Friday, June 5, 2009

The Quilt Files, Episode 11

So last time I talked about the fun of making twin quilts: same pattern and shared fabrics, but different colors. I originally made one in pink and one in blue, until discovering the second twin had been shy and was actually a boy. So instead I found some green fabrics that coordinated, and voila! Quilts for twin boys!

So what happened to the girl quilt?, you might wonder. Gee, it must be nice to have a spare, you might think. Well, that's what I thought too, at first. That same year the twins were born (2006), I found out my sister-in-law and another cousin were both expecting later in the year. The pink quilt sat in my closet, waiting to be finished for a little girl, but in both cases they discovered a boy was on the way. Another friend announced her pregnancy early in 2007, but since she didn't find out the gender beforehand, I decided to make a gender-neutral play quilt instead. (She ended up having a girl, sigh, but the M Go Blue quilt was much appreciated anyway.) In late 2007 another cousin announced a pregnancy ... and that turned out to be another boy. That pink quilt sat in my closet, taunting me. Wasn't anyone going to have a girl?

Then my friends announced some great news: their adoption from Ethiopia had been approved, and they would soon be bringing home a little girl. Finally! When they introduced us to the adorable little Amilia last spring, I finally had a worthy recipient for the lonely pink quilt. As you can see, it wouldn't have done at all to give it to a boy ... only a beautiful girl should look so pretty in pink.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The return of the Remedial Lit Project

Or, I might say, the retour, vuelta, ritorna, Rückkehr*, or возвращение of the Remedial Lit Project. Summer is coming, and I promised I would return to my list of books I should have read in school and check off a few more. And as you might guess from the first sentence, my theme for this summer is works in languages other than English: those classics that are so classic that we read them even in translation.

Now, I have to say that in one aspect, my record of foreign-language classics is better than average. As a Spanish major I read Don Quijote in the original (both volumes!), and I've read most of the major Latin American authors. But aside from them, and tackling Crime and Punishment in high school, I can't recall reading any other foreign classics. Tolstoy? I wrote a 10,000 word bio on him, but haven't read his work. Victor Hugo? I didn't even see the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Goethe? I know how to pronounce his name, but can't think of the title of any of his books.

This is where you come in. I'm going to start with Dante's Inferno, but after that I'm not sure where to go next. I need your suggestions: what classic translations should I put on my summer reading list? Right now I'm going to limit it to Europe, because I'll probably only have time for half a dozen works or so, and I'm sure I can fill my list without leaving the West. So give me your fresh, your filling, your huddled words yearning to be read, and we'll see what kind of list I can come up with.

*I'm sure TSU will correct me as to the correct German word for return, but it's not my fault; the Google translator had over twenty German words for return, so I just chose the first one. It seemed less likely to be one of those horribly specific compound nouns they like to confuse you with.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Janespotting: The Third Sister by Julia Barrett

I continued my journey through the "sequels" to Austen's Sense and Sensibility with this 1996 novel by the author of the P&P sequel Presumption, which I enjoyed tolerably well. As you can probably tell from the title, The Third Sister looks at what happens to Margaret Dashwood, the younger sister of Elinor and Marianne, once they have found their happy endings. Margaret is described by Austen in S&S as "a good-humored well-disposed girl; but as she had already imbibed a good deal of Marianne's romance, without having much of her sense, she did not, at thirteen, bid fair to equal her sisters at a more advanced period of life." Barrett supposes, however, that Margaret has learned from observing her sisters' experiences, and at the age of 17 is a thoughtful girl who chafes somewhat at the limited company she finds with Sir John Middleton and his very silly family.

She is somewhat surprised, then, when she a visit by two of Mrs. Jennings' girlhood friends brings some companions very much to her liking. Lady Clara is older, but provides excellent conversation and company; the Comtesse du Plessy is hard-to-please, but her son William du Plessy is handsome and friendly—but maybe a bit too friendly for Margaret's skittish sensibilities. And soon another suitor appears on the horizon: George Osborne, a polite young man of good standing. In fact, as a relation of the Ferrars family, he may just be in line to receive a fortune from the fickle Mrs. Ferrars, who had favored youngest son Robert over Elinor's Edward, but is now concerned that Robert's profligate ways will ruin the family.

Of course, we have to leave Devonshire to really get the story going, and Lady Clara invites Margaret to Brighton, where they can take in the sea air and enjoy much society. Margaret takes the opportunity to seek out Eliza Williams, Colonel Brandon's fallen ward, who seems very happy nonetheless with her well-behaved son. At various parties and assemblies, Margaret enjoys the attentions of du Plessy, and believes she may be falling for him, but his evident affection makes her nervous. When he suddenly leaves Brighton with no reason, she suspects the worse. George Osborne takes the opportunity to court her with tactful and delicate attentions; when he proposes, she accepts him, believing it will be a good match and she will grow to feel affection for him.

In a plot twist stolen right from Persuasion, it is Eliza Williams's friend who reveals the horrible truth about George Osborne: he is a swindler who takes people's money for "investment" but pockets most of it himself. (Very modern, isn't it!) And in a move stolen straight from Mr. Darcy, it is du Plessy who pursues the villain and sets things right for her family, regaining the church funds poor Edward and Elinor scraped to together for investment. Margaret, having learned to listen to her heart as well as her head, is able to accept her true match, du Plessy, whom she had overlooked through too much caution. Sigh! A happy ending!

One of the best parts of this sequel is that we get direct glimpses into the lives of many of the characters from S&S, not just Margaret. We see Elinor and Edward, not well off but making the most of what they have and earning the respect of the entire district. We see Marianne and a transformed Colonel Brandon, happy together and improving the district with music and good works. We revisit the silly Middleton household, and see Lucy Steele Ferrars and her foppish husband Robert reaping the results of their extravagance and vanity. Plus, we get a new romance to top it off. This was a fairly enjoyable, if quickly forgettable, take on Austen's characters; a quick read if you're in the mood.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Photo of the Week--5/25/09

In 2004 we took a trip to the Riviera Maya in Mexico with the whole family: my parents, TSU's mom, my grandmother. We sat around in the sun a bit, did some snorkeling, and visited a couple of really interesting archaeological sites. This one, the Nohoch Mul pyramid in Coba, doesn't look so steep and intimidating from this angle. We did climb it, though, and as you can probably guess if you look at the scale of the people on the pyramid, it was a very different view from the top. It was easy to scramble up; harder to carefully pick our way down.