Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Book review: The Grail

The subtitle of The Grail, by Brian Doyle, "A year ambling & shambling through an Oregon vineyard in pursuit of the best pinot noir wine in the whole wild world," sums up the book in so many perfect ways.

It gives the reader an overview of what they are about to experience (and I say experience rather than read, because it really is an experience) and it captures Doyle's writing style so well.

Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland. I think the best way to describe how he writes in this book is to say he writes like people talk, in incredibly long sentences, sometimes with a mile between periods on the page. He also doesn't use quotation marks. It's not for everyone. Once when I saw Doyle speak at a library event he said people have written to him to tell him the rules of writing or suggest edits.

The Grail is about Doyle spending a year at Lange Winery where he follows the season of growing grapes and making wine. He spends a lot of time with the Lange family, especially Jesse Lange, the son of the winery's founder Don Lange.

Each chapter is almost its own vignette, a piece of the winery or the history of wine making. As Doyle describes it, they are stories. He breaks down the making of wine into perfectly digestible, understandable bites of literature.

Page 7: "...I conceded something which I have lately conceded a lot, which is that I really only understand little stories, my brain only sparks to life when little stories are fed into it like berries into babies, so one day I said to Jesse, Hey, do me a favor, just tell me little stories, lay out the whole year for me in about five minutes, a sketch of what really happens, a year in the life of the vineyard?"

I found The Grail so enchanting because of the stories. Also, the wonderful illustrations by Mary Miller Doyle, the author's wife. I feel like I learned so much about wine, especially pinot noir, but it was such an entertaining journey. I also enjoyed it so much because it takes place in Oregon, and I lived in McMinnville for two years, which is very near Dundee, and the red clay hills where the world-renowned pinot noir wines come from.

Even if you're not a wine drinker, the story is fascinating. The book is from 2006 so I wondered about how business had fared during the rocky economy. When I finished reading I found Lange Estate Winery online and am happy to say that the family is still making wine.

Overall The Grail is a delightful read, and one that went really quickly too.

I'll leave you with a quote from Gabriel, the (then) manager of the tasting room on page 76: "Making wine is farming, and farming is hard. But the product of the farm is fascinating because ultimately wine is about people eating and talking and laughing and telling stories."

Monday, July 8, 2013

Knit happens

A little while ago I stumbled upon some yarn bombing/knit graffiti in Eugene by a group called the Knotty Knitters. I was so happy when I saw it because I've heard about yarn bombing, but hadn't seen any in real life before this.

I didn't know this, but it turns out there is an International Yarn Bombing Day, and in 2012 the group hid 75 little knit trinkets around the public library. Also, I found a video of them on the local newspaper's website from Valentine's Day 2011. The knitting read "All you knit is love," and it looks like they reused some of the same letters for the display I saw, which read "April showers knit flowers."






Close-up of the A in April

(Please excuse the mobile phone photos. It's all I had with me at the time.)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Chronicles of Riddick*

I sort of alluded to an update post back in June after having dead air for about two months. So as the kids say, here's the lowdown or the 411 or whatever.

Let's go back. Way back.


(Source)

Not that far back.

"Picture it" as the character Sophia Petrillo always used to say on The Golden Girls, Eugene 2012. I'd been debating about applying to graduate school for a while, and after much wringing of hands I decided to apply to law school. The first thing I needed to do was study for the LSAT. I signed up for the December 1 test and studied, studied, studied.


Study material**

After that came the essay writing, rewriting, resume writing, asking for letters of recommendations, requesting transcripts, and paying application fees. I only applied to two schools, both in Oregon. I didn't want to leave my beloved state, plus moving far away just isn't practical right now. I didn't disclose my law school application decision on the blog because I was afraid of getting rejected and it's such a bummer to have to tell people that. So instead I kept it on the down low.

Next was the waiting, and then more waiting. I'd go out to the mailbox in the afternoon looking for fat envelopes, you know the idea being that rejection letters are a single page and come in regular sized envelopes whereas acceptance material requires a larger envelope. I was wait-listed at one school. Then I got a rejection letter from the other school. I was worried, but seeing as how you are reading this, I think you can guess what happened.

I was accepted to the first school where I was wait-listed. Wow. I'm going to law school. Classes start in August.

I'm really excited, as well as completely nervous.

In the meantime, I planted tomatoes, sweet peas, and marigolds, and the dahlia that I planted last year came back in full force.



The weather has been incredibly hot the past week or so. Today I went for a walk on the bike path along the river. Other than the old man in the sting thong (no picture of that, you're welcome) it was lovely.


The Willamette River

I've also been reading as much as I can before I don't have time to pleasure read. I'll have a few reviews soon.

And that brings us roughly up to date. It's been a bit of a wild ride.

*Just kidding. This post is more like the epic update/chronicles of Laura. Have you seen The Chronicles of Riddick? It's so bad, but, you know, Vin Diesel's shaved head and black tank top, so there you go. Also Judi Dench is in it, so that has to add some redeeming value.

**All the photos I took in this post are from my mobile phone, therefore they are not of the greatest quality, but they do illustrate certain points so we'll let them stay.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

An amazing day

I normally shy away from politics on the blog, but today was such a big day, and these things are so important.

First, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and essentially allowed gay marriage to resume in California by declining to decide a separate case about Proposition 8. These were called monumental victories by the Human Rights Campaign. You can read all about them all over the place, so I'm not going to go into the details here. Suffice to say it's a great day for equality and love, in my opinion.

In other news, have you heard about Wendy Davis? She's a Texas Democrat who filibustered for 11 hours to help block the passage of an anti-abortion law. Beyond the fact that she stood and talked for 11 hours without a break (Texas' filibuster rules prohibited her from leaning on her desk or straying off topic), she's a pretty incredible person. She was a divorced, single mom, living in a mobile home at the age of 19, but she worked hard, went to school and eventually on to Harvard Law School. She's definitely an inspirational woman in my book.

I normally don't like news stories that include so many details about what the woman subject is wearing, her shoes, designer name jacket, whatever, but I love the fact that Wendy Davis was wearing pink sneakers. You'd be hard pressed not to find a photo of her standing on the senate floor filibustering in her pink running shoes (the NY Times article says they were salmon colored). I love it!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

TOLIVE

Several weeks ago I went to the grocery store, and as I walked from the parking lot to the store, I saw a VW Westfalia with a license plate that read TOLIVE.

Immediately I thought of the movie Little Miss Sunshine and the character Olive Hoover.


(Source)

(In case you haven't seen it, the dad drives a Volkswagen bus, officially a Volkswagen Type 2 (Kombi), according to IMDb) In my mind, I saw TO OLIVE with the O used for both words.

So there I am standing in the parking lot wanting so badly to take a picture of this license plate, but not daring because it seems a little creepy, and thinking it is the greatest tribute to the character Olive and the movie Little Miss Sunshine. I'm so happy to think that somebody loved that movie as much as I did and got a TO OLIVE license plate for their VW van.

When I get home I write down the license plate on a scrap of paper so I'll remember to tell Anders about it when he gets home. That's when it hits me that the plate probably reads TO LIVE.

Even though I'm alone in my own house I can feel my cheeks redden in embarrassment. How did I not get TO LIVE?

That's the reason this post starts with the words "several weeks ago" because I debated telling you about my little mistake. Maybe the owners of that particular VW intended a different message with their custom license plate, but honestly each time it pops into my mind I think TO OLIVE, see Olive Hoover, and smile.

TO OLIVE!