Friday, September 30, 2016

Wild West 101 Tour or "Practicing for Retirement Activities".

Hubsy wanted to climb the remains of the volcano, Mt. Saint Helens in Washington. This desire was formed as the ash cloud from the May 18, 1980 eruption could be seen above our then-home in Madison WI. Our soon-to-be 37 year old son was just a onsy-clad tad-pole baby crawling around the floor. Our second son was still star dust.

Early this year, the climbing permits were purchased, the "base-camp" bnb reservations were made at Montfort's Bed and Breakfast in Cougar, WA (closest town to climbers bivouac site). We set off on Labor Day; first stop, an overnight camp at Luverne, MN in the Blue Mounds State Park near there.

The water in the camp ground was turned off for an e-coli situation; a hike around the park turned into a mosquito plagued horror (I have allergies). But Luverne is a nice little town. We were able to purchase locally produced honey was a local harvester.

We headed for a planned camping/biking interlude with Hubsy's brother and his wife near Hill City SD. Intro to the typical RV/Retiree's camp experience. More to come.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Cleaning up our eating patterns?

In recent days, we arrived home from a three-week trip to the Pacific Northwest, etc. It gave us time to break some less healthy eating habits. I was able to "kick"diet Pepsi, for example; it does not seem appetizing to me.

I met a lady, aged about 75, who brimmed with vibrant health, eager for active sports and very energetic. She swears by cutting out gluten. (which means bread, most of the time.)

Another person I met minimizes sugar and starch, making sure to get enough protein and "good" fats.

The example shown above is a "grain bowl", which I imitated from a recipe in a magazine: a little oatmeal, some wilted garden greens, maybe a sauteed tomato, a fried egg and some garnish. It's tasty.

Can't give up coffee. Don't ask me too!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Almost a Classic: "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" by Ernest J. Gaines.

The novel was published in the 1970's, I believe. Written as though the information was gathered in the 1960's; the era of the early civil rights movement. It seems like one of the earlier novels of the genre where a very elderly person's monolog is recorded (on tape!). Another is "The Last Confederate Widow Tells All".

A scholar records the memories of a lady who may be as many as 115 years old in the early 1960's. She doesn't know exactly how old she is, since she was born an American Black Slave in about 1850-ish on a Louisiana plantation, deep in the US Cotton Belt. Her father was from another plantation, she has no idea who he is. Her spunky Mother was murdered by an evil overseer (who killed two more slaves before the owner discarded him). Little Jane (then Dicey, her slave name) was orphaned; her owners moved her from the fields to house service, since there was no one to look after her; but like her late Mother, Dicey is too spunky to be a "good" slave, she has an independent spirit, she is beaten.

Near the end of the Civil War, a Yankee captain renames the child Jane and she learns he is from Ohio. After freedom, she and others start walking away from the plantation. Her goal was Ohio, but she never made it; living her entire live through reconstruction, Jim Crow, War years and the early Civil Rights movement on a nearby Louisiana plantation as a hired worker. She tells a heart rending story of love, loss, abuse, dignity and grace.

The novel is low key, understated; from that comes much of its power to emotionally move the reader, in my opinion. The novel seems a pioneering effort of its type; but for today's politically correct attitudes, it would be difficult to suggest the book to young readers, who might be scandalized. Pity.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Barbara Kingsolver's "Prodigal Summer"

I completed my reading of the novel because the location is in south western Virginia, near Roanoke and especially Demascus, VA. The photo of the barns above was taken from a bike trail nearby. We visited the area, it is beautiful; we  bought garden supplies from a farm where some of the author's ideas were being enacted, Seven Springs Farm.

The novel follows the development of three characters, two younger women and the elderly widowed gentleman of the area. They evolve to become interlinked by friendship and family relationship as the story progresses.

The author is very strong on descriptions of nature, seasons progressions, a violent storm or the character of an animal moving through it's range.

I found human characters sometimes seem to come across as cardboard cut-outs to further the underlying environmental message in the book: don't mess with the natural order of the predator/prey relationships, don't use crop and insect poisons and farmers should not rely on the same old, seemingly reliable cash crops, like tobacco, to make a living. Ok, ok, ok. I don't always enjoy "message" novels.

Unrelated to these, I felt the book could use another edit; the reader was left to tie up some loose ends of the plot; certainly intensional by the author.

I will try another novel by Barbara Kingsolver that I already own, then decide whether to read more.

Friday, September 2, 2016

"Little Women": A man's side of the story. "March" by Geraldine Brooks. Must Read!

If I had not read so many wonderful books this year, I'd have called this novel Best for the Year! It may be just that!

The author, Geraldine Brooks, composes luminous prose; her descriptions set the reader in the midst of the action or scene; time and space dissolve as she shares her stories. She's very talented.

Brooks has a way of focusing on some little corner of the larger world, like 17th Century rural England in a plague year ("Year of Wonders") and letting the reader live there, too. "March" brings the Father of Louisa May Alcott's novel to life. (The character of was based in large part on research about Alcott's own father, a man well-known in the 19th Century for his reform beliefs). His experiences, imagined by Brooks, enrich the story told in the original novel.

If you never read "Little Women", that's OK. I read parts, parts were read to me as a kid. All of my life, films were made; they each re enact the home front Civil War story, starring that decades' pretty starlets cast as Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy (?). It is probably about time for another version be made.

My plan is to read all of Geraldine Brooks' works, as they cross my path. She writes non-fiction as well as fiction.

The Butterfly Hotel is open for business--and packed!

We started, several years ago, to assist the butterfly population by nurturing the young specimens indoors. It was slow going. But this...