Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Sandcastle Girls - Chris Bohjalian

This latest novel from Chris Bohjalian is a powerful look at an Armenian family's tragic past and the secrets that surface generations later when a young woman delves into her family's geneology and the path that her grandparents took from Turkey and Syria to the United States. In parallel stories, Bojahlian writes of a young woman in modern day discovering her family's past and the ramifications that it has for her and her present day relationships. He slips back to the early 20th century to tell the full story of the family's traumatic evolution. The reader follows the sheltered life of a young Bostonian woman who accompanies her father to Aleppo in 1915 to bring humanitarian aid to the Armenian peoples who were being systematically filtered from Turkish society and forced into the desert to be slaughtered and starved in a mass ethnic cleansing campaign.  Meeting a young Armenian engineer who has been sheltered from death because of his ability to help expand the rail system, she begins a relationship that will take her into the heart of a that dark time in Middle Eastern history - the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

I think it interesting that this is the second book concerning genocide that Bohjalian has written. His searing novel about the last of the Jewish concentration camp internees escaping and trudging their way back toward western Europe during the last grueling days of WWII was chronicled in Skeletons at the Feast . Now, he brings us the Armenian genocide. Dark stories, both, and yet they are important chapters of history that must not be forgotten. Bringing them to life within well-researched novels makes them more accessible to the mainstream and helps readers explore the emotional and human side of the dry statistics and politics of these horrible historical events.

I would place this book in my 2012 top ten, but I must admit that I need to move on to something much lighter, as the emotional catharsis of this novel got to me. Other readers may not find it too searing, but this kind of story, one that explores man's inhumanity to man, just gets under my skin and stays with me for a good while.

At any rate, I recommend The Sandcastle Girls for those who like historical fiction as a way to learn about real events outside of an academic forum. It provides places, dates, and interesting political scenes that a truly interested reader can use as jumping off spots for more research. It's a well-done endeavor by Bohjalian.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday Snapshot ... Hanging Up Stockings!

It's Yankee Swap Day at the family farm! Imagine about thirty of the Lindquist side of the family gathering at the family farm to have a joke gift swap to start things off with many a chuckle. Then, the grazing sets in when we spread out an impressive lunch buffet (my contributions are a warm artichoke dip with crackers, a huge green salad, and a pan of chicken and spinach enchiladas). After lunch, we get to the serious business of swapping really nice gifts. There's bound to be many laughs, much chucking of the kiddies' chins, serious photo opps that usually have hilarious results, and a few glasses of holiday cheer!

Huzzah! I sure hope your families have fun this holiday season!

PS - The stocking is one of several that I have been making this holiday season  ... each one is done with completely different fabric and different cuff embellishment ... I am having such fun doing the hand quilting on these. Some have beadwork, some have appliqué, some have small hand quilted holly leaves with jingle bell berries. All are quite cute ... and they really hold a lot of loot!

This Saturday Snapshot joins others at Alyce's blog ... athomewithbooks ... check out the other posts and think about joining the group! The rules of joining up and contributing a post are simple and the sharing is great fun! See you there!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saturday Snapshot - Turkey Day!

Well, we had a great turkey ... and we had all the leftovers ... and I've used the last of the turkey breast to make a white pizza with broccoli and red peppers and black olives ...phew. How 'bout you?
Sick of the bird yet?

I'm guessing we'll be having a ham or a beef tenderloin for Christmas. Happy Holidays, all!

This post is linked to Alyce's blog athomewithbooks for her weekly photoshare ... pop over by clicking the link to see what's what! You can join in too! Just read up on the rules and get your camera clicking!

The Prospering - Elizabeth George Speare

Google a search on Elizabeth George Speare and you will get a nice bio and a list of New bery Award winners and honor books that she wrote between 1957 and 1984. Her novels for young adult readers were the stuff of history that I grew up on - Calico Captive, The Bronze Bow, The Sign of the Beaver, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond were all classics of historical fiction. Yet, nowhere in that biography will you find note of her novel for adults called The Prospering.

The Prospering is a fictionalized (albeit incredibly well-researched) novel that revolves around the grand experiment undertaken by the Massachusetts settlers to convert the native peoples.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saturday Snapshot - Armchair Birdwatchers

Penny and Opey Birdwatching
She is NOT Amused
I have been spending a lot of time sitting on the couch and doing hand sewing. Our little church's Holiday Fair is fast approaching and I have been making Christmas stockings, potpourri bags, and other crafty items. So sorry that I haven't been visiting many of you, but time is not infinite and I am in the holiday rush ... just until the 17th of the month. When the Fair has passed, I plan to relax with the computer and the many blogs I follow, bake some holiday breads and cookies, read a new mystery, and catch up on Masterpiece Theatre's Upstairs Downstairs.
My constant companions are here on the couch as, we speak. They have found warm sunny spots to loll in, as they while away the day watching me work with needle and thread ... ah, a cat's life! Huh?
I wonder what everyone else is posting this morning for their Saturday Snapshots! Hit the above link and check them out!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Lady's Maid - Margaret Forster

There is an adage - "No good deed goes unpunished." That's all I could think of as I read this novel that revolves around Elizabeth Wilson, the long-suffering and dedicated lady's maid to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Margaret Forster wrote a biography of EBB before she branched out to center a novel around the young woman who came to the Barrett household when they had re-trenched to Wimpole Street in London of the 1840's.

Young Wilson comes to London from her hometown of Newcastle, recommended by a relative of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She takes up a reclusive residency and waits on EBB hand and foot through her darkest and most pathetic period of collapse. Wilson becomes thoroughly devoted to her mistress and gradually gains her trust and complete dependence, which begins to beg the question in the reader, "Just how much must a young maid of the Victorian Era give up for one's lady?"

Young Wilson is drawn completely into the lives of the Barrett family and is privy to all the familial foibles and misadventures. Key among these is the romance that develops between Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning.  Wilson is drawn into the plot to elope, the honeymoon journey to Paris and the trip on to Italy where the Brownings set up housekeeping.  Browning and Wilson nurse Elizabeth as she regains her health and vigor. She helps Browning wean Elizabeth from her daily doses of laudanum. Wilson helps EBB through numerous miscarriages until one pregnancy is successful and her son is born. Wilson takes on the role of  nanny to young Pen, while keeping her role as lady's maid and nurse to Elizabeth.

All this duty monopolizes her every moment. She strives to be the exemplary maid, comforting nurse, steadying nanny, discreet employee. She needs to keep her place in service in order to be able to send part of her salary home to her needy mother and younger sisters.  She is just in her 20's  and should be looking for her own soulmate, but how can she ? When she finally meets and falls in love with a fellow employee, she is placed in such a dilemma. How does one 'have a married life' and stay in service? It is at this point in the book, that the reader is faced with the inequities of class. It is all well and good for the Brownings to have a romantic and ideal married and family life, but their servants are not considered as needing the same. It is all well and good for the Brownings to travel the length of Europe to see family and socialize with their intellectual peers, however it is unthinkable that their staff wish for time to visit their families. The inconvenience would be too much for poor Elizabeth and Robert. Therefore, when Wilson marries and has a child, she is set aside and is only allowed to return to service when she leaves her own son with a sister in England and returns to Italy to take up her duties. She is separated from her husband again when she bears a second child and must leave service altogether.  Yet, she is still tied to the Brownings because of her close relationship with young Pen Browning and because of her skill in nursing Elizabeth during her long spells of collapse.

Forster has done an excellent job of portraying the class differences of the Victorian Era while telling the (mostly true) story of Wilson and her years of service to the Brownings. I was so completely drawn into the story that I stayed up way too late reading to see how Wilson's life would infold.  Having never heard of Margaret Forster, I finished Lady's Maid wondering what other books she has written. I will definitely be searching out some of her other titles to see if she can hold my interest as closely as she did with this book.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday Snapshot ... My Culinary Bucket List

I love to cook and bake and create good food, but like everyone who cooks, there are certain dishes that have intimidated me over the years. Last year, I sat down and made a 'culinary bucket list' - a list of dishes that I really want to make before I am relegated to applesauce and prune juice ...

This past week, I conquered ... eclairs! I have to tell you. They were so good ! I'm not sure what the next item will be ... over the past year, I've crossed handmade aioli, madeleines, gnocchi, gateaux de crepes, and a lattice-topped pie off my list ... there are still so many more, though!

What's on your culinary bucket list?

This post is linked to Alyce's weekly photoshare over at athomewithbooks . Click the link and go see what other folks are sharing today ... there are a bunch of links already! Read up on the rules of the photoshare and post yours too!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday Snapshot .... 1 -2- 3 or 3 - 2- 1 ?

I was recently walking through a small gallery that was showing the work of two NYC-based artists - all stark lines of neon color that jarred the eyes in one case. In the second case, these layers and lines of bold oils were slathered over canvas, framed plainly, and lit in such a manner that the 3-D quality of each piece was highlighted.

I chose to photograph the second artist's work, as I found it more intriguing ... although the juxtaposition of the flat neon with the more textured oils was an obvious exhibit decision (I think!).

Like many a gallery visitor, I found myself standing back and then walking in on the paintings. Me and my camera ...

In thinking about posting these snaps, though, I began to wonder what would intrigue more ... 1 -2 -3 shots or 3 -2- 1 shots ... so whaddaya think? Other than wondering what this guy's paint budget is, that is.
 Artwork by : James Walsh

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Walking at Night - The Mag 139


Midnight Snack - 1984 by Curtis Wilson Cost

Walking At Night


A lighted window will always draw my eye
Away from the dark road or wooded path
Sometimes a flash of clothing moves past
Or the bright movement from the television

I turn away and move down across meadow
Points of flickering green or shimmering red
Greet me from hedgerows with huffs or
Chitters, rustles that move away or fall silent

The angular reflections of bouncing light
Stand mute at the meetinghouse  – wavy
In the big old panes of glass, creak golden from
The weathervane that turns to catch night light

Sometimes I turn down quiet lanes
Blue white ceilings on porches cast an aura
Around front doors and over porch swings
That sway and squeal softly on the breeze

Main Street is always an assault - headlights
And blinkers, cigarettes flashing past with ashes
Trailing - a loud and raucous gauntlet to be run
Signage pops on off on off on off on on on

Garish light of neon makes me close my eyes
I squint with an imprint of color and flash
Hard against my lids – the sound of voices
Clink of glass thump of bass echo of music

Best is the light that gently falls from above
The pinpoints of light from ages past
Luring my eyes upward and out past red dots
That blink their way across the firmament

Passing back into the black and blue of night
I return to our small place at the wayside
A gentle light and movement behind curtains
A warm comfort that waits beyond the step

- Susan Lindquist 10/2012
shared at Tess Kinkaid's Magpie Tales - The Mag 139 

edit done - 10/16/12





Saturday, October 13, 2012

'Give Us This Day ...' Saturday Snapshot

" Let there be work, bread, water, and salt for all."
                                                                 - Nelson Mandela
I made a lovely loaf of bread this week and was caught up in the thought that many in this world and in this country ( the U S of A) would find a loaf such as this a luxury. That seems wrong to me. I guess I'm a bleeding heart liberal or a socialist or a Communist or a Christian or a dissident or a fool or something. I just want us to spread our personal and national wealth around as far at it will go and I wish every citizen of this great country felt the same way.

Just call me a Pollyanna. It's okay. It would be nothing that I haven't heard from my family and friends ...
This is a Saturday Snapshot and is shared on Alyce's blog  athomewithbooks ... head on over to check out what others are posting today. Link to the original Saturday Snapshot post for rules on posting your own snapshot ... then, bake a couple loaves of bread and share one ... just a thought!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Mag 138 - Fast Write Doggerel

Sick Woman – Jan Steen , 1665

Tongue In Cheek

I should have known better, dear Doctor -
The lampreys, the quail, and the leeks
I’ve eaten my weight in warm pompion
I’ll feel fat and bloated for weeks.

I should have known better, old Master.
The dinner board groaned with the weight -
The stew made with boar and white turnip
The tarts, nuts and sweetmeats we ate.

I should have known better, kind Counselor.
Now what is this woman to do ?
In payment for leeches, possets, and pats,
I’ve a shitload more cooking to do!

This week's Magpie Tales prompt has hit me where I live ... I spent the weekend entertaining, which meant cooking and cooking and cooking. It was a great time, but I am relating to that poor woman in the prompt.

Hence, a fast write with a nod to common doggerel ...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fall Foliage - Saturday Snapshot

Pearly Pond March

Tell me if you do this, too. I drive to and fro and sometimes never look beyond the lane in front of me and the mirrors inside and to either side of the car. I park the car and walk to and fro on a mission. I move through my world and miss so much of what's around me in the rush to get things done. I swear that sometimes I don't even remember the passage because I have been thinking about some mundane thing or concentrating on getting 'somewhere' to get 'something' done. Do you ever find yourself doing the same?

This weeks Saturday Snapshot is a result of languidly looking aside as I passed one of the many swamps and marshes that dot my end of New Hampshire. The richness of the color palette literally made me stop the car and take a few moments out of a busy Saturday morning of errands to gaze and soak it in. I went home from shopping, got my camera and returned to capture it on film.

Happy Fall from my little corner of New England!

Cat Tail Reeds and Swamp Maples
Golden October
Marsh Panorama

These photos all come from a stretch of road that I have 'passed over' every time I go to the market. Note to self: Drive slower and look around more. It's amazing what you might see.

So there's my Saturday Snapshot ! There are more for you to see at Alyce's weekly photoshare. Click the link  - athomewithbooks . It's amazing what others have stopped to notice and document!


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Finagling - Saturday Snapshot

I had fun this week playing with a lovely shot of me holding a small bouquet of flowers from my garden. My daughter Sara took the shot at a family party back in July ... we were all here at the grey cottage for a blueberry picking party. Blueberries weren't the only thing picked ... the kids each got bags of produce and flowers from the garden, whatever they wanted to take with, as they headed back to 'their worlds'.

This week, I played with the photo at a website called Big Huge Labs. It's a neat place for you to play for free with your jpg's ... have fun! Here is a sample of what I did with an app called FX.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Shoemaker's Wife - A Short Take

I share books with my sister, Mom, and friends. We lay stacks of books aside after we're done reading them, reserving them for certain people in our lives. I have a stack of what I call, 'chick lit' that I put aside for Mom. She reads and passes on to my sister and sisters-in-law. The books make the rounds and then we gush over them or pan them ... it's the family best seller list taken to the phone or family party. I'm sure you, dear readers, have some system to for recommending or bashing the books you read.

This is the latest book that I will be passing to Mom. She will love it - me, not as much as some of Ms. Trigiani's other books. I do really like Adriana T's world of Italian women. She wowed me throughout her entire 'Stone Gap' series. I loved her strong female characters set in real world settings. In this, her latest book, she has drawn on inspiration from her grandparent's emigration to America and their romance and family life to create the world of Ciro and Enza Lazzari. It's a story of strong connections to Catholic church, family, the family place in northern Italy, and the struggle to maintain close ties to family when emigration to America becomes a necessity. It's a story of faithful work for family, constancy in relationships, understanding the motives and circumstances of family members that seem cruel when one is young and understandable as one ages and faces the vicissitudes of life. It's a story of strength and character. All this is placed against the background of the early to mid-1900's. - and that is where Ms. T runs into trouble, as far as I'm concerned.

While her characters are rolled up in the world of NYC immigration and the adjustment of the minorites to American work, very little of the bias toward immigrants, working world upheaval, and politics of the era are even touched on. While Ciro is placed smack dab in the center of WWI as an American doughboy, the great pandemic of 1918 is not even mentioned. The Great Depression and how it effected American workers? Nowhere to be seen. The build-up to WWII ... nowhere. She writes closely to family day to day experiences and the relationships within the small town that Enza and Ciro move to in Minnesota, but never touches on the larger American fabric of change and politics. I found that a great weakness in the storyline, but perhaps I am stuck between genres ... this is an example of realistic fiction and not historical fiction, I guess. That line seems blurry here and it's a fine line to be walked by Trigiani.

That being said, I still liked the book! It fulfilled a need for a nice, undemanding story to follow a gutsy post-WWII novel of intrigue that made me really pay attention to details. I floated through The Shoemaker's Wife. I wondered how Ciro and Enza would finally get together and was pleased when they did. I was saddened by the fates of certain family members and happy at how others fared across time. I rooted for Enza and her dear friend, Laura to make it big in America. Predictably, they did - with all the joy, sorrow, luck, and fulfillment that one would wish for hard-working American immigrants. This is a story of the American dream fulfilled. Mom will love it.

I'll continue to snap up Adriana Trigiani's books. She writes excellent 'chick lit' - good solid stories of strong Italian women ... and if she ever is at an author event near me, I'll make the pilgrimage to listen to her speak about her writing, her inspiration, and her attitudes toward the publishing world. She's a keeper.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday Snapshot ... Work Space


Can you imagine working in this studio space? I love the airiness, the way the movement of the sculpture pushes outward toward the sunlit window. That horse might as well be charging out into the meadow outside! This is a small studio on the grounds of the Augustus Saint-Gaudens Historic Site in Cornish, NH. It's Fall in New Hampshire and this quiet estate would be a beautiful place to visit, if you're passing through. Just look!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Moment In Time ... Saturday Snapshot

This picture is a cliche for so many things that have gone through my mind this week. Changes, passages, fragility of life, the miracle of life that persists against the wind and rain and time and such.
We flipped on the news last week to see a story about the sudden loss of a dear citizen of Hopkinton, NH. Rick Schaefer, the town's beloved Fire Chief, suffered a massive heart attack while on duty at the Hopkinton State Fair. He's gone. Just like that, he left the sweetest woman wife and three grown children, a grandchild, a corps of admiring firemen, a town of grateful citizens, and people farther afield who worked with him over the years. He was a young man, only in his early 50's. A fluke. A travesty. A sad reminder that life is, indeed, fragile.

And now he goes on a strange voyage to solve the great mystery that we all wonder about ... safe travels, Rick ...

I'm sharing this on Alyce's photoshare this week. Saturday Snapshot is a weekly tradition ... check out at home with books to see the challenge rules  ... join us! Life is short and it's nice to leave a footprint here and there!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Back To Basics - Magpie Tales


‘Breakfast’ – Fernand Leger

Back to Basics
Fresh Starts
Simple Truces
These Things Are A Given
We Come Together Everyday
Mixing Juice And Whisking Eggs
Arranging Things Just So On Plates
Welcoming The Morning Sun
Heading Off After A Kiss
Making the Day
A Renewal
Home Again To Share
Woes Triumphs Routines
Joys Frustrations Humor Angst
All The World Throws At Us
Distilled Black And White At OurTable
Me Salt You Pepper Life As It Should Be

                                                                                                           A Grain
                                                                                                           Of Truth

What kind of poetry is this that is placed in a particular shape? I remember playing with it as an  exercise in an English Composition class way back in the day, but the term for this type of layout escapes me ... like so much else. At any rate, I have played with Leger's modern painting to portray the couple's life reduced to black and white, salt and pepper, basic spices that make life bearable.

This poem is shared on Tess Kinkaid's writing share ... a sumptuous offering at the table of life. Go feast on the words ...




Saturday, September 8, 2012

Saturday Snapshot - Straight Lines

My life these days is reduced to a series of straight seams and endless checking with rulers and cutting board grids. This is a simple 'flying geese' pattern with three borders that will make it suitable for a double bed. I love the vintage 30's feed sack calicos. They're so cheerful and bright - I'm a sucker for all that nostalgic vintage stuff. At this point, my 'wintertime project' is one border shy of being ready to layer and put on a quilt frame.

From then on, my spare time will be portioned out with a quilt needle, a spool of quilting thread and solitary thoughts. I say that because quilting in a meditative activity when done alone. I've always wanted to have a 'quilting group', but this approach to craftwork is hard to organize in this too busy world.  I once tried to get a group of family members together to work consistently on a quilt that I was making for my niece. It was too difficult for them to commit to the ongoing work of quilting a large piece. It languished for years - finally turning into an embarrassment. I worked on much of it with Gwen (my niece), but foolishly dug my heels in on finishing it all by myself when it had been meant to be a community effort. I finally caved to the pressure from my sister-in-law and handed over the incomplete quilt so that she could find someone to finish the quilt. I'll always be sad that the family couldn't make arrangements to come together and finish that quilt for Gwen and Dan. Oh well.

Since that first quilting debacle, I have always worked on smaller projects that I knew I could manage alone without having to 'guilt' somebody into helping with. This past Spring, I joined a quilt guild. This group has women who are passionate about their craft. I am a definite beginner compared to the skill set that  some of these women bring to the group. I have made friends with one woman who is devoted to handquilting. I helped her with the last bit of quilting that she had to do to finish a quilt she was making this summer. She has said she will help me get my quilt done in return. Then, I will do the same for her when she gets her next project on the quilt frame. I am hoping to get a few other women who are interested in handquilting to join us over time. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have five or six women in a group to help get these massive projects done and on the beds and walls where we envision them ?

Little steps ... like little stitches.

This is a my photoshare that is linked with Alyce's weekly blogpost called Saturday Snap Shot. Check it out at the link above ... and perhaps you'll want to post your own snapshot with the group.

Til next Saturday!

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Small Triumph for Truth and Restitution

I will freely admit that I have a real interest (my husband and kids call it an obsession) in the plight of Jews throughout the various diasporas and the Holocaust. I am intrigued with the evil that men do and how it is rationalized politically, socially, religiously. Jewish history gives a host of examples of just this thing that man does to man over and over again.

I also admit that I am an art junkie. I don't know a lot, but I have a great interest in seeing the beauty that man creates and the cultural clues that paintings and sculpture and theater and poetry and literature give the person who will only look and think and delve into the lives of the creators. That is why I have fallen hard for this book. It melds the story of a Jewish family at the height of the cultural heyday in Vienna and the rise of the artistic star of Gustav Klimt with the subsequent fall from grace of Austria after the first World War. Enter the Nazis in the 30's and we all know it ended very badly for Jewish culture  - once again.

I heard about this book while making dinner one evening. I was listening to an interview on National Public Radio's 'All Things Considered' in which Anne-Marie O'Connor was talking about her exercise in following the convoluted path that Gustav Klimt's gold leafed masterpiece portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer has taken over time. Adele became enthralled by Klimt and sat for pencil studies and this portrait in turn of the century Vienna. She and other wealthy Viennese intellectuals were at the center of the artistic whirlwind of early Modernism. Her salons attracted great men like Richard Strauss, Gustav Klimt, Carl Moll, Egon Schiele - musicians, architects, artists and the cream of the Austrian intelligentsia and socially connected. It was an era that embraced a new and unconventional attitude toward art and culture that lasted through the 1920's and into the 30's.

When the Germans invaded Austria, the Nazi Party policies changed the lives of Vienna's cultured bourgeoisie. Jewish citizens scrambled to escape the harsh treatment of Nazi sympathizers. Some hid their assets and hunkered down in Vienna and the outskirts, some read the writing on the wall and fled with what they could carry or tranfer into Swiss banks. Artists and artwork became the target of Hitler and his lackeys. As the tragedy of the Holocaust unfolded, Adele's portrait and thousands of other pieces of artwork were snatched by opportunists and German officials, hastily sold by desperate Jews looking to finance their escape from German held countries, and looted for personal collections by the greedy. The reader follows Adele's portrait as it makes its way from Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer's personal collection into German Nazi Party possession and after a time to an art repository in the Austrian countryside, as the fall of the Nazi Reich becomes imminent. It made its way back to the Belvedere Museum in Vienna after the war  ... and there it was displayed as a treasure of Austrian culture. Adele's name was removed from the title and the painting was renamed 'Lady in Gold'  to hide the fact that this beautiful rich woman was a Jewess. Nowhere was the history of the painting discussed - it was a Klimt and was revered because of that fact. Its beauty made it an icon of Austrian Secession modernism.

At the time that O'Connor became interested in the story behind this painting, the story of the Viennese pre-war culture, the Bloch-Bauers, and the career of Gustav Klimt,  the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer was embroiled in one of the most important legal cases that involved restitution and return of property confiscated by Austrian and German Nazis before and during World War II. She has told the full story dispassionately and in great detail, unraveled the many personalities, historical events, and the legal story of Adele Bloch-Bauer's legacy with aplomb, and left the reader with a disturbing picture of the state of artworks that still sit in private collections and museums just waiting to be investigated. It's a tangled web of deceit and greed, cold-blooded cruelty, and underhandedness - most of all, though, this book is a tale of triumph over the creeps that would hide the dirty little secret of the Austrian government and its attempt to sweep the crimes of war under the carpet at the Belvedere and other state sponsored museums.

An excellent read ... I highly recommend it ... and when you're done reading the book, you can make the trip to NYC to see Adele's Klimt portrait at the Neue Galerie where it has found a permanent home after being sold and placed there with the blessings of the heirs of Adele Bloch-Bauer.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Saturday Snapshot - Nature Mirrors Life ...

I've been busy, folks. End of the summer is all about canning and beginning the wintertime sewing project and getting the house ready for winter - washing curtains and cleaning floors, airing blankets, and bringing in wood for the woodstoves, washing and packing away summer clothes and bringing out sweaters and woolens. You know the drill.

Yesterday, I buzzed around the house, watering plants, making peach jam, deadheading my flowers and checking on my sweet potato vine that has so many holes chewed in it that we now call it The Swiss Cheese Plant. What did I find, but a lanky guest sunning himself while all around him, ants scurried and explored. I could practically hear that guy singing "The World Owes Me a Living" ... so I grabbed the camera and took a few snapshots.

Incidentally, while I scurried, my husband was off on a sunny bike ride ... hmm.

This one is my favorite ... such a great shadow.

This Saturday Snapshot is a part of the photoshare that Alyce hosts every week. To see what has inspired others, click this link at homewithbooks and read the rules for joining this fun visual banquet!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Song of Achilles - A Short Review

Whose story is this ? The title may tell us it is a tribute to Achilles, the great Greek hero of legend, but it is really the story of Patroclus, the finest of Greek men. It is a story of lost parental love, exile, humiliation, resignation, found love, honor, devotion, compassion, loyalty, tenderness, cruelty, grief, retribution, and redemption. It is a story of war and peace and love and loss and life.

Madeline Miller has dissected the story of Achilles and his role in the Trojan War. In doing so, she has brought Patroclus to the center of the story and told us a tale of his relationship with Achilles, the son of Thetis, the demi-goddess sea-nymph and Peleus, the mortal king of Phthia. While Achilles' fate is tied to a prophecy that promises great physical prowess and glory in battle, it also promises a short life. Patroclus knows this and still loves Achilles. He devotes his life to helping Achilles be all that is possible - and here's the rub. Achilles, while a heroic figure with god-like strength, is only human. He suffers great pride and hubris, faults that will be his undoing because they lead to cruelty, vanity, stubborness, and ultimately to recklessness and betrayal of those who love and honor him. And it is then that Patroclus steps forward to save Achilles' honor and pays the ultimate mortal price, putting into action the fulfillment of the prophesy of Achilles' fate. It is left to those who see Patroclus as 'the best of men' to help him rest with the results of the prophesy fulfilled, the Trojan War over, and the ashes of Achilles and Patroclus mingled in the ground outside a crumbled Troy.

I loved this book. I loved the pace of the story. I loved the humanity that Miller gave her characters. I loved the sensitivity with which she handles the complex relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. I love the knowledge of Greek culture and mythology that she brings to the novel. I love the level of research and knowledge of Homer and Vergil that she uses to weave this unique take on the tale of Patroclus and Achilles.

Most of all, I loved the depth of character that she gave to Patroclus. His is a character that I will not soon forget. I cannot wait to see what Madeline Miller brings to the reading world the next time she is published. If she can approach her next book with the same level of research and writing, it will surely be another page-turner. Well done, Ms. Miller!


Monday, August 13, 2012

Magpie Tales ... Primordial Plea

Image by Francesa Woodman

Primordial Plea

Let me return
Let me return …

The wolf is at the door
Yapping, slobbering
Pushing with a nose
Snapping teeth
Pacing, pacing

I’m holding my shell
My shell …

How I sicken of wrappings.
The starch, the rustle
Sliding over skin
Being pulled back
Cool air causing spasms

Let me return
Let me return…

I demand to foil the wolf,
No going to ground for me.
I wish to float off;
To be the one to tear free.

I’m holding my shell …
Let me release it …

I dream a blue current
Pulling gently seductively
Swirls of sand and mud
Soft fins fluttering close
And sunbeams above

I'm slipping my shell
My shell ...

A fast write to a difficult image - what is the artist trying to say here? There is such room for interpretation; the image of the breast and the hands tearing free while holding fast is intriguing.

This post is a creative writing exercise that is submitted to Tess Kinkaid's writing share at The Mag

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Saturday Snapshot - Memories of Rome

Today, I am thinking of Rome and Italian food because I am dealing with the load of tomatoes that my husband has plunked down on our kitchen counter over the course of the week. I have close to fifty tomatoes to use today in a batch of tomato sauce that I will be canning for pizza sauce. We're big fans of pizza here in the grey cottage on the hill.

So, while the smell of tomato sauce builds to a peak in the kitchen, I have downloaded a few choice shots of our trip to Rome, several years back. We went as a delayed anniversary gift to ourselves. Flew into the little airport outside the city on a Ryan Air flight and took the bus into the city, muddled our way to a small pension near the Colosseum and spent five days walking and gawking, eating and drinking wine, and soaking up the Roman 'attitude'. It was wonderful!

I loved the small shops with all manner of foodstuffs. The windows were always so picturesque.

The Colosseum was a tired old wreck of a building that the Italian government is trying to preserve and restore  ... I found its upper reaches far more photo-worthy than the actual street level architecture. The moon played along nicely.

We tossed our three coins into the Trevi Fountain, kissed on the deal, and trusted that we'd make it back to Rome sometime in the future.  We haven't yet gone back, but life's long and who knows? For now, we have our memories ... and pizza sauce cooking in the kitchen!

Now ... link up over at Alyce's blog athomewithbooks and check out the other Saturday Snapshot posts that folks have shared! Get busy and post your own photoshare ... it's always fun to see what inspires everyone else!