Category Archives: books

February Adventure

Today’s post comes from cynthiainmahtowa.

The First of February 2018 was a beautiful, sunny, crispy -10 F day. There was enough snow to snowshoe and I hadn’t been in the woods since I couldn’t remember when…years before my hip surgery. It was a Thursday, and Sunday afternoon our book club was meeting at my house to discuss “A River Runs Through It” by Norman McLean. As our group often does off- book things like skiing, hiking, canoeing, I thought it would be fun for people to ski or snowshoe down the Moose Horn River that meanders through my land.

But first to check it out.  Friend Daina and her Corgi, Jack, were willing to go through the woods, to the marsh and over the river with me. When we got to the marsh, however, Daina was afraid Jack would go through the ice and not be able to get out so she decided to take him home. I decided to travel on.

When I got to the river, I ventured on to the ice for about half a dozen steps when the ice gave out under me.  Suddenly, I was up to my armpits in ice-cold water. I don’t know how deep it was, my metal and rubber snowshoes wouldn’t let me get my feet under me.  Alas, I thought, “This is how I die.”

Though somehow I must not have believed that because I was hanging on to my Icelandic wool hat that I love and was NOT going to let it go! After a brief struggle, I floated myself over to the side of the river where there appeared to be a solid snow covered something. When I got to the embankment I saw a block of ice below me that I managed to get my snowshoes on.  With my one pole (I had hiking poles with me) I managed to pull myself back onto the ice, get standing up, pick up my other pole that I had left on top of the ice and headed back home.

Fortunately, I had on my polyester down parka and nylon ski pants. So I was not weighted down with water-soaked clothing. The worst was the water in my boots. I figured if I kept moving as fast as I could, I wouldn’t succumb to hypothermia. I was about 15 minutes through the woods and up the pasture from the house. At the power easement I considered going back on the road so someone would see me, but it was farther and open and the wind was bitter.

With some difficulty I got myself over the wire fencing and into the pasture. Halfway to the house, I saw Daina coming down to meet me. She, being brilliant in emergencies – and having experienced her husband’s hypothermia a few years ago – took over. She helped me into the house, out of my Sorel-like boots of man-made materials with frozen laces, my wet clothes and into the shower…then into bed with three or four layers of blankets, mugs of hot tea, chicken soup and liquid jello.

I never shivered, though in bed it felt like my deep core wanted to shake. But the adrenalin was coursing through my body the rest of the day and I was fully warmed up in time to feed my animals that evening…and before the day was over I cleaned and re-organized my cupboard of mugs.

I don’t know what the experience has done to my psyche, but looking back there seems to be a sense of appreciation and direction and confidence and generosity that I didn’t have before.

And when I got kicked in the thigh by Derby Horse the following Friday, the resulting hematoma didn’t seem like much of a big deal.

What was your scariest “adventure”?

Locked Door Mystery

Many of you know I have a complicated relationship with mystery writing. If I figure out the murderer too soon then I’m impatient with the other characters for not getting to it earlier.  If the author doesn’t give me all the clues so I can’t figure it out on my own, then I’m irritated beyond belief.  So it was interesting to me that I got hooked on a British series called Death in Paradise on Netflix a couple of weeks ago.

I realized after watching a few nights worth of episodes that the writers of the show rely very heavily on the locked-door mystery – in which the murder happens in a room or building locked from the inside. Locked-room mysteries almost always fall into the category of “author not giving you all the clues” so they are not my favorite.  But this week I have my own locked-room mystery.

On Tuesday night, I went into my studio with a box, which I put on my desk. Left after 5 seconds and shut the door behind me. Thursday morning, YA texted me “what happened in your studio?”  She then texted that it looked like one of my shelves had fallen down.  When I asked her to send me a photo, I got the above.  Yikes.

When I got home and saw the destruction in person it was clear that a lot more than a shelf falling down had happened in that room. Clearly one shelf, with the attached ribbon rod had come down and everything on it, but quite a bit of the items on the stable shelf had come down as well:  assorted mountains of paper, the box of orange ribbons, a large bin VERY full of individual beads, envelopes, paints, you name it.

But the mystery is how this happened. Normally when Nimue gets locked into a room, you remember letting her out because you’ve been looking for her. She doesn’t usually meow or make a noise to alert you, you just have to search.  She hasn’t been missing this week; neither YA nor I recall opening doors to look for her.  If we had been home, the noise of the shelf coming down would have been noticeable. It certainly seems like her kind of mess… maybe she jumped up on the one shelf and as it went down, she scrabbled onto the other shelf in a panic, knocking things down willy-nilly.  I thought maybe a squirrel loose in the room, but how would the squirrel have gotten in and then out?  Someone breaking into my house to mess up my studio doesn’t seem likely.  YA sleepwalking?  There’s no place for anyone to stand while making a mess like this and the mess is all things that fell, nothing else.  And since the studio is right across from my bedroom, I’m pretty sure that would have woken the dogs and me.

Like those mysteries in which the authors don’t give you all the clues, this one may be a mystery until the end of time!

What projects do YOU have scheduled this weekend?

Riled Up by Language

Yesterday I got all worked up (again) when “pescatarian” defined as a vegetarian who eat fish. If you eat fish you are not any kind of vegetarian.

So I was happy to read this footnote in Death From the Skies by astronomer Phil Plait:

“One of the best ways to tick off an astronomer – and it can be fun sometimes just to see how he reacts – is to mix up the terms meteor, meteoroid, and meteorite.  The very best way to tick off an astronomer is to call him an astrologer.”

Guess I’m not the only one who gets riled up by language.

What are you NOT?

Common Problems with Eclairs and Cream Puffs

Husband went to the college library last week and took out Practical Baking, a comprehensive compendium for the budding commercial baker. The book outlines in over 800 pages in very scientific and practical terms, all the baked goods one could possibly create, and all the problems that could occur, such as why icings and toppings might run without stabilizers, why puff pastries blister and flake, and why your Napoleon sheets are tough or break easily when handled. Husband was interested in the section devoted to common problems with hard rolls.  The book addresses common problems for every imaginable baked good.

The book also contains a suggested 6 month course of home study to become an accomplished baker.  Weeks 9 and 10, for example, are devoted to perfecting biscuits and muffins.  Husband brought the book home because he  really is interested in common problems with hard rolls (It is a concern specific to people from Sheboygan, WI), and also because it is so funny in its seriousness.

What how-to manual would you like to write?  What how-to manual would have made your life easier? Ever had an authentic bratwurst on a Sheboygan hard roll?  (You know what they say, its not the brat, its the bun!)

Epic Opening Lines

As I was wandering up the stairs at our public library the other day, my journey was arrested by the bright-colored bulletin board pictured in the header. This board is changed monthly, and frequently has things like Staff book picks, or children’s drawings with a book pick, etc.

But this was over the top! A bright orange sign up top announces “Epic Opening Lines”, and another orange sign to the left asks “Any of these sound familiar?” On brightly colored cards are printed thirty one- or two-sentence beginnings to a book; you can lift the flap to peek at the title and author of the book represented. It was a challenge to see if I could recognize any of them – a few were familiar, and one or two were obvious, but many I had never laid eyes on. I realized when I started looking them up at home that quite a few were Young Adult or children’s novels.

Since I doubt if you can read them all from the header, I’ll type several of them here, and see if any baboons can guess them – then I’ll reveal answers Sunday. Here you go:

1. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

2. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

3. They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me.

4. I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.

6. This is the saddest story I have ever heard.

10. The early morning sky was the color of cat vomit. Of course, Tally thought, you’d have to feed your cat only salmon-flavored cat food for a while, to get the pinks right.

11. The moment one learns English, complications set in.

14. “Where’s Papa going with that axe?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

15. Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex’s admonition, against Allen’s angry assertion: another African amusement… anyhow, as all argued, an awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa’s antipodal ant annexation.

16. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

17. It was a pleasure to burn.

20. Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I’ve come to learn, is women.

23. I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.

24. There is a right way to do things and a wrong way, if you’re going to run a hotel in a smuggler’s town. You shouldn’t make it a habit to ask too many questions, for one thing. And you probably shouldn’t be in it for the money.

27. All children, except one, grow up.

28. It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.

29. In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

30. Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.

Do you have a favorite opening line(s) from a book you’ve read?

Public Domain Day

Two years ago, when Dale retired from the Trail, I didn’t know anything about usage rights and although I had heard the phrase “public domain”, I didn’t really know what it meant. Dale taught me quite a bit about it and then I did further research to make sure we don’t get ourselves in trouble.  That’s why Renee and I sometimes question photos and for the most part, don’t copy poetry and lyrics of other writers.

Since 1998, a work enters public domain 70 years after the life of the author. Before 1998, it was 50 years; to clear up the complexity of that change, they put a moratorium on releasing anything into public domain for 20 years.  That 20 years is up and as of Tuesday, everything from 1923 is now officially in the public domain.

Some of the items now free to share are The Metropolis by Upton Sinclair, The Color of a Great City by Theodore Dreiser, The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, Rootabaga Pigeons by Carl Sandburg and New Hampshire by Robert Frost.

So in celebration of Public Domain Day, here is a poem that last week we could not have posted here legally!

Fire and Ice
by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Do you pay attention to expiration dates?

Here I Stand

I’m doing my best Martin Luther impersonation this week. His words “Here I stand. I can do no other” were supposedly uttered at the Diet of Worms where he was having to defend his statements of faith before the secular authorities.  It’s a motto I think I have to adopt.

You all know about my Sherlock Holmes fixation. I’ve enjoyed not just the original stories but just about every other form of Sherlock that I’ve encountered.  Graphic novels from Japan, fiction about his later adventures with his wife, Sherlock in movies, Sherlock on TV, young Sherlock, a farcical comedy with Sherlock and Watson played by women and even Sherlock Bones, with Sherlock as a dog (actually two different authors have written about Sherlock as a dog).  I even read a mash-up last year pairing Elizabeth Bennett from Pride & Prejudice with Sherlock Holmes!

But I’m drawing the line this week. There is a new Sherlock movie out and I just can’t do it.  I just can’t.  Not only slapstick, which I am not fond of in the least, but one of my least favorite actors.  On. The. Planet.

So even though I like to think I’m open-minded, I guess there are dark rooms that I just won’t go in, and this is one of them!

Tell me about your least favorite movie.