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!