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The Library Card

ChildrenReadingTintSometimes I have to stop and realize how incredibly fortunate I am to be living now, and to have grown up in a time and place where reading was always encouraged, and books always available. The two events I wrote about in the previous post are only possible for me because of these factors.

I am so grateful that, as a child, I was read to often and from when I was very young, that our mom read us a bedtime story each night before we went to sleep. Each week she took my brother and me to the library in town, a beautiful 1780’s Dutch stone house, where, after careful browsing, we emerged victorious with stacks of books in our arms. Once at home, we dove into our treasures. We had bookcases in our rooms, and it was a common sight to see our parents reading in the evening, long after the TV had become a living room fixture.

It’s easy to forget what an abundance of riches this truly is. We search the internet, e-mail, write and visit blogs and social media, and read books in a variety of 3-dimensional and electronic media with nary a thought. But that is not, and has not been, the case for many people in this world.

RichardWrightAwhile back, a fellow blogger shared this sentiment and gave me a link to a story by an author whose name I had not heard since I was in high school, Richrad Wright. He grew up in the deep South and in 1944, when he was 36, wrote the book Black Boy.  A particular chapter is titled The Library Card, and in first person relates Wright’s discovery of the vast reading material and knowledge to be had and to which he had no access because of his color. The books he longed to read only became available surreptitiously through the use of one trusted white man’s library card, and this depended upon Wright’s maintaining his attitude of ignorance and subservience to those around him.

For me, The Library Card eloquently makes the point of how blessed we are to be free to read, to learn, and to explore at will. There are people all around the world, including right here in our own country, predominantly children and women, who do not have access to books, nor can they, nor in some places, are they allowed or encouraged, to read.

There are plenty of ways we can bring books and reading to those who need and would benefit, but it has to start with this – the realization of how wonderful a gift we already have and frequently take for granted … a light that shines into the darkness, a transport to other worlds, an endless source of inspiration. Lucky, lucky us.

See you at the book sale.

 

This may be for the reader or the writer in you, but if you’re in driving distance of either of these events, I suspect you may be interested in both!

BooksToBeRead-2First, what’s happening the weekend of May 2nd and 3rd? The event that I have no business going to but will be heading to anyway – the Hunterdon County Library’s Annual Book Sale! It will be held again at the South County Park Fairgrounds in Lambertville, just off Rt. 179, (for you locals), and as always, Saturday features hardbound books at $2, paperback, $1 and Sunday, they’re half that. Something new – Monday, May 4th from 9 to 12, they’re having a $5 bag sale! Last year I believe they had something like 60,000 books, so collect your totes and mark your calendars. For complete information, go to the Library Sale website.

BoyReadingIf you’re a children’s book writer and/or illustrator, published or aspiring, think about attending the New Jersey SCBWI big June Conference Saturday and Sunday, June 13th and 14th, in Princeton, NJ. The conference is two days packed with workshops taught by great names in the children’s book field, critiques from editors, agents, authors, illustrators or your peers, special intensives, socializing with agents and editors over meals, great camaraderie among all those who love children’s books, and more. This, however, requires registration and a conference fee, plus there’s a deadline to register – early bird by April 19th, otherwise by May 15th. You also receive a discount as an SCBWI member. Find more details here, and click on the link to register for more in-depth information. (You are not automatically committed to registering by going to the registration site.) You’ll enjoy wonderful food all weekend long, (I’m looking forward to it already), and you can stay overnight at the Crowne Plaza/Holiday Inn Express Conference Center.

I’ll be going to both events – hope to see you there – I’ll be the one with that book-ish glow!

BaldEagle-Headshot2Each year, a pair of nesting Bald Eagles builds their nest on the Duke Farms Estate, and lay their eggs. This alone, is wonderful, but the entire process is caught live on the Duke Farms Eagle Cam.

Bald Eagles had become nearly extinct in New Jersey thanks to the excessive use of DDT, but they are slowly on the rebound, and this pair can be counted on to lay 2 or 3 eggs each spring. Through the eagle cam, you can watch the baby chicks and their doting parents high up in the tree. The first egg was laid on February 17, and the second of the two eggs hatched March 30. You can catch these youngsters as of this date in their pale baby feathers, then watch them grow right through fledging from the nest.

At times, there’s not much to watch on the eagle cam, but at other times, you have the opportunity of watching either or both of the parents bringing in food and feeding their chicks, moving around the nest, and the youngsters trying out their wings. In addition, there are weekly updates on the family as well as photos showing what you may have missed.

It’s a rare opportunity to get a peek at nature, so enjoy the Duke Farms Eagle Cam.

p.s. In reading more of the post notes, I see that one of the eagles hatched in the Duke Farms nest in 2009 was identified 150 miles away in Connecticut, where he had mated with a female, and fledged two chicks in 2014; the pair has nested again this year.

One thing that makes me happy is the books to be found throughout my house, numerous bookcases that house volumes of all kinds. I suppose you might sort them by the time-honored division of fiction and non-fiction, but I tend to see them differently. I keep books for three reasons: I have yet to read them; I have read them and would read them again; and books that I have read and return to on and off as needed.

BooksOnDesk2The first two categories generally hold adult novels, children’s books, short stories and poetry. The last holds things such as cookbooks, art and photography books, reference books for writing and drawing, (such as books on writing craft, dog and horse books, etc.) and my favorite – my inspirational or metaphysical books. They’re mostly all in one bookcase.

And then I have a small subset of that, sitting right next to me where I work. From these books I pick and choose what I need to know in my life now, which means that from time to time that selection may change, but it’s a pretty stable little group. Within those covers lie words of wisdom that guide me and feed my spirit; I may read at random for a few days or a few weeks or even re-read an entire book, as I am now.

Right on top you see a phenomenal book by Anita Moorjani, Dying to Be Me. I first saw her on a PBS special, a guest of Dr. Wayne Dyer presenting Wishes Fulfilled. She spoke of her NDE, (near death experience), its meaning to her and how it changed her life. The book was so highly recommended by Wayne Dyer that I purchased it.

I am currently reading it a second time because of her so beautifully articulated description of her journey from childhood through cancer and all but dying, to her recovery after her NDE, what she learned during the experience, and why she returned. What she has to say is truly inspirational; it helps me find – and know – again the reason why I’m here, and how to (try and) live it every day.

What I like about Moorjani is she never preaches, and she makes it clear that what she says is not suggesting or telling anyone what to do — she is merely sharing her experience. In this, she is an excellent teacher.

In a few weeks from now, could you look in, you might not see her book resting in that same spot, (although you will still see the ring binders of my sketchbook, journal, and PiBoIdMo idea book.) I don’t know which book might sit there, but it will most certainly be one with words to guide me, raise my energy, and help me be the best I can be.

I hope that you, too, find and read whatever books inspire you and brighten – and enlighten – your path.

PastryDough2You know … I was once quite the baker. That was back when I had the time, and was able to bake – and cook – with some sort of regularity. (I even have a little recipe box to prove it!) But how frustrating is it to finally set aside the time to bake, and have what you were going to bake be a disaster!

I know – this isn’t the first time I’ve spilled some baking tears on this blog, but I also know that those of you who do bake share my frustration when you spend the time with such a gorgeous end product in mind and it comes out wrong, or not at all. (Insert huge sigh here.)

So there you see the photo. That wasn’t what I was planning on making. At all. What I’d planned on making was Hamantaschen, those wonderful little triangular pastries with delicious fillings of fruit, poppyseed or almond. And I had the recipe that I had made them from  in the past. I went online and checked some recipes to see that my older one was in the range of what was still being done and all looked good. (By the way, if you want to see what beautiful Hamantaschen look like, their history, and how to make them, take a peek here. This is where I’ll be getting my next recipe from.)

So this morning early, I prepped my pastry dough so it would have at least 3 hours to chill and went about my other chores. Long story short, the dough was terribly crumbly, and was not pulling together any better with some ice water. I’d rolled out 1/4 of it and saw that this was not going to work; there’d never even be enough dough to make what the recipe said. So I made some cinnamon and sugar strips, (above), just to have something come from my efforts.

I brought out the next quarter of the dough and knew I was just wasting my time, and sadly, I chucked it. Half of it still sits in the fridge, why, I’m not sure, but there won’t be any Hamantaschen coming out of this kitchen today. And I wonder … could using organic ingredients make a difference? Are the ingredients used today sufficiently different from those on hand when I originally made that recipe to have this result?

Or … (insert very deep sigh here) … have I lost my touch? I won’t accept that, maybe just a little out of practice. That recipe has followed the too-crumbly dough into the great beyond, and when I next feel Hamantaschen-ish, I’ll check the recipe linked to above. Such is life.

p.s. This is not at all what I’ve been wanting to post about, but there you have it …

Guilty

FrenchieCrocusOne of the tough things about having a blog is that you really do want to keep up with it, and yet sometimes it’s just not on the top of one’s possibility list. Unfortunately, this infuses me with a certain amount of guilt. Things are running through my head constantly that I want to write about – it’s never for lack of subject material – it’s for the luxury of time to write it well and to provide images that you’ll enjoy seeing.

So consider this a teensy tide-me-over and more will be coming soon.

Looking Up

Back when I lived in the city, walking about Manhattan, there was a very good reason to look up. Gargoyles. Fabulous gargoyles. Bumping into people on the street, apologizing, face-to-the-sky, gargoyles. New York is full of them and they’re all over the place. However, this post is not about gargoyles … maybe someday … but another reason for looking up. Icicles.

WinterTexture-Icicles2

The recent 6 – 8″ of snow we had recently, followed by a drop to 4˚ at night, followed by a day of brilliant sunshine has these 2 and 3 foot daggers hanging off roofs everywhere. And although today was kind of cloudy, kind of sunny, I thought to photograph a few because I believe this is the last we’ll be seeing them until next winter.

WinterTextures-IciclesII2

Neither the main roof nor those of the porches on this house have gutters, which may be why there are so many icicles, I’m not sure, but what I do know is that when you walk around certain parts of the house, you best be looking up and stepping lively. Periodically during the day, you can hear them crashing outside the windows, just waiting for an unsuspecting soul to walk by.

WinterTextures-IciclesBricks2

Witness a few misses to the side of my house, the walkway where I come and go daily. Of course, there’s also a sheet of ice to navigate as well. Ahhhh – winter!

WinterTextures-OverRailing2

Having taken that photo, I became more interested in the textures created by the ice and snow around the house, often so beautiful as to look like abstract art. I peered over my back porch railing where the ice was dripping into the snow. Icicles were breaking and melting around the hydrangea, as eager for spring as we, I suspect.

WinterTextures-RoseBush2

And then, the last of the roses, encased in ice, also surrounded by broken icicles.

I could have gone around the whole property photographing these icy textures once I began, but such is not my day. These brightened my artistic soul, maybe yours, too.

The Winter Blues

Where am I?

Snow-Feb4-BushesFence2

I’ll tell you how I feel – kind of lost. It seems like this Winter is just going to go on forever. And by the scarcity of posts by the fellow bloggers I know, I dare say that I am not alone. Of course, there may be other reasons, but a great deal has been written about the effect of weather such as we’ve been having on the human soul/psyche. Speaking for myself, the endless rounds of snow every few days and the concomitant shoveling plus the record lows in temperature such as I have never seen in my lifetime conspire to keep me, (and possibly you), indoors. Add to that, those of us who work from home and you have the perfect scenario for a serious case of the Winter blues and blahs.

Buddha2I suspect many of you, like myself, are looking for ways to brighten these 9˚ days. Getting out for even a breath of fresh air is always good, as is curling up with a good book, or watching some decent movie or TV. Each day when I journal, (a mood-lifter for me), I also look for some spiritual/metaphysical thoughts to pull me back into my more inspired self. Today I remembered this (favorite) quote from Buddha: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought.”

I am reminded that I am creating my day on every level and that my thoughts and feelings affect the energetic level of the planet itself. I searched a little further.

From The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley: “For this is the great secret, which was known to all educated men in our day: that by what men think, we create the world around us, daily new.”

 

SnowFeb4-SecondTree2

Now, while I’m not yet bursting with boundless joy, at least I am smiling, happy and more content. I am remembering that Spring will come in time, and that there is still plenty of beauty in every moment of the day that is here, right now.

FrenchieValentine2

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe,
deserve your love and affection”

~ Gautama Buddha

I have to give it to Budweiser. Year after year they come up with the most brilliant commercials – smart, touching, visually beautiful. Their most astounding was the one they created the year after 9/11, which they only played one day, but each year they come up with something amazing for the Super Bowl featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales.

This one, called “Lost Dog,” is worth a minute of your your time – so touching. Take a look.

 

It’s A Soup Day!

Soup-CloseUp2Actually, to me, almost any winter day is a soup day, but it’s been way too long since I’ve made a big pot of homemade soup. I think about it; sometimes I even buy the ingredients, but end up using them for something that takes less time. Sometimes I’m sure I’m going to make the soup at the end of the work day, and that never happens. So, today, (Sunday), I just got started earlier. My soup? A (vegan) Russian Potato and Bean Soup.

I’d been looking and looking among my many cookbook and recipe sources and wasn’t finding what I wanted. Then I remembered – and was staring right at it! – that I had this great recipe box from years ago from Vegetarian Times. It was a freebie for taking a subscription, I think. There are nice little divider sections and each group is color coded, as you can see below. Definitely a handy item to have.

Soup-RecipeBox2

They had so many yummy soup recipes, and I picked this one. It was already vegan except for the sour cream, and I had a plan for that.

I used all organic produce, and scrubbed and cubed some nice Russet potatoes, thin-sliced some onions, trimmed the green beans, and got ready to cook. I used Imagine brand vegetarian “No-Chicken Broth” which is quite tasty. The recipe called for 5 cups of broth, and this broth comes in quart containers, but, aha! I have a fabulous vegetable base for making soups, and I whipped up a cup of that.

Soup-InPot2

The basic soup ready to bring to a boil.

I sautéed the onions in the broth and a teaspoon of canola oil, then added the potatoes and beans for a bit. I added the rest of the broth, brought to a boil and simmered for 1/2 hour.

The next addition was a mixture of 1/3 cup of sour cream mixed with 2 T. of flour. I had some concerns here because I had vegan sour cream, which has a tofu base, and I wasn’t really sure how that would work out. The recipe asks that you add the mixture to the soup by the spoonful and blend in. Here’s where, if you’re not vegan, I’d go with real sour cream; if you are, go with the time-honored way of blending some of the stock with the flour separately and then mixing it back into the main pot. That’s what I’ll do in the future. Add in 3/4 cup of sauerkraut, 1 T. of dried dill and simmer another 15 minutes. While you’re invited to add seasonings at the end, I found the sauerkraut and dill provided plenty of flavor on their own.

Soup-InBowl2

Bon appétit!

The recipe for this soup is not available on the Vegetarian Times website, however, I did a search and found it on another site. If interested, here’s the recipe — enjoy!

 

Wonder-RJPalacio2I am always a big fan of these, which, to me, are more or less the same thing. I tend to think of them as quotes, but in the book I just finished, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, these are referred to as precepts by Mr. Browne, a character in the book and a middle grade English teacher at Beecher Prep. (I will write more on Wonder soon – this is what lit my spark today.)

Mr. Browne found that his students were more inspired by a quote he had once discovered than by how it had greatly influenced his life, so at the beginning of each month, he wrote a precept on the board. The class discussed it during the month, and at the end of the month, the students wrote an essay about it. Over the summer, his students were encouraged to write their own, or some other inspiring precept and send it to Mr. Browne. What a great teaching idea for real life, eh?

The copy of Wonder lent to me by a friend was part of a boxed set which also included a second volume called 365 Days of Wonder, Mr. Browne’s published selection of a year’s worth of quotes on the issues written about in Wonder, which, in a nutshell, is about kindness as well as overcoming adversity and bullying.

Midsummer Eve painted by Robert Hughes, 1908

Midsummer Eve by Robert Hughes, 1908

He also includes some precepts submitted by his fictional students. This is a really great accompaniment to a book that addresses these issues so well and would hopefully be an inspiration to Wonder‘s middle grade readers, (not to mention a brilliant marketing idea.)

So I started to read the precepts/quotes.

I was entranced by the quote on January 2nd written by Roald Dahl, (of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach fame, if you’re not familiar).

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

It just brought a rush of imagery and creativity to me – “glittering eyes”, indeed, and sparkling thoughts. I am always amazed how such seemingly small tidbits drop right into our laps when we least expect and need them most. Or I am just paraphrasing Roald Dahl?

Have an inspiring day!

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