Sunday Lowdown #141

THIS WEEK in reflection

It was midterms week! And Nick’s birthday! And my dad’s birthday! And the commencement of the college fall break! Hoo, that’s a lot of stuff. For my midterm in American Sign Language 3, I needed to record a few videos, and I only get one shot at these. One of the videos involved signing how to get from A to B on a city map we constructed. I got myself all turned around and had to contact the instructor. It’s funny because part of my confusion stems from how people in the Midwest give directions in English. For instance, in Michigan, it’s common to give directions by time instead of miles. You might say, “It’s twenty minutes up the road” instead of “It’s 16 miles.” It’s also common to give directions as if the person already knows the place intimately and just don’t know the exact spot of one place they need to get to. We begin with, “You know where the old Johnson farm used to be?” Hooboy. The videos always feel awful because I’m just staring at myself on screen, which takes me out of my head. I’ve still not received a grade on that first quiz that had me feeling so low, so I’m just waiting semi-patiently. As a soccer coach once told me, “It is what it is.”

My spouse and dad have birthdays three days apart, so for the fall break from college, which is weirdly three days off, not five, we headed to my home town to see everyone. Biscuit and I have been waiting to bake a rabbit cake together ever since we read Rabbit Cake by Annie Harnett. We tried it, and while it came out of the oven very rabbity and could stand up, frosting a 3-D edible structure proved more difficult:


This week was a lovely mix of relationship fiction and speculative stories. Jen Michalski’s novel You’ll Be Fine zooms in on those difficult days after the death of a parent who was often too little too late. The way harmful behavior toward us can make us turn and poke at others is another theme. I’d be stupid if I failed to point out that Michalski’s novel is often funny and has several Queer characters.

Laura Mauro does something in her collection Sing Your Sadness Deep that I don’t often see: she collected thirteen stories that are dissimilar yet all interesting and haunting. She plays with genre tropes but flips them on their heads, so what you expect is not always what you get.


Although the novella The Woman in Black was published in 1983, it reads like something older, maybe late 1800s, which is indicative of the way author Susan Hill takes tales of terror from the Victorian era and uses them to embolden our more savvy, sturdy narrator as he heads alone to a house that you can’t get to — or leave — when the tide is in. Review Tuesday.

Lately, Biscuit and I have read a couple of chonky novels that take us several meetings to get through. The most recent is The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman, a post-apocalypse novel in which around age eighteen, the people of Massa (formerly Massachusetts), who look as black as night, die from some disease. But encountering a white man hidden in the rubble gives them hope; though he’s worse for the wear and a child murderer, he’s thirty — and has information about a cure. Review Thursday.


Owned Books on TBR at Beginning of Year: 242
Owned Books on TBR Today: 205


          • Toffee pudding sounds like ‘washday pudding’ (steam pudding in golden syrup, I think) my mum used to make. In fact, I should ask her to make it again after Covid restrictions are lifted and I’m allowed to visit her.


            • I didn’t realize you weren’t allowed to see your mom. You had visited her before during the pandemic, yes? Though I think that may have been when Australian wasn’t locked down quite like the rest of us.


            • Melbourne, where mum lives, and then regional Victoria (Melbourne’s the capital) went into lockdown early this year. I kept making trips there but I wasn’t able to do anything except drive, load, sleep,eat – no visiting!. And the conditions for getting back into Western Australia were wearing me down. Lockdown finished in Victoria last night, though Delta still has a firm hold – about 2,000 cases a day – but I’d still have trouble getting back home, as WA are not lifting border restrictions before Christmas/New Year.


  1. I love the saying “It is what it is.” I find it very freeing. My mother hates it. She says it’s fatalistic. This says a lot about us.

    I don’t know if I’ve seen a rabbit cake before! How fun! Happy birthday to your spouse and your dad. Good luck on your quiz and video!


    • If you’re the kind of person who finds yourself trying to control everything and everyone in your environment out of a deep need for safety and predictability, “it is what it is” becomes a totally freeing expression. I’m in this category. If you’re not a controlling person, “it is what it is” sounds like being resigned to whatever happens to you, as if you can’t change anything. That sounds more like your mom’s attitude about the quote.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmmm chonky novel looks like a mix between “shonky” and “chunky”.

    I LERVE your description of Midwesterners’ style of giving directions. The interesting thing we noticed when we first lived in the USA is how often people provided maps with invitations. This was in the 1980s, long before we all had devices and Google maps. Aussies tended to assume people would work it out, but Americans were always so helpful. Either that, or they’d say, take the 39 and get off onto the 50 and drive 5 miles before you turn onto the 129 or some such. We didn’t use road numbers very much here – and still don’t a lot, though they have numbers.

    Good luck with the video results. You are very brave doing all this.


    • Heh, “chonky” is a word that has cropped up to mean VERY chunky.

      I’ve also seen and received the invites with the driving instructions attached, so I think it was common until smart phones were ubiquitous. The numbered roads are often the ones that go for a long, long way. For instance, there is a freeway by my parents’ house in Michigan that you can take all the way to Florida.


  3. I had a giggle about your description of how Michigan folks give directions. That opening of “you know where xyz was” is something I might hear in Wales too. I know I’m guilty of doing it


  4. Those directions are great! We do that in Birmingham, too: my poor husband, later to the city than me, had to learn that House of Fraser was Rackham’s so is still referred to as such, and where Lewis’ used to be, when Lewis’ hasn’t been there since before I moved here the first time!!


    • Oh, yes, I think renaming buildings, especially based on branding, is a silly idea. The Sears Tower is still just that (and no one I know can remember the new name), and all the baseball fields renamed after cell phone companies and banks and juice (weirdly) are still called whatever they originally were.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Happy Birthday Nick. Happy Birthday Mr Lapels snr (or should that be Mr Biscuit?). I’m not reading anything that’s even like anything you’re reading at the moment. But I love your posts. Good luck with your marks.


    • Heh, yeah, Mr. Biscuit works! He finally turned 60. Every time I thought about how my dad was not yet 60, it surprised me, so now I can do away with the feeling.

      The Country of Ice Cream Star is more of an adventure/quest novel — not horror, you’ll be relieved to know! — so perhaps you will like the sounds of that one. Although it’s post-apocalyptic, it’s not science fiction in the way that you enjoy sci-fi, though.

      Thank you for your kind words and your well wishes. I just got home yesterday and saw I earned an A on my Deaf Culture midterm. Still no grades in ASL 3 on any of my quizzes.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I remember being interested in The Country of Ice Cream Star when it first came out.

    It’s so funny to me the way people give directions. In our town, no one knows street names so it’s all landmarks and like you say, they are often landmarks that are no longer there!


    • Part of my 3rd quiz for my sign language class was to tell someone how to get from A to B on a map, and it had to include at least one landmark. Oddly, I find the landmarks easier to do (assuming they are still there!) than trying to describe turns. The map I used had roads that would kink over rather than curve or stay straight.

      I wonder of my review of Ice Cream will convince you to read it. The synopsis on the inside of the book flap sold me (I randomly chose Newman’s novel at a library book sale), though it doesn’t fully capture what the novel is like.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Good on ya for attempting that bunny cake! I could never…

    Also, I can’t wait for your review of the Woman in Black. The movie is terrifying, and I think I told you I once watched a play about it and that was terrifying too!


    • I think the bunny cake pan is almost a little too wide. I filled the bottom as completely full as it would go, then it’s supposed to rise into the top half and come out a 3-D bunny. The top half didn’t fill completely, so he was a little lopsided.

      I didn’t know you saw a play version of Hill’s novel, but that’s so fun that you got scared watching a play! The actors and set must have been very immersive.

      Liked by 1 person

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