Monday, June 22, 2020

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

Above is a page from the book I recently bought, on a whim, because it sounded so good. It is every bit as wonderful as I hoped. This is a book for anyone of any age, child to adult, who loves to dream, to hope and to grow.
The title is "The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse", words and drawings by Charlie Mackesy.
Below is the cover.

In a move against all the darkness in the world these days, I treated myself to the hardcover edition and it is a book I will read or just dip into, again and again. Maybe I have intrigued you to get a copy too.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Clementine Churchill, clever, opinionated and interesting in her own right

I am captivated by the strength, beauty, courage and intelligence of Clementine Churchill, and recommend the biography "Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill" by Sonia Purnell.

Clementine pushed herself to the max, periodically to the point of physical and mental exhaustion, and created a strong role for herself, supporting Winston whenever he needed, and he was always in need of her emotional support, and her campaign and political advice. They had a long successful marriage and each of them battled exhaustion, depression and ill health, continuing on in order to serve the people of Great Britain. Clementine was brave during the Blitz, continually visiting bomb shelters, factories and hospitals, cheering people on, and they cheered for her in return. 
She was the first P.M.’s wife to be so influential in politics, wooing politicians and the public to support Winston and his efforts to stay the course and win WWII, and to convince Roosevelt to join the war. When European country after country were toppled by the Nazis, England was barely and bravely holding on. Clementine Churchill used diplomacy and charm to woo world leaders including Roosevelt’s personal trusted envoy. Clementine’s daughter Sarah compared her to a “chandelier” and daughter Mary said “she did give forth great life and sparkle.” Purnell writes she was “an alluring hostess” and that a visitor recalled “an almost physical shock that Winston had such a life-force of a wife, someone so clever, opinionated and interesting in her own right.” She outlived three of her five children, which is heart breaking to endure.
The Kindle book has great photos at the end, including my favorite, which shows her in profile reading a book, looking every inch the alluring beauty.

Another photo shows her and Winston in 1921 on a camel trek to the pyramids in Cairo, with T.E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell, and another shows her on horseback on a wild boar hunt in France, Purnell explaining that she was fearless on horseback. I knew nothing of  Clementine (pronounced Clemen-teen) before reading this book and must learn more about her, so ordered Mary Churchill Soames' book about her mother and the new Erik Larson book "The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance During the Blitz".
Bravo to Clementine, a trail blazer for strong and honorable women.     

Friday, May 29, 2020

New things for me, my mask, Instacart and more

Above is the new pottery I treated myself to, which was hand painted in Mexico by a family who has done that for 30 years. The pot is large, the biggest I could find and is flat on the back so it will hang on my fence outside a window. If you buy this type of pot be sure to find one with a drain hole on the bottom, for some strange reason, most pots in this style lack that. And see the cute Chihuahua pillow? I bought that the first Christmas Bounce joined my family.
I have noticed new things in my life since the lockdown. Here are some of them:
Wearing a mask outside when in public.
A year ago would you have believed you would wear a mask when outside near other people? No way. Masks used to be used by bank robbers, probably still are.
How glamorous is this? Ha ha. I like this style of mask, which looks like a sleeve, because there are no ties behind the ears and it is easily pulled down and worn around my neck. See photo below with mask pulled down around my neck, handy at a moment's notice. If you search online to buy one, a term used by sellers is rave masks. Anyone else like women's tops from Jess and Jane? The ones I buy, including this turquoise floral one, are 100 percent cotton and made in the USA.

Using Zoom
I had never used Zoom until this crisis and I think increased use of Zoom and similar programs will continue. It could have a good effect because people will drive less often to business meetings, hang outs with friends, school meetings, etc. One thing that irks me is that well known environmentalists and politicians schedule big conferences on saving the environment and fly hundreds of people from all over the planet to meetings. Teleconferencing would be much less polluting, listen up people! That would be a good change going forward, not just during lock down. I joined my first environmental group when I was eleven, it was called Defenders of Fur Bearers, and focused on protecting coyotes from being poisoned and trapped and I am still a member of that group albeit it has a new name Defenders of Wildlife.
I attend our once a month book discussion group, our weekly church group which usually met right after church, and friends had a birthday party for me, all on Zoom.

Cleaning in my house in a new way 
Feel free to laugh at the photo above, my life has some boring aspects to it these days.
Since I am home almost all day I have noticed things in my house; I saw that my stainless steel kitchen sink, which is only two years old, looked less bright than it used to. If I didn't have all this time home I would not have noticed this; no matter how carefully I cleaned it, it looked a bit shabby.
So I ordered some Stainless Steel Sink Cleaner, Perfect Sink, used it, and am pleased how the sink looks renewed. I had never before thought of such a product. So that is a bit of a plus.
Ordering Groceries Online and having them delivered to my door using Instacart
Services like Instacart will continue to be used by many people after the crisis, especially by our aging population. It has a cost but saves me big in time and in driving, and I am at the age where I am supposed to not go in stores during the crisis so this is an all around good service for me. Instacart includes a tip in my bill, the standard tip is 5 percent and I give tip of 10 percent. The delivery is no contact, and they wear masks and disposable gloves, for their safety and mine.
Going for 10 weeks and more with only me in my house
Well that is not happy! Most of the time it is just me in the house, and I am excited when my adult sons visit me. I will love when I can give my favorite friends and family hugs and see them in person. My dog Bounce reminds me that he is here in the house with me, so I am not alone. A loyal dog. A prayer I am saying more often recently is "I am not alone. God is with me. He is my protector. He is all powerful, and no problem is too big for Him."
Searching online for cleaning supplies
Toilet paper, masks, disinfectant wipes, disposable gloves and paper towels. After this crisis when supplies are available I will order enough to have supplies on hand. It is frustrating that some people are hoarding these supplies in large quantities! I am almost out of disinfectant wipes and have read about some alternatives involving hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol. In a comment Lin asked about the wipes; I use Lysol or Clorox Disinfectant Wipes that kill 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria; guidelines from many sources recommend using them to wipe frequently touched surfaces like door knobs, refrigerator door handles, TV remote controls, exterior packaging of foods (for example, plastic bags that hold loaves of bread and plastic wrapped around packaged cheese), etc. and that is what I have been doing. Also car door handles, gear shifts and steering wheels if I have been driving where people are. I am a senior citizen so am being extra careful.
Some positive results of this pandemic
Junk phone calls have almost disappeared
I keep a landline phone and usually get 25 junk calls a week. I don't pick them up, they usually hang up when they reach my answering machine. Now the spam call centers seem to be shut down, since I am only getting about 7 junk calls a week on my landline. I am also getting less junk paper mail.

Dogs are happy
Above is Bounce and his new Crocodile toy. Dare I tell you that the first day he got the toy, Crocodile lost a front leg!
So many dog owners are home and bonding with their dogs. I see people walking their dogs, keeping a proper social distance from other people, all around my neighborhood. I think all this time spent with dogs shifts people's perspective in a good way. Dogs notice everything in the minute, which is very meditative. On each walk I pray prayers of protection and of thanksgiving as I see beauty around me.
Have you noticed anything to add to this list?

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Yellow roses in my garden, and poem My Neighbor's Roses

My Floribunda rose is in its full glory now in May. It is Julia Child floribunda planted in 2018.
I like the tight buds before they open.
The full size watering can shows the size of the bush which is about five feet all and five feet wide. It was small when planted two years ago.
Are you like me in that you greatly enjoy all the flowers and gardens that your neighbors grow?
Bounce gets me to take two walks a day and I love seeing the beauty neighbors provide. A jacaranda tree. California poppies. A stand of sunflowers each summer.

My Neighbor's Roses
The roses red upon my neighbor's vine
Are owned by him, but they are also mine,
His was the cost, and his the labor, too,
But mine as well as his the joy, the loveliness to view.

They bloom for me, and are for me as fair
As for the man who gives them all his care.
Thus I am rich, because a good man grew
A rose-clad vine for all his neighbors' view.

I know from that that others plant for me,
And what they own, my joy may also be;
So why be selfish, when so much that's fine
Is grown for you, upon your neighbor's vine?
                    written by Abraham Gruber. I haven't found out more about this poet, except some sources say he was a 19th century poet and that his middle initial is L.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Photos of my birthday and some ideas

Yes, it is social isolation and my sons prepared a birthday celebration for me, which we celebrated on April 25, the actual day. They planned everything so the cooking etc. would be healthy and we would be outdoors on my backyard patio.
Above is a photo of Lane and me and below are photos of Colt and Lane.

We wore masks and maintained a distance, and stayed outside. The weather was gorgeous, 75 degrees, and it said 80 degrees on my patio. It felt rather hot sitting in the sun so my younger son got out his pop up canvas awning, size about 10 feet by 10 feet. He uses it when camping in his van in the desert. The canvas made it ideal to be outside and now I want a canvas shade for the patio, maybe one that will roll up when not needed. Below shows the canvas awning and patio as seen from the kitchen, and you see Bounce resting. The awning sets up in a few minutes and created a delightful shade.

We had shrimp on skewers, fresh salmon, marinated steak, and zucchini, onions. asparagus and mushrooms, all cooked on our grill by the superchefs, my sons.

My kitchen table is full of flowers, plants and cards. If you look closely you can see a gift of a new orchid, on the left. We agreed this is the best meal we have had since the lockdown. I said it is the best meal I have had this year. This is the first time since the crisis we have enjoyed a meal together and lots of laughter and bonding time. It seemed like normal life. Except for the masks, ha ha. And no hugging.
Here is my purple clematis.

My sons, Zoom meetings and Jesus are keeping me sane, or maintaining a semblance thereof.
It is helpful to remember the words of Jesus: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life ... Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" Matthew 6:25
And James wrote "Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise." James 5:13
Til this crisis passes and we meet again, be safe.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Mostly light hearted post, a friend is moving away

Here is another mostly light hearted post from me.
A blog friend completely surprised me with a care package that included this darling antique tea cup from her collection. She also included some Jasmine green tea, and chocolates as you can see. In the vase are the first lilac blooms from my lilac this spring. Thank you Lauren from My Wonderfully Made Blog
All of you blog friends make my life that much brighter during these difficult times.

On a wistful note; one of my longtime friends is moving away from the city where we live, due to financial necessity. She is moving on April 18 and because we are being careful we can't even hug goodbye. Don't tell her ha ha, but I bought her a cute friendship memento. It is ceramic, edged with gold paint, and says "A true friendship is a journey without an end." Actually I am more than wistful, I am sad about her moving. But I need to support her in her journey.

Even the box it arrived in is cute. It says "There is only one happiness in life, to love and to be loved."

You friends will know I don't post many recipes but difficult times call for difficult, or in this case tasty, measures. Shrimp, green bean and bowtie dinner. Delish. I saute the fresh green beans in a splash of olive oil, a splash of soy sauce and a pat of butter for a couple minutes. You can add chopped garlic if desired. Keep the beans a bit crunchy, not all mushy! Boil the frozen raw shrimp 2 minutes and cook the cute bowtie pasta. Drain shrimp and pasta, then stir in the pasta and shrimp into the pan where you cooked the green beans. Voila, it is pretty, easy and healthy.
You could substitute broccoli, add fresh grated parmesan, use other pasta. But don't you just love the bowtie shape? It is called Farfalle in Italian.
More plants from my front yard which I enjoy when sitting on my patio. Actually they make my heart sing, I love their colors.

The red flowers cover my Australian Tea Tree, or Leptospermum Scoparium, which grew from a one gallon size to eight feet tall in 20 years, and the yellow flowers or Leucospermum, are from my new South African shrub, planted a year ago. Many times Leucospermum are wrongly called Australian natives, but they are native to South Africa. The yellow bush will grow to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide.
Above is Bounce, my 14 pound security patrol partner. He inspects many things along the way, and occasionally nibbles on some grass. People are very cooperative about staying far away in this time of social distancing. Some people walk in the middle of the street. There are plenty of people walking and jogging, skateboarding, bicycling, pushing baby strollers, but there are so many streets and sidewalks near the bay that we easily keep our distance. Temperature here is in the 60s with an occasional 70, so we love being outside.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

On the lighter side: My First Venture Using Zoom and Books, Books, Books

Instead of posting about you know what! here are some other words from me.
Zoom and My First Zoom Meeting
First, I am so pleased with myself; a few hours before the meeting happened, I was invited to a Zoom meeting. I've been wanting to try that so I said yes, and it worked for me right away! Amazing but true. I think it is beginner's luck. About 5 households managed to join in, hurray. Several people were frustrated and could not join. I think they will sort it out for the next Zoom meetup next week. What fun to see people's laughing faces, there was a lot of humor as people signed in, tried to sit so the top of their heads showed, we could see them but they couldn't see us, etc. A couple of the ladies joked about how long their hair is getting. The leader asked if we had read any good books and I told them about Falling Forward. See below for more on this wonderful book.
Books, books, books.
If you know me you won't be surprised I am telling you what books I am enjoying.

Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship by Ruth Chou Simons. Ruth is a brilliant watercolor artist and the book is overflowing with her dainty paintings of nature. Plus Ruth has six sons, wow! The first photo is from the book, each page is glorious, and the second photo is of the cover with more of her art. In 850 detailed watercolors the author explains how God demonstrates His love and His faithfulness even in our mundane moments. Her paintings and words remind us that God created all things. Thank you FlowerLady for recommending Beholding and Becoming.

Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled by Dorothy Gilman. This is a great book that will take you to the wild deserts of Syria with the world's most unlikely and very capable spy, Mrs. Pollifax. A senior citizen, she accidentally is recruited by the CIA to become a spy because when you see her, you know she could no way be a spy. The first book in the series is The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax and there are at least 14 books. I am not reading them in order, but must tell you the first book has its special charm as we learn how bored Emily Pollifax is with her routine life of a widow. She sure seized the day when she finagled her way into her first work as a spy.

An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor. This is the first and very entertaining book in a series set in the small village of Ballybucklebo. A young doctor finds his first job there assisting the large, kind and gruff village doctor. The villagers are an eccentric lot and very appealing and the book has plenty of humor in it. The series has about 15 books in it. Patrick Taylor retired as a doctor and lives in Canada and Ireland, and was born and raised in Bangor County Down in Northern Ireland.

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. This book is a fabulous find and I am very excited about it, since it applies to me and everyone who is in the second half of life, and anyone who wants ideas about growing closer to God. I guestimate that people who are 45 and up are in the second half of life, so that includes not only us senior citizens. Rohr says that the first half of life may end sooner, sometimes through difficulties at a young age, and this deepening second half could begin even in your twenties. I am just beginning this book and am underlining like crazy (I rarely do that) but so many thoughts of the author's are helpful and wise. Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest for the last 40 years and founded The Center for Action and Contemplation, and he explores how our failings in the first half of life can be the foundation for our ongoing spiritual growth.
Happy Trails To You
Who else remembers Roy Rogers and Dale Evans riding their horses and singing Happy trails to you, until we meet again. Happy trails to you, keep smiling until then. Dale's horse was a buckskin named Buttermilk and Roy's horse was Trigger. Happy trails for you today, whether still out in the world working at essential jobs, or staying home and reading, knitting, painting, creating, nurturing family and others. Don't forget to nurture yourself. For me I recommend a Lindt chocolate truffle every day.