Thursday, June 30, 2011

To the Lighthouse (just not the Virginia Woolf kind)

Earlier this week, I was down on Cape Cod and went out to add another lighthouse to my collection. This one is Cape Cod Highland Light, which is in Truro, MA. I haven't spent a lot of time in Truro; I spend more of my time on central or lower Cape. It was a beautiful spot to drive around, very rural and unspoiled.

The original light house was commissioned by President Washington back in 1797, making this the first light on the Cape. The current structure was built in 1857. Continued erosion forced the light to be relocated several times; it was moved to its present location in 1996. On a clear day, like it was on Monday, the view from the bluffs is amazing. We could see all the way to Provincetown!

Cape Cod Highland Lighthouse

Cape Cod Highland Lighthouse

Cape Cod Highland Lighthouse

Cape Cod Highland Lighthouse

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy First Day of Summer!!

Nothing says "summer" to me like flowers in bloom. This weekend, I was down in CT, and we visited both the Elizabeth Park Rose Garden in Hartford and the Walnut Hill Park Rose Garden in New Britain. Even though the garden at Walnut Hill is less established than the one at Elizabeth Park, its blooms were giving the older garden a run for its money! Both gardens were stunning and smelled delightful.

Walnut Hill Park Rose Garden
Walnut Hill Park Rose Garden Elizabeth Park Rose Garden Elizabeth Park Rose Garden
Walnut Hill Park Rose Garden Elizabeth Park Rose Garden

Friday, June 17, 2011

"All around the Cathedral, the saints and apostles look down as she sells her wares."*

Great article and video up at The Telegraph about the completion of the 15 year renovation project at St. Paul's Cathedral, London.

I have had a bit of a weird history with St. Paul's: it took me multiple trips to London to actually visit the building. This was not from a lacking of desire or attempts! The first time I went to London in 2000 with my family, we couldn't get into St. Paul's because there were private events that week for the Queen Mum's 100th birthday.
St. Paul's Cathedral

I made my second attempt during my visit in February of 2003, but JR and I couldn't go in because it was too close to Vespers. (Permanent note to self: don't plan on doing sightseeing at a church on a Sunday.) That trip, we got stuck in London an additional day because a blizzard in the Northeast canceled our return flight, but we visited too late in the day and had only an hour to sight see before the building closed. We got to hear choir boys rehearse, but I didn't have enough time in the crypt, and the interior renovations prohibited us from seeing much of the Nave. We did make it up to the Whispering Gallery, but my fear of heights prevented me from going any higher up.
St. Paul's Cathedral

Third trip was the charm. When Je Glide and I went to London in 2008, I finally got a proper visit to St. Paul's. (Although we were at first told by the police that we couldn't go in because there was some kind of scare there. I felt CURSED! We went to lunch, and when we came back, we finally got inside. I was ECSTATIC!) The interior renovation was completed, and the building looked AMAZING. While Je Glide climbed up into the Dome, I crawled around in the crypt and explored the ground floor of the church, seeing the effigies of Donne and Lawrence and the tombs of Wellington and Nelson. We met up again to look at the American Memorial Chapel, dedicated to the memories of the American service men and women based in Britain who died in WWII. While we were in the Chapel, a bell sounded, and everyone there was invited to join in saying the Lord's Prayer for peace. It was very moving, and I remember thinking to myself that maybe I was meant to wait to see the Cathedral until it was restored to its proper glory.
St. Paul's from the South Bank

St. Paul's Cathedral is definitely a MUST SEE during a visit to London: for its architecture, its history, and the sacredness of its space. (Just be sure to check the website ahead of time to make sure that you are well within visiting hours!)

* "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Today would be a nice day to walk around Dublin

Happy Bloomsday!

I have never read Ulysses (or any other Joyce for that matter, with the exception of the short story, "The Dead"), but I am currently reading Pat Conroy's novel, South of Broad, whose main character is named Leopold Bloom King, so that counts for something, right? And I can now say that I HAVE been to Dublin...

So far, South of Broad is good, but not great. The parts describing Charleston are a beautiful love letter to the city (makes me want to go there even in the heat of summer), but I forgot about Conroy and his somewhat over the top plot lines, which require some suspension of disbelief in parts and a strong stomach in others. It is a bit of a beach read; unfortunately, I am not at the beach... yet.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gifting a beloved book is gifting a friend

I have gotten to that point in life when my friends are starting families. (Or have started families; the Niblet to whom I occasionally refer is now in middle school. EEK!) I went through a point of trying to figure out what kind of gift I would give the parents when invited to a baby shower or a christening. I wanted to get them a gift that lasted and something that would be meaningful. Kids grow out of clothes and toys; they also have a tendency to wreck them. I finally hit on a totally appropriate gift that would have both meaning and staying quality: books. Books can get expensive, even if they are paperback, and I think that it is a nice gift to a parent to help start off their child's library. Books are something that can be used over and over and can stimulate a child's imagination and vocabulary.

I love to read and have ever since I was little. Over the years, I have come up with a list of books that I think are both appropriate for children and will stand the test of time - nothing too gimmicky and nothing too commercial - the classic children's book. When compiling this "library gift", I try to get a combination of books for when the child is young and their parents are reading to them and books that the child can grow into and read on their own. I also try to stay away from the books that people traditionally give, like The Giving Tree, Goodnight Moon, Make Way for Ducklings, and, now, Eloise. These are all great books, but I don't want to give a book that might be duplicated accidentally by someone else. I also try to stay away from a series. I would rather have a bunch of different things than all of the Chronicles of Prydain or the Harry Potter books. (Did you think I was going to say Narnia rather than Prydain? Nerd Alert!)

The list looks like this (I mix and match from these, which are gender neutral for the most part):
Starter Books
Small Pig by Arnold Lobel
Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel (Caldecott honor book)
Mouse Tales by Arnold Lobel
The Mysterious Tadpole by Steven Kellogg (all of his books are awesome; this one is my fave)
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
Morris' Disappearing Bag by Rosemary Wells (one of Sister K's faves)
Elementary School
Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary (any of the Henry, Beezus, Ramona and the mouse & the motorcycle books are great at this age; this happens to be my first one)
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (Newbery Medal)
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (Newbery Medal)
The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien (Newbery Medal)
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (Newbery Medal)

If I decide to go with a more gender specific "library", the books I end up including are: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare and Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh for a girl and Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (Newbery Medal) and Sport by Louise Fitzhugh for a boy.

Really, you can't go wrong being guided by the ALSC Newbery Medal and Honor list. Those librarians know their stuff. I sometimes regret that I didn't stick with my childhood dream of being the children's librarian in my home town. Good thing I can live vicariously through my friend MEM, who recently finished her certification to be a school librarian. YAY! (Now she just needs a school...)


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