Thursday, March 31, 2016

March Book List

What a month of books! What a month of reading! Twelve books read and three quarters of them are 4.0, 4.5, 5.0 even a 5.0+! We'll begin with the best, the one I just finished and cried when I did:

Doerr's Memory Wall was the last book I read in February. I rated it a 5.0. His All The Light We Cannot See is the last book read in March. (I finished it this morning.) I'm giving it a 5.0+. These are the only two books our library has of Anthony Doerr's. I will get a hold of his others!
I don't even know how to begin writing about this book. It is about a young, blind, French girl and her father. It is about a young, orphan, German boy and his sister. It is about a large, blue diamond. It is about pre-WWII. It is about WWII and all its paradoxes. It is about the war's aftermath. It is horrible and it is beautiful.
The chapters are short (some only 1 page) and jump from one time period to another, from one character to another, yet they all come together perfectly.
One of the chapters toward the end of the book is less than two pages long. It is titled The Simultaneity of Instants. It describes in achingly beautiful prose what is happening to several different characters, some 300 miles apart, at the same few seconds. In slow motion I raced through the sentences.
I can see why it took Doerr ten years to write this book. It could hardly be any more perfect.

All of the books in this photo I rated 4.5 except for Alice Munro's Runaway which I gave a 3.0. It is a book of short stories and you know how I feel about short stories. Some of them entwine, all are set in her home country of Canada. Most are stories about women in love and betrayed by love - women of all ages and circumstances. The stories were interesting but not captivating. It is a book I purchased and will pass on to anyone interested in reading it.
The 4.5's --
Career of Evil is J.K. Rowling's third in the Cormoran Strike series written under her Robert Galbraith pseudonym. I love P.I. Strike and his partner, Robin Ellacott. With each book we become more involved with the characters and learn more about them. Their relationship with each other becomes more defined, yet more complex. And that ending! I can't wait to read the next book in this series!

Chris Bohjalian is one of those authors whose books I will add to my reading pile without even checking to see what they are about. He is such a good writer. The topic of sex trafficing is not one I would ordinarily read about but The Guest Room handles it informatively, empathetically and scarily.
What can possibly go wrong when an older brother agrees to host his little brother's bachelor party in his family home? Plenty. His whole life can implode!

I adore Kate Morton's books. They always feature a garden in some way. The Lake House is told in two time periods, seventy years apart, and begins with the disappearance of an 11-month-old boy during a mid-summer's eve party with over 300 guests at a family's summer house.
Seventy years later, a London Detective Constable is on forced paid leave which she decides to spend with her grandfather in Cornwall. There she happens upon the lake house, abandoned as it had been at the time of the boy's disappearance. She becomes enthralled with the unsolved mystery and decides to find out what happened to the tot. So many expertly written twists and turns with an unlikely, but satisfying ending.

Sara Donati is not a new author for me but it has been awhile since I've read her. Set in 1883 in New York City, The Gilded Hour is a fascinating, sometimes maddening to read, story about orphans, the poor, and the women who are desperate for  birth control and the doctors who are forbidden by law to help them acquire it. Reading it made me grateful, once again, to have been born when I was!

I read both of Nancy Horan's books this month. The first, Loving Frank about the love affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney which I rated 4.0. It is a fascinating novel based on historical information about this couple. We took photos of Taliesin from the road while in Wisconsin a few years ago, but did not go up to the house. I knew the story about how Mamah and her children were murdered there along with some employees, but reading this book was more informative about FLW & Mamah's time together as well as each of them individually.

I rated Horan's book about Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny van de Grift Osborn, a little higher, 4.5, possibly because I liked the time period and locales in Under The Wide And Starry Sky a little better.
I do enjoy books that are based on historical records and Fanny and Louis (as he preferred being called) left plenty of diaries and letters for direct quotes. Fanny was still married, though separated from her husband, when she met RLS in France. It was hard for her to get a divorce (in the 1880's), but once she did, she and Louis married. Much of her life was spent nursing him through his many illnesses. When they finally found a climate which agreed with his lungs, they settled permanently in Samoa. I learned more about Stevenson, his books and poetry than I ever would have any other way.

The other three books pictured were all 3.0's for me. Ann Purser is a new author for me. Her Foul Play At Four is the 11th book in her Lois Meade Mystery series. I would categorize these as quick little mysteries. The setting for these is a small English Village. Lois Meade runs her own cleaning service company but solves crimes on the side. This was a cute read, but I doubt I will read any more of them.

Rhys Bowen is a favorite author and I love her Molly Murphy Mysteries, but it seems like more and more authors are obliged to come out with a Christmas story. Away In A Manger finds Molly and her ward, Bridie, befriending two sibling street beggars. They quickly realize the brother and sister are not your average street urchins by their good manners and posh accents. The children have been left in the care of a questionable woman by their mother who promises to return in a few days. But she hasn't returned and Molly sets out to find her. I would not have read this book but it is a Molly Murphy mystery, even if it is shorter and less satisfying than the usual MM mysteries.

I learned about Virginia Hamilton and her Newberry Medal and National Book Award winning M. C. Higgins, The Great book while reading Keillor's 'The Writer's Almanac' earlier this month. M.C. (Mayo Cornelius) lives with his family on a mountain near the Ohio River named for his great-great-grandmother Sarah, an escaped slave. Even though I enjoyed this coming of age story, written for 12-13 years old and up, I doubt many of today's young teens would find it interesting - not exciting enough.

"All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost."
                  Bilbo Baggins

I loved J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit the first time I read it and said not long ago it was time to revisit Bilbo, Gandalf, Smaug and Middle Earth. And while I had forgotten much about The Hobbit since first reading it many years ago, I've never forgotten Gollum and my precious. (I have my own precious, worn for many years.) Rated it 4.0 - this time.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Do you remember when you were young and just beginning to figure out relationships? How gradually you comprehended that your grandma was your Mom's Mom, your aunts were her sisters, their children were your cousins and so on?

I think the relationship that took the longest for me to figure out wasn't a relationship at all - my two grandmas. It seemed to me that Mom's Mom and Dad's Mom should be related somehow. They weren't sisters, obviously, but what were they? Co-grandmas? Grandmothers-in-law?
I don't have any photos of me as a child with both grandmas, but here is one of both my grandmas with their great-great grandson, Brock (my first grandchild). Grandma Lynam is seated with Grandma Ridnour between her and Brock. In back are the great-grandparents, my Mom, Ruth, and Kenny's parents, Betty and Chuck.

This is Grandma Helen, my Fleming grandchildren's other grandma, with our first grandson, Ki. We are co-grandparents of five and great-grandmas to two. Maybe grandmothers-in-law is not a recognized term, but that is how I think of us.

And then there were four - Kathryn, Ki holding baby Dominique and Deise. No two grandmas ever had any cuter grandlittles. In the 24 years Helen's daughter, Shalea, and my son, Preston, have been married, Helen and I have been together for birthday celebrations, graduations, holidays, gymnastics, plays and .... showers. This one for our first great-grandson, Ayden, two years ago. At that time Helen's hair was growing back after her first cancer treatments.

All five of our co-grandchildren when they were still little, playing on their make-shift 'stage' at Great-Grandma Ruth's.

Our co-great-grandsons, Ayden and Greyson, taken last November. These two are our oldest grandson, Ki's, boys.

Easter Sunday we were together again. Helen has endured another round of cancer treatments only to learn that there is nothing more that can be done to quell the disease. She could go on with some radical treatments which would only ravage her body more, but she has decided against that.
Our oldest granddaughter, Kathryn Irene, took this selfie with her Grandmother. Kathryn is named for both of us. She has Helen's middle name, Kathryn, and my middle name, Irene.
Kathryn is now a nurse at St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids. She understands what her grandma is going through. She plans to be with her at Helen's next doctor appointment to listen to the treatment plan and help Helen in any way she can. (I should mention that Helen's daughter, Shalea is also a nurse and will be with her through everything, too.)

I can't have shared all the memories and times together with Helen and not learned to admire and care about her. Our youngest grandson, Devin, will graduate from High School in May. (This photo taken last year at Dominique's graduation party.) Helen and I both plan to be there. I hope so. But as she said when I hugged her goodbye Sunday and quietly told her how sorry I am for all she has gone and is going through, "none of us know what's going to happen". I know if I were in her place, I would make the same choice she has, to forego any further treatments and enjoy the time she has left - like the fishing trip she mentioned.

I'll see you in May, Helen, when our youngest grandson, Devin, graduates. We've been there together for our grandkids many times. I am thankful we have been grandmothers-in-law. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Taking A Sunday Drive #21

If you have traveled through Nebraska on Interstate 80 in the past fifteen years, you have driven beneath the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument. It spans both sides of the interstate about three miles east of Kearney. We stopped to tour it on the way home from Colorado.

An escalator takes visitors up into the museum in the arch where the different time periods are displayed.

A team of oxen pulling a Conestoga wagon on the Oregon Trail.

Later the Lincoln Highway followed the same route.

And tourist cabins provided accommodations for travelers.

There were many more scenes in this self-guided audio tour. I only took pictures of some of my favorites.

The Archway is very interesting and I'm glad we took the time to tour it.

Because of its proximity, Nebraska is one of those states we've visited many times, from Nebraska City and Brownsville in the southeast to Alliance's Carhenge in the west, the SAC museum near Lincoln, the state's waterfalls near Valentine and Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, there's much to see and do.

 In 2005 we took a long weekend trip to Western Nebraska, following a scenic byway near the original Oregon Trail much of the way to Scottsbluff where we drove through the national monument taking the road up to Saddle Rock and viewing Mitchell Pass in the distance.

There was a path to where you could still see some of the ruts made by the wagons on the Oregon Trail.

With Scottsbluff as our base, we toured other sites in the area including Chimney Rock, faintly visible in this picture just above the "Warning, Rattlesnakes are common in this area" sign.
The visitor's center at Chimney Rock National Historic Site had photos showing how much the rock has eroded since the early days.

Jailhouse and Courthouse Rocks in the background with an irrigated field of alfalfa in front. These landmarks have also lost a lot of their stature.

Something you do not expect to see in Nebraska - a lighthouse! This is at Lake Minatare northeast of Scottsbluff. It was built in 1939 by the Veterans Conservation Corps as a shelter house and an observation tower. The tower is 55 feet high and I did make it to the top for a lovely view over the nearly 3000 acre state recreation area.

On our way to Fort Robinson we stopped at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument where, after viewing the fossil exhibits and the Cook collection of Native American artifacts in the visitor center, we hiked out toward the Miocene Epoch mammal sites where so many of the fossils had been found.
On the way, we crossed a small foot bridge and I walked over the headwaters of the Niobrara River - a small stream which becomes a favorite canoeing and tubing river from which you can see some of those aforementioned Nebraska waterfalls around Valentine.

Bud standing next to the plaque marking the spot where Sioux warrior, Crazy Horse, was killed September 5, 1877. A reconstructed guardhouse is in the background.
Formerly an army fort, Fort Robinson is now a state park.

This sod house is at the bottom of Windlass Hill at Ash Hollow State Park near Lewellen.
It was a steep descent for the early pioneers, but once in the hollow they found shade, fresh spring water and a place to rest before journeying on.

This journey from Iowa to western Nebraska took us only a few hours. It was one that was quite enlightening. It made me glad I wasn't a pioneer after all.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Trouble Brewing?

It's hard to believe Saoirse and I have been together six years. She has been cute, dependable and fun. True, we haven't traveled a lot of miles together, she still has less than 72,000 miles on her odometer, but for me, she's lived up to the meaning of her name - freedom. We don't need two cars, but I like having my own vehicle. And while I don't have any complaints about her, she may have one or two about me - the most likely being that she has to set outside in all kinds of weather. True, I do put her under the patio roof most of the winter as well as if there is hail in the area, but she almost never gets into the garage - until this week...

..... You see, Sally has suffered another little mar to her perfection. Earlier this month one of those gaudy, orange, state-owned trucks *lightly* rear-ended the poor girl. Consequently she is in the 'make me beautiful again' shop spa.

As long as she is there, she's also having this little New York City scrape taken care of. So what's the problem? What kind of trouble is brewing?

Saoirse has learned that the button on the doohickey clipped to her visor opens the garage door! She has been sneaking inside in Sally's absence. She likes being inside! I've told her Sally will be back in a few days, but she comes back with "possession is nine-tenths of the law". (I think she's been listening when we're watching those legal dramas on TV.)

I'm putting off explaining the house rules to her. While there may be factors in her favor - she is older than Sally, she is the newest family member, etc. - Sally's master and I long ago agreed that the youngest girl would be the one who got to be inside all the time. Saoirse is 13; Sally is only 11. I'm not looking forward to refereeing this fight!

On a lighter note: while we don't have the dratted "the squirrels are in the attic again" problem, we do have a similar "the starlings are in the eaves again" hassle. Yesterday I heard them begin building their nest in there.

The resident Mr. Fix-It pulled the gap back together and then applied the handyman's number one rule, "duct tape will fix anything". Those starlings won't be bugging me this year! Maybe I should just turn the brewing Saoirse vs. Sally problem over to him?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Taking A Sunday Drive #20

Mississippi, The Magnolia State, 20th to enter the Union. We first touched on the NE corner of Mississippi on our 'big trip East' in 2008. And once again on our way to see Christine and Dale in 2014 - again just the NE corner on the way through.

It was on the way back from Florida and South Carolina that we spent a little more time in Mississippi.
This Welcome Center in Greenville is a replica of the Victorian Era steamboats that once plied the Great Mississippi River.

Thousands and thousands of acres of that fertile Mississippi bottom land.

Bud read about another Mississippian Culture mound site and that is where we were headed.
Winterville Mounds National Historic Landmark is a short distance north of Greenville.

The largest of more than twenty original mounds is Temple Mound in the background.

Yep. I made it all the way to the top of this one, too. Last June, the state allocated $300,000 to restore the mounds and add walking trails. I'm sure that included replacing these dilapidated, sawed off railroad ties they were using for steps to the top of the mound!

Inside the Winterville Museum were several displays of pottery pieces found at the site.
I am certain I will never tire of viewing artifacts like these. For some reason they have always interested me. This may be where my love of pottery comes from.

Polished disc shaped stones believed to have been used in trade, for games and as rolled targets in spear-throwing practice.
I would trade for some of these!

As interesting as the artifacts was this photo showing Temple Mound surrounded by water during the Great Mississippi Floods of 1927. It shows cattle atop the mounds - their only chance of surviving the flooding.

I'm including Louisiana, The Pelican State, in this Sunday Drive, because, even though I had been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras back in the mid 70's, Bud had never been to this state. nor had we crossed it off our lower 48 list together.

So here is our Louisiana picture. We drove just far enough into the state for me to take this photo of Bud with a welcome sign. He is pointing north, indicating that we are headed home after a great twelve day trip to our country's Southeast states.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Rick Rack and Hand-me-Downs

I don't think I've used this picture of Betty and me before. When I first looked at it I thought it was taken up at Aunt Evelyn & Uncle Howard's because of the barn in the background. But I have decided it was taken at Grandpa & Grandma Ridnour's. Both the Robert's barn and Grandpa Joe's had double doors on their southwest corners. When we all gathered at Grandma & Grandpa's there were cars parked all over their small barnyard. I am guessing we were sitting on the fender or hood of one of those cars.
And look how I have my arm protectively around my little sister. Even though I have talked many times of how jealous of one another we were and how we didn't get along, there were many times that we did and were happy to have our picture taken together. On this particular day, we were both obviously very happy about something.

Maybe this was when we stayed with Grandpa and Grandma for the week Mom was in the hospital and we were happy because she was coming home. Our ages would be about right for that time - two and four. I know from an old letter Grandma sent Mom % the hospital in Clarinda that she had made us new dresses, perhaps even the ones we have on all trimmed in rick rack.

How many kids today would know what Rick Rack is? Or have an article of clothing embellished with it? Yet when I was little, a dress hardly seemed finished if it didn't have some colorful trim on it. It could be some white lace, but most often it was in a coordinating color of rick rack.

Rick rack might also be used when a hem was 'let down'. The dresses made while we were still growing were made with a wide hem. As we got taller, the hem would be 'let down' whatever length necessary to come below our knees. Sometimes where the old hem had been would show. If that happened and looked unsightly, Mom or Grandma might sew a border of rick rack around the skirt so the old line wouldn't be as obvious. Another use along that same principle was if there hadn't been enough material in the hem to let down, a contrasting solid color might be sewed on to the bottom of the dress to lengthen it, with a band of rick rack added to make it appear part of the original design. Rick rack could cover a multitude of sins.

If the dress had been handed down to a younger sister or back and forth between cousins as sometimes happened, there might be two or three or four strips of rick rack hiding previous hem lines. It was mostly the younger siblings who *got* to wear hand-me-downs. If you were the oldest you got the new clothes and when you outgrew them they passed down to your little sister(s). I had two older girl cousins, so I may have gotten some of their clothes to wear for a year or so before handing them back for their sister who was younger than me.

Now if there are no siblings or cousins, clothes get passed on via garage and yard sales. I remember one time, before the advent of garage sales, when Mom was offered a sack of a neighbor girl's clothes for us. I think Mom was taken back a bit when the neighbor asked for money. I believe she thought they were being 'handed down' to us in the same way we were used to passing clothes around. I don't remember what the cost was, probably five dollars or less and at first I thought Mom was going to turn them down. But the clothes were a little better quality than what we were used to, so Mom bought them. I only remember one item of clothing from that sack - a yellow skirt - which I wanted (and got) because yellow was my favorite color.
Eventually Betty and I wore the same sizes but by then I did not want her wearing my clothes so we seldom traded clothes. And rick rack was a thing of the past except for some of the aprons Mom made out of left over material from our dresses. Not that I would want to wear clothes with rick rack on them now, but sometimes I miss those simpler days.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

An Early St. Patrick's Day Gift

Two or three times a year an e-mail lands in my inbox from people who are getting in touch because they have happened upon one of my blogs. Generally they are distant cousins with whom I share a great grandparent or even a great-great grandparent.
But once in awhile they are from someone I have no idea who it is - those are the ones I'm leery of. February 28 I got just such an e-mail. It was from a name I did not recognize. It was a request to use one of my photos from a blog dating back to 2013.
It looked legit, but still.....I asked for a little more information and got this reply: "We write tips for cleaning dishes, laundry and surfaces. Upcoming is one for washing crystal and special serving dishes like those with gold trim and painted decorations. It's linked to St. Patrick's Day but I could not find a photo. Yours would be a good fit for the social media we have planned."
Okay, now I'm convinced. I gave my permission to use this photo from my June 22, 2012 blog:

My little collection of Royal Tara - the teapot a 50th birthday gift from my sister-in-law, Ruth, and brother, Ron. The matching tea cups a Christmas present from my husband, Bud. The vase, I'm not sure, but possibly a gift from friends, Kristina and Gene. And the little heart-shaped trinket box ??? maybe from a garage sale.

I always feel like a bit of a celebrity when something like this occurs. You can read the American Cleaning Institute's article in which my photo was used by going to: then clicking on Clean Living, then scrolling down the left side and click on 'Cleaning Matters Newsletter', finally, click on "Tackle the Washing O' The Irish With Care". (Sorry for all the steps, but their settings won't allow me to create a link.) I'm glad to note that I do correctly wash these special pieces.

And I'm most definitely looking forward to using them again with my daughter when she visits this summer!

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Wayward Wind

If you are of a certain age and you saw the news this morning, the song which has been in your head all day is The Wayward Wind by Gogi Grant.

The week of June 16, 1956, she pushed Elvis Presley and Heartbreak Hotel out of the number one spot on Billboard's Top 100. The Wayward Wind stayed at #1 for six weeks.

During those six weeks that summer: my older brother shaved for the first time; he went to Waterloo to 'strip bluegrass'; we got some much needed rain; Betty, Mom & I got paint for our room - Flamingo Red - and painted it before painting Ron's room turquoise. Dad had been working at the swimming pool - which meant he was helping build the pool house - our little town was getting a swimming pool!! We had our last dance classes at Fairview Hall. Ron was in his second week working away from home and "I miss him". Our little cousin, Shirley T. bit into an electrical cord and burned her mouth. A storm north of Red Oak demolished 'lots of barns', blew down trees and hail flattened crops. I finished laying the brick walk to the toilet that I had been working on. Had a party for the Wayne M's. (They were moving to California.) Went to Omaha to see former neighbors and went to the zoo. During this time read Step to the Music by Phyllis A. Whitney and The Shadow on the Door by Frances K. Judd. We celebrated Grandma L's 64th birthday. I got my first bra - even though I didn't need one.
Elvis Presley's I Want You, I Need You, I Love You pushed Gogi Grant's The Wayward Wind out of first place on Billboard's Top 100.

The wayward wind is a restless wind
A restless wind that yearns to wander 
And he was born the next of kin
The next of kin to the wayward wind....

I really liked this song the summer before I became a teenager. I like it still. The death last Thursday of Gogi Grant, 91, was announced yesterday. It showed up on my news feed this morning.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Taking A Sunday Drive #19

Minnesota is one of those states Bud and I have been to separately many times, but together, only twice. And both of those times we visited Pipestone National Monument on the edge of the town of Pipestone in Southwest Minnesota.

Anyone interested in Indian lore knows the reason it is called pipestone. It is the stone Native Americans used to carve their peace pipes. Bud's souvenir from the National Monument was the pipe, mine was the small dish.

The circle trail begins and ends at the visitor center. It takes you past one of the quarry pits.

Up, around and over a small cataract known as Winnewissa Falls.

And down these steps on the way back. The trail is less than a mile. It is well signed and very interesting. Part of it is in a wooded area and part of it goes through native prairie.

A half hour southeast of Pipestone is Blue Mounds State Park. (North of Luverne, MN) The Sioux quartzite cliffs were said to appear blue from a distance to the settlers passing. They named the landmark the Blue Mound.

To me, the most interesting feature in this park was this 1,250 foot line of rocks.
At the spring and fall equinoxes, the sun rises and sets on the stones in the alignment.

Closer view of the quartzite cliff.  This was near the above aligned stones.

The park has a small area of original prairie. Native prairie grasses and wildflowers have been restored to the area.

(Wild rose)

A member of the Forget-Me-Not family.

The bison herd was way off in the distance the day we were there, but close up you can see some of their wallows where they roll in the dirt.

If you visit Pipestone National Monument during the summer months, you can watch local Native Americans carve pipestone in the Indian Cultural Center located inside the visitor center. And if you're visiting Pipestone, Blue Mounds is less than thirty miles away.