Friday, December 26, 2008

My Elf on the Shelf

Nothing like getting a new toy for Christmas! Her name is Esmerelda. She's already raided Skipper's closet but hopefully she'll be getting her own wardrobe soon. My mother knit the sweater she's wearing way back when. I made the green dress a couple of years ago but it never really looked quite right on either Skipper or Francie. It looks perfect on Blythe.

The most fun I've had this Christmas, besides the family and food, etc, etc has been putting together a couple of cd's of old family photos. Here is one of my favourite from my mother's side which was taken at Seabrook Beach, NH in 1904.
Keep thinking warm, summery thoughts!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

An "Ugly Betty" Moment

So, I'm sure most of you are familiar with Ugly Betty and her struggles as an assistant to the editor-in-chief of "Mode Magazine". Things never seem to go right for Betty -- there's always a mix-up of some sort. Well, a couple of days ago, I received the Jan/Feb edition of "Victoria". I've been a fan of this magazine since waaaaaaaay back when it was first published. When I moved back from Toronto in '03, it broke my heart to have to leave all my back issues behind -- esp since I'm sure they got recycled. I did manage to save a couple of issues including my fave winter issue with the recipe for fidget pie. Anywho, back to the story at hand, I had a true "Ugly Betty" moment as I was reading the magazine and I stumbled on an article about Maymont. If you have read this blog with any regularity at all, you'll know that's one of my favourite things to photograph. So... here I am, looking at this lovely article and all of a sudden it hits me --- the photo on page 36 --- it's MINE!!! Yeppers. Indeedio. Click on the archives to the right here. The one for 2007. It's about the only thing I blogged about that year. The day it snowed in Richmond in April and I was lucky enough to take all those lovely pictures. My friend Virginia thought they were so wonderful she took them to her cousin who works at Maymont. He in turn showed them to the folks in the PR dept. They in turn sent them along to the folks at "Victoria". Unfortunately, my photo was miscredited -- a total computer snafu for which everyone has been most apologetic. In fact, I was very impressed with the speed and sincerity with which both Maymont and "Victoria" responded. In my book, they're both still the top! Just like "Ugly Betty", everything came out OK in the end and who knows, it might all lead to something new and exciting down the road!

If you don't have a subscription to "Victoria" (and you should, you know), this particular issue will hit the stands on 23Dec.

And stay tuned for next weeks exciting adventures.... well.... not really. Just work mostly and finishing up Christmas presents.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Queen of the South

Just finished "The Queen of the South" by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Very, very intriguing novel. I think one of the reviews I read was a bit skewed when it complained about the point of view. Some of the novel is written from the point of view of a journalist who is writing the protagonist's life story -- most of it is third person narrative. I thought it was very easy to tell which was which and quite enjoyed the contrast. Not too long ago, Michael Dirda was talking about something similar in his weekly discussion on the Washington Post website. He mentioned that he didn't like biographers who seemed to get into the mind of the person they were writing about -- he didn't like them coming up with pages of dialogue nobody could have remembered. I think Pérez-Reverte was well aware of that when he wrote this book. The bits with the journalist interviewing people are completely imbued with the interviewee's personality and their, for the most part, very selfish viewpoint. It can't be easy to get a very clear idea about a subject from so many disparate tales without wanting to embellish on your own. Anywho, liked it but I would not recommend it to anyone squeamish who prefers extremely cozy little tales about shopping and cake-baking.

Up next on the agenda, Kathy Reichs' latest, "Devil Bones". I'm already about 100 pages in and loving it!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Capital Idea

Had a few extra days of vacation so I took a long weekend and headed here:

I took the train -- more so I could have some uninterupted reading time than anything else. The book I read on this trip is "The Daughter of Time" by Josephine Tey. Highly, highly recommended and not just for mystery fans or British history fans. It's a very well-crafted story which points out the many follies of hearsay.

I stayed at the Grand Hyatt which easily met all my expectations.

On Thursday night, my cousin and I ate dinner at The Bombay Club. I had the Manglorean Chicken -- most supurb and the staff were all very nice. My cousin had one of the lamb dishes, I'm not entirely sure which one but it was also very good.

My first day out, I went to the US Botanical Garden. I got there early and had a good wander around the outdoor gardens. Saw loads of butterflies.

After I left the Botanical Garden, I strolled over to the The National Gallery of Art where I saw this exhibit of artworks from Afghanistan. I was very intrigued by the decorations used on the clothing found in a tomb -- loads of little gold hearts and teardrops and some wonderful little geometric designs. The next day, I hiked up the hill from Dupont Circle to The Textile Museum where I saw this exhibit called Blue. It's inspired me to want to get back to some hand-dying of cloth. I have an idea for some banners -- this exhibit showed me some interesting ways to put them together. Then I went to the NMWA where I saw this exhibit of quilts by Rosie Lee Tompkins. That woman had the most wonderful sense of color and balance. And the fabrics she worked with -- everything from double-knit polyester to velvet -- went together like clock-work.

On Sunday I had a fab breakfast at the hotel (definitely worth the wait if you get a chance) and a very good visit with an old friend I hadn't seen in a while and a new one I hope to see again. I topped the day off with a visit to the Holocaust Museum with yet another friend I don't see enough of, where I saw this exhibit about the 1936 Olympics. It was originally put together in 1996 and brought out again in a timely manner to coincide with the games in Beijing. It was heartbreaking to hear the stories of the athletes who were forbidden to compete, who boycotted the games or worse, who were sidelined at the games -- most of all because a large number of them never got a chance to compete again as there were no Olympics in 1940.

All in all, a very inspiring weekend and now that I've dutifully updated my blog, I shall get on with being a busy little "Crazy Spider".

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Someone, Some Summertime

I went to Maymont this morning and got some great pictures of flowers but this is probably the most appropriate picture for a day like today...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What I did on my summer vacation, part deux

Just in case you think I spent all that time foolishly reading books, I didn't. I spent it in Canaan Valley, WV. It just happened to rain a couple of the days I was there....

Despite the rain -- and a rather nasty hail storm -- we had a lovely visit to the town of Thomas where we went to the Mountain Made Artisans' Gallery and had a very good lunch at The Purple Fiddle. It may be worth it to note here that the actual town seems to be clinging for life with all it's might to the mountain side and while you may well pass through town without giving it a second glance, the people we met were all very welcoming, the food was good and I didn't really see any of the usual tacky souvenirs found in so many parts of the world.

The first it didn't rain, we visited Blackwater Falls:

The next day, my brother and I took our father up to Fairmont, where he had lived for most of his childhood. Our first stop was the former Fairmont Municipal Pool (aka the 12th St. Pool) which now belongs to the county and has been lovingly restored. My grandfather was the engineer on this project so it was nice to see that aside from some materials which needed replacing (i.e. rusty iron plumbing) it was still in very good shape.

If my dad can find it, I'll post a picture of what it looked like when it first opened in 1937.

Other places have not fared so well. The elementary school my dad went to, Butcher School, was closed many years ago and because of the usual zoning restrictions was never used for much more than storage. The brick walls are still fairly sturdy but the insides have rotted through and through and the parking lot is littered with broken beer bottles.

The high school, on the other hand, is looking very well:

The last day of our trip, we headed out of West Virginia early and had a great drive down Rt. 33 to Harrisonburg, VA where we stopped at The Virginia Quilt Museum. Now, I know Virginia should be called the "History State" and we are wont to go on about the good ol' days and you can't walk 10 paces without stumbling into a battlefield, but gosh darn it, I really enjoyed the quilt museum. Obviously I would have been in 7th heaven had they been featuring crazy quilts instead of Quaker quilts but I still enjoyed seeing what they did have. They do have Eliza Crim's crazy quilt on permanent display -- in fact, most of the quilts in the Civil War room are fascinating to look at. The most striking difference between quilts then and quilts now aside from the mechanization of their making, is the size of the blanket stitch used on appliqué. That's just something you have to see in person.

Back to work tomorrow... Not looking forward to it.

What I did on my summer vacation

OK.... so I read a few things that weren't on my "list". Big deal. I was on vacation. Plenty of time for the more serious stuff later.

Starting with Alice Kimberly's 'The Ghost and the Dead Deb' I quickly followed that with 'The Ghost and the Dead Man's Library' . Also in the line-up were Jasper Fforde's 'Well of Lost Plots' and 'Something Rotten'. Apparently not a moment too soon as the 5th book in this series is due out in July. Lastly, I read Boris Akunin's 'Special Assignments'.

All of these books were very satisfying and pretty much ran the gamut of detective fiction. Alice Kimberly's books feature film noire-like flashbacks to the 40's, Jasper Fforde sucessfully combines the genres of classic literature, science, comic and detective fiction and even manages to throw in a touch of romance. I enjoy Boris Akunin's writing as much for the setting (late 19th century Moscow) as I do for Fandorin's character - a bit like Holmes but definitely more worldly.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I wish I had a pencil thin moustache....

Finished 'The Laying on of Hands' by Alan Bennett and 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' by Muriel Sparks. It's only 6pm on Sunday evening and I've no Netflix for tonight. Do I start another book on my list or go for one of the mysteries I bought this afternoon from Creatures and Crooks? I've gotten hooked on Alice Kimberly's Haunted Bookshop series recently -- how can you go wrong with a small town bookshop and a ghostly gumshoe?

I'm thinking mystery. I'm in that sort of mood.

As for the books I finished reading, I quite enjoyed the story "Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet". In some ways it was like my fave Alan Bennett story 'The Clothes They Stood Up In'. I notice that was not on the Big List of Books but it's definitely one of the best bits of storytelling I've read in a long time. I also liked the title story "The Laying on of Hands". It's rare these days that an author can so successfully satirize a religious person without satirizing their religion.

I'm glad I've now read 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie'. While I couldn't really bring myself to like any of the characters, I did like the way Muriel Spark developed their characters, revealing just a touch more in each subsequent chapter.

Stay cool -- stay inside and read.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

10% Solution

So there's this challenge going on called the "1% Challenge" which looks quite intriguing. I usually read at a pace greater than 10 books in 10 months but then that's generally a steady diet of whodunnits and humourous prose (yes sir, I did spell that correctly...). Anywho, I've read the list and come up with a selection from the master list of 1001 books as well as a couple of my own. I realize the master list is strictly limited to novels but I like to break up the monotony with a couple of short story collections. Here goes:

1) 'The Laying on of Hands' - Alan Bennett
2) 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' - Muriel Spark
3) 'Absalom, Absalom!' - William Faulkner
4) 'Queen of the South' - Arturo Pérez-Reverte
5) 'The Poisonwood Bible' - Barbara Kingsolver
6) 'A Town Like Alice' - Nevil Shute
7) 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' - Gabiel Garcia Márquez
8) 'The Golden Lads' - Daphne du Maurier
9) 'Crime and Punishment' - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
10) 'The Tale of Genji' - Murasaki Shikibu

However, I understand there is a new Paddington book coming out so I might have to squeeze that in over something on my list.

Keep your sandwiches safe and your cocoa hot... it's going to be a good summer for reading.