Saturday, March 31, 2007

It's over Beast!

Last week I proudly finished Harry Potter book four, Goblet of Fire, which I have been reading with Henry every night for months.

We started reading HP right before Henry turned seven. We happened to be in Border's one day, so as usual I grabbed a book close by to read with Henry. It just happened to be the first book with the infamous scarred wizard on the cover. Henry was hooked. For Henry's seventh birthday, we bought him the first two of the HP books which he polished off in couple of weeks. We got him the next two, he got through book three at the same pace and only slowed down when he hit book four and later five and six, the much thicker ones in the series.

At some point last year I started reading HP with Henry again, this time as our night time reading. Again books one through three were fun and engaging, we got through them quickly. Book four was a bit of a drag. It's almost twice the size the previous ones, very wordy at times, and the plot seems overly complicated. Maybe JK Rowlings was trying to make a big production upon achieving her fame, to make sure the readers got their money's worth.

After diligently plowing through the book night after night, I finally made the decision not to continue with HP after finishing Book four. Life is short and there are so many other good books to read with Henry, I don't have to waste time on some book that I no longer enjoy.

In the mean time Henry has read book one through six at least four times on his own and I think it's high time to help him expand the horizon as well. So, that's the end of reading Potter for me. I keep asking Henry about the plots and characters in the next two books, and he tells me I'd have to read the books myself. Bugger.

Onto other reading. Just finished listening to Nora Nora by Anne Rivers Siddons in the car. I listened to her Up Island and Low Country before. She has a way of building the characters set her apart from other less memorable modern day writers.

Also listened of and off, Geronimo Stilton with Henry, and Me Talk Pretty One day. Henry has been reading Geronimo Stilton books since first grade, at one point even made the school librarian borrow them from the city library for him. This is his first time to listen to the audio version and I think he thoroughly enjoyed it. Me Talk Pretty One day is our book club selection for the month, an autobiography of sort by humor writer David Sedaris.

In the car now is The Apprentice by French chef, Julia Child's friend, Jacques Pepin. I need to take French lesson and definitely need to spend more time in the kitchen. Not that I'll mind either.

On deck, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, a magazine writer's travel log in Italy, India and Indonesia. I guess she only travels to I countries.

The other night I helped Henry type up his crab story that he was working on at school and posted it on his blog. Stop by and take a look!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sure you want to know?

Dad: Did you paint the school today? Son: No ... Dad: Then what's that white stuff on your shirt? Son: Oh, I sneezed. Out of the dryer this weekend: - Five quarters - A waddled up receipt - Some orange paper, maybe a raffle ticket - A small rock - Tiny pieces of a pink eraser

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Central Party School

This article in Mercury News mentioned the place I used to live. We moved to Central Party School when I was in middle school when my mom got a job there for her research work in comparative socialism. I lived there for only four years, but until a few years ago when my dad finally moved out, it was technically our "home".

"Party" is for the Communist Party of course. This is the place where the best of the best of the Party stopped to polish up before their next great ascend in the power game. The school campus was built behind Summer Palace, the retreat for the royalties in the old days. The size and layout of the campus had a hint of an attempt to copy Summer Palace as well, complete with painted gate, lake, bamboo garden and rocky hills.

I can't believe there weren't many pictures of the campus, since my dad is an armature photographer and he was in high heavens landing in all the nice scenery. These two were taken one year when I was home from school, first heavy snowfall since I left Beijing (might be the last snow I saw in China as well). Can't see much with everything all white!

Usually this kind of gate is on the main road at the entrance of a town, but this one is purely decorative. There is a lake on one side and some bushes and field on the other. Seems like someone decided there had to be a gate on this campus but couldn't find a place for it. I remember throwing Frisbee through the gate.

With my brother in the real Summer Palace. Taken from the same angle as the picture on the right on Wikepedia.

I think this is my dad's attempt to hide the millions of tourists.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Knitting Revelations

Just because I bought a bag of ten balls of yarn for a sweater, I don't have to plan for a sweater that uses up nine and half of those ten balls. The knitting gods will forgive me if I use three balls for a baby sweater and two balls for a hat. The leftover will survive just fine in the stash.

I don't have to wear something butt ugly just because I knitted it. I should not force my child wear something just because I knitted it for him even if he pointed out the pattern in the magazine and shopped my stash for the yarn.

The purpose of keeping yarn in clear plastic containers is so I can see them and keep track of them. 50,000 skeins of yarn tend to hide behind each other and each other's clear plastic boxes.

Not knowing what's in my stash is bliss. I never feel guilty buying new yarn. Discovery its twin a few months later is rather pleasant.

Upon seeing a new pattern I gasp, "oh you'll go so well with that variegated baby alpaca", and promptly put them together. They will be in my knitting queue. It's a guarantee that I won't be knitting it for years.

I brag about my knitting, a lot. On Monday at least five people told me "What a lovely sweater that is! Did you knit it?" The little white mohair top with delicate criss cross stitches and ribbon embroidery was from the flea market, for $1.

The traditional four-piece sweater (front, back, two sleeves) remains the simplest and most elegant, most versatile way for making the best fitting and most comfortable sweater. What else can you ask for?

The knitting gods will be pleased if a knitter is a forever “advanced beginner” and knitted 3,000 baby blankets in the same stitch pattern in her eighty years of knitting life. They would not have cared if she never created a masterpiece of cashmere lace shawl or a fine-gauged Norwegian Fair Isle jacket that required three steeks.

If one sleeve is six inches longer than the other, it doesn’t matter if you used the right increases.

Every other knitter is using two circular needles to knit socks and my socks still fit my own two feet and my Clover bamboo double points still work just fine. Thank you very much.

Knitting will never make you rich, talking about it does.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Parent University

In January Henry's school held a one-day "Parent University", to show parents what they teach the kids in the classroom. Since I never went to school in the US, I figured it was a good chance to see what it's like in elementary school.

You can choose three courses, two in the morning and one after lunch. One of the courses I took was Hands-On, Minds-On Science. I happened to have a science teacher (internal) as my group partner, so she showed me how to dissect an owl pellet. The pellet is owl's spit up with all the stuffs they can't digest (feather, bones, teeth, etc.). As the teacher told me, it's pretty clean and fun, much easier than dissecting a cow's eye which the kids will do in middle school.

Take a look at this picture. Apparently this owl ate two mice in a row, there are two skulls (circled), and various bones in the pellet.

Friday, March 09, 2007

De Colores Finale

Started: July 2006

Finished: January 2007

Pattern: De Colores Jacket from Module Magic by Ginger Luters

Yarn: Noro Silk Garden and Paton Classic Wool

Needle: Size 8

Buttons: from Knitting Arts in Saratoga

Thursday, March 08, 2007

What I've been doing

Working -- to be specific, every other Friday or Saturday night. Not many extra hours really, but cranking out reports in the middle of the night makes me feel like I'm working 24x7. As Cris said "you wanted a job right? now you got one." so watch out what you wish for.

Listening -- My Life in France by Julia Child; and Who Moved My Blackberry by Lucy Kellaway. You have to love food to enjoy the first, and you have to know the rotten corporate live to appreciate the second.

Stitches! -- Only spent an afternoon in the market, but thoroughly enjoyed showing off my De Colores. It's utterly thrilling to be stopped by strangers and be told "you've done a marvelous job with this jacket." I told at least five people about the Student Fashion Show that night, hope Fae got some good cheering for her few minutes on the runway.

Tahoe -- Took the family to the snow for a weekend, for Henry's birthday. The guys really enjoyed it and I managed to suck in enough air. The dry cold air did a number on me and I'm just feeling back to normal after three weeks. Reminds me why I moved out of Beijing.

Knitting -- Coat is coming along, very slowly. It took me a good part of a week to reorganize my stash to incorporate the purchases from Stitches. After hearing me mutter over and over again -- "where am I going to put all this yarn" -- the wise husband wondered aloud, "well, you might want to start knitting some of them ... " Wishful thinking on both sides.

Family -- Some of you already know that Bill's parents' got into a car accident on Sunday. Their car was totaled, my father-in-law suffered a broken wrist and they are both quite shaken. My mother-in-law is still recovering from her hip replacement surgery a few months ago. They damaged a nerve during the surgery and she cannot walk on her own. They will have to go through a serious lifestyle change, have to count on other people to do most of their caretaking. Something much easier said than done.