Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review: Maine

Maine Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alice dreams of going to art school and becoming an artist, but in her Boston Irish Catholic family, her wages are needed to help pay the mortgage once she finishes high school. She eventually marries, after a tragedy occurs which she feels responsible for. At the end of World War II, her husband wins some prime waterfront property in Oguniquit, Maine in a card game, and thus a family summer home is established. Alice is now quite elderly, living on her own in Boston during the winter, and then spending the warmer months in Maine. Her family has grown and they take turns spending time at the family cottage. The book focuses on one summer when Alice, her daughter-in-law Ann Marie, her daughter Kathleen, and her granddaughter Maggie all wind up at the summer home. From flashbacks and the main character perspectives, the reader is drawn into the family history, both happy and unhappy, and over the course of a few weeks, long-held resentments and family secrets are aired.

I enjoyed the characters, and the details about places I'm familiar with. It's clear the author has spent some time in Oqunquit,and in the Boston area.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: Cold In The Earth

Cold In The Earth Cold In The Earth by Aline Templeton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel introduces DI Marjorie Fleming. Daughter of a now-retired police legend, Fleming struggles to balance her work life with her life as a wife and mother. She also keeps hoping, in vain, for her father's approval. When the body of a missing woman is unearthed during the excavation of a burial pit for slaughtered cattle, Marjorie has to determine whether she was the victim of homicide or accident, and why the body was secretly buried. The land on which the body is found belongs to the Masons, breeders of rare cattle. The Masons are legendary for their beyond the pale tempers and perhaps even madness which makes Fleming's investigation even harder. The novel is set in a corner of Scotland, during the outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease. One of Fleming's jobs is to enforce the quarantine and herd-slaughter rules, which pits her against her neighbors as well as her own family's livelihood.

I enjoyed this novel although the depiction of the Masons seemed a bit over-the-top. One the other hand, Fleming's portrayal of a professional, extremely competent detective struggling to balance the demands of all her responsibilities was spot on. I will be reading more.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

New Furniture

As mentioned in my last post, we bought some new furniture this week.  It was delivered yesterday, exactly when they said they'd come.  I love my local furniture store - Plotkins, in Keene, NH.  It's a family-owned store, and while they can't really compete with the big box store furniture stores (Jordan's, Bernie & Phil's etc.), their prices are reasonable, and they are willing to negotiate!  They carry a number of excellent furniture lines too, and many are American-made.  Friendly sales staff who understand that furniture is a major investment don't mind helping you and answering all your questions, even if you're not ready to buy add to the pleasure of shopping there.   Although I always shop around, I always end up here.

So here's what we ended up purchasing:

It's a twin sleeper sofa, and it fits perfectly into a small niche in our home office.  Our down-sized home has only 2 bedrooms, so we're limited in offering overnight hospitality unless you're willing to sleep on the floor!  At least now we can have Younger Son and his wife, plus Elder Son stay with us at the same time!  

The other purchase was for my husband.  When we purchased our sectional, we also found a coordinating recliner to go with it.  For the past year, all I've heard is my husband's complaints about it.  So, despite my attempt to maintain a more contemporary look to my living area, I caved, and we purchased this:

He's happy.  The other recliner, which we can still use, has a sleeker look, it's much less bulky, and it's leather. It's quite comfortable, but he missed his plush, overstuffed, cushy chair.  So this accompanied the sleeper sofa.  

We scheduled the delivery for yesterday around mid-day.  The store called at 11 am, and told me the delivery truck would arrive between 12 and 1.  At 12:45 they pulled into the yard, unloaded, and by 1 pm they were on their way back.  Perfect!  

My husband is like a kid at Christmas, and loves his chair, so I guess I can live with Red.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Good So Far

While I didn't meet my goal of spending the equivalent of 2.5 hrs organizing last week, I did come close.  And I am satisfied with what I accomplished.  One of the main areas that I wanted to tackle is our home office.  I managed to empty out all the boxes/baskets of miscellany and I did a lot of filing.  I made space for the new twin sleeper sofa we purchased too.  Now we will be able to offer mattresses to three guests if the need arises, like it did 2 weeks ago!  The sofa will arrive on Thursday which gives me a couple days to find a new home for the remaining bin of photos that need sorting!  Now if I can get my husband to sort through the small pile of papers that he needs to tackle.  

In between the organization effort, I did some knitting and a lot of reading.  I even made it to church for a change!  I'm also totally engrossed in PBS Sunday night shows:  Season 3 of "Last Tango in Halifax", "Poldark", and "The Crimson Field."  Three completely different shows and time periods.  Modern rural England, late 18th century England, and a field hospital in Belgium during World War I.  I've also been watching "A Place to Call Home" Home" on Acorn TV via my Roku.  This one is set in 1950's Australia.   Watching TV is my primary knitting time.  

I am working on a sweater, Mindy, made out of Cascade Yarns Pure Alpaca Paints. The yarn has been discontinued, which is a shame, because it's so soft and cozy. I've completed the sleeves and the back, and I'm about 1/3 of the way done with the first front.  If I am diligent, I might actually finish it before fall!  I really want to knit a cowl I fell in love with when I went to Webs with my BF.  But I am a monogamous knitter;  it's hard for me to be knitting more than one project at a time.  

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Small Town Living

After a couple of days of mugginess and rain, it was refreshing to enjoy a lovely summer evening outside. After dinner, my husband and I headed down to our little New England common for the weekly farmers' market and free community concert.  After browsing the wares, we purchased a pint of fresh blueberries, and I allowed a couple of little girls to persuade me to buy a small container of new potatoes.  One of our local farms has established a "Girls' Garden Club."  The girls, who appeared to be 2nd-3rd graders, were eagerly entreating potential customers to buy their flowers, herbs, and potatoes.  "We dug them up and picked them today!" one sales person enthused.  So I bought this container of new potatoes from them.

We then settled ourselves in our lawn chairs and spent the next hour or so enjoying the sounds of the Raymond Street Klezmer Band.  They played a variety of traditional klezmer music interspersed with some liturgical songs and some modern compositions.  It was a lovely way to spend a July evening.

A photo taken by my friend John Stone.  My husband and I are sitting just to the right of the tree on the left:

Monday, July 6, 2015

Establishing Routine

So far, the attempt to establish a daily routine has been unfruitful.  It IS summer, after all.  Why should this summer be different from past summers?  I think I feel the need to create a routine, because it is also the start of my life as a retired teacher.  I won't be heading back to the classroom in 8 weeks.  I also know me.  I need a routine to accomplish things.  Otherwise the whole day gets away and I've done nothing productive. I value those aimless days -- occasionally.  I don't want them to become the norm.

A few goals I have for this first part of retirement:

  • We have mountains of things in the basement that were moved here in a willy-nilly fashion.  I believe that 90% of the items are things wanted and still valued.  But the packing was done in a "where's an empty box/get it moved now" fashion so things aren't labeled, nor are they well-organized.   So obviously I want to get things unpacked and organized and put in a logical place.  But I know 2 things.  First, there's no way I will go downstairs and spend an entire 2-3 days going through things.  Second, I need to set small, specific goals.  So my first goal is to spend 30 minutes at least 5 days a week, unpacking, sorting, and organizing.

  • I have a huge 40 gallon plastic tub of photos as well as several miscellaneous small boxes of them.  I want to sort and organize those photos.  This will be 2nd goal, once the basement stuff is dealt with.  I will spend 1/2 hour sorting those.  To that end, I'll be purchasing some photo boxes the next time I'm in Keene.

  • My 3rd goal is to develop a housekeeping routine --- one major chore per weekday, and a daily goal of making sure the table top and the island counter are clutter free every morning.

So, this first Monday in July found me scrubbing the 2 bathrooms and I sorted/organized 2 boxes of papers.  I even got some laundry done.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Since Friday, it's been a wonderful time of family reunions.  Matt was  here as were Tim and Von, for a couple of days in addition to all the cousins and siblings who made it here for a day.

The icing on the cake has been the serendipitous discovery and reconnection with my cousins in Brazil!  My father's brother Luis emigrated from Cuba to Brazil in the 1950's.  I met one cousin briefly in the mid 70's, and after my father died in 2002, I had email contact with Luis until his death a couple of years later.  And since then, we've lost contact.   This is where Facebook comes in.  A cousin in Miami made a FB friend request to me which I accepted.  She was in FB contact with our aunt in Brazil, and the rest is history.  I have "met" my aunt, reconnected with the cousin I met briefly, and have become friends with him and his daughter.  I've also "met" my other cousin, and two of his sons.  So now I have a whole network of family that I've never known.  We are sharing family photos and stories.  There is a language barrier; most of them speak Portuguese, which I do not.   However, several of them are fluent in Portuguese and Spanish, which are similar enough that we can make ourselves understood.  My Spanish is barely adequate, but at least one cousin is fluent in English too. So between our shared language capabilities, the wonder of Google translate, and my word root knowledge, we are making ourselves understood.

It's also what would have been my father's 91st birthday today, so all of us are digging into our files to find pictures of him.  My sisters have some old photos (from his childhood in Cuba) that I've never seen before, so that's been fun.  And my Brazilian family are sharing their pictures and it's easy to see that we are all from a common gene pool!

So, despite all the issues with privacy on FB, right now I'm loving it!