Friday, December 21, 2012

No Time Like the Present, Years Later

Three, maybe four years ago I got this cute snowflake frame and thought to put a picture of the kids in it. Since then it has roamed around the house, sitting empty. Stashed away in a drawer, sitting accusingly on my nightstand, hidden behind family photos, it never received its reward until today. It's a good thing inanimate objects are so patient. Happy Winter Solstice!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

For the Birds

A Merry Christmas to our neighbors with wings...and hope springs within the heart of a gray kitty, too!

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Grand Sophy

The Grand SophyThe Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just about perfect, so it's getting 5 stars. The Grand Sophy rolls into town like a Force of Nature and sets everything to right, after unsettling everyone most terribly, but with the purest of motives. Pure delight from Georgette Heyer. The dialog and characterizations are done so well, it's hard to take a break from reading this book. I nearly burned a few meals and left my coffee sitting to get cold a few times. High praise from me, as I do love my coffee!

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Monday, December 10, 2012

The Tale of Tom Kitten

The Tale of Tom KittenThe Tale of Tom Kitten by Beatrix Potter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My son laughed and laughed at this: "...and then she [Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit] took all sorts of elegant uncomfortable clothes out of a chest of drawers, in order to dress up her son Thomas." He also pointed out that Tom Kitten's trousers look like Urkel's. This was delightful reading.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

What Was I Thinking?

And why is all this stuff that I never use inside my purse? It got so clogged with receipts and candy wrappers and headache pills that I finally took my purse, keys, lip gloss and wallet out and stashed them into a small bag and ran out the door. (My husband had suggested the original title for my blog be: Big Purse, Little Purse.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I Needs My Wodehouse

“Red hair, sir, in my opinion, is dangerous.”
― P.G. Wodehouse, Very Good, Jeeves!

When life gets grim, or at the very least, begins to lose its effervescence, it's time to break out the Wodehouse. I was reading a bunch of ugly tweets this morning about the "Fiscal Cliff" and I thought, "Chuck it all! This is awful."

If the world is ending, I am going to entertain myself until the zombies storm up my driveway, dammit.

“It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.”
― P.G. Wodehouse, The Man Upstairs and Other Stories

Sunday, November 18, 2012

More From Austin F1

Formula One Austin

We are here to see the inaugural race in Austin. It's the first F1 race in the US in five years.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Simple Pleasures

The Homer Laughlin Colonial Kitchen cup and saucer arrived today. Doesn't it look well with my teapot? There is a story behind the Colonial Kitchen pattern. I had a complete set of dishes in that pattern that I gave away a few years after I married. I told myself that between my husband and myself we had three sets of dishes. Something had to go. These dishes were funky, retro, kitschy. They didn't match the new person I thought I was trying to create, so I boxed them up and donated them. And for years afterwards, I would think of them and sigh.

Then I got the idea to get one small item in the pattern, to remind me of the Old Tracy. She's still in here, somewhere.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Life of Pi

Life of PiLife of Pi by Yann Martel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Four 1/2 stars, with the last two chapters fully 5 stars and amazing. What the author does with the narrative at the end of the book had me thinking and thinking over what I'd read. Choose the better story.

“You might think I lost all hope at that point. I did. And as a result I perked up and felt much better.”

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I am looking forward to seeing what Ang Lee will do with this story when the film comes out next month.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ladyfinger

I didn't know that it was possible to pop corn right on the cob! These Ladyfinger cobs came in my CSA delivery. Instructions said to put them in a paper bag in the microwave for two minutes. Each piece of popcorn is tiny and nearly without a hull. The Thumbelina of popcorn? So easy and one of the funnest items this year.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Week's Odd Assortment

From subtle concepts to ridiculousness: early this week I took a stab at helping my son understand the idea of years, months, weeks, days. The seasons were throwing a monkey wrench into his grasp of time, so I tried to show how they fit into the calendar year. Later in the week our co-op studied George Frideric Handel and my daughter made a faux powdered wig out of a paper bag and cotton balls. I snapped her singing the Hallelujah Chorus.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Get Unstuck

Today in the ReConnect ecourse we did several fun exercises to visually explore being stuck creatively as well as being in the creative flow. "What would Flow say to Stuck?" Just this morning I was thinking of some lines from The Horses by Rickie Lee Jones:

That's the way it's gonna be, little darlin'
You'll be riding on the horses, yeah
Way up in the sky, little darlin'
And if you fall I'll pick you up, pick you up


That's what I think Flow says to Stuck. Not "You're such a jerk! I can't believe you are stuck again. What is wrong with you?" Sometimes Stuck may say these things to herself, but Flow wraps her arms around her and says, "Don't fret. This will pass. You are lovely."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Color Hunger

"What are you truly hungry for?" I didn't know it until I saw them: blazing color into an overcast afternoon.

I'm taking an online course called ReConnect, hosted by Willo O'Brien and Mati Rose McDonough. Yesterday's conversation with Rachel W. Cole centered around exploring our truest hungers. It's not just about food!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Daring Wilder Gift

I knew there was something going on when I saw the color repeating and repeating.

I've carved out a few hours a week to paint in our guest room. When I close the door and crank up the classical radio station I feel happy. It's a small start, but it's a start.


My first background. Channeling the turquoise vibe.


Zinnias for color inspiration and a view outdoors.


The art deco bedroom suite from my earlier life. Wedding ring quilt, baby quilts, anime posters.


A room of my own for a few hours.


I think next time I need to use a plain white paper plate for my paint palette. I'm much too suggestible.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Miyazaki Sky

I pointed out this gorgeous sky to my son this evening and said, "Isn't it pretty?" He answered, "Yeah Mom. It looks like an anime show."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Daring Greatly, Little By Little

The African horned melon has been sitting on the kitchen counter for two weeks. OK, time to dare greatly and eat this thing. It tasted like a less-sweet kiwi fruit. I think it wasn't fully ripe. I would like to try one that was picked when ripe next time: they are supposed to have a banana-like flavor if picked when fully orange and ripe. This one was green when I got it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Rise and Fall of Alexandria

The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern MindThe Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern Mind by Justin Pollard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An excellent introduction to an amazing time and place. Knowing only a very little bit about Alexandria before reading this book: founded by Alexander the Great and the exotic scene of Cleopatra's dramatic life, I was overwhelmed by the discoveries and innovations achieved by the citizens of this city.

From the introduction, "Alexandria was the greatest mental crucible the world has ever known, the place where ideas originating in obscure antiquity were forged into intellectual constructs that far outlasted the city itself. If the Renaissance was the 'rebirth' of learning that led to our modern world, then Alexandria was its original birthplace. Our politics may be modeled on Greek prototypes, our public architecture on Roman antecedents, but in our minds we are all the children of Alexandria."

Towards the end of the book, I was introduced to Hypatia, the 5th-century mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher whose murder marks for many the end of classical antiquity and the downfall of Alexandrian intellectual life. Much as Cleopatra's reign represented a last chance for an independent Egypt, Hypatia's Platonist school at Alexandria was the last gasp of Alexandria's remarkable melting pot of ideas where followers of the Greek philosophers, Jews and Christians studied and debated. Hypatia was brutally murdered by Coptic monks who were followers of Cyril, the Bishop of Alexandria.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

The Bad Book Affair

The Bad Book Affair (Mobile Library Mystery, #4)The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Poor Israel Armstrong! It was bad enough being the only Jewish vegetarian in Tumdrum, a tiny village in Northern Ireland. Now he's facing his 30th birthday after recently breaking up with his long-distance girlfriend. Since I read the first book in this series, I've always been able to count on Israel's adventures as a mobile librarian to make me laugh out loud. Once again, the plot is a bit silly, but who cares? The characters are hilarious and Israel is nothing short of a frumpy treasure! (4 1/2 stars)

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Mind Slips Sideways

The one conjures the other. My pilot gonna make up my dying bed.

Crossing the Bar
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound or foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell;
When I embark;
For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

Jesus Is Going to Make Up Your Dying Bed
by Reverend J. C. Burnett
(AKA In My Time of Dying made famous by Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin)

Well, in my time of dying don't want nobody to mourn
All I want for you to do is take my body home
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Well, well, well
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Jesus gonna make up, Jesus gonna make up
Jesus gonna make up my dying bed.

Well, meet me Jesus, meet me, meet me in the middle of the air
If these wings should fail me,
Lord, won't you meet me with another pair?
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Well, well, well
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Jesus gonna make up, Jesus gonna make up
Jesus gonna make up my dying bed.

Lord, in my time of dying don't want nobody to cry
All I want you to do is take me when I die
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Well, well, well
Well, well, well, so I can die easy
Jesus gonna make up, Jesus gonna make up
Jesus gonna make up my dying bed.

"The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing, thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness." Psalm 41:3

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Wilder Life

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the PrairieThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The librarian said to me with a smile, "I rarely comment on the books that people check out, but I've read this one and I think you'll really like it." And I did. I especially enjoyed the mother-daughter relationships that McClure explored. Her willingness to share her weirdo-obsession with finding "Laura World" as an adult, rather than a young reader of the books, was hilariously funny as well as poignant. That memory thing, it'll get you every time.

"Maybe the Little House books have always been a way to unremember--a word that I kept coming back to...I know technically it means to forget but somehow, in my mind the definition changed. To me unremembering is knowing that something once happened or existed by remembering the things around it or by putting something else in its place." (page 324)

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Rise and Fall of Alexandria

The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern MindThe Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern Mind by Justin Pollard

After reading Cleopatra: A Life, I've become fascinated with Alexandria. As a girl I was much taken with ancient Egypt, so much so that I begged my mom to sew an Egyptian costume for my Barbie doll.

The fact that she did that for me should grant her automatic status in the Dedicated and Longsuffering Mom's Club, which is sort of like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen but much harder to get into. If my daughter asked me for a similar effort I'd probably come up with an excuse, rather than allow her to see me flail around with the sewing machine and attempt to control my language while doing so.

After the Egyptian Pharoahs were replaced by Ptolemy Greeks, I lost interest in the history, but now forty years later I'm taking up the thread again.

"Once you stop learning, you start dying." --Albert Einstein

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Growing Up and Old

“It's the kind of story we learn over and over again about everything in the world: your life starts out as a wild open frontier that you explore until the forces of time or history or civilization or nature intervene, and then suddenly it's all gone, it all weathers and falls down and gets built over; everyone dies or moves away or becomes a grainy photograph, and yes, at some point you just get fat and fall off a streetcar. Progress--it dumps you on your aging and gigantic ass!”

― Wendy McClure, The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cranford

CranfordCranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You'd think that a book about a small village populated mainly by elderly gossips wouldn't be much fun, but Cranford is delightful. Maybe I'm getting old myself, because I thought that the "adventures" of the genteel ladies of Elizabeth Gaskell's little world were quite entertaining and several of the characters, especially Miss Matty, really tickled me.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cleopatra: A Life

Cleopatra: A LifeCleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book put me in mind of a quote from the 1995 film adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion:

Captain Harville: Let me just observe that all histories are against you, all stories, prose, and verse. I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which did not have something to say on women's fickleness.

Anne Elliot: But they were all written by men.

The only way for historians to explain Cleopatra's powerful influence was to make her into a beguiling temptress. How else could stalwart Romans get into such trouble? As author Stacy Schiff points out, Caesar and Mark Antony were merely following the money. The lady holding the purse strings happened to be intelligent, politically-adept, and charming. What's not to like? When you are the richest person in the known-world, you don't need to look like Elizabeth Taylor.

My favorite character in the book was the city of Alexandria. What an amazing place! I wish it were still possible to visit its ancient wonders in real life and not just the pages of a book, even one as evocative as Cleopatra: A Life.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

First in a Series

What is it? And why is it on the dining room table?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Great Outdoors

We went to visit the Howard County Conservancy yesterday. Highlights were a Maryland Terrapin, a barn built over 200 years ago, and lots of time to explore the countryside.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Let's Get This Garden Started

Special Delivery from Quad-Man! "Your potting soil, ma'am!" Flowers and herbs only. Don't know how I'd cope with a renegade zucchini this year; our CSA is keeping us over-supplied with veggies.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dirt Face

My son dug two holes in the garden plot this morning. The mound of dirt goes right where the nose should be. I could have moved the rake to make a Hitler-stache but that would have felt contrived. And besides, it would have changed the original intent of the artist. Maybe he's combing his beard of morning glory sprouts?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Waiting

There are beauty perks while I wait for ballet class to finish.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hedy's Folly

Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the WorldHedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Richard Rhodes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More than any other aspect of this book, I enjoyed learning about how the "most beautiful woman in the world" decided she would contribute to the WWII war effort -- beyond working at the Hollywood Canteen and selling war bonds (not that she wasn't wildly successful at both of those efforts, too).

Teaming up with an avant-garde musician named George Antheil, Hedy Lamarr designed a frequency-hopping guidance system for torpedoes. Coming from an intellectually stimulating environment in Vienna between the First and Second World Wars, it seems Hedy was rather bored with Hollywood and spent many evenings alone, inventing at her drafting table. Author Richard Rhodes also covers Hedy's other inventions, including a kind of bouillon cube that when dropped into a glass of water created instant soda pop. She got funding for that idea from Howard Hughes!

It's a good thing for us that Hedy was bored in Hollywood: while the US Navy never used her invention in their torpedoes, her frequency-hopping technology is the basis for the wireless communication that we are so enthralled with today.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Memory

It’s layer upon layer. And the great misconception about memory is based on the belief that it’s possible to go back beneath the layers and pull one out, intact.

“The fact of the matter is, you can’t get back to your past,” says William Hirst, a professor of psychology at The New School. In his research, Hirst focuses on how what we do or don’t remember is influenced by the context in which we’re remembering—where we are, and, more important, who we’re talking to.

“You’re constantly shaping your memory,” says Hirst.


--"The Daily Beast" Ben Bradlee's Memories and the Science of Forgetting by Casey Schwartz

While I'm not terribly interested in Watergate or politics, I am fascinated by the human mind. I recently read a Julian Barnes novel that hinges on the middle-aged protagonist's memory of a break-up with a college girlfriend. In the heat of the moment, he writes a blisteringly malevolent letter. Years later, he remembers the incident as a mere blip on the radar screen--until he reads the letter that he wrote as a young man. He is shocked. Did he really write those words? He doesn't remember being terribly upset by the whole thing.

It started me thinking about my memories, both good and bad. Did it really happen the way I remember it? Have I slowly reconstructed reality to fit my version of the story? "The truth and nothing but the whole truth." What is that?

So, I've added a new book to my growing "to be read" stack: "A User's Guide to the Brain" by John J. Ratey, M.D. Not that I think a purely biological understanding of the brain will ever tell us about the concept of truth, but it can't hurt to understand how the little grey cells work.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Secrets of the Woods

Secrets of the WoodsSecrets of the Woods by William J. Long

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Read this with my daughter as part of the AO Yr3 curriculum for nature study. We enjoyed most of the animal stories, especially the otter and the wood-mouse, but quite a few were unnecessarily wordy, which detracted from our overall enjoyment of the book. Mostly, we have really liked the AO book choices, so this is the first 2-star review for us.

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Buttercup