Monthly Archives: May 2015

MICHIGAN SLOW SPRING: FLOWERS AND FOOD AT THE FARMER’S MARKET

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Yes, spring in Michigan is slow in arriving. Today, the last day of May, it is 47 degrees as I leave for church. But, yesterday I gave my spring spirit a booster shot by going to the Oakland County Farmer’s Market, known to many of us as the Pontiac Market. The flowers are a glorious way to welcome spring. (Temperatures yesterday were most pleasant.)

As you can tell from the title, this post is all over the place, but come along and enjoy the ride into spring.

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The colors are glorious!

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This is the place.

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Yes, there is food. It smells so inviting!

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There are baskets galore, many as pretty as this one.
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Love the red of rhubarb. Is rhubarb a spring must for you? What is your favorite rhubarb dish?
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There are wagons to haul your purchases…. though I never find one.
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Healthy tomato plants at a reasonable price.

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A must-have: geraniums.

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Oh!!! These Gerber daisies warm my heart!

Also: Michigan asparagus, herbs, fresh eggs, popcorn, baked goods, cut flower arrangements and oh, so much more.

READING DEAD WAKE WITH MORE NONFICTION ON THE HORIZON

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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Author: Erik Larson
Publisher: Crown, 2015
Hardcover Edition: 353 pages plus sources, notes, bibliography and index
Genre: History
Source: Personal copy

Dead Wake currently occupies spot #10 on the New York Times Combined Print and E-Book Best Sellers List. This is an eminently readable book. The reader slides through its pages like the Lusitania slid through calm waters. That is its delight. The strong narrative line carries the reader on this interesting last voyage. The tale is a certain battle of the boats: we follow the Lusitania and the German U-boat responsible for the Lusitania’s quick death. The story is both thrilling and surprising.

Erik Larson has done it again. Remember Devil In the White City? I highly recommend this new book by Larson. The bonus of learning more about President Woodrow Wilson’s personal life added to the book’s charm. One of my best reading experiences this year, maybe at the top of the list!

Dead Wake is so readable, so interesting. My enthusiasm for non-fiction continues to rise. I’m excited to share some new non-fiction you and I may be interested in reading.

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So Many Roads by David Browne. This is a history of the Grateful Dead’s trip to a 50th anniversary. My son is a fan. Perhaps this is an appropriate Father’s Day gift.

The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander. People Magazine describes this as wrenching, lovely memoir about the lose of her husband.

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300 Sandwiches by Stephanie Smith. Another memoir, this one with recipes. Her boyfriend told her 300 sandwiches would get her an engagement ring. I’d do just about anything to read sandwich recipes.

Circling the Sun by Paula McClain. This is a fictionalized life (so not non-fiction) of Beryl Markham, a fascinating female aviator. Ms. McClain last wrote about Hadly the first wife of Hemingway.

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The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. In general I think this author can do not wrong. His new book is at number 1 on the Bestsellers List and everyone is talking about it.

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In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides. Many reviewers picked this as a best book of the year and it is now out in paperback. Adventure narrative and polar history at its best.

A Lucky Life Interrupted by Tom Brokaw. This memoir offers the opportunity to hear Brokaw’s voice, an experience to be cherished.

Do comment and let us know if you have read any of these or if you are likely to pick one up. Which one calls to you the loudest?

THE DETROIT PUBLIC LIBRARY

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Libraries can be surprising places. We expect books and these days computers, but what do we find? Sometimes, as at the Main Branch of the Detroit Public Library, we find art and architecture, and more. Perhaps most striking here are the many areas with decorative ceilings. There are marble columns, mosaics and other art, huge murals and more. Lovely wrought iron gates of incredible beauty can be found at the entrance to some rooms.

Detail from "The Landing of Cadillac's Wife"

Detail from “The Landing of Cadillac’s Wife”

Many of the areas, much of the art and architecture, loom large and impressive as well as historic. A guided tour is offered to show and explain some of this art. Discover the Wonders of the Detroit Public Library: An Art and Architectural Tour. This is a docent led experience. The website for the library is www.detroitpubliclibrary.org. As you might expect it is a treasure of information.

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This year is the 150th anniversary of the library: March 25, 1865-March 25, 2015. This building was built in 1921 and Andrew Carnegie’s generous aid hastened its completion. Here’s an important Carnegie quote, “ a library outranks any other thing a community can do to benefit its people.”

Enjoy some of the sights. First the Pewabic Pottery fireplace in the room that was the original children’s room. The tiles depict children’s nursery rhymes.

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detail of a fireplace tile

detail of a fireplace tile

Then the current children’s room.

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The beautiful iridescent blues of this Pewabic Pottery vase from the 1920’s capture the spirit of the library.

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This library holds many wonderful collections. Perhaps the most well known is The Burton Historical Collection which began as a private collection of the historiographer C. M. Burton. He assembled documents, papers and books pertaining not only to Michigan history but of the Old Northwest. This is a pertinent collection for all those researching American history in the Midwest, once known as the Northwest. He donated his collection to the Detroit Library in 1915.

There are other well-known collections. Among them, and pictured here: items from the Ernie Harwell collection. He was a beloved long-time sports announcer most closely associated with the Detroit Tigers. Another is Kate Greenaway’s beautiful illustrations. Her early artwork is much loved by many of us who know something of children’s literature.

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These hornbooks are examples of books used by children in 17th and 18th century.

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There is much spectacular viewing as one walks about the library. The lovely woodwork of the shelves and benches, so warm and inviting, I wanted to stretch out my hand to touch the wood, sit and linger. And there were words of wisdom among the myths and symbolism. A closed book is knowledge, an open book is access to knowledge.

So I guess we’d better get those books open.

Perhaps some of you will join me in becoming better acquainted with the main branch of the Detroit Public Library. The address of the building is 5201 Woodward. It is located in the cultural district facing the Detroit Art Institute with entrances on Woodward and Cass Aves. Its history is fascinating.

There’s much to see and learn here.

MOVIE REVIEW: FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

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Movie: Far from the Madding Crowd
Starring: Carey Mulligan
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Writer: David Nicholls and Thomas Hardy
Locations: Dorset, England
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG13
Length: 1 hr. 59 minutes

So many times as I was sitting in the theater watching this gorgeous film and the events of the story, I thought, this is why I love Hardy. This movie is true to Hardy’s story, true to modern times, true to the nineteenth century and true to the loveliness of the South English coast. See eleven stunning clips at imdb.com

Hardy wrote the hearts of the characters. Yes, sometimes there are slightly improbable coincidences in his stories, but always it is in service to his characters, so readers will understand those hearts and minds. This director does not disappoint us in transferring Hardy to the screen. He has made a movie all about the characters. Actions are shown to be what we might expect from characters.

The story is well told against the lush background of the Dorset countryside. Its pastoral beauty is lovingly photographed. The beauty and believability of the nineteenth century farming scenes grip the viewer. Gathering grain, bad weather, dirt lanes, cliffs and sheep transport us to that time and place.

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Carey Mulligan gives an outstanding performance as the young heroine determined to run the farm on her own terms. She holds her head high, she remains calm, yet shows us with face and voice, the turmoil inside her. All of the actors bring their characters to life with understated, strong acting. I could watch them again and again. Performances are nuanced and true to the story. Three suitors vie for her hand. Who will be chosen? What will happen to them and to our beloved Bathsheba Everdene? The story and the characters, as presented here, hold us in suspense until nearly the last frame.

The costumes are glorious. Never have I seen better Victorian costume. Ms. Mulligan is the perfect model of the varied dress her role demands, and the clothing of the male characters tells the viewer much. Costumes are not only beautiful to behold, they enhance the story. I could believe I was at that farm and in that village. And yet, no costume, no lush pasture, no fold of sheep, no field of ferns detracts from the story.

There is an integrity to all aspects of this movie that we see too seldom. This tale has held up over time. You may guess this if you notice the similarity between the name of the Hunger Games heroine and Hardy’s independent, determined female farmer. Everdene’s decisions are not unlike decisions that face women today. The timelessness in the male-female relationships of this story will not be lost on viewers. And there are lessons, too, lurking in the community relations from a different time, to inform our class and community struggles of the present day.

Critics like the movie, although perhaps not quite so much as I. Everyone agrees Carey Mulligan’s performance is beyond outstanding. Certainly this is the best movie I’ve seen this year and Carey Mulligan is a favored actress. I hope she is remembered at awards time. The actors who play her suitors are equal to her in both charm and depth. And Hardy’s beloved Wessex is not to be missed. Bravo!!!

Afternote: For years I have misread this title as Far From the Maddening Crowd instead of Far From the Madding Crowd. Mystery solved by Wikipedia. The title was taken from a line in Thomas Gray’s poem Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard: “far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife.” Here madding means frenzied. Hardy’s story disrupts the idyll of country life. More about Hardy on the writing page of this blog.

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Do let us know what you think of this movie! Comments are the fun of a blog. And check out those clips.

MONTH OF MAY COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY

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It’s that time again. Lucky someones! One of those someones could be you.

To enter: reply to this post with an answer this question: Which food group is your favorite to prepare and to eat?

The cookbooks are lightly used or in one case brand new. They are small in terms of pages for ease of mailing, but large in terms of ideas and flavors.

Entries will close at midnight on Tuesday May 12. You must comment on this blog to be eligible (Click on replies at the top of the post). Comments on Facebook are great, but are not an entry to win a cookbook.

I hope you are a winner.

NEW DISCOVERIES AND ACCEPTANCE

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The Mermaid Chair
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Publisher: Penquin Books
Genre: Novel
Paperback Edition: 332 Pages, with Reading Group Guide

Jessie Sullivan, the woman at the center of this story, comes to an important conclusion in the midst of her life’s journey, one with unexpected twists and turns. “I had come to the irreducible thing, just as I had with my father, and there was nothing to do but accept, to learn to accept, to lie down every night and accept. Jessie goes to an island off the coast of South Carolina, the place she grew up, to assist her estranged mother. In doing so she discovers her own estrangement from life. Living with her through her discoveries and reconnections, a reader may discover his or her own new truths and connections.

Sue Monk Kidd, whose first novel The Secret Life of Bees created quite a stir, has continued to woo readers. This past year many of us were happily reading her latest, The Invention of Wings, a book with heart and history, loosely based on the Grimke sisters, early abolitionists from South Carolina. She published The Mermaid’s Chair in 2005, but this spring when visiting the Book Loft in Fernandina Beach a staff member offered it in response to my query about what fiction on the paperback table had she read and considered very good. Turns out it is quite a contrast to The Invention of Wings. Reading those two in a span of only a few weeks showed me the versatility of this author.

One might be classified as realistic fiction, and one as historical fiction. The Mermaid’s Chair is quite imaginative, yet grounded in the beautiful surroundings of a coastal island in the southeast. Monk is masterful at creating that environment. The magical environment seems right for a magical story. Though it may be realistic fiction or literary fiction, the story contains highly unusual elements.

This story has much to say about mid-life, marriage, family and personal identify. Monk does not shy away from the dark side of life, or the divine. The story lead me to wonder just what hearts are for? How do we handle our passions for people and for life’s endeavors? Sometimes it is hard to bring our lives into focus.

I leave you to read the book, and puzzle out the meaning of the mermaid chair as a central image in the novel. It’s all part of the magical environment that brings both wildness and sanctuary to this story.

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