bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
New Year's Eve has been a dud for us for a long time. When I was young, we used to spend it with the family of a friend of my father's from work; that was a lot of fun. But Teri and Sebastian both fall asleep long before midnight every New Year's Eve, so I've spent pretty much every on my own - or asleep myself.

But this year was different. I'd heard that the Edaville Railroad was closing, probably for good. I've been going there since I was a baby, so of course I insisted that we should go.

The weather was warm for the time of year; we got there right at opening time, 4PM. The sun was going down, and the Christmas Festival of Lights was going full blast. We went to the cranberry and train museum building; Sebastian and I went upstairs. In the past there had been a free cranberry juice dispenser, but it was gone. The glassed-in honey bee hive was empty too. Sebastian still had some fun running around through the maze, although he's so tall now that he was easily able to see over the walls.

After that we went down and rode the Ferris Wheel. It was a LOT of fun; chilly, but it went fast and gave us an incredible feeling when we went over the top. We laughed and laughed. My fingers were freezing in the cold air at the top of the Ferris Wheel, but luckily I didn't drop my phone!

Later we took the train. By coincidence, the steam engine was on loan from the Boothbay Railway; when Edaville closed in 1991 a lot of their rolling stock was sold off, and some of it ended up in Boothbay. The steam engine wasn't from Edaville, but it was still a funny coincidence.

The train windows steamed up quite a bit, but it was still a lot of fun; there were light displays and painted wooden figures on the sides of the tracks and among the cranberry bogs. We chatted with an older couple nearby, who took a picture of all three of us. At one point the train stopped, stood still for a while, and then backed up for perhaps 500 feet. Then it went forward again.

When we got off the train, we ran down past the tracks and Sebastian played on several of the other trains that had been turned into playground installations. Then he got hungry, so we went to the cafe and had hot dogs and french fries. Perhaps it was the cold air and running around we'd done, but the food was delicious. After that Sebastian played a game and won a penguin toy (what else?), and then I bought a fried dough and hot chocolate with whipped cream and jimmies. There's nothing like fried dough with steam coming out of it on a cold day, and the hot chocolate was really good; just the right temperature, hot but not too hot to drink.

By then it was getting late, so we headed towards the exit. Just before the souvenir ship was a large trailer that said "heated mine", and next to it was a gold-panning sluice. The hot water running down it was steaming. We talked to the man there, and discovered that the inside of the trailer was set up as a mine - Bear Creek Mine - with interesting rocks and fossils inside. It wasn't too expensive, so Sebastian put on a miner's helmet with a little light on it, and I accompanied him inside the dark trailer.

Inside, the walls were covered with rock-like stuff (foam, I think), neat-looking fossil art, and little holes with fossils and gemstones - nothing valuable, of course, but cool nonetheless. It took Sebastian quite a while to find everything, but there was no rush. While we were inside, Teri had a nice chat with the owner. They also had the gold-dust panning sluice, but I was out of cash and they couldn't take cards. Still, Sebastian loved it so much that he wants to have them do his birthday party next year. I think we will!

Teri had also heard from many people that the park was for sale for 11 million dollars, but it apparently wasn't selling. The owner, everyone said, was going to subdivide the land for luxury houses or condominiums if the place wouldn't sell as a park. If that's true, it's a terrible, terrible shame. Edaville survived an eight-year shutdown in the 1990s, but if the land is divided up for housing, Edaville will never be able to come back. It's such a wonderful place, so much fun, and it's been running since 1947! Why is this being allowed? The place is a genuine New England treasure!

We made a final stop at the gift shop, and I splurged on memorabilia. We got lots of fun Edaville stuff. I just hope that the place stays open so we can come back again and again. And some day, with Sebastian's children.
bobquasit: (Sebastian)
We just finished the last chapter of the very last book in The Great Brain series. Sebastian had me read the Publisher's Note at the end and the author's bio on the back cover, too. That last book was certainly more uneven than the others, but it was still good. That said, the previous book (which was the last one actually published by John D. Fitzgerald, the original author) had more of a satisfying "ending" feel for the series.

I'd read that the final book was written by someone else based on John D. Fitzgerald's notes, but the book itself doesn't indicate that this was the case, and I don't believe that it was. The writing felt quite a bit like Fitzgerald's work, although not as carefully crafted as his other books; more of an early draft, I'd say, which was then gone over by an editor who knew his work, but nonetheless didn't quite have the same touch as Fitzgerald himself. All in all, it was a good series. I'm tempted to read it again to Sebastian, but after some thought I've decided that for big series, it's enough for me to read them aloud to him once; after that, he should re-read them himself.

Perhaps we'll read some Heinlein juveniles next. I think he's old enough.

Oh, last night he begged me to stay and sleep in his bed. I hadn't done that in a long time, he said, and he was right; it has been years. But he's so much bigger now that it just wouldn't be comfortable, and in any case he hasn't changed his habit of turning diagonally in bed. Still, I stayed there until he fell asleep, as I almost always do.

Book Fair

Nov. 4th, 2010 10:34 pm
bobquasit: (Default)
I took the day off from work today, to volunteer at Sebastian's school with Teri. We were working at the book fair from 8am-1pm.

Mostly I ran the cash register, scanning books, taking money, and making change. I got to chat with the kids a lot, too. It was a lot of fun! I really enjoy talking with kids. The register was neat, a lot like a high-tech toy. I definitely want to do it again next year.
bobquasit: (Sebastian)
Sebastian's bus arrived early, before Teri had gone to pick him up. They told him he was a big boy and could walk to our house (it's half a block away from the stop). He was nervous, but made the walk; he was at the door when Teri stepped out.

Teri was furious. She wanted me to call the school to complain, but I thought it wiser to just ask the driver and her assistant not to do that again. If we complain to the school, their jobs could be jeopardized. And I don't want them to have a grudge against us or Sebastian! But am I being too diplomatic? He's nine, but he's awfully big and (usually) mature for his age.


Oct. 24th, 2010 11:47 pm
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
So much to catch up on, but I'm too tired - I'll probably miss some of it.

  • Sebastian and I finished the seventh book in the Great Brain series. There's one more, but it wasn't written by John D. Fitzgerald; I suspect it will be a letdown. But the seventh book was a perfect bittersweet ending to the series. Sebastian found it a bit embarrassing, but all in all he loved it and the whole series. I hope the library has the eighth book in stock somewhere!

  • Teri and I were doing some shopping today. One of the places we stopped at was the Wal-Mart in Attleboro. It's a "Super" Wal-Mart, with a complete grocery section. We weren't buying groceries, but I was curious so I looked through it a bit - and was stunned. I've been looking for Underwood Deviled Roast Beef spread in supermarkets for over twenty years now. I haven't seen it in New England for decades. I'd resorted to the internet, buying a case of the stuff (two dozen cans) once a year for about $60. But Wal-Mart had them for $1.72 each! I bought ten. Guess what I had for dinner?

  • We went to a "Books are Wings" party at the Library on Friday or Saturday. The audience seemed a bit young. But when we were looking through the books (each child gets a free one) I let out a gasp of amazement. They had a copy of Mr. Penny! But we'd already picked out another rare book, and weren't allowed to make a second pick. Still, it's amazing that they'd have such a wonderful book.

bobquasit: (Daffy)
Yesterday I was the Mystery Reader for Sebastian's class. I read them the first chapter of The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald, about the installation of the first water closet (i.e. indoor toilet) in a town in Utah in 1896. The kids laughed a lot.

Part of the Mystery Reader program is that the kids get five clues before the reader appears, to give them a chance to guess who it is. I tried to make my clues literary ones.
Today's Mystery Reader...

  1. Wears the same kind of item on their face that a famous boy with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead wears.

  2. Has the same first name as one of Lucy's brothers from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

  3. Is going to a birthday party tomorrow. [All of Sebastian's classmates had been invited to the party, so I thought this was a good clue for them.]

  4. Doesn't need a comb.

  5. Loves to read, recite poetry and review books.

It may sound arrogant of me (because it is), but I don't think there are too many people who are better at reading aloud than I am. And I did better than usual yesterday, using voices for each character and making occasional brief explanations of historical points. I don't know why the majority of people read so woodenly! It takes so much of the fun of reading away.

At one point the father of the family announced to the watching townspeople that they would be allowed to see the new water closet in groups of six, and that each group would get a demonstration. Several of the students giggled, so I looked up at them, shook my finger, and said "I know what you're thinking!". The class dissolved into hilarity. And when we came to the section where the young narrator was acting as a barker, shouting "See the magic water closet that doesn't stink!" the kids kept joyfully chanting that line over and over.

The chapter was 23 pages long, with an additional full-page illustration. The timing was, luckily, just about perfect. When the closing bell rang, I had only two short paragraphs left to read. After I finished, several of the kids came up and chatted with me about the books that they're reading. Oh, and then Sebastian, Teri and I gave the class a copy of The Great Brain to keep.

I'm going to be a Mystery Reader at least one more time, and even more often than that if I'm allowed!


Oct. 16th, 2010 11:21 pm
bobquasit: (Sebastian)
Today was Sebastian's birthday party for his school class, plus one or two friends from his karate class. We held it at his karate school. The kids had a lot of fun.
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
[As far as I can tell, there are NO other reviews of this book on the web. That's a real pity, particularly since it's very likely that it will never be published again. So I did my best to recapture the charming and memorable qualities of the book in this review.]

The Cat Who Tasted Cinnamon ToastThe Cat Who Tasted Cinnamon Toast by Ann Spencer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a lovely book! And how sad it is that I'm almost the only person in the world who seems to remember it. But I've shared it with my son - just read it to him again tonight, to his delight - so I've done my part to share the memories.

The Cat Who Tasted Cinnamon Toast was both written and illustrated by the talented Ann Spencer. It's the story of an elderly millionaire, Miss Margrove, whose cat Augie suddenly goes through a strange transformation: he absolutely refuses to eat cat food. One taste of cinnamon toast, and all is undone; he now insists on only the finest gourmet fare. His psychologist is unable to explain this mysterious change.

But Augie is fickle in his tastes, venturing into the haute cuisine of one culture after another. Miss Margrove's stable of chefs eventually lose their tempers and leave. Fortunately an unexpected television appearance by the French Chef, Julia Child, inspires Miss Margrove and saves the day.

The balance between text and art is particularly well done. Each page features large, finely-detailed black and white illustrations. Unusually, there is absolutely no "talking down" to the young reader; words and phrases like "Escoffier", "truite amandine", and "la vie en rose" are sprinkled liberally throughout the text. Nonetheless, the story is quite easy for children to comprehend, and the humor of the words and illustrations is ideal for a child.

I first began reading The Cat Who Tasted Cinnamon Toast to my son when he was about four years old, at a guess. He loved it, and still does five years later; it helps that he's a cat-lover (and any child who is a cat-lover is sure to like this book). There are no serious crises, no moments of terror or stress. Augie is naughty at times, but in a very lovable way. It's a perfect bedtime book.

Reading the book aloud takes about one-half hour, including the very necessary time spent allowing the child to look at each picture. As I noted above, some of the cooking-related language is a bit esoteric; if you're not familiar with the words, you may want to look up pronunciations before reading it aloud. It's definitely worth the effort.

There is one illustration which might trouble some parents. When Augie sneaks out to the Omar Khayyam restaurant to be inducted into the wonders of Persian cuisine, the illustration includes a representation of a fairly large painting on the background wall that depicts a naked woman seated (with legs turned sideways) next to a man. So far, my son has never commented on it, and I see no reason to call it to his attention or be concerned. When I was a child myself, I never noticed it through many readings.

For very strict parents, I suppose the page where Augie gets drunk on baba au rhum could also be a concern. My son found it hysterical. So do I.

If you're reading aloud, a passable Julia Child impersonation adds quite a lot to the experience (she has a short but memorable television appearance in the book). It's also useful to be able to sing the old "Let Your Fingers Do The Walking" jingle from the Yellow Pages commercials in the 1960s and 70s. But neither is a requirement, of course!

The book is out of print forever, I suppose. It represents what might now be considered an impossibly "high culture" moment in America, an aesthetic which I cannot imagine will ever return to public awareness, much less popularity. And that's sad. Still, if you're lucky enough to find a copy, it's a wonderful, memorable book.

View all my reviews
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
It wasn't easy, but tonight I finally managed to hook up the Roku Netflix player that my dad had given me a while ago. Let me tell you: it's a HELL of a lot easier to get Netflix to work with a Wii than with the Roku player! But eventually I got everything to work, so we can watch Netflix on the upstairs TV. All in all, I think we're all pleased with Netflix.

My parents got us a family membership to the Roger Williams Zoo the last time they visited us, so we used it by going to the zoo today. We also invited one of Sebastian's friends from school to join us on an impromptu play date. We all had a lot of fun, though neither Teri nor I was feeling our best. One odd thing: the zoo closes at 4PM! On a beautiful early-fall Saturday, that makes no sense at all.

We spent around three hours at the zoo, and only got to see about half of it. We told the boys that we could come back and see the rest of it soon.

I really need to unload the pictures and video from my phone and camera!
bobquasit: (Sebastian)
We finished Alice In Wonderland. Sebastian liked it very much, more than I expected he would. But he was eager to get on to our next book, The Great Brain. And that one has him positively in stitches. He's laughed more over that book than any other we've read, so far. A sad chapter is coming up, though; I can't help but wonder how he'll react.
bobquasit: (Daffy)
Snow TreasureSnow Treasure by Marie McSwigan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book when I was a boy. It really captured my imagination, and stayed there. Nor was I the only one; I know several others who also loved that book. That's not too surprising; it was very popular in schools when I was young, and there were a lot of copies floating around.
Read more... )
View all my reviews »


Aug. 15th, 2010 11:12 pm
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
He lost two teeth over the past week - two molars. He was away staying with my parents in Brookline and going to Armenian day camp, so the Tooth Fairy couldn't visit him. And she apparently forgot to come last night. But she came tonight.
bobquasit: (Rorschach)
The Mystery of the Talking Skull (Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators, #11)The Mystery of the Talking Skull by Robert Arthur

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Read more... )
There was one small additional chuckle for me when I read the books to my son recently; I'm pretty sure I caught a shout-out from Robert Arthur to one of his contemporaries, one who happens to be another favorite author of mine. I didn't know if they knew each other (although their writing styles are actually rather similar), but a reporter who helps the boys out a bit is named Fred Brown. If that's not a reference to Fredric Brown...well, I'm pretty sure that it must be. For one thing, the real Brown was also a newspaper reporter, at least for a while.

It's an outstanding book, one that belongs in the collection of anyone who enjoys exciting, thought-provoking mysteries.

View all my reviews >>
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
Tonight we read chapters 13 & 14 of Alfred Hitchcock & The Three Investigators in The Mystery of the Fiery Eye. Sebastian loves this series, but the more spooky-seeming books are a little too scary for him, at least at bedtime; so we're sticking to the straight-out mysteries (of course even the spooky ones have mundane explanations).

At one point, the boys were trapped by gangsters. Some of the gang was away, and the two groups were communicating by walkie-talkies. The gang leader "barked" commands into the walkie-talkie. I couldn't resist immediately following up with "Woof, woof!". Sebastian laughed so hard he fell out of bed, and I laughed too.

But he was sad today, because tomorrow is his last day at summer camp at Wee Folk. He loves it there so much! But next week he's going to Armenian camp in Watertown - it's a day camp, he'll be sleeping over at my parents' place - and the week after that, Wee Folk is totally booked up. He begged us to get him more time at Wee Folk, but all we could do was promise to see if we could get him on a waiting list for the following week, on the off chance that there will be some cancellations.
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
The Secret of Terror Castle (Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators, #1)The Secret of Terror Castle by Robert Arthur

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Secret of Terror Castle is just about a perfect book for boys aged 8-15. Robert Arthur is a woefully neglected author of great skill, and some of his finest writing is on display in the Three Investigators series.

This is the first book in the series, and as such it establishes many elements which were continued throughout. We're introduced to Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews, as well as a host of memorable supporting characters. And, of course, we are introduced to the host of the series: Alfred Hitchcock himself.

That is, the book features Alfred Hitchcock IF you're lucky enough to have a relatively early edition. Unfortunately Hitchcock's estate reportedly demanded more money from the publisher for the use of his name after his death; Random House instead replaced the character of Hitchcock with a fictional detective-turned-writer in new books. When earlier books were re-issued, they were rewritten - poorly - to replace Hitchcock as well.

In the case of The Secret of Terror Castle, the plot required that the "host" be a movie producer, so the book was rewritten with a fictional one.

Avoid the new editions, if you can; some of them also exclude the original (and wonderful) illustrations by Harry Kane, a sad omission indeed.

For excitement, mystery, and humor, the book is hard to beat. Arthur had a gift for knowing what fascinates a boy. I don't think any boy who has read the book will ever give up wishing for his own "Headquarters", a damaged mobile home hidden under piles of junk with secret tunnel entrances, a telephone, a darkroom, and a lab!

Yes, the books are somewhat dated, technology-wise. Terror Castle was written in 1964, after all. But that didn't bother my eight-year-old son in the least; he was simply riveted throughout the book, always begging for "one more chapter". He's hooked, now, and we're reading through the series as quickly as we can.

Reading it to him brought back a long-ago memory for me: sitting in my elementary school library, reading "Terror Castle", and realizing that this was pure brain candy - not in that it was bad for me, but that each page was an unadulterated delight.

View all my reviews >>


Jul. 17th, 2010 12:04 am
bobquasit: (Sebastian)
Sebastian lost a tooth while we were on vacation in Maine two weeks ago; it was his upper right molar, immediately after the bicuspid. And he lost his corresponding upper left molar tonight at dinner. The Tooth Fairy took care of both teeth tonight, since she'd apparently forgotten to take care of the first one in Maine.

The Y

Jul. 13th, 2010 11:44 pm
bobquasit: (Default)
I heard that the YMCA is dropping the "MCA" from its name. Interesting.

It was another good day. Sebastian had his first day at summer camp; it's the day care/kindergarten that he went to for several years after he turned two. He'd begged to go again for summer camp this year (they take kids older than him, too).

I couldn't go along to drop him off, since I was working. But Teri said that when they got there, a lot of kids recognized him and shouted "Sebastian!" and the look on his face was priceless; he didn't know what to do! Of course he had a great time and was trying to arrange a play date with one of his friends when we came to pick him up.

Teri had suggested that we work out at the Y tonight, and had me call them to reserve a place for Sebastian in the 5:30 kid's exercise class. They told me that the 4:30 class was nearly full, but that no one else had called for the 5:30 class; unless they had at least two kids, there wouldn't BE a class tonight. They said they'd call me at 5 and let me know.

But they didn't. So I called back. It turned out that we'd screwed up; there were NO classes on Tuesday night, as I should have remembered! But there was a new program for kids aged 6-12; an hour of supervised activity in the gym, and then an hour of supervised swimming. Sebastian begged to go. Teri initially said no, but eventually we got her to change her mind.

We dropped him off, and then went over to Chelo's for dinner. It was delicious; I've really come to enjoy their light grilled chicken dinner! I wish I knew how they made the chicken taste so good.

After dinner we headed back to the gym, worked out for a while (I put in 37 good hard minutes on the elliptical machine), and then took Sebastian home. He'd had a lot of fun, although he'd fallen and hit his shin rather badly while he was there. There's a large red bump on his leg, but it doesn't hurt him much and doesn't seem to be restricting his movement at all. We'll take a look at it tomorrow, and if we're at all unsure we'll call his doctor.
bobquasit: (Default)
To my surprise, Sebastian took another walk with me today. It was shorter than I wanted, only about 25 minutes, but we had a nice stroll.

Earlier tonight, I did an experiment of sorts. I mixed equal amounts of ground turkey and ground beef together, made it into hamburgers, and barbecued them.

I didn't like the way the meats mixed together; they weren't homogenous, but seemed like very moist clay. The texture seemed wrong. I mixed in a small amount of my soy sauce & Worcestershire marinade, but was very dubious about the whole thing - so much so that I grabbed some hot dogs and threw them on the grill too.

The burgers had the color of chicken breasts, and didn't smell quite right. I was psyching myself into nausea. But when I finally tried one, I have to admit: it was virtually indistinguishable from a regular beef burger. And I think it was probably a good bit healthier, since it had half the red meat of my usual burgers!

A walk

Jul. 11th, 2010 11:30 pm
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
We went to Capron Park Zoo today, and then after that Sebastian played in the playground there. It was fun.

Teri went to bed early, and Sebastian asked to play with his Webkinz online. I decided to take a walk; I suppose walking around the zoo could be considered exercise, but I think it's important for me to walk every day. I told Sebastian I'd be taking a walk, and he asked if there were any "bad guys" around. I assured him I'd be safe, but he asked if I could just walk around the back yard a couple of times instead.

After I explained that I wanted to walk for at least half an hour, and that I'd have to walk around our back yard fifty or a hundred times, he suggested I walk down to his karate school and back. I guess he thinks that's a safer route.

I told Teri that I'd be walking (she was still awake), and she suggested that I ask Sebastian if he'd like to come along. I doubted he'd be interested - he was playing Webkinz, after all - but when I asked him, his face lit up and he said "YES!". So we went on a walk together, him and me.

It was really nice. We chatted; he had lots to tell me about how he'd been a defender against bullies in the 1st grade, and how he was feeling a little nervous about going into third grade this fall. As we were walking, I spotted something that I thought was a bird in a nearby lawn; my vision hasn't been good lately, so I pointed it out to Sebastian. It turned out to be a largish turtle, perhaps a foot long from snout to tail! And it was alive, too. We saw its head move.

We walked a bit further towards Stop & Shop, and then turned around to walk back to Cumberland Farms (I hadn't planned to walk all the way to Stop & Shop, I was just curious to see how far we'd get in that direction). The sky was beautiful. Every time we crossed the street Sebastian had fun with it, saying "panic attack! panic attack!" if he saw a car in the distance. We got to Cumberland Farms, picked up milk, orange juice, and a small container of some ghastly blue drink that Sebastian wanted. Then we headed for home. It was about a half-hour walk altogether, our first intentional stroll for exercise. I really liked it. We'll do it again!


Jul. 10th, 2010 12:11 am
bobquasit: (Default)
We finished reading Alice's Adventures In Wonderland yesterday. We also started reading The Secret of Terror Castle, one of the first Three Investigators books (by Robert Arthur). My copy has the original text, with Alfred Hitchcock.

Sebastian loves it. Rather than start reading Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There he had me read him an extra chapter of The Secret of Terror Castle tonight - and then begged me to start Alice. I think he's finding The Secret of Terror Castle really exciting and almost scary in places (as I've said before, though perhaps I shouldn't, I'm really good at reading out loud), so I'm going to try to stick to Alice in the evenings and read Terror Castle earlier in the day.

Two books going at once, and both of them generally considered suitable for children considerably older than he is. My son the bookworm! :D


bobquasit: (Default)

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