Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Big Trees

If you're reading this blog post, you probably know that my husband and I finally escaped from Philadelphia to the small city where I was born, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Last fall, an old and very good friend suggested we look at a house two streets over from the house he and his wife live in in an old (1929) residential development.  We fell in love and bought the house.  We're still trying to decide where to hang the pictures and what color to paint the upstairs.  But we're here and we love it.

One of the things we love about the neighborhood is the wealth of mature trees.  The streets are narrow, without sidewalks.  Trees meet overhead to form green tunnels.  I love it.  So I thought I'd show you some of our trees.  In the second to last photo, you'll note a very tall, straight tree.  This is a Dawn Redwood, a prehistoric tree thought to be extinct until it was discovered in China in the 1940s.  We have a seedling of it in a garden behind the house.  I'll have to move it because these trees can grow 2 to 3 feet per year and are enormous, 165 feet or more.  The last photo shows our house, tucked under two huge trees.  In the fall, our front yard is swimming with acorns  -  and squirrels!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

April Books and Feeling Overwhelmed

This will be a short post.  I only finished four books in April.  I finished another today and can finish one more tomorrow, if I get the time.  But those two are May books.

We're still getting settled in our new house.  We just painted the bedroom closet.  There's a huge walk-in closet upstairs.  I love it and really hate moving my clothes downstairs.  But I get it.  I'll leave the winter clothes and seldom worn shoes in the walk-in and bring lighter clothes and shoes I wear all the time downstairs.

I unwrapped all the artwork yesterday.  There are originals by local artists, there are prints of  paintings I can't afford, and there are original prints, if that makes sense.  I hang the prints in my bathroom and plan to hang the originals in the living room and dining room.  I had been thinking that we had less wall space in this house because it has more windows.  But it also has more rooms, so there is more wall space.  Now it's just deciding which pictures to hang where.

We've been spending a lot of time watching birds at the feeders.  After living in Philly for twelve years and seeing almost exclusively pigeons, English sparrows, starlings, the occasional hawk and cardinal, we're overwhelmed (not what I meant in the title of this post) by birds we haven't seen since Marshfield and a couple of new birds.  We have goldfinches, chipping sparrows, white-throated sparrows, probably more sparrows that I haven't identified yet, blue jays, cardinals, Carolina wrens, cowbirds, catbirds, turkey vultures, and more.  The more unusual birds we've seen are the brown thrasher we saw this morning, the two pairs of rose-breasted grosbeaks, which we've never seen before, and the indigo bunting, which I've only seen once before.  A hummingbird has been checking out the hummingbird feeder but hasn't stopped to drink.  It's like an avian Cirque du Soleil!

So, here's the list of April books:

The Wench is Dead  -  Colin Dexter

Die Trying  -  Lee Child

Free Air  -  Sinclair Lewis

A Darker Domain  -  Val McDermid

I have to say that none of them were really terrific.  Or maybe it's just the mood I've been in.  I keep feeling that when I'm reading, I really should be doing something else.  It makes it hard to 'get lost in a book'.  Don't you always feel a little depressed or disappointed when you spend the time to read a book and it fails you?  I keep hoping that I can find more time to read.  How do you find time to read?  Before bed?  In the morning?  Do you take hours during the day?  And do you ever feel like you're wasting your life if you're not reading?!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

My Father's Craft

Since I mentioned the chess board and the little bowl my late father made, I thought I'd show them to you.

My father, James Armstrong Hindman, was a skilled craftsman, but he was the kind of person who did not want to do what he did for work in his spare time.  My mother would get so frustrated because just getting him to throw together a simple bookcase for us was almost impossible.  That said, my sister and I each have bookcases he made and we each have tall clocks for which he made the cases.  We treasure them all.

Here are the chess board and the bowl:

Monday, April 23, 2018

Library: The (Almost) Finished Product

Here it is, the almost finished library.  I have to tidy up a bit.  I just unpacked the boxes of my 'toys' and haven't decided where they should all live.  I'm glad we put shelves in the closet for the toys, my blank journals, my art stuff, and my notecards.  Yes, I still send notes to people;  one jokester in the crowd e-mailed me that when he got one of my notes, he was astounded and almost called the Smithsonian to tell them about this archaic form of communication that had arrived!

The room faces east, so I have direct sunlight to deal with.  I ordered bamboo matchstick blinds, which I hope will solve the problem without making the room look like a tomb.  The last photo is the view from the windows.  There's a corner window, too, but it faces my lovely neighbors.  I didn't want to invade their privacy by showing you their house.  I would also love to have a small sofa or a love seat.  I like to have my feet up while reading and to snuggle down.

Unpacking the "Library Stuff" boxes was like Christmas.  My library in Marshfield had a fireplace with a mantel, built in curio shelves, and wide window sills, so my toys and curios had lots of places to live.  In Philadelphia, there was no mantel and only one window sill, which I couldn't use because that's where the a/c went in the summer.  I hadn't even bothered to unpack several boxes, so I had forgotten about my little cast iron bear, my lion's head staple remover, my jaguar (some sort of big cat) ink blotter (I use fountain pens), and my tiger leaping through a hoop of fire.  I was delighted to see them again.

BUT, I was not happy to find more books after I'd already sorted and shelved what I thought were all my books except the TBR (and given away) books.  I found half a box of gardening books after I'd already shelved my gardening books.  I'd rather not have books stuffed on top of other books, but what was I to do?  I refuse to double shelve.  I need to see my books and don't want any of them to be hiding behind others.

In the second photo, you can see the board my father 'made' for my sister and I.  He was a talented cabinetmaker, so this didn't tax his skill.  I have an inlaid chess / checkers board he made for my grandmother and a curved inlaid bowl he made.  But he 'made' this flat board for my sister and I to use as a desk when we sat in chairs to do our homework.  It's all marked up with names and initials and this and that, but I almost panicked when I thought it got lost in a move.

We're so happy with this house, this neighborhood.  Believe me, I know how lucky I am and I hope I never take any of this for granted.

Now that the library is finished except for some tinkering, I hope to get back to reading!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Just a Few Shelves Short

The shelves are full and I still have 2 or 3 boxes of books without a home.  I did realize the other day that there's room for a small bookcase under the side window in the room.  I guess I'll have to use that.  I was so hoping to get all my books on the shelves.  I should be grateful that I have so many books and that I have shelves to put them on.  Many people have much bigger problems.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Library Progress and Books Read in March

Things are moving along in my library.  I've shelved pretty much everything except my gardening and nature books.  I have three completely empty shelves and two partially empty shelves.  I have nine boxes of books that I'd like to keep in the library.  What do you think?  Close, right?

Will they?  Won't they?  

As for what I've been reading, I've done better this past month than I have in months.  I finished eight books.  Still not my average, but better than the paltry four I finished in February.  In March, I finished:

The Bookseller  -  Mark Pryor

Chasing Cezanne  -  Peter Mayle

Le Road Trip  -  Vivian Swift

McNally's Trial  -  Lawrence Sanders

Sulfer Springs  -  William Kent Krueger

Something Light  -  Margery Sharp

Death and Letters  -  Elizabeth Daly

Before We Were Yours  -  Lisa Wingate

So what if they were mostly mysteries?  I like mysteries.  Shelving my books makes me want to lock myself in, with no distractions, to lose myself in more substantial books.  Maybe one day soon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate

My friend Patty gave me this book.  She had just finished reading it and thought I might like it.  I read very little contemporary fiction except for mysteries, but the story sounded interesting.

This is a novel based on the true, horrifying story of Georgia Tann.  Tann was a well-respected owner of an adoption agency in Tennessee.  What people didn't know was that Tann and her cohort stole poor children, sometimes right off the street, and sold / adopted them out to rich people and celebrities.  Stars like Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, and June Allyson adopted children from her.  Eleanor Roosevelt consulted her about best adoption practices.  They didn't know what a monster she was.

In Before We Were Yours, Avery Stafford, daughter of a politician, is being groomed to take his place after he retires.  They're an old southern family, concerned both socially and politically about any unseemly issues both now and in the past.  Avery meets an old woman in a nursing home who steals the dragonfly bracelet her grandmother gave her.  Avery's mystified by a photograph in the woman's room showing a woman who looks like her grandmother.  Her grandmother is getting dementia and forgetting people and things, so Avery can't get much information from her.  But she finds out that her grandmother has secrets.

The story skips back and forth between current times and Avery and the past and Rill Foss, the daughter of a family of river rats.  When the mother of the river family, Queenie, has trouble in childbirth, her husband, Briny, takes her to a hospital rather than allow her and the twins she's about to have die.  While they're gone, the police, under a directive from Tann, kidnap the five children and take them to Tann's orphanage.  All the children except one are blond and curly-haired, the kind most desired by adopters.  The children are split up and one disappears, perhaps dying at the orphanage.  The children are abused, some sexually, and are kept as virtual prisoners, given almost nothing to eat.

Because of the truth of the story, I could hardly put it down.  My husband grew up at a school for boys who had lost one or more parent and whose parents couldn't afford to take care of them.  Some of the things he's told me about his ten years there, although not as bad as things that happened at Tann's place, had already given me some insight into group homes for children.

Tann renamed the children and falsified birth certificates and other documents, making it almost impossible for parents to find their stolen children, but a few finally did.

In one of those amazing coincidences, Peggy at Peggy's Porch just posted about a woman in England who had been left tied up on a hillside as a baby.  She was rescued and finally, through DNA, found who her parents were.  Maybe this goes on today, too, but it seems that it was rampant in the 1930s and 40s.  I know that things were tough after the depression.  In my own family,  my grandparents had six children.  My grandfather was a proud man and refused any government welfare, but he apparently would accept help of sorts from family.  My aunt was raised by my childless great aunt and uncle, and, later, my cousin was raised by my aunt.  At least we kept it all in the family.