Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Jazzy New Year's Eve

This is how we are spending our New Year's Eve - in the kitchen listening to Vermont Public Radio. George Thomas is on most nights of the week, and his show is a jazz lover's heaven.

(long) Quote du jour/Gladys Taber's New Year's Eve thoughts

From Stillmeadow and Sugarbridge, 1953

As I sweep the snow from the door sill, I think if we could gather up all the happy hours of a year and distill them, we would have Heaven. If we added the dreary and sad times, we would no doubt, have a good foretaste of a lower region.

The bright and the dark are so inseparable.

Every life, I think, has a burden of sorrow, and every life has also the delicate excitement of happiness. Cherishing the golden hours and forgetting the black ones probably make for a happy person, the fulfilled life.

As the old year vanishes into the land that no one can ever visit again, I can see the New Year coming with a pale pure fire into the old darkness of the night sky.

I always hope I can meet the tomorrows with more strength, more courage and more love than I have ever met the past with.

The snow has stopped. The stars are shining.

Book Report/Locked Rooms

Locked Rooms
by Laurie R. King
mystery, 2005
finished, 12/31/08

If you've read Laurie R. King's series about Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, you know that Mary's mother, father, and brother were all killed in a car accident when she was younger and that she blames herself. She has always felt that by arguing with her brother, she distracted her father. The car went over a cliff, while Mary was thrown out and became the sole survivor. What a thing to carry in one's heart. This fact has never been confronted until Locked Rooms. In the seven books before this one, we have seen Russell as capable, intelligent, and gifted in many ways. But there is this pain inside her which rarely surfaces.

In Locked Rooms, she and Holmes are heading back to San Francisco to settle some family affairs. On the ship, Russell begins having nightmares: one about objects flying around, another about a "faceless" man, and a third about some locked rooms. She is so upset by them that she is not herself. When they arrive in San Francisco, Holmes has to deal with problems and situations without the cool, brilliant Russell by his side. He must trust in others to help him help Russell. We have a treat in store when he makes contact with the author Dashiell Hammett. After all the previous escapades, I really enjoyed going back into Mary Russell's childhood. Both the character and the reader see the past in a different way than we have before. We meet long-forgotten people and learn about prior events, such as the earthquake of 1906, and get to know this young woman as a more complete individual. Locked Rooms is a brilliant addition to the series. I almost said it is my favorite, but then I realized I can't name a favorite.

I've loved these books since the very first, The Beekeeper's Apprentice and years ago I used to be on the internet Russ L list, on which we discussed everything Holmes and Russell.

I read somewhere that the whole series may be re-released with new covers. Perhaps this would introduce a new generation to Mary Russell. My daughter was in junior high when she began reading the books, and still loves them today. Her favorite is Justice Hall, and she has just read it again for the third or fourth time.

I love the notion of these books; that Laurie King was sent some manuscripts and is passing the stories along. Great, great writing, plots, characters. These are some of the most satisfying books I've ever read.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Quote du jour/George Harrison

When I saw the sky this evening, I found myself singing George's, Blow Away:

Wind blew in, cloud was dispersed
Rainbows appearing, the pressures were burst

Book Report/A Bear Called Paddington

A Bear Called Paddington
by Michael Bond
unabridged audio read by Stephen Fry
juvenile fiction, 1958
finished 12/27/08

How have I missed this book my whole life? I was ten when it came out. I did raise two little children. We had the stuffed animal. And I even seem to remember the book in the house, but I never read it. Thank goodness, I came upon this audio version. I loved this book. I believed completely in this little bear found at Paddington Station, London. I believed he could talk and think and act just like a person. And I loved his personality. What a funny, heartwarming story. It's a wonderful book for children because it portrays a loving family life, and a wonderful book for adults because it is just plain fun to read. And if you can get hold of this version read by the always excellent Stephen Fry, you'll be in reader's heaven. Really.

Sunday Stroll/December 28

A misty, foggy day is my very favorite kind of weather at any time of year. Today's temp is in the mid-thirties (fahrenheit), the icicles have all melted, and there is a little grass showing where the snow has been plowed. The first two pictures were taken out the window, looking into the north pasture.

More a run than a stroll!

Tom gave me a zoom lens for Christmas which I just love.
Silver maple and locust

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Resolute Reader

As Mr. Monk often says, here's the thing. I am embarking on a year long effort with regard to reading and books. I am not going to buy one single book until next December. I'm not going to borrow one book from the library for a year (other than audiobooks). I am going to read strictly and solely from my own library. When I told Tom of my venture he said, "all I know is that when I want to read a book, I've got plenty to choose from." Exactly.

I've done this before with greater and lesser degrees of success, but this is a commitment. I'll continue to take note of books I want to read, but I will not buy or borrow them until a year has passed. There I've said it. Hold me to it!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Snapshots

The Christmas morning sky was beautiful,

but we began the day with a power outage! There were high winds, and though this looks threatening,
it wasn't the reason we had no electricity. After a couple hours the Christmas lights and music came back on.

Stocking time - note those of the parents beside him. Books and books. That Santa is quite a fella!

We gave everyone in the family iPhoto picture albums from Tom's mother's birthday celebration, and what terrific responses we got - in person and via telephone. Each person had different photos, with a few common to everyone.
US and world maps were requested by our girl. Who knew ten years ago that she would be so thrilled by maps?!

Pondering what's inside of the incredibly light package... a picture of the new cell phone which will arrive in January!

Protective padding for snowboarding - which came in very handy the day after Christmas when he took a bad fall!

Blurry pic, but our daughter was very happy with her digital camera.

Afternoon's end

Black dogs in the evening light

Christmas evening sky

Book Report/A Dedicated Man

A Dedicated Man
by Peter Robinson
mystery, 1988
finished, 9/25/08

For a reason I can't quite understand, I have trouble writing about mysteries. Maybe because I don't want to spoil the plot? I don't really think so, since I'm quite careful about that. Perhaps I should just write the basics, and leave the review at that. I'm going to give it a try, even if I'm not successful because I just adore Peter Robinson's mysteries. For the life of me I can't understand why BBC or PBS has never made them into series like Frost or Dalgliesh or Maigret. I love those productions, as I do Blue Murder and George Gently.

Anyhow, back to Inspector Banks. He is such a good character - a regular fellow who can't stop smoking (at least in the early mysteries) and drinks too much on occasion, and is smitten by women other than his wife. But he is so much more. He's thoughtful and kind and caring. He notices the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales he has chosen for his home. He really thinks things through, and we the readers benefit from this because we puzzle alongside him, wondering what the heck is going on. In A Dedicated Man, second in the series, he knows that if he could have figured out the case earlier, a life would have been saved. The story is that a man is found dead, and he isn't one of those characters in a mystery that everyone hated. He was liked, accepted, and no one can figure out why he would be murdered. Of course as the book goes on, we learn more about the people in his circle of friends, and at the end, come upon the murderer.

There's an interview with the author which I just loved here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The books are bought

The shopping is done, and these are the books I bought. A few were from Santa to me. :<)

Out of the Blackout by Robert Barnard
Double Negative by David Carkeet
Christmas is Murder by C.S. Challinor
The Arsenic Labyrinth by Martin Edwards
The Cipher Garden by Martin Edwards
One Sunday Morning by Amy Ephron
The Private Patient by P.D. James
2 copies Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish
The Excursion Train by Edward Marston
The Railway Detective by Edward Marston
Million Dollar Baby by Amy Patricia Meade
Rosie O'Donnell's Crafty U: 100 Easy Projects the Whole Family Can Enjoy All Year Long
Touché: Why Britain and France Are So Different and Why They Do Things in Opposite Ways by Agnés Catherine Poirier
Death in the Morning by Sheila Radley
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Library Paradox by Catherine Shaw
2 copies The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
The House on Tradd Street by Karen White

Decorations inside and out

December 23

Christmas cards written and mailed √

Tree decorated √

Presents wrapped √

House decorated √

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tom's Weather Journal - December 22

There is something about a good snowstorm that delights the soul. We started hearing predictions of a big one at the end of last week, and sure enough on the solstice it arrived. The nor'easters that roar up the Atlantic coast sometimes don't give us much snow at our house. The shadow effect of the White Mountains can make all that snow drop on the eastern side of the Presidential range, leaving us wondering what all the fuss was about and let down because we didn't get snowed in. But I was pretty sure that the forecast for a good slug of snow would be accurate--the storm was coming from the southwest. It started about 10 AM Sunday, and as I write this on Monday afternoon we're still in flurries on the tail end of it. I estimate we got about a foot, adding to the 4" that was already on the ground. The town plow was up twice yesterday and then again at 4:30 this morning.

I heard the wind blow strong and loud for a while last night. When I got up I could see evidence of just how windy it was by looking at the icicles outside of our laundry room window. The bigger icicles had a distinct lean to them. It was clear that steady wind had been blowing from the west when the icicles were forming. If you look carefully at the bottom of the longest icicle in the photo, you can see it straightening out again as the wind diminished. Pretty neat.

I went to my favorite Mac weather program, Seasonality, and could see the graph of when the wind shifted. At just about midnight last night the wind shifted strongly into the west (bottom graph). At the same time, the wind speed picked up, reaching its peak speed of 35 mph at about 4:30 AM (middle graph).

Sunday, December 21, 2008


After writing 29 cards this snowy, snowy day, I was rewarded by turning on the CBC and hearing the MOST wonderful show. It is called Cross Country Checkup and today's program was all about books. People from all over Canada, including the co-owner of a mystery bookstore, Sleuth of Baker Street, called in talking about books they have loved. I was in booklover's heaven. In a while, the list will be up on this site, and there are booklists from other shows.

Quote du jour/Lao Tzu

Time is a created thing.
To say, 'I don't have time,' is like saying, 'I don't want to.'
Lao Tzu

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday Sally/December 20

I haven't done a Saturday Sally in way too long. Here are three great places to stop in and visit.

Robin has the nicest piece on her mother who has just retired from her volunteer job as book group leader.

Dulce Domum offers a wealth of information on foods from past times.

And check out the adorable ears on Eva's new cat!

Quote du jour/from Mrs. Appleyard's Winter Kitchen

Although the state of Vermont is mentioned, this could be true of hostesses and their guests in any snowy clime.

Vermont hostesses can always tell when winter guests arrive because they hear them stamping snow off their boots on the porch. It is etiquette for the hostess to say, politely, but insincerely,
"Don't mind the snow. Come right in,"
and for the guest to reply, hopping on one foot:
"No, no: I'll leave them here."

Mrs. Appleyard's Winter Kitchen
by Louise Andrews Kent and Elizabeth Kent Gay

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Corner/Decorated Tree

Our daughter and her boyfriend came over the other evening for take-out Mexican food, and tree trimming. It warmed this mother's heart to hear her talking about the many ornaments and house decorations. "Oh, we always hang this in the hall." "These blocks always go on the stairs." Those eagle-eyed readers may see a television where there wasn't one before. Recently I rearranged the living room, and this seemed like just the spot for the tv. It had been in the kitchen for a year or so, but only two people could watch at a time, so we're using our kitchen comfy chairs strictly for reading, and we're coming into the living room to watch the dvds from Netflix.

On Tom's birthday our daughter's fella put the angel on the tree.

Korean slippers

A friend cut out the picture from our first Christmas card with both kids, and put it in a decorated half eggshell.

Who needs mistletoe?

DVD/Joan of Arcadia

What if God was one of us? asks the 1995 song sung by Joan Osborne . She goes on:

If God had a face, what would it look like?
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe

In things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints
And all the prophets and...

These are big questions. And unanswerable unless perhaps we do see the face or hear the voice, as Joan Girardi does in Joan of Arcadia. She is a teenager whose family has moved to Arcadia, Maryland where her father is the new chief of police. Her older brother's legs are paralyzed from a car accident, and her younger brother is a science genius. She's a girl with adjustments to make; to a new school and to a family changed forever by the accident. She doesn't shine in any particular area - she's an average girl in every way. Except one: she sees God, in the guise of many people; sometimes a boy of Joan's own age, sometimes a little girl, sometimes an older woman. They are walking amongst the people in Joan's world. They are students and repairmen and cupcake sellers. Sometimes we the viewers expect them, and other times we are as surprised as Joan.

However God appears, there is a message and a mission. Get a job, pass a test with an A, ask a troubled boy to a dance. She doesn't understand but she does her very best to do what is asked of her. As an episode goes on, we see the why. In one of the most riveting shows we've seen so far, there isn't a great outcome - rather what she accomplishes is the lesser of two evils. God explains what would have happened had Joan not acted as she did.

This is a deep show. It makes us think and talk about what we've seen. The writing is superb. The show is not unrelated episodes; something that happened a while back may not be solved until much later. People from past shows come back in others. The characters seem real to us. Joan's family really tries in the face of problems. We see that love and caring make a difference in the world even when bad things happen.

Tom and I love this show. We'd never heard of it, but a while ago I read about some song that was played on Joan of Arcadia. I wondered what it was, looked it up on Netflix, tried one disc, and off we went on a great television adventure. As with too many really good tv shows, it was canceled after two seasons, but we still have a ways to go, and this thought provoking program will stay with us for a long time.