Fairy Bell (and Fizz)

July 9, 2014 at 9:20 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Fairy BellTitle: Fairy Bell Sisters: Sylva and the Fairy Ball

Author: Margaret McNamara

Illustrator: Julia Denos

Kiddo is on a Peter Pan kick.  We’re reading bits of Peter Pan every night before bed.  She’s watching the Disney movie as I type this.  A few months back she watched the ballet.

Not just Peter Pan, though.  She loves ALL things Neverland.  Jake & the Neverland Pirates is a huge favorite and she’s dying for the lego set.  I’m making her wait until her birthday.  Speaking of birthdays, the child wants a Neverland themed party.  She will dress as Tinker Bell, she says, someone must be Peter Pan.  Everyone else has to be a lost boy.  If we could get one of the grandfathers or uncles to be Captain Hook I think the girl might die of happiness on the spot.  She loves Captain Hook.  Also, she has an unusual amount of adoration for crocodiles and clocks.

So, naturally, when she saw a book at the library with a fairy she squealed, “Tinka Bell.”  Her “er” sounds don’t always makes it all the way out of her mouth.  She’s only three.  I explained that the book was about Tinker Bell’s little sisters.  She was blinded by fairy wings and shoved them in the library bag.


Or Neverland.

My daughter had to remind me of this on nearly every page.  I cannot express enough how disappointed she was…

Until the TROLLS arrived.

P1020485Apparently we are a troll-loving family.  Both me and my daughter loved The Three Billy Goats Gruff (my grandmother read it to me when I spent the night at her house and kiddo has her own updated version we read all the time).

She is fascinated by The Hobbit.  Mostly, I think, for the troll scene.  She has seen the live action movie, but she relishes the 1970’s cartoon.

And of course – we adore Fizz & Peppers.  I adore Fizz & Peppers and I think she loves it a bit because I do – but it is heaven.  And full of trolls.

P1020486Ultimately, she enjoyed the book, but decided she didn’t want to read the rest of the series yet.  At the end of the Fairy Bell ball story there is a blueberry birthday cake – and a blueberry fairy cake recipe.  So, naturally, we baked.  Oddly enough, we had freshly picked blueberries in our fridge… picked by M.G. King (the author of Fizz & Peppers!) and delivered to our house!

Another odd coincidence for this reading adventure… take a look at these chapters:


The books have nothing in common.  And somehow managed to have everything in common.  It was one of those reading experiences where we could not sit down and read one without thinking of the other. Note: Chapter three of the Fairy Bell Sisters book ends on that page.  On the next page begins chapter four.

Til the next reading adventure…




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Anthropology of Reading

April 3, 2014 at 4:59 pm (In So Many Words) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

1. the science that deals with the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of humankind.
2. the study of human beings’ similarity to and divergence from other animals.
3. the science of humans and their works.
4. Also called philosophical anthropology. the study of the nature and essence of humankind.
1585–95; anthropo- + -logy

1. the action or practice of a person who reads.
2. Speech. the oral interpretation of written language.
3. the interpretation given in the performance of a dramatic part, musical composition, etc.: an interesting reading of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
4. the extent to which a person has read; literary knowledge: a man of wide reading.
5. matter read or for reading: a novel that makes good reading.


This is a challenging post, in that I could talk for days and days, possibly write a whole website dedicated to the topic, so I’m going to do my best to remain concise and not chase too many rabbits.

The blogger of So Many Books wrote a post about the Anthropology of Read, which I reblogged (click the link and it will take you there). Follow that post even further and the blogger wrote another on Auden’s Eden Meme. Combining these two posts into one thought, this is my anthropological response concerning my reading habits.

“Though the pleasure which works of art give us must not be confused with other pleasures that we enjoy, it is related to all of them simply by being our pleasure and not someone else’s. All the judgments, aesthetic or moral, that we pass, however objective we try to make them, are in part a rationalization and in part a corrective discipline of our subjective wishes. So long as a man writes poetry or fiction, his dreams of Eden are his own business, but the moment he starts writing literary criticism, honesty demands that he describe it to his readers, so that they may be in the position to judge his judgments.” – from Auden’s “Reading”

So following Auden’s checklist, here is my Eden:

Mountains that butt up against a beach, with open fields in between. I like oceans that beat against cliffs, good soil to plant, large trees to climb, and somehow still manage to lay in the sand whenever I want. Take about 10 acres of the Rocky Mountains and stick them in the Florida Keys. If you manage to surround it all with Texas landscape that would be even better. Clearly, it’s a dream world.

70 year round, I’ll take an occasional hot summer in the 90’s to 100’s. After all, I’m a born and raised Texan.

Ethnic Origin of Inhabitants
I’m a big fan of melting pots.

“English will be the official language but all languages are encouraged (even Elvish and Klingon) and everyone should know more than one.” That’s a direct quote from the So Many Books response to Auden. I see no need to alter that statement in any way.

Weights and Measures
I’m not concerned with this. I’ll let someone who cares decide.

I’m a Christian hippie. I’ll take Jesus with a side of dirt & trees.

Size of Capital
Small indeed. Close, personal friends. If I want a break from this closeness, I’ll take a vacation out of Eden.

Form of Government
In very small governments, I’m ok with elected monarchies with limited terms. I like to call a spade a spade, and in my research I never see true democracy at work, it’s always bastardized into an oligarchy or some other nonsense.

Sources of Natural Power
Wind, water, solar… the idea that anything was ever anything but amazes me. Wind turbines, watermills, solar panels, this makes sense to me.

Economic Activities
Farming, arts and humanities. Science would remain of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang variety. I think science is cool, but a lack of tech would be such a nice reprieve from the rest of the world.

Means of Transport
Bicycles, boats, hiking and swimming. Of course, from the mountains to the beach and over some landscape… that requires at least one community zipline.  Also, I love horses and would definitely encourage horseback riding.

Self-sustained, energy efficient estates. Design – To each their own.  Although, I see a lot of bungalows, Victorian estates, farmhouses, and hobbit holes.

Domestic Furniture and Equipment
Again, to each their own, but made by hand is a marvelous thing. In the kitchen, all I need is an oven, a French press, and a coffee bean grinder. If someone slipped me a bread machine, though, I wouldn’t complain.

Formal Dress
Simplicity makes me happy. But again, to each their own. If someone likes frills, I have no desire to stop them. There would probably be an abundance of denim and cotton in my Eden though.

Sources of Public Information
Newspapers, journals, and gatherings over food at a meeting house. My population is quite small, remember?

Public Statues
This would be up to the people. I see gnomes and literary-like shrines in public gardens.

Public Entertainment
Choirs, street theatre, and public readings of important books. Book clubs and bands… I come from a Baptist background, so weekly potlucks are sort of a must.

If this is my Eden… If this is end result of my reading… if 30 years of a life devouring books has brought me to this, where did I begin? How did I evolve?

Anthropology… archeology… the two go a bit hand in hand to me. I would like to go back to school and get a Baccalaureate in Anthropology & Archeology. I love that niche of history and science. I always thought the Indiana Joneses of the world were the most amazing. Amelia Peabody… As a child I was riveted by adventures, but was still very much a typical girl – no, correction, a typical tomboy with girlish tendencies.

I read an awful lot of Nancy Drew. I liked historical things like Little Women and Gentle Annie. Jo March, of course, my favorite of the sisters; Gentle Annie was a civil war nurse running out into the battlefield in the face of danger. I was, and still am, fascinated by doers.

Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra intrigue me, but I have a literary foundation in all things Jane Austen – the fierce butting heads with the feminine.

My reading is much like my real life – a black belt, with hair usually down to her butt, who loves to get her toes done. I look for brave warriors who want to bask in the sun with some flowers. I desire the intelligence to drive to take care of people, protect them both in battle and emotionally by serving them foodstuffs and coffee. Because this is who I am, this is what I look for in my reading – in fiction, in history, in science, in all of it. I try to find people in all the thousands of years of literature, who are (as Anne Shirley would say) kindred spirits.

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Like Calligraphy

January 30, 2014 at 2:36 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Voltaire's CalligrapherTitle: Voltaire’s Calligrapher

Author: Pablo De Santis

Publisher: Harper

Genre: Fiction

Length: 149 pages

You know it’s been a rough week when you’ve managed to 1. worry your best friends 2. drive your husband batty 3. inadvertently offend your readers 4. write not one, but two overly pouty blog posts and 5. manage to take a whole week to read 149 pages.

Especially when those 149 pages are so delicious.

Not just delicious, witty and divine.

De Santis doesn’t just write about calligraphy and a master calligrapher.  He manages to make his words sound like calligraphy.   And his story is woven with the same sly craftiness as runaway ink.

Normally, I would recommend someone read this in one sitting over a cup of the best dark coffee blend they have.  I didn’t do that.  I spent a week sucking down a chapter at a time – and his chapters are only a page to three at best.

There are castles and print shops, automatons, and poisonous fish… dark corners and forbidden candlelight… Oh my! What terrifying fun!  You won’t regret diving into the adventure.

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The Labrador Wild

August 6, 2013 at 8:02 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

51QxxU9wWYLTitle: Letters to the Granddaughter: The Story of Dillon Wallace of the Labrador Wild

Author: Philip Schubert

Length: 198 pages

Travel books that focus on the adventure aspect of the traveling really excite me. I loved Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, enjoy anything on nature, and was really excited to get a copy of Schubert’s own adventures in my hands.

Schubert took on the hefty project of retracing the steps of Dillon Wallace, a man who took the risks of nature by storm and conquered the edge of death several times.  Reading about Wallace and Mina Hubbard, and all the others of the major voyages through the Labrador in the early 1900’s shocked me – how had I never heard of this man before? How was he not mentioned along with other well known explorers like Lewis and Clark?

labmap_72Schubert’s book is truly incredible, as I suspected it would be.  Since its arrival at my home, it has been sitting on the shelf taunting me as I completed other reading assignments and projects that were first in line.  My fingers itched to open its pages and my eyes longed to feast on all the many maps and photography both antique and recent.

Despite said maps and imagery, I still had a difficult time picturing just where in the world the Labrador lie.  Clearly my geography education is lacking.

Whether or not you enjoy the great outdoors and the sheer adventure of hiking and canoeing, the extensive research and travel done to put this book together is impressive.  Whether or not you plan to sit and peruse each and every detail and hunt down Wallace’s original work upon acquiring a copy of Schubert’s book, this title makes for an excellent coffee table book.  Already, guests haven’t been able to help but pick it up and thumb through it when coming to my home.  The maps, the pictures, seeing the difference between a pair of trees in 1903 versus 2012… it’s all so riveting.

Having read the book, I have no intense desire to trek the route myself (and get killed), but I’d love to find a way to visit the plaque where Mina Hubbard’s husband died.  Another especially intriguing location from the pictures is the Three Gorges, on page 117 of the book there’s a stunning photograph of quite an impressive view.  I’d love to stand there myself.

Labrador WildTo readers who plan trips to famous writers’ houses, don’t miss out on Dillon’s former house in Beacon, New York.  It’s gorgeous.  I want it.

To Boy Scouts (my husband is an Eagle), this is a must read. After his days of trekking through the Labrador and documenting his time there, Dillon Wallace “established the Boy Scout movement in Dutchess County and was himself scoutmaster of Troop 1 in Beacon.” (pg.185)  His books were later included in the Every Boy’s Library Series.

I’m still on the lookout for copies of the original works by these amazing people, there are plenty online but despite supporting online purchases through Good Books in the Woods, HPBmarketplace.com, and lastly Amazon.com, even Abebooks every now and then… I rarely order online myself.  I prefer to find that perfect copy calling my name in the brick and mortar store.  When Dillon Wallace and Mina Hubbard’s books finally do call my name, I will excitedly scoop them up because I’ll be adding them and Schubert’s own research to the kiddo’s classical education reading list.

Visit the Author’s website.

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Magic Tree House Adventures – Knights!

January 23, 2013 at 1:40 am (Education, JARS) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Kingfisher Atlas of the Medieval World

The Kingfisher Atlas of the Medieval World

(… Castles! And Medieval Times!)

the-knight-at-dawnToday we read up on everything Knights and Castles we could get our hands on in our house.  We started with The Magic Tree House #2: Knight at Dawn then moved onto the Research Guide Knights and Castles.  While I read these two easy readers aloud to the kiddo, she perused The Kingfisher Atlas of the Medieval World, mostly staying on the page on European castles in between jumping on my bed shouting our Feudal System chant.

“A Feudal System has four parts! From top to bottom it goes: King, Barons, Knights and Serfs!”  Sadly, I’ve already forgotten the tune to which we were singing/chanting this bit of information, maybe one day it will come to me again, or maybe we’ll find a new tune.  Either way, munchkin was climbing in and out of the laundry basket this morning singing,  “King! Baron! Knight! Serf!” so I win.

magic-tree-house-research-guide-2-knights-castles-mary-osborne-hardcover-cover-artIt was at this point that I decided: in addition to reading through this pairing and prepping kiddo’s future education (when she’s old enough to tackle these projects properly with crafts, writing assignments, and vocabulary tests), I’m going to blog our prepping routines… separate from the Weekly Low Down on Kids Books installments.  I know I will find it handy for when we repeat this reading exercise in a few years, but maybe someone else can find it handy now.

I can’t wait to take the kiddo to Medieval Times. I’ve always enjoyed the place and once she is old enough to go, I think it would be a great way to end an educational adventure.  As she’s only two and today’s reading was somewhat (though not completely) impromptu, I took her to the closet thing to a castle we have readily available.


The Spring Community Playground, part of Liberty Park looks like a giant, wooden castle to me.  It has several keeps, a palisade, horses to ride, and all sorts of castle/fortress styled fixtures.  According to the park’s website:

This playground was built by the Spring community for the betterment of the Spring community ultimately for the enjoyment by our children with community donations and community volunteer labor. It was built in 5 DAYS from January 29th to February 2nd 2003 with over 900 community volunteers. A large majority of the volunteers were parents, grandparents and friends of students from Hirsch, Smith and Jenkins Elementary Schools. We also had volunteers from Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Kingwood, Conroe, Laredo, and Mexico.


Obviously, there’s a huge difference between this and an actual castle! But it’s fun to walk the park and read the engraved pieces of wood that tell who donated what.  I want the kiddo to grow up with a strong sense of community… our neighborhood is our manor, and all that.

When she’s older, we’ll be able to spread the study over the course of a week and add more books and activities. For instance, on day two we could read The Time Warp Trio: The Knights of the Kitchen Table over breakfast.  I like the idea of making a lap book with artwork, tabs, and pop-ups out of a manila filing folder afterward.  (Visit this pin: http://pinterest.com/pin/118923246380148367/)

This unit would also be a great opportunity to spend the week going through one Sir Cumference book a day for the start of math lessons.

For lunch, I’ll take the opportunity to serve “feast foods.”  I found an entire web page dedicated to recipes of the day, and I love to eat to match our educational themes.  Plus, I want my daughter to know her way around the kitchen before she goes off to college, unlike me.  So as she gets older, we’ll be making all our meals in the kitchen together – themed or not.

I would definitely try to work in her first horseback lesson during this week if she hadn’t started them already, after all knights, caballeros, Ritters, and chevaliers, are all just soldiers on horseback, as the MTH Research Guide will tell you.


Click image to visit a lapbooking tutorial website.

For the most part, though, we will spend our days reading, making lap books, journaling what we’ve learned, playing dress up, and gearing all our artistic energy at the topic.  Homeschool Mom and Blogger of My 2 Small Boys has images of her kids’ notebooks on Knights and Castles here: http://my2smallboys.blogspot.com/2012/01/middle-ages-knights-and-castles.html.

When the weekend roles around, if the study lands in the summer, perhaps we will go to the beach and build sandcastles;  If in the fall, maybe we’ll head out to the Texas Ren Fest.

Knights and Castles Library List
Saint George and the Dragon (a great precursor to have on hand for Spenser’s The Faerie Queen, we’ve already read it quite a few times)
Castle Diary by Richard Platt
The Knight at Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne
Knight by Christopher Gravett
Knight ~ A Noble Guide for Young Squires
100 Things You Should Know About Knights and Castles
by Jane Walker
If You Lived in the Days of Knights by Ann McGovern
Castle: Medieval Days and Knights by Kyle Olmon
Knights in Shining Armo by Gail Gibbons
Knights and Castles by Seymour Simon
The Usborne Book of Castles by Lesley Sims and Jane Chisolm
What If You Met a Knight? By Jan Adkins
Imagine You’re a Knight by Meg Clibbon
Take Care, Good Knight by Shelley Moore Thomas
The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie DePaola
In the Castle by Anna Milbourne
The Castle That Jack Built by Lesley Sims
The Tournament by Heather Amery

Some more ideas: http://www.angelfire.com/dc/childsplay/castleunit.htm

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Weekly Low Down on Kids Books – Dinosaurs!

January 18, 2013 at 8:13 pm (Education, JARS, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

dinsaurs before darkI read Magic Tree House #1: Dinosaurs Before Dark to the kiddo today, all the way through this time.  We have started it before, but she wasn’t old enough to listen to it all and grasp the concept yet.  We’ve been practicing our alphabet and started a notebook together, though, and now at age two and three months she knows that ‘D’ is for ‘dogs and dinosaurs’ and can identify their images in illustrations.  So reading Mary Pope Osborn’s first adventure was a little more exciting this time.

We had to stop a few times to draw a rhinoceros onto our ‘R’ page, check out whales and their sizes in relation to dinosaurs in our encyclopedia, and to correct behavior as she climbed in my living room window sill that is about three and half feet off the ground.  We even had a brief whistling lesson after reading how the wind was whistling around the tree house.  Overall, she enjoyed it, so we moved onto the Research Guide.

dinosaurs research guideMary Pope Osborne and her husband Will Osborne joined forces and started writing nonfiction companion books to the fictional Magic Tree House adventures.  When I first discovered this, I started purchasing them in pairs, vowing to use them as fun assignments while home schooling.  I’d like for kiddo to grow up in the habit of reading a nonfiction title that somehow relates to every fiction title that she devours, expanding both her facts and her imagination.  What better way than to start with research guides to her first chapter books?

Why am I reading these to her so early?  Frankly, it’s quite hilarious to watch a two  year old run circles in your living room chanting, “Fossils! Minerals! Dinosaurs!” at the top of her lungs, while her dog (who happens to be the biggest one we own) lays in the center rolling his eyes.

wanna iguanaChapter three of the research guide Dinosaurs talks about iguanas and how Gideon Mantell though the dinosaur teeth he and his wife found were giant iguana teeth.  Of course, we had to stop to re-read I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff and David Catrow.  It has quickly  become a favorite since we came across it at Half Price Books a few weeks ago, and the tie-in to our dinosaur lesson was flawless.  The banter between mother and son is downright fun and the illustrations are extra spunky.  It gave us a chance to talk about different iguana sizes and different ancient dinosaur sizes again, bigger and smaller is something I think the kiddo is really getting the hang of after our discussions today.

All in all, we had a good ‘school day’ this morning, something we have been working on being more diligent about now that kiddo is two and it has actually managed to get too cold to venture out as much.

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And She Went There – A City of Bones Review

July 8, 2012 at 2:46 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )


Title: City of Bones

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: McElderry Books (http://imprints.simonandschuster.biz/margaret-k-mcelderry-books)

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal

Length: 485 pages

Oh my… geeze Louise.  What the heck! I totally saw the insinuation of the plot developing, and I completely anticipate that this particular plot development will prove to be false… But Clare totally STAR WARSed us!  Except with Luke and Leah there was relief that came with the knowledge of their familial ties (after the ewww moment), because at least then we felt ok about hoping that whiny Luke didn’t get the girl and that Leah and Han Solo were meant for each other.  Clary and Jace! Really? Did Cassandra Clare have to go there?  Yes, yes, I fear she did.  Although I’m not buying the story line, it worked hook, line, and sinker and I’m itching to find out what happens next.

Of course, now, perfectly livid and irritated at my fascination for this series, I’m both addicted and torn.

What am I torn about? And why am I still addicted?

1. I was not a Twilight fan.  Meyer captured her target audience, and it was a fun little fairy tale – so in that aspect I can respect it.  But Bella is useless and I pretty much hate her character, Edward is ridiculous and I pretty much hate his character, and their whole relationship, I think, is absurd and sends the wrong message.  Cassandra Clare’s work definitely goes in the same genre, so in that sense I don’t want to like these books.  Still, Clare is just so much better with her character development, her story telling, and her writing.  Granted, I could do without all the teenage melodrama romance, but the adventure and the world she has created is wonderfully fascinating. (Read my Twilight review here: https://anakalianwhims.wordpress.com/tag/flaubert/)

2. These books are complete fluff.  In general, I am particular about my fluff.  I am very judgy, and frankly, a bit of a book snob.  Apparently, though, I’m in the mood for some complete and utter fluff, and a girl needs a healthy dose of dessert in her life in order to truly enjoy the non-dessert.    Clare makes up for the feeling of reading a crap ton of mind numbing cotton candy equivalent books with a healthy dose of literature references, so instead of cotton candy, I feel as though I’m reading a lemon meringue pie (with extra cool whip).

3. I absolutely protest having half naked boys on the front cover.  It’s a huge turn off when it comes to my book buying tendencies.  I was duped by Infernal Devices and the gentleman in the top hat.  Happily duped.

4. Then, which to read next? City of Ashes? (Book 2 of Mortal Instruments) or Clockwork Prince? (Book 2 of Infernal Devices).  Infernal Devices is the better series so far in my book, mostly because its Victorian and steampunk and all that delicious goodness, but I’m in a little more distress over the Mortal Instruments story line in this moment.  Does Clare pull a few more twists and rectify this ridiculous love story into the something morally acceptable I feel she is alluding to – or am I going to writhe my way through an incestuous romance?  And if this situation is resolved as I suspect (and hope) it will be, how does she do it?

Side note: Contrary to recent and probably most frequent posts, this is not a blog dedicated to childrens or young adult titles.  I read them a lot, therefore review them a lot, mostly because I have a child and partly because I enjoy reading what has been published since I was a child myself.  In the coming month(s), my readers/ followers can (fingers crossed) expect to find reviews and commentary for Book 3 of Les Miserables, Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Ferris, Merchant Kings by Brown, a surprise title sent to me to review by an author, and the latest discoveries in my Astrology research project.

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When We’re Not Reading…

May 13, 2012 at 3:09 am (Reviews, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

My Daughter, Ayla, at the Zoo

… We Go On Adventures.

Today we went to the Houston Zoo and Hobbit Hole Cafe.

The Houston Zoo is a great place to take kids.  When I was a kid it was free, but it wasn’t nearly as nice as it is now, and frankly, I’d rather pay money to enjoy my experience and see the animals enjoying their environment than go to a free zoo without shade, no amenities, and sad-looking creatures on display.  The Houston Zoo of 2012, is beautiful.  Paved (but not crappy concrete) walk ways, gorgeous fountains and statues, lots of shady spots and places to buy drinks and snacks (but they still let you bring drinks and snacks into the park, kudos and brownie points for that), and relatively happy looking animals.

The only animals that don’t look happy are the obvious ones… lions and tigers who should probably have more space, even though their habitats are quite large, and the injured animals that are being rehabilitated.  The lions and tigers are too cool for school, as most cats are.  They look grumpy and bored.  Although the male lion did a lot of showing off, he posed for the cameras and even roared for us, he also got pissed off when we wouldn’t go away afterward and peed on the glass.  There is no way on God’s green earth you can convince me that the lion did not piss on that glass directly in front of us on purpose to give us a lesson in privacy and manners.  It was done in the attitude of ‘You came, You saw, I even showed off for you, NOW GO!’  As for rehabilitated creatures, there’s a bald eagle there named Liberty who has a cast because she was found in 2000 with a bullet through one of her wings.  Her habitat is open to the sky, but she has no ability to fly.  Beautiful bird with a sad, sad tale.  Her cast today was neon green, which I thought was a cute touch.

I was looking forward to the otters because Ayla loved the otters at the Dallas Aquarium last year.  They had a female otter that just swam and swam and swam in circles the whole time we watched.  She did tricks and Ayla just giggled and laughed and thought it was the most wonderful thing she’d ever seen.  The otters today were sleepy and looked oh so cozy snuggled on top of eachother.  At that point, Ayla looked pretty sleepy too, so it wasn’t a disappointing moment at all.

But the big deal for us today were the giraffes and elephants.  Ayla’s room is mostly decorated with these wonderful beasts and we’ve been spending a lot of time the last few weeks going over their names because without being reminded she calls them dogs.  I really wanted her to make the connection between the live animals and their artsy counterparts on her walls and in her books.  Lucky me, I got the reaction I wanted once we got home and she recognized the animal above her changing table as a giraffe with the most wonderful level of awe ever.

When she is older, I plan to get a zoo membership.  We will be homeschooling and I think weekly outings to the zoo and the museums in the surrounding area will be a great addition to her library visits and lessons. (http://www.houstonzoo.org/membership/)  For $94 a year I can get free admission all year for my entire household, plus discounts in the gift shop and special events, and a whole lot more.  I’d say its a worthy amount to put towards Ayla’s “tuition.”

After our Zoo adventures, we went to the highly praised Hobbit Hole Cafe.  Granted, I know Ayla was tired and pretty much done for the day and this could have affected my experience a great deal, but man that place does NOT live up to its hype.  Hobbit Hole, sounds wonderful and bookish, and foodie fabulous, right?  Well, the food was good, nothing to get all hot and bothered about, but nothing to complain about either.   I had a Gandalf Classic (sandwich with mushrooms, avocado, and swiss cheese, I paid extra for onion rings (which were excellent).  Despite the large sandwich, I could have done with more onion rings… $1.99 for 5 rings, I don’t care how delicious, I want a bigger pile of rings… after all, I DO eat like a HOBBIT!  Other than the wonderfully named sandwich menu, though, nothing else was hobbit-esque or Lord of the Rings fashioned, other than the movie posters on the wall at the entrance.  Most of the people around me (not my table, but in the cafe at large) were eating enchiladas.  They’ve also got Jamaican dishes on the menu that, according to the Jamaican who was sitting next to me, don’t taste how they should.

Still, good food, but not worth going back to due to the awful service.  Long wait at the door, long wait at the table, long wait for silverware once food started arriving, long wait for straws, long wait for food that wasn’t ordered with the other food, long wait for, well, everything.  In addition to the long wait, we were crammed against other tables and lots of traffic.  My chair was literally being crushed by the chair next to mine… and they were randomly assorted plastic lawn chairs.  We were sitting at a square table slammed next to a circular table and I had the unfortunate luck at sitting in the awkward joint area, while I prayed the chair behind me didn’t slam into my back from people coming up the patio ramp to the front door.  On top of all that, those chairs (put there to create an aisle where there wasn’t one and give people waiting at the hostess desk a place to sit) were being used by servers to set plates of food down because the plates were too hot to carry and too heavy to juggle (Anyone hear of tray service? Sorry, too long a server at a tray service only restaurant makes me cranky about people carrying plates diner style with their sleeve dipping into my food.  Its gross.)  When we were done, the server had us tally up our meals and food on the back of a bill and figure out what we owed ourselves.  I’m assuming they don’t have a system in which you can easily split checks, I get that, but don’t ask me to do math on an 8 top, that’s your job.  I can say that because I’ve waited tables with the best of them.

Once again, the food was good, but over all I’d only go back if I was in a group and somebody else wanted to go.  It’s not on my list of places to return, but I feel like it should have been, because I’ve read so many glowing reviews (one even states that if you don’t like the establishment you’re just a terrible person).  I fear they get the vast majority of their business from the false promise of their fabulous name.  So people who love it… what did I miss?

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A Tale to Swoon Over

December 26, 2009 at 3:58 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Claire Danes in the major motion picture of Stardust, based on Neil Gaiman's novel

Neil Gaiman’s Stardust is delightful.  A lovely little fairy tale for grown ups, the adventure sucks you through a wall into a magical world of falling stars, unicorns, witches, spells, and flying ships.  Gaiman provides all the adults in the room a Faerie romance we can swoon over without re-reading Cinderella and Thumbelina for the hundred-thousandth time.  We get a handsome Romeo, a bit of a love triangle, true-love from the stars, and a happy ending (even if it goes out with a limp – literally).  Stardust made for a wonderful wintery read by the fireplace this Christmas.

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Unclean Spirits by M.L.N. Hanover

December 17, 2009 at 7:10 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Book One of the Black Sun’s Daughter Series

Unclean Spirits is a  fun adventure filled fantasy to veg out with your favorite snack and a comfy pillow.  Hanover did a good job of taking an overused theme (vampires and metaphysical ghosties verses the good guys fighting evil) and turning it into something fresh and fun and not too plot heavy with romance.  Jayne Heller makes for a great escape fiction heroine and I’ll be interested to see how the rest of the trilogy turns out.

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