas album.

As such, I felt that it might be necessary to take stock of some of these overdone Christmas hits, and pick a definitive, or "best" version of the song as far as I've ever heard, as well as a worst version (because I'm a merciless cynic and being too positive makes me hurt inside.)
Thus, I present to you the best and worst of the season's music:

#1: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Best Version: BURL IVES.  Actually Burl Ives has several especially wonderful Christmas albums out there, but Sam the Snowman's version of Rudolph is not only fabulous and whimsical, but also highly well known due to the stop-motion Christmas special.  This version of Rudolph is the one of our nostalgic childhoods, it's just simply great.

Honorable Mention: GENE AUTRY.  It's distinctly twangy, but overall a really good version of Rudolph that has sustained the test of time.  Go have a listen if you haven't heard this version in a while, it's worth tracking it down.

Worst Version: The one sung by those god-forsaken CHIPMUNKS.  It's probably not fair of me to pick their version as the worst, because their version of pretty much every song is the worst.  It's unbearable and cringe-inducing.  Don't believe me, go have a listen and tell me your jaw isn't wound tighter than curling ribbon by the end.

#2: White Christmas

Best version: BING CROSBY.  Duh.  I hate to give props to the child-beating crooner, but this is the version that everyone immediately thinks of, and there is a reason for it.  The reason being, it is the best-selling single of any song, ever.

Honorable Mention: BONEY M.  Their Christmas album is pretty much a mandatory listen, and their version of White Christmas gets points for its very original arrangement. 

Worst Version: It seemed the obvious choice to go with Twisted Sister here, but instead I'm giving the trophy to ELVIS PRESLEY.  It is just obscenely painful to listen to the King's version of this song. Especially the overly-twangy, choppy emphasis found in the line "just like the ones I used to know".  It's just simply awful.  But I do going around singing this version quite a bit... purely to mock it of course, but still...

#3: Jingle Bells

Best version: BING CROSBY AND THE ANDREWS SISTERS.  Also known as the crazy version of Jingle Bells, this one gets the trophy for being inventive and unique.  The jazzy backup job done by the Andrews Sisters is what makes this one.  Bing is not overly stellar, but the girls bring it and absolutely make this version.  This one has been used a lot in TV ads.

Honorable Mention: ELLA FITZGERALD, for the same reasons as the Andrews Sisters.  She takes an overly simplistic tune and jazzes it up and makes it truly entertaining.  A few lyric changes here and there didn't hurt it either.

Worst version: Oh there are so many. But the winner by a landslide is the stupid version where Jingle Bells is sung by ridiculous BARKING DOGS.  Just. Simply. Terrible.  Irrefutably so.

#4: Twelve Days of Christmas

Best version: THE MUPPETS.  I think this version of the song is found on the otherwise completely god-awful Muppets/John Denver Christmas CD (BTW, my hatred of John Denver will last through the ages and be remembered long after my death...).  This version not only has the requisite Muppet charm, but actually moves along at a decent pace, which is the fault of most versions of this tune.  Muppet banter (like "piggy pudding") is really what makes this one.  And the best part?  Almost no John Denver.

Honorable Mention: BURL IVES does a passable, a capella version of Twelve Days.  The pacing changes make it interesting.

Worst version: BOB AND DOUG MACKENZIE.  Yes I am aware that this is a parody version, but after you have heard it once, listening to it a second or third time is absolutely excruciating.

#5: Silent Night

Best version: MARIO LANZA.  Actually, his whole Christmas CD is probably my favorite of all-time.  It's absolute, unadulterated, operatic brilliance.  Not a dud on it.  His version of Silent Night is exactly what Silent Night should be.  It's sweet and tender but not boring and sleep-inducing.  His powerful voice is harnessed and applied with appropriate tenderness in all the right spots.  It is pretty much an ideal version of this song.

Honorable Mention: ANDREA BOCELLI.  For many of the same reasons as Mario Lanza, actually.  His powerful voice carries this song so well, and the song transitions from nearly a capella to a full, orchestra supported version by the end.  Excellent.

Worst Version: Very hard to pick, and I would expect some argument on this one, but I personally cannot stomach SIMON AND GARFUNKEL's version, titled "Silent Night/ 7:00 News".  I know the overdubbing is supposed to be chilling and moving and all that.  But it just irks me.  It tries too hard, and the whispery lyrics of these two otherwise fantastic singers just don't cut the mustard.  The listener struggles to hear details in either track, and eventually the lack of any kind of cadence puts you to sleep.

And so there you have it folks.  :)  20 days til the big day, you better get some tunes on...

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Rookie vegan sushi night!

I dabble in a great many things that are cooking-related.

One of these things is making vegan Japanese food.  As a cuisine, Japanese is not very inherently vegan, so sometimes you have to be on the lookout for alternatives to fit the bill, without taking away too much from the authentic tastes. 

Let me preface this whole thing in saying that I am a complete and total rookie when it comes to sushi and nori rolls.  I have only made nori rolls a handful of times in my life, and up until just the other day had never made sushi.  I'm not going to go into the finer points of rolling technique, because the internet has videos and instructionals galore on the subject already. 

Also because it's pretty much impossible to photograph and roll when your hands are covered in sticky rice...

And so here is just a brief rundown of how you too can be a total amateur vegan sushi making genius!

Step #1: Obtain an awesome recipe

The secret is in the filling...
The trick (as far as I understand it, once you get past the emotional difficulties of rolling) to good nori rolls is good fillings!  My favorite recipe for this so far is Isa Chandra Moskowitz's "Spicy Tempeh Nori Rolls", which can be found in her Veganomicon cookbook (google books preview for this recipe here, hope it works for you to see!)  This recipe calls for a half pack of tempeh to make the main component of the filling (on the left in the above photo), rolled up with green onions, avocado and sesame seeds.  What is the other thing, those brown squares on the right, you ask?  Those are inari, or sweet tofu skins, which I used to make my sushi (no recipe required, more on that later!).  These fillings make for super easy prep, and with no meat you have no worries on contamination issues.  The tempeh stands in for the fish, and makes for a California-roll kind of taste.

Step #2: The rice maker is now your new god

All hail!
 Seriously not kidding here, the rice maker will deliver you to a state of pure, unadulterated happiness... if you use it correctly!  I've found the trick to great rice (be it sushi, basmati, brown, long grain, whatever) is to ditch the little measuring cup that comes with the rice maker and use the same rice-to-water ratios that you would use if you were making it stove top.  My brown rice is never sticky, and my sushi rice always is!  This wonderful contraption requires no action from you during the cooking process, just turn it on and let it work.

Step #3: If you burn yourself while making sushi everyone is gonna laugh at you

Good things come to those who wait.  And in this case, if you don't wait until your rice has cooled down a bit to handle it, you are gonna burn the shit out of your hands when you try to make rolls.  In order to cool it, but not dry it out, I recommend taking the whole thing out of the rice maker and covering it with plastic wrap.  Let sit about 15 minutes before you try to work with it.  While you wait, you can admire how I bought the 70 SHEET PACKAGE of sushi nori, which will probably last me for the literal rest of my life.

Step #4: Roll until you can't roll anymore

Like I said, sticky rice hands - no photo.  That being said, my main piece of advice for the rolling process is to have a bowl with vinegar and water (no exact proportions necessary) nearby.  Dampen your hands before you try to handle the rice, so that it doesn't stick to you as badly.  This is necessary if you are making the little balls of rice to put under your sushi toppings (the aforementioned inari). 

Step #5: Cut up your rolls into wonderful bite-sized pieces

 For this phase of operations you want to use your sharpest knife.  Pressure can't be too firm or you'll moosh the rolls, so a sharp knife is imperative.  You can actually buy special knives just for cutting your nori rolls.  You know, if you are made out of money and have a bajillion dollars to spend.  In the case of the sushi, I stuffed the little inari pockets each with a little ball of rice:

Oishii, as the Japanese would say!
Inari is just one of many vegan sushi options out there.  You can top your little balls of rice with sliced avocado or shiitake mushrooms, for example.

Step #6: Stuff your face

Itadakimasu! (let's eat!)
 And that, my friends, is my rookie Japanese sushi feast.  On top of our rolls and inari sushi, we also had spring rolls and delicious buttery edamame in the shell.  Dip your rolls in soy sauce (or some gluten-free tamari), mix in a little wasabi and chow down.  It might not look like a lot of food, but that's the beauty of Japanese, it's deceptively filling.  This amount stuffed three of us, with a small amount of leftovers.

Good eating, one and all!

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Sadness of a Series: Margaret Atwood's "Maddaddam" (book review)

Trilogies fill me with a weird sense of regret.  There is a certain sadness that comes with finishing the story, and knowing that's there all there is and all there is going to be. No more hope for sequels when sequels have already been had.

In the case of Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, I never really expected there to be a sequel.  Sure it has a cliffhanger ending, but I thought the ending was perfectly suited to the tone and subject matter of the story and was in no need of further explanation.  Yet I eagerly devoured both The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam, the latter of the two being my read for this month's bookclub, where our genre (so to speak) was women writers.

Loose ends are sewn up nicely in MaddAddam, which unifies the stories found in the previous two volumes and brings together the Crakers, Snowman/Jimmy, and the MaddAddamites.  Snowman/Jimmy, who spent a good portion of the last two books hovering around death's door, is nursed back to health and plays a pivotal role (albeit somewhat inadvertently) in uniting the Crakers and MaddAddamites in the common goal of protecting themselves from the vicious criminal painballers.  I really enjoyed how the book focused on the perspective of Toby, who was introduced and served as one of the main characters in the previous book.  It was also wonderful to finally get a Craker perspective in the form of Blackbeard.  In the early part of this book, I found the Crakers too be too much comic relief (who is Fuck?  hee hee), but Blackbeard's point-of-view helps to balance this out a bit.

And so now comes the mourning.  Well, mourning is maybe a little dramatic.  Now comes the wistfulness of knowing you've come to the end of a great story.  If you haven't read any of this trilogy, I highly recommend it, the first book Oryx and Crake is the best of the bunch and is really an outstanding work of dystopian fiction.  As always, I recommend these books most of all to people who are not Margaret Atwood fans.  There is something universal about these books in their appeal that reaches even to those (like me) who were force-fed Atwood poetry in high school and disliked it.

Trust me on this one.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Vegan Chickpea Donairs recipe

So I am impressed with myself today on two accounts.
Firstly, this blog has over 10,000 views, YAY!
Secondly, I am very proud to introduce my FIRST EVER RECIPE that I actually made up, out of my own head, all by myself!
I am known to be a good cook in my social circles, but I've been a good cook of the recipes of others.  This is the first real recipe I've ever created and I'm really quite proud of it because it was astoundingly delicious.  And also really easy, much moreso than the genuine article, and no ick-factor that comes with "mystery meat".

Anyway, enjoy and please do make it and leave some feedback in the comments!  I'd like to know what tweaks you've made.

So without further ado, I present:

Vegan Chickpea Donairs
Serves 2-4 people
A thing of beauty is a joy forever.  Or at least until you eat it.

  • 4-6 pitas
  • 2 cups cooked/canned chickpeas
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce/tamari
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Vegetables of your choice for toppings - Could include peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, etc.
  • A batch of the awesome vegan donair sauce you can find here.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas with a potato masher.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, lemon juice and spices.  Pour the liquid over the chickpeas and mix well.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spread the chickpea mixture on the lined sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
  5. While the chickpeas are cooking, make your donair sauce and chop up whatever veggies you want for toppings.
  6. When everything is done cooking, layer the donair chickpeas, veggies and sauce on your pita.  Roll up and enjoy!  This recipe is messy though, so you may want to give your donair a tinfoil diaper like they do at the store if you're planning on not eating it over a plate!
And that's all there is to it.  :)  It's a tasty, spicy, filling recipe that went over really well at my house, I hope you enjoy it too.


Monday, 16 September 2013

When subject matter gets serious: a pair of book reviews

While I like to consider myself a "jane of all genres", I have often been diagnosed as a great reader of adventures and comedy.

However, this past week I found myself keeping company with two VERY heavy, emotional and deeply saddening works of fiction.  This was unusual for me not because the books were sad (call  me a cold-hearted bitch but I really do enjoy a good unhappy ending), but because I will rarely follow a heavy, emotional book with a second book of the same nature.  I typically like to break them up and intersperse some lighthearted children's works or maybe a cute graphic novel in between these emotional heavyweights.  Just for the sake of my emotional health, and my supply of tissue.

But without further ado, I present the two reviews.  The first is a classic of Russian fiction and criticism of Stalinist repression; the second is a work of YA fiction that forces the reader to confront their deepest fears.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

This book was my pick for book club this month, for which our selected genre was fiction in translation.  I have developed a great love for mid-20th century Russian fiction and satire due to the wonderful, insightful writings of Mikhail Bulgakov.  Beyond his most widely read The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov has a substantial list of works which were not published until long after his early death, due to his overwhelming criticisms of life in the Stalin-ruled USSR.  With Bulgakov as the foundation for my experience of Russian literature, I had some expectations going into One Day.  And all of my expectations were met and greatly exceeded.  One Day takes the reader into the bitter, unmerciful world of a Soviet prison camp through the eyes of Ivan Denisovich Shukov, a former soldier who is imprisoned after being accused of going AWOL.  By the time the reader is introduced to Ivan, he has already been incarcerated for several years.  Solzhenitsyn spares nothing in his description of camp life, from Ivan's rejection at the medical facility to the meagre meals and bitter cold in which the imprisoned men are forced to work.  But the part that really hits the reader square in the gut and conscience is how grateful Ivan is that this day of his is a particularly good one.  He is so thankful that he managed to stay out of solitary confinement and received an extra tiny piece of black bread.  The last few pages of this book describe how Ivan drops off to sleep in a state of contentment.  This is so difficult for the reader to digest after reading the descriptions of all the awful abuses of camp life.  The contrast pulls on the emotions and adds even more to the reality of the experience and the appreciation of those awful circumstances that Solzhenitsyn instills in the reader.  Overall, this book was a difficult read due to the all too true descriptions and subject matter of the work, but absolutely worth reading. 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
 Having read Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking triology, I also had expectations when approaching A Monster Calls, which I had been meaning to read for a very long time.  A Monster Calls is just so incredibly different from Ness' other work, I quickly disregarded what I remembered from those books and looked on this one with fresh eyes.  In this disturbing teen read, a 13-year-old boy is visited by a monster which forces him to confront the disturbing realities of his life.  And I can't tell you anymore than that without completely spoiling the book, which I wouldn't want to do because EVERYONE should read it.  Books don't often make me cry, but this one had me darn close at the end.  The writing is lyrical even though it is told from a 13-year-old perspective, and the accompanying illustrations are perfectly suited to the tone of the story.  The story is simultaneously beautiful and horrifying, it is truly a unique work of fiction which conquers very difficult subject matter without being trite or melodramatic.  The message of the story is incredible, and I very honestly would recommend this book to anyone who is capable of feeling feelings, because A Monster Calls will make you have so many of them.

So after all that strenuous emotional reading, what am I reading now?  I'm working on some non-fiction reads on information consumption for an online course I'm taking.  Talk about switching gears!

Ciao for now.

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Harvest (round 2!) - end of the gardening season

So it's September!  It's now dark outside when I get up for work and there's a distinct chill in the air in the AM too.  So it's time for an (almost) last garden update now that we are officially in "harvest season".

Now I say "almost" last update because the only thing still growing and producing right now is the pumpkin plant.  I'm planning to leave my mini-pumpkins grow until the frost comes, so hopefully they'll have another good solid couple of weeks to a month to get some size on them.  The largest right now is probably about 5 inches in diameter.

Anyway, on with the harvest!

Lone zucchini
So my zucchini plant only produced this one lone zucchini so far.  Technically it could still do more but I don't think it will.  The zucchini plant spent the whole summer looking thoroughly unhappy and unhealthy.  And almost every time a new zucchini would form, it would turn yellow, then black.  I don't know if that was due to too much water or not enough heat or what the culprit is.  Usually you don't have to worry about zucchinis not growing, the problem is typically catching and picking them before they get ridiculously over-sized.  So not a great year for these but glad I at least got one.

Wee onions

Now these were technically supposed to be BULB onions.  They never really grew too well either, but I think their problem was that they were shaded by a larger plant.  I would give them a sunnier bit of real estate next year.  They grew OK but they are much more the size of pearl or pickling onions than a bulb.

Last of the lettuce

 So in the end the lettuce yield for this year was three large heads.  I'm not sure why only part of the row grew, but I think it might have been a similar case to the onions where shade was a factor. 

Obscene amounts of parsley

 One plant that was hugely productive this year was the parsley plant.  Thank god I only planted one.  It was a starter that I put right beside the back step in it's own little corner.  It did tremendously well, and along with having fresh parsley all summer, I had a huge amount for dehydrating.  A full dehydrator's worth gave me one of those little ziploc snack size bags of parsley.  Which is a lot, and will probably last me forever. 

More carrots

With one row of carrots planted, I ended up with three pullings of about this amount, which is two solid handfulls each.  Which is a pretty decent yield in my estimation.  Next year I would thin them out a bit more to increase their size (I don't use any plant foods or fertilizers or chemicals to try to achieve this, my garden is treated only with compost).


  One set of plants that really surprised me were the cucumbers.  I had given them up for dead when they were looking really sick in July, but four of the six came back and produced some cute little cukes for me.  They are small but incredibly tasty.

The letdown...

This is the entirety of the yield from my pepper plants.  On the left is the single bell pepper that was produced, and on the right are my two teensy jalapenos from my so-called "early" plant.  It was just really REALLY not a good year for peppers, they need significant stretches of hot weather to get the job done, and full-blown summer never really happened in Alberta this year.  So it's a bit disappointing that this is all that grew, but not really unexpected.

So that is the end of the season for my tiny little garden!  Overall, I would rate year one as a good experience despite the soggy and cool weather.  Hopefully next year we will have a bit better of a growing season and I'll be able to try a few more plants.

An update on the pumpkins will be forthcoming, stay tuned!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel (book review)

I don't often read biography.  Prior to picking up Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel by Judith & Neil Morgan for last month's book club, I think the last time I read a biography was when I was doing my undergrad (almost 10 years ago now).  Usually this just isn't a genre that catches my eye at the library.  I'm a prolific reader of fiction, and non-fiction has to be really, truly special in order to get read.  Now I probably should be striving to advance variety in my interests and be an eclectic reader of all the things, but dammit, I like what I like.

Regardless, here is a short review of the aforementioned Seuss biography.

When we pulled biography as our theme for July's book club, my initial desire was to read a book about my favorite silent film actor, Buster Keaton.  However, the biography at the library was a coffee table book, and I had rode my bike that day, so the massive, picture-laden tome was out of the question.  Instead I put in an ILL for a biography on my favorite children's authour, Dr. Seuss.

Written about five years after his death in 1991, Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel presents an easy-to-understand, chronological view of the life of the highly productive and much loved children's book authour.  There are about five pages of photographs included with the book, which are also ordered chronologically and show the development of Ted Geisel from imaginative boy to the man who captured all of our imaginations.

As with many people who lived across the span of the 20th century, what is nearly as interesting as the biographical aspects of Ted's life are the glimpses into the society in which he grew up and lived.  As a descendent of German immigrants, we see how racism and bullying permeated American society during the World Wars and impacted Ted's personality.  The rise and fall of prohibition is also well-documented here, through the impact it held for Ted's father and grandfather, who worked as brewers.  Even the advent of various technologies, from typewriter to electric typewriter to computer, occurred during Ted's lifetime as held sway over his works.  The two Morgans do an excellent job of demonstrating not only the development of Ted as artist and writer but also just how much changed in America and around the world over the course of Ted's lifetime.

The only place I hold issue with this biography is in its tendancy to mince words and be a bit euphemistic when it comes to Ted's failings and shortcomings.  The big one being that the book does not explicitly say that he began a relationship with Audrey Dimond while they were both still married to other people, and even which contributed to the suicide of his first wife, Helen Palmer.  This is simply implied.  I also didn't like how Helen's suicide was treated as some sort of noble act, as opposed to it being the death of a woman who was not only heartbroken but who had suffered with a painful ailment for over ten years.  While I understand that it is a biography about Ted, I felt it was insensitive to treat Helen's death as simply a means to progress and advance Ted's life and his relationship with Audrey.

So in conclusion, I'm not sure how to rate this book as far as biographies go due to a lack of benchmarks in my own reading experience.  I very much enjoyed the book overall, and it's merits as a highly-readable and accessible biography outweigh some of the issues I took with the authours being overly tactful.  Overall, I would recommend this biography for any Seuss fan who wants to find out a bit more about the man and his beloved characters which have entertained both children and adults for several generations. 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Harvest (round 1!) - a garden update

So I went away for a week to Manitoba for my brother-in-law's wedding, and came back to (surprise, surprise!) a garden that had turned into a giant weed bed (AGAIN).  So after extracting the unwanteds, I thought it was time to give another update on the state of affairs, seeing as we are actually at the point of being able to eat things now!

So my previously floppy pea plants are now tall enough to grip onto the bannister on the back steps, so that is good news.  No pods up as of yet, but there are quite a few nice purple flowers waiting for a bee to do them a favor...

Pea plants.  :)

Beans and lettuce plants

The bean plants are absolutely huge!   They are really taking over and getting a bit top-heavy so I might have to cage them if they get any fuller.  There were lots of beans ready to be picked when we got back, and lots more at varying stages of development.  I think I'll probably get a couple more harvests off these plants, they are very healthy.  You can also see in this picture I have three full heads of lettuce.  Despite replanting the row, there were never any more baby lettuce plants.  I'm really not sure why, it might be that by the time I got around to doing the second planting the bean plants were already generating so much shade that the lettuce couldn't get started.

First harvest of green beans, about 3.5 oz.

I decided to pull off all of the swiss chard, due largely to the fact that it was pretty much covered by the huge bean plants (guess I planted them too close together, note for next year).

All the chard.

This was not a huge crop, and as you might be able to see from this photo, there was a bit of hail damage incurred.  (Hail is also the reasons their are no photos of spinach, it was pretty trashed...).  So after this was picked over and washed, this was the results:

Ready to cook and eat.  About 1.5 oz harvested.

So not really the prettiest chard ever, or the biggest yield.  I need to rethink how I planted this crop for next year, if anyone has any chard tips, I'll gladly take them!

On to the rest of the crops...

The cherry tomato plant.

Here is the current state of the cherry tomato plant previously described as "HUGE".  It's a lot less full now, again due to hail damage.  Some branches in the middle were dying out and had to be removed.  But still looking at a pretty good yield, there are lots of tomatoes on here and some are even starting to ripen up.

Them other guys
The carrots look a little sad here because I just thinned them, they were planted waaaaay too thick.  Down in front is a strawberry plant which is giving off about 400 runner babies.  Tempted to cut and plant the new babies, I would very much like if the plant would quit making babies and go back to making fruit!  On the far right are the jalapeno and bell pepper plants, both still not doing great, I think next year I might pot them and put them under the house overhang to keep them drier.  However there is a teensy pepper on the bell plant so they aren't a total loss.  The roma tomato is very slowly coming along too.

And now for the gratutious money shot:

Out of control large-ness

My parsley plant is a total beast.  I've pulled it twice already and it's still a bushy monster.  I am seriously going to have to work on giving some away (any takers?) or figure out how to dry this stuff up and store it for later.  Might have to borrow mom's dehydrator.

No photos of the pumpkins and zucchini this time, but they are coming along fairly merrily despite being choked with weeds.

More updates as I get more stuff to eat!  :)

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

China Mieville's "Un Lun Dun" (book review)

Occasionally, I come across a book that absolutely reaffirms my love for reading and reminds me that it is not only an awesome hobby, but one that has the ability to completely transfix and commandeer my regular life while I'm in its sway.  To the dereliction of duties like keeping the house.  Or showering.  Or eating.  Or sleeping...

China Mieville's Un Lun Dun is one of those awesome books.

Creepy cover though.

I had been waiting for a while to read Un Lun Dun, which was hanging out on my "to read" list, and finally got around to it just recently.  And I am so incredibly glad I did.  This book absolutely pulled me in; it was one of those books that I quite literally had difficulty putting down. It seemed that no matter what I was doing, I was thinking of ways to solve the problems of its characters and anticipating storyline twists.

What I think is so enchanting about Un Lun Dun is that the story is based around familiar tropes, but goes a completely different route with them.  The so called "chosen one" (shwazzy!) and her best friend are pulled into an alternate world, where the chosen one is expected to save everyone from a maniacal, conscious mass of pollution known as the Smog.  But when Zanna the chosen one falls flat on her face almost immediately out of the gates, and it becomes the task of her "sidekick" and best friend Deeba to become the un-chosen hero and save the parallel world of UnLondon.  I loved this because it is so relateable for the main audience of this book, younger teens.  These teens can very much understand the position of someone who feels overshadowed by their peers, and feel powerless to change their situation.  It is really refreshing to get to enjoy this special adventure from the perspective not of that special, singled out individual (think Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, etc.), but of a very normal and ordinary girl. Many tasks and exciting adventures later, it is Deeba's brain and her quick thinking that save the day, adding yet another layer of appeal as she did not require any special supernatural powers to succeed, only her own wits.  These features add greatly to the realism of what is definitely a fantasy work.  The character of Deeba is so realistic and maintains her normalness despite keeping company with a diverse cast of oddities including half-ghosts, personified words, killer giraffes and animate milk cartons. 

The book might be perhaps a bit too scary for a younger crowd, under the age of about eight, but the length of the work (about 220 pages) might also be prohibitive for that age group.  This read is ideal for the younger teen, and for anyone who really likes a good adventure with a healthy slice of nail-biting suspense and the occasional bit of humour.  I'm really looking forward to reading some of China Mieville's other works, and hope they are as wonderful and exciting as Un Lun Dun.

Monday, 24 June 2013

State of the Garden Address - the aftermath of the long sog

It's been just a touch wet in Alberta lately. 

Ok, significantly more than a touch.  Even here in Edmonton where we avoided any serious flooding (largely due to the fact that our river is in a significant gorge/canyon) it has rained almost EVERY SINGLE DAY for almost a month.  This has been good and bad in several regards:

Good: Plants are well-watered.
Bad: Cucumbers hate to be well-watered, they are kinda dead looking now...
Good: Save money on the water bill when nature does it for you.
Bad: Weeds like water too.  Chickweed, creeping charlie, quackgrass, thistle, stinging nettles...

The garden itself is progressing though, it finally dried up enough today to weed the damn thing, so I thought I'd provide an update and photographic evidence of the current state of affairs.

On the left you can see my peas flopping over, they are badly in need of some support, so I'm going to pick up a trellis hopefully tomorrow.  Next to them is the beans, which are absolutely flourishing.  Next over we have the swiss chard, which is kind of spindly but still growing.  Then comes the lettuce, which you can see I netted off a whole row for it but it only came in in the very front.  I don't know if this is due to the varying degrees of sun in different parts of the garden, or if I accidentally pulled baby lettuce when I was pulling weeds.  At any rate, I've re-planted the bare area and hopefully will get something by the end of the summer.  Lastly on the left are the onions, which are around the air conditioner.  They are doing absolutely marvelously, I am able to harvest some of the stalks while the bulbs continue to grow underground.  I think these are going to be exceptional when they are eventually harvested.

First on the right are the carrots, doing average-ly well.  The spinach is next, doing pretty good too, I'm well in line for a second crop and I'm hoping to keep this batch from seeding for a bit longer.  In the front is the strawberry plant, which has sent off a runner, so hopefully there will be two strawberry plants soon!  In the back corner you can kind of see my roma tomato plant.  It isn't gaining much height, but is starting to get actual fruit now.  Off camera are my two pepper plants, which look about the same as when I got them, with maybe the very beginnings of some fruit.  Also in an off-screen corner (front left) is the parsley plant, which is getting really huge, but I did buy it already started so I'm not really shocked on that.  Been pulling nice herbs off for about a week:

Parsley, looking nice and full.

So nothing really earth shattering is going down in the garden... but take a look at this:


My cherry tomato plant is a MONSTER.  Everything is going right in this pot apparently, I don't know what is so magical about this spot or this pot or the soil or the plant or whatever, but everything is working in perfect harmony to create a giant tomato bush!  It's surrounded by violas and marigolds (the last survivors from the starter-plant holocaust) to attract the bees.  It has infinite amounts of lovely little yellow blossoms, but no fruit quiet yet.  I have really high hopes for the yield on this plant, it's going to be good!

I also took some photos of some of the flowers around the yard that are really popping right now, like my peony in the front yard:

Peonies are so floppy, this one is caged up with chicken wire and posts quite high on its stems, but it's still flopping almost totally over.  I don't know if it's really avoidable.  Today the peony plant is beautiful, so I thought I'd nab some photographic proof before it explodes in a petal storm before too long.

Also looking really good is the rose bush in the front:


The bush is a bit leggy, but it has a whole bunch of buds and a couple of flowers including these two lovelies.  They have a beautiful smell too!  I love their deep fuchsia colour, it's not at all what I had expected when I initially saw the bush.

In other unphotographed news, I pulled about 3 cups of rhubarb off the plant, we are in line for another harvest in about three weeks, will probably get 3 or 4 pulls all told (about 12 cups or so in the end).  A pity the DH doesn't like rhubarb!  The pumpkin plant is the only survivor of the large vegetable group, it has three fruits going at last count, thank god they are miniature pumpkins.  Hoping one will work as a jack-o-lantern though if frost holds off long enough. 

That's about all for now!  I'll post back when things start bearing more fruit or we have some more interesting flowerings.  Cheers!

Friday, 21 June 2013

About 10000 leagues over my head - it's poetry month

There is a fat worm in these waters
in these lands a predatory worm:
he ate the island's flag
hoisting up his overseer's banner,
he was nourished from the captive blood
of the poor buried patriots.
- "Munoz Marin" by Pablo Neruda

Book Club pulled poetry this month.  And I picked a book so far over my head that I pretty much drowned in it.

Poetry and I have had a tumultuous relationship at best.  And most of that was because I was forced to memorize Keats and Shelley in Jr. High, followed by an overly generous helping of Atwood in High School.  

But having to pick a book, I decided I'd like to read something by Pablo Neruda.  I took interest in Neruda after reading The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan.  So this seemed like a good chance to actually read some of his poetry...

Which is how I ended up with Song of Protest.

There are so many things wrong here, and sadly, they are all things that are wrong with me.  I can't even begin to actually review this collection of political poems.  Firstly, I feel like this is really a set of poetry which would have been EXTREMELY powerful in the time period and place when it was written, which was more than 20 years before I was born.  Or, it would have a great deal of meaning if I was really familiar with South American history.  Which I also am not.  And lastly, it was just hard for me to wrap my head around some of the subject matter in the poems, particularly Neruda's overt bromance with Fidel Castro...

So this was just one of those things that I didn't get.  Totally my bad.

But we can't all be experts in everything, so I guess I'll let myself get away with not having a handle on poetry.  After all, I'll always know a lot about parallel parking and 1980's Japanese pop music....

(pikara, pikara...) 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Patricia Wrede's "Thirteenth Child" (book review)

I have to admit, I have been very lax lately in my reading of books for younger teens.  I'm so keen on the 15-18 older teen books that I've been reading them almost exclusively over the last few months.  So recently, when I was at the library with no particular books in mind, I decided to peruse the books aimed at the 12-14 crowd.  And that is where I picked up Patricia Wrede's Thirteenth Child.

I love the cover!
Thirteenth Child is difficult to classify in terms of its genre.  It could be called a fantasy book, or magical realism, or historical fiction, or perhaps most aptly, alternative historical fiction.  Thirteenth Child (and the series that follows it) is set in the early days of the American Wild West.  Except the frontier is populated with a wild variety of magical and non-magical creatures, as well as some ice-age holdovers like mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers.  And the creatures are not the only ones who possess magical abilities, humans possess these abilities as well to varying degrees. 

Wrede does an excellent job of keeping enough historical accuracy to make the time period recognizable, but at the same time integrating these interesting, magical aspects of the storyline. The story's heroine, Eff, is considered by some to be an unfortunate, cursed thirteenth child.  The story follows Eff as she leaves her home community at a very young age, and strives to leave behind the stigma of her birth order and prove herself to not only be a good person, but one who is safe for others to be around.  The story covers a fairly large stretch of time, starting with Eff at age five and ending at age 18.   While I found some of the progression through time to be a bit lurching, this doesn't damage the overall quality of the story. 

I very much enjoyed Wrede's descriptions of the people, settlements and creatures in this re-imagined America.  There is just the right amount of history and magic in this tale to make it approachable and appealing to younger teens.  And with Eff's brother Lan and his friend William filling in substantial roles, and getting into several serious misadventures, this work has appeal to teen boys as well as girls.  Overall, Thirteenth Child is an engaging story, and I will likely give the sequels a try as well.

Happy Reading.  :)

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Runaway Devil (Book Review)

"The most disturbing outcome of the trials is that neither JR nor Jeremy Steinke ever took responsibility for the death of Jacob.  Only they know for certain what happened in that house, and one of them is not telling the truth."

The book club genre for this month was true crime.  Honestly, I've not read very much of this genre.  That may have to do with the fact that I'm generally a very fiction-heavy reader (reading 2 of them at the same time as this book) and if I am reading about a true crime, it is usually involving an air crash incident.*

*Sidenote:  If I could do it all over again, I would totally be an air crash investigator.  Mayday is my favorite TV show, and I think my personality as someone who is ridiculously organized and meticulous (read: anal retentive) in their work would lend itself well to that type of career.  But I never pursued the sciences as actively as I should have.  *sigh*...

 I wanted to pick a book about a Canadian crime, and I ended up choosing Runaway Devil: How Forbidden Love Drove a 12-Year-Old to Murder Her Family by Robert Remington and Sherri Zickefoose.

The story of Runaway Devil was a really big case in Alberta back in 2006, when 12-year-old JR and her 23-year-old (!) boyfriend planned and carried out the murder of her parents and little brother in their Medicine Hat home.

While obviously this was a disgusting crime, I want to focus mostly on the quality of the investigative writing and the style of the book itself rather than passing too much judgement on the individuals involved in this real-life horror story.  Remington and Zickefoose are both journalists who covered the story for the Calgary Herald.  And while the journalistic writing style often falls prey to sensationalism, in this case the authors have managed to do a pretty good job of avoiding the melodramatic.  Which is challenging considering the subject matter of forbidden (not quite) teenage love and family murder.  Remington and Zickefoose do an excellent job of discussing the backgrounds and lives of the murderers equally, and provide many different perspectives and sources in their analysis of the crime, ranging from court records to social media postings and recorded conversations.  The book is not a difficult read from a vocabulary standpoint, but from my experience true crime books don't tend to be exceptionally difficult in their language.  The book is for the most part put together in a sensible chronological fashion, and there weren't too many places where I was confused about which point in time they were referencing.  I also appreciated that they included photos of the parties involved (excluding young offenders) and provided an update on the situation as far as it was available when the book was published.

So while true crime is not my usual choice in genre, I felt that Runaway Devil was a generally well-written investigative look at a truly horrible multiple murder.  I would recommend this book to fans of the genre, or those with an interest in crime and current events in Alberta.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Garden is planted! - my urban garden

Firstly, I guess I should say something about the "blogging-hiatus" I've been on lately.  It's been a while since I've posted, and I've been unemployed the whole time.  So really, you'd think I'd have tons of time for this, but I just haven't been indoors very much.  The yard has been the obvious victim of years of neglect by the previous owners, so I've been working hard to bring it into some kind of control with large amounts of weeding and chopping and rototilling and the general moving of dirt.  Things are finally coming together so I have a little time to take a break and say a bit about how it's all going.

So, the indoor starters had an accident.  As many of my Facebook associates are already aware, I had a moment of gardening stupidity and accidentally irradiated the baby plants on my back step after forgetting them outside for an entire afternoon on a very hot day.  So there wasn't much left that could be salvaged, pretty much just the marigolds made it through.  Lesson learned, but at a high price. 

Returning then to the garden.  Originally, the plan was to rototill the far corner of the yard, which in a previous life had once been a sandbox.  This has been both a boon and a problem.  It's all very nicely churned up for planting, but with being so incredibly sandy nothing can go in this year.  The plan is to compost on the sandy area, so that next year it will have a bit more soil to work with.  In what soil there is, I've planted the very large crops - the pumpkin, zucchini and cucumber - so that they can eventually sprawl over the sandy part as they grow. In the meantime, I wasn't going to totally take the year off with the main garden, and staked out a smaller bed next to the house as the home for this year's garden. 

The plans!

It's not a huge space but really quite manageable, especially seeing as this is the first year for the DH and I to be gardening without the direct supervision of someone who has done this before.  The only change I made to the diagram is I swapped the spinach and carrots around because I wanted a longer row of carrots.

All planted!

You can't see it in the photo, but the peas will grow right against the step, and will eventually have a cage or trellis to lean on.  I left that rather large gap down the centre so that I can navigate my way to the back without crushing anything.  It's hard to see them in the shade, but on the right there are pepper, jalapeno, strawberry and basil plants that I bought at a local greenhouse.  The day lily at the back used to be WAY bigger than it is now, we got it down to a more reasonable size, but couldn't extract the whole thing without killing it. 

So we will see what develops.  I'm a bit concerned with the soil's hardness, but hopefully that won't impede things too much.

More posts will be soon to come, I promise I won't leave it so long this time!


Monday, 29 April 2013

Indoor starters week 4 - my urban garden

Like watching the proverbial paint dry, doing a weekly update about the growth of my indoor starter plants seemed like a less than exciting offering to you, my fine readers.  So as you might have noticed I haven't done an update since week 1 in order to give the plants a bit of time to really get started, and so as not to bore a ridiculous amount.

At any rate, here we are at week 4!  I would like to say spring is sprung but that would be the filthiest of lies because I walked from the bus stop to work in near blizzard conditions this morning and got thoroughly soaked by the snow/rain.  So nothing is going in the ground anytime soon, I can't even dig the garden beds as they are once again made into mudholes.

So indoor gardening continues to be "where it's at".  Behold the plants at the end of week 4:

There's an intruder in the plant room too!
So as you can see there is LOTS more happening now than there was at the end of week 1.  Everything is up with the exception of a few pots that never sprouted a thing.  Even the peppers, which I had not seen hide nor hair (nor leaf nor root) of since the beginning finally broke the soil at the end of week 3, after I was beginning to doubt they were ever coming.  True leaves are beginning to form on the tomatoes and parsley, which means soon they will have to be thinned.  The strongest will be left to take over the whole pot for themselves and the other seedlings will be pulled to make room. 

In an effort to reduce the presence of mold in some of the pots I've cut down a bit on watering.  Rather than using the watering can I'm now misting the soil with a spray bottle.  I'm hoping to see much better performance from the shasta daisies because of this too, I feel like I've probably over-watered them a bit and they aren't growing very well as a result.

My unemployment commences on Wednesday, so hopefully the yard will dry up and landscaping can commence!  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Re-reads: the few and the powerful

It is a very rare occurrence that I will re-read a book.

Primarily, this is because life is short and books are many.  My to-read list (AKA, the wait list) is seriously long and overpopulated with many wonderful, exciting and worthy works that I very much want to read.  And I'll never be able to read them all, but at the same time don't want to miss out on a new experience by re-reading an old favorite.

Yet they are favorites for a reason.  And favorites are the only reason I re-read in the first place.*

*sidenote: actually not 100% true.  One time I accidentally re-read Crabwalk by Gunter Grass thinking I had never read it before.  The book was so boring and unmemorable that I actually got 3/4 of the way through before I realized that I remembered how it ended.  :|


For me, favorite books are actually quite rare.  I have read many books that I like and have enjoyed immensely, but there is a certain quality to those that are re-readable that makes them almost demand a second look.

I think that quality can best be defined as a sort of complexity which requires a second reading in order to develop the fullest possible appreciation for the work.  This complexity in itself is a very delicate balance.  The book has to be complex enough to require a second reading, but not so complex as to be initially off-putting in the first place, or so complex that I don't feel I would really "get" the book even if I read it a second time.

So here I would like to discuss two of my all-time favorite re-read books, and give a bit of an explanation for how they managed to pull me in a second (or third) time.

Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake

Just so good.

 I am actually re-reading Oryx and Crake right now.  It is the seed for this blogpost.  Prior to reading this book, I was very much NOT a reader of Margaret Atwood.  I remember being force-fed some poetry in high school, but generally speaking I was quite ambivalent about reading any of her novels.  But Oryx and Crake pulled me in; I could not resist the surreal, dystopian future and hopeless reminiscences of Snowman.  It is just such a good book, and it's an even better book the second time around.  The first time it is profoundly interesting, but I feel like all of the details and subtleties were lost on me.  I needed to read it a second time to really pick everything up in full detail.  Another reason why I am re-reading Oryx and Crake is because for a couple of years now I've had the sequel/prequel The Year of the Flood on my bookshelf, beckoning me to read it.  And I couldn't very well do that without first revisiting the book that started it all.  If you haven't read it, and especially if you generally dislike Atwood, I urge you to give Oryx and Crake a try.  It is such a marvelous book in so many ways.

Haruki Murakami's Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World

I love this book more than chocolate.

In addition to possibly being my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE BOOK, EVER, Haruki Murakami's End of the World also has the distinction of being the only work of adult fiction that I have read three times.*

*sidenote: Now is not the time to discuss how many DOZENS of times I read (or had read to me) Art Cummings' There's a Monster Eating my House, an absolutely riotous children's book which is sadly out of print, but which I am grateful to have a copy of.  Another blog post, another day.

End of the World captures the exact essence of what makes a book re-readable for me.  It is an amazingly detailed magical realist novel (my favorite genre) which is at once thoroughly engrossing but also highly complex.  The first time I read this book I loved it.  The second time I read it I understood it.  And the third time I was able to relax into the book like the most comfortable of old sweaters.  It is a brilliant story about the nature of the mind and reality, and is my favorite out of many great works by Murakami.  To say I recommend this book would obviously be an understatement... I practically go around giving out copies of this one (actually have done this on people's birthdays).  It is simultaneously challenging and fascinating.  And the alternating dual-perspective chapters come together in such a brilliant way to culminate in a frustratingly wonderful cliffhanger ending.  READ THIS BOOK.

I'm somewhat hard-pressed to think of many more books I've re-read.  The re-read is a rare title in my reading universe, reserved only for those works that I hold in the absolute highest regard.  May there be more of them in the future... but not too many...

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Getting screwed, or, why kitty-mommy drinks too much.

This post is brought to you by the word #&%*!...
EXPLETIVES, they're not just for sailors anymore.

I already ranted and raved on a previous occasion about how I am a temp, and therefore my life is a type of heinous purgatory spent forever treading on eggshells because you never know when the ax will fall and you'll be living in a refrigerator box, doing unseemly favors in exchange for half of a stale peanut butter sandwich. 

Be it ever so humble...
But the fever has finally broke, so to speak, because I found out that I'm not getting renewed, and I'm not even getting an interview for the new positions that were created at my workplace.  So now I have nothing and everything to worry about.  I have a distinct end date, but I also have no plans as to how I am going to fill my time and my bank account as of the end of the month.

DH says not to take it personally.  And I can't even get into that without making this a really ugly scene so I'm just going to leave that part alone for now.  Let's just say there are a whole lot of people around here who can't even look me in the eye after ruining my future.

Consequently, the big question remains the same as it was before: what's next?  Despite having paid a shit-ton of cash for two degrees that aren't actually paid off I join the great unwashed masses in the unemployment line?  Maybe... because I've used it before apparently that makes it OK for Harper-bot and the Decepti-Cons to exclude me from the program, so here is yet another wait-and-see for me to ruminate on as I spend endless hours dicking around on Facebook and Pinterest because nobody actually assigns work projects to the person who's leaving anyway.

And that's why kitty-mommy drinks too much.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Jonas Jonasson's "The 100-Year-Old Man" (book review)

"If you've ever stepped in a heap of sticky, very fresh elephant shit then you'll know it's virtually impossible to keep your balance."

I am a complete sucker for a comedy.  I absolutely love books with a good sense of humor, and if they are able to literally make me laugh tea out my nose, all the better.  I think the reason I love humorous books so much is because they are one of the very few types of books that actually manage to elicit an emotional response from me.  As I've mentioned before, I'm not the kind of person who gets "scared" or "moved to tears" by books.  They just don't trigger those kinds of reactions for me.  But a truly funny book has the power to make me actually laugh out loud, and that is why I love them so much.  Christopher Moore and Neil Gaiman are among my favorite authors for these reasons.  And while Gaiman is probably considered fantasy before comedy, if you've read Good Omens then you know exactly why I classify him as a humor writer as well.

It's been quite a little while since I've read anything truly humorous.  I've been on a bit of a teen drama, adult drama, too much drama tilt as of late.  Which is why I was thoroughly, truly glad to read Jonas Jonasson's The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared.

Great cover too, in my opinion.

In order to obtain a copy of this book from my local public library, I actually had to wait over three months to get to the top of the holds list.  There were literally dozens of people waiting to read this recent bestseller.  Conveniently for me, book club this month picked bestsellers as our genre, so 100-Year-Old Man ended up pulling double-duty in that regard and as comedy relief.

In the 100-Year-Old Man, centarian Allan Karlsson decides to start over and climbs out the window of his retirement home on his 100th birthday.  The highly idiosyncratic senior citizen then proceeds on a romp across the Swedish countryside which comes to include stealing a suitcase full of money, accidental murder, and a motley crew of accomplices including a thief, an evangelized fraudster, and a farmer and her elephant.  Obviously, mayhem ensues.

100-Year-Old Man does not proceed in a strictly linear fashion.  Episodes from unpolitical Allan Karlsson's life are all highly political, as he plays a role in some of the 20th century's key events and gains the ear of many prominent figures across several continents.  The total ridiculousness of both Allan's overly lucky history and his current adventure is part of what makes the book very enjoyable and outrageously funny.  Yet Allan's frank and honest nature makes his tales seem believable.  With child-like honesty Allan blows up his childhood home, insults Stalin and nearly causes multiple international incidents, all without a hint of malice.  The overall result is a book that is just pure fun; one that cannot be taken too seriously or analyzed too deeply.

I would highly recommend Jonas Jonasson's The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Dissapeared to anyone who enjoys literature in translation, or a good solid laugh.  It is a highly joyful, exciting book with a tidy happy ending.  Most of all, it is perfect light reading if you're experiencing a bit too much seriousness in your life or literature.