Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Night Before Halloween

Yes, here it is the night before Halloween, 
and the candy bowl is empty.

I ask my children what I should buy.
I gave them options....

Goldfish, or

fruit snacks.

What do you think was the favorite?

Whatever I end up with I promise
my little ghosts and ghouls 

will not go away empty handed.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Apples, Apples, Apples and Pumpkins

A few weeks ago I was treated to a trip just across the Missouri/Illinois border to pick apples.  I was so excited, the threat of rain couldn't dampen my enthusiasm.  I have picked strawberries and blueberries, peaches and pears, grapes and....well, you get the idea.
I have never had the good fortune to pick and eat an apple off the tree.

After being greeted by "Johnny"

we were ready to board one of the tractor towed wagons for a short,
but bumpy ride out to the orchards.

The trees were loaded with red apples

and green apples.

There were oh so many apples, and
  we were not the only ones enjoying the bounty.

We filled our bags and 

walked across the road to the pumpkin patch.

Now, there may have been one or two in our small group of four
who thought we were only at the farm to pick apples.  And,
I will admit, I did say I only wanted to take a few photographs.

                      can you really pass up a perfect pumpkin?
                                            A perfect pumpkin just sitting there asking to be picked up?
                                                            A perfect pumpkin with an amazingly fabulous stem?

It is all about the stem!
Do you agree?

And so we loaded our treasures onto the trailer and headed back...

for the great weight in...

That's a lot of apples!
The pumpkins came next...

Oh my!
I turned and walked away.
I could have been in a little trouble, but
everyone was still smiling.

Whew, I needed a little refreshment
to steady my nerves.

On the way out I continued to browse.


and gourds 

to meet every need.

We loaded up the car and headed back just as the rain began to fall.

I returned home thinking of all the delicious goodness I would create with my many apples.
Apple butter, apple muffins, apple cake, spiced apples...
Visions of grandeur.

I did roast a few with a butternut squash, sweet potatoes and onions.
There might have been a small

apple pie.  The rest were enjoyed,
simply one apple at a time.

"An apple a day...."

Do you enjoy going out to pick your own bounty?
Do you have a favorite apple recipe?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Cemetery of Forgotten Books

"After a while it occurred to me that between the covers of each of those books lay a boundless universe waiting to be discovered, while beyond those walls, in the outside world, people allowed life to pass by in afternoons of football and radio soaps, content to do little more than gaze at their navels.  It might have been that notion, or just chance, or its more flamboyant relative, destiny, but at that precise moment I knew I had already chosen the book I was going to adopt, or that was going to adopt me. "
                                                                     Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind

Gothic mystery is not usually the description I am drawn to when looking for a book to pick up.  When I hear gothic mystery I think of, and mistakenly so, the recently bestselling vampire novels.  I am an eclectic reader though, and while using a bit of time, between appointments, in a favorite nearby bookshop, I found myself drawn to a book in the window.

I picked it up, read the synopsis, and author's bio.  There were those words "gothic mystery".  Translated from Spanish to English and the second in a series,  I just didn't think it was what I was looking for.

I browsed "everyone's favorite" shelf, checked out what local book groups were reading and slowly worked my way along the wall stacked with fiction to fulfill every bibliophile's desire.   I continued the hunt, touching, looking for a favorite author; waiting for a title to jump off the shelves and into my hands. 

There was Wilke Collins's The Woman in White staring at me,  a rather dark mystery I enjoyed, but not really a favorite.   I moved on.

 Charles Dickens was nearby, an author I found as a teenager and still enjoy visiting time and again.   Great ExpectationsA Christmas Carol and Bleak House, all a bit dark, gothic and sinister.  

Nearby quietly sat Daphne duMaurier's Rebecca, a favorite.  I removed it from the shelf's grasp and held it as if greeting an old friend.   The words gothic, mystery  and romance began swimming in my head, but these are classics I fought back.   Other titles began asking to be remembered, Emily Bronte's Wurthering Heights and Charlotte's  Jane Eyre.

My browsing time was running out.  If I was going to leave with a book (and I never leave empty handed) I would need to make a decision quickly.  I arrived at the last shelf of fiction, scanning near the bottom, there it was again, squeezed between a the end of the "Y's", but before the last "Z".  I suspect it had been expecting me from the moment I returned its identical twin back in the shop window.

I picked it up and rushed to make my purchase. 
 "Add it to my baker's dozen", please."

The Angel's Game  is the second book and prequel to The Shadow of the Wind in Carlos Ruiz Zafon's El cementer do los libros olividados (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books) series.

Throughout each of these novels, Zafon masterfully transports us down the dark and often sinister streets of early 20th century Barcelona building his multi-layered stories within the story along the way.   At times you may feel you should be taking notes to keep up with both events and characters.  The endings are perfection!

With each book closing at around 500, and a little more, pages,  you might want to save opening these for a cold snowy weekend when you have nothing else to do.  I promise... once Mr. Zafon pulls you in,  you will not be able to escape until you read the last word.  And, if you enjoyed one, you will immediately rush out to find a second.  This is a series, but both of these novels can stand on their own.

Some reviewers give higher marks to The Shadow of the Wind.
I equally enjoyed both.  I was probably slightly liberal giving both four stars;  when a book holds my attention to the point I am standing at the stove stirring tomato sauce all the while reading feverishly to find out what happens next, gets my four stars. 

There is a third book in the series The Prisoner of Heaven.
I may need to pace myself!

Thanks to all the authors of my past who reminded
 me, yes they are classics, and gothic mysteries;  so many of my favorites.

Have you read either of these titles?
I would love to hear your thoughts.

Happy Reading!


Thank you all for your kind "feel better" wishes.
I am feeling much better.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October Favorites

Are you enjoying October's beauty?

October is one of my very favorite months.
Summer has long bid her farewell, and the rush
of the holidays has yet to arrive.

It has been busy here, and at times a little overwhelming.
I've not been too busy though to enjoy some Autumn favorites.

A seasonal passing of the baton.

The first changing leaves.

Bits of the season placed here and


Aromas of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg wafting through the house.

Picking apples off the tree,

and pumpkins from the vine.

Curling up with a new favorite author while taming a cold.

My plate is full today; words seem to be just beyond my reach.
Blessing are, however, in abundance,
and I am filled with gratitude.

Enjoy the beauty of Autumn!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tough Teachers

I read an interesting article, "In Praise of Tough Teachers", on education in this past weekend's Wall Street Journal heralding the education many of us over the age of 40 received.  An education that consisted of strict discipline, little praise, and hard work.   The author uses her own experience with her school orchestra conductor who would stop the entire group to scream at a musician out of tune.   He held endless rehearsals and corrected hand and arm positions by poking the offending appendages with a pencil eraser.  This sounds harsh by todays standards, doesn't it?  Yet when he died he was remembered as a beloved teacher whose discipline and work ethic led to the success of so many of his students.  The author does not advocate corporal punishment in any form or fashion in her writing, but applauds the education standards of years ago when hard work was expected, failure was an option, rote learning was the norm, praise was withheld and the student who put forth the most effort was
 the student rewarded.  The phrase, "you can do better" was frequently heard in the classroom many years ago.

Joanne Lippman writes an insightful editorial of how our education system of entitlement is failing our students, while giving valid reasons for returning to an earlier, possibly a less gentle, but seemingly more successful philosophy.  I strongly believe it is our education system which dictates a successful and prosperous future.    When we fail our children by not setting high expectations, we are limiting our future resources.  If you are concerned with where we are going,  I encourage you to read this article.  I suspect Ms. Lippman may be on to something.