Tuesday, March 18, 2014

So Many Books, So Little Time....


When we were young and foolish and anxious to impress ourselves and others with how learned and well-read we were, we bought, one at a time, the hundred best books in English literature. They are beautiful, leather-bound books and have followed us back and forth across the country and the globe, adding that learned and well-read  ambiance to all the places we’ve lived. Needless to say, in over forty years we've still read fewer than fifty percent of them between us. New plan: now that the OC is retired  we plan to read more of them.

The OC recommended  I start with The Odyssey. Really? I wasn’t thrilled with that suggestion as there was already a teetering pile, threatening to collapse from my night table onto the floor, of library books and books from friends, waiting for their turn to dazzle me. But, I made a start, fully expecting to be bored out of my mind. And truthfully, remembering the torture of translating Latin passages in school, expecting to be reminded that I am not intellectual enough to get a thrill from, or even to understand, the scribblings of long-dead Romans. But, surprise! It wasn’t at all boring. Very readable in fact. I could actually follow the thread of the story. Maybe those old geezers’ writings have survived because the things they wrote about are things that are still relevant today? That said, I’m not exactly steaming through it. As with rich chocolate, I’m pacing myself. One delicious morsel per day as opposed to gobbling the entire box in one sitting. And in between morsels I’ve been chipping away at the teetering pile.

I recently re-read Sebastian Barry’s “A Long, Long Way.” I loved it as much the second time around as I did the first. We all have access to the same vocabulary but the way Barry puts words together is to my ears what chocolate is to my tongue. Another of his, “On Canaan’s Side” is waiting on the night table. And I’m even thinking I might like to reread “The Secret Scripture.” And then there’s “The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty,” and I could even reread “Annie Dunne” just for the pleasure of feeding more chocolate to my soul.

 I have Alice Munroe’s “Dear Life,” a book of her short stories, out from the library. I’m half way through and it’s due back tomorrow. My heart won’t break. I can’t get enthused, which is probably why the Pulitzer Prize committee has not contacted me to sit on their selection board.

A friend lent me Robert Graves “Goodbye To all That” and I’ve dipped in and out and will finish it, in time. Another friend lent me “Life Stories” by Susan Vreeland, and I’ll get to that too. But somewhere in the midst of all these I happened onto “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion, an Australian I'd never even heard of and had to drop everything while I giggled my way through it. Absolutely hilarious, especially if you have a friend or acquaintance with Asperger’s. It reminded me of "The Humans" by Matt Haig and how much fun that was to read. Note to Birdy: drop everything and go get it. The Scot can fend for himself for a day or two.

Waiting at the library for me today is Anna Quindlan’s new book, “Still Life With Breadcrumbs.” Will report back when I finish it. Meanwhile, time for another few chapters from Mr. Homer.

And just in case I blaze through the teetering pile with unaccustomed speed, I’d love to hear what you all have been reading while I’ve been gone.*

* Absence unintentional.. Life gets in the way sometimes. I kept thinking “this week for sure,” and the weeks kept slipping away.  Thanks for your concern and sorry to worry you. All is well. Come see me, I've missed you all.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Reindeer In The Kitchen

I've been feeling a little Grinchy and a lot sad lately over things I cannot fix. Out of sync with the holly and the jolly, but going through the motions just the same. In my usual last-minute fashion I decided to make cookies to send to California Girl today. Yes, I'm an optimist. We still have six days to go. California Girl doesn't think it's Christmas unless there are home made cookies in the mail. And when life is making me crazy my antidote is to bake something. Two birds with one stone. I knew what I had to do.

 I had to make Reindeer Droppings, her favorites.

 Don't let the fact that they don't require baking fool you.  It takes a lot of skill to manage a herd of reindeer stomping through your kitchen. They are unaccustomed to being indoors so they get a little frisky. And they are really curious, poking their muzzles into cupboards and the sink, knocking into furniture and walls, sending potted plants flying, and wandering off to explore the bedrooms. I found one in the bathroom eating the soap.

People don't think I'm organized but let me tell you, it takes organizational skills of the highest order, (and lots of sugar cubes and Granny Smiths) to get reindeer to stand still in your kitchen and wait their turn. And all those harness bells? Deafening! Then you have to maneuver them into position so the droppings will fall neatly onto the cookie sheets. All the while trying to minimize the shuffling and scuffling among those pawing the carpet impatiently as they wait for their turn. Not to mention coaxing uniform sizes out of them. I have to go through, after they leave, and weed out the really "Splat!' ones. And of course we have the occasional "accident," where the cookies, oops! are dropped on the floor instead of the cookie sheet. 'Tis a good thing my mother-in-law was not around to see it. Her heart would have stopped. But me, I try to remain calm. .And breathe

 It's only once a year and I have shovels in the garage.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Critters and Procrastination

I haven't been sewing or quilting much since England and summer. In fact, I've been so bad I'd need a map at this stage to find my way to my sewing room. Which is not good. There's a lot I should be doing in there. I should be working on little grand daughter's quilt, if nothing else. Last thing I sewed was a doll's dress. Here's the doll wearing it....

Her other grandparents live on a farm with chickens and pigs, guinea fowl and sheep, geese and goslings, so it seemed logical that her quilt should tie in with that since she and her big brother are there a lot and love all the critters..

 And so The Little Red Hen quilt was born. Or maybe I should say conceived. Since the actual birth is turning into quite a long labor. One of love, it goes without saying, but protracted nonetheless. The contractions seem to have stopped. Pass the ptocin. Move that part of my anatomy upon which I sit.

So, you may ask, what is the problem? The problem, though I don't think of it as a problem really because I love it, is the writing. The scribbling, the editing, the follow up to Julia Cameron's first book which our library group has now embarked on, as well as the smaller group meetings, all these things can be grouped under The Writing. And as far as sewing is concerned The Writing seems to be the villain.

A start had been made, pre-England. Hope ran high that I would take it along, but alas! The part upon which I sit does not move with that kind of speed. In case you suspect me of prevarication, observe...

These here critters will scratch and dig, snort and quack their way around the outer edges of the quilt while the inner part will (eventually) fill up with pinwheels.

At least that's the plan. Anybody got a stick of dynamite?

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Miss Muffet Falls in Love

Bygone days by Nick.Coombs
Bygone days, a photo by Nick.Coombs on Flickr.

Looks like my cheering section's down to a few die hards, those who can deal with the randomness, and the frequent total absence of a blogger on these pages! One of these stalwarts is Isabelle. I was catching up on her blog last night....(I've been very baaad....had to go back quite a ways)...and came upon a post about the Yorkshire Tea Song, complete with video. It was brilliant! I became a Yorkshire tea addict this past August when I visited the OC in England, toppling my former favorite, Barry's, right off its pedestal. I even cautioned the OC when he made reservations to come home in October, that if he didn't bring a very large box of Yorkshire tea with him, he might want to make other plans. It's important to get the priorities straight.

"Hovis - for Grandma too!" - advert issued 1923, illustrated by Rowles by mikeyashworth

The Yorkshire Tea Song reminded me of the Hovis bread advert from back in the last century (I love saying that! It makes the Bean roll his eyes. Silly old lady, thinks she's funny!) Anyone else that ancient remember it?

"Little Miss Muffett sat on her tuffett as busy as busy could be,
When along came a seaman, a stout hearted seaman, who asked her to join him for tea.
But Miss Muffet said "No!" to this bold mattillot, until he produced some Hovis.
So naturally nice, such a wonderful slice! At last she's found out what true love is.
Now Little Miss Muffett's no longer Miss Muffett as she's driven away in a carrriage,
As wedding bells sound, in Hovis they found the perfect beginning to marriage!"

 "Hovis - for Grandma too!" - advert issued 1923, illustrated by Rowles, a photo by mikeyashworth on Flickr.

It must have been a radio commercial back in my teens. It just came flowing out of me like a river, no google , no pen chewing, no wrinkled brow or straining brain. It came like a torrent. Now, why can't I store important things in the part of my brain that so lucidly and cleverly stores rubbish --- with apologies to the brilliant Hovis advert creators.

The memory is an amazing organ, even mine, which those who know me acknowledge is tottering towards oblivion. When the OC calls each evening and asks what I did today the memory routinely fails.

"What did I do today?" I cast about for morsels of memory....

Surely I did something, other than drink tea and pull wool out of my navel? Meanwhile, he's waiting, and breathing. He's not a patient man so I've told him it helps to b_r_e_a_t_h_e  while he's waiting for my memory to kick in. Often, after an especially lame attempt, I'll hang up the phone and then, too late, as Christy Brown said, the full list of my day's accomplishments comes into focus. International calls to cell phones are too expensive so I don't call him back but make a mental note to wow him belatedly with my industry, on the morrow. Unfortunately, on the morrow it'll all have gone south --- again! And so, round and round the rugged rock the ragged rascal runs.

I cannot remember what I did a few hours ago.

But inconsequential ditties from long ago?

No problem! I'll even sing them for you!

One of my recent reads was The Humans by Matt Haig. I loved it! He has so many hilarious observations about humans, English humans in particular.

And yes, I wrote them down. It would be folly to depend on my memory. Here's one:

"I was drinking a cup of tea. The tea seemed to be making things better. It was a hot drink made of leaves, used in times of crisis as a means of restoring normality." (This from an alien who's been sent to earth to inhabit the body of a professor at Cambridge University. Read it yourself. You'll love it!)

 Everyone knows that about tea, right? A nice cup of tea has restorative powers pharmaceutical companies can only dream of. But I hadn't heard it articulated quite like this before and it made me laugh.  I would have posted this several hours ago but I ran into a snag.

I  remembered I'd written the quote down, in one of my notebooks.

 What I couldn't remember was which notebook? They are legion. I can rarely go to Target or Staples without buying another one 'cause you never know when you're going to run out of notebooks. And what, in that unlikely event, would I do then? Thwarted, I went to the library. The Humans was on the shelf and I found my quote.

When the OC called tonight and asked the predictable question, I debated. Should I tell him I spent a large part of the day hunting for something I wrote somewhere then lost? And then more time searching for it at the library? Yeah. You're right. Better to tell him about the bills I paid, the laundry I washed, the vacuuming I did, the weeds I pulled, the grocery shopping. And leave
 him in the dark about the writing, the reading, the blogging, the left-over snickers bars, the nattering and the tea drinking. (Yes, he did bring a big box.).

 I was in luck. He was too excited about Glasgow (though he doesn't understand the language, which is certainly not English, he claims) and the Hebrides and Whiskey distilleries, to have more than a cursory interest in "what I did today."

Next time I go to England I'll be on a mission to rediscover Hovis, that "wonderful slice!" I might even "find out what true love is, and be driven away in a carriage" to a sweet little cottage where I'll live 'til I die, eating Hovis every day, washing  it down with Yorkshire tea and finishing all my quilts. But, based on weather reports from Isabelle, I'd more likely freeze to death in the first few hours.

One sugar or two? 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Fairies Didn't Steal Me, Isabelle

Wheeling the bin out to the curb one recent dark night I gazed up at the peaceful, almost full, moon and thought about how small and insignificant our little lives and occupations must seem to the wise old man up there. And the very next thought was ---

 "I wonder if the Blister looked up at this very same moon earlier tonight?"

The Little Blister and I, in August, by the Thames

She might well have tried, but the chances are good to excellent that the weather meter in Ireland was stuck on "piddling rain," as usual, which would mean clouds, which would mean no moon, and since it's getting into Autumn over there, there could, along with piddling rain, be chill-inducing temperatures, unlikely to encourage mooning about in the driveway, gazing up at the sky.

 So, I wondered.

Did she stay inside today, wrapped in blankets against the Celtic chill? Did she beat the Retired One to the cozy chair? And sip hot tea while knocking off a scintillating post about the state of the world, on her laptop? Am I in for a treat when I nip over there later to check?

We had a long natter on the phone last weekend and made a pact to each write something on our blogs by Sunday. We didn't, however, sign it in blood. If she's feeling as distracted and discombobulated as I am, I'll forgive her if she's late. Big of me, I know.

I want to write, I have the time, but nothing comes that doesn't sound like drivel. What gives? Travelling, they say, broadens the mind;  "fills up the well." Can you hear the sloshing? All those new sights and sounds. Maybe they just went very deep and will take a while to swim up to the surface? Fingers crossed!

Meanwhile, since I have nothing inspirational to say, I'll try for some inspirational pictures.

So much for Trixie, of the six inch stilettos, in history, telling us about the evil Sassenachs. Cromwell and his ilk may have been evil, but the English I met were normal and charming. I may be just a teeny bit biased. You'll see why.....Here's exhibit A...What's not to love?

Little grand daughter

And exhibit B ......likewise.

Her big brother --- not-so-little-anymore grandson

The OC was besotted...

Oh Grandpa, what comfy shoulders you've got!

I'm putting the above, which has been languishing in draft form for weeks, out here so you'll know I tried. But it fizzled. My heart wasn't in blogging it seemed for now. All my writing energy, such as it is, is being absorbed by writing and editing for the writing group. And continues to be. Whether anything will come of it is anybody's guess, but I'm getting a lot of editing practice.

Meanwhile, the OC came home for an unprecedented two weeks! It was a shock to the system. I'm not used to company 24/7!  It was all "go" around here for the duration. The TV didn't know what happened to it. It actually got turned on at least once a day! The OC was in high velocity, organizational mode. Lots of hopping to it, clicking of heels and manning the shredder. Yard equipment humming and buzzing. And then, in a blink, he was gone. Tonight he's in Dublin. Verily I say unto you, there is no justice in the world. The man doesn't even like Guinness.

Another reason for quiet on the Mollybawn front is that I've been reading voraciously. The Blister kick-started me when she came to visit us in England and brought me Olive Kitteridge, and I found myself making notes of whole passages. Back home I devoured Light Between Oceans, Sweeping Up Glass, The Art Of Hearing Heartbeats and The Sense of an Ending. This list is for Birdy's benefit! They were all excellent but that last one was riveting. (Thank you Blister---It took me long enough to get around to it sez you!) I usually take more than a week to read a book. Now I'm scarfing them down like a starving woman. I've just started on Alice Munro. If you want to see me you'll have to make an appointment. My secretary is usually chasing lizards around the pool, so be patient. He'll fit you in between his kibble and his catnaps, while the house slowly caves in around us.

The clock is ticking and there are still an awful lot of books to read.

Tomorrow a quilt show! Stand by for pictures. We can breathe life into this old blog yet

There Isabelle.

 Look what you made me do......

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The Fairies Brought Her

Castle Oliver, Co. Limerick

Note: Unrelated photos are a peace offering since I promised long ago to show you pictures of "piles of rocks" from Ireland, 2012. Here they are, at last. More to come.

Apologies to anyone who has stopped here recently in hopes of finding something new. Anything at all, but this dead silence! The Little Blister and I made a pact a few weeks ago. I will if you will, it went, loosely. We aimed for a Sunday, a week away. Anything to jolt her into getting her blog going again. I started something, but it fizzled. I sneaked a peek at hers on the appointed day. Nothing, so I didn't feel quite so bad, but wondered what was the problem with the two of us?

Monastery Ruins, Killmallock, Co. Limerick

I can't speak for The Blister, but for myself I've been overwhelmed with this writing group I've joined. There are regularly four of us, and each one emails their work to the others on a weekly basis to be edited and critiqued. I'm definitely the rookie in the bunch, so always scrambling to keep up. I love it but it leaves very little time for blogging, unless I want the house to fall down, which I don't.

So last week I'm casting about for a piece for the writers' group. I have a few options. This or that, I wonder? Making a random decision I email it off. Arrive at the meeting. Get great feedback, some solid suggestions on how to improve it. Go home happy.

Something impels me towards the computer though it's late enough I should just go to bed. I haven't looked at the Blister's blog in a week. I haven't spoken to her in two weeks.The last time she posted was three months ago. I go for a look, and amazingly, she has posted that very day.

 Eerie enough. But the eerie factor goes through the roof when I read what she's written. A post about The Brother. Would you like to know what the piece I sent to the writing group for that exact same night was about? The Brother! What are the chances?  Big time goosebumps.

The Blister and friend M, acting the maggot. On holy ground too!

They used to say when we were young that the fairies brought her. Others used to shake their heads and say "She was here before!"

 Doesn't she look like the fairies brought her? Me? I just look frozen, though it was the middle of June. That's Ireland for you,.

I think they were right.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

At Large Among The Dreaming Spires

What's this you say? Mollybawn? Who is she, who's been absent so long from these pages? She's having a completely lazy few days and thought she'd drop in here to report that she is alive and very well, and to see what you're all up to.

She has been wandering in the UK, sleeping in a variety of beds, enjoying the company of a vast variety of hospitable people more or less related to her, or to those she loves.  She's woken many mornings to the sound of the rooster calling lie-a-beds, such as herself, to order, and  kept up with the high jinks of a four year old steam engine enthusiast, who could run rings around her with the detailed knowledge he has of said engines. She has shared with his baby sister a fascination with the guinea fowl who roam around his (other) grandparents' farm, and eaten vegetables and eggs grown there that couldn't be fresher if she got down on hands and knees and ate them off the vines, or staked out the broody hens in the chicken coop. Once in a while she's even caught a fleeting glimpse of the OC and Britboy. But best of all, she's had lots of cuddle time with that beautiful baby girl.

There's also an unconfirmed report circulating that she huffed and puffed her way to the top of a mountain in Wales. It may just be a wild rumor, but you know what they say ---"No smoke without a fire." And she is, after all, the acknowledged conqueror of Croagh Patrick.

The same Mollybawn has been spotted roaming around downtown Oxford; gasping in awe at the beautiful architecture and the plantings and flowers in the various college gardens; marveling at the multitude of spires soaring up around her; nipping in occasionally to the quiet oasis of a chapel to silently give thanks for her many blessings; soaking up the history and stories of the place like one who's been lost in the desert; she's been seen strolling in the town's beautiful Botanic Gardens and been swallowed up in marvelous bookstores where she's had to remind herself that the very same books causing temptation are also available at home, without the weight and bother of carrying them there.

She has taken hundreds, nay, thousands, of photos which she promises to organize as soon as she gets home, even though she has yet to organize the collection from last summer, but optimism is key. It will get done.

As for "morning pages," mention them and her brow knits in puzzlement. Her memory is extremely short, like the tail of a Manx cat, and just as there is no hope that such a cat will ever grow a longer tail, there is little or no hope of her memory improving. But perhaps, when she returns to her natural habitat, the familiarity of the surroundings might jog her memory and she'll start up with Julia once again.

What England is this she wonders? Where the skies are blue and the sun shines all day? Her mind is awash with roosters and chickens, guinea fowl with their beautiful feathers and hare-brained ways, groaning baskets of home grown vegetables, Pippa the pig, all grown up from babyhood last summer, a quartet of black pigs obligingly lined up for a photo shoot; a small herd of woolly sheep, led by Riley the ram of impressive hornage, and two very territorial geese.....

Like those geese, she needs someone to gabble with.....And, as luck would have it, the Little Blister will be showing up in a couple of days. Ah Bliss! That Mollybawn, whoever she is, is one lucky lady.