Thursday, June 25, 2015


Welcome to Chanticleer, one of the most beautiful gardens I've ever seen.  It's in Wayne, Pennsylvania, and is the former home of the Rosengartens (how appropriate!), a wealthy family who made their money in pharmaceuticals.  It's an informal series of gardens and woodlands on about 35 acres.  In the photo above, the house looks a bit derelict, but I assure you it is not.  That's a meadow garden in front of this half of the house.  Everything is immaculate and well-maintained.  Because of the name, Chanticleer, there are roosters on the tops of the gate, the roof, and other places.

I was delighted that the names of many plants came back to me as we wandered the estate.  It's been ten years since I gardened.  I love the Latin names for plants, I love the way they sound, I love that they give clues to the plant, and I love that they are specific.  One plant may have several common names, but it has only one Latin name.

I love blue, white, and yellow flowers best, so this pot of agapanthus made me smile.  I also love clematis.  Here are two kinds.

From the main house, a lawn sweeps down and around to the woodland and stream.

There is a pool.

But the tennis court has been turned into a garden.

How about an artichoke spiral garden?  Do they provide the oil and vinegar?

If you've driven a long way or you stay awhile, you may want to use the facilities in the Asian wood.  Listen to the rustle of the bamboo.

Mr. and Mrs. Rosengarten gave each of their two children a house when they got married.  One is still standing, the other was torn down and is now a 'ruins' garden.

If you look closely at the fountain in the ruins garden, you can see a face on the wall.  The stones in the fountain are also faces.  Eerie.

Near the ruins garden are the lily ponds, with pickerelweed, waterlilies, and fish.

There's a stream, too.  There are places to sit everywhere.  It's the most inviting garden.  It even says in the brochure that they invite you to sit, read, meditate, chat, 'feel the sun on your back and the grass beneath your feet as you listen to the birds'.  Yes, please, I want to do that!

Look at the water fountain!  It's gorgeous!  The excess water runs out onto the stone leaf at the bottom and back into the ground.

Look at the tiny hand holding the latch closed on the box that holds plant lists!

Bees (!) and beauty were everywhere I looked.

A pergola almost hidden by vines.

And a water wheel!

Something wonderful at each turn.  Vistas and secret places.  Tiny enchanting details.

It was a wonderful place to spend the morning.  If you live near Philadelphia, or plan to visit, and you like gardens, or just peaceful, beautiful places, visit Chanticleer.

Death Walks in Eastrepps - Francis Beeding

This was a terrific old mystery, published in 1931.  I'd heard of the author, but it wasn't until I read a review of Death Walks in Eastrepps on another blog that I decided I wanted to read it.  I've been extremely self-indulgent lately and ordered a copy.  I'm still being good about reading and passing on my books.  This was a Dover paperback, not a keeper, but I love the weight and feel of the paper and the look of the type in most of Dover's books.

Robert Eldridge is a wealthy businessman who lives in Eastrepps and works in London.  He's also having an affair with the married Margaret Withers, who also lives in Eastrepps.  Tuesday, he goes to London for business and  he returns on Thursday.  Except that he really returns on Wednesday, spends Wednesday night with Margaret, and then pretends to return from London on Thursday.  Every week.

Unfortunately for Eldridge, people in Eastrepps are being murdered on Wednesday nights.  His sneaking around to spend the night with Margaret looks suspicious to the police.  Is he the Eastrepps Evil, the murderer?  But there's also the upperclass lunatic whose parents have hidden him in Eastrepps with a guardian.  And there's Margaret's no-good cousin, who fancies Margaret for himself but is not above blackmailing her wealthy boyfriend.

I will look for other mysteries by Francis Beeding.  The writing is good and the plot is good, although it's a bit of a dark mystery.  The murderer is not the only one who suffers.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Bunch of Books

I've been reading so much that I've become greedy and ALL I want to do is read.  More, more, more!  Leave me alone!  I don't have time for this blogging stuff!  I want to read!  But I should tell you a little about the books I've finished, just to prove that I have been reading.

I don't have photos of all the books.  Some were e-books and some didn't photograph well.  Those shiny covers on library books create such glare.  I'm still not a competent photographer either.  Apparently.

Mary Norris has been a copy editor at The New Yorker for the last thirty years.  If you know that publication, you know they are the benchmark for grammar and literacy.  In a light, amusing way, Morris writes of how she got hired there, the crazy characters who worked there, and how she became one of those characters.  She discusses the fine points of grammar, punctuation, and spelling, laced with goofy comments and stories.  She confesses to loving a particular kind of pencil.  This is a fun book, and one that might make you overly conscious of your writing.


Then it was time for some excitement.  I love this series of mysteries by Paul Doiron.  They take place in Maine, much of which is woodland, remote, and sort of spooky.  If you're the nervous sort, stay close to the coast!  Doiron's crime solver is Mike Bowditch, a Maine game warden.  Because Maine is so big and much of it is remote, game wardens function as police officers.  In The Precipice, two young women who have been through hiking the Appalachian Trail, that is, hiking from the start, at Springer Mountain in Georgia, to the end, at Mount Katahdin in Maine, disappear in Maine's Hundred-Mile Wilderness.  The Hundred-Mile Wilderness is considered the wildest part of the trail. 

Are the women lost?  Have they been in an accident?  Have they been murdered?  What's this about them being trailed by coyotes?  There seem to be plenty of suspects if they've been murdered, lots of loony people.  There's the weird ex-con who held the record for fastest unsupported through hike on the trail.  There's a family of apparently in-bred back woodsmen.  There's a strange minister.  Mike and his girlfriend are part of the search and rescue team.  

The whole book is exciting, but the ending is hold-your-breath dramatic.  


I also read an Ann Cleeves mystery, Dead Water.  A woman connected with the local police in the Shetland Islands finds a body in her boat.  They bring in an outside investigator, Willow Reeves, an odd young woman.  Inspector Jimmy Perez is still on compassionate leave after the violent death of his fiancee a year earlier.  He becomes involved with this investigation and, in the process, furthers his healing.

The dead man was a local man who became an investigative reporter.  He left the area after he got a local girl pregnant.  His family wanted him to do better and didn't want him tied down.  The girl lost the baby anyway and was about to get married to an older, local man.  Why did the reporter come back?  Someone said he told them he was onto a story.  The prospective bridegroom is found dead, and then the woman who found the first body disappears.  Who says small towns aren't exciting?


Still reluctant to return to Don Quixoite, who is still waiting in the wings, I read The Velveteen Rabbit.  Somehow, I missed this when I was a child.  All I have to say is Please forgive me for, finally, after about sixty years, throwing away most of my precious but grubby stuffed animals.  I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!


Recently I read and enjoyed Dave Goulson's book, A Sting in the Tale, a book about bumblebees.  This is his followup book, A Buzz in the Meadow.  At the end of the first book, Goulson manages to buy a small derelict farm in France.  He hopes to restore its meadow to something closer to a natural, more ecologically balanced state.

I was hoping this would be more like those 'I bought a decrepit country house in a foreign land and restored it' type of book.  It has a little of that, but, as I probably should have expected, it was more  about the insects and birds and creatures that live there when he buys the place or show up after it became a better habitat.  There are butterflies, death watch beetles, owls, and others.  It's fascinating  -  except for the parts about genetics.  Insurance, taxes, and genetics  -  I can't wrap my brain around any of them.

Goulson has some serious things to say about pesticides and the ways in which humans are ruining the earth.  I agree with him 1,000%.  It's too bad that most of the people who read books like this are people who are already concerned about what sort of world we're leaving to the next generation and what sort of illnesses we're giving ourselves by trying to control nature.


I read a few more books, but I'll either post something about them later or forget to do it.  Right now, I'd like to get back to Death Walks in Eastrepps by Francis Beeding.  It's a cracking good mystery and I may be able to finish it before I turn off the light tonight.


I hope you're all reading some interesting or entertaining books.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Vegan Italiano - Yum!

I'm a vegan, my husband is not.  But he's half Greek and loves Mediterranean food, a lot of which is vegan.  He's the cook, I'm the sous chef, an acceptable arrangement as far as I'm concerned.  The other night, he made a recipe from Vegan Italiano by Donna Klein, one of our favorite vegan cookbooks and cookbook authors.  We both loved it and fought over the leftovers.  The lemon really kicks up the flavor.

                                                 Gemelli with Asparagus and Pine Nuts

1/4 C. pine nuts
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 # asparagus, trimmed, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
12 oz. gemelli or other short tubular pasta
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 Tsp. coarse salt
1/4 Tsp. lemon-pepper seasoning

(We cut the amount of pasta in half and increase the asparagus and the garlic.  It's not a cake, so you can adjust it to please yourself.  We like lots of garlic and more vegetables than pasta.)

Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the pine nuts and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 3 minutes.  Immediately, remove from skillet and transfer to a small bowl;  set aside.

Return the skillet to medium heat and add the oil.  Add the asparagus and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the asparagus is slightly tender, 4 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente.  Drain and return to the pot.  Add the asparagus and garlic mixture, the reserved pine nuts, lemon juice, salt, and lemon-pepper seasoning.  Toss gently to combine.  Serve at once.

Makes 4 to 5 main-dish or 8 pasta-course servings

Calories:  437   Protein:  14g.  Total Fat:  13g.  Cholesterol:  0  Carbohydrate:  67g.  Fiber:  3g.  Sodium:  263mg.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Books Must be Dusted and Shelves Wiped Down

It's that time of year again, if, in fact, I get around to cleaning my library once a year.  Lyn, over at I Prefer Reading, has been posting photos of her bookshelves as she cleans them.  We all love to look at other people's books and shelves, don't we?  I still have a few free-standing bookcases to clean, the ones with my Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books and the one with my travel books.  Here are some photos of my library.

The smallish, buff-colored books are the set of Washington Irving's works.  Also one of my favorite books, The Haunting of Hill House.  Isn't that a lovely cover on A Little Tour in France?  I used to collect illustrated bindings, especially on old travel narratives.

If you haven't read Elizabeth Lawrence's literate gardening essays, get to it.  Somewhere in there there are also some Henry Mitchell gardening essays, also wonderful.  Van Reid writes the Moosepath League books, great old-fashioned funny and touching books.

A Child's Christmas in Wales is one of my favorite books.  My late mother gave me this copy.

More Angela Thirkell.

I like Maurice Prendergast's art.  And Winslow Homer.

I like Winslow Homer a lot!

More Washington Irving, Henry Mitchell, Somerset Maugham, Beverley Nichols, Proust, Van Reid.  I'll get to the Proust some day.

Somehow, two photos got overlapped.  In the top photo, you can see the Sir Walter Scott set that I bought for $3.50 at a junk store.  It's a complete set and it even has notes in the back.  You can also see my Robert Louis Stevenson, missing only, you guessed it, Treasure Island and Kidnapped.  But I have both in another edition at the far right.

In the bottom photo, you can see the other Angela Thirkells.  She pretty much has a shelf to herself and I haven't finished collecting her works.

The dark green set at the top is my set of Mark Twain, the grey ones with the blue top band are the works of Abraham Lincoln, on the shelf underneath is the Everyman's Encyclopedia, and the double shelf (actually a triple shelf) of brown books is a limited edition of the Harvard Classics that I bought for a dollar a volume, $50.00!  I know some people sneer at them, but they're a great foundation for classic reading.

The final tier is history.  I always mean to read history.  I like history.  But I usually fall asleep shortly after starting.  One day I'll read The Story of Civilization and Motley's History of the Dutch Republic and Page Smith's A People's History of the United States and Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Republic.  Some day.

A library ladder is always nice  -  to store extra books.

My late father, a cabinetmaker by trade, made the small free-standing bookcase.  It contains some of my TBR books.  The doll on top of it is wearing a wig made of my hair when I was about
16-years-old.  The box in front of the big book shelves, the large box on the bottom, that you can hardly see, is full of books for my three little grandnieces.  I buy books I like and keep them for special occasions and for 'just because' gifts.

This is a bookcase I haven't tackled yet, my travel books.  The top three shelves are A & C Black illustrated travel books, the others are old travel narratives, some illustrated, some not, all fascinating.  Sorry Jack didn't make the bed that day.  Turtle (our cat) must have already claimed it.  That's always a good excuse.