Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Snapshot ... A Gnome and a Note

There's a gnome in the house! This little guy arrived out of the blue this week from a young lady who used to be in my Daisy/Brownie/Junior troop ... over 20 years ago! How's THAT for a random act of kindness ???

Actually, Heather and I reconnected when I looked up all the girls (on FB ... where else???) that were in Girl Scouts 'back in the day' when I was a rowdy and fun-loving troop leader. I lead the same group of girls for just about eight years. I saw them grow and change and become such cool individuals! I swear. We did so many fun things as a troop that many of the girls have let me know just what a blast their Scouting experience was... and that's very gratifying because you just never know at the time what reaction you're getting when you're leading a troop, teaching a class, or dealing with any group of kids. Know what I mean?

Anyway, we decided earlier this year to practice an experiment in 'random acts of kindness' and Heather surprised me this week with this adorable garden gnome that she made in a ceramics class and a dear note ... so cute and so treasured!

... this post is shared with others at Saturday Snapshot, a weekly photo share that Melinda Ott sponsors at her website ... West Metro Mommy Reads ... head on over and check out the other entries! Then, think about posting your own snapshot! 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

An Alphabet For Gourmets - M.F.K. Fisher

It's not easy for me to wax eloquent on M.F.K. Fisher's book, An Alphabet For Gourmets. Her style is surely a reflection of an ascerbic personality ... an independent woman with healthy appetites who is unafraid of embracing them and reflecting on them, to boot! I'm betting she was great fun to have at a dinner party, but also a guest who would be carefully matched at table with dining companions. 

Her book is as the title suggests - a series of essays that reflect on various aspects of the gastronomic experience. Everything from gluttony to aspic, from meringues to aphrodisiacs is served up. Her reminiscences of gourmet meals in exotic locations, tongue-in-cheek comments on certain dinner companions, and spearing of pretentious parties is great fun to read. Mixed in are short recipes that she feels must be shared. Some are utterly homey and others are fancy and highbrow, but delivered in her clear way, they seem accessible to the common foodie. 

One gets the feeling that M.F.K. Fisher traveled and lived well, crossed through many social circles, and settled into her California country house for a long series of remembrances, taking the best from her travels and savoring them with a good bottle of wine and a typewriter.

I read these essays over the course of the winter. The book sat on my bedside table and I would pick it up every few days and read one or more before turning off the lamp at night. I was left with a chuckle or a thought about a particular food or a wondering thought about traveling in France or what restaurant life was like during the fifties and sixties, or the beginnings of the American food scene that grew in the media in the post-war years. It was a good book for cogitating ...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saturday Snapshot - Pretty Food !

I was cleaning up my computer this week and transferring much of my food photos from my other blog onto disc for archiving. I got to thinking about all the pretty food that I've made in the last few months and thought I'd tempt you a bit ...

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Lady and the Unicorn - Tracy Chevalier

I've read every book that Tracy Chevalier has written and have been rarely disappointed. This telling of the making of the Brussels tapestries by the family of Georges de La Chapelle, master lissier (weaver) is a fast-paced story of the production of the first 'unicorn tapestries' that became fashionable at the end of the 15th century.

The novel revolves around the production of a series of tapestries that tell the tale of the seduction of a unicorn by a noblewoman. Magical and elusive, the woman uses her wiles to appeal to the senses of the unicorn to draw him ever closer to her, to lure his trust and adoration until she can capture him by grasping onto his horn. Of course, the symbolism can be debated. Is this a story of sexual politics or is this a story of a more spiritual nature? Chevalier weaves both aspects of theory into her story.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The House of Velvet and Fog - Katherine Howe

Who doesn't have a morbid interest in the Titanic and all the drama surrounding its construction and fated maiden voyage? If you can honestly say that you are disinterested, I will tell you that I'm skeptical of your insistence. That being said, I will say that Katherine Howe's second novel didn't quite measure up to her first, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. Perhaps that's because the other historic event that grabs me by the throat and whips me to attention is the era and mania of the Salem Witch trials. I mean, really, could a novelist choose any two more spectacular events around which to build novels? Well, yeah ... there's the Holocaust and the birth of the Christian church, the Russian Revolution and  the Reign of Terror, and, and, and ... but, you have to admit, Katherine latched onto a couple of doozies when she penned her first novels. To boot, I'm a Yankee and lived for years within spitting distance of Salem/Danvers, where all the Salem witch drama unfolded. But that's a different story ...

So, okay. The good thing about both novels is that they are based in geographic area that I know and love. The House of Velvet and Fog takes place in Boston and is told in flashback fashion. Fast track plot without spoilers ... matriarch and favored daughter of rich Brahmin family goes down on the the Titanic. Elder daughter and wayward younger brother are left with father in the dark, brooding Beacon Hill residence to pick up the pieces and proceed in Boston society. But wait! Matriarch mother was deep into Spiritualism and elder daughter picks up the interest and tries to connect and settle her grief by 'seeing' those last moments on the ship ... and she succeeds... to a certain degree. Yes, there's a ship, and yes, there's fog and opulence, but why can't she see her mother and sister? What's going on here? Enter an ex-suitor, enter a tawdry but lovable actress, enter connections to Harvard and MIT social scientists interested in psychological research, enter WWI, enter flashbacks to father's past in the shipping trade to Asia and you have the ingredients for a layered story of a family's hidden secret. Oh yeah, and enter the widespread use of opiates in medicine before all the negatives were known.

Yup, it's a page-turner, but it's still not as good as her debut novel. Maybe that's because I still am more fascinated by the era of the Salem Witch Trials. Oh well,  it was STILL a good read.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Poetry Jam - This Evening Slicing Lemons

Painting: A Bowl of Lemons - Julian Merrow-Smith

This Evening Slicing Lemons

My sharp knife halves the orbs.
Oily fragrance coats my fingertips.
I twist juice from their yellow cups,
and in their mist I squint and see a yellow sun,
a bright green awning, the gnarled hands of 
that Spanish elder presenting me a 
burst of lemon coolness in the searing heat
of old Granada.

My fingers remember the slippery
chill of the red clay cup.
I can tilt my head back and feel the ache
from that first cold swallow.
I squint and see the Sierra Nevada
through the icy fumes rising
from that citrus nectar – 
all this,
all this before my kitchen counter.

shared at Poetry Jam

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Saturday Snapshot - Eeeek! It's Almost Done!

So ... if you know me well enough to be friends on Facebook, you've already seen this photo ... I am so psyched that this quilt is coming closer to completion!  I asked a friend from my quilt guild to do the machine quilting on the quilt face that I finished a couple months ago. She called me this week to tell me I could pick it up.

I flipped when I walked into her dining room! She had the completed quilt spread out over her dining room table so I could really see the overall quilt design that we'd chosen. No kidding, I danced around a bit in joy. It's just so darn pretty to me!

Yesterday, my husband helped me, as I sewed the binding all the way around the outer edges of the quilt and this week, I'll flip the binding and hand sew it to finish the quilt completely ... eeek! My squeal of excitement just keeps on coming!

 ... shared with others at Saturday Snapshot , Melinda's weekly photoshare ...

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Poetry Jam II - Haiku

Commuting Life II - Haiku

I sit like soft lint
The fabric of life streams by
Trains pull strands away

Souls in constant flight
The breath of thousands mingle 
Rise with blackened smoke

Rise at the train's rush
Turn to eyes that crane to see

... a variation on the theme of 'trains' ...
...shared at Poetry Jam