Sunday, July 31, 2011

Nature's Art Gallery ~

Another hot summer day in Northwest Ohio. Just want to share some of the artwork from "Nature's Gallery." More to come in the weeks and months ahead, as the displays are always changing in this gallery! Happy Sunday, everyone!


Sunflowers and Queen Anne's Lace from neighborhood walk yesterday. 





Ditch Lilies, clouds and cornfields,  Seneca County, Ohio






"The Hugging Tree" at St. Frances Spirituality Center



Nature preserve and wildflowers, Seneca County, Ohio





Wild Mustard


Dame's Rocket

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond


“I will return again and again to that moment. I will keep a notebook in which I record the details…this is what I tell them, this is what I know: I was walking on the beach with Emma. It was cold and very foggy. She let go of my hand. I stopped to photograph a seal pup, then glanced up toward the Great Highway. When I looked back, she was gone.” The Year of Fog, Chapter 3

The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond (2007) is a spellbinding novel that grips you from the very first page. I’d never heard of author, Michelle Richmond, until I happened to pick up the book in a Target store not long ago. The cover looked interesting, and I took note that the story takes place in San Francisco - one of my favorite cities. I flipped it open - the first and second chapters are very short, only a couple of pages. Chapter One begins: “Here is the truth, this is what I know: we were walking on Ocean Beach, hand in hand. It was a summer morning, cold, July in San Francisco. The fog lay white and dense over the sand and ocean - an enveloping mist so thick I could only see a few feet in front of me.”

The opening hooked me. After that, I knew I had to buy the book and read it. The Year of Fog is written from the perspective of Abby Mason, a photographer who is engaged to Jake, father of six- year-old Emma. After Emma suddenly disappears during a walk on the beach, Abby is wracked with guilt and goes on her own year-long, emotionally tormented journey to find her - even after everyone else, including Emma’s father, has given up. This book highlights how life can change in an instant and explores the themes of guilt, trust, loss and love - all against the hauntingly beautiful, foggy backdrop of San Francisco. However, at the end of the book, I felt unsettled. It doesn’t end all wrapped up in a pretty bow and I somehow felt things were left unsaid. So, imagine my surprise when I recently learned that author, Michelle Richmond has written another final chapter that’s now available as an ebook! (ISBN 978-1-4524-9639-9) Fantastic! Good news for those, like me, who found this book to be a page-turner and didn’t want it to end.

From the author’s website:
A note from Michelle:
A few weeks before THE YEAR OF FOG went to press, I found myself agonizing over the ending . Was I saying too much? Too little? Should I tie up all the loose ends, or should I go with a more open-ended approach? Since The Year of Fog was published in 2007, I’ve been fortunate to receive thousands of emails from readers, many of whom keep coming back to the same questions. I hope that Chapter 82 will satisfy their curiosity. For those who have asked if a sequel is in the works, I will say that, although I haven’t yet set pen to paper, I do find that Abby and Emma still haunt me. One day, I may yet return to the characters of The Year of Fog.


About the author:
Michelle Richmond is an American author and essayist who was born in Alabama and attended college at The University of Alabama and graduate school at the University of Miami. Her first book was a story collection titled “The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress,” which won the Associated Writing Program Award for Short Story Fiction in 2000. She’s the author of several books - “The Year of Fog” is her third novel. Michelle currently resides in San Francisco.





Thursday, July 21, 2011

Afternoon Tea Parties by Susannah Blake


The book, Afternoon Tea Parties, is a gorgeous feast for the eyes, as well as the stomach. Full color photographs accompany each recipe in the book, which has excellent ideas for backyard garden parties, baby shower teas, sweet sixteen birthday party teas, a cozy fireside tea and so on. Themed menus are offered for all the various types of tea parties, including the best type of tea to serve with each menu. The names alone are enough to make your mouth water; Classic English Tea with finger sandwiches and Lemon Drizzle Cake; Fireside Tea with Toasted Teacakes and Sticky Mazipan and Cherry Loaf; Champagne Tea with Smoked Salmon Crostini and Strawberries and Cream; Moroccan Tea with glasses of sweet Mint Tea and Almond and Orange Blossom Pastries. Perfect for tea connoisseurs everywhere!


About the Author:
Susannah Blake has written a number of books, including Afternoon Tea, Afternoon Tea Parties, Cupcake Heaven, On Toast, and Coffee Indulgences. Blake spent years working in illustrated book publishing prior to switching her career to developing recipes and writing. She lives in Essex, England.

About the Photographer:
Martin Brigdale has been a food photographer for over 20 years, and has won awards in the USA, Great Britain and France.







**Photographs, other than cover, are not from the book.




Wednesday, July 20, 2011

~ Heat Wave ~

It's extremely hot and muggy in Northwest Ohio and many other parts of the U.S.A. this week. My cat Rudy, who usually wants to live outdoors 24-7 in the summertime, even wants to stay inside with the air conditioning. Heat advisories are in effect all along the East Coast, Gulf Coast and the Midwest. While the summer sizzles, don't forget to stay hydrated...check on elderly neighbors or those who are without AC...and don't forget that animals can suffer from heat stroke, also. Provide pets with plenty of water and a shady place to escape the hot sun. Stay safe, everyone, and stay cool.

For those not in the grip of the heat wave, I hope you'll enjoy the following "cool" images anyway!




 






Saturday, July 16, 2011

Garden Art ~


"The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the birds for mirth. One is nearer God's heart in a garden, than anywhere else on Earth." Dorothy Frances Gurney


Mosaic Garden Urn 
Art and Photograph by Sharon L. Plummer
Plum Art Mosaics
Houston, Texas

"No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden." Thomas Jefferson


"If ever a mortal heard the voice of God, it would be in a garden at the cool of the day." F. Frankfort Moore


"I know a place where roses bloom, and the air is fragrant with flowers perfume." Ruth H. Smiley


"Some people like to make a little garden out of life." Jean Anouilh


"Are not flowers the stars of the Earth? And are not our stars the flowers of Heaven?" Clara L. Balfour


"Flowers have a mysterious and subtle influence upon our feelings, not unlike some strains of music." Henry Ward Beecher



Thursday, July 14, 2011

Where Do Broken Dreams Go?



Driving east on Interstate 80 from Sacramento, California, over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. No matter how many times I traveled it, the sheer magnitude of those mountains took my breath away. For a girl from the flat farmlands of Ohio, it was really something to see. I’d been to the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee, the Appalachians in West Virginia (which are both gorgeous) - but nothing compares to the Sierra Nevada range. I-80 follows the same route as the old wagon trails used during the Gold Rush years of 1848-1850, cresting at Donner Summit, which was the site of the ill-fated Donner Party tragedy of the mid-1800s. At the summit, Donner Lake sits like a jewel amidst the towering pines and mountains. When driving I-80, I would sometimes pull my car over at the Immigrant Gap overlook. Standing there, looking out over the vastness of the mountains and valley far below, I would try to imagine what it was like for those early pioneers. This was one of the most difficult portions of their journey. They actually had to lower their wagons by rope, down the craggy mountain pass, to the valley below. What strong men and women, and what courage and determination it took to leave behind all that was comfortable and familiar to them - all for the dream of a better life.

Dreams are a driving force in our lives. It seems easy to dream when we’re young and our lives stretch before us like an endless ocean. I know I was full of dreams - to travel the world, be an artist, write a best-selling novel, fall madly in love. Then…suddenly we’re middle-aged and, if we’ve been lucky and worked hard, some of those dreams have come true. More often than not, however, dreams get lost along the way…or changed a bit…or squished by too many life pressures…or broken into so many pieces they become unrecognizable. But, here’s the thing about dreams - they’re free and available to everyone. Anyone can have a dream. I think dreams are important no matter what your age. Just as dreams are what drove the pioneers to seek out a better life in far-away places - dreams today still keep us moving forward. Even when we feel defeated and lost, that’s when it’s most important to have a dream to hold onto…like a gold nugget in the palm of your hand. Maybe no one else knows it’s there - but you do and it’s special and unique. It’s one of the sweets of life. So, to answer my question…where do broken dreams go? I think they’re recycled into new dreams. So, go ahead…no matter what your age…pick a dream…any dream. Just dream.



.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Wind of My Soul ~


I just read a little gem of a book titled “The Wind of My Soul,” written by Peggy Hill and illustrated by Cynthia McDonald. It’s full of inspirational poems and reflections that touch on the themes of love, nature, courage, faith, pain…life in general. It’s the type of book you’ll want to keep close and read over and over - each time gaining something new from Peggy’s insightful words. I absolutely love that it includes pages to record your own thoughts, poems, and musings. And Cynthia’s colorful, ethereal paintings are the perfect companion to Peggy’s poems. For yourself, or as a gift for someone special, I highly recommend The Wind of My Soul.

About the author:
Peggy Hill is a lover of life, words and nature. She is an award-winning writer who has produced music, theater plays, videos and books, and is also active as a retreat and conference facilitator. She resides in the Ancient Ozark Mountains, where she writes and is the founder and CEO of the music, publishing and production company, Circle Studios Records. Her hobbies include cooking, reading and traveling. You can read more of Peggy’s writing at her blog, which can be found online at:

www.wingsandthings-peggy.blogspot.com

About the Illustrator:
Cynthia McDonald was born and raised in Ohio. She is a wife, mother and grandmother who has many passions besides her family, ranging from the Native American flute to painting. Cynthia’s biggest love is gourds, which she carves, stains, paints and adorns; creating beautiful one-of-a-kind works of art which are highly sought after by collectors. More recently, Cynthia applied her creative talents to painting on canvas and to an artistic concept called “art journaling,” both of which are featured in this very special book. You may find Cynthia online at:
www.wildgourdstudio.com
www.cynthia-mcdonald.blogspot.com

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday at Mom's - Revisiting the 1950s







It was the late 1950s. I was barely tall enough to reach the record player, but I remember standing next to it, listening to Fats Domino sing, “Blueberry Hill.” My Grandpa (Mom’s father) lived with us at the time and he would tease me about listening to that song over and over. Grandpa bought my older sister the record, “Teddy Bear,” by Elvis Presley…and thus began a lifelong love affair between her and Elvis. My two elder sisters (teenagers at the time) were most likely listening to “Lucille” by Little Richard because I remember my Dad saying, “If I hear “LU…CI…LLE” one more time I’m going to scream!” Dr. Suess had just published “The Cat in the Hat,” the Hula Hoop was all the rage, and Candid Camera and The Twilight Zone were on television. A loaf of bread cost 20 cents and a gallon of gas was 25 cents.


At our house on the weekends in the late 50s/early 60s, Mom spent part of Saturday baking pies or cakes. She came from a large family - 8 brothers and sisters. It became a tradition for most of them to visit our house for Sunday dinner. My memories of that time are faint, as I was very young, but still, they are there. The menu was usually fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans or corn and spice cake with caramel icing. I remember the aroma and the sound of the chicken sizzling in the cast iron skillet, Mom in her housedress setting out dishes of food on the table, the murmur of voices and laughter. Not that it was always a Norman Rockwell painting. We were a normal family, and my uncles were sometimes opinionated and known for their tempers to flare! But…in the end, it was all in good grace, and everyone felt happy and full.

I’m not sure when those big Sunday dinners ended. Certainly, by the time I was in middle school everyone seemed to have scattered. Some moved away, families grew larger and each had their own busy lives and traditions. But, my Mom’s house always had an “open door policy.” Family would sometimes stop by, unannounced, on Sunday afternoon for a visit, and more often than not, end up lingering for dinner. No matter what Mom was doing, she’d stop and welcome visitors with a smile and a warm “hello, how are you?” After she passed away, a couple of people commented to me about how she always made them feel so welcome, and her door was always open. I think of these things now, as I sit here on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Life has changed dramatically since the 1950s, and I accept that, and even embrace it, for the most part. But my Mom’s generous spirit is sorely missed and nothing can replace it. I like to think of her as a welcoming Angel in Heaven…her door always open, always ready with a smile…just as she was for so many of us here on Earth.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Victoria Holt, Queen of the Gothic Romance or How I Became an Anglophile




Cottage in Dartmouth, Devon, England

Coast of Cornwall

Skipton Castle, Yorkshire, England

Yorkshire Dales, Northern England

  

I love my country, the USA, but I must admit to being somewhat of an anglophile. I’ve never visited England, but I love castles, thatched-roof cottages covered in ivy and roses, bluebells, hedgerows, English breakfast tea and old English pubs. And then there is my inexplicable fascination with Queen Elizabeth I. So, I'm sure I'll indulge my passion with a post about Old Blighty now and then. My ancestors, on both my mother’s and father’s side, came from England, so perhaps it’s in my blood. I think I was also greatly influenced by the gothic romance novels I devoured as a teenager. Books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights - and my favorite - the novels of Victoria Holt.

I didn’t realize until I was much older that Victoria Holt was a pen name for British author, Eleanor Hibbert (1906-1993.) She also wrote under the pen names of Jean Plaidy, Philippa Carr, Eleanor Burford, and others. I only knew I loved her books of romance and intrigue, set in places like the Yorkshire Moors and the coast of Cornwall. Hibbert was born in London and got her love of reading from her father who was a dock laborer. She attended business college, and it was only after her marriage that she began writing. She published her first novel in 1941 under the pen name Eleanor Burford, which was her maiden name, and her first novel as Victoria Holt in 1960. Hibbert went on to sell more than 100 million copies of her books.

The first Victoria Holt novel I read was The Legend of the Seventh Virgin, set in Cornwall in a brooding mansion that was once a convent. I was hooked and read every single book by Victoria Holt after that…some of them many times over. One of my favorites was “Kirkland Revels,” which takes place in a spooky, stone mansion set high in the Yorkshire Moors. Of course, there is a young bride who arrives there with her husband, and slowly she discovers the secrets of the family that lives there. It was more than enough to fuel my young imagination, and I credit these books for greatly influencing my desire to become a writer. Thank you, Eleanor Hibbert, for many, many hours spent exploring abbey ruins, wandering hallways of centuries old mansions, and hiking the coast of Cornwall. You helped one shy, small-town teenager imagine a vastly different world.

 


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