Monday, October 18, 2010


I've heard rumblings that the third book in the Hunger Games series wasn't as light or as fun as some may have hoped, but that is exactly the reason I LOVED it. This book would be a fabulous high school English read, full of great themes to explore: power and fear, scarcity and excess, war and sacrifice, not to mention the influence of the media. I was fascinated by the rich symbolism: parachutes, wolves, food, etc. Even the names: Snow (can look beautiful, but covers up the underlying filth) Two-sided Coin, Primrose (true, hearty beauty unlike Snow's roses), etc. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read, but there was depth to it. I have been craving something meaty like that for awhile. I really do wish I could sit in a classroom and examine it all. A fabulous book!

If I read another book about a teenager finding out they have magic powers with which they must fight the dark side, I may just scream. I probably would have liked City of Bones if I hadn't already read this book a MILLION times. Magic? Yup. Vampires? Of course. Werewolves? Who can write a book without them? There was nothing new, nothing that made me think, nothing that moved me in any way. That said, if you love the tried and true teen novel formula, City of Bones will not disappoint.

My sister in law recommended Charms for the Easy Life. It tells the story of three generations of women as they deal with one another and interact in their communities during the Depression and into WWII. It was a fun, light story, and I quite enjoyed the characters within it.

I loved Ender's Game so much that I figured I would try Ender's Shadow. Shadow follows the story of a young boy named Bean, one of the kids that Ender trained with in a futurist space school to fight the "Buggers" for the salvation of the Earth. I totally preferred Ender's Game, but I did find Shadow interesting enough. I wish I had read the books closer together - so that the details would have come together better.

This is a book that Big Boy #1 was reading and I had heard was pretty good. Al Capone Does My Shirts tells the story of the children (of the prison workers and guards) who lived on Alcatraz. But the heart of the story is that 12 year old Moose's sister is mentally challenged. The reader witnesses how the family is consumed with caring for Natalie, and how Moose manages to negotiate his desire to be a normal kid in such unusual circumstances. The ending was darling, but my favorite part was his non-fiction summary of life at Alcatraz in the appendix. It was a quick and easy read - I liked it.

This is the first book in a sequel series to Children of the Promise. Written by a Mormon author for a Mormon audience, Writing on the Wall follows a Mormon family in Utah living in the 1960s. While Hughes does a good job of exposing self-righteous and hypocritical behaviors, there is still a certain tone to the novel that drove me crazy. A bit too "Utah" for me. Nonetheless, my favorite genre is historical fiction, and I have always enjoyed learning about this time period, so I would certainly pick up the next in the series. Anyone have a copy I can borrow?
\ I have never before read any of Agatha Christie's books and I was excited to read Murder on the Orient Express, just for the sake of it. It was a nice little mystery novel. There were a lot of characters that I had to keep track of, but by the end it did all make sense. It was a quick read, and worth my time, just to be familiar with the legend of it all.

Overall, this last batch wasn't too exciting. By and large these books passed the time nicely enough, but other than Mocking Jay, there really wasn't anything that rocked me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

May the Good Winds Be With You

As we were standing around watching the Balloon Fiesta kick into high gear, a pick up truck pulled up and out poured Yup, we managed to land ourselves a front row seat to see the Darth Vader Balloon. Done up in perfect George Lucas style. And yes, Darth deserves his very own blog entry.

Not long after the truck began to unload, an army of storm troopers marched in two by two:

Then Darth himself showed up - complete with voice altering technology:

Even these guys started to mill about, as did several other characters I'm not sure of:

But the balloon team would not be distracted from their ultimate mission.

First the basket was set up and the balloon unrolled; there was such great potential in Anakin at this point:

The team started to grow and cultivate the young Jedi - but not with hot air, there was no anger in him yet:

Tragically, Drath's ego started to expand, as does his head:

A funky chicken quickly escapes before Lord Vader can reign terror in the skies:

Finally the hot air of anger and pride started to lift Darth as he pushed away his fond memories of childhood:

Fully upright, Darth was now ready to take his place as the Master of the Dark Side:

The Emperor lifts off, ready to meet his destiny:

Is it just me, or is Darth looking like he's about to beat the crap out of the balloon guy with glasses?
Oh, the life lessons one can learn from Balloon Fiesta!

Monday, October 11, 2010


While we were in New Mexico for the Balloon Fiesta we made the most of the chance to check out the southwestern culture:

Something I'd never seen growing up in New York!

The Three Amigos:

With Balloon Fiesta in high gear, Old Albuquerque was full of performers - including this group of Native Americans. The boys had never had an opportunity to see anything like that before.

Then across the street was a mariachi band. A nod to the Spanish settlement that dominated this city.

In an effort to introduce a bit of culture we stopped at this art museum in Santa Fe, known for its Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit. As we were looking at a modern art piece with white stripes on a white background I was explaining that art is meant to evoke emotions. I asked BB#2 how the painting made him feel. His answer? "It makes me feel stripey."
I would have loved to have spent more time checking out all the museums and shops, but at least we managed to expose the boys just a bit of cultural.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Balloon Fiesta

In honor of Big Boy #1's twelfth birthday, we decided to surprise the boys with a long weekend in Albuquerque for the renowned Balloon Fiesta.

The first morning we wanted to be there for the "Morning Glow" when the balloonist light up their fires in the dark of early morning. We had to wake up at 4:30am, and it was awfully cold, but LOOK!

I know it's blurry, but the Morning Glow was breath taking. The balloons were actually glowing! Then, after a signal, they would all flash their fires on and off - the combined effect looked like lights on a Christmas tree. Coolest thing ever!

After the sun came up the "Mass Ascension" began. Not coincidentally, this was also about the time BB#2 stopped feeling so miserable from the cold.

The balloons went up in 'launch groups' - so there was a continuous stream of balloons being filled, being launched, and floating away.

BB#1 was enthralled with it all. (It would be hard not to be!)

There were a ton of funky shaped balloons too, including a Pepsi can, a cow, a turkey, the Wells Fargo wagon, Carmen Miranda, Smoky the Bear, a jester, a cherub (with feet that dangled below the basket), and this little family of bees:

Our little family:
At the height of the ascension, the sky was covered in balloons - I've never seen anything like it. Amazing is an understatement!

The second day we were too tired to head to the Fiesta grounds, but the boys were still able to view a ton of balloons from the hotel as they lifted off over the city. Our hotel got really into it, with a balloon basket in the lobby and streamers connected all the way up to the 10th floor.

We weren't sure if the Balloon Fiesta would be worth a whole weekend trip, but, WOW!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Change of Seasons

And I'm not talking about this:

I mean the change from baseball to basketball:

The boys have been getting the basement in order - complete with basketball court.

What kind of court would it be without baskets on each side and a marked key?

They set up 'stands' for all their fans:

And of course, locker rooms. The boys begin by changing into warm up clothes, then after a brief time, change into their game jerseys and shorts. (Who ever said boys don't play dress up?)

Ah yes, the days are getting shorter, the weather is beginning to cool, and my basement has been taken over by basketball. It must be fall.