Friday, September 25, 2020

Current Reading Pleasures--Current Fall Reading

What's on my bed table now?


 Seasoned Timber by Dorothy Canfield, before she added Fisher to her name. This 1939 novel about New England school principal T. C. Hulme is one I reread every few Septembers. If ever a book was rich and plummy, this is it.


My favorite Jane Austen novel, Persuasion, was a must read again after I took the "which Austen character are you" quiz that I saw on a blog friend's blog, wish I could remember which one. When I found that I was Anne Elliot of Persuasion I was entirely comfortable with the result. 

I'm on chapter  9 now and alternating it at night with All That Heaven Allows, the book by Edna and Harry Lee that the movie of the same name was taken from starring Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson. The book naturally has much more of the story in it than a movie could possibly hold but the movie added some scenes that I simply love. I am particularly fond of good 1950s movies and this is one of my top favorites with its great casting including Agnes Moorehead.  



I have one new book on my bed table, the first of a mystery series by Elly Griffiths recommended to me by my blog friend from The Babbling Brook. 


 I hope I will enjoy this series as much as she does. I can certainly identify with the forensic archaeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway in the first paragraph of Chapter One...

Waking is like rising from the dead. The slow climb out of sleep, shapes appearing out of blackness, the alarm clock ringing like the last trump. Ruth flings out an arm and sends the alarm crashing to the floor, where it carries on ringing reproachfully. Groaning, she lowers herself upright and pulls up the blind.  Still dark. It's just not right, she tells herself, wincing as her feet touch the cold floorboards. Neolithic man would have gone to sleep when the sun set and woken when it rose. What makes us think this is the right way round?...It just wasn't right somehow.

This is all for my week of Current Reading Pleasures. 

 Happy reading, everyone! My new goal is to blog only during the week and take the weekend off so I'll see you next week. 



Thursday, September 24, 2020

Current Reading Pleasures--Gentle Books

 There are nights when I go to bed and only want a gentle book to read, almost nursery food books. Those are the nights I turn to the old authors on my shelves like the old Cape Cod books of Sara Ware Bassett that I posted about this summer at the Window. Right now I'm turning to my shelf of books by Lida Larrimore with her comforting domestic details.


1932's Robin Hill

The dining-room was charming with its ivory-paneled walls, its mahogany rubbed to the dark shining of ox-heart cherries, its rug patterned in soft shades of rose and amber and blue. The rain was falling steadily. She drew the curtains across the windows. There! The room was perfect.

Lee had thought that she wouldn't care about Christmas. But she found, surprisingly, that she did. She hung the holly wreathes in the windows and helped Susie to make cookies, small fat ones bursting with citron and raisins and nuts, crisp ones cut into star and crescent shapes and sprinkled over with sugar. 

1933's Jonathan's Daughter

Chapter 1: The rosewood sofa hadn't been sold! It stood in the window of the small, rather dingy shop on Eighth street surrounded by an assortment of undistinguished objects. The sofa had distinction. A skillful craftsman had fashioned its graceful frame. The wood delicately carved, shone with a dull luster. The upholstery was of damask, almond-green, dimly patterned with apricot flowers and small gold leaves. There was in the rosewood sofa a blending of character and frivolity, of extravagance and enduring charm. Standing in the clutter of objects in the window, it had the air of a gentle aristocrat reduced to common neighbors.

I could easily type paragraph after paragraph of this book but you can see what I mean, why  a Larrimore book lulls me into sleep, not from boredom but from an all's well with the world mind. Not a bad way to end the day in 2020.

My next post, the final one of this week of reading pleasures, will be about what's on my bed table now. 

 Happy reading, everyone! 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Current Reading Pleasures--More Books

 Elizabeth Berg's The Year of Pleasures is one I regretted spending money on. I know, Berg is a wonderful author. I especially loved her The Pull of the Moon

The title and cover sold me the book and it started out so well. The dust jacket says that the book "is about acknowledging the solace found in ordinary things: a warm bath, good food, the beauty of nature, music, friends, and art." 

It's probably just me, at this stage of my life, but the book didn't live up to that statement and I put the book aside three pages before the ending and moved on to an old Isabel Dalhousie book, The Novel Habits of Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith. 

 While I've never been able to get into some other of McCall Smith's series, like The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, the philosopher from Edinburgh, Isabel Dalhousie, is always balm to my spirits. And I particularly like her love of W. H. Auden.

I thought that love would last for ever, I was wrong that line of Auden's that contained a truth about everything, not just love. And we had to act as if things were not going to end, because if we did not, then we would do so little in life. People still planted oak trees and created gardens, which they might not do with quite the same enthusiasm, or would not do at all, if they stopped to think of the brevity of life.

In a nutshell, at this point in my life, the philosophy of that paragraph is part of what excites me about each day of my senior years, even during a pandemic. 

When I saw that McCall Smith had written a small book on Auden, What W. H. Auden Can Do For You, I had to get it. I took down my big book of Auden poetry, turning back and forth between the two as I read the little book. 


After reading again Auden's "Funeral Blues", that always saddens the reader, I read what McCall Smith wrote about it and "September 1, 1939" that was brought to wide attention after 9/11.

Auden in general speaks to the more mature mind, but the raw sorrow and sense of loss that the poem conveys spoke to a young audience that had probably never heard of him. 

He's speaking here of the young people, and not so young, who first heard the lines of "Funeral Blues" in Four Weddings and A Funeral. 

And the same might be said of "September 1, 1939," another poem that touched the public imagination so vividly. That poem was photocopied and faxed around New York in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade towers.

I was so moved by something McCall Smith wrote near the end of this book that I have to include it here as a reassurance to myself that while we are increasingly reminded that we are citizens of the world that we still can and surely should cherish and pass on to our children and their children the unique culture of our own region.  

Preserving the human scale of our lives in the face of the onslaught of globalization and its bland culture cannot be achieved by legislative fiat. The declared cultural policy of states may be to protect or enhance local culture--France does that, as does Canada, to an extent--but such measures sometimes seem to be no more than putting of a finger in a dike of a near-universal popular culture. It is very difficult to protect ourselves from fast-food chains or standardized coffee bars; it is equally difficult to keep fragile or threatened cultures alive in the face of blandishments of powerful offerings from far away. Many people today lead cultural lives that are rendered shallow because the things that have been authentic to their particular place are overshadowed by things made or done for them elsewhere, a long way from where they are, and having no ties to their past. That may be largely inevitable, given technological change, but it involves the loss of possibilities of feeling and belonging and fosters a consequent impoverishment of spirit. We can restore the power of the local by resisting the claims of those forces that would take away from us our control of our local lives. It is not particularly easy, but victories can be achieved against impersonal agencies, against empires even, by people asserting the value of what is local to them and taking back the power to control it.  

That's a long quote from Alexander McCall Smith's What Auden Can Do For You, but struck me as so important when I see those of us in the United States being herded into a homogenized people, with even regional dialects fading away. I hope we won't all be molded into one smiling programed American prototype much as a Data from Star Trek. 

Thank you to any who have read this long and probably boring book post. I bet you're glad I have comments turned off on my blog! These posts are probably self-indulgent but reducing my screen time on my phone by 50% this last week, mainly from not looking at Facebook has given me time to actually do something with all the books stuffed with post-it notes in my office. Back on my shelves they go when I finish another book post!

My next book post will be about some of what I call my Nursery Food books that I've turned to when that is all I could handle in my bedtime reading. 




Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Current Reading Pleasures--Books

 I did something recently that I rarely do anymore--I ordered a newly published book instead of ordering more vintage books by my favorite authors.

I ordered Erica Bauermeister's House Lessons after seeing it in a blog friend's current reading stack. Bauermeister's first novel, The School of Essential Ingredients was a favorite of mine and I still have it in my cookbook library. 


I liked House Lessons. I loved her first chapter, "Falling in Love," about that mysterious and often inexplicable reason why, if we're lucky, "We walk in a front door for the first time and feel at home."

All that she wrote about it was the way I felt about Valley View that September day in 1990 that I first walked in the door and within an hour RH and I had signed a contract on the house that would be our home until 2016.

I did finish House Lessons, reading it off and on for several weeks between other books. The story of her renovating an old house in Port Townsend, Washington was interesting. 

But if you want to read a book about the true story of building a house that you won't be able to put down, I would recommend House by Pulitizer Prize-winning Tracy Kidder. It was written in 1985 and I still reread it every few years. Anne Tyler said she read it in one sitting but she must be a very quick reader.


Kidder not only brings every single person who worked on their house to life, they are people I would love to know and have coffee with, if I drank coffee.

Kidder especially admired the architect for his "keen sense of place." Bill, the architect, says, "I think that's one thing that makes someone want to be an architect. Every little place connotes something. It has a feel to it. It's fascinating. A sense of place, and then how to fit a building into it." This book is just lovely!

And by the way, if you ever want to read a novel about an architect, James Williamson, an architect himself, wrote his first novel, The Architect, with his protagonist Ethan Cotham being just as compelling as Ayn Rand's Howard Roark was in The Fountainhead, although I don't picture the Memphis architect being quite as handsome as Gary Cooper.


My next post will be about an Elizabeth Berg novel I recently purchased and read, almost.

Happy September reading everyone!


Monday, September 21, 2020

Current Reading Pleasures--Magazines



A trip to the mailbox is always more fun when a new magazine is delivered. One from Garden & Gun or Yankee is always welcome. The literary content in both magazines is excellent and both RH and I look forward to them. 

I rarely read his Consumer Report, and never his beloved Air & Space (not pictured), but this issue with the article on "Produce without Pesticides" is one I want to read.


 But it is this September issue of British Country Living that has been a joy ever since RH brought it home to me the other day--a surprise and a treat. While my favorite British magazine is Period Living, that RH said the bookstore was out of, this magazine is full of pretty thoughts and pretty things.


I especially enjoyed the article on "10 of the Best British Artisans."


The candle on my table is Milkhouse Candles' Rake, Pile, Leap! It's my favorite fall candle, one that RH likes as much as I do. 


My next post will be about some of the books I've been reading recently--the winners and the loosers.

Happy September reading to everyone! 



Saturday, September 19, 2020

Keeping a Dachshund Still and a September Garden Tour


This was supposed to be a book post but instead it's a James Mason and garden post.

Our beautiful and normally active boy is having another IVDD flareup. I thought something was wrong when he didn't leap into his bed last night in my bedroom. It's a funny little ritual we have, I fluff his nest and blanket up and he runs from the hall and leaps into his bed and I laugh and say, "Good boy!" 

After that BreeBree jumps up into my reading chair on her blanket and after tummy rubs for both of them and several I love you's and nite-nites I get in bed myself. 

 That didn't happen last night and he was restless all night, also unusual, and this morning was walking that way that signaled back trouble again and to the vet for prescriptions. 

And another week or two of keeping him as confined and quiet as possible. He's asleep now, both of them are, in their nest in my office while I keep them company, my laptop open.

Instead of books I'll share some pictures of our morning garden tour from a few days ago.

The walk from our kitchen porch to the gate opening to our driveway is lined with boxwoods and marigolds and a profusion of garlic in flower.

The little spots of amber color on this one are  the small bees that love it all summer. Larger bees join them as noon comes. You have to be brave when by afternoon three kinds of bees are covering it and daring you to walk by them.

The picture below shows the manicured path after RH took scissors to the garlic this week after trying to navigate the path while carrying armloads of groceries to the kitchen. 


 I'm one who begs to let everything spill out into the path and I hide the loppers when he threatens to cut back low branches over the garden, but I could see his point about this main path. 

The garden is winding down, not much color in it now except for marigolds and some purple sages and salvias.



The Autumn Joy is pretty now.

A little color is left in the oak leaf hydrangea.


And the tomato plant is finally doing well and I plan to pick these three when they first start to turn pink before the critters get to them.



We are having such pleasant weather now that it is nice to sit in the garden.


I have to admit that I've always been a little bit of a marigold snob. This is the first year here that we've had them. Our daughter planted four small ones here in May and I am so thankful she did. They are gorgeous now and such nice pops of color after all the pinks and purples have almost disappeared by now.


The pond is pretty after all the rain we had this week, but I hope RH will use that pile of gravel blocking view to it soon! [Sometimes he actually does fix something after I point it out on the blog.]


When RH took scissors to the garlic I asked him to bring them in to me. I'm not going to pass up free greenery and flowers anytime! 


Of course there was garlic perfume in the kitchen all day but I happen to love that scent.

Here's a picture of James Mason and BreeBree that a dear friend reminded me of this week. It's a favorite of hers and mine too, and I told her that it only took about 50 shots to get this one perfect one. Simply because you cannot keep a dachshund still. And that's my job now while James Mason's back heals. 



Saturday, September 12, 2020

Concerning Blogging, and A Favorite Lunch

 I'm probably not alone lately in feeling that the world has been too much with me and in a desperate desire to find tranquility of mind and spirit, I'm pulling back my involvement in social media to a comfortable level. As a small part of this I'm blocking comments at both my blogs and, at least for the time being, will be posting only as a type of personal journal that may involve long boring posts on my favorite books or recipes that I'll mainly post for that family cookbook that my kids will stick in a drawer. 

[Tuppy thinks to herself] Seventy-seven. What had happened to the years? Old age seemed to have taken her unaware and totally unprepared. Tuppy Armstrong was not old. Other people were old, like one's own grandmother, or characters in books. She thought of Lucilla Eliot, in The Herb of Grace. The epitome, one would have thought, of a perfect matriarch.

                      from Under Gemini by Rosamunde Pilcher

 I am now the same age as Tuppy and am examining how I want to spend the energy and hours I may have left. We live in unsettled times, to put it mildly, and owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to weigh how we want to spend precious time that will not always be there.

One thing that I don't want to spend my hours on anymore is elevated stress following the political story of the day on Facebook, or, God forbid, ever again participating in what Mrs. Minerva called, "tedious and unprofitable discussion...clear from the outset that neither side was going to budge an inch."

Good grief, how such discussions drain one!

Tuppy refers to Lucilla Eliot as truly old so maybe I truly am too because I agree with Lucilla in one of my favorite books, The Herb of Grace (American title: Pilgrim's Inn):

Lucilla knew always...that it was homemaking that mattered. Every home was a brick in the great wall of decent living that men erected over and over again as a bulwark against the perpetual flooding in of evil. But women made the bricks, and the durableness of each civilization depended upon their quality, and it was no good weakening oneself for the brick-making by thinking too much about the flood.

                   Elizabeth Goudge's The Herb of Grace/Pilgrim's Inn

I've come to realize that in this stage of my life I need to be careful to redeem the time (Ephesians 5:16). Each one to their own mission in life and Lucilla's is mine. 

But it is only fair that I warned you that I'm closing comments on my blogs in case you don't want to spend your own precious time reading a blog without comments. 

In order to have pictures with this post I'm including pictures of a favorite lunch. I don't know how much longer good watermelon will be in the stores this season but I intend to enjoy them while it lasts, with a squirt of lime juice and a sprinkle of Trader Joe's Chile Lime Seasoning Blend. 


 Surely watermelon is one thing I can pig out on!


With it I had some of my tuna/rotini salad that consists of whatever fresh veggies are in the produce drawer and a creamy mayo/Proseco vinegar dressing.


 And almost always two squares of 72% dark chocolate for dessert, strictly for all the good antioxidants naturally. Ha!

God bless you and keep you and good health to you,


Do not be afraid, Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today...The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.

                                        Exodus 14:13-14