Friday, July 26, 2013

All About Everything - Week Of July 23, 2013

Today's Topic: The Mansion Of Happiness

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The Mansion of Happiness: An Instructive Moral and Entertaining Amusement is a children's board game inspired by Christian morality. Players race about a sixty-six space spiral track depicting virtues and vices with their goal being The Mansion of Happiness at track's end. Instructions upon virtue spaces advance players toward the goal while those upon vice spaces force them to retreat.

The Mansion Of Happiness was designed by George Fox, a children's author and game designer in England. W. & S. B. Ives published the game in the United States in Salem, Massachusetts on November 24, 1843.


The Mansion of Happiness is a roll-and-move track board game, and, typical of such games, the object is to be the first player to reach the goal at the end of the board's track, here called The Mansion of Happiness (Heaven). Centrally located on the board, the goal pictures happy men and women making music and dancing before a house and garden. To reach The Mansion of Happiness, the player spins a teetotum and races around a sixty-six space spiral track depicting various virtues and vices.

Instructions upon spaces depicting virtues move the player closer to The Mansion of Happiness while spaces depicting vices send the player back to the pillory, the House of Correction, or prison, and thus, further from The Mansion of Happiness. Sabbath-breakers are sent to the whipping post. The vice of Pride sends a player back to Humility, and the vice of Idleness to Poverty.

* * * 

Sounds like a blast! :-D

Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Review: Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #10 - Sea City, Here We Come!

Summertime is fun time, and what could be more fun than reading one of the Baby-Sitters Club summer-themed Super Specials?

Specifically, Super Special #10, Sea City, Here We Come!?

That's right. Nothing. So let's begin.

As the story commences, instead of the usual "Baby-sitter bookends the plot with the hopes of making a vacation diary" tactic, we are treated to a bunch of postcards written to and from the baby-sitters. We learn:
  • Jessi and Mallory will be watching all the Pike kids during their trip to Sea City this year (not to be confused with last year, when Stacey and Mary Anne had the gig; even though everyone's the same age as they were last summer and... oh nevermind.)
  • Mary Anne's boy toy from books #8 and #34, Alex, writes to ask if she'll be in Sea City again this summer. He'll be there. And so will Toby, who used to walk the ol' boardwalk with Stacey before he dumped her last year.
  • Stacey has been asked to sit for the Barrett kids, who are also renting a house at Sea City.
  • Claudia has earned herself a trip to summer school.
  • Kristy will be coaching her softball team.
  • Dawn and Mary Anne are going to have a day camp for kids. 
  • Then, during the second week of the Sea City adventures, Claudia, Kristy, Dawn, Logan and Mary Anne will go to Sea City to stay with the Pikes. (Good, because I wondered why they were all on the cover, clearly at the beach.)
The first real chapter officially goes to Kristy. She dives right into the old BSC book standbys of A) explaining how the club works, and B) Describing each club member.

Claudia, she of the luxurious black hair, blemish-free skin, and almond-shaped eyes, gets her fabulous outfit described in detail. Says Kristy: She was wearing ripped cut-off jeans held up by a frayed rope belt, a T-shirt with the collar torn off, huge white socks all bunched around the ankle, and old-fashioned black lace-up shoes. Apparently, Claudia is going for the recently mauled by a lion look.

Mary Anne, says Kristy, looks a lot like her (Kristy). After all, they both have shoulder-length brown hair. (COVER SAYS OTHERWISE.) 

Stacey, didya know, has Diabetes. But at least she's a super trendy dresser!

Dawn's a health food nut. Kristy admires Dawn because she stands up for what she calls her "alternate life-style." Is that like an alternative lifestyle? And does it involve anything besides eating a lot of tofu? Dawn has lonnnng blonde hair. This is mentioned in nearly every book, but the cover artists never seem to comply. Even Stacey's hair looks longer than Dawn's, here. That will never cease to bug me.

Annnnd finally, Mallory is white and Jessi is black. But otherwise... they are alike.

So off to Sea City they go (the Pikes, the Barretts, Jessi, Mallory, and Stacey, in this first wave).

Mallory isn't there an hour when she encounters Toby and Alex on the beach. And hooboy, Toby is cute. And he seems to like Mallory, too, even though she is eleven. Mallory notes: I could see Toby looking at me off and on during the afternoon. And smiling, too. Could it be? It didn't seem possible. He was so much older. Fifteen, probably. But I liked the way he was making me feel. I'd never felt that way before. 

There may be something there
that wasn't there before....

Stacey Chapter. The drive with Mrs. Barrett and the kids to Sea City was majorly miserable. Even more miserable was having to encounter Toby on the beach. Then to top it all off, Mallory tells Stacey that she thinks Toby likes her, and when Stacey expresses her disgust, Mallory accuses her of being jealous.

Eh, just throw her into the ocean, Stacey... it would take at least an hour for anyone to notice.

Next up, Mary Anne and Dawn are in Stoneybrook, working their day camp known as Mini-Camp. The kids are naughty and the chapter is boring.

Kristy chapter. Kristy's softball team is gearing up to go against their bitter rivals, Bart's Bashers, but oh no! So many of Kristy's players are going on vacation before the big game that they may have to forfeit! Not if Kristy has anything to say about it. In order to recruit more players, she goes around her ritzy neighborhood ringing doorbells, finding several possibilities, including a P. Archibald "Moon" Pinckney and a Sheila Nofziger. I can guess how this is going to turn out. (Yeah, they totally lose the big game. HA.)

Back at Sea City, Jessi sees a poster for a sand castle contest, happening on some forthcoming "Wednesday." She tells the little kids about it and they get all excited. Later, Jessi walks by the place where the real sand castle-builders are practicing, realizes her kids will never win anything more than a participatory ribbon, and proceeds to panic. The girls' castle was nothing compared to these. But I didn't want to insult them by saying they shouldn't enter. So far, my week had been great. I'd been a perfect mother's helper, just like I wanted to be. But this was going to be trouble. Feelings were going to be hurt. I had no idea what to do.

Several chapters go by in which nothing happens and THEN... everyone, all the baby-sitters, arrive in Sea City! Squee! Girly party! Well, mostly girly... there's Logan. And Logan is just a wee bit jealous over the fact that Alex (remember, Mary Anne's one-time summer fling) is staying nearby.

Time for another Mallory chapter. I find her plot kind of interesting in this Super Special. Not good, just interesting. I love how her infatuation with Toby is making Stacey all crazy and bitchy. Bwahaha. Toby asks Mallory out for Friday evening. All casual-like. Mallory's reaction: I flew to the house... I bounded upstairs, ran straight into the room, and slammed the door... I plopped on the bed and said, "Oh, Jessi Jessi Jessi Jessi Jessi Jessi!"

"What what what what what? Are you okay?"

"No." I shook my head and looked her straight in the eye. "I'm in love."

Several chapters go by. A hurricane named Bill is moving ever-closer. But will it strike Sea City, or fizzle out at sea? Meanwhile, a storm continues to rage within Stacey, who has had not one, but two tantrums over... wait for it... bathroom towels and shelled peanuts. Let's harken to what Kristy said about Stacey in the Introductory chapter: "Stacey's really beautiful. And sophisticated (but not snobby). And smart (especially in math.) And extremely volatile (especially when deprived of the pleasures of shelled peanuts.)"

Okay, I added that last part. But it fits. Stacey has clearly gone to the zoo.

But she's not the only one....

Hurricane Bill approaches. It will strike Sea City this night. The vacationing families decide to move inland. Mr. Pike instructs everyone to pack one overnight bag. Claudia runs upstairs to comply....

Kristy and I ran into the room we shared. Kristy threw a pair of underwear, some socks, and a T-shirt into a backpack. "Come on," she said.

I was having a dilemma. I was wearing the only long pants I had packed, these overdyed navy jeans. I was also wearing a loose black cotton sweater over a white tank top. So if I packed my big purple Hawaiian shorts, which were the next warmest pants, I'd be stuck having to wear an orange striped shirt, which was the only long-sleeved one I'd brought. Unless I wore the sweater again over it....

"Uh, Claud?" Kristy said. "Bill is a hurricane, you know -- not a fashion-show judge."

I ended up packing three oufits -- one in case it was cold and rainy, one in case it was warm and rainy, and one really nice one to change into if necessary (or if the weather cleared up). I thought that was very sensible.

And when Claudia finally meandered downstairs, she realized everyone had already evacuated without her.


Okay, no, they hadn't, but I think that would've been for the best.

The families pile into two large vehicles and begin to drive out of Sea City. When they reach the causeway (a bridge that connects Sea City to the mainland) they learn that it is underwater. They're trapped!! A policeman tells them to take shelter in the elementary school, so off they go.

Slowly we inched our way across town. The rain pounded like war drums on the roof. 

Or maybe that was the sound of my own heart.

Always with the drama, Claudia....

Inside the elementary school, they find cots to sleep on and canned food to eat for dinner. The power goes out. Soon, everyone is asleep.

Buddy Barrett gets a chapter. We learn that everyone survived the hurricane, safe inside the Sea City Elementary School gym. The storm is over. Time to go back to the beach houses and assess the damage.

As we drove along the main street, Mrs. Pike said, "Looks like we were lucky."

I didn't think so. The Ferris Wheel hadn't fallen down. The store windows hadn't broken. No cars had crashed. No houses had blown away. No dead bodies were in the street. Nothing had happened. It was boring.

Speaking of things boring, here comes another Logan chapter. Logan is planning some kind of surprise for Mary Anne's homecoming. Logan pines: I couldn't wait to see her. Especially after the week I'd had. It had been the absolute pits. Why? Well, let me come right out and say it. From the moment I left Sea City, I couldn't stop thinking about Alex.


Thinking about a guy CAN cause a lot of inner turmoil and... hey, wait a second.


Meanwhile, in Malloryland...

Mallory is getting ready for her date with Toby in 12 hours. And she is stressing. What would I wear? Should I put on makeup? Could I learn how to put on makeup in time? Should I practice what to say? Should I leave my glasses at home?

A) Why, nothing, of course. B) Yes. C) Is the makeover plot from Super Special #5 no longer BSC canon, or...? D) You should totally practice. Have Buddy Barrett play Toby. E) Not unless you want to go tumbling off the boardwalk into the sea, you goon.

While trying to help Mallory decide on an outfit for the big date, Claudia brings up Ben, an Australian boy who Mallory's been out with a few times. Mallory starts to miss Ben. So she calls him. And they have a wonderful conversation. And then... I realized something. There was no one I wanted to go out with but Ben. I tried to get excited about my date with Toby again. But I just couldn't. The thrill was completely gone.

Mallory decides to tell Toby that she has a beau back home, and that instead of going out with Toby tonight, she'd like to spend the evening with her family. Toby seems agreeable, but then asks Mallory to try and hook him up with another cute, single girl next summer, which ruffles her red feathers. She goes back inside to find Stacey sitting on Mallory's bed. Stacey is mournful and wants to apologize for her bitchery. They make up; all is well.

The end.

Well, almost...

It's epilogue-ic postcard time!

Mary Anne writes to Alex in her slanty-to-the-point-of-collapse handwriting to tell him about the romantic welcome-home present that Logan came up with: a horse-drawn carriage ride! Whyyyy is she telling Alex this? "Look what my awesome boyfriend did for me! What do YOU have to compare, Alex? Write back." I mean, what?

Buddy writes to his father and alludes to the fact that Stacey and Mrs. Barrett had a long, serious talk on the way back from Sea City, and now seem friendlier toward each other.

Jessi tells Cousin Keisha that being a Super Sitter really wore her out. (Jessi had mentioned cooking the entire family's breakfast on several occasions. Eeshk.)

Robert Thompson, manager of First Glass, Inc. Glaziers & Window Design, writes to the Pikes to let them know that his company will be coming to fix their hurricane-damaged windows on Saturday at 10 am. Annnnd yawn.

And finally, Toby writes to Mallory to say:

Dear Mallory,
I just want you to know, I'm not mad at you at all. In fact I'm kind of glad you did what you did. If you hadn't, it would have been an uncomfortable date. You have a steady boyfriend and that's cool. So I guess you wouldn't mind sending me the address of your friend Jessi? She seemed very nice. How old is she? Is she seeing someone?
Hope to hear soon,

In conclusion:

Not the best Super Special, but not terrible. The writing was fair to good; the descriptions were especially noteworthy. I felt the coldness of the beach before the hurricane.

Most of the plots were reasonable/relatable. None really stuck out for me as being that interesting. Maybe the Mallory-Stacey one. And Hurricane Bill's. Everyone else's was pretty forgettable.

I didn't like how half of the book took place in Stoneybrook and half in Sea City. A lot of the early Super Specials kept all the baby-sitters in one location, although they often branched out and did their own things in that location. The later Super Specials seemed to drift away from that concept. This one seems especially disjointed, perhaps because of this choice. Or maybe it's just hard to write a book where eleven different characters get chapters (all the regulars, plus Logan, Buddy Barrett, Karen Brewer, and Margo Pike).

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being a rousing Baby-Sitters Club adventure, and 1 being a book I'd send straight to Good Will, I give this one a 4.7.

All right, well, back to reading Harry Potter for the eighth time....

* * * *

Also be sure to check out:
BSC Super Special #6, New York, New York!
Analyzing The BSC Members' Family Portraits

Friday, July 19, 2013

All About Everything - Week Of July 16, 2013

This Week's Topic: Honey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Honey /ˈhʌni/ is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. The variety produced by honey bees (the genus Apis) is the one most commonly referred to, as it is the type of honey collected by beekeepers and consumed by humans. Honey produced by other bees and insects has distinctly different properties.


Honey is produced by bees as a food source. In cold weather or when fresh food sources are scarce, bees use their stored honey as their source of energy. By contriving for bee swarms to nest in artificial hives, people have been able to semidomesticate the insects, and harvest excess honey.

In the hive (or in a wild nest), there are three types of bees:

The worker bees raise larvae and collect the nectar that will become honey in the hive. Leaving the hive, they collect sugar-rich flower nectar and return.

In the hive, the bees use their "honey stomachs" to ingest and regurgitate the nectar a number of times until it is partially digested....The bees work together as a group with the regurgitation and digestion until the product reaches a desired quality. It is then stored in honeycomb cells. After the final regurgitation, the honeycomb is left unsealed. However, the nectar is still high in both water content and natural yeasts, which, unchecked, would cause the sugars in the nectar to ferment. The process continues as bees inside the hive fan their wings, creating a strong draft across the honeycomb, which enhances evaporation of much of the water from the nectar. This reduction in water content raises the sugar concentration and prevents fermentation. Ripe honey, as removed from the hive by a beekeeper, has a long shelf life, and will not ferment if properly sealed.

Toxic Honey

Honey produced from flowers of oleandersrhododendronsmountain laurelssheep laurel, and azaleas may cause honey intoxication. Symptoms include dizziness, weakness, excessive perspiration, nausea, and vomiting. Less commonly, low blood pressure, shock, heart rhythm irregularities, and convulsions may occur, with rare cases resulting in death. Honey intoxication is more likely when using "natural" unprocessed honey and honey from farmers who may have a small number of hives. Commercial processing, with pooling of honey from numerous sources, is thought to dilute any toxins.

* * * * *

Hmm, I guess I never knew exactly how bees made honey, but regurgitation doesn't sound very appetizing. But I guess when you think about where a lot of our food comes from... well, I'll leave it at that.

Meanwhile, toxic honey? Why was there never a Winnie The Pooh story about that? Or is that what caused the Heffalumps and Woozles to appear? Ya know....

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

All About Everything - Week Of July 2, 2013

This Week's Topic: Beverly Cleary


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Beverly Cleary (born April 12, 1916) is an American writer of more than 30 books for young adults and children. As one of America's most successful authors of children's literature, she has sold 91 million copies of her books worldwide. Some of her best-known characters are Henry Huggins, Ribsy, Beatrice ("Beezus") Quimby, her sister Ramona Quimby, and Ralph S. Mouse. She won the 1981 National Book Award for Ramona and Her Mother and the 1984 Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw.
For her lifetime contributions to American literature Cleary has received the National Medal of Arts, recognition as a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from the children's librarians.

Works By Beverly Cleary 
(*=one of my favorites)

Henry Huggins, 1950
Ellen Tebbits, 1951
*Henry and Beezus, 1952
Otis Spofford Morrow, 1953
Henry and Ribsy, 1954
*Beezus and Ramona, 1955
Fifteen, 1956
Henry and the Paper Route, 1957
*The Luckiest Girl, 1958
Jean and Johnny, 1959
The Hullabaloo ABC, 1960
The Real Hole, 1960
Beaver and Wally, 1960
Here's Beaver!, 1961
Two Dog Biscuits, 1961
Emily's Runaway Imagination, 1961
Henry and the Clubhouse, 1962
Sister of the Bride, 1963
Ribsy, 1964
The Mouse and the Motorcycle, 1965
The Growing-Up Feet, 1967
Mitch and Amy, 1967
*Ramona the Pest, 1968
Runaway Ralph, 1970
Socks, 1973
*Ramona the Brave, 1975
*Ramona and Her Father, 1977
*Ramona and Her Mother, 1979
*Ramona Quimby, Age 8, 1981
Ralph S. Mouse, 1982
*Dear Mr. Henshaw, 1983
*Ramona Forever, 1984
The Ramona Quimby Diary, 1984
Lucky Chuck, 1984
Janet's Thingamajigs, 1987
*A Girl from Yamhill, 1988
Muggie Maggie, 1990
Strider, 1991
Petey's Bedtime Story, 1993
*My Own Two Feet, 1995
Ramona's World, 1999

* * * * *

Beverly Cleary is one of my heroes. Fun fact: she was born during World War I and she's STILL HERE. (As of this posting, anyway...) Also she's a Newbery Medalist, the top honor only going to one author/book a year. She's gotten the Honor a few times, too.

Growing up, my classmates and I all heard about Beverly Cleary over and over in school and I always just assumed it was because she was a local connection (she was born in my home state of Oregon, then moved to my city, Portland, just in time for first grade).

But as I got older I realized that Beverly Cleary's influence had spread all over, and even Judy Blume, who grew up in New Jersey, was inspired by Beverly Cleary. Granted, New Jersey's not exactly the North Pole, but at least it went to show that Beverly Cleary wasn't only appreciated by the people who could regularly drive by one of the houses she grew up in, but by people all over. People who were awesome.

I highly recommend Beverly Cleary's two autobiography/memoirs: A Girl From Yamhill and My Own Two Feet. She is funny, honest, remembers details, and tells her life story just as if it were one of her novels. I've actually read both of them at least thrice. Check em out. (But do take care to avoid this.)