Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Book Review: The Housekeeper and the Professor

The genre for September's book club, foreign translation, intimidated me a bit. I love choosing each months' book, so I approached choosing a foreign language book translated into English just like I usually do. I'm trying to stay away from depressing, sad, violent, negative and romantically sappy books. Yes, I realize those moods make for a compelling read, but between stress at work, the crazy world we live in, and trying to heal my broken heart...I need to read happy stuff these days. I was drawn to this book for three reasons: the first bunch of reviews I read all said it was "sweet", it was short, and it was on the shelf at the library.

So, was it "sweet"?

September 2013: Foreign Translation

The Housekeeper and the Professor
By Yoko Ogawa
180 pages

Originally written in Japanese, author Yoko Ogawa sets her sweet story in 1990's Japan. The story is narrated by the Housekeeper, who has just started a new job cleaning house and cooking for the Professor, a retired mathematical genius. The tricky part is the Professor can only remember the last 80 minutes. It was interesting to read how the Professor manages his life with such a short memory,  as well as how the Housekeeper, and her son "Root" who befriends the old man, help him with this vast task.

This sweet book is simply about three things: math, baseball, and family.

I love baseball, so it was fun to read about Japanese baseball through the conversations between Root and the Professor while they listen to games on the radio. I don't really love math, however, but Ogawa did an excellent job of weaving mathematics within the story. Usually the Professor teaches his new friends a concept, but as the book goes on, the Housekeeper begins to describe what math has come to mean to her, and Root begins to use math to understand baseball. Though I didn't always bother to read into or understand the math, the author skillfully uses numbers in such a way that if you don't understand the concept, it doesn't detract from the story.

Ogawa does a great job of weaving the characters' love of math, baseball and each other into a sweet story about a very unlikely, yet strong, family bond. It was not depressing or sad (if a bit bittersweet at the end) or violent or negative and (*SPOILER*) thank goodness the Housekeeper and the Professor didn't fall in love. It was just very...sweet.

Could I tell I was reading a translation? I'm not sure, I don't think I've ever (knowingly) read a translated book. At times, the prose was extremely beautiful and almost lyrical. But at times it was also quite simplistic and flat. Was this because of the translator's skill or the author's writing ability? Who knows? I didn't think the translation detracted from the story though, and thought the translator did a great job describing the math.

In the end I got what I wanted: an unintimidating book that was short and sweet. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a sweet love story that's not about romance. Or someone who likes baseball. And don't be intimidated by the math, just think of it as part of the beauty.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Curling Team Shake Up 2013

It's almost that time again - ice is in, the pros are starting to play bonspiels - it must be curling season!

Here's my annual recap of the curling team shake up that happened over the summer. There weren't a lot of moves as it's an Olympic year, but there were a couple shockers!

Men's Teams

Team Epping: Scott Howard is out! He'll be playing on Team Rumfeldt this season. Collin Mitchell will join Epping.

Team Martin: John Morris is out! Dave Nedohin is in!

Team Cotter: John Morris will be taking over (but throwing third?) and this is now Team Morris. Gunnlaugson has moved to alternate. See above.

Team(s) Appelman: Looks like both Ted and Tom will be skipping teams this year.

Women's Teams

Team Webster: Cathy Overton-Clapham will replace Erin Carmody.

Team Crocker: Erin Carmody will replace Sarah Wilkes.

Team Smith-Dacey: Jill Brothers (Mouzer) will now play third.

Team Nicol: With Jill leaving, this team is now Hollie Nicol, Stephanie LeDrew, Danielle Inglis, Courtney Davies and Heather Nicol.

So, what did I miss??

There were curling team shake ups in my life too!

Team Tuesday: He broke my heart but I got to keep the curling team. Lesson learned - don't date the third.

Team Wednesday: my wheelchair curling friends will be making their own team, so we've joined with another pair looking for a team. Should be interesting. Thankfully I think that means I get demoted back to lead!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Balcony Garden 2013: Wrap Up

Balcony Garden 2013 was the year of trial and error on my balcony, and error mostly won out.

The wooden "pallet garden" my dad made for me was mostly a fail, except the violas did well on the top row. And I did get one salad's worth of mini radishes. But the cat grass, lettuce, swiss chard and spinach either got ruined by pests or never came up. Those were all on the bottom two rows, so maybe that had something to do with it. I think the main problem was it was so shallow - at only 2 inches deep. Too bad, it was a great climbing gym for the cats. It's bound for the recycling bin. 

Though I thought it was dying after the June cold snap, my basil ended up coming back and flourishing. I got 28 servings of pesto out of it, so that actually was a win! I used almonds in the pesto because I'm too cheap to buy pine nuts, and I didn't use any parmesan, but it's delicious!

Basil pesto, ready to be frozen in single serving portions in ice cube trays.

Another win: my zucchinis did well for awhile, then it got rainy and the developed mildew, but I got my fill out of them on pizzas for sure. Other people ended up giving me some monster zucchinis so I've got a freezer full of future chocolate zucchini cake! Plus, I also had 6 little white onions grow well. The pots were the winners this year. Lesson learned. Next year I'm going to go back to just planting in pots. 

My hardier succulents loved it outside. I hope a winter inside won't kill them!

I love succulents! And my new breakfast spot.

I also just bought a bistro set of two chairs and a table on an end of the season sale, so I fit those out there and will breakfast outdoors until the cold weather catches up with me! Wish I'd done this years ago!