Category Archives: Family

A Proustian Moment

Who is that outrageously adorable little Irish girl? Oh right! It’s me!

When I was three, my father took a sabbatical and moved my family to his birthplace of Cork, Ireland. For nine months, we lived with my Great Aunt Kal, the sister of my late grandmother. Auntie Kal was a wonderful woman who in many ways served as one half of a surrogate for the grandmother I never met. I don’t remember much from the following year–a game of blind man’s bluff in the greenhouse, playing in light dusting of snow, a particularly foggy day–but the one thing that I will always associate with my great aunt are her scones and homemade raspberry jam.

Sorry to go all Marcel Proust on you, but I don’t think there could be anything more perfect than Kal’s jam and scones. There are entire childhoods wrapped up in those scones; for me, being scolded for cutting my own hair (and then lying about it after very obviously throwing both the hair and the scissors in the kitchen bin) to sitting in a different kitchen a dozen years later, cheating at a crossword puzzle with my cousin by filling in the remaining boxes with whatever words would fit. I know my sister has her own stories tied to those scones, and I’m guessing Kal’s children and grandchildren have theirs as well.

Auntie Kal passed away while I was in college, and for the last few years prior to that, she was not in a state to be baking. The last time I had her scones and raspberry jam was during a trip to Ireland the summer that I was 17. Unfortunately, those final scones will forever be tainted with the realization that her sharp mind was already succumbing to dementia and that they would probably mark the last time I saw my Aunt as I remembered her.

Since her death, her recipes have been passed down to various relations scattered around the Anglo-Irish countryside. My cousins in Northern Ireland took over jam-making duties, while a cousin in Dublin is the keeper of the scone recipe. Both have generously shared the fruits of their labor, but an ocean is a long distance for a pot of jam, and scones do not travel especially well. I harassed both cousins until they handed over their respective recipes and cooking tips, and a year ago made my first attempt during a six-week visit with F and E in New Haven.

F found a nearby u-pick farm where you practically steal the fruit from the vines–something like $5/lb of raspberries. Sadly, we got super lost on the way and only had about ten minutes to pick two pounds of berries and so did not have a huge quantity of jam at the end of the day. I cautiously hoarded my share until my sister’s birthday and Thanksgiving so that my family could approve, and it was at least enough of a success that we tried it again this year.

This month’s six-week visit was scheduled for E’s house on Long Island. After F put the fear of God in her, she called nearly every farm in the surrounding region until she found one with raspberries. Our chauffeur, Matt I (also known as E’s husband) drove us there on Saturday, and we wrestled some bees to collect 6 pints of the best berries. These we supplemented with some frozen ones F had gotten at the u-steal farm in Connecticut, and we got down to making jam! I’m super lazy, though, so I just used pictures from last year.

Raspberry Jam

For every pound of rasberries, use a half a pound of granulated sugar (technically, the recipe we were given calls for equal weights sugar and berries, but we promptly ignored that and it turne out fine). This past time, we had three pounds of raspberries so:

3 lbs raspberies
1.5 lbs sugar
10 8 oz jars and lids for canning
2 large stock pots

To begin with, put the canning jars in the dishwasher. You want these to be extra clean so you don’t get botulism and die. If you don’t have a dishwasher, seriously? It’s 2011, people. Update your kitchen.

Next, wash all your raspberries! If you got them from a farm like us, you will probably find all sorts of new friends living in them and will want to cry as you spend hours trying to drown them all.

Now put all of your raspberries in a large pot. Turn the heat to medium and simmer gently for ten minutes. The rasberries will begin to break up and your wooden spoon will start to turn a pleasing shade of magenta.

Add the sugar. This is where it gets iffy, because the recipe just says, “stir until dissolved and boil rapidly until setting point is reached. Pot and cover in usual way.” That is not… terribly informative. Your guess is as good as mine on what the setting point is. Both times, F and I have just said, “Ok, I think that looks good?” and started canning. My best idea is to treat it like you would a custard–when it starts to thicken and covers the back of a metal spoon, call it a day.

I don’t want to be responsible for you dying from canning incompetence, so you should read about how to “pot and cover in usual way” in this handy-dandy canning guide from Ball.

You can put any leftover jam in a covered bowl in the fridge for your immediate eating needs.

Auntie Kal’s Scones

After some trial and error, I’ve come up with these Americanized measurements:

3 2/3 (3 lbs) cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of Salt
1 t baking soda
2 t cream of tartar
1 T sugar
Stick (4 oz) of unsalted butter
1 egg
1 cup (ish) buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 F.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Cut butter into dry ingredients and incorporate with a fork.

Crack egg into a liquid measuring cup. Add buttermilk on top of egg until you have 1 1/5 cups (half an imperial pint) of liquid. Whisk together lightly.

Add liquid to dry ingredients. Mix together with wooden spoon, and then turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently, just until dough forms a soft ball. Flatten into a circle about a half an inch thick. Cut scones* and lay on greased (or parchment papered) cookie sheet. Brush tops with egg/buttermilk wash.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tops begin to turn golden brown. Serve warm with butter and Kal’s raspberry jam.

Tastes like childhood.

*In my memory, the scones were round with a fluted edge (this could be inaccurate), so I normally use a fluted biscuit cutter. But sometimes I also use a fluted heart-shaped cutter because it’s extra cute that way!

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffles:


While we were at it, we also experimented with raspberry truffles. They were pretty epic, especially considering that we made up the recipe as we went along:

1 cup raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 cups dark chocolate, chopped (Do not use chocolate chips or I will come after you!!)
Plastic fork
Parchment Paper

Set aside 1 cup of the dark chocolate. Put the remaining chocolate in a medium bowl.

Cook the raspberries and sugar in a small saucepan on medium high heat until all the sugar is dissolved and the raspberries start to disintegrate: about 10ish minutes. Or not 10ish minutes–I wasn’t looking at a clock and have a bad sense of time.

Add the cream to the mixture and bring to a vigorous boil, until the mixture is relatively unlumpy. Turn off the heat and carefully pour the mixture over the 1 1/2 cups of chocolate. Wait about 30 seconds, and then stir till all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Cool on the counter until room temperature. Chill in the fridge for about an hour.

Set parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Remove ganache from fridge. It should be solid enough that you can roll into balls, about 1″-1.5″ thick. Place on the cookie sheet and chill for another hour.

Melt the remaining chocolate over a double boiler. If you want to get fancy, learn how to temper chocolate. But I’m guessing you either already know how or can’t be bothered. Break the center two tines of the plastic fork and use this to dip the truffles in the melted chocolate. Place them back on the cookie sheet and cool at room-temperature until chocolate hardens, or if you’re lazy and impatient, in the fridge.

Makes 12 truffles which won’t last long enough for you to take a picture.

The Blame Game

Oh sweet readers, I have neglected you. I haven’t posted anything in almost three weeks. I am falling so far behind on my Neville Longbottom goals that I had to return all the books to my library. I even hid behind KLang’s post instead of writing myself. I didn’t mean to do it! It just happened. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to write about, in fact–just the opposite. THERE’S TOO MANY THINGS. I have three or four unpublished posts sitting in my drafts folder right now, waiting for time or photos or inspiration. And then there are all the things I haven’t started on, like The Hanson Project (epic!), or tubing two weeks ago (drunk!), or the Everton football game (epic and drunk!). And it takes time to do all these things I should be writing about. There are lasagnas to be made and beers to drink and Korean dramas to be watched–it all leaves very little time for writing!

You could blame me for not making time. You probably should. But it’s a handy family trait of mine to shift blame, so instead, let me tell you about all the other people you should blame instead.

A & Mr. A

Jerks.

Three weeks ago, A and her husband, Mr. A, descended upon me in DC, and like, expected me to hang out with them. Now hopefully there will be a forthcoming blog post about their insolence, but until then just know that they forced me go to a totally lame drunken tailgate + soccer game and take them to museums and eat meals with them and stuff. I would have way rather have been sitting at home in a cave if antisocial solitude writing a new blog post, but I guess when your oldest friend comes to visit, crappy social norms dictate that you should spend time with them.

KS, KLin, S-Dubs and Genghis Khan

GK hiding just out of frame. Rest of culprits pictured.

A & Mr. A had barely left when a new series of house invaders arrived. Again, they kept kidnapping me and taking me to places like Bob’s Noodles 66 (I love you stinky tofu!!), on a lengthy tubing trip, and to a remote island called Catan where I proved once again to be the most resourceful Settler. And GK practically held me at gunpoint until I made everyone oatmeal-cookie-cinnamon-ice-cream-sandwiches from scratch. I guess that’s what happens when you let a centuries-old, murderous lunatic sleep in your living room. And in a haze of Stockholm syndrome, I also made KS and GK lasagna, homemade goldfish, blueberry muffins, and more cookies. After that, there was simply no time left for writing!

My new Penpal

Ok, so there was a little time left for writing. Which is why you should definitely, definitely blame my new penpal. Several months ago, I signed up for a penpal on Forever Young Adult. I heard nothing for a long, long time, and then a few weeks ago, I finally received my freshly-assigned virtual bff. We hit it off, even if I cannot ever hope to compare to Penpal’s coolness. Just look at what she sent me most recently:

Yeah, that’s a page out of a custom fairytale book she sent me called “Alix is a Ballerina Princess.” So what if the plot makes less than no sense? It has my name on every page. Even my parents never loved me enough to buy me such a book!

In order to keep up with such generosity, I have been directing much of my writing energy into sending Penpal letters. And who can blame me? She also sent me a seriously excellent mix CD, WITH LINER NOTES. Except she forgot to put any music on it, so as an apology, she made me this sweet music video. Obviously, I had to reciprocate. I spent more time than I would like to admit making some elaborate stationery (it involved sewing), stenciling a t-shirt (you’ll hear more about this sometime before October 8), and making my own CD to send back. This, in turn, fueled another blame-riddled project…

KS and GK

A rare, non-food-related picture.

Yep, so guilty they got two separate bullet points! You see, after KS left us forever and refused to hangout on google+, he decided he’d swing back to DC to pick up his car and drive across country with GK. They are currently somewhere in New Mexico, and as far as I can tell, eating and sending us pictures of their food comprises the full extent of their road trip activities. That, and listening to the 14-volume mix CD set I made for them.

It has been my job to make CDs for family road trips ever since college, when L and I drove to K’s parent’s house with only the radio at our disposal. This was also the time when “Hot N Cold” by Katy Perry came out, and it was literally all any radio station would play. We must have heard that song at least a dozen times during the short trip from Boston to central Connecticut before giving up entirely and listening to some Jesusy station. After that, I always take it upon myself to provide my own soundtrack.

Still, it’s a far cry from making a single mix tape for a couple hour drive to making 14 CD set for a two week road trip in which I’m not even a participant. This is where Penpal is partially to blame. See, I was busy making my mix to send to her when something like this conversation happened:

L: Alix is really good at making mix CDs. She makes them for all our road trips! I got a 6-CD set for our last trip to Connecticut!
KS: You’re going to make some for our Road trip, right?
GK: Yeah, you just bought a 25 pack of blank CDs just to make one. So now I expect no less than 24 mix CDs for our trip.

Being the idiot that I am, I actually went along with this plan. Ok, not all 24, but quite a few. I made one for each state they’re driving through (two for Texas) and then wrote liner notes for all of them. I also tacked on a “mistake” CD, because I made the mistake of letting my father see some of my notes. And then my entire family felt the need to criticize my musical choices and harass me about all the important state-related songs I “forgot to include.” I ignored most of their suggestions, but kept this one:

As you might imagine, this project took a hefty chunk of time. Which is why you should blame KS and GK for their selfish behavior. I, as usual, am faultless.

J.K. Rowling

Damn, these books are long! I’m in the middle of year four and it wasn’t until page 167 that our hero, Hipster Neville, finally made an appearance! I still have well over 500 pages to make it through, and then ANOTHER THREE BOOKS. Normally I would be happy about having so much to read, but not in this instance. I’m beginning to regret this whole Neville project. Not enough that I won’t do it, but enough that it’s going to take me much longer than expected to finish. The preservation of my sanity is a good cause–please forgive me Jo Rowling.

AT&T

Since last Friday, I’ve been visiting my sister in Austin. Unfortunately, she just moved back into her house following some renovations and has not had the internet reconnected. This is not through any fault of her own, but I will blame AT&T, who scheduled the date to come and turn on the internet for THREE WEEKS after they initially called. As a result, there is still no internet. No internet makes it hard to blog. I am currently loitering in a coffee shop, where I think a mumblecore drama just took place in line behind me. Make sure to read this in your most expressionless voice:

Boy: What’s that?
Girl: Quiche.
Boy: That’s a quiche?
Girl: Yes.
Boy. Is that French?
Girl: Mm.
Boy: Oh. Because I think saw something like that at La Madaleine.
Long pause…
Boy: Can we get on the internet here?
Girl: I think so.
Boy: Cool.
Another long pause… boy points at menu.
Boy: You know how they like, write stuff? I couldn’t do that.
Girl: Me neither. My handwriting is so bad.
Boy: You wouldn’t be able to read it if I wrote it.
More Pausing.

At that moment, the barista finished ringing me up, so I missed the rest of that riveting conversation. Lucky, too, because another minute of that and I would have had to strangle myself on one of the many decorative lamps hanging from the ceiling here. Now all I have to endure is the emo cover of “My Boyfriend’s Back” that’s currently assaulting my ears.

Austin

But in the conspiracy for my negligence, the entire city of Austin is clearly the biggest offender. It’s just too distracting! There are too many tacos to eat, bats to visit, fried avocados to eat, movies to see, pools to swim in, fried avocado tacos to eat… mostly there’s a great deal of eating. It’s a good thing I don’t actually live here because I’d weigh about 300 pounds, and it’s just too hot for that level of obesity. But for now, I never want to leave.

Fried Avocado = Best Invention Ever

Thanks for the memories

My grandfather, taken by a friend a month before his death

Yesterday, a little present appeared in my dropbox–my Aunt Fancy, amongst other snippets of family history, gave me access to my grandfather’s memoirs. I only just learned of their existence and was eager to read them. He died a decade before I was born, and although I’ve heard stories about him over the years, I’m acutely aware now how little I know about him. Just last week, I found out that when The War of the Worlds was first broadcast, he was a freshman at Princeton. Upon hearing that the martians had landed in a nearby New Jersey town, he and his friends naturally went out looking for them.

This story is sadly not in his memoirs, as they are largely unfinished. He started writing as he was dying of colon cancer, and made his last trip to the hospital just a few months later. The entire document is only 36 pages long. My Gramma typed it up and added a foreword after his death–how, I know not. I never met the man and I didn’t make it through the second paragraph without crying.
That is not to say that it’s not happy book, because it is. Full of quirky anecdotes, from cheerful stories about his time in the army to a description of getting his hair cut in Camden, New Jersey at age four. The brief pages he recorded span three very different time periods–prosperity in the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and World War II–all in the context of his quotidian life.
It ends abruptly with a recollection about how his father had really bad dandruff. Although most of the stories are comical and upbeat, there is an underlying sadness throughout, not so much for the loss of life, but for the loss of memory that comes with death. I found his introduction to be particularly poignant, so much so that I am going share it with you now:

Perhaps because I have read so many hack works I have concluded that anyone who completes the first effort at writing is pretentious. I never figured out how I felt about the author of the second book. O.K., If you feel that way, why are you sitting at a desk with pens and blank pads?

First, I am age 56, dying of cancer and have been forced to give up a very active and demanding career. I am ill prepared for an inability to be active. The temptation to vegetate, unshaven, in a bathrobe and stare at the TV is overwhelming. I hope writing will be a form of discipline that will lift me out of that situation.

Two, for years as a very successful trust officer in a bank, I urged the elderly to jot down their recollections for the benefit of future generations. I once knew a lady who personally had negotiated with John. D. Rockefeller. What a loss when she died without recording that event. I tried to impress on the elderly their obligation to share lives with posterity. I have lived more than 50 glorious love-filled years from a period when horse-drawn vehicles were not uncommon to the rocket to the moon. Surely someone someday may benefit from a description of life during such a swift-moving era.

Third, I desperately want to create some footprints. In contemplating my death, it occurred to me that approximately four billion people have died, and I wondered how many are remembered. My mother and father, thoroughly decent, kind people who led constructive lives, will cease to exist even in memory in another 30 years. The modest tombstones we erect are really small versions of the Egyptian pyramids. But we do remember the pharaohs, if only because of the stature of their monuments. A monument I am not attempting to create. It is my hope, though, that for a few generations at least some of my posterity will get some enjoyment of being exposed to Ed and Janet West. And maybe they will be inspired to do the same thing. Wouldn’t it be grand if this became the beginning of a library of recollections? I hope I do a good job.

As my sister put it so eloquently, “I wish, for so many reasons, that he’d been able to finish it.” What he completed barely scratches the surface of a lifetime of memories. About half of it is devoted to his parents, whom he says he hardly knew. This, while valuable, leaves even less room for his own life; he never even made it to my Gramma and their children. I also know that he nearly died in the war, but this is merely alluded to but never discussed. And though yes, I could call up my mom right now and ask for more details, I will never hear that story firsthand.

There’s something very powerful about reading my grandfather’s own words; even stories I’ve heard a dozen times seem significantly more vivid now, like seeing a painting in person previously only seen through a discolored, slightly blurry art history slide. I know I’ve been told on more than one occasion about my grandfather’s brother being appointed the Blaine Anderson of his college a capella group despite being completely tone deaf. Apparently there was stiff octet competition between fraternities. Described as “positively the most handsome guy I ever knew,” my great uncle’s job was to stand there looking dreamy in his tails while mouthing the words to all the songs. Until yesterday, I would have gotten about 17 details of that story wrong and also could not have named the relation in question. But after seeing it as one of the things my grandfather chose to immortalize, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

Reading his memoirs was especially bittersweet because it reminded me not only of how little I know about my grandfather, but how little I know about everyone in my life. Even people I see every day–who was the policeman who marched their four-year-old self back home after trying to run away, as my grandfather did? What is their martian-hunting college story? And those are the people I can still ask. My paternal grandmother also died before I was born, my Gramma when I was twelve, and my paternal grandfather has suffered from Alzheimers for the past several years. I’ve missed the boat on all of these people. Aging and death are not inherently sad, but the loss of memories is.

I’ve decided to embark on a project–my own little version of StoryCorps–wherein every day this month, I am sending out a letter to someone I love, asking for a story in return. One is already in the mail. I’m not asking for a memoir, just something that makes me know you a little better. So if you get a letter from me, whether you’re 85 or 19, please respond. My grandfather thanks you.

You have died of dysentery.

Last week, my sister, brother-in-law and I went to visit my Aunt and Uncle Fancy in Fort Collins, Colorado, and boy was it exciting! That is not sarcasm. Some might argue that this vacation was a little too exciting.

It all started pleasantly, seeing their house for the first time, going to a pub and having some local beer, feeling foolishly out of shape due to the increase in altitude. Then the next day, we went up to Rocky Mountain National Park, and although we couldn’t do much hiking due to the insane amount of snow still on the ground, we enjoyed a picnic lunch on a rock next to a frozen lake.

Not bad picnic grounds

We drove around at lower elevation and saw our first Colorado wildlife–a herd of elk–and also learned that everything in Colorado looks like a graphic from Oregon Trail.

You shot 324 pounds of elk, but could only carry 200 pounds back to your wagon.

Everything was going swimmingly until the next day. While Sister and Brother-in-law were out hunting for moose poop or something, I was busy racing Lance Armstrong down Long’s Peak. I was losing when all of a sudden, HOLY SHIT! This mountain lion jumped out of NOWHERE and started chasing me! Well that was scary enough for me to pull ahead of Lance, but in the process, I felt something go awry in my foot. After leaving Lance to deal with the mountain lion himself, I biked over to an urgent care facility on the power of residual adrenaline alone. They x-rayed my leg and told me I had an avulsion fracture–not surprising given how incredibly athletic and strong I am. The doctor put me in temporary cast and told me to hobble around on crutches until I got back to DC and saw a real orthopedist.
One of the downsides of all this is that we were all supposed to go up to my aunt and uncle’s family cabin (Quarter Dome Ranch) that night and were delayed till the following day because of my injury. I guess fate had intervened, because upon arrival, we opened up the cabin log-book (Volume 1) and found that I had arrived in Colorado to help build the cabin nine years ago TO THAT DAY! Not only was that a cool coincidence, but it also made me feel incredibly old! Due to my differently-abledness, I spent most of the day sitting on the porch reading about 5 years worth of log book entries and coming up with brilliant antler decorating ideas while everyone else explored QDR and discovered a talent (or lack thereof) for horseshoes. But one thing I was able to do was shoot my uncle’s Red Ryder BB gun, which I’m ashamed to admit is incredibly fun and addicting. Everyone succeeded in hitting the tin can, and we saved our paper plate target for my dad, who (hilariously) has some NRA shooting medals from childhood. My sister even shattered the pin holding the target in place! At this rate, we will be hitting up Ladies Night at her local shooting range in no time.
In keeping with QDR tradition, we toasted to my grandparents, wrote about our adventures in the log book (Volume 2) and locked up the cabin to go back to Fort Collins–very sad, as I would have liked to be able to see the stars at night. We did have the consolation prize of seeing a marmot, gopher snake, a billion pronghorns and even a lynx!!! Of course, the lynx is nothing to that mountain lion who chased me the day before, but it was pretty cool nonetheless.
The next day, we had to return to Denver and eventually fly home. After meeting up with some people for lunch and watching a matinee of X-Men: Babies, we arrived at the airport super early so I would have plenty of time to get to my gate. As it turns out, being in a wheelchair will get you through security in record time, so no problem there. Plus, I got to board the airplane first!
K and L came to pick me up on the other end, and thank God they did because I was in a pretty pathetic state by the time I got back. (Crutches are a lot of work, as it turns out.) KS took me to the doctor the next day, where I got seven more x-rays and…
Surprise!!! My foot’s not broken after all! Instead, I suffered “a moderate ankle sprain,” meaning that I tore two ligaments in my foot. The doctor put me in an air cast, gave me some new instructions, and told me to come back in two weeks. I’m not entirely clear on how Doctor #1 thought my foot was broken when it wasn’t, but at least I’m spending less time on crutches now?
Though, I’m not entirely sure I trust this new doctor. Despite being impeccably dressed everywhere else, he was wearing lavender novelty socks with daisies on them. Any adult who wears socks that my six-year-old self would have coveted should probably not be practicing medicine. I guess time will tell if I need ankle replacement surgery in a few years. Can you replace ankles?

The Last Easter Egg

Every few months, K, L and I (and any other stragglers we find on the road to CT–this time it was our college roommate KLin and L’s boyfriend Matt IV) descend upon K’s parents for a weekend, eat them out of house and home and then steal their crockery. This Easter, I thought it would be nicer if we brought some food with us, so I baked a loaf of bread, made some pesto-mozzarella, brought croissant dough for Sunday brunch and used a previously-pilfered tart dish to make the most accidentally delicious ramp tart on the planet. Unfortunately, all this extra food just meant that instead of eating less of K’s family food, we gorged ourselves on all the delicious things her parents had made, too. More than one of us felt rather punished for our gluttony following Saturday’s feast.

We managed to squeeze in a few activities besides eating, mostly involving decorating foods. First and foremost: hard-boiled eggs! Unfortunately, I never graduated kindergarten and can’t use crayons. I punched a hole through the first egg I tried to decorate. After that I stuck to my best (only) egg-decorating skill, gradients:

Yeah, it’s pretty, but all my eggs look exactly like this. Every. single. year.

The others had more success, KLin especially. Among other things, she made this impressively detailed “Quad” egg to commemorate the ill-fated year that the four of us lived together in one room. But my personal favorite was her creative choice of source material on this South-African-art-inspired egg:

Because we were such successes at decorating eggs, we were put in charge of artistically arranging the salads for dinner. This had mixed results. While KLin’s salads were certainly… interesting, L was the only one who seemed to be able to have any sort of discerning eye for salad making. One of my favorite cookbooks has a hilarious section in the middle where they juxtapose two pictures of something and then caption it with things like “Good Pie. Ugly Pie,” or “Perfect Cream. Curdled Cream.” I could not help thinking of this as we inspected all the salads.

The next day, it was of course time for our annual Easter egg hunt. I won last year, but K is a pretty fierce competitor. After her parents did the hiding, the five of us raced out to find the eggs. We found all but one pretty quickly, but the last egg proved elusive. K’s dad smugly asserted that he knew which one we missed but refused to give any clues to its whereabouts. He also said that even if we never found it, he wouldn’t tell us where it was. Pretty soon, everyone gave up the hunt but me and KLin, partially for the satisfaction of completing the challenge, partially because it was her cool Quad egg that was missing and partially because I wanted to beat K/KLin wanted to not come in last.

Unfortunately, the day crept on with zero success. We looked EVERYWHERE, in such obscure places that K observed that my parents must have been really mean egg-hiders. The egg would not be found. We resorted to begging K’s father for a clue, and though there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth, he relented not. This is how we felt about that:

The only thing he would say was, “There will be a happy ending.” So obnoxiously cryptic.

Eventually we had to admit defeat and head back to DC. But when we pulled over for gas…

A little cracked, but still bearing the unmistakable likenesses of KLin, K, L, and Me

A happy ending indeed.

Always Judge a Book By Its Cover

Apparently today is Teen Lit Day! This is especially exciting to me as I am in a major Young Adult phase right now. Until a few months ago, I pretty much exclusively read non-fiction for a solid two or three years. Then my sister and Markus Zusak decided to convert me. I suddenly remembered, “Hey, fiction is kind of fun too! And these fast-reading YA books are way more satisfying than the nonfiction book about plants that’s taken me a month to read.” And so I started diversifying my reading selection. While I still read some nonfiction (and even occasionally, adult fiction), there’s now a constant stack of YA library books sitting on my nightstand.

I wasn’t always a big fan of teen lit. When I was growing up, my librarian mom was on some sort of YA Literature Something Something Committee, and as a result, she was full of reading recommendations. Though the ones I did read were indeed good, I stringently ignored most all her suggestions because I had serious reason to question her judgement. Repeatedly, she recommended The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance by Margaret Mahy. Despite her best efforts, my sister and I both refused this book on the grounds that (in addition to a Supernaturally Embarrassing title) it had absolutely without question the worst, most eye-searingly awful cover in the history of book covers. Even my 12-year old self in overalls and novelty socks could see that. So instead I stuck to my Dad’s suggestions and read things like Oscar Wilde and P.G. Wodehouse. Sorry Mom! I’m sure Calico Bush and that one with the girl rollerskating on the cover were great books! Maybe you should’ve led with those.
Since I’ve started on this YA kick though, I’ve regretted not reading that book. The cover was so awful! How could I not have been curious enough to open it? I decided to get it from my house, only to discover that my mom had thrown it away! But I was not to be deterred. I went hunting on Amazon in the used book section and, even though there was no picture, decided that the “1985 Mass Market Paperback” edition was the one for me. I ordered it on a Sunday night, and guess what? This book is so magical that it was sitting on my doorstep when I got home Monday evening. I eagerly ripped open the package, and I was not disappointed:
And if the cover didn’t completely sell you on this book (because you don’t have eyes?), check out the description on the back:

Laura had noticed the looks Sorenson Carlisle gave her at school. They were looks that meant more than just friends. And even though he hardly spoke to her, she knew there was something very special about him. She knew he was a witch.

So when Laura’s brother Jacko falls deathly ill, Laura must go to Sorry — for she can see Jacko is possessed. And Sorry tells her there is only one way to save him: to give up her morality, and “changeover” to what he is himself.

 “Go while you still can,” Sorry warns her. Laura will not listen. He offers her life, death, or the supernatural–but the choice she makes must be her own.

Up until now, I hadn’t read this book because I had a stack of library books that were due I wanted to save it for a special time, and what better time than Teen Lit Day! I started it last night. Can it live up to its (alarming) 5-star rating on Amazon (where I have rectified the lack of picture)? So far I’ve only read chapter 1, and it’s all still up in the air:
Page 1: Ooo I really like the first paragraph. This could be good! Also, we’re in NZ apparently. Bonus factor numero uno!
Page 2: Now we’re talking about teenage bodies changing. I’m less into that… Apparently Our Heroine is pleased with how her body’s turning out, though I guess she’s kind of a butterface. This makes me uncomfortable.
Page 3: Uh oh, our heroine’s just gotten some kind of premonition. I say uh oh because she knows something bad is going to happen today, and also, uh oh this is turning into one of those Lois Duncan books I used to read but don’t think I would like today. No matter how much I love YA, there are some things I can’t turn back the clock on.
Page 4: Mirrors/funky reflections are involved. This doesn’t bode well.
Page 5: Our Heroine wants to stay home from school and lock herself in her room to avoid anything bad from happening, but her mother is not impressed.
Page 7: Little Brother has something called a “Ruggie.” Wtf is a Ruggie? I don’t speak NZ.
Page 8: Oh I think a Ruggie* is some sort of stuffed animal (a pink crocodile named Rosebud). Also, Our Heroine’s family has the world’s crappiest car. The mom has to like, push it down a hill, start it while it’s moving, and then the kids have to run and catch up and also jump in the car. Sounds dangerous.
Page 9: On which Space Invaders features heavily. I hope this is a recurring motif.
Page 10: Apparently Our Heroine has had these premonitions, or “warnings” before. First, when her dad ran off with is girlfriend, and second, when Sorenson “Sorry” Carlisle showed up at school. And I’m pretty confident that his name is pronounced the way Gilbert Blythe would pronounce it, being that we’re in NZ and they talk funny.
Page 11: Turns out Sorry’s mother never married! Scandalicious! He seems to be a pretty nondescript guy who who just sort of blends, in a studious way. But apparently he smiled at Our Heroine the like, three times they’ve interacted, and this is significant for some reason. The mother continues to be unimpressed by Our Heroine’s “warnings.”
Page 13: Our Heroine reveals why she’s sketched out by Sorry. “Sorry Carlisle is a witch! No one knows but me!” Uh… I realize it said this on the back of the book, but it doesn’t come out any less ridiculous here. +1 to the mother for saying what we’re all thinking and pointing out that witches are female. Then, instead of dismissing the business entirely like a normal person, she’s like, “Well, I would believe it if you accused his grandmother or mother of being a witch. They’re nutso.”
Page 14: Our witchy-man friend also reads romance novels. No one sees a problem with this.
Page 15: But he drives a vespa! Bonus factor numero dos! Our Heroine’s mother asks her to look out for the little brother, which even if we hadn’t read the back cover means something bad’s going to happen to him. We also actually meet Sorry for the first time on this page. He has tricky eyes.
Page 16:  Our Heroine and her witchy-man friend share a cunning smile, like he knows that she knows that he knows that she knows.
And Chapter 1 Ends! The outlook is not great. But I must admit, as much as I’m concerned for the content, this book is not badly written. There were some stylistic things I didn’t like, but I’m willing to give it a chance. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Happy Teen Lit Day, everybody!

UPDATE: Read the rest of the review here.

*Edit: I read further and a Ruggie seems to be some sort of security blanket or something, distinct from the pink crocodile.