Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Book o' the Month: Island of the Blue Dolphins

My daughter's fourth grade class read Scott O'Dell's award winning Island of the Blue Dolphins this year as part of their study of California history.  I read a number of chapters with the students on my volunteer days and was intrigued.  I know I read this book as a girl, but I didn't remember a lot.  I checked it out from the library and read it in a few evenings (and one afternoon out on the lawn, as you can see from the photo).  It is at times somewhat violent and sad, but ultimately a very good book for preteens, I would say. is based on the true story of a Native American woman, christened Juana Maria after her rescue in 1853 from San Nicolas Island off the coast of California where she had lived alone for about eighteen years.  The novel really makes you think about how you might survive all on your own, physically and emotionally.  Juana Maria is buried at the Santa Barbara Mission and I think I might make a detour there the next time I am passing through.

This is a fascinating bit of history and with O'Dell's imagination, it really comes to life.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Best Thing About Our Car

It has been exactly one year ago today that we brought home the behemoth Toyota Sequoia that I now drive around.  Our '98 Honda Accord, the first car we ever bought, had served us well for over fifteen years, but when it comes to cars, water and oil can sometimes mix, and that is not a good thing.  So, after the mandatory stressful hours at the dealership, we bought the Sequoia.  Our 4Runner went to Hubby, who was excited to upgrade from tape deck to CD/AUX player, and I was excited to have him driving a bigger (thus safer, right?) car over the grade to work and back each weekday, and many Saturdays.  (He does, for the record, get to drive the new car he works so many hours to pay for on weekends and vacations.)

Now, don't get me wrong.  I am grateful to have this car.  I feel fortunate to be in a position to be able to make the payments (knock on wood) for five years (ooooh, one year down today!) and pay the increase in insurance and gas costs.  I feel good that my kids are safer than they might be in a smaller car--all of us, in fact.

Just Monday I was rear-ended--barely bumped, really--while waiting at a stoplight.  In my side-view mirror I saw the older gentleman who hit me get out of his small car.  I hit the hazard lights and got out, too, asking, "Any damage?"  He asked if I was OK.  Everything seemed fine--his bumper probably went under mine-- so we went our separate ways, me repeating his license plate number over and over in my head until I could pull into the World Market parking lot and send it to myself in an email, just in case. 

Yep, I'm one of those moms cruising around in a huge SUV, and I have to use the running board as a step up to climb into the driver's seat.  But I can shuttle my kids and several of their friends places and that is the main reason we wanted the bigger car.  I just wish the blind spots weren't so big.  And that I would stop hitting curbs while making turns.

But this post is titled, "The Best Thing About Our Car" for a reason--a reason I haven't even gotten to yet.

It's the sound system.  It's just the standard system for the standard Sequoia, but let me tell you, I sat in the driveway for an hour last week just listening to my tunes.  I love being in that cocoon of pleasant sounds.  I listened to Tyler Lyle's "Werewolf" over and over.  Then a little Snow Patrol and some Crowded House.  It was a rare rainy morning and the coffee I'd picked up on my way into town to run errands was still warm.   The song lyrics were profound and I was completely awash in the music.

It was bliss.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Red Rain Boots

 I have this little book saved from my childhood collection.  I loved this book.  It is about a little boy who has lost one of his rain boots.  The Little Red Boot by Ruth Dixon, illustrated by Dorothy Grider, published in 1962 (before I was born, just FYI!).  Isn't it precious?

 Just look at these illustrations!  And according to the cover it is "Educationally Sound" so it must be good, right?

I bought a pair of red rain boots two years ago and I think somewhere, way back in my brain, I must have been inspired by this book.  We've been getting so little rain, I hardly ever get to wear them, but it is raining today!  (Don't be fooled by the photo which was taken on a sunny day...)

Do you have a pair of rain boots? What color?  Mine are red Crocs. They are so much fun to wear!  And I figure I will probably never have to buy another pair as long as I live...unless I move to a much wetter place.

Do you have an item of clothing, etc. you bought inspired by a memory or experience from your past?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Watch This! : Persuasion (2007), Persuasion (1995), Mansfield Park (2007), Austenland

I've been on a Jane Austen bender, I'll admit.

After reading Persuasion last month, I watched the two most recent film versions beginning with the 2007.  I thought it could have been better, though Rupert Penry-Jones, made a pretty good Captain Wentworth.  I decided to give the 1995 version a try, and it was much better!  Both leads (Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds) gave very good performances.  I haven't ventured into any of the earlier versions as the hair and makeup often seem too tinged by the fashion of the day, know what I mean?  But I would definitely take recommendations...

Mansfield Park (2007) popped up on Netflix and I don't know how I had missed it!  It was much more true to the text than the 1999 version.  In fact, it was delightful!  There were some liberties taken, but I feel the adaptation was quite true to the spirit of the story, so I have no complaints.  Plus, I can't get Edmund's (Blake Ritson) eyes out of my head!

And...Austenland.  Fun, fun, fun!  A few minutes in and I thought, this could be cheesy.  Moments later, I revised, ok, cheese on cheese!  But as the film went on it just became more and more fun.  It helps to be a Jane Austen fan to really get this movie, but my hubby thought it was pretty cute, and he has never read Austen (though he has kindly sat through several film adaptations with me).  The cast was great.  A darling little movie--at 97 minutes, it is watchable on a school night!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Watch This! : Ballykissangel

I meant to post this before St. Patrick's Day, but was having computer trouble...

I like to focus a bit on Ireland in March, for the obvious reason.  Plus, I've got Irish blood in me from three grandparents, making me more Irish than any other ethnicity by 1/8.  So, anything Irish catches my attention.  (I'm also Norwegian, Dutch, German, French, and Welsh, but I digress.) 

I don't remember how I found out about Ballykissangel (image above is from this site).  This is a BBC television series that went on for six seasons from 1996-2001.  I have watched through season three, and the first episode of season four.

If you enjoy Game of Thrones, you might want to stop right here.  Let me just say, I watched the very first episode of GOT, and afterwards I felt like I had been doing stomach crunches the whole time (I wish I had), from clenching my gut at all the violence, etc., etc.  I was interested in the story, and considered watching episode two, but decided not to put myself through the experience again.  So, if you can relate (and if you watch GOT, I concede you have a stronger stomach than I, and that is fine by me), please continue on.

BallyK is about life in a small Irish town.  A new priest is sent to the parish, a young English priest, and it goes from there.  The series is delightful.  It can be funny, serious, lighthearted, troublesome.  The storyline moves right along and you come to know the characters (played by actors who look like real people, by the way!) and believe this place might actually exist.

In fact, it does.  Ballykissangel is mostly filmed in Avoca, Ireland, which became quite the tourist destination for fans.  What I like most about the series is that it takes you someplace and immerses you in it--you get to live in a little Irish town for an hour at a time.

What have you been watching?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Last weekend was warm.  We had been showered with much-needed rain the week prior, and then spring arrived, suddenly.  I looked out the kitchen window and thought, "I don't feel like cooking tonight.  I'd like to go someplace..."  And I was stuck.  No local restaurant came to mind.

Then I realized there wasn't a particular restaurant where I wanted to go.  It was a particular time and place I was craving.

I wanted to be back home, years ago.  At least twenty-four years ago, to be exact.  I wanted to hear the familiar slam of the back screen door.  I wanted the rooms of my childhood home lit like evening in spring.  I wanted to sit at the dinner table with my Mom and Dad, and my sister.

For a moment it felt like I might actually go there.

But, my parents don't own that house anymore.  And my sister lives in a different city.  As do I.

Things change, as my Great-Great Auntie Olga used to say.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Books o' the Month: The Best Cat Ever and Persuasion

The Best Cat Ever, by Cleveland Amory, was as delightful as the first two books in the trilogy.  I found the section where Mr. Amory recounted his experiences with and impressions of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor particularly entertaining.  The last chapter, detailing Polar Bear the cat's last days, was powerful and had me in tears.

Then, I read two novels out of curiosity that were engaging, but ultimately not very good.  I won't go into details here as I don't really want to post negative reviews.  

After that, I had to cleanse my palate, so I reached for Jane!  I read Persuasion and it was wonderful.  Miss Austen does not disappoint.  The last work in my Jane Austen anthology is Lady Susan, a short epistolary novel, revealed through a series of letters written back and forth between characters.  It was very entertaining.  Few can match Austen's wit and I find again that her observations, made over two hundred years ago, are still quite apt in today's society.  Good stuff.
Next, I binged on two film adaptations of Persuasion.  More about that later...