Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Birth of Venus

For those of you who enjoy historical fiction, here's a goodie. I bought it about four years ago and only just now got around to reading it.

Set in Renaissance Florence, it's the story of a young woman of good family who wants to be an artist -- in a time when marriage or the convent were her only choices. The book paints a vivid picture of the beauty and the squalor and the political turmoil at his time when the monk Savonarola and his Taliban-like cohorts scourged the city, seeking to destroy much of the art and learning that had been the Medici heritage and glory.

Alessandra's story is at the center of all of this. A strong, passionate woman, at a time women were not expected to be either, she is a worthy heroine.

Great setting, fascinating characters, intriguing story line (a bit of a mystery to it) -- and you learn a little history in the bargain.

I loved it!

And one more thing: Always proofread your emails.

A few days ago, I sent an email to one of my students about our class work. I had just realized that he was married to a woman I know slightly and I wanted to say 'hi' to her.

What I typed was: "Tell Danny I said 'ho'!

Thank goodness I didn't hit SEND before I caught it. I would have had some explaining to do.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Morning's Glory

Oh, Lord, what a morning!

Click on the pictures to 'biggify.'

Who needs words with skies like these?

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Monday, September 28, 2009

The Heavenly Flocks

Sunday morning and what a pleasure to see blue skies above the mist rising from the river!

Those skies were a delight and wonder all day long with their great flocks of fluffy white clouds sweeping overhead, crowding and jostling together as they moved ever eastward.

The clarity of the atmosphere and the pure Carolina blue of the sky were intensified by the seemingly endless ranks of billowy clouds.

By evening though, like good sheep, they were gathered into the rosy fold beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Leaving the heavenly field clear for dreams.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Rainy Day Comfort

What could be nicer at the end of a chilly, rainy day than fried chicken for supper?

Ethan and Aileen were here for the weekend and I decided to make this meal that's always been a family favorite -- fried chicken, mashed potatoes and peppery gravy, green beans cooked the old timey way (for a long time, with bacon) and, as a nod to healthful eating, a green salad.

For dessert -- a raspberry buckle with optional heavy cream. I used my mother's blueberry buckle recipe, left out the cinnamon in the topping, and substituted frozen raspberries for the blueberries.

Rainy day comfort food!

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Last Refuge . . .

. . . of an inept photographer is Photoshop . . . or in my case, the Special Effects thingie on Picasa, the free for the down-loading program I use to deal with my pictures.

Day before yesterday I took my new camera for a walk along the top of the pasture and into the woods. It was early and the fog hadn't yet burned off so I hoped for lots of great shots in this misty, mysterious world.

I took close ups of flowers in the pasture and of mushrooms, leaves, lichen, and bark along the trail running through the woods.

Imagine my surprise when I downloaded 149 pictures to find that most of them were black! Fiddling with the light level thingie on Picasa showed that there were images -- but I had evidently done or not done some vital thing at the beginning of the walk.

No, I haven't read the manual through yet.

Yes, I should have been checking my monitor to see what the shots were like. (Unbelievable that I didn't!)

Yes, I'm waiting for Cory, my technical adviser to tell me where I went wrong.

Meanwhile, I play with special effects.
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Friday, September 25, 2009

Romantic Times Recycled

The following is recycled from a post I did last year for the Romantic Times "Fresh Fiction" blog:

No Manolos, No Makeup, and the Romantic Interest is Bald

“She flowed into his arms and they stood silently for a moment: two middle-aged people, much encumbered by heavy winter outerwear and vintage emotional baggage, but, for the moment, in perfect harmony.”

So, I get the invitation to blog on Fresh Fiction and I accept joyfully, especially since the kind folks here at Romantic Times have named my recent release In a Dark Season “Pick of the Day” (5/25/08). I start checking out some past blogs and then I see the covers of featured books. Hmmm. Flowing hair, heaving bosoms, and more six-packs than a convenience store. Oh dear! This isn’t what I write – do they really want me?

Mind you, I have nothing against tempestuous heroines and hunky heroes – I’ve drooled my way through a Judith Krantz title or two before this. But when I began to write in 2000 – at the age of fifty seven – I’d already spent about ten years, looking around for role models -- older women who were aging in the way I hoped to. It seemed as if the media was crawling with gorgeous twenty-somethings and the occasional cute, feisty old lady and in real life there was a great middle ground of women trying desperately to give the illusion of being younger than they really were. I was looking for women who were unapologetic about aging -- un-lifted, un-dyed, and un-Botoxed. I was looking for women who didn’t feel defined by their age – women to whom age was irrelevant.

My Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries have as protagonist a woman ‘of a certain age’ -- not beautiful or even beautifully dressed -- but a woman in her fifties whose long braid of dark hair is shot with silver threads, a woman whose knees aren’t what they once were, and who wouldn’t know a Jimmy Choo if it stomped on her instep. (Wouldn’t feel it either, as she’s usually wearing hiking boots.)

Elizabeth doesn’t dwell on her age or her hot flashes or her weight or her graying hair – she just gets on with solving the mystery – traveling up and down the dark hollows and coves of her mountain county (Signs in the Blood), weaving her way through the quirky art scene of nearby Asheville (Art’s Blood), exploring the world of the Cherokee (Old Wounds), or deciding what to do about the man who wants to marry her (In a Dark Season). And yes, he’s balding.

Really, Elizabeth’s age is peripheral to the story – this is NOT “Geezer Lit.” But she is aging gracefully -- and my greatest pleasure is hearing from the many women who feel like she’s a friend they look forward to visiting every year.

My very favorite email was from a woman who wrote: “Elizabeth makes me want to stop dyeing my hair and be who I really am.”

Amen, sister!

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Blue Skies Again

Yesterday's skies were blue and the air was dry -- though the ground squished beneath my feet as I went out to fill the bird feeder.

A fairy ring of mushrooms had sprung up in the pasture by the road.

And as I crossed the bridge over the French Broad at Barnard (aka Gudger's Stand for those of you who read my books), I saw that the river had overflowed its bounds and was washing into the little park where the paddlers put in.

The river is so high that none of the usual rocks show -- though the white water hints at their presence just below the surface.

Some kayakers were in the park, getting ready to set out. They'll have a mighty quick trip down to Hot Springs on the wild waters.

For those who emailed me to ask how Ethan and Aileen are doing in their new home near Atlanta where there's been so much flooding, the young uns are fine. Their house is on high ground -- but it took them an hour to get to work rather than the much shorter usual drive. Two bridges were closed and they had to go the long way round.

What an introduction to the joys of home-owning!

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ding an Sich

. . . or the Thing-in-Itself.

Kant used the term in his Critique of Pure Reason and it's stuck in my head ever since that freshman survey of philosophy class with Dr. Gould back in 1960.

If I understood the meaning of the term then, however briefly, I've surely forgotten it now.

But those words are what spring to mind when I see a close up picture that focuses on the essential 'thingness' of things, be they eggplants or pepper seeds . . .

. . . or a fallen poplar leaf.

Then, of course, thinking of Kant leads me to Monty Python and the Philosophers' Song.

And it's downhill from there.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumnal Equinox 2009

The weather seems unlikely to cooperate so I'm putting up a picture of last year's equinoctial sunrise. Our house faces due east and the sun is now in the center of our horizon. By the winter solstice it will have crept far to the south and be lost behind a ridge for much of the day.

The equinox falls on the 22nd this year. I had thought that solstices and equinoxes were always on the 21st but evidently not. Here's a nifty website that explains all this for those who've ever wanted to know about the Precession of the Equinoxes. (I adore that phrase -- I think I first encountered it in Kipling's Just So Stories.)

But 21st or 22nd, the wheel of the year is turning. I look at the purple sage spilling over the rock wall and the thought of Thanksgiving turkey is in my mind. Not so far away.

Coleous captures the last of the summer sunlight before being hustled into the greenhouse for protection from coming cold weather.

And pumpkins from the garden are bright markers along our entry path -- lighting up another dreary day.
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Monday, September 21, 2009

The Learning Curve

No beautiful sunrise awaited me and my new toy yesterday morning -- we were locked in rain.

For a little brightness, I turned to the flowers a friend brought on Saturday -- all of late summer in a Mason jar! (Note to self: GROW ZINNIAS next year!)

Not all my photos were sharp and clear. There is a learning curve. But I couldn't bring myself to delete this one -- it looks like an illustration for a ghost story, with energy swirling out of the quilt.

The up side to the rainy day (aside from the obvious benefit to the land) is that I'm spending some time with the instruction manual. Not too much -- I can only absorb tiny bits at a time. But, millimeter by millimeter, I'm creeping along that learning curve!

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