Thursday, August 29, 2013

Today's poem by Victoria Redel

I've paid tribute to my mother a couple times in my letters - once with a birthday remembrance, and again with a poem by Philip Larkin. On what would have been her 100th birthday, I offer a wonderful poem by Victoria Redel.  

Getting Close

Because my mother loved pocketbooks
I come alive at the opening click or close of a metal clasp.

And sometimes, unexpectedly, a faux crocodile handle makes me weep.

Breathy clearing of throat, a smooth arm, heels on pavement, she lingers, sound tattoos.

I go to the thrift store to feel for bobby pins caught in the pocket seam
of a camel hair coat.

I hinge a satin handbag in the crease of my arm. I buy a little change purse with its
curled and fitted snap.

My mother bought this for me. This was my mother’s.

I buy and then I buy and then, another day, I buy something else.

In Paris she had a dog, Bijou, and when they fled Paris in 1942 they left the dog behind.

When my mother died on February 9, 1983, she left me.

Now, thirty years later and I am exactly her age.

I tell my husband I will probably die by the end of today and all day he says, Are you
getting close, Sweetheart? And late in the afternoon, he asks if he should buy enough filet
of sole for two.

From a blue velvet clutch I take out a mirror and behold my lips in the small rectangle.

Put on something nice. Let him splurge and take you out for dinner, my mother whispers
on the glass. 

About this poem:

"This was a poem written as I tried to write another poem. My mother often shows up this way, pushing up in the cracks and lapses of other poems. I am always surprised by the way my mother lives in me and how much—30 years after her death—I am still talking to her, inventing her, feeling her shape me."

Victoria Redel 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Today's poem by William Carlos Williams

This poem is in honor of the first two plums picked from a tree we planted almost a decade ago! They never even made it to our 'icebox.'

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten

the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably              
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Today's picture/supper from the garden

Onions, leeks, and summer squash to be sautéed and served over pasta. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Remembering the Bones by Frances Itani

45. Remembering the Bones
by Frances Itani
fiction, 2007
library book
finished 8/8/13

I began my year of reading Canadian authors for the 7th Canadian Book Challenge with Frances Itani's Remembering the Bones. I knew nothing about the book before I began reading - all too rare in my experience, but a state I really love. 
The Master of the Household has received Her Majesty's command to invite Mrs. Georgina Danforth Witley to a Lunch to mark the 80th Birthday of the Queen.
Ninety-nine men and women received the invitation, in all parts of Elizabeth's kingdom, every one of them born the same day.
Within a few pages, Georgie leaves her home in Wilna Creek, Ontario for the airport to attend this luncheon. There's a tiny note of foreshadowing before she gets in the car.
Shouldn't she gather up her things, walk out the front door, come back in, sit for a moment and then depart a second time? It's what characters in Russian novels do - to ward off ill fortune, to ensure a safe journey. But no, she has to get moving.
We read so much now about texting and driving, or eating and driving, or any other activity which may take our attention away from driving the car. In less than a second life may change from that inattention. In Georgie's case all she does is check her wrist to be sure she hadn't forgotten her watch.
Because her attention is on her wrist, she allows the steering wheel to twist slightly to the right. In a split second, the right front wheel slips off the pavement. 
As she lays in the ravine, and is quite certain no one will rescue her, she begins the process of thinking about her life and the people who have been important to her in that life. These remembrances happen via a brilliant device. When she was a girl there was a Gray's Anatomy which used to belong to her grandfather. She memorized the bones, and Frances Itani uses these bones physically and metaphorically as chapter headings. Georgie thinks and remembers and recites and sings to keep her mind working. She's injured, but not drastically so. She would be fine if she could get to a hospital. The problem is that she has said her goodbyes, and told people she will see them when she gets back from England. No one is expecting her, no one will be calling, no one will wonder if they don't hear from her. What a situation. Her memories are her shield against panic. 

One of the things she ponders is her lifelong connection with Queen Elizabeth, whom she refers to by the childhood nickname of Lilibet. There are a lot of us who relate to the Royals in this way. Even in my own family, Tom's mother is about Elizabeth's age, I am Charles' age, Margaret is William's age. As was obvious with the birth of George Alexander Louis last month, there is a world of us who love these people we will never know. Curious, but true.

There are not so many people in Georgie's life that the reader has any trouble keeping them straight. Her memories of her family bring joy, regret, understanding just as would be true of any of us looking back upon eighty years of living. I found her stories very interesting. They were most illuminating of the characters and the times in which they live(d). I was surprised that I could read on like this without thinking about the probable ending, but honestly I was so drawn into the book that I almost forgot that she could die at the end, and when I finished I realized that it didn't matter terribly to either Georgie or me what was the outcome of this accident. I find that utterly amazing. 

This is a wonderful book - slow, pensive, kindly, and beautifully written. And I adore the book cover. 

There is an excellent interview with Frances Itani here, and a stellar review of Remembering the Bones here.

Frances Itani, CM

Frances Itani, novelist, poet, essayist, was born in Belleville, Ontario, and grew up in a small village in rural Quebec. A Member of the Order of Canada, she has a BA in Psychology and English, and an MA in English Literature. Prior to writing, she taught and practised Nursing for 8 years.

Frances has written 15 books, including novels, poetry, short stories, and children's works. Her WWI novel, Deafening (HarperFlamingo 2003), won a 2004 Commonwealth Prize for Best Book (Caribbean & Canada region), was shortlisted for the 2005 International IMPAC Dublin Award and the 2005 William Saroyan International Award, and won the 2003 Drummer General's Award. It was chosen for CBC's 2006 Canada Reads, as well as Radio Canada's Combat des Livres. Her most recent novel, Requiem(HarperCollins 2011), was shortlisted for the Evergreen Award and the Ottawa Book Award, and was one of The Washington Post's top 50 fiction books for 2012.

Two new short novels, Missing (2011), and Listen! (2012) were written for Good Reads (Grass Roots Press/ABC Life Literacy Canada), a series promoting adult literacy and learning. Frances reviews for The Washington Post, and has written for such publications as The Globe and Mail, The Walrus, Canadian Geographic, Saturday Night, and The Ottawa Citizen. She has travelled extensively, has taught for many years, and has been involved in humanitarian and volunteer work all her life. Currently, she is on the Advisory Board for Youth in Motion's Top 20 Under 20. She lives in Ottawa.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Today's poem by Henry David Thoreau

The Summer Rain                                                       

My books I’d fain cast off, I cannot read,
  ’Twixt every page my thoughts go stray at large
Down in the meadow, where is richer feed,
  And will not mind to hit their proper targe.

Plutarch was good, and so was Homer too,
  Our Shakespeare’s life were rich to live again,
What Plutarch read, that was not good nor true,
  Nor Shakespeare’s books, unless his books were men.

Here while I lie beneath this walnut bough,
  What care I for the Greeks or for Troy town,
If juster battles are enacted now
  Between the ants upon this hummock’s crown?

Bid Homer wait till I the issue learn,
  If red or black the gods will favor most,
Or yonder Ajax will the phalanx turn,
  Struggling to heave some rock against the host.

Tell Shakespeare to attend some leisure hour,
  For now I’ve business with this drop of dew,
And see you not, the clouds prepare a shower—
  I’ll meet him shortly when the sky is blue.

This bed of herd’s grass and wild oats was spread
  Last year with nicer skill than monarchs use.
A clover tuft is pillow for my head,
  And violets quite overtop my shoes.

And now the cordial clouds have shut all in,
  And gently swells the wind to say all’s well;
The scattered drops are falling fast and thin,                 
  Some in the pool, some in the flower-bell.

I am well drenched upon my bed of oats;
  But see that globe come rolling down its stem,
Now like a lonely planet there it floats,
  And now it sinks into my garment’s hem.

Drip drip the trees for all the country round,
  And richness rare distills from every bough;
The wind alone it is makes every sound,
  Shaking down crystals on the leaves below.

For shame the sun will never show himself,
  Who could not with his beams e’er melt me so;
My dripping locks—they would become an elf,
  Who in a beaded coat does gayly go.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The 7th Canadian Book Challenge

Maybe it's a crazy idea, but it seems to me that if countries share a border, then they should offer one another's literature in high school and college. With regard to the US, I would think that at the very least those states which share a border with Canada or Mexico should present that country's authors in school. I've lived my whole life less than a couple hours from the Canadian border and never read a book by a Canadian for most of it. When my kids were young, and we got a Bose radio, I was finally able to listen to Morningside with Peter Gzowski and Shelagh Rogers. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I learned about Canadian authors and my life became much richer. 

Though I have yet to complete a Canadian Book Challenge, I have still read several books by Canadian authors over the years of the blog. For this year's challenge I visited my library's website and found several books, and I own a fair few. 

This is what John Mutford has to say about his excellent reading challenge:
The Canadian Book Challenge is an annual online reading challenge in which participants from Canada and around the world aim to read and review 13 or more Canadian books in a one year span: Canada Day to Canada Day. Reviews must be posted online and participants are asked to share links to their reviews with other participants.
You may find more information about the challenge here.

Books read:

1. Remembering the Bones by Frances Itani - finished August 8
2. Old City Hall by Robert Rotenberg - finished September 8
3. Stuck by Stacey D. Atkinson - finished December 6
4. I'll Never Marry a Farmer by Lois Hole - finished January 27
5. My Turquoise Years by M.A.C. Farrant - finished February 1

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Today's poem by Helen Maria Winslow


The yellow goldenrod is dressed
In gala-day attire;
The glowing redweed by the fence
Shines like a crimson fire;

And from the hot field’s farthest edge
The cricket’s soft refrain
With mellow accent tells the tale
That August’s here again.

In shining blue the aster wild
Unfolds her petals fair;
The clematis, upreaching, seeks
To clasp and kiss the air;
The brilliant poppy flaunts her head
Amidst the ripening grain,
And adds her voice to swell the song
That August’s here again. 

The dusty thistle by the road
Scatters a silvery spray;
The sun pours down his scorching beams
Upon the fainting day;
The blackberry vine bends with its weight
Of fruit down in the lane;
And adds its testimony, too,
That August's here again.

The wild hop, from the young elm’s bough,
Sways on the languid breeze,
And here and there the autumn tints
Gleam faintly through the trees.
All Nature helps to swell the song
And chant the same refrain;
July and June have slipped away
And August’s here again.

Helen Maria Winslow (1851-1938)



Though she doesn't mention them, there are lots of apples this year. These will be given to the barn animals.

Also saw brown-eyed Susans, and Margaret and Matthew's ducks!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fresh Blueberry Cake

This comes from Scatch Made Easy by Judy Whitman. You may find another recipe from it here

Although it is called 'fresh' blueberry cake, I have made it in the off-season when my blueberries came from the freezer and it is just as delicious.

Fresh Blueberry Cake

2 eggs, separated
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Grease an 8 x 8 inch pan.

Beat the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixture until foamy, and gradually add 1/4 cup sugar.
Beat until stiff peaks form. (Don't worry if they don't form - mine didn't) Put in a small bowl and set aside.

In the mixer, cream the butter with vanilla and salt. 
Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar and egg yolks. Beat until light and fluffy.

Set aside 2 Tablespoons of the flour.
Sift the rest of the flour and baking powder together.
Add to butter mixture at low speed, alternating with the milk.
Fold in egg whites.

In a separate bowl, lightly but thoroughly toss blueberries with the 2 Tablespoons flour.
Fold into the the batter, and turn into baking pan.
Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons sugar over the top.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until center of cake springs back when pressed.
Cool on rack.

If you want, you may sprinkle confectioner's sugar on top before serving, but honestly I found it plenty sweet without. This is a wonderful cake. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Puzzle of the Pepper Tree by Stuart Palmer

44. The Puzzle of the Pepper Tree - book 4 in the Hildegarde Withers series
by Stuart Palmer
mystery, 1933

Kindle book
finished 8/4/13

Until I read this book, the following song was my only knowledge of Santa Catalina Island, California - 26 Miles (Santa Catalina) by The Four Preps, a song that came out when I was ten years old. It played in my head the whole time I was reading the book.

In the decade before The Puzzle of the Pepper Tree was published, the island was developed as a tourist resort by William Wrigley, Jr. of chewing gum fame. Gum was an important clue in the book.

And the poison in the book, aconitine comes from this little beauty, monkshood. Another name for it is 'the queen of poisons.'

From the Santa Catalina webpage:

Santa Catalina Island has served as the location for the filming of over 500 motion pictures, documentaries, television programs and commercials over the past 90 years.  Of those 500, approximately 300 were motion picture productions.  Beginning as early as 1911 and continuing with great momentum through the Silent Film era and the introduction of sound to motion pictures, the Island served as location for more than 225 films.
A character in The Puzzle of the Pepper Tree, Ralph O. Tate is a Hollywood director who is shooting a movie on Catalina, and Phyllis La Fond is
A vivacious blonde who's down on her luck and admits she'd do almost anything to make it in the movies.
Including murder???

A tourist possibility today:
For 2012 we are proud to introduce a number of new expeditions and thrills for your Island vacation, including: Night Zipping, Rock Climbing Tower, Ocean Expeditions and extreme excursions into Catalina Island’s interior in our new eco-friendly, biofuel burning H1 Hummers.
Miss Hildegarde Withers along with another character made her own adventure, thank you very much. They climbed miles of barely accessible rocky land in the rain. They could have easily never been found. A Hummer would have been most welcome that day. She wasn't looking for a thrill, she was trying to solve a murder!

The title comes from
A smooth-limbed, virginal young pepper tree dominated the view from Miss Withers' window at the hotel. … The vacationing schoolma'am had come to take a special interest in this little pepper tree. 
 A California pepper tree

This fourth book in the series finds our heroine solving a case without her friend Inspector Oscar Piper. When she finds out the murder has Manhattan/New Jersey connections, she gets in touch and he takes a train to come out. It is so refreshing, in the 1930s and even now, to see a man and woman on such equal footing. They are friends who share a mutual respect and trust for one another. Neither of them is involved with anyone romantically, so all their energies go into their friendship and their jobs. Neither one is a super-hero. They are regular people doing their best without needing the limelight. The article I linked to in the July Reading post was written in 1996, and lamented how unknown the much acclaimed Stuart Palmer was then. I'm hoping that with these new Kindle editions more and more people will read his fine work. These are mysteries of the highest quality.