Monday, June 30, 2014

A Walk with Harold Fry

I go through spells of not being able to settle my mind to read or to settle on a choice of books. Now is one of those times when intriguing titles are popping up everywhere. Also must soon start on the book for September book club because it is huge: Goldfinch by Donna Tart. I had avoided The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce because it looked good but so many others were lined up in my reading queue. But when I repeatedly came across references to this book, I skipped ahead and pulled it up on my Kindle.

I was not disappointed. This is a book with an English setting and is a story of a man’s walk across England to reach a friend dying of cancer. Due to a short tale told by a young girl, Harold Fry thinks if he walks the length of England to reach his friend, he can save her from death. He writes, her tells her he is on the way, and then he begins the walk without proper equipment and totally out of shape himself. The book begins with the simple and sparse words of the ordinary; the tone reminded me of a fairy tale with detailing by a narrator.

As we see Harold’s ordinary life, we see some of our own. Then the prose ratchets up and draws us into to see his more complicated prior life. The sentences are still unpretentious but impart interesting details that track the gradual transformation of Harold Fry and indirectly his wife Maureen. The last third of the book has some rough areas I would have edited out, some chapters bordering on proselytizing instead of showing in the narrative. Many reviewers compare Harold Fry to a Christ figure, and indeed, in many places readers are reminded of Biblical parables.

For me the scenes with Harold’s sick friend Queenie were hard to read, and I admit to not studying those paragraphs. Joyce does a wonderful job of capturing the ravages of Queenie’s cancer. However since in February we saw a friend to the very end through his own battle with liver disease (which tortured me further by being reminiscent of my Dad’s fight with Mesothelioma), followed by a cousin’s death on the West Coast from pancreatic cancer, trailed by the loss of a very special 98 year old lady who was my friend for 40 years, and then faced the beginning death throes of a 30 year marriage of a beloved family member, I admit to reading across this part of the story lightly.

I found the wife Maureen just as interesting a character as Harold. While she comes across as a bit of a shrew when we first meet her, her shortcomings could be our own.
During Harold’s walk, Maureen stays at home but she is not idle. She revamps her own outlook on life, and we see  her character re-finding the essence of her original self in some agonizing self-discovery. Both these characters are in the retirement stages of life which proves to be no easy feat. Society has classes for newly pregnant women on babies and birthing, classes on how to parent, classes on how to handle nutrition for health, how to live with alcoholism, and even how to plan money for retirement. Someone ought to design a class for how to stay vital and how to live daily with a loved one during retirement!

However, with no real spoiler alert, this books ends with a special kind of “they all lived happily ever after”.  It is a good read, probes some heavy thoughts, and dares us to look at our own life to question are we living it fully. The author has another book due out sometime this year. I will be glad to give it a read as well.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

After Friday Night Comes Saturday Morning

I am so NOT a baseball person. I am in a minority here as everyone in Missouri follows the Royals or the Cardinals. The Cardinals are favored in the southwestern corner of the state due to their minor team playing in Springfield. About once a year DH likes to attend a game, and last night was it. Fortunately, it was a 7:10 game so the sun was down and the air delightful, almost cool with a slight breeze. I don’t know of any game that goes slower than baseball though. I felt like I should get out on the field and urge those men to get with it and change positions and line up to bat with some vigor in their movements! I also didn’t like the loud music, constant blab on the loudspeakers. I had an end seat which was good, but I people-watched more than I should. I noted the same people (and a lot of them) were running up and down the steps for food, more food and then more drink.

Before we left, a nice give away box arrived from Becky over at There were oodles of brightly colored books, notes, and candle holders that shouted “summer fun”, but my very favorite was a Mary Englebright cook book! I took it in the car and read recipes all the way to the game. The book has so many things I want to try like Green Chili Rice!

Even leaving the game early, we did not get to bed until after midnight. This morning the sky is the blue gray of pigeon’s wing, and the sky drops a sprinkle every now and then like an occasional tear. Both DH and I feel groggy in the day’s weather after a late night. Hum, too old for late nights now?  Anyway, life is good that we can linger on the deck this morning with books after bacon and eggs with a pot of tea. I will admit we are doing more holding and dozing than actually reading the books today!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Visiting England in a Recliner

Blogger and I are friends again! I know I should relax and let things take their course; I can do that for a short while. But at day four I was getting irritated and cranky! ATT does the same thing to me. Right in the middle of a busy day, the Outlook won’t work or pages won’t turn or sites won’t appear. If I wait, things usually straighten out. Then there is the printer that makes me unplug/re-plug once in a while before the machine agrees to work like a charm. Sometimes I feel that technology likes to give me little tests every now and then!

The older I get, the less adaptable I seem to be. I guess this is normal in life’s process. Lots of things in my life lately have been ruffling my edges like the hem on a wind-whipped flag. Yesterday I ran to the post office (to mail knives to Cutco and sadly NOT sending manuscripts). It was farmer’s market day, but I did not intend to stop. But there were lovely blueberries sitting out, and the vendor came down on price when I took three quarts.

I had parked in front of a favorite flea market, and I ventured inside unexpectedly for a spell. Walking among all the old things, I felt better with my day. Was it the old, familiar things of my youth? It felt that way. I found some nice 1950 vintage tablecloths, and they begged to come home with me. I use them daily despite spills and DH’s tea spoon’s shadow left on the fibers. Loved things show their service and importance with use.

I returned home to reading in a most soothing of books titled A Fine Romance by Susan Branch. I had heard about this book, thought it probably a nice read, but I had too much other reading to do. It is written in journal style, includes photos and watercolors of Susan’s Branch trip to England. Whoa, then I had bumped into it again a few days earlier on someone’s website with a rave review. I buckled and had it sent to my door.

I am sorry, but I forget who led me to, but it turned out to be one beautiful blog. The day I dropped in to visit her page, Ms. Branch was writing about a trip to the home of Gladys Taber! Oh, she had me hooked! Taber, an author from the 1950s and 1960s wrote homespun books about gardening and raising dogs and the country life. I love reading her but that is another story. However, I did find a link to a newsletter about the author and Stillmeadow life, which was Taber’s home. I signed up and got my first copies today. Super stuff! If you are a Taber fan, check this out!

Meanwhile, A Fine Romance arrived at the door and I read it in two days. Oh, it was a lovely, soothing read! I felt like I had just taken a wonderful trip to England with Branch and her husband for the whole two months they were there. They took country walks, visited historic sites, and ate in tea rooms, stayed in lovely cottages and more. It was a beautiful trip and among other places, they visited homes of Jane Austen, William Wordsworth, Rudyard Kipling, James Herriot, and best of all, Hill Top, home of Beatrix Potter!!!

If you need a trip away and love old homes, stone walls, castles, tea cups and such, you will want this book. I wish I could send each and every one of you a copy, but the best I can do it point you in the right direction for a lovely read.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Blogger is Being Mean

For several days now, I can't see my blog list. It gives me ONE at a time, says "View More" and then won't let me see them. GRRRRRRRRRR

I know Elephant's Child blog is having same trouble...anyone else....any ideas...just drop Blogger? I thought they could fix by now.

I am wondering if my own is being blinded from others.Anyway, if you are not hearing from me, I can't see your blog without digging deep and then sometimes I can't even then. Ah, the joys of modern living.....

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Working Monday

Well, I can put this up today but wonder if I will have readers? Blogger has not been working correctly for a day or two. They said some months ago, if I would use Chrome there would be no problem. That has not been true. Does anyone know, does Word Press have fewer problems?

Today the temps are low and the skies are almost as low, heavy with greyness. The temps are moderate with humidity so sticky I feel like I am sitting in a frosted cinnamon roll. Flies are abundant. But with the cooler temps and a sale at the tree shop, it was time to get serious about replacing our lost maple.

We chose a Princeton Elm which is known for compact shape, strength of limb, and being disease resistance. I saw the very one in a blue pot when we drove through the gate! I needed look no further. Oh, I hope it thrives!

            bacon, apple, onion quiche before going into oven

Meanwhile the kitchen was busy too. Today I tried a new recipe: Bacon, Apple and Onion Quiche. We like quiche and this one really impressed DH. I thought it was  good, but favor my old standby Sausage and Mushroom. New salad with tomatoes, cukes, kohlrabi, yellow pepper and cottage did not go over so well. But cabbage fresh from the farmer’s market was wonderful.

A new tea concoction today as well was tea limeade. A house favorite of a café in Oklahoma, this is black tea with frozen limeade added. DH liked it; I would prefer my old black tea, dark and iced and sweetened with sugar substitute.

The only way this day can improve is I can find some reading and writing time tonight! A good Monday for sure……

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A First Day of Summer

It is the first day of summer and it has felt so miserably hot I thought I was in August! This evening I went out on the deck and nearly choked. Officially it was only about 90, but our thermometer in direct sun on a west wall was registering 106. Rats, I do not want one of those kinds of summer and so soon!

I started my day with this face that clearly said what are we doing today? We started with tea on the deck as usual. Biscuit was so quiet and peaceful while I read a little. Later when DH got up, she was geared up to play, but not until the bacon, eggs, and toast on the deck were gone!  DH and Biscuit stayed outside while I worked inside on an article inside. I made some good progress—only a final reading and corrections now.

We had not seen certain  friends for a long time and when the original morning plans were altered somewhat, we rearranged to take a short drive for a late lunch to a new place. Out in the countryside, a crop dusting business has added a lovely café and a jumping school. They were busy today with lots of jumpers. It was too hot to spend a long time waiting in the sun, but a glass wall on the Quonset hut café let us see a lot of take offs and landings.

Despite the burning sun, the day was lovely because the wheat was a golden shade ready for harvest. Corn was about chest high and a lush avocado green from recent rains. Oh, and the sky was so beautiful…it was almost like a New Mexico sky! You could not help but feel glorious for a couple of hours in all that sunlight.

The food was wonderful but we ate before pictures! DH had the special of meatloaf while the rest of us had some really great hamburgers…also some tasty fried green tomatoes. We came home “full as a tick” as my Granny used to say, but already we hope to go back on a cooler day to spend more time with the planes.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Writing Tea

It has been another day of ups and downs, dark and light, humid heat and breezy wind (in June?). It’s been another day with a thunderstorm forecast in the very near future. I have worked hard, but I still feel behind on many things. Yet, at day’s end I am choosing to feel gratitude for what I did accomplish today and that was a couple of great hours in the morning.

A new friend dropped by, and I threw out some strawberry Madeleines and brewed up some tea. This friend is a writer too, and finally it looks like I might have a writing buddy! Those of you who have great critique groups might have forgotten the lonely side of writing. It is a private activity on the one hand, but on the other one needs a listening wall, an honest voice that lets you try ideas out and try scenes on for size.

Diann writes some truly beautiful poems I learned. (Someday maybe she will let me share with you.) She had hung back from fiction, but I urged her on. So now we are both trying our hand at writing a story for a contest. Our stories are vastly different, but we truly appreciated the other’s work. We each got the encouragement this morning to keep working on these stories.

I also got enough strength and confidence to work on a nonfiction pitch that was requested of me. I did not think I could do this job, knew I had to try. I managed this afternoon to get an outline of where I might go on this article, but a lot of real work is left to do. This writing is hard, but it is even harder to find a crack in my days to work on the project.

So no matter what curve balls were thrown at me today, a writing tea this morning was a wonderful joy!       

Saturday, June 14, 2014

To Sew or Not To Sew

Lately, on several blogs I have seen lots of sewing and quilting projects. The local museum promotes quilting often, usually with an autumn quilt show. I don’t do sewing because I never could conquer it. To just sit down at a sewing machine and face threading it raised my anxiety level. I did crochet some, but did not enjoy it much. Knitting was more pleasurable to me. However, even in knitting I had a record of two to one in the success department.  

My textile of choice was fiber, and I did a lot of weaving in my living room while rearing kids. My big projects were woven purses with the favorite style being a clutch. At one point, a woman visiting from France brought me a piece of her new suit made of a gray suede cloth and asked me to match it. I was nervous, but when I finished the purse and mailed it to her, she replied it was perfect. When the boys were small, I wove up several bags and on a trip to Montana, I pedaled them all the way. Some I sold out right, and some I bartered with for souveniers from shops. I did not get rich, but it was a great experience though. 

My Granny was a master at sewing; she was a real seamstress. She would do anything with a piece of fabric. I have a slender memory of her using a treadle Singer before getting an electric sewing machine. She tailored herself a dress and coordinating coat one winter.

Granny sewed for her granddaughters. For my first sister and me she made matching dresses which I hated as I got older. Either the fabric matched or was the same fabric in a slightly different shade. She made us Easter outfits, and I remember a dress with a silky lined duster coat she made me when I was about five. She made us white pinafores to wear over many dresses. They looked like serving maid aprons but with lots of lace or ruffles. They tied in the back with big bows, and I was forever being called over to have my flying straps tied behind my back.

When I was a freshman in high school, Granny saw a sleeveless skimmer dress that she thought I would like. She looked in front of the Ramsey windows in her town and drew the dress on the back of a deposit slip. It was blue chambray fabric and below the waste were three rows of red ribbon, each row with a staggered red bow. Oh, it was a picture of summer and fun; I loved it. That autumn while it was still hot, I wore the dress to school and an older girl laughed at me. “What are you doing wearing a bathing suit cover-up to school!” She had lots of money and had all she wanted—except a stable home life.

Then I realized how it probably was a beach dress, but Gran thought it cute anyway. So did I but I wore it less frequently after being ridiculed. Every time I wore it, I hoped I would not see the hateful girl, and I will admit, some of the love for the dress faded.

Mother sewed too, but she was a busy mom and also worked some of those years. Gran was at home so she was the main sewer. Often trips to the store included all of us to choose patterns and fabrics. Gran and Mom spent many hours on tall stools at the back of Penny’s thumbing through Butterick patterns for just the right one…and then more time picking out just the right fabric along with thread, buttons, bias tape, and trims. I wore exquisitely made clothes, but sometimes I just wanted something store bought like the other girls!

When I was about five, clothing became a HUGE fight. I fell in love with pink. This would not have been so bad except my mother hated pink. She adored red. Oh, the tears that were shed when my mother wanted to force me to wear her colors. I remember my Gran stepping in and admonishing her daughter to let me be. Her policy was let me make this decision and the favorite would go away. She was a wise woman since I rarely wear pink today…and I actually do like red  now too.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Tea in the Rainy Season

Unfortunately, I am affected greatly by the weather, especially lack of sunshine. This end of May and first of June has been marked by numerous thunderstorms. I have practiced gratitude for the lack of damaging and ferocious weather and for receiving the moisture we need so badly for crops and vegetation. However, add daily grind and family worries to today’s dark sky with humid air that felt as thick as syrup, and I felt pushed almost too far with darkness.
I have been lucky the last few mornings that the rain in the night had stopped and a wipe of the metal chairs and table gave me a place to have a moist but good tea time. I so need that first pot to start my day with routine that is calm and warming…sort of a warm up to the day!

This morning I had some new teas from Elmwood Inn. I had decided to stop buying new teas, just use old favorites until they alerted me to some special new items. Morning was right for Wild Cherry and by noon I brewed Bourbon! Now I am not a big drinker but I have read in books about characters pouring a shot of bourbon into their tea cup. Sounded ghastly to me. So I was pleasantly surprised when DH and I both liked this new tea.

It smells lovely, like the smoky insides of an oak barrel in a brewery. It is sweet…almost reminds me of butterscotch in some sips. The amber liquid is beautiful like polished brass. I know it is tea and not alcoholic, but it is a most unusual flavor. One more to try tomorrow is going to be Southern Pecan.

These few semi-dry hours in early morning allowed me to read outside. I have been scooting through a few books of various genres. While I don’t write on the deck, the time does allow me to begin to form some ideas. Soon I hope to return to the computer with a mind loaded with words to splat right down on the page!

Rain at 80% is in tomorrow’s forecast. But I can hang on another day at long as I have my tea pot and a book. Soon the sun will shine again!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

It's That Time Again!

The thermometer says it is in the 80’s but by afternoon, the humidity makes it feel much hotter and stickier than that. Mornings are perfect though for hot tea and a muffin to go with a good read early in the day.  After cussing and discussing the loss of our maple tree last fall, we had to face doing something to help shade the deck. We had to compromise between us too, and finally, we had a solution…we hope. Time will tell.
Innocent face you say! This dog has ADD with a dash of bipolar issues. She is smart, but when we call her she checks her appointment calendar to see if there is something better to do first. Yesterday while putting groceries into the truck, she jumped out of said truck…and ran. Successfully dodging cars at Walmart on Saturday morning is NOT my idea of how to start a weekend! Nice dog people helped herd her back to a truck with all doors opened where she jumped in panting (and smiling) with a look that said “What fun THAT game was!”

At the farmers market, we found nice tomatoes already…and some green ones. Oh, it was fried green tomatoes for lunch on the deck today! And some homemade pasta and cheese made from scratch. I had some Irish white cheddar (from Sam’s) that was strong and a bit crumbly. I added some leftover cream cheese, bit of leftover mascarpone, and some leftover (again cream). Yum. Made the best stuff!

For the first time in months, I have been writing. Hammering out a story on the deck this morning with the laptop was great. Now for the rewriting which is where the real work is. I hope I can keep this spurt of creativity alive since my creative fire has been mere embers for months. I have also got a stack of books that look so good they appear as inviting as a cool lake swim on a hot day!

So it is June 1 and it feels like summer…and I hope many days ahead are like this simple Sunday!