Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An Anglophile Reminisces

One of my summer projects was to get some of my old negatives put onto CD's and thus begin the digitization of some great photos. Ok, and who can resist the great megastore Costco and it's cheap photo lab!? I started with my first British adventure. England, Scotland and a bit of Wales with my parents in July 1996. (Don't worry, Mom and Dad, no people photos here. You're safe!)

And so, on this rainy August day, this Anglophile reminisces about various points in Great Britain.
The main bath from the Roman Baths in Bath, England. (Was the word bath ever used in a sentence more frequently?) A grey drizzly day, we wandered around with our self guided tour and enjoyed the Roman baths and the city. Remember the Royal Crescent (which I don't have a picture of, so that must not have been my film.)? Remember the excitement that Jane would have seen it and she would have walked those streets? Ahhh, the beginnings of the Jane fix sets in.

Scott's View--Sir Walter Scott's favorite view of the Eildon Hills from Bemersyde. It is said that the horse pulling Scott's hearse to internment stopped at this spot as it usually did on its daily rambles with its master. Sigh. I had this photo framed for many years.

The Thames, Parliament and Big Ben. Need I say more?

And Tintern Abby in Wales. We did one of those brief, "Let's take this road and then you can say you've been in Wales" journeys on our tour. We stopped at the beautiful and peaceful abbey that Wordsworth wrote his poem, Lines Composed A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a tour, July 13, 1798.

And now for a spot of tea and a biscuit...

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Lure of the Farmer's Market

Earlier this summer I wrote a post titled "The Sweet Smell of Summer" and I think I could title this one the same as well. L and I ventured to the farmer's market on Tuesday for what will probably be our last time of the summer. (Sigh. But I am excited that next summer she will hopefully be able to help me pick things out!)

I went with no particular agenda--just wanting to go and see what looked good. Having just been to the store, there was nothing we needed. As usual that darn farmer's market lured me in. First, it starts with a visual feast of various colors, Green peppers, yellow-green hot banana peppers, sweet banana peppers, purple (?!?) peppers--kid you not!, white onions, green onions, purplely red onions, bright red tomatoes, purple eggplants, cucumbers and zucchini a plenty. I swear, the colors alone make me want to buy and prepare things I (we) never prepare or eat. (Anyone remember the last time I purchased an eggplant? Uh, never.) Next summer, I'll take pictures of the veggies and their colors.

But what gets me every visit are the smells. This visit, from two stalls away the basil did it. I could smell the rich, bold basil and was sunk. For $1.00 I purchased the cluster of basil in the above picture! That's right--for at least three times less than the store and at least three times more basil! Just recently holding my impromptu purchase, my mind quickly ticked away what we could possibly make with that much basil. And then the same vendor's tomatoes caught my eye. The lightbulb turned on and I pushed the stroller down to the local artisan bread maker. Ah yes, Parmesan-garlic French bread for bruschetta...

I'd meant to take a picture of the finished product, but remembered after we'd had our meal of bruschetta and melon. Cest la vie. Of course, there is still more basil to go. So far I've given some to a friend, made pizza Margherita, and put it in salad and we're still trucking along. I think we'll have to make another pizza and dry some of it. It's like manna from heaven. It just keeps multiplying or so it feels. Darn that farmer's market!

The Matters At Mansfield (Or, the Crawford Affair by Carrie Bebris

So, having just finished Mansfield Park Revisited, I decided to stay on the MP kick and the the fourth Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mystery by Carrie Bebris--The Matters at Mansfield (Or, the Crawford Affair). Which was all fine and dandy until I was about a chapter in, hooked, and realized I've read books 1 and 2, but not 3. So apparently, I'm a bit behind as the characters are talking about things I didn't remember occurring. Oh well. My guess is that I wouldn't have remembered even if I had read book 3.

Plot description: Lady Catherine is set to marry off Anne de Burgh to a wealthy gentleman who has the personality of a pit bull. Unbeknown to anyone, Anne runs off with, yes Henry Crawford (who she met in Bath during the previous book's time while Lady Catherine was at Pemberley). Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam chase after Anne and Henry to Gretna Green to bring them back to her family, but along the way the weather holds them up in a small village--Mansfield. No one there is happy to see Mr. Crawford. And then Lady Catherine and Elizabeth arrive and so does Henry's other wife and then there's a murder. And it's all very Murder She Wrote-esque with D & E solving the crime with no help of today's forensic science wonders. :)

Overall, I was pretty entertained by this book. I vaguely remember the other two and know I liked the first one but wasn't thrilled with the second. Bebris gets Lady Catherine dead on--and D & E's sense of dread of Lady Catherine is priceless--both think they are going to die at the card table with her at several points. While not something Jane would have actually written, the witty sentiments expressed by the two could have come from Jane's pen. So, while a bit outlandish and silly, it was entertaining and anything that ends in a duel wins the excitement award.

3 Bonnets out of 5.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

First Fruits

One of the readings from church sometime last month:

2 Kings 4:42-44
A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing some food form the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, 'Give it to the people and let them eat.' But his servant said, 'How can I set this bfore a hundred people?' So he repeated, 'Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, 'They shall eat and have some left.'' He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

And this was the poem that was in our bulletin. I'll let it speak for itself, Ms. Burgess says it so well. Truly beautiful.

The First Fruits by Ruth Burgess

When I bring you the first fruits
you get what you get:
you get my energy,
my imagination,
my scribbling,
my experimentation,
my dreams,
You get the raw me.

Part of me would prefer to bring you
the finished article:
the tried and tested formula,
the buffed and polished carving,
the machine that I know will work.

But that is not what you ask for;
because you want to be with me in the making,
in the messiness,
the uncertainty,
The laughter and the pain.

God of first fruits,
here I am.
Come and work with me always.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Jane Austen in Boca by Paula Marantz Cohen

DH (Dear Hubby) asked me what I was reading last night and I had to try to describe Jane Austen in Boca by Paula Marantz Cohen. How I described it: Think P&P with Jewish New Yorkers retired to Boca Raton, Florida. Widows and widowers abound scouting out new relationships amidst tennis courts, card nights, and quite a bit of chutzpah!

And how the publisher describes it (I am not feeling very eloquent in decriptions today): "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a nice Jewish widower must be in want of a wife. Jane Austen centered her classic novels around "three or four families in a country village." So does Paula Marantz Cohen in this witty twist on Pride and Prejudice---except this time the "village" is Boca Raton, Florida. Eligible men are scarce in Boca. When good-hearted meddler Carol Newman learns that the wealthy and personable Norman Grafstein has lost his wife, she resolves to marry him off to her lonely mother-in-law, May. Even May's sharp-tongued friend Flo approves of Norman---although Norman's best friend Stan, a cynical professor, keeps getting under Flo's skin. Will May and Norman eventually find happiness? Will Flo succumb to the charms of the suavely cosmopolitan Mel Shirmer? Misunderstandings abound until love conquers both pride and prejudice in this perceptive, engaging comedy of manners."

Boca was a hoot! And friends, unlike my last read, it took me 2 days to read. So, truly, this one was entertaining. I loved the insertion of Jewish culture and comedy into the plot of P&P. It was laugh out loud funny at times. Not the most literary of books, but a fun summer beach/porch read.

I'd give this one 4 bonnets out of 5 bonnets (while no period costumes, the shopping trip descriptions make up for it in laugh out loud wit).

Mansfield Park Revisited (Everthing Austen Challenge 2)

Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment by Joan Aiken.

This book was my second Everything Austen Challenge. Originally published in 1985 by Doubleday, this novel was republished last year by Sourcebooks Landmark. (Everyone's favorite JA sequel publishing house.) As a side note: Yes it's the Joan Aiken. Prolific writer, author of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase etc. for kids...And as another side note: I swear I have read another of Joan's Austen books as there are several. But I've gone through all of the titles and can't figure it out. The only thing that I can figure is that Sourcebooks has used the phrase "A Jane Austen Entertainment" as the title of another of their books because I know that was in the title of a book I read at some point....Hmmm.

Back to the book--Here's a quick description:
It's set where the original MP ends, Fanny's dear sister, Susan comes to take her place as Lady Bertram's new companion. Sir Tom dies in Antigua, Edmund and Fanny must go there to settle some business affairs as the new Sir Tom must stay to manage the estate etc. Who should appear just after Edmund and Fanny depart, but Mary Ormiston, nee Crawford, who is deathly ill and just wants to come to Mansfield to get some fresh country air and hopes to see her good friends. Add a meddling Mrs. Yates (Julia Bertram), the devilish Henry Crawford and the quaint parson and his sister who take Edmund and Fanny's places and there you have it.

Even with the best intentions this book should not have taken as long to read as it did. It's a mere 201 pages and I swear it took me two weeks to read. (While I just read one book this weekend.) That being said and admitted, I think it speaks volumes as to how entertaining this "entertainment" truly was. Sigh. Joan Aiken you are usually great. But I have to argue the value of entertainment here. There was no Fanny. And while you did justice to Susan's character and got Lady Bertram spot on, I was disappointed. Mary Crawford is dying some mysterious illness and she is all sweet and sugary.

(Insert screech of tires here.) What? Hold the phone, please. Now, I fully admit it's been awhile since I read MP, but sweet and sugary? Syrupy, maybe, but only to where it would suit her purpose. I just couldn't buy into the fact that Miss Crawford was so nice (and dare I say, genuine?) to Susan. In fact, they became fast friends. While the rest of the story was a bit entertaining (Julia trying to marry Tom off to her sister-in-law and ensuing fiascoes that arise etc.), this one character flaw made it so I was irked the whole reading. Every time she appeared on page, I felt a little twitch start up. It just did not work for me. I guess I need to reread MP and see if my interpretation of Mary Crawford is the same as it once was or if I'm completely off on this one.

I hate to say it, but 1 Bonnet out of 5: Listening to Mr. Collins read Fordyce's Sermons is better.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Excuse me, but is that a drapery you're wearing?

The other night I just couldn't take it anymore. We've been without a VCR player for quite a while and I wanted to watch the 1995 Persuasion which is, of course, on VHS. So, I went digging in the basement and dug out a VCR that had been hiding in a closet and hooked it up and set about to watching P whilst puttering about the living room.

I've seen it so many times. And know so many of the lines by heart. But I looked up at the right time this time. And maybe it's because we graduated from my college dorm room TV at 13 inches to a "big kid" flat screen TV (27 inches or something) that I noticed it.

Is Sir Walter Elliot wearing a drape or is it just me?
I had to do a little internet digging to find a picture of it, but here it is. Take a look, folks, and get back to me. I think he's part of the draperies. Only Sir Walter would try to show his finery by matching the drapes. Oh, Good Sir, weren't you supposed to retrench when you went to Bath? Personally, I blame Lady Dalrymple.