Thursday, December 31, 2020

On My Bookshelf: December

An interesting fact about me: after college, I didn't read as often. Sure, there were romance novels and historical books, and reading for work, but I really didn't read for pleasure for a long time. My undergrad and graduate studies burned me out to some degree, so I kept everything very casual.

Since the beginning of COVID, I've read more than I have in years. There are books that I haven't included in the blog posts, shorter pieces that I've read electronically. These past months are a reminder that I really love reading, and need to keep it as a part of my daily schedule. It's such an enriching part of my life that I left out for too long. 

The month of December has been especially good for reading now that I'm on a brief recess from school. I haven't taken a day off from virtual learning (except Thanksgiving break) and it is such a relief. Even though I'm working from home, it's still time-consuming! And I'm trying hard to give myself space to heal after COVID.

by Colleen Houck

I'm going to be very honest about this one; I liked the cover and bought it. It helped that it was on sale too! I've noticed lately that I've been drawn to stories about witches and all things fantastical. I wonder if there has been a growing trend for these genres. 2020 has been a rough year and I can see people needing a form of escapism, even if it's just within the covers of a book.

There's definitely a steampunk vibe here mixed in with the magic and fantasy. The author has done an excellent job of painting a picture of both the human and monster worlds, tying them together neatly in the storyline. It's a light read, more of a YA novel, but fun nonetheless. 

I'm in love with this author's tone. I know that sounds really weird, but seriously! His take on monsters and myths speaks to my soul. He's mildly sarcastic but also respectful of the stories of the different stories he relates. I have this one on my nightstand and I read a chapter every night. It certainly wasn't creepy, more thought-provoking. How do these stories relate to each other? When did different parts of the world all agree about the existence of vampires or ghosts? Why is the night so vast and dark and full of terrible creatures that want to eat your face off?

By Jerry Craft

Meet Jordan, a 7th-grade student who is enrolled in an expensive, preppy, mostly-white school. While he makes friends fast, he suffers through many moments that make him feel out of place as black and from the city. This graphic novel walks through one year of his time at the school, and how he coped with different things, from taking the long bus ride to microaggressions from teachers.

Let me start by saying, if you are a teacher, BUY THIS BOOK IMMEDIATELY. While I've seen and heard racism outright in school, the details of how Jordan and some of his friends experienced an all-white school was made crystal clear by direct language and thoughtful illustrations. This book made me look closer at myself as a teacher, examine my behavior, and make plans for the future. It was so real, and I applaud the author for overcoming the negative experiences and putting his story out there for everyone to learn from. 

By John Updike, Illustrations by Edward Gorey

Let's begin with the fact that Edward Gorey is brilliantly terrible. His book, The GashlyCrumb Tinies, contains all describe the 26 gruesome tales of children and their mortality. That is not this book, but I believe John Updike captures the essence of such horrible things, and it is fantastic. One of my favorite lines: "A man of no plausible address, with no apparent source for his considerable wealth, comes down the chimney after midnight while decent, law-abiding citizens are snug in their beds-is this not, at least, cause for alarm?" While very short, I plan to read this to my future children to remind them that Christmas is scary and weird.

By Yao Xiao

This graphic novel describes the experience of Yao Xiao as an immigrant to the United States, as well as her coming out as bisexual to her family and friends. While it is a quick read, this one settles in your soul. Buy it immediately and thank me later.

Yao Xiao's story sticks to your ribs like oatmeal, her illustrations the sprinkle of cinnamon on top. I admire her simplistic but detailed drawings that capture each moment in minute detail, taking the reader along on just so many emotions. Feeling exposed and vulnerable? Check. Alone? Yes. Strong and proud? Totally. This is another one I want in my classroom ASAP because she tells her story so well.


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Holiday Nights: Greenfield Village 2020

 I was a little worried this year about Holiday Nights. We missed out on the Hallowe'en event in October when I was sick with COVID, but the weather loomed with a rainstorm. Luckily we were able to sneak past the drizzle and have an amazing time! I'd like to add that Greenfield Village had some awesome guidelines, including only 25% capacity, hand sanitizer, required masks, and social distancing rules. Is it wrong for me to wish for something similar in the future??

Whenever I go to Holiday Nights, I have a checklist; say hi to people I know, eat a beef sandwich, drink some eggnog, sit by the fire, tease a Krampus, and enjoy some roasted chestnuts on the way out. Also, take some cute pictures with my fiance :) By my usual standards, this year was a success!

By Kristen COVID was something. This was the most steps I've done (with my tracker) in over 3 months. By the time I made it to the car, my chest really hurt and I had trouble breathing. Every so often we had to stop to let me sit and breathe, which was annoying with all of the fun things to see! My finance is totally patient and understanding with my recovery, but knows when to slow me down. He made sure I didn't get up when I was dizzy and wheezing, though I felt like a million years old!

I'm glad we were able to end 2020 on a good note. I hope you've had a safe and fun holiday!


Friday, December 25, 2020

A Very Krampus Christmas

I've started getting into Warhammer 40k as of late. The back story, the armies, the lore, all come together to make a fantastically crazy universe. There are humans but daemons and magic and monsters and literally every nightmare ever. At times it is a bit bleak, but then again it's 2020, so why not?

Recently I purchased a set of deamon bloodletters, which should be painted red. Instead, I gave each one a tail and a tale; this little band of monsters stumbled upon a sleepy village in the throes of Christmas cheer. What horrors have befallen the town? Well, take a look!

*I am only slightly apologizing for my dark humor here. I believe Christmas should be a little scarier.

Merry Christmas! From this Krampus household to yours!


Thursday, December 17, 2020

19th Century Funny Gift Idea: Ornamental Lamp Cap

As the holiday season pushes into full swing, I find myself with a ridiculous amount of gifts to make. I've participated in a gift swap; I made a ton of fun things that took all of my energy for a while. I usually make presents from my fiance's mom, starting with a scrapbook and a few other things. And of course the obligatory cute gift for my fiance. After all of this creating, I just need something else...

Godey's Lady's Book, February 1858


THESE little fanciful articles have their use as well as their prettiness, being designed to fit the tops of the chimney glasses of the table lamps, for the purpose of excluding the dust. They are extremely suitable for trifling presents, for fancy fairs, and for Christmas trees. Being in various colors, they are very showy, and require but little time to make.

The directions are extremely simple. The margin is made of a piece of ribbon sewn up and folded so as to be double, and of half its own width. This is sewn into a little round, also double, with a white chalk seed bead on every stitch. On the top is placed a little branch of artificial flowers, standing rather up on one side in the style of a feather, and round the cap is carried a quilling of ribbon in small plaits, which completes the trimming.

I definitely know the purpose of this gift. Keeping dust out of a lamp is important when said lamp is the only source of light in a room. I get that 100% and have no qualms about the utility of such an item. We often take for granted our access to modern technology, as this item is unnecessary today.

But seriously. It is so Victorian. It is a ton of ribbon and flowers and prettiness to cover the top of a lamp. Do you want to know what else is terrible? I want one. I NEED ONE. And no, I don't keep lamps around the house (cats) so this is an item that has no purpose. My Grandma Dolly would have called this a "ditzy shitzy," because it is cute, but not needed. Please note: even the author sees this as "very showy." And somehow a thing for Christmas trees. What? I need it more now.

Just know this. One day I would like to make one of these things. This silly, pretty little lamp cap.


Thursday, December 10, 2020

A Trip to the Botanical Gardens

Recently we had to drive to Cleveland to pick up a vehicle; shipping in and out of our state was not feasible for this model, so we decided to stay overnight in the city. As a side note, I don't have the stamina to drive for 7+ hours, so the hotel was a necessity!

This was the first time I've really "left" to go anywhere during the pandemic. All of my trips were canceled pretty early in the year, so really my only time away was to a house on the lake (which was still totally awesome!). It was oddly comforting to see the hotel nearly empty; we never really saw any guests, except for the front desk attendant. Everyone wore a mask and different protocols were in place which helped with safety too. Overall I wasn't very nervous about it, and I'm counting on those antibodies to help too.

Because we were in a different city, I scoured the area for outdoor activities, which are in abundance this Christmas season. I found an event through The Cleveland Botanical Gardens that offered a safe experience in their Glasshouse and outdoor gardens. At first, I was anxious about the short indoor portion, but when we arrived it was apparent they'd put some thought into safety.

1. All tickets were timed, with only a few people per hour. We only saw two families when we walked through the main areas. 

2. Everyone was required to wear masks at all times. I didn't see any issues with this, but then again I didn't see very many people, which is also awesome. 

3. They stopped foodservice and instructed people to drink outdoors, where they spaced out tables/chairs, along with heaters so people were more likely to stay out there.

4. There were people cleaning at different intervals.

5. They kept a flow of traffic inside and outside, meaning it was easy to keep apart. Arrows clearly marked direction, and it kept people separate. 

6. People mostly stayed the **** away from us, which is an awesome thing that I would like to continue after the pandemic. I don't like when people I don't know get too physically close!

Is it wrong that I absolutely LOVE this? I feel like pre-pandemic life was all squished together, as more people equals more money. Now with the distance, we can really enjoy a space without a crowd of a hundred people lurking about. There was an emphasis on going outdoors, something that is missed during the winter. And I seriously think Krampus should be involved in every family gathering from this point onward!

So we walked around and enjoyed the site. I had to stop every little part of the way to take a break; the outdoor area had heaters and chairs, so that was easy. I was pretty exhausted for most of it, but I can see the importance of pushing myself a little, especially if there is another bench twenty feet away! It has taken about three days to recover from the visit; darn this recovery time. The day after the visit I could barely lift my arms, so I'm still working on feeling better. At least I had the chance to look at something pretty!

With the holidays just around the corner, this trip has inspired me to work a little harder to finish my Christmas presents and decorate the house. Of course, it takes me FOREVER to decorate, an eternity when doing it slowly, but I'll eventually get there. And I'm leaving the decorations up for at least a few months...


On My Bookshelf: December

December has been a really rough month. Between what happened in Oxford (not far from where I live...) and just the general pandemic issues,...