For some reason I can add sidebars, but not new posts. Please check back later. I have been working on a variety of things including switching my blog soon from this one, which was set up with my now-defunct West Wisconsin Telcom account. I hope to have my new blog through Gmail up soon. I will provide a link and announcement when I've got everything straight. 7/2/11

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The collapse of the Great Wall of Pierce County

Living on a hillside, we have a number of retaining walls. This week we have one less. Carl’s raspberry bushes are also probably goners, too! All part of country living I suppose.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Recently re-read: Antonia Fraser’s first three Jemima Shore novels

I became a fan of Fraser’s books back in the 1970s—not only her Jemima Shore books, but also her history books, beginning with Mary Queen of Scots. I recently bought the first three Shore mysteries, which had been reissued in attractive paperbacks and settled in to re-read them in the order they were written. I found the first two, Quiet as a Nun and Tartan Tragedy, as pleasant to read now as I did 30 years ago. At that time, the thought of a woman journalist with her own popular investigative reporting series on TV was an unusual concept. The third book, however, bothered me and that fact shows how much the world has changed in those decades since it was written and I first read it. In A Splash of Red, everyone takes as a matter of life the fact that Jemima’s friend has a lover who beats her up. Then, when the friend disappears and the lover starts hanging around Jemima and holding her hostage, Jemima isn’t outraged. The behavior apparently was not considered abnormal back in England at that time (late 1970s and early 1980s), and I obviously didn’t see it when I read it then as a big deal, either. It is not the main plot of the book, but just part of the character development of Jemima’s friend and the friend’s lover. Now, in today’s world, it just no longer fits.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Today is . . .

Today lingers around the edges of the sunlight, clear and crisp with new spring green flowing down the hillsides, song birds calling out with the promise of lilac-scented mornings soon to come.

See September 21, 2008 for the genesis of my “today is . . . ” postings.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Florida Center for the Literary Arts Writers’ Institute

Miami Dade College hosts four days of workshops, consultations with editors and agents, and other valuable sessions for all types of writers. The Institute runs from May 6 through May 9. These sorts of events, where you are surrounded by people who love words and who make their living from words, are so inspirational and can be an invaluable source for getting your work out into the world. Visit the web site for more information.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Recently read: Michael Collins’ Lost Souls

Another author I’ve recently discovered is Michael Collins. Born and raised in Ireland, I thought he caught the flavor of small town sports and politics gone awry, as often portrayed in the seedy image of the American small town in many books and movies (not one, however, I’ve experienced in real life, even though I live in small town America). The novel takes place in a small Indiana town, but bears no resemblance to the upbeat spirit of that excellent film, Hoosiers. This book won’t lift your spirits, but it is an interesting read. The local cop, who is one of the most depressed detectives I’ve encountered, gets drawn in by the mayor and police chief to cover up evidence in a hit and run. The suspect is the star of the high school football team on the eve of the team’s run for the state championship. What seems like a simple and illegal solution turns out to be far more complex than anyone could imagine. The characters are complex as well. The ins and outs of the plot, as Collins leads the readers and the characters through each twist, are gripping.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tomorrow is Earth Day

Some thoughts on buying "green" from Green America Come Together at

Five things you should always buy “green” are paint (low or no-VOC), paper (recycled), light bulbs (compact fluorescents), appliances (look for the Energy Star label) and produce that is organic, local and in season.

Things not to buy include Styrofoam cups, paper towels, bleached coffee filters, teak, mahogany, chemical pesticides and herbicides, plastic forks and spoons, and farm-raised salmon.

And another thing, go ahead and plant that tree tomorrow!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Russian Tea Time restaurant

When you are in downtown Chicago, near Grant Park and the Art Institute, be sure to have a meal at the Russian Tea Time restaurant. My understanding is that historically there has not been a tradition of eating out in restaurants in Russia, neither under the Czars nor when the U.S.S.R. was our nemesis. As a result, Russian cuisine is not familiar to most of us in America. This was only the second time I’ve eaten Russian food, and I love it! The décor looks like Dostoyevsky should be writing at a nearby table, the service is excellent, and even at 2:00 in the afternoon the place was crowed. We shared appetizers among the four of us, starting with Pumpkin Vareniky, which are a type of dumpling filled with pumpkin, farmer’s cheese, garlic and onion with cinnamon butter. We were too chicken to try the Vodka Flights served Russian style—we were afraid we wouldn’t be able to walk back to the hotel! Check out the full menu at

Friday, April 17, 2009

Recently read: J. Robert Janes’ Sandman

This is the second novel I’ve read by this author and historian, who sets his grim mysteries in Paris during the Nazi Occupation. A French detective of the Surete and a German from the Gestapo form an unlikely team and an unlikely friendship in this series of fascinating books featuring Jean-Louis St-Cyr and Hermann Kohler. In this one, a serial killer seems to be targeting schoolgirls. St-Cyr and Kohler follow the trail from wealthy French collaborators to brothels, all the while ignoring the instructions from their superiors regarding who should be charged with the crimes. This book is not for the faint hearted.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Annual Writer’s Digest competition

Image courtesy of

Writer’s Digest has established itself as one of the main sources of inspiration, markets, classes and books for writers of all types—from freelancers to fiction writers. Its annual contest is a tradition for writers and the deadline is coming up: May 15. The first competition was in 1931, and it continues to be prestigious. Visit for contest rules, and a full list of categories, which range from self-published books to poetry.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Edvard Munch exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute

The most famous of Munch’s paintings is The Scream

It is rare that I’ve visited Chicago and not gone to the magnificent Chicago Art Institute. My trip at the end of March was no exception. The main exhibit, which runs through April 26, is on the Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch. Not one of my favorite artists, he nevertheless plays a part in the arts of the 19th and 20th centuries. Check out the information on the Institute’s site at

Monday, April 13, 2009

Recently read: Ross Thomas’ Briarpatch

This is the first book I’ve read by Thomas, and I plan on tracking down some more. First published in 1984, it was recently re-published. A female police detective is killed by explosives attached to her car, and her brother, Ben Dill, returns to their home town (it never really says where that is, but Thomas is from Oklahoma City). Dill uncovers some unsettling things about his baby sister, meets a lot of criminals and cops and politicians, and learns way more than he ever wanted to about his native city. The plot is good and moves at a fast pace. Worth reading.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lockwood restaurant at the Palmer House in Chicago, Illinois

Finally, my Internet Explorer is restored and I’m able to indulge in my penchant for Internet research again! As promised, I’ll be posting reviews of places in Chicago that we enjoyed during our five-day stay at the end of March.

First on our minds is always FOOD (closely followed by booze, of course). Both were excellent and upscale at the new Lockwood restaurant off the lobby of the Palmer House. The chef is Phillip Foss, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America who has worked at such places as Le Cirque in New York and the Four Seasons Resort in Maui (I haven’t actually eaten in either of those places). We enjoyed the Lockwood’s contemporary décor, the excellent service and of course the food. Our first night we had the prix fixee menu, which was reasonably priced and started off with the best mushroom soup either of us have ever had. And be sure to try the Chicago-style lobster hot dog served at the bar. The full-breakfast buffet was included in our room cost (I’m not sure if we paid extra or if that was because Carl is a Hilton Honors member) and was splendid.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fox Cities Book Festival

The Fox Cities Book Festival is being held in Appleton, Wisconsin, April 14 through April 19. For both readers and writers, the Festival celebrates the literary arts and “the pure joy of reading.” Some of the authors who will be at the Festival include Sherman Alexie, A. Manette Ansay, Simon Armitage, Elizabeth Berg, Samantha Chang, David Giffels, Phil Gulley, Michael Perry, and William Sleator. For more information, see

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Recently Read: David Fontana’s The new secret language of dreams

I’ve recently added “dream interpretation” to my list of obsessions, primarily because of this book. Fontana has been around awhile in the world of symbols, dreams, tarot, and meditations. This book was published first in 1988. The text doesn’t furnish the usual “dream dictionary” content (heck, you can get that from various Internet sites!), but it does provide useful insights, as well as case studies. The edition I bought (shown in the image with this blog) includes the most delightful illustrations—a large part of what intrigued me about the book. Interestingly, the edition doesn’t provide any credits or information on the illustrations.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In observance of National Poetry Month, Poets & Writers magazine is posting a daily poem on its web site at Maybe my Internet Explorer will be working before the end of the month so I can read a few . . .

Monday, April 6, 2009

Having a bad computer month

After returning from Chicago with a dozen ideas and research sources for postings, my Internet Explorer software decided to take its own vacation, leaving me with no access to the Internet. I’m able to do a “work-around” by using Carl’s system, but I don’t want to boot him off for too long at a time. So I’ll be posting book reviews, changing the puzzle and updating the contests, and will put more variety in my postings as soon as I’m back operating at full speed!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Recently read: Arturo Perez-Reverte’s The Seville Communion

This is the first time I’ve read anything by this Spanish author. What a find! I’m already hot on the trail of more of his books. In this one, set in contemporary Seville, a Roman priest, Father Lorenzo Quart, who serves, as near as I can tell, as a sort of Special Agent or hatchet man for an archbishop, is sent to Spain to investigate a computer hacker’s allegations regarding some deaths in a disintegrating church that stands on some valuable land in the heart of the city. Quart finds a fading aristocratic family, an ambitious banker, an unusual nun, a priest with a church forgotten by time, and a number of shadowy characters who drift between the respectable world and the underworld. The English translation is incredibly vivid (so I assume the original Spanish is just as poetic). I checked out Perez-Reverte’s web site ( ) and see he also writes historical works. I plan on getting more of his novels, both the contemporary ones and the historical ones.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Vacation’s over

Carl lounging at the Palmer House in Chicago

We’re back from a marvelous trip to Chicago, although hardly well rested. I feel like such a Country Mouse now—all plumb tuckered out from the crowds and noise and bustle at the heart of a metropolis! I’ll be posting some reviews of the magnificent restaurants, as well as the art exhibits, hotel, and travel suggestions over the next week or two. Now, to prepare for spring quarter at Globe University, which starts on Monday . . .