Friday, February 29, 2008

Quote du jour/Anne Herbert

Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.
Anne Herbert, The Whole Earth Catalog

I love libraries and librarians. The ones I know are simply wonderful. Tom just picked up some books I had asked for through Inter Library Loan, just about the best program I can imagine. I ask for a book. The librarian looks for it throughout the US, orders it, and I have it. Anyhow, the librarian said, "oh, just in time for the snowstorm." (supposed to come tomorrow) Of course. That's exactly what we need if we are cooped up inside while the snow is falling outside. Librarians understand this love, this passion for reading we have. The titles, you may ask?

A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullen
A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor
Iris, Messenger by Sarah Deming

Book Passage/Life Is Meals

January 26 entry:

Jason Epstein's Kitchen

2003. A cold January day and sitting in Jason Epstein's kitchen in Sag Harbor, a smallish room barely twelve feet square, talking about food. The kitchen – its layout – is much the same as when he bought the house thirty or forty years ago. The stove is in the same place, though it is not the same stove. The dark, round table we are sitting at was there, even the rickety chairs.

This house, large and on a wide plot that runs all the way between two streets, is the house you have always wanted, deeply comfortable and civilized. Books and bookcases, wide board floors with Oriental rugs, pictures, places to sit and read or write, and a broad garden on two levels with trees and random stone pathways.

An important editor nearly all his life – one of the great Brahmins – Jason Epstein is also a remarkable cook and writer about food. He has liked to cook for as long as he can remember, perhaps resulting from the visits to his grandmother's in Maine. It was a big, unheated house where they all sat in the kitchen in the winter, the woodstove going, and Jason, a boy of six or seven sitting in the blue wood box next to the stove, would watch his grandmother carry soup and pies she had baked to the table.

In his own kitchen, there's a fireplace with a knee-high hearth, an upholstered armchair, and only about two or three feet of workspace on a butcher-block counter. The other couple of feet are taken up by an elaborate espresso machine. Doesn't he need more space than this to work? "No, the more space, the more mess you make," he says. The first rule is to clean up after yourself as you go. He's cooked dinners for as many as fifty people here without any problem.

There's a refrigerator with photographs stuck to it, an old white sink, and pots and pans hanging from an overhead rack. A long magnetic strip on the wall has twenty or thirty knives in graduated sizes on it. There are no cookbooks. These are in an adjoining room, but Jason rarely uses them. As an editor he published many, and he sometimes reads one to relax. It's a kitchen where one can read, have drinks or hors d'oeuvres before dinner, or sit and talk. The kitchen is the real heart of the house and the life.

Life Is Meals
A Food Lover's Book Of Days
by James and Kay Salter

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Country Girl on dvd

It seems as the years go by that people 'remember' the 1950s as sunshine and neighborhoods and happy people. The movies were cheery and in Technicolor. I am finding more and more that "it just ain't so." I've seen a number of movies made during that time, and I find them to be deep and compelling and really, quite serious examinations of life. Just this evening I watched The Country Girl, a 1954 film starring Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, and William Holden, each of them giving a great performance. Grace Kelly won the Oscar for her role as the wife of an alcoholic. You'd hardly know her. She is plain, with a face worn down with burdens and sadness.

We find out quite early in the movie that the son of Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly died ten years before, and that the grieving, weakened man believes it was his fault. It really was an accident, but because he let go of the little boy's hand and the boy ran into the busy street and was killed, he blames himself. Over the years he turned to the bottle for solace. His career as a singer/actor is over and he is making radio commercials. They live in a shabby apartment, much like that in "The Honeymooners." William Holden offers Crosby a role in an upcoming play, and the story really begins. There is a complex psychological relationship between these three people. This is not upbeat or cheery or in color. It is serious and meaningful. A couple of quotes:

He hates himself. Consequently, he'll do or say anything to be liked by others.

There are as many reasons for drinking as there are drinkers. But there are only two reasons why a drinker stops. He dies... or he decides to quit by himself.

Just about anybody can face a crisis. It's that everyday living that's rough.

We find out Bing Crosby's "reason" for drinking is more complicated than we first imagined. The ending may not be to everyone's liking, but I felt it to be pretty realistic, especially for the people involved. This isn't an easy movie to watch, and it is hard to use the word, "enjoy" but I did like it. I thought the acting excellent, the story strong, and the characters worth knowing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Today's picture/Let 'em eat cake!

Made by our friend, Eddie. It tasted as good as it looks!

"Blow up your tv"

Blow up your TV throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
John Prine

Well, we didn't really blow up our tv, but we did get rid of our satellite connection. We have Netflix so we can watch television shows, albeit a season late, with no commercials or no fast-forwarding through commercials.

After the wonderful birthday party last night, Tom and I started talking about the dish. Do we really need it? More importantly, do we really want it? And we decided no. It makes us feel rattled. Over the years we have caught up with many of the great television series from Netflix and we find we enjoy viewing that way better. Even our beloved LOST we enjoyed more when we had a marathon on dvds, rather than watching each week. We just do not need to be "au courant" in our television viewing. Maybe I'll buy the dvd of the Westminster dog show next year. :<) The only snag was Red Sox games, but Tom said he really doesn't need to watch every game for three hours a day. Heck, we can go to a friend's house or even out to a bar to see a game. And there is always the radio, the way my father and his generation all followed baseball. We can do this. We can live easier, calmer, and fuller lives without television. The house already feels quieter. Oh, and the bonus is we will be saving over $600 a year!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Quotes du jour/Patricia Routledge

There's more to life in your sixties than some people bargain for.

Of course one thinks about the aging process but it's an attitude of mind. I think if you start giving in to the aches and pains and begin uttering that death phrase, "well, of course, it's my age" then all is lost.

"They say it's your birthday"

Me in 1948

It's hard to walk through the landscape with no footprints to follow.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The year beginning on February 25, 2007 has been an unusual one for me. Even without consciously thinking about it, I was aware each day that 59 was my mother's last year on earth. She never reached this age of 60. I can look back in her diary or in the old photo albums and see how she was living at certain ages, but not past 59. How do I know what to do? How do I figure out where to go and what path to follow without her guidance, her example?

Thankfully, I do have my mother-in-law, who turned 80 yesterday. She says it feels pretty good to be 80. She has great health, plays tennis and golf and swims and walks and goes to Curves and voted for Obama! She and her husband go out way more than Tom and I do. :<) And I have a cousin who turned 80 a month ago who is also my role model. She is always on the go. She travels and goes to the gym every day and is joyous about life. (She gave me the gorgeous tulips on the blog header!) So, though I do not have my mom, I have these two wonderful women showing me the way to age beautifully.

I am blessed with my family and friends. The celebrations are going on all week. They began with our waffles and cocktails the other night. Yesterday after church we had brunch with our son and his girlfriend at a great new restaurant. Tonight our daughter, her boyfriend, and some friends are coming over. Later in the week, we'll go out to dinner with friends at 'our' restaurant where we always celebrate our birthdays. I am grateful beyond words.

Happily, I am still close to my five best friends from childhood. Anne emailed me recently and said:

I am going to try and welcome becoming sixty this year.

I love that. We should, and really must, welcome each year, and indeed each day. If there is a secret to happiness, that may well be it.

And Peggy emailed me this morning and said:

I'm right behind you and as you know it happened to S. (her husband) last summer and the world didn't stop turning or anything.

And that's right. The sun came out. My dogs are on the rug in front of the woodstove. It is school vacation. I have the Juno soundtrack on the cd player. I have spaghetti sauce on the stove for tonight's party.

The thing I learned from my mother in my 25 years with her, is the importance of "daily." I don't think I ever heard her speak of the future. She lived her life as it came. She got up every day of her life and did what she needed to do, with joy and humor and fortitude. So, I guess I do have that footprint to follow after all. If she had lived beyond 59, I'm positive she would have been just the same, only older. And that is me; I'm just the same, only older.

Outdoor cocktail time, April 2006

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Book Report/The Case of The Missing Marquess

The Case of The Missing Marquess
by Nancy Springer
unabridged audio read by Katherine Kellgren
young adult mystery, 2006
finished 2/24/08

Early on in the book, Enola Holmes tells us that her name spelled backwards is "alone." And she is. Her father died ten years ago, her mother has disappeared on the eve of her fourteenth birthday, and she hasn't seen her much older brothers, the famous Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes since the death of their father.

The brothers come back home to try and find their mother, with no success. What they do find are some surprises. There are no longer horses and carriages. The lawns are overgrown with wild roses; lawns that were supposed to be taken care of by a gardener paid for by Mycroft. In 1878 England, when the father of the house died, that property went to the oldest son, not the wife. All these years, Enola and her mother have been living on the "kindness" of Mycroft. But there's a twist. For ten years Mrs. Holmes squirreled away all this money that was supposed to be spent on the upkeep of the estate. In those days, there was no other way she could have had her "own" money. Enola tells us that even women writers had to give their pay to their husbands.

Mrs. Holmes has told Enola nearly every day of her life that she (Enola) will do very well on her own. This proves to be the truth. The young girl is able to figure out some things even her detective brother can't fathom. She realizes that the birthday presents left by her mother offer clues through ciphers, and through the Victorian use of flowers to express feelings. Enola must rely on her cleverness and resourcefulness when Mycroft wants to send her off to a boarding school. She even makes excellent use of the corset which she, as a young woman, must begin to wear!

The book takes some twists and turns, with a missing young Marquess and travels into the terrible East End of London with its poverty and criminals. This young heroine retains her pluck in the face of danger and loneliness. She is quite a wonderful character, and I look forward to her next adventure.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sour Cream Waffles

This evening we had our friends over for cocktails and waffles; not a combination you think of too often, but it was great! The recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking, and was doubled from the original. It made five large delicious waffles in our waffle iron, one for each of us, and everyone was full.

Sour Cream Waffles

Mix together:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda

Separate 6 eggs.
Beat the egg yolks well, and then add 1 cup sour cream.
Mix with dry ingredients.
Beat egg whites and fold into batter. Add milk as needed to thin the batter.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Seed Order

Before the seed there comes the thought of bloom.
E.B. White

Well, my thoughts were all about blooms and tastes in the past couple days as I've ordered the seeds and plants for this year's garden. I can simply taste this, can't you?

From John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds:

Carmello Tomatoes: 70-75 days
A French hybrid, it is a main-season tomato that doesn’t travel well due to its thin skin. An in-demand variety throughout open-air markets all over France, its strong, indeterminate plants need staking to produce large crops of juicy, medium-large, 5 to 7 oz. tomatoes with outstanding sweet flavor. Plants are resistant to most diseases (VFN TMV)and although the skin is thin, the tomatoes are not prone to cracking. This is our favorite main-season tomato and we think it’s one of the best in the world. Carmello is perfect for a real tomato sandwich. With or without mayo or bacon, this is tomato heaven.

I was only going to buy the cherry tomato, Peacevine, until I read that description. Irresistible.

I did all my shopping in New England this year: High Mowing Seeds in Vermont, Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine, John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds in Connecticut, and White Flower Farm in Connecticut. I bought shallot sets for the first time in ages because I want to make Tara's mashed potatoes much more often. I bought leek plants for the first time because we just haven't had great success starting them ourselves, and they take up a lot of room under the lights. We had such great results from the onion plants last year that we thought it was worth it to give leeks a try too.

I am trying a new yellow bean called Gold Rush:

Very early, strongly determinate bean with one main, heavy pick. Pods hang in clusters around the main stem, making them easy to pick. Golden-yellow pods with green tips are round, straight, and tender. Fine flavor and ability to remain in prime condition on the plant over a long period of time. Excellent freezer.

and some King of the North peppers that the catalogue says will actually turn red where we live:

Red Bell Very bushy high yielding plants can produce 14-20 large, blocky fruits apiece. Harvest green, or wait until they turn a bright red. The best open-pollinated sweet bell for shorter seasons. 57 days green, 68 days red

You may have heard my lament that I never have enough zucchini. Carol at May Dreams Gardens said maybe it is a pollination problem so I'm trying this variety:

Partenon F1 Summer Squash
Zucchini Parthenocarpic variety that produces fruit without pollination. In effect no seeds are produced, greatly elongating the harvest window. High quality fruits are prolific and tender. 48 days

as well as the beautiful Zephyr again.

Precocious, yellow, green-tip straightneck.
A distinctive, slender fruit, yellow with faint white stripes and light green blossom ends. Harvest young at 4-6" for unusually delicious nutty taste and firm texture. Unique appearance for easy recognition. Big, open plant, high yielding.

And I got four packets of these peas, with high hopes of doing succession plantings to extend the season's eating of fresh peas.

Green Arrow Shell Peas
A classic main crop garden pea bearing heavy yields of 4-5” slim, pointed, doubly-born pods with 8-11 small, deep-green peas. Delicious pea flavor, excellent for freezing.

And for corn, I'm trying this one from John Scheepers:

Honey Select Yellow Sweet Corn: 79 days
Indian corn, the predecessor and genetic relative of modern sweet corn, was a staple food of the Aztecs and Incas. Many years of hybridization has resulted in the tender sweet varieties that we enjoy today. If you prefer yellow corn, with super-sweet flavor, Honey Select beats them all. It was the hands-down winner at the trial grounds last year. With butter dripping onto our chins, we exclaimed loudly that we’d never eaten better yellow sweet corn! Honey Select produces uniformly slender 8” cobs, 2” in diameter.

The White Flower Farm order is for a new garden I want to have across our road on the big south lawn. I want to get benches and chairs to put around our outdoor fireplace, and have flowers everywhere in sight. Isn't that a nice dream?! We'll see what the reality is, but I bought some hardy plants that have already proven their success here, like the tree rose, which I just found out is a William Baffin, another Baptisia Australis or False Indigo, some lemon day lilies, an Aquilegia mix, some white Iris, and a Sedum called Xenox. I haven't quite figured out how I want to arrange them all, but it will keep my gardening heart happy planning it out during the next two or three months of waiting.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mrs Bale reporting on the lunar eclipse

Years ago, the whole family got Tom a telescope for Christmas, and of course, last night he set it up on the terrace to watch the lunar eclipse. He tried a new way of taking moon shots - he put the camera into the eyepiece of the telescope where his eye would normally look. We are pleased with the results.

No telescope, before it all began

No telescope

Using telescope


No telescope, just before totality

Total eclipse, nice shot of black sky :<)

This is Mrs B's second lunar eclipse report. Her first one was in August.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Big Night

Tonight is the Full Snow Moon in Virgo, and a Lunar Eclipse. Though we have had three in the past year, we won't have another until December 2010. At this site, I read:

This is the Full Moon of healing and service. Virgo understands that disease manifests itself in societies as well as in individuals. There is so much dis-ease in our world and we all need to awaken to our role as healers. This is especially true on this Full Moon in Virgo, with a total lunar eclipse. The soulful, peacemaking Pisces Sun opposes the scientific, nature-based healing Virgo Moon.

So let’s talk a bit about Virgo, which most people consider perfectionistic, critical, analytical, organized, discriminating, scientific, empirical, and calculating. In truth, we all express our Virgo side when we strive to be our best. Virgo is the healer, the doctor, the nurse, the teacher, the therapist, the worker, the researcher, the scientist, and the engineer. Virgo is the true healer of the zodiac because in its mind, if it causes pain, it warrants attention and a cure. For Virgo, caring comes in the form of finding workable solutions to everyday problems.

You may ask, why is she writing all this. Because this is my astrological sun and moon, and I am "soulful and peacemaking" and I do work hard at "finding workable solutions to everyday problems." I don't live and die by astrology, and I never read daily horoscopes, but I am fascinated by the study itself. Tom and I took a fantastic class years ago, and I learned a lot about it, and about myself.

I'm going to try and take photos tonight but they may not come out that well since I don't have a great camera, but still it is an exciting event.

Today's picture/Morning Mountains

In his book, String Too Short To Be Saved, Donald Hall writes:

[Mount] Kearsarge tells the weather. For most of my grandmother's ninety-seven years she stood at the kitchen window early in the morning - beside her rocker, under her canary, in its many incarnations always named Christopher - braiding her long hair and looking out at Kearsarge. "Mountain's real pretty today," she would say to my grandfather bringing sticks for the stove, or "Can't see the mountain too good today." When clouds moved north or east to cover Kearsarge's slopes, you knew the cut hay would be wet in the summer morning; in early winter you saw the snow over Kearsarge before the first flakes fell into the brown hayfields and over the stalks of the kitchen garden.

He could have been describing "our" mountains, which we also see out the kitchen windows. Some days they are so clear it feels like putting on your glasses to someone with poor vision. Other days, they disappear completely, and it feels like we have only trees at the end of our view. There is indeed snow there before "the first flakes" fall here. This morning I could see the nice day coming before the sun reached our land.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Today's poem - When Women Went Downtown by Patricia Fargnoli

When Women Went Downtown
by Patricia Fargnoli
Poet Laureate of New Hampshire

The city was brick and stone in the time
before glass and steel. In those days
the city was streets of women.
They climbed down from buses
in seal skin, navy straw hats stuck with pearl drop pins,
their double-knotted Red Cross shoes,
clutching black cowhide purses, leading the children.

They lunched in tea rooms
on chicken-a-la-king and quartered sandwiches
but never wine--and never with men.
Rising in the smoky air,
their voices blended--silver striking off silver.
They haunted book rental booths,
combed aisles of threads and zippers,

climbed to the theater balconies, the palaces
where Astaire dipped and turned them
into more than they were.
In the late afternoons they crowded the winter dusk
waiting at the Isle-of-Safety, for the bus
with the right name to carry them home
to the simmer of soup on the stove,
the fire's sweet red milk.

Evenings, far over the tiny houses
the wind swept the black pines like a broom,
stars swirled in their boiling cauldron of indigo
and the children floated to sleep to the women's song
zipping the night together, to the story
of the snow goose who went farther and farther
and never returned.

A Nonfiction Meme

The Non-Fiction Meme

I was glad to be tagged by Dolce Bellezza because I love nonfiction. I own a lot more nonfiction than I do fiction. I am apt to re-read nonfiction, or at least go back to certain parts, more than I re-read fiction.

a). What issues/topic interests you most in non-fiction (i.e, cooking, knitting, stitching, there are infinite topics that have nothing to do with novels)?

I have a whole bookcase devoted to home and gardening books; wildflower identification books, bird books, how-to gardening books, and books about home and garden in general. I have two shelves in the big bookcase of just biographies. If you looked at the them, you'd see a large diversity of topics, from Julia Child to Theodore Roosevelt to Seabiscuit to P.G. Wodehouse. I own more than a few books about places, such as Italy, Scotland, England. I also love cookbooks, especially those that have stories along with recipes. I love reading nonfiction essays, such as those by Stuart McLean or E.B. White.

b). Would you like to review books concerning those?

No. I'll do an occasional 'book report' on this blog, but not what I think of as reviews.

c). Would you like to be paid or do it as interest or hobby? Tell reasons for what ever you choose.

No, I would hate that. I think it would spoil my joy in reading if I 'had' to write a detailed review. This is the same reason I wouldn't want to be a movie critic. I like to simply enjoy.

d). Would you recommend those to your friends and how?

I guess my blog is where I recommend books, but I have learned that mostly people read what they want to read. Reading taste is so personal that I am reluctant to recommend as such. I will write that I love a book, and maybe give the reasons, and then the reader can decide for herself if this is something she would like to read.

e). If you have already done something like this, link it to your post.

I guess the best thing would be to click on one of my reading journal topics on the sidebar.

f). Please don't forget to link back here or whoever tags you.

Done, at the start of the post.

Now, to hear from you. Tell us please, what nonfiction is your favorite?

Rather than choose specific people, I will just say that if you haven't done this meme and would like to, please do so on your blog.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Quote du jour/Dutch proverb

Eat butter first, and eat it last, and live till a hundred years be past.
Old Dutch proverb

Weather stats from Mrs Bale

February 17:
5 am, -11º F

February 18:
5 am, 45º F

56º difference in twenty-four hours!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Basil Pesto

This photo may not look as appealing as some, but the taste is sublime, and the recipe makes a quick and easy supper.

Basil Pesto

1/2 cup walnuts
3/4 cup dried basil (or fresh, or a combination of both)
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cloves garlic, put through a press
about a cup Parmesan cheese (or Cheddar)

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor.

This is so rich that I use only a tablespoon on a serving of pasta. If you don't eat cheese, you may take out your portion before adding the cheese.

Friday, February 15, 2008

And then there were none

This entry is most likely of interest just to me. I have quit all the book challenges. I am simply and positively the kind of person who wants to read what I want to read, when I want to read it. I loved the sound of the challenges and signed up eagerly, but then when I find myself slogging through a book, I say to myself, why am I doing this? Reading is my pure pleasure. I love it. And I want to read "my" books, period. So, remind me of this if I forget and sign up next year for any challenges, okay? :<)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Quote du jour/David Frei

We in the dog world think of dog hair as a condiment.
David Frei, one of the commentators at The Westminster Dog Show

"Not enough ribbons"

These words were spoken by the commentators several times over the two nights of The Westminster Dog Show. I so enjoy being in the company, if only on tv, of people who really, really love dogs. At Westminster each breed is celebrated for being exactly what it is supposed to be, what it is bred for. "Responsible breeders are the good guys." Over and over again those same commentators talked about "educating yourselves and doing your homework," reading a book, going online, visiting a breeder or going to a dog show before getting a dog. We should take our time because we will have this dog for ten or twelve or fifteen years.

No matter how we bring up our dogs, their "instinct is always going to be there." When people don't take the time to find out about a breed, they may end up with a breed with instincts that don't fit into their lifestyles. For example when a dog whose instinct it is to protect, ends up biting someone, the dog is often put down or given to a shelter. And as hard as it was for me to watch, Pedigree did great ads about dogs ending up in those shelters. For every dollar we give, they will match it, and the last I heard they had raised half a million dollars to help find homes for these abandoned dogs.

The pages between my fingers are the ones I filled with notes and quotes about dogs. The dogs I look for are the ones described as 'excellent family pets, gentle giants, gentle companions, trustworthy, sweet, affectionate, nothing more loving, and inherent good nature.' I don't want a guard dog; I want a dog that loves all people, not just me. Our Sadie loves four people: Tom and I and our kids. She is wary of anyone else, and has nipped a couple people in the past. So, when people come, she and Ben go into a little room for the duration of the visit. Sad, but safe. And though we love her tremendously, hers is not a trait we look for in a dog. We are at a stage of life now where grandchildren might be in our future, and we want a dog that is, as Tom says, "bomb proof." One that we can completely trust with little ones when they come to visit. As much as I adore Beagles, and the winner, Uno,

I don't think it is the dog for us. We had a dog once who was part Beagle, and that boy spent most of his life howling in our woods. And now that my daughter has her Pug, I get to enjoy a little dog. I do love a lot of breeds, but the following are the top contenders to be the next dog(s) at Windy Poplars Farm.

Because I love the drawings, I'm going to make my list with pictures as I did last year.

Basset Hound


Collie (Smooth)

English Setter

English Springer Spaniel

Golden Retriever

Great Dane

Irish Wolfhound




Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Worth it

You know the ad for hair color which says, "because I'm worth it?" Well, that's how I feel about my vacuum cleaner. Yes, it was expensive, but I am definitely worth it! See that little bag? It is full and I go through one each and every week when I vacuum the house. I treasure my Electrolux, now called Aerus, more than any "time saving" appliance I own. Years ago I used to borrow an older friend's model to clean the house. Then we bought our own. We've had a few over the years. With these two dogs (who us??) and the cats, and living on a dirt road, and having a barn and animals, well, I don't think I could live without it. My daughter has had a few different kinds over the years and they just don't do the job, so she calls me up to borrow this beauty. When she and our son buy their own houses someday, this brand of vacuum will be the first gift we give to each of them.

For fans of Agatha Christie

There is a program coming up tomorrow, February 13th, on the Documentary Channel that fans of Agatha Christie may be interested in. Here's the info:

The Agatha Christie Code
The Agatha Christie Code introduces viewers to new fields of scientific enquiry using sophisticated computer analysis of Christie's every written word, her sentence structure, story arcs, red herrings, clues and so on. Produced with the cooperation of the company that owns the Agatha Christie estate, this documentary, just like one of her own famous stories, combines all the thrills of a real detective investigation.

It is on at 7 pm, and again at 11 pm (eastern time).

Sounds fascinating to me.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Going to the dogs

Just a reminder to all the dog lovers that The Westminster Dog Show begins tonight and continues tomorrow night:

Live Telecast: Monday, Feb 11 (8-9 PM Live ET / 8-9 PM PT) on USA Network
Continuing Live Telecast: Monday, Feb 11 (9-11 PM Live ET / 9-11 PM PT) on CNBC

Live Telecast: Tuesday, Feb 12 (8-11 PM Live ET / 8-11 PM PT) on USA Network

You may remember last year I jotted down my favorite breeds for our next dog. I do this every year, and I'm already wondering if I'll choose the same ones or not. I think we have decided to not get a third dog. But that could change. I could be wooed.

Book Report/Mr. Popper's Penguins

Mr. Popper's Penguins
by Richard and Florence Atwater
unabridged audio read by Paul Hecht
juvenile fiction, 1938
finished 2/11/08

I have a vague memory of beginning to read this book to my son many years ago without success. I have a feeling he wasn't interested, and I found it hard to bring enthusiasm to the reading. When I saw that Mr. Popper's Penguins was available as an audio book, I thought I'd give it another try. And I am so glad I did. I simply loved it. Mr. Popper is a house painter, and in the winter months when he cannot paint, he reads and reads and reads about explorers and faraway places. He longs to visit the Poles, both North and South. He writes a letter to an Admiral Drake who is exploring Antarctica, and, lo and behold, he receives a reply; not just a letter, but in the form of a real, live penguin. He names the little fellow Captain Cook, and the Poppers rearrange their entire lives to accommodate his presence. As time passes, the penguin languishes, and a veterinarian doesn't know how to cure him. Mr. Popper writes to an aquarium where he knows there is a penguin in residence, and finds out that she isn't healthy either. Well, you may guess what happens next. The head of the aquarium sends the little girl to Mr. P. and both penguins flourish and multiply, to the tune of ten little ones. The whole cellar is turned into an arctic paradise for the penguins, and after a while they hit the show circuit.

As I listened, I could see why it wasn't such a hit with my young boy. It is quite slow and descriptive, and subtle. It doesn't have a lot of drama or excitement. But for this adult reader, it couldn't have been better. I loved this quiet, close family, and the way they all rally together to take care of one, then two, and then a whole family of penguins. And those penguins! They are so adorable. The narrator, Paul Hecht does a terrific job of making penguin noises, and he really brought them to life. The adventures of the Poppers and the penguins are so much fun to read about, and I found myself imagining the delight of having them in my own cellar, climbing ladders or stairs, and then "tobogganing" down on their bellies.

If you haven't come upon this little gem in your reading travels, you might want to pick it up sometime. It will offer you quiet chuckles, and a few laugh-out-loud moments, and an inner warmth to brighten your spirit. Just lovely.

An Antarctic Emperor Penguin. (US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration photograph)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Today's pictures/More snow

As I sat at the computer writing book reports, Tom braved the weather to do chores, and he snapped these pictures so you could see more snow. We could get another few inches today and tonight, and are supposed to have pretty good winds as well. Ah, winter. Ah, February. These are the only snowdrops we'll have around here for a while. :<)

Book Report/The Snow Goose

The Snow Goose
by Paul Gallico
fiction, 1941
finished 2/10/08

I expect they are different for everyone; those book titles we have heard our whole lives yet have never happened to read. Well, for me, one of them is The Snow Goose. It has been in my consciousness for a very long time, but I hadn't read it. My friend Judi gave it to me for Christmas last year, and I read the book in one sitting on this very snowy Sunday afternoon. It is the story of a "mis-shapen" man who lives alone in a lighthouse. His heart is warm and loving but people cannot see beyond his physical appearance so he takes care of birds, does paintings, and takes photographs. There are a couple of incidents which change his life. One is when a little girl comes to his door carrying an injured snow goose; the other is the Battle of Dunkirk. If I write more, the story will be given away. Most of you have probably read it over the years, but if you haven't you may want to pick it up and spend a bit of time within the pages of this little treasure.