From my Bookshelf: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Todd has been recommending “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” and reading me funny and diverting quotes, for some time. We began to watch the recent live-action series–but it was too dense for me, so I decided to read the book first and return to the TV show later.


Honestly, I was surprised that this was written in 2004. The language and style is that of a very much older book. The only thing that gives it away–just a bit–is the sly humor, which is aimed towards a more modern audience.


It’s wonderfully well written, and has a cadence to it that makes it a good read-aloud.  It’s dark, funny, magical, and rather unusual. Also, the characters are three-dimensional. Four dimensional, actually, if you count magic as a dimension.  Characters go from heroes to villains and back again. Some manage to balance on the fine line between “good” and “evil” the whole book.  Allegiances shift. And the plot takes years to develop. *


Also the prophetic poetry is very good.  Props to Susanna Clarke; prophetic poetry– if the quality of the majority of such lowly samples as I have seen is any indication– is not easy.


Before you go off to beg, buy or borrow (please don’t steal) Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, we must talk about the footnotes. The footnotes! Full of interesting side notes, explanations, illusions to in-world content, and short stories. One foot note was four pages long! Four! But it’s so interesting and relevant that I didn’t mind a bit.

I am very glad I read Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. A lovely book. Go read it.

*Be not alarmed. The book kept moving. There were only a few small bits which dragged–but I am a seasoned reader,and I plowed through. The draggy bits proved useful later on.

This is Chad

Chad is our resident animal expert. There isn’t much he doesn’t know, in a basic sort of way. So many times I’ve found some exotic creature online, and showed it to Chad, only to hear him casually say, “Oh yes, that’s a Shaggy Frogfish, it looks like coral but it’s not, and it has a bit of spine that sticks out of it’s head that it uses as a lure.”

It’s gotten to the point where certain park rangers recognize him, and ask him to “please explain to the group what an owl pellet is.”  We’re very proud.


I took these pictures of him when we went to the pasture the other day, and getting him to smile was no problem whatsoever.


You should have heard him “singing in” the animals–a warbly, treble rendition of “As We Stumble Along” from The Drowsy Chaperone! The horses certainly came running.  So did the cow, though we didn’t want it; it stank of wild garlic cud.






Going on a Donkey Hunt

It was a beautiful autumnal evening; a bit cool, very clear, very sunny. So Chad and I took a walk through the pasture to visit the miniatures. (All the animals–horses, donkeys, and a cow–are minis)


“Where are those sneaky donkeys?”


“View Halloo!”

The animals heard us coming and came to meet us. We scratched their backs with sticks.


Chad was very happy.


From My Bookshelf: North to the Orient

A year or so ago, while in Baltimore for a medical appointment, we found ourselves with an afternoon to spare. The front desk lady suggested a charming little bookstore a half hour drive away.



The “bookstore” was, in fact, a set of warehouse like rooms, on a curious corner lot tucked between row housing and dry cleaners.

The place had obviously been decorated by that peculiar breed of people who understand that a shelf of books is all that is necessary for a well appointed, welcoming room. The yellow linoleum–when the floor had any covering at all–  sprinkled with dust bunnies and dirt; the coordinating yellow florescent lights; the blaring radio;  the artlessly grungy wiring and exposed plywood; the whole set of rooms delicately scented with a blend of dust, cigarette smoke, and mildew.  And books–shelves and aisles and stacks and bins of books, magazines, periodicals, instruction manuals, and outdated Readers Digests.

But despite everything, the shop was charming. Very charming. We stayed there for hours. Because it wasn’t a shop. No reading materials were sold. It was all free.

* * *

I chose “North to the Orient” because it had a beautiful red and gold spine in a sea of dingy green; because it had an arrow and an airplane on it; because it was written by Anne Lindburgh; and because it was well written and interesting.

I am only to chapter five, and it has some interesting looks into early 20th century life–such as this bit, right before takeoff, when Anne is asked by a reporter where she will keep her lunch boxes in the plane:


What could I say that would have any significance? All the important questions about the trip will be answered by my husband.


Or Anne’s thoughts about handkerchief’s the second day of her trip, having just spent the night with her family in Maine:


I have what I think is a first edition; but North to the Orient has been reprinted. If you can lay your hands on a copy, say from your local library, I’d recommend you do so post haste.

Chad and Katya at the Wilmer Eye Institute

Since Chad also is seeing Dr. Repka  for the time being, due to a rather unfortunate and scary episode with the eye clinic at our local Children’s Hospital which led to us seeking a second opinion, he and Daddy rejoined us after lunch at the Wilmer Eye Institute.

Mum handled the bit of the hospital experience where you have to go over the entire medical history point by point. It took a while.



This is Chad and Katya looking on and waiting whilst Mum explained things.

Then we got down to business.

Katya was up first, and did quite well. Here she is with  Alex Christoff, counting the dots.


Side note to say– between Katya’s improved language skills, and Alex’s improved ASL skills, I am no longer needed as an interpreter for the alphabet slides! I’m happy to be out of a job.

Then the dilating eye drops. Katya is no longer frightened, but she does have difficulty prying her eyes open after getting drops.


Then it was Chad’s turn! He looked super cool in his glasses. I include this picture also because Mr. Christoff looks so wonderfully dynamic.


Chad got to read numbers out of a book.


After a relatively brief wait for their eyes to dilate we piled into a small exam room to be viewed by Dr. Repka Himself. Chad’s eyes checked out alright–no glasses needed!– and Katya’s optic nerves looked a bit better! So everyone was all happiness.



Then we left the city heart to go to Menchies. No pictures of the White Citrus froyo. We ate it all. :-)  And then, the next day, we went home.

Baltimore Anniversary

So Katya’s One-Year Checkup was this month.

Things got a little hairy in the car, because Chad and Katya brought along their pet guinea pigs. (I haven’t mentioned that Chad has got guinea pigs now, have I? Well, he has. But these are some toy guinea pigs gifted to them by an awesome family friend. The live ones stayed home.)


There was a slight mix-up with our lodgings, so we unexpectedly ended up at the Ronald McDonald House, which was very different.  The locks on the room doors were far superior, being key pad and code which silently unlocked the door, as opposed to the Childrens’ House’s noisy key-card system. But the Ronald McDonald House did not have filtered water available.  But it was fine.

Daddy took Chad to the aquarium and to visit his friends at a small church school while mum and I did the morning hospital thing.

Katya’s appointments went well. I should have taken a picture of her with Dr. D, but…



After her Plastic’s appointment, we went up to 10S to see Payton from Child Life, and the nurses. Katya was happy to see the nurses–though the ones she knew best weren’t there–but what made her really happy was to see the cleaning lady! When Katya saw that cleaning lady, her whole face lit up and she ran over and gave her a hug! Katya very seldom initiates hugs, even within the family, so that ought to tell you a great deal about the depth of her feelings. But Katya always has approved of cleanliness.