Saturday, October 3, 2009

New Book in the Mail

Today the mailbox divulged its secrets and voila!, a book I ordered from Amazon was inside.  I love days like this!  It's not a real exciting book except to someone like me who loves the written word.

OK, the picture is not the greatest, but there is enough information.

A Handbook to Literature is a "dictionary-style supplement for anyone's personal or professional library".  I was not really sure what to expect , not having ever seen this book before.  But, I know from now on, it will always be near at hand.  Why?  Well, because of entries like this, on page 185:

Exergue  Originally a small space on a coin, medal, or other such artifact.  The exergue is set apart for a minor inscription.  The term is also used for a set of epigraph-like quotations near the beginning of Jacques Derrida's Of Grammatology (tr. 1976).

A real reader is bound to come across a word like exergue and think "what the heck is that?".   Not a problem now!  But, the greater use of this book is as a reference for terms used in the study of English Literature. 

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Country Life

March 31, 1960     Country Life     Two Shillings & Sixpence

It has been quite some time since I looked at one of my old Country Life magazines.  They are getting quite fragile and I am not storing them properly, so getting dusty too.  One of my constant "vows" is to invest in proper storage for my books but it never seems to fit into the budget.  In any case, I have eight issues of Country Life ranging from this one, March 31, 1960 through August 4, 1960 (with many gaps since it was weekly, "on sale Thursday").  They were given to me by Tom, a friend's husband, in about 1977.  He salvaged them out of a dumpster on the old Marine base east of Barstow, California.  Knowing I liked old books and anything British, they were mine.  I have always been very grateful for this gift.

This cover's top line is A CLOSE SEASON FOR ENGLAND'S DEER?  The article describes the conflict between conservationists who want to save England's wild deer population and farmers and foresters who want the deer gone from fields and forests at any cost.  Some things never change.  The "Close Season" refers to a moratorium on hunting for a certain length of time.

The picture of an idyllic country village with curving street, thatch roofed cottages, and a man walking down the middle of the street was taken in Dunsford, Devon.  The caption is "Cob and Thatch:  Dunsford, Devon".  The picture was taken by Kenneth Scowen.

Inside, the first 24 pages are taken up in advertisments for country property (with pictures).  Here is an example:

Wickham 3 miles, Portsmouth 10 miles
Rural situation with open views across farmland


INSERT PICTURE HERE (of a lovely three story manor house with outbuildings)

Fully modernised but retaining many original period features.

3 reception rooms.
5 bedrooms, dressing room,
3 bathrooms, arranged in suites.
Staff bedroom and excellent playroom.



Range of loose boxes, etc.  Main water and electricity.  Walled gardens, with pool, excellent kitchen garden.

Agents:  CURTIS & HENSON, London

Today's exchange rate for the Great Britain Pound is $1.5914 USD to one GBP, so this little property would have cost about $15,500 in 1960.  Seems unbelievable now, doesn't it?

There are hundreds of ads like the above, followed by a page of "classified ads" for auctions, more property, businesses for sale, flats for sale, rentals, property wanted, furniture movers, mortgages, and real estate agents, surveyors, and valuers.  Then, there are several pages of ads for antique dealers with pictures of some of their wares.  For example, John Sparks LTD. at 128 Mount Street, W.1 in London is selling a Chinese biscuit libation cup, decorated in Famille Verte enamels, K'ang Hsi Period:  A.D. 1662-1722.  Height:  2 inches, Length:  4 inches.

Fiinally, the magazine proper begins with a full-page portrait of "HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN WITH PRINCE ANDREW.  This photograph was taken at Buckingham Palace when the Prince, born on February 19, was nearly four weeks old."  The Prince is wearing a little dress and looks like a little old man, as they do at that age.  The Queen is looking very young and lovely with perfectly coifed hair, pearl earrings, a four-strand pearl necklace, and plain black dress.  The portrait was taken by Cecil Beaton.

Following the portrait, are 52 more pages comprised of vignettes about country life, pictures of horse drawn farm wagons, articles on deer, boxing legends, foxes, the March flower garden, art, furniture, miniature portraits, the far flung countryside with Roman ruins, birds, horses, an in-depth tour of a grand estate (with pictures), a lioness in the family, the threatened smallholders of the Forest of Dean, an article on Georgian dessert glasses, an in-depth tour of a connoisseur's cottage (shorter article than the grand estate but also including pictures), a picture of "Jimmy Barnes, gardener of a fine old garden near Christchurch, Hampshire, photographed over 60 years ago" (making it in the late 1800's), a picture of a Siamese cat retrieving a rabbit's paw off the fireplace mantel, an ad for Piccadilly cigarettes, pictures of old foot rests for sufferers of the gout, an article about the Ford Galaxie (with a picture of a station wagon), a crossword puzzle, updates on sales of property, confusion over egg prices, an ad for tuxedos, a book review by Howard Spring of "Recluse in an Essex Wood" (nothing wrong with being a recluse!), an article about dressing a debutante (with pictures of young women in formal wear, suits, and summer frocks) followed by a full page ad for mink stoles and jackets, ending with small picture ads and classified ads as magazines still do.

Country Life magazine is perfect for whiling away a rainy afternoon.  Think I will set this one aside for this coming weekend!

Signing off now, to go dream of that $15,500 country estate.  Good night.




Herbs in Provence

While visiting Provence years ago, we stopped in to say hello to Kathy, proprietor of a lavender and herb shop in the little village where we were staying. She is a friend of my sister's, who at the time was a lavender grower here in the US. Kathy busied herself filling containers with various herb mixtures as we visited. Then, she bundled up the containers, two grocery sacks full, and said "for you and for your sister!". The most wonderful mixes of herbs. I had to explain it all to customs when we entered the U.S. but it was definitely worth it! Kathy's mixes were all herbs, no spices. Here are a few mixes I have gleaned over the years from cookery articles.

Fines herbs - Mixture of parsley, chervil, chives, and tarragon. Most commonly used for flavoring omelettes and for grilled fish and chicken.

Epices composees - Mixture of spices and herbs used for flavoring. Thyme, bay leaves, basil, sage, a little coriander, and mace. Ingredients, perfectly dried, are pounded together and sieved. Add to this mixture a third of their weight in finely ground pepper.

Epices quatre or fines - White pepper, allspice, mace, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, dried sage, marjoram, rosemary. Pound and sieve.

Herbes de Provence - Rosemary, sage, thyme, marjoram, basil, fennel, mint. Sometimes lavender.

An old world custom is to have your own secret herb blend on hand at all times. It is the "house" blend. I like this idea and will try to remember to gather herbs next summer when the leaves are at their most flavorful (just before bloom) and experiment with my own "house" blend.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Busy Day

Expecting a busy day at work, then doctor visit, then quality time with my granddaughter, and finally, dog obedience class with C and "Ruby the Unruly" (our German Shorthaired Pointer...1 year old). Very busy day...

Saturday, September 26, 2009


I always have a notebook next to my chair. This is where I jot down random thoughts and reminders, make lists and notes about what I am reading, who and what I need to read to follow up on just about everything.

This morning I went back to the beginning of my current notebook, beginning August 3, 2008. I will need a hundred lifetimes to read and study everything in my notebooks. For example:

--Read Solzhenitsyn, dead at 89 today.
--Read James Fallows
--"Muqtada al-Sadr and the Fall of Iraq", by Patrick Cockburn
--"Pee Wee", red worm composting stories for kids by Larraine Roulston
--Miss Read
--Evelyn Waugh, "Put Out More Flags"
--TJ English, "Havana Nocturne"
--Graham Greene, "Collected Essays"
--Foster, Roy - The 2 vol. authorized biography of W.B. Yeats

Notes about writing: For a good example of the first person point of view, read "They Whisper" by Robt. O. Butler
--What are moist vowels? re characterization using narrative voice: oi, oy, ou, ow
--Study the movie "Tender Mercies" for characterization
--Get a UO library card
--"Bel Ami", Maupassant
--Re-read "Moby Dick"

--Rose leaf jam
--Rose water

--Destruction of Constantinople, when, how?

"Travnik had changed its aspect now, as a town does after one has eaten salt in one of its houses." From 'Black Lamb Grey Falcon' by Rebecca West. Did West take this phrase from someone else? Unknown, but "Bread and Salt means hospitality in Ukraine". Bread is dipped in salt.

Study ALL of Ian McEwan

Look for E.M. Forester's "Poetry, History, The Sea" trinity when reading and studying novels.

Read ALL Updike for visual descriptions
Same for Nabokov

Read biologist E.O. Wilson's "Creation" for his writing style

Read Voltaire's "Letters from England" for the best example of the "thing as it is" explanatory writing.

Definition: Tropism - an innate tendency to react in a definite manner to stimuli. A natural inclination.

One of my natural inclinations is to keep notebooks. I like it. Now, if I can get the rest of the pantry items and cookbooks out of my study where they were stored during the kitchen remodel, maybe I can bring some order back to my refuge from the world and get busy reading and writing!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Two thoughts on being in the present...

"Yesterday is gone, forget it.
Tomorrow may never come, don't worry about it.
Do a master job today."

--Mennonite saying

"To feel today what one felt yesterday isn't to feel--
it's to remember today what was felt yesterday,
to be today's living corpse of what yesterday was lived
and lost."

--Fernando Pessoa, Portuguese poet

May your day be very fine.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pumpkin Soup

Today I am thinking about pumpkin soup. Too early for pumpkins, but not too early to plan. I have never forgotten the fabulous pumpkin soup we had in Malaucene, in Provence. It was smooth, slightly sweet, velvety deliciousness. I would have been happy with a big bowl of soup and a toasty baguette. However, it was the first course, gone in a few minutes, but never forgotten.

So, for the next few weeks, I am going to seek out recipes for pumpkin soup, looking for "the one". I have heard that the secret to pumpkin soup is to use squash, not pumpkin. Well, our Malaucene soup was pumpkin!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I'm Back! And a Poem For Autumn

OK, a fresh start for the new season. Kitchen remodel is almost finished (is it ever really "finished"?), garden is winding down, looking forward to the annual wardrobe shift to turtleneck sweaters, and thinking about getting seriously back to work on my book.

This poem is by Patricia Parish Kuhn. I copied it into one of my notebooks many years ago. I think it was published in a local writer's journal. I hope you like it.


ducks and geese soar
composing haiku in the sky
their extended autumnal feast.

Do they know something
we don't know
or will winter wait awhile
content in the attention of poets
and on the midnight hour

Friday, July 3, 2009

Moving Kitchen

Checking in to note that moving the kitchen is just like MOVING. Demolition starts Sunday...this is Friday. Expected to reach 95 degrees today, so just finished packing cupboards full of dishes, pots & pans, etc. outdoors to be stored under tarps. Good thing too...the forecast is for "chance of showers" after Sunday.

When the kitchen remodel is finished, this misery will be long forgotten.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


What a fiasco. My niece and her husband are very active in "Relay for Life", the American Cancer Society fundraiser. My sister is a cancer survivor, "non-Hodgkins lymphoma" diagnosed in 1991 and in complete remission. Her daughter is selfless in her devotion to helping others survive everyone's worst nightmare.

Here is the fiasco. Today my husband called me at work to say there was a purple toilet with flowers planted in the "pot" sitting in front of our house. There was a sign on the toilet explaining the three ways one could have the toilet removed, and they all had a price tag, starting at $10 plus two cell phone numbers. He did not actually look at the toilet from the front (where the words "Relay for Life" were very visible on the front of the tank). After he called me, he called the first number and left a message to the effect that the perpetrator had until 2 p.m. to remove the toilet or he would call the Sheriff and the local newspapers. You can guess the rest. He now knows who put the toilet in front of our house but he still is on his "high horse" and says it is "extortion".

I have contacted my niece and asked her where to send a check.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Iran has freed journalist Roxana Saberi.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother's Day

An early gift from my husband. I hope the birds love it as much as I do.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Blogging Break

Not sure if anyone is interested, but I am taking a small break from the blog. I will be back when house remodel and garden projects are finished. Please check back now and then because I will post when the mood strikes.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Book A.D.D

If you look closely enough, you will see bookmarks in some of these books. A telltale sign of "Book A.D.D", a newly-coined term for bookworms who have trouble actually finishing a book. I keep thinking "someday" there will be enough quiet time, long stretches of time for concentration, or whatever it takes to prevent my flitting from book to book. Having two or three books "going" at the same time is one thing (I have always done that), but this is ridiculous. And, what is even worse...these are just the unfinished books from my study. I have not even started culling out the books in the main "library" area of the house. Who knows? When I finish the library, there may be enough unfinished books to fill a whole bookcase.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Rainy Weekend?

Oh, I hope so!

Catching up on a Ruth Rendell mystery and culling through books in my study. Home remodeling requires we sleep on the futon in my study for awhile so need to make room in the stacks.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Roxana Saberi


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

OK, here are the rules. Pick up your current read. Open to a random page (just let the book fall open to any page). On that page, between lines 7 and 12, pick two sentences. Share the sentences with the rest of us (avoid "spoilers"). Finally, tell us the name and author of the book.

My "teaser" is:

"He borrowed twenty thousand dollars from the bank to buy his diesel engine, clutch, shaft, and propeller, going heavy-duty on everything. His life was a blur of work, but also immensely pleasurable."

"The Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous" by Ken Wells.

This is a book about shrimp and oyster fishermen who lived through and helped others survive Hurricane Katrina. I am on page 33 and enjoying the book very much.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wordless Wednesday With Words

This amazing picture of Racetrack Valley, near Death Valley, was taken by Dan Duriscoe, who is the physical scientist for the National Park Service's Night Sky Team. Sent to me by a friend, he noted the bright center of our galaxy in the night sky.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Magical Muse

I picked up a book that had been sitting around in C's "unread" pile. After a few pages, I realized this might be a good one. After a few more pages, I realized it might provide some deep background for the book I am writing. I grabbed my "main" reference book to follow along and am happily back into the creative process.

My Muse...she leads, I follow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Royal Anne


Our poor old Royal Anne cherry tree is putting on quite a show this year. Today was the warmest day we have had since spring really got going and the blooms were very happy to see it! This tree is really two trees. The original tree is a "wild" cherry with little dark fruits hardly bigger than the pit. My aunt grafted the Royal Anne to it, probably 25 years or more ago. The Royal Anne is losing the battle for dominance though. Every year the wild cherry gains a few feet of canopy over the Royal Anne. We need a tree surgeon...but for now, it is all glorious!

Trouble With Comments

Several readers have said they are unable to get the comment feature on this blog to work. I have checked the settings within Blogger and it appears I have an "open" comment system in place. Some readers can use comments and some cannot. The trouble, I fear, may have to do with browser settings on my side (Firefox) combined with settings on other computers.

Rather than try to problem-solve every situation, I will just ask for your patience. Please bear with me. My computer-genius son has promised to sit down with me to revamp my blog and move it to Wordpress. Hopefully commenting will be more user friendly in Wordpress.


Every time I set out to post a blog entry or look for comments, I see the introduction at the top of my home page. "An ongoing conversation with myself and others about a book I am writing..." and I feel an immediate thud in my stomach. "A book I am writing" should more aptly be "A book I started but pay scant attention to nowadays". There are many excuses. One of these is that I love to read books. So, the latest "diversion" is a tidy little mystery from Poisoned Pen Press, "The Coffin Trail" by Martin Edwards.

I read about this mystery on my favorite book blog, "Books Please". I looked for it in several used bookshops but no luck. A quick search on netted a used copy in good condition. So, earlier this week I took a little imaginary trip to England's Lakes District in an effort to slay the "blue mood" dragon (the bane of my existence, I am sorry to say).

From the back cover:

"When author/professor Daniel and journalist Miranda decide to abandon their hectic big-city lives for bucolic bliss at Tarn Cottage in England's Lakes District, they come under the spell of an old murder. Unbeknownst to Miranda, the alleged perpetrator of a bizarre, bloody killing involving the nearby Sacrifice Stone lived in said Tarn Cottage and was Daniel's friend.

Soon Daniel's helping the Cold Case Squad's Hannah Scarlett, who worked with Daniel's recently deceased estranged dad on the original case. With its twisty plot, atmospheric setting, and typical English-village characters, this new series from British crime novelist Edwards will appeal to Peter Robinson and Reginald Hill devotees."

So you see, we have the academic playing amateur detective with personal connections to the suspected murderer and to the investigating officer, all in a storybook setting. Perfect diversionary material! I was on to the murderer about halfway through the book but totally missed the motive. Actually, I think it was just a lucky guess on my part because the reason behind the murder and how it all played out was quite unexpected. I will definitely look for more books in this series and for Peter Robinson and Reginald Hill mysteries too.

A note about Poisoned Pen Press (I love the name!)...founded in 1996 by Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen a Mystery Bookstore and More in Scottsdale, Arizona, this publishing house is dedicated, according to their website, to "making available books, whether originals or reprints for today's mystery audience." Peters started Poisoned Pen Press as a response to consolidations in the publishing industry that, in her view, "represented a threat to cultural diversity and to the survival of the independent bookstore--ultimately becoming a subtle form of censorship. Besides, she wants to sell books she likes."

Good for her! If you are a mystery fan, you have probably already run across Poisoned Pen Press. If not, be on the lookout, I know I will.

So, another happy diversion. Perhaps, at this stage in life, I should not think of these as "diversions", but as "doing what I like". Is "writing the book" what I like? Good question.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Boring Week

Not much going on here except work and plumbing problems. For now, the plumbing issues are over (thank the gods). Neither subject inspires so not in a blogging mood. Maybe the warm weather this weekend will snap me out of the doldrums.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An Insult to Spring

Proof that April is the cruelest month. Awoke this morning to snow. Good grief.

Monday, April 13, 2009

April Poem

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

--T.S. Eliot

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Weekend

Lovely views of the beach in Bandon, Oregon. Above is "Face Rock", named such for obvious reasons...

We met some new members of the family this weekend too. :)

Fantastic trip down in our new (used) car. We're thinking of naming her "Jacqueline" since she is quite the elegant lady. Good visit with extended family. My face is still sore from smiling for hours on end. Life is good.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Bunny Fun

We're off to the southern Oregon coast to visit family for Easter. Good quality time with our little Ducky and all of her assorted relatives. Many thanks to our host and hostess, in advance.


OK, I'm feeling a bit crabby tonight...a long week at work...TGIF, and all that. My "daily literary quote" on Google Home Page is from Norman Mailer. Here is what he says:

"Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing."

Give me a break. I think Carol Burnett's definition of a man giving birth is more apt. Paraphrasing:

"Imagine pushing a watermelon out of your butt".

Norman Mailer, all due respect to the dead...YOU DID NOT HAVE A CLUE.

My rant is now over.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It's Tuesday...Where Are You?

I am almost in Sardinia. I say "almost" because I am still slogging through the INTRODUCTION. Immensely helpful in theory, INTRODUCTIONS, especially if the author is an icon, as is D.H. Lawrence, can be tedious, overlong, insightful only if you have already READ the book, and frustrating due to the aforementioned. Nearly finished, I have given up the temptation to skip ahead to the actual book. By tomorrow, I should be in Sardinia.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Cleaning, Seed Planting

Very tired tonight, but it is good tired. As usual, I embarked on two big jobs at once.

First, this morning while it was still chilly out, I started a deep clean in my study. There is so much dust, my poor books. I barely got started but at least it is a start!

This afternoon, I planted seeds in the new raised bed garden. Bed #1 now has chard, Nero Di Toscana cabbage, spinach, broccoli (two kinds), and radishes. "Ced" will put together a frame for floating row cover over this bed. Bed #2 has garlic, planted last October. Garlic suffered much frost damage at the tips this winter, but in the last two weeks has added new growth. The bed needs to be cultivated to loosen the soil. Winter rains really packed it down. There is a mossy green sheen to the soil too, so it needs some ventilation. Bed #3 will get some scallions, more radishes, shallots, carrots a little later, but will mostly have assorted tomatoes at the end of May. Ced will start the warm weather veggies in our little mini greenhouse later this week. Nights are still pretty cool so we will see how this goes. We're planning to fill the garlic bed with peppers after July 4. Potatoes could have gone in a little sooner, but will get the first of three wine barrels full planted Wednesday. The flat ground garden area needs to dry out a bit more before tilling in a few buckets of compost and a bit of lime. Beans, squash, cucumbers there the end of May. The herb bed is ready for planting. True marjoram, French thyme, reseeded Italian parsley, and chives are perking along as they do year after year. I love herbs. Leeks and chervil go in this week. I am looking around for a dwarf culinary sage. Will plant ornamental pineapple sage, an African blue basil, "regular" basil, and cilantro later. Will be nice to have herbs in the herb beds again instead of vegetables. Asparagus tips are showing up on schedule. Slugs chewed the first two but a dose of Sluggo will hopefully keep them at bay. Front flower beds...another day, maybe.

My poor recliner-bound body is feeling today's physical activity. But, it does feel good to know I am tired because I was up and about for a change. Back feels pretty good considering...those high raised beds and my little "bench" really help!

Thank you so much, Ced...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Knowledge

In another life, I would be a London cab driver. Always an Anglophile, I went over the edge in 1997, in London. My sister and I were heading to Gatwick to catch a plane to Marseille. The night before our departure, we made arrangements with the hotel desk clerk (an interesting Russian woman who disparaged our complaints about the lack of hot water as "oh, you Americans, you expect instant hot water...this is an old building, it takes time") for an early morning cab to take us to Victoria Station for the train to Gatwick.

So, there we were, the next morning, bright and early, standing in front of our hotel on Norfolk Square, bags at our sides, waiting for our cab. Before long, a cab pulls up, the driver hops out and begins to load our luggage into the trunk. I should say here that the driver was of middle Eastern heritage, and the cab was not a traditional "black cab", which we did not think much the time. We ask him a about the cost of going to Gatwick by cab (too expensive) and generally hang about as he is busily piling our bags into the trunk. About the time he was finishing up, and we were getting into the back of the cab, a traditional black cab pulled up and yelled my last name as a question. I told him "yes" and he started haranguing the other cab driver and telling us he was our driver and this guy was an illegitimate cabbie, unlicensed, an opportunist, and we would be wise to get out and send him on his way. My sister and I, wide-eyed and a bit flustered, got out, asked for our luggage to be removed, and headed for the black cab.

Once safely ensconced in the black cab, and on our way, the driver began giving us what, in retrospect, was a lecture. Here is my best recollection:

"A licensed London cabbie has to pass a number of tests to qualify for a license. To pass these tests, the driver must have an encyclopedic knowledge of London's streets, alleyways, lanes, and bypasses. I spent two years driving around London on a motorbike to learn every street name and landmark. I sectioned the city off into grids and concentrated on one grid at a time. All the while, I was working a regular day job and had family responsibilities. The information required to pass these tests is called "The Knowledge" and it is no mean feat to learn it all. This is why I get very upset when innocent tourists are lured into unlicensed cabs. These cab drivers do not know the city, are uninsured, and they charge exorbitant fares. In general, to be safe, always take a 'black cab'." Or some such...

After that, I became quite fascinated with the geography of London. I bought a London street atlas and keep it by my side when reading anything set in London. Every street name is looked up and located on the various maps. When reading the Pepys Diaries, I trace Sam's movements using the atlas. This has become kind of an obsession.

So, as I said, "in another life"...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It's Tuesday--Where Are You?

So, where are YOU?

I am on the island of Guernsey, in the English Channel. I am with Elizabeth George in "The Place of Hiding" as her recurring characters, the St. Jameses, are privately investigating a murder on the island. It is quite entertaining. However, this is a later Elizabeth George mystery, and as is sometimes the case, not as good as her earlier works. That said, I am about 4/5 through the book and still have no clue whodunit...

Another distraction, I suppose. However, I would never have known so much about the island of Guernsey had I not read this book.

Monday, March 30, 2009


This is a reposting. The original post was deleted because of stray html that I did not recognize. There was a pretty rude comment to the original post so not wanting to take any chances, I deleted the whole thing.

A little history...I was about eleven or twelve when the bicycle accident happened. That would make it around 1960 or 1961.

Here it is again.

Today I read that a woman exposed to DDT as a young girl is five times more likely to develop breast cancer. Well, now I wonder if it was DDT that spewed out of the crop duster plane as I watched enthralled from the “safety” of my living room. My mother thought it might help stop filbert worms. And, was the powdery substance coating the green bean vines DDT? Breathed it, ate it, absorbed it through the skin as I picked those beans. Were my eyes swollen shut from DDT after the bicycle accident? My mom picked gravel out of my arms and face, and sent me back to the fields. Not that I am blaming my mother, she didn’t know any better. So what if there is no history of breast cancer in our family? Those grandmothers were not exposed to DDT. Who invented it? Who made money off it? Who is still living in luxury from the interest earned on the profits? Just wondering.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday in the Garden

As you may have noticed, I am adopting ideas from other book blogs for routine postings. "It's Tuesday, Where Are You?", and "Wordless Wednesday", for example. While someone else in the blogosphere may be doing this already, I am going to attempt a weekly "Sunday in the Garden" posting. Today's premiere entry epitomizes spring in western Oregon. The picture was taken at the end of a raging hailstorm. As I write this post, 20 minutes later, the sun is out and la la la la la.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Uncharted Territory

This afternoon I heard the mayor of Fargo, North Dakota tell NPR that Fargo was in "uncharted territory" with this flood emergency. Ice jams, swollen river, snow, thousands massed along the riverbank making and stacking sandbags. Heated sandbags...they don't work as well when frozen.

My heart goes out to the people of Fargo and to others in this "uncharted territory".

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's Tuesday...Where Are You?

I am in Ireland and New Orleans/Washington D.C.

It's a bit of a writing exercise, actually. I thought it would be valuable to read through a few popular paperbacks to see what popular fiction is up to these days. I usually read "literary" novels and nonfiction so this is a departure from the usual for me. A sort of survey. I am looking for characterization, setting, dialogue, pace, how the book is structured.

One book has been made into a movie. I have read the book before and seen the movie several times. I picked this one because I wanted to understand how a "thriller" is put together. The other book is a "romance". I have never read it and doubt it has ever been made into a movie. Same deal here, how is a "romance" put together? My book has aspects of both genres, so like I said, this is a survey.

That said, I picked the wrong "romance" book. The opening chapter gives an overview of a small Irish village and introduces the main characters, most of whom are children at this point in the story. OK so far. Then, the following chapters (I am up to Chapter 6) are focused vignettes concentrating on one character. I can see where it is going...the life of the village is told through these vignettes. It is a fun read, but not really what I was looking for.

The "thriller" has been in the back of my mind since I started this project. At one point (while waiting for my first granddaughter to be born), I tried to deconstruct this book, line by line. It grew tedious and I put it away (M is 18 months old now). Now I am focusing on chapter by chapter, much more productive. This is not to say I will not come back and do the deconstruction later.

OK, here are the books.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ballymaloe Cookery School

After a little internet searching, I found the website for the Ballymaloe Cookery School mentioned in my post about old Gourmet magazines. It looks like a thriving concern and a place I would love to visit. The Saturday newsletters will have to suffice for now...check out the website, there is a lot going on at Ballymaloe.

It's a rainy weekend here so I plan to find a Ballymaloe recipe to play around with.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Much of a Muchness

"They look much of a muchness." George Orwell, referring to a parade of mostly Senagalese soldiers on maneuvers, Morocco, 1939. From 3/12/39 Orwell Diaries.

Much of a muchness. Thinking of this phrase, I am wondering if there are other obvious examples. Human endeavors: Sports figures, cheerleaders (related to the sports thing), soldiers (very obvious, obviously), girl scouts, boy scouts, rotary, fraternal organizations in general, sororities, clubs of all kinds, generally groups of like-minded individuals. Animal kingdom: Any flock, herd, pride, infestation, on and on. Plant kingdom: Forests, wheat fields, tulips.

Much of a muchness.


Spring...spring season, springtide, springtime, seedtime, grass; vernal equinox. So says Ralph's thesaurus. By the way, thank you Deb for the Ralph Segal obit. Let's agree this is our Ralph, OK?, innocent, pure, ideal, ready, the time of coming into being, dawn, the beginning, a cutting, a slip, a sapling, the rising of the sea, a bound, a jump, a leap. Spring fever.

Spring...a promise.

Late snow is an insult to spring.

Other reflections on spring:

"Spring had really come.
The south opened like a mouth.
It blew one long breath, humid and warm,
and flowers quivered inside the seeds,
and the round earth began to ripen like a fruit."
Jean Giono, REGAIN

From "Provence: A Country Almanac" by Louisa Jones

"Colette, traveling south on the famous "Blue Train" from Paris, describes a Provencal spring:

We just passed Avignon and I might have thought, yesterday, after sleeping only two hours, that I had slept two months: Spring had come to meet me, a fairytale spring, the exuberant, brief, irresistible spring of the South, rich, fresh, with its spurts of sudden greenery, its grasses already high, which sway and ripple in the wind, its mauve Judas trees, its paulownias the color of gray periwinkles, its laburnums, wisteria, and roses...My head has been spinning since Avignon. The northern mists have melted over there, behind the cypress hedges bent by the force of the mistral. The silky murmur of tall reeds came through the open train window that day, along with the scent of honey, of pine, of varnished buds, of lilac about to bloom, that bitter smell of lilac before it flowers, a blend of turpentine and almond. The cherry trees cast violet shadows on the reddish earth, already parched with thirst." From Colette, THE VAGABOND

This blog has survived one season. Let's journey together into the next. Thank you to everyone who visits, and especially to everyone who comments. I LOVE comments.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Where is the Eiffel Tower?

Well, in this picture, it is obvious...just over there. Life is full of regrets, and one of mine is being twice in Paris and missing out on seeing the Eiffel Tower. It does not seem possible, but it is true. Two wild taxi rides from train station to train station...and not once did I catch a glimpse of the Tower. Ah well, something to look forward to.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Spring Forward

So, we move the clocks forward one hour Saturday night, before sleep. Why? Does cutting an hour off at the beginning of a day and adding it at the tail end make for a longer day? No. I don't get it. I hear Arizona has opted out of changing the clock. Probably the only reason I can think of to move there...

Speaking of time...I have a bedside clock on order from LL Bean. It is a very cool, retro looking clock. When the "alarm" goes off, the whole clock gets "light", kind of like sunrise. If one does not respond to the "light", then it beeps. I love the concept. We'll see how I like it "real time".

More about time...I would like to create more structure into my daily life. I know it is pretty hard to teach an old dog new tricks, even if it is the old dog trying to teach itself. However, I do think that if I am ever going to write my version of the great American novel, I have to set aside time every day (except maybe one day a week for piddling) and WORK on it! A friend of mine warned me to beware of the distractions, and boy, was she right. I have it all in my mind, albeit kind of jumbled up, but it's there. Here are my new "daylight savings time" resolutions:

Make a list of research still undone and DO IT
Write every day (take the laptop out to the deck and make the most of the extra daylight, right?)
This is a biggie...decide once and for all whether I am writing a "story" or a "literary novel".
Research agents and process for publishing (thinking optimistically)

My favorite season is still autumn, when we get to turn the clocks "back" and hunker down inside by the fire. But, I admit, gaining appeal as I enter the third stage of life, are warmer days, twilight at 10 p.m., the surprise of a bat, that soft feeling of a summer night. So, I guess the welcome mat is out for daylight savings time.

Let us all "spring forward"!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Old Gourmet Magazines

Not only do I have stacks of books around the house (since all the bookcases are full), but I have stacks of old cooking magazines too. I use them for menu ideas, seasonal recipes, and what not. March 1986 Gourmet, "The Magazine of Good Living" does not disappoint. I love pre-1990 issues of Gourmet. Not only are they full of recipes, they also have interesting articles of all kinds. Here are a few samples from the March 1986 table of contents:

- Gourmet Holidays: Antwerp
- The Ballymaloe Cookery School
- Paris' Open-Air Markets

- Purim: The Festival of Lots
- Christie's Wine Course
- Cooking With Jacques Pepin

You see, the magazine is about more than cooking. It really is about "fine living". After about 1990 I noticed a marked change though. Fewer articles, more advertising, less real content...maybe the publishers decided to take "nouvelle cuisine" concepts and apply them to the magazine too. Probably it was just a business decision, but they lost me.

Back to the March 1986 issue...I have learned so much about the city of Antwerp. Having raced by it on a high-speed train a few years back, I'm now sorry we did not stop there to seek out some of its museums, diamond centers, and of course, chocolatiers. I learned about the history of the name "Antwerp". Ant is "hand" and werpen is "to throw". This is from the legend of the Roman warrior Silvius Brabo (whose statue stands in the square of the Grote Markt):

"...Silvius Brabo, the Roman warrior who freed the Schelde land from a reigning giant. The giant was an unpleasant bully who extracted exorbitant tolls from all who passed along the river and cruelly whacked off the hand of anyone who wouldn't pay. Brave and indignant Brabo fought the giant, cut off the ogre's hand, hurled it into the Schelde, and practiced posing while some clever Flemings translated his good deed into a suitable city name...Delightful reminders of the legend are also found in every bakery and chocolate shop in the form of delicious cookies and bitter, milk, or white chocolate Antwerpen handjes."

I also learned from this article that traditionally, until the middle of the fifteenth century, only images of the Virgin could be decorated with diamonds. The French Kings changed all that. And now Antwerp is (at least in 1986) the world's leading diamond city.

Besides Antwerp, I now want to visit Ireland and go to the Ballymaloe Cookery School. I wonder if it is still in business? internet research project. Stay tuned, I will let you know what I find out.

So, if you see a pre-1990 Gourmet magazine at a garage or library sale, buy it. I guarantee you will find a treasure trove of ideas for "fine living".


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Teaser Tuesday (on Wednesday!)

My favorite book blog, "Books Please" has this little challenge each Tuesday. I am a day late here, but thought it would be fun to do anyway. Here are the "official rules": Select a page at random in the book you are currently reading and pick two sentences between lines 7 and 12.

From Wallace Stegner's "Crossing to Safety", Penguin paperback, 1987. Page 95.

"If she could not persuade them, then she would have to extract a promise that they would wait until Sid finished his degree, assuming he went for a degree, and found a job. No more than Charity did she take seriously those nine beanrows."

This is Aunt Emily (Sid's future mother-in-law, called "Aunt" even by her own children) planning her next move...

I would love to read your "Teasers", even if it is Wednesday.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Weekend Visiting

We're off to the coast to visit family and have a little break.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

On Guard

Fergus and MacGregor doing their favorite thing.

Waiting and watching
Winter dogs on guard.
Kids on bikes, baby strollers,

Weed Free (For Now)

At last! A mild off and on sunny day, a back on the mend...time to weed the asparagus bed. As you can see, it is finished, and am I ever glad. The path to the car meanders right by the asparagus bed, so every day I saw those awful weeds. I got them out just in time too. The bitter cress was in bloom and had already set a few seeds. I accidentally raked out a white asparagus tip, so things are already working down there. The soil was surprisingly friable for this early. We are pretty far behind our normal winter rainfall and it shows in the garden.

Monsieur Milbert would shake his head and remind me that I am a month late getting this done...but at least it is FINALLY finished.

Now, C will work a few buckets of compost into the soil. Then, we wait.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Magus

OK, I like Fowles' ideas about writing, but this book? Not so much.

The 60s are so far away and this book dates itself, I think. Too much like a Fellini movie. I got about a third of the way through, and gave up when in one scene a mysterious man wearing a jackal's head mask appears and mysteriously disappears. We have satyrs and nymphs cavorting in the woods, Victorian ladies strolling on the beach (in the 1950s), talk of get the picture. It sounds kind of interesting, but was quite boring to me after a bit. I think I am jaded by the reality of now v.s. the 60s when this kind of thing was quite new and surprising (especially in film).

Well written, it is the story of a bored young Englishman who goes to an isolated Greek island to teach school and gets involved in the machinations of a local wealthy recluse. It sounded like something I might like but the fantasy aspects just turned me off.

I prefer literary realism.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Me Too

I am just beginning John Fowles "The Magus". Fowles is on the "must read" list in my writing notebook. No idea where I got the idea that he is a "must read" but wherever it was, all I can do now is throw out a "thank you" into the ether.

His foreword to the May 1985 Bantam Doubleday Dell paperback, on the very first page echoes something I have felt for a long time:

"A more objective side of me did not then believe I should ever become a publishable writer; a subjective one could not abandon the myth it was trying, clumsily and laboriously, to bring into the world; and my strongest memory is of constantly having to abandon drafts because of an inability to describe what I wanted. Both technique and that bizarre face of the imagination that seems to be more like a failure to remember the already existent than what it really is -- a failure to evoke the non-existent -- kept me miserably aground."

I am still not sure if "the already existent" does not really exist. Often, in that dreamlike state, just before actually being "awake" in the morning, words stream through my mind like water. When I wake up, the memory of the words is there, but not the substance. Is there, in my mind, a place where the words flow unaided? Is this the place I "go" when I sit down and write two thousand words so effortlessly it feels like floating? Am I transcribing, or creating? Is this the "muse"? If it is, why can't I access it at will?

John Fowles started The Magus in the 1950s. It was published in 1965.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Still down with my back but feeling MUCH better. Yesterday's entry in my favorite little "book of days" describes a lunch party. Oh, wouldn't one have wanted to be a guest at this little soiree?

"1959 - In Nyack, NY, after a luncheon of souffle, oysters, grapes, and champagne, Carson McCullers puts music on the phonograph and invites Marilyn Monroe, then married to Arthur Miller, and Isak Dinesen to join her in dancing on the marble-topped dining room table." From "A Book of Days for the Literary Year".

Oh, Arthur was there too.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Light posting here because I'm "down" with my back. Feeling somewhat better now. I'm trying to work from home and stay in a creative frame of mind too. Here is what Dr. Johnson has to say about pain:

"The mind is seldom quickened to very vigorous operations but by pain, or the dread of pain."
Johnson: Idler #18 (August 12, 1758)

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Love is anterior to life
Posterior to death,
Initial of creation, and
The exponent of breath.

--Emily Dickinson

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Car of My Dreams

Aston Martin DB5. Need I say more?

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I'm feeling a bit down tonight. My young son-in-law is facing one of life's unexpected ordeals and it weighs heavily on my mind. Hang in there kiddo. We all love you to pieces. There will be scars. Life inflicts scars. Nobody is immune. Scars tell stories. They are deep. Scars are life changing, life affirming, badges of courage.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Le Sanglier. The wild boar of France, sus scrofa scrofa. Shy, not often seen, but much maligned, le sanglier is the most hunted mammal in France. It is considered to be very dangerous but this is "largely unfounded" according to Most dangerous is the female who "will understandably protect her young if she feels threatened." This is where my story begins...

In 1997, my sister Rhonda and I visited Provence. We were taking a few last minute pictures of the countryside on our last day. We had just visited the hilltop village of Brantes and were meandering our way to the Marseilles airport. Nearing Beaumes de Venise, we pulled in to a picnic area to snap a few pictures of the "Dentelles de Montmirail", a rock formation resembling dog teeth or lace, no one is sure (dentelle could mean either in French).

Rhonda and I were standing beside our car when suddenly I caught a glimpse of a strange looking deer, or dog, or "Oh my God!" it's a wild boar!!! There she stood, snorting and grunting at us, her teats hanging nearly to the ground ---very menacing indeed. We jumped into the car, she ran back into the bushes and that was that.

The following year, my husband and I traveled back to France. In Beaune, the wine "capital" of Burgundy, we found this wine bottle stopper in a kitchen shop. My husband fashioned an Oregon wine cork to "Madame", our very own Sanglier.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Monsieur Milbert, Asparagus Bed, and Bitter Cress

Monsieur Milbert, the crusty old gardener profiled in Amanda Hesser's wonderful book, The Cook and the Gardener is my gardening conscience. When he is preparing his asparagus beds in January, I feel guilty if I am not out in the garden doing the same. For several years I have used this book as my kitchen garden calendar. The climate in Western Oregon is very similar to that of Burgundy, so it works. Earlier last week, when I looked ahead to this weekend's weather forecast, I was hopeful. But, yesterday we didn't break 40 degrees. Today, the sun came out, and the temps came up, but so did the northeast breeze, bringing in the wind chill factor. Since I am a lazy gardener, I decided to take pictures and then post on my blog instead. Maybe next weekend, Monsieur Milbert...

Not only is the asparagus bed a mess, but those little "poppy" weeds are sprouting up EVERYWHERE. A few years ago we noticed an ever-increasing plague of these pretty little weeds. They are edible but with two Scottie dogs in the yard, we prefer to toss them into the weed bucket. "Bitter cress" is the common name. We call them "poppy" weeds because if they set seeds, they "pop" everywhere when touched. A friend told us that the Forest Service planted bitter cress for erosion control and now everybody has them in their garden. Whether or not this is true, it sounds possible. Anyway...we hate bitter cress.