Sunday, January 27, 2013

Walking Through the Classics

Winter is the perfect season to become idle.   When the temperatures drop and the wind blows out of the north it is natural to stay inside, build a warm fire, curl up under a throw and grab a book, a magazine or watch a movie.  I speak, because you know I love winter, and where you can find me given the least amount of encouragement.

Shortly into winter January comes around, resolutions are made.  We begin to think of the time when we will be stripping off the heavy sweaters, coats and scarves, all those things that hide the damage done during the winter months.  I watch, try to watch, what I eat all year around....sometimes I watch it jump right out of the cookie jar and into my hand.    Seriously, I do try to be a good shepherd of my body and health.

I am not, however, one who gets overly excited about exercising just to sweat, or to say I exercise.  I need something to keep my attention.  I love walking outdoors when the weather is nice, but I find I spend more time stopping to take a picture of some random growth hidden among the roots of a tree than keeping my heart rate elevated.  I participated and loved organized sports as a teenager, yes I even ran, but find I am not competitive enough today.  So aware that I probably need to get more exercise  I am getting creative...

 There was an AT&T commercial with marathoner Ryan Hall which played during the summer Olympics I was particularly fond of.  You might remember, it showed a runner running through various landscapes while listening to an audio recording of The Odyssey using his AT&T service.  The ad ends as he continues to run and begins Moby Dick.  This started me thinking (alway dangerous).   Listening to an audio book when driving makes a long trip seem shorter and less lonely.  I often read and walk on the treadmill.  I think I might enjoy being read to while exercising/walking.

When my husband gifted me an iPad for my birthday he downloaded the app "free books".  With this app I have access to over 14,000  classics to either listen to or read.   Using Ryan's commercial as inspiration, I've decided to "walk with the classics".  I am going to lace up the sneakers, plug in the earbuds and spend sometime with some books I've read or wish I had read.  Fourteen hundred books is a lot of walking.

With the 200th year anniversary of the first publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, I am beginning with a book I love and find most comfortable.   I'll keep you posted on my progress.

I may finally make it through Moby Dick!

Do you think I might start a trend?
I could become the next exercise guru!
(are you laughing?)

Do you listen to audio books?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Reading a Classic

"Set wide the window.  Let me drink the day".
                                                                                  Edith Wharton                                                                                         

Thursday, January 24th was the 151st birthday of the American writer,  Edith Wharton.  You might remember several things were published coordinating with the celebration of her 150th birthday.

  After reading several blog posts about Edith and enjoying the beautiful layout in Vogue's September issue


I suggested an Edith Wharton novel to my book group as our classic of the year.  Many of us had previously read The Age of Innocence and some consider Ethan Frome (one of my personal favorites) too dark;  we agreed upon The House of Mirth.

At the close of our January meeting I reminded everyone I was hosting in February and the title of our next book.  Not to many sounded thrilled.  There may have been a moan or two.   I might take a beating on this one, but I, myself,  savored every last word, finishing the last 50 pages ironically on her birthday.  

It is often advised, by teachers, to write what you know.   Ms Wharton most certainly followed this advice when she penned The House of Mirth.   She was very much a part of the turn-of-century society she satirises in the novel many believe to be her best work.

Our heroine, Lily Bart, unlike our author, is a woman with a desire to live among the "irresponsible pleasure-seekers", but without the personal means to do so.   She must instead rely on her her beauty,  a small stipend she receives from her aunt and the kindness of those with whom she has attached herself.

"...The glow of the stones warmed Lily's veins like wine.  More completely than any other expression of wealth they symbolized the life she longed to lead, the life of fastidious aloofness and refinement in which every detail should have the finish of a jewel..."

I found this to be the perfect description of Lily's desires.   Lily discovers when one is on the outside looking in there is no room for bad decisions or poor alignments, and intentions are easily and sometime purposefully misconstrued and used to harm.

"The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; 
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."
                                                                   Ecclesiastes 7:4
                                                                      King James Bible

Edith Wharton does not write a "happily ever after" novel nor does she write with brevity. She does capture the desires and weaknesses of the human character beautifully.  Still today many seek to fit into a group where they find themselves walking the edge and always beholding to others.  And, like Lily they find the price forever steep and the fall quick and shattering.  Is the message in The House of Mirth still relevant?

This has been my favorite book of this book group year,
but I may have to wow my fellow readers with the food...
or drink.

 A list of the books we've read so far this year:
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (a mystery/crime turner, but not a favorite)
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Robert Olen Butler
(a collection of stories told by Vietnamese refugees 
who built a and around a part of the United States I know very well)
The Unit, Ninni Homqvist (it is really hard for me to dislike a book so much)
Where'd You Go, Bernadett, Maria Semple (totally enjoyed it)

via tumbler
Enjoy your winter reading!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Inquiring Minds Asked

Many ask about the concoction I used on the oven door;  I am more than happy to share.

The solution was simply 1/3 cup baking soda and enough warm water to make a "runny" paste.   The directions were to spread it on and leave for 15 to 30 minutes.  I left it on for an hour.  It worked okay, but as I said it took some scrubbing.  

The second site suggested, after slathering the baking soda paste on the glass, spraying it with vinegar.   This was actually a little fun.  It was like making a homemade volcano on the oven door.  When the vinegar hits the baking soda it bubbles up.   I'm not for sure there was a clear winner in this contest.

Here is my warning....before cleaning the door cover the vents.  Yes, a trickle of water splashed into one of the vents (okay, I may have added a little too much vinegar)  and slipped down the backside of the glass (meaning between the two glass panes...meaning I can't wipe it clean).  It is not harmful to the oven or the door, but you know it is really bugging me.  Please, learn from my "oops" moments. 

My next project to tackle?  
Cleaning and repainting the adirondack chairs....maybe come spring.
Or... maybe I'll just sit back with a beverage and supervise.

Do you have projects calling your name?   

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Little Bit of Tongue in Cheek

Do you search blogs and pinterest for DIY ideas or instructions?  I'll read it if it pops up.   If it sounds useful I will repin; I might even try it.  

Several weeks ago I saw instructions for an easy clean solution for the glass on the oven door.   I have a wonderful self-cleaning oven.  All I need to do is push a button, the door locks and the cleaning begins.  When the timer dings I merely open the door and occasionally wipe up a bit of dust.  HOWEVER, the glass in the door is never clean.  In fact since the oven cleans at such a high temperature the grease, and/or whatever it is, seems to be baked on as surely as if it was fired in a kiln. 

I have tried everything; nothing has worked to my liking.
 With a day out of school, I thought I might should take on some of the less savory tasks.  Those things that really bother me, but I never have time to tackle.
Seriously?  I would rather be reading.

The instructions I found used baking soda and water.  It showed the nasty before and the after sparkling clean glass.  I made my solution and spread it over the glass.   Set the timer for 30 minutes...okay I set it for 60 minutes.   After the holidays, it was in need of a really good cleaning.

If you are at the point wondering what the quotations have to do with my chosen task of the day... I will tell you...absolutely nothing.   I  found these on pinterest while waiting for the baking soda and water to preform it's magic.  I thought it would be nicer to share some inspiration rather than a picture of my oven door.  I've never been one to expose all my dirty little secrets.

Did it work?  Well...  

The door is much cleaner.

Did it work in a snap?

Like most things in life it took time and elbow grease.
I'm okay with that.

The other recipe I found included white vinegar.  Like Mother Hubbard my cupboard was bare...well of white vinegar.

Roger is bringing a bottle home this afternoon, and more baking soda
Yes,  I'm afraid my OCD is showing a bit.

I've earned some reading time.

Enjoy your afternoon!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Perfect Winter Reading

I may have spent several days of my beach respite indoors but I was not alone.  I found a comfy quilt to  cuddle up with and brought out some friends I brought along to keep me company.

I don't know what I expected when I picked up The Language of Flowers; it was not what I had anticipated... and I loved every word of it.  Upon entering this novel one might think the sole purpose  is to bring to light the dysfunction of our foster-care system.   I am not one to say it was not Vanessa Diffenbaugh's purpose, as I understand she is personally familiar with the system.  Though I do believe it does show the plight of so many foster children, once past the introductory first pages, I found this message to serve more as a path to the power of being loved, loving, and forgiveness.

Victoria Jones has been shuffled from foster home to foster home.   To her social worker she is nothing more than a folder marked failure.   For many of her young years Victoria was used, neglected and ignored until, given one last chance, she arrives at the farm of vineyard owner Elizabeth.  With Elizabeth, a woman fighting her own demons,  she finds her place, her voice.  She finds a mother's unconditional love, but like so many times before disappointment eventually finds her.  After a tragic incident Victoria is removed from the home she has begun to call her own.

At eighteen an emancipated Victoria  finds herself alone, without a home and without money.  Using the knowledge she learned from Elizabeth of flowers and their power she begins to find herself and her destiny. Victoria comes to learn so often things have more than one interpretation, be it someone's departure or the meaning of a yellow rose.

In The Language of Flowers we walk the narrow line between conflict and redemption; a story of sadness and faith, sprinkled with a little magic.  Victoria's tale will follow me for many days.


I have had Crossing on the Paris on my "to read" list since first finding it on the new release table in the bookstore.   Reading  Dana Gynther's debut novel described as a cross between "The Titanic" and "Downton Abbey I was sold.  I was not disappointed.

Crossing on the Paris , a beautifully written character based novel,  gives us the tale of three women separated by age and social class as they journey across the Atlantic aboard the SS Paris.   Having spent thirty years in Paris, the elderly and dying Vera Sinclair questions her decision to return to America as she settles into her first class suite along with her attentive maid and beloved dog.  Constance Stone, after an unsuccessful trip to Paris to retrieve her wayward sister,  finds comfort alone in her second class accommodations for the voyage back to her two daughters and inattentive husband.   Lastly, we find Julie Vernet, a  young Le Harve resident, at the rail waving to parents who have already discussed renting her room, before descending down to steerage to find a cot in the servants dormitory.   During the voyage each woman will meet someone who will force her to confront a past as she is faced with life altering events.  The outcome of their decisions will send them colliding into one another giving us a heartbreaking yet hopeful ending.

Either of these books would make great reading on a winter's day.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Twelve Minute Trip

On most mornings it takes me seventeen minutes to get to school.   My husband was amazed when I shared my route with him.  I take that road, then turn there, take that side street, around the curve,  turn right at the stop sign, down the hill and there is the entrance.  Seventeen minutes!

My return trip home takes a bit longer depending on the time of day.  Seldom does it take me longer than twenty minutes.   If I hit the traffic lights just right I can sometime make it in my seventeen minute time frame.  

So why am I talking about this today?

Oh, the trip in this morning was fine.  I zipped this way, then that,  cutting through the usual neighborhood and arrived with no problems.  The children arrived and we began our day.  

Our letter this week is the letter Q.   Once we finished a little table work, we gathered in circle time.  I ask the children, "What is a question?"  Everyone started talking, but no one could answer my question.  I explained a question is a group of words we put together to get information.   I told them many questions begin with who, what, when, where or how.   I gave several examples then ask the children to raise their hands and ask me a question.

At the beginning there was the expected, "One time" and "My daddy".   I stopped each one and explained a question is used to ask something, not to tell a story.  Soon I was hearing, "When do we go to music?"... "Do I stay for lunch today?" ... "When will it get dark?"...  

I jumped up and began applauding and cheering (in my head I was patting myself on the back).  I was so excited...they got it.... They were really grasping the concept.  With each question came another, then I heard, "Miss Bonnie when can we go out and play in the snow?"  Continuing to clap I said, "Oh that is a marvelous question".

"No Miss Bonnie, look out the window, when do we get to go outside and play in the snow?"

It was not only snowing but sleeting.   Parents began arriving to pick up children with stories of roads becoming treacherous.  Soon we received word school was closing.  Emails went out,  phone calls were made.  

around this corner was bumper to bumper
While waiting for the last of the children to leave, a friend and I discussed the best route to take home.  We planned and left within minutes of one another.  I called my husband to tell him I was leaving school; it was 12:20.   Twelve minutes?  Not quite.  I drove into my driveway at 2:30.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but there were cars slipping and sliding all around.
I'm happy to be home safely with a fire in the fireplace.

What will tomorrow bring?
I don't have an answer to that question.

I do love winter!

Did you have an adventure today?

Stay safe and warm!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Bit Foggy

This has been a strange week.  I've felt a bit restless, unable to focus.  I have nothing to really point to, with certainty, as the cause.  Monday was my first day back in school.  The children couldn't have been more excited.  In fact, it was an amazing week spent working and playing.  Really we took it slow sliding back into our day-to-day routine.   Even with rainy days ( playground time) the children did remarkably well.

Here it is the new year and, honestly, I am feeling pretty much the same as I did in the old year.  If you have been with me for a while you know my post Christmas visit to Seaside, Florida is when I recharge.  It is by the water where I find the balance I need.  The sound of the ocean speaks to my soul taking me to a peaceful place.

Usually I spend hours at the water's edge during the week after Christmas.  I read...I write...I contemplate the last year, failures and successes, as Father Time and I celebrate another year's end and beginning together.   Mostly I listen.  I listen to the waves hitting the shore and find a solace I find in no other place.

I suppose you might say it is where my heart slows,
my brain stops churning
and I can hear.

This year I arrived not feeling up to par.  With the weather windy, rainy and cold, the first full day I stayed pretty much inside.   I walked to the grocery, the bookstore and around a bit but found as night approached I had yet to venture near the water.  My only view had been enjoyed from our tower windows.

The next day, wanting to hear the waves I bundled up in muckers and a down-coat to walk the beach.  I became chilled and returned to the confines of my tower.

I am often ask what the weather is like at the beach during winter.  My usual answer is I never know.   Some years we are wearing t-shirts and shorts.  Some years we wrap up in coats, scarfs and hats.  You just never know.  No matter,  I've never allowed the weather to keep me from enjoying my time near the water... this trip was just different.  Everything seemed, not unenjoyable,  just a bit unbalanced.

Being the perpetual optimist, I know the sun will rise,
the fog will clear, and
all will be back as it should be.

Or maybe....
I just need to return to the beach
and have a do over....

Anyone want to join me?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Torn Between Two Loves

It was a rather bookish Christmas and birthday here at Living Life.  I both gave and received a number of books and gift cards to purchase books.  My family and friends were very sweet and generous, so to say the books were my favorite gifts would be like choosing a favorite child.  Seriously,  I love and appreciate everything gifted to me.

Now back to the books. 

One book I received from Santa (well, sort of...another story) was My Bookstore, a compilation of essays by various authors bragging on their favorite bookstores.  Several of my favorites are represented, making this book even more enjoyable.  

Once the last box of Christmas decorations was packed, carried upstairs and stored away for another year, the last of the evergreen needles swept out,  I had the luxury of time.  Time to brew a cup of tea and sit down to visit some of my favorite bookstores.

When beginning a book I often skim the Introduction with plans on returning upon reading the last word on the last page.  It is my way to extend the pleasure of a good book.  It is also how I evaluate what I gained from my reading against the point the author might have been wanting to express.

The editors of My Bookstore selected Richard Russo to write its introduction.   To skim anything written by Russo is to miss out on his amazing talent.  His intro tells us about his own love of the bookseller while giving a slight warning that the independent bookstore might be an endangered species.  We also are given the hint that this is not just a collection of stories, but of love letters written to those who allow us to browse, sit, and read.  It is to those who greet us with a smile  and help us find our next favorite book.

Three of my most favorite bookstores are listed in this book; I began with their essays.  They did not disappoint.

My very favorite bookstore?

Lemuria is in Jackson, Mississippi.  I would love to sit here and expound on all the attributes of this wonderful place, but Barry Moser says it all in the very beginning of his celebration of Lemuria.

"A few years ago I was writing a speech and wanted to quote a line that Lt. Col. "Bull Meacham says in the film The Great Santini.  I had not read Pat Conroy's book at that time and wanted to know that what I was about to quote was in the book, not just in the movie.  Now understand that I live in one of the most bookish places in the country, home to Smith College, Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mt. Holyoke College, and the main campus of the University of Massachusetts, all within ten miles of each other.  But when I started looking around the area for a copy of Conroy's book, I couldn't find one.  Nary a single copy was in any bookstore---new or used, big box or independent---in the valley.  So I decided to call John Evans.  John owns one of the finest bookstores in America:  Lemuria Books in Jackson, Mississippi, which specializes in books by Southern writers and all manner of things Southern.  I called Johnny and asked if he had a copy.  His response?

"Yeah, Barry, sure I do.  You want it in paperback, hardback, or signed first edition?" "

My own copy of My Bookstore actually was purchased at Lemuria, after a slight reminder to Santa it was missing Christmas morning.  The clerk not only made sure Santa received a copy signed by Mr. Moser, she marked it with one of their wonderful bookmarks assuring us it was one of the best articles in the book.  A point I concur with wholeheartedly.

We always schedule a stop to browse when passing through Jackson.

Okay, so now onto explain my title for this post.   I am sure many noticed in my last post there was a photograph of two books stacked on top of my ereader.

As I am reading through a book extolling the virtues of independent booksellers and the necessity of keeping them alive, nodding and agreeing with every word, I am reeling with guilt because I not only download some of the books I read to an ereader, I am now the owner (a birthday present from the above mentioned Santa) of an....

iPad mini.

I will not lie, while I love nothing better than holding "a real book" in my hands, turning the pages,  inhaling the aroma of paper and wondering who might have opened the covers hoping to find a good read,  I enjoy the ease and convenience of an electronic book when traveling.

The thought of the demise of "hard copies" of books and subsequently bookstores makes me extremely sad.  To know there may at sometime be a generation of children who not know the pleasure of holding their very own first  "real" book tears at my very core.  And yet, I am in a small way part of the very problem.  We all know a lot of smalls make one great big "large".

I hope, and I believe there is a place for both the bookseller and the digital book in our future.  What do you think?

Do you have a favorite bookstore?
Do you download some of your reads digitally?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Baby Needed His Sweater

Oh, I thought it would be a piece of cake.  Yes I would be knitting with yarn in both hands, but once I found  a rhythm it was smooth sailing.

Well....until I began the sleeves.   It was necessary at this point to write out my own pattern and to keep accurate account of exactly the stitch and row I had finished.  This is totally against my "fly by the seat of my pants" mentality.

As temperatures returned to the 70s in October and November I returned the sweater to the knitting basket and quickly forgot about it.  

When friends began telling me we were going to have six inches of snow on Christmas day, I knew even if it did snow the warm autumn temps would prevent it from sticking.  It would make for a pretty Christmas Day though.

Once again I was....WRONG....  little did I know the snow would be preceded by an inch of ice.

By midnight we had ten inches of snow, ice and no power.
It was beautiful, yes, but...

the jester needed his sweater.

Packing for Seaside I picked up the yarn and needles and tucked them in
with my stack of books.

After the ten hour ride home, baby has his sweater.

isn't he a handsome boy?

Waldi is ready to cheer on his Ole' Miss team tonight!

Hotty Toddy!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy New Year!

What a week!

Christmas came

and surprised us with ice

and snow.

With the help of friends we were able to escape, in spite of having no power,



We celebrated sunsets,

another birthday,

and the New Year!

Wishing you happiness, peace and contentment in 2013.

Thank you for visiting me here at Living Life, for commenting and for
always lifting me up.

A little late, but no less heartfelt,
Happy New Year!

(I'm off to catch up with you!)