Thursday, June 30, 2011

Profound Thoughts

I found out from my daily infusion of book news on Shelf Awareness (sign up for the new twice weekly readers' newsletter to find out what's new on bookstore and library shelves!) that a book on why we must settle Mars will be discussed tomorrow on Science Friday on NPR.  My visceral reaction was "Why can't things be the way they always were?"  And then my brain adjusted and my second thought was, "How is that - the way things always were - when nothing stays the same?"  There is the sum and total of my profound thoughts for the day.

I've discovered that if you do something the same way twice and it is successful, everyone involved remembers it as "we always had marshmallow fluff fights on the Summer Solstice!"  Oh wait!  That is a brilliant idea.  Plans are underway for a Marshmallow Fluff "fight" for June 21st, 2012!  Mark your calendars, NOW, boys and girls!  Details to be announced.

Now where was I?  Oh yes, profound thoughts...  My brain is wired to be nostalgic for the oddest things, sunlight on the hillside where a house now stands.  I will never relive that particular day, when I was twelve, and I looked out the kitchen window and saw the late afternoon sun on the tall grasses on the hillside.  So much has changed since then.  There is an addition on my parents' house that blocks the view from that window.  Someone built a house on that hillside.  I am a little taller, much heavier and a whole lot grayer than I was decades ago.

But someday someone else will look out the window of that addition and become nostalgic for the way the light reflects in the windows of that "new" house.

The class of 2001-02 pose!
Last week, my husband and I visited an old grist mill - Illicks Mill - not far from our home.  It is being rehabilitated as an "environmental education center" by the students of Liberty High School.  When I was in high school, teens, mostly from Liberty, and a handful of adults who led and motivated us, rehabbed that very same building as a coffee house and entertainment venue.  Bob Thompson was our guru and the driving force behind this movement.

Back then (in the late 1960s) we felt like heroes because we cleaned out years and years of pigeon poop and we put in safe floors and windows.  Back then we could not believe that we collected enough money to put in bathrooms on the ground floor.  The mill race and its entrance and exit were still in place all those many years ago.  We planned on using hydroelectric power from the water wheel.

Trains pass on the OTHER side!
We bought day old donuts at the Mohican Market on Broad Street and sold them for a dime - or was it a nickel? - a piece as local folk groups played "500 miles".  We sang "Freight Train" whenever the trains roared by not 20 feet from the side door of the mill.

Now there are elevators and separate rest rooms and handrails and beautiful paintings on the thick wooden beams - (at least they appear to be unchanged) - and safety doors and... As we walked down into the basement, the former home of the mill race, a young woman chirped out, "There's nothing down here.  The sale is outside."

"I'm reliving my childhood", I told her.  And then I added with undue pride, "I was the treasurer of TRIM for two years",... as if, she would know or even care what TRIM (Teens for the Restoration of Illicks Mill) was.  And then I explained to my husband, who was not lucky enough to grow up here, all about the Mill race and the iron grates.

The smell of old stone and moss is still the same.

Nabokov has his spiral marble, others have their cups of tea, or blue glass bracelets.  I have sunlight on long grasses and the smell of old stone to take me swirling back to a time when things were, as I believed, "the way they always were".  And even then, I was changing the way things were and the way things became changed me.

Profound thoughts, ahhh.  Now, who is bringing the Fluff catapults next year?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Barnheart uncovered

I have finished Jenna Woginrich's memoir, Barnheart, and let me tell you, that girl has more energy than I EVER had - even when I was as young as she was.  I am NOT the get up early, dig-in-the-garden, feed-the-chickens kind.  I am the get up early, pick-up-a-book and get-lost-in-it sort.

That said, I found this book fun to read and very educational.  I never realized that sheepherding was such a widespread occupation.  Even as an avocation, I expected it to be practiced by just a handful of earthy people.  Nor, did I know that there was such a network of livestock swaps.  Now, maybe here in Jenna's native PA, these things don't exist.  Up in Pike County they might or over Bradford way along the NY/PA border in the west.

Jenna's good fortune lasts half way through the book.  When she decides she wants something, she finds a way to get it.  And it feels like things fall into her lap!  Never fear. This book is more about the struggles of the homesteading life than a crowing self-congratulation.  Raising more than half her own food, caring for chickens, geese, breeding rabbits, caring for sheep AND working a full time job does not sound like a picnic to me.  Oops, I forgot the dogs and the turkey and the ordeal of schlepping things around in a Subaru station wagon.  And then trouble looms and Jenna is faced with hard decisions, sigh!

If you like gardening; if you even once in awhile wish you had a flock of chickens - (that is more common an aspiration these days than you might think!); if you wish you knew where your food came from; AND if, like me, you prefer your adventures between the covers of a book, Barnheart is a rollicking read.  Now, I have to find a copy of her first memoir, Made from Scratch.  Hope it's as good as Barnheart.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Barnheart FOUND!!!!!!!!!!

I found the book!  I FOUND BARNHEART!!  And it was somewhere I would never have looked.  It was...ready?  You won't believe it.  It was behind the bathroom vanity.  I looked IN the bathroom vanity where I keep my cleaning supplies and trash basket and I looked in the drawers.  Until recently, our bathroom vanity was flush against the bathroom wall and nothing could fall behind it.  It's an old, inexpensive MDF vanity and it pulled away from the wall mount and, yes, I know I should get a new vanity but my sink hasn't sprung a leak or anything sooo...

This is a "reenactment" of where the book was found.

 Anyway, I was putting some towels away on the little wicker towel thingy next to the vanity and I moved it (the wicker towel thingy, not the vanity, though I can move the vanity now that I think of it), and there was something behind the vanity.  It was actually further back than the photo shows and upside down.  I just wanted you to see how nicely the book fit back there.  Could it be?  YES, it was!  I had to retrieve it from inside the vanity.  The vanity is "inexpensive" enough to have no back.

And, my replacement book just came at the end of last week.  I am half way through it and when I am done, I will give you a review.  Just know this.  The book is worth the angst I felt when I lost it. 
The original "lost" book rests on top of the replacement book - together at last.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Storytelling and Old Timey Music: Part 2

If tomorrow's performance of old time music is as much fun as tonight's storytelling performance, I will be worn OUT with fun-ness for awhile.  Tonight was sooo good.

The Druckenmillers are always a treat and a wonderful advertisement for tomorrow night's show.  Robin Berry's stories are always uplifting and gentle.  Chaz told fairy tales with excitement and a little anthropology thrown in.  I had a great time on stage.  I hope the audience did, too.  And Larry's last story of the night brought tears to my eyes.  The Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild is full of talented people.

You might hear those stories told some other night but they will not be the same.  That is the wonder of live entertainment.  It is never the same show twice.

Tomorrow at Godfrey Daniels, at 7:30 pm, the Druckenmillers will be joined by their son, Nathan, his girlfriend, Brittany, a clog-dancer, and three other musicians.  Chaz Kiernan will tell a story or two.  The night will be full of old time music.  Tomorrow's concert benefits the Maidencreek Old Time Music Festival, held this year on Sunday, July 31st, in Berks County.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Storytelling and Old Timey Music

Come to Godfrey Daniels, tomorrow night, June 24th at 7:30 pm to hear stories and old time music with the Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild (including my very own self!) and the Druckenmillers on fiddle, banjo and guitar.  It is a guaranteed good time!

I plan to tell a true to life scary story - based entirely on Fact but necessarily and artfully embellished and an African folktale which will require some help from the audience.  Chaz Kiernan is telling as well and who knows whether he will channel Mark Twain or visit the small mountain town of Lost Dollar?  Larry Sceurman has some tales to spin and his stories are full of heart and humor.  And Robin Berry will fill her listeners' hearts with wonder!
This is me, looking pleasant!

And in between, Tom and Betty Druckenmiller will play and sing. 

But wait there's more!  Come back on Saturday night and listen to the Druckenmillers and other local bluegrass and old time musicians play the whole night long. 

Each concert costs $10 and the money goes to benefit the Story FUSION Festival and the Maidencreek Old Time Music Festival! 

I'll be looking for you.

Lost book update

Dear Friends,
   I was hoping that I could post an amusing little story about where and when I found my lost ARC of Barnheart by Jenna Woginrich.  I smiled to think I would write that I found the book in the hamper (nope), or the freezer (neither one) or under the driver's seat (not there) or under a bed, behind a sofa, in with the recycling (no, no, and nope).  I thought, "Wouldn't it be amazing if if wake up at 1 am and know exactly where the book is and it's there?"  Did not happen.

Some of the items I found while searching for my lost book.
So, until the book is found I will not mention it again.  In the meantime, you might be interested to know what I did find.  In the picture above, you will see, starting on the left and moving clockwise; a Hello Kitty stamp from the late '70s or early '80s, an exercise band, a foam pumpkin, a book I almost bought again because it's been missing so long (there might be hope!),  some  recipe cards, a pasta measuring thingy, and in the center, a candy tin that we used to save up our Chinese take-out money at my last job.  I also found the thank you note that I wrote to the Friends of the Parkland Community Library - it has been posted.

And here, since I KNOW you are all glued to your screens, is a list of the places I looked.  Under the radiators, BEHIND the radiators, under all furniture in the entire house - I think -, behind pillows, IN - UNDER - BEHIND sofas and chairs, in the freezers, in the refrigerator, in the trash and the recycling, on the many many many many book shelves in this house, in drawers, on top of cabinets and dressers and in closets, cupboards, pantry, basement, attic, in the car, but not the garage.  Hmmm, might it be in the garage???

That's it.  I am finished.  Adam from Storey Publishing is sending me another ARC and I will not have to wait until January 2012 to find out how Jenna manages in her Vermont homestead.  Thank you Adam.  May all your furry pets be forever flea-free!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend and other random thoughts

Barnheart's trail is stone cold.  (So is the trail for my brown watch but no one cares about that.)  So I am going to post some random thoughts and a book review.

How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend by Gary Ghislain - who wouldn't want to read about how a fourteen-year-old boy bests the "most attractive" man in the world when it comes to romance?  But is she really Johnny Depp's girlfriend?  Is she really an alien?  Is she merely criminally insane?  You will have to be the judge.

Here's the set-up: A fourteen year old boy is spending the summer with his pyscho-therapist dad in a sleepy town in the south of France - major boredom-inducing sleepy town.  Dad has only one patient living with them this summer, a seventeen year old girl who claims to be an alien searching for her one true mate.  So our hero spends most of his time eavesdropping on the therapy sessions.

When Psycho-Alien-Girl (P-A-G - my term.  Her name is Zelda.) bashes Dad on the head because he won't let her go search for her mate, Mom drives down - with Mom's boyfriend - to rescue our hero.  Surprise! P-A-G has hitched a ride. In Paris the book morphs into an action novel with amazing superhuman feats by P-A-G, quick thinking by our hero, cop chases, an abandoned chapel filled with tattooed women warriors all claiming to be aliens stranded here when their search for the One and Only (I forget what term they use for the perfect mate in this novel, sorry) failed.  Oh, and the DNA profile for this perfect mate matches Johnny Depp! Yeah.

So is she crazy?  Is HE crazy?  And does Johnny Depp even make an appearance in this book?  Read it.  The book is as much fun as the title implies.

OK.  Random thoughts:
1.  Putting candied citrus peels in a hot oven to speed up the drying time is a BAD idea.
2.  Making candied citrus peels in the summer is not too bright either.  It's too muggy for the peels to dry properly.  Too late.  I have two trays of citrus peel on the kitchen counter.
Wait until they're dipped in chocolate!!

3.  You can't just stick dried flowers on a piece of paper for a Father's Day card.  You CAN but fathers are not all that impressed with craftiness in gifts - especially after the kid has a kid of her own (and that kid is on the way to having his own kid. Tempus fugit!).  Hence the candied citrus peels.
5.  Craftiness is most appreciated if it is edible.
4.  These thoughts are not as random as I hoped.
5.  New sneakers - even the ones with the rocker-type soles - do not instantly make their wearers svelte.  Or more inclined to exercise.
6. Random thoughts race away when I sit down to share them.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Storey Publishing ROCKS!

The Internet is wonderful!  Adam from Storey Publishing, the publisher of my lost Barnheart (sniffle) noticed my post earlier today and offered to send me another ARC.  My hero!  My copy of Barnheart is floating around here someplace but I will NOT have to wait until next January to find out if Jenna's move to Vermont turned out as well as she first thought it would.

While I wait for my rescue copy of Barnheart by Jenna Woginich (I wish I had a graphic for this book to show you, sigh), Jen at BAPL offered me a copy of The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa.  Whoa!  That is friendship.  An ARC of the next installment in this popular fantasy series is a prize indeed.  But Jen understands what happens to a bibliophile who has lost a book.  And she is a true friend indeed.

Back to my lost book - I am not alone in wishing for the homestead experience. The author of Barnheart, Jenna Woginich, has a couple of books under her belt, of the country living, homesteading type.  Check out her blog ColdAntlerFarm.  Click on the "heart" in the right hand border to read the article that gave the title to her memoir.  If you search for barnheart on the Internet, you'll be asked if you really want bernhardt or barnhardt.  Then you'll find links to Jenna's blog and to her article in Mother Earth News.  Eventually, you will find a notation in the Urban Dictionary.  The Urban Dictionary claims that barnheart is a "psychological disorder, usually of childhood..." and goes on to explain that the desire to hang out around livestock and barns is a serious sympton.

I will continue my search for the lost book.  It's a matter of honor now.  I had that book and I know it must be in this house somewhere, probably next to my brown watch.  I found several long lost items in my search today.  I will keep you posted!

Thanks, Jen, for your kindness in parting with your Kagawa title.  And Adam, thank you for sending me a replacement book.  Jenna, thank you for coming clean about your obsession and allowing others to homestead vicariously through you.

Lost Book

I have lost a book.  This post is a desperate attempt to find it.  As far as I know, it never left this building but perhaps, the book, like its author, wanted a more rural setting and is now even as I type tucked inside a rucksack headed for Pike County.

The book is Barnheart.  I think the author is Jenna Woginrich.  I wish I could tell you more about it.  I had just left the author in the snow outside her new rental, a 600 square foot cabin, on a six acre lot in the woods of Vermont.  Oh wait, no she was already inside with a fire burning and she was making plans for chickens and a garden and fences and possibly geese and she felt very lucky to be where she was.

I WANT TO READ THIS BOOK!  The puzzle of its whereabouts has taken over my brain.  I blew off a committee meeting because this book is missing.  (Blew off as in totally forgot the committee, its purpose and its personnel because they can't help me find the book.)

And now, what am I doing?  Visiting my aged parents?  Sending a wedding present to a young friend? Printing out the photos I promised to send along MONTHS ago?  Weeding the garden?  Doing any of a thousand productive and necessary things I might do?  NO!!

I am fixating about a lost book.  Oh, I have other books, too many other books.  But I want to READ THIS ONE!!!  WHERE IS IT??

Worse than all of this is the fact that this book is an advanced reader's copy and doesn't even exist in cyberworld so I can't just go out and buy another copy.  (I CAN pre-order it on Amazon.  It doesn't come out until January of 2012.  Waaaahhhhhh!!)  Oh woe.  Oh woe is me. (Bangs head against metaphorical wall and moans - metaphorically.)

Can anyone help me find this book?  Please?  I want to read about barns and homesteading and sustainable living and I (grits teeth) want!!

Thank you (sad little sigh of no hope)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

William Joyce

Shelf Awareness had an ENTIRE issue devoted to William Joyce's new series, The Guardians of Childhood.
WHOA!  I say again, WHOA!   This looks splendid!

Joyce is a marvelous artist - marvelous!  In this series he jumps from what looks like a picture book about the Man in the Moon to a series of chapter books about the guardians - those mythical characters that inhabit the childhoods of most of us in the Western world - Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, the Easter Bunny.  Even Mother Goose is a Guardian.

 Click here to see a video that introduces the series.  This looks like fantasy that the whole family can enjoy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lots and lots of books

The Little Women Letters!!by Gabrielle Donnelly.  This book was a feel good book all the way around.  I was once obsessed with Louisa May Alcott, especially the March family and spin-offs thereof.  You all probably remember that Jo and Professor Bhaer opened a school for boys, right?  I loved that book, Little Men, and of course, I loved Little Women, too.

So, in The Little Women Letters, the three great-great-great-granddaughters of Jo March are working through their lives and loves.  Their personalities correspond in a well-developed way to the three surviving March sisters.  Lulu is the central character and the middle Atwater sister.  She, like Jo before her, doesn't have a life plan or a boyfriend.  Her older sister, Emma is planning her wedding to the perfect man.  And the youngest sister, Sophie, is finally getting work as an actress on the London stage.  In a search for an old cookbook, Lulu finds a stack of letters written by Great Great Great Grandma Jo all about the things we loved to read about in Little Women.  Gabrielle Donnelly does a wonderful job of using these letters to help Lulu deal with her insecurities and questions.

Forget angst, serious dysfunction, meanness or crime.  This book is about families figuring out how to live together and love one another.  And it's not all happiness and light, either.  But it is hopeful and at times it's very funny.  Read it.

BOOK #2  How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend by Gary Ghislain.    Seriously, these two books have very little in common EXCEPT that they both have some very laugh-out-loud funny moments.  This book is FULL of angst, serious dysfunction, crime, meanness, superhuman strength and Amazonian girls covered in tattoos.  I think I will review it in my next post.  It's written for an entirely different audience.
Little Women Letters = grown women or teen girls.
How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend =Teens, in particular boys.

BOOK #3 Aliens on Vacation by Clete Barrett Smith.  Well, one alien book leads to another and this book is the first in a planned series.  David, known as Scrub, has been sent to stay with his grandmother for the summer.  She runs the Intergalactic Bed and Breakfast in the middle of nowhere in Washington State.  David expects that her clients are people who are looking for UFOs but it is almost immediately evident that these customers come from very, very, very far away - light years in some cases.  David is soon caught up in helping the guests "fit in" with the natives so they can enjoy their vacations.  A suspicious sheriff, some basketball playing wise guys and a noisy girl make David's summer "job" more and more difficult.  This book was a quick read and I'm glad there will be a sequel.  I have some pressing questions about how the bed and breakfast got started and I hope I'll get some answers in the next book.