Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nichols and May? George and Martha? Sam and Diane?

defunct bee boxes and squalor
Owen now refuses to eat Parmesan as he says it makes his mouth hurt and he picked off all the cheese I’d sprinkled on our pasta last night.


Dinner wasn't worth writing about, but what happened after was most exciting. I decided to see what was up with the bees hovering around our defunct bee boxes lately. The boxes have been mouldering on our deck for several years, waiting for me to cart them to the dump. 

I had to use a chisel to pry off the lid.

a visual in case video doesn't work
Yow! Apparently, a swarm of bees found our boxes and set up housekeeping. I only got stung once last night, which was amazing.

This morning I asked Mark if he wanted to take charge of the new hive, as he was always fascinated by the bees and less scared of them than I.

He said no.

Jennifer: Why not?

Mark: I don’t want to take the time. We already went down that road and the bees died. Are you quoting me for the blog? I think if we want to invest in bees we should give to a bee charity. The other thing is, no one uses the honey. If you got bees that made sugar and flour, that’s something I’d consider helping with.

Jennifer: By that logic, you should help with the chickens because we go through a lot of eggs.

Mark: The chickens aren’t consistent about laying year round. Until they’re consistent year round, I won’t help.

Jennifer: But you thought the bees were so cool.

Mark: I think a lot of things are cool that I don’t do. 

Jennifer, typing: Can you elaborate?.

Mark: Fuck off! I’m going to have breakfast now.

Jennifer: What are you having?

Mark: Cold leftover Domino's pizza.

Good one. Lately, he's been playing his part with real brio.

This Bon Appetit strawberry cake is delicious. You have a layer of rich almond cake, a layer of fresh strawberries, and a layer of streusel made from butter, almonds, and freeze-dried strawberries. Trader Joe's carries freeze-dried strawberries and a 1.2-ounce bag sufficed. I'd make this cake again.

Finally, a book report, nothing to do with food:
"Secrets had the power to kill a marriage, she said. Nonsense, Sylvia said, it was secrets that could save a marriage."
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

Atkinson is my favorite living novelist, but I wasn't sold on God in Ruins until the final pages when there came a dazzling passage that turned everything that had happened thus far upside down. The passage gave me goosebumps and I read it again and again. This is a brilliant book. Unfortunately the brilliance isn’t spread evenly throughout. To put it another way: the plot (long life of pleasant Englishman) lacks momentum, but if you make it to the thought-provoking finish line, you’ll be amply rewarded.

Verdict: Recommend with hesitation. If you’re new to Kate Atkinson, start with Case Histories


  1. So, who is going to take care of the bees? YOU??

  2. Neat about the bees. Seems to me like there are more bees around this year - for the first time since I planted them in 2010, I've seen quite a few bees pollinating my boysenberries.

    1. I don't think we can turn these bees away.

  3. Yay for the bees! Do you think they will survive the toxic buckeye tree this time?

    1. I don't know. They came from around here and there are lots of buckeyes. Obviously some bees survive, sometimes.

  4. Stressful times (or at least, that's how I read the first part of this post). I haven't heard of Kate Atkinson but I'll put Case Histories on my list.

    1. Oh, you'll love Case Histories! (I hope.)
      No stress! I worried that the Mark interaction sounded like a real fight, but it wasn't at all. He was being funny, or trying. Maybe you had to be there. He's got a caustic way about him that conceals a soft center and it sometimes makes him sound jerkier than he actually is (not jerky) when I quote him. I should figure out a way to temper it.

    2. No, no, I get it!

      And I'm so looking forward to a lot of novel reading in August.

    3. P.S. I'm almost scared to declare this publicly, but as far as living novelists go, I do enjoy Jonathan Franzen.

    4. Me too. I thoroughly enjoyed Freedom. Is JF controversial? Still? Or again? I'm out of it!

  5. Right. What Kristin ^^ said. I love Kate Atkinson, too, so I guess I'll forge ahead. Although you clearly love her more; she's not my favorite living novelist. Although I haven't identified that person, so maybe she is?

    1. I wondered if she was my favorite living novelist after I wrote that. If she isn't, who is? I can't think of anyone, but I don't have a list of living novelists in front of me. If Atkinson's last two books were only books, she wouldn't make it into my top ten.

    2. A.S. Byatt is up there, for me. Pat Barker. Vikram Seth. I read a lot more non-fiction these days than I did when I was young(er. -ER!, dammit). Also, I wouldn't worry too much about the Nick & Nora tone; I think most of us get that it's meant to be humorous.

    3. Good grief. There are 100 holds on this book at the OPL. Okay, 17 copies, but STILL. Also, I see that Leon Uris, of all people, wrote a book with the same title. When I was about 14 or so, he might have been one of my favorite living novelists. I think I read "Exodus" about a million times. WHAT was I thinking? You may well ask.

    4. Oh, that's funny! I loved Leon Uris too, and Sidney Sheldon, Irwin Shaw, Herman Wouk, James Michener, John Jakes. I remember thinking that any book you could buy from one of those racks at the drug store had to be very adult and sophisticated. A.S. Byatt -- I forgot about her. She's great, though I have found several of her novels inscrutable. Suitable Boy! I was so disappointed by the ending, but that was a tremendous book. I've only read one Pat Barker. Big hole in my reading. Thank you for the names. The universe of favorite authors is coming into clearer focus.

    5. Gawd. Michener, totally. And that whole Jakes series, starting with The Bastard, right? Mini-serialized for TV with Andrew Stevens in the title role. I thought he was SO HUNKY. And I read Colleen McCullough, too. Good times, those Thorn Birds.
      I have heard that Seth is working on a sequel to A Suitable Boy. I loved that book, I really did, it was one of those Huge Books for me (also literally, of course!), and I decided that it needed to have that ending, or a similar one, in order not to sell out too much. The ending where Lata marries a Muslim or something would just be so forced and artificial, in those times. Also, I was wowed, big time, by Hillary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. I read the first one twice, and I will probably read them both again, preparatory to reading the forthcoming third and final book to that set. David Mitchell is great, too, and I really liked Atkinson's "Life After Life" -- So.Much.Better than that annoying Time Traveler's Wife. And when I get a little fluffier, I do like me some Nick Hornby. It's interesting to put that "living" limitation on the question -- some of these are sort of old (Byatt and Barker are in their 70s), so I am glad they get to be on the list now.

    6. Meggie and Fiona and Father Ralph? The ashes-of-roses dress? Formative.
      I know, Suitable Boy ended as it had to, but I was still disappointed. I was surprised to find I was one of the few supporters of the Peggy-Stan romance in the finale of Mad Men. I'm sappy.
      I have never managed to get through Wolf Hall. I've thrown myself at it repeatedly and failed. One day it will work. Ruth Rendell. No longer living and a genre writer, but I think she was a great one. An awful lot of British names on our joint list.

  6. I guess the bees finally decided that your boxes were perfect this year. Love it!
    Do you still have that buckeye? I finally realized the waxy flower brackets were incredibly fragrant. I used to cut them for flower arrangements. Did not know they were toxic to bees. Can't wait to see if you harvest any honey!

    1. Maybe I'll cut all the buckeye flowers and have a big bouquet in the house, thereby eliminating all danger to the bees.

  7. I wasn't sold on A God in Ruins the way I was on Life After Life, but I agree, it had its moments of sheer brilliance. The end was astonishing.

    I would also recommend Behind the Scenes at the Museum as a good first Kate Atkinson. I think it might have been MY first Kate Atkinson...and then Case Histories. :)

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