Browsing Archives for August 2009

I recently finished reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith.  At first, I found myself highly entertained by the book.  That is to say, I found myself feeling like I should be highly entertained by the book.  In reality, I kind of felt like I used to feel in high-school when all the cool kids were laughing about something and I had no idea why they were laughing, but I laughed anyway because I wanted to feel cool and like I was a part of their group too.  As I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I found myself wondering if I was laughing at the story because I really thought that zombies roaming the English countryside side by side with Lizzy and Jane was funny or was I laughing because I wanted to be part of the supposed coolness of messing with a classic love story by loading it up with zombie attacks?  

Over the past ten years, Jane Austen has broken the bonds of PBS and become firmly entrenched in pop culture with one blockbuster film after another starring the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Keira Knightley.  It would follow that a pardoy of one of Jane’s books, if done properly, would be even cooler than the actual books themselves.  What is even more interesting is that Jane was often parodying the romantic books of her time when she wrote.  So Seth Grahame-Smith really wrote a parody of a parody with his version of the classic Pride and Prejudice.  And when the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies comes out in film, it will be a parody of a parody of a parody.  Just try and absorb that little factoid why don’t you!

The book is clever.  The idea is clever and it truly has some hilarious lines and a few absolutely hysterical scenes in it.  In a nutshell, Seth Grahame-Smith hijacks Austen’s entire book and inserts zombies into it at obvious intervals.  As strange as it seems, there are obvious intervals for zombies to arrive on the scene in Pride and Prejudice.  The recent dead are a good fit for Austen’s books, especially if you have a high tolerance for the utterly ludicrous, which I do.  

I found a quote from co-author, Grahame-Smith that sums it all up as he refers to Pride and Prejudice and it’s innate ability to incorporate the un-dead.  He says…“You have this fiercely independent heroine, you have this dashing heroic gentleman, you have a militia camped out for seemingly no reason whatsoever nearby, and people are always walking here and there and taking carriage rides here and there . . . It was just ripe for gore and senseless violence. From my perspective anyway.” 

I don’t want to give away the story… as there is really not much to give away.  Just picture your favorite version of Pride and Prejudice, add a few zombie attacks and a few well placed round house kicks from Lizzy and her sisters during a walk in the woods, an evening ball, or an afternoon tea and you will have Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  You might also want to add a fierce militaristic training regime to the five Bennett sister’s lives and a dojo in their garden.  Got it?  Okay.  Now you can skip the book and read something else.  

Personally, I don’t think Grahame-Smith went far enough.  I think the book should have been far more absurd.  I think he was a mite too cautious and a mite too sane in his approach. I also think he got tired of his version of the story before the end.  Or maybe, it is I who got tired of his story before the end.  Either way you have the same result, a story that lasts longer than the actual story lasts.  

The movie rights have already been sold to the highest bidder and a film is in the works.  I am afraid that I will have to see the movie.  I have no idea if I am motivated by an insecure need to be able to talk the funky Jane Austen parody with all the cool kids at school, or if I just have to see Lizzy Bennet kick the ever-loving crap out of Mr. Darcy to defend her warrior honor.  I just hope that the film industry pushes the envelope a bit further than Grahame-Smith did.  Somehow, I don’t think that will be a problem. 

In the mean time, the next book, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters is due out in mid-September.  Someone has already put together something that is called a ‘book trailer’ for this book, which is good, because I simply can’t abide reading a book until I have seen the ‘book trailer’ first..  And in case you were wondering, a book trailer has nothing at all to do with a book-mobile.  One is a vehicle that delivers books to people that might otherwise never get to read them and the other… is a vehicle… that delivers books… to people… that might otherwise… never… read… them.  


Lately, as I have had comments turned off, I have been receiving a lot of truly lovely emails sharing words of encouragement, support, as well as stories from their own lives that relate to what I have been writing about recently. I treasure these letters and I will save them forever. Thank you.

On more than one occasion a person has suggested with a great amount of concern that I might possibly be suffering from a mental illness. I know that these concerns come from a place of care. I am not offended by them and am even open to the idea that I may indeed be fatally and tragically mentally ill. In fact, if it involves a long hospital stay where someone will cook for me three times a day, make up my bed and do my laundry, I am even more open to the idea. Under normal circumstances, I usually don’t consider myself to be any more mentally ill than the average person who spends her days lying on her stomach in a flower bed trying to get a good shot of the Victoria Blue Salvia up against the white clapboard house with the barn in bokeh in the background or spending the afternoon stacking up books in hundreds of different ways and then photographing them from a variety of angles or hastily grabbing a pen while playing Bunko at a neighbor’s house and writing a few notes on the back of her hand because a really great idea for a post just popped into her head.  I think these things are all well within the realm of mental health.  Aren’t they?  Doesn’t everyone do these things?  As to writing a blog where I refer my cats as ‘fake show cats’…I don’t have an explanation for that – but I think we could all use a little breathing room between sanity and insanity.

Over the years I have been diagnosed with the following mental illnesses from readers of my blog…

1. Depression

2. Anxiety

3. ADD

4. Mania

5. Melancholic

6. Pregnancy

7. Homeschooling

8. Bi-polar

9. Seasonal Affective Disorder

10. Bad decorator

The only one I feel comfortable diagnosing myself with is the last one – bad decorator.  I absolutely concur.  I am a bad decorator.  In fact, I think I am actually a non-decorator which is a far more severe and debilitating malady, from which one is far less likely to ever make a full recovery.  It is even more tragic that a woman who loves houses as much as I do, would be so utterly crippled when it comes to decorating, but I am.  If someone can suggest a psychotropic cocktail that will cure my problem I would really appreciate it.  It is crushing to the little bit that remains of my undamaged mind, to wander around a home with with naked windows, disproportionate shelves, and mis-matched pillow shams.

I do however know for a fact, that I do not at all suffer from home-schooling. Occasionally a new reader will wander over here from Pioneer Woman, Miz Booshay or my sister’s blog. (Sometimes I call these three blogs The Holy Trinity of Homeschooling Blogs and sometimes I call them The Bermuda Triangle of Homeschooling Blogs... It just depends on how ‘homeschooly’ I am feeling that particular day.) I love those blogs and the women that write them very much, but since I have never home-schooled a single one of my children for even a nano second, nor do I ever wish to (because not holy enough) I rarely fit the parameters that their readers desire and they usually drift away as soon as they discover the scandal of public education floating like a deadly white shark right off my starboard prow (if there is any such thing as a starboard prow which there probably is not.)  

As to the other illnesses I have been diagnosed with by my readers over time (with the exception of pregnancy which after delivering bouncing boy number 4, I cut off the tributary to that brand of crazy permanently). But the other illnesses are all distinct possibilities with me. After hearing a few of these suggested over the last week more than once, I called a local doctor and had him give me a diagnosis.

Me – Do you think I am depressed?

Country Doctor – Well… when you were so upset about our trip, I thought you might be depressed.

Me – Of course I was depressed! Who wouldn’t be depressed! Weren’t you depressed!

Country Doctor – Yes.. I was…

Me – Do I need to take a pill or something?

Country Doctor – No…

Me – Do you think I have anxiety?

Him – No. Absolutely not. You have zero anxiety. I have never met a less anxious person than you.

Me – What about affective disorder… or maybe bi-polar… or maybe I have mania!

Him – No… I don’t think so.  I think you are just fine.

Me – Are you just saying that? Do you really think I am okay?

Him – Yes, I really think you are okay. Why are you asking?

Me – Well… some of my readers have suggested that maybe I am depressed or anxious… and sometimes they think I’m pregnant.

Him – Why?

Me – I don’t know…. what do you think?

Him – I can’t answer to the pregnancy diagnosis – but as to the depression and the anxiety… I think it might be because you are always talking about laying on the bed watching the ceiling fan.

Me – But I really do lay on the bed and watch the ceiling fan!

Him – Yes… but only on bad days.

Me – No! Actually I only watch the ceiling fan on good days! In fact, those are my best days!

Him – Oh… well you might want to stop mentioning it on the blog.

Me – Why?

Him – Because behaviors like spending the day laying on a bed and watching the ceiling fan is worrisome to lots of people.

Me – Really?

Him – Yes… it makes you sound like you might be suffering from a mental illness.

Me – But I really do lay on the bed and watch the ceiling fan!

Him -  I would prescribe keeping it to yourself.

Me – Do I have a mental illness if I lay on the bed and watch the ceiling fan?

Him – No… but it makes you seem like you do.

Me – But I have to be honest! I can’t pretend to be something I’m not!

Him – Well… that is another problem. Lots of people aren’t very comfortable with honest expression… they prefer for everything to be nice and comfortable.

Me – Oh…

Him – So… don’t mention the ceiling fan anymore and stop expressing yourself so honestly.

Me – Uh… I don’t really see that working out for me. If I can’t occasionally lie on the bed and stare at the ceiling fan, and if I can’t write what I really think most of the time, than I may as well slip the straight jacket on right now.

Him – Then you are just going to have to deal with the misdiagnosis from a few of your readers.

Me – Okay… I guess I can handle that.

Important note to readers – I do understand the serious nature of mental illness and do not wish to make fun of the real thing… only the fake thing. I suffer from fake mental illnesses all the time. My best cure for fake mental illness is to lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling fan. Also Agatha Christie movies help. Also wandering aimlessly around Target and buying another plastic clip for my hair helps.  It is not a guaranteed cure, but it does make me feel better.  And chocolate… and a hot beverage made by someone else and delivered to me on a tray (while I am lying on my bed watching the ceiling fan) helps.  That is all.

Tasting the Tomato Test Patch

August 23rd, 2009

As a part of this year’s garden, I planted a tomato test patch.  I brought home several varieties of the tomato plants that we sell at the Garden Center where I work so that I could discover their differences and also so that next Spring, I might be able to actually answer a few tomato questions when a customer asks me one.  





Unfortunately, I also grew a stand of tomatoes from seed, and I am sorry to tell you that my baby tomato seedlings became the children of my heart and I nurtured and tended them with a great amount of care, while my tomato test patch, which I came to refer as my ‘tomato step children’, were not given the love that they deserved because they came into my life half grown and I never did bond with them the way I should have.  Yet even with my neglect, the plants produced a nice harvest of tomatoes.  The one on the far left end is one of my seed tomatoes.  It is a Burpee Big Boy Hybird.  Right next to it is a Burpee Big Boy from a Garden Center plant. Going down the line you can see two Better Boys, an Heirloom German Johnson, a Beefmaster and a Jetstar.  






On Saturday, I invited a few friends over for a tomato canning lesson from my friend Sarah.  






But before Sarah could get started,everyone had to sample the tomatoes from my test patch.  




Because who can resist a food sampling?  









Just like I do with my family, I forced them to write down their impressions of each tomato they tasted.  I will say that these girls were much more agreeable than my children when it came to writing down their thoughts on the various tomatoes.  I did not have to threaten them with taking away their computer time, or ground them from the Wii, or send them to their rooms or anything!     






Here are Angie and Nancy discussing the subtle differences between a Jetstar and a Burpee Big Boy.






Here is Melissa with a Beefmaster (I think).  





And here is what everyone thought about the various tomatoes…







Angie – Tastes like a tomato… full flavor, a little mushy.

Nancy  - Traditional flavor, texture is mushy.

Jenny  - Rich meaty flavor

Rechelle – Full bodied, rich, yummy.




Burpee Big Boy…

Nancy – Not full flavored

Melissa – More seeds, less sweet

Rechelle – More acid, more water

Angie – Flat

Jenny – Tough, chewy, plain

Sarah – Not very flavorful




Heirloom German Johnson…

Angie – Less flavor

Melissa – Less flavor, ends blandly

Nancy – Tastes like it’s fermented

Jenny – Nasty, off flavor

Sarah – Less sweet

Rechelle – Weird finish, fleshy


Better Boy…

Angie – More bite to it

Melissa – A little bland, not sweet.

Nancy – Tangy (of sorts) less flavor

Jenny – Deep flavor



Burpee Big Boy Hybrid…

Nancy – Firm texture

Melissa – Sweet (my favorite)

Rechelle – Sweet

Jenny – Sweet, rich, deep, my favorite

Angie – Sweet

Sarah – Balanced and delicious, my favorite


Nancy – My favorite (so far)

Melissa – Very sweet, not as firm, great flavor

Angie – Good flavor

Rechelle – Watery, bland

Jenny – Chewy, bland

Sarah – I don’t taste much here.



The Burpee Big Boy Hybrid was a favorite among almost everyone, but I really like the Beefmaster the best.  The German Johnson Heirloom was a very strange tomato.  It’s fruits were more pinkish than red and it was also far less resistant to bugs and disease.  You can really see the advances made in tomatoes right here in this little tomato test.  The heirloom variety would probably do just fine if it had a little more care than I gave it, but it performed very poorly in my tomato test patch compared to the the Burpee Hybrid which not only produced beautiful tomatoes under severe neglect, it also tasted great.  So much for the quaint heirlooms!  




On Monday, I hope to have a tomato canning story up.

As you can see, canning those tomatoes was a brutal task and we didn’t have any fun at all!