Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Joan Aiken

I was in the children's section at the library a couple of months ago showing the new building to my friend and I came across Joan Aiken's books. I was attracted by their cover art by Edward Gorey. In this case, it seems, that you can judge a book by its cover! I started reading them and I think they are charming and fun! They are set in Edwardian England when there were still wolves on the island.

The series is interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the series does not follow one main character, but rather each book moves from one to another--wonderfully connecting the books, but not always following the same person. Secondly, the books also traverse the Atlantic (like the author). They connect a time in England and the United States that is often thought of as quite disparate, especially in learning children's history. Dido Twite goes from the slums in London to being fished out of the Thames by a New England whaling vessel.

The Art of Cuisine

I ran across this book recently at some used book fair or store, and had no previous knowledge of its existence. So cool! Evidently Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec compiled recipes and then illustrated menus with his friend Maurice Joyant. I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, but the volume is worth having just to flip through and read the menus and look at the pictures.

Peter Spier

I have loved the illustrator and author Peter Spier since I was a child. I have recently come across an interesting connection though. Spier has a distinct illustrating style and has won many awards for his children's books.

I was interested in the history of spices and came across an inexpensive volume at one of my favorite used book stores entitled The Spice Cookbook by Avanelle Day and Lillie Stuckey. I picked it up, partially because it had these charming little sketches in it. When I finally got around to reading it, I was struck page after page with how familiar the illustrations seemed. I finally looked in the front to see who the illustrator was, and it turned out to be Jo Spier. I Googled his name, excited by the connection that I thought was sure to be with my old childhood books. Indeed, Jo Spier was Peter Spier's father. Interestingly, Jo Spier was a cartoonist in the Netherlands and was imprisoned (along with his whole family) by the Nazis for an unfavorable cartoon. He spent much of his time drawing on the walls of the children's wing of the concentration camp.

Lisbeth Zwerger

I am planning on appointing a special illustrator for each child that I have... giving a book of that illustrator each birthday or Christmas. I have started with Lisbeth Zwerger for G. Zwerger in not only a wonderful artist, she has an amazing capacity to re-imagine classic stories without being influenced by the dominant cultural icons of our time.

Reason #487 to love AS Byatt

In an interview with the Guardian in 1996, "That Thinking Feeling", Byatt comments on the women's movement (which she finds ghettoizing) and being a creative woman.

Here's an excerpt:
"But today women often slot creativity between childcare and managing the emotional health of the family. As a young mother, Byatt would rush to the library to work for the hour she had a cleaner at home. Her two worlds have constantly 'flickered into one another'. Problems with chapter 23 might get resolved while cooking, between 'one movement of the spoon and the next'.

"She made a bargain with herself that she would write at least four fewer books in order to have four children. With each pregnancy, she took precautions - mental ones. 'I started putting complicated poetry books in the loo and would sit there learning poetry by heart. I was practising, the way you do exercises to get your figure back, but I was more interested in my mind than my figure. It seemed more important and it still does.'"

Monday, June 23, 2008

Free Range Kids

Thanks to BDM for a link to this interesting site. Read more on Lenore Skenazy's site. She says:

"We are not daredevils. We believe in life jackets and bike helmets and air bags. But we also believe in independence.

"Children, like chickens, deserve a life outside the cage. The overprotected life is stunting and stifling, not to mention boring for all concerned.

"So here’s to Free Range Kids, raised by Free Range Parents willing to take some heat. I hope this web site encourages us all to think outside the house."


The James Bond 007 Film Festival continues this Friday night


Because “Once is Never Enough,” the Rosslyn Business Improvement District is holding its second annual free film festival in Gateway Park at the foot of Key Bridge in Arlington - just one block from the Rosslyn Metro.

The James Bond 007 Film Festival will be held every Friday night May 2 through August 22, except July 4. The movies will start at dusk, and are free and open to the public. Sixteen of 007’s best features will be shown on the huge outdoor screen, rain or shine. Moviegoers can stake out a spot and place low lawn chairs, blankets, and picnic in Gateway Park beginning at 7pm.

Bond enthusiasts are encouraged to dress up as their favorite 007 Villain (such as Odd Job and Nick Nack) for costume contests before the film starts. Prizes will be available from Rosslyn Film Fest co-sponsors Continental Modern Pool Lounge and Synetic Theatre. The BID has partnered with the Georgetown Film Festival to operate the 16-week event.

Movie Dates & List:

06.13 Live and Let Die (1973)
06.20 The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
06.27 The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
07.11 Moonraker (1979)
07.18 For Your Eyes Only
07.25 Octopussy (1983)
08.01 A View to a Kill (1985)
08.08 GoldenEye (1995)
08.15 Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
08.22 Die Another Day (2006)

Isn't It Romantic?

The Ethics and Public Policy Center in DC is hosting a summer film series every Tuesday evening. Since when did the EPPC get so mushy!? Jk. I think it's great.

Start: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 5:30 PM
End: Tuesday, August 5, 2008 5:30 PM

Follow the evolution of the movie romance from Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable in It Happened One Night to Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally. EPPC Resident Scholar James Bowman, film and cultural critic of the American Spectator and author of the booka Honor: A History and Media Madness, will host a summer movie series with commentary by Leon Kass (of the American Enterprise Institute and the University of Chicago) and Amy Kass (of the Hudson Institute and the University of Chicago).

The series will take place on successive Tuesday evenings between June 17, 2008 and August 5, 2008 from 5:30 to 9:00.

E-mail your name and phone number, along with a list of the dates you would like to attend, to events@eppc.org or call 202-682-1200. Please note: Attendance is limited. Preference will be given to those who plan to attend all eight weeks.


  • June 17: It Happened One Night (1934)
    Directed by Frank Capra, starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable.
    [James Bowman's introductory remarks: audio | text ]
  • June 24: The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
    Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, starring Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart.
  • July 1: The Philadelphia Story (1940)
    Directed by George Cukor, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.
  • July 8: Brief Encounter (1945)
    Directed by David Lean, starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard.
  • July 15: An Affair to Remember (1957)
    Directed by Leo McCarey, starring Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant.
  • July 22: The Apartment (1960)
    Directed by Billy Wilder, starring Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon.
  • July 29: Annie Hall (1977)
    Directed by Woody Allen, starring Diane Keaton and Woody Allen.
  • August 5: When Harry Met Sally (1989)
    Directed by Rob Reiner, starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal.


I recently went backpacking in the Dolly Sods of West Virginia with my husband, sister and a few friends. We had a great time sleeping in our cars, waking up in the midst of a group of sinewy runners preparing for a 40 mile race, hiking through a mystical forest, getting rained on-hard!-setting up camp cold and wet, and hiking down in perfect sunlight to swim in Red Creek.

On the drive home I realized how great it was that we had been rained on so hard! It really took you out of being a tourist in nature, to being completely immersed. I talked with my Grandpa about it and he said, that in his estimation it really takes three days of being out to get you into synch with your surroundings. Thankfully the thunderstorm helped us get shaken out of our having a program and just traipsing through.

Interestingly on Sunday my pastor preached on Psalm 121, where the Psalmist says, "He will not let your feet be moved"--it struck me that that was exactly what was so refreshing about being out backpacking. Each step required an effort of concentration. We can so often go through the day doing ordinary things that we think do not require that much of our own attention, much less the Lord's! Hiking the steep and rocky mountains in West Virginia really illustrated how untrue that is! We need to rely on the Lord's help for each step that we take. It reminded me of the Puritans' method of "spiritualizing" daily activities. When I have time I plan to try and do this with hiking. Meanwhile, I have been told that J Greschem Machen has written a wonderful piece on "Mountains, and Why We Love Them".

By the way. On the way up the mountain we met a family of four backpacking. The eldest was nine and was carrying all of her own weight for the first time, the boy was 6, his first backpacking trip hiking the whole way. I can't wait until G is ready to come with us! Does anyone know of any good sites for tips on backpacking with kids? We've done camping, but it'd be fun to really get G out in the wilderness.

I recently read an article espousing the benefits of nature encounters, esp. for children. Here are the findings: The report's author, Dr William Bird, the health adviser to Natural England and the organiser of a conference on nature and health on Monday, believes children's long-term mental health is at risk. He has compiled evidence that people are healthier and better adjusted if they get out into the countryside, parks or gardens.

Stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces, he says. Even filling a home with flowers and plants can improve concentration and lower stress. "If children haven't had contact with nature, they never develop a relationship with natural environment and they are unable to use it to cope with stress," he said. "Studies have shown that people deprived of contact with nature were at greater risk of depression and anxiety. Children are getting less and less unsupervised time in the natural environment. "They need time playing in the countryside, in parks and in gardens where they can explore, dig up the ground and build dens."

The report, published by Natural England and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, also found that children's behaviour and school work improve if their playground has grassy areas, ponds and trees. It also found evidence that hospital patients need fewer painkillers after surgery if they have views of nature from their bed.

Biking, anyone?

This trail ride sounds great! Who knew you could ride from Washington DC to Pittsburgh (or the other way around)? The Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal connect and give you 300+ miles of smooth (ish!) sailing. You can rough it by camping or stay in motels/hotels/hostels/B&Bs. There are all sorts of options, from day trips to 11 days.
Lots of people have sample itineraries and FAQs about the trip. Here are some that I found helpful: http://www.bikewashington.org/canal/, http://shaw-weil.com/linkup/index.htm
(plus the GAP logo is great!)