Childhood Booklust Revisited . . . Score!

More than a year ago, I did a post about my ongoing search for two of my favorite childhood books.

They were for sale here and there for  $100-$400US each—quality unverifiable—but I was hoping for a more financially responsible option.*

Now, thanks to a dear friend, my search is half over!

About a week ago, I received an e-mail from thefirstmausi,** who told me she’d just seen How to Become King— Jan Terlouw’s novel about a teenager’s quest to become king despite the obstacles placed by a 1984-esque Ministry—on Amazon for about forty dollars, though she didn’t know if it was still available or if I wanted to risk buying something without a cover or various pages.

I checked.  It was.  And I did.

My book—mine!— arrived Wednesday.  It’s not new and I still paid a bit more than the original price of the book, even considering thirty-odd years of inflation . . . but what price happy childhood memories?*

I loved this book so much that my name was on every other line on the check-out card of my elementary school’s copy.  I started reading it to Janie last night.  I still love it.

Thank you, firstmausi !

Now . . . Anyone have any leads on The Night They Stole the Alphabet ?


*Picture my parents and my husband staring at the screen in utter shock right here, because they will, are, or did.


*Okay, yeah, under $100US, unless we’re talking mint condition happy childhood memories.


Knitting the Purple Elephant

Hello, my name is Sarah, and I am a knitter with an extremely low boredom threshold.

This makes sweaters and even scarves of any useful length problematic, and downshifting into smaller projects doesn’t seem to work. I have, for example, an extensive collection of single socks, and when I took classes to learn to knit two socks at once, I became bored halfway through and after almost a year, I’ve yet to finish the cuffs.*

My friend and co-worker Grace** knows this all too well, so when a knitting book featuring even smaller projects crossed her desk, she put it on hold for me. I took it home and let the kids look at it.

(click the cover for Anna Hrachovec’s wonderful website)

They immediately demanded a teeny-tiny menagerie, and I was willing to oblige, except . . . all of these projects are done with double-pointed needles. I don’t consider myself to have anywhere near the physical coordination or mental health required to knit with a handful of oversized toothpicks.***

But for something this small—the first cast on for most of these little guys is 6 stitches or fewer—I thought I might give ‘em another try.

It was like thumb wrestling a small wooden octopus. And losing every stinking time.

So this past week, I took Grace to lunch, not only because it was her birthday and that’s just the kind of person I am, but also to corner her into showing me how to use double-pointed needles, which she valiantly tried to do before her salad arrived, even though the yarn I’d brought to the restaurant was a little too thick for the needles I had (rookie mistake).

I went home, found some purple sock yarn^ and tried, tried again. And again. And again and thank heavens the kids were in bed so they didn’t hear me say exactly how much I loathed these stupid wooden pieces of. . . Oh, wait. That worked.

I managed one round of increasing stitches without it falling apart, set it down very gently, and took a break with a nice stiff drink. This might be the perfect time to mention that I picked up knitting to relax.^^

But I came back well fortified, brought up Would I Lie to You ^^^ on the laptop, and got to work. One and a half episodes later, I had accomplished one-fourth of a tiny purple elephant butt, after which it went a little faster:


And an episode or two after that, I had a purple grape on a stick:

I called it a day, did the trunk the next morning, and finished the rest after work.  Elephants have far too many feet, by the way, especially when rendered in I-cord, and it was very slow going until my MIL took pity on me and offered her smallest crochet hook so I could pick up stitches without risk of rupturing that pulsing vein in my forehead.°

But in the end, I got the hang of it.

May I present Brumple, the Tiny Purple Elephant Who Does NOT Look Like a Pig with a Nasal Condition, Thank You So Very Much:

And, yes, I repaired that little, tiny hole I only noticed after I’d uploaded the image and delivered him to his new owner.

To give you a better idea of how small Brumple really  is, here’s a celebrity shot with George Washington:

Sunny’s requested a monkey next—with a banana.

I think I might rest up a few days first . . .



*Mom, if you’re reading this, I swear (again) that they’ll be done by your birthday (again), though this time I’m not going to specify which one.

** Who actually learned to knit because she was tired of waiting for me to start the pair of socks I said, in a fit of self-delusional optimism, that I’d make for her—said, not promised, by the way. She’s a much better knitter than I am now, so my procrastination is good for something, see?

*** When knitting small things in the round, like socks, I use a pair of circular needles. Like so many of my methods, this can be a bit clunky, but it works.

^Which was enough to make baby socks for Sunny at the time I bought it but isn’t quite enough now that she’s almost, um, four and three-fourths . . .

^^That sound you hear is Grace snerking. My yarn tension is so tight that my scarves need to be persuaded to bend. In fact, she suggested I cast on over two needles so I had half a chance of making those increases without snapping a needle in half. I’m a little surprised she didn’t suggest three.

^^^Another one of my new-to-me British comedy panel show finds.

° Probably more for the sake of the kids, who were pressing dangerously close and asking me every ten seconds if I was done yet.

Random Thursday: Dinosaur vs. Bridge Traffic

Remember my complaint about the bridge traffic Monday?  Here’s one of the photos Janie took while hanging out of the window.*  Please note the bridge in the left distance and the single, lonely car approaching from the other direction.

To add to the joy, here’s a word problem:

Sarah has to get her daughter Janie to school on time, and then drive to work.  She has allowed forty-five minutes for this which is approximately twenty minutes longer than is usually necessary.

The bridge is about 2  miles (3.218 km) past the merge arrows.  Janie’s school is about a quarter mile (402.3 m) from the other end of said bridge, which is a little more than half a mile (.8 km) long.    It will take twenty-five minutes (1500 min.) at the traffic’s current speed to reach the school.

How far will Sarah be able to drive from this point without giving her daughter an impromptu vocabulary lesson? 

In approximately one third of a mile (531 m), Janie will suddenly remember that she didn’t have breakfast.   How far will Sarah we able to drive without offering a detailed and highly graphic explanation of the DOT’s collective genealogies?

Please show your work.

Extra credit:  In what way would your calculations change if this is Sarah’s view for 2.25 miles (3.62 km)?


A skeleton walks into a bar.   “Bartender,” he says, “give me a beer.  And a mop.”


Small Victory:

Two of my, um, foundation undergarments, long past retirement age, recently self-detonated, leaving nothing but stray underwire and a pile of exhausted elastic.  The second one gave up the ghost last week—in the dryer, thank heavens, so there were no casualties—leaving me with an, ah, understaffed support system, and no time to get to the nearest Intimacy store,** which is more than three hours away.

So for the first time ever, I ordered replacements online, including a style I’d never tried in a size I was hoping would work because the color I wanted in my usual style wasn’t available.*** 

I sprang for three-day shipping—lest the stress on the few remaining survivors hasten their own tragic deaths—and received them yesterday.

They all fit.  I repeat:  They all fit.

I can’t manage that on my first trip to the dressing room of a physical store.

On second thought, this is more of a miracle than a small victory.

My question is this:  should I buy a lottery ticket now or assume I’ve used up all my good luck^ for a while?


Literary Death Match

It should be clear by now that I am a complete video thief and that SBSarah over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books   is one of my favorite sources. 

This is Bob Shea’s  contribution to the Literary Death Match at  last year’s Texas Book Festival.  His first reading selection was good, but his second is priceless:


Show of hands:  who is going to look for his books now — and who really wishes the second one was for sale?


And one last Douglas Adams quote:

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”


*She managed two before I realized the flash was coming from the outside of the car.  It’s a wonder sometimes that my heart still beats . . .

**Which I recommend to anyone, of any size, shape, placement, or problem.  Historically, I would rather wrap my torso in razor wire than go bra shopping (don’t ask me about swimsuits).  But Intimacy has fitters, who fit you and stick with you until you’re comfortable and everything’s exactly where you want it.  Pricey?  A bit, even if you don’t have to use a whole tank of gas to get there.  Worth it?  Absolutely.

***Note to my male readers, should you exist: if you don’t understand why this is a risky move, you’ve just defined male privilege—congratulations.

^Or, rather, the good luck MacDougal Street Baby so generously shared with me last Monday.

Random Thursday: Links, flinches, and small victories

Today has been a bit of a random roller coaster . . .

•   Got slapped down over a badly crafted comment over at Betsy’s;

•   Received some great comments on a work-related writing project;

•   Discovered my library books are overdue, which is ironic and embarrassing; 

•   Scored a free eCopy of Bill Cameron’s One Day from the ever-generous Alison Janssen over at Dead Guy (she’s giving away Anthony Neil Smith’s Yellow Medicine this week—go check it out);

•   Realized I have the skin of a sixteen-year old and the body of a forty-year old, which seems both backwards and unfair;

•   Sampled the world’s best garlic dressing for lunch and found my peppermint gum afterward—no, I don’t think this is related to my skin, why?

•   Poked myself in the eye with the pencil I was trying to stick behind my ear;

•   But it was the eraser end of the pencil;

•   Received some shout-outs from various blogging friends (thanks, guys!);

•   And finally admitted that my new athletic shoes have broken me in first.  Talk about—say it with me—the agony of defeat.

I’m calling it even . . .


 Small Victory:

 Jane found the missing piece of her umbrella—she won’t tell me where—and I managed to reassemble it without loss of blood.


Today’s paper mentioned that Psychostick, a self-styled “humorcore” heavy metal band, is approaching our area on their Unleash the Dumb Tour.  According to the article, their style is an irreverent counter to the typical anger-fueled metal stage shows.

Their single, “Flesh Eating Roller Skate Holiday Joyride” broke the top 20 on Billboard’s Holiday Chart.

So of course I had to check ‘em out.

If Weird Al Yankovic wrote for AC/DC, it might sound something like this . . . kind of a heavy Tenacious D.

I’m now humming “This isn’t a Song, it’s a Sandwich”  (lyrics are here).

Definitely hearing the cheese today.  . .


Slightly Larger Victory:

Finally reworked that one scene so there’s a wound, a blood trail, and little loss of dialogue or crucial information.  Whew!

Now I can get on with my life, such as it is.


 And just to class the place up a little, here’s Stephen Fry in a contemplative mood:

Small Victories

It is Friday and I am still upright. 

Coughing, snorting, and trying to drown that damned frog with my my third gallon of hot tea since this morning, but upright.

That counts.


I sent off the “autobiographical” reenactment speech last night—a whole week before deadline, thank you—and received a reply this afternoon that it was more than acceptable and they’d “be in touch.” 

This is both a relief and a slight puzzlement—I wrote it for free* and I don’t have much in the way of stage direction or insights to offer, so I’m assuming any future  touching would be for edits, possibly for length.

No sweat—I could take out the poem, the obituary excerpt, and/or pare back hte bit about his best friend the radical socialist.

Or if it’s too long, I could put back one of his wives, his military “career”—which appears to have consisted mostly of a few months at Camp Cuba Libre during the Spanish-American War—and the subsequent book about said “career” (whoops, just remembered that one), numerous affairs with the women he didn’t marry, and a couple of great cautionary tales about the dangers of binge drinking.

So there’s room to move, if movement is required.

But for now, it’s one more thing off the checklist, if I had one. 


At the stroke of New York midnight tonight, Janet Reid will open the entry floodgates for one of her famous 100-word story contests.  The prize is an advance copy of The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino and the thrill of knowing that for one shining moment, Ms. Reid liked your stuff.

And I’m done with my entry!   Trust me, this counts as a victory, long-winded as I am.

I’d enter the contest anyway, because I’m ever so slightly addicted to the mini-challenges, but I do want to read Suspect X, a mystery set in Japan.  I’ve always been fascinated with Japan, mostly because of Dad, who taught at the American School in Tokyo in the ‘fifties. 

Dad taught me how to use chopsticks to pick up almost everything—practicing with M&Ms is key—and tells great stories about his first trip to the baths, where an elderly gentleman taught him a lesson in humility, and skiing, where he learned of his own mortality, and bits and pieces of everyday life the way it was half a century ago.  Of all the items he brought back with him, I covet the beautiful book of haiku,each poem delicately drawn on one page, with the translation in lovely printing on the next. 

So I’m definitely there for this one—though probably not at midnight, even if I am on Central Time. 

Ms. Reid is only allowing entries for twenty-four hours, so come join me!  The more the merrier! 

And as usual, if you win, please let me borrow the book.


My wonderful First Reader got back to me with her impressions of the revised early chapters of my WIP and so far, so good. 

I’m still wrestling with how much I should reveal of each character’s backstory . . . but at least I’ve got the firearms legally back in the hands of my ex-cons!

Hey—anyone know what a Pennsylvania gun permit looks like? 


It’s nine-thirty, the kids are toothbrushed, pottied, and in bed. 

That counts as two.


*Three reasons:  the reenactment is the entertainment for a fundraiser benefiting the local writing center, so taking money from them in this economy made no sense.  The lady who asked me to write it is a lovely, sweet, and iron-willed woman—a retired children’s librarian, in fact— who would have repeated, “We can’t pay you much,” in an apologetic tone until I caved anyway, so I cut to the chase.  And I’ve never done one of these monologues before, so if it had stunk on ice, money would have been embarrassing.