About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hot Fun

Yesterday a trio of friends (you'll have to take my word about that since they're all camera phobic) and I went on a road trip in 95 degree heat and humidity to check out this great art festival. It's been voted a Top Ten art festival in the U.S. for several years. I expect they'll keep that rating after what we saw and experienced yesterday. The festival is in the heart of Kentucky horse country on Midway College campus.

The road onto Francisco Farm was lined with these festive renaissance flags--very exciting to see them flapping in the breeze. Also encouraging for the promise of a cooling breeze while we walked around.

Near the entrance to the fair I spotted this sign. The sentiment may be a bit dark, but hard to argue that art in its many forms helps us to feel pleasure whether we're creating it ourselves or just appreciating other artists' works. Apologies to Stella--her last name is Adler, not Adle.

Here's a long view of the festival area. It was set up on Midway College's beautiful campus lawn. We were sheltered from some of the heat by the great old trees. Throughout the campus grounds there were areas set aside where you could take a break and listen to some nice music from a live quartet. Later in the day there was some lovely singing that was not too loud or raucous.

I spotted these two guys enjoying a bit of the music from these straw bale seats. Grownup guy gets extra points for bringing little guy to this type of event.

No surprise that this booth was my favorite of the over 100 that were set up. Debbie Graviss is a local artist who specializes in painting animals, especially pets. She is a volunteer with the Woodford Humane Society and many of her subjects are from the WHS which has a great reputation for its work on behalf of animal welfare and rescue.

Here are some closeups of her work, including "Miss Lilly", a graduate of the Woodford County Humane Society:

Look closely. Can you see the dog? When we were sharing photos, KH thought this may be a glass sculpture, like one of Dale Chihuly's fanciful pieces. You can see where she might get that idea!

When it came time to select a memento from the festival I would have been happy with some pottery in earth tones, silver and agate earrings, lovely textiles and paintings. I chose some small botanical colored pencil drawings of bleeding hearts, lily of the valley,blue columbine, and pink lady slippers by artist Sharon Kincheloe. My colored pencils are already sharpened and ready to try to copy them.

Then there was so much beautiful nature photography to choose from, but "Morning Rush" by photographer John W. Snell was an early and easy choice. This photograph was taken in the beautiful Red River Gorge of eastern Kentucky.

This scene is very familiar to me as I grew up in these mountains and first learned to appreciate the beauty of nature there. I'll enjoy looking at this work as a reminder of that time and a wonderful day with friends at the Francisco Farm Art Festival on the hottest day in June.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Best buddy Sally brought me this charming postcard from Aux-en-Provence, France from her recent cruise. My French is what's left over from one year's attempt as a college freshman to rev up a mountain drawl enough to be able to speak a few French phrases. In other words, hopeless.

Thanks to google I was able to find the translation of the shop's name, Chat Reveur. Cat Dreamer. How whimsical and doesn't it just fit this colorful, busy shop?

Gandhi's quote over the door was "Le Bonheur est dans l'ceil de celui qui regarde". "Happiness is in the eye of the beholder." I'm thinking Gandhi is reminding us that we're responsible for our own happiness and that "happy" is going to be different for each of us.

What about you this first hot day of summer? What makes you happy--or at the very least content? Me? I'm happy to have air conditioning and the energy to keeping going with a major home/life de-cluttering project.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Honest Scraps

Debs , my U.K. (as in I can see the coast of Normandy from my bedroom window) blog buddy, gave me and Summit Musings this intriguing Honest Scrap award. At first I had no idea where the term "honest scrap" originated. Was it English slang? Nope. After a bit of googling, I found out that Honest Scrap was a brand name for chewing tobacco produced in the U.S. from 1890-1920s, possibly in Cleveland, Ohio.

I live in Kentucky, a major tobacco producing state. So, in this google search I was intrigued to run across an obscure legal clarification of the term "scrap" provided to the Louisville Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company from the U.S. Office of Tariffs. According to Mr. Tariff Lawyer, "scrap" is the reusable sweepings from the floors of tobacco processing plants--mostly stems and bits of leaves left over from making cigarettes. Scraps are processed into chewing tobaccos such as Honest Scrap, Redman, Beechnut. Another good reason not to smoke!

But now, back to the Honest Scrap Award from Debs. She asks her award recipients to share ten facts about themselves that may not be common knowledge. So, in no particular order, here are my Honest Scraps:
1. The first live play I saw on Broadway (late 60s) was Funny Girl, starring Barbra Streisand. Our seats were right in front of the orchestra pit, so we watched the boys in the band read books, newspapers, magazines until it was time to play some music.

2. I like people. I LOVE dogs.

3. I've visited over 20 foreign countries. Most exotic Caribbean islands, New Zealand and Ukraine.

4. I was robbed at gun point in a convenience store late one night. Moral of the story: wait until daylight to see if the latest issue of Glamour Magazine is on the newsstand.

5. I have a lightly used undergraduate degree in home economics. Totally out of left field. Thank goodness there's also majors in English, American literature, and adult education.

6. I had ONE date with a New York Yankee baseball pitcher, a rookie from Phoenix, Arizona. We had dinner, movies and then shopped for him--a shirt and tie, I think. Sad note: his citizenship may be questioned in Arizona today. . .

7. My best feature? Kind eyes.

8. I despise meanness and intolerance in the name of religion. There's enough room in this world for differences.

9. I've never spent a single night in a hospital, not even an emergency run.

10. I never traveled out of my home county in eastern Kentucky until I was a senior in high school. First time in town, the streetlight shining in my bedroom kept me awake.

So Debs, there you have my "honest scraps". Now I'm supposed to pass this award along to five other bloggers. How about we change the rules a bit? If you'd like to share some of your deep history with us, consider this award yours!

Just for fun update: I found this baseball card for my New York Yankee dream date. :-) Gil Blanco was just a teen when the Yankees signed him in 1965. I met him in the summer 1966. Can you see why this college girl was excited?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Teaser Tuesday - Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading . All readers are welcome to play. The rules are simple: 1. open your current read to a random page (well sort of); 2. share two "teaser" sentences from this page, making sure they're not spoilers for the next reader; 3. link your post in the comments on Miz B's website; and 4. try to check out other players' posts and leave a comment--we all love them!

This week I'm a bit late writing my post because I decided to do a teaser for three books--Swedish writer Stieg Larsson's international bestselling thrillers, the Millennium trilogy. Also, I want to tell you about the first movie based on this trilogy. I saw Girl with the Dragon Tattoo before reading the books and was immediately fascinated by the storyline, characters, and heart stopping pace of the film. In about three weeks I read the three books almost in one setting each, staying up all night to see what happens. Now that's a great read!

I was also glad to have seen the "Dragon Tattoo" movie first to help me visualize the Swedish setting for the novels--cold, snowy, watery countryside. More importantly, I had a picture in my mind of Larsson's two central characters--Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. Lisbeth Salander is a brilliant computer hacker with a photographic memory who works as an investigator for a security company. Salander is a non-communicative social misfit who strikes out violently at anyone who threatens her. Some reviewers say she may be borderline autistic or suffer from Asperger's syndrome. Her looks--slight boyish figure, fierce physicality, goth appearance with multiple piercings and tattoos--further emphasize her differences from other young Swedish women. Salander has been victimized and brutalized most of her life by people in authority who were charged with protecting her. These violations are the backdrop for all three novels.

Michael Blomkvist is an investigative journalist for the liberal leaning Millennium Magazine and freelancer who takes on corrupt financial and governmental institutions and exposes them to the public. Even if it means being sued for libel, being set up, and sentenced to a jail term for his supposed crime. Blomkvist operates by a strict journalistic code. He gets the story right before he publishes it and he doesn't betray his sources. Most important for his relationship with Salander, he is a fiercely loyal friend who uses his considerable journalistic talents and personal connections to help her. Someone who has her back--a first for Salander.

Here are my teasers for each book. If you decide to read, they should be read in order because the story builds over the three works:

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (pub. Stockholm 2005)

"But he does have some secrets?" Frode said. "Everyone has secrets," Salander replied neutrally. "It's just a matter of finding out what they are." p. 50

Synopsis: Journalist Mikael Blomkvist and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander investigate the unsolved disappearance over twenty years ago of a teenage girl of the powerful Vanger family. In the process, they uncover dark family secrets and connections to Blomkvist's journalistic career. Journalist and hacker begin an uneasy partnership.

The Girl Who Played With Fire (pub. Stockholm 2006)

"She lay on her back fastened by leather straps to a narrow bed. The harness was tight across her rib cage. Her hands were manacled to the sides of the bed. It was the 43rd day of her imprisonment. It was her 13th birthday." p. 3 & 6

Synopsis: Blomkvist's Millennium Magazine launches an expose of the Swedish sex trade that proves collusion by a rogue arm of the secret security police. Two staffers involved in the investigation are brutally murdered and the police pursue Salander as a prime suspect because of the secrets she knows.

The Girl who Kicked The Hornet's Nest (pub. Stockholm 2007)

"Rescue Service helicopter coming in. Two patients. An injured man and a young woman. The woman has gunshot wounds." p. 5

Salandar is critically wounded and a prisoner in a city hospital. She is to go on trial for three murders. Somehow she must prove her innocence plus identify and denounce the authorities who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. Blomkvist is her main ally.

Here is the U.S. trailer for The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo film. Warning: it is very intense and, at times, incredibly violent. At the same time it's almost like an art film. Noomi Rapace transforms herself physically into this 24 year old waif. Michael Nyquist is perfectly cast as the older, steady Blomkvist. I think you'll see why it was good to see this film before reading the trilogy. Films based on the other two novels are scheduled for release later this year and early 2011.

After this total immersion in Stieg Larsson, I became interested in Swedish crime writing and drama. Next week I'll be talking about Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander mysteries.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Fun Monday -- Summer Plans

Since the first week of June signals the official start of summer for a lot of people--except our Down Under blogger friends Karisma, Peter and Wendy--our Fun Monday assignment is all about summer plans. Our host is Sayre over at Sayre Smiles and she would like us to share how we'll be spending our summer.

For me there's two things that need mentioning on this topic. One, there's not much that I like about the lazy, hazy days of summer. I don't enjoy water sports or other outdoor activities, nor do I care that much about yardwork, or being sealed up in an air conditioned house. Two, I'm retired so the summer months are not that different from any other time of the year.

One thing that remains constant though is that there's a master plan for the season. When I was working, I used one of those torturous planners like a Franklin Covey which would indeed have a supplement for "Summer Plans" like the one you see above. On a quarterly, monthly and weekly basis I mapped out my life under categories like strategic planning, conference development, training, organizational priorities, personal time, homekeeping. Now things are a lot simpler. My summer plans fit handily on one page of a steno pad. And I just need four categories: Inside, Outside, Creative, Organize. Here's my actual plan for June-August:

As you can see, things are going to be pretty low key on Summit Court. There will be some maintenance work to keep the house from falling down around my ears, a bit of decorating to make the place more welcoming, and sprucing up the outside so the neighborhood association--if we had one--won't complain. There's some business and financial issues that I need to sort out over the next few months, including planning for some travel in 2011--my passport is getting itchy. Mostly though, I'll be hunkered under the air conditioning working on my creative to do list--reading, writing, e-chatting with all of you, learning to use the right side of my brain to draw and paint. Oh, and I'll watch all seasons of "Lost" along with many, many other movies.

So, if summer is your season, I hope it's a great one. Will be around in the next day or so to see what you have planned.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Teaser Tuesday Reads - The Invisible Bridge

I've chosen an amazing first novel for this week's Teaser Tuesday. There's a lot to recommend in young Julie Orringer's writing--a love story set in Budapest and Paris in the late 1930s as Europe goes to war, a tale of three brothers who stood by each other no matter what, and a family's determination to survive and remain together despite numerous attempts to destroy it. This story rings true because it is based on the experiences of Orringer's Jewish-Hungarian grandparents and great aunts and uncles.

Teaser Tuesday is a book sharing meme hosted by Mz B at Should be Reading . All book lovers are welcome to play. The rules are simple: open your current read to a random page; share two teaser sentences from that page, being careful not to include any spoilers; share the title, author and--if you like--a brief synopsis of the story so that other players can decide if they want to read your book; and post your link in the comments on Miz B's webpage.

The Invisible Bridge
by Julie Orringer

Andras Levi: "For years now, he understood at last, he'd had to cultivate the habit of blind hope. It had become as natural to him as breathing. It had taken him from Konyar to Budapest to Paris. . .from the Carpathian winter to Forget-Me-Not Street in the Erzsebetvaros. It was the inevitable by-product of love, the clear and potent distillate of fatherhood." p. 478

Synopsis from the book cover: "Paris, 1937, Andras Levi, a Hungarian-Jewish architecture student, arrives from Budapest with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he has promised to deliver to C. Morgenstern. He falls into a complicated relationship with the letter's recipient, a 30+ year old ballet teacher and Jewish-Hungarian who had fled to Paris almost 20 years ago to escape prosecution for a crime she did not commit. Meanwhile Andras' older brother takes up medical studies in Modena, Italy and his younger brother leaves school in Hungary and goes on stage. Europe's unfolding tragedy sends each of the brothers' lives into terrifying uncertainty. At the end of Andras' second summer in Paris, all Europe erupts in a cataclysm of war. The brothers return to Hungary to hopefully safeguard their families and are drawn into the war as forced laborers using the skills they have been learning in school."

A special bonus of this book was the description of the famous architecture of Paris, familiar to any traveler who has been fortunate enough to visit this fabulous city. In his first term at the Ecole Speciale d'Architecture, Andras had to create a model of the train station Gare d'Orsay. He spoke of drawing the arched windows and clock faces and all the stone detailing for this rail station built in 1900 and by the late 1930s becoming obsolete because of its short platforms that would not accommodate the longer trains serving southwestern France. I dug around in my photo albums and found photos that I had taken there in 2002, now an art museum-Musee d'Orsay--housing collections from the mid-1800s to 1914, including works of the great Impressionist painters.

This postcard shows the Beaux-Arts edifice of La Gare d'Orsay as designed by architect Victor Laloux:

When the train station was converted to the modern day Musee d'Orsay in 1977, the Italian architect kept the interior elements and feel of the original structure, including the arched windows, ornate clocks, and stone walls.

If you're just now making your summer reading lists, I highly recommend that you check out Miz B's Teaser Tuesdays. And, if you're looking for a challenging read with memorable characters then don't miss The Invisible Bridge. Plus, it's an economical way to ramble around Paris!