Monday, November 30, 2015

My November Reads, 2015

Twelve books read in November - eight of them by the same author! Once I discovered I could still check out books from my old hometown library, I quickly got caught up on a favorite series.

These four, numbers 7, 8, 9, and 10 in William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor series complete all the ones I had not yet read and the Creston library has the latest, so once I read it I will just have to wait until Krueger writes a new one. His writing never disappoints, whether it is the O'Connor series or his stand alones.

Also read this month were numbers 1, 2, 4 and 6 - Iron Lake, Boundary Waters, Blood Hollow and Copper River. (The gaps in numbers are because Creston has #3, 5, 11, 12, and 13 and I had already read them.)
Rating the eight Krueger books I read this month is easy - they are all 4.0's with the exception of Thunder Bay. I'm giving it a 4.5. I liked it best I think because it tells the back story of one of the series regulars, 90+ year old Henry Meloux, an Ojibwa Mide (medicine man). Henry asks Cork to help him find his son, a man who would be in his 70's and someone Henry has never met. In order to do so Cork needs to know about Henry's younger days and the lost love that produced a son.

The other four books read this month are a come-down from these eight - two 2.5's, one 3.0 and one 3.5.

Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates is my 3.5. It is a tale a suspense I began reading, appropriately, on Halloween. A respected and successful mystery writer begins secretly writing dark 'pot-boilers' under the pseudonym, Jack of Spades. The character, plus alcohol, begin taking over his life and he starts to act out some of the plots from his books. This was a psychological thriller about the opposing forces in the mind of an ambitious writer and the line between genius and madness.

Michael Koryta is an author recommended to me by my son, Preston. Our library only has one book by him, not the title Preston had read and recommended, but I decided to give Envy the Night a try and see how the author writes.
My initial reaction after a half dozen pages wasn't too favorable but I decided to give it a few more pages and really got into it. (I had just finished reading those first four Krueger books and I think I was comparing the two authors - possibly because this book, too, has nearly the same geographical setting - Northern Wisconsin near the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
The story is about a young man trying to escape the legacy left by his father, a former FBI agent turned hired gun. The fact that he bears the same name as his father and was trained from an early age by him to handle firearms and physically defend himself from attackers makes it hard for him to escape his past. This turned out to be a good recommendation and a good read. Rated it 3.0

The two 2.5's - Dorothea Benton Frank's, All the Single Ladies, one of her Low Country books which I usually love, was a disappointment. It is about the friendship between three women but it seemed dis-jointed, like Frank jumped around too much without finishing a thought. Too pat. Too close to a writing deadline?

And Amanda Quick's Garden of Lies. Quick is a new author for me. The book was just like the author's name - a quick read. The story and the writing were both o.k. - a mystery/romance set in Victorian England - but not enough to set it apart from all the others of this genre.

I've already started on my December reads with four books here at home to finish before I need to go to the library again. If the weather stays like it is today, December will be another full month of reading!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Taking A Sunday Drive #4

Texas is a BIG state and we've seen parts of it on several different trips. In 2005 we made our second trip to San Antonio. At that time we were both working for Midwest Products and the trip was made on behalf of the company. Bud was going as a representative. I was going as a 'guest' which meant I had more free time to explore parts of San Antonio we hadn't seen before which included.....

La Villita, little town, one of San Antonio's first neighborhoods in the 18th Century and restored in the 1930's with the help of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The Historic Arts Village is home to art galleries, shops and restaurants situated along shaded walkways and plazas. This photo of me is in front of The Little Church of La Villita built in 1879.

This honey onyx votive holder is one of the items I bought at a shop in La Villita.
I took a bus to The Guenther House located at the foot of the King William Historic District. After touring the museum and store of the Pioneer Flour Mill's founding family, I started walking back to our hotel.

All the while peering through fences, ogling, gawking, salivating and taking pictures of all the Italianate, Victorian and Greek Revival mansions along the entire two miles.
This was one of my favorites, Villa Finale - so named because the owner said it was the last place he was going to live. It was built along the San Antonio River in 1876 and was the first property on the Texas National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2002. Many of the fine old homes in the area had fallen to neglect and/or been divided into apartments before revitalization of the area began in the 1950's. The neighborhood became the city's first historic district in 1968.

On another of my solitary walks I found this quiet spot. The small splash of water into the shallow pool is just enough to invite reflection. Chiseled into the limestone are the words: "I was tamed, Rio Amanzado, to yield, to feed, to foster. Me nombraron San Antonio who finds the lost."  As I recall, I had been to see the Cathedral of San Fernando and walked back through the plaza and down toward the river walk when I happened upon this spot. Still one of my all time favorites. 

The Alamo Cenotaph - aka The Spirit of Sacrifice - commemorates the Battle of the Alamo. It was dedicated in 1940 and bears all the names of those known to fight on the Texas side. The memorial is across the street from the Alamo. Its 60 foot shaft dwarfs Bud in this photo.

Seen from inside The Alamo's walls is the iconic Emily Morgan hotel. Built in the Gothic Revival style in 1924, it was originally the 13-story Medical Arts Building. It was converted to office space in 1976 and became a hotel in 1984.
Emily Morgan is the folk heroine whose legendary activities during the Texas Revolution have come to be identified with the song, "The Yellow Rose of Texas".

The Point Isabel Lighthouse built in 1852 to guide ships through the Brazos Santiago Pass.

When our conference ended in San Antonio, Bud and I opted to go further south in Texas to Port Isabel and from there across the causeway to South Padre Island to spend a few days and celebrate our birthdays and anniversary.
I don't remember if it was on one of Dr. Beach's "Top Ten Beaches" lists or one of the ones for "Best Spring Break Beaches", but somewhere I had learned of South Padre Island and decided I wanted to go there. Being less than 300 miles away seemed the best opportunity especially in November when it would be less crowded.

Bud is always agreeable to my trip suggestions. When he learned he could drive on the beach at South Padre, he was more than agreeable. It was fun until we got stuck in soft sand, but luckily some good Samaritans with tow straps and a 4-wheel drive offered to help. It wasn't long before we were back on the more solid sand.
Note some of the garbage on the beach. We were there after both hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The beaches were littered with items washing up on them from those natural disasters. We saw refrigerators and couches among the debris.

I was all about 'shelling' so finding this Lightning Whelk was a really big deal! I was so excited and looking forward to bringing it home until I realized its animal was still alive inside it. So the photo was what came home with me and the whelk went back into the Gulf.
I got what I wanted for my 62nd birthday - holding hands with my sweetie and walking along the beach under a full moon - definitely one of our best Texas trips.

"I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky." (John Masefield)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Great Grandson Jack's First Birthday

When my sixth great grandchild was born a year ago I wasn't surprised it was another boy. He was my fifth great-grandson with only one great-granddaughter. What surprised me was his name - Jack. Jack? with brothers named Ridge and Sawyer? Not even Jackson? Just Jack? The little fella turned one today and we went to his party.

Jack with his hands in his pumpkin cake. Pumpkins were the theme of the party and as you can in the next photo, mommy Paullina wore her pumpkin slippers.

I thought one of his cutest gifts was bouncing Tigger and from the oohs, aahs and giggles, many others felt the same way.

Like most kids, Jack's favorite toy wasn't a toy at all - it was an empty milk jug. His grandma explained that when he and his little cousin, who is one week short of being the exact same age, are together at her house, milk jugs are what they like to play with. I thought it was a cute gift to include in the box with his real present from her.

My grandson Brock with his oldest son, Ridge and holding Jack. When we first got there Sawyer was still asleep on the floor behind them. The party was in the lodge at Sportsman's Park in Dawson.

Sawyer still wasn't too wide awake when we took this photo with his Grandpa Doug and me.

Ridge has really grown since the last time we saw him a year and half ago. Unfortunately his mother doesn't always let him go with his dad and step-mother, so we don't often see him. It is always a treat when we do.

Sunset on the way home. I spoke too soon after yesterday's post - Thanksgiving Week wasn't over yet.

Now I can say, it truly was a week of giving thanks.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Late Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving came early for me this week when I heard the good news from my older son's PET scan.
Then yesterday was just the two of us with the morning spent making a couple things to take today while fixing beef and noodles for our Thanksgiving lunch.
Today was Thanksgiving dinner at my younger son's. I took this chocolate poke cake and a raspberry/cranberry/pineapple jello salad with a sour cream/cream cheese topping.

I love my grandchildren but they are almost all grown up. I have to be honest and admit how much I adore these little ones. This is me with great-grandson Ayden.

And here is his little brother, Greyson, being held by Grandma Shalea. The boys missed being exactly one year apart by one day.
Greyson's birthday is June 30; Ayden's, July 1.

Me with granddaughter, Dominique and her college roommate She couldn't make it home to San Diego for Thanksgiving so Dominique invited her to Winterset.

Shalea's parents were also guests. Helen brought several pies, so we DID get some very good pumpkin pie after the ham, turkey, green bean casserole, corn pudding, dressing, mashed potatoes, rolls, etc. etc. No, of course I didn't eat too much.
We had a very good time sitting around the table with the grand kids reminiscing and laughing about when they were little. It is gratifying to know that they have good memories of times spent with Grandma and Grandpa.
More photos of the day:

Dakota, Grandpa Bud, Devin

Ayden and Aunt Deise

Preston and Mom

Daddy Ki and Ayden

Ayden fresh out of the bath.
(I could not resist!)

Aunt Kathryn and Greyson

5-month-old Greyson

The day began with a coat of ice on the deck, trees and this asparagus fern. Fortunately the roads were clear and dry so travel was no problem.  It was truly a week of Thanksgiving.

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures."
(Thornton Wilder) 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Blessings

"All that we behold is full of blessings." (William Wordsworth)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Round-About Tea Connection

One day last summer while visiting son Douglas and his wife Shelly, I was offered a glass of iced tea. It was so good and so different, I asked Shelly what kind of tea it was and where she got it. She didn't remember where she got it, but said it was white plum - at least that is the way I remembered it. I also thought I would remember the brand name. It wasn't as common as Lipton, Bigelow, Celestial Seasonings or Twinings, but it was one I had heard of and was sure I would remember when I saw it. I began looking in the tea section in every store that sold tea. No luck.
Then I got smart and googled 'white plum tea' and came up with Salada Asian Plum White Tea. Having the right brand and name didn't help me locate it in any stores so I finally ordered it from Amazon. I have not tried it hot, but it does make a lovely, delicate, iced tea.
You are thinking, end of story. Right? Then you don't know how my mind works when it comes to making connections.

Story continued.....
 On our trip east this fall we stayed the third night in Little Falls, NY. This picture is of the old aqueduct across the Mohawk River on the way into town. Shortly after crossing the river I saw a large, derelict, brick building. Painted on the side in barely legible letters was Salada. I wondered if the building had once been connected to the Salada Tea Company?

Then there was this rusty old water tower. Okay, so once upon a time Salada Tea must have been processed in this town.
Finally, if I needed any more clues, there was a display of old Salada Tea boxes in a case in the hotel we stayed in.
I might have asked the desk clerk about it if she had been more welcoming when we checked in.

After we had been home from our trip awhile I wanted to learn what the Salada Tea Company history was. I discovered that not only was it located in Little Falls, it still is. As a division of Redco Foods, Inc. the company is located on Hansen Island in Little Falls, NY.
The company was founded by Peter Larkin in Montreal in 1892. It became one of the leading teas in Canada and Northeastern United States. In 1917 it established its headquarters and blending and packaging plant in Boston.

These are the large bronze doors on the former Salada Company headquarters in Boston. The panels depict the history of the Ceylon tea trade.
Larkin chose the name Salada for his company from a former tea garden in India which no longer existed. He called his tea "Golden Teapot Blend - Pure Ceylon Tea" but everyone referred to it by the company name so he changed the name of his tea products to 'Salada'.

In the 1960's, the Salada Tea Company began printing taglines on their tea bag tags. Some of them were quotes by famous people like e.e. cummings' "It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are." Others were thought up to provide a laugh: "Artists that jog usually become great panters."

When I looked up Redco Foods to read more about them, I discovered they also manufacture and distribute Red Rose Tea. I had seen Red Rose Tea, but had never tried it. When I looked at their website and found their Creme Caramel listed as a new Simply Indulgent Tea in their Specialty Black Teas, well......

.....naturally I had to order some. And as long as I was placing an order......

I could go on and on about tea, but as my 2-year-old great-grandson, Sawyer, said on a Facebook video this morning, "I'm done".

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

An Early Thanksgiving

Al, left, Doug, right, Aug. 2014
I have much to be thankful for. These two cousins may not have seen a lot of one another growing up, but they have gotten closer the past year and that has meant my once-upon-a-time nephew, Alan, is part of my life again, too. He calls me Auntie which warms my heart. The photo was taken at Doug's birthday camp-out weekend last year.

Ramona, Douglas, Kenny 1965

I am grateful that even though Doug's dad and I divorced when he was little, he still grew up knowing the love of both his parents and two extended families.

Doug and Shelly's wedding Oct. 1988
I am so, so, so very thankful for my daughter-in-law, Shelly. Not only have they shared more than 25 years of marriage, she has been there with him during the usual ups and downs.
And for the past seven months she has been there for him as he faced a life-threatening disease.

First time acting a pirate, 1967

When he was little, I could deal with his hurts - like when he tried to poke his eye out while running with a toy bow and arrow. Usually all it took was a hug and kiss of the 'owie'.

Grandpa Doug and Jack

But you can't kiss cancer away and that is what Doug was diagnosed with shortly after this picture of him and his youngest grandchild was taken last March.

Doug and his faithful companion, Clyde
Yesterday was Doug's positron emission tomography scan (PET scan) an imaging test that would show how his tissue and organs were functioning. It would reveal if there was still cancer present in his body.
After the scan, Shelly posted on the 'family' Facebook page she had set up for us that we wouldn't know the results until today. Another day of waiting and wondering and hoping.

Doug had made huge progress since August when he was hospitalized toward the end of all his radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Being fed through a tube, using suction for secretions he could no longer swallow, dealing with pain, he was still able to share a laugh with his mommy.

Then around two o'clock in the afternoon yesterday, he called me. I knew that it meant he had news. "Mom, the radiation oncologist just called me." Always I can tell by his voice if things are good or bad. But not this time. I felt a frisson of fear for the first time in seven months.
It was only a heart beat or two, although it seemed like longer, when he said, "As of right now, I'm cancer free. There's no evidence of cancer anywhere in my body."

I felt as happy and carefree as he and Katrina and Rodney look in this photo.


Grandpa Louis, Grandma Ruth & Doug

Our guardian angel is still watching over us.

The remainder of this post will be a pictorial celebration of my first born.

Graduation Day 1980, Ramona, Doug & Kenny

Doug & Brock 1983

Mother and Son, August, 1962

Father and Son, 1963

Daddy Doug with Katrina, Zachary and Alyssa

Duggan at MN Renaissance Faire

My Thanksgiving came a little early this year. May yours be as happy and thankful as mine.