Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:44 AM
Yesterday I went to check on the summer squash, shown here with a 12-inch ruler and a fat, yellow cucumber. How did I miss this monster? It looks remarkably like the Doomsday Machine in a Star Trek episode--the device Daniel calls 'the robot pyoom-pyoom.' It will be morphing into many dozen squash muffins in the near future.
Here's Daniel with his water pyoom-pyoom. 'Pyoom-pyoom' is his word for anything--from muskets to phasers--that fires high-velocity projectiles.

James, Hope, and Tess console themselves in Christian's absence (he's at Scout Camp this week) with some focused and sustained sprinkler running. Good times.
I wish I could insert a fragrance link. Aren't my Stargazer Lilies beautiful? Note how the close focus keeps all the weeds out of the image. Also note how I took and posted zero photos of Christian and me planting 12 trees and 18 bushes last Saturday. There's nothing like digging through rocky clay in 90-degree weather with 90% humidity to give you heat exhaustion, I tell you. The process hasn't been pretty, but my permaculture garden is on its way.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:47 AM
The gracious and talented Anne Bradshaw (it's so silly: I always want to refer to her as 'Anne Bradstreet') tagged me for The Moaning Meme. It's just the ticket for a muggy Monday morning. Thanks, Anne! (Sorry to disappoint, but I was not annoyed.)

5 people who will be annoyed that I tagged them:

4 things that should go into Room 101 and be removed from the face of the earth:

Bratz dolls
Japanese beetles

3 things people do that make you want to shake them violently:
When people say 'home' when they mean 'house.'
When people say 'impact' when they mean 'affect.'
When people use 'transition' as a verb or 'reveal' as a noun.

2 things you find yourself moaning about:
In a good way: Shoulder rubs
In a bad way: Not enough shoulder rubs

1 thing the above answers tell you about yourself:

I'm so confrontation-averse that this post was harder to write than I thought it would be. It was hard enough to admit publicly the other day that Colin Firth is not first in the Mr. Darcy corner of my heart.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:21 AM
What are your feelings about the new Jane Austen movie, Becoming Jane? I, for one, am torn. Should I see it as soon as possible? Wait for it to come out on DVD? Or snub it entirely? Here are a few of the thoughts I'm having surrounding this crucial dilemma:


I haven't had a good historical romance fix in a while. I'm definitely due.

Rotten Tomatoes gives Becoming Jane a pretty high rating.

I have enjoyed favorite people being fictionalized in film before (Amadeus, A Beautiful Mind, The Pride of the Yankees, My Left Foot, The Elephant Man), fully realizing that many of the events have been dramatized.

I like all the Austen-related movies I've ever seen: BBC, A&E, Clueless, Bride & Prejudice, and all the American-made, reasonably faithful cinematic adaptations. Persuasion is my favorite, and heretic that I am, when it comes to Mr. Darcy, I prefer Matthew Macfadyen very slightly over Colin Firth (please still like me).


I am generally prejudiced against movies with gerunds in their titles (though I love Searching for Bobby Fischer and Raising Arizona). I don't know why this is; it just is. Click here for a funny list of movies with de-gerund-ized titles.

Some trailers so horrify me with promises of undying passion in the face of all odds that I make a holy vow never to see the films they advertise. Ever. To wit: Titanic and The Bridges of Madison County (no, I will not read the book, either). Becoming Jane may fall into this category. Again, I'm not sure why. It's a visceral thing.

I have hated favorite people being fictionalized in film before (Shakespeare in Love, Out of Africa). And these films I hate are about writers.

I'm afraid of anachronisms and bad accents.

What about you? Are you planning to see it? Any advice for me? I welcome your thoughts.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•12:01 AM
The excellent Victoria Mitchell of Toddled Dredge is hosting a very cool blog carnival. It involves books, so 95% of you will want to check it out, I'm sure.

We've been very bookish around this blog lately; it seems appropriate, given this time of year. The summers of my youth are memorable for the quantity of fruit I picked and ate in my grandmother's garden and the huge stacks of library books I'd bring home week after week. Now, as my kids alternate between gathering raspberries in our yard and sprawling around the house with their noses in various volumes of Harry Potter, I feel satisfied that I am passing on great traditions.

Sirdar mentioned in a comment recently that he has been reading Hank the Cowdog with his kids; I heartily approve. If you are laboring under the illusion that it's all Proust, Joyce, and Philip K. Dick around here, let me hasten to disabuse you. I've been a full-time mom for 13.5 years; the bulk of the reading I've done in that time has been out loud from the list below. I have memorized many of these after years of incessant repetition; if called upon, Patrick and I could chant the entire texts for Jamberry or I Am a Bunny, for example, in perfect unison.

I haven't included collections of fairy tales, though those figure heavily in our reading. Maybe I'll make a list of those I consider essential another day. I also haven't included any of the bazillions of Christmas-themed picture books we own; look for that list right here in a few months.

I took my laptop upstairs and typed this list as I supervised the girls cleaning up their room yesterday morning; it was just a matter of looking at the shelves and typing. I started putting them in order; the top 20 (at the bottom) are definitely my favorites. But then I gave up. The rest I left as I typed it; trying to rank them properly is a task beyond my skills of discernment and organization at present.

100 The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown & Clement Hurd
99 Dinosaurs, by Angela Royston & Jane Cradock-Watson
98 In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
97 Dr. De Soto, by William Steig
96 The Story about Ping, bu Marjorie Flack & Kurt Wiese
95 The Alexander series, by Judith Viorst & Ray Cruz
94 Mr. Brown & Mr. Gray, by William Wondriska
93 ABCDog, by Connie Sharar & Dennis Mosner
92 The Changing Maze, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder & Charles Mikolaycak
91 Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
90 Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar, by Masaichiro & Mitsumasa Anno
89 Eating the Alphabet, by Lois Ehlert
88 Peter in Blueberry Land, by Elsa Beskow
87 Pete's a Pizza, by William Steig
86 Hi, Pizza Man! by Virginia Walter & Ponder Goembel
85 The Thanksgiving Story, by Alice Dalgliesh & Helen Sewell
84 But No Elephants! by Jerry Smath
83 The Wonderful Lamp from Isfahan, by Jo Farmayan & Harriet Sherman
82 In the Attic, by Hiawyn Oram & Satoshi Kitamura
81 A Boy Wants a Dinosaur, by Satoshi Kitamura
80 When Sheep Cannot Sleep, by Satoshi Kitamura
79 The Reluctant Dragon, by Kenneth Grahame & Michael Hague
78 The Ballad of the Pirate Queens, by Jane Yolen & David Shannon
77 Castle, by David Macaulay
76 Architect of the Moon, by Tim Wynne-Jones & Ian Wallace
75 Sagwa, by Amy Tan & Gretchen Shields
74 Farmer Duck, by Martin Waddell & Helen Oxenbury
73 Hurricane, by David Wiesner
72 Flotsam, by David Wiesner
71 One Morning in Maine, by Robert McCloskey
70 No Fighting, No Biting! by Else Holmelund Minarik & Maurice Sendak
69 Ultra-Violet Catastrophe! by Margaret Mahy & Brian Froud
68 Drummer Hoff, by Barbara & Ed Emberley
67 Freefall, by David Wiesner
66 June 29, 1999, by David Wiesner
65 The Snowman, by Raymond Briggs
64 Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, by Richard Scarry
63 Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen & John Schoenherr
62 Joan of Arc, by Diane Stanley
61 Through the Mickle Woods, by Valiska Gregory & Barry Moser
60 The Three Little Pigs, by David Wiesner
59 Going Lobstering, by Jerry Pallotta & Rob Bolster
58 The Minstrel and the Dragon Pup, by Rosemary Sutcliff & Emma Chichester Clark
57 Planting a Rainbow, by Lois Ehlert
56 What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry
55 The Cookie Tree, by Jay Williams & Blake Hampton
54 The Underwater Alphabet Book, by Jerry Palotta & Edgar Stewart
53 Fox in Socks, by Dr. Seuss
52 You Can Name 100 Trucks! by Randy Chewning
51 Zoom, by Istvan Banyai
50 We're Going on a Bear Hunt! by Helen Oxenbury
49 Clap Hands, by Helen Oxenbury
48 Katy No-Pocket, by Emma Payne & H.A. Rey
47 The Babar series, by Laurent de Brunhoff
46 The Spot series, by Eric Hill
45 The Miss Nelson series, by James Marshall
44 The Eye of the Needle, by Teri Sloat
43 Avocado Baby, by John Burningham
42 The Martha series, by Susan Meddaugh
41 There's a Wocket in My Pocket! By Dr. Seuss
40 Diggers and Dump Trucks, by Angela Royston & Tim Ridley
39 Peter Rabbit, et al. by Beatrix Potter
38 The Real Mother Goose, by Blanche Fisher Wright
37 The Angelina series, by Katharine Holabird & Helen Craig
36 The Serpent Came to Gloucester, by M.T. Anderson & Bagram Ibatouilline
35 The Curious George series, by H.A. Rey
34 The Miffy series, by Dick Bruna
33 Crash! Bang! Boom! by Peter Spier
32 The Max and Ruby series, by Rosemary Wells
31 The Stupids series, by James Marshall & Harry G. Allard
30 The George and Martha series, by James Marshall
29 The Tintin series, by Hergé
28 The Ghosts series, by Jacques Duquennoy
27 The Lonely Doll, by Dare Wright
26 The Little Wooden Doll, by Margery Williams Bianco & Renee Graef
25 Valentine & Orson, by Nancy Burkert
24 Marigold Garden, by Kate Greenaway
23 The Pied Piper of Hamelin, by Kate Greenaway
22 Alligators All Around, by Maurice Sendak
21 Chicken Soup with Rice, by Maurice Sendak
20 The Alfie series, by Shirley Hughes
19 Go, Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman
18 The Sneetches and Other Stories, by Dr. Seuss
17 Untitled, by Kit Williams
16 Tuesday, by David Wiesner
15 The City in Winter series, by Mark Helprin & Chris Van Allsberg
14 Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey
13 Arm in Arm, by Remy Charlip
12 The Frances series, by Russell & Lillian Hoban
11 The Frog and Toad series, by Arnold Lobel
10 Miss Suzy, by Arnold Lobel
9 The Little Bear series, by Else Holmelund Minarik & Maurice Sendak
8 Outside Over There, by Maurice Sendak
7 Piggy in the Puddle, by Charlotte Pomerantz & James Marshall
6 Jamberry, by Bruce Degen
5 The Zoom Trilogy, by Tim Wynne-Jones & Eric Beddows
4 I am a Bunny, by Richard Scarry
3 Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy World
2 A is for Annabelle, by Tasha Tudor
1 Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book

If I had included every book in every series listed, this list probably would have been twice as long. I've tried to include every illustrator, since the illustrations are at least as important as the story in picture books. There are several popular writers and illustrators whom I cannot abide and whose work I don't keep in the house or bring home from the library, but they shall remain nameless.

I'm sure I've left off several of your favorites, so why not make your own list? If you do, be sure to let me know.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•4:12 PM
Well, hey! I've been awarded the Blogging Community Involvement Award, a.k.a. The Power of Schmooze (cue the Huey Lewis) by über-Schmoozer Radioactive Jam. I am honored; RaJ is my example in all things bloggy. He has a warm and welcoming site and is always generous and thought-provoking in his commenting. Thank you!

I do love making connections with and between people. When I noticed that Bubandpie and Annette Lyon both listed The Blue Castle as a favorite book, I wished I could host a luncheon so that we could meet in person and discuss the perils and triumphs of Valancy Stirling Snaith. When Brillig was wrestling with the mighty WordPress, I asked RaJ whether he'd be willing to help her out (of course he was). When Kara and Jenna were infant bloggers, I wanted you all to meet them immediately.

In real life, these impulses can get me into trouble. Patrick would say at this point, "I have two words for you: Brent Spiner." (Someday I'll tell you the story.) When I noticed that Graham Sleight had mentioned in his Readercon bio that he loved black currant ice cream and Ralph Vaughan Williams's Symphony No. 5, I barely restrained myself from running up to him and saying, "Me, too! Me, too!" (Trust me: it's better that I didn't.)

It's now my privilege to pass the award on to five fellow Schmoozers. The following bloggers have gone out of their way to welcome me into their communities; I look forward to visiting them on a daily basis. They are:

Annette is a great friend and has introduced me to a number of wonderful LDS writers and their blogs.
The ever-entertaining Brillig is fantastic about answering comments and has a terrific, eclectic blogroll.
Bubandpie has kindly tagged me for the best memes ever despite my leaving her scintillating comments like "Awesome post" and "You're so brilliant."
What I Made for Dinner--I believe the talented Adriana was the first to put me on her blogroll when I was a bran-new baby blogger.
Bitegeist--Deb wrote a whole post about me when we first discovered each other. Her cadre of commenters is welcoming and hilarious.

Congratulations, ladies!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•3:52 PM
I got back from my very satisfying visit to Godric's Hollow and Ottery St. Catchpole to discover that the spectacular Bubandpie had tagged me for the best meme ever. It was a challenge to answer the questions without just copying her excellent work, so definitely go read it as well.

1. If you could host a party with seven literary characters, whom would you invite and why?

I'd invite Georgie and Lucia so that they could play piano duets for us. Not to be outdone, Thea Kronborg would sing something gorgeous. Charles Swann would regale us with all the latest Parisian gossip. His wife Odette, despite her checkered past, would be a welcome addition. I'd want Thursday Next to tell us all about her fascinating work in Jurisfiction, and we'd need Kilgore Trout for some comic relief.

2. Who is your literary role model?

For writing: Jo March. For cooking: Fritz Brenner. For knitting: Molly Weasley. For gardening: Mary Lennox. For parenting: Uncle Alec and Atticus Finch.

3. Which literary house would you like most to live in?

4. Which literary couple would you like most for parents?

5. Pick three literary characters you would like to have as siblings.

Jem Finch, Ender Wiggin, and Joey Pepper. Joey would be the oldest; he'd be so exhausting to parent that Dr. and Dr. Murry would be very relaxed when it came to the rest of us. Jem would be second, the ideal older brother and adventurous companion. I'd be next (the pampered and petted only girl), and Ender would be the brilliant baby who went on to save the universe.

6. Who is your favorite literary villain?

Richard III. We just saw the play at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. I worried that I wouldn't love this production, because the last time I saw it, Ian McKellan played Richard at BAM (years ago, before the movie came out). Sir Ian is a hard act to follow.

It turns out my worries were unfounded. Chris Edwards was fabulous as Richard. Shakespeare totally understood the concept of the hot bad boy, and Mr. Edwards made the very most of his character. Delish.

7. Name a character that most people dislike, but that you do not. Why do you like him/her?

Poor Fagin. He's just trying to get by. He finds those homeless kids on the streets, gives them life skills, feeds them, and shelters them. What--he can't be rewarded for all his selfless work?

8. Which minor character deserves a book of his/her own, in your opinion?

Phoebe Caulfield. I'd love to read about her brother through her eyes, and what it was that kept her from sharing his feelings of alienation and despair. I've read everything Salinger has ever published, and I still want more. Here's your chance to come out of seclusion, J.D.!

9. Which character do you identify most with in literature?

Elizabeth Shulman. She's a woman devoted to her family, religion, and culture who finds a way to define herself as an individual while remaining true to her ideals. I wish she lived next door.

10. If you could go into a novel, which one would it be and why?

So hard to choose! So I'll cheat instead. I'd adventure by day in The Lord of the Rings, but jump out and into Farmer Boy at mealtimes (including Second Breakfast). Whenever I read the descriptions of Mrs. Wilder's bounteous tables to my children, we all groan with desire and envy. I'd bed down in a comfy spot in Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book, then wake up rested and ready to rejoin The Fellowship.

11. Name 3 - 7 books that you rarely see on people’s favorite book lists that are high on your own.

The Diamond in the Window, by Jane Langton
Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan
Roadside Geology of New York, by Bradford Van Diver
The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub
Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens
Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
Anna and Her Daughters, by D.E. Stevenson

12. Which is your least favorite book of those that are considered "classics?"

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck. Ugh, please make it stop.

Jenna, Annette, Julie Q., Kara, and Brillig, consider yourself tagged!

Author: Luisa Perkins
•12:54 PM
If you really do, you'll go read what I wrote today on my other blog (which I share). If not, I understand. I'll be back here on Sunday, after I finish reading the new Harry Potter.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•3:04 PM
You know how it is when one of your favorite fantasy writers puts out a new volume of his epic series?

And then you sit down and try to make it last, only to find the pull of the story too delicious to put it down for anything but the most essential household tasks?

And the laundry piles up and the weeds grow while you sit blissfully immersed in Briony and Barrick's perilous adventures?

And no one appreciates what a good person you are when you selflessly give up a whole Sunday afternoon's worth of reading to cook and serve dinner and a homemade chocolate cream pie to(admittedly wonderful) guests?

And you wonder why you are devouring this book, since it will be at least a full year before the next installment is published, and this volume is doubtless going to leave you hanging off one cliff for each and every of the several plot lines?

Yet you cannot stop?

You know how it is?


Okay, never mind.
Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:24 AM
A visit from across-the-ponder Carmen, a.k.a. La Fabulous, would be a highlight of my entire year under any circumstances. Carmen has been an amazing friend to me, Patrick, and the kids for going on ten years (the photo above is of Patrick and her when we first met).

She is the ideal world-traveling companion (we've done Paris and a bit of London and Rome--next stop: Antarctica). She's a knitting dervish. She's a great audience for my cooking. She's another close friend who reads The New Yorker from cover to cover each week so that I don't have to. She relates to the kids as individuals; for years, Christian tried to get me to back off when she came over, since he knew she was really there to see him.

We have a whole lexicon of phrases that are shorthand for various memorable moments in our shared history:

"You said pie!"
"What are you saying? What do you mean?"
"Je voudrais une Crèpe Nutella et un Fanta, s'il vous plaît."
"Santa, you're scaring me."
"Those birds are stuffing themselves!"

...and so many more...

When Tess was in the NICU and I was in delivery recovery, I wished for Carmen with all my heart. She is the most gifted storyteller I've ever known personally; we never get tired of her hilarious anecdotes. I wanted her by my side to distract me from my worries and woes. She was in Cambodia on vacation then, but when she got back, she was a tremendous help.

Carmen moved to London from NYC five years ago. At the time, we thought it would be a three-year adventure, and while I didn't love the idea of her being away from us for so long, I braced myself. I'm glad I didn't know then that her trip would extend indefinitely, or I would have been tempted to throw myself into the Pit of Despair.

Unfortunately, I'm terrible at long-distance relationships. Present cares and obsessions tend to drive absent friends, however dear, from my thoughts for weeks at a time. But I haven't given up on trying to mend my ways. Having people like Carmen in my life make my efforts at improvement worthwhile.

We sat up late last night, riveted as she gave us every detail of her recent trip to Japan. Then the kids went to bed, and she and I talked knitting, politics, books, and life for a good long while--infinitely satisfying.

Carmen's presence is a gift. But to ice the figurative cake, she brought me gorgeous buttons from La Droguerie and five Green & Black's Butterscotch bars. I've been obsessed with the idea of these candy bars ever since I read Jane Brocket's ode to them, then found out they are not available in the States. Oh, the yearning. I waited all of a few minutes before breaking one open last night.

Jane's rhapsodies were in no way hyperbolic. The Butterscotch bar is a perfect realization of the ideal chocolate bar. I won't wax poetic, since most of you don't have regular access to these, either; it would be just plain mean if I did. But next time you find yourself in Merrie Olde, do yourself a favor and bring back a duffel bag full.

I wonder if you can get them in Canada; it's only a seven-hour drive....

This morning, we made the Breakfast Bars from yesterday's post, substituting raspberries for blueberries--a sublime treat for sublime company.

Patrick just left to take Carmen to the airport. I hate goodbyes. Here's hoping the time will fly until our next reunion. Ciao, Cah!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•10:22 AM
I have lots of little bits chasing themselves around in this brain o’ mine; each one could probably be a post in itself, but I’ll do an eclectic listy-type update instead.

1) Readercon was the best ever. I could rhapsodize for days about:

a) meeting and chatting with several great speculative fiction writers I admire;
b) what a rock star theoretical physicist Carl Frederick is;
c) the wit and brain tossed around with abandon at the excellent panels;
d) the quality of the writing instruction;
e) and the hours of unbroken solitude I got to spend writing in an extremely comfortable hotel room.

And the Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition—I laughed so hard and long my gut and head hurt at the end of the evening. It alone (as always) was worth the price of admission to the conference.

2) During the discussion panels at Readercon, I got a lot of a sweater done. This is chunky fuchsia wool bought in Paris 6.5 years ago. The sweater is knit in the round, with raglan sleeves. I haven't used a pattern, just took a gauge, measured myself, and started knitting. I tried on the sleeves every once in a while to make sure my increases were properly spaced. The stash is diminishing…
3) I bought many books at Readercon—riches, I tell you. The first in my juicy to-be-read pile was In the Forest of Forgetting, by Theodora Goss. I’m not generally a fan of short stories, but this woman is extremely talented. The stories are elegant, compelling, and very slipstreamy. I hope she writes something longer soon!

4) I got an award during my sabbatical! Annette thinks I’m a Rockin’ Girl; thank you, my friend. One of the many privileges of Rockin’hood is being able to pass on the gift to five other lucky bloggers. Many of my pals have already received this award, but other key players have not (at least as far as I know)—until now.
I hereby dub Kara, Jenna, Adriana, Bubandpie, and Mental Tesserae fellow Rockin' Girls. Get out there and spread the love, ladies.

5) Eerie coincidence alert: Tuesday night, Patrick and I were at the Broadway opening of the utterly wretched new musical Xanadu. Though we cannot understand how it could possibly have merited the rave reviews it got, we are glad for Patrick’s client, the kind and uber-talented Eric Stern, who is the Music Director of the show (and let me say here that the music sounded fabulous—it’s the rest of the thing that stank).
Olivia Newton-John was in the audience. I felt bad for her, since her trademark breathy singing style and Australian accent were being lampooned right in front of her.

Just twelve hours later, I was waiting in the doctor’s office, when what blast from the past should greet my ears? None other than O N-J’s country hit “If You Love Me, Let Me Know,” which I don’t think I have ever heard on the radio. (My mom had the album, so I know that song by heart.) Crazy, I know.

6) My kids really outdid themselves on their School of Rock essays this week. After watching Footloose and Rock 'n' Roll High School, they had to discuss why some authority figures find rock music to be dangerous and subversive. They came up with some very interesting ideas and organized them nicely; I was quite pleased.

7) Christian and I saw 1408 yesterday. It’s terrific, if you like that sort of thing (and I realize that most of you don’t). The dread is so thick that it’s a little suffocating; we were holding hands through most of it.
I'll never again be able to hear Karen Carpenter sing "We've Only Just Begun" without shuddering. John Cusack was fantastic (when isn’t he?). Afterwards, Christian and I had a great discussion about the nature of self and the symbolism of redemption as portrayed in the film. Who knew living with teenagers could be so great? I'm a lucky mom.

8) My friend Melissa recently adapted a recipe to perfection, and since she doesn’t (yet) have a blog, I must post it for the public good. She took the instructions for Blueberry Breakfast Bars from Farmgirl Fare, cut the sugar in half (believe me, they are still plenty sweet), and added lemon.
These are a must. Do yourself a favor and go make some right now.

Blueberry-Lemon Breakfast Bars

Bottom Layer
2 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Streusel Topping
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter

3-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
the juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (1/4 tsp. if freshly ground)

For the Bottom Layer:
Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a 9" x 13" pan. In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Press this mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan.

For the Streusel Topping:
Place the flour, brown sugar, and butter in a small bowl and combine until the mixture resembles large crumbs (some pea-sized clumps are okay). Set aside.

For the Filling:
Place the blueberries in the bowl you mixed the Bottom Layer in and toss them with the almond extract. Pour them evenly over the Bottom Layer in the pan. Combine the sugar and flour and sprinkle it evenly over the blueberries.

Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the filling. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden, and the edges are starting to brown. Let cool in pan on a wire rack, then cut into bars.

9) I have lost much of my vegetable garden to slugs. Here’s what has survived: a Candy Pumpkin (pie); one each Charentais and Ananas melon plant; the cucumbers; all of the tomatoes; a few of the runner beans; one set of onions, and one artichoke.
I lost the Tigger melons (sob!), the watermelons, the rhubarb, the cardoons and summer squash, and most of the herbs.

The asparagus is doing okay, and I’m going to plant more lettuce today. I must go buy beer for the slugs. That strategy has worked well for me in the past; I just didn’t get around to it quickly enough this year.

10) I was going to cut back my wildly overgrown anise hyssop, but two goldfinches have been perching in it off and on for the past couple of days. I don’t want to take away their jungle gym, so I may leave it for a bit longer.

11) We now have an HD Kung Fu channel—a whole stop on Patrick’s remote devoted to Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and their disciples. Believe me, it’s welcome respite from all of the dreck that passes for television these days. It makes a much pleasanter background to my evening reading and writing than endless reality shows.

12) I have officially surrendered in the Battle of the Muffin Papers. About a year ago, I decided that I needed to find an alternative to those little liners. We make so many batches that I was going through those little plastic containers at a rate of about two per week. First I tried the silicone muffin bakers. They worked fine, but were a pain to wash. Trying to get crumbs out of all those little accordion folds was no fun.

Then I tried stoneware muffin pans. These produced a nicely browned muffin, between each dozen, I had to wait for the pans to cool, then scrub them out, dry them, and re-butter them. This took forever. I stopped making muffins as often, and my kids complained.

My new plan is to buy the unbleached muffin papers by the case (they come in cardboard, not plastic) and use them in the stoneware pans. I made muffins this morning, and it worked great. Since the papers are unbleached, I can compost them once they’ve done their job. I realize how scintillating all of this is.
13) Tonight, we get a visit from the legendary Carmen! She’s sleeping over on her way back to London. I’m making my famous Chicken Enchiladas in her honor. Gotta go roast that chicken....
Author: Luisa Perkins
•10:02 AM
(For last post's quiz, anyway.)

Oh, you all did so well, despite some very tricky questions! I have such entertaining pals; thank you for playing.

Here are the correct answers:

1) 'B' is correct. "Me Likey" is a collection of all my favorite running songs culled from several earlier mixes. I use it on the days when I'm trying for a personal best. As much as I adore our neighbor, Mr. Richard Butler, the Furs did not make this particular cut.
I love Bon Jovi! Especially now that he has short hair; he's aged very well. (Kara, you have my permission to stop respecting me.) And "You Give Love a Bad Name" has exactly the right amount of anger (and heavy drums) to make it a good running song for me.

2) My second cat was named Tantôt (pronounced 'Tonto'). When I was living in Montreal, I heard this word used in casual conversation constantly. It's flexible in meaning: 'pretty soon,' 'a little while ago,' 'when I get around to it,' and 'now' are all valid translations. Our current cat is named after Goldberry of The Lord of the Rings fame (she's only in the book). But she's my third cat.

3) Latrell Sprewell es mucho más macho. This question is paraphrased from a Saturday Night Live skit involving Lloyd Bridges, and therefore shows my age.

What's wrong with you people? Don't you believe in forgiveness and repentance? Poor Latrell made one (admittedly large) mistake, apologized, and sought counseling for anger management. He's made reparations. Give him a break! It's been years since that happened!

I am not an ardent basketball fan, but when Latrell was playing for the Knicks, I missed very few games. He plays with balletic grace and a compelling natural charisma; when he's out there, you don't really notice anyone else on the court. I like George Clooney, don't get me wrong. But Latrell....

Bubandpie, j'adore le Canada et ses citoyens. Et vouz pouvez me tutoyer, si vous voulez.

4) I have enjoyed all three of these junk foods in the past, so 'd' is the correct answer. Taco Bell doesn't taste good to me anymore, and I eat Lucky Charms (not as breakfast, as Annette correctly guessed) maybe once every two years. But Magic Shell--it's the Latrell Sprewell of dessert items.

5) This was a tricky question, as all four of these selections were in heavy rotation at my house of origin circa 1978. I got Saturday Night Fever first, but as a gift. My sister Stephanie owned ABBA:Arrival on cassette. Billy Joel's brilliant album The Stranger was the second I ever bought, making b) Grease the correct choice.

6) Hands down, no contest: If I could somehow clone myself, I would pursue a Ph.D. in Geology, preferably at Yale. It's clear that I haven't made my love of this branch of the earth sciences sufficiently manifest to you all. I'll have to rectify this.

But if there were a degree offered in Kara's answer, that would tempt me mightily.

7) It's comforting to me that so many of you agree that all of these critically acclaimed writers are highly overrated. But c) Hemingway is the correct answer, because he's the most revered of the four. I also hate most Steinbeck (except for The Winter of our Discontent), most Updike (except for The Witches of Eastwick), and most Fitzgerald (maybe all, since I can't come up with any exceptions right now).

8) b) Pilgrim's Progress, by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Pilgrim's Progress is my favorite book, and RVW is my favorite composer. The combination is magic. Unfortunately, this opera has significant staging problems, and consequently is very rarely performed.

I've seen a spine-chilling production of The Turn of the Screw; it is one of my favorites, so that was a good guess.

9) This was really a question about whether you recognized a quote from that most quotable of films, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. All answers alluding to said film were scored as correct, with a bonus point given to Jenna and to Annette for giving the correct speed.

The air-speed velocity of an unladed European swallow is 11 meters per second, or 24 miles per hour.

Annette, the four capitals of Assyria were Ashur, Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Nineveh.

And asking Tim was a very good (though potentially explosive) suggestion, RaJ.

10) Bubandpie was prescient when it came to this question.

Weboggle is horrendously addictive, but is a mind-sharpener, so may be rationalized.

"One Week" is a terrific song for exercising; memorizing all the words to it distracted me from the pain of many a mile (and I would never dis Canada or The Barenaked Ladies).

Getting a massage is never wrong.

I'm not a Law and Order fan; therefore, the correct answer is 'd.'

Bonus Question. Annette is partially right; I did choose the photo of Ralph Fiennes because I was giving a quiz. However, 'b' is also correct: I have direct ancestors with the surnames 'Van Doren' and 'Fiennes.'
Bubandpie: 5 correct
Annette: 5 correct
Kara: 6 correct
Brillig: 3 correct
Jam: 5 correct (I counted your initial instinct on the Bonus Question)
Jenna: 5 correct

So it's Kara by a nose as far as number of correct answers, with a four-way tie for second place. Congratulations, Dr. Ennui! I'll drop your prize by later this week.

Brillig is the contestant who has known me the shortest amount of time, so it's understandable that she would get the fewest correct. However, since she wrote her answers in the form of a somewhat slipstreamy narrative, she gets the 'Most Creative' award. Brillig, email me your address, and you'll receive your fabulous prize shortly. Call it a late birthday present if you like, but you earned it!