Saturday, August 31, 2013

August 2013 Reading List

Ranking lowest to highest this month - four 2.5's - beginning with Alexander McCall Smith's Trains and Lovers. You could hardly call this a book - more like a booklet. A very quick read about four people on a train from Edinburgh to London sharing stories about how trains have changed their love lives. I think Smith just needed to publish something and no books from his other series were ready yet. I adore some of his series and characters and can't even stand to read others. These characters were okay, it just seemed they were sketches thrown together to make a short book.

Next 2.5 - Laura Child's latest (#14) Tea Shop Mystery - Sweet Tea Revenge. The tea mysteries are the only ones of Child's series that I read - 1) because they are about tea and 2) they are set in Charleston - an area I find fascinating and would like to visit.

Which may also be the reason I am reading and enjoying a trilogy of Karen White's books about Charleston Realtor and ghost seer Melanie Middleton. I've finished the first two, The House On Tradd Street, in which Melanie inherits a grand old house along with its ghosts, a dog and a housekeeper and The Girl On Legare Street. Melanie's mother, missing from her life for thirty-three years, returns to buy and restore the old family home. Rating these both 2.5 also. They are well written, quick reads with the requisite ghosts, evil spirits, mysteries and a little romance.

I picked up Nora Roberts' latest mystery/romance, Whiskey Beach,  just because it was in front of me. I've read and enjoyed many of her books over the years, but have never felt compelled to read all of them. She is a good writer and her stories are always fun to read. I was reminded that when I'm at a loss for something to read I can always pick up a Nora Roberts book. Rated it 3.0.

Usually when I have to slog my way through a book I rate it pretty low. American Dreamer - A Life of Henry A. Wallace by John C. Culver and John Hyde was an exceptional 4.0. The slogging was only because it was such a long, detailed biography. I could only read so much at a time and then had to break it up with some pages from a lighter read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this fascinating Iowan whose birthplace is just up the road a few miles. As FDR's Secretary of Agriculture and then Vice President during Roosevelt's third term, he would have been president if Roosevelt hadn't chosen Harry S.Truman as his running mate for his fourth term as president. Henry Agard Wallace was a man ahead of his time. I can only wonder what his presidency would have been like.

Another 4.0. Chris Bohjalian is a new author for me even though The Light in the Ruins is his sixteenth book. This novel of love, war and revenge is set in Tuscany during WWII and alternately during 1955. It details, at times hard to read, what a family went through when their ancient villa was taken over by Nazi's during the war. A taut, well-written mystery with convincing characters - I will be sampling some of Bohjalian's other books.

Oh, how I have come to love Kate Shugak and her faithful half wolf, half dog companion, Mutt. In Restless In The Grave, Dana Stabenow gives us both the 19th Kate Shugak mystery and the 5th Liam Campbell book when she artfully arranges Kate being sent undercover to help Liam prove his pilot wife did not kill her high-flying competitor. I almost didn't read this book because I thought it was one of the Liam Campbell series. What a mistake that would have been! I think this book is her best so far - a 4.5. If you read this series, try to read them in order for the character development, even though each book can stand alone.

From low to high, remember? Saving the best for last, a solid 5.0 is Kate Atkinson's When Will There Be Good News?. This book is #3 of the Jackson Brodie mysteries. And if I said I love Kate Shugak, then I really love Jackson Brodie. I love the way Atkinson develops all the loose threads of her books and then pulls them together. It always amazes me. This thriller begins with a mother and her three children walking home along a country lane. A deranged murderer accosts them. Only six-year-old Joanna survives by running away and hiding in an adjoining wheat field. Thirty years later, ex-detective Jackson Brodie finds himself on a crowded train going the wrong way.
As it happens, the fourth Jackson Brodie happened to be the first one I read. Now that I've read the first three in order, I do believe I'll go back and re-read Started Early, Took My Dog while waiting, hopefully, for the fifth book in the series.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Day Dad Brought Home A 'Girlfriend'

At first glance you might wonder who that seductive blond is in this photo of my Dad and his friend, Earl. Closer inspection will reveal the blond is merely a one-dimensional cardboard cutout. Mom had this photo labeled "Lynam, Goldsmith & Girl friend". It is dated September, 1971. By that year Dad had sold his farm equipment and retired on disability. His sense of humor was fading right along with his physical health, so it was good to see him enjoying some high jinks along with an old buddy. Earl and Dad had similar droll senses of humor.

I don't know from where these two liberated Miss Vinton Corn. All I remember was hearing they had swiped her from somewhere - a Vinton Hybrids dealer most likely - possibly Dad's friend, Don Mercer.
What I remember about Dad & Earl's friendship: it dated back at least as far as neighborhood card parties - I remember going to one at the Goldsmith's when I was young. Before moving to the Mercer Center area, they lived a mile west and a mile and 3/4's south of us. Whenever Earl drove past our place he honked their telephone ring. Likewise, Dad honked ours when passing the Goldsmith farm. That was in the days of party lines. If you wanted someone on your line you just cranked their number on the old wall phone. Our number (12F21) ended in two, one, which meant two long rings and one short. You didn't have to see the car going by to know who it was. And they did this even if it was after midnight. In fact, they might start honking their phone numbers a half mile away just to awaken the other one.

By the way - that's the 'north' clothesline I mentioned in the last blog. I tried to find some info about Vinton Hybrids online with little success. Apparently they were sold to McCurdy Seed & Supply Company in Fremont, Iowa a few years after this picture was taken. I did find some kind of court document concerning a corporate income tax assessment. Just reading that makes me realize why forensic accountants are necessary. Vinton Hybrid Seed Company was founded in Vinton, Iowa around 1932. Their logo was two ears of corn in a V formation.

And now a word about that hat Dad is wearing. For some reason (a TV show? a movie?), he decided he wanted an Australian slouch hat, so he took his old brown felt hat and pinned it up on one side. I remember Mom thought it was ridiculous. I also remember buying him a hat like the one above which could be worn with one or both sides snapped up. I don't remember him wearing it very much though. Maybe his enchantment of slouch hats had worn off by then.

My younger brother was still in high school in '71. Maybe he remembers where Miss Vinton Corn came from and what happened to her after the photo shoot, as well as why Dad wanted to wear his hat à la Aussie?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Wash On Monday, Iron On Tuesday, Mend On Wednesday......"

I did a load of laundry this morning and as I shook out my jeans before putting them in the dryer I thought of a few days ago when Bud was doing his laundry. He just takes his clothes from the washer and throws them in the dryer. "Didn't your Mom teach you to shake your clothes out before you put them in the dryer?" "They'll dry okay", he replied."
Of course Mom teaching me to shake the clothes out before drying came from when they were hung on a clothesline. (I still do it because old habits die hard.) There was a certain way of doing things and hanging up clothes was no exception. It was also one of our jobs once we were big enough to lug a basket of wet clothes out and reach the clothesline. It always took me longer - instead of just hanging what came next in the basket, I had to dig around so I could hang all of my things together. And the towels - they had to be hung according to colors - blue and peach, yellow and green - no mixing of colors that didn't "go together" in my mind. Another of my quirks, I always hung the underclothes on the line the farthest to the north side of the yard. That way there was a line of towels or tee shirts blocking the view so anyone driving by couldn't see our 'unmentionables'.
There were double clotheslines on both the south and north sides of the yard and they were all full on wash day. Sometimes we even had to wait for some things to dry before we could finish hanging out Monday's wash. The south lines were a bit higher and tighter, so sheets generally were hung there. I also remember after my baby brother was born in February trying to help my Mom by hanging out a load of diapers. It was so cold out my fingers would hardly work. I got a few hung up and then went into the house and told Mom it was too cold. She went out and finished hanging them all. I marveled at how she could stand the cold on her hands.
The north lines were so long and loose that when the lines were full the longer items would drag on the ground. Just like the woman in the stock picture above, we had poles to prop up the lines in the middle. One of our dogs, I think it was Trixie, used to like to grab a piece of clothing in her teeth and swing on it.

Clothes were always taken down as soon as they were dry, if not, the risk of fly specks or errant bird droppings were possible. And clothes were NEVER, EVER left on the line over night. Only derelict house wives left clothes out over night! Clothes that had to be ironed might be brought in still slightly damp, ready for ironing on Tuesday.
I can count on one hand how many times I've used my iron the last couple of years, but back then ironing was a big chore. Mom had several pairs of pants stretchers or creasers as we called them to use in Dad's wash pants. They still had to be ironed some, but those wire contraptions helped a lot.

My Dad was six foot six. Finding pants long enough was always a challenge. I remember him wearing what Mom called 'wash pants' more often than he wore jeans and I don't remember him wearing overalls at all. For some reason Washington Dee Cees stick in my mind as what he wore or maybe it was Dickies. I just remember that you could get matching pants and shirts in tan, brown, navy, dark green or gray. Dad didn't buy the matching shirts too often, opting instead for white pocket tees under blue chambray shirts in the summer and flannel shirts over tees in the winter. I remember a 'Big Mac' brand, too, which was a J.C. Penney line, I think. That would make sense as there were Penney's stores in all the surrounding towns and they were noted for carrying a big and tall line of men's clothes.

I've blogged before about how I learned to iron with Mom starting me out first on handkerchiefs and pillowcases graduating to 'every day' blouses and house dresses and anything else that didn't matter if there was a wrinkle or two left in. Sometime in the mid-fifties, we acquired a mangle iron - from an auction most likely - I'm sure it wasn't brand new. I don't remember the make, but it was similar to this picture I found online. It was supposed to be a huge time saver, but other than for flat pieces like tablecloths, hankies, tea towels, etc., additional hand ironing was needed. Like you could press the skirt part of a dress or the back of a shirt, but still needed to iron the rest of the garment by hand. Once the new wore off we seldom used the mangle. It was more work getting it out than it was worth. It became a stand to set things on over in the corner of the kitchen.

"Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Mend on Wednesday"?? Naw, I think I'll go read a book.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cruising Down The River

"Cruising down the river on a Sunday afternoon with one you love, the sun above, waiting for the moon. The old accordion playing a sentimental tune, cruising down the river on a Sunday afternoon." This was the first popular song* I ever learned to sing. I have a distinct memory of singing it at my Aunt Evelyn's - showing off to my cousins that I knew the song. That's me top left and my little sis, Betty, bottom right with our Roberts cousins, Lila, Glenna, Janet and Mary Lou. This picture was taken at our home - obviously playing dress up with some of Mom's old clothes and accessories.

I used to think I wanted to take a Caribbean cruise on one of the big ocean liners, but now, every time I see the ad for Viking River Cruises when we watch Masterpiece on Sunday night, I know I would so much more enjoy a river cruise. I had thought I would like to take a cruise on the Rhine from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Now I realize I was one letter off - I'd much rather take a cruise through the Rhone River Valley from Lyon to Avignon, France. The 148 passenger AmaLegro of the Ama Waterways Line would be so much more my speed than a 5000 passenger cruise ship.

Wouldn't I just love a leisurely cruise through the wine country of France? Lyon to Avignon is 8-days with lots of stops for day trips along the way. There are trips twice as long but I think any more than eight might be too much of a good thing.

I don't know if one of the stops would be at the E. Guigal Winery in the Chateau d"Ampuis, but at least it looks like the ship would go right by it. This is the home of that Rosé wine I had and enjoyed so much last year. I think the story of E. Guigal is interesting. You can read it here.

It is very doubtful I will ever take a European river cruise, but maybe one in America? A fall foliage cruise on the Hudson looks very inviting. "The birds above all sing of love, a gentle, sweet refrain. The winds around all make a sound like softly falling rain. Just two of us together, we'll plan a honeymoon, Cruising down the river on a Sunday afternoon."

(*Cruising Down the River was a song written by two women, Eily Beadell and Nell Tollerton, in 1945. It won a public song-writing competition held in the UK. Russ Morgan's Decca records version which hit the best selling chart in 1949 is probably the one I learned from by singing along.)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Biscuits & Gravy - Or Why Two Long Married Scorpios Don't Have To Talk To One Another

It has become a tradition for us that I make what I call a 'big breakfast' on Sunday mornings. Well, it's more like brunch than breakfast. One of Bud's favorites is biscuits and gravy which I only make once in a great while.
This morning we were watching something on TV when biscuits and gravy was mentioned. I said, "Oh, doesn't that sound good? We haven't had biscuits and gravy for ages. I should get what I need so we can have that next week." -- Knowing full well that that was what I had already planned to have this morning. (I like to surprise Bud once in awhile.)
So as we began to enjoy our eggs, hash browns, sausages and biscuits and gravy, Bud said, "I knew this was what you were going to fix as soon as you remarked about it this morning." I asked him how he knew and he said, "I just did."

Then he said something about "good down home cooking" and my mind immediately flashed on the Route 62 Diner in Eureka Springs where we had had breakfast so many years ago on one of our trips to that  idyllic town. I said, "You know what picture just came to my mind when you said that? - That little diner in Eureka Springs where we had the biscuits and gravy for breakfast that time." "That's exactly where I was thinking of",  Bud replied.

I can't tell you how many times a week such conversations happen between us - one of us will comment on something and the other will say, "I was just going to say the same thing". I guess after you've been together twenty-eight years AND you're a couple psychic Scorpios, you can communicate without talking.

Bud loves his biscuits and gravy and I love being married to him.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Six Dollar Gamble?

I'm not much of a gambler, plus, I don't consider myself very lucky, so I seldom play the lottery. But today I've got a strong urge to waste six dollars on two Powerball tickets for tonight's drawing. (Two dollars per easy-pick play plus $1.00 each ticket for the power play.) And I'll tell you why...when I get up in the mornings I turn on my computer and check my homepage for the news. One of the things that caught my eye this morning was: "Powerball Soars to $425 Million". Now it's not because the amount is getting so high again, it is how close the jackpot could be to $444 Million by the time the numbers are drawn tonight.

Why does the possibility of a $444 Million jackpot entice me? Because for many years I have awakened at exactly 4:44 a.m. I've always thought that was going to be the time I die, but thinking more positively, maybe it is going to be the amount of the jackpot I win. Anyway, it is the reason I'm thinking about playing.

I first played the Iowa Lottery back when it began in 1985. I had a set of numbers I played every time - the birth dates of family members plus our anniversary date. I was so sure I was going to win. I would watch Mike Pace read the numbers as the balls dropped - never winning anything. I even tried letting the lottery machine pick numbers for me with a bit more success - I'd win a couple dollars now and then. Eventually I gave up playing on any kind of regular basis - buying an easy pick ticket once, maybe twice a year. I don't think I've bought any tickets since the price to play doubled to $2.00 this year.

But, isn't it fun to imagine what you would do if you won? I've always known that one of the things I'd do is TRAVEL....see more of this country and the world. I'd certainly buy a new vehicle and since paying for gas wouldn't be a problem, I'd get some kind of small SUV - something that was easier to get in and out of with my arthritic knees, hips and back. Oh, and massages - I could go back to having a regular massage again.

I'd probably keep this same home, but replace the counter tops and carpets. I'd also invest in a winter condo somewhere on a beach....m-m-m, winters in sunshine, walking along the surf. Obviously I would give our children and grandchildren money, some outright and some in some sort of trust. And, of course, Bud would get a new vehicle, too, even though 'Sally' is still in perfect shape for her age.

I'm already sassy, but I would probably get fat and sassy with all the meals we'd eat out - or maybe I'd go the other way and strive for that 'thin and rich' goal. I would really have to investigate any charitable causes. I've given money in the past to organizations I thought were worthy only to find that most of the money went into the pockets of the administrators. I think it would be more fun to anonymously give money to people who look like they need it. Books. Winning the Lottery wouldn't make me a Carnegie, but both my present and former public libraries would benefit from my winnings.

Well, there they are, my winning numbers. Do either of the plays look lucky? The first two numbers on the A pick are my sister's birth date, September 23. I see the day's date of  some birthdays - my husband's, my daughter's, a granddaughter and a great-grandson. My lucky number doesn't even appear anywhere. 

I'll let you know if I win anything. In the meantime, I'll be doing some more daydreaming during the next several hours.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Chicken Inn

On our way to Corning last weekend, as we passed The Chicken Inn, I noted that the sign reads simply "The Inn". "Why have we always called it 'The Chicken Inn'?" I asked Bud. He didn't know either. We discussed the possibility it had something to do with once being known for serving good chicken. I made a note to myself to google it when we got home to see if I could find any history about the place.

And guess what - The Inn became known as 'The Chicken Inn' pre-WWII when the owners, Harold and Elsa Collings ran a restaurant and bar at this location. Their specialty was the chicken dinners they served with the main ingredient being the chickens they raised in a pen back of the restaurant. The dinners were so popular in the area that people began calling it "The Chicken Inn". I'm getting this information from the Iowa Rock and Roll Music Association website. You can read more about The Inn here.

I never knew that The Chicken Inn grew out of a roadhouse once known as 'The Maples' which was closed for selling bootleg liquor during prohibition. I only knew of it as a place for dining and dancing. When I was in high school, the music was usually rock and roll, though I had heard stories of how the big bands used to play there in the 40's.

That was after the old restaurant/bar burned down the the current building was constructed with the large ballroom at the back. I only have one faint memory of going there to dance in the early 60's. However, the memory of our fifth year class reunion being held there is a little stronger. That was in 1966 when The Chicken Inn was still a happening place.

That orange door in a previous picture was the main entrance, but you could also go in the basement door and up the stairs to enter. As people began traveling longer distances for entertainment and the ballroom dance days wound down, the new owner of The Inn tried different ways to make the building pay its way. One of those was leasing the basement as an antiques store. I know I stopped there to look around one time in the 90's. There was also something called the Country Thrift Store there for awhile. Neither lasted too long.

Last I knew there was still dancing being held on Wednesday nights, but that was before the owner died. I don't know what is going on with the building now, whether it is for sale or just biding its time. But once upon a time it was the place to go - back in the day.