Friday, December 19, 2014

Winter Solsitce 2014

 
This coming Sunday, the 21st, is Winter Solstice in our hemisphere, which is my favorite December event.  Over the past few years, I have come to see it as my own private celebration.  It's not really, of course.  But I don't drag anyone else into it, besides trying to get my kids and hubby to maybe watch the sun go down on the shortest day of the year.

I do have my solstice fairy on our Christmas tree, and she does seem to be in a slightly different position every day.  But that's as metaphysical as I get about it.  Kind of.

This event appeals to me because it truly does mark a solar event, a continuation of the the on-going cycle of space and time and life.  This is something that feels good to me to remember in the days before the craziness that is our secular Christmas.  

Every year, I try to think of a tradition to tie to it.  I might be getting closer, but still I am just an observer.  And that seems like the most important task for such a day.

Happy peaceful kind loving giving nurturing reflecting restful solstice day to you, my friends!


(Image above was found online at several sites, so if it is copyrighted, my apologies--I will kindly remove it if need be.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Book o' the Month: The Californios

I'm a day late for Turn the Page ... Tuesday, but you should definitely head over there next to see what the gals have been reading!

I never thought I'd read a Louis L'Amour book.  My grandmother (who is now ninety-three) would always be reading one when I visited her as a child.  I bet she has one on her end table right now!  L'Amour wrote over one hundred books, so no wonder.

I read The Californios because I'm interested in the time period of the story (1844).  I kept picturing it in my head as a western on TV at my grandparent's house.  I'm surprised this one didn't become a film, as so many of L'Amour's other novels were made into films, such as Hondo and The Quick and the Dead

The book contains several references to real places in Southern California (Malibu, Topanga Canyon) and it was fun to be able to picture them from memory.  It was a quick read.  Sparse, a little cliche, a little metaphysical, with some exciting action.  Will I become a western/L'Amour devotee?  Probably not.

But now I have something to talk to my grandmother about next time I see her.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Books o' the Month: The Whip, What I Saw in Calfornia

The Whip is a novel based on the life of a woman who lived as a man, a well-known stagecoach driver in gold rush era California.  Very little is actually known (Google for more) about Charlie Parkhurst's life, so novelist Karen Kondazian had a lot of wiggle room.  But she tells an interesting, if mostly imagined, tale.

What I took away from reading The Whip is the reminder that people have always lived alternative lifestyles, have always lived with secrets.  We are--and were--human, after all.

Continuing with my minor (major?) obsession with mid-nineteenth century California history, I also recently read What I Saw In California by Edwin Bryant who went on to become the second alcalde (Spanish, similar to "mayor" but with a broader scope) of San Francisco.  He traveled in California just after the US conquest in 1846 and into 1847.  These first-hand accounts fascinate me, though besides the descriptions of the countryside, I always read them with a grain of salt.  They are usually quite culturally biased.

I totally flaked on Turn the Page ... Tuesday this month, but please, stop by there now and check out what the gals are reading! 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Book o' the Month: The Shipping News

I have been listening to Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac at 9AM on NPR, when I am in the car at that time.  Otherwise, I read it online.  He shares facts pertinent to the date about writers, scientists, and other famous people, then he reads a poem.  It's always interesting, and the poems usually give me goosebumps, put tears in my eyes, or at the very least, make me nod with understanding.  A while back, he mentioned E. Annie Proulx and her novel, The Shipping News. I remembered having seen the film adaptation back in the 90s and thought, "Now, I should read the book."

So, I did.  What I like about Ms. Proulx's writing is how streamlined it is.  Sparse, almost.  Cut to the core.  And so very effective.  I love a book that is a page turner for me without a lot of action or cliff-hanging suspense (though, those are fun, too, I mean Outlander?!).  It is all about character development and interaction (Austin, Bronte sisters, Gaskell, etc.).  Mr. Keillor noted that Ms. Proulx immerses herself in a place before writing about it, in this case Newfoundland.  I read a review of her book by a Newfoundlander who basically said she hit the nail on the head.  It's a good read.

I have happy news...Adrienne at Some of a Kind is back!  Please check out her Turn the page ... Tuesday post today for more good reads, to be sure!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Books o' the Month: The Sea, The Sea and The True Confessions of Charlotte Dolye

A couple of years ago, I went into the library and perused the stacks of fiction looking for books with the words "sea" in the title, to read while on vacation.  I read one back then, but last summer I was still obsessing over Gabaldon and discovering Jane Eyre.  So...this past summer, I picked up another of the sea-titled books I found, the Booker Prize winning The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch.  I think this review sums it up nicely.  I enjoyed reading it, though at times the main character's thoughts and actions got so ridiculous, I wanted to close my eyes.  Which, I think, was the point.

Next, I read The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, an historical fiction and Newbery Honor book written by Avi.  Valerie was reading it in her fifth grade class in preparation for an overnight stay on the Balclutha in San Francisco.  It is an adventure story, and pretty exciting.  Exciting enough for fifth grade, I think, what with the murder and all!

The Balclutha experience, by the way, was awesome.  It is an educational field trip which has been running for thirty years.  I went as a "Tall Sailor" and if you have happened upon this blog because you are considering going on this particular field trip, feel free to comment and I will be happy to answer your questions.

Can you recommend any books with "sea" in the title, dear Reader, for me to add to my list for next summer?  Thank you!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Books o' the Month: The Journal of a Sea Captain's Wife, The Lives of William Hartnell, Eldorado

I have been very interested in California history lately, specifically the time period of Mexican rule through US conquest to the Gold Rush.  It is completely fascinating to me.  The fate of the native people, the Spanish mission system, the "lotus eating" population--I have found this reference made a number of times--into the political turmoil of the 1830s, all provide a deep back story for this place I love and call home.  The more I read, the more versions of the stories I see, the more intricate and complicated the world of business, society, and politics appears.  I no longer see an Alvarado or Fremont Street and have no notion of where those names came from.  There is a rich history here. 
What I really enjoy is reading old books, contemporary accounts of events and life back in the so-called halcyon days.  One of these is The Journal of a Sea Captain's Wife by Lydia Rider Nye.  In 1842, she traveled from Boston around Cape Horn to the coast of California and the Sandwich Islands (a.k.a. Hawaii) to meet up with her husband.  If you are interested in Hawaiian history, this is a nice resource, as well.  What I also find cool is that names of people and vessels pop up in here that were also mentioned in Dana's book, as well as the next one I read.  California was once a very small world.
William Hartnell was an Englishman who came to California and was, as The Lives of William Hartnell  explains, an adventurer, trader, schoolmaster, rancher, peacemaker, diplomat, and politician.  He also fathered, with his wife Teresa, eighteen children.  There is a community college in Salinas, California named for him.  What I found so interesting about this account of his life is that among the different roles he played, he was also a family man and community member.  He saved a whole lot of correspondence which paints a fascinating portrait of not only the man, but the times, as well.

Next, I read Eldorado: Adventure in the Path of Empire (sorry, I forgot to take a photo) first published in 1849 by a journalist (and poet and travel writer) named Bayard Taylor.  If you are interested in San Fransisco and/or Gold Rush history, this is a must-read.  He chronicled some of the California Constitutional Convention (where Hartnell served as a translator).  What he also does in this book is describe wonderfully the unspoiled California landscape, and comment on gold rush fever, justice, and human nature.

I have more California history books in my queue so, more to come.  But next up, a fiction--a Booker Prize winner from 1978.

Monday, July 28, 2014

It Was a Dark and Stormy...

...cocktail.

When I was in Sevilla, Spain back in the summer of 2002, there was a "drink of the summer," which apparently, there is every year, along with a "dance of the summer," to go with a "song of the summer."  I don't fully remember the dance, and if I heard the song, I would know it (and probably remember more of the dance), but I do remember the drink.  Tinto de verano.  Red wine and Lemon Fanta over ice.  Delish!

This summer, hubby and I did not travel to Spain (alas), but we have been enjoying our own "drink of the summer."  The Dark and Stormy.  We first tried it during happy hour at the local tiki bar (a way cool place), and fell in love.

It is easy to make.  Just pour ginger brew (non-alcoholic) over ice, add a shot of dark rum and a wedge or two of lime, and there you go!  You can vary the amounts of the ingredients to your, ahem, taste, or follow a recipe (see note with link below).  Also, there are many kinds or ginger brew and rum to choose from.  We have tried various, and so far we prefer Reed's Extra Ginger Brew and Meyers's Original Dark Rum.  Plus organic limes.

Now, it's not like we are sitting out on the swing drinking these every evening as the mosquitoes appear, but we did do that once.  And yesterday, Andrew suggested we (as a family) go out and drink beer on the swing.  He meant "ginger beer."  Which is ginger brew, which is basically ginger ale. Just so you know.

That said, I have been keeping the ingredients on hand, and we have been partaking every other week, or so.

Do you have a "drink of the summer"?

(Note:  Image is from the recipe at this site.)