Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Little Man, Lots of Pictures

Today is the CAG's official due date.  It is funny to think of him being in utero for the last week, and while I do kind of miss my dead-to-the-world 10 hours of sleep every night, he is pretty good compensation.  In fact, I'm pretty sure babies save their cutest things for the middle of the night.  

Anyway, we are all adjusting just fine and things are going really well.  He lost quite a bit of weight in the hospital--though our nurses weren't too concerned, as they think most babies probably lose that amount and they just don't know because non-c-section babies are sent home earlier.  So, he'll get weighed again tomorrow, but since he's been eating like a maniac I think he'll be just fine. 

That was a long aside.  Too many words!  Not enough pictures!  Here's what he's been up to this week:

 Bathtime!  This is clearly after, since he's not crying.

 Sleeping, and wearing socks as mittens.

 He got these lovely flowers from my work.
More sleeping.

Making friends with the locals.

 Hee hee hee.

 Okay, I couldn't pick just one picture.

  (This was a yawn, not a cry.  Hee hee, feet.)

 Sitting on Pops.

Finding that old posture that was so common in his womb days.  Remember how I said his head was always up in my ribs? (Sorry for poking your head so much before, baby.)

 Wearing pajamas.  He just looked cute.

Here's to you, little master!  Thanks for being cute and stuff.

(And sorry for always poking you when you're sleeping.)

Monday, May 27, 2013

By the Dickens Book

(Previously on By the Book: Austen

I love Charles Dickens.  I haven't read all of his books (hah!) but I've loved each and every one I have read.  He was a true master of the English language.  Fortunately, he has been treated pretty well by the miniseries makers of the world.

Oliver Twist: I love the 1995 version.  It has a good cast all around, but Andy Serkis as Bill Sikes is especially terrifying.  Masterpiece did another one in 2007, which is certainly worth a watch but not superior.  What isn't worth watching is the 2005 theatrical version, which bored me to tears.  

1995 cast cross over: Michael Kitchen, Keira Knightley, Alun Armstrong, Sophia Myles, Andy Serkis, Robert Lindsay
2007 cast cross over: Tom Hardy, Timothy Spall, Edward Fox
HP bonus: Timothy Spall

Nicholas Nickleby: The 2002 theatrical adaptation (brought to you by the same director of Gwyneth's Emma) is my favorite.  It has the same liveliness of Emma and a fun cast.  The miniseries version of 2001 is also a good one, but not as much fun.  Frankly, I have trouble remembering it, but I've only seen it once.

2002 cast cross over: Romola Garai, Timothy Spall, Juliet Stevenson, Alan Cumming, Edward Fox, Sophie Thompson, Jamie Bell, Tom Courtenay, Philip Davis
2001 cast cross over: Sophia Myles, Charles Dance, Pam Ferris, Tom Hollander
HP Bonuses: Timothy Spall, Sophie Thompson, Pam Ferris

David Copperfield: Masterpiece's 1999 version is all you need.  A bonus is that it features a wee Daniel Radcliffe in his pre-Harry Potter days.  The downside is that the adult David is, um, well.  Not cute.  I admit I've always been curious about the 2000 version that features Anthony Andrews and, I hear, significant plot changes.

Cast cross over: Alun Armstrong, Emilia Fox, Pauline Quirke, Imelda Staunton, Cherie Lunghi, Ian McNeice, Oliver Milburn, Harry Lloyd
HP Bonus: Imelda Staunton, Maggie Smith, Zoë Wanamaker, Daniel Radcliffe, Dawn French
*Gandalf Bonus

Bleak House: Bleak House!!!!!!  The 2005 version is my favorite miniseries of all--it's intricate, dramatic and rather gloomy, while still having its moments of humor and, naturally, a vast array of interesting characters.  Also, I must say that Gillian Anderson is glorious in it.  Glorious!  Also, Guppy.  (And seriously, how crazy is it that the cast features Dana Scully and Wedge Antilles??)

Cast cross over: EVERYONE.  Including: Anna Maxwell Martin, Denis Lawson, Carey Mulligan, Charles Dance, Burn Gorman, Nathaniel Parker, Gillian Anderson, Philip Davis, Alun Armstrong, Joanna David
HP Bonus: Richard Griffiths

Little Dorrit: I'm not super into Little Dorrit, but I never turn down a good Dickens adaptation.  The 2008 is a very  good one, even if the story doesn't hook me as much as his others.

Cast cross over: Matthew MacFadyen, Tom Courtenay, Alun Armstrong, Andy Serkis, Bill Patersen, Pam Ferris, Georgia King, Anton Lesser
HP Bonus: Pam Ferris

A Tale of Two Cities: The miniseries from 1989 is one of my favorites. Although, really, there's not many to choose from.  Even though it's a little dated and Sydney and Charles really look nothing alike, it's still pretty much perfect.  Of course it helps that the source material is excellent.

Great Expectations: I love the 1999 Masterpiece version.  It has a great cast and I love the look of it--it's kind of sparse and lonely looking.  The more recent Masterpiece version from 2011 is all right, but I think the only thing to really recommend it is Gillian Anderson as Ms. Havisham.  Disney also did a version in 1989 that is worth watching also.  I'm looking forward to the 2012 movie, which gets huge HP bonus points.

1989 cast cross over: Anthony Calf
1999 cast cross over: Ioan Gruffudd, Justine Waddell, Daniel Evans, Lesley Sharp, Clive Russell
*Emperor Palpatine bonus
2011 cast cross over: Gillian Anderson, David Suchet, Harry Lloyd

Our Mutual Friend: The version from 1999 is kind of a lesser-known gem.  It has a fantastic cast, as well as the web of a plot that Dickens does better than anyone.  Plus you will learn so much about dust heaps!  :D

Cast cross over: Paul McGann, Keeley Hawes, Peter Vaughn, Pam Ferris, Timothy Spall, Anthony Calf, Steven Mackintosh, David Morrissey*
HP Bonus: Pam Ferris, David Bradley

*His role is the reason I can never think well of him as Col. Brandon in Sense and Sensibility.  *recoils*

Misc.My preferred A Christmas Carol (the runner up is, um, Mickey's Christmas Carol), and there have been good adaptations of The Old Curiosity Shop and the unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood recently as well.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

By the Austen Book

Growing up, we watched a lot of miniseries--or at least a couple different ones many times, often while working on sewing projects.  So maybe my return to sewing is to blame for my recent rewatching of a number of miniseries and, consequently, this post.  Which is all about miniseries and which ones I think are best.  And here my opinion is law!

Originally I thought I could somehow include all the titles in one blog post, but that soon went out of the window--there are so many!  So I'm starting with Jane Austen.  If we're being technical, not all of these are miniseries--some are theatrical--but I'm going to lump them all together.  I also noted any cast members that reappear in the lists, just for fun (it's by no means exhaustive).  What's the point of watching a British miniseries if you don't spend half the time recognizing the cast from other miniseries?  There are also bonus points for featuring members of the Harry Potter cast.  Just because.

Sense & Sensibility: I think Emma Thompson's 1995 adaptation is clearly the best version.  It has such a wonderful cast and great wit.  Naturally some things from the book were sacrificed for time, but this one gets the spirit of the thing.  (Even if all the cast is totally too old.)

Cast cross over: Robert Hardy, Imelda Staunton, Elizabeth Spriggs, Gemma Jones
HP Bonus: Robert Hardy, Imelda Staunton, Emma Thompson, Elizabeth Spriggs, Alan Rickman, Gemma Jones

The 2008 PBS miniseries is, for me, kind of uninspired.  But I do think it's worth watching at least once, if only because it includes some elements the other leaves out (like Miss Steele, who was one of my favorite parts of the book).  And if you're one of those Downton people, there's plenty of Dan Stevens.   

Pride & Prejudice: We all know the 1995 version is the king here (even though the cast is too old).  

I grew up watching the 1980 version, and if the soap opera effect of that era weren't so distracting now, I would probably still find it pretty enjoyable.  As for the 2005 movie, I think it's also a great adaptation, especially for a shortened version (and the cast is all the right age!).  Each of these version offers something a little different, particularly in the interpretations of Mr. Darcy.  Of course, if you're going for something less literary, there's always Bride and Prejudice and the Mormony version as well.  I suppose I should mention the 1940 version, but only to say that I don't really care about it...hah. 

1995 cast cross over: Anthony Calf, Crispin Bonham Carter, Emilia Fox, Joanna David 
1980 cast cross over: David Rintoul
2005 cast cross over: Matthew MacFadyen, Rosamund Pike, Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Tom Hollander

Mansfield Park: I have never really been into this story for some reason, and it's her only book I've never read.  Of the two versions I've seen, I suppose I prefer the 1999 theatrical one, but I'm sure the 2007 miniseries is more complete.

1999 cast cross over: James Purefoy, Justine Waddell, Amelia Warner, Hugh Bonneville, Sophia Myles, Jonny Lee Miller

Emma: I love the 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow version best, by far.  It's ever so pretty and funny and I want all of her dresses.  The cast is so lively, and did I mention it's pretty?

The TV version with Kate Beckinsale (also 1996) is probably more accurate (ie, less pretty), but I've never loved it.  The 2009 version with Romola Garai is a longer alternative I say, but really, all you need is Gwyneth.

1996 cast cross over: Sophie Thompson, Polly Walker, Juliet Stevenson, Alan Cumming, Jeremy Northam
1996 cast cross over: Samantha Morton
2009 cast cross over: Romola Garai, Michael Gambon, Jonny Lee Miller, Jodhi May
HP Bonus: Michael Gambon 

Northanger Abbey: The latest version from 2007 is kind of the winner by default, but it's enjoyable.  The one from 1987 is kind of a hoot though, if only for its soundtrack that features saxophones.  
2007 cast cross over: Carey Mulligan
1987 cast cross over: Robert Hardy
HP Bonus: Robert Hardy

Persuasion: The 1995 version is pretty much perfect, I say.  It's dim and quiet, which suits the book so well.  I know the 2007 adaptation is pretty popular, but I just don't care for it that much.  It's not bad by any means, but I don't love the cast.  

1995 cast cross over: Ciaran Hinds, Samuel West, Sophie Thompson, Amanda Root
HP Bonus: Fiona Shaw, Sophie Thompson

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

In Which the Speck Arrives

Today we got a baby!  It is weird--one minute you're just there and the next minute someone says, "Hey, here's this baby and it's yours!"  But enough about that for now.  Here's a summary of how it all came about and, of course, a plethora of pictures.

Last Thursday at my weekly doctor's appointment (with my favorite tennis-ball-pulverizing Dr. D) we found out the Speck was breech--meaning his head was up instead of down, which is how it should be.  So, we scheduled a version--a procedure where doctors manually turn the baby from the outside--for the following Tuesday and were told that if he couldn't be turned then they would do a c-section that day.  I was not really ever planning or expecting to have a c-section so we spent the weekend hoping he would turn.   

Monday morning (my birthday!) we had a false alarm that had us at the hospital for a couple of hours and we learned that he was adamantly breech.  So come Tuesday morning, at the early hour of 5:30 we headed to the hospital again for the version.

 Last picture of the Speck's spacious estate.

 Last picture before, well, everything after.

Long story short, he could not and would not be turned!  Such a stubborn Speck!  They wound up putting in an epidural before trying to turn him and man, they were aggressive (they meaning two doctors working together).  So aggressive that I threw up after.  So!  It was off to the chamber of c-sections.  At this point, I have to confess, it was kind of a relief because if he had turned, I would have been induced and not been able to eat for HOURS.  (Although I STILL didn't get to eat for hours because my lunch tray was misplaced.)

So official!

So totally out of it!

Once in the OR with my unresponsive legs and lower-torso, a lot of things happened and most of them I could not really see.  Partly because they confiscated my glasses and partly because I was trying to sleep the whole time.  Yes.  I was just so completely tired, it was ridiculous!  Then, all of a sudden, I heard something about feet and just a moment later there was a baby in the world, wailing for all to hear.  Drew cried.  I tried to keep my eyes open.

And so there he was, our little Speck, out and about in the world for real and no longer taking up my internal real estate.  He cried and cried and cried and I laid there like O.o for a while.  The doctors discovered that his cord was wrapped between his legs and around his chest, which sounds painful, and that was the reason he couldn't be turned.  That's what you get for doing ever so many flips, flops and rolls, my little man!  Anyway, Drew got some pictures and eventually they brought him over to see me and I was like O.o  And then they sewed me up and I threw up again.  Throwing up laying down?  Not pretty.
(These were both before I had throw up all in my hair...)

After that I eventually went back to my room and stuff happened.  But enough about that!  Here's the fun stats: he weighs 8 pounds, 15 ounces--not exactly tiny.  We weren't too surprised that he was over 8, as we were both larger babies, but even so he was bigger than I expected.  He's also 20 inches long and has long fingers and rather wild fingernails.  But the biggest surprise was all the dark hair!  I expected a bald baby, with maybe some little blond wisps but with two dark-haired grandpas I guess there was always the chance for dark hair.  Wacky!
This was the part of the bath he enjoyed most.

I did post his name on Facebook (his middle name is Drew's), but I haven't really wanted to use it on my blog.  For now, I will call him the CAG or maybe the Speck or maybe Baby or maybe Hey You Little Man.  I should also say that Drew has been such a nice husbandman throughout the day's events.  He's been so helpful and supportive and has already changed the first diaper.  I couldn't have done it without him!
 Awwww.  Drewbles couldn't be happier!

 Drew's parents came by for a visit and brought treats I am looking forward to eating.

  So much hair!  I guess all that heartburn was not for naught.


 Hurray!  Jell-o lunch at last!

And that is essentially how the Speck entered the world.  So far everything is going just fine, and though his birthing was not what I anticipated, this is how it happened and I don't think he could have gotten out any other way being so tangled in his cord.  Maybe next time?  Wait, let's not talk about next time just yet.  We're happy enough with the Speck.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


The best part of making a list is being able to check things off.  These days most of my things are checked off, and I am left with the feeling that I should be working on something without being able to think of what.  Here's where we stand of late:

Toes painted?
Check.  (YES, I did it myself this very day, though Drew did some touching up for me last week.)

A DVR full of entertainment?
Check.  Also, way to be on point, baby.

Absentmindedly leaving closet lights on?

Garden planted?
Check.  And it's not even June!  Though the neighbors were a little more on the ball than us:
A freezer full of foods?
Check.  (The crock pot recipes came from here)

Several inches of tummy between my swimsuit top and bottoms?

[no picture because duh]


Hair chopped off prior to insanity?
Check.  (Also, wearing Drew's hoodies?  Check.)

A home cage bed for the Speck? 

A suitably aquatic little buddy?

Additional suitably aquatic little buddies that were bought on clearance in a moment of "Hey, more fish!"?

Pretty flowers?
Check.  Okay, they have nothing to do with the Speck.  They're just pretty.

Diaper bag that Drew won't feel stupid carrying and doesn't look like a big purse?  (I am not into big purses)

A fully-stocked diaper bag?
Guess we're still working on that one.

Anna and the French Kiss (Book Review)

Author: Stephanie Perkins
Year: 2010
Genre: Romance

Reading Level: Young Adult
Series: #1 in the Anna and the French Kiss series

Literary Awards:
Cybils Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2011), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Goodreads Author, Young Adult Fiction (2010), The Inky Awards Nominee for Silver Inky longlist (2011), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2013)

Plot Summary: Anna is devastated when her father sends her to an exclusive boarding school in Paris for her senior year.  But once there, despite language barriers and being the awkward new kid, she settles in and even grows to enjoy her new life.  It doesn't hurt that her new life includes the super dreamy Étienne St. Clair.  Too bad he has a girlfriend...

Red Flags: Language, some teenage lustiness, some (legal-in-France) teenage drinking (with consequences)

My Rating: B+/A-
This one was so hard to rate--for the most part, I really liked it, but I had a couple of hangups that kept me from rating it high overall.  At first I thought Anna was a little too stream of consciousness, but once she kind of settled into the narrative, I enjoyed the writing a lot.  Anna was likable and I (very) easily related to her fish-out-of-water feelings (especially when she wrote down what people said and did at the movie theater--hah!). For the most part, the story hit that sweet spot of fun teen angst without taking itself TOO seriously.  Towards the end it started to go a bit overboard and I rolled my eyes a bit.  

One of the high points for me was all the description of Paris.  It felt real and natural, with enough detail to sound accurate but not so much that it read like a series of factoids.  I thought surely Stephanie Perkins had been there, but when she came to my local library last week I learned she hadn't.  Instead she put her librarian-honed research skills to work and learned everything she could about everything Paris.  Well done, Stephanie Perkins.  Well done.

My main issue is with the Étienne the dreamboat.  I liked that he was nice and generally a good guy.  I didn't like that he was really terrible to his girlfriend for pretty much the whole book.  How could I think he was a real catch when he was such an emotional cheater?  Not cool.  I could let Anna's behavior slide, but he knew what was going on and I didn't find his justifications very convincing at all.  I just can't get giggly about the romance when so much of it was people knowingly hurting others.  (Also Anna started channeling Bella Swan a bit too much toward the end with all of her "Beautiful
Étienne!" thoughts, haha)

But still, overall, it was a good read with some funny moments and likable characters--most of them anyway.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Delayed Reaction

Have you ever had this super exciting thing you've looked forward to for months and months, but it takes so long to actually happen that by the time it does you forget to even mention it to anyone?  

Hurray!!!!  About a year and a half ago we started snowballing our student loans (which are the only debts we have) and after paying off Drew's solitary (small) loan, we moved on to mine...which are more plentiful...  ANYway, two down and two degrees paid for, now it's just two loans (for one degree) left!  I hope we can pay them off before we ever buy a house, but we'll see how it goes. 

(Not even an exclamation mark, UHEAA?)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Matched (Book Review)

Author: Ally Condie
Year: 2010
Genre: Dystopian/Romance

Reading Level: Young Adult
Series: #1 in the Matched trilogy

Literary Awards:
Teen Buckeye Book Award (2012), YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (2011), Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of the Year for Fiction (2010), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2013)

Plot Summary: Cassia Reyes has never had any cause to doubt the Society and its benevolence.  When the Society Matches her to her best friend, Xander, everything seems perfect.  But when Cassia catches a glimpse of a different Match for her--one the Society says was just a mistake in the system--her peaceful world explodes into possibilities. 

Red Flags: Some very mild violence

My Rating: B
This rating really has less to do with anything technical and more to do with the fact that this story just didn't interest me.  If you want a dystopian novel that's heavier on the romance and lighter on the heavier stuff that often comes with dystopian novels, this will hit the spot.  If you like an angsty love triangle or fretting over the question of "Which boy??" this is your book!  But as for me, it was just kind of dull and uneventful.  The Society was kind of interesting but not really new and I didn't have much patience for Cassia's mental back and forth (and back and forth and back and forth) with EVERY decision.  

I think Ally Condie has some nice turns of phrase, but I do question her frequent use of people "popping" food in their mouths.  You pop nuts, candy or popcorn in your mouth--but noodles?  Try popping a forkful of spaghetti in your mouth.  It's a small detail, I know, but there are so many words for eating!  Shouldn't an author, of all people, know more than one and know which one works best in a sentence?

Overall, for me, a standard dystopian novel with a bit too much romance (and romantical angsting) for my taste.  

Also I kept picturing these two boys.   Which begs the question, does Ky have a belly button??

Memorable lines:
"My mother yawns, her blue eyes opening wide." (Just try doing this.)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Crafts are for Babies! (Bonus edition)

You know that game of two truths, one lie?  Let's play it: There are three more crafts I did for the Speck.  I am only going to post about one of them.  The images on this post feature his real name.

Just a week or so ago, I had a last minute idea for another craft.  The room needed a little more art, and so I decided it would fun to hang some kind of bunting over the crib that included his name.  We threw around a couple of ideas and soon settled on the best idea, which was also the easiest.  

So I made up triangular pennants in Photoshop featuring the mobile animals, added the letters and then we printed them as 8x10 photos at Costco!  Making them in Photoshop took just a couple of hours and the rest of it took much less.  I cut them out, we measured and cut slits, strung them with ribbon and hung the thing up!  Parfait.  (Everybody likes parfait)

Here they are: 
The whales and the anchors are my favorites.  And that smiley face adds some real class, doesn't it?  Lucky Speck.

PS: I knooooooow he's not the size of a Speck anymore, but does anyone really think we'd update his nickname every time he got bigger?  If we did that we'd be calling him Loaf of Bread now.  I have every intention of calling him the Speck even when he's a foot taller than me and whining about girls.