Saturday, June 30, 2007

Quote du jour/William Steig

I heard this on National Public Radio this morning. It is from William Steig's acceptance speech when he won the Caldecott Award for Sylvester and The Magic Pebble in 1970. Have you read the book? If so, I'm sure you've never forgotten it. Wonderful, touching story that strikes a chord in both children and their parents.

I am well aware not only of the importance of children -- whom we naturally cherish and who we also embody our hopes for the future -- but also of the importance of what we provide for them in the way of art; and I realize that we are competing with a lot of other cultural influences, some of which beguile them in false directions.

Art, including juvenile literature, has the power to make any spot on earth the living center of the universe, and unlike science, which often gives us the illusion of understanding things we really do not understand, it helps us to know life in a way that still keeps before us the mystery of things. It enhances the sense of wonder. And wonder is respect for life. Art also stimulates the adventurousness and the playfulness that keep us moving in a lively way and that lead us to useful discovery.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Strawberries with Cocoa Whipped Cream

I just bought the first strawberries of the season!

Strawberries with Cocoa Whipped Cream

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 quart strawberries

Combine sugar, cocoa, and cream. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Remove and whip until stiff. I use the blender, and it takes less than a minute. Place in bowl and top with cut strawberries. Yum!

Quote du jour/Al Bernstein

Spring being a tough act to to follow, God created June.
Al Bernstein

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Quote du jour/Rachel Peden

The serene philosophy of the pink rose is steadying. Its fragrant, delicate petals open fully and are ready to fall, without regret or disillusion, after only a day in the sun. It is so every summer. One can almost hear their pink, fragrant murmur as they settle down upon the grass: 'Summer, summer, it will always be summer.'
Rachel Peden

A summer evening at the movies

What a wonder it was last evening coming out of the movies to 80º temps and bright skies. O marvelous summertime!

The movie at our little theatre was The Lookout. I'm not giving anything away because right at the start, there is a teenage car crash. The driver survives, and we see him four years later with brain problems. He has to write down everything to do; get up, take a shower, eat breakfast. He lives with an older blind man, and together they have a life. Both have a lack, but they are surviving, and they have dreams. The brain-injured man works as a janitor at a bank and has aspirations of becoming a teller. The blind man wants to start a breakfast and lunch restaurant in an old garage. Life changes dramatically and as we find out soon, drastically, when the young man meets up with a guy who tells him he can have a different kind of future. "Whoever has the money, has the power." The movie stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, and Matthew Goode. We totally believe in these characters and the lives they lead. The landscape and the season of the year are as much characters as the people in the movie, with gray skies, long straight roads, and flat fields. Though set in Kansas, the movie was actually filmed in Manitoba, Canada. We saw it with a friend and all three of us thought it was a very good film. The picture shows him after a tantrum he has in his kitchen when he can't remember how to open a can. This is one of the many frustrations he faces just getting through the day. I am fascinated with how the brain works, in books like A Three Dog Life and movies like Memento.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Today's cd/Everything I've Got In My Pocket

Minnie Driver/Everything I've Got In My Pocket/2004

This is a really, really nice album. I've had it a long time now, and still enjoy it so much. She has a new one coming out next month, which I intend to buy. She reminds me a bit of another artist I like a lot, Kate St. John. She has a soft, gentle voice coupled with quiet, soothing music and good lyrics. Minnie Driver was actually a singer before she became an actress, though this is her first cd.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Book passage/Stillmeadow Sampler

"Summertime, an' the livin' is easy," goes one of George Gershwin's songs. And so it is. Not late summer when the vegetables come in, but June. There is work enough, but the pressures of ripening crops is not yet upon us. Days are hot but nights cool, with the moon tossed into the sky like a silver ball. It is a time between the excitement of spring and the fulfillment of harvest. A time to picnic and to drive over the hills to look at June in the next valley. A time in the evening to read, or play Beethoven's Ninth, or to work on a jigsaw puzzle. In a curious way, June is like January. You let Nature take her course and relax the pressures of your life.
Gladys Taber, Stillmeadow Sampler

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Book passage/No Ordinary Time

After hearing this in my current audiobook, No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin, I was as amazed as I've ever been. Can you believe it? I am speechless.

In the summer of 1942, the accustomed rhythms of daily life were disrupted in every factory, business, and home by the institution of rationing and price control.

To ensure a sufficient amount of cotton and wool to supply the army with more than 64 million flannel shirts, 165 million coats, and 229 million pairs of trousers, the War Production Board mandated a new "Victory" suit for civilians, with cuffless trousers and narrower lapels. Reductions in the amount of cloth allowed also led to shorter, pleatless skirts, rising several inches above the knee, and to the creation of a new two-piece bathing suit.

Women took the loss of pleated skirts and one-piece bathing suits in stride, but when the rubber shortage threatened the continuing manufacture of girdles, a passionate outcry arose. Though government sources tried to suggest that "women grow their own muscular girdles by exercising," women argued that "neither exercise nor any other known remedy" could restore aging muscles to their original youthful tautness. Without "proper support from well-fitted foundation garments" to hold the abdomen in place, there was no way, journalist Marion Dixon argued in a contemporary health magazine, that a woman past thirty could keep her posture erect or do physical work without tiring. "Certainly," Dixon concluded, "Uncle Sam does not want American women to wear garments that would menace their health or hamper their efficiency, especially during wartime, when every ounce of energy and effort is needed."

The government heeded the women's cries. Not long after the first public discussion of curtailing girdles, the War Production Board announced that foundation garments were an essential part of a woman's wardrobe, and as such could continue to be manufactured, despite the precious rubber involved!

Ad in Good Housekeeping, 1934

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Quote du jour/Gershwin and Heyward

Summertime, and the livin' is easy.
Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward

Ray of sunlight

On this day in 1944, Ray Davies was born. Of all songwriters, he is my favorite. His words are so wise and so meaningful that in our family, we often have what we call a "Ray for the day"; a quote that applies to whatever situation is happening. If we're talking about a gloomy soul, one of us thinks,

You gotta learn to be positive, it's your only chance
You mustn't be so defensive, you gotta join in the dance
But it isn't your dancing that you've gotta improve
Ooh, it's your attitude.

If we're talking about a sad alcoholic, we say,

Oh demon alcohol

When we're out for a drive, we sing,

Oh, we'll be dri-i-i-i-ivin'

If someone mentions Queen Victoria, his song, Victoria comes immediately to mind.

Land of hope and gloria
Land of my Victoria

Ray writes stories in song version. They are stories often filled with nostalgia, common enough in an older man, but Ray wrote many, many while in his twenties. The listener can hear the ache in his voice, the tender feelings, the longing for another time. Who else in rock music has, or would, write a song called Village Green Preservation Society? No one. I was going to quote just a bit, but really it is better in its entirety.

We are the Village Green Preservation Society
God save Donald Duck, Vaudeville and Variety
We are the Desperate Dan Appreciation Society
God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do
We are the Draught Beer Preservation Society
God save Mrs. Mopp and good Old Mother Riley
We are the Custard Pie Appreciation Consortium
God save the George Cross and all those who were awarded them
We are the Sherlock Holmes English Speaking Vernacular
Help save Fu Manchu, Moriarty and Dracula
We are the Office Block Persecution Affinity
God save little shops, china cups and virginity
We are the Skyscraper condemnation Affiliate
God save tudor houses, antique tables and billiards
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do
God save the Village Green.

When we first heard these words, we young Americans didn't have a clue what many of them meant - Mrs Mopp, the George Cross, or even tudor houses, but we knew they were important. We knew they had meaning and substance and that someone named Ray Davies wanted to preserve them. Who wouldn't fall in love with this young man? And we weren't the only ones. I remember once standing in line for a Kinks concert and a young woman had baked a cake for him. There was, and still is, a bond between Kinks' fans. For a long time I was on a Kinks list and it was wonderful being among others who so admired their work. Then when Ray started going out on his own a few years back, we brought our kids so they could spend time with him, so they, too, could learn to love him. They did, and they do. They still speak of those shows. He was surrounded by people who thought he was the best, period.

He writes of domestic abuse, he writes of not being "like everybody else," he writes of hayfever, he writes about misfits, he writes of being a 20-century man who doesn't belong here.

You keep all your smart modern writers
Give me William Shakespeare
You keep all your smart modern painters
I'll take Rembrandt, Titian, Da Vinci and Gainsborough

I don't think any of these painters have ever been mentioned in any song, let alone a rock song.

Most fans I know think that there are two songs that are above all the others in poetry and perfection: Waterloo Sunset, and Days.

As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

I did a blog entry a while back featuring the words to Days.

Ray Davies makes me think, makes me feel, and makes my life better, fuller, and richer. When I'm feeling old, he tells me "Don't Forget To Dance," and when life is hard he says,

I know you've got a lot of good things happening up ahead.
The past is gone it's all been said.
So here's to what the future brings,
I know tomorrow you'll find better things.

There is a tremendous website on the Kinks, where you can learn just about everything.

I've just ordered his latest cd called Other People's Lives in honor of his birthday.

I'm so grateful he is in this world.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Quote du jour/Gladys Taber

This is the season for roses, when the ramblers burst into splendor, deep red, ivory, and candy pink.
Gladys Taber, Stillmeadow Sampler

Ramblers is just the right word. We put in a few bushes years ago, and they've certainly rambled. I can't count how many we have now. And they are all blooming. I tend to take closeups of flowers because they have a clarity I can't seem to achieve when I take photos of a larger group, but I'm going to show a couple anyway just to give you an idea of their "splendor."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Today's poem - Weeds and Peonies by Donald Hall

Almost exactly a year ago, my white peony bloomed. I had just put it in a glass bowl when I turned on the Public Radio station, and there was an interview with the new US Poet Laureate, Donald Hall. I was astounded to hear him read a poem I hadn't heard before called Weeds and Peonies.

I just went outdoors, and there was the first white bloom of this year.

Weeds and Peonies
by Donald Hall

Your peonies burst out, white as snow squalls,
with red flecks at their shaggy centers
in your border of prodigies by the porch.
I carry one magnanimous blossom indoors
and float it in a glass bowl, as you used to do.

Ordinary pleasures, contentment recollected,
blow like snow into the abandoned garden,
overcoming the daisies. Your blue coat
vanishes down Pond Road into imagined snowflakes
with Gus at your side, his great tail swinging,

but you will not reappear, tired and satisfied,
and grief’s repeated particles suffuse the air —
like the dog yipping through the entire night,
or the cat stretching awake, then curling
as if to dream of her mother’s milky nipples.

A raccoon dislodged a geranium from its pot.
Flowers, roots, and dirt lay upended
in the back garden where lilies begin
their daily excursions above stone walls
in the season of old roses. I pace beside weeds

and snowy peonies, staring at Mount Kearsarge
where you climbed wearing purple hiking boots.
“Hurry back. Be careful, climbing down.”
Your peonies lean their vast heads westward
as if they might topple. Some topple.

It's the little things/Bicycle

Last month I saw a photo of a bicycle on the Daisy Cottage blog which I loved. I couldn't stop thinking about it, especially as I looked at my old rusty bike. I bought it several years ago when LL Bean was offering what they called their "Classic" bike. It was red, with a really comfortable seat, and foot brakes. Nothing fancy, nothing high-tech, nothing modern whatsoever. But I haven't ridden it for years, and time and rain had left it looking pretty awful. I so wish I had taken a photo of it before Tom painted it today, but regretfully I didn't. I am just thrilled with my "new" bicycle.

Garlic scapes

I never knew garlic plants had scapes or flowers until a couple years ago. They are a fantastic little treat; a bonus that comes from growing our own garlic.

I read the following here:

Garlic Flowers
Hard neck varieties produce a central stalk which goes straight up and then usually makes one or two loops. The garlic top is called a scape, garlic flower or top set, and contains a bulge where bulbils will form. If you want all the plant's energy to go into producing a large bulb, snip the scape off after it has made one or two loops. If you want to use the bulbils to propagate more garlic, leave them in place until harvest time and then dry them separately from the bulbs.

Tip - Steam or Stir Fry Garlic Flowers
The garlic tops, called flowers or garlic scapes, are a gourmet delight! Steam them whole and serve with melted butter like asparagus. Cut them into short lengths to add to a stir fry. They have a delicate garlic flavour which gives a subtly different and delicious flavour to the sauce.

Tonight I'm cooking up that summer squash I got at the Farmer's Market yesterday, along with a red pepper, our own scallions and garlic scapes. All local except for the organic red pepper. Since it is from Holland, I'll just pretend Heidi sent it along to me. :<)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

O Happy Day!

First day of our local Farmer's Market! Not too much produce yet but I got some wonderful summer squash and lettuce. Isn't it beautiful? As pretty as anything I can imagine.

I also bought a cd by a local musician who was playing as I shopped. A lovely time was had!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Book Report/Apricots at Midnight

I first heard of Apricots at Midnight by Adele Geras on Elaine's blog, and I knew I wanted to read it. What a lovely, delightful, thoughtful book. The story is told to us by a young girl who often spends the holidays with her Aunt Pinny, the daughter of a dressmaker.

The book begins with some of the most beautiful combinations of words I've read.

Almost the only toys in their house were strands and skeins of silk, like shining butterflies' wings, strange twists of buttons, rustling leaves of tissue paper, and drifts of snippets and clippings from a thousand materials whose names were like a song. There were bits of bombazine and brocade and broadcloth; slivers of slippery silk, slub satin and sarsenet; crumplings of cashmere and cotton; trimmings of taffeta; leftovers of linen and lace, and lawn: a name like a green field full of daisies when you said it.

The young girl tells us,

Going to bed was the best time of the day, because of the magic patchwork quilt.

There were no flowers on it which came to life, it did not make you invisible, and certainly it never performed any useful kind of magic, like whisking you off to the furthest star in the sky, or granting your dearest wish. Nevertheless, it was enchanted, and I loved to lie in the high, narrow bed, listening to Aunt Pinny's voice unroll the magic of the patchwork, as it covered me from my chin, down a long way past my toes and right off the bed.

So the book goes on with each chapter telling the tale of one of the patches in the quilt. And what stories they are. Some are common childhood stories. The mother teaching Pinny how to sew when she is bored and impatient, and Pinny being frightened and worried when her mother is late in picking her up from school one day. Others are a bit magical, and some are downright eerie. There is a piece in the quilt which came from what may have been a haunted dress.

I was so happy being in the pages of this charming book. I felt like I, too, was a little girl lying under that wonderful quilt hearing the stories.

I have a beautiful quilt hanging on the wall next to the computer table. It was made by my late aunt Susie, when she was 17 years old, in 1927. I can't sleep under it because it is so fragile. It didn't even have a backing when she gave it to me. I love it so much and how I wish I knew the stories of the many squares in her quilt. Where did that black piece with the pink flowers come from? Were those polka dots once part of a dress? Were any of those patches once aprons worn by my grandmother? Was there any rhyme or reason to how the pieces were arranged? Sadly, I'll never know, but I am so very grateful that I have it.

What's in bloom

Today is Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and this is the first time I have participated. What a day in the garden! Bright sunshine, low 70s, and so many flowers.

Rosa Rugosa
Purple Lupine
Pink Lupine
Baptisia australis
Black Locust
Spiderwort (wirt, not wart!)
Tree Rose
Bleeding Heart
Bearded Iris