Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saturday Snapshot ... This I Believe



It's Saturday morning and it's starting to feel like summertime. The gardens are coming on. While the comfrey draws hoards of fat bumbling bees and the chive plants draw me out to cut long spears for snipping over mashed taters or tearing and adding to the garden green salads that are plentiful now, the finest of early June flowers fade in the porch bouquet. The white bleeding heart has crisped its hearts on the stem and the deep purple columbine has dropped its delicate petals in a perfect circle beneath the flowers. Their time was glorious, but gone and it reminds me that time is fleeting.

Our time is short in the scheme of things and we'd best chew the chives, enjoy the greens, dig in the soil to set the basil and move on to other good garden deeds. Sharing the strawberries with the neighbors and the chipmunks, dividing the perennials and passing some on to friends, scrubbing the watering can and sprinkling the rose bushes with some insecticidal soap so they come to bloom, rising in a sweat from weeding chores to wave a neighbor on their way down the dirt road, making time to sit in the garden and sip coffee on sunny mornings, and marveling at the seasonal splendor seems crucial these days. These flowers, these berries, these opportunities for connection, this sunrise will never be again. They're to be appreciated now and wondered on ...

Indeed, time is fleeting. It's never too early to realize that we are a speck in the grander scheme of things. We have very little chance of making a difference in the grand scheme of God's plan, but we can surely make great things happen in our little 'back yard'. So my thought is to care for plants, animals, and friends - new, old, and unknown. If I can live this premise, I can't go wrong.

This, I believe.





Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Black Tower - Louis Bayard


I grew up in the extreme northern reaches of New York State. That being said, there was this lovely but decrepit chalet-type home that sat on the outer border of of small town called Fort Covington (near Massena, my hometown) that had the legend of the lost Dauphin attached to it. I was always intrigued by the legend that Louis-Charles, the son of Marie Antoinette and Louis the XVI was somehow spirited away from the Jacobin prison in which he and his sister were held. The story goes that royalists helped him flee prison, cross the Atlantic and settle in anonymity in a rural backwater in order to keep him from forces that would see him dead. I wondered and built fantastic stories in my mind how a prince might be guarded by faithful and monied allies and sent to safety to live out his life away from the horror that he'd surely witnessed during the Reign of Terror.

Finding Louis Bayard's rollicking story about the legend of the lost Dauphin, a rowdy, raucous French detective called Eugene Vidocq that has a penchant for outlandishly accurate disguises, a young doctor who is pioneering the study venereal disease at a time when it was ravaging the French elite, and a young French gardener who is mysteriously innocent for one his age was such a fun experience! This mystery/historical thriller is masterfully written and even more masterfully narrated. It was wonderful!

I'll not spoil the storyline by giving away plot, but just know that there is murder, subterfuge, hidden relics of the Reign of Terror and the following Napoleonic era, royals and gentry who are less than honest about their past, bawdy humor, and wonderful characters that are endearing. Great read, even better listen. Simon Vance is a professional reader for the Royal National Institute for the Blind as well as a radio announcer for the BBC radio ... he does an incredible job developing the character of Vidocq. His command at reading and interpreting the story is just stellar!

Okay .. have I gushed enough ? If you're doing a road trip, working at home at a sit-down project or puttering in the kitchen this would be a worthy audio experience. I'm off to return the 'book' to the library and check out another by Louis Bayard.





Saturday, May 16, 2015

Saturday Snapshot ... Lilacs !!!


My bank account may say I'm poor as a church mouse, but during lilac season I feel as rich as a queen!

... shared at Melinda Ott's Saturday Snapshot photoshare because everyone should experience springtime lilacs ...



Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender - Leslye Walton


In preparing to write my reaction to this novel, I did a bit of research on the literary technique of using mystical realism in one's plot development. My only experience of the sub-genre (?) is with certain Latin American authors whose stories were so mystic that they were far over my head. I left this type of novel alone for years until I read Like Water For Chocolate, at which point, I thought that I'd fallen back into the mystic just enough.

The point is that this type of writing is not for everyone. You have to let go just a bit of what you consider real and true, latch onto the images and experiences of the characters and accept that what they experience is based in reality - their reality - a reality that serves to say something about life, higher ideals, et cetera. That being said, I found Leslye Walton's debut novel a winner. It's already being short-listed for awards across America as one of the best new young adult reads. I'm not so sure that it is strictly for young adults, but I often think that much of what is written for young adults is really 'cross-over' stuff. That's another rant post, though. Suffice it to say, this story addresses a bunch of issues like opening one's self to love and its messy possibilities, loving enough to allow one's children to become their own distinct personalities, fulfilling one's dreams and not being afraid to fail in the attempt, finding one's self in the midst of one's strong family influence and history, and overcoming society's sometimes harsh assumptions about one's self. Among a bazillion other things ...

Ava Lavender looks back on her life and her family history to tell a tale that will make you feel like you've entered a fairy tale. This is a love story, but it's not about the heart thumping happy ending of romantic love fulfilled. It's about the messiness of love, the development of love over time, the way love is nurtured by some and destroyed by others, the way one comes to love oneself enough to survive sorrows. The members of Ava's family experience love's foibles in vastly different ways and Ava reflects on these joys and sorrows, as her own life moves toward a strange climax.

I loved this book, but I'll warn you. It's not for everyone.





Monday, May 11, 2015

The Truth About Alice - Jennifer Mathieu


Jennifer Mathieu is relatively new to the young adult publishing world and in her first novel, she has hit the ball out of the park, as far as I'm concerned. Don't get me wrong. This is a difficult book to read, especially as a mature woman. It's graphic in its portrayal of young people and the culture of high schoolers and their world. I struggle with the level of sexuality, drugs and alcohol use that young people are exposed to, so reading a book as hard-hitting as this is difficult. That being said, it also flew by for me. it's not a long book. Alice's story unfolds fast and furious.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Saturday Snapshot ...



This past week, I went away with some friends from my quilting guild. We had a retreat in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. For three days, we shared sewing tips, worked on our individual projects and a few community service sewing projects, yakked about all things sewing, drank good wine, walked in the sunshine when we needed a break from the sewing studio, and ate really well.




There were thousands of fabric pieces worked with over the course of three days. 




There was a lot of cutting going on too !




Of course, there was a ton of ironing to be done ... some would say too much!




In the end, though, it's all about the finished quilt tops ...




... and there were some beauties!




We had a couple fun raffles too ... I ended up winning an Ott light for mounting on my sewing machine. We old lady quilters need all the light we can get!




On the way home, I stopped at a huge quilt shop in Center Harbor, New Hampshire and bought a palette of batiks to use in my next big quilt project. I'm in hog heaven with all these colors ...

shared at Saturday Snapshot 


Check out the other snapshot posts at Melinda Ott's website. Just hit the link above!