Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August Book List

An *average* month of reading for me: 10 books. The three 4.5's are pictured above.

Nina George's The Little Paris Bookshop captivated me so much I bought my own copy - the first time I've purchased a new book in quite awhile. "A warm and charming tale of love, loss and power of reading. Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life, using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs." (Translated by Simon Pare.)

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry (translated by Alison Anderson) was one of the books Monsieur Perdu recommended to one of his customers which, of course, sent me back to re-read my copy received from son, Mark, (with the recommendation from daughter, Kari) for Christmas a few years ago. I reviewed this book the first time I read it, so here I will only comment about how surprised I was at how much of the story line I had forgotten, even though the characters and ending had stayed with me.

The Nest by Cynthia D' Aprix Sweeney is the third of these 4.5's. Premise is of the "nest egg" left to four siblings by their father, not to be touched until the youngest of the four is forty years old. Meant to be 'a little something' for them, it has grown beyond anyone's expectations. Four different 'needs' cause the siblings (and their mother) to disagree about the money and its distribution. Really a good book about family dynamics, expectations and how the family members react and adjust.

The other book pictured above, Murder In Morningside Heights, by Victoria Thompson, is #19 in her Gaslight Mystery series and a 3.5 rating. Frank and Sarah Malloy are glad to be back from their European honeymoon. Frank and his partner, Gino, also a former NYC policeman, have opened their 'Confidential Inquiries Agency'. The parents of a young woman recently graduated from college have engaged the agency to investigate her murder which happened at the college where she had been hired to teach French. (It seems peculiar to me to have so many French connections occurring.)

My other 3.5's are two Tess Gerritsen, Rizzoli and Isles mysteries, #3 in the series, The Sinner, and #4, Body Double (not pictured because I had just started reading it and thought it would go into my September reads - but was so good I finished it last night). Sadly, next week will be the final episode of the Rizzoli and Isles TV series - I'm just glad I have more of the books left to read!

One of my lowest rated books in awhile is Bill Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling - 1.5. I know my son, Doug, likes Bryson's books and I know this book got good reviews, so I think it is my problem that I am rating it so low. The blurb on the back of the book says Bryson is a "funny, funny, man" but I thought this book was just tedious. I probably would have quit reading it except that I did like learning about some heretofore, unknown to me, interesting, sites in Great Britain. (It was just all his extraneous, repetitious, comments I objected to.) You might expect to learn something about Little Dribbling (is there such a town in Great Britain?) but it is only mentioned once - in the Afterwords and Acknowledgments section. More of Bryson's humour? (Note the English spelling - my humor.)

I learned of Mary Oliver's poetry in one of my daily readings of A Writer's Almanac. Nature figures strongly in her poetry - something I can relate to. Here is the title poem of: A Thousand Mornings

"All night my heart makes its way
however it can over the rough ground
of uncertainties, but only until night
meets and then is overwhelmed by
morning, the light deepening, the 
wind easing and just waiting, as I
too wait (and when have I ever been
disappointed?) for redbird to sing."

How I can relate! This slender volume I rated a 3, but I did read through it rather quickly. A slower, more thoughtful reading would probably have garnered a higher rating.

Two If By Sea is Jacquelyn Mitchard's newest novel and I thought her best until maybe the ending which felt undone, to me - like she got to 399 pages and felt as though she had to end it.
Until then, though, I was totally on board. The novel begins with a tsunami in Brisbane on Christmas Eve. Frank's pregnant wife and her entire family, except one brother, perish.
Frank is a first responder and goes out searching for survivors. He saves a three year old boy from a car being swept away, but is unable to save the boy's brother and mother(?). For reasons he doesn't understand, he decides to take the boy with him when he returns to his family home in Wisconsin. Telling everyone he has adopted the son from a previous marriage of the wife of one of his deceased brother-in-laws, Frank soon learns the boy has special gifts and that there are people looking for him to use in exploiting those gifts. And they will stop at nothing - it is up to Frank to keep everyone safe. Rated 4.0, even with the abrupt ending.

My last book, also 4.0, is Katarina Bivald's The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. This is another wonderful book about books by a Swedish author, translated by Alice Menzies. One of the 'reviews' on the back of the book: "Will captivate fans of Nina George's 'The Little Paris Bookshop' and Gabrielle Zevin's 'The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry'." And didn't I just read the former this month and the latter last year? (And loved them both.)
This book was especially interesting because its location was a small town in Eastern Iowa (Cedar County). The author did an excellent job of identifying Iowa places in that area.
An older woman (Amy) becomes pen pals with a young Swedish woman (Sara) because of their mutual love of books. She invites the woman to Iowa for a two month vacation after Sara's job ends when the bookstore she works in closes. Sara arrives in Iowa on the day of Amy's funeral. The entire town of Broken Wheel rallies to make Sara feel welcome and encourage her to stay in Amy's house. At first Sara thinks she should go back to Sweden, but decides instead to move all of Amy's books to an empty store on main street that Amy had also owned and open it as bookstore/lending library. She wants people to learn to enjoy reading as much as she does and Amy did, too. This book is very well paced with an interesting assortment of characters and situations. And of course there are many references to one of my favorite topics - books!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Taking A Sunday Drive #43

"No matter where I roam, there's no place like home."

Saved the best for last: Iowa, Beautiful Land.

I started going through photos of our Iowa trips and realized there are too many to use in one blog; so, a few photos and some words about our times together in our home state.

When we were first married we didn't have a lot of money to spend on travel but one way we could do it was by camping. This was our first tent - shown here set up in my Mom's front yard. I remember the first time we used it. It was over the 4th of July weekend and we went to Chichaqua Bottoms Park northeast of Des Moines. It was quite hot that weekend, but the park wasn't crowded and we had a good time trying to canoe in the old Skunk River oxbows.

We decided to do long weekend camping trips to the three 'corners' of Iowa we weren't from. In northwest Iowa we've camped at Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, visited Stone State Park in Sioux City, visited The Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, seen The Hausbarn in Manning, climbed the tower in Pilot Knob State Park, walked along the shore at Storm Lake, but somehow missed Orange City which we are talking about visiting this fall.

In northeast Iowa we've been to Mason City, Iowa Falls, the giant tree house in Marshalltown, Decorah, Dubuque, Lansing, Lime Springs.

And to the Hurstville Lime Kilns near Maquoketa (as well as the caves).

We've been to the The Field of Dreams near Dyersville, the Amana Colonies and the Yellow River State Forest.

We toured Cedar Rock, the Frank Lloyd Wright house at Quasqueton, viewed the Anamosa State Penitentiary (from outside) but missed the National Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame!

And, with my affinity for mills, we've been to the Motor Mill on the Turkey River near Elkader and toured Potter's Mill at Bellevue.

In southeast Iowa, we attended this Buckskinners' Rendezvous at Lake Wapello State Park near Drakesville, where we also looked in on a farm auction attended almost entirely by Amish, and celebrated our 20th anniversary with dinner at Big Muddy's on the banks of the Mississippi at Burlington.

We've seen the Golden Domes at Maharishi University of Management at Fairfield, hunted for geodes at Geode State Park near Lowell, looked for big kitties at Wildcat Den State Park near Muscatine and visited the old Manning Hotel in Keosauqua.

We shopped at the Dutchman's Store, a huge, old-fashioned, general store operated by Mennonites in Cantril, before driving by the Wickfield Pavilion east of Cantril. This unique round barn was built in 1918 and is now on the National Historic Register. We had a scary few minutes on the way to see the above when a pickup truck struck the horse and buggy of one of the local Mennonite farmers. Luckily he and the horse were alright, although the buggy was badly damaged. (I think it is an interesting comparison between the domes in the two photos above.)

Closer to home are the famous covered bridges of Madison County, Lake of Three Fires State Park near Bedford, one of our favorite camping spots, Mormon Trail Lake and Park near Bridgewater .....

.... the National Hot Air Balloon Classic at Indianola as well as, of course, our own Southwest Iowa Hot Air Balloon Days every September here in Creston. This photo was taken at Lake McKinley, but most years we get the best view right from our own deck.

I began by saying how very, very, many photos I have taken on our travels throughout Iowa. I don't need pictures to remember the places we've been, but like the one above, they do help. This barn once stood along highway 169 south of Winterset. It was torn down several years ago, but I still think of it every time we pass that way. Pictures aren't necessary, but I'm glad I have them as reminders of just how beautiful my home state is.

East is east and west is west, but home's the place I love the best.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Taking A Sunday Drive #42

We used to get kidded about living in Lapland - "you know, where Missouri laps over into Iowa" - because we lived so close to the Missouri State Line. It always made me mad because I was a loyal Iowan; I loved my state. Of course there was The Honey War and The Sullivan Line - that whole dispute over the Iowa-Missouri border, which Iowa won. But even if 'we' had lost, where I was raised would still have been in Iowa.
Which brings me back to Missouri, our closest and most visited state from the time I was a child when our family did go on Sunday drives. But this series has been about the trips Bud and I together have taken and we have taken many to the 'Show Me' state.....

....including our first to Powell Gardens. We had taken Mom to Warrensburg for the weekend to visit my brother Les and his family. Many years later Les and I would again visit this Kansas City Botanical garden and I would be amazed by how much it had grown. Definitely an interesting and beautiful place about 50 miles east of Kansas City near Kingsville.

There was a 3-day weekend trip where we stayed in Platte City, using it as a base and touring the area including Weston and Weston Bend State Park. When we spotted this old, original Bud's 66 Service station, I had to have a photo of Bud posing there. When we showed the picture to my cousin Bob, with whom Bud did once work at Johnston Texaco, Bob kept it and put it on his bulletin board at Corning Tire and Exhaust. Someone came in, saw the photo and said, "I didn't know Bud bought a gas station." I also remember visiting several antique stores in the Platte City area.

Other trips in Northwest Missouri included the Amish town of Jamesport, Jesse James birthplace farm near Kearney and Watkins Mill State Park in that same area.

We spent a weekend in Independence where we toured the beautiful and unusual Community of Christ Temple. (Formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.)

Inside we admired the stained glass, the massive pipe organ, art collection, and the interior nautilus shell-like view up the spiral spire.

Side view of the Vaile Mansion I toured; don't know what happened to the photo of me in front of the Victorian, Gothic/Italianate style, mere 31 rooms, home.

We saw the trail swales (wagon wheel ruts) made by thousands of pioneers' wagons as they left Independence on the trek west. Above is the carriage house and other buildings on the grounds of the National Frontier Trails Museum.

We've walked around Westport and lunched at Kelly's Westport Inn, in the oldest building in Kansas City.

In Southeast Missouri, we've visited Ste. Genevieve, the first organized European settlement west of the Mississippi, founded by French Canadian colonists in 1735. And after tent camping in one of the many state parks in the area, toured Bollinger Mill State Historical Site on the Whitewater River near Cape Girardeau.

We've been to Table Rock Lake, Truman Lake and Branson.

We've toured Wilson's Creek National Battlefield (Civil War) near Springfield. The Ray House, pictured above, was used as a hospital during the battle.

Further north, at Lexington, MO, the Anderson house was the one used as a hospital during the Civil War Battle of Lexington. Mom and my children and I visited this site when my kids were little. By the time Bud and I went there, a visitor center had been built which better explained the battle there.

I cannot remember exactly where this beautiful bridge was, except that I took the photo somewhere in southern Missouri. The bridge had been closed to vehicles.

And it was in the same area as this spring, where, of course, I had to sample the water. Never met a spring I didn't like.

On one trip we followed the Missouri River across the state stopping at areas of interest along the way. Here I am at the Lower Springs area in Boone's Lick State Historical Site just before, you guessed it, I sampled the water. Bud said, "You're not going to taste that, are you?" To which I replied, "How else am I going to know if it tastes salty?" It did. I found it fascinating to see how Daniel's sons developed a salt business here.

Not far from Boone's Lick is the historic village of Arrow Rock. Bud got tired of all the quaint shops and antique stores and sat down on this old bench to wait for me.

Walking was much more to his liking, so I left him a few miles from Rocheport so he could walk part of the KATY trail. The hiking/biking trail follows the right-of-way of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. It is the longest (240 miles) rails-to-trails project in the country. (It must also be the longest state park!)

On this particular trip we went as far as the picturesque town of Hermann. So we must have been there in October because I remember that they were celebrating the area's German heritage with Oktoberfest.

Bothwell Lodge along Hwy 65 north of Sedalia was one of those serendipitous finds for us - we saw the sign, we stopped. Built for Sedalia attorney and state legislator, John Bothwell, the 31-room, castle-like mansion sets atop a high bluff. Construction was begun in 1897 and completed in 1928. There were many examples of the latest technology, but the one which most impressed me was the 'natural' air conditioning - cool air from a cave below the house was vented up a stairwell into the house. I was also impressed by the beautiful grounds. We were the only ones there the day we stopped so we had our own private tour.

There are many more areas of Missouri we have enjoyed, these are but a few.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Taking A Sunday Drive #41 (& Appending #19)

Bud saw some foreign countries (and our 50th state) courtesy of Uncle Sam during the Vietnam War and I have been to Ireland (and England if you count Heathrow Airport), but we have only been to two other countries together and they both border the United States.

We did not want to drive in Mexico, so, while on one of our Arizona trips, we parked on the U.S. side at Nogales, AZ and walked into Nogales, MX doing some shopping..... well as the touristy things. I could have sat on the burro for my photo, but I did not want to subject him to that much weight! Note the truck load of red chili peppers behind me.

No doubt you remember our trip to Canada from photos I shared last September when we stayed on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

But that wasn't the first time we were in Canada which brings me to appending my #19 Sunday drive blog ---

--- because when I wrote about trips in Minnesota in March, I totally forgot about our most memorable one to and along North Shore Drive. It was over a long July 4th weekend. I remember how chilly it was the morning we left the farm. We drove as far as Cloquet, MN the first day which is where I took this photo of the "World's Only Frank Lloyd Wright Service Station". Who knew the famous architect had designed gas stations? The copper, cantilevered canopy 'points' to the nearby St. Louis River.

The next morning we drove through Duluth and began the North Shore Drive along Lake Superior, stopping at all the lighthouses and waterfalls along the way. First stop was at Two Harbors Lighthouse, the oldest one in Minnesota. It overlooks Agate Bay and is now a bed and breakfast. The ship is the Crusader II, standing as a testament to the commercial fishermen of the area. The coat of arms is that of the royal family of Norway.

A moody view of Split Rock Lighthouse from a distance. The closest town is Castle Danger.

One of the many state parks along the way - Bud overlooking the falls at one of them - I believe this is High Falls of the Pigeon River in Grand Portage State Park .

Our hotel was about halfway along the drive also known as Scenic Highway 61. If I remember right it was in Tofte. What I remember for sure was that it was so cold we had the heat on every night. I also remember going to Bluefin Bay for dinner and having the most delicious fresh salmon. I almost passed on it because it was served with a citrus sauce and I wasn't sure I would like it. But oh my, it was wonderful. And what put it over the top was the fact that we were dining overlooking the huge expanse of Lake Superior as the sun set.

We crossed in to Canada on this trip "just so we can say we've been there" which is exactly what we told the border crossing personnel when they asked the purpose of our trip. This is me at the Middle Falls of the Pigeon River on the Canadian side. I loved the tawny ochre color of the water here and at the High Falls.

Possibly my favorite photo from this trip was this one I took of Bud and bear at a souvenir stop along the route. I love the nonchalant look on Bud's face. I have used this on Facebook with the notation that for some reason this picture makes me think of those "most interesting man in the world" ads. I believe it was my little brother who commented: "I don't often have my arm in a bear's mouth, but when I do......."

How could I have forgotten North Shore Drive when I first posted about Minnesota???

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Changing Seasons

Summer's waning
Light is changing

Cicadas whirring
Crickets chirring

Leaves falling
Autumn calling

Fall's finery displayed
Colors widely arrayed

Mornings crisply arrive
Feeling glad to be alive

Blue Jays call thief, thief
Winter. I hope it's brief

First snow such delight
Solstice, longest night

Ice coated trees glimmer
Watery blue skies shimmer

Winter's steely gray skies
Give over to earth's sighs

Spring and a sense of wonder
That I'm still above, not under

New growth at every turn
Dormant hopes again burn

Flowers and showers of May
Usher perfect summer days

For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under the sun. The older I get the faster the seasons pass. But with every change of season I find I am still glad to see them arrive.

I would not want to live any where there wasn't such a pronounced change in summer, autumn, winter and spring and I love living in my native state of Iowa.

A time (and place) to be born; a time to die. A time to laugh and a time to cry. A time to love and be loved.

I will always believe I have grown up and lived during the best time and in the best place possible.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Black Lives Matter/Why Some Whites Are Waking Up To Racism

This is my personal experience(s) with our fellow compatriots, the adults in my young life first referred to as n...s(the n word, which I cannot say or write, along with all the other derogatory terms I heard), then colored, Negroes, finally, Blacks and African Americans.
I grew up on a farm near a small, county seat town in Southwestern Iowa. When I was very little, there was one black family in our town. By the time of my clear memories, that family had moved on.

In 1956 my beloved Grandpa Joe Ridnour lay seriously ill in the Methodist Hospital in Omaha. Half of his stomach had been removed. It was almost two weeks before he was deemed well enough for us kids to go visit him. How clearly I remember seeing Grandpa lying there in that hospital bed. And how I remember him telling us how well he was being treated by the 'colored' nurses aides. When one came into the room and said, "How you doin' today, sugar?" and Grandpa replied back that he was feeling better, 'honey', my ignorant eyes were opened to a new way of seeing someone who wasn't white like me. I realized 'they' were people, too. Not just people, but friendly, likable and kind. Up until then I realize I had been a bit afraid of black people.

After that there still weren't any black people in my sphere except for a few athletes who came to Corning for wrestling meets when I was in high school. Even in Cedar Rapids where I moved to in '67, I don't remember any, not even at Kirkwood where I took some college courses.

It wasn't until I moved to Des Moines and started working at a manufacturing plant south of downtown that I actually got to know a couple of people. There was a young black man, Sam J. who worked in the plant and a young black woman, Angela, who worked in design that I became friends with. I sat with them at lunch and breaks and really got acquainted with them. He was so funny and she was so cute and smart. I suppose it was because they were the only two black people there and near the same age that I thought they should be a couple, though I don't believe they were ever attracted to one another that way.

A couple years later when I began working in an advertising and public relations agency I met and got well acquainted with one of the spokesmen for our biggest client - Iowa Power and Light. Carl W. had one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard. He was tall, dark (obviously) and handsome and so personable. I doubt he ever met a stranger. It wasn't long before a larger media base came calling and he moved North to the Twin Cities.

And I moved back to that small Southwest Iowa town of my youth - an area still devoid of African Americans. Not until we retired to our present, slightly larger, town have there been any black people in my life. There was the young woman in the book club I joined and I see people of color at the Y almost daily. I had a black, woman physician for a while, but she left the area last year. I have a cousin whose son and his wife have adopted black children and friends whose daughter married a black man, but still, no close, personal relationships any longer.

I started this post a few days ago because of that subject line I read 'Why some whites are waking up to racism' and the 'Black lives matter' we see almost daily in the news. I started out with the idea of relating my personal experiences and ending by asserting my lack of prejudices, that I don't see black or white or brown, that I only see people. But is that true? I believe so. I want to believe so. But I live in a white, middle class, comfortable world. How would I feel if I weren't as privileged? Could I be as tolerant? Would I live without prejudices?
Truly, don't all lives matter?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Taking A Sunday Drive #40

The hardest part about featuring South Dakota is choosing just a few of the many photos we have taken there. This is one of my favorites - Ramona in Ramona, SD. It is a little burg of less than 200 people about 35 miles southwest of Brookings.
We were on our way to North Dakota when I learned there is a Ramona, SD, so this was more of a passing through rather than going to South Dakota.

Visiting the Badlands of South Dakota on our first trip to the state.

Doing all the touristy things - like Wall Drug in Wall, SD. Besides the 'free ice water' the think I remember most about this stop was NOT buying the silver and gold bracelet I saw there. I think I've kicked myself ever since, but passed on it because I figured I would find one I liked better in Deadwood. (I didn't.)

Deadwood in 1992 was still comparatively small. We went through there a couple years ago and hardly recognized it, it had grown so much. Mount Moriah Cemetery high above Deadwood was a must see for Bud, pictured here in front of the grave of James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok. Martha Jane Canary, "Calamity Jane" is buried near Wild Bill.

We also toured Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Monument and the Black Hills on this trip stopping in Mitchell on the way home to see the famous Corn Palace.

During a weekend trip we visited Yankton where this replica of the first capitol building of the Dakota Territory can be seen in Riverside Park.

From Yankton we followed the Missouri River west to near Greenwood where this picture of me at the Yankton Sioux Treaty Memorial was taken.
(I wish I knew why the colors in this photo have stayed so bright while so many of my older photos have faded.)
In Sioux Falls we found our way to the cascades on the Big Sioux River in Falls Park. For some reason Bud and I both fell in love with this area. Falls Park was relatively unimproved then.

Unlike it is now with multiple paths, viewing points and a new visitor center from the top of which this photo was taken about ten years later.

Another photo from the early 2000's showing some of the pieces of petrified wood incorporated into the building of the Pettigrew Home and Museum, a Queen Anne style home built in 1889.

Taken from down the street - a view of the spires of  The Cathedral of Saint Joseph completed in 1919.

After an overnight stay in Sioux Falls, the next day we drove to Dell Rapids and then over to Garretson to see Devils Gulch where Jesse James supposedly jumped this gap, now spanned by a bridge, to escape the Northfield, MN posse chasing him after his failed bank robbery attempt in that town.

We opted to take a pontoon boat ride up nearby Split Rock River where these Herefords had come for a drink. You can see the pink Proterozoic quartzite common to this area and known as Sioux Quartzite.

The boat ride was a little longer than we had bargained for and the man giving the tour tried to keep us all entertained with some corny jokes, but I enjoyed the peacefulness of the river and spotting views like all these swallow nests built in the cracks and crannies of the rocks.

Other very meaningful stops in South Dakota have included this one at Wounded Knee Massacre Monument and cemetery on the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation......

.....and climbing to the top of Bear Butte near Sturgis where I took one of my favorite photos of Bud. The peak climbs more than 1250 feet above the surrounding plains and from the point where we paused for pictures we still had a way to go, but it was so worth it. You can see why it is a sacred spot for Native Americans.

Of all South Dakota's outstanding scenery, if I had to choose one location, it would be the 22 mile drive through Spearfish Canyon between Spearfish and Lead.

Strangely enough we have never been to the one monument South Dakota is noted for, Mount Rushmore. Maybe we sub-consciously skipped that one so we would have reason to go back again?