Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The trees in our yard don't realize just how cold and nasty it is. Spring hasn't quite sprung for us yet but our little plum tree, really more like a scrub at this point, is glorious in its pink blooms and the lilacs bushes are sprouting leaves. Can't wait until they bloom - lilacs mean home. Picking lilacs with my dad was an annual event when I was a little girl - I can close my eyes and smell them. My father and I didn't have a very good relationship, well pretty much no relationship, after my mom died. But, as a little girl I thought the world revolved around him - at least mine did. For years purple was my favorite color, and it still is to a degree - but now it is deep purplish blue as the color blue has become an integral part of my life. I am becoming my mother without even trying and I am proud to see myself resembling the incredible woman my mom was - even down to her forgetfulness. Just about every place mat I have bought for both the dining room and kitchen table are shades of blue and I wake up every morning to Georgia O'Keefe's 1925 Petunia that looks like it has blueberries in the center. I didn't notice the resemblance to blueberries until very recently but it makes me smile as I think of mom busy picking wild blueberries.

But, lilacs will not bloom in Florida - they need a cold freeze to bloom. But, there are lilacs that bloom in Texas, Denton to be exact. White Lilacs, written by Carolyn Meyer in the mid 90's s a poignant YA novels for tweens about the prejudice of a small Texas town - comparing the life of young Rose Lee who lives in the all African American Freedomtown until the white folks run them out and create a park for the young women of Texas Woman's University - not called that yet in the 1920's. Yes, I remember this book in part because of the symbolism of the lilac blooming even in the worst of times, but also because I went to school at TWU. It is still in print, which says a lot about the quality and appeal of the novel.

Why did I mention lilacs won't bloom in Florida? We will be moving to FL if/when our home here in Lexington sells. We are in no hurry so I will surely get to see our lilacs bloom this summer. That's why we drove to the Miami area during Spring Break - to get some idea where we'd like to live. I can say it certainly will not be Miami proper. I thought the drivers in Dallas were nuts - they are old ladies in Buicks compared to the drivers on I95 in Miami. I laughed out loud at the below term from Urban Dictionary. Let's just say I wore the "passenger brake" out in the car! We will be looking a bit farther north or south where doing 75 mph isn't considered standing still.

March 26: Passenger Brake
The passenger brake is the nonexistent brake pedal located on the floor of the passenger (shotgun) side of the front seat of your car. It is used instinctively by the passenger when the driver is driving insanely too fast, and the car needs to come quickly to a stop, which may not seem very possible at that particular moment. It is sometimes used in conjunction with the OH SHIT handle by the passenger door.
Doris was using her passenger brake all the freaking way here. She's the one who made us late getting started from home by taking so long to get herself ready! I was just trying to make up some time getting through traffic...

My YA book for today is Lara M. Zeises' The Sweet Life of Stella Madison, a Delacorte title that will come out in July. Lara calls herself a foodie and her love of food is very evident in this delightful YA novel about the daughter of foodie parents have been separated for years, but are still very close. Stella's mother is the grounded one with the business sense whereas her father is the chef who closes his own restaurant down for a period each year to travel throughout Europe to savor new foods, but mostly new wines. Stella has worked at her mother's restaurant, the Open Kitchen, where guest chefs are "on stage" to cook for a loyal following as well as new converts. Stella is content in her relationship with boyfriend - sweet Max. That is until her mother hires a new intern who looks as good as he cooks! Stella's crush on Jeremy and his flirtatious behavior toward her is not helping matters any. Exactly how far do you have to go to consider it cheating on your boyfriend? Does taking Jeremy to dinner at your father's restaurant count? Does thinking about him way too much count? Does wanting him to kiss you count? Stella's BFF's tell her to get a grip, but Stella's hormones are not making it easy. To further complicate her life, Stella is offered a summer newspaper internship and her own column, The Sweet Life of Stella Madison, in which she writes about food, mostly as a restaurant critic. Stella is not a foodie like her parents - she'd just as soon stop at Burger King. But, with some help from the gorgeous Jeremy, Stella realizes she is not so unlike her parents. Many of the chapters begin with the evening menu at the Open Kitchen, which I am sure will make many readers' mouths water. I hate to admit it, but I skipped them after the first one - like reading a foreign language to me. Foodie I am not - hard to be when you don't' eat any diary and have recently also added soy to the "no-no" list. However, this non-foodie loves Stella and her antics at the Open Kitchen as well as dealing with two guys and two best friends and parents who may be falling in love, but not with each other. A delicious read to say the least!

I'll be teaching an Early Childhood Materials course this summer so I have been reading lots of board books and other fun books for little ones. The Bedtime Train by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Jamison Odone. stands out, not only for it's large size, but for its beauty. However, be careful using it with little ones prone to nightmares as there are growling bears, dinosaurs and alligators galore as a little boy and Brad, the train engineer who looks a lot like Dad, go on a rhyming night time ride. The illustrations compliment the text beautifully and are in muted colors so that even the growling bears are not so scary - especially when the little boy sits on the edge of his bed and sticks his tongue out at them. :-) With the wolves and cold, it reminds me a bit of The Polar Express by Van Allsburg but this has no holiday theme. The illustrations, especially the little boy, remind me more of Sendak's In the Night Kitchen with their dream like feel. And anyone who has read my blog knows this is an all time favorite of mine. Although some of the creatures are a bit creepy, this is the perfect storybook for the little boys who love trains. They'll be joining in on the "Chugga-chugga, toot-toot. Chugga-chugga, toot-toot." refrain. The illustrations are rich in detail and little ones will find new details each time their parents (especially dads) are asked to read it again and again. It doesn't have to bedtime to share this delightful book about a little boy and his ingenious ways to save the day, or I should say night, with gumballs. :-) Cowley has been awarded the New Zealand Commemorative Medal for her service to children's literature. This Front Street publication of what started out as a story in Highlights magazine comes alive through Odone's incredible art. There are pages I'd love proofs of to frame and put on my wall.

Okay, on the not so fun stuff - grading.