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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Monday, May 30, 2011

In Memory

Somehow it is fitting that today is dreary and gray, rainy and humid. As I write this more men and women in Afganistan,Iraq and Libya are being written on the walls of the military fallen. We don't belong in those places in my opinion, anymore than we belonged in Vietnam or Korea but despite that men and women have answered our country's call to arms and we must honor their valor and devotion. For many of them it was the last voluntary act of their lives.

I grew up at a time when most of my uncles and my Dad and my brothers served voluntarily in the military, despite the fact that the draft still existed. Most of them were Navy but a couple of the uncles joined the Army and I can hear the joshing and teasing still among them. Some of the younger ones served in WWII but my Dad and a couple of the others were too old and had been too young for WWI. My Dad was going to reenlist in 1943 but he was told he'd be given a non- com rank that could be removed while he served and he could not afford to take such a chance financially with a wife and new baby back in DC so he did not go back. Fortunately, all came home and none were physically injured, nor to my memory severely mentally or emotionally injured.

Mom used to talk about her cousins and uncles who'd served during WWI--several of them died and one lost his legs. She used to speak of her young aunt who was to marry her soldier when he returned from war only to die in the influenza epidemic and be buried, instead, in her lovely wedding dress.

Of course the major war of which I was most cognizant was Vietnam. What a terrible time of protests and upheaval and men leaving the country,moving to Canada to avoid the draft. but many stayed and were drafted or enlisted and many came home disillusioned and emotionally spent. Some never recovered and took solace in the drugs that became so prevalent among the troops and in some quarters among the young back home. Others drank but many struggled with their demons and adjusted to life among the living while remembering the many they left behind dead on the battleground. I remember the horror the first time one of those dead was a name to which I could put a face. Younger than me--just about six months out of high school, the kid brother of a classmate. I was away at school when he came home and was buried but that summer I went and stood at his grave in disbelief. Another step in growing up--another step into adulthood, taken reluctantly and with tears because Bob would never get that chance.

After that whenever one of my students would come to school to see me after basic to strut proudly in his uniform, looking like a child to me still, but knowing he was no longer, something in me would remember Bob and pray, as I smiled and wished my student luck, that he would come back and grow up safely. Most of them did but a few did not and when I think of them I see them walking away so proud.

In our family on both sides the tradition of military service has died out. My brothers-in-law all served in Viet Nam and all are happily home and healthy. The war ended before my husband had to take his Naval commission after ROTC so he instead went into Peace Corps. Bill's cousin broke the Naval-Army tradition and served in the Air Force in Nam. None of the nephews or nieces have chosen the military, nor has our daughter. Many of our recent students have not gone and our school refused to allow any recruiters on campus during career day.

Attitudes have changed about the men and women who choose to serve. The big headline in today's paper is that a nearby town is celebrating agriculture this weekend. But one of Betsy's friends is in the Army--in intelligence --and she doesn't think she'll be sent into a war zone. I pray that is true. One of my friends has a son who has joined the Army--he hasn't been deployed as of yet. I think of him all the time and hope he won't be or that he will return safely in all ways if he is.

Today is a day of remembrance of those who have gone into battle and who have not returned. It isn't a day to remember those who are serving though I think of them daily and pray for our withdrawal from these lands in which we are bound and determined to have our democratic way. No, it is a day of mourning for the boys and girls who will no longer grow up and for their parents and siblings and wives and husbands and children who will never hold them again. In Memoriam--Thank you and Rest in Peace


Friday, May 27, 2011

Didn't Burn Their Bras ( If They Even Wore Them)

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon: Women Soldiers and Patriots of the Western FrontierShe Wore a Yellow Ribbon: Women Soldiers and Patriots of the Western Frontier by Chris Enss

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is amazing to discover the number of women who defied society's restrictions to make their own way in a world in which the term women's liberation did not exist. Most of them were not of the affluent families of society and many of them were alone in the world to be sure but some were not renegades but women of principle and courage who could not stand silent despite the current concept of the proper place of women. This book provides condensed biographies of twelve such women. They are as diverse as any group living today and their exploits were as diverse as the paths taken by modern women. All of them in this book lived in the unsettled wilds of the American West populated by Natives, whom the US Government was determined to subdue.

The first three ladies were involved in the Mexican Wars to determine the future of present day Texas and New Mexico. One, a survivor of the Alamo, another a voice for the people both Texan and Mexican at Goliad, which a friend of mine says should be remembered more than the Alamo, the conditions and loss of life there being far worse than the mission in San Antonio.Each of these were Hispanic but the third woman was a wife of a cattle driver on the Santa Fe Trail and she traveled it with him and her brother-in-law, an American spy in New Mexico.

Another trio--these Native American --are also featured. Winema, a Madoc, who brokered peace among her tribesmen, other tribes in the area and the Army but died far from her native home;Lozen, an Apache shaman who rode with Geronimo; and Sarah Winnemucca, a Piute who helped the American Army subdue the Bannock Indians and went on to travel to Washington DC to plead the cause of her people with President Hayes and Congress.

Then there were Army wives, including Elizabeth Custer, never one of my favorite historical characters, but who must receive credit for earning respect for wives traveling with their officer husbands. Until her taking her place with Armstrong any wife who traveled with the Army was considered in the way and distracting to the mission, simply a camp follower.

One of the most interesting women was Charlie Hatfield who eloped at 14 and was widowed by a small time river rat and left with two children by the time she was 18 or so. She put her children in a convent school, dressed as a man and spent a large part of her life tracking down and killing her husband's murderer. She panned for gold in California, served in the Civil War, ran a bakery-saloon--interesting combination among other enterprises before returning to life as a wife and mother.

Of course, no book about stalwart Western women would be complete without mention of Calamity Jane. But here Jane is not the hard drinking, foul mouthed oxen team driver we are used to hearing about but rather a nurse to small pox victims in their isolated tents.

But, as interesting as these women's lives were, my two favorites are Cathy Williams, who, after emancipation, chose for her path the life of a Buffalo Soldier and Juliet Nichols who served as lighthouse keeper on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay and who, for 20 hours and 35 minutes used a hand held hammer to loudly tap 2 times every 15 seconds on the bell that would warn ships away from the trecherous rocks below.

I've read the works of Ann Seagraves about the Soiled Doves and other Women of the West in her readable series and I've read Vanished Arizona by the wife of an Army officer during the time of the Indian wars. This book certainly continues the stories they tell about women who, despite the possibility of being ostrasized and losing the respect of other women and men of the time, did what they deemed necessary to survive and succeed in harsh circumstances, often without any support from others.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

If You LOVE Ribbon--You'll Like This!

Are you all ready? Here it is, our little sneaky peeky of the Summer 2011 line!!!
Post a comment right here & on the post to enter to win one of 2 prizes!
Good luck to all!
May Arts | Wholesale Ribbon | Fabric Ribbon
May Arts is a wholesale ribbon company that supplies a wide variety of high quality ribbons, at affordable prices, with worldwide delivery. All inventory is held in stock for fast shipping.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Cold, Gray Spring Day

To continue my comments regarding Spring earlier this morning, I got all the pots hung on the porch--well, actually I planted them and Bill hung them--but I guess I got him to do it. The lawn is mowed despite its thickness and length, although it took most of the afternoon and a stop at our local tuner upper to get it going again after it bogged down in the heaviest growth. Listened to a country CD recorded by a friend's son and then tuned to NPR for some blues etc. Finally, when it went to talk with Bill Styron's daughter I turned on my computer and played the early 1900's music I've downloaded to a playlist from the Library of Congress. All of this music kept me planting and grooving at the same time. The wind kept the majority of black flies at bay but it also sent apple blossoms cascading in snowlike drifts to the ground. Sigh, they've only been open a few days but much like the flowers of the South they've perfumed the air so wonderfully. I'll miss their beautiful aroma.

Once the work was done I took the perambulation that I usually do every day but haven't for several because of the cold and damp. How could I have forgotten that the first flowers of Spring were not the wildflowers but the lovely purple crocuses on the south facing slope on the far side of the driveway? Now that slope is covered with the green lacy leaves of crown vetch which is not yet in bloom but the slope opposite is covered in the lovely creeping phlox that has spread farther than I'd realized. Cut a few sprigs of lilac as planned--their scent is every bit as delightful as the appleblossoms just opening on the crab apples next to them. The last of the daffodils, which I'd forgotten we'd planted on this far side of the yard, in a small cluster bent gracefully in the breeze. Not sure if last year's rose bushes have made it or not--don't see much evidence of life -but then again, the old transplants from a woodland cellar hole don't look very lively either and I'm sure they are fine. The lily of the valley leaves are up--but will there be lovely white bells? These were my Dad's favorite flower. I hope they take.

Imagine my surprise in the tree line to see multitudinous little yellow violets. There are so many more wildflowers there since Bill thinned the trees--more light has sure encouraged their proliferation. As I turned to look at the house from this side I was thrilled to see the bleeding hearts have burst into flower and the spurge is magnificent. The Barlows are in bud so they will be flowering soon as well. Crane geraniums are up but not flowering yet. Just incredible how one or two days changes the gardens so much. The peony tulips are going crazy,too. The peony bushes are heavy with buds ( listening to Yiddishe Nightingale--from the old Yiddish theatre--not Kletzmer--but funny).

Came indoors and found that the small bouquet of lilacs looked too scrawny in Mom's milkglass so used blue vase from the New Hampshire Craft Show in Sunapee several years ago. Much better--there will be lots of other flowers to put in the milkglass. Here are a few shots of today's stroll and porch decor.

Now, I'm singing Mandy loudly with a quartet of men who would be over 120 years old if they were still alive! At least that considering my Mom would be 110 and these guys recorded about the time she was born----Mandy there's a minister handy and it should would be dandy if you'd let me make the fee....... I know the words to so many of these songs--my grandmother taught them to me. I used to imagine her a young woman listening to these songs as her children slept. She taught me to dance, too! But I digress--here are the pix.

Reflections on a Cold and Rainy Spring

Have there been any sunny warm days this Spring? I don't remember any but I know there have been a few since I remember sitting on our porch listening to Car Talk with Bill or sorting through magazines as he worked on his nickel collection or brushed our remaining cat or doing the check books as he read the new Coin World. Mostly though it has been cold enough and damp enough to need a fire in the wood stove or turn up the thermostat or wear a turtle neck under a heavy sweater. I thought I wanted to move to New Mexico only from February to the middle of April. Now I'm thinking maybe six months there and six here, but not really.

Despite the miserable weather the gardens and surrounding trees and woodlands beneath the tree line have gone on their merry Springtime way. It began with the eruption of spring beauties and hepaticas--those dainty, lovely, vulnerable starlike white and pinkish and purplish ground huggers making a beautiful carpet as far as the eye could see along the Soot Highway, though this year Soot wasn't here to trot daintily among them on her way to the lower fields and cat adventures of mouse and mole hunting. There have been no proud announcements of the successful capture of a new plaything, eventually a delicious raw,warm bloody meal. No attempts to bring it into the house for a ceremonial presentation. So amid the happiness of discovery of the beautiful harbingers of Spring, I wept.

Soon though my mind moved on as it does when grief lets loose for a bit and the hepaticas and spring beauties were joined by ramps ( I call them wild leeks ) and Dutchmen's britches which I just adore. Bill used the ramps for his famous onion, potato and chorizo breakfast stir fry--I guess he doesn't love the potato-leek soup I always made with the leeks when we had access to the huge bed in Montpelier. Then again there are really not as many here so it would have been a paltry soup.At last, the purple trillium popped through as well.

As Mother nature was bringing on her gardens ours started to bloom as well--the forsythia, which has never been as heavily laden with flowers as those along the railroad heading home to Glens Falls from New York City, was quietly golden on the ridge on the north side of the driveway. The pasque flower, which bloomed well past pasque, was extravagant in its purple and yellow blooms. The irises and lilies as well as the daffies were all several inch tall green spears piercing the wet, brown earth and Mother Pond's chives matched them inch for inch.

As the wild flowers started to fade with one last burst of Bloodroot, the daffies came into full glory. The bed of King Alfred's --a hundred bulbs given us as a wedding present by Bill's Aunt Mabel -- created a sea of molten gold as they have for over 27 years and the mixed daffie bed at the foot of the Soot highway created a mottled white, pale yellow and coral carpet to be cut bit by bit for a series of bouquets gracing my kitchen counter, in the crystal vase given me by my Parisian friend, Josianne, as a house guest gift also over 20 years ago. One thing the cold and damp did accomplish--the life of the forsythia and daffodils was greatly extended. But soon, they too died away to be replaced by the unusually full purple rhododendrons whose beautiful color was only surpassed by the bright yellow and black of the bumblebees that filled them busily gathering nectar and pollen and buzzing up a storm. But now the torrential thunderstorms of the past several days have pelted all the petals to the ground and the bees will need to move on.

But not from our yard--oh, no--for on your right along the driveway, ladies and gentlemen, are the gorgeous lilacs and apple blossoms and blue and pink and white creeping phlox. Just opening and soon to be cut--just a few--some old-fashioned purple lilacs to go in the milk glass vase that was my Mother's and in which she always placed purple lilacs from the huge shrub my sister and I gave her for Mother's day one year. Last I knew it still grows at the base of the flagpole Dad put on our side lawn over 50 years ago. No one will ever get that pole down or the one that holds the mailbox either--Dad cemented those babies in to last forever! LOL

The wonderful serviceberry, high above my head, is now just another green tree and no one who does not know it would ever suspect the huge white blossoms tinged with pink that hung on curved branches encircling the brilliant blue sky and daytime half moon on one of the few sunny glorious days that did come this month. The clematis is leafing out and trying to climb on anything nearby. The blueberry bushes are laden with flowers--hopefully that means a good crop of berries this year, unlike the sparse showing last year. The apple blossoms too seem to indicate a better crop for my deer this winter--don't know what the poor things did this past horrible season.

Last Monday in the freezing, rainy cold Bill and I went and bought plants for the pots we put on the porch. The morning glories--only heavenly blue--the cherry tomatoes,hot peppers, marigolds are in the window boxes we line up along the edge of the porch. He has had peas and onions and leeks and potatoes and carrots and parsnips and radishes in the garden for a long time. The cole crops went in this week.So, the raised beds are looking groomed and some little plants are showing themselves, much to the delight of the woodchucks one of which bought the ranch last week. :(

Today, I will plant my hanging pots of lobelia, portulaca, Hawaiian blue eyes, impatiens. In the large standing pots will go my coleus, petunias. The pansies and butterfly yellow daisies will take their normal place in the half barrels. Wonder if we'll find anymore mousie construction? The birds are taking the strands from our first discovery to build their nests. I saw one enterprising gold finch lady attempting to pull short fibers out of my pot hanger so I'd also better get some building materials out there or my pots will go plop!

Ah, the sun is making a weak showing so I'd better get going. I hear Bill somewhere in the outback trying to mow down the foot high grass. Once we get all the planting and mowing stuff done we will regroup and probably head out to two more greenhouses tomorrow to fill in any gaps in the landscaping, porch and garden. And then more planting.

It is funny how long winter is---there is not as many changes to use to judge the passing of time. But as the ebb and flow of our flowers progress time seems to fly --wasn't it just yesterday I rejoiced in the appearance of the hepatica? And,now, unless you recognize the unique shape of its leaves you'd never know it had ever been. Sort of like us, or our cats. If you didn't know you'd never pick out Soot's Highway or her burial place along her other path that she used to return from her patrolling the estate.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jodi Compton's Hailey Cain Returns in July

Thieves Get Rich, Saints Get Shot: A NovelThieves Get Rich, Saints Get Shot: A Novel by Jodi Compton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not the actual edition I read but since the uncorrected proof which I won in the Goodreads Giveaway is not listed I am using the hard cover edition. This is one of the best first reads I have won and it apparently is the seond in a series with Hailey Cain, a West Point dropout ( not really) and present day member of an all girl LA gang ( really ) As a matter of fact she is the only white member and is the blond lieutenant,Insula, for the leader, Serena "Warchild" Delgadilla, a friend since high school. Serena's original second in command, "Trippy" Rosa was removed to give Hailey this position and Rosa is not only bitter she has vowed to remove both Insula and Warchild and take over the gang.

As if this were not enough to cope with Magnus Ford, the anti-gang detective for the LAPD seems to be interested in the doings of Warchild. None of this is as pressing as the soon to be released APB for the arrest of Hailey Cain for the murder of two people in San Francisco, one of whom was an off duty cop. In actuality, Serena and Hailey, at the time of the murders, were hijacking, not one, but two semis loaded with pharmaseuticals outside LA. The evidence is pretty strong however, since Hailey's ID and gun were used in the SF crime. Her finger print is on the casing of the bullet that killed the cop and Hailey has been living in LA under the radar so she will have a tough time proving she has not been in SF.

The story is fast paced and there are all types of characters, made men with whom Hailey has a history, a scam artist who used her ID to finagle her way into the trust of a rich widow in SF, a cute cop and his boss, the aforementioned Magnus Ford, who does not believe Hailey is guilty. How Hailey and Serena discover the whereabouts of the real killer and the final thrilling car-bike chase through the hills of LA keeps you turning the pages wondering what will happen next.

The final solution to it all leaves it open ended as Hailey gives up the dream of a romance with her cousin--strange --and agrees to join Magnus in his new post - retirement security business.

I have to read the first book, Hailey's War, because though Compton fills in a lot of her backstory I'd still like more detail of what went on in Hailey's life before this episode. And I am surely putting this author on a watch list so that I will read the next installment of Hailey's adventures.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Saga of a Country Mouse

The weather has been cold and dreary and rainy here all these many days. Despite the lack of encouragement from Mother Nature we are in the process of transforming the bare, gray porch on which are stored flower pots etc into what becomes an outdoor extension of our living room. We create a mini bower of flowers and vegetables in which we spend most of the nice weather, whenever it arrives.

Today Bill has planted his flower boxes of hot peppers and marigolds, and the morning glories that will become the Eastern wall of my special napping and reading hammock chair corner. He also has set up the pots that will hold the climbing cherry tomatoes supported by each porch post. He then turned his attention to the bench upon which my decorative clay pots are stored--he will fill them with soil for me and I will plant my coleus, petunias, pansies etc in them.

The pots are often stored one within another, upside down and so he began to excavate one pile on the far end of the bench. He removed the first pot and sunflower seeds and empty shells cascaded in all directions. The second pot removal produced nothing unusual, but when the third pot came off there was a rather vibrant green structure nicely rounded and cozy sitting on the bottom of the last pot. A curious head popped out of the center hole--surprising both the popper at seeing a large human type gazing down at her (?) and the poppee at seeing two small beady black eyes gazing at him. To be sure she was seeing correctly the little popper withdrew quickly and then popped her head as quickly out the side. Yup. A human! So she rapidly withdrew once more.

Bill called to me to come and so out I went, not knowing what to expect. As I bent for a closer look Mrs Mouse decided she'd had enough and with a moon and flick of her tail she departed out the back of the nest and down through a space between floor boards and gone. Upon further exploration I saw that she had ecologically reused the fibers of a perfectly good plant hanger to construct her winter hideaway. We aren't sure if there are little mousies still cozily nesting inside so we've decided to leave it alone for the time being and see what develops.

Our darling Soot would never have tolerated this boldness but Misty, better known as Queen La, who only goes out at night, will probably never notice. Soot is probably spinning--we saw a chipmunk the other day, too , and she had wiped that population out.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

You Belong to Me by Karen Rose ( a Review)

You Belong to MeYou Belong to Me by Karen Rose

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a first reads win that I received to day--May 10. I dug right in and am on page 86 already! So far it is a page turner and I'm hooked. Don't think I'll be doing anything else but reading today.

Storm rolling in and a man, quite ill, boards his boat planning on suicide. As he sets the scene to make his death look like an accident another man appears from below with a letter in one hand, a knife in the other, demanding to know who else was involved in the beating and rape and death of his sister 21 years earlier. Within seven pages the reader has met the vengeful younger brother and his first two victims. One page later a Baltimore medical examiner, Lucy Trask, rounds a curve on her predawn jog and

finds the sleeping body of Mr Pugh, a beloved neighbor and former music teacher sitting at a chess table. When she tries to rouse him and help him back to their apartment building, he slumps forward, his hat falls off and his face, beaten beyond recognition, brings the awful realization that victim number three has been found. Thus starts a page turner of a mystery in which the reader knows who the killer is, sort of---his name, his motivation but not what he looks like. Lucy and the detectives who become involved in the case, Stevie Marzetti and JD Fitzgerald also realize that the killer is trying to terrorize her by making sure that it is she who finds the victims as the body count rises. Connections to Lucy's hometown and her family, particularly her deceased brother, are unearthed yet the connection to her in particular remains undiscovered as does the identity of the person who is obviously someone in her circle of friends or co-workers or her past.

The more brutal murders committed, some not related at all to the horror that happened 21 years earlier, the more involved Lucy and JD become, the more revelations of both their pasts, the more mysterious the story becomes and the more desperate the police and others are to find the murderer before he strikes again. At one point, it seemed I knew who it was but then, once that character became an almost victim, I was as lost as the investigators, official and otherwise, in the book.

The ripples of an old crime started destroying lives immediately and continue until the last notes of the coda fade away at the end of this book . You will not be able to put it down until Lucy has all the answers and you do, too.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Book Giveaway--The Wedding Shawl by Sally Goldenbaum!

Review and giveaway: The Wedding Shawl by Sally Goldenbaum"
Head on over to


for a great synopsis of this cozy mystery involving a group of ladies who are knitting a wedding shawl for one of the group. Seems there was a murder in this quiet little seacoast town 15 years ago and it is unsolved. Now a lady who was best friends with the victim has been murdered and they shared a friendship with the same young man. The ladies decide to investigate and as they say--the plot thickens. Hmmmm