Wednesday, January 29, 2020

A Love Affair with Books

This article showed up in the Independent recently. (Well, not that  recently) and focused on Marie Kondo's rather ruthless book purging methods. But that was just the start. "Going Against the Book Decluttering Craze: The Book Horders Who Defy Marie Kondo" digs deeper.

What do your books say about you? When you look at someone's library, what do their books tell about them? And what do we do with books we no longer need or want.

One things my bookshelves say about me is I have a hard time letting any of them go!

I know a little about this because I have books two-deep on more than a few shelves. And don't think I don't weed out the books. Those are the keepers.

And what's on that keeper list? You can pretty much break it down into a few categories.

Books on England (especially London, but all England) and Paris.

That includes guide books but it also includes fiction and non-fiction about those places. It may well include a biography or two or a book set in one of those areas. A number of those are related to World War I and II (which could be a category by itself. A few of the titles? "The Red Notebook," "The Nightingale," "Paris" (by Edward Rutherfurd), "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society" and lots of maps, history and guide books.

Just a tiny part of the England and Paris shelves. The "tall" books are in a separate spot and these are two-deep, too.

(There's also a smaller travel section with some American destinations as well as Japan.)

So, what does that say about me? I love travel, I love those particular destinations, I love history and English literature.

And do I go back to them often? You bet. Especially the map and guide books but others as well.


My favorite reading category! What do I keep? Mostly series. Pretty much every Agatha Christie, most bought used, paperback and probably at a dollar apiece. All the Louise Penny, Deborah Crombie, Jacqueline Winspear and Susan Elia Macneal series and growing series by Christopher Fowler, Susan Hill and Cara Black series. And a few other favorites.

Mostly mysteries, mostly stacked two-deep.

That category includes the ever-growing Maigret mysteries, the British Library Crime series (all reprints from the 20s/30s and wonderful) and a few singles. Pretty much all of those, apart from the Penny books, are set in England/UK or Paris.

I adore the classic British Library crime series! The covers are fabulous, too!

I love a good puzzle. Especially in two of my favorite countries.

Royal Bios

OK, I'm a royal geek. I collect their commemorative china and books about them. I think I have biographies (authorized and not) for every monarch or major royal from Victoria through William and Harry, along with some Elizabeth I and Henry VIII (and his wives). A few are a little sleazy and I am a little more likely (not always) to pass those on. Most are fairly or very well researched, with good sources, bibliographies and notes.

These are stacked two-deep too, and it doesn't count the 'tall" books!

Seeing a theme here? And yes, I refer back to them. Often (and with just about every episode of "The Crown."

Art and Special Interest Books

Some of these fall under the umbrella of "coffee table books" but I kind of hate that term. I look at those books, read them, refer back to them. Some of them have wonderful text, like the books by Vivian Swift and Susan Branch or books about Beatrix Potter. I read them and refer to them and practice art by looking at their images.

Some of my favorites. Artists who inspire me!

Others might involve architecture (classic movie palaces and theatres), Shaker style, miniatures, puppets. Although I passed on much of my astrology collection, I still hold onto several of my favorites. Many of my art history books were lost in June's basement flood but those that were safe then are safe now -- Andrew Wyeth, Hirschfeld, Georgia O'Keeffe, Norman Rockwell, VanGogh.

If this shelf wasn't behind a Christmas tree at the time, you would have seen a lot more!


I don't hold onto a lot of fiction anymore but there are some with which I'll never part. "People of the Book" by Geraldine Brooks remains a favorite. So does "Broken For You" and " All the Light We Cannot See." There are others too.

All keepers. Most (not all) bios and a few suspense books, too!


I don't save every bio, but I do have a thing for the Mitfords, Evelyn Waugh, Anne Frank and any number of film or stage favorites. Or Julia Child. I think I have five or six Julia bios. And her cookbooks. Which brings me to...


I could use some purging here. I did one huge purge of most "local" cookbooks. But I can't say farewell to Julia, Ina, Nigella, Irma Rombauer (all versions -- I still go back to my mom's 1950 for one of my favorite recipes). There are lots of autographed cookbooks from PBS days, ones I've picked up traveling, great gifts. Junior League cookbooks always deliver. Sometime I'll do a post on just cookbooks and what they tell us about how cooking has changed.

The recipes rarely fail -- if they do, it's user error!

And yes, I use them. Not all of them. But I use them. And I'm pretty good at it. Though, I would be better if I used them more!

Not a cookbook but one of the best books I read all year!

People ask me how I get books. Buy or library? Paper or Kindle? How I store them (I think you get the idea here). I'll have another post on books coming up soon. Weigh in with what your books say about you! Are they on bookshelves, your night stand, the bathroom? (Don't laugh. It's a great place for short essays and poetry.) Please tell me about your relationship with books!

Do you have any of your childhood books left?

I'd love to know!

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Can Anyone Help Blogger David?

One of my favorite blogs is David Gascoigne's "Travel with Birds." David and his wife, Miriam, produce some of the most remarkable photos and interesting commentary related to birds through their birdwatching walks. David also will periodically review new books related to nature.

(All of the photos in this post are mine -- and they pale in comparison to the beautiful floral paintings in the book!)

He recently posted his current review -- "The Gardener's Botanical." If you have seen the post, you will be, as I was, enchanted by the splendid illustrations featured in the book. And, if you are a gardener or have a special love for all in the garden, you will find it an intriguing offering as well.

But David has a problem. He posted the link in blogger's reader feed. And it just doesn't show up. He's not quite sure what's wrong and neither am I.

But if you already follow David and use blogger reader as your blog-following source, you're missing one heck of a great post.

So, I thought I'd give it a shout-out here. You can visit this post right HERE. And I hope you do! (And if you don't visit David regularly and have a passion for birds, check out other posts on his feed while you're there. Quite remarkable!)

And if you can help him out, leave a message on his blog or here because this could be something that could happen to any of us.

(Oh, I do need the color of all these blooms!)

Friday, January 24, 2020

Some of Paris' Most Beautiful Storefronts!

In these cold, white Michigan winter days, I have longed for color. So, when I saw this link to "colorfully decorated storefronts of Paris," it ticked a lot of boxes for me. Color. Paris!

I shot this on my first trip to Paris. Oh, Shakespeare and Company, I love you!

The link features the photographs of Sebastian Erras, who looks at some of Paris' most exquisite storefronts -- photographed with the merchants who inhabit them.

As you might expect, it reminded me of my previous trips to Paris. While none of these storefronts from my photo album made the cut for Erras' piece -- I'm realizing that some of these were never even put through Picassa to straighten them up so they're a tad crooked -- they are shops and storefronts I think of fondly!

Anyone who loves books and has visited Paris probably stopped at Shakespeare and Company, with its storied history of fascinating characters -- including many of the world's most famous authors -- who became part of its story.

The original Shakespeare is long gone; its successor stands proud, Its iconic exterior, complete with delightful details, helping tell its story. Looking for a book in English? Look no further.

Another old favorite (and I do mean old) is the art store Sennelier. My passion, of course, was for its inside but its exterior has greeted artists in search of their wonderful paints and art supplies for years.

Rick might say Poilane, the boulangerie that is home to the two kilo loaf of bread, is his favorite. Though I suspect that he finds the content of the interior more appealing than the front!

I have fond memories of this boulangerie, where we bought sandwiches before dining in the courtyard of Place des Vosges. The detail in the mosaic next to the door was exquisite.

You know what drew me to this one -- a cat that resembled Lizzie (five months before I knew I would have a Lizzie.)

I'm not sure where this is but who could resist that mustard-colored door?

Ah, Charlotte de Lisle. It was closed when I went by. I should have gone back!

This patisserie was across from our last hotel, on rue Amelie. I'm a sucker for turquoise, what can I say?

We didn't stop here, either, but isn't it inviting?

And of course the iconic Cafe de Flore, which has welcomed tourists and intellectuals (and was a favorite of Julia Child). On my first trip, I stopped there for a glass of wine to toast my favorite French Chef!

 I think back fondly on Victor, on Rue Rambuteau, that was the neighborhood boulangerie in the Marais on my first two visits.

And while it may be gaudy and not technically a store, the flashy facade of Moulin Rouge can certainly captivate the eye!

I leave you with my favorite storefront. Nothing fancy, purely functional and divinely traditional. The bouquinistes of the Seine. Nothing makes me happier!

Thanks for joining me on this jaunt through Paris, even though I'm no Sebastian Erras! Be sure to check out the link at the beginning of the post for his truly gorgeous photos of some of Paris' magnificent buildings!

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Few Days In Dallas

It was more than a bit of a whirlwind. I took off for Dallas on a gloomy Thursday afternoon for the memorial of Rick's stepfather and his mother's birthday celebration. I arrived at Detroit Metro with a standby ticket (which apparently was a computer snafu). After more than a little angst (and a very helpful person from American) I at least got a pass to get through security and got on the standby list, finally getting a seat. Then our plane was grounded due to problems on the ground in Texas and we took off two hours late. What a start!

After arriving, Rick's mom picked me up and a couple hours later we were back at the airport, getting brother Randy and his family. And then, back at 12:30 a.m. to get Rick, whose delayed plane caused a missed connection and late arrival. We were toast!

I was hoping for sun and something warmer and drier than the gray gloom and damp of Michigan. For the most part, it wasn't to be had! It was cold and pouring rain! But the company more than made up for it!

More family arrived the next day and on Saturday afternoon after the memorial and lunch, we headed to the hotel where preparations for the birthday were in order!

There's something about being with family for something like this -- loads of support, lots of energy, loads of conversations.

And lots of activity! Rick was a hit, serving as the balloon guy. The kids had fun pummelling him into a corner with an attack of balloons!

He defended himself admirably!
And there were loads of smiles, which was extra fun.

Kitty was thrilled to be surrounded by her grands and great grands...

...and by her five boys.

Of course there was cake. And plenty of love to go around!

Most of the family left Sunday, which gave Rick and I time to spend with his mom, doing some household and legal things.

On Monday, during Rick's business appointment, I had the great good fortune to have breakfast with Laura Ingalls Gunn of Decor to Adore. We talked for a good three hours and every minute was delightful. And no, I didn't take photos. 

We made it home Monday night at about 11, totally exhausted but smiling with loads of good memories. Where we were greeted with lots of snow.
And this one.

And yes, the tree is still up. But I hope it will be down VERY soon! Because it's driving me nuts.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

My Temporary "New Normal"

My temporary "new normal" is anything but normal! But then, with our wacky weather, I'm not sure what normal is anymore.

While Australia is experiencing an environmental tragedy from the brush fires, I know many of my friends in the south and southwest faced horrible tornadoes and damaging winds in the storm of the weekend of January 12. For us, it was the predictions of a very bad ice storm. (They said it was moving northeast, so that goes for you all, too.)

When we see the Weather Channel broadcasting live from our little town, it's a bit disconcerting. Mid-Michigan is not the world's most popular travel destination, so when I was checking the weather and saw a fellow huddled up by a spot that they said was Lansing (but I didn't recognize) it was worth taking notice.

The predictions were for lots of rain first, followed by lots of ice and possibly power outages. This brings back memories of the ice storm of 2013 when Rick was without power for 11 days. (Most of the city got it back within six or seven -- still too long in one of our coldest winters. And it began two days before Christmas, which made it quite the holiday to remember, despite how much you want to forget it.)

But I digress. Rain. Yes. We got it. Inside and out.

I was going to wait to replace my basement windows till later in the season because I need them for rain and it doesn't rain in winter, right? It snows? Needless to say, with two rains over less than two weeks and ground too frozen to absorb it, I am rethinking that strategy.

We were worried that the ice and following snow would be so bad that no one would come to Rick's concert or that it would be canceled. But we shouldn't have wasted that energy! While it was sloppy and a bit icy, things didn't materialize as badly as predicted and a warm and enthusiastic group gathered at the library to hear our guys play!

It started with a solo by Rick and I really wish I'd recorded it. It was a really beautiful piece and he rocked it!

I have to say, I was really proud of him. It's scary to get up there by yourself and perform. I've done it too many times and it's still nerve wracking. As the audience continued to come in, he just kept playing. And it was beautiful.

Then the rest of the gang came on and they played a concert of about an hour.

And they sounded great! I was surprised after when Rick told me he had been pretty nervous. They've played small gigs for nursing homes in the past but it's a lot different when a) there are more people b) the program is much longer and c) the audience can both hear and is mentally present and awake, and not just wheeled in for the show. My surprise was that it didn't show to me.

I feel my own world is in a bit of chaos and total mess and it's making me a little crazy. I can't really take down Christmas till I can get the basement ready, and also till I can beat a path to the basement door wide enough to take down a tree. Which I can't do till the kitchen pie rack and chest are out of the passageways. Which I can't do till the back wall is painted and the stove is installed. Which won't happen till we return from Texas.

We may be back, by the time this posts. But till then, nothing is back to normal. Nothing is in its right place. And, there is only so much I can do till it is. So, I counted my loose change.

Well, not so loose. Let me just say that if you toss your silver change into a piggy bank (or in my case, four piggy banks) for a year or so, you can end up with $256.50 if you're diligent! I see new basement windows in my future.

Lizzie has been naughty. Because of the chaos in the house, nothing being where it should be, I put her Christmas present -- two unopened bags of treats -- in a totebag with other things from the same shelf on a chair. Of course, I didn't zip the totebag.

So it shouldn't have surprised me when I found one bag of treats open and half eaten on the family room floor. I did what any smart cat-mom would do and zipped up the bag to within an inch. The next day the bag was open and her other bag of treats on the floor, dragged half across the room. That, too, was open -- and half empty.

Let's just say some in our household seem to be liking the new normal.

Which includes not having to practice so hard for a bit!

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