Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Bits and Bobs: Lipstick, Dog and Widow

Sometimes I have no unified blog post theme so here are three bits and bobs for a post.

These Chihuahua floor mats for my car make me smile, and as a widow I count each smile as a blessing. Aren't they cute? Yes, the painting looks like Bounce.

I have started to wear lipstick and lip gloss with SPF protection from the sun's rays. I bought an Avon lipstick with 15 SPF online in a pretty shade "Mad for Mauve". When I see Mauve as a color I often like the color on me. I understand that most people do not put on any SPF covering for their lips, which is a mistake. I also bought a pack of 3 Kiss My Face SPF 25 clear lip gloss and gave one to each of my sons.

Another attractive lip gloss (see above) is by Sheer Shine and each shade has a nice sheen to it. No. 5 is clear and No.22 is coral pink. These are SPF 25. No I have no connection with Avon or the other companies, I just like these products and hope to inspire y'all to care for your lips.

I am reading (obsessed with) lots of books on widowhood and people getting through tough times, and this one is hard to put down. Carol Joyce Oates wrote a memoir "A Widow's Story: A Memoir" about when her dear husband Ray died and the days and the six months after. She is so honest about her emotions and I am experiencing surprisingly many of the same thoughts.  I see amazing similarities between us: she met Ray at the UW student union where they were graduate students; some years later I was a grad student on that same campus and spent many an hour at the student union. Will and I met at the UCB student union. They were together 47 years like William and I. And lots more. She was so distraught she gathered a stash of pills, imagining taking them. I have not had that thought but went through many of the same things. I have not read her novels but wow, this book is one I could not put down. Three differences between us are that my children, faith community (church friends) and seeing a counselor are huge helps to me and Oates lacked these and yet survived in her own admirable way. No matter how you look at it, widowhood is bleak, but her book shows how she made it through. I thank her for writing it, it gives a ray of hope to me and to others who read it.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

More of my favorite books plus the two I wrote

In July I posted on my blog a list of my Top 20 Favorite Books.
That was hard to winnow the number down to 20.
Here are a few more favorites that came close to being in that favored 20.

The Sisters (a biography of the Mitford sisters) by Mary S. Lovell.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser. When reading books about Tudor times I remember "Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived" to help me recall the lives and fates of Henry VIII's wives.

Yikes, Jan Karon's Mitford series about the kindly Father Tim did not reach my top twenty either.I love each book in this series, best to begin with the first one, "At Home in Mitford".

Pomfret Towers by Angela Thirkell. My favorite of hers thus far and I adore these covers of the new Virago editions.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson. I suggest reading "Let's Pretend This Never Happened" first, Jenny's first book. The author explores her lifelong battle with mental illness with humorous writing.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Uplifting true story of Corrie being in a concentration camp because her family sheltered Jews in WWII, and how she survived and became a beloved writer and speaker about her Christian faith.
The Faithful Gardener: A Wise Tale About That Which Can Never Die by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
Estes also wrote "Women Who Run With Wolves."
I realize my two precious "babies", books I co-authored, must be on my list of favorite books. I don't want them to think I am neglecting them. I have new blog readers who don't know about these pretty books. The first book I co-authored is "Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts: Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holiday."
Here is the Amazon link: Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts 
The second book I co-authored is "A Scrapbook of Motherhood Firsts: Stories to Celebrate and Wisdom to Bless Moms." It was a delight to dream up and then write these books with the other gals.
Today on Amazon the Christmas book is $10 (hardcover, full color) and the Motherhood book is $8 (also hardcover and full color).
Here is the Amazon link: Scrapbook of Motherhood Firsts
I looked over my list and see the books in this second installment are all written by women. Just an observation. My three favorite all time authors are men though, see the earlier list for their names.
Thank you to all the authors whose books give me such pleasure.Imagine the hours and years they spent perfecting their craft and bringing stories to life. As I know, writing is by its nature a lonesome profession.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Patio pix of watchdog on duty, flowers

Above are two scenes showing my watchdog at work on the patio while he sits / naps on the chaise longue. He is a cutie. Do you think he is extremely fierce? LOL, well no. He is a love dog.
The first Star Gazer Lily blooms from my new bulbs in July 2017. In the first photo you see to the left of Bounce the leaves of the lily before blooms.
Another photo of my Star Gazer Oriental Lily blooms. You can see they grow well in pots; you can grow them on a small balcony or in a small yard. My yard is large but the lilies enjoy the well drained soil in their pots which also keep them safe from nibbles by gophers.
Above is a closeup of my Cantua flowers which grow on a shrub and are two inches long. My friend from Chile told me about these beauties and we ordered some together. They are the national flower of Chile and can grow up to a second story, where she told me they grew outside her bedroom window there. I later bought a more rare yellow Cantua which never did bloom for me.
My patio is a place that gives me moments of peace in this time of grief for the loss of my husband. I enjoy sitting out there facing the garden, reading a book and drinking ice tea with ice cubes and no sugar in it. My dog and cat nap nearby and birds flit around, bathing in the bird bath and eating seeds I put out for them, up high where they are safe from cats. I think everyone benefits from a personal place of sanctuary and I hope you have one too.

Friday, July 14, 2017

My top 20 favorite books

I've been thinking of doing a "My Top 20 Books" list and then was inspired when I saw Carole of Carole's Chatter and her sidebar. She has a nice Top 20 photo / illustration she said I can use. I believe that what we read (our books) and our gardens are forms of autobiography and reveal things about us.
These books are not in order.

Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson

The Belton Estate by Anthony Trollope. Actually any of the 17 novels I have read by Trollope.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse. Any of his novels.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson.
Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian. All 20 books in this series, this is the first.
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.

Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.
Ireland by Frank DeLaney.
Emma by Jane Austen.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.
Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.

The Dog Who Wouldn't Be by Farley Mowat.
Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.
Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim.
The Hacienda, My Venezuelan Years by Lisa St. Aubin de Teran.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (all the Chronicles of Narnia).
The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Strobel.
In Search of Lost Time. Swann's Way Vol 1 by Marcel Proust. Translated from the French by C.K. Scott Moncrieff whose translation has been rightly called a masterpiece in itself.
I was not surprised to see that many of my favorite authors are from the U.K. Wodehouse, Trollope, Patrick O'Brian and C.S. Lewis are giants of literary talent for me.
Do you ever experience Bloggers Remorse or Bloggers Ooopsy? Five minutes after posting this list I realized one of the best and most exciting books I have ever read was not on my top 20 list. Shame!
Instead of dropping one of the above 20 I am adding it: "God's Smuggler" by Brother Andrew.

This book is full of adventure, danger, Andrew's commitment to his faith and hope to marry, as he smuggles Bibles to countries where that act carries a death sentence.  It is a real page turner.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The World Is Still a Beautiful Place

"Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.​​​​​​​" Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
My dog Bounce wearing his new Hawaiian shirt at our family July 4 celebration which was at my house on July 2. The shirt is a gift from Julie and her two dogs. Four people and three dogs and one cat gathered together. You see, the world IS still a beautiful place. 
Ha ha, a couple days after I posted the photo, I cropped it and added it above.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Happy Fourth of July

Happy 4th of July to all my friends in the USA and around the world.
"America" was written in 1831 by Samuel Francis Smith, when he was studying to be a Baptist minister. Here are the first and last verses:
My country, 'tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty of thee I sing, Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrims' pride, From every mountain side let freedom ring.
Then the last verse:
"Our fathers' God to Thee, author of liberty to Thee we sing, long may our land be bright, with freedom's holy light, protect us by Thy might great God, our king.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Best song I've Heard, Holy Mother Hear My Cry sung by Pavarotti

This is the best song sung in concert I have heard.
The lyrics mean a lot to me and I love the powerful way Luciano Pavarotti stands very still and sings so movingly. He does not need any gestures as his voice is so expressive. All he holds is a large white handkerchief. Many of us know the story of why Eric wrote this song and I think it is meaningful to all who have felt deep sorrow. I think that is all of us. 
Holy Mother Hear My Cry by Eric Clapton, sung in concert with Luciano Pavarotti.

Holy Mother, where are you?
Tonight I feel broken in two.
I've seen the stars fall from the sky.
Holy mother, can't keep from crying.
Oh I need your help this time,
Get me through this lonely night.
Tell me please which way to turn
To find myself again.
Holy mother, hear my prayer,
Somehow I know you're still there.
Send me please some peace of mind;
Take away this pain.
I can't wait, I can't wait, I can't wait any longer.
I can't wait, I can't wait, I can't wait for you.
Holy mother, hear my cry,
I've cursed your name a thousand times.
I've felt the anger running through my soul;
All I need is a hand to hold.
Oh I feel the end has come,
No longer my legs will run.
You know I would rather be
In your arms tonight.
When my hands no longer play,
My voice is still, I fade away.
Holy mother, then I'll be
Lying in, safe within your arms.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Books from Library Book Sale

Seven books from the library book sale last weekend. I was good to limit my purchases to seven since sometimes I buy more than 20 books and I am buying faster than I can read. I added 3 pretty postcards to the photo, which I bought online to mail to my dear pen pals.
These books look great. Two collections of my favorite comedic writer, P.G. Wodehouse, "Tales From the Drones Club" and "Wodehouse Is the Best Medicine." Wodehouse lifts my mood to smiles.
"I Dreamed of Africa" a memoir by Kuki Gallmann. The author moved from Italy to Kenya years ago and at the time of writing was living on her huge ranch with her daughter and eight dogs. There are plenty of photos which I appreciate. The book was published in 1991 and is a tribute to the memory of her husband and son.
"The Tiger Ladies: A Memoir of Kashmir" by Sudha Koul. She recalls when Hindus and Muslims lived peacefully side by side in Kashmir, as opposed to recent headlines of Muslim violence.
"Corduroy Mansions" by Alexander McCall Smith. There is a cute dog on the cover, looks like a beagle puppy. I like every book I have read by Smith, about 20 so far.
"Born Standing Up" a memoir by Steve Martin. My friend listened to the audio version of this and loved it.
"Not So Funny When It Happened: The Best of Travel Humor and Misadventure" edited by Tim Cahill.
I see I chose mostly humor and memoirs. Who else likes these genres? Did you find any book bargains this week?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Fun British comedies on TV

Two months ago I subscribed to Acorn TV via Amazon Prime which offers some great British and Australian TV shows and movies. Since I live in the USA this is a real treat for me, as Acorn offers many shows I like, including mysteries new to me like "Rake" and "Murdoch Mysteries" and lots of goodies like "Midsomer Murders" and "Endeavor", dramas, and some fun comedies. Plus it is only five dollars a month. I dropped cable two years ago, which was costing seventy dollars a month and didn't have many shows I like.

My favorite show thus far on Acorn is "Ladies of Letters", which is fabulous fun. Two quite mismatched English ladies meet and then keep in touch via letters. Their letters are often wildly untrue which makes for much laughter from me. The first photo is of Maureen Lipman who plays Irene, and the second is of Anne Reid who plays Vera. Anne Reid does a wonderful performance in "Last Tango in Halifax", by the way.
Some people who enjoyed the books and radio series do not like this rendition of "Ladies of Letters" but this is my first introduction to it and I find the ladies to be hilarious while being not very pleasant in the way they treat each other. Their letters to each other show them to be out of touch with reality, which causes funny situations. There are 20 episodes and some of the episodes are rather dark.
Two other funny comedies I am watching are "French Fields" (English couple moves to France and this show is a continuation of "Fresh Fields") and "Boomers" (3 English couples who are long time friends).
I watched all 20 episodes of "Ladies of Letters" and miss those gals, wish they would make more. Another good comedic find is P.G. Wodehouse's "Blandings" which I am watching.
I enjoyed the movie "The Man Who Lost His Head" about a man who works for the "British Imperial Museum" and travels to New Zealand on assignment to get the Maori people to allow the museum to keep a famous Maori chieftain's carved head. Will romance occur? A nice glimpse of very rural life of a group of Maoris. I saw this on Acorn TV.
Today on Facebook I saw an ad for Britbox_US which offers shows from the BBC and ITV, and claims to be the biggest collection; it is $7.99 a month and apparently became available in the USA earlier this year. Have you tried it?
Do you have any favorite British or Australian TV shows or movies you suggest I look for?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Our patio, yard and quote

Here are some photos taken this month, which show the view from my kitchen through our patio doors. When I stand at the kitchen sink and look left this is what I see on our patio.
The plant on the left on the table is a pot of pink roses and on the right is a planter of purple petunias, rose cosmos, white bacopas and dusty miller, both of these are gifts from my sons for Mother's Day. Note grey kitty Fluffy on table.
Here is Fluffy on patio, near some potting soil. She chose us by showing up in our fenced back yard about five years ago.
My friend has this quote as her email signature line:
"Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have." by John Piper

Friday, May 12, 2017

What makes you smile? Some things that make me smile

I thought I would share with you some things that make me smile. Since the death of my husband last November these smile bringers are doubly precious.

Pretty much any flower, and some weeds too, make me smile. Years ago I went to a garden center and asked for Jupiter's Beard. The plant expert said that is a weed. I thought "ouch, poor plant, now that is hurtful". When I lived on a farm the neighbor lady called these "Meet Me By the Gate"; also called Valerian. I always think of them as "Meet Me By the Gate" and think of Ann, my neighbor. The photo above has a bouquet of Canterbury Bells and Sweet Peas from my garden.

Song birds in my garden, the hoot of an owl in a nearby tree, and the pelicans soaring along our bay.

Feeling a refreshing breeze. I do not like to be too hot, so I welcome the cooling touch of a breeze.

Picking a vegetable from our garden, admiring it and eating it. For a moment I feel like a pioneer woman. I would like to have chickens here in my city yard and enjoy the photos of you blog friends who have chickens, horses, donkeys, pigs and all the farm critters.

Our cat Fluffy asleep on a soft new blanket. She does sleep a LOT. Cats by their example teach us to be relaxed; they are not worriers.

My dog Bounce adopted from the shelter in the fall of 2016. He is a fun dog and loves to go on walks three times a day so that keeps me active and outdoors. Note the red amaryllis blooming in May.

Watching comedies on TV. I have a new subscription to Acorn TV which offers great British and Australian shows. New ones for me now that I have Acorn TV are Ladies of Letters (my favorite), French Fields and Boomers. Acorn has a whole slew of mysteries and dramas and documentaries too, often on British history which I enjoy. Andy Griffith and the town of Mayberry are great places to visit via our TV and I watch this series on Netflix.

Flowers with what I imagine to be the scent of heaven. For me this includes lilacs, old fashioned roses like the Peace rose, gardenias, common heliotrope, jasmine, sweet peas and lemon blossoms on my two small lemon trees. I planted a heliotrope a year ago and my husband said that is a favorite scent of his so I just break off a tiny sprig and put it in a little vase to enjoy in the house. I recently read on a blog or Facebook that heliotrope is toxic to dogs so keep the plant where dogs can't snack on it. A nickname for this plant is "sugar plant" so I can see why it might attract dogs; the flowers do smell like sugar.

My list could be a very long one. Maybe I should write another book, ha ha. 

What things bring you joy?

Monday, May 1, 2017

Senior Citizens in New Novels

Now that I have achieved the much wanted (ha ha) title of senior citizen I am finding some novels that have older main characters ranging in age from late fifties to age 100.
Here are a few I have read recently.

"Old Age Private Eye" by A.W. Blakely. The first in the Old Age Pensioner Investigations series about Stanley, a pensioner about 68 years old who is so bored in retirement that on a whim he posts a notice that he is a private investigator. He is amazed when he is hired for a job and finds he needs to hire help so he hires his daughter who is newly divorced and job hunting; the other team member is his trusty dog, Roobarb. The setting is "the heart of England."

"The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules" by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg. The first book in the League of Pensioners series, all the main characters use Zimmer frames or as we call them in the USA, walkers. The main gal, Martha is 79 and decides to begin a life of crime to free her from her home from the aged, which she compares to a prison. The setting is the Netherlands and she recruits four friends from the home where she lives to form a gang. They pull off some dramatic crimes, and attempt jewel, bank and art robberies. They are so inept sometimes they succeed. After all, who could believe these harmless oldies could steal priceless Impressionist paintings?

"A Man Called Ove" by Fredrik Backman
Ove is a curmudgeon, a widower with a short fuse and he is a mean and prejudiced neighbor to people trying to be helpful. I don't know why Ove is a mere 59 in this novel, he seems like 69 or older. Against his will he is befriended by the young couple who move next door. You will find humor, despair and hope here, and the novel deserves the description of "heart warming." The author is Swedish. I love this book and plan to read the others Backman wrote.

"The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared" by Jonas Jonasson. Alan has no plan except to escape out a window in order to miss his 100 year birthday party at the retirement home. Wow, does he have adventures. He finds stolen money, there are murderous thugs chasing him, he meets a friendly elephant and makes friends along the way. The author is a Swedish journalist. I read that there is a sequel to this book and Alan is 101 in it.
Are there other books you can add to this list? Please add them in comments, I think we would all like to hear about more books featuring senior citizens.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dragon, Chinese Guardian Lion and Fire

My dragon and Chinese temple guard lion enjoying the fire in my fireplace. I always wrote "our" for 45 years, now I write "my", sad to say but true.
The guardian lion is usually one of a pair, this is a male lion who guards the home, while the female guards the people. Chinese guardian lions are often called Foo dogs or lions or Fu dogs or lions in English.
My husband and I had not used the fireplace since the big earthquake in 1989. All fireplaces to be safe should have an inspection before use after the quake. In December of last year our sons decided to have a fireplace man inspect it for damage; he found one thing which he fixed, he cleaned it all, and voila, now I have fires again. This photo was taken a few days ago. I bought the fireplace tools and a log holder on Amazon, the tools are like sculptures, made of wrought iron. You can see the tools on the left in the second photo.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Best Dog in the World?

Ok, ok, I had to put the question mark in the blog post title, cuz we all think our dog is the best and the cutest in the world, right?
This is Bounce's favorite spot, on the back of our sofa, in the sun where he can look out the window and watch people walking past, some with dogs. Our street is a popular one for walking as it leads straight to the bay. Today Bounce brought his little squeaky toy to sit with him. I will try to get more photos of him with more light, but you get the idea. I think it is extra cute he brought his toy friend with him.
Bounce is a Chihuahua terrier mix, found on the streets in a nearby city and brought to the animal shelter. He weighed 7.8 pounds when brought in and was underweight. I adopted him in November last year and now he weighs 11 pounds which the vet says is ideal for him. I try not to overfeed so he stays at 11 pounds. He is so cute and food oriented so of course I give him treats like milk bone and Greenies.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Joyful Easter and Spring to All

"... these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him, you will have life by the power of his name." John 20:31

"Then Jesus told him, Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:29 Jesus spoke to Thomas after Jesus was crucified and resurrected.