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...


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.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Book o' the Month: Written in My Own Heart's Blood

It took me seven days to read Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon.  I could have done it in much less.  I devoured it bit by bit, much like a mom sneaking a couple of chocolates at a time out of the cupboard, rather than sitting down with a fork and a huge piece of Hot Lava Cake.  That is because, well, I am a mom and while I let most everything else go ignored all of last week, I still had to feed my family (and do dishes) and get the kids places on time (and watch them during their activities).

A few thoughts:

1.  I was wondering about the choice of title, afraid it might be a little cheesy, but upon reading the scene it was taken from, it now makes Perfect Sense, and I like it.

2.  The thing I most like about Ms. Gabaldon's writing is that I care about the characters.  That's what will keep me in suspense for the next four years awaiting Book 9.  I really do want to see what happens next.

3.  DG uses a wonderful variety of vocabulary in her writing--it is fun (for lack of a much more amusing word) to read.  Also, this book, I think, was the most humorous of her novels.

Well, that was fun.  What now?  I am going to my contact my cable company and decide if I will pay for the package that includes STARZ which is airing the Outlander TV series beginning August 9th.  Or else, I will have to wait for it to come out on DVD, or On Demand.  I don't really think I can wait.

Is there anything else on STARZ that I should know about, to help me rationalize make my decision?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Circle Crochet

 I completed two afghans recently.  One was for a new baby boy (above) from this book (below).
  Not to be left out,
I made one for the big sister, too (above), from this book (below).
They are just big huge blown-up doilies!  Fun to crochet and fun to play with, too.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Song for Father's Day (and Every Day)

I'll Carry You

I can tell by the way you dance
you will run right towards a life filled with romance
and I want you to know that I love the thought
of you spinning through the tall grass just to fall down safe and soft
into your dreams and they’ll hold you tight
but darling if you find that you’re not feeling right
I’ll be right here for you to run back to
you carry your burden and I’ll carry you
There’s no end to a father's love
though it may be hard to let you go I’ll try to act tough
and I can give you some tips to take on your journey
but know it’s your life to live and your mistakes to make
and you’ll do fine 
no do not hesitate
to take hardship in your hands and turn struggle to fate
they’ll teach you and they’ll lead you toward your truth
darling let your courage carry you
I’ll carry you 

This song keeps popping up on one of my Pandora stations.  I get choked up every time I hear it, thinking of my daughter and my hubby (and my son, too).  I guess it also makes me think of my own dad.  I am fortunate to have a super father, and to be married to another wonderful dad.   

My favorite line is "...and you'll do fine..."  Isn't that just reassuring all the way around?  We have to have faith in ourselves and in our children.  We all just do the best we can. 

And, usually, things do turn out just fine.

Happy Father's Day, daddies.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Book o' the Month: Cloak of Deception

I told you!  This month's book, Cloak of Deception by James Luceno, is a departure from my usual picks.  But I am a Star Wars fan, so...

Hubby recommended this book to me a couple of years ago when the whole family was on a Star Wars kick.  If you want to know all the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that lead up to Episode I, you'll want to read it, too.  If you are a fan of Qui-Gon Jinn or Obi-Wan Kenobi (or--spoiler alert!--The Emperor/Senator Palpatine/Darth Sidious) you will probably enjoy it.  Reading this book is like watching a Star Wars movie--quick, slick, and action-packed.  Plus you get cool sci-fi words to describe materials (i.e., "transparisteel") and machinery (i.e., "repulsorlift"), etc. in the Star Wars Universe.

Well, that was fun.

Next up, I am re-reading Diana Gabaldon's An Echo in the Bone (book 7 in the Outlander series) in preparation for the June 10th release of book 8, Written in My Own Heart's Blood.  Then, I'll be totally off the grid for a number of days, just so you know!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

On Poetry

I first remember writing poetry in a notebook in the third grade.  I had a dream to someday publish a book of poems.  I continued writing through the summer I fell in love with my husband, when I was twenty years old.  Then I stopped.  Maybe the writing had been a yearning that became fulfilled.

I enjoyed reading poetry in my high school English classes.  It was like a riddle or a puzzle to solve by looking carefully at the words, by reflecting.  My sophomore year, my teacher told me my poetry was too sentimental.  I was crushed.

I took a poetry class in my second year of college.  My professor had published a book.  The LA riots happened during that time.  I befriended a classmate who was a refugee from Laos.  It was a tough time for me emotionally, and I don't really remember much else, besides the fact that I loved the class--I felt I belonged.  My professor listened, supported, encouraged.  Plus, reading and writing poetry was hardly homework.

The summer I met my husband was dreamlike.  I was learning oil painting, falling in love--it was all very poetic.  One of our first dates was to an open mike poetry reading.  We didn't stay long.

In my late twenties I became enamored with Neil Finn's songwriting, another kind of poetry.  Then, last year, it was songwriter Gary Lightbody.  He turned me on to Seamus Heaney, who died recently, just as I was getting to know him.  I have his book The Spirit Level next to me right now.  When I read his poems, I imagine I can smell the damp earth of Ireland.  I didn't ever meet him, but I miss him.

I have a friend who writes lovely poetry.  You can read her work, and lively prose blog posts, here.

Most recently, I am enjoying the lyrics (and melodies) of Tyler Lyle.  Also, I have been catching The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor on NPR many mornings at 9AM.  If I miss it, I find it online.  Mr. Keillor shares bits of history pertaining to the date, and then reads a selected poem.  I turn the volume up.

Poetry takes time, and quiet.  Who reads it, anyway?   High school students.  English majors.  In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Seamus Heaney suggested that poetry could indeed change the world. Maybe, we should all be reading it.

One of my very favorite poems is Aedh Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven by William Butler Yeats.

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

What are your favorites?

Note 5-29-14:  I am so sorry to hear of Maya Angelou's passing yesterday.  I had the good fortune to hear her speak back when I was in college.  The energy in the room was intense.  She was an exceptional poet, an exceptional woman in so many ways.