Emerging

I have emerged from the No Direct Sunlight Zone. No more antibiotics, thank goodness. A trip into NYC earlier in the week. And yesterday…a hike up in the mountains.

It’s been a long time! And my achy muscles have confirmed that this morning. But it was worth it.

aug friday me

Can you tell that I’m happy?

aug friday rocky path

The rock formations are incredible.

aug friday view

And you can’t beat the views.

aug friday view 2

It was so nice to get back up there. But it’s been so long that I’ll need to build up those hiking muscles again.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

aug friday new dawn rose

A few New Dawn rose buds are starting to open. This is a treat for me because most of them opened while I was away in Chautauqua, which made me sad. Hello beautiful rose.

And the morning glories keep coming.

aug friday morning glory

Reminders: There’s a giveaway going on over at Just Let Me Finish This Page. There’s also a book review today of Invisible City by Julia Dahl. Stop on by.

Happy Friday.

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Out and About in the City

How about some photos of NYC today? After editing them in Lightroom, I realized a lot of them are of green spaces and parks, due, I’m sure, to my need to take refuge from Tuesday’s heat.

NYC - stand of trees

This gorgeous stand of trees is located on 81st Street, just off Central Park West.

NYC - leaves on ground

Ummm….that’s a lot of leaves on the ground for August. Gulp.

NYC - 81 & CPW

Central Park West and 81st. Several years ago, I was up here every day when I was coaching Shakespeare in the Park. The best part? Walking along the streets at night, catching a glimpse of the interiors of the apartments; a bit of curtain here, some bookshelves there, a beautiful lamp, art on the wall.

NYC - brownstone1

A brownstone. Check out the gorgeous detail.

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More brownstones. They don’t make them like this anymore. Unfortunately.

NYC - brownstone3

Be still my heart. May I please have a little pied à terre in this building? I’d be perfectly happy with a little studio apartment where we can spend the night when we have to work in the city.

That seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

NYC - empire cake2

Love this. A bakery full of cakes and cupcakes. (I managed to keep myself from entering the door, but it wasn’t easy.) Love the fonts used in their logo.

NYC - empire cake1

Perfect.

Now I want a cupcake.

NYC - Union Square

Union Square. Nearby? The Strand bookstore.

And from home:

NYC - morning glory

More morning glories. Sigh.

If you stop by Just Let Me Finish This Page, you’ll see that I’m having an extra-special giveaway.

Yep.

Happy Thursday.

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Meeting Louise Penny

A long day yesterday and a hot and humid one at that!

New York City was sunny – always good – but traipsing around in the stickiness made for a tired, tired girl at the end of the day.

I went to the Strand Bookstore and had a lovely time among the stacks. I wanted so many books but limited myself to two. Interestingly, I didn’t find the editions of Hamlet that I wanted, which was a surprise. I stopped by Anthropologie. Gorgeous and inventive displays, as always. But I didn’t buy anything.

Then I walked over to Chelsea Market, which is in an old building that has been renovated and now includes all sorts of smallish restaurants and shops. Several companies have office space there, including The Food Network and MLB.com and Oxygen (Oprah’s network.) But boy, was it crowded with tourists! I grabbed an expensive grilled cheese sandwich (everything is pricey in NYC) and did some people watching.

WED google

Look at what’s right across the street from Chelsea Market. (Even here in the city, they’re watching me!)

After that, I headed on up to the Upper West Side. I happened upon a used bookstore where I found two editions of Hamlet at a great price. Victory!

WED Roosevelt Park

I sat for a while in this little park that is right next to the American Museum of Natural History. I’ll have more photos of the city for you tomorrow. I didn’t take a whole lot, however, because it was so darned humid!

Eventually, I headed over to Barnes & Noble, where I figured I’d grab a bite to eat in the café. When I checked out the area where Louise Penny would be speaking, I noticed there were people already there. (It was around 5:00 pm.) So I got my food to go and plopped down in a seat. Eventually, two other early arrivers sat nearby and I had a wonderful conversation with these women about how much we love Louise Penny’s books. It was great fun, like being in a Louise Penny Fan Club, which I suppose we are. The husband of one of the women also came along. He’s apparently a voracious reader and he loves her books, as well. Lots of stimulating conversation as we sat waiting for the start of the presentation.

Goodness, was it fun! Ms. Penny came out and spoke to us for about 20 minutes; she spoke of her childhood and of discovering at a young age that she wanted to be a writer. But a career at the CBC won out for a number of years until one day, at the age of 45, her husband said that if she really wanted to write a book, he would support her financially while she was doing it. She spoke about the very early days when she thought about the town she was creating – drawing a map of the town of Three Pines, a map she still has. And she spoke of deciding that she wanted to write about characters that she would like to have as friends; her idea being that if you’re going to spend as much time as a writer must spend with characters, she wanted them to be interesting and complex people she would like to hang around with. She spoke of doubts, of taking that first step and putting words on the page, of trying to find a publisher. (Her publisher and editor were sitting in the row in front of me.)

She is funny, charming and very honest. (I want to be her friend.) She also opened the floor to questions from the audience.

Then it was time for the book signing and we all got in a long line and awaited our turn.

WED Louise signing

There she is!

When it came time for me, one of the employees saw my iPhone and said he’d be happy to take a photo of Louise and me.

WED Louise and me 2

Then we chatted a bit and I told her about the blog (this one) and that I’d raved about her books here, which resulted in quite a few new readers and fans. She was so effusive about that, thanking me and saying how powerful social media could be for an author. I thanked her for sharing her talents with us and for writing all about Three Pines and Inspector Gamache. (By the way, she pronounces it with a short a (as in cat) in the second syllable, not with an ‘ah’ as I had been doing!) She grabbed my hand and thanked me for reading the books and spreading the word.

WED Penny autograph

And the inscription: For Claudia – Thank you for telling so many others!

Sigh. I want to live in Three Pines and dine at The Bistro and chat with Louise Penny.

Here’s the book:

WED The Long Way Home

Gosh, she’s terrific.

I’m so glad I went, though I didn’t get home until almost 11:00. Tired today, but very happy indeed that I decided to go for it and attend the event. If you can ever see her, I urge you to. She’s a wonderful speaker – warm and charming and everything you thought she would be.

Happy Wednesday.

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Zinnias

saturday-zinnia with aphid

Don has decided that zinnias are his favorite flower. He loves to wander over to the Chicken Wire Fence Garden to see the new blooms. He’s fascinated by all the different colors and designs. He asks me a lot of questions about them.

tuesday zinnia 1

The other day, I found him researching them online.

He knows a lot about them now. More than me.

tuesday zinnia 2

Truth be told, zinnias fascinate me. The endless variety, the never knowing what color 0r shape is going to come out of the ground. The tall sturdiness of them. This one, with its candy cane petals, took me completely by surprise.

tuesday zinnia 3

They are immensely cheery flowers. And here in the Northeast they bloom later in the summer, which makes for a welcome sight in an otherwise tired garden.

I can hear the Canada Geese honking as they fly over the house. Another sign of Fall. Leaves are on the ground. The light is more golden.

Hold off a bit will you? I’m not ready for Fall. Morning glories are blooming, roses are blooming, zinnias are opening daily. The temps today are going to be just shy of 90 degrees. We’re still in the midst of summer, thank you very much.

I’m off to Manhattan today. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Happy Tuesday.

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On the Agenda: Coffee, Books and NYC

Two foggy mornings in a row.

I love a foggy morning. It’s such a sweetly mysterious way to start the day. If my memory serves, those kind of mornings seem to happen more often as we move into Autumn.

Hurrah! I had my first cup of coffee this morning with half and half. No more black coffee because of the antibiotics. See? My needs are few. But it didn’t taste quite the same to me as the coffee does when Don makes it, so when he got up I asked him about it. Turns out he adds an extra scoop. Ah! Bless him, he made another cup for me and I am happily sipping it while working away on the laptop.

purple thistle

These thistles are growing wild alongside the house. Lucky me!

I’ve decided to treat myself to a trip into NYC tomorrow. I have to buy some material for my work on Hamlet, and what better place to go but my favorite bookstore in the world – The Strand. And, to top it all off, I’m going to Barnes & Noble on the Upper West Side, where Louise Penny will be signing her newest book, The Long Way Home.

I’m so excited! I decided that after being housebound for so long, I deserved a treat and Don agrees wholeheartedly. So I’ll take off in the morning, go to The Strand and spend lots of time there and maybe stop by Anthropologie and then I’ll have a meal somewhere before I head to B &N (early) so that I can be in line for the 7:00 pm event.

All about NYC and books tomorrow. And finding a new pair of readers, since mine broke the other day. I’m wearing an older pair at the moment.

New post up on Just Let Me Finish This Page today. Stop by.

Happy Monday.

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Weekend Thoughts

The weekend so far has been nicely slow, an unhurried pace of a weekend that suits me fine.

I talked Don into making his Vegan Blueberry Pancakes yesterday morning. Need I say more?

We went to the grocery store and to our little library where a copy of The Heist by Daniel Silva was waiting for me. I had been in a long queue for this book so I was surprised and happy that it was now available. Since I had barely started The Marco Effect by Jussi Adler-Olson (which is on my Kindle) I made a U-turn and started The Heist. I also checked out two other books which I will probably talk about on Just Let Me Finish This Page. Two books written by writers about their love of reading – I love books about books, if you know what I mean.

I watered all the potted plants and The Chicken Wire Fence Garden. I read. I did a NY Times crossword puzzle (a tough one, I modestly say.) I scrubbed the bathtub. We watched Marty on TCM.

Today? More of the same. Reading, writing, a little cleaning.

Work will soon begin on Hamlet, the show I’m coaching next, but I think I’ll wait until next week.

Currently blooming all over the property:

yellow beauty

Beautiful Goldenrod. It’s right alongside some Purple Loosestrife and the combination of the yellow and purple is gorgeous. (I’m not worried about the Purple Loosestrife, it isn’t invasive here. It just blooms in the wetter parts of the property and it’s beautiful.)

I was watering plants on the porch and I saw this beauty on the Butterfly Bush.

giantswallowtail 1

Yes, it’s blurry, sorry, as the butterfly was moving its wings very quickly. The butterfly was very large in size, so I did some research. It’s the Giant Swallowtail. I had to crop this photo down from one I took from a distance. Right after I took this, I cautiously walked around the porch to the bush and got this view:

giantswallowtail 2

Stunningly beautiful. Nature is stupendously wondrous and amazing.

I don’t understand why anyone would ever capture a butterfly. They should be magical and elusive and free. I should try to take a photo and be frustrated because the butterfly moves and flits and then disappears. That’s the way it should be. Those moments, those seconds in time, where the butterfly appears and then soars into the air and over the trees, those moments make me smile.

Today is my last day on the antibiotics. Tomorrow? I can have coffee with half and half first thing in the morning. Cannot wait. And we can start hiking again this week – no more worries about the sun.

Happy Sunday.

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A Favorite Movie and Newly Favorite Author

This is what I saw when I let Scout out this morning:

saturday-fivecrowsinthetree

Five crows hanging out in our dead tree. At first, I thought they might be turkey vultures because I saw one up in the tree the other day. But their noisy calls soon told me they were crows.

We watched It Happened One Night yesterday. It has to be one of my favorite movies ever. It makes me happy. It’s funny and sad and wise and happy and it’s directed by the great Frank Capra, with a cast of wonderful character actors and, of course, Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable (in what I personally think is his best performance ever.) It was the perfect way to end a bit of a tough day. Thank goodness for TCM On Demand. We almost went with Roman Holiday, which was airing live on TCM, but I own that movie and we knew we could see it anytime.

Have you seen It Happened One Night? I have so many favorite scenes, but the scene on the bus with everyone singing “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze” has to be one of them, along with every scene taking place in an ‘Auto Park,’ little groups of cottages where you could spend the night as you journeyed across America in your car. Don and I watch the scene inside the little cottage as the rain falls outside and wish we were back in that time, when traveling in a car was new and exciting and full of adventure.

(I just took a break from writing this because Don got up and we immediately started talking about how much we love that movie.)

In the past week or so, we’ve watched three of our favorite movies: Ball of Fire, His Girl Friday and It Happened One Night. I could watch them again and again.

saturday-morning glory bud

I also just finished a beautifully written mystery by a new author – Invisible City by Julia Dahl. Brilliant! It centers on a reporter who investigates a murder in the enclave in Brooklyn that is home to the Orthodox community of Hasidic Jews. Absolutely riveting, fascinating and so well plotted. I can’t decide whether to officially review it on the book blog or just talk about it. But I will say that I recommend it highly. An absolutely stellar debut novel and the first in what will be a series about reporter Rebekah Roberts. (Yay!) I am not exaggerating one bit when I say I couldn’t put it down.

Now I’m starting The Marco Effect by Jussi Adler-Olsen. I read four of his mysteries in succession earlier this year. He’s a wonderful writer. I’ll write about Adler-Olsen and his books in an upcoming post on Just Let Me Finish This Page.

Happy Saturday.

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Winged Critters

Pictures today.

Scout’s under the weather, I’m tired (just 3 more days of antibiotics,) it’s cloudy and sort of rainy outside. Not rainy enough, however – we really need a couple of days of non-stop rain.

I’m going to retreat and read today. I need to lose myself in the pages of a book.

thurs - frittilary

A Great Spangled Frittilary. She was moving rather quickly, so this is the only shot I have.

thurs - hum moth

Hummingbird Moth in action. Those wings move awfully fast.

beetle on butterfly bush

Ah. The dreaded beetle. On my butterfly bush.

The fact is that Scout is hanging in there, but declining, and it’s hard for me to watch and I get very worried. I don’t talk about it very much because she is so deeply embedded in my heart that I simply can’t. I can’t go there. I have to take her with me to Hartford in September and that also worries me.

Send some healing prayers our way, okay?

(New post up on Just Let Me Finish This Page.)

Happy Friday.

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On a Frightening World

I’m thinking out loud here.

I don’t know about you, but I find the world rather frightening at the moment.

Ferguson. I have strong feelings about what happened there. I’m not going to share those feelings with you because, no matter what I feel, I still don’t know the whole story. None of us do.

That being said, I am appalled at the level of vitriol about the tragedy that took place there that I see on social media. Once again, some people seem to think hate-filled public discourse is the only path to take. And that anyone who disagrees with them must be called names, labeled a traitor, and dealt with accordingly.

Will we never learn?

thurs - candy striped zinnia

ISIS. I am heartsick at their slaughter of innocents, of anyone with different beliefs than theirs. I am horrified at what this group, a more dangerous entity than Al Quaeda, is carrying out in Syria and Iraq.

And now the latest, the horrific beheading of an American journalist. That act certainly brings this battle home, doesn’t it?

I am a pacifist. I am anti-war.

But I find myself saying, “Kill them. Kill them all.” That in itself is shocking to me. But maybe not so shocking, because that reaction is a visceral one, from my core. It’s some sort of primal thing. There can be no reasoning with this group. They are murderous zealots.

But am I then as bad as them?

Oh, I have so much more I could say. About innocent children being shipped back to countries where they will most certainly be in danger and may lose their lives. And, in fact, have. About the conflict in Israel and Gaza that never seems to end, where more innocent lives have been lost and where images of injured and dead children cannot be erased from my memory.

And on and on it goes.

Whatever one’s political leanings, I think we can agree that the loss of innocent lives is a tragedy that should never be labeled as something that is a regretful, but, unfortunately sometimes necessary, by-product of war. I’ve heard it described that way - very recently, in fact.

The wars and murders that have been perpetrated under the guise of ‘religion’ are legion. And it never seems to stop.

I have no answers but I do know this: We cannot lose our fundamental sense of humanity.

And I absolutely know that God, a Higher Power, Allah, Divine Intelligence, whatever name you prefer, is not the creator and/or cheerleader for any of this.

No, indeed.

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A Scrappy Little Garden

At this point in the summer, it becomes increasingly obvious that things are changing. There’s a shift: more leaves on the ground, coneflowers looking past their prime, the yellowing of leaves after days and days of the hot August sun with no rain.

The sedum, always a spot of color in Autumn, is clearly gearing up for its show.

And then there’s my scappy little Chicken Wire Fence Garden. In this gardening zone, the morning glories don’t really begin to take off until mid-August. The zinnias start to bloom at the end of July and continue to bloom through August and September.

The Chicken Wire Fence Garden is cobbled together, planted in the soil in front of the rusty fence. It reminds me, more than anything around here, of a flower garden that might be found on a farm. It’s spare, almost utilitarian, but beautiful in its way.

Wed - chickenwirefencegarden

A landscape designer wouldn’t be impressed by this, that’s for sure.

I like it’s scrappiness. I like the bare bones quality of it.

It’s such fun. It makes the end of summer much more bearable. The morning glories will bloom until the first frost. The zinnias are always a surprise, each one different.

Like this one that just started blooming – a welcome splash of yellow!

Wed - yellow zinnia

But gosh, the morning glory vines are slow to grow this year.

We need rain. I water them every day, but we really need a good, long soaking.

Here is the latest bloom, which just opened this morning.

Wed - morning glory and vine

Another view:

Wed - morning glory number three

Sigh. I love my scrappy little garden.

There’s a new post up on Just Let Me Finish This Page – a book review of M. C. Beaton’s latest Agatha Raisin mystery, The Blood of an Englishman. Stop by!

And the winner of a copy of After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman is Lee. Congratulations, Lee. I’ve sent you an email.

Happy Wednesday.

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