Thursday, October 31, 2013

October 2013 Reading List

The tenth month - eleven books read - the majority of them rated 3.0 including: Two by new to me writer Sue Ann Jaffarian - Too Big To Miss and The Curse of the Holy Pail. I really liked Jaffarian's plus size, para-legal at her day job, amateur sleuth the rest of the time, plucky Odelia Grey. I would read more of these mysteries but unfortunately our library only has these two.

An older Kate Shugak mystery, #11, The Singing of the Dead by Dana Stabenow was donated recently by a patron who had gotten a copy signed by the author. I was happy to have this gap filled even if it was out of order. It answered a few questions about the ongoing life of Kate.

The second Lucinda Riley book at our library (see last month's list) also rated a 3. The Girl On The Cliff is set in Ireland and you know how I like books about Ireland. A good story that spans one hundred years of shared history between two families.

The final 3.0 - Lauren Willig's The Ashford Affair. English aristocratic family takes in poor cousin when she is left orphaned. She grows up as a sister to her cousin. Set in early 1900's Kenya and late 1900's New York. The story is told in flashbacks by the grandmother and present time by the granddaughter.

I may already have commented about how surprised and pleased I was at receiving an e-mail from the author thanking me for a review I had written about his first book after I had read it a little over a year ago. (August 6, 2012). B.K. Showalter commented in the e-mail that he had two new books out. I checked and our library had them. Doomsday Marbles is an anecdotal collection of stories about his grade school days. I rated it 2.0. Chasing Crinolines relates his four years in high school, culminating with graduation in 1955. I got such a hoot out of this book - couldn't read it without imagining my older brother's high school days and antics. Showalter apparently grew up just across the border in NW Missouri. He has given his town a fictitious name - I would love to know which town it really was, but even parsing out clues I couldn't decide the location. I rated this one 2.5, probably because I related to it a little more.

Three reads garnered 3.5 ratings: Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Russo's Bridge of Sighs was recommended to me a few years ago by friend, Kristina. It wasn't until this summer I found a copy a the local book store. The story covers sixty years of the life of Louis Charles Lynch (Lucy) and his friends. There were times the book moved a little slow, but I loved the ending: "Don't even the best and most fortunate of lives hint at other possibilities, at a different kind of sweetness, yes, bitterness, too? Isn't this why we can't help feeling cheated, even when we know we haven't been?"

The other 3.5's are by one of my newest favorite authors, Chris Bohjalian - both have war as a backdrop. In The Sandcastle Girls, the author writes as a woman delving into her Armenian grandparents' pasts. History buff that I am, how had I never learned about the 1915 genocide of the Armenians in Syria? At times hard to read about the atrocities, but excellently written.

Which is also true for his Skeletons at the Feast about the last six months of WWII in Poland and Germany as refugees try to make their way westward to the lines of the allies before being overtaken by the Russian army.

Finally, my highest rated book for this month - 4.5 - another one by Chris Bohjalian:

The Double Bind. This was one of those books which, when I got to the end. I exclaimed, "Oh my gawd, you can't believe how this book ends!" A double bind is defined as an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual receives two or more conflicting messages, in which one message negates the other." The perfect title for this perfect read.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Before the Rains Come

With blustery rain in the forecast, I wanted to share a few pictures of my everyday sights before the weather puts end to the gorgeous colors.

Early morning gold across the pond and RR tracks. Yes, we live this close to the rail line. No, the noise doesn't bother us. In fact we love hearing and seeing the trains. Creston was founded as a railroad town and still is with the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe trains as well as Amtrak (one of six Iowa stations) passing through.

Red against the white of the church and school house in the Union County Historical Complex in McKinley Park just north of our home.

Red-orange in a yard I pass on the way to the Y each morning.

Lovely colors in the trees on the south side of the Y building.

A row of orange along the east side of the Y. Many of the trees around the building are Memorial Trees.

Southwestern Community College spire above campus color.

A portion of the Park-to-Park walking path. The path extends from an area near that second picture in McKinley Park five plus miles to the south edge of Green Valley State Park north of town.

There is one house I pass every morning that is always decorated for every season. This is on the back side of the property. In the spring and summer, the square area is planted in flowers and baskets of flowers hang along the fence.

An Autumn vignette in front of the house. The woman who lives here is elderly. I don't know if she has help with all her flower plantings and seasonal decorating or not. They are always beautiful.

To the right of the vignette picture. Not sure if those are gourds or apples in the statues' baskets. Soon these decorations will be replaced with Christmas greenery, lights and large colored orbs.

On another nearby corner, a nod to Halloween along with the Fall decorations. For some reason it seems like Beggars' Night is always cold and rainy. Looks like this year will be no exception. Maybe the little ghosts and goblins can get their Trick or Treating accomplished between showers.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

From Tractors to Fast, Expensive Cars

This caught my eye a few days ago: "Lamborghini Veneno Roadster: No restraints. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Italian automaker unwraps the 221-mph Veneno Roadster prototype racer." At $4.5 million you'd better hurry to place your order - they're only making nine of them.
I only read the article (Exhaust Notes - Making sense of your automotive world) because I have a husband whose interests run to fast cars and Formula 1 Racing. The article mentioned that the car is named after a fighting bull that gored someone to death in 1914. Well, that piqued my history buff interest and sent me searching for more information about Lamborghini's.

Imagine my surprise to find that one of the world's fastest, most expensive car companies began as the manufacturer of tractors! After WWII, Ferruccio Lamborghini went into the business of building tractors from surplus military hardware. His enterprise was so successful it enabled him to pursue his interest in cars. The tractor pictured is a 1951 Lamborghini 22PS.

The Lamborghini fighting bull emblem came about because of Ferruccio's visit to a ranch near Seville where the Miura breed was being raised. Many of his cars were named for bull breeds or famous bulls from the bull fighting rings, including Diablo, Islero, Miura, Urraco and the MurciƩlago (a legendary bull whose life was spared by the matador in 1879).

An up close and personal Lamborghini experience for us occurred ten years ago during a trip to the West Coast. We were just coming into Salt Lake City when this black sports car passed us. Bud's reaction was, "Did you see that!?" My response was like, "ho hum, some kind of sports car". "That's a Lamborghini!" he countered. He didn't say so, but I recognized a stellar moment had just taken place.

I grabbed my ever-present camera and told him to catch back up to it so I could take a picture. By then another vehicle was blocking my line of sight, but when that driver realized what we were trying to do, he graciously slowed down and let us into his lane so we could get close enough for this shot.
There were many, many highlights during that trip, but this had to be one of Bud's favorites. I'm not sure, but I think this was a MurciƩlago. It wasn't long before it was completely out of our sight.
 Bud may dream of one day owning a Lamborghini but that's only going to happen if he wins the lottery - even older used ones cost in the $150,000 range. Maybe we could find a used Lamborghini tractor we could afford.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

There Is A House In The Big Easy

Somehow "there is a house in the big easy" just doesn't have the same resonance as "there is a house in New Orleans". (The Big Easy is one of New Orleans' nicknames.) I've been thinking about my long ago visit to "The Crescent City" (another nickname) ever since my daughter mentioned a few weeks ago that she was watching the trailer for American Horror Story: Coven and drinking cinnamon hazelnut coffee. To which her brother, Mark, posted the reply: "There. Is. A. House. In. New. Orleans."

I think I first began dreaming of seeing New Orleans for myself when I read Frank Yerby's book The Foxes of Harrow. The desire only heightened with the TV program Yancy Derringer (starring Jock Mahoney). I suppose it was only natural that Yancy and Yerby became entwined in my mind.
Then came the 1964 hit The House of the Rising Sun by Eric Burden and the Animals. Although the classic folk ballad had been covered by many, The Animals version is the one I relate to. At that time in my life, I doubted my dream visit to New Orleans would ever occur.

But occur it did a little over ten years later. I've made mention of my trip there in another blog or two. Here are some more memories:

I don't have pictures of the guest house where I stayed. But in my mind it was similar to this one. It was only a couple of blocks off Bourbon Street. Very New Orleans' "Double Gallery Style".

To me the best feature was a completely private brick courtyard in the back. Again, I have no picture of it. It was small and intimate - at that time quite original. i.e., not updated as I imagine it would be today.

Remember my July post about art that I like? At the time I mentioned a picture that I had cut out of a magazine and framed when I was a teen. It was of a woman sitting at a desk, writing a letter. I still haven't located the exact illustration, but the above would be similar.

Well, in my room in the guest house was a lovely antique desk. I wanted a picture of myself copying that illustration I was so fond of; guess I should have piled my hair on top of my head. What you can almost make out on my right hand is the souvenir from my New Orleans trip - a garnet ring.

The garnet is a cabochon approximately 1/4" x 3/8's" set in silver. I refer to it as my New Orleans' ring. I think I've already promised it to my daughter when I'm gone. If not, the granddaughters can fight over it - just as long as they know its provenance.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Twenty-five Year Intermission

On a sunny Sunday, October 9, 1988, my eldest son, Douglas Botkin married Shelly Bulmer in a small family wedding at the covered bridge in Easter Park in Des Moines.

Twenty-five years later, they returned to the scene of the crime.

Bride and groom, parents of the groom, 1988.

And twenty-five years later. There have been a few changes in the approach to the bridge - it's paved now. (As well, perhaps, a few changes in the people.)

Groom and mother, 1988.

Mother and son, 2013. Both with shorter hair and me just plain shorter. I wore the same top and throw.

It was nice to celebrate their silver anniversary. For me the best part was seeing and holding the great-grandbabies. The only great-granddaughter, as yet, 16-month old Lily Mae.

And the newest great-grandson, Sawyer Robert, 3 months old to the day.

It was impossible to get great-grandson, Rodney, to stop long enough for a picture with me, but I did get one with him and his Mom, my granddaughter, Katrina.

Group picture of me with my son, three of the four of his children, his daughter-in-law and some of the grandkids.

Sawyer displaying his happiness at seeing great-grandma.

Lily doing the same. Everyone says she looks like her Dad, but I can see her Mom there, too. She's just such a cute little girl - with all the orneriness shining in her eyes - just like her Mom at that age.

Alyssa did a great job of planning the day, bringing all the food from afar, and reminding her parents of how much their lives mean to the rest of us. It was a lovely day for them and especially for her Grandma Ramona.