Earthly Delights

We went to Sauvie Island this morning to a U-Pick farm for fresh strawberries. We picked about 20 pounds of juicy sweet Hood berries, brought them home and popped them in the freezer (those that we didn't pop directly into our mouths). What a treat that will be in January. We'll probably go once more for another batch and then it's on to...

blueberries! These are in our garden but we'll need to supplement with some U-Pick. We do have enough raspberries in the garden to keep us happy for the rest of the year.

In the non-edible sections of the garden, here's what bloomed this week:


...poppy (this one survived the curious fingers)...

...and the lavender keeps the bumble bees busy.


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The Sunday Salon: Complementary Reading

The Sunday

Hello Sunday Salonsters. It's hot hot hot here in Portland this weekend (triple digits yesterday), so I'm doing chores early in the morning and then hunkering down in the coolest places I can find with my books and my laptop.

I just happened to be reading these two books at the same time. Dovegreyreader referred to this phenomena awhile back as 'bookendipity.'

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is set in New York in the 1870s, but was published in 1920. It's a rather scathing commentary on New York's "polite Society" (of which Wharton was a part until she moved to France).

Gibson Girls and Suffragists: Perceptions of Women from 1900 to 1918 is partly an overview of the "polite Society" of New York at the turn of the century. Topics include fashion, physical activities, women's employment opportunities (or lack of), education, women's sphere of domesticity and their participation in World War One.

The one featured author in Gibson Girls is --- Edith Wharton, and particularly, The Age of Innocence.

Of course, I was particularly fascinated by the clothing in Gibson Girls, the corseted bodies and fashion rules that most women in polite Society strictly adhered to. In The Age of Innocence, during Newland and May's honeymoon, May spends a month in Paris tending to a new wardrobe. Newland...

... was struck again by the religious reverence of even the most unworldly American women for the social advantages of dress. "It's their armour," he thought, "their defence against the unknown and their defiance of it."
I found it interesting that in the first years of the 20th century women's increased physical activities, including dance and bicycling, informed fashion, requiring looser, shorter clothing.

The writing in Gibson Girls is geared toward young adults; the photos and old posters can be marveled over by anyone. Here's one that made me gasp: the one on the right is a piece of sheet music.

I like to think we've made progress.


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Some garden firsts

It was delicious.

The first poppy bloom - I went back to photograph it last night and all the petals were off. I suspect curious little children.

Broccoli several days ago -- it will be dinner tonight.

The cabbage is furling, the kale is curling
and the broccoli is broccoling.
It's a good life.

Lezlie was curious about the artichoke plant. Here's a photo I took a couple years ago when it went to bloom (note the industrious bees! well, and the aphids too, sigh.) Click on it to enlarge.


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Reading is Fundamental - Read-a-Thon Fundraiser

My friend Wendy (caribousmom) is participating in the 24 hour Read-a-Thon this weekend. It's a fund raiser for Reading is Fundamental (RIF), a children's literacy program that has suffered extreme budget cuts under the Bush administration (don't get me started). To support Wendy's venture into this reading challenge, I'm pledging $30 to RIF. You can support RIF too; either visit Wendy's blog about the challenge or leave a comment here to let us know you're supporting the cause. Thanks!

Wendy would be embarrassed that I'm telling you this, but she does some fabulous work out in the world, volunteering her time for some really wonderful programs. And she's preparing for this Read-a-Thon while forest fires rage around them, not knowing if they'll need to evacuate from their home in Northern California. Wendy, you're amazing! Read More!

Booking Through Thursday: Books/Authors I Love and Why

This week's Booking Through Thursday conundrum:

Think about your favorite authors, your favorite books . . . what is it about them that makes you love them above all the other authors you’ve read? The stories? The characters? The way they appear to relish the taste of words on the tongue? The way they’re unafraid to show the nitty-gritty of life? How they sweep you off to a new, distant place? What is it about those books and authors that makes them resonate with you in ways that other, perfectly good books and authors do not?

Great questions - what draws me to some authors and makes me run from others.... I love authors that tease a story out, with enough foreshadowing to keep my interest but not so much as to be obnoxious. Great examples are two I just finished reading: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood and The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell. Kazuo Ishiguro also does this brilliantly - it's like watching a slow strip tease (an elegant one, not one of those pole dances, ewww).

Well drawn characters are essential. Nothing is worse than getting to the end of a book and feeling like I don't know or don't like any of the characters (there are exceptions to the latter, e.g. Fingersmith, in which most of the characters have questionable motives and actions, but it makes for a wonderful romp).

I do love books that have some sort of morality message or that unveil human foibles - but again, the message must be subtle. Please don't bang me over the head with it (I felt that was the downfall of Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer, though I usually love her writing).

Other qualities I love: subtle humor, a unique story, I-did-not-see-that-coming twists, and, of course, well crafted writing. Authors I think accomplish these so well: Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich (I'll be starting her new book The Plague of Doves this weekend), Sarah Waters, Isabel Allende, Joanne Harris. Read More!

The Sunday Salon - Self-Survey

The Sunday Last week I was inspired by Katrina to do a little survey of my reading shoulds and desires. Thanks, Katrina! I made a few changes to it and added some of my own:
  1. Author/s I've always wanted to read but haven't yet: Iris Murdoch; Kurt Vonnegut; Ray Bradbury (this could be a very long list, but I'm for brevity today)

  2. Author/s I'd like to read more of: Charles Dickens; John Steinbeck; Kazuo Ishiguro; Sarah Waters

  3. Author/s I think I should read but have no interest in (true confessions): James Joyce; John Updike; Joyce Carol Oates

  4. Book/s I think I should read but have no interest in: Moby Dick

  5. Authors I love that I've recently discovered (thanks to LibraryThing!): Kazuo Ishiguro; Robertson Davies; Elizabeth Taylor; Anita Shreve; Jhumpa Lahiri; Per Petterson.

  6. The genre/s I've wanted to read more of: sci-fi; mystery

  7. The book/s on my TBR pile I always mean to read next: Brave New World; 1984 (that fits in with #6!)

  8. Book/s I want to try again:
    Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood - I've started this 3 or 4 times and couldn't get past the first 20 pages or so. I'm still curious about it though and haven't given up yet.

    The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy - I quit this one at about 50 pages; I've heard so many raves about this book, and I think so much of her as an activist that I want to give it another go.

  9. Books I want to re-read:

    To see if I love them as much as I did the first time: House of the Spirits (Isabel Allende); Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood); Ishmael and My Ishmael (Daniel Quinn); The River Why (David James Duncan).

    To see if I can change my poor opinion of it: Prodigal Summer (Barbara Kingsolver). This is on my book group list for this year, so I'll get my chance.

  10. Books I will never, ever read: anything by Danielle Steele; The Secret. Never.

I'm about 3/4 of the way through The Blind Assassin and am thoroughly enjoying it. Atwood is such a stunning writer. Next up: Probably The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, which awaits me at the library.

Until next time, Sunday readers! Have a great week. Read More!

In - and out - of the garden

Time to start harvesting a few things.

The strawberries are beginning to ripen. I sat by the garden the other evening and watched a brazen scrub jay jump into the garden and start pecking at an almost-ripe strawberry! The nerve.

We have peas galore.

Of course, it takes more than a galore to equal even a few batches of shelled peas.

Sigh, Guess we'll have to start eating artichokes soon. Life is rough.

The alliums are particularly beautiful this year.

Speaking of alliums - the garlic I planted last fall laid down and surrendered. It was time to harvest.

They will cure in the sun for a few days ... or until it starts to rain.

O garlic! O pesto! O hummus!

It finally stopped raining long enough so I could water.... hmm. This is the greens bed - lettuce, chard, kale, cabbage, broccoli.

I decorated my dinner plate with rainbow chard and parsley from the garden. Read More!

Handy Update

One week later, much improvement.

Here's what they look like now (the glow is not a corona, even though a friend today called the scars my stigmata). Note the subliminal message in the background. (If I tell you there's a subliminal message does that mean it isn't subliminal?)

Talk to the hand....

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On Book Clubs - Booking Through Thursday

This week's Booking Through Thursday question/s:

Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (or, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?

Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?

Funny you should ask about book clubs. I just attended the first meeting of a brand new book club on Monday. There are 12 women; our commonality is that we all know the woman who gathered and hosted us Monday evening - and that we all love to read, of course. We'll meet once a month for 90 minutes (which I don't think is long enough for twelve women to discuss a yummy book, but we'll see).

We came to consensus pretty quickly and easily about how to run the group. We each came with a title or two to propose. The person who champions the book then hosts the meeting for that book - meaning: providing the physical space as well as author information and, if desired, reader questions (e.g. study guide-type questions).

It took us about an hour to come up with ten books and a calendar. I was impressed how quickly it all came together. We also talked about having book exchanges and potlucks because, well, we're all middle aged women and we like to have a good time!

This is my second F to F book club experience; the first was many years ago and didn't hold together very long - I don't even remember why. Part of why I want to participate in this is to enrich my reading experience. I tend to read quite literally and so I enjoy hearing other's perspectives about books and what nuggets they mine from the reading.

Re: Part Two of this week's question - I don't read well under pressure. I don't enjoy it as much if I'm on a timeline because sometimes I'll feel obligated to read when I don't really want to (when's that???). But I think I read deeper and look for issues, symbols, allusions more than when it's not an "assigned" read. I've done quite a bit of online book clubbing at LibraryThing and do notice a difference in the way I read. But if it's a book I'm really enjoying, it doesn't really matter.

Some of the books we've chosen for our new group:
The Girls
Oscar and Lucinda
Three Cups of Tea
Prodigal Summer
The Bonesetter's Daughter
The Book Thief

I think I can live with those! Read More!

Weekly Geeks #7 - Photos 'n' Books

This is my first WG post, not for lack of trying. Dewey, over at The Hidden Side of a Leaf, hosts this gathering and always has some interesting theme for the week. This is photo week - posting bookish-type photos.

Since I already posted some whimsical photos of my TBR (to be read) shelf last week, I thought I'd continue that theme and post a couple more.

Most of my TBR books are packed away because of the studio re-do, but I've saved out a shelf's worth, 'cause you just never know what you might want to read next. I have new bookshelves sitting at the furniture store warehouse waiting for me to say the word, which will be after the new floor is installed, which is still unknown. So in the meantime, here's where one of my new bookshelves will be:

Nice, isn't it? It'll take up that whole wall and another on the other side of the window. The guitars will have to move.

Now, since I seem to be having problems getting to the two Early Review books I'm supposed to be reading, I've come up with a solution for the TBR shelf so I won't be tempted by enticing titles:

Here's a little peek at some of what's on that shelf. (If you click the photo you can actually read some of the enticing titles.)

For some other interesting and fun geekblog photos, visit Debra at Reading Animals, or Bookchronicle (look for the cat on the shelf!) or the Bibliobrat (some people are just TOO neat!) Read More!

The Sunday Salon: Around the World in 80 hours

The Sunday Since I'm still fairly incapacitated, hand-wise, this will be an ultra short SS post today. I'm getting lots of good reading done, on a bit of a global whirlwind:

  • Half of a Yellow Sun (Nigeria/Biafra)
  • Mudbound (US - Mississippi)
  • Weaving a Way Home (all over the map)
  • An Artist of the Floating World (Japan)
  • The Story of Lucy Gault (Ireland)
  • The World Without Us (Planet Earth, sans humans) - still reading
Hmm, where to next? Perhaps Italy -The Leopard - or Canada - The Blind Assassin - or maybe a trip Down Under - Oscar and Lucinda.

My actual right hand (the left one looks similar). No pretty maps, just pretty stitches and bruises. Read More!

Hands Down

Quick update on my hand surgery Wednesday. All went well, no surprises. I've been pretty sore, but improving bit by bit. Bandages off tonight. I'm not keyboarding much.

I'll check in again in a day or two.

Drawing: M.C. Escher Read More!

Mount TBR

Over at LibraryThing we sometimes refer to our To Be Read stacks as Mount TBR. Mine is growing almost weekly. Ok, almost daily.

I've been redecorating my studio space where most of my library lives. Had to pack away all my books and I'm now waiting on flooring and then bookshelves, so we're still a few weeks out. I managed to keep a box or two of books near the front of the stored stuff -- books I thought I might want to start sometime this month.

Since I have some recuperation time coming up over the next week or two, it's especially important to have my books close by!

I have all these yummy books to choose from! What would you choose? (You can click on the photos to get a better look at the titles.)
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The Sunday Salon: Sarah Orne Jewett

The Sunday
Good morning Salonsters and other visitors. It's rainy and very green here in Portland this morning; what's it like in your part of the world?

I needed a little break from genocide (Half of a Yellow Sun) and the end of humanity (The World Without Us), so from the bookshelf I chose a beautifully illustrated edition of Sarah Orne Jewett's novella, The Country of the Pointed Firs.

I was first introduced to Jewett's writing in college - "Miss Tempy's Watchers," a short story about members of the community sitting vigil with Miss Tempy's recently deceased body, as was the custom. I remember such gentleness and respect in the story, and I've wanted to read more of her work ever since.

Sarah Orne Jewett was a contemporary of Mark Twain, Willa Cather and Harriet Beecher Stowe. She lived in Maine and set most of her stories there, detailing the characters and customs unique to New England seaport towns. She started writing at an early age and was first published before the age of 20. She wrote poetry and children's stories and published a number of short stories. The Country of the Pointed Firs is arguably her best published work.

It's a quiet little novella told from the point of view of a visitor to the village of Dunnet Landing, Maine. Large scale shipping is changing the culture of the region, as Captain Littlepage laments:
...a community narrows down and grows dreadful ignorant when it is shut up to its own affairs, and gets no knowledge of the outside world except from a cheap, unprincipled newspaper. In the old days, a good part o' the best men here knew a hundred ports and something of the way folks lived in them. They saw the world for themselves, and like's not their wives and children saw it with them. They may not have had the best of knowledge to carry with 'em sight-seein', but they were some acquainted with foreign lands and their laws, an' could see outside the battle for town clerk here in Dunnet; they got some sense o' proportion. Shipping's a terrible loss to this part o' New England from a social point o' view, ma'am.

I hadn't realized that the families of whalers and fishermen often accompanied them on their journeys. As our narrator is becoming acquainted with Mrs. Fosdick, she says,
I soon discovered that she, like many of the elder women of that coast, had spent a part of her life at sea, and was full of a good traveler's curiosity and enlightenment.

I'll finish up this lovely story this morning and get back to Biafra this evening.

Those of you curious about my ability to stay away from the rest of Unaccustomed Earth, I was successful. However, I didn't make much progress with my Early Review books. I've been anxiously waiting to read Half of a Yellow Sun for more than a year; even though it's a difficult read because of the subject matter (civil war and genocide in Nigeria/Biafra) it is a stunning book and I got engrossed in it right away. I still have most of Lahiri's book to look forward to, and that's not a bad thing.


I'm having carpal tunnel surgery on BOTH hands Wednesday, so I don't know if I'll make a Sunday Salon appearance next week. I may not be able to keyboard for awhile. I will, however, be able to read. A LOT since I'll be taking some time off work to recuperate; and I won't be able to drive or do much in the way of house chores or gardening. So I'm lining up some books from the TBR pile.

Enjoy your week! Read More!